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Links 12/18: Boughs Of Hollink

A Swedish news team went to Gotland to film a segment on the problem of amateur treasure-hunters disturbing archaeological sites. To collect footage, one of them borrowed a metal detector and went around an archaeological site in what they figured was a treasure-hunter-like way. Just after filming finished, the metal detector started beeping – and thus was made the largest discovery of Viking treasure in history, 148 lbs of silver worth millions of dollars.

Remittance men were the embarrassing or redundant children of wealthy European families, promised a regular income on the condition that they stay away from home. They ended up in American, Canada, and the British Empire, and were common enough to make up an outright majority of some Old Western towns.

Nintil takes a stab at explaining the constancy of the rate of GDP growth. Short version: GDP depends on population (which grows smoothly), capital (which accumulates smoothly), and productivity (which grows in fits and starts that are somewhere between random and autocorrelated but when averaged across all technologies approximates smooth). Also, processes driven by exponential growth are naturally smooth-looking.

Early 18th-century London looked a lot like the setting of the average superhero comic – plagued by crime, weak on policing, crying out for a charismatic figure to take matters into his own hands. Enter Jonathan Wild, the “Thief-Taker General”, who won public adoration by catching all the worst criminals and bringing them to justice. Spoiler: he was secretly a mob boss who arranged all the crimes, then arranged to “solve” whichever ones benefitted his reputation.

Great moments in censorship: In 1953, the USSR non-personned former spymaster Lavrentiy Beria. In response to “overwhelming popular demand”, the Soviet Encyclopedia sent its customers a supplement containing three pages of “expanded information” on Bergholtz, Berkeley, and the Bering Sea – to replace the three page article on Beria that book-owners were to tear out of their encyclopedias.

After a decade of stunning victories fighting malaria, progress against the disease has stalled over the past five years. Here’s a WHO report on the problem which doesn’t really give any satisfying explanations beyond a bunch of different trends in a bunch of different countries.

A Florida teenager was convicted of fraud after somehow convincing everyone he was a doctor, founding his own medical center, and treating a bunch of patients there. This ABC video interview with him doubles as a hilarious and fascinating psychological study into somebody who’s pathologically incapable of admitting wrongdoing.

Lanchester’s Laws are used to predict number of casualties based on the size of armies. In ancient times, casualties scaled linearly with army size; nowadays army size gets raised to an exponent of 1.5 or 2.

The Energy Desert is an area from about 10^12 to 10^25 electron-volts – eg between 20th century particle accelerators, and ones billions of times better than that – where many theories predict that nothing interesting happens. Offered as an explanation for current particple physics stagnation – the reason we haven’t discovered anything lately is because there’s nothing to see anywhere near our current technology level.

Game theoretic cooperation used to explain *spins Wheel O’ Phenomena* replication of primaeval RNA in hydrothermal vents. This is pretty neat.

Social policy bonds are non-interest bearing bonds, redeemable for a fixed sum only when a targeted social objective has been achieved.” A weird kind of prediction market on good outcomes that also incentivizes creating them.

LW user Larks gives his mega-summary of 2018 in AI safety research. Related: MIRI’s yearly update.

Some undercover cops decide to pose as drug dealers. Some other undercover cops decide to pose as drug buyers. One drug deal later, hilarity ensues.

The big genetics news this month was the claim that two babies born in China were CRISPRed to make them immune to AIDS. Leading US biologist George Church has seen the data and seems to think it’s for real. Most scientists condemned the action (though it’s hard to tell how organic that was, since several started out cautiously supportive, then switched to condemning it after they themselves were condemned for not condemning it enough). On the other hand an earlier survey shows that 60% of Americans, 70% of Chinese, and almost 100% of Chinese with AIDS believe that gene editing to prevent AIDS and other serious diseases is potentially (though not necessarily in this case) acceptable. Have not heard of any attempt to see how many other genes were damaged in editing attempt, but this seems like potential next step. After claim that the scientist involved went missing, he has since become un-missing and promised to say something in his own defense at some point. There’s some good debate about the ethics of this here.

How did restaurants get so loud? I SAID, HOW DID RESTAURANTS GET SO LOUD? Seems to be combination of minimalist design removing sound-absorbing stuff, plus sinister motive in preventing long conversations to get people out earlier and so increase throughput and profits.

Suicide is declining basically everywhere except the United States. Or at least this is how the article presents it – it doesn’t look at a lot of other western First World countries, and it seems to hint at a “there is a developmental stage where suicide rate plummets, the US had it fifty years ago, and China, India, etc are having it now”. Also, although looks at rising US death rates usually mention whites as uniquely affected, the second graph here suggests that whites and Native Americans follow one (worsening) pattern, and blacks/Asians/Hispanics another (improving) one. What do whites and Native Americans have in common? Ruralness?

Mic.com is dead. This may seem like a small thing, but now all the terrible social justice clickbait websites have to journey all the way back to Mongolia to elect a new Khan. We’re saved! Everyone is saved! Related: BoingBoing discusses the sinister side of Facebook’s pivot to video.

Noah Smith and Random Critical Analysis debate health care – specifically, Noah subscribes to the popular belief that US health care is uniquely expensive because it is uniquely inefficient, vs. RCA’s believes that richer countries have more expensive health care, and once you measure this more accurately the US is exactly where you would expect on the trend line. Noah starts with a Bloomberg article that offhandedly calls RCA “unconvincing”. RCA responds with a gargantuo-mega-post containing almost 300 graphs proving himself right, to which Noah tweets a 23 word response. See also the discussion on the SSC subreddit.

This month in free speech: Marc Lamont Hill was fired as a CNN commentator – and almost lost his tenured professorship at Temple University – for giving a pro-Palestine speech at the United Nations. Opponents claimed that his call for a Palestinian state “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” was a “dog-whistle” calling for the extermination of Jews. I think it’s important that everyone remember free speech for everyone stands or falls together – so I’m happy that some rightist defenders of free speech have expressed concern about this, and also disappointed that some leftists tried to exploit the severity of this case to trivialize right-wing free speech concerns.

Catherine Olsson on Twitter explains an experiment that takes advantage of Pokemon-addicted children to solve a long-running debate about how the brain processes visual information.

The world’s most-traveled sailing vessel is the Spanish navy’s training ship Juan Sebastian de Elcano, which has voyaged more than two million nautical miles over ninety years.

Seen on Reddit: “TIL there was an early 1900s act named ‘Sober Sue’, whose draw was she never smiled. A theater offered $1000 to any one who could make her laugh, attracting big comedians. Crowds came out to watch them try, and fail, giving them a free show. Later it came out that Sue suffered from facial paralysis.”

As far as I know not actually done as a gimmick by anti-transgender activists but sounds like the sort of thing they would think up: 69 year old Dutch man says he identifies as a 49-year-old, asks court to change his legal age.

Strong evidence that increased school spending can improve school outcomes. My argument against this has always been secular doubling or tripling of spending that hasn’t done much, but I guess there could be two causes of school spending – secular cost increases, and actually useful stuff, and the second one is actually useful.

In 2012, English royal Kate Middleton was in the hospital recovering from severe morning sickness. Some Australian radio comedians called the hospital doing an outrageous Queen Elizabeth impression, and the hospital fell for it and talked to them as if they were the real Queen. Then one of the nurses involved committed suicide, leading to a closer look at the ethics of radio comedy.

Although NYC leads the country in anti-Semitic hate crimes, none in the past two years has been affiliated with any kind of far-right group; they are mostly perpetrated by anti-gentrification activists who see Jews as “hyper-white”. No data about how nationally representative this is compared to far-right anti-Semitic crimes like the recent Pittsburgh shooting. Suppose it were representative: given that we frequently hear calls to crack down on far-right ideas out of fear of inflaming anti-Semitism, and that we never hear calls to crack down on anti-gentrification speech or the discourse around whiteness out of fears of inflaming anti-Semitism (and most people would be horrified by the idea that we should), should this challenge the way we think about hate-crime-incitement as an exception to free speech?

Scott Weiner’s SB-827, the California bill that would have upzoned huge swathes of the state and marked a major victory against the housing crisis, failed to make it out of committee last year. Now a modified version is back, and already has high-up supporters including the mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, and LA.

Some commenters reading my post on science slowing down referred me to Growth Econ’s post of the modelling of economic regimes where idea productivity remains constant as you add more researchers.

Quebecois locals commemorated the 1996 Sagueney flood, which killed ten people and displaced thousands, with the insensitively-named Ha! Ha! Pyramid

How Different Studies Measure Income Inequality is a good article on how most ways of measuring inequality find less dramatic results than the famous studies by Piketty et al. It also argues that real median incomes have increased about 40% since the 1970s (contra the common argument that they have been basically flat as all growth goes to the top 1%). Related: Today’s young adults are earning much more than their parents did at the same age. File this under “I keep hearing different things about economics statistics and have no idea who’s right, aaaaaaaah”.

If you blog about effective altruism, you can now semi-automatically cross-post posts from your blog to the EA Forum. And if you’re trying to figure out where to send your end-of-year charitable donations, you can find donation guides from 80,000 Hours and the Open Philanthropy Project.

“Popular” social media site Tumblr bans most porn, leading to an attempted exodus and also suddenly a bunch of people care about corporate threats to free speech online for the first time. @sknthla on Twitter has an interesting perspective.

City Journal makes the case that that California high-speed rail project that everyone knew was going to be an expensive boondoggle has already started being an expensive boondoggle – before any construction has even started, projected costs have tripled and the finish date has been pushed back a decade.

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke once held the world record for beer drinking, and “suggested that this single feat may have contributed to his political success more than any other, by endearing him to an electorate with a strong beer culture”.

Tiny brain: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a beloved holiday song everyone can guiltlessly enjoy. Glowing brain: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a misogynistic hymn to rape culture. Galaxy brain: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is responsible for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Also, this joke.

New review suggests sex hormones do not significantly affect decision-making; has anyone looked into this enough to have good opinions?

Do proton pump inhibitors, a popular heartburn medication, affect cognition?

Did you know: the Punic Wars officially ended in 1985.

For a long time, Bangladesh – whose garment industry has become almost synonymous with sweatshops – has been used as a critique of capitalism. And for an equally long time, capitalists have said this is a process countries have to go through and in a few years Bangladesh will reap a reward of economic growth and development. So it’s relevant to hear that Bangladesh is booming, with per capita income tripling in a decade, poverty rates cut in half, near food self-sufficiency, and the UN graduating them out of “least developed country” status.

Dylan Matthews’ Vox article about why it’s not worth trying to get along with political enemies, and kbog’s critique of same. Linking this not because I think the article is good and want you to read it, or because I think the article is especially bad and have forgotten that hate-linking incentivizes bad behavior. I’m linking it because it makes basically the argument I warn is driving people’s behavior in the last part of Against Murderism, and people kept objecting that I was straw-manning and nobody really thought that. I argue against these things because it’s what lots of people actually believe, and although sometimes it’s said quietly and scattered across a lot of places, if you wait long enough someone will just turn the whole thing into a Voxsplainer.

Sarah Constantin writes up some interesting work on advanced tit-for-tat-style strategies (1, 2)

Here, have a neat animated gif about how the same facts are compatible with multiple different interpretations (but see also this thread).

Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122, is widely believed to be the oldest person ever. Scientists were puzzled by her health and long life, which was an extreme outlier even among record-holding supercentanarians. Now a Russian gerontologist presents evidence that Calment was a fraud – she died at a normal age, and her daughter assumed her identity for financial reasons. This was great to see a few days after reading Gwern’s list of open questions, where he expresses bafflement on how Calment lived so much longer than theory would predict possible. Remember, your strength as a rationalist depends on your ability to notice your own confusion

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644 Responses to Links 12/18: Boughs Of Hollink

  1. Nearly Takuan says:

    According to that summary of the Pokémon study, which area-of-brain stores which image-recognition algorithms is based on the eccentricity at which the object is typically viewed. So: One of the most classic symptoms of autism is that eye contact is difficult, even (in a sense) painful. Another classic symptom is having trouble recognizing faces, facial expressions, and reading meaning into gestures and expressions. Is the latter a “true” direct symptom of autism, or is it a side-effect of the former? I feel like there should already be a study somewhere of whether autism correlates at all to having slightly-different brain-areas associated with different types of image recognition, but I’m having trouble finding any such thing. I partly blame my lack of knowledge in the domains of neuroscience and visual psychology. I also partly blame myself for just generally being kind of a crummy researcher.

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  4. Nickel says:

    “Quebecois locals commemorated the 1996 Sagueney[sic] flood, which killed ten people and displaced thousands, with the insensitively-named Ha! Ha! Pyramid”?

    Who complains that the pyramid is insensitively named, where when how?

  5. Andrew Klaassen says:

    “Former spymaster” is an, uh, understated way to describe one of the most horrible people in history. He impersonally crushed millions in the Gulags, and personally raped hundreds? thousands? of women. 90% of what was horrible about dictatorial socialism was that it allowed people like Beria to gain power.

  6. Majuscule says:

    My Russian history professor told us that anecdote about Beria’s entry in the encyclopedia. He was the grad student who opened the mailer from the USSR with the article and those instructions in 1953. The librarians at Cornell University laughed their faces off when he showed it to them.

  7. TheWakalix says:

    Minor typo: “current particple physics stagnation”

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  9. Eponymous says:

    Re: Bangladesh — Still extremely poor. GDP per capita (PPP) still under $4k; basically sub-saharan africa level. Still well behind Pakistan (5k) and India (6k).

  10. 10240 says:

    Suppose it were representative: given that we frequently hear calls to crack down on far-right ideas out of fear of inflaming anti-Semitism, and that we never hear calls to crack down on anti-gentrification speech or the discourse around whiteness out of fears of inflaming anti-Semitism (and most people would be horrified by the idea that we should), should this challenge the way we think about hate-crime-incitement as an exception to free speech?

    An obvious argument is that there are legitimate reasons to talk about gentrification or whiteness, but not to inflame hatred of Jews. (Though some would argue that negative talk about whiteness is wrong just like antisemitic talk. Of course it’s unclear how far a hypothetical ban on antisemitic or anti-white talk would go.)

    • albatross11 says:

      So, US foreign policy is heavily influenced by our close alliance with Israel, and we also give Israel a bunch of aid every year. Israel also has some pretty objectionable policies w.r.t. Palestinians under their power[1]. Those seem like legitimate areas for political discussion and organization, and yet it is absolutely routine for people criticizing Israel or supporting more rights/power for the Palestinians to be called anti-Semetic. There’s also a movement to boycott Israel that has been actively suppressed on college campuses as anti-Semitic.

      That seems like a pretty clear example of the danger of coming up with exceptions to free speech for specific categories of ideas–in this case anti-Semitism.

      [1] The whole issue is very messy, and I don’t have a strong position on most of the object-level questions here, but it definitely seems like these questions are worthy of debate.

      • Nornagest says:

        we also give Israel a bunch of aid every year

        We do, but we give the nearby Muslim states more in total — in 2013, the total was 2.9 billion for Israel, 1.5 billion for Egypt, 1.2 billion for Jordan and 1 billion for the Palestinian Territories.

        A lot more of Israel’s aid is classified as military assistance, though. (A lot of Egypt’s is too, but aid to Jordan and Palestine is almost exclusively economic.)

      • 10240 says:

        The context was whether anti-Semitic hate speech is responsible for attacks on Jews. People who make such accusations are typically left-wingers who blame the extreme right. The sort of anti-Semitism they blame here is not criticism of Israel mislabeled as anti-Semitism. The extreme right cares little about the situation of the Palestinians, except perhaps occasionally as another reason to bash the Jews. Criticism of Israel that’s sometimes unfairly labeled as anti-Semitism by the right (and perhaps the center-left) tends to come from parts of the left.

        In any case, it remains a legitimate argument that there is no good reason to inflame hatred of Jews. I didn’t mean that it would be a good idea to make an exception to free speech for anti-Semitism. I only meant that there was an obvious reason why some people may want to create such an exception for anti-Semitic speech (if they, perhaps wrongly, think they could enforce it in a principled way), but definitely not for anti-gentrification etc.

        Those seem like legitimate areas for political discussion and organization, and yet it is absolutely routine for people criticizing Israel or supporting more rights/power for the Palestinians to be called anti-Semetic.

        It’s also routine to criticize that practice.

        • albatross11 says:

          My point is that those are issues that are pretty legitimate to debate (as much so as the stuff that’s normally debated) and also likely to run afoul of a restriction on anti-Semitism, at least if it’s not very narrowly drawn.

          This is a pretty common pattern, right? We establish a rule against explicit stirring up of hatred against some kinds of groups (racial, religious, sexual). And then, there’s a tendency for what I’d consider to be reasonable discussions (should we really give a bunch of aid to Israel every year, given that they’re a first-world industrial democracy who can clearly pay their own bills?) to get caught by those rules. Sometimes, that’s purely tactical–I don’t want to have that argument in public at all, so I get it shut down. Other times, it’s honest disagreement–I think the only reason you could really be asking that question is hatred of Jews, so I want the no-anti-Semitism policy applied to you, while you’re asking what you think is a reasonable question about the justice of Israeli settlement policy. But this sets up an opportunity for suppressing worthwhile discussions, and also for biased enforcement that suppresses some discussions as offensive while other very similar ones are permitted.

          The other thing that’s common is to see an explicit rule about (say) stirring up hatred against a racial group, but then it’s enforced in a really skewed way–like Sarah Jeong being able to say stuff about whites that would have made her radioactive if she’d said it about blacks.

          In both cases, I think if you’re going to have those rules, you need to make them pretty explicit, and actually stick to them. If you say “no racial hatred” and then it turns out to mean “you can’t mention _The Bell Curve_ because that’s racial hatred against blacks, but you can proclaim that white women are traitors to their sex for not having voted for Hillary enough,” then it’s going to be pretty clear that you’re just using the excuse of “no racial hatred” to put a thumb on the scales of public debate.

  11. gdanning says:

    Re: “should this challenge the way we think about hate-crime-incitement as an exception to free speech?” — There is no “hate crime incitement” exception to freedom of speech. Incitement of any “imminent lawless action” is outside free speech protections (see eg US v. Alvarez, 132 S. Ct. 2537, 2544 (2012)); there is no special exception for incitement to hate crimes. Nor is hate speech unprotected. See Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744, 1764 (2017) [“Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “‘the thought that we hate.'”]. The Supreme Court has OKed laws that outlaw cross burnings done with the intent to intimidate (Virginia v. Black, 538 US 343 (2003), but that is not incitement; it is a species of harassment, which is also generally not protected, regardless of whether it is based on race, etc, or just personal animus.

  12. Jo says:

    “I think it’s important that everyone remember free speech for everyone stands or falls together”

    That is a tautology. But free spech generally works even if it is restricted for some positions. A realistic view seems to acknowledge that in “parts of Europe, they’ve banned Holocaust denial for years and everyone’s been totally okay with it. There are also a host of other well-respected exceptions to free speech, like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Presumably, these exemptions are protected by tradition, so that they have become new Schelling points there, or are else so obvious that everyone except Holocaust deniers is willing to allow a special Holocaust denial exception without worrying it will impact their own case.”

    • 10240 says:

      “I think it’s important that everyone remember free speech for everyone stands or falls together”

      That is a tautology.

      I assume what was meant was that one restriction on free speech is likely to lead to further restrictions, so it puts the expression of other opinions in danger too.

      A realistic view seems to acknowledge that in “parts of Europe, they’ve banned Holocaust denial for years and everyone’s been totally okay with it.

      A counter-argument* is that further speech restrictions have been proposed with the argument that we already ban Holocaust denial, nothing wrong came of that, so the new restriction should be OK too. You see, this is exactly the “wrong” that came from banning Holocaust denial.

      If we agree that it’s not OK to ban any opinion, then if someone demands that you ban a certain (according to him, abhorrent) opinion, you can always point to your principled stance that you don’t ban any opinion. Once you ban one abhorrent opinion, you make it clear that you are willing to ban opinions as long as they are (sufficiently) abhorrent. Then if you refuse to ban some other opinion despite widespread pressure, you are seen as claiming that that opinion is not (sufficiently) abhorrent. The problem is, there will always be people who call even some relatively mild arguments abhorrent, so much that anyone who doesn’t consider them abhorrent is also really bad.

      * A comment; the article is great and relevant too.

      • Achim says:

        “A counter-argument* is that further speech restrictions have been proposed with the argument that we already ban Holocaust denial, nothing wrong came of that, so the new restriction should be OK too. You see, this is exactly the “wrong” that came from banning Holocaust denial.”

        First of all, I have never explicitly heard that kind of argument in a political debate.

        Secondly: I also believe that some restrictions on “hate speech” have gone too far and have become a bit ridiculous, but I do not believe that that is a likely source of dictatorship for now.

        Moreover, it is just as well possible that the acceptance of freedom of speech is, under some circumstances, more likely to grow if some forms of it are restricted. If that sounds like justifying a dictatorship or something like that, then that is because real-world politics is quite messy, complicated and depends on historic and social circumstances, such that the same kind of institution can sometimes stabilize a dictatorship and sometimes save a democracy. And that is all hard to test because there are no real lab conditions.

        “If we agree that it’s not OK to ban any opinion, then if someone demands that you ban a certain (according to him, abhorrent) opinion, you can always point to your principled stance that you don’t ban any opinion.”

        Sure, but pointing to a principled stance is not really an argument. It may shorten debates because you say you are not going to discuss things, but the other side may just be unconvinced.

        What is more, if the other person is convinced that restricting the voicing or disseminating of opinions is sometimes necessary but sees that there are only drastic censors and radical free-speechers around, she may even lean to the wrong side. (Again, it all depends.)

        “Once you ban one abhorrent opinion, you make it clear that you are willing to ban opinions as long as they are (sufficiently) abhorrent. Then if you refuse to ban some other opinion despite widespread pressure, you are seen as claiming that that opinion is not (sufficiently) abhorrent. The problem is, there will always be people who call even some relatively mild arguments abhorrent, so much that anyone who doesn’t consider them abhorrent is also really bad.”

        If you argue with people who are not willing or able to consider conditional arguments, nuances, or the principle of proportionality, then why should these exact people sympathize with your principled stance?

        • 10240 says:

          I’m less concerned about dictatorship, and more about views that are at least valuable to consider also getting suppressed.

          Sure, but pointing to a principled stance is not really an argument. It may shorten debates because you say you are not going to discuss things, but the other side may just be unconvinced.

          The argument is that upholding the principled stance helps protect your right to speak whatever controversial opinion you may hold, too.

          If you argue with people who are not willing or able to consider conditional arguments, nuances, or the principle of proportionality, then why should these exact people sympathize with your principled stance?

          By nuance, do you mean the fact that whatever opinion we consider reasonable is less bad than Holocaust denial? The problem is not that they don’t realize that, but that that they still consider it bad enough to ban — except perhaps if they want to uphold a general principle of free speech in order to protect opinions they consider reasonable.

          If the argument I’m presenting has convinced me (and the commenter I linked, both of us Jews) to oppose laws against Holocaust denial, it may as well convince people who consider some of my controversial opinions abhorrent. I don’t think it’s an unusual argument anyway, I think it’s one of the main traditional arguments for free speech.

          It’s not only about convincing the people who want to ban one of the opinions you hold or at least consider reasonable, but also about rallying support of others. Let’s say you hold some controversial opinion, some people consider it abhorrent and want to ban it, while others don’t consider it that bad, oppose banning it, but disagree with you. They won’t go out of their way to support your right to speak it, especially if your opinion is controversial enough that siding with you will make them look bad in some circles — unless they are worried about a general erosion of free speech that may put some controversial opinion they hold in danger, too.

          Support from people who are more radical than you is valuable too. Holocaust deniers will have no reason to stand up for my right to speak my opinion if I don’t stand up for theirs, and if their opinion is to remain banned either way. See “Coalitions of Resistance” in the article I linked.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      If you ban talking about something and someone’s not okay with it, how would you ever know?

      • 10240 says:

        Laws against Holocaust denial don’t ban criticizing the same laws. And in fact I don’t think “everyone is totally OK with them”.
        There are also plenty of people violating the law (often anonymously), as well as Holocaust denial and discussion of these laws in jurisdictions where they don’t exist.

        • John Schilling says:

          Laws against Holocaust denial don’t ban criticizing the same laws.

          No, they just make such criticism wholly ineffectual. Laws against Holocaust denial reduce the criticism to, essentially, “Even though we all agree that saying X is an evil lie, it is wrong to prohibit people from saying Evil Lie X”, which is persuasive only to free-speech absolutists. And there aren’t enough of those to matter if you can’t also make the consequential appeal of “Maybe X isn’t a lie and we’re making a big mistake if we don’t hear both sides”

          • 10240 says:

            I’m pretty sure that in most countries there are more people who argue against Holocaust denial laws on free speech grounds than because they find it at least plausible that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

            Even if there are few principled free speech defenders, Holocaust deniers and other radical rightists who fear further hate speech laws will argue against the law on free speech grounds. Also, most people would call people who oppose legal restrictions on political speech strong supporters of the right to free speech, not free speech absolutists, and there aren’t that few of them.

          • 10240 says:

            I’m also pretty sure that most people are more likely to be convinced by free speech arguments than by arguments that the Holocaust may not have actually happened.

    • Lillian says:

      A realistic view seems to acknowledge that in “parts of Europe, they’ve banned Holocaust denial for years and everyone’s been totally okay with it. There are also a host of other well-respected exceptions to free speech, like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Presumably, these exemptions are protected by tradition, so that they have become new Schelling points there, or are else so obvious that everyone except Holocaust deniers is willing to allow a special Holocaust denial exception without worrying it will impact their own case.”

      In Britain they convincted a guy of hate speech for teaching his dog to do the Nazi salute as a joke, and also convincted a young woman for positing rap lyrics on Snapchat to honour a friend who died in an accident. In light of this, i’m inclined to think that the realistic view is that the slope on restricting speech based on offensiveness is indeed slipperty, and Europe is slowly slipping.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Iirc, “it was a joke” was the guy’s defense, but it didn’t hold up because further examination revealed he was in fact an avowed neo-nazi with a long history of boundary-testing inflammatory provocations.

        The real problem with the slippery slope argument is, why are you worried that the hate speech exception to free speech will inevitably lead to unacceptable levels of censorship, but that all the exceptions that exist in the US (obscenity, fighting words, defamation, child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true threats, solicitations to commit crimes) will not?

        If anything, the history of the US show that the way a restriction is interpreted can get narrower over time (the obscenity exception used to encompass a lot more things than it does today, for instance). Thus it’s not clear that any exception to free speech has to move in the direction of including more things over time.

        My experience of this phenomena in France is that in the 90s and 2000s there was a fever of lawsuits for supposed antisemitic speeches, but that this has now largely subsumed as anti-racist organizations have kind of taken a chill pill and focused their efforts on more serious issues, while judges have become desensitized to such accusation and have become more likely to dismiss them.

        • The Nybbler says:

          but that all the exceptions that exist in the US (obscenity, fighting words, defamation, child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true threats, solicitations to commit crimes) will not?

          Who says they won’t? For instance, child porn exceptions leads to censorship of cartoon characters and arrests of parents for photos of infants in the bath.

          And indeed your argument is one of the mechanisms of the slippery slope. “We’ve made this exception… why not that one?”

        • 10240 says:

          The real problem with the slippery slope argument is, why are you worried that the hate speech exception to free speech will inevitably lead to unacceptable levels of censorship, but that all the exceptions that exist in the US (obscenity, fighting words, defamation, child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true threats, solicitations to commit crimes) will not?

          Most of the dangerous restrictions on free speech are political. None of the existing restrictions suppress political discussion or the discussion of any abstract idea. Thus “no political or ideological restriction” is a viable Schelling point, “no political restriction except this and that” less so.

          • Guy in TN says:

            “No political or ideological statements that dehumanize groups of people” is also a possible Schelling point.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            “No political or ideological statements that dehumanize groups of people” is also a possible Schelling point.

            Would you agree that the list of possible ways to “dehumanize groups of people” has grown over the last ten years? I would argue both that “dehumanize” has been expanded, as well as different and more granularity on “groups of people.”

            Is telling a Evangelical preacher “you are not welcome here” dehumanizing speech? Telling a marcher in a gay pride parade that seems to be.

          • 10240 says:

            @Guy in TN “Dehumanizing people” is so vague, and I’ve seen it used to mean so many things, that most political views (or some of the main arguments for them) could be claimed to dehumanize someone. What’s more, if we declared this as the standard of what speech can be banned, the expansion of its meaning would get much faster, as for some people there would be a new incentive to argue that certain ideas are dehumanizing. This would be one of the worst Schelling points possible, one that would be abandoned (at least in its intended meaning) approximately 1 minute after it’s agreed upon.

          • John Schilling says:

            “No political or ideological statements that dehumanize groups of people” is also a possible Schelling point.

            The set of political ideologies that assert their political opponents are not members of the species H. Sapiens is, well, David Icke and his followers and that’s about it.

            The set of political ideologies that explicitly use the term “subhuman” to describe their political opponents is very small, likewise “inhuman” or “monstrous” except as hyperbolic moral judgements, and will go to zero if that’s the way to win debates.

            The set of political ideologies that make arguments of the form, “Not giving us what we want means denying our humanity, stop dehumanizing us”, is very large and will become approximately all of them if that’s the way to win debates.

            Not a useful Schelling point without an unambiguous definition of “dehumanize”, and one decoupled from any politically controversial concept or listing of “human rights”.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I was thinking of a strict literal meaning of dehumanize, i.e. “those races are inherently less human than we are”. Yes, that language is rare and declining, but not unheard of.

            My larger point is that while the meta-level “no political or ideological restriction” is a fine Schelling point, object-level ones that target certain ideas could also exist, if defined properly.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That card is already on the table, face up. Studies of race and IQ are said to dehumanize those races thought to be lower IQ. Comparisons of people and animals are said to dehumanize the race of the people compared, unless the person compared is GWBush. Objections to various pronouns or laws about bathrooms are said to deny the very humanity of transgender individuals. We’ve already seen that one is a Teflon-coated well-greased near-vertical slope, not a Schelling point at all.

          • 10240 says:

            @Guy in TN I’ve never heard actual racists say such things, only their opponents as interpreting various statements as such. The Nazis’ ‘Untermensch’ (~subhuman) would be close, though I think it was supposed to mean a “worse kind of human” (with ‘Übermench’ being a “better kind of human”), rather than non-human.

            Actually, what factual claim would a statement like, idk, “the Dutch are sub-human” mean? It could be a definitional issue: you define the word ‘human’ in a way that it doesn’t include the Dutch people. That would be a non-standard definition, but the statement would be trivially true and unremarkable.

            Using the scientific definition of a species, ‘human’ could mean something like “the maximal set of organisms that can produce fertile offspring with each other (barring age, individual infertility issues etc.) that includes “. Then the statement happens to be false; if it was true, it would be remarkable, but not necessarily incite hatred. Racists are well aware that such statements are false, otherwise they wouldn’t have made anti-miscegenation laws.

            Usually, the statement would actually be understood as “they actually don’t have some of the qualities that most people assume all humans have”. Which qualities is unclear, and the statement could always be substituted by one which talks about the qualities themselves, without using the word ‘human’.

          • 10240 says:

            “Less human” is even less meaningful. The typical definition of ‘human’ is either-or, without grades.

            Another problem with novel Schelling-points is that the process is decentralized. Even assuming that a Schelling-point like “no political restrictions other than X and Y” would work if we made a society-wide agreement about it, but it can’t work if everyone has a different idea about where the Schelling-point we are defending is actually supposed to be.

            Using the scientific definition of a species, ‘human’ could mean something like “the maximal set of organisms that can produce fertile offspring with each other (barring age, individual infertility issues etc.) that includes [insert a specific human]“.

            WordPress swallowed that part.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you limited the restriction to literal claims that some group of people are non-human, then this would not impose much practical restriction but would also not forbid most of what I assume you want to forbid. (You can argue for ethnic cleansing or genocide of some hated group without ever suggesting that they’re not human–they’re just bad humans who you think should all be murdered.)

            The closest thing to a mainstream political issue where the personhood of someone is in question is abortion. But I assume that your goal isn’t to ban expressions of pro-choice beliefs for dehumanizing rhetoric. Certainly that isn’t how I would expect such a standard to be used. And indeed, forbidding such expressions would be a pretty horrible idea.

          • Guy in TN says:

            You can argue for ethnic cleansing or genocide of some hated group without ever suggesting that they’re not human–they’re just bad humans who you think should all be murdered.

            Correct. But although you can call for genocide for almost any reason, claiming that the people you are killing are less than human would be one the easiest and most persuasive ways. Banning dehumanizing language cuts away the easiest logical shortcut available to arriving at such a position.

            Its true that the claim that certain races are a lesser type of human is not in any mainstream ideology. I wouldn’t want to ban statements that were commonly held positions, that would cause chaos and delegitimization of the whole censorship system. It only makes sense to ban language that is very rare, and highly dangerous.

          • John Schilling says:

            Banning dehumanizing language cuts away the easiest logical shortcut available to arriving at such a position.

            Why not just ban genocide, if you’re imagining you have the power to ban anything? That has the advantage of being an even stronger and more obvious Schelling point, the advantage of negating all the logical shortcuts to genocide, and the advantage of not being easily perverted into a superweapon to be abused in legitimate political discussion of non-genocide topics.

            Unless, of course, the latter isn’t an advantage in your book.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Why not just ban genocide, if you’re imagining you have the power to ban anything?

            For the same reason we ban drunk driving, not just crashing-into-people-while-drunk. The idea is to stop it before it starts.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The real problem with the slippery slope argument is, why are you worried that the hate speech exception to free speech will inevitably lead to unacceptable levels of censorship, but that all the exceptions that exist in the US (obscenity, fighting words, defamation, child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true threats, solicitations to commit crimes) will not?

          This statement basically makes the assumption that Free Speech advocates didn’t make these exceptions harder to obtain, effectively decreasing how steep the slope is. Your argument would only hold if countries that didn’t have strong pro free speech norms didn’t slide down that slope.

        • Lillian says:

          Iirc, “it was a joke” was the guy’s defense, but it didn’t hold up because further examination revealed he was in fact an avowed neo-nazi with a long history of boundary-testing inflammatory provocations.

          If that were true, you think maybe somebody would have put it into his Wikipedia page or something? The actual video that got him in trouble has him calling Nazis the least cute thing he can think of, and doesn’t treat them as anything other than a source of gallows humour. Literally the entire joke is based on the premise that Nazis are horrible, and that turning a dog into a Nazi is a terrible thing to do. Also it was legitimately funny, so as far as i’m concerned his joke defense is on pretty firm ground.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If anything, the history of the US show that the way a restriction is interpreted can get narrower over time (the obscenity exception used to encompass a lot more things than it does today, for instance).

          Maybe in law, but certainly not in culture, and the law lags behind the culture. The culturally definition of “sexual harassment” continues to expand. Certainly the term “nazi,” which is now used by fairly mainstream publications to refer to the 60+ million people who voted for the President of the United States.

          No, as soon as you say “we all agree X is bad, so we’re going to ban X,” everyone starts trying to cram their political (or otherwise) opponents into the X basket.

  13. hasFenring says:

    “Popular” social media site Tumblr bans most porn, leading to an attempted exodus and also suddenly a bunch of people care about corporate threats to free speech online for the first time.

    The part I bolded is both inaccurate and unfair. You’re implying hypocrisy on the part of tumblr users, but it’s a poor argument. First, it assumes that their criticisms are the same. For example, I’ve never seen any alt-right types who were banned from Twitter argue that the implementation of the ban was technically poor. Instead, they whine about censorship (funny how private property rights only matter when it’s someone baking a cake and not a social media platform). The criticisms I’ve seen on tumblr seem much more grounded: worries about destroying communities that people value, questioning the technical implementation, etc. If some random neo-Nazi on Twitter were making these complaints, I would find the equivalence you’re trying to draw more defensible.

    But more importantly, you’re assuming a moral equivalence between someone posting naked ladies on tumblr and someone advocating for genocide on Twitter/YouTube/Facebook. This is a difficult position to take seriously. The idea that different kinds of speech (even if it’s within some broad and nebulous idea of “political” speech) have ever been treated equally or that they should be strike me as both unrealistic and bad policy.

    • 10240 says:

      (funny how private property rights only matter when it’s someone baking a cake and not a social media platform).

      Only hypocritical if (1) they criticized the cake case on private property grounds, (2) they want to legally compel Twitter not to censor (criticizing an action doesn’t imply wanting to ban it), and (3) we ignore that Twitter has a dominant position in the microblog market which that bakery doesn’t have in the wedding cake market (supporting some restrictions to property rights in some circumstances doesn’t imply thinking that property rights don’t matter at all).

    • cryptoshill says:

      I think the equivalence here is that lots of people who use modern social media platforms cheer when popular alt-righters (and even ordinary righters like Sargon of Akkad) get unpersoned, but the second it happens to something those people like they are Very Upset.

      The “people advocating for genocide” on Twitter/YouTube/Facebook are usually “just ordinary right-ish people posting a lukewarm take” and the free-speech advocate position is effectively “be careful what you wish for – it’s you next”, and when that (reliably) happens I think the free speech advocates deserve a chuckle.

  14. LukeReeshus says:

    “…leading to a closer look at the ethics of radio comedy.”

    That is a… umm… very charitable summary of what ensued after that nurse committed suicide.

    But hey, charitable summaries are what I visit this blog to read. Thanks again!

  15. Montfort says:

    Restaurants are indeed far too loud for my taste, and I’m relieved other people agree. Maybe by the time I’m retiring there will be nice quiet restaurants I can dine in. Maybe even faster than that if some OSHA violations come down. I admit I hadn’t spared much thought to the poor employees who have to put up with it for hours at a time.

    When certain restaurants are busy, I’ll skip them entirely or wear earbuds (which typically gives the server the impression I’m half-deaf, if they don’t spot them, or somewhat rude, if they do). The best remedy, when available and weather allows, is outdoor seating, though that has issues of its own – slower service, bugs, etc. Avoiding peak times can help, but less than you might think, if there’s both an open kitchen and a sound system for “background” music.

  16. Brett says:

    2. So basically rich failsons of yesteryear? I hadn’t heard about them, but I am honestly not surprised at all that they existed. I suppose a lot of them would have ended up in the clergy centuries earlier, or as mercenaries in various wars.

    I’m wondering if the Tumblr thing is a stealth kill on it by its corporate owner, but that seems unlikely to me. More likely is that they’ve wanted to do this for some time, but the Apple app store ban was the final excuse they needed (advertisers do not like their ads appearing on pages with adult content).

    Related: Today’s young adults are earning much more than their parents did at the same age. File this under “I keep hearing different things about economics statistics and have no idea who’s right, aaaaaaaah”.

    The reason why isn’t super-surprising. Basically more young women are working full-time compared to earlier cohorts, and they earn a bit more (but not much – $39,000, compared to the $37,000/year of the older cohort).

    It’s one of the tricky things about looking at household income changes over time – you have to compensate for hours worked.

  17. IvanFyodorovich says:

    Looking at the back and forth above, I’m going to try to make a non-partisan, non-ideological standard for “should you get fired for saying stuff your boss doesn’t like”. I propose three different forms of getting fired for saying unpopular stuff:

    1. Person displeases employer for speech delivered in capacity as employee, or directly related to ability to do job. A salesperson insults company product he is supposed to be selling. Diversity coordinator pours scorn on black people. Fire marshal expresses view that he hopes city burns down.

    2. Person with visible role at company displeases employer by bringing lots of negative publicity or by publicly saying something employer disagrees with. Talking head says unpopular thing. CEO libels someone as a “pedo” on Twitter. Your job is to be a good face for the company, and you failed.

    3. Person displeases employer for speech essentially unrelated to ability to do job. Your boss saw that you liked a racist comment on Facebook, fires you from your job driving a gravel truck.

    My inclination would be to allow companies to fire people for 1 and 2 but not 3. Incidentally, some states actually protect people from firing for 3. Admittedly it can be hard to distinguish 2 and 3, especially since an online mob can form to out a racist gravel truck driver and thus bring bad publicity to the company. But I would generally say that 2 applies more to recognized spokespeople of a company (people whose speech will be conflated with company speech) and 3 more to people who aren’t. If anyone has a better standard, I’d be curious to see it, it’s something I’ve been thinking about.

    • 10240 says:

      Re: 2. You and a lot of people say that it should be acceptable to fire someone who brings the company bad PR, because it’s in their interest to fire him. However, this ignores the reasons for this discussion. Some of the main questions in this discussion are
      (1) Should we condemn a company for firing someone for his opinion, and perhaps avoid doing business with them?
      (2) Should we cheer on or demand that a company fires an employee with an abhorrent opinion, or avoid doing business with a company which employs such people? (A lot of people are conflicted: they would enjoy if people with what they consider abhorrent opinions get in trouble, yet think that a free speech norm is good for freedom in general, or to avoid negative consequences, e.g. a slippery slope. If they accept your argument that a firing is justified and not problematic from a free speech standpoint, they’ll demand such people to get fired, otherwise they’ll demand the opposite.)

      But we, the customers and the general public, are the ones who decide if something is bad PR or not! If you demand that a company fires an employee with “bad” opinions, then you are contributing to making it bad PR to employ such people. If you oppose the firing, you contribute to reduce the bad PR of employing him. If you condemn the firing and avoid buying for it if it fires the employee, you make it bad PR to fire him, thus reducing the company’s incentive to do so.

      So, if we consider it a bad thing if people get punished for their opinions, we should condemn those who support the firing. And even if it’s not quite morally wrong for the company to fire the employee, we should work to make it bad PR to fire him, and make it good PR (or less bad PR) to resist pressure to fire him. That is, if some people are likely to boycott the company if it doesn’t fire the employee, we should encourage supporters of free speech to boycott it if it does, and to “buycott” (preferentially buy from) it if it doesn’t.

    • fluorocarbon says:

      I think there’s another one that can get pretty complicated:

      4. Employee says something that makes it difficult to work with/hire other employees even if it gets no publicity and is unrelated to the job. For example, an employee who says, “everyone who’s pro-skub should be murdered or sent to re-education camps,” makes it difficult to hire anyone who’s not similarly anti-skub. It can also make pro-skub employees uncomfortable and leave the company.

      I think most people would agree that it’s all right to fire someone in a situation like this when the statement is really far outside the Overton window and violent, but where to draw the line is difficult. People have varying ideas over what’s offensive (to put it mildly).

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        There are lots of solutions short of firing someone. Asking them to refrain from discussing the matter, or limit who they discuss it with, is far more acceptable than going straight to termination. You can proceed through a series of warnings and suspensions as well – there’s no striking need to terminate except in dealing with an unreasonable mob. There are also options to transfer employees who are troubled/troubling, or promote someone to a different area, or a whole host of options short of termination. This is how companies have to deal with moderately problematic employee relations already, so there’s plenty of ground already covered.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      It’s worth noting that I draw a distinction between “I’ll boycott your company if you do N” (where N=1,2, or 3) and “I’ll have you penalized by the state if you do N”. I’m probably not the only one who insists on this distinction.

      (My default position is to oppose state action on any of the three, and consider calling for a boycott on #3, and be ambivalent on #1 and #2, and be personally incrementally disinclined to do business if I hear about #1 or #2, based on the weak premise that you ought to have run your ship tight enough to avoid exposing your dirty laundry. I repeat that these are default positions, subject to overrides in light of situational details.)

    • IvanFyodorovich says:

      I like your respective points, 10240 and fluorocarbon. I meant 2. to really only cover people who would normally be viewed as mouthpieces for their company, people whose job it is to present views of the company, but 10240’s point is still valid.

      And re: fluorocarbon very true. I’m reminded of a comment at Popehat, where someone gave the example that an employee who cited Bell Curve arguments every time he got in a dispute with a black colleague would wreck a workplace and deserve to be fired. Of course, the problem with (2) and (4) is that they create a heckler’s veto. The more sensitive your coworkers decide to be, the more views are off limits.

  18. sentientbeings says:

    I considered posting about the person posing as a doctor about a month ago in an open thread. I’m glad it ended up here on the links page without my help.

    When I originally watched the news report, I had a strange, conflicting sense of amazement and familiarity. One because I have no mental model of how a person like that thinks, and the other because I used to live around there and it’s not entirely surprising to see something like this case.

  19. ilikekittycat says:

    Have any rightist defenders of free speech have expressed concern about the Texas teacher not agreeing to the anti-BDS guidelines yet? I think it’s the lack of consistency when it goes against their other political aims that makes people skeptical of their motivations. Angry college students pressuring university administrators to change protocols, etc. sucks, and people being fired from private companies sucks, but it’s hard to not trivialize (what are presented by the right-wing as) free speech concerns when they have nothing to say about actual laws being enforced by the state, which seem like the most egregious violations

    • Brad says:

      See, also Kaepernick, Colin

      The free speech norms crowd has yet to have its Skokie, and I doubt it ever will.

      • 10240 says:

        Re: kneeling:
        I object to people getting in trouble in their workplace
        (1) for voicing their opinion off the job, or
        (2) for voicing their political opinion on their job, in a context where talking about arbitrary things, including politics, is accepted, but certain political opinions are punished,
        with narrow exceptions for (a) inherently political jobs (such as political commentator) and (b) if a particular opinion indicates that the person won’t do his job well.

        If you are expected to do one particular thing (stand) at one particular time on your job, and not to express political opinions or do anything else, you do another thing and you get in trouble, that’s not comparable to any of the things I complain about. The legal test of time, place or manner restrictions work well for non-legal situations as well (if we support a societal norm in favor of free speech). In addition, I’d consider it legitimate to ban political discussion in general at a particular venue, or to restrict discussion to a specific topic.

        Re: Skokie: Do you mean right-wing free speech absolutists standing up for the free speech of left-wingers? There won’t be a case as recognizable as Skokie because the left doesn’t have a group so obnoxious and reviled that no one will defend them even on their own side, except principled free speech absolutists.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Their job is to play football. If you can attach “…and not dishonor the flag before games” to that, you can attach the partisan political requirements to anything. E.g. “your job is to is weld and not discuss political opinions I disagree with”

          I don’t have a dog in this fight, since I’m against the whole concept of free speech maximization to begin with, but this looks like special pleading.

          • John Schilling says:

            Their job is to serve as paid entertainers. Any paid entertainment job carries an implied “…and not go out of your way to piss off the audience” requirement, and in this case the audience is predominantly Red Tribe and geographic tribalism is a fairly explicit part of the package. If the NFL wants to impose a requirement for silly patriotic displays, that has a sound basis that wouldn’t apply to e.g. welding.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Reasonable point.

          • 10240 says:

            As for special pleading: I’m pretty sure that if you described a situation similar to the kneeling protests, without me knowing which side’s protest is getting suppressed and without having heard of the kneeling protests, I’d have come up with the same principles, considering it acceptable to ban the protest.

            You may be arguing that standing during the anthem is political speech. Compelling speech can be problematic as well as banning speech, but for different reasons. Banning speech can prevent discussing or publicizing certain ideas, compelling speech doesn’t. I’d consider it unacceptable to compel people to state some explicit opinion. But if people of all sorts of different political opinions traditionally stand during the anthem, then standing during the anthem doesn’t really convey the idea that the person has any particular opinion.

            E.g. “your job is to is weld and not discuss political opinions I disagree with”

            That would run afoul of (2) if discussion of other political opinions is allowed.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Their job is to serve as paid entertainers. Any paid entertainment job carries an implied “…and not go out of your way to piss off the audience” requirement,

            I don’t think that this works so neatly, its not obvious that outright catering to the audience sells better than conflict.

            Beyond that the Government is a major customer of the NFL’s through advertising and other means. If your job description can be boiled down to “don’t piss off the customer” then any welder working for a company with a government contract can be asked to stand at attention to the Anthem every morning to start work if the boss thinks it will keep that contract.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Any paid entertainment job carries an implied “…and not go out of your way to piss off the audience” requirement

            What they do or don’t do during the national anthem isn’t what they’re being paid for. I guess you could argue that the national anthem is part of the whole pageantry of the game, but if that’s the case the NFL should just make a rule about standing while it’s playing. I’m not a big fan of people being punished over not following “implied” rules.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @10240
            I don’t think that the kneelers (or the people opposed to the kneelers, for that matter) would agree that standing for the anthem is non-political speech, a mere formality that conveys no political information.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I’d go even further than john.

            Most occupations include an implied, “do not do political speech while representing the company” clause. Imagine if a UPS driver put Trump posters all over the truck, or if a salesman at a car dealership started every customer interaction by kneeling and protesting the cops. Or what if the cops every time they got to a crime scene they started by erecting a big poster for re-electing the mayor?

            These things are all unacceptable.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Why is everyone ignoring the fact that the NFL is a de facto monopoly?

            Certainly this has a large bearing on the kind of speech it is allowed to compel or forbid.

          • John Schilling says:

            Certainly this has a large bearing on the kind of speech it is allowed to compel or forbid.

            I am not aware of any legal basis for such a thing. If the NFL were a de jure monopoly, yes, but merely being vastly more popular than the various other football leagues imposes no special obligation.

            Or at least, no more of an obligation than you would be willing to see imposed on Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc, and probably less so in that the NFL doesn’t advertise itself as anything like an open marketplace of ideas.

        • Brad says:

          On general rationalist principles we should be wary of convenient universes, no?

      • albatross11 says:

        I know Jordan Peterson made a statement opposing the mandatory no-BDS statement as unacceptable. And several IDW types have made public statements opposing punishing offensive left-wing speech by academics–one case that came up recently was some professor who said mean things about Barbara Bush after she died and got some kind of hassling for it from her university administration. OTOH, the IDW isn’t particularly right wing.

        The NFL kneeling protests are a messy bit of the free speech issue, not because of the content or offensiveness of the speech (kneeling instead of standing during the anthem is about the most respectful protest you can imagine), but because of when and where it’s happening–on the job, in public, on TV. Personally, I think the players should be allowed to kneel or stand or sit during the anthem, but I also see the point that when you are on the clock on TV representing your employer, he can demand that you don’t engage in political speech on his dime. If Target fires me for going to a pro-choice rally and having my picture in my Facebook feed, that seems bad; if they fire me for wearing pro-choice buttons on my uniform when I’m stocking the shelves there (assuming it’s against a company policy, at least), I think they’re on much more solid ground–I’m on the clock, representing them, and maybe they have different political opinions or don’t want to take side in a political controversy.

        I also don’t think it’s generally a great way to understand someone’s views when you say “I haven’t heard X comment on case Y, therefore he must agree with what happened there.” This is not a claim you would accept if it were applied to your allies in most cases. (“Scott’s lack of comment on my mother-in-law’s proposal to move into our basement just proves that his claimed commitment to human flourishing is all hot air.”)

        There’s an organization that supports free speech particularly in education and I guess is somewhat right wing (at least compared to the ACLU)–FIRE. They take cases of speech suppression both right and left, as you can see here.

    • caryatis says:

      Wouldn’t it be more fair to figure out what right-wingers think before concluding they don’t care about this case? Rod Dreher and Reason Magazine have both written supportively about the case. link

      • ilikekittycat says:

        My mistake for lack of clarity.

        If what SA meant by “rightist defenders of free speech” in the OP was principled niche paleo/libertarian blogs like AmCon/Reason then I admit they have been consistent since I have followed them (Bush 2000) and their concerns should not be trivialized, as they have the right conception of free speech. All you have to do is search for “Cultural Marxism” or “transgender” on reason.com and you can see their editorial line is not synchronous with the present “rightist defense of free speech”

        I thought that shorthand in the context of the discussion ongoing on this site was talking about Peterson, Molyneux, Shapiro, the “free speech” figures driving the culture war, etc.

        • quanta413 says:

          I thought that shorthand in the context of the discussion ongoing on this site was talking about Peterson, Molyneux, Shapiro, the “free speech” figures driving the culture war, etc.

          Do you have a list of these figures so we can save the time of bringing up unnecessary examples? Or are people supposed to play the No True Scotsman game with you?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Has anyone asked those people what they think about it?

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Not sure if I count as a “rightist defender of free speech” but I certainly worry a lot about social justice causing eroding free speech norms, and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is to date the only bill I’ve bothered calling a representative about. (Not directly addressing the Texas thing but part of the same awful BDS silencing campaign)

    • 10240 says:

      As far as I gather, the contractor had to testify that, as a business, she won’t take certain actions. That’s not a free speech issue. (Compelled speech would be problematic from a free speech perspective if it compelled stating a certain opinion, but requiring some affirmation about business actions is commonplace.)

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        testify that, as a business, she won’t take certain actions.

        On the contrary, it’s requiring that, as a business, she positively do business with Israel or Israeli companies (or other US individuals/corps doing business in Israel) if they try to patronize her business. She can’t refuse, except “for ordinary business purposes”.
        From the Update on the Dreher piece linked above by caryatis:

        “Boycott Israel” means refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in an Israeli-controlled territory, but does not include an action made for ordinary business purposes

        This is directly analogical to the gay wedding bakery issue, except it involves a foreign country, and foreign nationals, not ones fellow citizens and permanent residents.

        Edit to add 45 minutes later: God, “or with a person or entity doing business in Israel” means that if you actively despise Joe Blow, the con artist and murderer who got off by a technicality, and Joe Blow decides to open a pop-up shop in Israel, then you have to do business with him if he asks. What a pernicious law.

        • Guy in TN says:

          The Masterpeice Cakeshop case was ruled narrowly on grounds that the state of Colorado did not treat the baker’s religion in a fair manner. It was never a speech issue for the Supreme Court, they didn’t rule on whether forcing the cake to be made was a free speech violation.

          So an analogous case could only be made if a business claimed that their religion prevented them from doing business with Israel. (In which case, still, they would have to argue that their religion was unfairly singled out during the construction of the law, to have an analogous victory. Mere opposition to the law is not enough)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            My analogical claim is the compulsory business relationship, and it’s not a legal argument, it’s a moral argument to the evangelical right-wing.

            Edit: Legally the 1st amendment treats speech and religious belief in the same text. I see no reason why either should be considered superior to the other. And that’s not even getting into Supreme Court precedent recognizing non-religious moral beliefs as equal to religious beliefs in terms of protection (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette).

          • Guy in TN says:

            My misunderstanding. Yes, I agree it is an analogous moral argument.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Thanks 🙂

        • 10240 says:

          On the contrary, it’s requiring that, as a business, she positively do business with Israel or Israeli companies (or other US individuals/corps doing business in Israel) if they try to patronize her business.

          Fine, then she has to testify that, as a business, she’ll do certain actions. Still not a free speech issue. (Well, it’s more of a mixture: you either be willing to do any particular form of business with Israelis, or you can’t do it with anyone.)

          I consider the gay weeing cake case an overbroad application of anti-discrimination laws (or perhaps overbroad laws). I’d construe discrimination as doing something for one group, but unwilling to do the same thing for another group. AFAIK the gay couple ordered a cake specific to a gay wedding (a gay couple on top?). I wouldn’t consider it a free speech issue. One could construe it as such though (as compelled speech, which is problematic for somewhat different reasons than banned speech). If they refused to bake the same cake for a gay couple that they would bake for a straight couple, that would be a straightforward anti-discrimination case, and certainly not a free speech issue.

          The anti-BDS law is more analogous to a straightforward anti-discrimination law: you can’t refuse to do business with Israelis if you would do the same business with non-Israelis. Indeed, some anti-discrimination laws also ban discrimination on the basis of citizenship. (Though they wouldn’t apply to most of the situations the anti-BDS law applies to. I find them weird anyway, as the government itself also engages in discrimination on the basis of citizenship.)

          Of course all sorts of compelled actions may involve some speech (paying tax, filing any form for the government, any business action required by anti-discrimination laws). It wouldn’t make sense to consider all these as problematic from a free speech standpoint. I’d only consider compelled speech problematic if it requires affirming an opinion as if it was your opinion.

          “or with a person or entity doing business in Israel” means that if you actively despise Joe Blow, the con artist and murderer who got off by a technicality, and Joe Blow decides to open a pop-up shop in Israel, then you have to do business with him if he asks. What a pernicious law.

          I suppose “specifically with” means it’s only illegal to boycott an Israeli because he’s Israeli (or resides in Israel etc.). If you boycott crooks in general, you’re free to boycott Israeli crooks too.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I suppose “specifically with” means it’s only illegal to boycott an Israeli because he’s Israeli (or resides in Israel etc.). If you boycott crooks in general, you’re free to boycott Israeli crooks too.

            Hopefully, but it would have been nice if they specified. These laws are supposed to be interpretable by the populace.

            Any moral belief is of the same standing as a religious belief, in my eyes. So this is less a free speech issue and more an interfering with moral beliefs for a special cause (it would have been different if the law had applied to all nations, and not just those with a business relationship with Israel).

          • 10240 says:

            @anonymousskimmer Virtually all laws may interfere with someone’s moral beliefs, at least ones that compel some action. To start with, paying tax may violate your moral beliefs if you disapprove of the actions of the government. Expecting the government to not make any law that interfere with someone’s moral beliefs is an impossible standard, except perhaps if you are a hardcore libertarian.

            I don’t think there should be a similar standard about religious beliefs either.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Of course I’m not saying that, I’m just saying that the same standard that applies to *religions* in law should apply to all moral beliefs.

          • 10240 says:

            @anonymousskimmer The special treatment of religions in law, different from other beliefs, is an interesting thing. I’m not sure I support it, though I see some arguments for it.

            Basically, we have learned, through centuries of conflict and debate, that it’s impossible to convince most religious people to change or abandon their religion. And most people follow their parents’ religion. So religion is, in practice, similar to innate, unchangeable, inherited characteristics such as race or ethnicity. Furthermore, some religious people are extremely reluctant to violate the rules of their religion, thinking they would burn in hell for an eternity, or whatever. Thus, asking someone to violate the rules of his religion could be effectively used for religious discrimination, which can be considered wrong for similar reasons as ethnic discrimination.

            A counter-argument is that a religion is a belief system and (often) an ideology, thus religion is a relevant characteristic of a person in a way race or ethnicity aren’t.

            IMO a distinction should be made between intentionally requiring your employees, contractors etc. to violate the rules of some religion in order to exclude them, or you require them to do something you would require even if you never heard of religions, and which happens to violate the rules of some religion. As a secularist, I definitely don’t think the latter should be considered wrong, and I’m ambivalent about the former.

            I definitely wouldn’t extend protections to moral beliefs; if we don’t think religions deserve special treatment, then laws protecting religious belief should be abolished, rather than extended to moral beliefs.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Basically, we have learned, through centuries of conflict and debate, that it’s impossible to convince most religious people to change or abandon their religion.

            The various Muslim conquests, and reconquistas, show that this isn’t the case, and on top of that there’s how fast various religions spread through the populace after a monarch converted.

            The later is likely a major part of why the founders didn’t like the idea of state-respected religions.

            I definitely wouldn’t extend protections to moral beliefs

            Religions aren’t the only beliefs with martyrs. The state shouldn’t go around encouraging martyrdom.

            As a secularist, I definitely don’t think the latter should be considered wrong

            I don’t either.

          • 10240 says:

            @anonymousskimmer Yeah, you can “convince” a lot of people by threatening them with expulsion, burning at stake and similar methods. We prefer more peaceful governments nowadays.

          • Aapje says:

            @10240

            You are misrepresenting BDS as well as anti-BDS laws. BDS is about boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions against those who (are alleged to) commit or be complicit in the violation of the rights of Palestinians. It’s not about punishing Israelis in general.

            If you look at actual, current BDS efforts, they most commonly target products produced in occupied territories, not those produced in Israel itself.

            Israel tends to portray this as a general boycott of Israel. A main reason for this seems to be that there is no separation between the economy of the settlements and the main Israeli economy. So if BDS efforts expand, it could result in boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions that impact Israel severely (for example, against Israeli banks that fund projects in both Israel as well as the occupied territories).

            As the current Israeli government is unwilling to abandon the settlements, they logically see BDS as an attack on Greater Israel. However, they are not being fair to BDS activists when they present it as an attempt to destroy all of Israel (rather than merely the settlements).

            IMO, this is no more an attempt to destroy Israel, than the anti-Apartheid boycotts were an attempt to destroy South-Africa.

            Because the BDS efforts are not actually discriminating by race or nationality and are not significantly different from any other boycott, which is considered a constitutional right by the Supreme Court, it actually tends to be the anti-BDS laws that discriminate.

            The usual method that anti-BDS laws use is boycott the boycotters, disallowing government contracts with and pension investments in companies that have BDS policies. These laws then single out Israel and the occupied territories as regions that may not be boycotted. This seems unconstitutional*.

            * Although the Supreme Court is partially political, so they may find a loop hole to revert/undermine their earlier decisions.

          • 10240 says:

            @Aapje The BDS in general demands boycott of Israel, and some specific boycotts were targeted at Israel as a whole, though some are more limited.

            Anyway, the exact groups are irrelevant for the distinction between requiring you to do the same thing for a particular group that you do for anyone else, and requiring you to do a particular thing for a particular group if you do a different thing for a different group.

            (for example, against Israeli banks that fund projects in both Israel as well as the occupied territories).

            And other companies do business with Israeli banks etc. If you consider anyone “complicit” who does business with someone “complicit”, you could transitively boycott the whole World as the entire World economy can be represented by a connected graph.

            IMO, this is no more an attempt to destroy Israel, than the anti-Apartheid boycotts were an attempt to destroy South-Africa.

            Looking at the effects of majority rule in many African countries, they had a decent chance at destroying South Africa. Not intended though.

            Because the BDS efforts are not actually discriminating by race or nationality and are not significantly different from any other boycott, which is considered a constitutional right by the Supreme Court, it actually tends to be the anti-BDS laws that discriminate.

            There is no objective distinction between a boycott and discrimination. Anti-discrimination acts protect a variety of groups besides race and nationality. Of course political opinions vary about which groups should be protected.

            Arguably a difference between a boycott and discrimination is the intent: in discrimination, harming the target is a side-effect, while in a boycott, harming the target is the intended direct effect, with a desired indirect effect of the target changing its behavior. Then again, I doubt that anyone who wants to ban discrimination against gay people would consider it acceptable to boycott gay people in order to induce them to not engage in gay sex or to not be (openly) gay.

            Anyway, I didn’t argue about whether anti-BDS laws are constitutional, but about whether it’s hypocritical to oppose the process against the bakery but support the anti-BDS laws (or oppose them less). That is, whether there are consistent meta-level principles that lead to these positions.

          • hilitai says:

            “the BDS efforts are not actually discriminating by race or nationality

            If your BDS boycott causes you to cease working with any Israeli company just because it’s Israeli, that sounds like “discriminating by nationality”.

            However, it sounds as though it is being argued that the BDS boycotts are specific to West Bank entities, and therefore aren’t discrimination by nationality. That’s an interesting argument, but it doesn’t seem consistent with what BDS is generally seen to be about.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @10240
            A lot of the conversion to Islam was due to status and taxes, since “people of the book” were otherwise allowed to live freely in Muslim nations.

            Would the puritans have maintained their religious beliefs if they hadn’t been from the wealthier classes of England, and thus able to afford it?

          • 10240 says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            A lot of the conversion to Islam was due to status and taxes, since “people of the book” were otherwise allowed to live freely in Muslim nations.

            Still, I doubt those people actually believed that Islam was actually right just because it was convenient to convert, as opposed to pretending to believe it. Then, once they pretended, it probably became difficult to pass their actual religion on to subsequent generations. Some people did so for quite long as crypto-{Jews,Christians,Muslims} (depending on the current official religion).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            the gay weeing cake case

            I think a lot of people would object to making a weeing cake, gay or otherwise.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Agreed it’s not free speech per se and not covered by the first amendment*. But ‘policing off-duty political behavior based on content rather than means’ is a natural category that includes most of the free speech issues bandied about these days. I don’t like it when the social justice left does it, and I don’t like it when other groups do it either.

        *Though if I believed in penumbras, this would probably fall there.

    • The piece I saw on that, on the Volokh Conspiracy blog, argued that the news story was badly misrepresenting the situation since the law only applied to companies, not individuals.

      On the other hand, I think a state government refusing to do business with any firm that supports a particular ideological position is itself pretty dubious behavior.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Volokh appears to object but thinks it is Constitutional according to current Supreme Court jurisprudence.

    • hilitai says:

      This doesn’t seem like a “free speech” issue. The State of Texas is saying that its contractors, as business entities, can’t indulge in certain behaviors if they want to work for the State of Texas. I think this law, and most such laws like it*, are stupid, ham-handed, and wrong in their attempts to control peoples’ behavior, but I don’t see it as a First Amendment problem. (BTW, I would consider myself a “rightist defender of free speech”.)


      *I believe there are many existing laws that attempt to control the behavior of contracting businesses – isn’t this just an extension of that?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        The State of Texas is saying that its contractors, as business entities, can’t indulge in certain behaviors

        Please see my post above: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/12/25/links-12-18-boughs-of-hollink/#comment-703179

        • hilitai says:

          Ok, I’ve seen it, but I’m not sure of your point. Are you making a “bake the cake” comparison?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            My point is that compelled action is compelled action, and proscriptions are proscriptions, and the two categories are disjunct.

            “You can’t wear sexually suggestive attire to the dance” is “can’t indulge in certain behaviors”. A whole host of other options exist, including not attending the dance at all, or wearing sexy underclothes.

            “You have to accept if someone asks you to the dance” is compelled behavior. You have some option in the particulars of how you fulfill the requirement, but you still must fulfill the over-arching requirement.

          • hilitai says:

            “compelled action is compelled action, and proscriptions are proscriptions, and the two categories are disjunct.”

            I’m not sure I agree, at least in this case. Texas is telling its contractors: “You can’t refuse to work with Israel”. My formulation of that was “you can’t indulge in discrimination against Israeli businesses”. But as far as I can see, it’s the same thing.

            To rewrite your examples: “You must wear modest clothing” compels an action. “You can’t refuse to dance with bald men” is a proscription.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            To rewrite your examples: “You must wear modest clothing” compels an action. “You can’t refuse to dance with bald men” is a proscription.

            The first example is not a compulsion because you aren’t forced to go to the dance at all.

            The second one is a compulsion because it 1) forces you to go to the dance, and 2) forces you to dance with certain men if they ask you to once you’re there.

            Now if you had the choice to not go to the dance at all, sure, then it wouldn’t be a compulsion. But back to the topic at hand: for people whose businesses are primarily patronized by state entities, then you’re pretty much forced out of business, or forced to move to another state in order to keep your livelihood (you can’t do anything if you don’t actively do as we say = compulsion). You want to go to the dance; you *need* to go to the dance; but you have to do particular things at others request once you get to the dance.

            You want a job, you have to do business with these friends of ours if they ask. Anyone should recognize that as a racket.

            And the Texas compulsion is much broader than just “you can’t refuse to do business with Israel”, as shown in my earlier comment.

          • hilitai says:

            I get the feeling that the dance analogy thing isn’t working, at least for me. I don’t think you understand my point, and I don’t think I understand yours either. Are you saying, in effect, “Israel == the Mafia?” Or that a Moslem forced to work with Israel is equivalent to a devoutly religious baker forced to make a cake for an “immoral” purpose?

            As far as I can tell, Texas is saying its contractors can’t arbitrarily discriminate against Israeli businesses. As I previously said, I don’t think that’s really the state of Texas’ business, but it certainly isn’t the first or most onerous such requirement government entities place on businesses.

            If I had the power to do so, I’d attempt to repeal the law.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            We’ll have to agree to disagree then. No, the state of Texas would be the mafia here, Israel would be its non-mafioso cousin, and the school district would be the strip mall owner under the ‘protection’ of the mafia, and the muslim woman is the person who wants to open up shop in the only zoned commercial establishment in the city. And yes to your second question, though that’s not my point here (though is one of my points in the earlier post to 10240).

            Texas is saying that it’s fine to arbitrarily say no to anyone, except Israel and Israel-affiliates, who you must serve if they ask, unless an unspecified “ordinary business purpose” clause is met.

          • Aapje says:

            @hilitai

            As far as I can tell, Texas is saying its contractors can’t arbitrarily discriminate against Israeli businesses.

            BDS boycotts are far from arbitrary.

            Texas is saying that you may not boycott Israeli companies that you think are committing human rights violations, although you may boycott Chinese companies that you believe complicit in oppressing the Uighurs or Saudi companies that you believe are complicit in the deaths of innocent Yemenis.

            IMHO, it is Texas that is rather arbitrarily deciding that one specific boycott is not allowed, while all others are.

          • hilitai says:

            “BDS boycotts are far from arbitrary.”

            I’m not sure what you mean by this.

            “Texas is saying that you may not boycott Israeli companies that you think are committing human rights violations”

            I think that’s your interpretation; however, it isn’t clear to me that that is either the intent or effect of the law, as stated below:

            “Boycott Israel” means refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in an Israeli-controlled territory, but does not include an action made for ordinary business purposes

            Let me reiterate; I think it’s a stupid blunt instrument of a law, on par with defining pi to equal 3, but I don’t think it’s a bad law specifically on 1st Amendment grounds. I’m deferring to David Bernstein on this one.

          • Aapje says:

            I’m not sure what you mean by this.

            What I mean is that BDS does not indiscriminatory target any Israeli, but tends to specifically target organizations that it considers complicit in oppressing Palestinians.

            You misrepresent this as a general attack on any Israeli business with no cause other than that they are Israeli. I think that this is a false portrayal that is based on a very biased view.

          • hilitai says:

            “You misrepresent this as a general attack on any Israeli business with no cause other than that they are Israeli. I think that this is a false portrayal that is based on a very biased view.”

            Maybe; I’m not very familiar with BDS except at the most general level. I’ll just refer back to
            this previous comment of mine as a response.

          • Aapje says:

            From the linked comment:

            If your BDS boycott causes you to cease working with any Israeli company just because it’s Israeli, that sounds like “discriminating by nationality”.

            Then I repeat my claim that the boycotts are commonly limited to companies that operate in occupied territory, not all Israeli companies.

            I looked at the main activist organization behind BDS and they focus on this and I looked at lists of organizations that participate in BDS and that says what they do. Both are consistent with my claims and not with yours.

  20. janne says:

    Registered just to say that i grew up less than 1 km from the field where the silver hoard was found , and actually works together with Björn ( the landowner). 😉
    A bit surprising to read about it here.
    //Janne

  21. aldel says:

    Would Social Policy Bonds have the same problems as an artificial superintelligence that tries to achieve predefined goals? That is, you have to very precisely define the outcome you want, and no matter how you do that, someone will come up with a way to achieve the goal as stated, that also results in a dark dystopian future for the rest of us.

    • Eponymous says:

      Yes, but only in the boring sense of Goodhart’s Law. To get an apocalypse from ordering a cup of coffee you need a very strong optimizer.

      • Long Disc says:

        Ordering a cup of coffee is a pretty weird purpose for a Social Policy Bonds. As their name suggests, they are supposed to be used to achieve goals that affect many people – millions if not everyone – who may not have asked for these goals to be achieved. With such projects unintended consequences are more of inevitability than a strong optimizer artifact.

  22. Eponymous says:

    Re: Calment — this seems like a good chance to test our predictive ability. Probably we will get a definite answer on this in the next few years. So, anyone care to lay odds on how this will turn out?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      If someone gives permission to take a tissue sample the odds are 10099.9% us knowing the truth (her daughter would be the child of a cousin marriage, which should be detectable even without an ancestry database). Without that, the odds are 100% that this becomes a popular fringe theory and the consequent weasel-wording in wikipedia and news articles.

      • A1987dM says:

        As of today it’s already mentioned in Wikipedia [1, 2, 3].

      • Eponymous says:

        Sure, you can also lay odds on the meta prediction that we will get something (reasonably) definitive on this in the next several years.

        I figure that’s pretty likely (~80%), since it seems there’s enough heft behind the accusations that someone will look into it.

        As to digging her up — heck, just on the grounds of medical science alone I’m all for that. Might be hard to pull off though.

  23. jddt says:

    “Marc Lamont Hill was fired as a CNN commentator – and almost lost his tenured professorship at Temple University – for giving a pro-Palestine speech at the United Nations. Opponents claimed that his call for a Palestinian state “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” was a “dog-whistle” calling for the extermination of Jews. I think it’s important that everyone remember free speech for everyone stands or falls together.”

    This isn’t what happened. What happened was his UN speech made him high-profile enough that various people went through his blog, his previous interviews, and so on, and found a consistent message of support for violence against Jews in particular (including in the speech you mention), support for Farrakhan, and so on. Apart from anything else, he was highlighted as a source of (anti-Jewish) nonsense (such as calling Israel apartheid and saying Israel denies Arabs citizenship and so on) — my point is that maybe if he was the finance correspondent for CNN and had no history of saying high-profile ridiculous things about The Markets then maybe them firing him over his comments regarding Jews living in Israel would be a free-speech issue — but since his job was being a political correspondent for CNN, this entire thing discredited him and it seems sensible to fire him. His employer at Temple Uni seemed to support that his words could reasonable be described as virulently anti-Semitic hate speech that incites violence… but that his activism at the UN is orthogonal to his responsibilities at the university (where he lectures in Media Studies) so it wasn’t grounds to fire him.

    “for giving a pro-Palestine speech at the United Nations” — misleading — lot’s of people say pro-Palestinian things all the time — the point was his extremism.

    “Opponents claimed that his call for a Palestinian state “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” was a “dog-whistle” calling for the extermination of Jews”

    What is a Palestinian state? Approximately everyone would define that as a state run by the Palestinians, and totally Judenrein — so calling for a Palestinian State from the river to the sea is calling at least for the ethnic cleansing of all Jews… so, not sure whether this is dog whistle interpretation or just listening to what he’s explicitly saying 😛 (?!).

    Anyways, the bit you’ve quoted kind of buries the lead: him spending time in the UN speech saying that we should support Palestinian terrorist attacks (I guess like the one the other day where a pregnant woman was shot from a moving car while waiting at a bus stop). This is pretty disgusting stuff and it’s jarring to hear you speak of it in this way.

    • Guy in TN says:

      not sure whether this is dog whistle interpretation or just listening to what he’s explicitly saying

      If he explicitly said he supported the extermination of the Jews, then you could quote him on it. That you have to add your own more radical “interpretation” means that, yes, you are still dog-whistle hunting.

    • Kzickas says:

      No, approximately everyone wouldn’t define a Palestinian state as being Judenrein. In fact this comment thread is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone having such a requirement for a state to be considered Palestinian. In my experience people would generally consider any Palestinian majority state that doesn’t deliberatly supress the Palestinian majority a Palestinian state. How do you think people would classify a Palestinian majority state with 1% to 49% Jews?

      • The Nybbler says:

        How do you think people would classify a Palestinian majority state with 1% to 49% Jews?

        “Unstable”.

      • caryatis says:

        Yes, it’s absolutely false and uncharitable to claim that “everyone” who used the term “Palestinian state” means one without any Jews. There are probably some anti-semites who would support that, but why assume that of everyone? If I support the existence of Italy, it doesn’t mean I want to kill or expel all non-ethnic Italians. I want a Palestinian state that is secular and multi-ethnic.

      • bbeck310 says:

        The current Palestinian states are Judenrein–not just the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, but the PLO-controlled West Bank as well. All Arab and Muslim countries are more or less Judenrein, either through direct expulsion of Jews (most Arab states) or through fairly harsh oppression (Iran). Why would any person knowledgeable enough about the Middle East to be asked to give a speech about it at the United Nations have any reason to think that a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea,” controlled by either the PLO or Hamas, would be any different?

        • Guy in TN says:

          Wikipedia tells me 391,000 Jews live in the West Bank, representing 17% of the population.

          • JulieK says:

            But there are no Jews living in the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If that’s true, then it’s because they simply choose not to live there. The State of Palestine allows for religious freedom, and has no Nazi-esque “Jew cleansing” policy.

            I suppose if Jewish people decide to pack up and migrate somewhere, that could make a place “Judenrein”, but that feels like a motte and bailey with the word. Its supposed to have a more sinister meaning, I think.

          • Cliff says:

            They choose not to live there because a Jew living in Palestine would be killed in short order. In most undeveloped countries, there is a huge difference between what the constitution or other legal documents say and what is actually done by the state. Particularly here where the Palestinians are trying to curry international favor (though note the Hamas charter).

            Given the anti-Jew propaganda and explicit calls for killing, and violent terrorist actions, Israelis rightly understand that Palestinian control of Israel would result in a bloodbath.

          • Guy in TN says:

            First I’m told that there are no Jews living under Palestinian rule, and now I’m told that innocent Jews living under Palestinian rule are regularly killed by the state.

            I’m thinking both of these cannot be simultaneously true (leaning towards neither being true).

        • Guy in TN says:

          Also important to keep in mind that there are, literally, over 100x more Muslims in the world than Jews. So if you looks at countries in the Arab world and think “whoa, this Muslim to Jewish ratio is really off!”, remember what a “normal” ratio actually looks like.

        • vV_Vv says:

          but the PLO-controlled West Bank as well.

          The West Bank is controlled by the Israeli, who graciously allow the PLO to run internal day-to-day government functions on some fractured and ever shrinking portion of that territory.

    • Machine Interface says:

      “he was highlighted as a source of (anti-Jewish) nonsense (such as calling Israel apartheid”

      The claim that Israel is in a state of apartheid originated among Jewish Israeli politicians. One of their arguments in favor of this thesis is that the Israeli government presents as “autonomy” what in practice amounts to segregation (a tactic that was used in both the segregated southern US and in Apartheid South Africa). For instance, there are distinct school curricula for Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of Israel, but the content of both curricula is entirely decided by the same all-Jewish board (again, similar to how things used to work in the US and South Africa).

      • WarOnReasons says:

        The school board analogy is flawed.

        Unlike South Africa, the Israeli parliament is elected by all its citizens and it is the Israeli parliament that directly or indirectly appoints all boards. Over- or under-representation in any given state commission is not a proof of “the apartheid regime”. Or would you consider the prolonged absence of WASPs on the US supreme court as a proof of an anti-wasp apartheid?

        • Machine Interface says:

          I’m merely quoting the argument and pointing out that its originators are the furthest people you could credibly accuse of being antisemites wanting to see Israel destroyed.

          I do think the argument has merit, but ultimately this is the kind of claim that is bound to degenerate into an argument over definitions instead of an argument over facts, especially given how loaded both the Israel-Palestine situation and the word Apartheid are.

          To answer your specific objection, I think the defenders of that view would argue that Palestinian living in Gaza and the West Bank are de facto citizens of Israel that are denied voting rights. The ideas is that there is basically the same hypocrisy toward the two Palestinian enclaves as there was toward the Bantustans: Israel treats these enclaves as its full property when it arranges them (the Palestinian “government” has no control over its borders, no control over its airspace, no army, no control over its access to water, fuel, building material or medicine, their elected officials cannot even move between the two enclaves without requesting Israeli authorities for the permission to do so, its citizens are generally forbidden to enter or leave the enclaves without going through Israel and Israeli customes, and of course, there’s the continuous expropriations and settling of the West Bank by Israeli), and as a foreign country when it does not (so Palestinian citizens have no say on Israeli politics, any aid given is treated as part of the “foreign aid” budget, and of course military operations are conducted as if they were in enemy territory).

          • WarOnReasons says:

            By that logic the British rule of Hong Kong is also an example of apartheid. Not far from Israel there is an island of Cyprus, parts of which the UK also continues to occupy against the will of the local population. Somehow people who seem care very deeply about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are totally indifferent to the UK occupation of Cyprus, Morocco occupation of Western Sahara etc.

          • Machine Interface says:

            While these examples have not gathered the degree of focus that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has, probably due to their having much lesser strategical impact on local geopolitics, there are definitely groups of people who protest those, including in a very official fashion (Western Sahara is included in the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories for instance, which basically amounts to the UN saying “this is a colony, this needs to stop being a colony at some point”; a bunch of British, French and American islands are also included on that list).

          • Guy in TN says:

            Somehow people who seem care very deeply about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are totally indifferent to the UK occupation of Cyprus, Morocco occupation of Western Sahara etc.

            It’s reversed moderation fallacy again. In the US, we are actively participating in what is going on in Israel/Palestine, so it makes more sense to protest that than say, China’s imperialism in Taiwan.

            As for British leftists, perhaps they should keep a running google sheets list of “things I also denounce”, since their country has been in involved in so many imperial projects over the years.

          • quanta413 says:

            By that logic the British rule of Hong Kong is also an example of apartheid. Not far from Israel there is an island of Cyprus, parts of which the UK also continues to occupy against the will of the local population. Somehow people who seem care very deeply about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank are totally indifferent to the UK occupation of Cyprus, Morocco occupation of Western Sahara etc.

            Material conditions matter. Hong Kong Chinese were materially much better off than the Chinese next to them. Palestine is poor compared to Jordan which itself is pretty poor.

            And no one knows about Morocco. If they knew, they’d probably denounce it.

          • albatross11 says:

            The problem here is that the justification for firing him is that he made obviously anti-Semetic comments, but when challenged, it changes to the charge that he made a bunch of comments which are somewhat ambiguous but probably imply an anti-Israel or anti-Jewish worldview.

            The reality is that he was fired for saying things that pissed off powerful people in the network, presumably because they strongly identify with Israel and don’t like people attacking it. And then they or other people go look for some justification for why it was justified, and can always find one because everyone says something that can be taken as offensive somewhere. This is, as best I can tell, almost always the pattern when you see someone punished for speech–first, some powerful people pissed off by the speech decide to apply the punishment, then later they or their hangers-on spin up some kind of backfilled justification for it. If the powerful people at the NYT had fired Sarah Jeong and kept Quinn Norton, there would have been a backfilled explanation that was equally plausible for why this was the right decision. If Google had decided not to fire Damore, somehow the backfilled explanation would have worked out to justify it, and it would have looked about as plausible as the one that was spun up to justify firing him.

          • Guy in TN says:

            What is curious, is that the exaggeration of his claims was completely unnecessary. If you are a pro-Israel network, and someone makes pro-Palestinian claims, then it is in your self-interest to fire them. For instance, everyone would understand if Fox News fired hosts who turned face, and came out in support of Bernie Sanders. And even if you are a network just trying to stay out of the fray, and someone says something outrageous “I think France should take over Germany”, you can reasonably fire them then as well.

          • albatross11 says:

            Imagine a person who lived in a very repressive regime. If they said something that pissed off the regime, bad things might happen to them–they’d get roughed up by the police, or lose their job, or have their family hassled. Or maybe nobody would pay attention and they’d get away with it this time–it’s hard to predict what will get you in trouble sometimes.

            Now, imagine seeing that person put on TV and asked to opine about current political issues. Anyone sensible watching that person in a discussion is going to realize that they’re not necessarily expressing their complete thoughts–there are some ideas they will never dare bring up, and others they will bring up only with great care and delicacy, obliquely.

            Finally, imagine that we had a media environment full of such people. Imagine if everyone on TV knows that there are ideas, as defensible as the ones in mainstream conversation, which they dare not express, even away from the TV show, lest some nasty consequences befall them. Imagine that sometimes, even a pretty innocuous comment gets turned into a reason to give someone trouble. Would you expect the conversations in that media environment to be full of insight and quality? Or would you expect that everyone would be super careful to mouth exactly what the powerful people in their repressive society wanted to hear, and to never, ever express any controversial-to-the-powerful views?

          • Guy in TN says:

            I see two different values, in tension, which political media serves: 1. Advocacy of positions 2. Public debate of what the best position is.

            Your argument correctly notes that if those who control the media crush dissent in the name of advocacy, then it cripples the ability for the media to serve as an insightful public debate forum.

            I don’t disagree with you, but I would counter that the “public debate” value isn’t what the vast majority of media outlets are seeking in the first place (or at least, its a secondary value).

            And I don’t think this is unreasonable for these media outlets to value advocacy foremost. If I created a media outlet I would also want it to be used primarily for influencing people to believe certain things, with the limits of internal debate between commentators constrained within a privately-determined Overton Window of sorts. I wouldn’t want the content of every media program to look like a comment section.

        • vV_Vv says:

          The apartheid claim doesn’t apply mainly to the Arab citizens of Israel, who formally have (more or less) the same rights of the Jewish citizens but in practice are discriminated (e.g. in the “separate but equal” school system).

          The apartheid claim applies to the Palestinians residents of the West Bank and Gaza, who are ultimately subject to the sovreign authority of the Israeli government but are not considered Israeli citizens and don’t have any rights recognized by the Israeli government (they can’t vote in Israeli elections, the Israeli government can arbitrarily restrict their movements, detain them, confiscate and destroy their property and even extrajudicially kill them).

          Like apartheid-era South Africa, the status of the Palestinian residents is justified under a pretense of autonomy: they are supposed to be “citizens” of the Palestinian National Authority, a legal fiction which correspond to Fatah and Hamas each independently exercising some day-to-day government functions in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, without sovereignty, similar to the Bantustans of South Africa.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      “Approximately everyone would define that as a state run by the Palestinians, and totally Judenrein ”

      If by “approximately everyone” you mean “Only people who are categorically opposed to any kind of compromise or lasting peace”, that would be correct. But none of the actual proposals for a Palestinian state exclude Jews from being present.

      • cmndrkeen says:

        It can be hard to build a mental model of ethnic hatred. As an exercise, do a mental find/replace, where every Arab/Palestinian is White, and every Jew is Black.

        In a region of the world where hatred of Blacks is explicit, open, and common, Blacks have been expelled or oppressed in every country except one, the one they control. There, displaced Whites routinely bomb and murder Blacks in that country in order to cow them into submission.

        One of the major White political parties explicitly calls for the extermination of Blacks, surprising no one.

        Now someone proposes that the solution to this problem is to give Whites control of the one Black-controlled country. What impact would this solution have on the safety of Blacks in that region?

        • Guy in TN says:

          What impact would this solution have on the safety of Blacks in that region?

          Goal post shift- no one is arguing that that the destruction of the state of Israel will make Israelis better off. The OP used a strong word, “Judenrein”, which means something beyond “puts Jews in a worse position”.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            IMO, the best evidence we have is that if “Palestine” became a 60%+ Muslim state it would quickly become almost a 0% Jewish state because of a rational exodus.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I disagree- what country is willing to take 6.5 million new immigrants? Not to mention, they probably wouldn’t be a majority in whatever country they fled to, so I don’t see how an exodus would improve their position by much. No country is going to let them re-create the state of Israel in their borders.

          • 10240 says:

            Indeed, it wouldn’t lead to a complete exodus, it would lead to a civil war.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            You think America and Germany can’t be guilted into taking 6 million Jews based on saying “Holocaust” 3 times quickly?

            I think it would have almost 100% effectiveness right now. Now, with antiSemitism being increasingly ascendant in certain quarters in the US (paired with a type of denialism which would insist they aren’t actually being put in pogroms), maybe that’s less true in 10 years.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Notice how the claims get progressively weaker:

            First, proposing an expansion of Palestine is the equivalent of advocating for the “extermination of the Jews”.

            …well not really “exterminate”, but advocating for the area to be “Judenrein”.

            …But only in the sense that the Jews will decide to migrate, not in the sense of fleeing from ethnic cleansing by the state.

            …and this hypothetical voluntary migration will only happen, because so many wealthy and prosperous countries love Jews, and these countries will accept this immigration with open arms.

            Well…okay then?

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I never made any of those claims, aside from the fact that they would flee legitimate threat of ethnic cleansing or internment. I also claimed that large parts of the West would intentionally ignore this state of being, but that America is sufficiently on top of things culturally that we would identify it and, yes, accept the high skilled, high IQ people to flee here.

          • albatross11 says:

            My prediction, in which I am very confident, is that if some catastrophe engulfs Israel anytime in the next 10 years, the US will take in very large numbers of refugees–probably as many as want to come. That’s due to a lot of reasons, including the fact that there are a lot of Americans (many very wealthy/influential) with family or other close connections to people in Israel, the several-decade-long alliance between our countries, a mostly positive opinion of Israel in the US, and the memory of turning away Jews fleeing the holocaust who ended up being murdered by Nazis.

            I would also expect the US to be drawn into any war that threatened Israel’s existence, unless it was over so quickly that there was nothing to be done but to try to get the survivors out.

          • Guy in TN says:

            It is difficult to make predictions about an event that has such a remote possibility of occurring. Its important to remember that Palestine has nowhere near the military capability to conquer Israel, not to mention the United States’ certain direct intervention if such a thing were attempted. So if such circumstances were to come to be, it could only occur in an unrecognizable global geopolitical climate, likely in the aftermath of something akin to WWIII. We’re operating layers deep in hypotheticals here.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            It is difficult to make predictions about an event that has such a remote possibility of occurring. Its important to remember that Palestine has nowhere near the military capability to conquer Israel, not to mention the United States’ certain direct intervention if such a thing were attempted. So if such circumstances were to come to be, it could only occur in an unrecognizable global geopolitical climate, likely in the aftermath of something akin to WWIII. We’re operating layers deep in hypotheticals here.

            Yes, but we are using these hypotheticals to evaluate the moral positions of each side. One side seems to end with there being a prosperous Jewish state and an average Arab pseduo-state, the other results in, at best, the Armenian “relocation” as Turkey likes to call it.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If you are using hypothetical scenarios to evaluate the moral value of their position, you can’t assign them a hypothetical scenario that they don’t think will happen, and then judge them by the standard of it actually happening.

            Its like a scientist saying “we need to invent safe sub-speed of light travel”, and you responding “you are immoral, because hypothetically such a device would cause the destruction of the galaxy. Why would you advocate for murder?”

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            If you are using hypothetical scenarios to evaluate the moral value of their position, you can’t assign them a hypothetical scenario that they don’t think will happen, and then judge them by the standard of it actually happening.

            I can when it is the “plan” that a lot of people appear to be advocating for. Which is a “unified” Palestine that combines current Israel with the West Bank & Gaza + a right of return for the descendants of refugees in other countries.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Which is a “unified” Palestine that combines current Israel with the West Bank & Gaza + a right of return for the descendants of refugees in other countries.

            Goal post shift- you said there would be forced relocations. Where is that in the “plan”?

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            That is what the new political majority will enact following “the plan”.

            Its like you haven’t observed the activities on surrounding states.

  24. liskantope says:

    I don’t have a particularly strong command of statistics like our host here does, but I have educated myself a lot on supercentenarian data and particular cases (especially Jeanne Calment’s) for many years. The Calment case has long been considered the most thoroughly validated case ever, setting the gold standard for human longevity validations. Because of this, and for other obvious reasons coming from to my passion for studying supercentenarians, I have a bias towards disbelieving the linked article calling it into question (not sure if that first reason should even be called a “bias”, though).

    I’m staying with my family now and don’t have my book on Jeanne Calment with me or the time to fully examine all the claims the article makes or I’m about to make, but let me take a crack at addressing a few of the points in the article.

    One more reason for suspicion is how far from other longevity records her age is. There are only two cases of this kind: Jeanne and Sarah Knauss, whose record is 119 years. All other supercentenarians are several years apart from them.

    This is generally misleading, and it’s flat-out untrue that “all other SCs are several years apart from them”. The third-oldest known person died fairly recently at 117 years and 260 days, and there are several others who died within 4 months short of that age. So there are 9 people who died at 116, a cluster roughly around 117.5 years (plus an old claim of a Japanese woman living to 118 that, last I heard, seemed plausible to the current experts), and then Sarah Knauss who died at roughly 119.25 years and finally Calment who died at just under 112.5 years. This makes Calment definitely an outlier, but the second-oldest person, Knauss, looks like exactly where she should be. See this list. Again, I don’t have a strong background in statistics, but this looks exactly like I’d expect the tail of a bell curve to look like.

    Whenever a new record is set, the person dies several days or several weeks later, very rarely several months later.

    Also misleading. During the last decade while I’ve been tracking the Oldest Living Person titleholders, there have been several dying at 114 but also several dying at 117 and others everywhere in-between. There is a range of several years among the “typical” ages at death of the Oldest Living Persons.

    My eyes were telling me that Jeanne didn’t have the hallmarks of frailty that would correspond to her official age, such as the fact that unlike other supercentenarians, she was able to sit straight in her chair without others’ help.

    This is another major theme of the article, and I think its validity is very questionable. First of all, I agree that Calment was very fit compared to the average SC when you compare them at the same ages (say, ages 113 through 117 after which there are hardly any examples). But isn’t that exactly what you would expect out of an SC who eventually reached an age over 3 years older than any of the rest? (Although this is not always how it works — there are some, e.g. Marie-Louise Meilleur, who are already exceedingly frail by their early 110’s and still manage to hang on for many years. However, I’d say that’s the exception, not the norm.) I’ll also point out examples of some others, such as Emma Morano (who died fairly recently at 117) who could sit up at those ages or sit on a bed without support or even walk a bit.

    Secondly, Calment was impressively fit for a 114-year-old, 117-year-old, etc., but she was still in certain ways quite frail and visibly aged compared to what I’d expect even out of someone in their late 90’s. The article doesn’t mention that she was both (nearly) blind (due to cataracts) and (nearly) deaf. I’ll add that I’ve noticed, from watching a lot of videos of SCs, that there’s a noticeable thin, veiny characteristic to the skin that isn’t usually seen in nongenarians. I’m not certain due to poorness of video quality, but I think I see evidence of this in videos such as this one (see 00:25) — note also the frailty of her speech and voice in this video from age 119. When I see this footage of Calment, she comes across as ancient to such an extreme that I’d have a hard time believing she was less than 100.

    One more minor point on that front: Calment was not in fact sitting up in her wheelchair during the final years of her life, at least not in [video I can't find for some reason of her 121st birthday] and the second half of this video where on her 122nd birthday she’s clearly struggling.

    The features described in the passport, such as eye color and height, do not correspond to the features of Jeanne when she was old.

    Well of course height didn’t — people tend to shrink as they get very elderly. I’d have to look further into the eye thing, but I have a hard time believing this would escape the notice of decades of researchers if there were an inconsistency.

    This was not the case, as an old stranger living far away was invited instead. When I say old, I mean around 70 years old, and, at that time, this could have meant a lot of health issues, including sight problems. Why invite total strangers from far away, and why should they be old?

    I must be missing something, because this seems like a complete non-sequitur. Even if this is a strange way to confirm the death of someone in the household, why does it point to a greater likelihood that the mother rather than the daughter died?

    On that issue, I might as well make another more general point. There were extensive interviews of Mme. Calment conducted by a group of French scientists from around the age of 115 to 119. I own a collection of them in a book that I don’t have with me here to directly quote from. But Calment did describe her daughter’s death. She didn’t provide many details, saying that it was painful to talk about. But it’s hard for me to imagine such a very old (regardless of which hypothesis we believe) lady who was up to repeating such a huge lie at a point in her life when she had no living relatives and the lie wouldn’t matter much anymore.

    The point I want to make here is that Calment recalled many details in these interviews that I’ve read which sketch out a consistent story of her being the mother, not the daughter — including the plan of the house she grew up in (which was later confirmed to be accurate), the names of her schoolteachers (again confirmed), her father’s shipbuilding activities, her courtship with her husband (who was also her cousin), and a whole lot more. Quite a lot for an old lady to have kept memorized from hearing these things from her mother over 60 years previously!

    As you know, even if people age, most proportions of the face, such as the distance between the eyes, the nose shape, and the level of the hairline in women don’t change.

    Well actually the nose often does change by getting droopier, which is something we do see with Mme. Calment. The series of images given in the article I imagine are computer generated (except of course for the first and last ones). It’s natural for a mother to look similar to her daughter anyway — what we need to look at are images of the young Jeanne Calment for comparison. There are many photo galleries online — see this one for instance and judge for yourself. Personally I don’t find it super obvious, but I do notice the distinctive eyebrow line staying constant.

    These are just some reasons the article’s points come off as weak or misleading, bordering on downright inaccurate, to me. Obviously this deserves a more rigorous analysis, but for the moment I’m not inclined to believe that Calment’s age claim is in danger.

    • Philipp says:

      Also odd that the fact that Jeanne Calment’s husband was undoubtedly alive into the 1940s–years after his wife’s alleged death–is all but ignored both in this article and in Nikolay Zak’s more detailed paper. Is there any reason to think that Yvonne would have become subject to inheritance tax while her father was still alive?

    • liskantope says:

      The theory in question is disputed in this forum comment by Robert Young, the head correspondent for Guiness World Records for validating age records.

    • Reasoner says:

      Suppose I’m a longevity enthusiast, and I want it to make it as easy as possible for future folks to verify my birth year is the year I claim. What’s the best way to do this?

      • fnord says:

        @Reasoner: People born more recently probably have more records about them than current super-centenarians, simply because more records are kept about people these days. But if you want to ensure it, you might try signing up for one (or several) of the genealogy DNA databases, to get a record of your DNA recorded for comparison with DNA from future-you.

    • Simon the Sage says:

      I did not find the nose comparisons persuasive myself. To my eye Yvonne had a much squarer nose than Jeanne, whose nose had a bit of the point. The older woman in question also had a pointy nose as far as I can tell and that leads me to believe that Jeanne wasn’t an imposter.

      Also how was this scam supposed to work anyway? It wasn’t as if Jeanne Calment was a recluse so this assumes everyone in fairly decent sized town of Arles just rolled with it? Seems unlikely to me that no one would have said anything!

    • b_jonas says:

      Would the cataracts explain why her eye color changed after her childhood?

    • liskantope says:

      Rereading my comment a few days later…

      I must be missing something, because this seems like a complete non-sequitur.

      I think I kinda-sorta see the purported point now: the idea is that they invited someone from far away because that person would be unlikely to know anyone in Arles, and if he did have severe enough sight problems or other health issues he might be easily misled into thinking that the dead woman was the daughter instead of the mother? Still reeeeally reaching, especially since the fact that someone is 70 doesn’t necessarily make them infirm or with sight/hearing difficulties, especially a 70-year-old who was capable of traveling into Arles at short notice from far away!

      • Might an alternative explanation be that they selected a friend who could be trusted to support the fraud, which was easier if it wasn’t someone who lived nearby and regularly interacted with their neighbors?

    • practicalmachine says:

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Coming from the other end – inclined to believe the conspiracy theory, because her case is so unlikely, here are my rebuttals.

      First, I want to address the statistical argument:

      Survival analysis doesn’t tend to follow a typical bell curve distribution – you’re thinking of population traits, like height, but age doesn’t follow that pattern, because you have to reach each age to get to the next one – resulting in a much narrower curve. In layman’s terms, it’s highly unusual to have a long tail, and/or gaps at the tail end of a survival curve. Not impossible! Just very unexpected.

      Gompertz-Makeham’s law of human mortality as your chances of death growing at a exponential rate as you age, doubling every 8 years. This doesn’t hold at the extreme ends, but the general principle still applies. If you have an X% chance of surviving to the next year, then we need 1/X people to expect to see someone do it. E.g., we’d expect a survivor a 50% chance if we had 2 people, a 10% chance if we had 10 people.

      If we look at Wikipedia’s 100 oldest people, we can make an argument in Calment’s favor with a crude estimate. We have 24 women who lived to be 115, 9 to be 116, and 7 to be 117. So roughly speaking, P(live to be at least 116|lived to be at least 115) is (9+7)/(24+9+7) = 16/40, or about 40%. P(live to be 117 | lived to be at least 116) = 7 / 16, 44%. We can even be generous and put Knauss and Calment back in and ratchet our yearly-survival back up to 50%. We would expect something like this then: 9 people live to be 117, 4.5 people live to be 118, 2 people live to be 119, 1 person lives to be 120, 0.5 people live to be 121, 0.25 live to be 122. 25% doesn’t sound too bad.

      But of course, that’s not the distribution we see, since age isn’t really a discrete bin from year to year. People have a chance of dying every month, every week, every day, ever hour, etc, so all of these deaths are tightly clustered as they taper off. We can use the same ~200 oldest people on wikipedia to do another estimate. Right up until Knauss and Calment, the longest anybody has ever lived past the next oldest person has been .27 years, about 3 months. Calment, 4.5 years out from the cluster, is 54 months, or 18x the most we might expect from a record breaker. And no one’s started filling in that gap since. These graphs are perhaps a better way to see how unnatural this pattern looks:
      https://imgur.com/8iqFdrH
      https://imgur.com/657O5Iz

      On the actual evidence:
      I don’t think the article Scott linked does a good job presenting the argument, perhaps some things got lost in translation.

      First: ‘She looks to frail to be less than 122 years old’ is hardly good evidence – it’s really hard to identify ages accurately from photos at that age, because we see so few people like that in our lives. Plenty of people in their eighties have health issues as well and are confined to a wheelchair, being frail isn’t proof of anything except advanced age. We can’t narrow it down to a decade, (though, interestingly, to the extent that we can, Jeanne Calment did consistently seem to score and appear ~20 years younger than her supposed age.) See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7728367 and others. Though it is a fair point that we might also expect someone who lived to be 122.5 to be unusually youthful and healthy.

      Second: the death certificate point just goes to show that there’s not a ton of evidence of who died. It’s opportunity for there to have been fraud, but it certainly doesn’t prove anything by itself.

      Third: Whether or not you can imagine an old lady lying really doesn’t count as evidence either. People have all sorts of personalities and motives – she may have been embarrassed to afraid to reveal the truth (especially after having obtained so much under false pretenses) – she may have thought it was funny – she may have been old enough and stuck to the story for so long she was confused about what the truth really was. It may be unlikely, but it’s far, far from being as unlikely as her longevity, so I don’t think it really compares.

      Fourth: She may recall many details correctly, but she also gets some details wrong – incorrectly referring to her husband as her father, for instance, and putting people’s ages and timelines ~25 years off. Not proof, but suggestive. Her living with her “son in law”, who never remarried, until the end of his life is also suggestive.

      Fifth: The points on appearance and height – I believe the point is that height /is/ supposed to shrink as you age, but Jeanne Calment’s did not. This could either be a point in favor of the conspiracy (intriguing) or perhaps related to some factor contributing to her considerable longevity (also intriguing). The photos are also difficult to distinguish, though I’m personally just not that good with faces. I think the structural differences in her ear is a particularly curious point, given that that cartilage changes much less than the shape/size of the nose, etc.

      I think these two articles on Medium do a much better job summing up the case for conspiracy, though not all of their points hold much weight:
      https://medium.com/@yurideigin/jaccuse-why-122-year-longevity-record-may-be-fake-af87fc0c3133
      https://medium.com/@yurideigin/more-evidence-for-jeanne-calments-identity-theft-hypothesis-26f7cece0cd2

      I think that there’s a reasonable case for further investigation, at the very least. It would be great to have confirmation one way or the other – either she has something very remarkable that no one else in the world has, which let her live an extraordinarily long time with an exceptional quality of life, which I would like to know, or we have been studying an exceptionally clever fraud, which I would also like to know.

      EDIT: fixed imgur links (I think)

      • liskantope says:

        Survival analysis doesn’t tend to follow a typical bell curve distribution – you’re thinking of population traits, like height, but age doesn’t follow that pattern, because you have to reach each age to get to the next one – resulting in a much narrower curve. In layman’s terms, it’s highly unusual to have a long tail, and/or gaps at the tail end of a survival curve.

        I might be ignorant here, but I just don’t understand this. What you say would make sense to me if we were talking about a graph showing ages people reached (but didn’t necessarily die at). However, I was talking about ages at death. Surely “final age” is a trait like height which should follow a bell curve.

        • practicalmachine says:

          Sorry, I suppose that wasn’t a very good explanation. What I was trying to get at is that “final age” is drawn from a survivorship curve, so the distribution for age at death necessarily tends to be narrower. I.e., a Fisher–Tippett distribution, not a normal distribution. The stats get weird as you get into these more obscure areas (some people do take the flat 50% mortality idea seriously) since we don’t have a lot of data. I can’t, for example, give you exact odds on how unlikely it is that someone might live to be 122.5 – but I can take a Bayesian approach and tell you many more people commit tax fraud than live to be that old.

          • liskantope says:

            When I squint really hard I think I almost see what you might be getting at about survivorship curves — like somehow we have to think of a lifetime as just a series of moments where death is avoided — but I still don’t really get this?

            Consider this analogy, since you brought up height: Every human starts out tiny, then grows until reaching what we might call a “final height” and staying there. In order to reach a particular height, one has to reach all of the lower heights. Yet nobody talks about the trait of (final) height as following a survivorship curve.

            I suppose you could say that’s because height is (almost) purely genetic, while lifespan depends on surviving whatever adversities the universe throws at you. But I would say that lifespan is in very large part genetic, and “age at which one would die of natural causes if not killed earlier by something else” is almost entirely genetic. And even the risk some of the other causes of death, such as certain diseases, are largely governed by genetics. Meanwhile, risks of encountering other obstacles to survival — getting into accidents, catching a plague, etc. — are distributed independently of longevity genes. So it’s still hard for me to see why one should expect longevity to behave any differently than height.

  25. Joshua Hedlund says:

    Apparently the Wikipedia page for Bangladesh needs updating. It still says “Despite the rapid economic growth, 43% of the country still lives below the international poverty line on less than $1.25 per day.” (The article is “semi-protected” so I cannot do it myself.)

  26. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Today’s young adults are earning much more than their parents did at the same age

    The link actually refers to “households headed by young adults”.

    If you’re trying to refute conventional wisdom about Millennials, you probably shouldn’t ignore the ones still living with their parents.

  27. JulieK says:

    Suggested question for the SSC Survey: Which of the stories from the most recent links post were you already aware of? (List them briefly in the survey.) Then correlate with political affiliation.

  28. Matthias says:

    I posted about Social Policy Bonds on Reddit. Gwern had an interesting link to a study that tested a related idea, but one where crucially the bonds were not tradable, so you only got a slightly different incentive scheme for the same organizations that couldn’t deliver earlier.

    Needless to say, that one failed. I am still hopeful for Social Policy Bonds. I haven’t checked on them in a few years, though.

    • gwern says:

      you only got a slightly different incentive scheme for the same organizations that couldn’t deliver earlier.

      In the case of the OEO multi-school-district experiment, all 6 contractors appear to have been new to the school districts, which were chosen & randomized. So, different organizations. (Not that that helped them any…)

  29. Kuiperdolin says:

    I strongly dislike that Calment article. They might be ultimately right (like many people I dislike) but it smells very kooky. Like, Fomenko kooky.

    Really all they have is the statistical anomaly (“naughty data won’t fit the model”), and the rest is “suspicious” stuff that’s only suspicious if you’re already in the conspiracy theory mindset:
    • The mysterious old man, the suspicious archive destruction, her getting along with here son-in-law, an old woman misremembering things, etc., are really nothing.
    • The tax ratcheting in the interwar was not to prepare the next world war (defense budgets were frozen or cut for most of the period), but to try and contain debt driven by WW1 and the great recession. It’s really tangential but it shows a pattern (uh-oh, pattern) of making stuff up.
    • The “life annuity” switcheroo makes no sense since it was subscribed in 70s, long after the alleged identity exchange. The daughter would have no reason to become her mother and “keep receiving the annuity” since there was no annuity when she supposedly died. You could sort of make a point that the supposed daughter would have ripped them off but lying about her real age… But it’s not the point they make.
    • French government conspiracy over literal decades is goofy lizardmen nonsense, considering the stuff that leaks all the time. All that to cover up a crime the point of which was supposedly to defraud the government in the first place. Good thing they don’t hold a grudge.
    • The Mayor story is great because you can just imagine what Novoselov would say if he’d seen a standard decrepit hundred-year-old biddy: “Can you believe that senescent wreck could livre twenty-two years more? Surely a woman who lived 122 would have looked noticeably more sprightly than her age cohort.”
    • Incidentally, his claim to expertise was being “used to dealing with centenarians”. Well by the same standard, I’m used to reading **** on the internet and there’s no mistaking the smell of that article.
    Against that, there is the sheer implausibility and pointlessness of the con, her notorious attention-seeking behavior (bad idea if you’re living under a false identity).
    I mean, whatever, by all mean double-check everything once again, but the eagerness folks display to uncritically embrace that article because it makes a cool story is extremely ironic, given its sneering undertone toward those who believed an old woman was actually old because it made a cool story.

    Well that’s rather longer and harsher that what I wanted to type… I guess the article and its reception riled me up a little.

    • liskantope says:

      Yeah, I have a passion for following supercentenarians and the Calment case in particular and that article raised many red flags for me as well. I’m currently visiting my family and don’t have my book of Calment interviews at hand or necessarily much time to write long comments on Why People Are Wrong On The Internet, but I’m going to attempt to explain my skepticism about the article as soon as I find the chance.

  30. InvalidUsernameAndPassword says:

    You’re absolutely welcome to defend Marc Lamont Hill’s right to free speech, but I don’t think it’s fair to call what he said “dog-whistle for Jewish extermination”. There’s no dog-whistling involved. Calling for Palestine from the River to the Sea isn’t dog-whistling, it’s yelling “Hey Blondi, come here. Who’s a good boy?”.

    • baconbits9 says:

      The phrase itself says no such thing. It could mean “all the land between the river and the sea” or it could mean “a continuous state with access to both the river and the sea”. I don’t know, or care, about the context but given what you quoted your interpretation is clearly unjustified on its own.

      • jddt says:

        FWIW, “from the River to the Sea” is an idiom meaning “single state covering everything between the Jordan and the Mediterranean”. It’s unambiguous https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_nationalism#From_the_river_to_the_sea ; and I agree that this isn’t dog-whistling but just openly calling for a Judenrein state where lots of Jews currently live — so either extermination or ethnic cleansing.

        • Eponymous says:

          This is the quote:

          we have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires — and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea. Thank you for your time.

          This doesn’t necessarily imply expelling Jews. It could mean a one-state solution with right of return.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The idiom is also 60-ish years old, correct? It would be perfectly plausible for a slogan to have different meanings in different circles.

          More on point though is that slogans designed to be low information/high emotional impact. Stating that you know what a slogan means is a strong assumption when often times the user of the slogan doesn’t have a highly specific proposal in mind, just an affiliation with a looser emotional position. In the long run reading into short snippets, and specifically short snippets when the larger context is generally available, is a bad proposition.

          • hilitai says:

            “More on point though is that slogans [are] designed to be low information/high emotional impact”

            All the more reason for not using them if you wish to be clear in your sentiments. Hill threw a verbal bomb, and got caught by the shock wave.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m not attempting to defend or condemn him, I’m pointing out that if you are going to condemn him you shouldn’t drop by with an excised quote and claim that its definitive.

  31. WarOnReasons says:

    I fail to see how CNN ending contract with Marc Lamont Hill is somehow a violation of free speech. Suppose Fox News ends a contract with a right-wing contributor who started wearing a swastika in public (which he himself explains by his fascination with the Hindu culture). Is there anyone here who thinks that Fox News would be assaulting free speech in this situation?

    • toastengineer says:

      Yes, but a pretty well justified one.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        I don’t see how giving a private news company an absolute freedom to choose its contributors is an assault on the Free Speech. In this case, violating free speech principle would be pressuring a private news company to broadcast people and opinions it does not want.

    • Reasoner says:

      I wonder if there’s room for principled moderation on free speech. Can we have a world where “this study showed that hispanic students have lower test scores, and we believe the causation may be genetic” doesn’t get you fired (see: Richwine affair), but “blacks are dumb n*****s” does? This is the world I actually want.

      I think the key difference is, are you trying to make a factual claim or just be inflammatory? I think I might be cool with the left making the bar for “inflammatory” claims arbitrarily high, as long as there is a kosher way to express any given factual claim (e.g. if I tell someone on the left I want to express an arbitrary factual claim X, they are required to provide a sentence Y expressing X which won’t get me fired now and also won’t retroactively get me fired 20 years down the line).

      (Not saying this proposal is actually a good one, mostly trying to get others to brainstorm principles which I can adopt as an alternative to free speech absolutism.)

      • dick says:

        I’m a free speech maximalist, and the reason starts and ends with not trusting anyone to implement the censorship. I think most ideological groups’ answer to your proposal will be the same answer they give to any proposal: “Sounds good, as long as we get to hire the committee that makes the rulings.”

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Trouble comes when the factual claim itself is seen as inflammatory. Or claims. If I run a series of stories that enumerates every Israeli raid on Palestinian property, it’d look like Israel was a monster, to anyone not already aware of Palestinian attacks on Israeli property. If it turns out I am aware of the latter, then I ought to be shellacked for having framed the report so, no matter how dry I make the list.

        I further contend that this is the fundamental problem. Too many people are far beyond the point of fighting merely over whether some journalist wrote something snarky or bigoted, and are instead arguing whether some bolus of facts implies something disagreeable about some group, and whether it needs to be seasoned with additional information.

        As I so often say: it’s not just what a source reports that’s false. It’s also what it leaves out that’s also true.

        I applaud trying to brainstorm a way to objectively present factual claims, but it’s almost certainly going to have to involve placing those claims within larger contexts, and people are going to fight over whether that context is complete, skewed, not skewed enough, etc. You could try picking out two advocates and giving them each equal funding to find facts, and then people will fight over whether they started with equal starting capital, starting research skills, or whether the total funding was enough to reach any sort of significant conclusion. So you’ll need a way around that, too.

  32. JulieK says:

    Opponents claimed that his call for a Palestinian state “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” was a “dog-whistle” calling for the extermination of Jews.

    A “dog-whistle” presumably has an innocent surface meaning and a sinister underlying meaning. For example, the verb “monkey around” is not necessarily a reference to race.
    But what is the surface meaning here? If all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea were to be a Palestinian state, than in the best-case scenario, all Israeli Jews would have to go elsewhere (i.e. ethnic cleansing), and in a worst-case scenario, thousands or millions of Israeli Jews would be killed.

    • miguelmadeira says:

      “than in the best-case scenario, all Israeli Jews would have to go elsewhere (i.e. ethnic cleansing)”

      No – the best case scenario (even if unlikely) is a non-racial and secular state with Arabs and Jews.

      • JulieK says:

        If wanted to advocate for that, you would just say “Israel should be non-racial and secular and treat Arabs and Jews equally.”
        “A free Palestine, from the river to the sea” is not going to have Jewish citizens.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Forced migration is not the equivalent to genocide. Otherwise you would have to say that Israel is currently committing genocide against the Palestinians who are being displaced by settlements.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            She didn’t say ethnic cleansing is equivalent to genocide. She explicitly distinguished them as the least and greatest atrocities that goal would entail.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I interpreted her as claiming that characterizing Marc Lamont Hill’s position as “extermination of the Jews” was accurate, because one possibility would be that many Jews would be forced to migrate elsewhere.

          • Reasoner says:

            From Julie’s comment: “all Israeli Jews would have to go elsewhere (i.e. ethnic cleansing)”. I think maybe Julie is making a distinction between “ethnic cleansing” and genocide. I agree that forcing people to move elsewhere is much preferable to killing them, and I really would not like to see that distinction erased.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, that is the distinction between ethnic cleansing and genocide. I think in most common usage people assume “ethnic cleansing” is a euphemism, and I’m sure people have used it that way, but the whole point of the term was to make a distinction between expelling people and killing them.

            For instance, in the early 90s after the Gulf War Kuwait expelled about 400,000 Palestinians. That was an ethnic cleansing, but they didn’t murder them. There was no genocide.

        • Kzickas says:

          Why would someone advocating that position say that? Israel’s defining feature is being a Jewish state, so the resulting state wouldn’t really be Israel. Calling the state you’re calling from Palestine seems far more honest to me.

        • vV_Vv says:

          “Israel should be non-racial and secular and treat Arabs and Jews equally.”

          “Israel” is an ethnically and religiously charged name, while “Palestine” is a neutral term, possibly of Ancient Egyptian origin, going back to at least the 5th century BCE.

          If that region is to host a non-racial, secular, multi-ethnic state, it makes more sense to call it Palestine rather than Israel.

          • cassander says:

            One group wants to call it palestine, the other Israel. rather than simply decreeing one of those names less inflammatory than the other, why not pick the long standing name for the region, one neither of them chose, Judea?

          • vV_Vv says:

            Judea (“Judah”/”Yaudaya” in ancient Assyrian, “Yehuda” in modern Hebrew) is the etymologic root of the word “Jew”. In English the spelling sort of obscures it but it’s especially clear both in Hebrew (“yehudi”) and Arabic (“yahūdī”).

            Phoenicia should be politically safe, though.

          • 10240 says:

            “Palestine” is a neutral term

            Not exactly. AFAIK, after the Romans expelled the Jews, they renamed Iudea to Palaestina after the (by then extinct) Philistines, the Jews’ greatest historical enemies. That’s mostly forgotten by now: even Zionists called the region Palestine before the independence of Israel.

            Phoenicia mostly corresponds to Lebanon, not Israel/Palestine.

      • Randy M says:

        Depending on how strict “Palestinian State” is interpreted. It could mean Palestinian run, Palestinian majority, or Palestinian only.

      • JulieK says:

        Well, I guess there is some room for charitable interpretation, seeing as some people here see an innocent meaning in the statement.

        • JulieK says:

          And speaking of being charitable, the next time “dog whistles” are discussed, I will try to be more charitable toward those who claim to hear the dog whistle, at least to the extent of accepting that they are sincerely alarmed, whether or not the statement in question genuinely holds a sinister meaning.

      • John Schilling says:

        No – the best case scenario (even if unlikely) is a non-racial and secular state with Arabs and Jews.

        Insofar as nobody uses the word “Palestinian” to refer to Jewish residents of the region in question, it is exceedingly unlikely that the imagined Arab+Jewish state would be referred to as a “Palestinian State”. If I see someone talking about an “Aryan homeland”, I am not so charitable as to assume there is any chance they mean Nordic, Slavic, and Semitic peoples living in harmony, and I think applying a similarly optimistic interpretation of “Palestinian State” will result in similar disappointment.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Insofar as nobody uses the word “Palestinian” to refer to Jewish residents of the region in question

          Only because most people casually, and incorrectly, conflate ethnicity with state-citizenship. But we don’t have to be so sloppy. I imagine the UN considers the Jewish citizens of the State of Palestine to be “Palestinians”.

          The state of Palestine is multi-religious and allows for religious freedom. It’s not a fictional hypothetical entity such as the “Aryan homeland”. When someone says they want an “expanded Palestinian State”, a plain reading of their statement is that they want the borders of the State of Palestine to be expanded, not that they are advocating for ethnic cleansing.

          • bullseye says:

            Religion is not the defining difference between Israelis and Palestinians. However, they are regarded as two separate peoples; “Palestinians” are no longer everyone from that area, and Palestine is no longer a neutral term. Combining Israel and Palestine into one state and calling the combined state either of those names would imply that only one of them is the true predecessor of the combined state.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I don’t know what else to call citizens of the State of Palestine, other than “Palestinians”. “Arab Israelis” is an already existing term for Arabs that live in Israel, so I don’t know why the inverse term can’t be allowed (“Jewish Palestinians”, or something along those lines).

          • John Schilling says:

            I imagine the UN considers the Jewish citizens of the State of Palestine to be “Palestinians”.

            All one percent of them, at most? Your own cited link opens with “Approximately 93% of Palestinian residents of the territories are Sunni Muslims. Palestinian Christians represent a significant minority of 6%”, and makes no mention of any Jews who are considered Palestinians or hold citizenship in the State of Palestine.

            I don’t know what else to call citizens of the State of Palestine, other than “Palestinians”.

            If they are Jews, I’m pretty sure you call them “Israelis”, and I’m not sure they are actually citizens of the Palestinian State.

            Can anybody find hard numbers on the fraction of Jewish citizens of the Palestinian state, as opposed to Jewish Israeli citizens resident in nominally Palestinian territory? Because I think I’m still on pretty solid ground that in virtually all contemporary usage “Palestinian” and “Jew” are close enough to antonyms as makes no difference.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If there are zero Hawaiians in the United States in 1958, is the most charitable reading of “we should expand the United States to include Hawaii” that it would be, as you might say, “exceedingly unlikely that the imagined American+Hawaiian state would be referred to the “United States”? Since after all, there are no Hawaiians currently in the US…

          • John Schilling says:

            You might want to find an example that involves populations within a factor of two of one another, rather than the two orders of magnitude difference between Hawaiians and mainlanders, because that will affect common use of language.

            And you will probably want to find an example other than the US annexation of Hawaii, to convince anyone that being incorporated into a “Palestinian State” will end well for the Jews of Israel. But, yes, I expect that sixty or so years after the latter annexation, the special administrative rules for the former Israeli territories will be swept away as no longer appropriate, and the remaining Jews will be a compliant minority in the Palestinian state,

          • Guy in TN says:

            I never claimed an expansion of Palestine would be an improvement for the Jews is Israel. I’m just countering your claim that the term “Palestinian state” necessarily refers to a monoethnic state that excludes Jews.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m just countering your claim that the term “Palestinian state” necessarily refers to a monoethnic state that excludes Jews.

            To counter that name, you would need an example of a political union of roughly equal populations, using the name which had been most clearly associated with just one of those populations just prior to that union. And which is and remains a multiethnic state not based on the oppression of the nameless by the named.

            Got any? Any at all, from all of human history? The closest I can come is the colloquial usage of “England” to refer to the United Kingdom as a whole, but the English were almost an order of magnitude more numerous than the Scottish at the Treaty of Union, and the result was not entirely free of oppression.

            Because the common usage of language and nomenclature is that when A + B = A, the intent is to indicate that B was always much smaller or less significant than A, or that B’s identity is to be extinguished and subsumed into a largely-unchanged A, and not that A+B will continue to exist as a union of equals. See also corporate mergers, and the shift in law and tradition re marital surnames.

            So if someone is suggesting that the Jews of Israel should be incorporated into a polity called “Palestine”, I’m going to keep suggesting that person is an antisemite who intends great harm to the Jews of Israel. And I’m pretty much always going to be right.

          • Guy in TN says:

            And which is and remains a multiethnic state not based on the oppression of the nameless by the named.

            This looks like a goalpost move. The original question was in regards to ethnic cleansing, not “oppression”, a much more nebulous term.

            or that B’s identity is to be extinguished and subsumed into a largely-unchanged A

            Extinguishing someone’s cultural identity is not the same thing as destroying them. Its not antisemetic to say that the state of Israel shouldn’t exist, along with its religion and ideologies that help reinforce it. And its not even antisemetic to wish harm to the Jews of Israel, if the reason is that they are mass bombing civilians.

          • Guy in TN says:

            For example, it’s not anti-Asian to say that North Korea shouldn’t exist, Juche shouldn’t exist, and that I wish violence upon the North Korean government.

          • vV_Vv says:

            So if someone is suggesting that the Jews of Israel should be incorporated into a polity called “Palestine”, I’m going to keep suggesting that person is an antisemite who intends great harm to the Jews of Israel. And I’m pretty much always going to be right.

            What name do think a person who advocates for a multi-ethnic one-state solution should propose in order not to be considered antisemitic? Or do you think that advocating for a multi-ethnic one-state is inherently antisemitic (in which case, there is no point in quibbling about the name)?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Proposing a multi-ethnic one-state solution in the areas currently known as Israel and the West Bank, with Jews in the minority, is either anti-semitic or naive. Such a state will not be stable and will either dissolve into civil war or engage in ethnic cleansing (removing the Jews) or genocide (killing them off)

            Saying, as Guy says, that the religion of Israel (Judaism) should not exist is a pretty central version of anti-Semitism.

          • hilitai says:

            “Its not antisemetic to say that the state of Israel shouldn’t exist, along with its religion”

            Saying “Judaism should not exist” sounds pretty much like 100% undiluted anti-semitism to me. What is “anti-semitism” in your view?

          • Guy in TN says:

            As a committed anti-theist, I think all religions shouldn’t exist. But the religion of Judaism seems particularly acutely destructive, in terms of body count, compared to for example, modern Shinto or Wicca. In my opinion, the idea of “Israel is the promised land” is going to be necessary to removed, in order to have peace in the region.

            I don’t think this fits the definition of antisemitism at all, which at least historically, were opposed to Jews because of their ethnicity.

            If you still insist that it does count as “antisemitism”, then I would say it severely waters down the word to include any person advocating for the advancement of atheism (perhaps even extending to anti-religious Jews such as Bill Maher).

          • soreff says:

            @Guy in TN

            As a committed anti-theist, I think all religions shouldn’t exist. But the religion of Judaism seems particularly acutely destructive, in terms of body count, compared to for example, modern Shinto or Wicca.

            Agreed on the “religions shouldn’t exist”.
            Re body counts: Agreed that Wicca seems harmless.
            Re modern Shinto: How modern? Is WWII included or excluded?
            Consider
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasukuni_Shrine
            (Also, if you were to compare Judaism to Islam, in terms of raw body
            counts, I think you would pick a different most acutely destructive
            religion)

          • John Schilling says:

            What name do think a person who advocates for a multi-ethnic one-state solution should propose in order not to be considered antisemitic? Or do you think that advocating for a multi-ethnic one-state is inherently antisemitic?

            Proposing a single multiethnic state populated by most or all of today’s Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs is naive, but not inherently antisemitic.

            If you’re going to do that, and not be reasonably suspected of advocating the subjugation of one group by another, Pick A New Name. This is not optional.

            “Israel” and “Palestine” don’t obviously lend themselves to a portmanteau the way e.g. Tanganyika and Zanzibar do, but history is full of alternatives that have worked fairly well. I’d probably go with “United Levantine Republic” myself, or possibly recognize that the result will be slightly more than a city-state and call it “Greater Jerusalem”. “Cisjordan” would be fun to watch from a distance, but no. Likewise and more so “Former Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem” or “The Promised Land”. Maybe resurrecting Canaan would work.

            Pick something, however clumsy, so long as it isn’t a clear derivative of “Israel”, “Zion”, “Judea”, or “Palestine”. Or just say “A multiethnic state encompassing contemporary Israel and Palestine”, and consider why nobody has ever really bothered to come up with a name for that.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Palestine was the common name of the region for some time prior to the formation of Israel, where Jews already lived (some having always been there, some having recently migrated with the initial waves of the Zionist movement).

          The term was also used in formal contexts, such as the British Mandate for Palestine which notably opened with the preamble:

          “Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            … Palestine, as it currently exists, is extremely antisemitic. Yes, technically, their own citizens are Semites, but they are taught to hate Jews from childhood. It does not universally take, but hatred of Israel is national doctrine, and everyone knows that, so calling for a Palestinian state where Israel currently is, has no reasonable reading other than as a call for ethnic cleansing or worse.

          • 10240 says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen Some American doesn’t necessarily know that.

          • vV_Vv says:

            My point is that there is a historical precedent for using the name Palestine in a way that doesn’t imply exclusion of Jews.

          • CatCube says:

            @vV_Vv

            There’s also historical precedent for the swastika being a symbol of peace. Hang a sign with one outside your house and report back to us on the results.

          • vV_Vv says:

            There’s also historical precedent for the swastika being a symbol of peace.

            Are you seriously comparing the name Palestine, which is officially used by the UN, to the swastika?

    • gbdub says:

      Yeah, I don’t think it should be a statement that gets people fired, but the pleading ignorance about the meaning here is pretty weak. It’s one thing not to know the history of the slogan, quite another to ignore the obvious implication of the surface level statement, which is the non-existence of Israel as an independent state.

    • hilitai says:

      Edit: this didn’t nest as intended; it’s a reply to this comment by Guy in TN.

      “antisemitism … historically … opposed … Jews because of their ethnicity.”

      I don’t agree, but thanks for clarifying.

      “it severely waters down the word [antisemitism] to include any person advocating for the advancement of atheism”

      But I wasn’t doing that; I was questioning your (apparent) specific desire for the elimination of Judaism. If you broaden it to “elimination of all religions”, or “elimination of all theistic traditions”, then I agree it’s not anti-semitic in any sense.

      • Guy in TN says:

        If you desire to eliminate all religions, and think that x-religion are more harmful than y-religion, and thus prioritized, is this still “anti-x-ism”?

        For example, if there is a rational case that fundamentalist Islam is more dangerous than Lutheranism, resulting in a person spending 99% of their time criticizing Islam?

        • hilitai says:

          “a person spending 99% of their time criticizing Islam?”

          I think most people would consider such a person to be “anti-Islamic”, rather than “anti-theistic”, regardless of the underlying desires and motivations.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I think the better word would be anti-Judaistic, rather than anti-semetic. To insist that targeted criticism of the religion of Judaism is anti-semetic, the same word that one would use to describe Nazis and white supremacists, is veering towards what a young Scott might call the Worst Argument in the World.

  33. e_w says:

    > BoingBoing discusses the sinister side of Facebook’s pivot to video.

    I’m disappointed. There’s a lot of false news about how Facebook is this evil mega-corp trying to take down America, but if you read the blog post, nothing about it is sinister. Some person bungled how video counts were calculated, and they fixed it.

    FTA:

    > Companies fired their print writers and hired video makers, tooled up, borrowed or sold equity to build out the video capacity, made capital and employment decisions that would take years and years to pay off. Facebook had better not pivot away from video!

    This is clearly the fault of companies pivoting to video, on placing their bets without experimenting to see how much revenue they would make and how much they would spend. Let’s not take away their agency and blame Facebook for their suicide. There are plenty of companies on Youtube/Facebook producing videos and making money hand over fist currently. (Example: LinusTechTips)

  34. Steve Sailer says:

    Bangladesh has made a lot of progress in lowering its population growth rate as well.

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/bangladesh-vs-nigeria-there-is-hope/

    For example, Bangladesh had a bigger population than Nigeria (another well-watered fertile tropical country) in late 20th Century, but Nigeria pulled ahead by 2010. The UN forecasted in 2017 that Nigeria would reach 800 million people by 2100, while Bangladesh would top out at 200 million.

    So, the Bangladesh experience shows that there is hope in defusing the current African overpopulation problem.

    • eric23 says:

      African fertility rates are high as much due to cultural preferences as to economic or policy factors. And you can’t really force people to change their cultures, you can try to nudge them, but success is middling.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Europeans and Americans used to try to nudge down African fertility, but that fell out of fashion.

        Early in this century, the global establishment decided that if countries like Bangladesh were reducing their fertility fairly rapidly, then sub-Saharan Africa must be doing so as well.

        But starting around 2012 the UN population bureau realized that their forecasts of rapidly falling fertility in Africa had largely been wishful thinking. As African countries got better at counting their vital statistics they found there were more children being born than they had previously counted. The UN has upped its population forecast for sub-Saharan Africa from 2.3 billion in 2100 in 2004 to 4.0 billion in 2017.

        This is a really big deal, but the press is treating it quite gingerly so far.

        I don’t think it is at all impossible to nudge down African cultural preference for high fertility, just as outside help has helped modify Bangladesh’s culture. But the sooner the Global Great and Good get to work on this the better. For example, Bill Gates came out of the closet a few weeks ago and announced he was really worried about African population growth. But Vox wound up deleting a tweet advertising Ezra Klein interviewing Bill Gates on this topic because some people had objected that it was racist to be concerned about African population growth.

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          … This is a big problem, because getting fertility under control is a much better predictor of rising prosperity than “how many sweatshops do you have”. Not having 8 kids to look after is a hard prerequisite for being economically productive. And also having fewer probably makes the kids a lot smarter / well adjusted on average by the obvious direct causal chain of “More food and more parental attention”.

          • poipoipoi says:

            There’s also the subtle issue that sub-Saharan Africa is a net importer of food today when the population is 1 Billion, getting to 4 Billion…

            They might be able to pull it off by dint of much effort, but it’ll probably involve clear-cutting the rainforest and turning it into cropland.

            And if you’re spending time trying to figure out how to feed an extra 3 Billion mouths, you’re not concentrating on making the original billion middle-income.

      • trees says:

        Those cultural preferences are not ineffable or innate — they’re a natural consequence of a society with high child mortality rates and few welfare programs for the elderly, where women have few opportunities to contribute or distinguish themselves outside the home. If those underlying factors change, the preference for very large families will change as well, as it has most places in the world.

        While it would be pretty obnoxious for people from other countries to show up and start trying to change the culture, perhaps the international community does have a role to play in helping to reduce child mortality as well as providing access to family planning resources and high quality educational opportunities.

        Anyhow, it would be interesting to hear some Nigerian perspectives on the issue. I feel like everything I read about population growth in Nigeria is written by people on the outside, looking in. While there’s something to be said for the dispassion that comes with distance, outsiders are always going to miss key details and have a hard time understanding the emotional and social dynamics at play.

    • Reasoner says:

      Somewhere I read that Nigerian bureaucrats have an incentive to inflate their population numbers for some reason.

      • eric23 says:

        Hard to believe that all the African countries with elevated birthrates could coordinate on a scam like this.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          It might be useful to try to estimate population from satellite photos. Say that Rwanda, an African state with a seemingly pretty competent government, completes a new census that seems to outside observers to be pretty accurate. From satellite photographs of the number of huts and houses, you could compare to, say, neighboring Burundi and estimate whether Burundi’s census looks legit. And so on.

          What exactly is the population of Africa and how fast it is growing is a rather important question for the future of the world, so it would be worth investing in some accurate data.

  35. Steve Sailer says:

    The first restaurant I can recall getting in on the LOUDNESS trend was Lettuce Entertain You’s Scoozi! in Chicago’s River North neighborhood around 1986. It was an immense success for its first years, with a typical wait of a couple of hours to be seated. The immense racket as you stepped inside assured you that you had made the right choice, that everybody in Chicago with money to spend was here, all clamoring to partake. This wasn’t some depressing restaurant that nobody went to.

    Of course, LOUD restaurants tend to partake of the Yogi Berra conundrum, who spoke of a restaurant that got so popular that nobody went there anymore.

  36. Squirrel of Doom says:

    In Europe the rising anti-Semitism is mostly due to the rising muslim population, and it can be very difficult for leftists to deal with, since they’re obligated to be strongly against both anti-Semitism and islamophobia.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      LGBTs also have to support Islamification of their countries, despite sharia being homophobic enough to mandate the death penalty.

      • InvalidUsernameAndPassword says:

        LGBT !=> Left-wing

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          True. If they want to be accepted by the Blue tribe, they have to support Islam even though it mandates the death penalty for some of their behavior.

          • InvalidUsernameAndPassword says:

            That’s a better fit to reality, also because you retreated from “support Islamification of their countries” to the more reasonable “support Islam”. In my experience, homophobia among Muslims -like, say, FGM- is just a “touchy” subject that you’re better off avoiding in polite company. Attacking Islam from that angle is seen as crude, unsophisticated.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’m fairly sure not all practitioners of Islam support mandating the death penalty for homosexuals, rendering your “Practice of Islam=death for homosexuals” argument invalid.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, FGM is common in some areas of the Islamic world, but not others.

      • L. says:

        LGBT support for that is not entirely unexpected given who is on the other side of that issue.

      • “In solidarity with Muslim communities under attack”

        There’s a hypothetical nuanced version of this where they are talking about moderate Muslim communities that are being “attacked”, which would gel with the same banner proclaiming support for “equality and diversity”, that is; they oppose generalized attacks on Islam, but are themselves against those who use misuse the name of the religion for bigotry and inegalitarian behavior.

        I say hypothetical, out of charity, though, because although I’ve personally tried to become more nuanced about Islam, I’ve encountered exactly the same resistance and arguments when I tried arguing against individual movements like Salafism or Deobandism within the Sunnis within Islam, as I did when arguing against Islam as a whole.

        • but are themselves against those who use misuse the name of the religion for bigotry and inegalitarian behavior.

          Is it misusing the name of the religion to support positions that are part of the religion as conventionally interpreted?

          Historically, some Muslim societies have been tolerant of homosexuality just as some Catholic societies have been tolerant of sexually active clerics, but in both cases that’s a matter of ignoring religious doctrine.

        • Is it misusing the name of the religion to support positions that are part of the religion as conventionally interpreted?

          If you are asking me, no, but then you’re asking an agnostic. I would portray this as the belief of a great number of political actors, however, including those holding that banner. It’s become somewhat of a convention in the UK to appeal to this concept after terror attacks by radical jihadists.

          Historically, some Muslim societies have been tolerant of homosexuality just as some Catholic societies have been tolerant of sexually active clerics, but in both cases that’s a matter of ignoring religious doctrine.

          Well, that’s good. More of that please! I think that progressive groups don’t outright come out and say “we want to promote an Islam that ignores the original texts as X historical Islamic society once did” because if you state the issue that bluntly then people are going to start asking why we should ignore the original texts when they are the basis for the religion to begin with. It gets into that problem of there being no halfway houses for something that is supposed to be divinely inspired. It’s easy to say something is literally the word of God, or to express a total lack of belief, but harder to say something is 50% the word of God and believe that in a really serious interrogative way.

          You can’t just come out and say that you hope to reform someone’s religion into oblivion. You need to sneak stuff past the radar. This is why the issue gets flipped on its head, and the people who want reform, instead use the tactic of portraying the fundamentalists as misusing the religion and being untrue to its tenets. In theory, this should fall apart after a moment’s examination, but in reality it works, because it bolsters the belief of moderates that the spirit of the religion is truer than the words of the religion. Tell them instead that the fundies are the true Muslims and you are essentially giving them a choice between fundamentalism and apostasy.

        • InvalidUsernameAndPassword says:

          ” I’ve encountered exactly the same resistance and arguments when I tried arguing against individual movements like Salafism or Deobandism within the Sunnis within Islam”
          Could you tell us more? That sounds really interesting.

        • Could you tell us more? That sounds really interesting.

          There isn’t much more to tell. Essentially it’s more accurate to call out subgroups like Salafists or Deobandis for fundamentalist beliefs and jihadism than it is to simply tar Islam as a bad religion, but anecdotally, in real life, I’ve found I get much the same reaction as if I did do that. When I’ve pointed out the influence of the Deobandi school on British mosques, all I’ve heard back are the same vague appeals to a totally abstract idea of tolerance that I would get if I was being unuanced and just blaming Islam as a whole.

          • InvalidUsernameAndPassword says:

            What you describe sounds like a suspiciously unspecific reply to me.
            Someone who either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the differences between Deobandis and other Muslims is likely to react to criticism of the Deobandi school as an attack on all of Islam. Typical mind and all that. Just a thought.

  37. ParryHotter says:

    Anyone interested in the topic of school spending should read this detailed analysis of the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment.

    tl;dr: To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge ordered the School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

    By the end of the 12 year period, they had spent around $2 billion and the results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      I’m perhaps lazy for not reading it, but…

      How did they not even improve integration? I can imagine why you can’t improve test results with money, but why can’t you physically move kids bodies to different schools?

      • ParryHotter says:

        Here’s an excerpt:

        …despite a $900,000 television advertising budget and a $6.4 million special budget for door-to-door transportation of suburban students, the district did not attract the 5,000 to 10,000 white suburban students the designers of the desegregation plan had envisioned. The largest number it ever enrolled was 1,500, and most white students returned to their old suburban schools or to local private schools after one year, which forced the district to recruit a whole new cohort of white students every fall. Even that modest number drastically declined after the Supreme Court’s 1995 ruling that the judge had no authority to spend taxpayer dollars to transport suburban students into the district. By the 1996-97 school year, only 387 suburban students were still attending school in the KCMSD. Given that the district’s annual desegregation budget was approximately $200 million, the cost of attracting those suburban students was half a million dollars per year per child….

        What suburban white parents really wanted were schools that would enable their children to compete effectively and successfully in the marketplace. The real reason whites wouldn’t send their children to school in Kansas City was quite simple– the KCMSD couldn’t offer white students as good an education as they were already getting in their neighborhood suburban schools.

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          Thanks!!

          So they tried to get the the suburban white kids to voluntarily go to the bad inner city schools?

          I’m not surprised that didn’t work out…

          Making it easy for the inner city kids to go to the nice suburban schools seems like a much more sustainable plan, with the added benefit that more kids get to go to good schools!

          I’m guessing (again being lazy not reading the report) that wasn’t feasible since closing bad schools is usually much harder than spending a few billion dollars?

          • Lambert says:

            > more kids get to go to good schools!

            You can’t get that without increasing capacity of the good schools.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            You can’t get that without increasing capacity of the good schools.

            Then it seems like that would’ve been a better use of their money.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Whereupon the nice good suburban schools will promptly cease to be nice and good. This is magic dirt theory for education.

    • CatCube says:

      Boy, did you bury the lede on that. As part of this, the judge literally ordered a tax increase over the heads of elected officials. From page 11:

      Because the state was paying 75 percent of the desegregation costs, Clark wanted to equalize the burden by having the school district increase property taxes. But local voters, the majority of whom were older and white, repeatedly refused, whereupon Clark, taking matters into his own hands, ordered that property taxes in the district be doubled (from $2.05 to $4 for each $100 of assessed value). Later, to help pay for what would eventually become a 40 percent raise for teachers, he ordered a further increase-to $4.96. He also ordered a 1.5 percent surcharge on income earned by people who worked in Kansas City but lived elsewhere.

      I think that might be the most infuriating example of judicial overreach I’ve ever read about, and there’s a lot of competition in that event.

      • Garrett says:

        Stupid question, but why should desegregation have anything to do with a 40% pay raise for teachers? I can understand that some schools might need to hire 40% more teachers. But the teachers would still be doing the same job in the same environment so I can’t see why this would necessitate any change in salary.

        • CatCube says:

          I’d recommend reading the paper (it’s actually not too long or a bad read), but their attempts to desegregate required attracting voluntary participation by white people from the suburbs (who were in a different school district and therefore couldn’t be ordered to a different school by the board), and part of that was improving the quality of the schools. They were attempting to do this by increasing teacher pay (among many other things totaling $2bb), but it foundered on the rocks of not being able to fire any of the known-incompetent teachers, since the school system was also functioning as a jobs program for the local (majority-black) population. There was no political way to not give the current teachers the 40% increase along with the new ones they were trying to attract, so everybody got a pay bump.

          • cassander says:

            If the judge is bold enough to order the legislature to raise taxes, you’d think he would have been bold enough to order demonstrably inept teachers fired. Modern society has strange taboos.

  38. ParryHotter says:

    Regarding the Viking treasure story, if you read the article Scott posted, it doesn’t seem like it quite happened how he described it, that it was an accidental find while they were just acting out some treasure hunting to get footage. The exact words from the article are as follows: “With filming complete, Ström and Jonsson decided to continue their survey of the field. Twenty minutes after the TV-crew had left, they heard a strong signal from their metal detector, which led them to the smaller of the two silver caches.”

    Scott, isn’t your description of the events kind of exaggerated?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      20 minutes is “just after” in my eyes.

      If it had been measured in full hours instead of full minutes I’d start agreeing with you (definitely after 3+ hours, likely after 2+ hours, ehhh between 1 hour to 90 minutes).

      • ParryHotter says:

        The issue isn’t the time frame. It’s that they did it after the film crew had left. How could they be doing it to “collect footage” if there was no filming going on at that time?

        • rahien.din says:

          (Yours is a strange hill upon which to die.)

          • ParryHotter says:

            I agree, it’s not a big enough deal to make a fuss about. But I care a lot about credibility, especially in reporting, and I trust Scott as an honest broker that doesn’t play the click-bait game, and would not intentionally exaggerate or misrepresent a story for any reason. I want him to retain that earned trust, so I’m pointing it out in the spirit of letting him know the effect his blurb had upon me (an incredibly minute loss of trust), and potentially other readers, when I read the original reporting. It might just be my mistaken impression in reading it, and if so, I accept that. But it might also not be just me, and if so, I think Scott would want to be aware of that.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          You seem to have missed this part of Scott’s text:

          To collect footage, one of them borrowed a metal detector and went around an archaeological site in what they figured was a treasure-hunter-like way. Just after filming finished, the metal detector started beeping

          Scott makes it clear that the investigators decided to continue for a while after filming stopped. Or at least it was clear to me. That could be a personal bias in that I personally would have continued after the filming crew stopped, so find nothing unusual in them having done so, and read said interpretation into Scott’s actor-less phrasing (a metal detector wouldn’t “just start beeping” unless it was being actively moved around while operational).

          But I see your point.

        • John Schilling says:

          How could they be doing it to “collect footage” if there was no filming going on at that time?

          They weren’t doing it to “collect footage”, and I don’t think anyone has claimed otherwise. The bit where they walked around with a metal detector before the film crews left, was to collect footage. The bit where they walked around with a metal detector after the film crews left, was because metal detectors are kind of cool toys and the not-implausible prospect of finding actual buried Viking treasure from the classical Islamic world makes it extra-cool, and the metal detector was right there. What sort of dullard would stop playing with the thing immediately just because there was no longer a professional excuse for it?

          This is normal human behavior, on a time scale that would normally fall within the usage of “just after”.

      • rahien.din says:

        I think “just after” also needs the context of the prior time interval.

        For instance, “just after the pleistocene” could be measured in millenia, but “just after she started eating her scrambled eggs” could be measured in seconds.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’m probably a bit biased from watching movie behind-the-scenes, but I assumed a pre-programmed bit (vs breaking news) would take some set up time, and that they’d spend a while making sure they had all the shots and interviews they need. So I assumed that it would likely take at least a couple of hours for the film crew to do all their stuff before quitting.

          In that assumed context anything measured in minutes is close enough to “just after”.

  39. Alex Zavoluk says:

    I should have put this in with my other comment, but got distracted. Anyway, did anyone else expect the Vox article to have more, you know, arguments? It pretty much only boils down to

    Befriending people you disagree with isn’t cost-free

    It seems like maybe the first bullet point out of several, or the introduction to an actual argument.

  40. theredsheep says:

    Re: the reaching out to political opponents thing, my experience is that it takes a lot of time and effort to overcome the trust barrier, and it’s really easy to botch. I tried it a little while ago, and made a right pig’s ear of it. Of course, I’m no diplomat anyway, but it’s remarkable how quickly it went bad. I wound up defending things I ordinarily never would have defended, and eventually sounding downright incoherent. Eventually I gave up.

    And now I’m here, where there’s a substantial body of people I see eye-to-eye with, so I feel relaxed and comfortable just talking. Great, but it does feel like a cop-out. I think the key to it really has to be mutual respect on another basis; I have friends with whom I have stark disagreements like that, but we have relationships built on other things, so there’s a core of trust to work with in spite of the difficulties. Each of us knows the other isn’t a monster already. Just trying to befriend someone based on political antagonism is going to be beaches-of-Normandy stuff.

    • gbdub says:

      I think this is one of those “reversed moderation” things. Vox: cut everyone who disagrees with your (Vox approved) politics out of your life. Scott: maybe be charitable to people, recognize that basically nobody is trying to be a moral monster, it’s okay to be friends with people who vote differently. You: You’re saying I need to go out of my way to befriend my political antagonists?

      • Guy in TN says:

        I think this is one of those “reversed moderation” things. Vox: cut everyone who disagrees with your (Vox approved) politics out of your life.

        Reversed moderation fallacy on all sides. The Vox article says no such thing.

        • gbdub says:

          You’re right, that was uncharitable of me. Scott’s “Against Murderism” criticism is still fair though… the Vox article does seem to conceive of only two sorts of people, those that agree with you and those that “spout hate” or cause “revulsion” in you, and that the only reason to try to befriend them would be to get them to be less prejudiced (i.e. there is no possibility that you might learn something from them). The idea that people might vehemently disagree with you politically for non-evil reasons does not seem to receive serious consideration.

          • Guy in TN says:

            It looks to me like the author perceives a growing media consensus along the lines of “ideological bubbles are bad, and you should go out of your way to try to connect with people on the other side” and “more dialogue will heal the national divide” and is wanting to push back against it.

            I still think its the reverse moderation trap in action here. I’m going to quote Scott:

            Since no one person can shift very much of the defense budget, this analyst might spend all her time arguing we need to counter China more, trying to convince everyone that China is really very dangerous; if she succeeds, maybe the budget will shift to 99-to-1 and she’ll have done the best she can. But if she really spends all her time talking about China, this might look to other people like she’s an extremist – that crazy single-issue China person – “Why are you spending all your time talking about China? Don’t you realize Russia is important too?”

            By reading solely this authors advocacy piece, it is easy to convince yourself that they believe strong statements such as “the only reason to try to befriend them would be to get them to be less prejudiced (i.e. there is no possibility that you might learn something from them)”, when they really don’t.

      • theredsheep says:

        I’m not seeing where you’re getting that. I meant to say that I’ve attempted a scenario similar to that described in the Vox article, of trying to befriend strong political opponents, and it had significant built-in difficulties.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Did you have any shared context other than political disagreement to bond over?

          It sounds like part of the issue is that you made the mistake of trying to defend your political positions to a person you didn’t have a (notable) pre-existing relationship with, which ended up steamrolling into an identification with a political “tribe” that you don’t fully agree with.

          Did you try talking about non-political things, or just listening to and *gently* inquiring further about the other persons political thoughts?

          • theredsheep says:

            I probably moved too quickly onto political subjects. We did have points of agreement–I’m hardly a traditional conservative in US terms–but in order to have a prayer of success, yeah, I would’ve had to take a fair amount of time building up an apolitical relationship. Which would’ve been tricky, since politics touches everything these days.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            That was my read of the VOX article. Don’t go seeking out “token” friends, of any sort, with no other shared context, just because you’re worried you’re not whole without some particular kind of person in your life.

          • quanta413 says:

            That was my read of the VOX article. Don’t go seeking out “token” friends, of any sort, with no other shared context, just because you’re worried you’re not whole without some particular kind of person in your life.

            That was half my reading of the VOX article. And that part is reasonable but kind of boring.

            But the article went further than that and conflated the article it was responding to and the idea of encouraging meetings between people who disagree but are roughly reasonable with some sort of push to have people in the NAACP befriend KKK members or something (I exaggerate).

            I mean it kicks off with describing Bari Weiss as “Charitably, she’s a provocateur; less charitably, she’s a troll with a huge platform.” Charitably, Dylan Matthews is engaging in hyperbole here; less charitably, he may benefit from the sort of thing he’s encouraging everyone not to bother with.

            Weiss writes for the NYT. She’s a smart but somewhat milquetoast conservative. She’s enough to the right of their overall slant that she stands out next to the rest of the NYT, but she’s not so far right as to drive readers away or make them really uncomfortable. Labeling her a provocateur is an extreme stretch. Most of her writings and beliefs don’t seem radically different from center-left, which makes sense since she’s center-right.

    • Plumber says:

      @theredsheep

      “…Re: the reaching out to political opponents thing, my experience is that it takes a lot of time and effort…:

      Maybe I haven’t built my bubble enough, but I just don’t know enough people who aren’t my political opponents to feel that I may be choosy enough to not try to get along with people that I disagree with on politics.

    • Reasoner says:

      Vox’s article discussed a group called Better Angels which is all about having cross-partisan dialogue. I think your success rate is going to be much higher in a group like that than with randos who haven’t committed to having a discussion across the aisle. There are other groups like this, BridgeUSA is one. Maybe someone could make a master list of these groups, or even create a Google Maps-powered meetup finder.

  41. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Here, have a neat animated gif about how the same facts are compatible with multiple different interpretations (but see also this thread).

    That’s a neat gif, but I wonder if I would interpret it more as “there are multiple ways to characterize or represent the same basic phenomenon” instead of “totally different theories give the same predictions.” There’s some mathematical explanation for why 4 spinning and revolving equilateral triangles, 3 differently spinning and revolving squares, and 1 six-pointed rotating star can each be defined by the same set of moving points. That explanation would link the 3 different phenomena, and show why they are equivalent.

  42. Guy in TN says:

    Re anti-Semitic and anti-gentrification crimes:

    It looks like a case of acute vs. dispersed memetic harms. For example, a hypothetical study during the 2016 presidential election could show that 100x more violent political acts were committed by people in the name of the Democratic or Republican Parties, compared to number of violent political acts committed in the name of the American Nazi Party. But obviously, the number of people adopting the Democratic/Republican ideology is enormous, and the number of people adopting the American Nazi Party ideology is extremely small. The relative danger of the American Nazi Party party could be very high, proportionally. But if even 1% of followers of Dem/Rep ideology committed violent acts, and 80% of Nazi Party followers did, this sort of simplistic analysis might say that the Dem/Rep ideology is more dangerous.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that anti-gentrification ideology is far more widely adopted in NYC than racial nationalism.

    • Reasoner says:

      Good point, but note this clause too: “Although NYC leads the country in anti-Semitic hate crimes”… Unclear how this is being measured. Hopefully it’s a per capita measurement, otherwise it’s kinda useless due to the fact that NYC just has a lot of people.

      • The Nybbler says:

        NYC not only has a lot of people, it has a lot of Jews — 13% Jewish, according to Wikipedia. It’s a “target rich environment”. More controversially, it also has a lot of people in demographics known for a high proportion of anti-Semitism.

  43. Virbie says:

    > What do whites and Native Americans have in common? Ruralness?

    Either Case & Deaton or some analysis I read of their study on declining uneducated white life expectancy posited that the difference was cultural: while eg black Americans were hit just as hard or harder by recent economic troubles, they have cultural norms and social structures that are adapted to adversity. By contrast, the combination of economic woes and the Bowling Alone phenomenon of declining civic participation (and a shift towards universal culture) leaves low-education whites without such a cultural safety net (cf the stereotype of the Appalachian town losing its economic vitality, its young people, and it’s cultural center of gravity).

    Native Americans have famously had issues with a lack of strong cultural and civic ties to their communities, for reasons that are unclear in the details but whose historical context is obvious.

    It’s a pretty squishy theory, and I’m usually pretty loath to explain something by handwaving about culture, but it does neatly explain lumping together whites and native Americans.

    • Erusian says:

      I’d also be curious. Rurality is kind of a catch all term. You throw everything that isn’t urban or quasi-urban in there. But a community of farmers who mostly stay on their own land is different from a small town and so on. I mean, at one end you even have farming collectives (both religious and socialist) in some places. And in the other you have a friend of mine who owns a potato farm, has to bus in workers at harvest time, and whose closest neighbor is several hours by car. You can also talk about incorporated versus unincorporated and much more.

      I suspect comparing different kinds of rurality would be a good approach.

    • bullseye says:

      Why would African-Americans be adapted to adversity when Native Americans aren’t? Both races have plenty of experience with adversity, and the natives have been able to preserve more of their ancestral culture. African-Americans don’t even remember what tribes their ancestors were from.

      • Statismagician says:

        True at the object level, but I’m not sure whether this is a particularly adaptive trait, especially when your ancestral society is tied to remote resource-less reservations. With a blank slate, you can at least fold into the majority culture, although this can cause its own problems – see e.g. people being accused of ‘acting white’ over things like, trustworthy-anecdotally, reading for pleasure or doing well in school generally.

      • Virbie says:

        I don’t see why their ancestral culture would have to be the salient one. “African-American culture” generally (uncontroversially?) refers to a culture that’s pan-African with respect to tribes of origin, and has a lot more to do with “being the descendants of American slaves”, a shared experience that itself is clearly a fruitful cultural wellspring (obviously excluding the trickle of later African immigrants that were largely assimilated into the dominant culture). Hell, it’s even in the name: Africa is huge and incredibly diverse, but we don’t talk about Senegalese-Americans or Gambian-Americans for the descendants of slaves because the link to that cultural thread was intentionally and brutally severed.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      There are a lot of overlaps culturally between American Indians and Scots Irish Americans. They’ve been in a certain degree of contact for a few hundred years now.

      Different drugs hit different groups in different ways at different times.

      African Americans on a number of measures bottomed out in the early 1990s, the era of crack cocaine and gangsta rap. The black homicide rate was considerably higher in 1991 than in 1984.

      A lot of articles try to downplay the 22% rise in homicides from 2014 to 2016 by saying that crime is still way down since 1991, but 1991 was an outlier year of very high crime, higher than 1984, much less 1964.

  44. Sniffnoy says:

    Without having actually read the post — I feel like “Boughs of Hollink” ought to go just a little bit further and be “Boughs of Hotlink”. 😛

  45. Hoagy says:

    Enjoying the similarity between the low chance of survival at very high ages and the increasingly short half lives of elements as the atomic number reaches 118 and presumably beyond.

    Did Jeanne Calment reach the island of stability?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This is my new favorite theory.

    • IvanFyodorovich says:

      Awesome connection!

      The thing that gets me are the theological implications. In Genesis 6:3 God says that he won’t let people live to be longer than 120, and Calment surpassed that. Or apparently not.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’ve heard other commentators interpret that as God saying He’d send the flood in 120 years… but yes, your interpretation definitely came to my mind when I read about Calment’s fraud.

        • JulieK says:

          That’s the explanation I’ve heard, particularly since the following chapters of Genesis list several people living longer than 120 years.
          On the flip side, Moses’ lifespan (120 years) is seen as an ideal in Jewish culture, such that a common birthday wish is “Until 120!”

          • crilk says:

            I always assumed no one after Moses made it to 120, but apparently the priest Jehoiada in the Kingdom of Judah lived to 130.

          • JulieK says:

            Moses, Aaron and Miriam all died within a year of each other. Since Moses was the youngest sibling, the others were a few years older than 120. (Which doesn’t directly contradict your comment, since Moses died last.)

    • toastengineer says:

      I mean, there’s a certain point that if you’ve survived past then you must be immortal.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I’m also reminded of George Burns’ comment about how once you get to age 100 you’ve got it made, because hardly anyone dies after 100.

  46. soreff says:

    “Popular” social media site Tumblr bans most porn, leading to an attempted exodus and also suddenly a bunch of people care about corporate threats to free speech online for the first time. @sknthla on Twitter has an interesting perspective.

    Yeah, I’m a mere consumer but I was quite disappointed to see Tumblr clobber all of those sub-sites.
    I wish the best of luck to the migrants.
    I see @skntha’s points about the two positive feedback death spirals that a general-purpose site balances
    between – though frankly, I consider the way many businesses treat any part of sexuality as “weirdos”
    is itself more perverse than anything any of the fetish communities come up with. Sex is a substantial
    part of the human condition. Trying to run a general purpose communications medium as if it did not
    or should not exist is bizarre and grotesque.

    • L. says:

      I consider the way many businesses treat any part of sexuality as “weirdos”
      is itself more perverse than anything any of the fetish communities come up with.

      Anything?

      • Prussian says:

        Now there’s a phrase not to use on the internet XD

      • soreff says:

        @L.:
        Ok, yeah, the statement that I make was a little too broad.
        How about viewing the business practice of denying sexuality as
        being approximately as perverse as castration fetishists?

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, it wasn’t a fetish site that came up with the notion of “female-presenting nipples”! (What if I’m female but my nipples decide to present as male? What do I do then? How many nipples are out there presenting as specific genders? When did this burst of mammary separatist independence take off?)

        • Roxolan says:

          They probably mean “nipples of a female-presenting person”.

          That still leaves a ton of edge cases. But I’m sure Tumblr will do just fine dishing out unjustified, unappealable ad hoc decisions and ignoring any backlash.

        • JulieK says:

          Is “presenting” the inverse of “identifying?”
          Since just seeing a picture of someone’s body won’t tell you how they identify.

        • Aapje says:

          @Deiseach

          hat if I’m female but my nipples decide to present as male? What do I do then?

          If your nipples turn into little penises, I suggest visiting a doctor and/or to start camming. 😛

      • Aapje says:

        @L.

        I recently learned of the existence of ovipositor toys, which are egg laying toys. You put them in a cavity and they lay ‘eggs’ inside your body. Fortunately, the eggs seem to (always/generally) be fake silicone eggs.

        Another fun one I learned about a while back is rods that you insert into the penis.

        I don’t know what counts as perverse exactly, but I thought I’d share…hey why is everyone sitting with their legs crossed looking pained?

    • toastengineer says:

      There’s “denying it” and then there’s realizing that, A, most people who come to the site would be repelled from it just by seeing one nekkid lady, especially if they want to browse the site in public, and B, that that stuff tends to take over kudzu-style if you don’t wall it off. Just look at the front page of Steam, or itch.io.

      • soreff says:

        and B, that that stuff tends to take over kudzu-style if you don’t wall it off. Just look at the front page of Steam, or itch.io.

        Huh? I’m not familiar with either site,
        but on looking at both of their front pages,
        I don’t see a single nude.
        They seem to be dominated by shoot-em-ups, and a fairly large number of construction
        (and some physics simulator?) games.
        The closest thing I saw to erotic content on either page was on itch.io

        Beach Date
        #Funny, #Romance
        A game about two people who like sand and each other.

        which had the appearance of something G-rated

      • Deiseach says:

        there’s realizing that, A, most people who come to the site would be repelled from it just by seeing one nekkid lady

        That’s true but then again (a) Tumblr has adopted a “think of the children” excuse for their policy, which would be improved if they raised the age at which you can sign up for a Tumblr account from 13 to 17 or 18 to avoid the problem of Innocent Small Child looking for fanart of cartoon show and stumbling across NSFW fanart of two lead characters getting romantic and (b) Tumblr blogs tend to be walled off into their own little enclaves; I regularly get emails recommending “Five Trending Blogs” from Tumblr and I don’t recognise any of them because I don’t hang around on Fashion or Photography or Hip Late 20s Living In Coastal City Tumblr. If you want nekkid ladies you have to put in at least a modicum of effort to search for them, and the secondary problem is that this seems to have done nothing to stop the porn bots which everyone has been complaining about forever and which are the ones doing the real damage.

        There’s stuff I don’t want to see on Tumblr (including One. More. Goddamn. Cute. Cat. Photo.) which they helped solve by introducting filters; put in the tag of the things you don’t want to see, those posts will come up on your dash in a grey box as “this post contains filtered tags” and it’s up to you if you click on them or not to see the nipples, cats, or decadent chocolate cakes. So the Current Nonsense really is more about monetization and ad revenue than morality or fighting paedophile porn rings.

        • soreff says:

          (including One. More. Goddamn. Cute. Cat. Photo.)

          LMAO! 🙂

          That’s true but then again (a) Tumblr has adopted a “think of the children” excuse for their policy, which would be improved if they raised the age at which you can sign up for a Tumblr account from 13 to 17 or 18 to avoid the problem of Innocent Small Child looking for fanart of cartoon show and stumbling across NSFW fanart of two lead characters getting romantic and (b) Tumblr blogs tend to be walled off into their own little enclaves; I regularly get emails recommending “Five Trending Blogs” from Tumblr and I don’t recognise any of them because I don’t hang around on Fashion or Photography or Hip Late 20s Living In Coastal City Tumblr. If you want nekkid ladies you have to put in at least a modicum of effort to search for them, and the secondary problem is that this seems to have done nothing to stop the porn bots which everyone has been complaining about forever and which are the ones doing the real damage.

          Agreed – one has to do a search.
          To indirectly respond to vV_Vv below:
          This make tumblr less like a public square and more like a search results page.

          (oddly, I haven’t personally run into the porn bots problem, at least not from
          tumblr. No idea why not…)

          • Deiseach says:

            oddly, I haven’t personally run into the porn bots problem, at least not from tumblr. No idea why not…

            If you figure it out, let me know. After the Great Day of No More Naughtiness (December 17th), I had to block five pornbots that followed me. They seem to have worked out that if you put an innocuous picture up (girl in bikini/girl in tight blouse) that will get past the Tumblr filter bot, and then you can put the real smut in the text or links (“click here to hit up hot horny bitches wanting you to xxxx them hard daddy!”) The latest trick seems to be to reblog photos from ordinary users then put a link in the innocent text caption which will bring you to the Naughty Nekkid Nudie site, and people have pointed out that this is going to be a lot worse re: children finding online images and clicking on links and getting exposed to the bad stuff than it was before, when a Not For Kiddie-Winkies blog could at least label themselves as such and still post content for over-eighteens about Cap and Bucky being Really Close Really Good Friends Who Love One Another, plus it gets people banned who did not post any bad content at all because the bots are using their content instead of generating their own.

          • soreff says:

            @Deiseach

            reblog photos from ordinary users then put a link in the innocent text caption which will bring you to the Naughty Nekkid Nudie site, and people have pointed out that this is going to be a lot worse

            Ouch. That is definitely taking sleaze to a new level 🙁

            (I wonder if other groups do similar things…
            Traditionally, used-car salesmen were taken as central examples of bottom feeders…)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think this is the same problem I’ve sometimes talked about regarding right-wing commenters. If everyone else bans fetish porn, and you don’t, then all the fetish pornographers go to you, you become “the fetish porn site” and it actually is really embarrassing and central to of your reputation – ie you’re no longer a “general purpose communication medium” anymore.

      • Erusian says:

        Piggybacking into an admittedly different point: I’m wondering about a most tolerant organization effect that might counteract a least tolerant minority effect. While least tolerant minorities might take over organizations, it occurs to me that tolerant societies tend to outcompete intolerant ones. No doubt the Spanish who believed in expelling various groups won the debate (and took power) in Spanish society. But England and Prussia both spent the same time accepting large amounts of refugees, especially skilled refugees who shared certain values. While Torquemada outcompeted the Suassos for control of Spain, within a few generations Torquemada’s Spain was losing wars to Suasso’s Netherlands.

        This is relevant to the Tumblr case because Tumblr grew, at least in part, because it was more tolerant. It was more tolerant than most of its competitors of things like fetish porn. This allowed it to grow to become a major social media site. However, an influential minority exerted consistent pressure to take it over once it became big and have succeeded in advocating for this policy change. Still, surely we can expect that Tumblr will have lost some vitality and attractiveness because of that.

        Anyway, just spitballing.

      • soreff says:

        I think this is the same problem I’ve sometimes talked about regarding right-wing commenters.

        Agreed. Although the flip side of that is that if _all_ sites banned everything that is
        close to the edge of the Overton window, then that window is going to get narrower,
        and narrower, and narrower.

        The frustrating thing is that, from a purely hardware support perspective,
        setting up independent web servers has become virtually trivial. Some of the
        IOT implementations make household appliances into web servers.
        If everyone was speaking from their own web server this centralization of control
        would never have needed to happen.
        We _would_ still need Google to do honest web searches, and not to filter out
        politically incorrect sites, but, as far as I can tell as a mere end user, they seem
        to have chosen not to filter web searches on political correctness.
        I don’t know whether this is stable or not.

        Returning to the current change: The restrictions that Tumblr just put in place
        (and that I’ve seen as a consumer in Youtube and that I’ve seen in corporations
        that I’ve worked for) look batshit-insane to me.

        Adult Content. Don’t upload images, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples — this includes content that is so photorealistic that it could be mistaken for featuring real-life humans (nice try, though). Certain types of artistic, educational, newsworthy, or political content featuring nudity are fine. Don’t upload any content, including images, videos, GIFs, or illustrations, that depicts sex acts. For more information about what this guideline prohibits and how to appeal decisions about adult content

        Really? Banning female-presenting nipples?
        Is the target market of tumblr eunuchs?

        • Brad says:

          The frustrating thing is that, from a purely hardware support perspective,
          setting up independent web servers has become virtually trivial. Some of the
          IOT implementations make household appliances into web servers.

          The software is pretty straightforward too. Putting up a blog is not all that high a bar.

          The really tough part is building an audience. These social media sites have invested a lot in building addictions to their sites. Replicating *that* is tough.

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          We _would_ still need Google to do honest web searches, and not to filter out politically incorrect sites, but, as far as I can tell as a mere end user, they seem to have chosen not to filter web searches on political correctness.

          Your surface impression is incorrect. Google has been filtering searches for political correctness for a long time now – at least a decade.

          Here’s an example that Steve Sailer found in 2010.

          https://www.businessinsider.com/does-google-filter-out-controversial-conservatives-from-search-suggestions-2010-2

          • 10240 says:

            Is there similar filtering of search results themselves, as opposed to search suggestions?

          • I was unable to duplicate the reported result. When I typed “Pat Bu” the first thing it showed me was “Pat Buchanan,” and similarly for some other names I tried.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            The link was from 2010. The purpose of the link was to show that google has been at this behavior for a long time but the political need to censor changes targets over time.

            In 2010 I tried the experiment and got those results. For live examples of google filtering searches and their stated intent to continue doing so you’ll have to look elsewhere.

          • soreff says:

            Your surface impression is incorrect. Google has been filtering searches for political correctness for a long time now – at least a decade.

            Ouch! Thanks for the correction.

          • Loriot says:

            I have a strong prior against Google filtering searches for political reasons because there is no commercial reason to do so and because you would except constant allegations of bias even in the absence of any such bias.

            There is a lot of noise involved in this kind of thing, so it is easy to cherry pick results that tell any story you wish. Furthermore, Google does rank suggestions based on non political criteria, which could have easily included demoting controversial suggestions entirely. I noticed that the linked article makes no claim that Google does not filter controversial liberals from suggestions.

            Besides the linked example is pretty weak. Why do you think Google thought it was so important to censor Buchanan specifically in 2010 (and then stop censoring him later as mentioned below)? Was he even in the news? This looks like the kind of “evidence” you would get if you hunted for patterns in random noise. If there were actual bias in suggestions, I would expect to see Republican candidates systematically less likely to be suggested than Democratic candidates of equal prominence.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Here’s a more recent example of Google gaslighting:

            http://www.unz.com/isteve/google-is-micro-gaslighting-again/

            I tend to doubt that these kind of micro-gaslights are part of some grand plan that comes down from Larry and Sergey. Maybe it’s part of Google’s culture that hard workers are rewarded by being allowed to screw over a few people they don’t like?

            Google’s misuse of its power would seem like an interesting subject to research, but virtually nobody goes there. One reason might be that you have good reason to wonder what Google might do to you in revenge.

            On the other hand, some of Google’s gaslighting of its auto-complete prompts is clearly Policy with a capital P.

            For example, in 2012 I wrote a Taki’s Magazine column about “Google Gaydar:” how you could type in a celebrity’s name and see by the recommended prompts what the public searches for in regard to him:

            “Other stars who score a 0 on Google Gaydar include Bill Murray, Walter Matthau, Jeff Bridges, W. C. Fields, Mel Gibson, Fred MacMurray, Robert Duvall, and Woody Allen. This doesn’t mean that they are all 100 percent straight, just that none of their ten most common search terms — €”or even the ten most popular beginning with the letter “€œg”€ — €”are the word “€œgay.”€”

            “In contrast, type in “€œKevin Spacey,”€ and the word “€œgay”€ is immediately proposed as the single most efficient suggestion to finish your search. So Spacey gets a 100.”

            Now, from the perspective of the #MeToo Era, it might seem like a good thing that in 2012 Google’s auto-complete was alerting mothers whose 14-year-old sons had excitedly announced that they had just won a scholarship to the Kevin Spacey Sleepover Acting Camp for Theatrical Boys. But in 2013 Google changed it’s auto-complete to never ever suggest “gay” as an auto-completion prompt.

            Bing, however, still autocompletes “Kevin Spacey ga” with “Kevin Spacey gay,” even though Google hasn’t done this for five years.

            It would seem to be pretty reasonable to ask that Google publicly disclose how it is manipulating specific topics like this, but nobody ever seems to do this.

          • Montfort says:

            It would seem to be pretty reasonable to ask that Google publicly disclose how it is manipulating specific topics like this, but nobody ever seems to do this.

            I’m not sure if you’re asking for something more specific, but google does have an autocomplete policy, complete with a mechanism for reporting offending completions.

            I understand the difficulty of attempting to catalog differences in search predictions on a scale that would allow you to see real patterns and draw conclusions on what, if anything, google is doing. And I agree that it is nice to publish such preliminary results to perhaps motivate people with more time and expertise to investigate.

            However, the fact that different searches are suggested from the same input on different search engines is not, in itself, news [edit: phrasing]. I see nothing here so far that is “gaslighting”, “micro-” or otherwise.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            And I agree that it is nice to publish such preliminary results to perhaps motivate people with more time and expertise to investigate.

            And of course Google is motivated to keep this hidden given SEO versus paid ads. (Which I’m not against, as paid ads are at least evident to the user, whereas search manipulation often isn’t.)

          • Loriot says:

            I asked for examples of *political* bias in search suggestions. The fact that Google apparently hides suggestions for drug names is obviously not political. Likewise, you can debate the merits of hiding “is X gay” or “is X jewish” or whatever, but it is difficult to see that as part of some grand leftist conspiracy. It’s just a company trying to avoid controversial autocompletions for PR reasons, which Bing and DuckDuckGo don’t have to do because nobody uses them anyway.

          • Aapje says:

            @Loriot

            There doesn’t need to be a conspiracy for googlers to believe that things that offend themselves are more offensive than things that offends others.

            It seems pretty common that ‘my concern is valid, they have a thin skin.’

            So a political bias can result naturally from the employees having certain political beliefs.

          • Loriot says:

            I’m not questioning whether employees are biased, I am questioning whether that leads to a politically relevant bias in the actual results (or even just in the autocomplete suggestions, which is what all the complaints of alleged bias seem to focus on).

          • dick says:

            @Aapje – Are you suggesting a conspiracy in which a handful of low-level employees within Google have surreptitiously colluded to alter search results, and their bosses haven’t found out yet? Or a conspiracy in which a large number of people are involved and this is official (if perhaps unwritten and closely-guarded) policy, and so far no one who knows about it has chosen to reveal it? Or something else?

          • Garrett says:

            I’m going to second the comment made by Aapje with a few observations:

            * If you are a Google employee, it’s much easier to point out a violation of policies or a bug, get it looked at and probably fixed.
            * If you encounter an issue yourself you are more likely to report it.
            * The greater the diversity of people working at Google who use Google products , the more likely it is that problems like this will be caught earlier. This applies to any relevant standard of diversity.
            * Google has far, far fewer right-leaning front-line employees than the reverse.

            So issues where there are errors about data which is of interest to people of the silicon-valley version of ‘the left’ will have bugs in data and code much earlier in the deployment cycle than things of interest to people outside that group, most applicably here, people on ‘the right’.

            So Google’s observed political bias need-not be intentional. Indeed, by making it a clear hostile work environment for anybody who doesn’t support particular “diversity” initiatives (see: Damore), they are reducing the number of people on “the right”, therefore less diverse, and more likely to have people discover this type of error.

          • dick says:

            @Garrett

            It’s reasonable to suggest that the very ubiquity of a bias might cause people to write code that enforces that bias without consciously intending to, but that’s not really the sort of thing that’s been alleged. I find it hard to imagine someone removing Pat Buchanan from auto-complete unintentionally. Hence, me assuming that it must be intentional and asking Aapje just how widespread a conspiracy he’s imagining.

            Also, the allegation here is that Google specifically is doing something anti-right, which Microsoft is not doing. Ubiquitous anti-right bias among technology workers generally is not evidence in support of that.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            How often was Pat Buchanan actually googled in particular locales (or in general) in 2010 compared to the other top 10 suggestions?

            Doesn’t google release the statistics that could determine this?

          • Aapje says:

            @dick

            I explicitly said that there doesn’t need to be a conspiracy and you are holding me to account for alleging a conspiracy. :/

            My point was more aimed at the ‘kevin spacey gay’ example. I can easily imagine a left-wing person considering speculation about that beyond the pale for various reasons and filtering that, but not filtering away speculations that a left-wing person might find objectionable about a right-wing person, because of less empathy with and/or understanding of that person, or because they think that it is perfectly fair to hold people to account for things that conservatives tend to consider beyond the pale and unfair, similar to how progressives might look at outing a gay person, etc.

            That’s just how the human mind works: attacks on/criticism of me and mine feels worse and more unfair than attacks/criticism of the other. Threats to me and mine are more easily seen as realistic and oppressive than threats to the other. Obviously my antifa/alt-right friend is not a danger to anyone but the most evil alt-right/antifa people, but those evil alt-right/antifa people commonly hurt innocents on my side.

            Post-modern/critical theory/etc writings commonly address biases, although ironically*, often strongly favoring criticisms of how ‘they’ have biases against ‘us.’

            * And this is IMO why these theories/fields have such a bad reputation among many, as the tools are often applied selectively in a weaponized way.

            I can also come up with just so stories about the Pat Buchanan example, for example, an error that is not corrected because googlers rarely search for Patty B and if they do, they are less likely to be offended if autocomplete doesn’t work.

            Or laziness. Perhaps there was a Google bombing campaign against Pat B and instead of adding all the separate filters, a googler decided to just block autocomplete for him entirely. Of course, this person might not have been this lazy if the person was someone they liked.

            But does the burden of proof lie with me? Firstly, I don’t work at Google, nor have their (huge) power to manipulate. I believe that they have an obligation to clarify their procedures and how they prevent abuse. Regardless of bias, their filtering mechanism seems very sensitive to mischief.

            If it makes you care more, imagine a Russian FSB agent planting a mole at Google and having the person filter out accusations against Russia. This is perfectly viable if the filters are secret and proper oversight is missing (which is very common in businesses, because oversight costs moneys).

            Anyway, we see a lot of allegations that whites/men/etc are inherently biased and mere lack of sufficient people of the certain genders/races/etc is often taken as proof or strong evidence of bias. However, political leanings are often ignored, even though there is quite a bit of evidence that politics cause strong biases/antipathies/etc; probably far more than on the basis of race or gender.

            Sailer goes substantially beyond this kind of evidence by digging up peculiar results in a way very similar to what a (mainstream) journalist might do.

            Now, the allegations of ill intent by some go beyond this into the realm of speculating about motive and one can very reasonably criticize these as bad faith assumptions, although…both sides of the political spectrum have regularly tried and do try to manipulate the populace with various levels of transparency. So it shouldn’t be assumed that these are impossible or very unlikely allegations.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The death-from-opioids things is very simple: it’s Google attempting rather ham-handedly to avoid auto-suggesting drug-seeking searches, by refusing to auto-complete words associated with drugs.

            I expect refusing to auto-complete “gay” was a woke policy decision.

          • dick says:

            @Aapje

            I explicitly said that there doesn’t need to be a conspiracy and you are holding me to account for alleging a conspiracy. :/

            Sorry, that was unintentional. What I meant was just to ask at what level you envision the people who are doing this acting and coordinating their actions, assuming that it’s not totally unconscious. I understand you think there could be some unconscious bias producing stuff like this, and I agree, there could be, but I don’t think that explains the two things that have been brought up, and I don’t know what those unconscious effects would be or how you’d detect them.

            But does the burden of proof lie with me?

            Well, a conspiracy (or “a group of ideological insiders acting surreptitiously”, or whatever term you might prefer) is like an Act of God, in that it is a potential explanation for almost anything. So given that someone doesn’t agree with you, convincing them is going to require some proof, yeah.

            More generally, the default explanation of any behavior by a business is “for the usual reasons businesses do things” – someone thought it would please customers, earn a promotion, mitigate risk, etc. And while we’re on the topic, any particular reason you think the decision to remove “gay” was the result of left-biased Googlers imposing their ideology on neutral users, rather than neutral Googlers trying to anticipate the desires of left-biased users and media? Wouldn’t the behaviors produced by those two scenarios look identical?

            If it makes you care more, imagine a Russian FSB agent planting a mole at Google and having the person filter out accusations against Russia. This is perfectly viable if the filters are secret and proper oversight is missing (which is very common in businesses, because oversight costs moneys).

            This is not at all viable. It’s hard to explain why without going in to a lot of detail about how software is made, but I assure you oversight is not missing, especially not when it comes to the main product of one of the world’s biggest companies.

          • 10240 says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            How often was Pat Buchanan actually googled in particular locales (or in general) in 2010 compared to the other top 10 suggestions?

            Doesn’t google release the statistics that could determine this?

            https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=pat%20buchanan,pat%20burrell,pat%20bus%20schedule,pat%20buttram,pat%20burns
            https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=pat%20buchanan,pat%20burrell%20stats,pat%20burns%20tiger%20woods,pat%20burke,pat%20buckley
            Pat Buchanan leads 2004 to present — except in 2010 when two of the search terms spiked and were more prominent. The spike happened later than when @Steve Sailer tried it. The other terms were always lower than Buchanan.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            It would be interesting to get Google and Bing to discuss publicly why they have radically different auto-complete predictions for, say:

            Larry Page Je

            Bing’s top 3 are

            Larry Page Jewish
            Larry Page Jet
            Larry Page James Damore

            Google, in contrast, won’t touch “Jewish” in it’s autocompletes.

            If you type out “Larry Page Jewish,” Google will show you lists of Jewish billionaires. But Bing is much more helpful, highlighting up at the top various Jewish websites like IsJewish.com and JewOrNotJew.com aimed at Jews interested in who else is an MoT. For example, the top of Bing’s page reads:

            “Is Larry Page Jewish?
            “Well, to make a long story short, Larry Page is Jewish! Since Larry Page’s mother is Jewish, and in Judaism one’s religion is based on one’s mother’s religion, then that makes him also Jewish. His father is not Jewish.
            “Is Larry Page Jewish? – IsJewish.com
            “www.isjewish.com/larry_page/”

            Interestingly, neither Google nor Bing will auto-complete

            Bill Gates WAS

            with WASP.

            If you search on Bill Gates WASP, Bing’s first item returned is:

            “Jew or Not Jew: Bill Gates
            “www.jewornotjew.com/profile.jsp?ID=760
            “For Bill Gates is NOT Jewish. His lineage is a mix of English, German, and Scotch-Irish, with no discernible Jewishness anywhere on the family tree, going back to the 1700s. He’s William Henry Gates III, for crying out loud, named after his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather!”

            So, maybe there’s a giant WASP conspiracy to cover up WASPness, although more likely there just isn’t much public interest in who is WASP. But there’s a lot of public interest in who is Jewish, especially from other Jews. Interestingly, Google, founded by Sergey Brin (Jewish) and Larry Page (at least half Jewish), tries to damp down public interest in who is Jewish, while Bing of Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates (WASP) and Paul Allen (WASP), does not not.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Thanks 10240.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            although more likely there just isn’t much public interest in who is WASP.

            I think this is the case, as both Bing and Google’s autocomplete of “WASP ” have nothing whatsoever to do with religion or ethnicity.

            I can’t get either search engine to autocomplete “Bill Gates White ” or “Bill Gates Protestant ” (or shortened version of those queries) with anything ethnic or religious.

            Bing gives “Bill Gates Religion” as the 4th autocomplete for “Bill Gates R”, and Google gives “Bill Gates Religion yahoo” as the 7th and final autocomplete for “Bill Gates rel”. Neither gives Gates’ actual religious beliefs as an autocomplete for even the full query “Bill Gates Religion”.

            Google won’t give an autocomplete for “Bill Gates ethni”, or “Larry Page ethn”, or “Sergei Brin ethn”. Bing has “Bill Gates Ethnicity” as the 6/8 autocomplete for “Bill Gates et”. Bing gives no autocomplete for even “sergei brin ethnic”, but “Larry Page ethnicity” is also 6/8 for the even shorter query “larry page e”.

          • dick says:

            (Scene: a windowless meeting room in the shape of a pyramid, deep beneath Mountain View)

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “So, it’s agreed then? We pledge to use the ancient power of Merge Commit to alter the Sacred Algorithm, so as to advance liberal causes and fight the hated Conservatrons?”

            CHANTING VOICES OF THE GOOGLINATI: “WE SO PLEDGE! WE SO PLEDGE! WE SO PLEDGE!”

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “Excellent. The pact is sealed. Now, gentlemen, let us – er, and ladies, and those of other genders, including – look, forget I said gentlemen, okay? I’ll start over.”

            (pause)

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “Excellent. The pact is sealed. Now, friends, to business. In what way shall we wield this awesome power against our benighted foes?”

            VOICE #1: “Take ‘gay’ out of auto-complete!”

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “Um. I’m glad to see you’re thinking outside the box, but just to be clear, what we’re trying to do is advance the cause of liberalism and defeat the minions of the right. So, that in mind, any other ideas?”

            VOICE #2: “Take out ‘jew’ too!”

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “I feel like I’m missing something. How does this serve our goals again?”

            VOICE #1: “It’s offensive!”

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “Well, er… Kind of? Sure, okay, they’re out.”

            CHANTING VOICES: “Yay!”

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “Great! We’re really rolling now. What else, my leftist friends?”

            (pause)

            VOICE #3: “Take out Pat Buchanan!”

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “Great idea! I mean, he’s sort of a niche protest candidate, but null-routing his website will probably hurt the right in some very, very small way! What other candidates shall we blackball?”

            VOICE #3: “No, still link to his website! Just don’t auto-complete his name!”

            PRIMUS GOOGLINATUS: “Huh?”

            VOICE #4: “Yeah! Make the bastards type it out!”

            * * *

            All in all this doesn’t seem like a very scary conspiracy.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I mean, I think it’s an interesting and useful perspective on Bill Gates to consider him as an old fashioned centrist progressive cultural (although probably not religious) WASP Protestant, kind of like the Rockefellers or Prescott Bush, much concerned with overpopulation and other Protestant issues.

            But nobody else seems to care, even though Gates gives a huge amount of money away, so it could be remunerative to figure out what makes Bill Gates tick.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            All in all this doesn’t seem like a very scary conspiracy.

            Google is an extraordinarily powerful institution. Is anybody systematically keeping an eye on Google? I randomly stumble across stuff now and then about Google that strikes me as interesting, but I’m not aware of anybody methodically checking up on Google and publicizing what they find.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Here’s a curious Google auto-complete rule: Google will not suggest for you that if you enter

            Mitt Romney Mormo

            that you are intending to type

            Mitt Romney Mormon

            But Google will happily finish off

            Richard Gere Bu

            with

            Richard Gere Buddhist

            Bing does both, of course.

            Google will autocomplete

            Shaun King b

            with

            Shaun King black

            but won’t do the same for Barack Obama

          • Steve Sailer says:

            One of the funniest Google Gaslights is

            American inventor

            http://www.unz.com/isteve/great-moments-in-google-american-inventors/

          • Aapje says:

            @dick

            Well, a conspiracy (or “a group of ideological insiders acting surreptitiously”, or whatever term you might prefer) is like an Act of God, in that it is a potential explanation for almost anything.

            People will often allege a ‘conspiracy’ or be accused of having a conspiracy theory, based on the (alleged) presence of these two things:
            1. (semi-)consistent behavior between different individuals
            2. a lack of transparency

            These two things very commonly happen naturally, where one of the most common ways for these two things to exist is ‘(sub)culture.’

            People with the same (sub)culture have similar behavior that is different from behavior by others, but that is not explicit policy, resulting in a lack of transparency. To people who consider (some of) those behaviors to be very harmful for their their own group, it can look like a conspiracy.

            For example, feminists typically believe in such a conspiracy called patriarchy.

            Now, a lot of the debates over accusations like these are about whether the harm is intentional, whether the terminology is fair, etc. This generally doesn’t seem very productive or persuasive. People are not going to accept perceived harm to their group just because you argue that it’s not intentional or doesn’t add up to fit certain terminology.

            So given that someone doesn’t agree with you, convincing them is going to require some proof, yeah.

            Over 90% of the political donations of Alphabet employees go to Democrats, so the political leaning seems to be way to the left.

            There is plenty of survey evidence that those who support Democrats tend to have different beliefs to those who support Republicans or otherwise.

            I hope you agree that beliefs impact behavior and how people interpret reality?

            Isn’t then the logical conclusion that Google employees tend to behave and interpret reality in a more Democrat way?

            Assuming you’re with me on this, we then have to establish that Googlers sometimes make decisions where views play a role. Choosing what to autocompletes to remove seems to be a very subjective decision where one’s worldview can impact the choices.

            Ergo, it seems very plausible that Democrat-aligned views could impact what gets filtered.

            Evidence has been presented that is consistent with this, although it is not fully persuasive. However, there are so many possible things to test that it’s nearly impossible to provide extremely hard evidence from the outside.

            It’s common in even law to provide a certain level of evidence and then demand an explanation from the accused, where the accusation is assumed true if no good explanation is forthcoming.

            This is not at all viable. It’s hard to explain why without going in to a lot of detail about how software is made, but I assure you oversight is not missing, especially not when it comes to the main product of one of the world’s biggest companies.

            I know how software is made and the logical way to built such a system is to not actually code the filters, but to make the filtering configurable. My experience is that configuration changes tend to get far less scrutiny than the generic mechanism.

            I seems very rare for people who enter configuration changes to have these reviewed by others, especially when many such configuration changes are made. I expect that multiple people have a full-time job managing the autocomplete filtering at Google.

            If you were to replace one of these with a Manchurian Candidate, that person could probably get away with a certain level of manipulation, until it becomes too overt and someone notices and documents the pattern. Even then, it is likely that these complaints will be taken less seriously if they are from ‘the other.’

          • dick says:

            @Steve Sailer

            There are indeed people keeping an eye on how Google search results and autocomplete work and how they can be manipulated, an entire industry in fact. The SEO world is not so good at the “publicizing results” part and they’re mostly not paying attention to what you’re interested in, the ideological angle, but certainly people are testing to see what phrases are blackholed and such. Here‘s a list from 2010 if you’re curious. Anyway, I agree Google is big and scary and should be feared, I’m just poking fun at the idea that the particular way they bowdlerize autocomplete is an important window in to the company’s inner workings.

            @Aapje

            People will often allege a ‘conspiracy’ or be accused of having a conspiracy theory, based on the (alleged) presence of these two things:
            1. (semi-)consistent behavior between different individuals
            2. a lack of transparency

            I think you forgot a third thing, which is “something unusual that requires explanation”. We don’t need to posit a conspiracy or ideological motivation to explain why Exxon is drilling holes in the ground, right? Google is, as you noted, mostly made up of left-leaning people; for them to make decisions that strike a right-winger as being too left-wing is the expected state of things, and requires no further explanation.

            I know how software is made and the logical way to built such a system is to not actually code the filters, but to make the filtering configurable. My experience is that configuration changes tend to get far less scrutiny than the generic mechanism. I seems very rare for people who enter configuration changes to have these reviewed by others, especially when many such configuration changes are made.

            Are you suggesting that the list of banned words is not in source control? Or that the people who have the rights to edit it can merge changes without the changes getting reviewed by another human? That wouldn’t fly at most startups, let alone the most visible feature of one of the most used software products on earth.

          • Aapje says:

            @dick

            You now seem to agree that it’s expected that an organization with left-wing people will make left-wing choices that vex right-wing (or other non-‘mainstream left’) people. That is basically what I was arguing is a reasonable accusation, so we seem to agree.

            As for your other point, I would expect the list to be in a database, not in code & I would expect there to be a nice administrator GUI through which certain settings can be tweaked.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            I’m fascinated by the way the MainStream Media isn’t interested in amusing stuff about Google, like the hilarious “American Inventors/Mathematicians/Scientists” search results that Google comes up with. Try it for yourself.

          • The Nybbler says:

            As for your other point, I would expect the list to be in a database, not in code & I would expect there to be a nice administrator GUI through which certain settings can be tweaked.

            I’m afraid you’d expect wrong on both counts, unless they’ve added a nice administrator GUI recently.

          • dick says:

            You now seem to agree that it’s expected that an organization with left-wing people will make left-wing choices that vex right-wing (or other non-‘mainstream left’) people.

            I think you’re missing the difference between being anti-right, and seeming anti-right to a conservative blogger. Removing “jew” from autocomplete is not a “left-wing choice” just because Steve Sailer can find fault with it. If it were, why hasn’t Bing done it? Is Microsoft not full of left-wingers too?

            I would expect the list to be in a database, not in code & I would expect there to be a nice administrator GUI through which certain settings can be tweaked.

            And what do you imagine happens when your FSB mole edits that list and hits Save? Do you suppose it goes through some sort of review process that requires other humans to approve it, or do you think it just goes straight out to prod?

            For context, at one of my old jobs we had a nice administrator GUI tool that required two separate signoffs (one by another developer, one by a program manager) to push out changes to the “Terms and Conditions” clause at the bottom of the form you fill out to get a $50 rebate for buying a fuel-efficient water heater. Your theory is that the tool for the people who administer Google search is less secure than that? Keeping in mind that the ability to manipulate search results is so lucrative that there’s an entire industry devoted to it? And that glitches in the autocomplete functionality have been the cause of several media scandals? And more than one lawsuit?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Your theory is that the tool for the people who administer Google search is less secure than that? Keeping in mind that the ability to manipulate search results is so lucrative that there’s an entire industry devoted to it? And that glitches in the autocomplete functionality have been the cause of several media scandals? And more than one lawsuit?

            I’m sure “jew” was blocked from autocomplete due to a policy decision (likely made based on some embarrassing offensive autocompletes), not some developer making a commit on their own initiative. But I wouldn’t make so many assumptions about Google’s internal security procedures.

          • dick says:

            I’m not suggesting that there’s a bunch of extra security around it, although that wouldn’t surprise me, just that it’s subject to the same sorts of rules almost all modern software is, where a lone developer can’t “sneak in” a line of code without one of his coworkers or a product owner or someone asking him what it’s for.

            I agree that removing “jew” from autocomplete was certainly the work of middle managers; we’re only discussing lone developers sneaking in code because Aapje brought the idea up.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Here’s an amusing comparison of what you get from Google and Bing for

            American scientists

            http://www.unz.com/isteve/more-great-moments-in-google-gaslight/

            Bing’s list of the top 11 American scientists includes 3 blacks and 8 whites. Google’s list is 10 blacks and Albert Einstein.

            At Google, it’s Black History Month yearround.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            That there are pretty strong differences between Google and Bing on a number of sensitive identity politics topics, typically with Bing going with the more libertarian choice and Google the more PC choice, would seem kind of interesting, but so far it’s not a topic that the press seems all that interested in pursuing.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Steve Sailer

            Try “USA inventors” instead.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Here’s a simple summary:

            Google thinks that autocompleting Sergey Brin Je would be a problem, so it doesn’t. Bing doesn’t think it’s a problem, so it does.

            Google doesn’t think it’s a problem that it posts a hilarious list of pictures of black obscurities as the top American Scientists, while Bing thinks it is a problem and posts a less absurd list.

            Since Google is the overdog, I think it would be interesting for the media to ask Google why it makes these decisions. A lot of other people, however, seem to think it would be boring or impudent or just not done to question Google on these kind of matters.

          • Montfort says:

            (From Sailer’s article)

            Now, it’s quite possible that Google thinks that when you ask for “American scientists” you must be asking for “African-American scientists” because who could be so racist in the Current Year to ask for American scientists irrespective of race?

            It seems interesting to me that you generated this hypothesis yourself and then didn’t, as anonymousskimmer suggests, try simply replacing “american” with “usa” or “us” or even “america”, which (for me) changes the results to be mostly white in the top 20, and a different list each time.
            What this suggests to me is that google is sensitive to the specific term you’re using to get its canned list of american scientists, whereas bing is not (try searching “usa scientists” there, and you don’t get a list, the best you can do is “america scientists” which returns the exact same list in the same order). It is not a mystery to me why scientists who would frequently be described as “african american” are higher in the results for “american scientists” than for “usa scientists”. Especially since, as you note in the comment section there, “In general, the silly lists are ones that K-12 would be assigned to do a report on” – such as, perhaps, for black history month. For reference, this pattern of results appeared for me for “inventors”, “mathematicians” and “chemists” as well. I tried “physicist”, too, but “american physicist” is already all white for the first set.

            That you did not attempt something like that, (or if you did, chose not to mention it) and that you continue to sensationalize your results is, in my opinion, illuminating.

          • nkurz says:

            @Montfort:

            I don’t see Steve’s argument as being undercut by pointing out that “USA scientists” returns fewer black scientists than “American scientists”. To the contrary, I think it strengthens it.

            His argument, as I see it, is that the results of a small number of specific searches have been “manually overridden” to further a particular social agenda. If two semantically similar searches return very different results, doesn’t this strengthen his argument that those searches are intentionally (rather than algorithmically) being treated differently?

            Could you flesh out your logic of why you see it differently? Particularly, if your guess is true that Google’s algorithm equates “American” with “African American”, why does Bing’s not do the same? And why does changing “scientist” to a specific subfield override this?

          • dick says:

            so far it’s not a topic that the press seems all that interested in pursuing.

            You know, just for context, Google also knows the deepest secrets of something like half of America adults, including where they were on a minute-by-minute basis for the last couple of years and what they were doing there and who they were there with, and they rent that information out to multinational corporations, political campaigns, and the odd dictator. Maybe the journalists who write about Google are focusing more on that sort of stuff.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @nkurz

            We all know that the google search engine is more nuanced than other search engines. This is part of what makes it so good. It knows how to use euphemisms and alternate wordings, and its search dynamically adjusts for this unless you tell it to search verbatim. It tries to give you “what you want”, not “what you ask for”, and everyone has known this for decades.

            Here’s the verbatim search for “American inventors:” https://www.google.com/search?q=american+inventors&safe=active&source=lnt&tbs=li:1&sa=X&biw=1223&bih=901

            (The results slightly change when I search from Opera VPN and get results in Russian, and things change slightly again when I ask google to show the results in English, but the main point still stands — yes, I know google personalizes search resuls)

            1) http://www.unz.com/isteve/great-moments-in-google-american-inventors/
            2) https://vdare.com/posts/great-moments-in-google-american-inventors-almost-all-black
            3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:American_inventors
            4) https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-american-inventors-list/reference
            5) http://www.american-inventor.com/
            6) https://www.teachthought.com/archived/5-american-inventors-changed-world/

            7) A list of videos featuring
            A) These 5 African-American inventors improved the world
            B) Google-White American Inventors (a video about Steve’s discovery)
            C) African-American Inventors read-aloud
            click right to see next three results
            D) Walmart to American Inventors: Pitch Us Your Products
            E) African-American Inventors } Georgia Stories
            F) Google Results for White Woman , White Child , White Race … (another video about Steve’s discovery)

            8) mentalfloss.com/article/86923/11-african-american-inventors-who-changed-world
            9) https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/greatest…american-inventors/ss-BBIwHFo (Greatest African-American inventors – MSN.com)
            10) https://www.amazon.com/TIME-LIFE-American-Inventors-History…/168330442X

            As we can see, Steve’s discovery has claimed a full quarter — 4/16 — of the top ten links and top 6 videos for “American Inventor” verbatim search. Google knows this is not what most searchers for this term want to find, so it adjusts accordingly. And millions of school children thank it.

          • dick says:

            Since we’re on the subject of counter-intuitive google search results, here’s one: when I search on “American inventors”, the first result is an ideological essay by a fairly obscure conservative blogger. That’s odd, eh? It even beats out the Wiki article on that exact topic. What can we conclude from this?

            a) This is clear evidence of anti-progressive ideological tinkering by Google. Probably a bunch of right-wingers work there, and they’ve snuck in code to prioritize articles that push their conservative agenda.

            b) The person who wrote the article has juiced his SEO by posting links to his own blog on popular forums. If he knows what he’s doing, he would probably be sure to include the exact title close to the link, a verbatim quote, plus a few links to other articles on the same domain.

            Hrm. Both are plausible, but I’m going to go with the first one. The second one is too unbelievable, since forum admins routinely ban people for doing that.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Here’s another amusing Google vs. Bing example. When you go into Incognito Mode in order to get generic results, it’s fun to compare both autocompletes and results for

            black white cri

            http://www.unz.com/isteve/google-vs-bing-on-black-white-crime-stats/

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            That’s fine Steve, but your unz article on “American Inventors” isn’t even in the first 11 pages (I didn’t go further) of the Bing results — a tweet and a Quora answer get higher billing on page 8 or 9.

            And here’re the videos shown at the top of page 2 of the Bing results for “American Inventors” (in order):
            “American Inventor – Season 01 – Episode 13” – which shows a black man on the front image.
            “Masters of Invention Full Length” – which is about black American inventors.
            “Top 10 American Inventors” – which shows a white man on the front image.

            One could easily argue that Google’s text results are biased and their video results are not, while Bing’s text results aren’t biased, while their video results are. If anything, like dick indicates, Google seems to be biased (relative to Bing) to highlight right-wing commentary in its search results.

            So you can pick anecdotes, and yes their existence does indicate something, but so does the existence of the anecdotes you ignore.

            For most people Google is still better than Bing at returning results most relevant to what they’re looking for.

            At any rate, given dick’s option b above, I’ll report your next post that contains a link to an article discussing your topic of choice — whether it’s at your blog or not. Say it here, or say it there, but don’t say it there and link it here.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “His argument, as I see it, is that the results of a small number of specific searches have been “manually overridden” to further a particular social agenda. ”

            I am not necessarily saying that Google manually overrode the results for its amusing list of pictures at the top of the main results pages for American Scientists/Inventors/Mathematicians. Over the decades Google has added a lot of tweaks to its algorithms to give more sophisticated results.

            It could well be the opposite of what you are assuming: perhaps Google’s most primitive algorithm lumped “African American” and “American” together, and then Google decided not to tweak the algorithm to give a smarter result, while Bing wrote some code to fix what strikes most informed people as an obvious problem.

            But perhaps to Google, with Jesse Jackson always breathing down their necks about hiring so few blacks for technical positions, highlighting the pictures of numerous black obscurities is not a bug, it’s a feature?

          • dick says:

            perhaps Google’s most primitive algorithm lumped “African American” and “American” together, and then Google decided not to tweak the algorithm to give a smarter result, while Bing wrote some code to fix what strikes most informed people as an obvious problem.

            I’m 100% certain this did not happen. What’s so hard to believe about some middle manager at Google saying “Hey wouldn’t it help make people more aware of the contributions of black inventors if we did this” and everyone else agreeing it’s a good idea?

            Meanwhile, your article on unusual search results ignored the most unusual search result you found, which is the first two Bing results for “black white crime statistics” going to overtly partisan sites. That is certainly the result of SEO manipulation and will get fixed when Bing gets around to it (and is probably evidence that Bing is slower/worse at addressing SEO hacks than Google is, which is not surprising).

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m 100% certain this did not happen. What’s so hard to believe about some middle manager at Google saying “Hey wouldn’t it help make people more aware of the contributions of black inventors if we did this” and everyone else agreeing it’s a good idea?

            Not a chance Google was messing with search that way when the “American Inventors” thing first came about. There was a very strong culture against messing with search itself for political reasons.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “Meanwhile, your article on unusual search results ignored the most unusual search result you found, which is the first two Bing results for “black white crime statistics” going to overtly partisan sites.”

            As opposed to Google highlighting absolutely impartial sites like Color Lines (published by Race Forward) and the SPLC. If you don’t believe that the SPLC is utterly nonpartisan and nonmanipulative, just ask them, they’ll tell you. They didn’t pile up a $319 million endowment by telling old rich liberals what they want to here, did they?

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “Not a chance Google was messing with search that way when the “American Inventors” thing first came about.”

            There are multiple plausible ways that Google’s self-generated gallery of 50 pictures of “American Scientists” or “American Inventors” or “American Mathematicians” could have come about. The point is that Google has resisted for several years now making it less laughable, despite quite a bit of derision poked at it since at least 2016. In contrast, Bing features somewhat less comic self-generated galleries of top scientists, etc.

            My suggestion is that it would be interesting to try to get Google to explain its motivations for this content it has created and maintained in the face of public laughter. But, apparently, some people find skeptically questioning the actions of the world’s dominant information firm to be impertinent if not downright offensive.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            But, apparently, some people find skeptically questioning the actions of the world’s dominant information firm to be impertinent if not downright offensive.

            I just don’t care. As long as there are plenty of alternatives it doesn’t bother me. I have gone deep into google search results when necessary. I have gone to alternative sources when necessary. I expect all sources to have a bias and as long as I’m aware of this it doesn’t matter.

            This is the power of the internet. If you want to stay in a particular bubble you can, if you don’t, you don’t have to, and if you go to various places you can be confident that they will have their own bubble.

            3 hours after it was posted your particular essay linked in this comment became the #4 google search results for the term.

            Google may indeed choose to front various perspectives, but alternative perspectives are just a few pages of search results, or “click to show all results”, away. Any child given a homework assignment on American Inventors will know that they need multiple sources, so I don’t see what’s worrying about search results that try to ensure that at least one of those sources includes inventors who aren’t white men.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “Any child given a homework assignment on American Inventors will know that they need multiple sources, so I don’t see what’s worrying about search results that try to ensure that at least one of those sources includes inventors who aren’t white men.”

            Sorry, but you may be misunderstanding what Google and Bing are doing. Google’s amusing lists of American Scientists/Inventors/Mathematicians are not somebody else’s content that Google is pointing to, they are content specifically created by Google or Bing to display at the top of their search results: a gallery of typically 50 pictures ranked in some sort of order of prominence. They are by far the most prominent results on the page when they do appear, which is not by any means for all possible searches. Try it yourself to see what we’re talking about.

            My view is that when an extremely powerful institution like Google does something laughable, it should be laughed at.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Steve Sailer
            I consider that pedantry since each of those images is actually a link to a search about the particular inventor.

            You’ve got a problem with this obviously. I just told you why I don’t.

        • Deiseach says:

          Is the target market of tumblr eunuchs?

          Who knows? Sample of a post that got flagged:

          If this turns up as a duplicate post, it’s because Tumblr’s imbecilic bot flagged the first attempt – look at the Garda badge – as including a breast with a nipple.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Sex is a substantial
      part of the human condition. Trying to run a general purpose communications medium as if it did not
      or should not exist is bizarre and grotesque.

      A substantial part of the human condition whose public expression is normally highly restriced by social and legal norms: you aren’t allowed to run naked, mansturbate or have an intercourse in a public square. High profile mainstream social media now function similar to public squares (well, privately owned, but generally open to the public), therefore it’s natural that common decency rules apply.

      • 10240 says:

        We are talking about a blog platform where (I presume) you can have a blog that people only see if they intentionally enter their its address or follow a link to it. I’d rather compare the platform to the entire area of a country, including private places. It’s not illegal to open a fenced-off nude beach that anyone who wants can enter.

  47. Erusian says:

    Although NYC leads the country in anti-Semitic hate crimes, none in the past two years has been affiliated with any kind of far-right group; they are mostly perpetrated by anti-gentrification activists who see Jews as “hyper-white”. No data about how nationally representative this is compared to far-right anti-Semitic crimes like the recent Pittsburgh shooting. Suppose it were representative: given that we frequently hear calls to crack down on far-right ideas out of fear of inflaming anti-Semitism, and that we never hear calls to crack down on anti-gentrification speech or the discourse around whiteness out of fears of inflaming anti-Semitism (and most people would be horrified by the idea that we should), should this challenge the way we think about hate-crime-incitement as an exception to free speech?

    You do hear this on the right. It’s a de rigueur conservative criticism of affirmative action and leftist identity politics. It’s a common belief on the right that leftism is a profoundly racist ideology that has convinced itself that it is anti-racist. And not just in the sense of ‘singling black people for help out is the real racism!’ but actually hostile and hateful towards certain groups. They report on these crimes a lot and the liberals mock them for it (see: John Oliver).

    Of course, a lot of this reporting is just partisan attempts to heap negative affect. On both sides. For example, several prominent Nazis (and I believe the American Nazi Party) endorsed Barrack Obama but the mostly liberal media didn’t hound him about it. (The American Nazis tend to be fairly pro-Democrat in general, since they see banks/Wall Street as Jewish and the Democrats as anti-Wall Street.)

    As to free speech, there’s no hate speech exception and even the concept of hate as an aggravating factor is controversial. The idea is that it’s going to be inherently political because it’s effectively creating classes who are more protected than others. There’s a lot of power in who defines what is ‘hate’ (and so banned).

    • JulieK says:

      anti-Semitic hate crimes … are mostly perpetrated by anti-gentrification activists who see Jews as “hyper-white”.

      Well, that’s the *excuse* that’s offered by those who sympathize with the perpetrators.
      The alternative theory is that they’re plain old antisemites.

    • JulieK says:

      Two interesting articles on antisemitism:
      The ‘Hyper-Whitening’ of the Jews: The Jews are now ‘white’ because whiteness has fallen out of favor.

      The Jew is hated as whatever the anti-Semite holds responsible for his own misfortune. If you’re a capitalist, the Jew is a Communist; if you’re a Communist, the Jew is a capitalist. If you’re a pacifist, the Jew is a warmonger. If you’re a warrior, the Jew is a coward. Depending on your circumstance, the Jew can be grimy or snobbish, rootless or nationalist, invader or separatist. And if 100 years ago, American bigots saw Jews as Asiatic cross-breeds, today bigots see them as “hyper-white.” If you want to know what a culture considers most problematic, look at its brand of anti-Semitism. When you have headlines about “white privilege” and “evil white men,” Jews become the epitome of whiteness—except, of course, for neo-Nazis, who see Jews as hyper-integrationists.

      From the left and the right: Highlights of startling new European antisemitism study

      The most frequently mentioned categories of perpetrators of the most serious incident of antisemitic harassment experienced by the respondents include someone they did not know (31 %); someone with an extremist Muslim view (30 %); someone with a left-wing political view (21 %); a colleague from work or school/college (16 %); an acquaintance or friend (15 %); and someone with a right-wing political view (13 %).
      [More than one category could be chosen.]

  48. Tamar says:

    I tried to post this in response to Scott’s response to eterevsky but it didn’t go through and I’m not sure why, probably links? Trying to mess with the links in order to get this to work.

    The babies are not “immune to AIDS” and in fact may not even be resistant to HIV, the purported goal of the study. It seems that the parents were told that they were participating in something like an AIDS vaccine trial when consent was obtained. See Derek Lowe’s take: http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2018/11/28/after-such-knowledge and this twitter thread recapping He Jiankui’s talk about the research https://twitter.com/GaetanBurgio/status/1067657557114679296this twitter thread. My takeaway: This is a huge blow to those who are hoping for human embryonic gene editing for lethal disease prevention, because it sets a horrible precedent. The fact that the first such attempt was founded on such horrible ethics may well slow the field tremendously.

  49. Prussian says:

    Scott’s doing his best to raise the flag of decency and niceness as usual, but I’m worried if he’s missing a piece of the puzzle. What if thinking conservatives/rightists are horrible monsters is, in fact, the point of being left/liberal?

    (Okay, I know how this is going to sound, but please believe me, I’m NOT trying to draw a moral equivalence between North Korea and Western leftists here – I’m just trying to explain my basis of reasoning)

    I’m stealing a line from B.R. Myers here. He said that any attempt to understand North Korea by trying to understand Juche Philosophy was a waste of time. The real doctrine of North Korea comes across in its popular propaganda – which is not Marxist or even Communist really, but explicitly and fanatically racist and nationalist.

    Similarly, when I listen to people like Bill Maher, read the Guardian etc. – what one might call the popular propaganda of the Western left (in the same way Ann Coulter etc. are the popular propaganda of the Western right), I certainly don’t get any sense of a unified ideology the way that socialism was one. There’s no stuff like “Comrades, the Objective facts are these…” or talk of a better tomorrow or anything really coherent. The only common denominator I find is something like:

    We on the left are the Nice People and They on the Right are the horrible people. You want to be nice, right?”

    And that’s a problem. I swear, I’ve had more productive conversations with explicit Socialists from Chile because they had a set of ideas that went “We think the world is better if we do X, Y, Z”, and I could go, “Okay, I see where you’re coming from, but here’s why I think the world is better if we do A, B, C – and, yeah, there’s something to be said for Z”. But how do you even begin to have that discussion if the ideas are “Our idea is that you are a horrible human being who just wants to hurt people”.

    This does make me despair at times.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Be warned that Bryan Caplan’s Simplistic Theory Of Politics is “the Left hates markets, and the Right just hates the Left”, which suggests that people on both sides get tempted to interpret the other side as just hating them but not having any concrete policy proposal.

      • Prussian says:

        Thanks! That’s a really interesting article. My only criticism would be that this is a confusion of symbol and substance. Caplan is an Anarcho-Capitalist with nice things to say about Ayn Rand and who has written a long book on why formal further education is an abomination and needs to go.

        Put those views to just about anyone on the western Left and they’ll be described as right wing, extreme right etc. Changing symbols doesn’t affect the substance.

        I also fear that the argument that the “Left hates markets” doesn’t stack up. For example, the late Christopher Hitchens was a socialist for most of his life and a later advocate for social democracy in America (in favour of a universal health care system etc.) That didn’t stop him being despised by the left for his support for the removal of Saddam Hussain. Even more crucially to my point, no one on the left seemed prepared to grant that he was taking this stance from his professed views, that he was genuinely moved by a hatred of the Saddam Hussain dictatorship, by solidarity for the Kurdish people etc. No it had to be that he was a sell-out, and a warmonger, and a drunk etc. No one was prepared to say “Okay, I get where Hitch is coming from, what with all the mass graves and torture cells…” – and that omission is in line with my view. Because once you grant that people who disagree with you might be motivated by basic decency and humanity and so on, then you grant that they can disagree with you without having horns, hooves and a tail.

        Same thing with his book on the Clintons. It doesn’t matter that it’s a solidly left-wing attack, or that he accuses of the Clintons of behaving like Republicans. He was still lacerated by his ‘own’ side, and, again, no one was prepared to grant that he actually was disgusted by things like the Al-Shifa bombing.

        Hitchens is by no means the only example of this. Julie Bindel is a radical feminist and old-school leftist and she’s officially “as bad as Hitler” etc. I’ve seen so much of this, and, yeah. This isn’t written out of anger, but out of despair.

        • Freddie deBoer says:

          What motivated Hitchens was irrelevant. The outcome of his views was civil war, several thousand American casualties, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, millions of refugees, ISIS, a tattered international reputation for the United States, and the continuing destabilization of an already beleaguered region. I’d call that reason for hatred.

          • cassander says:

            One, hitchens was loathed for his stance before a single iraqi had died.

            Two, Iraq was in a state of low level civil war before we got there,

            Three, ISIS came about a decade later as a result of the decisions of a different presidency.

            Four, when you look at the pre-war deathrates under saddam’s regime, there’s a decent chance that the invasion saved lives

            Five, almost no one on the left has the same opprobrium for the people who chearled American policy in syria and libya, despite the former getting far more people killed and the latter being far more certain to be a disaster, because the people who started those conflicts were started by lefties in good standing who upheld a principle of “the responsibility to protect”, a doctrine which was inexplicably inapplicable to Saddam’s genocides and totally different than what the bush administration was doing for…reasons.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            That is hilariously unself-aware.

            Communism has a massively greater death and torture toll than the Iraq war and obviously leftists don’t hate communists or even have any real harsh language for them except maybe that “well, they mean well so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”. Saying that the Iraq war was so bad that obviously leftists were going to condemn it raises the question of how and why they recognize the Iraq war as being particularly horrible. It also doesn’t explain the advance condemnation before the Iraq war turned out badly.

            The alternative theory that Hitchens gave aid to the side with the bad people on it therefore he’s a bad person is much more coherent.

          • Freddie deBoer says:

            lol the advance condemnation existed because the l radical eft (100% correctly) predicted the horrific outcomes of Iraq. To make a prediction of horror is a perfectly good reason to hate someone if in time that prediction comes true, as it indisputably did.

            By the way if you think I’m a fan of the Obama administration and spared them intense criticism for the terrible decision to attach Libya… also lol

          • L. says:

            The radical Left is something that has tankies, market socialists, and anarcho-communists under one label.
            Each one on its own has predicted the horrific outcomes of like 90% of existence; together, I would be genuinely surprised to find one thing in existence whose horrific outcomes it has not predicted, up to and including doors.

          • baconbits9 says:

            One, hitchens was loathed for his stance before a single iraqi had died.

            This seems unlikely (its plausible some people hate him, but not the “left” as a large group) as the Iraq war had broad, bipartisan support early on.

          • Eponymous says:

            @cassander:

            Iraq was in a state of low level civil war before we got there

            Source? Was there active fighting? I don’t think so, at least not much.

            Four, when you look at the pre-war deathrates under saddam’s regime, there’s a decent chance that the invasion saved lives

            Source? Find this very unlikely. Checked and found this. Claims 50% higher death rate in years following invasion than prior. Doesn’t count US deaths/injuries, expenditures, or broader role in destabilizing region (ISIS/Syria).

            Five, almost no one on the left has the same opprobrium for the people who chearled American policy in syria and libya

            Both conflicts predated US involvement. Our involvement in the former has been small, especially compared to other players.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            cassander says:

            Four, when you look at the pre-war deathrates under saddam’s regime, there’s a decent chance that the invasion saved lives

            What pre-war death rates? Those before Desert Storm, or those after Desert Storm and before the Iraq war, when Saddam was motivated to kill those who had risen up in support of the USes first invasion?

          • cassander says:

            @anonymousskimmer & Eponymous

            The death rates I am speaking of are the tens of thousands that were dying annually in the late 90s because saddam decided to use the oil for food money to build palaces and buy french missiles.

          • eh says:

            Some would argue that the UN sanctions played a pretty big role in causing Iraqi deaths.

          • cassander says:

            @eh

            Even if we accept that the sanctions were responsible and not Saddam cheating the sanctions, the invasion still resulted in ending the sanctions, so that benefit needs to be weighed against any cost.

            @eponymous

            To respond to your other 2 points, the Kurdish region was in effective rebellion all through the 90s, protected by us. And there was an ongoing genocide against the marsh Arabs.

            Two, if you want to claim pre existing conflicts somehow excuse the US, fine, but then the Bush administration isn’t any more responsible for Iraq than the Obama administration was for Libya and Syria, because, as we’ve established, Iraq was an inherited problem.

            I think this position is ridiculous, and that policy should be evaluated on whether or not you made things worse. In Libya we turned a war that was almost over in 2011 into one that has no end in sight at the end of 2018. On Syria, the situation is more ambiguous, but I don’t think anyone would claim with a straight face we’ve improved the place. Syria has become the disaster we feared Iraq was headed for in 2006, and we helped make it that. Meanwhile, in 2010, Iraq was a democratic and relatively peaceful place with a government that was rapidly getting stronger and where we had enough influence to ensure that continued. If Iraq was a failure because things got nasty before they got better, Syria and Libya are catastrophes that got bad and have stayed bad.

          • Eponymous says:

            @cassander

            I cited a report that showed a higher death rate after the invasion than before. You haven’t cited anything to support your claim of the opposite. So I’m going to go with the commonsense idea that invading a country, kicking off years of sectarian violence (not to mention blowing up a lot of infrastructure), killed more people than leaving it alone.

            I’m familiar with the 1991 uprising, the Kurds, and the no fly zones. I don’t think there was a lot of shooting going on from 1992 to 2002, but I’m happy to be corrected. Certainly nothing like what happened after.

            Use any standard you like: Iraq was a bloody mess, which was mostly our fault. And we had no good reason to go in. Qualitatively and quantitatively different than Libya or (especially) Syria.

          • cassander says:

            @Eponymous says:

            I cited a report that showed a higher death rate after the invasion than before. You haven’t cited anything to support your claim of the opposite. So I’m going to go with the commonsense idea that invading a country, kicking off years of sectarian violence (not to mention blowing up a lot of infrastructure), killed more people than leaving it alone.

            I was on my phone and unable to look at your study. Now that I have, it’s another in a long line that produces an implausibly high total deaths given the actual body count, and a study that includes the phrase “Based on the statistical methods, the researchers are 95% confident that the true number of excess deaths lies between 48,000 and 751,000—a large range.” Yeah, no shit. To measure pre-war deaths, they asked people only about deaths after 2001, and they seem to be including the deaths of people who left the country. I am not at all impressed with the methodology, similar types of studies produced much larger figures for pre-war deaths when it was politically convienent to do so.

            I’m familiar with the 1991 uprising, the Kurds, and the no fly zones. I don’t think there was a lot of shooting going on from 1992 to 2002, but I’m happy to be corrected. Certainly nothing like what happened after.

            There was relatively limited shooting because we intervened actively to stop it. We didn’t intervene in saddam’s slaughter of the shiites and marsh arabs.

            Use any standard you like: Iraq was a bloody mess, which was mostly our fault. And we had no good reason to go in. Qualitatively and quantitatively different than Libya or (especially) Syria.

            Um, how exactly? Is your claim that libya isn’t a bloody mess? Do you think we had a good reason to go in? Because the former is untrue and I cannot imagine any justification for Libya that didn’t apply to Iraq. And, it’s worth noting, you’ve completely ignored the question of outcome. Iraq was a relatively stable democratic country in 2010. How long do you think it will be before Syria or Libya can make that claim?

          • John Schilling says:

            This seems unlikely (its plausible some people hate him, but not the “left” as a large group) as the Iraq war had broad, bipartisan support early on.

            But Christopher Hitchens never had broad, bipartisan support on account of being e.g. an Atheist and a Marxist. He was only ever really popular with a fairly narrow subset of the population, consisting I believe of the far left tail of the distribution plus a scattering of people who appreciate very smart, principled writing even when they disagree with it. And the former of those groups was first in line to defect from the “broad, bipartisan” consensus in favor of the Iraq War.

            It seems plausible that, among people who knew but didn’t loathe him already. Hitchens became loathed for his stance on the Iraq war at an early date. And that, in casual discussion of his relative popularity over time, the background of people who always did and always would loathe him, is usually ignored.

          • Eponymous says:

            @cassander:

            So we agree there wasn’t active fighting in Iraq before our invasion. Unlike Libya and Syria.

            You’ve provided no source showing higher deaths pre-invasion than post. Your links say pre-invasion reports were exaggerated (by Saddam, in part).

            For post-invasion deaths, wikipedia gives estimates ranging from 100k up to a million. Population was 25M in 2003, so 1-4%.

            The distinction is that most of the deaths in Iraq following the invasion were a predictable consequence of a policy decision we undertook (for no good reason). You can’t say the same for Syria or Libya. Greater opprobrium is warranted.

          • Prussian says:

            @Freddie de Boer is sending this thread down a false alley, so I will jump in here. The false alley is “Was the removal of Saddam Hussain justified?”

            But that isn’t what’s being discussed. Freddie de Boer is arguing that Hitchens motivations were irrelevant – but if that’s so, why did basically the entire left spend all their time impugning those motives? Why couldn’t they say “Why he’s arguing this is irrelevant-“. Again, that fits my pattern.

            This also avoids a few other important points. Firstly, that Hitches was not just attacked for being in favour of going into Iraq; he was attacked for being in favour of going into Afghanistan and for describing bin Laden’s gang as reactionary evil. Before that, he was attacked for his work exposing the Clintons’ record of racketeering, racism and war-crimes.

            It also avoids the point that Hitchens is by no means the only person to receive such treatment. Sam Harris, Julie Bindel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and, basically all of us on the right know this kind of attack all too well.

            Third, just to circle back to Iraq, it evades the problem that the left was quite happy to support those actually wrecking Iraq. Half of the US Democratic Party attended Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11, in which Moore depicted Saddam Hussain’s Iraq as a peaceful paradise where children laughed and played freely. Moreover, Moore had already expressed open, explicit support for the group we then knew as Al Qaeda in Iraq, and now know as the Islamic State. And I have yet to read a single mainstream leftist condemn the man for this.

            Worse still, this lead directly to more mayhem and death in Iraq. Zarqawi said explicitly that he couldn’t hope to defeat the American military in battle, but if he incited a civil war and raised civilian casualties high enough, the Western left would force America to withdraw. Let me also note, to the people saying that Saddam should have been left alone, well, you got what you were asking for in Darfur. And four hundred thousand innocents were slaughtered. And I have yet to see anyone go as much as “Oh. My bad.” about that. tyot

            All of this fits my model, which is that the western left’s fundamental ideology is that any position held by a western leftist is good, because a western leftist holds it. That there is a kind of metaphysical purity that makes any position at least halfway respectable, if held by western leftists – and, conversely, that no position held by the right can be held for anything but the worst possible reasons.

          • Prussian says:

            N.B.: On the off chance that “tyot” is some weird internet slang that is highly insulting, in this case it was down to a malfunctioning “tab” switch on this keyboard.

          • cassander says:

            @Eponymous says:

            So we agree there wasn’t active fighting in Iraq before our invasion. Unlike Libya and Syria.

            No, we don’t. there were two armed camps separated solely by American F-16s.

            You’ve provided no source showing higher deaths pre-invasion than post. Your links say pre-invasion reports were exaggerated (by Saddam, in part).

            No, I pointed out the methodological problems with your post invasion reports, then linked you to the iraq body count, which cites a much lower figure.

            The distinction is that most of the deaths in Iraq following the invasion were a predictable consequence of a policy decision we undertook (for no good reason). You can’t say the same for Syria or Libya.

            Yes, you absolutely can, without a doubt. In libya our plan was to bomb gaddafi until democracy broke out. It never had the slightest chance of working.

            In Syria we poured fire onto a civil war. Again, zero doubt that this would produce casualties. And since we weren’t willing to do enough to actually win said war, zero chance that it would result in a democratic government. The results of those actions was both predictable and predicted.

            And for the third time now, you’ve ignored my pointing out that iraq in 2010 was a reasonable place to be, something that cannot be said of syria or libya. Both deserve MORE opprobrium than iraq, because they got a lot of people killed and never made the omelet that was promised.

          • albatross11 says:

            It looked to me like the Iraq war and most of the war on terror in the Bush and Obama administrations was supported by the mainstream Democrats and Republicans, and mostly opposed by the far left, far right, and libertarians. And the fact that it turned out to be a complete clusterf-ck undermined a lot of the credibility of the mainstream of both parties. Then, we had the financial meltdown and the bailouts and related stuff, and once again, the mainstream of both parties took a big hit in terms of credibility.

            I think you can trace the successes of Obama and Trump and Sanders and (to a lesser extent) Ron and Rand Paul directly to this loss of credibility of the mainstream powerful people in our society. The Iraq war showed they were inept, the bailouts showed they were corrupt, and the voters responded.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Put those views to just about anyone on the western Left and they’ll be described as right wing, extreme right etc. Changing symbols doesn’t affect the substance.

          Caplan is also in favor of open borders and an end to the war on drugs, you can put him on the far left or the far right by cherry picking his positions. His main position is a love of markets which is how he gets most of the subordinate positions.

          • Eponymous says:

            His main position is a love of markets which is how he gets most of the subordinate positions.

            Plus ignoring any actual evidence.

          • albatross11 says:

            Gosh, it’s almost like libertarians don’t fit very well on a left/right axis.

      • Jiro says:

        I think that whether people on one side hate the people on the other side is a fact-specific inquiry. It can be true or false, and just because the situation looks symmetric without a deep analysis doesn’t mean it really is equally true of both sides. There’s no shortcut.

        It’s a common rationalist flaw to try to reduce things down to a single rule which is simple and clear, and can be used without looking at any pesky details. This has a large chance of failing.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Imagine that I went around thinking English was a very logical language that mirrored the structure of human thought, but Chinese was a ridiculous set of stupid rules and exceptions.

          Now imagine I learned a monolingual Chinese speaker thought exactly the opposite. Shouldn’t I at least consider the possibility “it’s a natural bias to think your own language makes sense” rather than jump to “well, it’s still possible English is objectively better, and the Chinese are just wrong”?

          I agree the latter is still *possible*, and you *can* do the objective investigation, and some linguist probably should. But as a quick heuristic, learning that a situation is exactly symmetrical should make you suspicious there’s some bias involved.

          Only after you’ve realized the inherent symmetries and spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether it’s *just* your bias making you think something or whether there also seem to be non-symmetrical facts on your side, should you jump to “and also despite the apparent symmetry my side is objectively correct”.

          Also, I find “I disagree with Scott about…” a much more pleasant invitation to debate than “a common rationalist failure mode is…”

          • Prussian says:

            Good point. One thing though that I think breaks the symmetry is Haidt’s famous study that showed that Rightists are very good at working out how Leftists think, but Leftists have no idea how Rightists think.

            Empirical example: abortion. It’s really easy to find, e.g., Ben Shapiro debating the subject reasonably with pro-choice people like Dave Rubin. Pause and reflect. From Shapiro’s point of view, Rubin is enabling the mass murder of millions of children, and he can still make the leap to see that Rubin doesn’t see it that way. On the other hand, pro-choice people seem incapable of seeing pro-life people as anything other than wanting to control women’s bodies because reasons.

            But is that really so surprising? Imagine you grew up in a culture that drummed home the idea that eating asparagus was horrible and evil. School, tv, movies etc. are saturated with images of pin-stripped wicked asparagus eaters. Now then a small group of people say “Actually, asparagus isn’t that bad, and eating it is healthy…” You would expect a huge outcry calling for the heads of the wicked asparagus eaters.

            If you’re on the left and want to avoid right-wing viewpoints, it is ridiculously easy. If you’re on the right and want to avoid the left’s arguments, it is next to impossible. The leftwing cultural hegemony is too thorough.

          • Protagoras says:

            One of the things that really annoys me about the conservatives around here is the excessive confidence they seem to have in the Haidt study, and their tendency to greatly exaggerate its results. Certainly looking at what rightists around here say when they claim to be describing leftist thought, SSC rightists do not have much of this insight into leftists that some other rightists allegedly are supposed to have.

          • Prussian says:

            Okay, but the Haidt study very closely tracks what we see. Vide the examples I listed.

          • Protagoras says:

            I understand that that’s how you perceive things, Prussian. People are, of course, very bad at recognizing their own biases.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            @Prussian: The fact that if I say “publicly pro-choice, personally pro-life” you know the type of woman I am talking about proves that wrong. Pro-choice people as a population have any number of reactions to the termination of pregnancy in and of itself. Liz Bruenig gets published in the Washington Post. It’s not an obscure point-of-view on the left to reject “nothing more than a melanoma” thinking. The Clintons couldn’t have gotten away with “safe legal and rare” otherwise

            edit: As originally posted I did not see the latter ridiculous contention: “If you’re on the left and want to avoid right-wing viewpoints, it is ridiculously easy.” I DARE you to go to e.g., Tucson AZ and say this thing. I would love to see the reaction. That you (apparently) do not account for a left periphery where politics consists of constantly, grudgingly complying with the mandates of an adversarial right core implies a fairly hollow political imagination about the situations people on the left might find themselves in. I first became familiar with (i.e., opposed to) the viewpoints of Maricopa County Republicans when I was fourteen and they told my school they had to alter the Mexican History program!

          • Plumber says:

            @Prussian

            “….If you’re on the left and want to avoid right-wing viewpoints, it is ridiculously easy. If you’re on the right and want to avoid the left’s arguments, it is next to impossible. The leftwing cultural hegemony is too thorough”

            That hasn’t been my experience at all.

            Face-to-face the few leftist rants I’ve heard (except those of my Dad) have been mostly from girls I was trying to date back in the 1980’s, while having to listen to right-wing angry rants on the other hand has plagued me for decades, and while I have heard some angry leftists since the 1980’s, they were all from all old men who (in their tales) have received beatings after expressing their views, so I have a certain respect for them.

            Have I seen some shrill “left-wing” rants? 

            Sure.

            On-line at Fantasy Fiction discussion websites and the like, and they were seldom classic proletarian leftists, instead they were mostly whines about “gender” stuff, one even excused me of “promoting rape culture” because of a joke of mine (something about Elves having a low tolerance for alcohol), and sure that stung, but it was far less unpleasant than spit in my face from the dozenth foreman squawking about “liberals”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I have left-wing exposure to right-wing culture anecdotes I could add to ilikekittycat’s and Plumber’s.

          • Brad says:

            How many times has the Haidt study been replicated?

          • Prussian says:

            @Plumber, it may be then that we have very different lived experiences. I just want to clarify that I am not writing about rants, but assumptions – to the point that it becomes part of the very cultural air you breathe. I do think my point about abortion has some force.

            Of course, I don’t live in America, so that may divide us here.

          • albatross11 says:

            Prussian:

            The pro-choice viewpoint is dominant in the culture in which almost all media types live. When everyone you know agrees on X, you tend to come up with really crappy arguments for X, and everyone nods and agrees because they all started out believing X and you got to the right answer.

          • Jiro says:

            Imagine that Jews think that Christians want to engage in pogroms against them, and Christians think that Jews want to eat Christian babies.

            You can give an example where two sides each think the other side is bad and are equally correct, but I can give more examples where two sides each think the other is equally bad, and they’re not. You can’t just assume that a situation falls in the former category. That assumption is correct in your Chinese-versus-English example because you cherrypicked an example where that assumption is correct, not because that assumption is correct as a general rule.

          • Baeraad says:

            I’d actually call abortion a very strange example of a left-wing belief sauturating the media. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times in fiction a female character got pregnant and didn’t choose to carry to term. Sure, part of that is rule of drama – an abortion is sort of inherently a shaggy-dog story, all about something not happening, so it doesn’t make for much of a plot – but still, the result is that the media narrative can be best described as “abortion should be legal, but no one should ever actually have one.”

          • No One In Particular says:

            @Prussian

            Abortion is a rather poor example. First, I have seen right-wingers treating supporters of abortion of rights as clearly evil. Second, to see an asymmetry, we don’t have to look any further than the terminology. “Pro-choice” accurately describes the position. “Pro-life” is PR framing. It obscures the distinction between people who merely oppose abortion versus those who support government intervention, uses the term “life” when they’re not concerned with life in general (how many people say they’re “pro-life” when they mean they’re vegetarian?), and by equivocating between “life” and “humans”, begs the question of whether a fetus is a human being.

            You say that it’s “easy” to find people debating pro-choice people reasonably. But here’s the first result that came up when I searched for “pro-life arguments”: https://www.frc.org/brochure/the-best-pro-life-arguments-for-secular-audiences (note that “frc” stands for “Family Research Council”, a hate group). It contains such gems as “”Not a person” is a decidedly unscientific argument: it has nothing to do with science and everything to do with someone’s own moral or political philosophy, though that someone may not readily admit it.” Is that engaging with pro-choice positions reasonably? Of *course* “not a person” is a moral statement. If we’re discussing whether abortion is immoral, of *course* we should discuss moral issues. Instead FRC tries to change the subject to “scientific” questions such as whether a zygote is “alive” or “human” or “unique”. This is soon followed by “We’re either persons or property; and even the staunchest abortion defender will be reluctant to call a human child a piece of property.” which yet again begs the question of whether a zygote is a “human child”.

            On the other hand, pro-choice people seem incapable of seeing pro-life people as anything other than wanting to control women’s bodies because reasons.

            The core anti-choice position is that “life begins at conception”. That is not the position of all people who identify as “pro-life”, but it is central enough to consider it the primary position. And it is ridiculous. They clearly mean “personhood”, not “life”, but dishonestly choose the word “life” so they can say things like “Surely you’re not disputing that it’s alive?” And the idea that personhood begins at conception is absurd. Either only one of a set of twins is a person, or they somehow share one personhood, or personhood begins after conception. Basic logic here.

            Additionally, anti-choice legislation largely takes the form of onerous “safety” requirements that are blatantly disingenuous. Now, you may say that from the anti-choice perspective, they are saving lives, and being dishonest in pursuit of saving lives is a moral good, but the fact remains that they have forfeited their right to have their putative positions taken at face value. If they’re willing to be dishonest to “save lives”, can we be sure they aren’t willing to be dishonest to promote any of the rest of their agenda, such as their anti-sex and anti-woman positions?

            But is that really so surprising? Imagine you grew up in a culture that drummed home the idea that eating asparagus was horrible and evil.

            You’re seriously comparing trying to control women’s bodies to eating asparagus?

            If you’re on the left and want to avoid right-wing viewpoints, it is ridiculously easy.

            Why in the WORLD would you start out with abortion as an example, and then finish your post with this? Abortion is the epitome of the right trying to force their position on other people. The left’s position is called pro-CHOICE because they want people to being able to CHOOSE, and they are opposing the idea that one person’s viewpoint should be forced on another. The right, on the other hand, want people who disagree with them to go to prison. This is LITERALLY what the abortion debate is about:

            Some people think abortion is wrong. Should people who disagree with them (and act on it) go to prison?

            The Right is full of positions that involve them trying to impose their viewpoints on others: school prayer, criminalizing drugs, criminalizing homosexuality, criminalizing sex toys, immigration, throwing a tantrum when someone doesn’t say “merry Christmas”, etc., etc.

          • 10240 says:

            @No One In Particular
            Both terms are political framing. Pro-life supports preserving life in one particular narrow circumstance. Pro-choice supports choice about one particular narrow question.

            Either only one of a set of twins is a person, or they somehow share one personhood, or personhood begins after conception. Basic logic here.

            Or a person can (in particular unusual circumstances) split into two persons.

            can we be sure they aren’t willing to be dishonest to promote any of the rest of their agenda, such as their anti-sex and anti-woman positions?

            One piece of evidence that makes it highly unlikely that it’s motivated by an anti-woman agenda is that a similar percentage of men and women support and oppose the legality of abortion. Another one is that, assuming there is no moral issue with abortion, men largely have an interest in abortion being legal, too.

          • No One In Particular says:

            @10240

            Both terms are political framing. Pro-life supports preserving life in one particular narrow circumstance. Pro-choice supports choice about one particular narrow question.

            That doesn’t constitute an argument in favor of the proposition that “pro-choice” is political framing.

            Or a person can (in particular unusual circumstances) split into two persons.

            That would fall under the category of “personhood begins after conception”.

            One piece of evidence that makes it highly unlikely that it’s motivated by an anti-woman agenda is that a similar percentage of men and women support and oppose the legality of abortion.

            That would be a valid argument only if people supporting policies that go against their interests is a highly rare event. And note that I said “anti-woman position”, not “anti-woman agenda”. I’m not saying that they are motivated by anti-woman animus, exactly, but that they are motivated by positions that disproportionately negatively impact women.

            Furthermore, a position that restricts women’s options can reasonably called “anti-woman”, even though it may benefit those women who would not have taken the restricted options anyway. And supporting such policies can be a way of signaling that one is not the sort of person to take those options.

            Another one is that, assuming there is no moral issue with abortion, men largely have an interest in abortion being legal, too.

            And one can argue that social norms against hiring black people for all but the most menial of jobs hurt white people by increasing the cost of non-menial labor, a cost that is passed on to consumers. But you’re not going get very far claiming that this is strong evidence that racism doesn’t/didn’t exist.

          • albatross11 says:

            No One In Particular:

            I think you’ve failed your ideological Turing test.

            Can you state the pro-life position in a way that a non-evil, non-crazy pro-life person would recognize as a fair statement of their views? If not, how do you know you even understand their position?

            [1] See also, People for the American Way, Focus on the Family, etc. Nobody names their movement the kick-puppies-and-steal-candy-from-babies foundation, especially if they actually advocate for kicking puppies and stealing candy from babies.

          • 10240 says:

            That doesn’t constitute an argument in favor of the proposition that “pro-choice” is political framing.

            It does. Both terms attempt to make their sides look better, and the other look worse, than impartial terms would make them look like. Pro-life sounds like they want to preserve life in general, (implying that their opponents don’t or at least less so), pro-choice sounds like they support people’s rights to make choices in general (implying that their opponents don’t or at least less so). Likewise, both terms emphasize what many people consider arguments for their side, while not naming opposing arguments (the latter, e.g. anti-choice and anti-life, would of course be framing of the opposite kind, trying to make them look bad).

            Or a person can (in particular unusual circumstances) split into two persons.

            That would fall under the category of “personhood begins after conception”.

            It doesn’t.

            Of course we are having a weird debate here, as much of the debate hinges on how we define ‘person’, a word whose definition is unclear and which people differ on. However, while I personally don’t think that definitions that have personhood begin at conception make a lot of sense, other meanings would also allow for theoretical situations where personhood splits, and in which personhood doesn’t begin after the split. E.g. assume that someone’s mind is simulated in a computer (e.g. after mind uploading). At some point make two copies of the mind, and continue their simulation separately and in parallel. That could be considered a split (fork) in personhood. However, that mind is a person even before the split, and it would be wrong to kill it.

            Again, I don’t use a definition of personhood that would begin at conception, however homo-zygotic twins don’t contradict such a definition and are a bad argument against it.

            And note that I said “anti-woman position”, not “anti-woman agenda”. I’m not saying that they are motivated by anti-woman animus, exactly, but that they are motivated by positions that disproportionately negatively impact women.

            Would you call any policy change that improves the situation of black people and is incidentally detrimental to white people “anti-white”? (Arguably many policy changes that have improved the situation of black people were positive-sum and didn’t hurt whites, but surely there have been some zero-sum situations conflict, regardless of which policy one considers fair.) I do think that the distinction between motive and consequence is important, and anti-X tends to be used to describe a motive.

          • but that they are motivated by positions that disproportionately negatively impact women.

            That’s one of the things people disagree about.

            The argument on the other side, loosely based on an old Yellin and Akerlof article explaining why legal abortion and readily available contraception was associated with an increase rather than a decrease in children born to unmarried mothers, is that legal abortion lowered the bargaining power of women who wanted children.

            In a world without abortion or contraception, women know that if they have sex they risk pregnancy, hence are reluctant to engage in sex without a commitment for future support. So men who want sex often find that they can only get it by marriage, or at least a commitment to marry if the woman gets pregnant.

            Introduce reliable contraception and abortion, and women who don’t want to have children are willing to have sex without such a commitment. Women who want children become less able to get a man to agree to support them.

            If you accept that argument, then the pro-choice position is the one motivated by positions that disproportionately negatively impact (some) women.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Indeed, Abortion is not a clear Male-Female position, rather it is a pure culture question. Should sex be about reproduction or pleasure.

            At its worst conception (aka from a hyper mens rights activist perspective) abortion is about imposing asymmetry in sex to favor women in the childbearing choice.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that the combination of easier access to birth control and abortion had complex consequences, including second and third order effects that cannot just be described as good/bad for women or for men. The results are way too varied for starters and how you judge the outcomes depends on your ideology and personal desires.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            In a world without abortion or contraception, women know that if they have sex they risk pregnancy, hence are reluctant to engage in sex without a commitment for future support.

            You are being too individualistic in your explanation. Because the costs of single motherhood is/was often borne in part by family or the community at large, you also got pressure on especially young women not to have sex outside of marriage, to marry young (which also limited their career options), pressure on a single pregnant woman and the man who impregnated her to get married, etc.

            A common reason why abortion and contraceptives are considered pro-women seems to be that these norms and their enforcement weakened. This in turn seems to be heavily predicated on believing that the resulting changes are positive for women, like women (being pressured to) enter the workplace. For conservative men and women, who like the more traditional family arrangement, abortion is a threat to their lifestyle.

            @idontknow131647093

            MRAs actually tend to be upset that the freedoms offered by abortion are not available to them, in the sense that the abortion gave women the choice whether to take on the costs and benefits of having a child, but that men have no such choice. So they are actually hyper-progressive in that sense.

          • albatross11 says:

            Framing abortion as “should sex be about reproduction or pleasure” is accepting a huge premise on the part of the pro-choice side of the debate–that there’s not some great moral significance to killing a fetus. Some notable subset of the pro-life movement sees abortion as roughly equivalent to infanticide.

            Alongside that, most pro-lifers don’t oppose birth control; if the issue was about whether sex should be about reproduction or pleasure, then pro-lifers would be unified in also opposing birth control. That’s true for some subset of pro-lifers (particularly Catholics who closely follow Church teachings on the matter), but not for most pro-lifers.

          • No One In Particular says:

            @albatross11

            Can you state the pro-life position in a way that a non-evil, non-crazy pro-life person would recognize as a fair statement of their views?

            That’s an odd question. You’re basically asking me to grade my own Turing Test. Your question also is using the term “pro-life”, which I’ve already explained is not a good term. It also seems to be premised on the idea that they are not suffering from any sort f mental malfunction. And it refers to “the” position, as if there’s one.

            If not, how do you know you even understand their position?

            One of my primary points is that they deliberately choose obfuscatory language. If I don’t understand their position, they are the ones failing, not me.

            Nobody names their movement the kick-puppies-and-steal-candy-from-babies foundation, especially if they actually advocate for kicking puppies and stealing candy from babies.

            If someone truly believes that kicking puppies is admirable, why would they not name their movement the Kick Puppies Movement? If someone believes that abortion is wrong, why not call themselves Anti-Abortion? Calling yourself “pro-life” just shows that you’re dishonest enough to pretend that the disagreement is over whether the lives of human being should be protected, rather than over what constitutes a human being in the first place.

            Alongside that, most pro-lifers don’t oppose birth control

            Certainly, a large percentage do. Do you have any citations to back up your claim? Howe are you defining “pro-lifers”?

          • No One In Particular says:

            @10240

            Pro-choice supports choice about one particular narrow question.

            That doesn’t constitute an argument in favor of the proposition that “pro-choice” is political framing.

            It does. Both terms attempt to make their sides look better

            When someone says that your conclusion doesn’t follow from your argument, saying it does and then following with a completely different argument is not a proper response, and forcing someone to use three layers of quotes to properly respond to your post is rather annoying.

            than impartial terms would make them look like

            You are implicitly asserting that “pro-choice” is not impartial, which is just begging the question.

            pro-choice sounds like they support people’s rights to make choices in general

            If the term is used in the context of abortion, then it’s clear that they are saying that they support people’s right to make choices in the context of abortion, which they do, and their opponents do not. Unless you are discussing its use without the context of abortion, it is a perfectly clear and honest description of their, and the opponents’, position. “Pro-life”, even in the contexts of abortion, is not.

            homo-zygotic twins don’t contradict such a definition and are a bad argument against it.

            That you have to engage in wild counterfactuals into the philosophical weeds that I don’t care to follow doesn’t mean it’s a bad argument.

            Would you call any policy change that improves the situation of black people and is incidentally detrimental to white people “anti-white”?

            There are a wide variety of characteristics beyond merely that who is harmed, and anti-abortion laws harm women in ways that are far from “incidental”. And it’s a bit weird for you to first claim that anti-abortion laws hurt men, and then analogize it to policies that help black people. A more appropriate analogy would be a policy that hurts black people, and hurts white people even more.

          • No One In Particular says:

            @DavidFriedman

            That’s one of the things people disagree about.

            increase rather than a decrease in children born to unmarried mothers, is that legal abortion lowered the bargaining power of women who wanted children.

            Besides the question of how valid it is to look at higher order effects, this implies that an increase in children born to unmarried mothers is conclusory as to the question of whether women are worse off. Unless being married is a terminal goal, it is reasonable to see a decrease in marriage as evidence for the decrease in cost of non-marriage, and therefore an improvement.

            If you accept that argument, then the pro-choice position is the one motivated by positions that disproportionately negatively impact (some) women.

            This discussion originally arose from my saying one can wonder about the motives of anti-choicers, that there is a memeplex that offers an explanation beyond merely being concerned for the lives of fetuses, and this memeplex is characterized by, among other things, prioritizing men over women. 10240 seems to have taken this as me saying that anti-choicers hate women. A memeplex that prioritizes men over women is quite different from one that has higher order effects that harm women.

      • JulieK says:

        people on both sides get tempted to interpret the other side as just hating them but not having any concrete policy proposal.

        Not just an interpretation; it’s human nature that believing in “us vs. them” is a lot easier than believing in a consistent ideology.

      • Viliam says:

        people on both sides get tempted to interpret the other side as just hating them but not having any concrete policy proposal

        To break the symmetry, left-wingers typically suck at the Ideological Turing Test. There is a difference between:

        1) correctly understanding your opponent’s position, and then saying it’s based on hate (whether this judgment is fair or not); and

        2) making a strawman of your opponent’s position, and then saying that the strawman is based on hate (whether this judgment of the strawman is fair or not).

        To be more specific, there is a difference between concluding “you just hate successful people” after observing how things historically developed (people being killed for being rich, or having a farm, or being literate), and concluding “you just hate group X” after hearing someone oppose your plan to help the group X, even if the opponent insists that they disagree because they believe your plan would actually hurt the group it is supposed to help.

        Also, I suspect that “the left” is a cluster in thingspace, but “the right” is simply everything outside that cluster. So the left can have a coherent program of hating something, but the right is by definition so incoherent that “not being left” is pretty much all they can agree about. (Analogically, the only thing non-gamers have in common is that they don’t like to play video games. That doesn’t make them a group of haters.)

        • Statismagician says:

          Re: your last paragraph – I think that’s what the people who think of themselves as capital-L Leftists (or social justice people, or whatever) think. I think there’s an analogous group of people mirrored across the Median Politics Line, and a vast smudgy set of people in between and orbiting around those strongly political groups who are associated with one party or the other for basically accidental/historical reasons; maybe their parents were strongly political and they’ve inherited voting patterns, maybe they care a whole lot about non-industrial farming and not at all about anything else and so vote Democratic (or really love hunting, and so Republican). Less than half of people vote, I don’t have figures handy but I’m certain most of those who do don’t view their voting habits as a core part of their identity; my thought is that the political sphere is less two vast armed camps and more two small-but-very-loud ones, surrounded by more-or-less enthusiastic nonmilitant supporters and separated by a very large apathetic middle ground.

          That the Right’s coalition appears sillier than the Left’s at the moment is not necessarily really true (immigrants and the environment haven’t naturally got more to do with each other than business and Evangelism, to my mind), though I could see arguments in either direction. My own bias is definitely towards this being the case, but I don’t have sufficient reason to weight that heavily at this time – it’s more of a vague ‘you can’t be explicitly Christian and traditionalist, and then keep putting uncharitable warmongering serial adulterers in office’ type of sentiment, which is obviously not sufficiently examined.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’ve seen both – people who identify as being on the left (in general, and who are very keen to parse out exactly what spot on the spectrum of “the Left” they inhabit since it’s not a monolith, you know!) going that “the Right” (without any similar parsing, it’s all one blob) are simply Bad Wicked Awful Horrible people who hate brown people/black people/women/LBGT/niceness and rainbows and puppies, and when challenged on this come back with “They just hate us, that’s all, there isn’t any philosophy or ideology there other than Make Money By Grinding The Faces Of The Poor!”

    • theredsheep says:

      My experience is that many right-wingers have a common and analogous way of explaining everything by the Left basically hating America. And I say that as someone who has a hard time reading Vox without wanting to go out and falcon-punch an antifa.

      • JulieK says:

        See I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup

        Every election cycle like clockwork, conservatives accuse liberals of not being sufficiently pro-America. And every election cycle like clockwork, liberals give extremely unconvincing denials of this.

        “It’s not that we’re, like, against America per se. It’s just that…well, did you know Europe has much better health care than we do? And much lower crime rates? I mean, come on, how did they get so awesome? Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, America. They’re okay. Cesar Chavez was really neat. So were some other people outside the mainstream who became famous precisely by criticizing majority society. That’s sort of like America being great, in that I think the parts of it that point out how bad the rest of it are often make excellent points. Vote for me!”

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Honest question for those who identify as “left,” what parts of America do you like? And it can’t be something about the way it’s changed. Or the geography. I mean the people or the culture. I’m not trying to be facetious or anything. I want to know what your favorite, say, top 5 things about ‘Merica are.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          1) The opportunity for participatory democracy (not as good as two Swiss cantons, but better than a lot).
          2) Large and diverse. I may not qualify visa-wise to move to another country, but I have a lot of options here.
          3) Some of the founding principles (e.g. anti-monarchy, “we the people” vs “we the states”), that again, maybe only Switzerland could compare to.
          4) The implicit psychological boost of having been born a citizen of a republic that was also the world’s greatest power.

          Other than that I usually don’t go around thinking about what’s great about my nation, or what’s great about other nations. I think about what would make the USA better, or the flaws that chip at the foundation that I love.

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho

          ‘Honest question for those who identify as “left,” what parts of America do you like? And it can’t be something about the way it’s changed. Or the geography. I mean the people or the culture. I’m not trying to be facetious or anything. I want to know what your favorite, say, top 5 things about ‘Merica are’

          Sure Conrad, but these are just my immediate thoughts, I’m sure if I thought about it longer I’d give different answers:

          1) The AFL-CIO (you probably already guessed that)

          2) Alabama style barbeque at Everett & Jones in Oakland, California. 

          3) Chuck Berry

          4) “Lift Every Voice And Sing

          5) That I, and my mother were born at all (that side of the family didn’t survive in Europe).

          I’m not going to stop at five!

          6) The MC5 (okay it’s another Chuck Berry song, just performed by someone else).

          7) “Casablanca” (the movie)

          8) “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (the film)

          9) “Two Sought Adventure” by Fritz Leiber

          10) “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett

          11) My local public library branch

          12) The W.P.A. paintings inside Coit Tower and two local post offices

          13) Sonic’s Rendezvous Band (yes it’s another Chuck Berry song performed by someone else. Deal with it!)

          14) The Moon landing

          15) My grandparents saving the world and building a more perfect union (I protest your rules, I’m including them!).

          16) Bo Diddley

          17) The Ramones

          18) Billie Holiday

          19) Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago

          20) Voting.

          Give me ten minutes and I’ll think of a hundred more.

        • Brad says:

          1) Queens
          2) Manhattan
          3) Brooklyn
          4) Koreatown (LA)
          5) certain parts of greater Chicago

        • No One In Particular says:

          Does it have to be *unique* to the US?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      There’s a heuristic I often observe: if you understand an issue, take a position on its merits; if you don’t understand the issue, take a position based on the position of someone with whom you agree on other issues. It’s a useful heuristic for most people, since finding someone you trust is often less effort than finding enough facts about a given issue to formulate a position, and theirs is likely what you would have taken anyway.

      The contrapositive of this is that if someone you don’t trust takes a position on an issue you don’t understand, then you should probably oppose that position.

      Isn’t “our idea is just that this group is horrible” just that, at scale?

      • Reasoner says:

        The contrapositive of this is that if someone you don’t trust takes a position on an issue you don’t understand, then you should probably oppose that position.

        Your first one made sense (though could be harmful on a societal scale). However, I don’t see how this one follows.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I was editing, and left the term “contrapositive” by mistake. I meant something closer to “inversion”, but that’s not exactly correct, either.

          P: “person you trust takes position X”
          Q: “you probably have position X if you understood it”
          Heuristic (H): P -> Q.

          A proper inversion would be “if it’s not the case that a person you trust takes position X, then you probably wouldn’t have position X if you understood it”. But I’m making a claim about a person you don’t trust.

          At any rate, the latter is a heuristic I often see as well. I consider both to be risky, the latter more so. But I still see people stick to them.

        • No One In Particular says:

          If P(position is right|person you approve of holds position)>P(position is right), then it does follow, given some reasonable assumptions, that P(position is wrong|person you don’t approve of holds position)>P(position is wrong)

          • 10240 says:

            That would hold if you substitute P(position is right | random person holds position) for P(position is right).

            Typically if a position is controversial and hotly debated, that means that (in a two-party system) one party holds it and the other doesn’t — if everyone or no one agrees with it, there is no controversy. Then, if we assume that your political side is usually right, and that an issue is controversial and subject to a lot of debate, then the opposite side holding an opinion makes it more likely to be wrong.

    • Plumber says:

      @Prussian,

      While individual people who declare themselves “leftist” or “right-wing” seem to have consistent ideologies that follow from their principles (I can think of commentators to SSC that do), they seen to me to often be partial “heretics” on this or that.

      Someone who is both anti-abortion (“right”) and anti-death penalty (“left”) is consistent, but not fully “left” or “right”.

      Someone who is both anti-taxes (“right”) and pro-open borders (“left”) is consistent, but not fully “left” or “right”.

      “The Left” and “The Right” are coalitions not monoliths, that are two-party system forces us into if we vote, and they often (mostly?) have little “first principles” ideological consistency.

      Often I think that both of the two major political parties in the U.S.A. are con jobs that campaign on issues that appeal to the majority of voters, but deliver on issues that only appeal to a minority of their voters.

      Until I think of a better term I’ll call both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party “Elitist” in what they actually achieve, which is essentially delivering what the educated and wealthy minority wants, as the majoritarian “New Deal coalition” is dead, you may call it an oligarchy or, if you like how we are ruled, call it an aristocracy, but don’t call the results “democratic” (small d), and “centrism” is not a majority position.

      • Prussian says:

        Okay, Plumber, let’s run with these example. Anti-Death Penalty and anti-Abortion guy goes to the right and explains his views. Response: I can see where you’re coming from, I’m not sure I agree, but I get it. He goes to the left: OMG! YOU WANT TO CONTROL WOMEN’S BODIES AND PUT THEM IN CAMPS!

        I can say that because I am that guy.

        Same thing with the low taxes / open borders guy. Goes to the Right. Response: idealist but impractical. Goes to the Left: “YOU HATE THE POOR, AND/OR WANT TO CRUSH UNIONS”

        You know whom I’m citing for that Rightist point of view? John Derbyshire. Yep, a guy who is a self-confessed racist and writes for VDARE is more likely to give a reasonable argument in response. You know whom I’m citing for the left here? Paul Krugman and Angela Nagel. N.B.: Notice that Nagle is getting lambasted as a horrible, horrible person for that last article – but even the explicitly racist and fascist press give her work criticising the AltRight more reasonable treatment (no, I’m not linking those sites here).

        • Plumber says:

          @Prussian,

          I responded down thread to a similar contention of yours, but I just say something similar here:

          Face-to-face to I’ve heard far more angry right-wing views spoken on the job (often by my bosses) than left, and the leftists equivalents?

          Miniscule.

          The only place I see left-wing voices out-number right-wing views is some on-line Forums, and those were overwhelmingly easily ignored cut-and-paste “cultural liberals”.

          [sarcasm]I’m shaking in boots in fright![/sarcasm]

          In my having to earn a living I’ve endured dozens of rants about “liberals”, some every work day for weeks (and not jusr from the same guy!).

          The leftist equivalents have been pretty damn scant and the ones I’ve heard have Bern whispered more often than yelled.

          Can we exchange “bubbles” for a while?

        • No One In Particular says:

          First, you are taking *one* response from the right, and pretending that there is no other response, and same for the left. Second, your link does not appear to support the claim a reasonable person would infer you are asserting it supports (i.e., that the left lambastes those that disagree with it), and I don’t feel like wading through 16 pages to see if there is some evidence of that hidden somewhere. Third, your link *does*, after only one sentence, begin verbally abusing people who disagree with you, and goes on to compare those who disagree with to Nazis, Hutus killings Tutsis, etc., so that’s a weird link to include in a post complaining about the left allegedly demonizing opponents. Third, it takes you only a few more sentences to say that you are going to be using the term “pro-abortion”, claiming that that dishonest term is to “avoid euphemism from either side”.

          And it’s really not clear what you’re trying to say with your last paragraph.

      • Garrett says:

        This is referred to in political science terms as a “mass-appeal party”. That is, a political party whose primary goal is to get 50%+1 percent of the vote so as to get into power. It’s nearly impossibly to do so merely based off of a pure political philosophy. Many of the decisions which need to be made in the public sphere can’t be resolved merely via the application of formal logic to an existing well-defined political philosophy.

        So instead they start from somewhere (which for various reasons tend to be political philosophies) and then graft enough issues and positions onto it over time that enough votes can be obtained.

        The opposite end of that spectrum might be a single issue party (eg. the Marijuana Party) which only cares about a single issue but is otherwise agnostic on just about every other issue.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      I feel like at some point in the process of writing a post about how your political opponents don’t have any real beliefs and are solely motivated by the belief that you are a horrible monster who just wants to hurt people, you really ought to notice the irony.

      • Prussian says:

        Not even close. It would be an irony if I’d written:

        “They hold this belief that we are horrible monsters because they are horrible monsters”. Then it’d be an irony.

        But what I wrote was: “They hold this belief that we are horrible monsters because that is the core of their ideology”.

        So, no, not any sort of irony. I’ve written before that the number of deep-down evil people is a vanishingly small minority. However, not being intrinsically evil is no proof that you won’t be mistaken and accept even the most appalling ideas.

        • dick says:

          I’m with Ozy on this one.

          • Prussian says:

            Could you elaborate on why? Believe me, I can see this criticism, so I’d like to explore it further.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Actually I thought Prussian won that last dialectic.

          • dick says:

            @Prussian

            Could you elaborate on why?

            The whole point of your post was to complain that when you listen to left, all you hear is complaints about the right rather than arguments for/against policies, correct? And yet here you are, making a post complaining about the left, without arguing for/against any policies.

            More generally, this is an example of “Let me tell you what my outgroup really thinks…” which is super common but I don’t think has ever persuaded anyone of anything, ever, and pointing out that you wouldn’t find it very persuasive if someone said it to you is a convenient and quick way to illustrate that.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’ll elaborate with two examples:

          The right wing equivalent of your “left wing ‘They hold this belief that we are horrible monsters because that is the core of their ideology'” would be those such as the Westboro baptist church, who are but a fringe for people like this: https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/8/31/16226088/evangelical-leaders-signed-sexuality-church-nashville-statement

          It’s not hard to find many others, since it took me a grand total of a few seconds to find that link in the Google search results, despite my typo ( https://www.google.com/search?q=envangelical+polemic+against+liberals )

          Some on the left may say “horrible monster”, but enough on the right say “unrepentant sinner”, or Feminazi, or “slut”.

        • hasFenring says:

          Not the other folks, obviously, but I can say how this argument comes across to me: both a hypocriticial overgeneralization and overly dismissive.

          So first, you’re assuming that conservative positions are based on some broader policy ideals and the like, whereas left/liberal positions are simple knee-jerk reactions to conservative ones. Or at least that’s how I interpret what you said. I’m assuming the hypocrisy there would be obvious? You seem to be criticizing a group for making broad generalizations via a broad generalization.

          Meanwhile, if I were to watch Fox News, do you really believe that I am going to see a more consistent ideology than what you see from some left-leaning commentator?

      • Aapje says:

        @Ozy

        Wasn’t it ironic in a similar way when the allies used bombs and bullets to stop oppression and murder, using tools of murder and often oppression?

        I’m still glad they did it and don’t consider their choices to use violence a violation of their principles.

        • dick says:

          This is really bad analogy. The fact that both sides of a war use the same weapons is not at all related to someone on a message board unwittingly doing X while accusing his outgroup of doing X.

          • Aapje says:

            The fact that both sides of a war use the same weapons is not at all related to someone on a message board unwittingly doing X while accusing his outgroup of doing X.

            You are correct that I wrote poorly.

            But the allies were not just using the same weapons, but also invading and (re)conquering places, including places that they had been oppressing.

            Ultimately, hypocrisy is hardly an objective accusation.

            What you see as equal situations that ought to be treated differently, I may see as unequal situations where the different treatment is justified and vice versa.

            One person may believe it just to ban homosexuality, but allow heterosexuality, because in their view, the former damages people. You may instead see both as matters of personal freedom and believe that gay behavior is not more damaging (or not to such an extent to ban it).

            However, you can get this very same kind of difference of opinion between a NAMBLA spokesperson (a pedophile organization) and yourself, where you want to ban pedophilia and the other person calls you a hypocrite and oppressor for limiting personal freedoms for her and children, while claiming what she sees as extremely similar personal freedoms for yourself.

            Who is right or wrong in these scenarios depends on how you cherry pick judge the evidence.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think it’s very easy to have an outrage-farming/soundbite/bumper-sticker level view of your opponents’ views and a very clear and nuanced view of your side’s views, just because of the natural process by which you read lots of stuff by people you agree with and see excerpted outrageous quotes by the other side.

        It’s better to find someone worthwhile to engage with. Are there thinkers on the other side you think are worth paying attention to? Even if you disagree with them or think they’re wrong on specific questions? If you can’t find any, then it seems likely you don’t really know the best of what the other side has to offer–instead, you’ve seen a lot of clickbait or excerpted outrage quotes and you’re running with them.

        • Aapje says:

          You can also err in the other direction though, steelmanning the views of the opponents into beliefs that almost none of them actually believe and/or alieve. Then this steelman becomes a very poor predictor or guide.

          Also, some ideologies do have very little to no good* thinkers, especially if there is a mechanism by which those people get cleansed from the movement.

          If you keep asking adherents for the best thinkers in their movement and you keep getting pointed to people whose work has enormous methodological flaws, then is it not fair to conclude that the mainstream, if not all or almost all of the movement is based on seductive, but highly incorrect beliefs?

          * What you consider good

    • Baeraad says:

      Being the nice ones is what liberalism is all about. I mean, true, these days we have social justice, which is the bizarre mutant offspring of the Rule of Niceness whereby the best way of being nice to [oppressed group] is being mean to any [non-members of oppressed group] who are insufficiently nice to [oppressed group], which muddies the waters, but… if you want a understand the fundamental belief of liberalism, it’s that we should all be nice.

      Now, nice isn’t the same as good. Or smart. Or right. So even as a self-confessed fragile liberal snowflake, I will grudgingly admit that conservatives aren’t necessarily wrong when they protest, “look, doing the seemingly ‘nice’ thing here will actually hurt people worse than being harsh but fair!”

      (though, also as a self-confessed fragile liberal snowflake, I’d also point out that it’d be a lot more convincing if conservatives didn’t say that exact same thing about every single thing ever, and if you hadn’t said it a number of times in the past when it eventually turned out that doing the nice thing did not in fact cause the sky to fall…)

      But regardless, if you want the underlying philosophy of liberalism, I can assure you that it’s not hatred. It’s niceness. This ironically frequently leads to hatred, when people who have intentionally made themselves as soft as possible (and are therefore eminently bruisable) runs face-first into the wall of conservative hardassery. Crying and tantrums then follow, and for those I can offer no excuses, but no – we are not in fact based around hating you.

      ETA: As for the right being more open to dialogue, which is something I’d actually agree with… have you considered that that might have a lot to do with the fact that the left’s position is “let’s be nice!” and the right’s position is “let’s not be nice!” The former is appealing on the face of it. The latter, on the other hand, requires a lot more explanation and detail before anyone will seriously consider it. The right do not have the luxury of just hammering home a simple message – they need people to listen to the finer points of their argument, and the only way they can get that is if they listen to the finer points of the other guy’s argument in return.

      • Aapje says:

        I’m not sure I agree with that. In many ways liberalism, including the classical kind, is premised on an optimistic view of humanity, where people are assumed to be inherently good. Classical liberalism tends to primarily blame regulations, while the other kind tends to put more blame on culture and systems that corrupt(ed) people.

        I think that this explains many of the strong reactions to arguments that explicitly or implicitly deny the inherent goodness of man or biological equality between groups, as well as the tendency to latch on to conspiracy theories that explain how people get corrupted (through patriarchy, capitalism, neocolonialism, etc).

        There is often a great lack of niceness towards those who are deemed to be (willingly) corrupting people. Lots of people who have heterodox views on these subjects fear the wrath of Khan the left.

        The problem with saying that an ideology is really about niceness is that any ideology wants niceness and yet many harshly punish those that stand in the way of the solutions that the ideology says produces niceness. These ideologies then only look nice to those who believe that the ideology is correct.

        Authoritarians believe that you can and have to force people to be nice and that you have to punish those that stand in the way. White supremacists think that black people are violent and disrupt their nice community. Misandrist feminists think that men are violent and disrupt their nice community. Socialist think that you’d have a nice sharing community if not for capitalists taking control of the means of production and exploiting the workers. Etc. Etc.

        A caveat here is that the left is not synonymous with liberalism. Post-modernism was a correction to the very naive view of human goodness that (also) attributes evil to human selfishness, shortsightedness, etc. So one can argue that post-modernism made parts of the left ‘post-liberal’.

      • Viliam says:

        Being the nice ones is what liberalism is all about.

        Being the nice ones is the self-image of liberals, and then they sometimes go like: “To maximize niceness in the world, we have to ruthlessly destroy everyone who opposes niceness, i.e. everyone who disagrees with us.”

        Those who see life as a zero-sum game can also maximize niceness towards a group they believe deserves it by minimizing niceness towards a group they see as their opposite.

      • SamChevre says:

        OK, I can no longer resist posting a link to my favorite essay on left vs right:

        Doug Muder,Red Family, Blue Family (Note “the election” in the first paragraph is 2004.) He identifies the key difference as whether some obligations are taken as given (right) or if only those commitments you have agreed to are obligations (left).

        Liberals tend to view themselves as live-and-let-live people. It’s the other side, we believe, that wants to start wars, keep the poor in their place, and make second-class citizens out of gays, non-Christians, non-English-speakers, and anyone else who didn’t come out of their cookie-cutter. We’re the nice guys. We believe in tolerance, diversity, and letting people be what they have to be. It’s hard for us to credit the idea that someone could be afraid of us.

        Someone is. And for good reasons. Understanding that uncomfortable fact is the first step towards grasping what has been going on in this country’s politics for the last quarter century.

        Our belief in negotiated commitment – that people are not obligated to relationships they did not choose – is like one of those devastating European germs that white settlers spread throughout the world three centuries ago.

        Liberals have a vision of how the world should be. I believe in that vision. It is a fairer, more just world than has ever existed before. It is better adjusted to the realities of modern life. And it is, in my opinion, the only vision of the future that does not eventually lead to competing fundamentalisms fighting a world war.

        But no matter how peaceful and good our vision is, eggs will be broken to make our omelet. Eggs have already been broken. We need to take responsibility for that. And we can’t expect people with cartons of half-broken eggs to simply shrug and let us do our thing.

  50. Freddie deBoer says:

    There is no “hate speech” exception to free speech in the United States.

    • Lillian says:

      There may be no legal exception, but there certainly seem to be quite a number of people in the United States who appear to believe that there exists a moral exception, and indeed that a legal exception ought to be carved out on those grounds.

      • Freddie deBoer says:

        Let’s not encourage them, then.

      • SamChevre says:

        I’d narrow that: there’s no criminal legal exception, but Civil Rights law functions as a blasphemy/”hate speech” exception. It gets around the prohibition on such laws by punishing someone other than the speaker (the employer or property owner) for allowing the speech (rather than speaking).

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Oh yes, and I’d add the penalties for hate crimes. There is no legal penalty for saying nasty things about protected classes, if you otherwise keep your nose clean. But it you say these things and also commit a real crime, your penalties increase for your hate speech.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think that’s true. The crime itself has to be racially motivated. If you’ve said bad things about Jews and then you rob a guy who happens to be Jewish (but not because he’s Jewish) you don’t get the hate crimes charge.

            I think hate crime laws are fine, so long as they’re judiciously used. Kind of like terrorism charges.

            If a building is burned down because the owner is trying to fake an insurance claim, that’s bad, but no threat to you or your society. If a building is burned down because the occupants are political figures (terrorism) or a certain race or religion (hate crime), that’s worse, because it’s a threat to our ability to function as a society.

          • Nornagest says:

            The crime itself has to be racially motivated. If you’ve said bad things about Jews and then you rob a guy who happens to be Jewish (but not because he’s Jewish) you don’t get the hate crimes charge.

            That’s true in theory, but I imagine that if you spend your weekends posting on Stormfront or whatever, and you go out and rob a guy who happens to be Jewish, and your hobby comes out during the investigation, then you might have a hard time convincing a jury that you didn’t target him for his ethnicity. Whether or not you actually did.

          • dick says:

            …then you might have a hard time convincing a jury that you didn’t target him for his ethnicity. Whether or not you actually did.

            This is a problem, but it’s not any worse than the problem where someone accidentally shoots his wife and gets charged with murder because they had a big fight in front of the neighbors an hour previous. The alternative is to just ignore intent entirely, which has its own problems.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I think hate crime laws are fine, so long as they’re judiciously used.

            At least theoretically the bias has to be related to the crime. That doesn’t mean hate crimes make any sense. If you kill somebody because they are gay or Black or Jewish, you get extra charges. If you kill somebody because they they remind you of your father, or you want to impress your posse, or because the victim looked at you funny, no extra charges. The extra charges are definitely because of your beliefs about one particular ideological area, and totally unrelated to whether it is due to hatred. I don’t think such laws CAN be judiciously used, because they are inherently unjust.

          • SamChevre says:

            I’m in favor of hate crimes laws, defined narrowly. Jaywalking while yelling racial epithets shouldn’t be any more of a crime than jaywalking.

            However, some kinds of crimes are designed to intimidate a group: I think it’s entirely reasonable that painting a swastika on a synagogue gets a more severe penalty than typical graffiti, and killing a _ to make the point that _s are not welcome in this town gets more severe penalties than a random murder. I’d argue that some kinds of “hate crimes” are really forms of terrorism, and are reasonably treated as such.

          • 10240 says:

            IMO it’s reasonable that sentencing for the same crime may depend on motive; it should depend on factors such as how deterrence depends on the severity of punishment, probability of reoffence, indirect effects etc., all of which may depend on motive. The right punishment is a trade-off between various factors; I don’t think it must be strictly proportional to the crime.

            However, I suspect that stricter punishment for highly publicized and politicized crimes such as terrorism or hate crimes is made into law to make a political point, not because analysis showed that the right punishment for these crimes is more severe based on the above factors.

            @SamChevre That’s a somewhat good point. E.g. crimes targeting a minority in an area may force members of that minority to move away. This indirect harm is added to the harm of the crime itself. However, I don’t think hate crimes are actually common enough nowadays to significantly affect behavior.

            Also, other crimes also have this sort of indirect effect. If an area has a high general crime rate, it induces the people exposed to it to move away from the area. Housing in safe areas become more expensive; moving to a safe area becomes costly. People who own an apartment in the deteriorating area experience a loss. Class segregation increases as wealthier people can afford to move. Thus, an extra crime in a high-crime area is worse than one in a low-crime area. Actually these effects are probably much more salient than indirect effects of crimes targeting “protected groups”.

            If the incidence of a crime is the same everywhere (whether of a hate crime targeting a particular group or any other crime), this indirect effect doesn’t exist: even if people (of a particular group) are afraid, it’s just as bad everywhere else. People being afraid (or “terrorized”) doesn’t count as a damage specific to hate crimes: other crimes make people afraid too. If people are more afraid of hate crimes or terrorism than equivalent crimes with a different motive because the media publicizes them more, that’s the responsibility of the media or the people who don’t think about how rare these crimes are compared to other crimes, not of the criminal. (Actually the swastika graffiti is a crime that is made worse by the intimidation effect, as it may imply a threat of more serious crimes in the future.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If you kill somebody because they they remind you of your father, or you want to impress your posse, or because the victim looked at you funny, no extra charges.

            But very few other people have to worry about that guy, because few other people look like his father.

            If my neighbor is killed because he got into a dispute with his business partner, that’s terrible, and the perpetrator should be brought to justice. But I didn’t have a dispute with his business partner. There was never any danger to me. I don’t need to hug my kids tight because there but for the grace of God go I. But if my neighbor is killed because he’s [group] and I’m that [group] or maybe also caught the perpetrators ire because I didn’t mind living next to one of them stinking [group]s, this is untenable. The target of the crime was not just the victims, but the whole society around the victims, too.

            If hate crimes are treated like this, they’re basically just like terrorism, a specific crime against the whole of society. Are you okay with somebody getting extra charges for terrorism?

          • 10240 says:

            @Conrad Honcho You have less reason to fear that your neighbor’s business partner kills you, but you do have a reason to fear that your business partner will kill you because of a business dispute, if that kind of murder is not sufficiently deterred.

            IMO the main reasons to punish murder is to minimize the probability of getting murdered, through deterring murder in the first place, and preventing reoffense. Since a terrorist murder and a business partner murder makes you equally dead, it’s equally important to deter them (the latter primarily from your business partner, not your neighbor’s). Which kind of murder makes it more important to impose a long sentence to prevent reoffense depends on which kind of murderer is more likely to reoffend.

            You can say that another reason to prevent murder is to not have to live in fear. However, the extent to which it’s reasonable to fear murder is directly proportional to the probability of getting murdered, for whatever motive. If you are more afraid of terrorist murder than business partner murder, after controlling for their probability, you are both irrational and you are doing exactly what the terrorist wants you to do.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            If hate crimes are treated like this, they’re basically just like terrorism, a specific crime against the whole of society. Are you okay with somebody getting extra charges for terrorism?

            No. Are there extra charges because terrorism? I don’t think so. Terrorists probably got more time because they tend to be multiple murderers, but I don’t think terrorism in itself should get more time. Especially since the definition of terrorism is so tenuous. Quite like hate crimes, actually.

            I think 10240 has it right, that the reason to punish people for murder is decrease the rate of murder. Do crimes committed because of someone belonging to some ethnic or religious group make it more likely for murder to be committed? I doubt it.

            I think that even more than decreasing the rate of murder, you think the crime should be punished more if it causes more fear in the rest of society. I can buy that. But I don’t see how crimes based on someone’s race or religion causes more fear than other crime. I think street crime from criminals that seem to have no concern for the police or other sanctions cause the most fear these days. Maybe because such crime is more prevalent than so-called hate crime. But I don’t see why the more feared crime should have lower penalties. It makes sense to have stronger penalties for nastier crimes, but I don’t see why a racist or religious crime makes it nastier.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are indeed extra charges related to terrorism.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Free speech is both a legal doctrine about what the government can jail you for, and a set of cultural norms around what the right way to respond to speech we don’t like is.

      The former has a relatively clear bright-line solution of “don’t jail people for speech”, though there’s enough wiggle room in that “relatively” to keep generations of Supreme Court Justices busy.

      The latter is impossibly complicated and hard to separate from “can we dislike people for being stupid and evil?” (since a lot of stupidity and evil is expressed in speech, and since disliking leads inevitably to all sorts of social punishment). I think there are some good heuristics, like “political speech as a separate magisterium from everything else” and “deliberately intending to ruin somebody’s life is going too far”. But I think ideas like “Should YouTube antipromote videos encouraging people to beat up Jews?” should very much be in the Overton Window, and I think “the way we think about hate-crime-incitement as an exception to free speech” is a fair way of referring to these kinds of issues.

      • Jiro says:

        But I think ideas like “Should YouTube antipromote videos encouraging people to beat up Jews?” should very much be in the Overton Window

        I do not. You can’t put an arbitrary thing in the Overton Window, and any practical Overton Window that includes that will also include things we really don’t want Youtube to ban.

        • silver_swift says:

          The Overton Window is just “stuff we can discuss in public without society branding us weird for it”, isn’t it?

          If so, then discussing what kind of videos (if any) YouTube should be allowed to antipromote is definitely something I want people to be able to discuss. In no small part so that people can point out all those things we really don’t want Youtube to ban.

          • Aapje says:

            More or less, although various people have correctly argued that this flattens complexity into a dichotomy and that in many contexts, it’s better to talk about degrees of acceptance.

            Joshua Treviño proposed these groupings:
            – Unthinkable
            – Radical
            – Acceptable
            – Sensible
            – Popular
            – Policy

            Daniel C. Hallin proposed three concentric spheres: consensus, legitimate controversy, and deviance.

            I personally think that it is important to distinguish between things that general consensus and/or the elite deems merely weird vs the things that people actively tend to punish.

            PS. This may be a good topic for more in depth analysis by Scott Alexander (hint, hint). The Overton Window is a known concept, but very crude. It’s doesn’t explain why saying some things gets you Damored and saying other things gets you laughed at.

        • Roxolan says:

          There’s something ironic about a free speech advocate wanting some things to stay out of the Overton window.

          That aside; there are many things I don’t want banned from YouTube, but with enough uncertainty that I’m interested to hear the pro-ban side out.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a meta-problem with any pro-ban argument w.r.t. speech: it’s not just that you need to agree that there’s some speech that’s evil or socially destructive and should be banned, you also need to agree that you’re going to give someone the power to do the banning, and that person is going to be able to shape the environment of ideas which you’re allowed to hear.

      • JulieK says:

        Scott: so is it ever okay to fire people (like Marc Lamont Hill) for being stupid and evil?

        • Galle says:

          It’s certainly okay to fire people for being stupid and evil in a way that negatively affects you. If Hill was fired because CNN was worried that the controversy surrounding him would negatively affect their ratings, then it’s less “censorship” and more “not tying yourself to an anchor”.

          • 10240 says:

            IMO it’s not morally wrong on the part of the company to fire someone in such a situation, as they have every right to maximize their profit. The blame actually lies with the customers viewers) who penalize them for the controversy by watching them less, not with CNN.

            However, customers (viewers) who support free speech should still penalize CNN for the firing. Not because the CNN is morally wrong, but to try to make the firing result in more loss of ratings than not firing him would, thus eliminate the incentive to fire people in such situations.

            (That’s assuming that the firing is actually wrong from a free speech perspective, I commented on that below.)

        • 10240 says:

          IMO it depends on whether the reason for the firing is concern that they can’t do their job well (in which case it’s OK) or to punish them for their opinion* (in which case it’s not OK). It’s usually obvious which one is the case, though employers may make up excuses to claim it’s the former, even when it’s the latter.

          I’m not particularly concerned about political media firing someone for a political opinion. Most media have a political line. A political commentator is employed for telling political onions, his opinions are thus relevant to his job. It’s reasonable that a medium employs commentators whose opinion falls within a certain range. (Though firing someone for a single opinion is still not necessarily reasonable if it’s not about an issue he usually comments on.) There are media that cater to pretty much any political opinion. If you get fired from one medium, you can most likely find employment with a medium that’s closer to your views.

          Speech restrictions in organizations that are not inherently political are more dangerous and punitive, and less justifiable. There is no market differentiation by political ideology among universities, hospitals, tech companies, video platforms, payment processors etc. comparable to media organizations.

          * Actually, I think most of the time such firings are to avoid bad PR. (Sometimes also to avoid hostile workspace environment lawsuits.) Thus most of the blame lies with customers who punish companies for employing people with certain opinions. We should discourage people from boycotting companies for such reasons, and we should encourage people who support free speech to counter them by punishing companies that fire employees for such reasons, and reward companies that resist pressure to do so.

        • Nornagest says:

          If someone is stupid and evil off the job, it shouldn’t be hard to find them being stupid and evil on the job. If it is hard, then it might be worth reconsidering how stupid and/or evil they are.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Watching with popcorn, at Scott’s continued attempt to expand the truce of liberalism into the private sphere.

        I’m thinking that “maximizing speech” is practically no one’s terminal value, so the appropriate cultural norms of when to limit speech are always going to be subservient to the higher values a particular person has, which differ based on each person’s particular ideology. Even classical liberalism (i.e. “free speech in America”) isn’t neutral, its just a legal truce codified into law, the specifics of which are highly influenced by whatever groups had the most political power at the time.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          I’m thinking that “maximizing speech” is practically no one’s terminal value,

          I may be mis-interpreting what you are saying, but I think this is a terminal value of mine. At least I would like to hear the most different points of view that I can. Well, let me amend that, there is a limit beyond which more different opinions are just confusing. But I do want more than there are out there now, so I am in favor of maximizing speech at this point.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            You seem to imply you (like everyone) have a Dunbar number of opinions you can keep straight. So, if you have more speech incoming than you can keep straight, how do you prioritize?

            And what if your time is limited, in general?

            And what if you’re tasked to broker speech time on others’ behalf?

          • Eponymous says:

            I’d prefer to maximize quality. But as far as I can tell, actual attempts to limit speech often target sensible stuff — more dangerous than nonsense.

        • Maximizing the ability to say combinations of words in of themselves without being arrested or fined sounds pretty good, but “maximizing speech” in a private context would minimize freedom of association, so really as valuable as a cultural norm of open speech is, it has to be traded off against the value of associating freely.

          Free speech absolutism makes sense (at least in principle) when it concerns upholding a negative right to be free from legal censor, but free speech absolutism as a positive right leads to reductio ad absurdum insanity where everywhere has to platform everything. Obviously cultural free speech is important, but maximizing it quickly leads to absurdities when you consider what the trade-off would be.

          • Guy in TN says:

            free speech absolutism as a positive right leads to reductio ad absurdum insanity where everywhere has to platform everything

            Agreed. And even if one were to say that “perhaps it shouldn’t be maximized, but at least we should find a neutral standard for when it is appropriate to privately censor speech, that we can all agree to”, you are going to run headlong into each person’s private “speech values” being dictated by their higher values, rendering the speech values highly variable and low on the hierarchy.

            Its like trying to find a neutral standard for “when to eat steak”, and your population consists of vegans, meat-loving cattle farmers, and Hindus.

          • dick says:

            …free speech absolutism as a positive right leads to reductio ad absurdum insanity where everywhere has to platform everything

            Are you using “maximizing” and “absolutism” as synonyms, or are those two different things? I think I’m a free speech maximalist by most peoples’ definitions, but “everyone has to platform everything” is not something I’ve heard anyone argue for and sounds like a straw man.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’m a free speech maximalist by most peoples’ definitions, but “everyone has to platform everything” is not something I’ve heard anyone argue for and sounds like a straw man.

            This is pretty close to what I gather Scott’s current opinion to be on the subject, based on his “Refactoring” post. But I don’t want to peg it on him too strongly, since he could have been just idea-floating and brainstorming out loud.

          • dick says:

            Man, I don’t see that at all. And in general, I think there’s an important heuristic that any time you feel like someone is taking a position with a big obvious flaw, your first assumption should be that you’ve misunderstood their position.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’m a free speech maximalist by most peoples’ definitions, but “everyone has to platform everything” is not something I’ve heard anyone argue for and sounds like a straw man.

            Forward Synthesis was distinguishing between positive and negative rights to free speech. This was in turn a response to Guy in TN claiming that maximization was no one’s terminal value, itself a response to Scott claiming that some forms of censorship could be considered.

            The confusion over negative and positive rights happens so frequently, in all sorts of political issues (SSM, gun ownership, health care, education, et al.), that one of the first things one has to do to reach clarity is establish which of those rights types everyone is talking about.

            I have personally witnessed instances of people calling for free speech and very obviously using the term ambiguously, either intentionally or not.

          • dick says:

            Forward Synthesis was distinguishing between positive and negative rights to free speech…. The confusion over negative and positive rights happens so frequently…

            It’s not a confusing distinction, it’s just that “everyone has to platform everything” is a weird enough position that I wanted to explicitly confirm that’s what he’s talking about. (And if so, find out who he thinks holds it, which Guy in TN suggested to be Scott, which I’m 90% sure is wrong.)

            Like, imagine I said I was an “anti-killing absolutist”, and you interpreted that to mean that I support a law against stepping on bugs. You’re not wrong, per se – that could be what I mean – but that’s such an unusual position that you ought to confirm whether I think that before you begin rebutting it.

          • Nornagest says:

            imagine I said I was an “anti-killing absolutist”, and you interpreted that to mean that I support a law against stepping on bugs.

            Not that far-fetched, really. That is in fact the rule for some Buddhist monastics, because they take an absolutist reading of the Buddhist proscription from killing.

            Absolute proscriptions from killing are pretty rare, but that’s a different issue.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @dick

            In reference to CNN firing a reporter, Scott said: “I think it’s important that everyone remember free speech for everyone stands or falls together”, indicating that he thought CNN firing the reporter was a bad thing.

            I suppose one could draw a distinction between platforming and merely giving money to a person, but that seems shaky. Even though the reporter didn’t make the statement on official CNN airwaves, I imagine the reason he was making public statements to begin with is related to him being a CNN reporter.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I don’t think “everyone has to platform everything” is that weird (that is to say, uncommonly held) a position.

            …Sigh. Okay, except for the “everyone” part. I agree that no one is saying that you have to let Kanye come into your home and listen to him explain why Taylor Swift shouldn’t get that award, and if you say no, you’re against free speech. But some do advocate that “there exist people who have to platform everything”, where “people” includes Facebook, Twitter, NPR, various newspapers, etc.

            Blame this on… the imprecision of human language, if you wish. Doesn’t matter. I see people get confused by this often enough that it has to get clarified almost as often as the free speech issue gets brought up. Whereas I don’t see nearly as much confusion over people declaring they’re pacifists.

          • Brad says:

            When it’s limited to twitter, facebook, and tumblr I don’t even think we are talking about free speech at all. Instead we are talking about the conservative case for antitrust regulations.

            Personally I’m skeptical that these really are monopolies. The categories they are supposed to be monopolizing seem awfully artificial to me—microblogging, come on—but it’s at least a conceptually coherent argument. That’s not the case IMO for the argument that the difference between your living room and facebook is platform-ness.

          • Okay, to clear this up, I am indeed using maximalism and absolutism as synonyms in this context. As for whether “everywhere has to platform everything” is a strawman of positive rights free speech absolutism, my point is that negative rights free speech absolutism has a logical endpoint where its positive counterpart is vulnerable to bootstrapping at the expense of freedom of association.

            This doesn’t mean that I don’t think a positive right to be platformed isn’t important (I do and I’m actually very against recent politically motivated censorship and deplatforming efforts on the internet), but I don’t think it can logically speaking be rendered absolute in the same way that the government could absolutely refrain from arresting you under the charge of stringing together certain combinations of words. I simultaneously desire the social media giants to be refrained from freely banning and wish for smaller entities like clubs to have leeway. That requires a line drawing exercise, and when you’re dealing with positive rights, that’s unavoidable. With negative rights, the line is built into the concept from the get go.

            So although cultural or private free speech is very very important, I don’t think free speech absolutism in that context is a logically coherent idea.

            @dick

            Like, imagine I said I was an “anti-killing absolutist”, and you interpreted that to mean that I support a law against stepping on bugs. You’re not wrong, per se – that could be what I mean – but that’s such an unusual position that you ought to confirm whether I think that before you begin rebutting it.

            The point isn’t that I would assume that you personally support that law. The point is that if you go in promoting absolutism in a boundless idea space, someone else can always call your bluff and say “Ho ho! Are you really so absolute!”. It’s a line drawing exercise and they can choose to shift that line. So, going into that battle with a rallying cry of absolutism isn’t the right approach. We should begin with defining where we think the line should be drawn and why. Yes, that creates a problem because it means that the vague amorphous coalition defending cultural free speech on the internet may split apart over differences on where lines should be drawn, but at the same time, if you’re going to avoid just spinning the wheels, these arguments have to be hashed out some time. I’ve literally encountered people arguing that blocking people on Twitter is a free speech contradiction, and if you go in claiming to be a free speech absolutist in that positive sense, it’s hard to argue otherwise without just appealing to “Oh come on!”

            With negative rights, the space is already bounded, because we are required to comprehend that negative rights absolutism by very dint of involving negative rights is bounded to rights concering intervention by the state against property and person.

            @Brad

            When it’s limited to twitter, facebook, and tumblr I don’t even think we are talking about free speech at all. Instead we are talking about the conservative case for antitrust regulations.

            Personally I’m skeptical that these really are monopolies. The categories they are supposed to be monopolizing seem awfully artificial to me—microblogging, come on—but it’s at least a conceptually coherent argument. That’s not the case IMO for the argument that the difference between your living room and facebook is platform-ness.

            I’ve experimented with this. I think this is fundamentally the better argument, because it goes well beyond speech. It’s the recognition that government hyperconcentrations of economic control and private hyperconcentrations of economic control are both really bad, and need to be played off each other, which is nowhere near as neat and tidy as trying to maximize either government or private control. It cuts across the political spectrum and ends up politically as something like distributism.

            The problem of course with non-absolutist philosophies is that they come across as wishy washy, because within a position that two opposing forces can be bad, lies a trade-off and which way the trade-off should turn out is a line drawing exercise, and in terms of driving a political movement, that can be hard to coordinate.

            EDIT:
            I mean, it’s theoretically easy for some bureaucrats to abitrarily decide the location of the line between being nearly enough a monopoly and being not quite nearly enough a monopoly to count in antitrust terms, and that has happened “successfully” with existing laws, but as far as political activity on the internet and cultural pushback goes, there needs to be a clear principle to rally around.

          • dick says:

            @Forward Synthesis

            my point is that negative rights free speech absolutism has a logical endpoint where its positive counterpart is vulnerable to bootstrapping at the expense of freedom of association

            This seems like a fancy way to say that “the government shouldn’t censor anything” is a position unto itself, and “everyone should have a platform” is just an opinion that won’t grow up to be a policy position until someone specifies how exactly that would happen and what would be the penalty for not complying and who decides whether you’re in compliance. If that’s correct, then I don’t think we’re disagreeing on anything much.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that it’s a mistake to argue that platforming is only important for monopolies, because control over the content that people consume is not a binary.

            Even during the Nazi occupation my country didn’t have full Nazi control over all sources of information, given that we had free radio (broadcast from the UK) and underground newspapers.

            So does that mean that there was no propaganda issue where many people came to believe falsehoods due to selective exposure to information, where the selection was made by a powerful group with an agenda?

          • albatross11 says:

            I’d draw a distinction between what the law should compel and what we should advocate for as social norms.

            I think the baker should be able to refuse to bake a wedding cake for your gay wedding, but also that I’d like to live in a world where gay couples have no trouble getting wedding cakes baked for their weddings. In the same way, I don’t think the state should be coercing Twitter into carrying any particular person’s words, but I would not like to live in a world where half a dozen companies effectively get to decide what ideas may be discussed in public. In both cases, I’m very comfortable exerting social or economic pressure toward getting to a world I like better, even though I don’t think the law is the right tool for doing that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            but I would not like to live in a world where half a dozen companies effectively get to decide what ideas may be discussed in public.

            I would also feel less wary about Twitter’s censorship activities if Gab were allowed to exist.

          • dick says:

            Okay, I’ll bite. In what sense is Gab not allowed to exist, given that it does exist?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Gab exists but is not allowed to collect money via the banking system, because banks and payment processors will not deal with it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Having Visa and Mastercard decide what ideas may be supported monetarily sounds like a really, really good argument for antitrust enforcement against them. That’s a scary amount of power to concentrate in the hands of a couple of private organizations. It’s also a demonstrated way for the US government to punish speech they don’t like–they made it impossible to use credit cards to support Wikileaks some years ago, I think after the stuff from Manning was leaked. Presumably once they’re in the business of deciding what information outlets can’t be paid/donated to, lots of governments around the world will be interested in telling them what organizations they will prevent from getting paid if they want to keep doing business in China/Russia/Turkey/etc.

          • soreff says:

            @albatross11

            Having Visa and Mastercard decide what ideas may be supported monetarily sounds like a really, really good argument for antitrust enforcement against them. That’s a scary amount of power to concentrate in the hands of a couple of private organizations.

            Agreed.

            To some extent we have a similar problem with Amazon becoming
            a very dominant publisher, both of e-books and (to a lesser extent)
            print (67% and 41%, respectively)
            https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/amazon-has-basically-no-competition-among-online-booksellers/371917/

          • John Schilling says:

            Having Visa and Mastercard decide what ideas may be supported monetarily sounds like a really, really good argument for antitrust enforcement against them.

            Is it Visa and Mastercard making the decision, or is the United States Goverment* deciding to tell them “We’re going to be giving a fiscal colonoscopy with extreme prejudice to anyone we think might be laundering money for kiddie-porn distributors and, oh my, there’s a lot of suspicious porn on Gab”?

            If the latter, encouraging antitrust action, which will necessarily involve selective enforcement, would just mean giving another weapon to the same bad actors.

            * Meaning some subset of the people with power in or over the US Government, consult your nearest textbook on Public Choice Theory, etc.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I haven’t been following that closely because I don’t use Gab or Twitter, but I was also under the impression Gab ran afoul of their domain registrar and hosting services. It’s one thing to say to unsavory twitter users, “nobody owes you a platform, if you want to spew your bile, go build your own!” But do they have to build their own internet? And financial system?

            It also wouldn’t be quite so concerning if Twitter were just banning The Daily Stormer or something. But the definition of “nazi” keeps expanding. My own political views haven’t really changed in 20 years, and opinions I hold that were mainstream in both major parties in the 90s are now things I would not express publicly for fear of retribution.

            Those who abuse their power are always going to first abuse people who are unsympathetic. But they’re never going to stop there. First they came for the nazis…

      • hilitai says:

        “Should YouTube antipromote videos encouraging people to beat up Jews?”

        I think you’re conflating things here, because your example is encourage people to commit crimes, rather than, for example, say unpleasant things about group X. I think you can make an argument that inciting criminal behavior (e.g., let’s beat up some Jews!) should be discouraged, without necessarily arguing that it should be illegal to make disparaging remarks about group X (Jews control the media!).

        • Garrett says:

          What if you are interested in having a discussion about when it’s appropriate to use force for certain ends? For example, debating about when it is appropriate to use force against the police. At some point, wouldn’t that kind of fall into the category of discussing or advocating violence against a group.

          As a more absurd and hyperbolic case, imagine that a neighboring country hired a huge mercenary army to invade and conquer your country. Moreover, imagine that for some reason the mercenary army was nearly entirely composed of Jews. Would it then be improper to discuss fighting back against the invading army because it would involve advocating death towards a group of Jews? What if neither the invaded country nor the sponsoring country contained a significant Jewish population, would using ‘Jews’ as a shorthand for “the invading mercenary army on behalf of the sponsoring country” be racist or antisemitic? And how does AI filtering address many of the slogans which are likely to come up in such a conflict?

          • 10240 says:

            I’d say “no incitement to committing crimes” (or “no incitement to committing violent crimes”) might be considered a politically neutral standard. “Beating up Jews should be legal” is a political opinion and not an incitement to a crime. Resisting an invading army is not a crime either.

          • hilitai says:

            “Beating up Jews should be legal” is a political opinion and not an incitement to a crime.

            It’s potentially encouraging something that is currently a crime, so I’m not sure I’d agree that it’s not incitement. However, congratulations for coming up with something that genuinely made me stop and think for a moment.

          • acymetric says:

            There would need to be an extremely clear definition of what is considered “incitement” for this not to be abused. It gets even worse if you try to carve out exceptions for low-level crimes.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I think you can make an argument that inciting criminal behavior (e.g., let’s beat up some Jews!) should be discouraged, without necessarily arguing that it should be illegal to make disparaging remarks about group X (Jews control the media!).

          How disparaging are you willing to allow?

          Much of the pushback I see against disparaging speech is that it’s demonization. You’re spreading a lot of negative claims about some group, setting the stage for the rocks to start flying later. It doesn’t matter how flatly you condemn the rocks once they’re flying; by then, the counter will be “but, can you really blame them?”.

          This applies to any group being framed as the out: Jews, Muslims, evangelicals, homosexuals, breeders, transgenders, cisgenders, the mentally ill, the “privileged”, Trump voters, gun control advocates, gun rights advocates, pro-choicers, pro-lifers, blacks, whites, abos, nativists, millennials, boomers, people who talk about states’ rights, hair-dyed feminists, MRAs, SJWs, MGOTW, “snowflakes”, “science deniers”…

          • hilitai says:

            How disparaging are you willing to allow?

            Yes, there’s the rub. Personally, being a rightist free-speech maximizer, I have trouble thinking of any limit at all.

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems like one important question here is, once YouTube antipromotes or demonitetizes videos encouraging people to beat up Jews, is it likely to stop there, or to also antipromote/demonetize videos opposing the existence of the state of Israel, or current Israeli policy w.r.t. settlements or the Gaza Strip, or supporting boycotts of Israeli businesses claimed to be involved in some bad behavior w.r.t the Palestinians.

        All those positions are ones that some people (some people here on SSC) think are basically anti-Semetic. But they’re also positions that seem to me to be about as legitimate as any number of other live political issues we’re allowed to discuss. I’m pretty uncomfortable about YouTube/Google/Alphabet becoming one of a small number of gatekeepers of what ideas anyone is able to see/hear. And if they do become a gatekeeper of that kind, I’d certainly like to push them to the extent I can *not* to restrict most viewpoints, even ones that seem wrong or dumb or offensive.

  51. yellow_eyed says:

    Do protein pump inhibitors, a popular heartburn medication, affect cognition?

    That should be ‘proton-pump inhibitors’. It might also be worth mentioning that prescriptions for these drugs are very common.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Sorry, awful typo, fixed.

    • theredsheep says:

      Yeah, they get handed out a lot. A while back (when I last worked in retail pharmacy, in 2016 or so) insurers started imposing sharp limits on how much they would pay for, since there was mounting evidence that long-term use of PPIs does terrible things. I didn’t inquire after the details, since I don’t use the stuff, but I’ve heard rumors about jacking up your arteries or some such.

      • toastengineer says:

        Wait what? I’m pretty much dependent on omeprazole and I was never told about that. Then again I’ve had doctors fail to mention a lot of things…

        • theredsheep says:

          I don’t know, that’s just something my dad said about why he wasn’t taking it any more. Sorry. I do know that the pharmacists I used to work with said “yeah, they’re finding out it’s not very good to keep using it long-term.”

          I gather this was a relatively recent finding, or set of findings, or consensus, or something.

        • Matt C says:

          The last time I saw my family practice doc he said “they” were moving away from prescribing PPIs so much.

        • Brad says:

          I don’t have cites handy but I vaguely remember connections to osteoporosis and heart disease.

      • Purcell_effect says:

        I’m only a (somewhat informed) layman who uses PPIs regularly, but this is a bit of an exaggeration. As far as I’m aware, there is somewhat good evidence that PPIs decrease the absorption of some minerals and vitamins which can lead to increased risk of bone fractures especially among older women.

        Then there is some amount of (still controversial) evidence of PPIs increasing the risk of some bacterial infections of the gut.

        Lastly, I recall one paper that included some kind of a huge statistical correlation analysis that showed small positive correlation between PPI use and cardiovascular events. I think the jury is still out there to decide whether this was a real effect or due to some confounding factors.

        All of these adverse effects are pretty rare and weak and the consensus still seems to be that PPIs are relatively safe drugs, but some care might be needed if you belong to some kind of risk group. Why doctors are recommended to prescribe less PPIs nowadays is because these drugs are used by a pretty large fraction of the population and many apparently take them for no good reason. In large population sizes even tiny negative effects start to be important.

  52. Deiseach says:

    18th century London had it all going on. For instance, the Blind Beak – that is, “beak” being slang for “magistrate”, Sir John Fielding, the younger half-brother of Henry Fielding the novelist.

    Who was also a magistrate and police reformer: well, he had to found the forerunners of the police first before they could be reformed, which he and his brother did – the Bow Street Runners.

    And yes, his brother was blind, hence the nickname, and allegedly could “recognise three thousand criminals by the sounds of their voices”. So yeah, 18th century London was rather like the setting for superhero comics, and it was (somewhat) tamer than its 17th century predecessor, and its 19th century successor would become tamer yet (if you can say that of a time that produced Jack the Ripper and before him Spring-heeled Jack).

    Tiny nit-picking: she’s not Princess Kate Middleton, she’s the Duchess of Cambridge (or to be more formal, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge). Styles and titles of nobility and royalty are complicated and I have no idea what the reasoning is beyond a very cursory one; since she’s not of royal blood herself, she is not styled Princess Catherine, and I think because her husband was granted the title of Duke of Cambridge this is why she’s not styled Princess William (unlike the inlaws, the Kents – though there it’s Prince Michael of Kent and his wife Princess Michael because that’s a courtesy title*). Kate does get to be called in full Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, however.

    It’s a pain in the eyeballs to get right, and I have every sympathy for Americans writing detective stories (both professional and fanfic) set in Victorian times where they have a habit of calling a knight (or baronet) “Sir Jones” in imitation of Lord Jones (let’s not get into when Lord Jones is Lord Jones, Lord John, or Lord John Jones, never mind when he’s John Jones, Duke of Earl in which case he’s called by the name of the dukedom not his surname).

    * Another form of courtesy title is the honorific prefix of “Lord” before the name. This non-peerage title is accorded to younger sons of dukes and marquesses. The courtesy title is added before the person’s given name and surname, as in the example of Lord Randolph Churchill, although conversational usage drops the surname on secondary reference. The title persists after the death of the holder’s father, but is not inherited by any of his children. The wife of the holder is entitled to the feminine form of her husband’s title, which takes the form of “Lady”, followed by her husband’s given name and surname, as in the example of Lady Randolph Churchill. The holder is addressed as “Lord Randolph” and his wife as “Lady Randolph”.

    “The title persists after the death of the holder’s father, but is not inherited by any of his children” – that’s why Winston Churchill was plain Winston Churchill (until he was knighted in 1953), not Lord Winston Churchill, despite being the son of Lord Randolph (Spencer-)Churchill and grandson of the Duke of Marlborough.

    • JulieK says:

      Thanks for posting, that bugged me as well.
      I’ve written letters to the editor pointing out that “Sir Jones” and “Lady Mary Jones” (for the knight’s wife) are both incorrect. And then I wonder if I’m still allowed to call myself a linguistic descriptivist. 🙂

      • Deiseach says:

        There’s some comment in Chesterton which I can’t remember in full or track down right now to the effect that many successful nouveau-riche men who gave big donations to political parties to get a knighthood or life peerage did so not for their own sake but at the urging of their wives, who calculated “Lady Jones” (as the wife of Sir John Jones, Kt) would sound every bit as good as “Lady London” (as the wife of Lord London, the Marquess of London).

        It is tricky to get right, though, and I have only the most shallow knowledge (we have the remnants of pre-Independence peerages remaining in Ireland, including in several places as my own Actual English Peers such as the Duke of Devonshire’s little summer cottage, as well as George Osborne’s Irish baronetcy and a Marquess of our very own).

    • Salem says:

      This is also why the likes of Lord North and Lord Randolph Churchill could sit in the House of Commons – they were only courtesy titles.

      • Deiseach says:

        And in the opposite direction, Tony Benn renouncing his peerage as Viscount Stansgate in order to remain in the House of Commons.

        I was looking up to see if Stansgate could sit in the House of Lords and I have no idea (what with the new restrictions and reductions in the numbers) but for you Harry Potter fans there is a Lord Snape (a life peer for Labour) 🙂

  53. Shkaal says:

    Typo in the Energy Desert paragraph: it should be electron-volts, not tera-electron-volts (10^12 is already tera). Also, to put things in perspective: 10^25 eV is roughly 1 megajoule: about 100 higher than a typical rifle bullet energy, or enough to evaporate half a liter of water. With a single elementary particle.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      Maxim 24:
      Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun.

      Part of me thinks that such a particle would not be able to dump all of its energy in one interaction, but then the part of my brain that can do physics points out that in order for it to drop 1% of its energy and evaporate five grams of water it would have to drop from 1e25 to 9.99e24 eV, and the point is that there isn’t anything at that level of energy for it to be afterward.

      But that severely limits how it could interact with familiar matter.

      • A1987dM says:

        What usually happens when a very energetic particle collides with a stationary particle is that you get two (or more) outgoing particles each carrying very roughly about half (or 1/n) of the initial high-energy particle. If that happens in bulk matter e.g. air, each of the outgoing particles does that again, and so on, resulting in a particle shower.

      • @A1987dM

        If that cascade starts with our single particle rifle bullet, would the effects of the resulting cascade be as bad for a person struck as an actual rifle bullet? My naive first assumption not based on any real physics or math, is that this would blow a big hole in you, but given the particles are so absolutely tiny, my naive second assumption is that I’ll bet a lot of the outgoing particles would miss things like atoms entirely and pass straight out of the body with only a small amount actually having the kind of interactions that could harm you (a small amount is still bad).

        I’d intuitively expect your face to swell up with something like a radiation burn, but otherwise the damage to be nowhere near as bad as being hit by an actual rifle bullet and having lots of atom to atom showdowns where most of the energy goes into tearing apart molecular bonds.

        • A1987dM says:

          Your second naive assumption is correct — the radiation length in soft tissue is 38 cm and high-energy showers take tens of radiation lengths to fully develop, so only a few per cent of the initial particle energy would be deposited within your body.

        • Cool. Not about to stick my head in a particle accelerator, even still.

          • A1987dM says:

            Particle accelerator beams contain lots of particles at the same time. And still accelerator beams from the 1970s are surviveable apparently (but more recent ones probably aren’t).

          • Chris P says:

            I don’t quite remember the details, but some sub-group of the entomology research group I worked in as an undergraduate regularly took insects to the DESY particle accelerator center in Hamburg to use them to get really detailed scans of their anatomy.

            The effect this had on the insect bodies was described to me as basically that of some SF disintegration beam. It left a bit of ash behind.

          • Aapje says:

            So these were snuff movies?

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        Maxim 24:
        Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun.

        Would that be a Maxim gun??

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          When someone mentioned the revolver cannon in a recent thread, I figured the inventors of the thing were hardcore Kantians who wanted to universalize the Maxim.

    • Aron Wall says:

      The Energy Desert thing doesn’t really explain why we haven’t seen anything.

      Here’s the deal: in QFT, the strength of the forces is independent of space and time, but it is does depend on the energy scale you measure them at. This is because of quantum effects involving virtual particles.

      There are 3 known forces in Nature besides Gravity, namely the Strong Force a.k.a. SU(3), the Electroweak Force a.k.a. SU(2), and the Hypercharge Force a.k.a. U(1). [The Maxwell field you know and love is actually a combination of the last two critters.] Each of them depends on energy scale, due to the virtual particles that interact with that particular force, and it looks at first glance like these 3 forces become the exact same strength at around 10^16 GeV. This coincidence led people to propose Grand Unified Theories in which the 3 forces come from the same force with a bigger, badder symmetry group.

      Except that more precise measurements of the strength of the strong force showed that the 3 forces actually miss each other. Too bad. But remember, the rate at which the forces run depends on which other particles exist that interact with those forces. And there’s this other idea called supersymmetry (SUSY) that proposes that there’s a symmetry that relates bosons (force carrying particles) with fermions (matter particles). Since none of the known bosons and fermions match up, this means if SUSY is true you have to double the number of particles in Nature. If these particles have sufficiently small masses and you add them to the virtual particle mix, then it looks like the 3 forces line up after all! Assuming—and this is the “energy desert” idea—that nothing else appears at intermediate energy scales which messes up the calculation.

      So for this and other reasons, the “orthodox” position among particle physicists was that we would see SUSY at the LHC, there would be a GUT at much higher scales, and either an “energy desert” or else sufficiently little of importance in between the two scales, so as not to throw off the forces coming together.

      But then even more accurate measurements of the Strong Force showed that the forces are still off by about 2 sigma with the MSSM. And worse, the LHC didn’t discover any SUSY partners, in fact no new physics whatsoever except for the Higgs Boson (that to be honest we already knew had to be there).

      So the current state of the play is this: if you remain a diehard believer in a GUT, then you probably should disbelieve in an Energy Desert since something must push the 3 forces back into synch. On the other hand, if you disbelieve in GUTs then there is no reason why the upper range 10^16 GeV should be taken to be special in any way! (Also, if there is a desert for many orders of magnitude above the LHC scale, then the Higgs boson is extremely fine tuned, which would suprise many physicists and provide evidence for hypotheses such as the multiverse and/or theism.)

      The bottom line is that actually particle physicists had convinced themselves they would see something new at the LHC, and many of them are still rather shocked that they didn’t.

  54. MawBTS says:

    Tiny brain: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a beloved holiday song everyone can guiltlessly enjoy. Glowing brain: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a misogynistic hymn to rape culture. Galaxy brain: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is responsible for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Also, this joke.

    This fascinates me in a way unrelated to the song’s topic.

    I am Australian, and I have never heard this song. Likewise, I have never watched Bob Ross or Mr Rogers (that is, if one can “watch” them – I assume they’re TV personalities, but I’m not sure.)

    But I intimately know of them. Their faces are forever engraved in my memory, because Reddit is obsessed with them. They’re internet memes. I have forgotten what my best childhood friend at the age of eight looked like…but I know that Bob Ross has a beard, and Mr Rogers has a sweater.

    Likewise, I know all about “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, but only because the internet won’t shut up about it.

    It feels odd, like I’ve eaten the shadow of food, or drunk the shadow of water. I have all these entities existing in my head, but I’ve never experienced their essence, just the parts that have been strained through the filter of Reddit.

    I can’t be the only one. When someone on Reddit shares a Bob Ross meme, I wonder “did this person actually watch whatever Bob Ross was on? Or does he only know Bob Ross from the last internet meme he saw?” Reddit is a site of 20-30 year olds, about half of whom live outside the United States. How are they all so up to speed on American cultural icons from 40 years ago? I’m imagining a mother bird vomiting food into the mouths of its chicks. But then the mother bird goes away, so the chicks just start vomiting the food into each others’ mouths in a neverending circle, the food becoming more unrecognizable by the second.

    It’s a little alarming, like seeing history writing itself. Maybe in 100 years, historians will say stuff like “Bob Ross, also known as Nice Bearded Meme Man, first rose to fame on the contemporary website Reddit.com”, with his actual TV show getting a footnote.

    • bullseye says:

      I don’t think this is unique to the internet age, though maybe it’s more common now. There are a lot of famous works of literature that everyone has heard of but few have read.

      • soreff says:

        Yup. I’ve read a comment that, in the case of Hamlet, about half of the play wound up in Barlett’s Familiar Quotations.

      • There are a lot of famous works of literature that everyone has heard of but few have read.

        This reminds me: should I read War and Peace? I really really don’t want to, but I feel like I’m missing out on something really important if I don’t, as if somehow I won’t be a complete person until I do.

        • Protagoras says:

          The last time I read Tolstoy, I regretted it (though it’s given me something to complain about ever since, admittedly). I think I will continue to not read this one myself, so you at least have company.

        • Statismagician says:

          Why don’t you want to? I quite like it as a story and I think Tolstoy’s got a lot of value to say on the relationship between individuals, cultures, and the progress of history, but you’re certainly not obligated to wade through ~1,200 pages of hard-to-translate-well Russian novel (The Pevear & Volokhonsky version from…2012, I think, is about the only good one that I’m aware of) if you don’t expect you’ll enjoy it.

        • Brad says:

          I’ve never managed to finish a Russian novel.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’ve read the first two chapters of Crime and Punishment three times now and they’re really good!

        • Probably not a good idea if you’re reading it to be “complete”; you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s a great read, but it’s simply a novel.