Open Thread 124.25

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1,109 Responses to Open Thread 124.25

  1. matthewravery says:

    Question about the rising cost of public works:

    I was driving along the GW Parkway the other day, and Memorial Bridge was getting worked on. This is a major bridge connecting Northern VA with DC. It’s got six lanes (three in each direction) and supports about 70,000 crossings per day. They’re doing work on it currently, but they haven’t shut the bridge down. Instead, they’ve built a temporary station on the side of the Potomac River, and they’re literally disassembling portions of the bridge, floating it over to the work station (dock?) via barge, and doing the work there. As a result, only three lanes will be operating at any given time. These repairs will take at least two years to complete.

    To me, this is a curious approach. Surely they could do this repair much more quickly and cheaply if they just shut the whole thing down and repaired both sides at the same time (presumably being able to use more workers simultaneously). But I imagine shutting down the whole bridge would cause massive disruption for people. The additional traffic from going from three lanes in each direction to one plus a flex lane (direction depends on time of day) is bad enough for some folks, but a complete closure would probably be much more disruptive. So I conclude that the planners opted for a more expensive, longer option in order to avoid worst-case disruptions for commuters.

    I walk through this anecdote because it illustrates a scenario whereby costs for things like big public-interest construction could rationally grow with no directly observable reason; hold the price of labor, the price of materials, the regulatory environment, and the risk-acceptance behavior constant. Instead, the most important factor for the rationally-acting public planner may be the cost born by the public who are negatively effected by the construction. The cost of these disruptions are unrelated to the direct costs of building the bridge. If there aren’t many people using the bridge and their time isn’t worth very much, then forcing them to take an alternate route that increases their commute by half an hour and worsens traffic conditions in the surrounding areas isn’t such a big deal. If there are lots of people who use the bridge and their time is worth a lot of money, then inconveniencing them less by taking a longer, more expensive route to building the bridge makes sense.

    So, if these costs are growing at a high rate (because, for example, bridge crossings are increasingly common or the value of the time of the commuters is growing*), a planner in one time period may opt for a cheaper-on-paper option that’s more disruptive while a later planner may choose the option that is more expensive-looking but reduces the costs to commuters. When we go back and try to study the cost of things like bridges, all we see are the on-paper costs and conclude that something called “cost growth” is happening.

    I looked back on the cost disease posts and didn’t see anything that spoke directly to this argument (though I may have just missed it). I’m not sure what portion the observed cost growth could be accounted for via a mechanism like this, but my prior is there are many additive causes, and this could be one.

    *In the particular case of commuting, I could see an exponential growth in terms of cost where, because the overall transport system has increasingly little slack, the hit from a bridge shut down is costly in a way that is disproportionate to the raw number of people who use the bridge: if Bridge A shuts down, then everyone goes to Bridge B or C, but then those are way over capacity, so everyone’s commute is doubled, not just those folks who’d have been crossing bridge A.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Its one answer, but that answer opens up a different question, why isn’t there a second bridge? Wouldn’t that cut down on commuting time and benefit the average commuter, and if so why aren’t their preferences being pushed in that direction?

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        NIMBYism? A new bridge means a lot more noisy stinky vehicles running by someone’s house, and with the middle class already struggling [citation needed], that is hard to stomach. Also, and relatedly, zoning ordinances.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I can’t speak for DC, but my old neighborhood had a brand new bridge built and the threat of eminent domain tanked house prices near the proposed area for years.

        Joseph Greenwood is right that it’s about home value, but in my experience it’s more about the fact that a new bridge or highway can mean that you lose your home or get shafted on selling it because other people don’t want to risk buying a home only to immediately lose it.

      • CatCube says:

        They usually try to twin bridges on major freeways these days to provide the flexibility we’re discussing, but traditionally bridges were the most expensive and difficult part of a road project and minimizing bridge construction was a substantial portion of the route selection.

    • CatCube says:

      I apparently ran myself out of NYtimes articles, but the one regarding subway construction costs posted in some of the cost disease posts here touched on this: in many places, when fixing the subway/light rail, the authorities just shut the line down for a couple months, whereas in New York they basically keep it open and do the work on nights and weekends but take a year of work overall. Aside from the extra money for wages on odd shifts like that, the hoops you jump through to make sure you’ve got the line reopened at the start of the next workday can be very costly, since it provides extreme constraints on how you do the work.

      One other example is the Olmsted Lock and Dam, which was authorized in 1988 for about $800 million dollars, and was finally completed this year at a cost of about $3 billion. There were a number of problems feeding into the cost and schedule overrun, but one worth discussing here was the decision to build the dam in the wet. Normally, you’d construct a facility like this in the dry, where you divert the river, build cofferdams, pump out the water over where you want to build the dam, then crews can just drive around on the riverbed to place concrete with dump trucks or conveyors. However, that would have severely disrupted river traffic.

      There are a couple of ways to sequence in-the-dry construction, but a common one is to cofferdam one-half of the river (1st Stage Cofferdam) and build half the dam, leaving low sections. During the 1st stage, the open half of the river functions as the diversion. After the first half is complete, you pull out the 1st stage cofferdam, and build the 2nd stage cofferdam around the other half of the river, and the low bays function as the river diversion. Once the 2nd stage construction is complete, you do a smaller 3rd stage cofferdam around the low bays and build them up to their final ogee height. You can have an interruption to river traffic of 18 months to 2 years with this during 2nd stage construction* (they can just go through the open half of the river during the first stage), which could smash the shipping businesses that are using the navigable channel. How many businesses can ride out two years with no revenue? It used to be that we handled this the same way we handled people who didn’t like where we located freeways: by telling them to suck a dick. To be fair, before the original navigation structures were built, the shipping business was a lot less lucrative so there was far less opportunity cost lost. However, this method of efficient construction is no longer available.

      There are a lot of things in civil works that are much more difficult when you’re working with existing infrastructure that people rely on and you can’t shut down. The major project I’m working on right now is much more difficult because we have to shape it around a bunch of stuff that already exists, and a sister project is *really* struggling because not only do they have to work around a bunch of already-existing stuff, they’re limited further by not being able to shut some things down during construction. The cost increases are mind-blowing, especially the difference between my and the other project due to the construction constraints.

      Like all discussion of cost disease, I don’t think that this explains it on its own. If there really was a “magic bullet” that was responsible, I think it would jump out from analyses. I think that the hoops we jump through to avoid shutting down what has become critical infrastructure is a component of it, along with safety, environmental reviews, and a bunch of other stuff. I do think that you’ve identified something that could be in the 10% range for responsibility, though.

      * I don’t know enough details about Olmsted to know exactly how long the interruption would have been. There are ways to minimize it, such as temporary locks, but generally you still have to shut down navigation for a period to build the temporary lock up to its final sill height.

      • metacelsus says:

        I apparently ran myself out of NYtimes articles

        Disable Javascript in your browser and reject their cookies, and you will be able to read as many as you want (however, some interactive features won’t work).

    • sharper13 says:

      Are they working on it 24×7 using multiple shifts? Or do they work from 6-3 M-F?

      When they can’t re-open the road project area for rush hour, that’s the method for minimizing road work inconvenience I wish they’d contract for more. It’s usually also cheaper, not just faster, because while you have about the same amount of total labor, you can spend less on capital equipment because the machines don’t care as much as people do about working longer hours.

      I know there are interactions with the total amount of work available for contractors, etc… but still…

    • JPNunez says:

      This could explain the Chinese being able to build for really cheap, but would not explain europeans being able to build cheaper than Americans, particularly as there is a non zero chance of finding some archeological site every time you build in Europe.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I just want to hop in on this thread to mea culpa, because on an earlier thread I complained that Chicago was denying Elon Musk his tunnel stuff, and Elon Musk’s tunnels turn out to leave a lot to be desired. CatCube pointed out the problems at the time.

    • Christophe Biocca says:

      For highway overpasses, there’s a general movement towards accelerated construction, where the work is done offsite as much as possible, then the entire replacement is done in one or two nights.

      Decent article on the topic, including estimates of how much it impacts costs (+20% or thereabouts), and pretty much your exact reasoning on why it’s worth it:

      “About 80,000 vehicles use that bridge on an average day,” he said. “If the speed limit had been dropped from 70 mph to 40, the original plan, and it had gone on for two years, how much time do those drivers lose? Maybe an hour apiece, every day for two years?…

  2. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    Has anybody ever tried to map out a unified conspiracy theory, and figure out how e.g. the Antichrist and reptillian humanoids would fit together? Both fictional and purportedly non-fictional works qualify for these purposes.

    A lot of conspiracy theories already draw on previous generations of conspiracy theories and urban legends, so there’s a ton of overlap to exploit. For example, I’ve heard premillennial dispensationalists say that UFO abductions and ‘coverups’ are being staged by satanic forces to lay the groundwork for the future world government to claim that the Rapture is an alien attack. I’m interested in how far you could push this sort of thing to create a single unified conspiracy theory.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while, ever since an RPG discussion we had a few OTs back, but I didn’t want to ask this on the visible thread because conspiracy theories are pretty controversial these days. I’d like to clarify that this isn’t meant seriously but rather a world-building exercise.

    • Skivverus says:

      Sort of? Not me, though.

    • Nornagest says:

      Fiction tries it, sometimes. Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! trilogy (1975, now generally sold as an omnibus) is a pretty good early example; 2000 shooter/RPG Deus Ex is a more recent one. (Just the first game, though; later ones are straight cyberpunk with some conspiracy sprinkles.)

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Yeah, Deus Ex was a good example of the sort of thing I’m looking for just with a much more restricted scope.

        I’ve heard a lot about the Illuminatus! trilogy but never actually read it. Something about Discordianism puts me off, it just sounds like aphasia half of the time. Maybe I should pick it up anyway.

        Off topic:

        I loved the original Deus Ex, and it’s kind of sad how few recent games can match the feeling of size and choice that game offered. I can play a sandbox game with photorealistic maps literally hundreds or thousands of times larger, fully open world, but still not get that feeling. Supposedly the prequels were good though, although I haven’t played them.

        • danridge says:

          I also loved the original, haven’t played the sequel, but I did play Human Revolution and would pretty unreservedly recommend it.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Good to know, I’ll check them out.

            I have played the sequel and it’s absolutely awful. Pretty much the only positive things to come out of it were memes about the Omar appreciating your business. It’s not worth playing.

    • cassander says:

      It’s called Deus Ex and it’s fantastic.

      • cassander says:

        I’ve seen it, I think he’s overly critical on the themes, judging the game too much by what came after and with a rose colored look at what the actual 90s were like. But he does nail what was fun about the gameplay. also, this.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      You should probably start by thinking what you want us to exclude. I could come up with one where the Antichrist who’s going to call the Rapture a UFO attack is Mabus from the Centuries of Nostradamus and among his enemies are the Learned Elders of Zion, but maybe Nostradamus is too discredited so many years after 1999 and you also want to exclude anti-Semitic conspiracy theories?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I like Nostradamus actually, he feels very retro since I feel like I haven’t heard anyone mention him since the early aughts.

        Probably smarter to exclude anti-semitic conspiracy theories if only just because this is Scott’s site and things can get linked out of context. They’re a big chunk of the conspiracy theory landscape, but there’s no way to include them without creating a ton of flame.

    • Randy M says:

      In the beginning there were the Lizardmen. One of the lizardmen approached the woman, tried to find out what the new race of men was like, and in return was smote by her God, striped of his limbs and turned into a serpent. The Lizardmen learned there that they would never treat with man peacefully, but nor could they ignore them. Instead they would adopt the mask and cloak, take to shadows and watch. Wait for the time they could strike back at the favored race of God, the visitor of the far-off star, and have vengeance for their maimed father.
      Fortunately patience was the chief virtue of the lizardmen. They infiltrated Babylon, setting up a cult to the dragon god, almost destroying the kingdom of Israel, but ultimately that empire fell when they were discovered, and the lizardmen dispersed. They likewise infiltrated Rome, this time setting up their gods in human visage, attempting to enslave the world of men again, and succeeding for some years, until Julius Ceasar discovered their catspaws in the Senate and made himself an Emperor. For years the Emperors warred covertly against the Lizardmen, ultimately turning to the Jewish God in order to root them out. Again the lizardmen were dispersed, but not before hiding their existence and worming their way into the tribes at the edge of the empire.
      A few men, though, were able to retain knowledge of this foe of humanity. They formed a secret society, which later became the Knights Templar, wrapping the truth of their ancient battle with fictions of humble pilgrims. The secret wars waged for years across Europe, until the European powers struck out at the Templars, unwittingly serving the Lizard agenda in their greed and power lust. The few surviving Templars realized they would have to hide themselves to continue their fight, taking the guise of humble masons, passing on the secret knowledge even as they sought out an uncorrupted land to found a pure nation in–America.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Then the Antichrist will be in league with the serpentmen, because Caesar turned the Republic into an Empire to defang their agents in the Senate, and as St. Paul said, you know who (the Emperor in Christian oral tradition) is restraining the coming of the Antichrist. When the last Caesar/Kaiser abdicated in 1918, the absence of the Restrainer led to the Second Antichrist taking over the German nation, Austria-Hungary et al… but this was not to be the time of the Rapture and seven-year Tribulation. We would have to wait for Mabus the Third Antichrist, a Muslim who wears a cerulean turban. When he is elected leader of a United Nations that achieves it’s goal of transitioning to One World Government, the Rapture will happen and he’ll blame a mass UFO attack. Anyone who misses the Rapture and becomes a practicing Christian instead of accepting his story will be rounded up by Men in Black, who have the Black Helicopter fleet.

    • Vermillion says:

      Surprised no one’s mentioned Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles yet. It’s weird as hell but that pretty much goes with the territory.

    • beleester says:

      How about a consensus reality system where conspiracy theories come into being from enough people believing in them? That way even the contradictory conspiracy theories can co-exist.

      Wait, now I’m just describing the Technocracy from Mage.

  3. Aapje says:

    Non-American Americans are seeing their bank accounts being frozen

    America has a history of being hostile to emigrants with its taxes. The first income tax was instituted (temporarily) during the Civil War. There was concern and/or outrage over people moving abroad to avoid paying this taxes and thus failing to contribute to the cost of the war. So not only did the first income tax apply to Americans living abroad, but they were taxed at a higher rate than those residing in the US & could not benefit from exemptions.

    When the tax was reintroduced in 1894 and 1912, emigrants were again taxed. The US is now one of only two countries who tax citizens living abroad, next to Eritrea.

    In 2010, FATCA became law, which requires foreign financial institutions and foreign governments to report possible foreign Americans to the IRS. This includes many people who have no idea that they are American and/or who have never lived in the US or only very briefly as a baby.

    European companies and governments have increasingly been implementing this law. The result is that banks have been freezing bank accounts and denying mortgages, unless the person can supply a Social Security number. However, the amnesty process to become compliant with the IRS often takes 6 months or more.

    The high costs of complying have resulted in refusal of service to people with US tax obligations, for example when making investments. Even my brother, who works in the US on a green card, was refused service by a Dutch bank a while ago.

    Trump has signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which taxes foreign earnings of foreign corporations owned by US shareholders. This seems to also impact Non-American Americans who have a company outside of the US.

    These Non-American Americans can’t simply give up their nationality, but first have to get their tax situation cleared up and then may have to pay an hostage exit fee.

    Some Dutch people have started an organization to help Americans overseas with their US tax burden.

    PS. Apparently FATCA and taxing emigrants in general, has very high bureaucratic costs for the IRS, the people being taxed and now foreign finance companies, while bringing in relative little in taxes. Because people cannot be taxed twice, lots of these people end up not having to pay anything, but figuring that out is quite costly. So this seems like a very suitable place to cut bureaucracy and to make America a more civilized place that doesn’t put huge burdens on people to whom it provides very few services. In a globalizing world, trying to exert this kind of control over people abroad is going to impact an increasing number of people and create an increasing amount of resentment.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Overseas Americans are an unsympathetic target — one side sees them as tax-evading fatcats, the other side as disloyal — so I doubt we’ll see anything other than increasing crackdowns here.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’m no great fan of Edward Snowden, but I’m pretty sure he’s not getting his bank account frozen in all of this.

      From the US government’s perspective, and to the extent they have the power to do so, it makes sense that they should not favor the existence of a class of people who can call on the privileges of United States citizenship but not share in the responsibilities. By which I mean “taxes”, and exploring new frontiers of transparency as the IRS makes sure you aren’t using using your offshore quasi-American status to evade one penny of those taxes. Because if there’s any chance that you’re going to someday call a US consulate and demanding that some combination of the State Department and the USMC spring you from a Kreplachistani prison, they do want you paid up in advance.

      From everyone else’s point of view, American citizenship is serious business – not quite at the level of Roman citizenship back in the day, but close. If you are plausibly a US citizen, you really need to A: own it and be unambiguously American, or B: jump through whatever hoops it takes to make it clear that you are not an American and won’t ever make that phone call from a Kreplachistani prison. Or C: live in a Real Country(tm) that’s willing to make its own big-boy financial and legal decisions rather than kowtow to Washington and New York because they’re America’s bitches. Even as an American citizen, I am somewhat disappointed that the EU hasn’t given its member states enough cover that they feel safe standing up to Uncle Sam on this one.

      • ana53294 says:

        I am somewhat disappointed that the EU hasn’t given its member states enough cover that they feel safe standing up to Uncle Sam on this one.

        I also feel greatly dissapointed that the EU hasn’t stood up to Uncle Sam. They should give cover to banks who give service to Americans, and fuck the IRS. And they should also cover companies that give services to Iran, out of the principle of the thing.

        Even if I was anti-Iran, which I’m not, I would support the EU trading with any country that the Americans imposed sanctions against, such as Cuba or North Korea.

        Sadly, our dependence of Americans prevents us from doing this.

        • bean says:

          Even if I was anti-Iran, which I’m not, I would support the EU trading with any country that the Americans imposed sanctions against, such as Cuba or North Korea.

          This seems to be anti-Americanism taken to the point of contrarianism. I can understand “We don’t want to be dragged along on whatever stupidity is coming out of Washington this month”, but North Korea is a pretty obvious case of someone who we should be encouraging to stop their current behavior.

          • ana53294 says:

            It’s not anti-Americanism. I just object to any country using their economic might to punish extraterritorial activities they don’t like.

            If China ever starts punishing those who do stuff they don’t like outside of China, I would say fuck China too. It’s just that at the moment the US is the only country that does so (presumably because they are the only ones who can).

            And now that North Korea has nuclear weapons, I don’t see sanctions achieving anything that would trump the principle of not having countries dictate what can happen outside their borders.

          • bean says:

            It’s not anti-Americanism. I just object to any country using their economic might to punish extraterritorial activities they don’t like.

            This seems like an incredibly dangerous principle to have, or at least dangerously naive. If we hadn’t used our economic might on the Soviets, they might well be menacing Europe today. There are lots of things that people do which neither you nor we like, and in many cases, we take care of it so you don’t have to.

            And now that North Korea has nuclear weapons, I don’t see sanctions achieving anything that would trump the principle of not having countries dictate what can happen outside their borders.

            Maybe the bit where they only have a few nuclear weapons instead of a lot of nuclear weapons?

          • ana53294 says:

            There is currently no trade with North Korea. Offering them to remove sanctions in exchange of them not producing more nuclear weapons should be an option the EU has, even if the US is against it.

            I am willing to not hold that principle if there is some significant achievement that could be achieved, but I don’t think there is.

            I also don’t think the Soviet Union fall had much to do with the Americans. I think it was mostly a matter of the USSR being a giant with clay feet, and it fell entirely due to internal matters.

          • bean says:

            There is currently no trade with North Korea. Offering them to remove sanctions in exchange of them not producing more nuclear weapons should be an option the EU has, even if the US is against it.

            But this is precisely what you objected to earlier. Yes, you’re framing it with the carrot instead of the stick, but in principle, you’re using your economic muscle to incentivize the activities you like, and make the ones you don’t more painful.

            I also don’t think the Soviet Union fall had much to do with the Americans. I think it was mostly a matter of the USSR being a giant with clay feet, and it fell entirely due to internal matters.

            The bit where they spent themselves into the ground trying to keep up with us? Yeah, I think it’s fair to claim credit for that.

          • baconbits9 says:

            but North Korea is a pretty obvious case of someone who we should be encouraging to stop their current behavior

            North Korea also got to this place with lots of countries not trading with them. It is odd to think that sanctions etc are a disincentive to their behavior.

          • ana53294 says:

            The bit where they spent themselves into the ground trying to keep up with us? Yeah, I think it’s fair to claim credit for that.

            That wasn’t the only reason, but anyway, it had nothing to do with American sanctions.

            But this is precisely what you objected to earlier.

            I don’t object to sanctions as such, but to Americans forcing us to have those sanctions.

            The EU should have its own policy, and they should be able to trade with North Korea even if the Americans are against it. I didn’t say this should be done for free; EU treaties demand quite a lot of things from countries they are signed with. I didn’t clearly state that the EU should trade with North Korea in exchange for some concessions, even if the US thinks they are not enough. My mistake.

          • John Schilling says:

            But this is precisely what you objected to earlier. Yes, you’re framing it with the carrot instead of the stick, but in principle, you’re using your economic muscle to incentivize the activities you like, and make the ones you don’t more painful.

            There is a difference between e.g. EU countries using their economic power to incentivize activities they like, and EU countries using their economic power to incentivize activities Washington likes because Washington says Do As We Say Or Else. Even if there is some overlap between what the EU likes and what Washington likes(*), it is not unreasonable for citizens of EU nations to A: not like this and B: place a higher priority on stopping this unlikable behavior from Washington over the less consequential (to the EU) unliked behavior of Pyongyang.

            Also, when it comes to “using economic might to punish extraterritorial activities they don’t like”, hypothetical European trade with North Korea is wholly extraterritorial to the United States but not to Europe, so there is a difference in principle between European nations deciding to do this and Washington demanding that they do so.

            In practice, it doesn’t matter. The EU has delegated to Team America the job of Policing the World while they stand off being smug about their moral superiority, so we’re the butch, they’re the bitch, North Korea is going to be policed the way Washington wants and I don’t see that changing any time soon. But there’s nothing hypocritical or unprincipled about Europeans like ana53294 wishing it were otherwise.

            * And they aren’t the same, at least in this case, because ana’s proposal for a strategic arms limitation treaty is not the same thing as Washington’s demand for unilateral disarmament. The EU using its economic might to secure an arms control agreement with the DPRK might actually amount to something, in the alternate reality where the EU were willing to stand up for it.

          • ana53294 says:

            @John Schilling

            Yes, that’s what I was trying to say.

            I don’t want the EU to be America’s bitch. Which we are.

          • Jaskologist says:

            There is a difference between e.g. EU countries using their economic power to incentivize activities they like, and EU countries using their economic power to incentivize activities Washington likes because Washington says Do As We Say Or Else.

            The symmetry is in the fact that both involve one party using its economic power to tell another party what to do. In the first instance the EU is doing it to some other country, in the second the US is doing it to the EU. If you don’t like nations pushing each other around with their big bucks, both are objectionable. If you find one of those cases fine, you probably just want to be the one holding the stick.

          • ana53294 says:

            I don’t object the EU telling their citizens and their companies not to trade with whomever the EU doesn’t want to, nor America doing the same.

            But the US doesn’t just do that. The US also bans their own banks from offering services in Europe to companies that trade with Iran. And because so much of the banking is attached to America, and there are insurers and re-insurers and whatnot, and some of them are American, this means that the US is indirectly denying EU companies who trade with Iran access to banks, and I strongly object to that. And if an European company, such as SWISH, offers services to Iran, they can’t offer their services in the US, so no banks will evade US sanctions. The US shouldn’t be able to punish European companies for trades that are based in Europe. In fact, they shouldn’t be able to punish Europe based subsidiaries* of American companies, either.

            As I said, I object to the extraterritoriality of the sanctions, not the sanctions themselves.

            *Subsidiaries being, presumably, separate companies.

          • acymetric says:

            But the US doesn’t just do that. The US also bans their own banks from offering services in Europe to companies that trade with Iran.

            I don’t disagree with your general premise at least in principle, but what other ways does the US have to prevent money being funneled through US banks to Iran through [any foreign body that trades with Iran] if the US doesn’t block the banks from doing business with them?

          • bean says:

            @baconbits

            North Korea also got to this place with lots of countries not trading with them. It is odd to think that sanctions etc are a disincentive to their behavior.

            Sanctions have multiple purposes. The fact that Kim has to get hard currency from the Chinese (I think) instead of being able to get it by using political prisoners to make T-shirts for Walmart constrains his options massively.

            @ana

            That wasn’t the only reason, but anyway, it had nothing to do with American sanctions.

            No, we were using other forms of economic warfare. And while it wasn’t the only reason, it was a major one.

            I don’t object to sanctions as such, but to Americans forcing us to have those sanctions.

            I don’t have a philosophical problem with that position. So long as it’s coupled to an actually independent foreign policy, and not an attempt to get the best of both worlds by departing from the US when it seems like fun, and then coming running for help next time Putin starts growling.

            I may have misread your initial comments on this, and if you’re in favor of a genuinely independent European foreign policy, backed by a strong European military, then I’ll agree with you. Our interests are in close enough alignment that I think that benefits everyone. But if you want to stop being our bitch, then you’ll need to be able to take care of yourselves.

            (I also don’t have a problem, philosophical or practical, with Washington using all the means to hand to do things like enforce sanctions on Iran. If we admit the legitimacy of doing that, it’s hard to see why doing it through Europe is illegitimate.)

          • ana53294 says:

            I also believe the EU should get a European Army, Germany should spend more on its army, and Trump is right when he criticizes Germany for buying gas from Russia.

            The EU should get a unified logistics train for the different armies, and countries like Spain shouldn’t spend billions in adapting perfectly functional German Leopard tanks to local conditions.

            And the EU should also build enough gas pipelines from Algiers and Azerbaijan to stop buying gas from Russia completely. What’s the point of all those sanctions if we keep buying their main export?

            The US can do whatever it wants; it’s a sovereign country, and they have the right to do whatever they can get away with. But the EU should not let the US get away with imposing sanctions to companies that do what we want them to do on our soil. It’s our soil, dammit.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ bean

            The fact that Kim has to get hard currency from the Chinese (I think) instead of being able to get it by using political prisoners to make T-shirts for Walmart constrains his options massively.

            People with fewer options are generally more dangerous that people with more options. Reducing his options to just a few is generally the worst strategy, worse than trade and probably worse than attempting to reduce his options to zero.

          • bean says:

            People with fewer options are generally more dangerous that people with more options. Reducing his options to just a few is generally the worst strategy, worse than trade and probably worse than attempting to reduce his options to zero.

            What? This makes no sense at all. He has options, like “give up your nuclear weapons, and get trade” or “have a few nuclear weapons, but no trade”. Saying that we should offer “nuclear weapons and trade”, particularly when that’s likely to mean more nuclear weapons, is just nonsensical.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            My personal stance on the Gas issue is that whenever Putin does something vexing, we should really just respond by building x number of EPRs, with x being proportional to just how annoyed we are.
            Because that permanently displaces gas imports, which should get Putin domestic pressure to stop being such a dick. In the event we want to send a positive message, close some coal plants.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I mean, it’s all well and good to argue for a EU that is strong and united, but that’s not the EU you actually have. The EU you actually have is pretty spineless and weak-willed when it comes to these kinds of issues, which means you occasionally get stuck with situations like the US sanctioning companies that trade with Iran, which requires you go through more hoops.

            Also, without the US, the Iran situation plays out much differently, probably with a nuclear-armed Iran with lots of ICBMs pointed at European capitals, and Europe doesn’t have a defense system even remotely capable of defending itself until 2040, which still doesn’t work because internal EU strife keeps them from putting missiles and radar stations where they need to be even though they have the tech for it.

          • Aapje says:

            The EU can’t be strong and united unless they become much more dictatorial, because the cultural values differ too much and there is very limited willingness to sacrifice for the other.

            The EU has had four multinational military “battle groups” since 2007, but those have never been deployed because countries couldn’t agree. If you turn that into a bigger EU army, it will almost never be deployed too, unless the Russkies send their tanks.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            And if you aren’t drilling them constantly, if they don’t have supplies, if they aren’t actually integrated, if there isn’t a clear, consistent command strcuture, they are going to get crushed by Russian tanks.

            Not to mention that if you want to be GLOBAL, you need to have global military bases and relationships with all sorts of different nations. Like, you better get buddy-buddy with Thailand and Malaysia, because that’s a globally important strait. You better have a permanent carrier presence in both the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the 90,000 ton kind, not these little helicopter launchers.

            You also need a lot more AWACS, transport aircraft, and refueling tankers.

            There’s basically no value to replicating this infrastructure in the EU, it all already exists through NATO.

          • ana53294 says:

            In the absence of the US, Iran will start by bombing the Saudis and Israel.

            Why would they bother with sending ICBMs to Europe? They have plenty of enemies in their backyard. Besides, they don’t seem to hate Europeans like they hate the USA.

            And I’m not sure I particularly care about the Saudis or Israel either way, and I don’t see why Europe should or would interfere in an Iran-Saudi war, if it ever happens.

            Why would the EU need to be a global military power? Being able to protect ourselves from Russia would be enough for me. It’s not like there are many countries that have a particular beef with the EU. Nobody is likely to attack us on our soil, other than Russia. And I don’t think going to war on foreign soil against a country that hasn’t directly attacked us is justified, anyway.

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            What does EPR stand for?

          • johan_larson says:

            EPR probably stands for Evolutionary Power Reactor.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPR_(nuclear_reactor)

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Even if I was anti-Iran, which I’m not, I would support the EU trading with any country that the Americans imposed sanctions against, such as Cuba or North Korea.

          ??????
          I can see Cuba (and I think the EU still does trade with Cuba) but why on earth North Korea? Keep in mind that sanctions on North Korea have also gone through the UN Security Council, so France and the UK already had the ability to veto if they so choose.

          How do you feel about nations like Japan imposing only limited sanctions on Russia despite their actions in Ukraine?

          • ana53294 says:

            What will sanctions against North Korea achieve now that they have nuclear weapons? If the EU wants to impose its own sanctions against North Korea, that’s fine.

            The sanctions on Russia didn’t work, so I would be completely OK with Japan not introducing sanctions against Russia. In fact, I think the sanctions were counter-productive, as it made ordinary Russians start thinking even more in us-vs-them mentality.

            Crimeaisours is a common meme in Russia for a reason, and the sanctions just made ordinary Russians feel like they were at war, which makes them more likely to vote for authoritarian leaders (Putin stood up to those European gay muslim lovers!).

      • pjs says:

        > I’m no great fan of Edward Snowden, but I’m pretty sure he’s not getting his bank account frozen in all of this.

        Why not? Maybe I’ve misunderstood the point of your comment 😕

        More and more “100%” respectable banks in non tax-haven, high rule of law, western countries are deciding that they can make enough money serving their own citizens, and the extra 0.01% customer base they get by taking America citizens as customers comes at such a cost and business-threating risk that there’s no point. They now almost all have laws (thanks to US pressure, and perhaps not unreasonably) requiring banks to ask if any new customer has US citizenship or residency, and the response to a positive answer is increasingly not to file the forms up-stream, but more and more “please go elsewhere”. (Rightly so: you are crazy to take U.S. legal obligations and penalties upon yourself if it’s a trivial increase to your customer base.)

        On the other side of things, US financial institutions will increasingly close all investment(*) accounts for ex-pats (I’ve not got a good answer why – “the Patriot Act” is sometimes cited). This has massively accelerated since about 2016 and I can’t see any causative agent for this change. But it’s definitely real. ((*) Checking or otherwise plain- bank accounts domiciled in the US seem considerably less affected – for the moment.)

        In short, it’s getting more challenging every year for a U.S. citizen “I absolutely want to pay every dime in taxes owed to the US” (and to the country of residence, and yes that often does lead to double taxation) to be effectively banked. Why wouldn’t that apply to Snowden?

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m no great fan of Edward Snowden, but I’m pretty sure he’s not getting his bank account frozen in all of this.

          Why not? Maybe I’ve misunderstood the point of your comment 😕

          More and more “100%” respectable banks in non tax-haven, high rule of law, western countries are deciding that they can make enough money serving their own citizens

          My point is, Edward Snowden doesn’t live in one of those countries and almost certainly doesn’t have his bank account in one of those countries.

  4. dick says:

    Facebook is going to ban white nationalist/separatist groups next week. Anybody’s guess how exactly that’ll be enforced or who will be affected.

    I think of myself as a free speech maximalist or close to it, and this does not bother me. Conversely, I am bothered by the same sorts of behavior by registrars and CDNs and hosting companies, because those are infrastructure, and FB isn’t; it’s akin to the difference between the world’s largest bulletin board and a manufacturer or bulletin boards.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The only part about this that bothers me is the double standard that they won’t ban any other racist/separatist groups, because the hegemonic ideology taught in universities says only the white version is evil, because reasons.

      • albatross11 says:

        I wonder how they deal with Antifa groups.

      • ManyCookies says:

        More less impactful than not evil by my understanding.

        • Clutzy says:

          But that logic train has obviously proven false on a per capita basis, and as a result of the White Nationalist movement gaining steam largely in reaction to the other movements.

    • albatross11 says:

      It’s Facebook’s platform, so they can ban who they will. And I understand the desire not to give a helping hand to people with really bad ideas.

      OTOH, I worry that Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al have a lot of power to decide what groups/ideas may and may not be spoken in public. That’s not a power I’m super comfortable having in any small group of hands. And I worry a bit about slippery slopes (this year it’s white supremacists, next year will it be gun enthusiasts or immigration restrictionists?) and movable goalposts (do we see the definition of “white supremacist” used expand until it covers anyone to the right of Trump?).

      In the runup to the Iraq war, a smallish set of major media outlets more-or-less closed ranks and decided that opposition to the war wasn’t going to get much of a hearing in public. That didn’t work out so well for the world or the US. The power to coordinate and exclude some ideas from widespread view seems like the sort of thing that is really easy to misuse.

      • johan_larson says:

        +1

      • I agree. The current emphasis on “free speech” is a mistake because it will push the left to ignore it as a value. The problem is that many are trying to both tar the unpopular white nationalists and conflate them with the rest of the right, while insisting that the latter have nothing to worry about. We already see Trump being called a Nazi even those he has a Jewish son-in-law and whose policies are probably more Israel-friendly than any other President.

    • vV_Vv says:

      First they came for Alex Jones, and I did not speak out because Alex Jones is a crazy conspiracy theorist and I am not.

      Then the came for the anti-vaxxers, and I did not speak out because they talk pseudo-scientific nonsense and I fucking love science, or something.

      Then they came for the white nationalists and white separatists, and I am starting to feel a little concerned, because even though I am neither, the ground is starting to feel slippery and sloped towards banning any sort of disagreement with the mainstream narratives.

      How long before the claim that open borders mass immigration from third world countries might not be a good idea is considered hate speech?

      Also:

      “But over the past three months our conversations with members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world have confirmed that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups. ”

      Rember when they said that the SJWs were just a bunch of kids on Tumblr and some crazy academics in X-studies departments with no impact on the real world?

      • dick says:

        It’s Facebook.

        • Cliff says:

          Yes, one of the biggest and most powerful companies in the entire world, devoted completely to communications between people

        • vV_Vv says:

          I expect that within a week Google, Twitter, and Paypal will follow suit, that was the case with Alex Jones.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I spoke out for Alex Jones. I guess I am a crazy conspiracy theorist, though.

      • Machine Interface says:

        I already found the original poem ridiculously sappy and insignificant. When I see people quoting/parodying it as a serious argument for the defense of their pet cause, this feeling augments exponentially.

        • Incurian says:

          Is that because you don’t find slippery slope arguments convincing in general, or you just really hate the sappiness?

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m not sure sappy is the right term to use, and insignificant? It might come off a bit too easy, but it’s what happened: a lot of people favoured suppressing the communists, and it didn’t stop there.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well, a lot of people agreed with suppressing the Communists, and that turned into a useful tool to bash a whole very wide range of people, some with some kind of ties to Communism, some with vague ideological associations in that direction, many with little connection with Communism. That gave us blacklists and loyalty oaths for some jobs and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

            The thing is, there really were Soviet spies and Communist sympathizers who were very susceptible to being turned by them, attempting to weaken the US government. That was a real danger. It’s just that a lot of the response that was justified by that danger turned out to be not all that effective at finding Soviet spies, but really effective and getting rid of troublesome rivals in local political battles.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I was referring to Nazi Germany – Niemoeller’s poem was riffed on.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Salami tactics is a pithier, less sappy way of capturing the same idea as the poem.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Does Niemoller getting killed make it seem less sappy?

          • dndnrsn says:

            You are thinking of someone else – Niemoeller lived for a few decades after the war. I would guess you have him mistaken with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thanks. I actually had them confused.

          • LHN says:

            Though Niemöller did spend seven years in concentration camps, so they did actually come for him.

            (If not to the same degree as the Nazis’ murder targets, or presumably he wouldn’t have survived seven years.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            There were a whole bunch of “special prisoners” who, in some cases, you would have expected to get executed early on (eg, Georg Elser, who tried to assassinate Hitler) but were only executed right at the very end of the war (Elser wasn’t until April ’45).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        My thinking is that the slippery slope is only an issue because of the double standard, which they get from those academics they’re wrongfully having conversations with.
        Of course they’re going to come for Trump supporters next, but if this evil ideology wasn’t hegemonic in the universities, that wouldn’t be the inevitable outcome of this.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          It’s worth remembering that one man’s slippery slope is another man’s modus ponens.

      • Plumber says:

        @vV_Vv

        “….Rember when they said that the SJWs were just a bunch of kids on Tumblr and some crazy academics in X-studies departments with no impact on the real world?”

        Remember? I still say that!

        But I’ve never logged onto Facebook, so I would.

        If SSC, Baen Books, Tor Publishing, SMBC, XKCD, DM of the Ring, or The Order of the Stick gets banned I’ll be sad, but from what I’ve read about them banning all and everything on Facebook and Twitter sounds like a good start!

        Please also ban Airbnb, and especially Uber and Lyft as well, and a giant tax on Amazon sales so that my local “brick and mortar” shops exist and keep things in-stock again would be nice.

        Actually come to think of it, as much as I enjoy some of it, just go ahead and repeal the 21st century, stop things sometime around 1995 to 1999 (though good cases could be made for even earlier), I like “Obamacare” but on balance I say too much is worse for the last 20 years (maybe longer!) to be worth it.

        Too much change for the little progress we’ve had (defining “progress” as ‘changes that are better’)!

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Actually come to think of it, as much as I enjoy some of it, just go ahead and repeal the 21st century, stop things sometime around 1995 to 1999

          You’ve got my vote.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I am a white nationalist, as I’ve mentioned, in the sense that I think the United States should remain a majority white country in which whites have cultural advantages in that the legal system is based on our culture and moral systems..

      I’m not a white supremacist except in the historical sense (whites have been pretty supreme in the annals of history). I certainly don’t consider white lives more morally valuable than any other, and I have black and mixed-race family who I treat no differently than my white family.

      Am I past the line of what they want? Almost certainly.

      But there are people who hate whites far more than I hate Asians/blacks/etc. (I don’t hate them at all, I just don’t want them to make whites a minority in our own country) who are being allowed to stay, while people like me are banned, despite not preaching any hate or violence towards anyone.

      • dick says:

        I disagree with you but I’m glad to see you’re able to talk about your beliefs on the internet. Is there any particular reason you feel you ought to be able to argue for your worldview on Facebook? Keeping in mind that it’s a terrible place to discuss politics to begin with?

        • EchoChaos says:

          Is there any particular reason you feel you ought to be able to argue for your worldview on Facebook?

          I don’t use Facebook, so I genuinely don’t care about the specifics here. I care about the precedent of “this legal speech is bad and banned, this far worse (sometimes actively illegal) speech is good and acceptable”.

          • dick says:

            It sounds like your beef is with society not liking your beliefs, not Facebook. If your message is so unpopular that people are bending to rules to avoid you, the solution isn’t to pin them to the ground and force them to listen.

            Come to think of it, if you genuinely believe white nationalism is a good and noble cause, it seems like FB kicking out the worst and most unpopular proponents of it would be a good thing, in the same sense that less publicity for Westoboro Baptist is good for religious people generally.

          • EchoChaos says:

            It sounds like your beef is with society not liking your beliefs, not Facebook.

            That’s a bit of a leap of logic. My problem is with a major tech company saying “this ideology is so vile even peaceful adherents should be banned”. I also believe society is more in favor of it than you think. If you polled the question “Should the policy of the US government be to make whites a minority?” my position would win easily.

            Note that Facebook’s concern is not that nobody will listen to me, but that lots of people WILL.

            Come to think of it, if you genuinely believe white nationalism is a good and noble cause, it seems like FB kicking out the worst and most unpopular proponents of it would be a good thing, in the same sense that less publicity for Westoboro Baptist is good for religious people generally.

            Sure. Let’s also ban all socialist speech. That would be great for socialists, right?

            Nobody believes that. Extremists suck, on all sides, but everyone knows they’re the camel’s nose for banning effective speech.

          • dick says:

            My problem is with a major tech company saying “this ideology is so vile even peaceful adherents should be banned”.

            You’re not being banned. You’re losing the ability to push a particular meme on a particular website. If your position were strong you wouldn’t need to resort to that sort of exaggeration.

            I also believe society is more in favor of it than you think. If you polled the question “Should the policy of the US government be to make whites a minority?” my position would win easily.

            I think that’s about as egregious a motte-and-bailey as I’ve ever seen. If that’s the most offensive position held by any of the people who get kicked off of FB, I’ll offer you a heartfelt apology. I think we both know it won’t be, and again, if your position were stronger you wouldn’t need to bowdlerize it.

          • mdet says:

            I think that the majority of Americans would oppose both “Should the policy of the US government (explicitly) make whites a minority?” and “Should the policy of the US government (explicitly) make whites a majority?”, but I could be wrong (I hope not).

          • EchoChaos says:

            @mdet

            Our immigration quotas will explicitly decide that question. Currently their policy is “explicitly make whites a minority”. Regular articles are written about what this country will be like when that happens, so it isn’t exactly a surprising effect. Immigration is a government policy, therefore the current government policy is “explicitly make whites a minority”.

            Do you oppose it?

            @dick

            That certainly depends on who they ban. For example, the United Daughters of the Confederacy is identified as a white supremacist group by the SPLC. I would find their banning very objectionable.

          • mdet says:

            I don’t think US immigration policy should differentiate prospective immigrants based on ethnicity, except maybe for refugees — make it an explicit goal to take in Jewish and Romani refugees during the Holocaust, for example. Differentiating by nationality can be useful for security checks (Chinese spies, Taliban from Afghanistan, etc.), but assuming they pass the security checks I wouldn’t differentiate Afghani from British. So yes, I oppose the immigration diversity lottery, but I don’t have a problem if our immigration policy incidentally lets in more Indians than Norwegians.

          • dick says:

            Our immigration quotas will explicitly decide that question. Currently their policy is “explicitly make whites a minority”.

            Explicit means “stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.” Making whites a minority is not even an implicit (implied but not stated outright) policy of the US, it is a (possible) effect of US policy.

            By way of illustration, I recently repaired the roof of my garage. “Keep my tools dry when it rains” was my explicit policy – that was the stated goal. “Buy shingles and nail them to plywood” was an implicit policy – it’s not something I wanted to do in itself, but you can infer that I was going to do it from my explicit goal. “Take several trips to the dump” was one of the effects of my policies.

            Anyone asking why I enjoy nailing shingles has misunderstood my intentions; to then ask why I love the dump so much that I would make it an explicit policy goal to visit regularly is well off the mark.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dick

            “stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt”

            https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2018/01/flashback-joe-biden-want-unrelenting-immigration-non-stop-whites-will-absolute-minority-america-thats-source-strength-video/

            I mean, the Vice President of the United States stating it is good enough for me, but hey, I’m just a guy.

            But my point isn’t really to argue my positions here. It is to make the point that there are a variety of white nationalist positions that are neither hateful nor evil, unless all positions that preserve white majority nations are hateful and evil to you.

            And Facebook taking a side against those political views is pretty serious, when they are such an important news outlet that foreigners buying $100,000 in ads on it is a national emergency that Congress needs to investigate.

          • dick says:

            Oh, so it’s one of those official US policies that get announced in one sentence buried in the middle of an unscripted diatribe in a roundtable discussion on an unrelated topic and then never mentioned again. Considering that (I assume) you’re against America getting less white regardless of the reasoning behind it, in the future you might ditch this rather embarassing part and stick to the parts you can support.

    • Basil Elton says:

      I, for one, entirely fail to see a deep ontological or whatever difference between the world’s largest bulletin board owner and manufacturer. The question is, how big fraction of the world’s bulletin board capacity do they control – can you just give them one-finger salute and go post on some other board with comparable audience. In the case of Facebook alone it’s pretty hard to say the least. In the case of all social media giants – well, good luck with that.

      • dick says:

        Posting something on your blog makes it available to any internet user; posting something on FB makes it available to maybe half of them.

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s a lot of daylight between “available” and “actually going to visit”. I’ve met people who don’t understand that Facebook is part of the Internet. And I’ve met a lot more people who’re active on Facebook but don’t have a blog habit and are never going to pick one up.

          It’s hard to judge relative audiences for any particular post when Facebook’s involved, because it’s so internally siloed, but in terms of raw numbers I feel confident saying that Facebook’s serving a way bigger slice of the population than all traditional blogging services combined.

          • dick says:

            There’s a lot of daylight between “available” and “actually going to visit”.

            Yeah, that’s the point: if you’re able to speak but no one is interested in listening, that’s a very different problem from having your speech curtailed.

          • Nornagest says:

            At some point, making it inconvenient for people to hear you is tantamount to curtailing your speech. Would you be happy if a town issued protest permits on demand, but they were only valid for five miles away in the middle of a swamp?

            There aren’t any bright lines here, but a service the size of Facebook has a lot more leverage than a random personal blog, and ISTM that our ethics, if not our laws, should take this into account. Compare the proprietor of a bookstore kicking political canvassers off his property, to a major university doing the same.

          • dick says:

            Inconvenient! You can make your manifesto available to almost everyone on Earth, instantly, for pocket change. That’s not enough? You also demand the right to foist it off on a bunch of people trying to see pictures of cousin’s kids’ soccer games?

            It seems like the crux of the matter is that very, very few people actually want to hear what white nationalists want to say. The situation is akin to a preacher who, noticing that no one attends church anymore, goes to a football game and tries to preach the gospel between plays.

          • albatross11 says:

            dick:

            On Facebook, you don’t *have* to friend any white nationalist groups. Indeed, most people don’t. So my guess is that white nationalist groups are not being seen all that often by people who don’t want to see them. The same is true on Twitter, right? You can just not read white nationalists, SJWs, or any other group.

            It seems like the point of banning a group from FB/Twitter is not to avoid having other people be subjected to their speech unintentionally (that would be a good reason to ban them from advertising), but rather to avoid helping a bunch of people with evil ideas to communicate. I assume this was fallout from the Christchurch mosque mass-shooter.

            By contrast, on a given forum, banning some viewpoints or speakers is often a way to help the people on the forum avoid seeing something they don’t want to see, whether that’s spam, porn, or people with bad politics.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It seems like the crux of the matter is that very, very few people actually want to hear what white nationalists want to say.

            Have you been reading much news recently? The narrative ever since Trump’s election has been that white nationalism is on the up and America/the world in general is getting ever closer to becoming a white supremacist apartheid state. IOW, it’s not a case of “Oh, nobody cares what white nationalists think, let’s stop them posting so they don’t clutter up people’s newsfeeds” but of “Yikes, these white nationalists are worryingly popular, we’d better stop them posting before they seduce even more people to their evil ways.”

          • Randy M says:

            So my guess is that white nationalist groups are not being seen all that often by people who don’t want to see them.

            I don’t think white nationalists are seen all that often on Facebook at all, except maybe under very liberal uses of the term.

            But in terms of seeing content you don’t want to, you might at times see items liked or shared by friends of friends.

            Lately it seems like Facebook as an algorithm to show you less of the sort that you don’t interact with. I’m not sure if angry reactions and comments will therefore encourage it to show you what offends you or if it is smarter than that, but if your social circle is wider or your comfort level narrow you will probably see the occasional post you don’t like.

            But if you say Facebook is doing this in order to be seen to fight back against the forces bringing you mosque shootings, you’re probably right.

          • dick says:

            albatross11:

            It seems like the point [is] to avoid helping a bunch of people with evil ideas to communicate.

            That could well be right; I was thinking of the “250-reply-long argument thread that you only saw because one of your friends’ friends is participating in it” thing, which is the only time I ever saw politics when I was on FB. In any event, I think the main driving cause of Twitter/FB/etc banning anything is because they get complaints about it, and when they get a lot of complaints that seems like evidence that people are seeing it who don’t want to.

            The original Mr. X:

            I’m not arguing that the stuff Twitter/FB/etc ban is unpopular, I’m assuming it from them banning it; it is unpopular in the sense that FB feels like their service is better without it than with it. If there’s some other website/publisher/etc that does want it, well, that’s probably where they ought to go.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not arguing that the stuff Twitter/FB/etc ban is unpopular, I’m assuming it from them banning it; it is unpopular in the sense that FB feels like their service is better without it than with it.

            That only proves that it’s unpopular with the executive board of Facebook, not that it’s unpopular in general. Indeed, the fact that the executive board of Facebook apparently thinks it important enough to specifically ban would rather tend to suggest that it’s *not* unpopular in general (or at least that the executives don’t perceive it as being unpopular in general).

          • acymetric says:

            Maybe this is just markets at work! Facebook feels they will make more money by banning white nationalists than they would by hosting them. This is why left wingers love free markets, they always solve problems efficiently and without bias.

          • Nornagest says:

            You also demand the right to foist it off on a bunch of people trying to see pictures of cousin’s kids’ soccer games?

            First of all, I’m not demanding to foist anything off on anyone — I’m not any kind of white nationalist.

            Second, as concerns anything that could fairly be described as “foisting”, I’m fine with Facebook rejecting it. Ads for Stormfront or wherever those guys hang out these days? Sure, drop those if you want to. Exclude WN groups from whatever algorithm recommends groups to people? Maybe very slightly sketchy, but it’s not something I’d get worked up over. But WNs personally sharing legal, worksafe, but politically embarrassing content with randos they knew from high school, who’re perfectly free to unfriend them? That’s not something I’m comfortable banning. Facebook’s whole selling point is that you get to define your own social graph, and it makes me very very nervous when it unilaterally decides that yours can’t contain political viewpoints that Facebook’s ethics commissars consider unacceptable.

            And I know perfectly well that this has a cached answer saying “well, they should go somewhere else then”, but — all the snarky remarks I could make about this aside, and believe me, there’s a lot — it’s not practical to find or found another Facebook, and there are a lot of people that use it as their main communication platform. That gives it a degree of political power that more than justifies a commensurate amount of political restraint.

    • Cliff says:

      This. It’s scary how many people immediately hide behind the “1st Amendment doesn’t apply!” argument which is specious. The issue is the principle of free speech writ large, not what is legally permitted. If you believe in free speech, that is open debate and the airing of ideas, then you should oppose efforts by anyone to restrict speech in most circumstances.

      • albatross11 says:

        And yet, we probably all agree that individual site owners have the right to decide what will and won’t be said on their site. Everyone is allowed to remove spam posts, for example, even though I’m sure the spammers would argue that this is suppressing their free speech. Any unmoderated internet forum eventually becomes horrible, because it doesn’t take more than a couple obsessive crazies to make real discussions very difficult, and there are a lot of obsessive crazies in the world.

        Further, bad faith changes everything–a discussion on hard topics is maybe possible, even with deep disagreements, if everyone seems to be arguing in good faith. But a little trolling to stir up shit, a little impersonation of the other side to make them look bad, etc., and the good faith needed for the discussion can fall apart quickly. Making a norm that not arguing in good faith or obsessive crazyposting gets you banned from the forum seems necessary in order to have any meaningful discussions.

        Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al are in a kind of special situation because they’re so big that together, they determine a lot of what discussions can happen in public. Also, when they’re (for example) openly facilitating some kinds of political organization, but forbidding others, based on whether they like the politics of the different groups, that seems like something that could go really badly in a lot of ways.

        • vV_Vv says:

          And yet, we probably all agree that individual site owners have the right to decide what will and won’t be said on their site.

          I don’t.

          Does telephone companies have the right to decide what will and won’t be said on their lines? Do electric power companies have the right to decide what will and won’t be said on with devices powered by their energy?

        • dick says:

          Does a forum about fly fishing have the right to remove posts that aren’t about fly fishing? If so, explain to me how that’s different from what FB is doing?

        • vV_Vv says:

          Does the Vatican City State have the right to be a Christian theocracy? If so, explain to me how that’s different from the US becoming a Christian theocracy?

        • cassander says:

          @vV_Vv

          Well, for one, every single person living in vatican city wants it to be a christian theocracy.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Because those who don’t like the idea aren’t allowed to live there.

      • brad says:

        It isn’t specious. The first amendment is well defined, “free speech writ large” is incoherent.* It makes sense to use a phrase like “free speech” for something that has actual content rather than for something that doesn’t.

        * See https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/01/is-it-possible-to-have-coherent-principles-around-free-speech-norms/

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Atlas +1

        • brad says:

          I would respectfully disagree.

          If you’d like to great, but as far as I can tell you haven’t actually disagreed. No where in your post do you claim that “the broader philosophical concept of freedom of speech” is coherent, much less try to explain what it would look like.

          If some views are so heinous that people shouldn’t be allowed to express them, why do you care whether the government or a private entity is tasked with preventing them from doing so?

          You’re equivocating on the meaning of “allowed”. Only the government can decide something isn’t allowed. What the rest of us can do is decide how we wish to dispose of our private property, who we wish to associate with, and counter speech with speech. Including Facebook and the like.

          This “broader philosophical concept of freedom of speech” seems to be little more than the doctrine of the preferred edgiest speaker. It seems to have no ethical teachings for the guy that says “put the Jews in ovens” but heaps high more opprobrium on the guy that says “fire that first guy from his job”.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Only the government can decide something isn’t allowed.

          Brad, your mom would like a word with you.

        • brad says:

          @Paul Zrimsek
          Don’t you have anything better to do than shitpost?

        • and counter speech with speech. Including Facebook and the like.

          There is a difference between countering speech with speech and trying to prevent speech you disagree with from being heard. People who object to things Facebook (or others) are doing as violating free speech broadly defined are generally objecting to the latter, not the former.

        • brad says:

          The decision to republish or not, is as fundamental a part of freedom of speech as anything else. Not to mention in the case of digital platforms, the right to private property, which I had understood you to be strongly in favor.

          Further, it seems extremely odd to condemn speech that calls for say firing someone for having called for Jews to be killed but not condemn the latter. Both of those are speech.

        • Not to mention in the case of digital platforms, the right to private property, which I had understood you to be strongly in favor.

          I’m in favor of the right to private property, including the right of FB to refuse to let me post things they disagree with. But I can, and do, condemn some choices that people or organizations are entitled to make.

          Someone can oppose ideas he disagrees with either by offering arguments against them or by trying to keep the arguments for them from being heard. They are different tactics and have different implications as to how I should view the person or organization in question.

        • albatross11 says:

          Provo, Utah and Frederick, Maryland both have exactly the same protections for freedom of religion under the law. And yet, non-Mormons in Provo commonly are going to feel a lot less actual freedom to dissent from the majority religion than people in Fredrick. If you talk to non-Mormons who live in Utah[1], you will hear a lot of examples of how that works.

          Both towns have many good things going for them, and both are fully covered under the first amendment. And yet, the actual experience of people living in those places w.r.t how free they feel to express their religious beliefs or lack thereof is quite different. Is that difference incoherent? Or might there be some notion of a culture of tolerating religious differences that one could talk about, and that maybe differs between the two towns?

          [1] I have family in Utah.

          [ETA: I changed one “Rockville” to a “Frederick”, to avoid encouraging a culture of getting stuck on I-270 for an hour….]

        • The Nybbler says:

          Frederick, Maryland […] Rockville.

          I-270 has gotten a WHOLE lot faster since I was commuting on it. Frederick to Rockville used to take the length of an entire thread, minimum.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I’m calling two years tops before IDW becomes a software over TOR. I’d already be a (paying) user if it happened now.

    • Auric Ulvin says:

      I never understood how this was a logical move. The IDW, alt-right, whatever-the-new-term-is already hates Facebook and Twitter and claims that they’re instruments of the Cathedral/Globalist elites.

      So not only do they get to play the ‘suppressed minority’ card, the entry-level isolationist-nationalist will move on to Gab, voat, 4chan and 8chan (assuming it’s still up) and be further radicalized. Obviously, there are parallels with Islamism here and there may be a suppression of newcomers. A counter-example might be the piss-weak suppression of Hitler and the Nazi party after their coup attempt.

      Still, banned ideologies usually become more popular. I would’ve imagined that an anti-fascist would want people to be white-supremacist/nationalist on a named forum, where they can potentially be tarred and feathered IRL. Possibly some kind of targeted advertising would’ve been more effective, given that Facebook ads supposedly have the power to sway elections. The ethics are, of course questionable.

      I don’t think that broadly-similar holocaust-denial laws have helped reduce holocaust denial in France, anti-semites merely move underground. How are the Facebook bans different?

      • The original Mr. X says:

        A counter-example might be the piss-weak suppression of Hitler and the Nazi party after their coup attempt.

        IDK; legally speaking the suppression might have been weak, but you did get gangs of communist thugs beating up Nazi thugs, and vice versa. The end result was that people thought “Well, looks like we’re going to get ruled by either communist thugs or Nazi thugs, and the Nazis are less likely to try and liquidate me, so I guess I’ll vote Nazi.” This is one of the reasons why I think modern Antifa’s punch-a-Nazi ideology is likely to prove counterproductive.

      • albatross11 says:

        The IDW and the alt-right are quite distinct groups. The IDW is largely made up of liberals who are upset with the extreme end of identity politics and related activism on the left. Quite a few were Sanders supporters in the 2016 election, and of the prominent IDW people I can think of, almost none are pro-Trump.

        A bunch of prominent IDW people are on Twitter *all the time*. Claire Lehman, Eric Weinstein, Bret Weinstein, Sam Harris, Gad Saad, Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Stephen Molynioux–they all have Twitter handles and are quite active. Many/most of them also extensively use YouTube to put out lectures, and often earn considerable money from these. (Thus, they’re extra concerned with being demonitized–when YouTube pulls ads from a video so you don’t get paid for it.)

        The defining feature of the IDW is, as best I can tell, the fact that:

        a. They’ve used new internet tools (Twitter, YouTube, podcasts) to do an end-run around traditional media, and they’ve gotten a substantial following by doing so. Many of them have also managed to pull in large crowds with live events that are just 2-hour intellectual conversations between people–say, Bret Weinstein and Richard Dawkins discussing the details and implications of evolutionary theory for a couple hours[1].

        b. They mostly seem to be trying to engage with real ideas in good faith. One thing this has demonstrated is that there’s a large audience out there who actually wants to see real discussions about serious issues in good faith, rather than Crossfire-style own-the-libs/checkmate, fundies type debate, or talking-heads show style interviews where the person gets like five minutes to say anything.

        There’s a sort of hysterical reaction among some people about the IDW–I think mostly that’s a reaction to the realization by a lot of people who used to be gatekeepers for what could be discussed in public that they can’t decide those things anymore, and by people who were used to applying political/social/financial pressure to shut down some discussions finding that this is a lot harder to do now. Some subset of those folks like to claim that, say, Sam Harris or Jordan Peterson is a Nazi or a white supremacist or some such thing, purely as a tactic to try to shut them up.

        There are also plenty of people who just disagree with ideas common among the IDW, and make critiques in traditional venues. That seems entirely healthy and reasonable to me.

        [1] I’ll admit, that sounds quite appealing to me, so I’m probably the target market.

        • Randy M says:

          You’re right about the distinction, but I don’t think big tech is going to make it when they don’t want to.

    • John Schilling says:

      I think of myself as a free speech maximalist or close to it, and this does not bother me.

      What do you call those of us that it does bother?

    • Walter says:

      Eh, I mean, they already banned hate speech/threatening speech forever ago, right? I expect this will work just about that well.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Until a couple of weeks ago I would have guessed that anyone who disagrees with Morris Dees about politics would be affected unless they managed to escape notice. Now, who knows?

      While I believe Facebook has both a legal and a moral right to do this, I also believe it’s a dangerous move for them. The more they identify with the role of a publisher exercising editorial discretion, as opposed to a non-selective transmission line, the more pressure is going to be placed on them to use it.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        “We never police ideas, only specific violations of rules involving [porn,spam,threats,calls for violence, etc]” leaves you in a much better position to resist pressure to suppress some viewpoint than “We police only really bad ideas like white-supremacism.” You’ve already got the category and mechanism for suppressing some bad ideas, so why not add this other bad idea we want banned, too?

    • BBA says:

      I used to be a free speech maximalist, then I took an arrow in the knee got a Twitter account.

      I now see heavy-handed censorship as absolutely necessary to prevent every website from turning into an 8chan-style hellscape. This move by Facebook is well overdue.

  5. johan_larson says:

    Learned elders, the Great Work is going well. Nearly every week our data archaeologists uncover more information from before the Cataclysm. Our semantic mapping efforts then use this information to build increasingly sophisticated models of the lost society of the Ancients, so we may recover the heights of civilization They once enjoyed.

    Unfortunately we sometimes encounter material we are not fully equipped to evaluate. This is why we have convened you, the Advisory Council on Morals, Governance, and the Law to advise us. The material at hand is a short passage, perhaps from a treatise of theology or an instructional manual on practical morality. What is its significance, and what can it tell us about right living?

    Every sperm is sacred
    Every sperm is great
    If a sperm is wasted,
    God gets quite irate

    • Statismagician says:

      Something to do with the Ancients’ well-documented love of whales, possibly?

    • mdet says:

      Our lives are just like the sperm: we are tiny and insignificant, flailing aimlessly in the dark, but we stick close together in the hope that one out of the millions of us may accomplish something truly meaningful.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I vaguely remember a passage I read a long time ago that mentioned something like this. I think it was an instruction manual on reproduction, or maybe meal manners. Definite religious overtones – everything was very ritualized and there were frequent incantations. The Ancients had very complex social lives.

    • Jaskologist says:

      So this first thing you need to keep in mind is that this is almost certainly disparate documents stitched together. The Every Sperm source likes to start all his sentences with that phrase, no doubt as part of a chant. You can also see this in the popular “tweet” form of literature that was in use at the time, where the author would simply repeat the same sentence multiple times. Repetition was seen as establishing the truth of the statement.

      The Deus Vult source (who we have seen in other period documents) is mostly concerned with God’s will. Doubtless this came from a much longer ES document enumerating the qualities of sperm, and was later redacted by the DV camp to bring it into line with their concerns.

      You can even see the seams in this short passage; we know from the grammatical texts that ‘eat’ gives a long ‘e’ sound, while ‘ate’ gives a long ‘a’; poets of the time much preferred full rhymes, but were willing to settle for a partial rhyme if that’s what it took to harmonize disparate theological schools.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Obviously “sperm” is being used as a metonym for the products of conception, i.e., a human being. Hence the passage is discoursing on human dignity and our obligation not to waste our lives.

  6. Well... says:

    Did anyone else see the movie “The Signal”? What were your thoughts?

    I thought it was really well made and started out very strong, but took too many turns, missed some great opportunities, and instead ended up jumping the shark more than once, leaving me frustrated and disappointed. The ending was downright silly.

    Definitely supports my theory that bad movies tend to fail because they can’t decide what kind of movie they want to be.

  7. Erusian says:

    So, I watched The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for reasons I don’t want to get into. What struck me about it was how it presumed a strong degree of doublethink in its viewers. The premise is basically that there are witches (which may be quasi-genetic or may not) who worship Satan in a Church of Night. They are no holds barred evil Satanists: they kidnap people, murder them, torture them, have real magical powers and use them to do terrible things by our morality. They consider good things like giving a lawyer supernatural powers so he can get pedophiles, rapists, and murders off. They can commit further crimes in Satan’s name then.

    We also have our protagonist, Sabrina. Sabrina, in empowered woman fashion, is an intersectional feminist and even founds an organization called WICCA (the Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association).

    The thing is, in this universe, every conservative slander is correct. The head of the intersectional feminist club is a demon who repeatedly corrupts and murders people. Notably, she has conflicts with the principal, who is suspicious of her. We are supposed to consider him wrong because he’s a conservative white male who doesn’t do what the club wants. We are supposed to consider his dislike of the progressive club small-minded prejudice. And then the advisor of the club kidnaps, murders, and eats him. Because again, in this universe, everything a crazy conservative has said is true. At one point a group of students murder a man and four innocent unrelated men because he went hunting. They then destroyed his immortal soul so he couldn’t even go to heaven or hell.

    Yet the show is shot and written as if our sympathy is supposed to be entirely with at least the main characters who oppose these conservative fuddy-duddies. Who, mind you, the show (intentionally or otherwise) makes completely right.

    And this a perfect example of Doublethink. In order to enjoy the show, you must simultaneously hold two directly contradictory ideas in mind. A person must simultaneously hold the premise of the show, (for example) that Native Americans were actually secretly murderous demon worshippers with immense power, and that they were victims of an unjust genocide/discriminatory power structure as they were in the real world. The former is necessary for the literal show to make sense. The latter is necessary for the moral lessons and perspective the show takes to make sense. So both ideas must be held simultaneously to produce the correct effect of the show.

    I don’t have any particular conclusion. It just bothered me that a reasonably successful show thought it could have a significant audience while taking advantage of progressive doublethink. And for those who accuse me of partisanship, I had a similar feeling about the Left Behind series a while back.

    • Clutzy says:

      My girlfriend, who watched the show (I kinda saw parts of some episodes) largely agrees, and she’s a feminist. However, her conclusion is that it largely stems from a writing failure in combining a typical teen drama with feminist overtones with the devil plot.

      • Erusian says:

        I thought about that. I decided I was being too charitable to what was a corporate product that undoubtedly went through workshopping and focus groups. That said, I wouldn’t draw any sort of society-wide, feminists are all indoctrinated lesson. I suspect if I pressed feminists who liked the show, half would fall into two camps: a, it’s stupid but I love it anyway or b, I didn’t really think about it and you’re right. Most of the rest would defend it on basically defensive, reactive grounds and only a few would make some kind of crazy, ‘But they’re white men!’ case. Maybe 10%.

        But I have this inkling the remaining 10% are overrepresented in the TV industry. I’m more disturbed by the fact they thought it would work than that it did. Because the show is not that popular and I suspect my criticisms would be reasonably well received by all but the most extremist social justice types.

        But. It speaks very poorly of the culture of the writer’s room if no one pointed out that the conservative white men in this universe are completely right. That they are the only ones (aside from Sabrina herself) who tries to combat what are evil, horrific acts. That they felt comfortable using ‘evil conservative white men’ as a trope so strongly they entirely missed the fact their universe proves them entirely right.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This is a very common problem with fantastical allegories for discrimination. The X-Men movies and True Blood both have the same problem.

      If we lived in a world with mutants, mutant registration and research into power-suppressing drugs would be the absolute minimum sane course of action. Professor X, with a device the size of a college auditorium, is capable of wiping out the entire human race single-handedly and he’s not even the strongest mutant we see!

      Similarly, in a world of vampires every single vampire sired before the development of artificial blood is provably a murderer (and quite likely a mass murderer at that). Even those who have fed solely on artificial blood still have intense murderous urges and superhuman powers to carry them out. Wanting to stake them isn’t a case of religious zealotry, it’s common sense. When murderers “come out of the coffin,” sane people don’t celebrate their identities as murderers.

      • Lillian says:

        Vampires in True Blood can feed without killing their victims or even rendering them anemic, and since being fed on is an orgasmically blissful experience, their volunteer pool isn’t limited to particularly selfless individuals. Indeed “fang bangers” are a thing in the show, people who like being fed upon so much they volunteer to do so even at risk to their health. Therefore no vampire is proveably a murderer simply for being a vampire, since the mechanics of feeding do leave some room for reasonable doubt. That said, vampire society is pretty much an ancient criminal conspiracy, so any vampire who has been around the block is almost certainly a right bastard. It’s kind of like how any given member of a biker gang isn’t necessarily a violent criminal, but you’re still justified in strongly suspecting that is the case.

      • @Nabil ad Dajjal

        The X-Men movies

        I think it rings false as an allegory for discrimination because it seems implausible that superpowerful people who can do superpowerful things would be looked down upon as if they were deviant failures of society, which is the attitude real oppressed minorities are faced with. Super civil rights is ridiculous.

        If we lived in a world with mutants, mutant registration and research into power-suppressing drugs would be the absolute minimum sane course of action. Professor X, with a device the size of a college auditorium, is capable of wiping out the entire human race single-handedly and he’s not even the strongest mutant we see!

        Registration and laws work because they can actually be enforced. The second X-men film ends with them in a position where they demonstrate they could easily kill the President at pretty much any time.

        In the real world, X-men would become instant celebrities, and quickly become integrated into the power structure, including the job of policing other mutants. The existence of supers would upend all existing belief systems and probably cause God-King structures of political faith to return. Society would be governed by mutant elites battling other mutant elites to gain the favor of the norms.

        • onyomi says:

          I agree with your intuitions and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

        • Baeraad says:

          I entirely agree, and in fact it’s a pet peeve of mine. It doesn’t matter which direction you come at it from, whether it’s outcasts of whatever stripe whining that society hates them for being superior or snide conformists trying to paint the outcasts they’re persecuting as some sort of looming threat to society – either way, it flies directly in the face of how the world clearly works. And speaking as an outcast who is definitely not superior in any way, I find it deeply annoying.

        • Lillian says:

          This reminds me of how in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, the dragon riders are inexplicably social outcasts who are largely looked down upon and only tolerated because they’re useful. It’s completely impossible to take this seriously. Pretty much the entire basis of the European aristocracy going back to Roman times is that they’re the guys who ride horses into battle. It seems blindly obvious that anyone riding into battle atop a giant flying lizard that can bite horses in half is going to be the highest of nobility pretty much by default. Since the only people who could possibly argue against it would be other guys riding giant flying lizards.

          • onyomi says:

            Seems like this is something Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones gets right.

          • Plus, let’s not undersell that someone riding into battle atop a giant flying lizard is awesome, and the only other notable reaction is probably going to be indifference. In our own society this is how people who can kick a ball really far are treated – as amazing by people who recognize this as amazing, as “who?” by people who aren’t into sportsball – so the greatest dragon knight of the realm would very clearly be a celebrity figure. Celebrities can be hated too, but that’s on an individual level involving this scandal and that drama, and generally not as a class, otherwise they wouldn’t have popular status to begin with.

            But yeah, more importantly they would have the power to be nobles. Even if they were disliked by those they oppressed, they’d still largely be held in awe at the same time, and for all the difference it makes to their actual position, have little grounds to claim oppressed status.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’d just like to add that the Temeraire series was very fun. Dragons in the Napoleonic Wars, what’s not to love? They’re fast, easy reads great for a plane trip.

          • Novik’s more recent book, Spinning Silver, was even better. And entirely different.

          • Lillian says:

            I’d just like to add that the Temeraire series was very fun. Dragons in the Napoleonic Wars, what’s not to love? They’re fast, easy reads great for a plane trip.

            Oh yes, they’re definitely fun, they’re just not serious. A friend of mine once ran a roleplaying game which advanced the timeline to WW2. He had to have the development of aircraft lag a lot behind real life for it to make any sense, since otherwise dragons would be as much of a relic as cavalry. He also changed it such that dragon-riders were in fact, traditionally members of the nobility, though modernity had opened their ranks to commoners much as it did the cavalry and officer corps.

            He also introduced a bunch of fun breeds. Like a special breed royal to the Russian royal family, which winds up saving the two youngest Romanov children from the Bolsheviks and giving the Whites a victory during the Russia Civil War. The British finally developed a firebreathing dragon of their own called the Spitfire. While the German Stuka is an arrogant new breed of dragon created by the Nazis, which considers itself the uberdrakon and somehow has the Divine Wind. Over in the United States Hughes Hatcheries is busy breeding a new blue dragon with gull wings which will come to be known as the Corsair.

            Though my favourite is a type of an ancient type of poison-spitting dragon called the Sicilian Nemesis which is basically cruelty, spite, and betrayal given draconic form. Everyone is terrified of them, their friends, their enemies, their riders, especially their riders. When a Nemesis showed up in the game, it deliberately let its captain be killed in order to trigger a berserker rage. Yeah. Fucking Sicilians, man.

            Hell the Italian Air Force in general has a lot of great breeds, some of the best in Europe, but it’s still a dysfunctional mess because it’s the Italian Air Force.

        • Aapje says:

          @Forward Synthesis

          ‘They hate and oppress me/us because I/we are better’ is a classic narcissist narrative. It inverts the standard ego-affirmation where success is seen as evidence for being good. In the slave morality, failure is evidence of being good and just.

        • Walter says:

          I agree with this so hard it was a primary inspiration for my web serial. If some people are magic then what follows isn’t a setup where the civilian govs oppress the magic people, it is a wizard-ocracy.

          • Nick says:

            I think Walter writes The Fifth Defiance.

          • Walter says:

            Thanks Nick, yeah, that’s the one.

          • In my almost finished third novel, you get a different pattern in one of the societies. Future mages are spotted young, and a magical geas is put on each one that makes him loyal to either the ruler of the polity or one of the local rulers. As far as I can see, it’s a self-consistent pattern–once established it can be maintained. The problem is the first step.

            The Dorayan League built an empire on the advantage of being the first polity to figure out how to use magic. It eventually started to fall apart because after a century or two the knowledge had spread to the peoples they were ruling. To keep it from entirely collapsing they had to make sure that their mages were loyal to the League and so not willing to participated in more regional secession movements. Hence the system of binding them young. The mages who did the first generation were not binding themselves, only their successors.

            Beta copy available if anyone is interested. The original idea for the book was the industrial organization of the mage industry, with three different models in three different polities: High status slaves, a guild system, and the traditional decentralized mage/apprentice system. Each with advantages and disadvantages.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve only read a little of it, but Jemisen’s Broken Earth trilogy apparently has extremely powerful earthquake controlling mages (on a tectonically active continent) who are subject to vicious control because they’re really dangerous.

          • albatross11 says:

            In the Wheel of Time books, female channelers are potentially dangerous to themselves and others until trained, but once trained end up with a very high position in society (albeit also one where lots of people hate and fear them). Male channelers are doomed to go insane (at which point they will be madmen with middling-superhero-level destructive capabilities), and since all male channelers go insane, there’s nobody to train them so they can learn to control their powers until the inevitable madness sets in. So they are hated and feared by everyone, hunted by all kinds of authorities. The best they can hope for is to be caught by female channelers and “gentled” (aka have their abilities magically removed)–anyone else will just kill them. Of course, killing someone who can maybe fry you with lightning or tear you to bloody shreds with their mind is a pretty high-risk endeavor, so a lot of the people lynched for being “false dragons” are just harmless crazy people who’ve had a couple weird coincidences happen in their presence.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @albatross11 on channelers:

            There is also the Aiel (Proud Warrior Race/steppe nomads/thneqvnaf bs n uhtr napvrag zntvgrpu pnpur) method of dealing with male channelers- they send them into the Blight (think Mordor) to “go kill the Dark One”. None of them ever come back, and the Dark One remains very much alive, but it’s more honourable than execution or being gentled.

            Of course, guvf gheaf bhg gb or n onq vqrn nf gurl graq gb or pncgherq naq zntvpnyyl ghearq gb gur qnex fvqr.

            Then, of course, there is the position of female Channelers in Seanchan- enslaved using magic items that allow certain non-Channelers to control them.

          • Walter says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I’d love a beta copy, always on the the prowl for fiction! Send to thefifthdefiance@gmail.com if you are willing.

          • LHN says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz Jemison’s orogenes are highly reminiscent of the mages in the Dragon Age video game series, which have a similar “can’t live without them, can’t shoot them” dynamic. There’s likewise a similar control mechanism of forcing them to live in restricted circumstances under the watchful eye of an order (the Templars) that’s overall less powerful, but whose abilities specificially counter the mages.

            The first game (which I’d be surprised if it weren’t an inspiration for Jemison, who’s on record as having played it) did a pretty good job of sketching a no win situation: mages really are One Bad Day away from becoming uncontrolled WMDs. (Demons are pretty much constantly standing by offering to help with any problem they might have by possessing them and giving UNLIMITED POWER; a good mage’s life is about saying “no thanks” all day every day no matter how bad things may get. One village is nearly destroyed because a boy is desperate to save his father’s life.)

            They can’t be dispensed with (not least because the neighboring kingdoms will have mages in their armies even if yours doesn’t), aren’t safe to live next to, and even with the imperfect containment regime regularly produce horrors. (And the empire that dispenses with those measures is a magocracy in which non-mages are slaves.)

            On the other hand, there’s no question that they’re being enrolled into a painfully repressive situation for an accident of birth that they can’t do anything about: they’re imprisoned, regimented, magically tracked, subjected to a coming of age test for which death is the penalty for failure, and generally downtrodden to the point that that One Bad Day is much more likely. This is especially clear if the player character goes through the mage origin story. (Though weakened because there’s no game mechanism for the constant temptation the backstory says you’re subject to.)

            Much of the fandom seems content to pick one side as good guys and one side bad guys, with pro-mage/anti-Templar sentiments being more common. That strikes me as missing the point– though later games have the option of emancipated, self-governing mages without making especially clear why this doesn’t lead to one of the previously established failure modes.

            In her books, Jemison keeps the frequently horrific consequences of an accident of birth bestowing murderous and difficult to restrain power in a crapsack world. But the sympathetic focus seems to stay closely on the (unquestionably oppressed) orogenes despite it being repeatedly made obvious why everyone else is terrified of them. (But still inescapably dependent, which naturally breeds bitter resentments.)

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Walter but you have very powerful magic people. People who can take a nuclear bomb to the face, shake it off, and then go smash a city single-handed.

            If have people who, like, can’t reasonably be taken down by the police, but also can’t win a stand-up fight with an entire army, the dynamic is somewhat different. If you have magic people who are at danger from a well-organized SWAT team, the dynamic is different again.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            @LHN:

            later games have the option of emancipated, self-governing mages without making especially clear why this doesn’t lead to one of the previously established failure modes.

            This is basically what the Tevinter Imperium (magocracy) would look like at the start, right? Eventually someone’s going to decide “hey, we need resources, and those peasants look like they’ll give us resources rather than spontaneously ignite”, but right now they’ve got a pretty strong negative association with slavery since they were just on the other side of it, and staying ahead of the templars is a bigger concern.

            Once you have a group of experienced mages with a history of resisting demonic temptation, they can keep the system going: they’ll outclass novice mages and their demons (it’s not really INFINITE POWER since the main character takes down every type of demon at some point), and should be able to take down any one of their number that slips. The hard part is getting to that level in the first place, and staving off the inevitable “hey why aren’t we just ruling?”

            Also, seconded on the lack of temptation, that was a big miss. When you go into the Fade as part of the main storyline, there were books lying around that gave you permanent +stat boosts, which were a huge deal in terms of character power. I made a backup save as soon as I took the first one because I was convinced they were going to lead to something bad, but nope, just no-strings-attached buffs.

          • Walter says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            That’s a very good point. I was shooting for a super person world much like DC, Marvel or Worm/Ward.

            A ‘street level super person’ kind of world wouldn’t have provoked the same response from me, I could see that kind of place not devolving into a Kylo Ren-esque choke-ocracy.

          • LHN says:

            @moonfirestorm It would be easier to be optimistic if the inciting incident of the war that (potentially) ends with mage emancipation hadn’t involved an experienced mage who’d outwardly appeared to have a history of successfully resisting demonic temptation suddenly turning out to have gone all in for blood magic in alliance with a serial killer, before turning himself into a corpse monster. (Though I guess that technically didn’t involve demonic possession.)

            Uldred in the first game was likewise a senior mage noted for his service rooting out blood mages, right up until the day he decided to summon a Pride demon and became an abomination. That’s the sort of thing that might shake one’s confidence in the long term viability of mage self-governance.

            (The Elves seemed to have a stable system worked out somehow, but in Inquisition we learn that’s because they strictly limit numbers, and abandon excess mage children to whatever fate might take them. And even so in the second game the Keeper winds up possessed by a pride demon, and there’s a decent chance that her First and friends will kill everyone in the clan in the aftermath.)

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Walter I actually got about halfway through The Fifth Defiance and was like, “Okay, I’m writing my own superhero novel because I want something that’s not post-apocalyptic.” I was aiming for something that replicated the feel of the Marvel/DC comics of my youth, but with a significantly more coherent world.

            I ended up with a situation where the highest-powered supers could, at any given instant, do more damage than say a squadron of modern air force fighters, and also where it would be difficult-shading-to-impossible for an army to effectively concentrate enough force to outfight them before they ran away. Longer term, they could create plans that could plausibly do major nation-scale damage, but it wouldn’t be “a fit of pique,” it would be, “Months or years of careful build-up.” Which then, I think, let me create a plausible if fragile situation where the society has kind of created a truce which allows supers enough freedom that most of them don’t want to tear down the world, and the ones who don’t want to tear down the world have the time and incentive necessary to police the ones who do want to tear down the world.

          • Nornagest says:

            I want something that’s not post-apocalyptic. […] something that replicated the feel of the Marvel/DC comics of my youth, but with a significantly more coherent world.

            Every time I’ve thought about this, I’ve ended up concluding that it’s pretty hard to come up with a more coherent version of the Marvel/DC milieu without it turning at least locally post-apocalyptic. You can do it at Daredevil’s power level, maybe even at Spiderman’s, but someone on the level of a Superman villain is a serious threat, and you can’t believably tell the kinds of stories they’re traditionally used for unless nobody except Superman can effectively concentrate force against them. That implies that government doesn’t have a monopoly on effective use of force, which then kicks the legs out from all the other functions of government, especially once you start dealing with the collateral damage from high-powered super fights.

            And then, of course, you can’t throw a rock in either setting without hitting a kaiju-scale monster or an alien invasion or something, which just makes things worse.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I doubt that we materially disagree about anything other than what constitutes “the feel of Marvel/DC comics of my youth.”

            My setting’s most powerful super (in a straight up fight) is a person who can fly at about 3x the speed of sound in the atmosphere, significantly faster out of the atmosphere, could survive but would not enjoy a hit from an air-to-air missile, but is extremely maneuverable and could almost certainly not actually be hit by a conventional air-to-air missile, and who can shoot energy blasts that could destroy a… building or so. And do a lot of that.

            So that’s not what I’d call “street level,” and indeed I think it’s significantly higher powered than what we usually see Spiderman deal with, but it’s also definitely fairly major tiers down from the kind of stuff you tend to see at the high end of the major comics universes.

            (I also dropped aliens, other dimensions, time travel, and other things that felt like they’d change society in a major way. Super inventors exist, but they have problems commodifying their technology. No generalized super-intelligence.)

          • Lillian says:

            A fun way to deal with super-inventors is to have bending the laws of physics while building something be an actual part of their powers, so their designs just flat out do not work if anyone else tries to build them. This limits their ability to mass produce world changing tech, because nothing they invent works unless they build it themselves.

          • LHN says:

            @Lillian I thought that was fine for Wild Cards, but don’t really like it as a general solution. It basically writes “supergenius inventor” out of the stories as a concept in favor of “super with a weird delusion that he’s a scientist”. Outside of a deliberate satire, why bother having superscientists just to have them be not only fakes, but effectively dumber than the other supers (since they’re the ones who understand the nature of their powers the least)?

            But it’s true that superscientists are among the most strongly bound by genre limits in superhero stories, and the ones most likely to make the largest changes to the world in unbounded deconstructions. Even in Watchmen, while in the medium term Dr. Manhattan’s geopolitical role is key, in the long term his tech innovations will probably have the strongest impact. (And are certainly the things that make the world look the most different, with airships and charging hydrants all over 1985.)

          • CatCube says:

            @Lillian

            A fun way to deal with super-inventors is to have bending the laws of physics while building something be an actual part of their powers, so their designs just flat out do not work if anyone else tries to build them.

            That sounds like the Sparks in Girl Genius–people without the Spark cannot build or even understand mechanisms designed by those with it. Technically-inclined normal people are able develop a very basic understanding that allow them to function as repairmen and minions, though. Sparks can understand other sparks’ work (and one of the leading political characters is powerful because he’s very good at this, and is good at making use of other sparks as underlings).

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I specifically wanted to avoid super-inventors being “actually it’s just magic masquerading as science,” but I also wanted the ability of my super-hero-world not to be a generic sci-fi world.

            So my solution was this: “technologist” is actually two different abilities, packaged together. The first is, you get an intuition for how an invention might work (that is, it’s not generic intelligence, your super-brain only works on generating new technology — maybe subsets of technology (super-geneticist! Forcefields guy!). Second, your manufacturing processes are weirdly perfect. So like you’re the guy who does some CRISPR-like process and there aren’t any unintended genetic effects out of your one target site. Or you do some kind of circuitry etching at a nanoscale, and you get 100% perfect etching rather than “some ordinary amount of errors.” When you make machine parts, they fit together perfect, and have lower friction than usual because even on the finest of scales, all your pieces are nearly perfectly regular. The crystals that you use to focus your energy beams/form your super-capacitor have no imperfections. Etc.

            So, the end result is science. It’s not magical bullshit, and if you take apart the machines of technologists, you can learn how they work, which are along real principles and you could even hope to replicate them. But without the uncanny perfection that technologists themselves get when they make the technology, normal people copies tend to be much less efficient, and that’s with painstaking, extremely expensive work.

          • Lillian says:

            @LHN: There’s no need for them to have delusions of being a scientist or not understand how their powers work. If they bend reality in consistent ways then it’s still science and they can be perfectly aware of what they’re doing. So for example the Amazing Chemist could explain how her presence functions as a hyperefficient reaction catalyst that lets her do things that other people can’t. She could even measure the exact magnitude of the effect, and determine how involved she has to be in a given process to trigger it.

            @CatCube: Yes i was thinking of Girl Genius when writing that post. They even thought through the geo-political consequences. Strong sparks tend to wind up in charge of things because it’s hard to argue with the guy who can build death rays (In a cave! With a box of scraps!), but since few of them can truly scale up their efforts, most of them only wind up ruling city-states. The exceptions tend to be those who are good at understanding and incorporating other Spark’s inventions.

            Though one interesting thing is that it’s strongly implied that Sparks don’t so much bend the laws of physics as are tapping into some sort of deeper mystery of the world. Like a Spark can come up with a theory of something, explain it to another Spark, have that Spark understanding it and develop practical applications of the theory, then a third Spark can build something based on those applications. Thus the principles at play are consistent aspects of reality, it’s just that non-Sparks lack whatever it is that makes it all work, and even the smartest Sparks can’t seem to grasp what that thing is. Though it’s possible Albia does have some idea of it, and Wulfenbach was definitely working towards trying to understand it.

            @sandoratthezoo: That’s just a specific example of the same principle.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This is correct, and even at their best (X-Men First Class) the movies don’t address that Charles and Magneto are the rightful chiefs of mankind by virtue of all their Mana, mortal demigods like Gilgamesh of Uruk or Perseus of Mycenae.
          Apparently the comics did an AU called “House of M” that dealt with this. Magneto is King of the World (I guess Charles was still in denial about what he is) and his daughter Wanda betrays him by using her reality-warping Mutant power to Harrison Bergeron all the Mutants away.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          While I broadly agree, some of the attitudes of normals in the X-Men universe were plausible: yes, I would be freaked the hell out and terrified if my toddler (or worse, the toddler next door) could lift my car with one hand, or shoot killer laser beams out of his eyes.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And those are pretty weak powers by X-Men standards. We’ve seen Mystique in position to kill the POTUS twice in the movies, and she’s small potatoes compared to Magneto, Charles, or Jean at full power.

          • acymetric says:

            One issue with the idea that the mutants (or magic users, etc.) “ruling the world” is that it assumes they are cooperating with each other. If you are a small subgroup of the overall population, and your subgroup has several warring factions (which makes it beneficial to remain fully or semi-hidden), taking over the world might become difficult as you fight a battle on two fronts (one evenly matched in power, the other you have the upper hand in power but a significant disadvantage in numbers and infrastructure).

            I think the idea that any of these superhuman types (mutants, witches, whatever else) would rule the world is only true if one of two things is true*:

            1) The “specials” are all unified together

            2) The “specials” are a non-negligible portion of the overall population

            *It is also worth remembering that there are almost always countermeasures available to humans to combat the abilities of the special populations, so regular humans especially given their numbers and control over resources/infrastructure are not usually completely defenseless.

          • John Schilling says:

            Knights and Nobility were a small fraction of the population of medieval Europe, and frequently warred with one another, but the result was not an egalitarian Democracy of the Proletariat. Laugh all you want at the watery tart dispensing swords, but she’s dispensing swords. Until someone invents the musket, her mandate stands even if her favorites squabble.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But the immensely powerful toddler who hasn’t yet developed an understanding or right and wrong or his own strength is going to kill me. That Mystique might kill the President is no skin off my back, since I’m not the President.

          • I’d imagine the immensely powerful toddler is not a persecuted minority but a treasured asset of the government, who will be taken out of the mother’s hands and placed into some Mutant Jugend training program, so she wouldn’t have to worry too much about it.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            What forward synthesis said. Actually, given how much of a threat mutant powers can often be to the mutants themselves and everyone around them, a sane handling policy would probably look really, really weird.

            You get scanned for the x gene at birth, and then positives are raised in… what, a nice cottages that just happens to be at the bottom of a 20 meter deep blast pit to absorb the inevitable eventual manifestation?

            While going to school in a institution with nigh-draconian anti-bullying rules?

            Heck, could see a whole tiered system of social status based on how well you demonstrably control your powers, where you are raised in an isolated hothouse of education and eventually graduate to getting unrestricted access to society (and likely an absurdly paying job exploiting your powers..)

        • J Mann says:

          I think it rings false as an allegory for discrimination because it seems implausible that superpowerful people who can do superpowerful things would be looked down upon as if they were deviant failures of society, which is the attitude real oppressed minorities are faced with. Super civil rights is ridiculous

          Does it change your analysis if we consider that a number of the early influential comic book creators were Jewish?

          The mutants are powerful, and they have a lot of potential to contribute or harm, but they’re not institutionally powerful (except for a few), and they’re at constant risk of the formal power structure acting against them as something they can’t control.

          The animated series Justice League Unlimited did a lot with this, although IMHO it was more of a libertarian allegory than one for the Jewish experience. When you have the power to flatten cities and you think the government is unjust, what do you do? What does the government do?

          • Nick says:

            That JLU arc is awesome.

          • LHN says:

            I also appreciated that the creators (we still miss you, Dwayne McDuffie!) freely admitted that it was a problem without a clear solution, which is why the conflict isn’t so much resolved as tabled due to the appearance of an out of context problem.

          • Nick says:

            It was sort of resolved, it seems to me. Waller learns firsthand that the JL is more benevolent than she perhaps thought and Luthor is the out-of-context problem that gets, uh, resolved. And those two were the ones driving the conflict with the government, so without them pushing things the wound can begin to heal.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Does it change your analysis if we consider that a number of the early influential comic book creators were Jewish?

            The mutants are powerful, and they have a lot of potential to contribute or harm, but they’re not institutionally powerful (except for a few), and they’re at constant risk of the formal power structure acting against them as something they can’t control.

            Indeed there is an explicit reference to this, as the backstory of Magneto is that he is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who was imprisoned at Auschwitz, and he mentions this fact as a motivation for his ideology.

            Still, the analogy is poor in my opinion, because early 20th century European Jews might have had intellectual and financial power, but they didn’t have military power, while some of the mutants of X-Men are one-man weapons of mass destruction.

          • CatCube says:

            @Nick

            That was one of my favorite arcs in all of television. “You have a laser superweapon pointing down!

          • @vV_Vv

            That’s the important point. Military power can ensure safety, but institutional power isn’t secure without it. Controversially, the analogy to Jews there would be that taking that to heart in consideration of their long history of persecution was a major practical impetus behind the push for Israel.

          • LHN says:

            Waller’s reasons for concern are entirely legit, and don’t really go away. (That a third force was stirring up trouble for its own reasons notwithstanding, it remains true that the League, a bunch of private citizens with no state sanction: 1) did have a WMD, 2) didn’t tell anyone about it until it came time to use it, and 3) even if they were trustworthy as such were unable to secure it sufficiently to prevent its misuse.) But it happens she lives in a universe in which unaccountable concentrations of personal physical power are unavoidable and necessary, and also generally (albeit not without exception) worthy of trust.

            (A superhero world will not evolve in a direction in which superheroes are either reliably placed under orders or establish themselves as a ruling class, except as a temporary or closed-ended genre subversion, or an alternate future/world to contrast with their current “proper” role. Stories can inquire “Must there be a Superman?”, but in the end the answer will always ultimately be: “Yes.”)

            The space gun per se is kind of a red herring, because it doesn’t really represent a threat that, e.g., Superman or Green Lantern doesn’t. And at the time of the story Superman in particular has been mind-controlled and used against Earth in recent memory.

            (Which of course is the concern that underlies the next season’s plotline.)

          • J Mann says:

            That was what made JLU so awesome. The US Government basically operates at Superman’s sufferance, and Superman’s position is that that’s the least bad scenario, but of course, the government’s not going to see it that way. (It also explains TDKR Superman, and makes him IMHO one of the most heroic characters in fiction.)

            Compare Alan Moore’s Miracleman, or his Swamp Thing Gotham City run where Batman basically convinces the government to surrender to Swamp Thing based on the argument that he could easily destroy everyone in the city but so far just wants to bang hippies.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @vV_Vv:

            Still, the analogy is poor in my opinion, because early 20th century European Jews might have had intellectual and financial power, but they didn’t have military power, while some of the mutants of X-Men are one-man weapons of mass destruction.

            In X-Men First Class, you get to see Erik (Magneto) evolve from a powerless Jewish child to an exemplar of Israeli macho self-sufficiency to a living WMD, which is pretty excellent.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @CatCube:

            That was one of my favorite arcs in all of television. “You have a laser superweapon pointing down!“

            The cool thing, narratively, is that Superman and USG had both been in crisis mode continuously since the series finale of Superman: The Animated Series.

            SPOILERS:

            STAS finale: Granny Goodness brainwashed an unconscious Superman with memories of his Kryptonian rocket landing on Apokalips instead of Earth, and Daddy Darkseid offers him Earth as a present. USG tries to kill Superman and Supergirl with kryptonite weapons, but they break out of military prison and Superman uses a boom tube to beat up Granny Goodness and Darkseid. Importantly, he accomplishes nothing (Darkseid’s subjects tenderly help him when Superman throws him down to the crowd) and USG learns that their monopoly on force exists at Superman’s pleasure.

            Justice League premiere: Superman gets a UN vote for nuclear disarmament. Turns out the US ambassador to the UN was a White Martian (extra-solar aliens who genocided Martian Manhunter’s species) spy. Oops. He’s met Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern (sort of) and MM by the time the invasion starts, and Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl show up to form a Justice League.

            “A Better World”: parallel universe crossover where the League meets counterparts who became the rulers of the world after Superman killed President Lex Luthor. While in each other’s universes, the Justice Lords armor the League’s space station and alt-Superman saves civilians from Doomsday with a heat vision lobotomy.

            JL finale: an alien spaceship crashes very publicly on Earth. Hawkgirl’s race arrives and tells the UN it’s from the vanguard of another alien invasion, and we Thanagarians will help you. Turns out Hawkgirl was a spy all along. Also turns out her fiance/commander is under orders to destroy Earth to create a wormhole behind enemy lines. Batman uses the League’s orbital HQ as a suicide bomb to take out the Thanagarian power plant.

            Justice League Unlimited premiere: the League tries to recruit every independent superhero on Earth, and the new orbital HQ has a McGuffiwatt fusion plant-powered laser to save us from future attacks like the White Martians or Thanagarians.
            At this point, the UN fades into the background and we start to learn what USG has been doing to save us from another conquest by Superman & friends…

          • Lillian says:

            Darkseid’s subjects tenderly help him when Superman throws him down to the crowd

            The whole fight between Superman and Darkseid is pretty good, but that final moment where Darkseid is helped by his subjects is simply glorious. He is the best space tyrant.

            You know i once came up with a fun theory that Darkseid actually treats his subjects extremely well, we just don’t realize it due to cultural misunderstandings. For example those rags they’re wearing? Well they only look like rags to us because we’re not in tune with fashion trends in Apokolips, to the natives they are the finest garments!

            Also the mud huts they live in? You have to understand, Apokolips is a giant weapons factory, it’s all stone and metal, there is no dirt. Dirt is a scarce and precious resource, and since you need it to grow crops, it would be considered utterly luxurious to live in houses made of it. Yet wise and generous Darkseid has ensured that all of his subjects have more than enough dirt to live in! Truly, he is a mighty and benevolent leader, no wonder his subjects love him!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Lillian: I like that take! OTOH, it’s important to remember that Jack Kirby created Darkseid as the god of tyranny… making those two perspectives dovetail would be interesting.

        • nadbor says:

          I don’t have a strong opinion on how the society would treat superpowered mutants or vampires if they walked the Earth but I think some people here have a mistaken idea about how oppression and genocide has actually worked in history.

          If you think that people won’t hate a minority who are physically, intellectually, culturally superior, hate to the point of genocide – history says otherwise. In fact it seems that the greatest hatred and most events of genocide were against groups seen as superior. Of course the perpetrators would always find excuses and paint their victims as subhuman in some way but the killing impulse came from the victims being superior not inferior.

          Nazis demonized Jews because the Jews were seen as rich and educated and powerful and therefore a threat. Slavs on the other hand were seen as actually inferior, so not a threat and spared the brunt of the genocidal hatred. Nazis of course disregarded the lives of ‘subhuman’ races but didn’t go out of their way to exterminate entire nations – because they didn’t feel as strongly about them as they did about the Jews.

          Similar story with Armenian genocide. The minority being murdered was more economically successful than their neighbors and seen as a threat.

          Tutsis – victims of the Rwandan genocide were the elite of the country, richer, better educated than Hutus. Being taller and with fairer skin they were regarded as more physically attractive. They were mythologized as a superior race that brought civilization to the country.

          Compare this with the treatment of African slaves by white owners. The owners did believe without a shadow of doubt in their own inherent superiority. It never caused the kind of hatred that Jews or Armenians or Tutsis inspired. There was never anything remotely like the Nazi effort to exterminate the race. Slaves were treated like objects or like animals not like enemies. To be an enemy you need to be a person and you need to be a threat.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Being richer, smarter and better looking doesn’t imply having military power. Mutants and vampires are always depicted as having super-human fighting abilities.

            For most of human history, groups that were better than average at fighting tended to become the ruling nobility.

          • The thing is, most of these peoples had economic and political power, but nothing else. This opens them up to accusations of unfairness. The Nazis didn’t think Jews were superior, except in that they (supposedly) managed to trick their way into the top echelons of power by preying on Aryan individualism. It’s a kind of superiority I suppose, but a very narrow one, and not really comparable to a case where, say, God like beings appeared and started demonstrating that they had innate abilities that were vastly powerful and nothing like anything any other human could accomplish. The Pharaohs had claims to divinity purely from their origins, but imagine if they’d had a “divine light” to back that up!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @nadbor

            Nazis demonized Jews because the Jews were seen as rich and educated and powerful and therefore a threat. Slavs on the other hand were seen as actually inferior, so not a threat and spared the brunt of the genocidal hatred. Nazis of course disregarded the lives of ‘subhuman’ races but didn’t go out of their way to exterminate entire nations – because they didn’t feel as strongly about them as they did about the Jews.

            This is not entirely true. The Jews were the target of immediate genocide, because to the Nazis wiping the Jews out wherever they could was a war goal; they also believed that if they didn’t, the Jews would undermine them as they believed the war effort had been undermined in WWI. However, the long-term plan for Slavs was one of massive ethnic cleansing and starvation on a vast scale – hard not to consider genocide. They certainly would have destroyed entire nations in a cultural sense – witness their attempted destruction of the Polish ruling class and intelligentsia.

          • albatross11 says:

            See also: Overseas Chinese in Asia, Indians in Africa

            I’d say the US stereotype is that black men are unusually violent and dangerous (and this has significant consequences when it comes to who gets the cops called on them and how the cops respond when they show up). This has not resulted in black men being immune to mistreatment.

            I think our ingroup/outgroup tribal wiring is deeply embedded in our minds, and is quite capable of overriding our moral sense and driving us to do horrible things. That’s one reason I think identity politics is a really bad thing to encourage, even when it helps win today’s political battles or accomplish locally valuable goals.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, didn’t the Nazis murder a lot of Gypsies? I don’t think anyone thought the Gypsies were superior or a grave threat, but I don’t suppose that helped them out much.

          • Nick says:

            Also, didn’t the Nazis murder a lot of Gypsies? I don’t think anyone thought the Gypsies were superior or a grave threat, but I don’t suppose that helped them out much.

            There were lots of Nazi targets. Religious minorities, including Jehovah’s Witnesses I think. Homosexuals. I think children born with certain birth defects were euthanized as well?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think children born with certain birth defects were euthanized as well?

            Yes, and people with some disabilities were killed as well.

          • nadbor says:

            I don’t disagree with any of the above comments. I was just trying to register the point that a hatred against a successful, ‘superior’ (intellectually, culturally) minority is definitely a thing and not something completely made up by Hollywood.

            Of course the way it is portrayed in movies it always seems far-fetched but that is just the typical movie failure mode. You need your oppressed mutants be maximally sympathetic to a 21st century western audience and at the same time show that a 21st century western society would hate and mistreat them. Something’s gotta give, you can’t have both. Most directors would rather have the villains’ motivations be not credible than have unsympathetic protagonists so that’s what we get. But that has nothing to do with the protagonists being superior beings with superpowers.

            People used to think witches had superpowers and see how much good it did them.

          • Baeraad says:

            People used to think witches had superpowers and see how much good it did them.

            Yeah, but it’s the same thing as with the Jews. Witches were supposed to have wussy superpowers that were only good for petty acts of malice and stealing from hard-working neighbours. They obviously didn’t have the sort of cool superpowers that would protect them from being arrested, tortured and executed. Just like the Nazis thought that the Jews were really good at cheating, stealing and manipulating while being helpless in the face of honest violence from a manly Aryan.

            People are perfectly capable of feeling oppressed by those they regard as being weaker than them. They just say that the weaklings are cheating. Someone actually stronger who stomps around telling them what to do, though? People tend to be weirdly okay with that.

          • Aapje says:

            I think children born with certain birth defects were euthanized as well?

            The Holocaust actually started with the killing of the very disabled, with a very strong bias to considering lesser defects sufficient for euthanasia if the person was a Jew. Then after a while the existence of an actual disability was no longer necessary if the person was Jewish.

            Then they scaled this practice up a lot.

          • nadbor says:

            Someone actually stronger who stomps around telling them what to do, though? People tend to be weirdly okay with that.

            Are you talking mutants with superpowers or normal humans with superior weapons and organisation? Because the mutants thing never really happened so I wouldn’t make any confident statements about how it would end if it did happen.

            The ‘minority with superior weapons and organisation stomping on people telling them what to do’ thing happened only all the freaking time and frequently led to rebellion.

            Especially if the ones stomping around are:
            – foreign or not integrated with the majority population
            – only recently at the top of the hierarchy (as opposed to being an ancient aristocracy)
            – only strong in relative terms but numerically so inferior that they can be overwhelmed

            then rebellion is very likely.

            See: middle east, every colonial empire.

            Please don’t be offended but I think you may be projecting with the ‘people are OK with big strong men bossing them around’ thing.

            People definitely like it when their own allies and leaders are big and strong and don’t take shit from nobody but that doesn’t mean that anyone who is big and strong can automatically take over with no resistance.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Forward Synthesis, you’re right about most prejudice, but anti-Semitism frames Jews as extremely capable and extremely dangerous.

          Now that I think about it, I don’t know how prejudice against other middleman minorities looks.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            anti-Semitism frames Jews as extremely capable and extremely dangerous

            I’m not sure that this was necessarily true of historical anti-Semitism in Europe (pre-Holocaust). The man-on-the-street was a lot more likely to encounter lower-class Jews, who – to the best of my knowledge – did not inspire much in the way of envy (extremely capable) or fear (extremely dangerous), but rather distaste and contempt.

            It seems to me that anti-Semitism in the time of the rise of Hitler was not uni-modal. One could equally well hate successful Jews for being successful and despise unsuccessful Jews for being unsuccessful. Post-war, the modality seems to have collapsed towards the successful end because upper-class (successful) Jews were better positioned to escape persecution, coupled with mass emigration of survivours to Israel, meaning that there were few lower-class Jews left in Europe.

            Overall, I think anti-Semitism is easiest to explain along pure tribal lines.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The man-on-the-street was a lot more likely to encounter lower-class Jews, who – to the best of my knowledge – did not inspire much in the way of envy (extremely capable) or fear (extremely dangerous), but rather distaste and contempt.

            Was pre-holocaust anti-Semitism (i.e. pogroms) bottom-up or top-down? Or both? Baeraad above mentioned witch hunts, and there’s a common misconception that the Catholic Church was running around burning witches. No, for the most part, the Church was ending witch hunts started by superstitious yokels who thought their cow died because the neighbor woman gave them the Evil Eye. Witch scares were bottom-up, started by the man-on-the-street and spread until the authority figures (the Church) stepped in to stop it (usually when the witch hunting fever spread and it started effecting people who actually mattered). They were not top-down, where the Bishop went around looking for weirdos to burn at the stake.

            If pogroms were more top-down, like the holocaust, then the man-on-the-street’s encounter with average Jews is irrelevant.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Was pre-holocaust anti-Semitism (i.e. pogroms) bottom-up or top-down?

            Pogroms and similar acts against other minorities (e.g. the recent anti-Muslim mob attacks in Myanmar) are usually bottom-up, although often instigated or supported by the local clergy (local priests or monks). Secular authorities and high religious authorities usually try to defuse the situations, when they are ineffectual the attacks happen.

            Top-down ethnic cleansing does happen (e.g. the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Palestinian Nakba, etc.), but it seems less frequent and more historically confined to the 20th century.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Faza (TCM)

            Depends where in Europe you were. German Jews in the early 20th century were among the most assimilated, and were disproportionately professional/mercantile class and made up a disproportionate % of the German professional/mercantile class. In Eastern Europe, they were far less assimilated and far poorer – German soldiers and the like generally regarded Polish Jews with disgust and contempt, and Nazi propaganda made much of this – promoting the idea that the assimilated, often well-off German Jews were just a “mask” of sorts. In general, much was made of the generally lower standard of living in Poland and further east, among the population in general.

            @Conrad Honcho

            My – rather limited – understanding is that pogroms and similar types of mob violence, communal violence, etc tend to be bottom-up, but a big question is how the authorities respond. A lot of pogroms started with blood libel stories – kid goes missing, or turns up dead, and the story forms that the local Jews did it.

            Interestingly, the Nazis tried to make it seem that violence which was top-down was bottom-up. The best examples are the November Pogroms (the term “Kristallnacht” is mostly used in English-language sources nowadays), where various tricks were used by Hitler, Goebbels, etc to make it seem like it was a spontaneous public thing and the state was merely standing aside, but they had in fact done a bit of organization, and the Einsatzgruppen death squads, which in some places during the invasion of the USSR tried (with success in some places) to whip the local gentiles up against the local Jews, so they could claim it was what the locals wanted.

        • JayT says:

          I think it rings false as an allegory for discrimination because it seems implausible that superpowerful people who can do superpowerful things would be looked down upon as if they were deviant failures of society, which is the attitude real oppressed minorities are faced with. Super civil rights is ridiculous.

          One thing about mutants in the Marvel Universe is that they are not all super powerful. It’s always fairly well established that the members of the X-Men get to be on the team because they have particularly useful mutations, but there are many mutants that have useless powers, or are just weird looking, and the X-Men work to protect those mutants.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I don’t think it’s that uncommon in fiction for vampires to be able to survive on donor blood, either (in a modern setting) from the same blood transfusion system used for other people with medical conditions requiring regular transfusions or simply by not draining their victims completely.

        Sergei Lukyanenko has a particularly interesting treatment of vampires in his Night Watch series.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Great series, although the power creep towards the end got pretty extreme.

          • albatross11 says:

            In Anne Rice’s books, I recall that vampires could survive on nonhuman blood, but didn’t like to. And I think Marius had managed to do that for many centuries, being an ethical vampire who mainly wanted to enjoy high culture and art and literature and philosophy.

          • @albatross11
            That feels like a cop-out and a sanitization to me. A better idea would be an ethical vampire who couldn’t help but feed on human blood and then had to pick his victims carefully in order to fulfill his moral code.

            Maybe it works in practice. I know the Anne Rice books are well regarded.

          • albatross11 says:

            In modern times, he could get a job in a blood bank and drink the blood when it was ready to expire, or skim a little off the top.

          • J Mann says:

            @albatross11 – that’s part of the set-up of (at least the US-I haven’t seen the British original) series Being Human.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In Anne Rice, you’re got one vampire who fed on murderers (the vampires are telepathic, as I recall) and another who fed on people who were about to commit suicide.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think of some vampire stories as being about the transition from hunting to domesticated animals.

      • Randy M says:

        The dilemma is nodded towards; certainly the X-Men themselves often try to contain evil or just dangerous mutants. But the human response is not usually portrayed sympathetically; any movement towards identifying or controlling mutants is viewed as a prelude to unjust genocide, and conveniently, it almost always ends up that way.

        Governments may be given a pass if they secretly fund and organize group of mutants and then pretty much leave them alone. Beware, though, it will end in betrayal.

        Note that my X-Men knowledge is twenty years out of date, and they have a lot of plotlines over the years so there will certainly be exceptions.

        • In a world of super powerful mutants, genocide is not only a rational choice, but probably a reasonable one.

        • LHN says:

          Genocide of mutants is generally set up to be highly impractical. The X-gene is widespread (and is almost guaranteed to eventually crop up in the people spearheading the genocide program or their close family or loved ones), and tends to empower people who can genocide you right back single-handed if you try it. Never mind that the mechanism for genocide, be it giant hunter-killer robots or bioweapons, will almost certainly eventually be redirected at H. sapiens either by the aforementioned angry mutants or by their own emerging and inimical sapience.

          A more straightforwardly sfnal mutant strain might not have those sorts of problems, but realistic sf doesn’t tend to dovetail well with superpowers in the first place. If your mutants just have higher-than-normal strength, speed, or intelligence in a range that’s mechanically and biochemically possible, they’re probably not much of a Mutant Menace.

        • albatross11 says:

          Wrong Species:

          If the super powerful mutants believe that this is the conclusion the normals will come to, they will agree and act accordingly.

        • @LHN

          That’s a fair point. I would say that if you had a decent chance at eliminating them, then it’s reasonable. Otherwise, you have to kiss up to them and pray they themselves don’t get genocidal. Basically the same way ancient people treated their gods, except the threat is much more credible.

        • JayT says:

          The one thing about the X-Men is that they live in a universe where there are hundreds of super powered beings that are universally admired and loved. Think Captain America, Iron Man, or the Fantastic Four.

          The thing that is different about the mutants is that they have less control of their powers (especially when they first present themselves), and they often look very strange (i.e. Nightcrawler, Beast). So, it’s not that they are super powered beings in world of normal people, it’s that they are _weird_ superpowered beings in a world that has superpowered beings.

        • LHN says:

          Though the MU has non-mutants like the Thing who, while he has his problems, isn’t automatically hated and feared by those he protects. Puny humans won’t leave Hulk alone, but Bruce Banner generally doesn’t suffer social consequences beyond people being afraid of the Hulk or wanting to control it. Conversely all the original X-Men but Hank McCoy can walk the streets without getting a second glance that’s other than appreciative. (Except maybe for Scott’s hipster shades.)

          There have been handwaves to explain it. (I liked the story where Reed admits that he created “the Fantastic Four” as an idea so that his friends would be seen as celebrity heroes rather than freaks.) But the mutant/nonmutant distinction has always been somewhat arbitrary in a way that doesn’t quite pattern match historical forms of bigotry.

          (And probably stems from the fact that it was developed when “the Marvel universe” was a device to facilitate crossovers rather than an aim at overall tonal consistency.)

        • JayT says:

          Sure, you’re never going to have a completely consistent universe when you are looking at 60 years worth of stories written by thousands of different people. I’m just pointing out that is the general idea behind the X-Men, and what makes them different.

      • Plumber says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal

        “This is a very common problem with fantastical allegories for discrimination. The X-Men movies and True Blood both have the same problem…”

        Well you’ve convinced me that witch burnings are rational, but I read Howard’s Conan (stab that sorcerer, stab ’em good!) stories, very seldome have Magic-User PC’s in D&D, and wonder why Moorcock’s Elric was never shived in his sleep.

        • cassander says:

          This trope is somewhat subverted in the Black Company series, where the first thing all powerful mages seem to do is weave an enormous number of protective spells around themselves to make it difficult to one shot them, and the principle common feature between powerful mages is their consequently enormous hit point pools.

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander

            “This trope is somewhat subverted in the Black Company series, where the first thing all powerful mages seem to do is ….”

            I’m not sure I like that unless the magicians meet their comeuppance anyway.

            Speaking of fantasy-fiction, I just finished reading The Tangled Lands collection by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell, which has four ‘shared world’ novellettes titled:

            “The Alchemist”

            “The Executioness”

            “The Children of Khaim”

            and

            “The Blacksmith’s Daughter”

            The setting uses a sort of mash-up of D&D’s
            Dark Sun setting with Larry Niven’s The Magic Goes Away, and the Sleeping Beauty/Brian Rose fairy tale, and it’s an obvious parable, but it’s AWESOME!!!

            It’s got seel against magic, and low born against high born, formerly high-born brought low, struggles amongst the high, struggles among the low to survive, attempts to maintain a ‘monopoly on magic’, I found the stories suspenseful and ‘page-turning’, and I really liked the world-building!

            I thought that it was really good, and if another book is described as like it, I’m gonna get it!

            Recommended.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve been meaning to get to the Black Company series for a while.

            @Plumber

            I’m not sure I like that unless the magicians meet their comeuppance anyway.

            #NotAllMages

          • cassander says:

            @plumber

            I’m not sure I like that unless the magicians meet their comeuppance anyway.

            Most of them definitely end badly.

            Funny you mention The Tangled Lands, though, I just finished it myself and thought it was ok, though no where near as good as I remembered Windup Girl being, which I’m now re-reading.

            It definitely stands up on re-read. The underlying science is still inconsistent with reality (everyone appears to have completely forgotten that nuclear power is a thing) but it’s consistent enough internally that I’m ok with it. If you like worldbuilding. you should really like it.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Well you’ve convinced me that witch burnings are rational,

          IIRC CS Lewis said a similar thing about people who said things like “We don’t burn witches any more, so we’re morally superior to our ancestors.” He pointed out that the reason we don’t burn witches is because we no longer believe in them, not because our moral systems have changed such that forming pacts with the Devil to curse your neighbours is now considered OK behaviour.

          • suntzuanime says:

            There is an element of moral progress in that we no longer use torture to extract confessions*, and we no longer use burning alive as a method of execution. Even if we believed in witches we’d be prosecuting them by supoenaing records of their texts with Satan, and we’d be punishing them with lethal poison that doesn’t make nearly so much a spectacle of their deaths.

            *officially, of our own citizens within our borders, at least. we still have some moral progress to make.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The Witchcraft Act of 1735 was the tipping point in the UK- it meant that it was no longer illegal to be a witch, only to claim that you were one.

          • bullseye says:

            I read an excerpt from a book about the European witch hunt written by a man who had personally witnessed some of them. He had basically the modern attitude toward them; they’re not real witches, so the whole thing is monstrous. (I don’t remember if he believed witchcraft was possible, but he didn’t believe the witch hunts ever got real witches.)

            It would start with somebody going to the local authorities and accusing someone of witchcraft. The authorities would dismiss the accusation for lack of evidence. Then the accuser would go around telling everybody about the witchcraft and how the authorities weren’t doing anything about it. Then the authorities would cave in from fear of mob violence against them. Confessions would be coerced through torture (with the torture hidden from the people in charge). Torture also brought forth the names of other “witches”, who would always eventually include the original accusers.

            To address C. S. Lewis’ point, I think increasing skepticism of witchcraft is part of it. But there’s also the rise of stronger states. A judge doesn’t have to worry about a mob murdering him in the street because they don’t like his decision.

          • Lillian says:

            This reminds me of how the Spanish Inquisition for the entire duration of its existence insisted in the strongest possible terms that witches were not real, but still wound up burning eleven of them.

            What happened is there was a great big witch hunt in the French Basque country, with the authorities reporting that they were finding great heaping piles of witches. They suspected that the infestation spread across the border into the Spanish Basque country, but couldn’t go across to root it out themselves. They kept bugging the Spanish Inquisition to look into it, until finally the Inquisition went, “Fine you crazy Frenchmen, we’ll look into it.” So they send a guy to go do just that, but since none of the sceptics wanted to waste their time, the guy they sent was one of the few actual believers.

            Now the Spanish Inquisition doesn’t do anything by halves, so with its full resources at his disposal, the guy they sent proceeds to conduct the largest witch hunt in European history. Tens of thousands of people are interviewed, and two thousand confessions are obtained implicating another five thousand people, for a total of some seven thousand cases. The guy reports great success back to the Inquistion headquarters, but the head Inquisitors are all like, “Well hold on now, let’s not be hasty, we should review the evidence.” So they do in fact review the evidence, and they come to the conclusion that it’s all bullshit, every last bit of it. To quote one of them:

            “The real question is: are we to believe that witchcraft occurred in a given situation simply because of what the witches claim? No: it is clear that the witches are not to be believed, and the judges should not pass sentence on anyone unless the case can be proven with external and objective evidence sufficient to convince everyone who hears it. And who can accept the following: that a person can frequently fly through the air and travel a hundred leagues in an hour; that a woman can get through a space not big enough for a fly; that a person can make himself invisible; that he can be in a river or the open sea and not get wet; or that he can be in bed at the sabbath at the same time;… and that a witch can turn herself into any shape she fancies, be it housefly or raven? Indeed, these claims go beyond all human reason and may even pass the limits permitted by the Devil.”

            However this leaves them with a problem. Having been subject to the largest witchhunt in European history, the people of the Basque country are riled up, panicky, and real tense If the Inquisition doesn’t burn somebody there’s going to be mass riots and lynchings. So they pick out eleven people who they’re pretty sure are guilty of something, burn them as witches, and let everyone else go. The Spanish Inquisition vows to never again listen to anything the French have to say, and goes back to its true calling of rooting out Secret Jews, which unlike witches were actually real.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Hot take: it’s just a bad show.

      You haven’t identified the only reason that it’s weird and self-contradictory about it. The core conflict is supposed to be that Sabrina is conflicted between the power that magic ideas her and the control that she must give up if she wants magic.

      Except that magic offers you nothing in this world, except to subject yourself to the constant attention of a small group of miserable, shitty cannibals who will try to distract themselves from how terrible their lives are by fucking you over. Everything about the magical society is right there out in the open and it’s all completely awful. Sabrina would transparently have lived a richer, more empowered life if she took the first bus away from that terrible town and got a job in a call center in Peoria.

      • Aapje says:

        A while back there was a comment in the culture war thread on Reddit, where a self-identified SJW tried to explain her subculture. What struck me how harmful to her, her self-described motivations and actions were.

        For example, she explained how her co-tenant was a very violent person (including to her), but also that when he got into a conflict with the landlord, she picked the side of the co-tenant because he had more power than the tenants. The actions by the landlord seemed extremely reasonable and the choice to side with the abusive co-tenant both harmful to the individual herself, as well as society in general, but this was nevertheless seen as an imperative.

        I think that a person with such a mindset would not regard this show to be bad or immoral, but would see enduring the awfulness as a necessary sacrifice to upend oppressive structures.

        Fleeing that situation would then be ‘selling out.’

        • albatross11 says:

          Aapje:

          That seems like a classic case of taking a sensible rule-of-thumb (when there’s a conflict between powerful and powerless people, usually the powerless people aren’t going to get a fair shake) and running it into the ground by not having any judgment. See also: positive thinking, avoiding stereotypes, trusting authority figures to know what they’re doing.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Its not a good rule of thumb unless you think that children are constantly being abused by their parents.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Children are very obviously a special case?

          • mdet says:

            Parents are obviously a special case. In a conflict between a child and an adult with no relation to them, I think our sympathies rightly default to the child. But parents are special in being assumed to have their kids’ best interest in mind.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      So, a question.

      What’s the biggest win for Team White Conservative Male in Sabrina? Do we get to see Witch Trials 2.0? Covens burnt with molotov cocktails and torn apart by angry mobs as they flee? Distant death dealt by hunting rifle on an unsuspecting witch, or witch-adjacent person?

      I’m going to bet we don’t. Because if not, this leads into my own Perhaps Unreasonably Uncharitable explanation. It’s not double-think, it’s just an absence of default values. The primary value is Team White Conservative Male Is Antagonized. The witchery exists not for its own sake, but because it something that TWCM decries. The evil acts performed aren’t evil, because good and evil aren’t real considerations. All that matters is whether you’re on TWCM or opposing them, and no one really cares about bad things happening to their enemies, right?

      And we don’t get TWCM as convincing antagonists because the point isn’t to tell a story which tests the protagonists and explores interesting ideas, it’s to present things that TWCM is opposed to. Not things that any one team that opposes TWCM supports; just things the enemy hates. And, because there are no higher values than that, we get cheerful murder and blackest magic, for funsies.

      I cheerfully admit that I could be wrong, since this is 100% Uncharitable Assumption based on what I’ve heard of the show, but I’d be really interested to know what people have seen the show think. Could you tell Sabrina in a positive rather than negative space, where TWCM had zero presence in the show at all?

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        The witches in Sabrina are super evil, and various witches and demons are the primary antagonists in Sabrina. Bigotry from the mortal side of her shitty little town is definitely present, but it’s a side story.

        Like, in terms of mostly-sympathetic portrayals of witches, you have Sabrina herself, her cousin I forget his name, her nice aunt, and her less-nice aunt. Her less-nice aunt is like the fourth-most-sympathetically presented witch, and she actually eats children. (You could quibble: there are some tertiary characters who may be more sympathetically presented than her less-nice aunt. But my point is, less-nice aunt is genuinely someone who eats children, and she is very far from the least sympathetic witch).

        The show does not think that the evil acts performed aren’t evil.

        The show does think that Sabrina might plausibly be tempted to condone the evil acts because… something something something?

        EDIT: Like, this show is super weird. I’m not picking up some minor detail when I mention cannibalism. There is a fucking lot of cannibalism in this show. It’s endemic throughout witch society. There are several different major cannibalism plots. Less-nice aunt is always going on about eating people, and particularly children. And Sabrina is horrified by this, and is always like, “Guys, no. Let’s not eat people. It’s not cool, guys.”

        (And, like, that’s not an isolated thing. Witch society is super cool with all kinds of horrible behavior, which Sabrina recognizes as horrible.)

        But she never, like, goes that extra step and says, “Wait, maybe witch society is awful and I shouldn’t participate in it at all.”

        • Robert Liguori says:

          Thanks for the update. It sounds like my Least Charitable assumptions were lost in the sea of Actual WTF.

          I don’t suppose any ongoing pseudo-sympathetic characters ever get murdered or eaten by the forces of evil?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Depends on how ongoing you mean. Sabrina’s mortal boyfriend’s brother is a pretty minor character, but he’s portrayed deeply sympathetically and then he’s killed by some kind of witch shenanigans, I don’t honestly remember whether it was the devil directly or what, and then Sabrina tries to use witch magic to raise him from the dead and surprise that doesn’t go well.

            The real Ms. Wardwell seems nice and she is brutally murdered by the demon who then takes her place for the rest of the season, though that’s right at the beginning of the show.

            EDIT: Gender non-conforming friend’s uncle gets eaten by a demon, and I think he was okay before he got eaten. Sabrina’s mortal boyfriend is not killed or anything, but he gets a raw deal courtesy witches a bunch of times.

            The show is definitely not on the side of the present power holders Church of Night or Satan or any of Satan’s demons. They are the big bads.

        • nadbor says:

          Exactly! People who haven’t watched the show but have overactive SJW detectors assume the whole thing is an SJW persecution fantasy. True, there are a some eye-rolling leftist shibboleths thrown here and there but that’s all it is.

          The true conflict of the show is between Sabrina’s run-of-the-mill 21st century western values and attitudes vs the absurdly evil and alien world of witches. To make it at least somewhat believable that this perfectly normal and likable teenager doesn’t instantly reject the entire witch society, we’re shown that:
          – her aunts, who are at first her only sources of information on the witch society are loyal and loving (both) and nice (one of them)
          – her aunts have been indoctrinating her to believe that witches and wizards are the good guys since they adopted her
          – her aunts apparently didn’t tell Sabrina about the most horrific stuff that goes on in the witching world and she only discovers it gradually as the show progresses
          – senior Church of the Night witches and wizards are actively plotting to get Sabrina to pledge herself to Satan by lying to her about the consequences, trying to convince her that it’s not a big deal, promising great power and promising that she could continue her normal life. One witch keeps manufacturing situations where Sabrina will be tempted to reach for more power, in particular to save her friends from danger. Eventually this strategy succeeds.

          People are talking about the show as if the writers made the witches evil by accident. BUT THAT’S THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE SHOW.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I don’t think they made the witches evil by accident. I do think they vastly under-justified Sabrina’s ambivalence to them. It’s just not plausible to me that Sabrina can’t see how completely awful witch society is. The fact that she’s not inured to its over the top craziness should be more reason for her to nope out of there.

            The show is also pretty inconsistent with hope they expect the audience to react to witch society. This is why I say it’s just not that good a show. It’s trying to do interesting things, but it’s craft is poor.

          • Deiseach says:

            The show is also pretty inconsistent with hope they expect the audience to react to witch society.

            I think part of that is the perennial problem: you write your bad guys to be powerful and glamorous but also terribly evil; you intend and expect the readers/audience to go “Oh how terribly awful they are, I am not taken in by the glamour one bit!” and then the audience goes “Hell yeah, bad-ass cool dudes!” and loves the bad guys the best and cheers them on as they use their powers to be extravagantly wicked.

            It’s the Draco in Leather Pants trope (warning: link to TV Tropes).

            Like, I hate The Punisher. I extremely disliked the character when the original comics came out, I didn’t like the movies, and I’m not one bit happy about the TV show. But a lot of people love the guy (both the actor and the character) and yep, the woobifying effect strikes again.

            What I see of the Sabrina characters on Tumblr is, for example, fans of the character Michelle Gomez plays – sure she’s an evil, murderous demon but she’s so hot and cool and look how she puts the men in their place! (Because, y’know, Men: The White Male Straight Conservative Patriarchy, boo hiss).

            Not just Tumblr, here’s an extract from a HuffPo article about her:

            The reboot endorses the long-held supernatural trope that being possessed by the devil instantly turns you into a regulation hot person. But Gomez vamps it up with a dollop of self-awareness, so that when her character starts to don low-cut blouses, favor truly exquisite blowouts and feast upon the hearts of pizza delivery boys, it’s impossible not to root for her.

            I have long been of the Dr Abraham van Helsing School of Vampire Diplomacy: stake, garlic, decapitation is how you deal with the forces of darkness, no sympathy for the devil 🙂

            So I can’t get behind the modern reboots where sure it’s cool to kill and torture because it’s all done in a fun, campy way (be that American Horror Story or Sabrina) and besides, the witches, demons and evil spirits are all on the right side of history when it comes to feminism, gay rights, and gender non-conformity (e.g. “Ambrose Spellman: Sabrina’s pansexual warlock cousin from England”). Yeah, that’s nice that they’ve all got the requisite 21st century attitudes, but even if the mortals opposing them are bullying jocks, coal miners, and puritanical headmasters, it’s still not right to torture, murder and eat them!

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Deiseach: The witches are not glamorous — certainly not the way that True Blood vampires are — and while I have not followed any Sabrina fandom, I’d be a little surprise if anyone thinks that the witches are particularly awesome. Probably someone likes the Weird Sisters, but they’re also pretty clearly marginalized in witch society.

            The problem is the opposite, actually, at least for me. Witch society is just clearly awful. I am being 100% serious when I say that Sabrina would clearly live a fuller, more self-empowered life if she went to a third-tier city and got a shitty job in a call center. I do not say that because I imagine that call center jobs are a lot of fun. All witches seem like they live awful lives. Everyone in their society are backstabbing assholes. They do not appear to live lives of material wealth. They aren’t in general pretty, sexy people (though there is some of that). They have yearly lotteries to see who gets consumed by the rest of the witches. They aren’t allowed to develop big coteries of mortal hangers-on like the vampires of True Blood. They don’t seem like they travel much. Their mandatory religious services — even when they don’t include like a 1% chance of the attendee dying — do not look fun. All they seem to be able to use their magic for is either pointlessly dicking over someone else in their society, or else defending themselves from the pointless dicking over that is definitely coming their way from their bored, psychopathic co-religionists.

            But the big character arc for Sabrina is “will she or won’t she embrace witch society?” Even if it were plausible for Sabrina to be agonized over that difference (and I don’t think it’s well-justified), they seem to expect the audience to be similarly compelled by the good side of witch society — but that good side is fucking nonexistent.

            Again: It’s just not a good show. Not at the level of the overall storycraft, at least. The actors do a good job, and the ambience is neat. You could imagine a show that deftly wove together a compelling magical society that has a major dark side, but this is not that show.

            (EDIT: And is Michelle Gomez a “regulation hot person”? I mean… look, she’s 52. She’s certainly an attractive woman, but she doesn’t look like the mid-20’s to early-30’s actresses who are staples on the CW and define the cultural expectation of television female hotness. Tati Gabrielle plays (one of very few) traditionally hot witches, and her role is actually a lot like Draco’s — she’s a bully, but actually she’s kind of a screwed-over pawn. I expect that, like Draco, she gets a lot more charity than her character entirely deserves due to her hotness. But Michelle Gomez is playing one of the major antagonists on the show. Any hints of her power are undercut by her subservience to Satan and her elaborate self-deception that her loyalty will be rewarded. I think the actress does a fine job with the character, full of nervous energy and awkward menace, but I think you’re imagining a lot of dimensions to the show that aren’t there.)

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Deiseach,

            This is a bit of a tangent, but characters like the Punisher or (more recently) John Wick are written from and only make sense in a certain American cultural context.

            For over three decades, from the late sixties through the late nineties, drugs and violent crime were omnipresent in American cities. A whole generation of the urban middle class were uprooted by unprecedented and rising crime rates. And all the while local and federal governments seemingly stood by: there wasn’t a meaningful push for tougher policing and sentencing until the height of the crime wave in the nineties.

            (And reality is intent on reminding us that the decline in crime since isn’t a given. We recently got a small taste of the late 20th century thanks to the nation-wide police pull-back following the riots in Ferguson and elsewhere.)

            There was, and still is, a very real sense among many Americans that the criminal justice system is more interested in playing politics than protecting the lives and property of ordinary citizens. The fantasy of someone like the Punisher who can inspire fear in criminals the same way that they terrify the citizenry fills a very real need.

            I’m sure that Ireland has media trends which wouldn’t make sense without a cultural memory of e.g. the Troubles. This is roughly analogous.

          • AG says:

            Michelle Gomez comes in with a pre-existing “I want Michelle Gomez to step on me” fandom because she recently played The Master as a pretty sexual being on Doctor Who.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nabil, the Punisher makes no sense as anything other than violent revenge fantasy. Because he can’t wipe out the entire Mafia single-handed, and even if he did manage to pull that off, some other criminal enterprise would step in to fill the vacuum.

            So he’s just blowing away dons and foot-soldiers because for the comics readers it was good gory fun and hey it’s the Mafia, they’re bad guys, who cares if they get splattered? And the writers could flatter themselves that they were taking comics to the ‘adult’ route, now they weren’t kids’ stuff anymore, now they were graphic novels (my eye the matter was treated in an adult fashion, swearing and ultra-violence does not equate to ‘mature grown-up consideration of the problem of evil’).

            But y’know, that’s fine, there’s a market for that kind of thing and everyone to their own taste. What I do object to is glorifying Frank Castle as anything other than a murderous thug. He doesn’t have any depth, his backstory is only a contrivance to give him an excuse to go blowing up criminals, and it’s all about “whee, big guns, explosions, and giblets!”

            So it does annoy me when I see young women going “So Tragique, so handsome and sexay, so deep and brooding and realistic” – the guy who plays him on TV isn’t the kind of looks that appeals to me so there you go, I do understand sex appeal but c’mon girls, there isn’t anything more there other than “I fancy this big tough hunk”.

            Also, before The Punisher and John Wick there was Charles Bronson and the Death Wish movies, I’m old enough to remember those, so it’s no new fad!

          • Deiseach says:

            I am being 100% serious when I say that Sabrina would clearly live a fuller, more self-empowered life if she went to a third-tier city and got a shitty job in a call center.

            sandoratthezoo, I absolutely agree! It’s horrible all round! Which is why I really, really don’t get the oohing and aahing over it that I’ve seen other than that there is some adolescent/young adult glamorisation of that kind of “outsider chic” story.

            But that’s because I’m not twenty anymore and I worked out all my teenage angst a long time ago (well, to a degree) and I’m one of the boring conservative ‘puritanical’ no-fun mortals who have these totally unreasonable objections to non-binary persons setting up witchcraft clubs in school, because we’re living in a town where witchcraft is real and the humans have family histories of curses and demons afflicting them so no, children, it’s not big, it’s not clever and I’m the headmaster so I’m banning it.

    • Randy M says:

      That is very weird. Are they going for a ‘dark and edgy is cool’ theme, where you root for the evil guys ’cause they have better fashion or whatever? Or a ‘you called us evil so you deserve the evil we do to you?’ theme, which is accidentally undermined?

    • mendax says:

      There’s a a Quillette piece about it. Been a while since I’ve read it, but I think the intended message of the show was “bad old wrong feminism” vs. “good new right feminism”, but perhaps the writing muddied that, or the writers’ conceptions of those concepts disagreed with viewers’.

      • Erusian says:

        For what it’s worth, I think if the show went with ‘The Church of Night is actually good and the Catholic Church is evil’ it would have been trite and cliche. But much better and cohesive than it actually was.

    • At one point a group of students murder a man and four innocent unrelated men because he went hunting. They then destroyed his immortal soul so he couldn’t even go to heaven or hell.

      Wait. That part is strange in its own right. Aren’t they Satanists? I’m assuming they sacrifice goats, so why do they have a problem with hunting?

      • Erusian says:

        Wait. That part is strange in its own right. Aren’t they Satanists? I’m assuming they sacrifice goats, so why do they have a problem with hunting?

        They shoot and kill a deer that has magical properties (which they don’t know). And apparently the man’s ancestors killed some witches several centuries ago. Killing these witches (who were some sort of Native Americans tormenting the colonists) was rewarded by the community with their land. Which they opened a mine on and became privileged white men. Except in aspect they look more like a stereotypical Trump voter from West Virginia than oligarchs. They live in a house that looks smaller than the protagonist’s.

        Really. Oh, and we see other witches doing the same (such as killing magical deer) but… err… hunters bad!

        It’s very forced and meant to drive a wedge between Sabrina and her boyfriend because the hunter is his brother.

    • J Mann says:

      I haven’t seen it, but at some level, does Sabrina work as a simple power fantasy? If you identify with the intersectional feminists at the core of the story, then maybe it’s liberating that not only are they freed from material constraints by their superpowers, they’re also freed from moral constraints. Not only can your audience-identified characters do whatever they want, they also may do so. It’s like identifying with Donald Westlake’s Parker or with Dexter or something.

      I always thought that was some of the appeal of True Blood. It’s exciting to imagine being a beautiful, nigh-immortal leather-clad ironically drawling badass who reduces his enemies to literal piles of meat and organs or chains them up for life in a basement to teach them a lesson, and the fact that your enemies are bigots who look down on you for chaining people up or ripping them apart lets you feel like the good guy in the story.

      Alternately, the writers might be going for the tension of a character trapped between two evil worlds, and missing the mark.

      • Nick says:

        Alternately, the writers might be going for the tension of a character trapped between two evil worlds, and missing the mark.

        FYI, and since you mention True Blood too, folks who want that should just watch Shiki. I haven’t even finished the series, but the conflict’s more interesting and better handled than this apparent “white men get their comeuppance from literal Satanists.”

        ETA: I’ll bet there are better examples, of course. Shiki‘s just the first that came to my mind.

        • J Mann says:

          Thanks for the recommendation, and speaking of Japanese horror, have you checked out Franken Fran? There’s not really a tension, but it does a nice job with an innocent character living in a fundamentally amoral world.

      • Nornagest says:

        That’s not what I got out of True Blood. There is a tension between vampires as oppressed minority and the sorts of horrifying shit that some of the vampires in the show actually get up to, but it’s easily resolved by pointing out that the thousand-year-old vampire is a thousand-year-old vampire and therefore has a Viking’s morals. The modern vampires we see generally act like moderns, albeit ones with a medical condition that gives them intrusive urges and the occasional unstoppable rage.

        • J Mann says:

          The challenge to that viewpoint is that Eric and Pam are the fan favorites, and most of the Fandom seemed to see Eric’s lifetime of torture on what’s her name as a f-yeah moment instead of a horror moment. Also, Jessica’s sad about it, but she mind controls and or eats more people than she probably should.

          • Nornagest says:

            So, fans overlook all sorts of moral lapses from a character who’s pretty and badass? That puts it on par with… every other vampire series ever written, along with Hannibal and Game of Thrones and any number of others. I don’t think fan behavior’s a very good barometer of intent here.

            Besides, Alexander Skarsgård’s just inherently cool. I liked him better in Generation Kill, though.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s St. Germaine would be an exception to the popular evil vampire.

            He only needs a little blood, but he also needs intense emotion along with the blood, which he gets by giving orgasm to the women he’s getting blood from. This might be a slightly unsavory female fantasy, considering that vampires are impotent.

            In any case, there’s no attractively evil vampire in the series to draw attention from him, or at least there wasn’t in the first half dozen or so that I read.

            There was an amusing short story about St. Germaine tracking down and killing a murderous vampire who for whatever reason was making up being a vampire as he went along. He was not just murderous, but as I recall, also pretentious and stupid.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I haven’t watched the show, is it possible that it is the sort of Villain Protagonist show like Death Note, Breaking Bad or Dexter?

      • Erusian says:

        No, because the protagonist (Sabrina) follows something akin to modern progressive morality. And this morality is explicitly set up in opposition to both the Church of Night and Conservative White Males.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        No. Sabrina herself is pretty nice — certainly well-intentioned, sometimes she gets in over her head and makes morally compromised choices because she doesn’t see better options. But nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a kind of standard show about someone struggling with difficult choices. Sabrina certainly wants to, whatever, smash the patriarchy, but she doesn’t want to murder the principal or the douchey football players or the other people who stand in for the patriarchy. The awful stuff gets perpetrated by other characters who are themselves antagonists or at best complicated side characters.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think their main problem was that they were rebooting an original show which was premised on yes, magic and witches are real, but they’re not dark gloomy evil old bats, they’re cool aunts and blonde teenagers living in brightly-lit pastel surburban homes!

      Well, this just won’t do for modern times, so they kept the magic and witches are real, but swapped out the bright colours and fun for yes they’re also evil (because American Horror Show was so successful, I guess?)

      Wrapping all that around “the white conservative religious guys are totally asking to be tortured and murdered because c’mon, we all know white conservative religious guys are real world racists and bigots and homophobes so it’s not like anybody worthwhile is getting killed by the evil witches who get to be cool and powerful and fabulous as they use magic” means they can eat their cake and have it. Yes, Satan gives them their power, but Satan is also part of the mean ol’ Patriarchy (yet another male that wants to control women) so they can have the trendy darkness but also fight against it without being the conservative religious boring normies.

      • LHN says:

        Though as I recall, the original comic the show was based on had the premise that witches are real, and they are pretty much all ugly old bats who go in for traditional wickedness (albeit with a very light touch), except for Sabrina who’s a Normal Teenager (with magic) saddled with an embarrassing family. Basically the same setup as Casper the Friendly Ghost or Wendy the Good Little Witch, except high school antics instead of elementary.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      To what extent are conservatives actually right in the show’s universe? Is social justice as a whole shown to be a conspiracy by witches to eat people? Or is it more a matter of one particular social justice advocate being an evil witch?

      I’m imagining a rough culturally-transposed equivalent (based on the little I’ve picked up on the thread) as follows: Protagonist is an elite military or intelligence operative. It turns out their elite unit does a lot of very evil things. The protagonist fights to put a stop to this–so that they can get back to fighting for their nation’s interests abroad the right way.

      I wouldn’t necessarily call it doublethink to execute this plot without them questioning whether they’re on the right side overall.

      • Erusian says:

        To what extent are conservatives actually right in the show’s universe? Is social justice as a whole shown to be a conspiracy by witches to eat people? Or is it more a matter of one particular social justice advocate being an evil witch?

        Both. For example, demons support anti-Catholic anti-religious sentiment because their ceremonies actually work. And they don’t want inconvenient exorcists saving those souls. Likewise with Native Americans, etc.

        However, we only meet the town’s feminists who are unaffiliated with any national organization. So it’s possible they’re the only one. But considering they’re the only representatives we see…

        I’m imagining a rough culturally-transposed equivalent (based on the little I’ve picked up on the thread) as follows: Protagonist is an elite military or intelligence operative. It turns out their elite unit does a lot of very evil things. The protagonist fights to put a stop to this–so that they can get back to fighting for their nation’s interests abroad the right way.

        This isn’t what they do though. The Church of Night is completely uninterested in reforming society or fighting the patriarchy (and in fact is patriarchal itself). They are not at war with the conservatives, the conservatives are at war with them. The conservatives attack them in ways that are explicitly compared to prejudice.

        However, the Church of Night performs murders, massacres, sexual assault, cannibalism, and torture both as required by their Satanic rituals and because individual members want to.

    • nadbor says:

      I did notice the discrepancy. Evil demon worshipping, murderers and cannibals but also loyal and honourable and loving elderly ladies. Be repulsed by them but also root for them.

      It bothered me a bit but in hindsight that’s what made the show interesting. It’s pretty obvious to me that the creators of the show deliberately made it this way.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      This seems like a good place to discuss Us, but are spoilers an issue?

      General point: It’s a classic horror movie, and I recommend it to anyone who likes horror movies. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s pretty bloody, but doesn’t linger on injuries.

      • Nick says:

        I haven’t seen it yet. It looked really good based on the trailer, but the review blurbs on Rotten Tomatoes all have this “for all its flaws…” caveat.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Considering the popularity of noir, I wonder if there could be a popular series where the traditional conservatives and the representatives of everyone else are equally evil.

      • albatross11 says:

        Game of Thrones?

        (The High Sparrow and the Faith Militant were probably still a better choice for rulers than Cersei, though.).

  8. sorrento says:

    AI winter still lingers in robotics, apparently. Why is it so hard to build profitable robotics companies?

    • Controls Freak says:

      XKCD answered this question just three days ago.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I have the impression that this so called “social robotics” isn’t going anywhere.

      Yann LeCun once used the terms “Cargo Cult AI” or “Potemkin AI” or “Wizard-of-Oz AI”. He was talking about the Sophia robot, but I think these characterizations (in particular the “Cargo Cult AI” which implies self-deception and wishful thinking rather than deliberate misrepresentation) apply to the social robotics field as a whole.

      People think of robots as appliances, not as people or even as pets. Making robots look cute with big expressive eyes doesn’t change this fact. People want robots that do useful things, and all the Kuris, the Peppers, the Naos and the old Aibos did nothing but repeat the same basic scripted demonstration behaviors in a loop. Their only real application was as standardized research platforms for university labs and dedicated hobbyists, an extremely niche market.

      It’s no coincidence that the only autonomous robots with any real consumer market presence are automated vacuum cleaners. At least they do something useful, and even there, they are still a small niche of the vacuum cleaner market.

    • JPNunez says:

      Controlling a physical body in open space is still super hard. Strides in image recognition has helped it a lot, but it is still a hard problem where failure is rewarded with a robot or a car running over a real person.

      Do note that one place where progress has been made is in flying drones, the littler the better, maybe because they can be practical without a lot of mass. But as they become more weighty, the real world constrains hit them too and things like flying taxis seem shaky to deploy on production. There’s also the problem of regulation, but surely Amazon will solve this if they feel they are ready for drone delivery. Below a certain weight, maybe it won’t worry too much about potentially flattening a person (even tho a 10 kilos drone will still kill a person from a hundred meters, and it can cause damage to real planes full of real people).

  9. Tarpitz says:

    It appears that the House of Commons has now voted against every course of action that is open to it regarding Brexit, to say nothing of several that aren’t, while voting particularly hard against the thing that will happen all by itself if they don’t settle on something else.

    Possibly this is a retaliatory strike on the satire industry.

    It seems to me that the remaining possibilities are May’s deal passing at the third attempt, no deal, or a longer extension (complete with participation in the European Parliament elections) to allow for a general election.

    • brad says:

      I’m not an expert on U.K. parliamentary history but this seems like exactly the kind of situation where general elections are supposed to happen. Our actually back May’s deal was voted down the first time.

      • Lambert says:

        Not enough time for that. Plus it would just replace a deeply divided Tory Party who can’t get anything done with a deeply divided Labour Party who can’t get anything done.

        • brad says:

          Wouldn’t the general idea, again considering how parliament has mostly worked over the past century:
          * dissolve parliament
          * parties publish election manifestos
          * the voters vote
          * whoever wins has a firm mandate for the plan in the election manifesto

          • John Schilling says:

            whoever wins

            There’s your problem. No party wins an absolute majority. No minor party decides to sacrifice its own interests for the “greater good” by just giving up an annexing itself to one of the major parties. While they are negotiating the power-sharing agreement necessary to form a government, April 12 comes and Hard Brexit happens by default.

          • Tarpitz says:

            There’s no possible way for a general election to happen in the next fortnight. A longer extension would already have to be in place – at least till May 22nd.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There’s also the possibility that the form of Brexit most popular with the voters wouldn’t make it into the manifestoes of either major party, in which case the eventual deal would probably be perceived as lacking legitimacy by a large part of the country.

            Yet another possibility is a Hung Parliament, in which the parties which could form a coalition all went into the election promising different Brexit plans.

          • brad says:

            Sure, I understand that minority governments aren’t really how the system is supposed to work, and if that’s going to be a regular thing norms need to change. But would such an outcome be a highly likely outcome?

            As for timing, as I said, it probably should have happened back on January 15th. That vote was the moral equivalent of loss of supply.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s not just that the system isn’t supposed to work with minority governments, it’s that a minority government clearly wouldn’t have a “firm mandate” for their Brexit plan, even if they could win over enough MPs from other parties to pass it through the Commons.

        • Tarpitz says:

          What gives you the idea Labour would win? They’re certainly not ahead in the polls. With their Scottish seats permanently lost, the best they can possibly hope for seems to be a ramshackle left wing mega-coalition that would, yes, have trouble passing anything.

          The only path to clarity through a general election I can see is a Tory majority strong enough to shrug off some rebels, and that doesn’t seem terribly likely either.

    • ManyCookies says:

      On the one hand some of the votes were pretty close and the whole thing was nonbinding, so there might be enough pressure to compromise when push actually comes to shove (although I said that two months ago). On the other hand these plans weren’t fully fleshed out like May’s was, which bodes super poorly for their chances once they start working out details…

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Eh. Some of them were defacto fully fleshed out plans – “Join EEA and EFTA” for example, would probably sail through with the EU without a hitch, and is a fully fleshed out legal arrangement because Norway is already in that boat. But, well, that was not exactly popular. The most popular solution was “Permanent customs union” which. .. What? They want the same relationship with the EU as Turkey? O.o I mean, the EU would probably sign off on it, just to stop Ireland from having massive problems, but… That setup burns the City, pretty darn hard?

        • rlms says:

          “Join EEA and EFTA” for example, would probably sail through with the EU without a hitch

          The current EFTA members seem more ambivalent about it though (since Britain would dominate economically and in population).

    • sharper13 says:

      +1, great line: Possibly this is a retaliatory strike on the satire industry.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Isn’t this sort of situation exactly what they keep a Queen around for?

    • AlphaGamma says:

      There is precedent. In 2003 the Commons voted against every one of a range of proposals for House of Lords reform, including the status quo and abolition.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Difference being, I suppose, that in that case reality defaulted to the status quo, where here it very much doesn’t. And also that there I’m pretty sure the public didn’t much care, where here many of us have strong and opposing views.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Outside-the-box solution: Parliament should hold an election. As in, Parliament are the voters and Brexit plans are the candidates.

      They’d have to agree on nomination and voting methods–not easy, but surely easier than agreeing on a Brexit deal?

      Might be legal issues with the legislature inventing its own new methodology, but a nonbinding thing with personal pledges to abide by the outcome should avoid that?

      • John Schilling says:

        They’d have to agree on nomination and voting methods–not easy, but surely easier than agreeing on a Brexit deal?

        How is this not exactly the same as agreeing on a Brexit deal?

        • J Mann says:

          I think ADA is proposing some system where you have to agree on exactly one outcome – voting no on everything (including status quo) isn’t acceptable.

          There are a bunch of models (Papal elections, for example), but it’s not a bad parliamentary suggestion to have a process where by some vote (majority, super-majority, whatever), the body can lock itself into a process to settle on a single choice among several.

          I have a friend who says that American health care has a similar problem. A majority are unhappy with the status quo, but there is also majority opposition to every alternative, at least when the details are spelled out.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Depends how predictable the outcomes of the different methods are, right? As long as there’s at least one method that sounds reasonable on its face and isn’t easily predicted, it should improve the situation.

        • Chalid says:

          Deniability. Say a majority of Parliament wants a new referendum but doesn’t want to be seen to be voting for it. They institute instant-runoff voting; everyone puts referendum as second choice, and it wins, but everyone in Parliament gets to say “I told you so” when things don’t work out properly.

        • vV_Vv says:

          How is this not exactly the same as agreeing on a Brexit deal?

          No because it would only require a plurality rather than a majority.

          Of course, they can’t make it legally binding, so a majority of MPs would have to promise to then cast a legally binding vote for whatever outcome of the first non-binding vote came out, and they might well chicken out.

  10. Well... says:

    About ads.

    I’m not anti-capitalist, but I think one of capitalism’s ugliest features is probably advertising. I loathe TV and radio commercials, billboards, and ads on the internet. I’ve never seen a brand logo or slogan printed anywhere where I thought it improved the thing it was printed on. For every 500 pages of junk mail delivered to my house, I’d guess maybe 3 pages contain a coupon I end up using, and only one page contains other kinds of information (a new store opening, a sale or promotion, etc.) that I eventually act on. But can the world I know and love work without advertising?

    If advertising were different in such a way that I found it enjoyable and unobtrusive, and didn’t require the harvesting of lots of personal data about me to be enjoyable and unobtrusive, would it still be effective and worthwhile enough to exist?

    What makes advertising distinct from its taxonomic neighbors (e.g. marketing, promotion, persuasion, etc.)?

    Is advertising in most instances a form of pollution?

    Is it ethical to advertise to kids? Why is it ethical to advertise to anyone?

    What forms of advertising are acceptable to us, and what forms aren’t? Why?

    Why are advertisers allowed to tell lies so long as a “reasonable” person would quickly be able to recognize the lie? (I think I’m summarizing the law accurately there; maybe someone who knows this better will correct me.)

    What would a world without advertising look like? Could it work? Is it possible?

    • albertborrow says:

      CONTENT WARNING: I have a single (1) microeconomics and macroeconomics course under my belt. My confidence in the accuracy of the rhetoric is like 67-75%, whereas my confidence in the end point I’m trying to make is something like 85-95%.

      1) The world probably couldn’t exist the way it does today without some form of advertising. Growing the company’s market increases the amount they sell, which increases economies of scale – even ignoring actual products like Coca Cola, can you imagine how hard it would be for an industry as tightly knit as Hollywood to exist if the only way for your movie to get viewers in theaters was word of mouth?

      2) No, because history shows advertisements large enough to work are large enough to annoy people. Once advertisements are scaled down, we start to wonder how we lived with them the way they were before, and then the new scaled down size becomes the new normal. There are very few exceptions to this. Even seamless algorithmic promotion requires a lot of data on the target before it becomes effective.

      3) Marketing, promotion, and persuasion all have an element of personal interaction. Sometimes that personal interaction can be intolerable, but at the very least you’re talking to a real human rather than staring at an uncanny-valley style smiling face.

      4) According to Econguru:

      pollution Definition: Any waste that imposes an opportunity cost when it’s returned to the natural environment.

      So maybe it’s not pollution in the technical sense – advertising isn’t waste. But the opportunity cost of not advertising is very high, and it’s definitely “waste” in the sense that it distorts and destroys art that it’s put in. I’d call it memetic pollution. A waste of ideas, that are forced to spread and hard to get out of the popular conscience.

      5) No, just like it’s not ethical to entice a child into having sex – they’re not smart enough or clever enough on average to know what they really want, and if they don’t really want it, it carries a cost. One can argue that the cost of advertisement (29.99 for a toy in two installments) vs. the cost of molestation (probably thousands of productive working hours and money for a therapist) are different on the orders of magnitude, but you don’t see molestation occurring on a nationwide scale. In the same vein, advertising is in general exploitative, but at least with adults, there’s the implication that they’re capable decisionmakers. (no matter how many studies show awareness of advertising doesn’t affect effectiveness)

      6) Advertisements that are legitimate and spontaneous endorsements of a product tend to be fun to listen to. This is why Sponsors will tell the people they are sponsoring to phrase their recommendation as genuine and spontaneous, which consequentially made this style of advertisement offensive as a matter of sheer saturation. So the answer to “what advertisement is tolerable” is typically whatever type of advertisement isn’t being done to death.

      7) Advertisers aren’t allowed to tell lies. What they are allowed to do is mislead, or offer opinions. “The best celery cutter on the market!” is not easy to disprove. Similarly, my internet company can offer me 50Mbps but only provide me with 24 on average, because it doesn’t matter if the performance they advertise is only true on occasion, so long as it is true. That having been said, a lot of the leeway on this is because the industry is new, or because the company did regulatory capture, or because they’re a monopoly and you can’t vote with your wallet, or because they’re really lying but it’d be too expensive for anyone to sue them.

      8) Yes, it could work. It could also increase competition because it would be very hard to get a market share that’s stupidly large. That having been said, a lot of entertainment and media is supported by advertisement. They would have to find a new business model pretty quickly in order to avoid disappearing. (I’m partial to Patreon’s patron based model, but not partial to the platform of Patreon as a whole – I imagine the market for patron-based platforms would be much more competitive if more people used them, though.)

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      What would a world without advertising look like? Could it work? Is it possible?

      An interesting fictional answer to this is in James Tiptree Jr.’s story “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”. (I read this because it appeared in New Dimensions 3, the same science fiction anthology where “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” first appeared.) Advertising is banned, but products can be shown being “legitimately used”, so there are celebrities whose careers consist solely of various forms of product placement at parties, in soap operas, etc. (The sci-fi element is that the biggest celebrity in the story is actually a lab-grown body operated remotely via some kind of wireless nervous system technology.)

    • ads on the internet

      One reason I love ads on the internet is that although they exist due to capitalist motives they create the profoundly uncapitalist feeling experience of being able to access so much without having to exchange any money. You can also become part of the secret minority who use adblock, which is unavailable in real life, and apparently the average internet user has no idea what adblock is, because all of these services remain solvent.

      • Unsaintly says:

        I work for an internet advertising company. We really don’t mind if you want to block ads. There’s basically three reasons:
        First, blocking ads denies the publisher money (that is, the website the ad is hosted on). We don’t bid on ads until the exchange contacts us, which is after the point at which the vast majority of ad blocking occurs.
        Second, if you want to block ads, you aren’t likely to respond well to those ads in the first place. We may as well not spend money on you, and you’re happy to help.
        Third, our advertising campaigns always run out of budget before we run out of people to serve ads to. Unless way more people start using adblock, we’re going to bid on the same number of requests and serve up the same number of ads. People blocking ads just reduce the number of bids we process.

        • Ketil says:

          As an adblock user, I probably shouldn’t say this – but a larger pool of ad viewers would likely drop the prices of advertising, which would make your services more valuable to the customer…

          But it makes sense that it is mostly the publisher who is concerned with ad blocking (as evidenced by the annoying popups with “we see you are using an adblocker”. Any way to block those?)

          • AG says:

            NoScript your way to victory! Disable the thing making the anti-adblocker show up in the first place!

            I’ve configured some streaming websites such that I’ve gotten rid of mid-episode ads. Haven’t managed it with YT yet, but I haven’t experimented that much to get rid of YT ads yet.

          • 10240 says:

            @AG I watch videos on youtube (and other websites) by passing the link to a script that extracts the url of the video file using youtube-dl, and passes it to a media player. (Actually the media player mpv has this functionality built-in, automatically calling youtube-dl if youtube-dl is available and its parameter itself doesn’t point to a video file, reminding me of this xkcd.)

          • dick says:

            @10240, is that not kind of overkill? Just installing the latest ad blocker (currently uBlock Origin) is enough to use youtube with no ads or other annoyances. I go years at a time without remembering that youtube even has ads.

            Edit to add: and I’m a little mystified that they continue to allow this to work, because I feel like they could defeat this any time they liked by delivering the ads as part of the video stream.

          • 10240 says:

            @dick I guess it’s an overkill if the only purpose is blocking ads, if uBlock Origin works. I find that a standalone video player also tends to be better at seeking, have better performance in general, which are part of the reason I do this, and so I’ve never bothered to figure out if I can block youtube video ads with an ad blocker.

          • acymetric says:

            NoSript is definitely my preference and has some benefits beyond just blocking ads, but does require a bit more willingness to fiddle and maybe a bit more general understanding of browsing. I highly recommend it but a simpler adblocker is probably fine/preferable for some folks.

          • AG says:

            It just seems that anti-adblocker is enough of a stickler with some of the people here, that it’s worth mentioning a solution to anti-adblocker, that also replaces their adblocker, so your app count doesn’t go up.

        • @Unsaintly
          That’s very interesting.

          @Ketil
          What especially annoys me about the ad blocker blockers is that half the time they don’t even work; even if you disable the adblocker completely they still detect it as existing so you’d have to go to the effort of uninstalling it and at that point I’d rather just give up and not use the offending website to begin with.

          • Incurian says:

            My least favorite thing is when I comply with their polite request, only to find I was blocking an auto-playing video. I block ads because they tend to be annoying, not because I want to deny you revenue. Stop being annoying and I’ll stop blocking.

          • Honestly, if most ads on the internet were merely classic banner style ads I would never use an adblocker. I even occasionally disable adblocker with the intent of giving a site some clicks but then there’s pop-ups or some other annoying crap.

            Even Youtube used to just have side and banner images that were ads, but then they must have realized that video ads were more profitable.

          • CatCube says:

            @Incurian

            That’s exactly why I don’t disable my adblocker anymore. I once had a virus get onto my computer through an ad, and I’m straight up Nope! on ads on my machine.

            Now, I won’t make any effort to bypass adblocker prevention; if they don’t want me using an adblocker, that’s their right. I won’t expose myself to the nonsense that are modern web advertisements, though.

          • Robin says:

            Is there an ad blocker which removes the ads from the page, but at the same time simulates a click on the ad, i.e. downloads the page the ad links to, and throws that away, too?
            That way, I don’t see the ads, the web page I’m visiting get a little revenue from the advertiser, and everybody is happy.

          • acymetric says:

            @Robin

            Not the person paying for the ads.

            I also probably wouldn’t be totally comfortable with a plugin that is silently opening unknown (possibly malicious) pages in the background.

            You can whitelist pages you like enough to want to give them ad revenue and that you know don’t have obnoxious/obtrusive ads which might be a simpler/more practical solution.

          • @acymetric

            I also probably wouldn’t be totally comfortable with a plugin that is silently opening unknown (possibly malicious) pages in the background.

            For even more overhead: run the browser in a virtual machine that can safely be infected with a virus!

          • albatross11 says:

            Catcube: Yep. Unless it’s a site I need to get to for some reason (work, kids’ events, etc.) I’ll just hit the back button if they demand I turn off my ad blocker.

          • acymetric says:

            @albatross11

            I just recently had to switch local news sites because the one I preferred started doing this.

            I guess they won’t miss me?

        • andrewflicker says:

          I’m a professional ecommerce guy, and a fair bit of my specialization is in paid advertising. If your campaigns are running out of budget, you’re doing it wrong. Advertising should be net-margin-dollar positive after advertising spend, so turning off a campaign because it hit some arbitrary budget number is simply reducing your overall profit. If it’s NOT net-margin-dollar positive, why is the campaign running at all?

          • Well... says:

            I am nowhere near in that space so I’m taking a wild guess, but could it be due to the way contracts are structured?

          • andrewflicker says:

            If they’re an agency, and not in-house, you’re likely correct. That’s the usual reason for agency budget limitation- the client set the budgets and the agency is just doing the best they can for that fixed pot of money. (So the client gave them a dumb order, and they couldn’t talk the client out of it, or didn’t try.)

            If they’re in-house marketers/advertisers (as is increasingly common, if not an outright majority), then they simply misunderstand it or (more likely) have a boss that misunderstands it and gave them a dumb order, etc. Sadly quite common. Every company my company acquired was making really dumb paid advertising decisions like this.

        • Deiseach says:

          I was forced to use an adblocker because of Yahoo/Oath/Verizon/whoever bought it in the last ten minutes desperation to monetise Tumblr, which included stuffing so many ads and sponsored content onto the page that it was literally unreadable.

          Having done so, the difference is striking. Even more so when I use a device without an ad blocker, and I get a webpage that again is so choked with banner ads, sidebar ads, ads in between the paragraphs, pop-ups and the like that there is 90% advertising to 10% content, and I can’t read the article I opened the page to see in the first place.

          I will never go back to not using an ad blocker, and the pity is that discreet content would work to target ads, but by the desperate stuffing of ads onto sites, the creators have forced people into the arms race of adblocker – begging letter popups guilt-tripping about ‘we depend on ad revenue to provide this service, disable or whitelist us’ – paywalls – using getarounds to get around paywalls – more ads – better adblockers and so on ad infinitum.

        • Shion Arita says:

          I always mention this when the adblock argument comes up. I’m opting out because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see it because I know myself and know I won’t find the content appealing. Which means I was never going to buy the thing, so why would the advertisers want to pay for me to see the ad?

          • The same argument is why I am puzzled at the hostility a lot of people express towards advertisers collecting information in order to figure out who to advertise to. The more information is out there about me, the more likely it is that advertisers will tell me about things I might want to buy, the less likely that I will get robocalls at dinner time offering to refinance my nonexistent mortgage.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @DavidFriedman

            On the one hand I expect advertisers to use this information to figure out what to tell me – and what not to tell me – to get the response they want, e.g. voting for the politician of their choice – taking advantage of whatever tricks they know, which almost certainly include telling me a lot of things that aren’t true.

            On the other hand, I expect this information to be available, for a fee, to anyone else who wants it.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Or the more likely that they will succeed in manipulating me…or distracting me.

          • albatross11 says:

            DavidFriedman:

            Once they’ve collected as much information as they can from my web searches, they’ll use it to try to max out how much they can sell the ads for, but I see little reason to think they’ll refuse to sell it to other people for other uses I’ll like less. Nor do I see any reason to think they’ll refuse to sell/give it to any government agencies that would like to track people, or for that matter to any private companies that might like to do so.

    • sharper13 says:

      There are two really useful functions of advertising. How annoying they are (for me) tends to be how much they diverge from the ideal.

      First, discoverability. Suppose I wrote a thriller novel in a style somewhere between Robert Ludlum and Lee Child. There are a million people who would love to pay $5.99 for that novel so they can read it and get hours of enjoyment as a result. How do they know it even exists for them to purchase?

      In an ideal world, we’d have perfectly targeted advertising, where everyone who would for sure love my book could be contacted with a recommendation they trust telling them that. They one-click and buy and we’re all happy and the advertising market is maximally efficient in it’s job of helping match-make trades.

      Back in the real world, we don’t have the technology nor necessarily want the privacy invasion necessary to perfectly simulate every individual’s desires and compare them to various products in order to decide to advertise that product to them or not. Instead, we make do with “good enough”, with that bar basically being set at the point where it’s economically viable to target that audience with a particular advertisement.

      So if I can target a Facebook ad at people who are both members of the Robert Ludlum Appreciation Group and the Lee Child Fan page, not 100% will want and like my book, but probably a high enough percentage will to make it worthwhile in the cost to me and also the cost to them (to glance at it and either pursue the ad or ignore it). As that targeting gets wider, the product either needs to have a wider appeal (Brand X Soda Drink, say), or else a corresponding greater profit on the smaller percentage who it does appeal to.

      We get to the general demographic level, eventually. So sports fans tend to like beer. I’m a sports fan and I don’t drink. I’m still subjected to endless beer ads, unless I happen to have a technological mechanism to skip them because I don’t find them useful to me. At the extreme, many people drink Cola, Coke and Pepsi advertise everywhere, especially to groups which are just deciding which one they prefer (younger crowd). I don’t drink caffeine, so all those ads are wasted on me. At that level, at least they attempt to make the ads entertaining (which they can afford primarily because of the wide appeal of them means they’re going to spend a lot to get lots of people to see them, so the ad production budget can be higher when spread across so many impressions, see also Superbowl), so I can enjoy watching a beer or cola ad sometimes, despite having no interest in beer.

      The nice thing about discoverability is that over time with improving technology, we’ve gotten better at that match making function. It’ll get better in the future as we trade more privacy/more personalization for it, or else come up with a better way to isolate the personal identification with the associated bundle of desires. The other nice thing is that as we improve our interests match making ability, both the advertiser and the viewer get more benefit from the advertising. If you just had a baby, then getting a coupon for diapers in the mail is great. If you can’t even get pregnant, not so much….

      Second, branding. In the first part, I sort of hand-waved away the ability to trust a recommendation source that because the ad is targeted to you, you’ll like a particular product when you buy it. Trust in an advertising context generally comes from a few difference sources. If you’ve bought something before, especially more than once, you’ll trust that you’re going to get another something like that next time if they were all uniform results. If you share values, or culture, or interests, or whatever, with a company or with people who like that company’s products, then you’ll also have a tendency to trust that you’ll like them more than a random company you know nothing about, or worse, know bad things about. The collection of information we have about a product, a company, an author, a sports/movie star, etc… is what we call their brand identity.

      At worst, if you’re a romantic horror cozy mystery reader and you already read one of my thriller books and hated it, because you hate reading about the military and spies and stuff like that and just wanted relationships with a scary element, then seeing my brand advertised to you will really annoy you. Why would you care about that ad? Even then, the brand information you have speeds up your cognitive process by giving you a shortcut to dismiss the ad.

      The more a brand corresponds with what you’ll get, again, the more beneficial it is to both parties. We both know Company SJW signals really hard about certain political issues. You like them and want to work there and buy the products they recommend. I don’t and don’t. It’s ok, their branding benefits both of us in getting what we do or don’t want.

      Discoverability is about prompting action. Branding is about achieving trust/alignment of interests.

      So my position would be that advertising done well is ethical and beneficial, not pollution. People aren’t perfect/sometimes very good at their jobs. Advertising done poorly is a losing proposition on both sides. It also tends to get cut when it doesn’t make any money. Can it be overdone? Sure, mostly because some politicians… I mean, ad buyers don’t know when to stop because their ads are already saturating all the available spots in a market and they’re starting to damage their brand with many people as a result.

      Also, I’m really annoyed by, ahem… I’m not the right audience for, ads which essentially tell you that their example customer is stupid because look at this dumb thing they did. I’m mostly offended by the idiocy of the ad-writer in that situation, rather than the target audience, though.

      • DinoNerd says:

        In a perfect world, discoverability would be handled by searches, initiated by the potential customer, and reviews, posted by other customers. At one point, I’d have learned of your novel via Amazon recommending books that people who buy the same things as I do tend to buy. A bit later, I might have learned of it via Goodreads and/or LibraryThing – and the latter does in fact still work reasonably. Likewise, there was a time when I could identify a decent service via Yelp reviews. I can still often find “which local store sells xxxx” via the manufacturers web site (though some such sites are full of errors, or otherwise unusable).

        Currently, when I ask Amazon for books by a particular author, half the results are explicitly labelled as sponsored, and only half of the remaining ones come from that author. Yelp is infested with paid reviews, and there’s a whole industry providing those reviews, both pro and con. Google gives me several ads before I get down to potentially unbiased results. So what I see correlates not with the desirability or relevance of the product (for me), but with the depth of its sellers’ pocketbooks. This is not good for either the new vendor or for the potential customer.

        Meanwhile, Comcast Business sends me paper spam at least weekly, phrased as if I still need to “discover” them. Ditto for ATT, but at least they have the decency to put their name on the envelope.

        The experience is so aversive that I avoid many potential sources of discoverability, and now usually learn about new things late, from personal contacts. I’d prefer an effective source of information on truly innovative options, or for that matter on “me too” options for things repeatedly consumed (food, novels, etc.) but anything like that is drowned out by fake reviews, and repeated announcements of the availability of services that everyone in the city already knows about, except perhaps a few infants 🙁

        • Well... says:

          If discoverability is handled by searches, then what are the algorithms that determine the order in which results are returned? Can they be gamed? And if so, wouldn’t that game become a form of advertising? Or would the algorithms themselves be a form of advertising?

          • DinoNerd says:

            I’m sure they can be gamed – and are. I’m not sure of the extent to which offers of improving one’s search results – for a fee, not given to the search engine provider – are themselves just some kind of scam.

            But as an anecdatum, recent searches for low sodium meals produced a top result that was merely moderate, from a company that seems to make an artform of selling the same thig to different people, differently labelled. Either there is no supplier in that space (possible), or a very good job of search engine abuse is being done (likely), or google accepts money for placements *without* marking all such placements as sponsored (also possible).

    • eigenmoon says:

      Most people don’t really mind ads (source: Naomi Klein’s “NO LOGO”, by memory). The collection of personal info is a far worse problem.

      In Germany, where I currently live, there’s no robocall problem, two major TV channels don’t show ads (and are stuffed with tax money instead, which is far worse IMO). The postmen actually respect “Please no ads” mailbox signs. Collection of personal data is heavily regulated.

      Now the truly capitalist way of dealing with this is to ask: how much do you value not seeing ads vs. (for example) moving to Germany? vs. not watching TV at all? vs. not listening to radio at all?

      Also, in principle you could get rid of most LCD billboards by using glasses with a polarizer film at a proper angle.

      • woah77 says:

        If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have cable TV in my house at all. I’d watch all my entertainment on streaming services like netflix and amazon prime which do not generally advertise to me.

        • CatCube says:

          My cable box’s Netflix app advertises to me all the time. Granted, it’s advertising Netflix shows, but still advertising. I’ve usually signed on to watch something in particular and it’s really irritating to have a slower menu because it’s trying to serve up video to me while I scroll around.

          • woah77 says:

            I mean, yes there are previews for some shows. But that’s usually the kind of advertising I can get behind. “Hey, maybe you’ll like this other similar show to what you watch”

            What I absolutely abhor is sitting down to watch something and then being told that I need Bounty Paper towels and Pampers Diapers. I’m here to watch them track down this here murderer and you want me to buy paper towels?

            So, in essence, it’s not advertisements in principal I object to, but the context of advertisements in the form of commercials, especially widely targeted context insensitive commercials.

      • cassander says:

        Most people don’t really mind ads (source: Naomi Klein’s “NO LOGO”, by memory)

        This might be true, but the fact that Naomi Klein says so is decent evidence that it isn’t. She’s enormously ignorant and her books are trash, she’s, at best, a left wing glenn beck, not someone who should ever be taken seriously, or cited for any reason but mockery.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I view advertising as basically being in two forms, blind and feedback. Youtube is a good example:

      I watch a video on youtube and all around it are suggestions for other videos based on my viewing experience. I will watch >0% of these videos.

      On the other hand when I watch a youtube video I get a short ad at the beginning which appears to be blindly selected. There is basically no context, if I am watching a kid friendly video that appears to have no bearing on if I will get a trailer for a violent TV show/Video game/Movie (if anything it might be increasing the rate). Yesterday I watched a video on organic, high intensity, urban farming and the ad was for Scott’s turf builder plus. I would bet that very, very few people who watch that type of video are using mass produced lawn fertilizer based on an ad. Ironically it is the non specific ads that feel intrusive, not the ones using my personal information.

      • Well... says:

        My interstitial (I think that’s the right word?) Youtube ads are blindly selected, but that’s because I did everything I could in my account settings to limit how much data about me Youtube/Google collects.

        The advertising for those other videos is (I’m guessing) based on that very same kind of data Youtube/Google has collected about other people because they didn’t go into their settings like I did.

        How would you get the feedback advertising you don’t mind, or maybe even like, without other people being tracked?

        You could for example give content producers control over what their own content is associated with, but this choice would probably be valuable enough so sell, and then we’re back to advertising again.

    • Randy M says:

      This is a good thread. No one else has responded to the point about junk mail yet, so I’ll rant on that.
      Our mailman gets upset sometimes that we don’t clear out our mailbox. The mail he brings is 70% ads, some small portion of which might be applicable but I’d actually rather not adjust our spending or dining habits in response to $0.30 off of a burger. It all goes straight to the trashcan, and our neighbors do likewise (when it isn’t strewn about the mail boxes).
      The rest of the mail, by the by, is about 20% redundant paper ‘bills’ for items already paid on-line, 9.9% mail for people that don’t live there, and 0.1% jury notifications. :/

      • acymetric says:

        0.1% jury notifications.

        That seems like it is probably too high by several orders of magnitude 😉

        • Randy M says:

          Depends on whether the count by pages or packages. I’ve been two years in a row; I’m off by no more than 1 order of magnitude.

          • acymetric says:

            Ah, I’ve been much luckier than you on that front then. In most jurisdictions you could have gotten out of the second one with minimal effort (if you wanted to).

          • Randy M says:

            I wasn’t kept more than a day or two in either case; I believe CA can get you every year if they want.

      • albatross11 says:

        Junk mail, spam, and robocalls are all examples where there’s a tragedy of the commons going on that eventually makes existing communications mechanisms much less useful. In the US, I imagine we’ll get to the point in the next couple years where it will just be really hard to get anyone to pick up their phone for a number they don’t know, because like 95% of the calls everyone gets will be some robocall spammer from a spoofed number.

        • acymetric says:

          We aren’t already there? “I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize” is a pretty common trope both in media and in actual real life practice.

      • Well... says:

        This is a good thread.

        I hope it makes up for all the uneffortposting I’ve been doing.

    • albatross11 says:

      Online ads are a force for evil in the world. They drive media sources to concentrate on clicks and be dependent on links from social media sites in a way that basically puts Moloch on their editorial boards. They also create incentives for the advertising networks/sites to do everything they can to invade your privacy, because you get paid a lot less for an ad to “someone in North America looking at the front page of the Washington Post” than you get for an ad served to “54 year old white male living in zip code 31416 with two children aged 10 and 7, making between $50k-75k/year in a white collar job, recently searched for ‘sunglasses’, ‘electric lawnmowers’, and ‘donkey porn’.” They crap up sites and make everything on the web work more slowly.

      • Nick says:

        They crap up sites and make everything on the web work more slowly.

        You know how Google takes page load time into account in their search engine results? If they took ad load time into account too, I’m convinced that wikia and patheos would never appear at all.

        • andrewflicker says:

          They do take “ad” load time into account, if the ads 9or trackers) loading are “synchronous” javascript, that slows down the appearance of the actual site content. It’s rumored that they also take into account some portion of the “asynchronous” load that you’re likely referring to, which is additional loading that takes place after initial content load, but Google doesn’t exactly publicize it’s exact formula for penalizing sites- they just give general (and oft-changing) guidelines.

    • DinoNerd says:

      How about a world where advertisers pay for the externalities they cause. We can start with a reasonable fee for every phone spam – let’s say 5 minutes of the fully loaded rate for the average worker. (I.e. salary + benefits + cost of their workspace etc.) on the grounds that it’ll take at least 5 minutes to restore their concentration. (Extra in areas where people pay per phone call received, or total phone usage, of course.) Paper spam should be cheaper, but include some amount of the recipient’s time, along with the full cost of disposal. Paper mail containing unrecycleable spam (plastic) should cost the sender more. Billboards should be cheaper still, but they might resonably be judged as contributing to distracted-driver accidents.

      There’s somewhat of a special case for media priced low or free because they contain ads. Let’s mandate that any supplier that offers such must also offer an ad-free version that costs no more than base price plus whatever the vendor would have received for the ads in the equivalent version. (Allow some slack in this “no more” so as to avoid silly lawsuits about pennies, or about ad revenue coming in less or more than anticipated in a given period.)

      This doesn’t address issues of deception, of abusing knowledge of human nature to get people to do things not in their interests, or of specifically preying on those too young to have developed defeces against such techniques. But it would certainly reduce them.

      • albatross11 says:

        Interestingly, the proof-of-work function used in Bitcoin is based on a scheme proposed to do this–the original hashcash idea was to require a proof of work on each email, so bulk emailing became impractical.

  11. onyomi says:

    Last time Scott linked a post on “Cultural Marxism” I disagreed with, as did others, but, in the interest of trying to keep visible OTs CW-free, I’ll post here what I was going to post in response to Conrad Honcho’s agreement with Ambi there:

    Also, almost all the major thinkers associated with the movement were either self-professed Marxists or people trying to fix Marxism but fundamentally sympathetic to it. And most of them probably wouldn’t even have objected to being called “cultural Marxists” before it became a right wing sneer word, insofar as that is a workable shorthand for “Marxists who study culture,” “people who study culture from a Marxist perspective” and/or “people trying to fix/update Marxism through study of culture.” I could understand the complaint if it were the first one and most of them viewed Marxism as incidental to their study of culture, but that’s largely not the case.

    I mean, I like the work of Pierre Bourdieu so I’m not going to sneer at him, but he was also a Marxist famous for studying culture from perspectives of class power. Is it wildly inaccurate to call him a “cultural Marxist”? I mean, that isn’t the first word I’d use to describe him, but that’s because it now has a negative connotation not yet attached to “critical theorist” (Related, there seems to be the idea that “cultural Marxist” can only reference the Frankfurt School specifically, but coming from the same people who insist it’s not a real thing, so I’m not sure how they decided that, though I’d agree people like Adorno seem central examples of the concept, insofar as it should exist).

    Related to the idea that most people the right likes to call “cultural Marxists” the left would prefer to call “critical theorists” (a much more objective, less partisan-sounding term), it seems like a case of a rhetorical game I see in many arenas where one group resists a label assigned by outgroup on the theory that said term shouldn’t exist since it’s meaningless.

    An analogy: MD says to acupuncturist “stop calling the scientific method ‘Western medicine’; it’s just ‘evidence-based medicine’ a.k.a. ‘real medicine’.” From the perspective of the MD it seems reasonable to say “‘Western’ medicine isn’t a real thing; stop saying that.” But from the perspective of someone who think acupuncture is just as, if not more valid a paradigm, and who thinks he uses evidence too, it seems a perfectly reasonable descriptor since most of the concepts and techniques he’s talking about came from the West, as opposed to the East, where his paradigm came from, even if there’s nothing inherently “Western” about the former, other than its history (so in this sense it’s already more different than the “cultural Marxism” case, since many so-described take explicit inspiration from Marx).

    Is there a LW or SSC post about this phenomenon somewhere? (“Words, Words, Words” is probably relevant on an object level but I’m thinking more about the concept of pushing back against a label on the theory that it’s “not a thing” because incoherent, even though the people using it presumably see a coherence (which is not to claim it can’t also be a sneer word, misleading concept, or weaponized and applied too promiscuously)).

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Agreeing with your agreement with me of Ambi.

      Simon_Jester was talking about “cultural Marxism” as a culture/conspiracy of Marxists. No, “Marxism” is the noun, and “cultural” is the adjective. “Cultural Marxism” is the same basic conflict-theory ideas of Marxism, but applied to culture instead of class/economics. There exist two types of people: the oppressors and the oppressed. In regular, economic Marxism, the oppressors are the capitalists and the oppressed are the laborers. In cultural Marxism, the oppressors are the cishet white males and the oppressed are the trans gay POC females.

      Yes, it’s a sneer word applied by the outgroup. But so is “the Patriarchy” and so is “American Imperialism.” None of these things posit a knowing conspiracy or formal organization, but a broad cluster of presuppositions and behaviors noticeable to outsiders.

      But when a feminist talks about “the Patriarchy” those arguing in good faith do not respond, “haha, you crazy woman! What a silly conspiracy theory, like white men in hooded robes are holding secret meetings on how best to oppress women and POC!” People understand the feminist is not talking about a literal conspiracy of Patriarchs. She’s talking about a system of beliefs and behaviors, held by no one who calls themselves “a member of the Patriarchy.”

      When an anti-war activist talks about “American Imperialism,” no one arguing in good faith responds, “haha, you silly nut! America is a constitutional republic, not an empire! It can’t engage in ‘imperialism!’ Read a book dummy!” People understand the anti-war activist is not talking about a literal American Empire, with an Emperor. He’s talking about a system of behaviors akin to imperialism in which American military power is used to exploit less powerful nations and peoples.

      So when someone says “cultural Marxism,” they’re not talking about a conspiracy of Marxists. They’re talking about a cluster of beliefs about the power relationships present in society. Understanding that the feminist or the gay rights activist or the BLM activist hold many of these beliefs allows one to make useful predictions about their behaviors. You don’t have to agree with them or say they’re right (I don’t think the feminists talking about The Patriarchy have an accurate worldview, either), but to say they’re talking about some conspiracy of Marxists is a strawman.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        In all fairness, it has been my impression that in some circles the idea of Marxists actually conspiring to destroy Western culture and the US in particular is actually entertained in all seriousness.

        In all fairness, given the history of the cold war and the Soviet Union’s propaganda efforts (not that the West didn’t do the same, it’s just that it’s harder in places where freedom after speech isn’t necessarily guaranteed), it’s not such a dumb idea.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Sure, there’s the Yuri Bezmenov video (KGB defector explaining Soviet propaganda efforts to subvert the west), but that’s still not what people are talking about when they say “cultural Marxism.” Cultural Marxism and the “long march through the institutions” are not the same thing, even though there’s probably plenty of overlap between the cultural Marxists and the regular Marxists.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I get what you and I mean when we say “cultural Marxism” – and I assure you we’re on the same page here.[1]

            What I meant is that there are people who actually believe in cultural Marxism being an enemy plot – and they’re not totally insane for thinking this, oddly enough.

            [1] The best illustration of the concept I know (especially as applied to contemporary social media) comes from The History Man – and that book’s older than me! (Not much, but still…)

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I agree that ideology which sees white cis hetero males as oppressors and everyone else as oppressed exists. However, it is grossly inaccurate to associate it with Marx, who held very different views. Why not just call it “Intersectionality” or something else which does not have word “Marxism” in it?

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Why not just call it “Intersectionality” or something else which does not have word “Marxism” in it?

          That ship has already sailed, I’m afraid.

          The root of the problem is that the people originally spearheading the movement (decades ago) oftentimes did self-identify as Marxists (the Frankfurt School, for one). This isn’t even terribly uncommon today.

          Cultural Marxism is simply an application of Marxist dialectic to a different set of problems. I suspect – though haven’t tested – that one could easily do interchangeable MAD-libs of Marx and some of the more prominent intersectional thinkers and not come up with anything terribly incongruent.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            Cultural Marxism is simply an application of Marxist dialectic to a different set of problems. I suspect – though haven’t tested – that one could easily do interchangeable MAD-libs of Marx and some of the more prominent intersectional thinkers and not come up with anything terribly incongruent.

            I very much doubt that.

          • dick says:

            Know any liberals who would agree with this? I don’t put a lot of faith in any assertion about what Group X believes that comes exclusively from their outgroup. FWIW I’m a bona fide bleeding-heart Liberal in the Peoples’ Republic of Portland and I don’t think I’ve ever met a Marxist in real life.

          • Plumber says:

            @dick "...I’m a bona fide bleeding-heart Liberal in the Peoples’ Republic of Portland and I don’t think I’ve ever met a Marxist in real life."
            I’m 50 years old and have lived most of my life in Oakland, California and grew up there and in Berkeley and I’ve in encountered many self-described “Marxists”, and some of the grey-haired one have been interesting to talk to, but most of the young ones have to be really cute looking to stand their smell for long (they often seem to avoid using soap almost as much as anarchists), and if you’re not a teenager with an unfulfilled appetite for romance I don’t see much call to subject yourself to that.

          • onyomi says:

            A point of clarification: is it commonly understood that Marx is sort of the premier theorist of conflict theory in general? I kind of just think of him as the premier theorist of conflict theory as relates to economic power, but it could be that he is also the pioneer of conflict theory in general. In which case it seems more reasonable to say that e.g. critical race theory, insofar as it is a conflict theory of race, is inherently indebted to Marx (as opposed to merely incidentally indebted by virtue of the ideological histories and leanings of its practitioners).

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @onyomi

            Prophet Zarathustra would be my candidate for the premier early pioneer of conflict theory. Marx had a novel approach to conflict theory in that main conflict according to him is between economic classes.

        • Lillian says:

          I agree that ideology which sees white cis hetero males as oppressors and everyone else as oppressed exists. However, it is grossly inaccurate to associate it with Marx, who held very different views. Why not just call it “Intersectionality” or something else which does not have word “Marxism” in it?

          It is not grossly innacurate to associate it with Marx, since it is an ideological descendant of Marxist thought as outlined in this Tablet article. It’s not dissimilar to how Neo-Platonism is clearly descended from Platonism even though Platon himself would have probably dismissed it as a degenerate bastardization of his ideas.

          Moreover the term Cultural Marxism was at one time the actual term for the movement used by its very adherents and sympathizers, as illustrated by articles like this one. It’s is clearly written by someone who is at least sympathetic to Cultural Marxism, not a wingnut attempting to smear his leftists opponents, and he uses the term in a way that makes clear that back in 1983 that was the accepted and correct label. If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here’s the part where he explains how Cultural Marxism is an extension and continuation of the Marxist project:

          “For the past half century critical Marxism has had to evolve from the realization that the proletariat and the intellectuals attached to its historic role had lost the capacity for self organization which could unite the social, moral, and aesthetic aspects of collective experience into a revolutionary project. The recognition that ours is an age in which there is no single, identifiable subject of history also renews the demand that theory revive its moral and political responsibility to join self-reflection and partisanship. Theory develops the intellectual side of those movements in which the experience of domination and exploitation produces the demand for justice and the hope for social transformation. The multiple, fragmented character of these movements and the often latent character of this demand and hope in contemporary history compel theory to restore not abandon the task that Marx gave to “critical philosophy”: the self-clarification of the struggles and wishes of the age.”

          You may also find this post from over a r/TheMotte illuminating. It includes quotes from a book called Cultural Marxism and Political Sociology, written by a guy who was apparently on board with the whole thing, and who clearly also thought that Cultural Marxism was in fact the correct term to describe the movement.

      • dick says:

        Simon_Jester was talking about “cultural Marxism” as a culture/conspiracy of Marxists. No, “Marxism” is the noun, and “cultural” is the adjective.

        Are you describing what you think it ought to mean? Simon Jester didn’t just make up “conspiracy of Marxists” thing, that’s a right-wing thing. It’s one of Pat Buchanan’s favorite talking points. For example, here is a movie called “CULTURAL MARXISM”, starring Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, whose ad describes it thus:

        CULTURAL MARXISM explores the love affair with collectivist ideologies that has lead to ever bigger government and the welfare-warfare state. Find out how the Frankfurt School, a Marxist splinter group, established itself at Columbia University and began “the long march through the institutions.” The idea was, and still is, to infiltrate every corner of Western culture and pervert traditional values with “political correctness” and Marxist ideologies. The ultimate goal is to destroy American free-enterprise capitalism by undermining its economic engine, the Middle Class and the basic building block of society, the family unit.

        If you think the “feminists and gay rights activists are closet Marxists trying to destroy America” interpretation of “cultural Marxism” is silly, great, we’re in agreement, but you can’t plausibly claim it’s something that the left came up with to discredit the right.

        • dick says:

          … unless Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul are secret Marxists trying to destroy the American conservative movement! PLOT TWIST!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          First, I’ve never heard of this movie.

          Second, from your blurb…yeah that’s how “cultural Marxism” came to be. It started with the actual Marxists and the long march, but in the 70s it became completely obvious that communism was a failure and the Soviet Union was a horror show, so they switched from economics-based Marxism to culture-based Marxism (race, gender, sexual identity, etc). And when I say “switched” I mean as a natural outgrowth, not a cynical ploy. They’ve got the “oppressor/oppressed” worldview, and since they can no longer explain why some groups do better than others purely via economics, and the idea that “different groups of people are different in ways that matter” is unthinkable, the cause of the difference in outcomes must be racism, sexism, etc.

          “feminists and gay rights activists are closet Marxists trying to destroy America” interpretation of “cultural Marxism” is silly, great, we’re in agreement

          Yes, the feminists and gay rights activists are not closet Marxists. They’re the useful idiots produced by the now defunct economic Marxists. But they’re still running with the same basic oppressor/oppressed Marxist worldview, just with a different definitions of the oppressors and the oppressed, hence “cultural Marxist” as opposed to “economic Marxist” or simply “Marxist.” I don’t think anyone calls the Frankfurt School themselves the cultural Marxists, and from the blurb you linked it doesn’t look like that movie does either.

          • dick says:

            Uh… I don’t follow this at all. I don’t know which people any of your pronouns refer to. Like, Andrew Sullivan was an early gay rights activist, is he a Marxist? Who is the “they” in “they switched from economics-based Marxism to culture-based Marxism” if the “culture-based Marxists” are not Marxists? They abandoned Marxism for Marxism? And they’re both a natural outgrowth of Marxism and the unwitting dupes of Marxism at the same time?

            It sounds like you were just genuinely unaware that this phrase had a whole different meaning that’s been in general use in right-wing circles since long before SJWs existed, and fully understand that it’s a terrible label because no one knows what you’re referring to when you use it, but intend to go on using it because you really, really, really like being able to describe your outgroup as Marxists.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Who is the “they” in “they switched from economics-based Marxism to culture-based Marxism” if the “culture-based Marxists” are not Marxists? They abandoned Marxism for Marxism?

            Seems quite clear to me. “They” were Marxists in the 70s, who abandoned orthodox Marxism (as one might call it) for a new form of Marxism in which the oppressor/oppressed dynamic was held to operate along cultural rather than economic lines.

            And they’re both a natural outgrowth of Marxism and the unwitting dupes of Marxism at the same time?

            Feminists and gay rights activists aren’t Marxists in the sense of being economic Marxists, but their oppressor/oppressed worldview originated in Marxism. So they’re not themselves economic Marxists, but their worldview is a descendant of economic Marxism.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t use this phrase because I don’t get much mileage out of boo-wording the outgroup, but I understand the gist of what people are getting at when they use it.

            You agree the Frankfurt School is a thing, right? And the long march through the institutions is a thing, too? And it pretty much worked? Read section II of our host’s book review of Inventing the Future.

            In the 40s through the 70s the Marxists conducted the long march through the institutions. Those who went into academia then taught their marxist ideas to their students, instilling them with the “America is bad; oppressor/oppressed” worldview, based on economic class. When those students became the academy in the 70s and 80s and the horrors of the Soviet Union were laid bare, they had to give up on economic marxism, but they didn’t let go of the general worldview, so an outgrowth of that was “maybe the real oppression was the friends we made along the way structural racism and sexism.”

            As for who “they” is, it’s anybody writing papers about “critical race theory” or “critical gender theory” or whatever. I could go dig up names of influential feminists or whatever but I don’t think that would matter to you. You seem to have an isolated demand for rigor in “vague terms that describe one’s outrgoup.”

            When a feminist says “the patriarchy,” do you grill her to name names of who, exactly, “the Patriarchs” are, or do you just understand she’s talking about a general cluster of ideas? That can occasionally be used to predict the behaviors of people who espouse some of the ideas?

            because you really, really, really like being able to describe your outgroup as Marxists.

            I don’t particularly care about describing my outgroup as Marxists. But I can’t help but notice that the SJWs and the Marxists have extremely similar worldviews, except they mix and match who the oppressors and the oppressed are.

            Why is this term so bothersome to you? The term “cultural Marxism” gets so much flak any time it’s brought up on SSC. You’d expect at least a token, “I don’t agree with the worldview but I understand what they’re getting at.” When somebody starts talking about “the patriarchy” and “white supremacy,” I think they’ve got some serious blind spots and that their worldview is wrong, but I don’t pretend I can’t understand the gist of what they’re getting at.

          • dick says:

            Seems quite clear to me. “They” were Marxists in the 70s, who abandoned orthodox Marxism (as one might call it) for a new form of Marxism in which the oppressor/oppressed dynamic was held to operate along cultural rather than economic lines.

            Yeah… think about how many Marxists there were in the 70s, and how many people “cultural Marxists” refers to today. They must breed like rabbits, huh? Also, why do they (we) seem to think they were never Marxists at all? Are they lying or just really forgetful? And how did they start the civil rights movement retroactively? Do they have time machines?

            From now on when people use this phrase, I’ll just assume they’re referring to time-travelling rabbits. I don’t think that’ll be any less confusing than the other definitions on offer.

          • dick says:

            In the 40s through the 70s the Marxists conducted the long march through the institutions. Those who went into academia then taught their marxist ideas to their students, instilling them with the “America is bad; oppressor/oppressed” worldview, based on economic class. When those students became the academy in the 70s and 80s and the horrors of the Soviet Union were laid bare, they had to give up on economic marxism, but they didn’t let go of the general worldview, so an outgrowth of that was “maybe the real oppression was the friends we made along the way structural racism and sexism.”

            Boy, this seems really tortured to me. Are you positing literal humans who at one point in their life were Marxists, and at a later point in their life stopped being Marxists and became Cultural Marxists? Or are you claiming that there was a group of people who were Marxists, and they tried to convince the next generation to be Marxists, but turned them in to Cultural Marxists instead? If the former, I’m sure that happened, but not in sufficient numbers to matter – there just weren’t enough Marxists to make up one percent of what “Cultural Marxists” means now. If the latter, that’s some weird new definition of “it worked” I’m unfamiliar with. Do you imagine those crusty old Marxists, seeing that no one agrees with them and their policy goals have zero chance of being enacted, consider it to have worked?

            One way or the other, the idea of oppressors and oppressed people did not start with Marxists, and not everyone who sees the world in those terms is a Marxist unless “Marxist” is a very vague and useless label that includes a lot of people that everyone agrees are definitely not Marxists. You might as well call SJWs “cultural Christians” because they want to help feed and clothe the poor.

            You seem to have an isolated demand for rigor in “vague terms that describe one’s outrgoup.” When a feminist says “the patriarchy,”…

            Even people who think the patriarchy (and the worldview or theory implied by using it) is stupid and wrong still know what it means. You can argue that it’s a bad theory, but it’s not a bad label. If someone says “the Patriarchy runs Facebook, that’s why they did X” then I will agree with you that that claim is vague and unsupportable, but I won’t say, “wait, which Patriarchy?”

          • Nornagest says:

            Even people who think the patriarchy (and the worldview or theory implied by using it) is stupid and wrong still know what it means.

            I’m not sure about that. You can tell just from reading the word that it means parts of society that benefit men, but I don’t think most anti-feminists (or for that matter most rank-and-file feminists) have a good idea of how that’s actually supposed to work. I’ve certainly read enough thinkpieces which seem to assume all their readers think it means some literal smoke-filled room somewhere where the patriarchs meet to figure out how best to oppress women in the next fiscal year.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Or are you claiming that there was a group of people who were Marxists, and they tried to convince the next generation to be Marxists, but turned them in to Cultural Marxists instead?

            Basically this. A generation of young intellectuals were taught Marxist critical theory by Marxist professors. When those young people became the academy and had to publish their own papers, they weren’t all that interested in Marxist economics, but instead applied critical theory to stuff they did care about: race, gender, sexuality, etc.

            The long march succeeded in getting Marxists and fellow travelers into the institutions. They did not succeed with Glorious Revolution because the next generation developed their own ideas of revolution.

            If someone says “the Patriarchy runs Facebook, that’s why they did X” then I will agree with you that that claim is vague and unsupportable, but I won’t say, “wait, which Patriarchy?”

            I would absolutely say “wait, which Patriarchy?” Stating “the Patriarchy runs Facebook” implies the whole “men in hooded robes meeting to plot how to oppress women and POC” thing, which is not what I thought “the Patriarchy” was.

          • Plumber says:

            “….When a feminist says “the patriarchy,” do you grill her to name names of who, exactly, “the Patriarchs” are….”

            My first thought would be to respond “Being a ‘Patriarch’ sounds like a good gig, who do I have to sleep with to get it?”, but since I’ve never actually heard the word spoken out loud (except maybe as “The Old Testament Patriarchs”) I really don’t know (and for the record I’ve never heard the term “Cultural Marxism” out loud either), but this discussion has sparked a thought: In my local union there’s a black women, who grew up poor in Hunters Point in San Francisco, that I’ve worked with who’s a union officer (appointed not elected, so not high up), and that makes her very rare as blacks are outnumbered, and women are extremely outnumbered in the trade – and now maybe she goes on-line and posts about “intersectionality”, “oppression”, and “The Patriarchy”, but I doubt it – who do I imagine does? 

            Pretty much college educated women (and some men) who grew up middle-class (or “UMC”) and note and complain that CEO’s are mostly white males, so basically white-collar people who by most lights are pretty damn privileged compared to most, and who’s beef is about who’s the most privileged.

            I’m reminded that Olympic bronze medal winners are happier about their win than silver medal winners, who almost got the gold.

          • dick says:

            @ Nornagest

            I’m not sure about [the idea that even people who oppose patriarchy agree on what it means]

            Well, it’s an abstract concept, which is easy to do motte-and-bailey stuff with, and if someone is misusing it then by all means complain. But it’s not amorphous. AFAICT, the answer to “Do the Cultural Marxists really believe in feminism? Or are they just saying it because it will help hasten the destruction of America? Or do they have some other sinister goal?” is “Yes.”

            Another way to put it: there are things the left dislikes that the left generally agrees are not part of the Patriarchy. I mean, I’m sure you can find an exception to prove the rule, but for the most part we do not blame the Patriarchy for fossil fuel pollution, the war on drugs, busting unions, blowing up the financial system, or killing the spotted owl. It’s a subset or a component of the left’s outgroup, not a pseudonym for it. Is that true of Cultural Marxism? Which part of broadly-left-of-center policy is Cultural Marxism definitely not responsible for, to the people who use that phrase?

          • lvlln says:

            Another way to put it: there are things the left dislikes that the left generally agrees are not part of the Patriarchy. I mean, I’m sure you can find an exception to prove the rule, but for the most part we do not blame the Patriarchy for fossil fuel pollution, the war on drugs, busting unions, blowing up the financial system, or killing the spotted owl. It’s a subset or a component of the left’s outgroup, not a pseudonym for it. Is that true of Cultural Marxism? Which part of broadly-left-of-center policy is Cultural Marxism definitely not responsible for, to the people who use that phrase?

            From my experiences with people who use the term “Cultural Marxist,” I never got the sense that they used it to describe all of broad leftism. As someone who is broadly leftist, I can’t recall ever having any policy that I advocated be called “Cultural Marxism,” such as raising income taxes for the wealthy, single-payer healthcare, open borders, repealing the 2nd amendment and confiscating privately owned guns, legalizing gay marriage, etc.

            “Do the Cultural Marxists really believe in feminism? Or are they just saying it because it will help hasten the destruction of America? Or do they have some other sinister goal?”

            In my experience with people who use the term “Cultural Marxist,” the answers would be Yes; No, but that doesn’t mean they won’t unintentionally help to hasten the destruction of America; No, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t unintentionally accomplish some other sinister goals.

          • dick says:

            @lvlln :

            The thing about CM being a catch-all was not some clever argument masquerading as a question, I honestly don’t know. But I don’t see how the definition(s) of CM promoted herein obviously excludes the things you mentioned. For example, Conrad said that CM is basically applying the Marxist “oppressor/oppressed” idea to power differentials other than capital/labor. It’s not clear to me why John Q. Rightwinger would think that explains the left’s support for feminism (labor == women) but not subsidized healthcare (labor == sick people), or vice-versa.

            And lest I be accused of isolated demands for rigor, I’m not saying “this theory is wrong because it’s not specific enough”, I’m saying “this label is bad because it isn’t specific enough”. For example, you just included gay rights as one of the things it doesn’t purport to explain, and upthread Conrad explicitly included gay rights activists within his definition of it.

            We’re like a week in to this, and haven’t even gotten to the part where we all agree on what’s being claimed and argue about whether it’s right or not!

          • dick says:

            @ Conrad

            A generation of young intellectuals were taught Marxist critical theory by Marxist professors. When those young people became the academy and had to publish their own papers, they weren’t all that interested in Marxist economics, but instead applied critical theory to stuff they did care about: race, gender, sexuality, etc.

            Okay, thanks for clearing that up. I’m not ignoring this, but the follow-up (which pertains to how this managed to be responsible for things that happened from the 50s to the modern day and which look to me like they happened independent of academia) depends on the answer to “Just what parts of general left-wing-edness is it that CM is and is not responsible for” which I’ve already asked.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m fine with not calling that broad political movement “cultural marxism,” but I’d like to know what label would be reasonable, because there does seem to be a broad political/social movement that shares a lot of underlying model of the world. I mean, this is at least as reasonable as using a label like “the right” or “the left.” Perhaps it’s too broad to provide a lot of resolution, but it does mean *something*.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 

            "...I’m fine with not calling that broad political movement “cultural marxism,” but I’d like to know what label would be reasonable, because there does seem to be a broad political/social movement that shares a lot of underlying model of the world..." As I suggested earlier, the old “The New Left” label has historic weight behind it, but “anti-traditionalists” seems a fitting descriptor that’s more neutral than “progressive”. 

            “Collegiate agendia-ists” seems fitting, as does “schoolmarms”, which reminds me of some sorts that George Orwell complained about in The Road to Wigan Pier as "One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England...."

            "....as I have suggested already, it is not 
            strictly fair to judge a movement by its adherents; but the point is that 
            people invariably do so, and that the popular conception of Socialism is 
            coloured by the conception of a Socialist as a dull or disagreeable person. 
            'Socialism' is pictured as a state of affairs in which our more vocal Socialists would feel thoroughly at home. This does great harm to the cause. The ordinary man may not flinch from a dictatorship of the 
            proletariat, if you offer it tactfully; offer him a dictatorship of the prigs, and he gets ready to fight...."

             so in that spirit “The Prig Dictatorship” may work.

          • Aapje says:

            @dick

            It’s not clear to me why John Q. Rightwinger would think that explains the left’s support for feminism (labor == women) but not subsidized healthcare (labor == sick people), or vice-versa.

            A key part is the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy, which requires relatively fixed categories. This doesn’t work for healthcare because people who are sick usually were not sick before and often become non-sick later on.

      • Plumber says:

        @Conrad Honcho,

        Anyone who uses the terms “Cultural Marxism” or “Patriarchy” has already signalled to me that they’re probably wackadoodle and best avoided.

        Saying “American Imperialism” puts then on thin ice, but I may listen if I’m feeling particularly patient (but probably not).

        I’ve no problem with “elite” or “plutocracy” though.

        • Baeraad says:

          I entirely agree. Both terms are used solely by angry zealots pretending to be dispassionate intellectuals. I can sympathise with anger and even occasionally with zealotry (though it wears out my patience pretty quickly), but I despise pretense.

          I think “imperialism” is more or less defensible, though. I don’t think many people deny that America is an empire, they just disagree on whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t know if I’d go as far as “wackadoodle,” but certainly partisan. I’m fine tabooing both expressions as not conducive to rational discourse. So long as everyone understands the two concepts are about equally valid. If you go off on a tear about the “crazy conspiracy theorists” who talk about cultural Marxism but nod politely when a feminist is talking about “the Patriarchy,” that’s just your own bias at work.

          Yes, there are gendered patterns of behavior in society that self-reinforce. Yes, there are people whose worldviews cause them to lump every category of people into oppressor and oppressed boxes similar to the way Marx did with economics, but with cultural categories instead. No, neither the ingroup nor outgroup are engaged in conspiracy or conspiracy theory.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            “I don’t know if I’d go as far as “wackadoodle,”…”

            Your right, “wackadoodle” was unfair, “lame” would’ve probably been better, and your comparison of the terms “Cultural Marxism” and “The Patriarchy” was very apt.
            There actually is a term for an actually ‘movement’ that self-described itself as such, that closely matches what many seem to mean by ‘cultural marxists’ and ‘social justice types’: “ The New Left“, arising in the United States in the 1960’s that held college students as “the vanguard” and moved aware from the “old left” focus on class and labor in favor of pacifism and a host of ‘social’ issues (possibly because of how often the working class response to Marxists call for ‘revolurion’ was to beat them up until they stopped squawking about it).

            The ‘old left’ (communists and fellow travelers) in the U.S.A. had mostly dissolved itself in 1956 in the wake of the tanks in Hungary and Khrushchev’s “secret speech” in which he said “You know, our man Stalin was kinda a douche-bag” (translation mine), some melted into a nebulous “progressivism”, some became anti-communists, and some switched allegiance to a new “great father” – Mao Tse Tung.
            So by 1968 you had ‘liberals’ (New Deal inspired Democrats – think Hubert Humphrey), ‘conservatives’ (the Republican Party), the ‘right-wing’ (John Birch society, readers of the National Review), and “the New Left” activists, fierce street battles outside the Democratic Party convention in Chicago (you also had “youth rebellions” in Mexico City, Paris, and Prague that year), inside the anti-war movement were some Maoists (a remnant of that is Bob Avakian’s smelly personality cult), the ‘cold war liberal consensus’ was destroyed (with “liberal” becoming a dirty word on both the left and the right), by 1972 some “New Leftists” became terrorists, others supported the anti-war liberal George McGovern’s presidential campaign (which lost in a landslide) and we’ve lived in the wreckage ever since.

        • At only a slight tangent, it seems to me that “cultural Marxist” could be read in two rather different ways:

          1. A Marxist, conventional sense, who is trying to bring his desired society by working on culture rather than politics.

          2. Someone whose beliefs are like Marxism, but with “culture” substituted for “mode of production.”

          My guess from the discussion here is that some people use the term in the first sense. The second isn’t that close to how other people use it–theirs seems to be more “race or gender substituted for economic class,” where gender is only very slightly viewed as a culture (from the standpoint of people who claim it isn’t about genes or genitals), race somewhat more.

      • Civilis says:

        Yes, it’s a sneer word applied by the outgroup. But so is “the Patriarchy” and so is “American Imperialism.” None of these things posit a knowing conspiracy or formal organization, but a broad cluster of presuppositions and behaviors noticeable to outsiders.

        There’s something that’s been bugging me for a couple of weeks now that crystalized thanks to this comment: this logic equally applies to “Capitalism”. There’s no actual ideology called “Cultural Marxism” or “Capitalism”, they’re both descriptive terms used primarily by outsiders to describe related collections of theories and behaviors. Because these behaviors tend to operate in the same direction, they seem like organized ideologies, especially to outsiders. If what they describe is useful in predicting behavior, they may even be valid as descriptors.

      • AnonYemous2 says:

        Cultural Marxism” is the same basic conflict-theory ideas of Marxism, but applied to culture instead of class/economics. There exist two types of people: the oppressors and the oppressed. In regular, economic Marxism, the oppressors are the capitalists and the oppressed are the laborers. In cultural Marxism, the oppressors are the cishet white males and the oppressed are the trans gay POC females.

        honestly, this

        I can’t really speak to anything else personally, but this is true and it makes “cultural Marxism” a good descriptor of this existing and noteworthy trend. Whether or not the cultural Marxists hated the original Marxists or whatever doesn’t change the fact that this is a good descriptor of what they were doing. Anyone who tries to declare it off-limits…I don’t know, honestly, there are definitely people who use “cultural Marxism” as an anti-semitic scare word, but it’s worth noting that a lot of these people do the same with Marxism and even communism generally. I mean, that’s what “cultural Bolshevism” was about, so do I accept the logic and not use Marxism to describe regular Marxism, or communism to describe communism?

    • sorrento says:

      The non-sneer word label for “cultural Marxism” is probably “social justice.” I prefer the latter term since it seems like something people actually in the movement use for themselves.

      But I didn’t quite follow Scott’s critique on this point. Sure, “cultural Marxism” isn’t what Marx preached (actually Marx himself was very anti-homosexual). But then again, a left-winger isn’t someone who sits on the left wing of the National Assembly. But somehow, we all know what is meant by the term.

      • SamChevre says:

        I’d be inclined to say the non-sneer version is “critical X theory”-where X can be race, gender, international relations, etc.

    • brad says:

      This seems like a pretty easy one from a Scott-ist perspective–taboo the toxoplasma sneer phrase. I wouldn’t think there’s any exception for “but I really like this superweapon”.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

      • onyomi says:

        I’m not claiming “cultural Marxist” is a super useful or accurate phrase, and don’t personally find myself tempted to use it much, if at all; however, tabooing it without replacing it with a more accurate single phrase roughly covering the relevant conceptual space seems a concession of the sort implied by SamChevre’s comment above: if you replace “cultural Marxism” with “critical X theory” where X can be race, gender, etc. but no one descriptor then you are conceding that critical race theory, queer theory, postcolonialism, gender studies, and intersectional versions of the above have nothing in common other than being academic disciplines or variants of the more neutral sounding “critical theory.”

        But that is precisely the point of contention! The people on the right are saying these things are all related and also all related to Marxism besides (I’m not saying I’m 100% convinced of this, btw, especially the Marxism part) while the people on the left say “no, these are not related, these are all just words for ‘the critical study of race,’ ‘the critical study of gender,’ ‘the critical study of sexuality,’ ‘the critical study of the intersection of race and gender and sexuality issues’… though we concede these issues overlap (hence ‘intersectionality’) and also relate to issues of economic power (hence a lot of us study Marx and Marxian theory) stop trying to weave it into some grand conspiratorial narrative. It’s just ‘critical theory’.”

        But whether or not these disciplines as practiced today are actually part of one bigger intellectual movement, how “objective” or “neutral” that movement might be (and hence deserving of a neutral-sounding descriptor like “critical theory”), and to what degree that movement, if it is, indeed, a thing, is indebted to, or logically analogous to, old-fashioned economic Marxism, is precisely the point of contention.

        • Lillian says:

          The Cultural Marxists themselves sure seemed to think it was a useful and accurate term back in the 80s.

          Far as i can tell, “Cultural Marxism” was originally coined by a group of leftists academics to apply to themselves. Then in the 90s various prominent right-wingers found out about it and proceeded to, deservedly or not, drag its name through the mud. Ever since then, the intellectual heirs of those who once matter of factly called themselves Cultural Marxists have been desperately trying to pretend that the whole thing was a right-wing conspiracy theory all along.

          • Plumber says:

            @Lillian

            “The Cultural Marxists themselves sure seemed to think it was a useful and accurate term back in the 80s…”

             From the link:

            “…I have seen in a few places attempts to claim that “cultural Marxism” has come to serve as an anti-semitic dog-whistle or something, but I’ve seen no evidence of this beyond naked assertion, which leads me to believe that cultural Marxists are deliberately obfuscating the fact that they are cultural Marxists because they prefer that people have only a vague idea what their agenda is…”

            This would be much more believable if some actual persons were cited rather than s “type” with an alleged agenda (that they now try to keep secret).

            So far, I have seen evidence of exactly one living person (an English literature professor!) that once called himself a “Cultural Marxist”.

            So some who’s and what’s please for an alleged “Movement”.

            I don’t deny that actual ‘Marxists’ exist (I’ve seen and smelled them), but I remain dubious about “Cultural Marxism” beyond English department academics using impenetrable jargon.

          • onyomi says:

            @Plumber

            If there were a bunch of people who self-described as “cultural Marxists” alive and working today there’d be no controversy. The issue is precisely that some on the right are claiming there exists a more or less straight line from Marx and Engels, to Adorno and Horkheimer, to Bourdieu and Foucault, to Butler and Spivak, to the “experts on race relations” Facebook consults when deciding whether white nationalism is inherently hateful. The reaction on the left to this is generally to say that that’s kooky and conspiratorial and there’s no connection, just some people studying race and gender and imperialism, some of whom have read Marx.

            The question is precisely to what extent the right is right to see this bigger thing as a “thing” and/or the left is right to see lumping together Marx, Adorno, Butler, and Facebook’s “experts in race relations” under one term as nonsensical or outright malicious.

            Personally I think there is some degree of outgroup homogeneity bias at work in much use of the term, but also some degree of “ingroup heterogeneity bias” (I think this is a thing too!) at work in much of its vehement denial.

          • dick says:

            The question is precisely to what extent the right is right to see this bigger thing as a “thing” and/or the left is right to see lumping together Marx, Adorno, Butler, and Facebook’s “experts in race relations” under one term as nonsensical or outright malicious.

            That’s a perfectly legitimate question and I don’t think anyone is saying it’s taboo to talk about, though they might disagree with it. The problem is not people on the right exploring the connection between Marxism and modern left-wing movements, it’s using the term as a generic catch-all for left-wingers generally. Any assertion about them is too vague to argue for or against; I’ve spent a whole day discussing it, and if someone said they think the cultural Marxists are responsible for such-and-such, I wouldn’t know what they mean. Feminist academics? Progressive voters? Union agitators? “I mean the people whose ideology bears structural similarities to economic Marxism, except applied to culture.” That doesn’t clear it up!

            Maybe progressive politics does bear structural resemblances to etc etc. I dunno, could be! I’m about as interested in Marxism as I am in phrenology. But I do know that the phrase “cultural Marxism” leads to acrimonious discussions that derail in to semantic nitpicking; that’s my reason for vehemence.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Feminist academics?

            Definitely.

            Progressive voters?

            Maybe.

            Union agitators?

            Definitely not.

          • The issue is precisely that some on the right are claiming there exists a more or less straight line from Marx and Engels, to Adorno and Horkheimer, to Bourdieu and Foucault …

            It occurs to me that there is a somewhat similar pattern with “liberal.” “Neoliberal” is a term that seems to be used to link together liberal in the modern American sense with classical liberal with current supporters of globalism. I think modern American liberals view their liberalism as an evolution out of 19th c. liberalism at the same time that modern classical liberals, aka libertarians, view it as a case of the enemies of liberalism stealing its name.

            And while free trade fits well with classical liberalism and not badly with modern American liberalism, “neoliberal” seems to also include foreign policy efforts that fit poorly with either.

          • brad says:

            Ever since then, the intellectual heirs of those who once matter of factly called themselves Cultural Marxists

            Do I get to decide who the intellectual heirs of the segregationist are and label them segregationists or “That’s different!”?

          • Lillian says:

            If you present convincing evidence that some group are ideological descendants of segregationists, then i will happily call them such. Far as i can tell though, that’s pretty much just the white supremacists, white separatists, and white nationalists, none of whom deny that they are what they are.

          • brad says:

            So where your convincing evidence? Maybe we should call Trumpists the intellectual heirs to segregationists, or just segregationists for short.

            What are the pro the use of “cultural marxism” posters takes on “Against Murderism”? They must be against that too, and in favor using the term racism, right?

          • uau says:

            @brad:

            So where your convincing evidence? Maybe we should call Trumpists the intellectual heirs to segregationists, or just segregationists for short.

            “Segregation” refers to a more specific policy, which Trumpists are generally not in favor of. A better analogy would be something like calling them “Smitherians”, if Smith was someone whose views had a significant influence on segregation policies and whose influence arguably continues.

            What are the pro the use of “cultural marxism” posters takes on “Against Murderism”? They must be against that too, and in favor using the term racism, right?

            No, this is wrong too. “Racism” is a more specific claim, and objectively false in most of the cases it’s used. A better comparison term for “cultural marxism” for an analogous meaning is for example “alt-right”. It’s similarly used as a fairly general umbrella term for diverse views, and often used derogatorily.

          • brad says:

            No, this is wrong too. “Racism” is a more specific claim, and objectively false in most of the cases it’s used.

            I’d say “cultural Marxist” is pretty specific, at least once you strip away the disingenuous equivocation on “Marxist”. It’s objectively false in most of the cases it’s used. Unlike racist, which is objectively true in most cases where it is used, at least unless one accepts the humpty dumpty redefinition.

            To my mind what this entire discussion is evidence for the claim that in the vast majority of cases high minded invocation of meta level principles are so much noise. It’s just a smarter person’s way of rationalizing the same object level positions that their dumber fellow tribe members hold. “Cultural Marxists” are bad people so it’s okay to fling a sneer word in their face. “Racists” are good people so it’s not okay.

            If you want to talk to me about meta level principles, show me where it hurts or don’t bother.

          • uau says:

            I’d say “cultural Marxist” is pretty specific, at least once you strip away the disingenuous equivocation on “Marxist”. It’s objectively false in most of the cases it’s used.

            What specific thing do you think it means, especially so strongly that it could be claimed to be “objectively false”? I see it as referring to things like focus on the supposed oppression of some groups.

            Unlike racist, which is objectively true in most cases where it is used, at least unless one accepts the humpty dumpty redefinition.

            If you take an older meaning of “racist” from say 1950, most accusations are rather obviously false. If you take the preferred definition of those who want to use “racist” as a slur, then they may be true (but calling not using this a “redefinition” is wrong). But this misses the point of “Against Murderism”. Even if you prefer to use a definition of racism which applies to even incredibly minor views and attitudes you don’t agree with, and thus consider almost all accusations of “racism” factually correct, this does not justify viewing racism as the source of all problems. The point of that article is not so much “‘racist’ is objectively the wrong word to describe these people, you should use some other word”. It’s “you shouldn’t attribute these actions to racism”. “Why do these things happen? Because racism! The way to fix things is to reduce racism!” is wrong, even if you use a definition of “racism” which means all white people objectively are racist.

            To my mind what this entire discussion is evidence for the claim that in the vast majority of cases high minded invocation of meta level principles are so much noise. It’s just a smarter person’s way of rationalizing the same object level positions that their dumber fellow tribe members hold.

            You’re dismissing arguments you disagree with too easily, and making sloppy arguments yourself. So I think you shouldn’t take the discussion as evidence, since you yourself seem to viewing it largely through the lens of “people say things I disagree with, they must just be making noise”.

            If you want to talk to me about meta level principles, show me where it hurts or don’t bother.

            Not sure what you mean by this.

          • brad says:

            To my mind what this entire discussion is evidence for the claim that in the vast majority of cases high minded invocation of meta level principles are so much noise. It’s just a smarter person’s way of rationalizing the same object level positions that their dumber fellow tribe members hold.

            You’re dismissing arguments you disagree with too easily, and making sloppy arguments yourself. So I think you shouldn’t take the discussion as evidence, since you yourself seem to viewing it largely through the lens of “people say things I disagree with, they must just be making noise”.

            I disagree with your characterization of my arguments (obviously) but even if they are correct, I still don’t think that’s to the contrary of my underlying point.

            I embrace my object level positions and the object level generally. I’m not trying to run away from them by claim that what I really care about are “free speech”, “the non-aggression principle”, and “niceness, community, and civilization” but that somehow, magically, these high minded meta level principles cash out to bog standard American right wing object level positions.

            If we go to the meta-meta level would you agree that post hoc rationalizations are, in general, a danger when reasoning from the meta level to the object level? And that our prior for such rationalizations being in play ought to be especially high in situations where a complicated, nuanced argument is presented to justify an object level belief that on its face seems to contradict the presented meta level principle?

            In other words, if someone says “I agree Scott-ist principles would suggest tabooing the the toxoplasma sneer phrase but …” aren’t I right to hold on to my wallet?

            If you want to talk to me about meta level principles, show me where it hurts or don’t bother.

            Not sure what you mean by this.

            If you want to claim to be driven by meta level principles, show me where you take an object level position against what would be your inclination because of the high level principle. If you can’t then the high level principle is a no-op.

            What specific thing do you think it means, especially so strongly that it could be claimed to be “objectively false”?

            The obvious thing–a disciple of Marx.

          • uau says:

            In other words, if someone says “I agree Scott-ist principles would suggest tabooing the the toxoplasma sneer phrase but …” aren’t I right to hold on to my wallet?

            But I don’t think anyone said this. You were the one who brought up “toxoplasma sneer phrase” stuff and claimed it would apply. I disagree (more below). So if you count this as an example of “bad meta-level discussion”, isn’t it just you that’s doing it badly, or do you claim the badness is that others aren’t convinced? If you wanted to give an example of bad appeals to more general principles, I would have expected you to give an example of someone else badly bringing up such principles.

            If you want to claim your argument was valid, I think you need more than just call something a “sneer phrase”. I mean, there certainly isn’t a principle “you can’t use any words with negative connotations”. Maybe “cultural marxism” isn’t the most constructive phrasing to use in certain circumstances. But I don’t think the concept or phrase should be banned. It’s like “alt-right” in many ways. That’s also used in a derogatory manner of people who don’t self-identify that way. But I do not think the concept should be banned altogether. So your example of “I agree Scott-ist principles would suggest…” deviates from my view already at the “I agree” point. And I didn’t notice anyone else hold that view either. So it seems like a strawman.

            So this looks less like “high-level arguments are wrong” and more like “my attempts to do this fail, so this concept is bullshit”.

            If you want to claim to be driven by meta level principles, show me where you take an object level position against what would be your inclination because of the high level principle. If you can’t then the high level principle is a no-op.

            Would you know what my first inclination would be?

            What specific thing do you think it means, especially so strongly that it could be claimed to be “objectively false”?

            The obvious thing–a disciple of Marx.

            This interpretation seems to entirely ignore the “cultural” part. And if you mean “disciple” strictly enough to be easily “objectively false” (faithfully adhering to the views of Marx), that would not be at all “obvious” even for just “Marxism”. “Keynesian” for example does not mean strict adherence to the personal beliefs of Keynes.

          • uau says:

            What thread are you reading?

            I don’t think those support your claim. I don’t see them endorsing a view like your “I agree Scott-ist principles would suggest tabooing the the toxoplasma sneer phrase but …”. They discuss the negative connotations of the phrase. But there clearly is no principle as broad as “anything with negative connotations must be tabooed”. I see those as consistent with my view: the phrase has problems similar to “alt-right”, but that is not enough to justify banning it altogether.

            And the difference to “Against Murderism” (which your brought up as a “principle”) is even bigger. It’s not only that left likes to use “racist” as a sneer phrase for anything/anyone they don’t like. It’s that people use “racism” as an underlying explanation for issues, and believe that eliminating racism is the solution to those issues. While people on the right like to blame their political opponents, they rarely hold analogous beliefs that a Marxist conspiracy is the source of society’s problems and purging the conspiracy would be the solution to those problems.

          • Lillian says:

            So where your convincing evidence?

            There are links are in the post of mine that you’ve been replying to continue this thread. There is also this Tablet article. Those are the things that convinced me that 1) Cultural Marxism is a real thing, 2) People used to call themselves Cultural Marxists, and 3) The things that Cultural Marxists believe appear to be the foundation of modern Social Justice thought. If they do not convince you then i don’t know what to tell you, they convinced me.

          • I’d say “cultural Marxist” is pretty specific

            My impression is that there were are and are quite a lot of people who identify as “Marxist” in fields not closely related to the theories of Marx, such as English literature. As I interpret it, “Marxist” for them isn’t a description of a scientific theory they believe in but of which side they are on in what they see as a general conflict.

            A little of this comes up in an old blog post on my interaction with Robert Wolff

          • onyomi says:

            @Brad

            I think it’s important to distinguish two different sorts of argument I’m seeing in this thread:

            1. “We should stop talking about ‘racism’ because it’s not really a serious problem, mostly just a con perpetrated against white conservatives by political mercenaries and kooks. Sure, there are a few real racists out there, but their impact is extremely minor, despite everything you hear from left-wingers about racism pervading society.”

            2. “We should taboo the word ‘racism’ because, while it is a serious problem and there are logical threads linking most of its real-world usages, nevertheless it gets applied too promiscuously and destructively to allow its use in productive debate and we should all just try to be more specific if we ever want to get along.”

            I see “Against Murderism” as largely a type-2 argument. I take your first post in this thread to mean “let’s taboo ‘cultural Marxism’ for the same reasons ‘Against Murderism’ proposes tabooing ‘racism’ (i.e. ‘type-2’ reasons).”

            But please note that my OP was not a response to a type-2 argument, it was a response to a type-1 argument.

            Much of the thread feels like you attempting to prove the type-2 case for tabooing cultural Marxism, while I, and seemingly others, are still trying to establish whether the type-1 case against it is, in fact, wrong.

            Which is to say, before deciding whether to taboo the concept, and, if so, how to usefully clarify it, can we first decide whether it’s a real or serious “thing” at all?

          • uau says:

            I see “Against Murderism” as largely a type-2 argument. I take your first post in this thread to mean “let’s taboo ‘cultural Marxism’ for the same reasons ‘Against Murderism’ proposes tabooing ‘racism’ (i.e. ‘type-2’ reasons).”

            I think this misses an essential difference from “Against Murderism”, in the same way brad seems to have missed it. Both concepts can be vague and be can be used as slurs. But the additional problem with “racist”, as discussed in “Against Murderism”, is that it’s used to explain people’s behavior contrary to their stated views. I don’t think that applies to “cultural Marxism”.

            Calling someone’s beliefs “cultural Marxism” can for example be used to imply that the beliefs are as erroneous the original Marxism is now widely considered. Basically just saying that their beliefs are stupid. But it is not used to imply that they’re lying about their real beliefs, and they really want an armed workers’ revolution, and their talk about wealth inequality is really dog-whistling to indicate they want to send people to “reeducation” camps.

            By contrast, “racist” is used to imply that someone’s stated beliefs are not just stupid, but they are in fact lies, that the person actually believes something different and evil that he’s not willing to publicly admit, and that in truth his actions are motivated by hatred. It’s the difference between saying that leftist views are stupid, and the McCarthyist view that leftists are in truth evil communist sleeper agents who are trying to hide their true nature.

          • brad says:

            @onyomi

            Much of the thread feels like you attempting to prove the type-2 case for tabooing cultural Marxism, while I, and seemingly others, are still trying to establish whether the type-1 case against it is, in fact, wrong.

            Which is to say, before deciding whether to taboo the concept, and, if so, how to usefully clarify it, can we first decide whether it’s a real or serious “thing” at all?

            This is a fair point (along with “ingroup heterogeneity bias”–narcissism of small differences?)

            I’m not sure about the “before” part, if we have two alternatives either of which lead to the conclusion we should taboo I don’t know that we need to wait until we figure out which is correct to go ahead and taboo. But there’s certainly nothing wrong with debating what the intellectual pedigree of the critical studies movement was and how unitary or disunitary it should be viewed today.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Steve Bannon called himself a “Leninist” because he wants to rip out the current political system and replace it with a different political system, much like Lenin. The system he wants, though, is something like “free/fair market economic nationalism” rather than communism, like Lenin. Since Bannon is not actually a disciple of Lenin, was his claim of being a “Leninist” erroneous?

          • Protagoras says:

            @Lillian, WRT the Tablet article, the ideas the article associates with Cultural Marxism are not new or uncommon. As a result, I don’t see a strong basis for the inference that any subsequent groups derived those ideas from Cultural Marxism, as opposed to any of countless other sources. Perhaps some even arrived at those ideas on their own, as they do seem to crop up regularly.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I’m about 50/50 on that. On the one hand, yes, tabooing words can be productive. On the other hand, people just start using workarounds and euphemisms that “everybody knows what they mean.” Ants, Death Eaters. If you can’t say “social justice warrior” and you can’t say “cultural marxism” then you say “critical X theory” and then “critical X theory” just becomes “a dog whistle for cultural marxism conspiracy theorists.”

        When a feminist is talking about a bunch of gender stereotypes, ideas and behaviors and says “patriarchy,” must I insist that instead she refer to her outgroup as “those who practice traditional gender roles?” Or can I just admit to understanding the gist of what she means even though I think her worldview is wrong?

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho,

          Upthread I suggested that “The New Left” seems to be a good fit (an actual self-described political ‘movement’ of the 1960’s and ’70’s), but I suppose that may be confused with twenty-something Sanders supporters (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?), off the top of my head “social anti-traditionalists” who are in opposition to “social traditionalists” fits what most seem to be trying to convey.

          If I use those terms does that work?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah, to be honest if someone said “new left” and I didn’t know they were versed enough in political history to be referencing the New Left you describe, I would assume they were talking about AOC and pals.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        On the one hand it’s true, on the other hand one would like to be able to pin down and categorize an inter-related set of ideas, at least as much as someone else should be able to pin down and categorize their own ideas.

        There’s an asymmetry when one group of people can launch ad hoc critiques of certain social norms, to the point of being able to shift them in their favor, but people negatively affected by this, usually collectively designated as some other toxoplasma sneer phrase, are unable to counter a tangible set of doctrines even if the effects it has on their lives are very tangible.

        It’s sort of a Motte and bailey, but as applied to labels rather than beliefs.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          @RalMirrorAd

          For that purpose, “intersectional feminism”, or “social justice activism”, or some label containing word “woke”, or whatever else, would serve perfectly well.

    • Plumber says:

      @onyomi

      …“cultural Marxists”….

      It occurs to me now that I should walk back my doubt, as in some sense I am a “Cultural Marxist” (and also a “Patriarch”, I’ve got two son’s and my wife is a stay at home mom, don’t tell her that though as she knows she’s the boss).
      My Mom gave me comic books on Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky when I ws 12 (she later ‘forgot’ it but I remember!), and my Dad was an unrepentant self-described “enemy of the state” even just before his death (and for some strange reason a Scottish nationalist despite being born in New Jersey and living in California – I wish I was making that up).
      I probably know more about old strikes and the lyrics to Wobbly hymns, and I think I can recognize more Marxist jargon than most as well, and I think I know more about the 20th century Left than the Right.
      Problem is I think Marx wasn’t that hot of a prophet and think Canada or Utah are better models than Cuba or North Korea.

      That doesn’t quite fit what’s described as “Cultural Marxism” in this thread though “New Left” and “anti-traditionalists” seems to fit I think

      • For what it’s worth, my uncle was at some point a member of the IWW, although he claimed he only joined for the fringe benefits. He ended up as a U of C law professor and an early influence on the economic analysis of law.

  12. Cliff says:

    Jussie Smollett

    • ManyCookies says:

      The charges against Jussie Smollett (the Empire actor who faked a hate crime attack against himself) were abruptly dropped and records sealed, for context.

      Yeah super bizarre development. Normally I’d reach for “Rich and famous“, but he’s truly not that rich and famous and the celebs typically still go to trial, not have their charges abruptly dropped and records sealed. Some amount of corruption seems likely (apparently the prosecutor knew his family or something?), but I’ve also heard the sealing thing implies some massive procedural fuckup on the prosecution’s part. Any legal experts wanna weigh in?

      • Orpheus says:

        I’m hardly a legal expert, but I am going with “Rich and famous and black and gay”

      • The Nybbler says:

        Illinois corruption. I’d say Chicago corruption, but since the Chicago chief of police and mayor are _pissed_, to the point where the Chicago Police Department actually responded to a Freedom of Information Act request as fast as possible, I’m assuming the city didn’t get its cut.

        Jussie may end up wishing he arranged a more plausible deal, as the FBI is interested now.

        • dick says:

          I have some familiarity with IL politics and I’m a strong believer in the idea that the unusual thing about IL is not how corrupt its politicians are, it’s how often they get convicted of corruption.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, all depending on whether or not the FBI decide “nothing to see here”, Smollett may regret his life choices 🙂

          The problem is that he and his supporters took the whole thing to the national level and they’ve made the city look bad. Well, worse than the ordinary opinion of Chicago as “machine politics and the fix is in”, and that’s saying something.

          Believe he did fight off two attackers in a blizzard at two in the morning with only a tuna sandwich? Then Chicago under Rahm Emmanuel is a hellhole where bleach-flinging racist lynch mobs can wander the streets with impunity.

          Believe he’s a lying liar who lied? Then Chicago under Rahm Emmanuel is a hellhole where third-rate rapper/actors can fabricate ‘hate crimes’ with plots that would be turned down by Law and Order: Special Wokeness Unit for stretching credulity too far and walk away scott-free and smirking making fools of the entire police department, and proving all the rumours about corruption and string-pulling and fixers and pals with political clout are all too true if anyone doubted them.

      • I can see three possible explanations:

        1. He is innocent and can prove it, and the police messed up. I don’t have a very high opinion of the Chicago police but this is a very high profile case, so they will have paid attention. And if that was the case he would have insisted on their saying he was innocent, instead of paying a sizable fine. I think this explanation is very unlikely.

        2. Some form of corruption of the prosecutor.

        3. Ideology. The case encourages the idea that claims of hate crimes are likely to be false, and there are obvious reasons why many people would not like that to happen. Maybe one of those people was the prosecutor or someone in a position to put pressure on the prosecutor.

        • albatross11 says:

          Why not just that the prosecutor thought prosecuting this case would be bad for their future political ambitions?

        • J Mann says:

          1. He doesn’t have to prove innocence exactly – he just has to make it sufficiently possible that he’s innocent that he can put the CPD (which has a terrible reputation) on trial.

          IMHO, the biggest question is whether he could plausibly have mistaken the brothers for white – i.e., do they both have Nigerian accents that they can’t shake or can at least one of them do a plausible MAGA accent, and is it possible that when he told the police he could see around the eyes of the attacker and that he was white, that he was honestly mistaken?

          IMHO, I can’t see him winning – he would essentially have to argue that the brothers set him up, and would have to explain texting “I might need your help on the low” shortly before the attack and the many calls and texts around the time of the attack – but maybe he can prove the brothers were trying to sell him bodyguard services or something crazy – you never know.

      • Well... says:

        Jussie Smollett (the Mighty Ducks actor

        Fixed that for you.

        • Deiseach says:

          There seem to be new developments in this case practically every hour.

          On the “Jussie Is Innocent” side, he’s up for some award of which I have never heard – the Image awards? Seemingly run or presented or who knows what by the NAACP? Now, he’s been nominated and won twice before for ‘representation on TV/media’ or the likes, but nominating this time round seems a bit pointed, to say the least:

          Smollett is nominated for the 2019 NAACP Image Awards, scheduled for Saturday. Six-time host and “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson told Variety on Wednesday that he hopes to see the controversial actor there.

          “I hope he wins,” Anderson added. “I’m happy for him that the system worked for him in his favor because the system isn’t always fair, especially for people of color. So I’m glad it worked out for him.”

          On the “The language I want to use to describe him would get me banned by the Reddit admins” side, the Mayor City of Chicago wants Jussie to pay for the cost of the police investigation to the tune of $130 thousand smackeroos:

          “Given that he doesn’t feel any sense of contrition and remorse, my recommendation is that when he writes the check, in the memo section, he can put the words, ‘I’m accountable for the hoax,'” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said earlier Thursday.

          This is the first time I have ever been in agreement with Rahm Emanuel about anything 🙂

          Honestly, this story is more entertaining than any of the TV shows or movies Smollett may have starred in. Just sit back and watch the drama unfold (though I do realise it’s a very serious matter, given the charged racial atmosphere and the political polarisation).

    • suntzuanime says:

      The problem with the case all along was that blood libel isn’t a crime. He was charged with filing a false police report, which is a felony but also the sort of thing where you might get community service if you say you’re sorry and promise not to do it again and the prosecutor is a family friend.

      The only weird thing is that he hasn’t said he’s sorry. He’s maintained his innocence. The prosecutor says he thinks he’s guilty. It seems like that sort of disagreement might be usefully resolved by a jury, you know? But instead the case has been sealed. So I imagine there’s some political fuckery going on.

      Really the problem is that his attempt to stoke racial hatred was so facially absurd, and yet all the Good and Decent people rallied around him instead of asking any questions at all. We’ve got to stop believing “victims”. Blood libel isn’t a crime, and free speech means it can’t be, so the responsibility is on people to show some sense in how they interpret things.

      • EchoChaos says:

        The problem with the case all along was that blood libel isn’t a crime.

        Well, not against white MAGA guys anyway.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Blood libel against any group is not a crime in the United States, the greatest nation on Earth, which actually respects the legal right to freedom of speech that other supposedly civilized nations only give lip service to.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Blood libel by faking hate crimes is not one against MAGA guys, I should say.

            I am a strong supporter of free speech. Faking a crime ain’t that.

          • suntzuanime says:

            See, one of the things that makes the United States better than every other nation in the world is that other nations will say, “oh of course we believe in free speech, it’s just that hate speech isn’t free speech, grossly offensive speech isn’t free speech, lèse-majesté isn’t free speech, counterrevolutionary propaganda isn’t free speech, but for sure we love free speech!” The United States actually takes its legal commitment to freedom of speech seriously.

          • Cliff says:

            Sure… but filing fake police reports is clearly illegal under U.S. law, so I’m not sure what your point is.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The problem with the case all along was that blood libel isn’t a crime. He was charged with filing a false police report, which is a felony but also the sort of thing where you might get community service if you say you’re sorry and promise not to do it again and the prosecutor is a family friend.

            People are upset because he’s getting away with something quite bad, but the actual crime he’s accused of is not so serious. The thing people are mad about is not a crime.

          • Aapje says:

            @suntzuanime

            False accusations can lead to very serious consequences. They can result in vigilante justice against innocents (either specific people or a group fingered as containing the perpetrator(s)) or persecution of innocents by the government.

            There is a reason why ancient legal systems would often apply the same punishment to the false accuser as would be applied to the accused.

          • rlms says:

            There are perhaps also reasons why the modern US doesn’t do that.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The United States actually takes its legal commitment to freedom of speech seriously.

            The United States doesn’t need to legally suppress speech, because it can just get Big Tech to do it on its behalf.

      • albatross11 says:

        If he weren’t famous, this case would have expended very few resources (I bet the cops who took his original statement were deeply skeptical) and nobody, including Smollet, would ever have been charged.

        My cynical guess is that the prosecutor in charge of Smollet’s case didn’t see a political advantage in making a big public thing out of this case, and so (perhaps with the right palms being greased) was willing to drop the matter.

        OTOH, Jussie Smollet is probably responsible for getting the concept of “hate hoax” into widespread circulation, and the way things came out probably discouraged the next B-list celebrity from thinking making up a hate crime against himself will be a career-enhancing move, so the net effect of his dumbass hate hoax was probably positive.

        • Randy M says:

          If he weren’t famous, his claims wouldn’t have been publicized because they were so transparently false. Assuming that they were, I would hope anyone would be charged.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t know if that’s true. Hate hoaxes perpetrated by/”against” nobodies get national attention. Like the Muslim girl who said MAGA guys ripped off her hijab.

          • Garrett says:

            Coming right off of Cavanaugh allegations, I actually thought this was plausible. You had a specific person making a specific allegation about a specific action at a specific time and place with some associated evidence.

            The only thing that seemed off was the “This is MAGA country”, which I figured was mis-remembered.

          • Randy M says:

            But also that two white guys were hanging around the freezing cold weather who happened to have a noose and bleach handy and could tell he was gay?

            Ford’s accusation was plausible, but uncorroborated. Jussie’s was implausible.

          • J Mann says:

            Yeah, it was fairly implausible that two white guys would (a) be out at 2 in the morning in the freezing cold, (b) recognize a supporting character from the TV show “Empire” from across the street in the middle of the night, (c) have a bottle of bleach and a noose, (d) decide to beat up Smollett, but then (e) not seriously hurt him, notwithstanding that one of them was punching him from behind, and that they had enough control over him in the fight to get a noose around his neck.

            The alternative hypothesis is that there was a conspiracy of MAGA fans out to get him as a result of his anti-Trump tweets. This linked to the letter with the return address “MAGA,” and explained how two guys might be prepared for this attack, but then didn’t explain how they knew that he was going to (a) land in Chicago that night, (b) go to his friend’s condo and (c) decide to leave his friend’s condo and walk on the street to get a sandwich.

            More generally, it depended on the idea that white people see “MAGA” as a way to oppress black and gay people, as opposed to the more quotidian racism of not thinking much about how black and gay people feel about your hat.

          • The Nybbler says:

            More generally, it depended on the idea that white people see “MAGA” as a way to oppress black and gay people, as opposed to the more quotidian racism of not thinking much about how black and gay people feel about your hat.

            That’s not racism at all, unless wearing Obama and “I’m With Her” paraphenalia is racist and sexist, in which case we’ve stretched the terms well beyond usefulness.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, it was fairly implausible that two white guys would (a) be out at 2 in the morning in the freezing cold, (b) recognize a supporting character from the TV show “Empire” from across the street in the middle of the night, (c) have a bottle of bleach and a noose, (d) decide to beat up Smollett, but then (e) not seriously hurt him, notwithstanding that one of them was punching him from behind, and that they had enough control over him in the fight to get a noose around his neck.Yeah, it was fairly implausible that two white guys would (a) be out at 2 in the morning in the freezing cold, (b) recognize a supporting character from the TV show “Empire” from across the street in the middle of the night, (c) have a bottle of bleach and a noose, (d) decide to beat up Smollett, but then (e) not seriously hurt him, notwithstanding that one of them was punching him from behind, and that they had enough control over him in the fight to get a noose around his neck.

            Plus he was on the phone to his manager who overheard the alleged attack but never said “Jussie, get off the line, I’m calling the cops!” and he never even dropped his sandwich!

            And after suffering two broken ribs he then sang in a concert (the broken ribs were downgraded to ‘just bruised’ after somebody pointed this out), he still had the noose around his neck after the hospital visit (or put it back on when the cops finally showed up to take his statement ‘to show them what happened’ or something like that).

            Originally, I thought that the whole thing was a cover story for him coming back home from a club (more plausible reason for being out on the streets at two in the morning) where he’d gotten into an argument with somebody and got a few slaps, then when asked by whomever he was staying with “My gosh, Jussie, what happened you?” he made up a spur of the moment story about being jumped by two random strangers for no reason (because he didn’t want to admit the embarrassing truth) then had to stick to it.

            The more details that came out, though, the more it seemed that he was inventing the entire ‘hate crime’ for publicity and to put pressure on the show where it was rumoured his character was going to be written out.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think we don’t know the base rate–the number of hate hoaxes that don’t get reported, either because it wasn’t a slow news day or because the cop taking the initial report asked a few good questions and the whole story came apart.

            OTOH, the national media tends to follow a kind of herd mentality, so once everyone’s talking about the Trump-fueled hate crime crisis, everyone’s looking for a hate crime to report. And reporters can be *remarkably* non-skeptical when they’re reporting on exactly the story their editor wants them to provide….

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/02/17/i-doubted-jussie-smollett-it-breaks-my-heart-that-i-might-be-right

            After the story collapsed publicly, the executive assistant to the editorial board at the Washington Post wrote an essay talking about all the things that she knew were wrong about the story up-front, and should have gotten questioned at the very least, but didn’t bring up until it was too late.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          There were multiple prosecutors involved. It wasn’t the police vs the prosecutors, but one prosecutor in favor against another opposed.

        • dick says:

          My cynical guess is that the prosecutor in charge of Smollet’s case didn’t see a political advantage in making a big public thing out of this case, and so (perhaps with the right palms being greased) was willing to drop the matter.

          I agree with this. I think everyone kind of assumed he would plead this out once his accomplices turned on him, and it appears that he made it clear he was going to stick to his guns and force them to go through with the whole thing, they decided it wasn’t worth the media circus (and perhaps chance of exoneration by a sympathetic jury).

      • J Mann says:

        Fake hate crimes should IMHO be an additional crime over and above filing a false police report.

        If your goal (or an intended consequence of achieving some other goal) is to promote racial conflict and fear, then a fake hate crime is as harmful to society as burning a cross in someone’s yard, and for the same reasons.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Presumably, the point of a “fake hate crime” is to inspire public outcry (and maybe… hate!) against some segment of the population (say, white guys in MAGA hats).[1] That seems to me like a plain old hate crime.

          [1] This view is corroborated by the common narrative (right up until it fell to bits) that the problem wasn’t just the people what supposedly dun it, but the wider social climate.

        • albatross11 says:

          I suspect the purpose of his hate hoax was to get attention for himself to enhance his career–either to make it less likely he’d be written off the show he was in, or to make it more likely he’d be able to get some other acting job. It’s possible this will still work out for him (maybe all publicity is good), but it doesn’t look like such a great strategy just now, and the fact that he could have ended up actually doing jail time probably manages to disincentivize the next B-list hate hoaxer.

          My impression is that the great majority of hate hoaxes and media-amplified hate crimes are done for personal reasons–either a way for some troubled person to get attention, or a way for some jackass to be as hurtful as possible toward someone they have a personal beef with. So when a Jewish kid has a swastika painted on his locker at school, you probably don’t need to worry about neo-Nazis until you’ve talked with his recently-broken-up-with ex girlfriend and the ex-boyfriend of his new girlfriend.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The perpetrator’s state of mind and intentions are something we regularly take into account in sentencing. There’s bad (murdering your business partner over a financial dispute) and then there’s depraved (murdering a little girl because you like the smell of her blood). The first is bad and maybe you can get out of prison in 30 years with good behavior. The second is so far beyond the pale you get the death penalty. Similarly there’s different punishments or different crimes for negligent as opposed to reckless as opposed to intentional behavior.

            While Smollett might have perpetrated the hoax for purely financial reasons, he did so with reckless disregard to the impact on society at large, knowing full well his lies would inflame racial and sexual hatreds and he did it anyway.

            Filing a false police report is bad. Filing a false police report and then lying about it on national television knowing full well your lies will incite racial animus in an already polarized nation is depraved, and deserves extra punishment. I’m not saying lock him up and throw away the key, but having the charges dropped without so much as an admission of guilt and an apology to the police, to the victims of real crimes, to the city of Chicago and to…I dunno, “the white community” screams “corruption and special favors.” I agree with Nybbler above: they really should have crafted a more plausible deal.

          • J Mann says:

            @Conrad – it’s worth mentioning that Smollett also did a lot of damage to the black and gay communities.

            1) Even if successful, his scheme had the intended consequence of spreading fear. While following this story on Twitter, I saw a U Chicago student(!) who claimed she was uncomfortable crossing the quad for fear of gangs of white people attacking her.(!!)

            2) Since it was unsuccessful, it’s going to lead to more people discounting valid stories.

            3) He got caught because the CPD put in an amazing amount of work. If not, this facially unlikely scenario would have increased partisan division in this country.

          • Randy M says:

            +1 to Conrad, Faza, & J Mann

          • AnonYemous2 says:

            The perpetrator’s state of mind and intentions are something we regularly take into account in sentencing.

            As far as I can tell, this isn’t true and the two crimes you list are punished the same under the law. Maybe the judge or jury sentence differently, but aren’t the prescribed sentences the same?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The details and names of the crimes we commonly lump under “homicide” vary state to state, but generally one person can kill another person and what charge they get (if any) depends on the circumstances and the perpetrator’s state of mind. If you kill someone justifiably (self-defense) or completely on accident in a way no reasonable person could have foreseen, those are not even crimes. If a reasonable person could have foreseen the outcome of an action might be “person dies” and they do it anyway, that’s negligence, and you get something like “manslaughter.” If you behave in a completely reckless way that will obviously get someone killed, like driving the wrong way on an interstate at 80MPH causing a massive collision with fatalities, you might be looking at something like “second degree murder.” You weren’t specifically trying to kill anyone, but it was completely obvious someone has a high chance of dying from your actions. And then there’s premeditation.

            This is the whole concept of “mens rea.” The “guilty mind.” I didn’t make it up. If you’re going to tell me “state of mind” isn’t a thing in crimes, you’re going to need to explain why mens rea isn’t a thing.

            Similarly for sentencing the judge and jury do take into account things like motivation and sometimes whether or not the perpetrator shows remorse. The depravity of the crime absolutely matters when it comes to sentencing.

            There’s nothing about “hate crimes” that are incompatible with our judicial system. It’s just going a little further into the “guilty mind.” That someone commits a crime (perhaps only against one person) for the purpose of terrorizing a population. Burning a cross on someone’s lawn for the purpose of terrifying them and their neighbors is a worse crime than trespass and setting controlled burns without a permit. Faking a crime in a way guaranteed to stir up animus against white people is worse than faking a crime to get sympathy from your employer.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Conrad, only one of your homicide examples, premeditation, is about the state of mind of the accused. The rest are about how “a reasonable person” would interpret the situation, not how the accused did interpret it.

            Yes, mens rea used to be a big part of the law, but there has been a long term move against it.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Yes, there is a strong analogy, but the arguments against criminalizing hate crimes apply against criminalizing hate hoaxes. Both require establishing the state of the mind of the perpetrator. For example, Tawana Brawley was probably not trying to create a media circus, let alone a racially charged one, just to escape private personal consequences.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think this is the usual situation in known-false rape accusations, as well. Some 15 year old girl finds out she’s pregnant and has to tell her folks, and claims her boyfriend raped her as a way of getting out of consequences.

            It’s not unreasonable to have some sympathy for a kid in a bad situation panicking, but it’s also pretty important to remember that her lie could end up putting an innocent person in prison for several years.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Sure, fingering a specific person should be an aggravating factor for false accusations. (But it’s not clear to me whether Smollet should count as fingering specific people.)

            There is a famous quote (page 9) that false rape accusations are a girl out past curfew. But the claim is that these are nonspecific. Also, fame does not choose quotes for being reliable.

      • The Nybbler says:

        You might get community service for filing a false report, but it’ll be after a guilty plea though possibly with delayed adjudication (so no conviction recorded if you do the community service and keep your nose clean for a while). And it’ll be more than two days. Not a dropping of all charges with no admission of guilt.

    • Clutzy says:

      Its weird, living in the city to observe the national conversation.

      Here, almost none of the local reporters believed him from the jump. That is probably because of their police sources, plus the fact that it was like -20F when he claimed people were just waiting outside for him.

      People generally also expected him to get let off easy after the charges, but almost no one thought it would be THIS easy. Basically everyone in the city to the right of the wackadoos who continue to say, “he was right in spirit” is fairly convinced this was a corrupt deal with more done under the table.

      • Deiseach says:

        Yeah, being fair to the Chicago media, they did actual investigative reporting from the start. The national media were more inclined to the chin-stroking opinion pieces on “is this the fault of Trump or really the fault of Trump?” level.

    • Randy M says:

      What I’m confused about is, if he isn’t being charged, why aren’t his accomplices attackers being charged with assault?

      • Clutzy says:

        Because he’s not being exonerated. The charges are being dropped because the prosecutor doesn’t want to piss off a few mega players in the region who are friends with Jussie.

      • ManyCookies says:

        The prosecution’s statement was like “We think he’s guilty, but he’s served enough and we don’t think we should press further.”

        • dick says:

          This seems pretty defensible; presuming his acting career is dead, he has already suffered the equivalent of a rather enormous fine, entirely at his own hand. In fact, it’s possible that an extended court case and the ensuing publicity circus would even help him, in the “all publicity is good publicity” sense employed by celebrities more infamous than famous.

          • The Nybbler says:

            presuming his acting career is dead

            I wouldn’t presume that. He may have enough woke points to get back on Empire, even.

          • dick says:

            I’d be astounded if that happened, or even if he got a similar role on a similarly-popular show in the next, let’s say, couple of years. Wager a dollar on it?

          • Theodoric says:

            He just got nominated for an NAACP award, so it seems unlikely he’ll face any kind of career consequences. As other people are saying, while it is true that a first time non-violent offender is usually a good candidate to avoid jail time, doing so usually involves an admission of guilt, or at least an admission that there is sufficient evidence to convict (nolo contendere or Alford plea)-even for something relatively minor such as a first time DUI or adult indoor prostitution or personal use quantity drug possession.

          • mdet says:

            He just got nominated for an NAACP award

            This is… very disappointing. Out of all my (black) friends and family, I only know a couple people who still insisted on Smollet’s innocence, so to see the NAACP nominate him is genuinely surprising. I’m wondering if they’ll get pushback.

          • bean says:

            He just got nominated for an NAACP award, so it seems unlikely he’ll face any kind of career consequences.

            1. That’s specifically an acting award, not some sort of “services to the black community” award, and the article says he’s gotten several previous nominations.
            2. Are we sure he just got nominated? The ceremony is tomorrow, so it’s probable that the wheels were in motion a while back. And even if they weren’t, I don’t see any particular reason to prevent his nomination for an award for his existing work, even if he did make a complete fool out of himself.
            I’m not sure this tells us much one way or the other.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            1. That’s specifically an acting award, not some sort of “services to the black community” award, and the article says he’s gotten several previous nominations.

            With respect, I think that’s a bit naïve. Lots of people are going to interpret this as a sign of support for Smollett, and the NAACP must surely realise that lots of people are going to interpret it as a sign of support. So it looks like they either support what he did or else think that fabricating hate crimes isn’t a big deal.

            As for the wheels already being in motion, they could rescind the nomination if they wanted to. It’s not like there are no other black actors they could nominate.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            To pin down the timeline, the nomination was announced 2/13, the day the bodybuilders were arrested.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            And even if they weren’t, I don’t see any particular reason to prevent his nomination for an award for his existing work, even if he did make a complete fool out of himself.

            Isn’t it so nice to follow an ethos that permits separating the quality of the art from the behavior of the artist? 😀

            Though, since I’ve been deliberately living under a rock on this one (I live in Chicago and from the get-go it’s reeked of an idiot circus [about idiots, by idiots, for idiots]): is there much of a hypocritical/goose-for-gander outcry for Jussie to get memory-holed over this?

          • mdet says:

            That’s specifically an acting award, not some sort of “services to the black community” award

            I was mistakenly under the impression that “Image Award” was the name of the category, not the ceremony. I fully rescind my disappointment. Carry on.

            Edit: Also I apparently didn’t read past the picture…

        • Randy M says:

          Yeah, I guess it isn’t that hard to understand.

        • John Schilling says:

          That’s a common enough material outcome, but it almost always involves a plea bargain with at least a token guilty plea and an apology. And I don’t think anyone ever expected Smollett to serve hard time over this, but the admission of guilt is kind of important to some people.

          Smollett is all but shouting “You don’t have the authority to judge me!” to people whose job and self-image are based around their authority to judge people like him, and getting away with the same deal that most people get after a humbling apology. That suggests something fishy going on. Not necessarily overt corruption, it could just be that Smollett is standing his ground because he’s pretty certain that “black gay cause célèbre in Trump’s America” would be enough to hang a Chicago jury, and getting away with it because the DA is also pretty certain of that. But it might be worth looking for some overt corruption anyway.

    • broblawsky says:

      My guess is that CPD managed to badly fuck up the chain of evidence in their rush to indict Smollett, meaning that there was a real risk of losing the court case and looking like they tried to frame him.

      • J Mann says:

        I assumed something like that at first as well (my guess was that Smollett’s team had evidence of Mark Furman level racism by some key officers), but it doesn’t really explain how publicly outraged the CPD and Mayor’s office are and how quiet the prosecutor’s office is being.

        If this were CPD’s fault, you would think the prosecutor’s office would at least leak something along those lines, and/or tell the Mayor and Police representatives to shut up and go along if they don’t want it to hit the press.

        My guess is that it’s like the Epstein plea – Smollett’s team was connected, they could make this thing a circus and a fairly expensive trial for the city, the prosecutor’s office didn’t realize how bad this would smell. (In addition to the Epstein commonalities, in this case, there was also some risk of jury nullification, and it’s possible the prosecutor’s office didn’t see this as a serious crime and/or didn’t want to promote the narrative that reported hate crimes have a substantial chance of being false).

    • littskad says:

      Apparently, the State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, who had earlier claimed that she was recusing herself from the, didn’t actually formally recuse herself from the case:

      “Although we use the term ‘recuse’ as it relates to State’s Attorney Foxx’s involvement in the matter, it was a colloquial use of the term rather in its legal sense,” Foxx’s office said.

      And then Foxx’s office sent out an email asking for

      “examples of cases, felony preferable, where we, in exercising our discretion, have entered into verbal agreements with defense attorneys to dismiss charges against an offender if certain conditions were met, such as the payment of restitution, completion of community service, etc. but the defendant was not placed in a formal diversion program.”

      Early on in the investigation, Foxx had been exchanging emails with Tina Tchen (the former chief of staff for Michelle Obama while she was First Lady) on the behalf of one of Smollett’s family members.

      Also, in one of the fastest responses to a Freedom of Information Act request ever, the Chicago Police Department released their entire file on the case after the charges were dropped.

      References:
      https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/kass/ct-met-jussie-smollett-kim-foxx-kass-20190327-story.html
      https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-jussie-smollett-kim-foxx-records-20190313-story.html

    • fion says:

      I think posting a topic without any context or content should be avoided. Some people won’t know what the topic is, so won’t know whether its worth their while to read the comments; it’s not clear whether you’re being humorous, or just saying “what are people’s thoughts on [topic]?”; and it really takes very little effort to say “Jussie Smollett is [what Jussie Smollett is]. Jussie Smollett did [what Jussie Smollett did]. I think [what you think about Jussie Smollett]. What do the rest of you think?”

      Or maybe this is just a peeve of mine and you should ignore me.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        One counterpoint: the person bringing up the topic may not want to set the initial boundaries of the conversation by stating their stance. They may instead be interested in how the discussion develops without their interference.

        Of course, “what are people’s thoughts on [topic]?” seems like a better opener in that case, and restating the situation neutrally at least saves people unfamiliar with the situation a Google.

  13. ana53294 says:

    There was a lot of discussion about the lightbulb ban in the last thread, and I’d like to propose a system that could work in some countries.

    A Pigouvian tax is said to be regressive, because it harm consumption by the poor more than the rich.

    But what if we make a progressive Pigouvian tax? For salaries, usually only the income over a threshold gets taxed at a different rate.

    So if the threshold is, say, 8000 euros, below that you pay no taxes and above that you pay a 15% tax, there is a problem: people have no incentive to work for a salary between 8000-9411 euros, because at that range, you get a net income below 8000 euros. So governments tax the marginal income, and if you happen to earn 8001 euros, you pay no tax on the 8000, and you pay a 1.5 cent tax on the euro.

    You can make the same tax for household electricity consumption. You can calculate that the reasonable consumption for an adult is X, and it can be X or smaller amount Y per child. Then, use council records to calculate reasonable electricity consumption per household (in Spain, at least, councils have a pretty good idea of who lives where, because they need those records to collect rubbish, for schools, etc., and there is a central database of taxpayers). And then you impose a high tax on the electricity used above the threshold. And you can make exception for people who, due to health conditions, have to spend more electricity (people who need a sleep apnea machine, who need electric ramps for stairs, etc.).

    Of course, such a system can’t work for car fuel, because the only way to achieve this would be to have gas stations participate in a central database of cars where they log the consumption of each license plate (and that would be very Big Brother-ish). It probably wouldn’t work in the US, because the absence of a database would mean that people would just easily lie about how many people live in their house.

    But wouldn’ it work for countries that have good databases on who lives where, such as Sweden or Spain?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I just want to register in advance a bad case of motivated cognition. I hate this idea. Give me some time too decide why.

      LE:

      It’s a perfect case intersectionality of things I strongly dislike: price fixing (gov decides what I should pay for electricity), ableism (punished for having money), killing motivation (if I end up consuming just the same, why bother working more?), double taxation (I already pay more in taxes, now I have to buy things at higher prices too?!), perverse incentives and corruption (all these new avenues to lower cost other than simply consuming less…), slippery slope (politicians have incentives to promise cheaper electricity for the masses, and now they have a brand new tool to do that).

      And I predict that in a few years consumption will raise instead of fall. Lowest prices will end up being subsidized (there is already a huge overlap between welfare and green in current politics). And the very categories that would be price-sensitive and likely to watch consumption now are less likely to do so.

      • ana53294 says:

        Lowest prices will end up being subsidized (there is already a huge overlap between welfare and green in current politics). And the very categories that would be price-sensitive and likely to watch consumption now are less likely to do so.

        Why would that happen?

        Everybody would pay the same price of electricity under the quota. You just pay more over the spending limit.

        So if you have two families of two adults, two kids, they both have the same exact price of electricity. Both families can choose to exceed the quota and pay extra. The rich family can choose to renovate their house and spend less money on their energy efficient heating and air-con. The poor family can choose to spend more per month instead of paying a one-time high fee for more expensive energy efficient household appliances.

        EDIT: It seems like I didn’t explain my idea clearly, since 2/2 comments seem to think this is an income-based tax. My proposal is a consumption based tax, where extra consumption gets punished, regardless of the reason why. So if you are a poor person who has a crappy house with crappy windows and spends a lot on heating, you pay the same extra tax as the rich person who has good windows but chooses to have a jacuzzi.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Initially, yes. But when you have a hammer, every problem looks like welfare. It takes a very small change in legislation to smooth over the next increase in electricity prices – which can even be justified by switching to green sources. “Let’s use only wind power and have only the rich pay for the difference”. Tell me you wouldn’t vote for it 🙂

          • ana53294 says:

            This already happens in Spain, and we don’t have this system.

            Spain’s consumers already owe the energy companies a whole load of money for our policies.

            When the nuclear energy moratorium was made, harmed companies were compensated, so we pay part of that compensation every month; we also pay extra in our bills for smoothing energy prices (otherwise Canary island prices would be much higher); we paid an extra tax for solar, too.

            When energy prices were increasing at a 9% annual rate, the government capped that, and now we pay companies the debt incurred from that capping.

            I don’t see how my proposed system would make these issues worse, at least in Spain, with our already idiotic energy policy.

            And we already have a subsidy for poor families to have extra energy (as long as they have a capacity lower than 10 kW).

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @ana53294

            Dependencies? In the programming sense of the world. If you have a bad thing, you don’t create even more structure over it – it’s going to be that much harder to get rid of.

            Also, I hate politics more and more.

          • ana53294 says:

            The Pigouvian tax I propose would also mean eliminating all those stupid bans of incandescent bans or forcing people to buy washing machines that don’t wash, so this would increase the liberty of people to act as they want.

            And, because we already have an alternate system that is used as a hammer for all those things you want to avoid, this added tax will not be used to add any of those other things. So that means that your objection is in general, an objection to another beaurocracy/added legislation, which I respect, but at the same time, I think we can add this bit and remove a lot of other legislation, for a net decrease in stupid bureauocracy/legislation.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @ana53294

            Mm. Ok, without motivated cognition this time, as much as I can. The problem with this whole class of solutions is you’re interfering with market mechanisms, which always has side effects. Ask USSR how their economy went with all the manual planning. They weren’t stupid, it’s just a level of complexity that might possibly even evade really smart AIs, let alone human brains.

            If you want to help poor people, give them money. They can chose how to allocate the money themselves, _and_ they’ll still be motivated to save electricity. Best of all worlds.

            This way, incentives will move all the way down and up the chain. For example much of the energy consumption per capita is actually done in production. That pretty car you’re buying probably took more energy to build then you’d use for lightning in 100 years.

            Not to mention other horrifying lapses: you’re taxing me for using a dimmable incandescent, while I’m heating with wood fire (I actually am, in a place I work). I have a comment in the last conversation on how incandescent ban is many orders of magnitude below any significant climate change – there are many other lower hanging fruits. And I’m not saying this as a generic conversation stopper (“starving kids in Africa”), but because I honestly think this has such low consequences to be bordering on criminal, if you think climate change is important. It’s straight up red herring, compared to real pollution/carbon sources.

          • ana53294 says:

            The whole point is, incandescent lightbulbs will most probably increase your energy consumption over the quota, because incandescent lightbulbs don’t use that much energy.

            The objective is to have people find energy hogs in their houses, and fix them, instead of banning them from using whatever appliance they want to use. As an anecdote, in my home, we had suspiciously high electricity bills, even when we were away and all appliances were off. We even thought somebody was stealing our electricity. Turns out, the doorbell was shortcircuiting.

            I haven’t found an LED lightbulb I like, yet. I would rather prefer to use less heating and keep my preferred lightbulbs, for example.

            There are many, many people with different preferences and different cases. Letting the free market find the choices they want to decrease their energy usage is the freedom maximising policy.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @ana53294

            Freud was playing with my comment. What’s missing from it is “… and tax electricity globally, for all consumers, including industrial”.

          • ana53294 says:

            Well, yes. Obviously, asking households to decrease electricity consumption by increasing prices and not doing the same with industry is not fair. This thing was done with California’s water, where agriculture consumes much more, and they pay less than households. Obviously, this is stupid.

            There will be people who will say that this will mean that the factory will go to China, and jobs will be lost, while households will not move.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            There will be people who will say that this will mean that the factory will go to China, and jobs will be lost, while households will not move.

            Well, yes. Still stupid to spend all this effort into fixing 10% of the problem. Like the drunk looking for the keys under the light, not where he lost them. It just means the universe is being mean, yet again, and there are no easy solutions – nothing new.

    • Auric Ulvin says:

      This seems like the sort of tax system that would cost more to implement than it would produce. I’d be amazed if a government bureaucracy could make a just, scaling income tax on a product. Why not just subsidize LED production?

      ‘We will make LEDs so cheap that only the rich will buy bulbs’ as Edison didn’t say.

      However, the idea of an incandescent black market is very amusing.

      • ana53294 says:

        I think I may have explained this badly, because this is not an income tax. It’s a consumption tax.

        So if the average household energy consumption is around 3000 kWh per year, any energy use over that is fined or taxed. So the marginal cost of the kWh over the annual max is much higher. This can be done annualy or monthly, with adjustments for winter/summer.

        And, because two people sharing a home spend less than two people in individual homes, we take into account the number of people living in the house to calculate how much that limit is.

        • Auric Ulvin says:

          I admit that I did misunderstand what you’re saying.

          However, would this not create perverse incentives on the electricity front? I’d imagine that in Spain and my own country, Australia, most domestic electricity goes into air conditioning.

          In the US, it’s heating.

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

          What if we end up with boiling/frozen pensioners, afraid to turn on their less-efficient electric heaters? What about people who use natural gas heating (like me) and thus have tiny electricity bills? Electricity is already really expensive in Australia and presumably Spain, so can we not conclude that it’s price inelastic?

          Instead of worrying about lights, we should worry about aircon, housing design and insulation.

          • ana53294 says:

            People shouldn’t have not energy efficient electric heaters, so preventing people from using them and making them use a more efficient use of energy is the actual goal of the tax. I still think taxing them is better than banning energy inefficient heaters.

            You can add a subsidy to buy more energy efficient appliances in exchange for scrapping old ones, such as the ones we regularly have in Spain. Or a subsidy for making your home more energy efficient, by putting better insulation.

            And the energy quotas would be implemented state-by-state, with seasonal variations taken into account.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The link seems to talk about energy use not electricity use (so includes gas and oil used for heating).

            From the citations, I have found these US goverment statistics which say that in the US, the largest use of electricity by domestic users (excluding “other miscellaneous uses”) is air conditioning, at 15.4%. Space heating is down at 6.2%, below water heating, lighting and refrigeration.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @ana53294:
            I’m not sure how you propose to have “energy efficient” electric heaters, given that the classic case of energy inefficiency in electrical appliances (and the whole thing about incandescent lightbulbs, in the first place) is “runs hot”.

            Which is the whole point of electric heaters. “Waste heat” is what they’re for.

            Moreover, it is not necessarily clear that energy consumption for heating purposes can be decreased in any meaningful way through such tax mechanisms, because the amount of energy required is determined by the space to be heated and the temperature gradient. Ye cannae change the laws of physics, Captain.

            Technically, we could imagine an electricity tax being an incentive to switch to other heating methods (typically: burning things), but we’re trying to discourage those as well.

          • ana53294 says:

            energy consumption for heating purposes can be decreased in any meaningful way through such tax mechanisms

            That’s just wrong.

            There are many, many things that can be done to decrease energy use for heating.

            Insulate the house better, put better windows, make sure there are no heat leaks, have a corridor, insulate doors, have window blinds, use floor heating, have a ceiling fan.

            All those things cost money, and the reason they are not done is because the cost of the extra electricity is lower than the cost of those extra improvements. So the tax should increase the cost of energy so people start using those improvements.

            The quota should be based on a home designed for perfect energy efficiency, with people using it reasonably.

            And the more energy efficient heaters would be non-electric heaters. We burn gas at a factory to produce heat that produces electricity and then we transport electricity to produce heat, and each step means energy is wasted. Having people switch to gas heating would be the objective, clearly.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            There are many, many things that can be done to decrease energy use for heating.

            Yes, they can. Yes, they cost money. Specifically, they cost a lot of money up front.

            Failing to take account of this is common enough, so please don’t take it as picking on you.

            Your assumption is that if you make energy more expensive over time than the cost of investment in energy efficiency (by means such as you describe and that I am aware of), people will undertake the investment.

            That hinges on them having the means to undertake such an investment. So what if I can save $30 000 over 20 years if I spend $20 000 today, if I don’t have twenty thousand dollars lying around?

            In practice, this problem can be solved either by:
            1. Subsidies – with all the problems associated therewith,
            2. Loans – where the cost of servicing may erase the benefits,
            3. Saving – where the poor sod is getting shafted by both the higher energy prices and the need to restrict other consumption.

            Given that Auric was talking about “boiling/frozen pensioners” who – around my parts at least – are generally not know as a high-wealth group, I take it as more than likely that the only viable option is 1.

            In which case, why not skip the tax and go straight for mandatory, subsidised efficiency modernisation? It gets you where you’re going faster.

            The quota should be based on a home designed for perfect energy efficiency, with people using it reasonably.

            Here’s the rub: I could go with the idea, provided I get to decide what counts as “reasonable use”.

            Otherwise, I fail to see how it can be construed as anything other than a powerplay by whoever is in charge of the scheme.

            ETA

            Personally, my flat is heated through central heating generated at a joint electrical/heating plant. This works, because I live in the middle of a city that has the requisite infrastructure.

            Back when I lived in London, the option wasn’t available, so I had a choice between burning evil, climate-destroying natural gas or heating with electricity. I was also renting (and still am), so the amount of home-improvement I could do was strictly limited. I am on the hook for the ‘leccy bills, however.

            This is all intended to illustrate that reality is a lot more messy than one usually takes into account (not quite a least-convenient world, but close).

          • ana53294 says:

            go straight for mandatory, subsidised efficiency modernisation? It gets you where you’re going faster.

            The demands of conservatives to decrease spending and the deficit is the issue. I personally don’t object to that.

            As for tenants: many tenants who live in energy inefficient houses demand landlords to give them a discount on rent, so this policy would also work in a rental housing market that is not as underserved as London’s. Having an active, competitive rental market is also good for the environment!

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            As for tenants: many tenants who live in energy inefficient houses demand landlords to give them a discount on rent, so this policy would also work in a rental housing market that is not as underserved as London’s. Having an active, competitive rental market is also good for the environment!

            I wholeheartedly agree. Sadly, the state of the market where I live is such that asking for a discount on rent is a laughable proposition. This is true for a lot of places.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Speaking of apartments—I have, at certain times in my life, lived in apartments that calculated my utility bill by dividing (among me and my roommates) the energy consumption of the third of the complex I lived in, by the number of apartments in that part of the complex. This was the least unfair thing they could do, given that they didn’t have the infrastructure in place to measure our energy consumption individually, but it creates a tragedy of the commons, even without artificially inflated prices. If my situation was sufficiently uncommon (I honestly don’t know how common it is), this might be a corner case we just shrug and say “Oh well” too, but at least some people would likely be affected in this way.

          • acymetric says:

            @Faza (TCM)

            That hinges on them having the means to undertake such an investment. So what if I can save $30 000 over 20 years if I spend $20 000 today, if I don’t have twenty thousand dollars lying around?

            I’m glad someone brought this up…this seems like the obvious and primary problem with this strategy. It is so problematic that I’m not even sure the other problems matter that much.

            @ana53294

            As for tenants: many tenants who live in energy inefficient houses demand landlords to give them a discount on rent, so this policy would also work in a rental housing market that is not as underserved as London’s. Having an active, competitive rental market is also good for the environment!

            I suspect the number of rental markets where tenants have that kind of negotiating power are few and far between. Prospective tenants may have slightly more, but of course they lose it as soon as they move in. In most cases, the landlord response to “can we negotiate” is “this is the rent, take it or leave it”.

            @Joseph Greenwood

            Speaking of apartments—I have, at certain times in my life, lived in apartments that calculated my utility bill by dividing (among me and my roommates) the energy consumption of the third of the complex I lived in, by the number of apartments in that part of the complex.

            I lived in an apartment that had metered water per unit for the first couple years. Then a new management company bought the property, and I guess they didn’t want to pay for the software that interfaced with the individual meters or something, because they went to the averaging method (and my bill doubled as a result).

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Speaking of apartments—I have, at certain times in my life, lived in apartments that calculated my utility bill by dividing (among me and my roommates) the energy consumption of the third of the complex I lived in, by the number of apartments in that part of the complex. This was the least unfair thing they could do, given that they didn’t have the infrastructure in place to measure our energy consumption individually, but it creates a tragedy of the commons, even without artificially inflated prices. If my situation was sufficiently uncommon (I honestly don’t know how common it is), this might be a corner case we just shrug and say “Oh well” too, but at least some people would likely be affected in this way.

            I worked in commercial real estate and we did the same thing at the majority of our properties. Sometimes tenants protested the unfairness, but their leases specified that they would have to pay to install their own meter, and few tenants were willing to pay this cost.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @ana53294

            Faza mentioned subsidies to offset the up-front cost of investments. In the other thread I was saying that it’s better to just give money than to mess with the market. I guess there are ways of giving targeted help that mess with the market a lot less – I’d be down with things like help for investments that are obviously worth it long term, but unlikely to be affordable.

      • fion says:

        For this kind of tax, costing more to implement than it collects is not necessarily a fatal flaw. You’re seeking to change behaviour. If you gain income (or don’t lose too much) that’s a bonus.

        • ana53294 says:

          Yes, the goal here is to have as few households as possible that consume excess electricity. With time, as more energy efficient appliances are made, we would decrease energy quotas, until some reasonable minimum is reached.

          • Ketil says:

            Yes, the goal here is to have as few households as possible that consume excess electricity.

            Why is this the goal, rather than having a low total electricity consumption? (In which case, the price should be high for everybody)

            In other words, what’s the advantage of encouraging people with gas fired central heating to leave their lights on all the time?

          • ana53294 says:

            I personally don’t object to a Pigouvian tax for everybody, but then I’m not poor. Many people balk at the idea of having poor people be unable to shower while rich people have their jacuzzis.

            So the idea is to allow poor people to have warm showers while preventing jacuzzis, by increasing the marginal cost of electricity over a reasonable quota.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            the idea is to allow poor people to have warm showers while preventing jacuzzis, by increasing the marginal cost of electricity over a reasonable quota

            You do realize it won’t work?

            By the time you get to jacuzzi levels of wealth (meaning here: the kind of ostentatious consumption people find objectionable in the rich), the proportion of discretionary spending going to energy consumption is low enough that the tax won’t affect the magnitude of consumption all that much.

            The people who will be affected are those for whom the electricity bill is still a considerable cost item – in other words: the poor.

          • ana53294 says:

            There is a middle class, you know. People who will pay the extra tax for electricity to achieve some minimal spending they need, but who will balk at higher expenses for some marginal improvements on their life quality.

            The poor are not the only ones who care about their electricity prices.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Certainly.

            It’s just that the poor will be hit first and harder.

            I should probably add: raising the cost of energy has knock-on effects across everything else. This means decreasing welfare for everyone other than those that already have FU money.

            Meaning you’ll shunt the lower strata of the middle class into the “poor” category and probably further impoverish the poor.

            The rich will keep doing rich-people stuff, ‘coz they already have FU money.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If you’re serious about wanting this to be a Pigouvian tax, then your goal is to have the right number of households that consume “excess” electricity, not to have the fewest number.

          • ana53294 says:

            The point of the Pigouvian tax is to disincentivize behaviour, not to generate revenue.

            Although Sweden’s tax on alcohol generates a lot of revenue, I don’t think the Swedish government would object to Swedes becoming teetotalers. There you have, objective achieved!

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Strictly speaking, a the point of a Pigouvian tax is to internalize externalities. A properly constructed PT isn’t concerned with discouraging activity, as such, only that the people choosing factor the externalities into their decision-making process.

            Once the cost of externalities has been accounted for, the PT has done it’s job, regardless of who – if anyone – actually changed their behaviour.

      • JPNunez says:

        The Incandescent Light Market

    • AlesZiegler says:

      With regard to electrical appliances, I tend to prefer outright ban of energy inefiecient ones over Pigovian taxes.

      Electricity is produced via at least semipublic institutions backed by governments. Access to a grid is semipublic good – it is excludable but basically nonrivalrous due to huge fixed compared to variable costs. Economics textbook definition of public good (in this case identical with wikipedia definition) is that its use is nonexcludable and nonrivalrous.

      So with some simplification we might say that electricity production is partially publicly subsidised. Why?

      Of course it is possible that subsidy is inefficient, but I think that it is subsidised because access to electricity has positive externalities. So, blanket reduction of something which has positive externalities via taxation is not an ideal solution, and interventions targeted on specific wasteful uses might be preferable.

      • ana53294 says:

        Sure, having people have access to electricity, have lights, warm water, washing machines creates lots of positive externalities.

        But I am not sure that energy expenditure over a certain threshold, which comes from excess consumption or energy inefficiency is good. Having bad windows and poor heat isolation will waste more energy than incandescent lightbulbs ever will. So will old appliances.

        So the aim is to punish those who still don’t have energy efficient appliances, and those who consume excess energy for unnecessary stuff, such as a jacuzzi or a swimming pool.

        • The Nybbler says:

          So the aim is to punish those who still don’t have energy efficient appliances, and those who consume excess energy for unnecessary stuff, such as a jacuzzi or a swimming pool.

          The second part is just out-and-out authoritarianism. You don’t like that people have luxuries, so punish them for them. The first part doesn’t seem to be based on any examination of tradeoffs either, just on the idea that reducing energy use is an overriding goal. Replacing windows and appliances is not cheap; replacing every window and three of the doors in my house was about ~$22,000. Replacing the refrigerator would be another $1000-$2000. Replacing the furnace and air conditioner probably another $20,000+.

    • Ketil says:

      Some obvious problems:

      Consumers see different marginal costs for products/services. Rich person who wants to consume more than the low-priced quota will turn to poor person who consumes less, and offer to buy the surplus for an intermediate rate. Thus you get black marketeering.

      Also, government price regulation steers consumption (and resource use) towards lower utility. Consumers will tend to buy something of lower utility if the higher utility consumption would bring them over the tax threshold. In other words, it is just a more complicated form of food stamps.

      And of course, this needs to be administrated.

      Why not just tax income and/or wealth progressively?

      Why not just have the high tax rate on consumption for all, and give poor people cash so they can afford a minimum living standard?

      Why not have progressive taxes on consumption based on product class, with a higher rate on luxuries or things richer people tend to buy?

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        Honestly, I don’t think that the black market would be an issue in this case.

        The attractiveness of such proposals will likely to be found to be directly proportional to affluence. Assuming a moderately progressive tax rate, rich people who want to use more electricity will see their bills rise, but won’t care all that much, because even at the higher rates electricity consumption won’t account for a huge part of their spending.

        To get rich people to consume less, we’d neet a sharply progressive rate. This gets us right back to the “freezing granny” problem.

        The whole scheme is regressive by design.

        • Ketil says:

          Honestly, I don’t think that the black market would be an issue in this case.

          Obviously, that would depend on the good in question and the particular taxation levels. Electricity may not be the most convenient good to trade in, but with electric vehicles, it is easier than before.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          I’d say that the issue is rather different. We’re not talking about offsets, we’re talking about a tax.

          We can imagine a scenario where a rich person could possibly save money by paying a poor person more than the poor person would pay in terms of increased bills, but it’s not evident that transaction costs wouldn’t erase the difference.

        • Garrett says:

          To get rich people to consume less, we’d neet a sharply progressive rate.

          In general, I don’t think there are enough rich heavy wasters to have a significant impact on energy usage. Almost by-definition you need to target the masses in order to achieve something useful.

    • Chalid says:

      This whole discussion seems like it’s missing the point. I completely agree with all the arguments that taxes are more efficient than bans. And maybe it would be fine to mess around with the tax structure, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.

      We get policies that are palatable to the electorate. The electorate hates the word “tax,” especially in the US, and likes the word “efficiency.” So we don’t get electricity taxes and we do get efficiency mandates, even though the vast majority of decisionmakers would likely prefer the tax.

      • ana53294 says:

        “Tax the rich” tends to be pretty popular, though.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Where the rich is defined as “not me”.

          The number of people who self-identify as rich is small.

          “Tax other people” has always been pretty popular.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      The San Francisco water department does something like this: there is a baseline household amount of water that is provided relatively cheaply and usage above that amount is priced significantly higher. I have no idea how effective this is at encouraging conservation, but the case for it is probably much stronger for water than for electricity given the greater difficulty and environmental impact of increasing water service capacity.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Increasing water availability is trivial.

        Just build desalination plants. The cost of desalination is comparable to the cost charged to residential consumers of water. So maybe the marginal cost would have to double. Given that existing system of increasing marginal price, that means only people watering their lawns get the charge. Great!

        Lots of cost-effective public infrastructure doesn’t get built because the government thinks that if it times it just right, it can get someone else to pay for it. But the droughts never last quite that long.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          The specific problem cali has is that it distributes the vast majority of the water to farmers, but collects almost all of the money from the cities. If the cities build desal, they no longer need the inland water infrastructure for anything, which.. well, the farmers would not be happy with their new water bill, even if they do get to use the last ten percent of the water that used to go to the cities..

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Nonsense. The cities don’t pay retail rates when they buy water from the farmers. They pay the same wholesale rates that the farmers pay. They charge residential customers a lot of money to pay for distribution and metering, because that really costs a lot.

    • John Schilling says:

      You can make the same tax for household electricity consumption. You can calculate that the reasonable consumption for an adult is X, and it can be X or smaller amount Y per child. […] And then you impose a high tax on the electricity used above the threshold.

      And therefore everyone who owns an electric car, or a plug-in hybrid, gets to pay a tax that you have calculated will punish them sufficiently to change their behavior. So they go sell that economic white elephant and buy a nice fuel-efficient diesel instead. Some of them will then go buy diesel generators to stick in their garage and kick in as necessary to keep their official electricity consumption below the punitive threshold.

      But you’ll feel good for having taught them a lesson, and maybe someday you’ll get around to teaching them another lesson about their Persistent Wrongness. Which won’t work any better, and eventually your “teaching” will have antagonized a majority of the population and they’ll vote for someone to teach you a lesson.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The EEA estimates the external cost of electricity as being somewhere in the range 1.8 to 5.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. I’m not sure whether a tax that size would have enough of an effect to justify the effort.

      If you wanted to extend the idea to vehicle fuel you could also do it using the time-honored ration coupon: the only difference from classic rationing would be that once you run out of coupons you’re not necessarily done buying gas, you’re just done buying it at the non-surtaxed rate.

    • J Mann says:

      IMHO, the easiest solution to the regressivity of a Pigouvian tax is to couple it with a progressive transfer. We take some of the revenue and give it to poor people, and use the rest to buy giant space screens to cool the Earth.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s not a Pigouvian tax if it’s progressive that way, unless somehow the externality is progressive as well. But it’s probably not a Pigouvian tax anyway, since the value of the externality is generally pulled out of thin air. This is just social engineering through the tax system, and it will work as well as any other sort of central planning.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      You know what other tax is regressive? VAT. Do you spend as much time complaining about this much larger regressive tax? Maybe you’re subject to a huge status quo bias.

      The obvious thing, if you actually care about the environment and/or progressive taxes, is combine a Pigouvian tax with a tiny reduction in the VAT. But when people try to build win-win compromises, it turns out that activists don’t actually care about policy, only getting credit for defeating the opponents.

    • raj says:

      The problem of pigouvian taxes can easily be subsumed within normal tax parameters, i.e. standard deduction and brackets. We don’t need more special tax exceptions (e.g. tampons). If cost of living proves burdensome we can increase the standard deduction and let people make their own choices.

      If some thrifty individual has figured out how to exist with far below your proscribed level of electricity, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be rewarded for it.

    • mdet says:

      This sounds a lot like the way that phone companies price data packages — you can buy X amount of data for Y price, and if you use it all up you can buy more at a rate >Y. Or you know you’re a heavy user you can go ahead and buy unlimited data from the start.

      Not sure what conclusions to draw from that, but feels worth pointing out that this proposal is more or less “What if (the government made) power companies price usage like phone companies?”

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      If you want to give households a lumpsum of cash, the tool is the standard deduction and the dependent deductions.
      You would impose a tax at the utility level based on their CO2 emissions, which would be passed on to consumers, who would then have a higher deduction to offset their higher utility bills.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Two quick thoughts:

      1. Why add the word “Pigouvian” to your proposal? It just boxes you in. And anyway, the goal of environmentalists is not to maximize economic value, and you’re never going to win over committed libertarians in the first place, so just call it a normal tax.

      2. A consumption tax that phases in, is still only progressive as it relates to the relative impacts of each income group. The phase-in aspect does not necessarily make it progressive, and it could easily still be regressive.

    • So if the threshold is, say, 8000 euros, below that you pay no taxes and above that you pay a 15% tax, there is a problem: people have no incentive to work for a salary between 8000-9411 euros, because at that range, you get a net income below 8000 euros. So governments tax the marginal income, and if you happen to earn 8001 euros, you pay no tax on the 8000, and you pay a 1.5 cent tax on the euro.

      15% of one Euro is 15 cents, not 1.5 cents.

    • 10240 says:

      It’s not obvious that a Pigouvian tax on CO₂ emissions is regressive. I have no idea whether producing the things rich people buy involves more or less CO₂ emissions per dollar than the production of things poor people buy.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        It helps if you realize that a tax on CO₂ emissions is simply a tax on energy production.

        Given that it takes energy to actually do anything, a tax on energy propagates downstream until it finally hits the consumer, either directly – via the energy bill – or indirectly – via higher prices.

        Therefore, all energy taxes end up being consumption taxes and consumption taxes are regressive because poor people necessarily spend more of their income on consumption.

        • 10240 says:

          I’ve often seem people say that consumption taxes are regressive in general, but it’s not obvious (at least that they are regressive to a significant extent). Sure, most rich people save a bigger part of their income in a typical month. But then every once in a while, they use their savings to buy a house or a yacht or whatever, and in that month their consumption way exceeds their income, making up for it.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            The regressiveness comes from the fact that a tax increases the price of whatever it is you’re consuming.

            Consider a good that is being sold at a (net) price of P, plus tax T where 0 < T < P (IOW T is some percentage of P). The gross price paid by the consumer is P+T.

            Next, let's consider the case of the rich and poor consumer:

            1. Poor consumer has income Yp such that the net price of the good is P = Yp/10 (it costs our poor consumer one tenth of his monthly income). Let's further assume that the tax is 20% of price P, or 2% of the poor consumer's income.

            2. Rich consumer has income Yr, such that the net price of the good is P = Yr/50 (they earn five times as much as the poor consumer). The tax on the good is the same as before (because real-life consumption taxes do not account for the financial situation of the buyer).

            How much does the rich consumer pay in tax? Less than half-a-percent of their income (0,4% to be precise), which is considerably less than 2%.

            When the rich and poor consumer match consumption (i.e. the rich consumer restricts their consumption to only what the poor consumer can afford), the poor consumer will be found to pay a much greater portion of their disposable income/assets in tax than the rich consumer. That is the "regressive" bit.

            The fact that rich people tend to spend more money overall than poor people is not a particularly interesting observation.

          • 10240 says:

            @Faza (TCM) The fact that rich people spend more money is not an interesting observation because it’s obvious, but it makes it irrelevant that rich people could get away with paying as little consumption tax as poor people if they spent like poor people.

        • albatross11 says:

          On *some* energy production. Nuclear plants and wind turbines have no CO2 emissions, but produce electric power.

          Fundamentally, if you make people pay the full cost of their actions including externalities, well, the prices they pay for stuff often goes up. This seems inevitable.

          I don’t think it’s as clear as you do that such a tax would be regressive. (By “regressive” here I think we mean that the ratio of taxes paid per capita among poor people/rich people will go up.). I also don’t see that the question is particularly important. (Note that banning incandescent light bulbs/inefficient but cheap appliances/cheap but low-MPG cars all lands harder on poor people than rich people in some sense. That doesn’t seem like an obvious reason to change our policies in those areas).

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I’d expected that the difference between “all A are B” and “some B are A” didn’t require special explanation.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Implementing a progressive pigouvian tax is a terrible idea. What it does is complicate the tax and complicate the welfare system. I don’t know about Spain, but in the US, there are dozens of welfare programs, and as a result no one really knows how much welfare the government is spending. No doubt lots of folks get more welfare than would be the case if the voters and politicians really knew the whole picture, and perhaps many also get less. Welfare should be concentrated in one government agency so voters can make a rational decision as to how much welfare the poor get.

      The point of a pigouvian tax is to internalize into consumers’ behavior what is otherwise an externality. Adjusting the tax based on income is just like adjusting the cost of food to everyone based on their income. If your goal is to equalize the consumption of all, it is possible to do so by having a sliding scale for all purchases based on purchasing power. But it would be stupid to do that, because just equalizing income would be a whole lot less complicated and achieve the same goal.

  14. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    I’d like a thread for humorous historical anecdotes. Laconic one-liners, Churchillian witticisms, “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!”, that kinna thing.

    My own offering to get things started is a naval anecdote that I oddly didn’t hear from bean:

    The only time the USS Wisconsin was struck by enemy fire was while steaming off the North Korean coast in March 1952. A 152-mm shore defense battery managed to score a hit on one of the secondary armament shields, wounding three sailors. When this happened, the [i]Wisconsin[/i] momentarily paused in her mission, swivelled her main battery around, and proceeded to completely obliterate the offending battery. She then resumed her mission.

    Witnessing the exchange, one of her escorting destroyers quickly flashed the BB a signal:

    “Temper, temper!”

    • mendax says:

      In 1843, General Charles Napier had been ordered to quell an insurrection in Sindh (now a province of Pakistan).
      However, his use of force exceeded his mandate and he conquered the province, annexing it to the Bombay Presidency.
      He telegraphed back to his superiors (or at least he wished he had), informing them of his actions with the short message “Peccavi”, latin for “I have sinned”.

      • Randy M says:

        Now that is a Warrior Poet.

      • J Mann says:

        Sadly, Wikiquote says that’s a misattribution, and that the pun was by English schoolgirl Catherine Winkworth, who submitted it to Punch, which then reported it as Napier’s quote. I haven’t googled to see if that’s true.

        I had a vague recollection of a similar pun around “I have Lucknow,” but can’t remember where.

        • LHN says:

          And another apocryphal one from Lord Dalhousie on annexing Oudh: “Vovi” (“I vowed””/”I’ve Oudh.”)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I think it was “Ego sum in fortuna nunc” (“I am in luck now”), when the city was recaptured by the British during the Indian Mutiny.

          • J Mann says:

            Found it! It’s “Nunc fortunatus sum,” and the book Queen Victoria’s Little Wars reports that “a wit” coined it for Sir Colin Campbell, but does not identify the wit in question.

      • cassander says:

        That line, I believe, was actually invented by reporters.

        His actual best line was what he said about the sati, when told that it was an ancient and venerable custom:

        “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. And we shall all act according to national customs.”

        That’s the sort of multiculturalism I can get behind.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          There’s a similar anecdote about when he sentenced a man to death for killing his wife. The man’s friends came to plead for mercy, telling Napier that he’d been very angry with his wife. Napier just shrugged and said, “Well, I’m angry with him.”

        • Viliam says:

          That’s the sort of multiculturalism I can get behind.

          Same here. Sometimes I think that if someone tried to stop widow-burning today, the only outcome would be the whole internet calling them “racist”, because it is problematic to talk negatively about something that is a custom in a foreign culture.

          • rlms says:

            Sometimes you think very silly things then, since organisations like Amnesty International are vocally and unequivocally opposed to dowry-related violence.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I would agree with you rlms, but then you’ve got stuff like the Iraqi migrant raping a 10 year old boy because he was having a “sexual emergency” and having his conviction overturned because he didn’t understand the boy was saying “no.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Isn’t dowry-related violence coded Hindu, while Iraqi migrants are 99 percent Muslim? Leftists can criticize anything they want about Hinduism without being called racist.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            That’s a pretty skewed reading of that article.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, and furthermore the article itself is misleading. The reason for the rescindment was not “because the Austrian court ‘didn’t prove he realised the boy was saying no'” (unclear who the article is quoting here), but because in Austria the definition of rape requires the use of force.

          • Chalid says:

            Well, even in that very biased article, you can see that the man’s conviction of sexual assault still stands, and he remains in custody, and he will be retried for rape next year.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah. I mean, I’ve seen that article before; the way it gets presented is “Austria is so cowbirded that they will offer up their own young to THE INVADER, by LAW” and it’s really the sort of thing that happens in court systems all the time. Having to do a retrial every now and then is the price you pay for having a system where appeals and the like function.

          • Conrad Honcho says: