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Open Thread 143.75

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848 Responses to Open Thread 143.75

  1. albatross11 says:

    Just as a general comment: A recent pseudo-outrage-controversy involved a NYT editorial that was denounced because it cited a paper whose authors had been accused of racism. A major lesson from this is that like 99% of the chattering/outrage classes on Twitter have no idea what “eugenics” means–various people accuse Stephens of some kind of support for eugenics from this article, and they’re pretty-much announcing they have no idea what they’re talking about. (Maybe they’re proud of their ignorance–lots of woke media types seem to take pride in ignorance of forbidden things, which reminds me a lot of the midwestern evangelicals I grew up around.). There’s also plenty of people spouting off about how IQ is discredited racist pseudoscience, and similar profundities from people who might as well take out a full-page ad in the newspapers announcing their ignorance.

    The thing I think people actually got angry about was Stephens discussing the fact that Ashkenazi Jews are on average smarter than more-or-less any other ethnic group we can point out. This is pretty easy to see in history (the Ivy League never needed to impose a maximum quota on Irishmen to keep them from taking over), and in right-tail-of-the-bell-curve performance (look at the fraction of Nobel prizes, fields medals, STEM professorships, etc., won by people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent), or daily life (look at the ethnic mix of doctors, lawyers, mathematicians, and scientists vs the US population). It’s also reflected in IQ statistics. Probably the acknowledgement that some ethnic groups might be smarter than others on average is offensive because it requires that some could be dumber than others on average.

    Now, if the NYT saw their job as informing their readers about what the world looked like, it would be fine to discuss these statistics. They might then try to dig into whether this IQ difference is likely to be genetic (the Harpending and Cochran paper assumes this and postulates a mechanism by which it might have happened) or could somehow be cultural. Maybe they could draw parallels with Asians dominating admissions at selective schools, or talk about how different the NAEP results look when you break them out by race and compare American whites, Asians, hispanics, and blacks with countries that are mostly white/Asian/hispanic/black. They could, in fact, try to dig in and understand a big and important part of how the world works and why it looks like it does, and maybe even move people toward understanding our world better.

    That’s not the business they’re in. Some news isn’t fit to print, some facts ought not to be shown to the public, and sometimes, the editors of NYT feel that it would be better for the public to remain in ignorance about big, important parts of the world, in order to ensure that the right policies are pursued politically and the wrong people are kept from power. As a news consumer, this is valuable to know–I should expect that the NYT is telling me a subset of what the world looks like, but lying at least by omission when they want to make sure I vote a certain way or when they think some beliefs are pro-social. This is of a piece, IMO, with their pushing of the notion that Saddam was a threat to the US to justify the Iraq war, and their suppressing the secrets of massive illegal wiretapping under the Bush administration until after the last election at which the public could have held Bush accountable for that illegal wiretapping. That news wasn’t really fit for the citizens to know, lest they vote the wrong way.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Some news isn’t fit to print, some facts ought not to be shown to the public, and sometimes, the editors of NYT feel that it would be better for the public to remain in ignorance about big, important parts of the world, in order to ensure that the right policies are pursued politically and the wrong people are kept from power.

      I know this is intended to be snark, but what is the problem here exactly?

      Are some facts not dangerous for people to know? (e.g., bomb-making instructions) If the NYT decided that including this “fact” (the accuracy of which is apparently still up for debate) would cause a net-harm in the populace, don’t they have a moral obligation not to print it?

      And secondarily, should the NYT not have an interest in what political policies are implemented? Do they have an obligation to be merely a neutral reciter of facts and figures? No one seems to care that the Wall Street Journal has a conservative bent.

      • lvlln says:

        Are some facts not dangerous for people to know? (e.g., bomb-making instructions) If the NYT decided that including this “fact” (the accuracy of which is apparently still up for debate) would cause a net-harm in the populace, don’t they have a moral obligation not to print it?

        As best as I can tell, there’s no reason to believe that “X decided that publishing fact Y would cause a net-harm in the populace” has any correlation with whether or not publishing fact Y really would cause a net-harm in the populace. If NYTimes decides that including this fact would cause a net-harm in the populace, the next step would be actually objectively determining whether or not including this fact really would cause a net-harm in the populace. Proceeding forward as if it really would cause net-harm, just on the basis that they decided that it would, would be believing that “deciding Z is true” is sufficient to make Z true. Which is a problem.

        Objectively determining whether Z is true or not is obviously a Very Hard Problem. At a bare minimum though, it’d have to follow standard scientific best practices such as empirical evidence and scrutiny by multiple disinterested/conflicting parties with incentives to find mistakes. Otherwise, it would just be “deciding Z is true” -> “Z is true” with extra steps, those steps being whatever gerrymandered reasoning one can come up with.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Otherwise, it would just be “deciding Z is true” -> “Z is true” with extra steps, those steps being whatever gerrymandered reasoning one can come up with.

          Oh come now. Like all things, this is about probabilities, heuristics, and intuition. Very few decisions in life are made by “standard scientific best practices”, for reasons (as you indicate) of this being a Very Hard Problem.

          At the very least, this cuts both ways. Every OP-ed writer, I presume, is hoping that their article provides a net benefit to the populace. So, would you also say that:

          If NYTimes decides that including this fact would cause a net-harm benefit in the populace, the next step would be actually objectively determining whether or not including this fact really would cause a net-harm benefit in the populace.

          Given that no meta-studies exist as to “what are the net-effects of treating supposed racial disparities as facts”, what is a writer to do? You provide a near-impossible barrier for a writer to surmount if they are to determine that the answer is a net-harm, but seemingly require no justification if they are to determine than the answer is a net-benefit.

          • lvlln says:

            My response kept getting eaten by the comment censor. No idea what could have been triggering it, so I had to re-word part of my post to be less clear and precise than I wanted it to be.

            Oh come now. Like all things, this is about probabilities, heuristics, and intuition. Very few decisions in life are made by “standard scientific best practices”, for reasons (as you indicate) of this being a Very Hard Problem.

            Sure, but “probabilities, heuristics, and intuition” are just another way of saying “my own arbitrary unjustified biases.” The fact that escaping from those is Very Hard doesn’t mean that not escaping from them is any better. This wouldn’t be a problem if, say, NYTimes openly stated that they make their publication decisions on arbitrary unjustified biases, but I don’t get the sense that that’s part of their brand.

            Given that no meta-studies exist as to “what are the net-effects of treating supposed racial disparities as facts”, what is a writer to do? You provide a near-impossible barrier for a writer to surmount if they are to determine that the answer is a net-harm, but seemingly require no justification if they are to determine than the answer is a net-benefit.

            The following is the paragraph I had to reword. Again, dunno what triggered the comment censor.

            I don’t think opinion writers justify their writing on the basis that they provide some net-benefit. I think they justify it on the basis that others reading their informed and intelligent arguments is inherently a good thing.

            (Aside: TBH I think the true justification is more meta and commercial: that a high status person writing a high status-seeming argument is something that customers of the publication desire to see in that publication).

            From a meta-utilitarian perspective, I also think requiring high barriers for determining certain information as sufficiently net-harm as to be suppressed from publication while not requiring high barriers for determining certain information as sufficiently net-benefit as to be allowed to be published tends to produce greater human flourishing and less unnecessary suffering. I freely admit that I haven’t done the Very Hard scientific work to determine this though, and it’s a weakly-held belief based mostly on comparing high-level views of societies that have lots of censorship versus those that have less censorship.

          • albatross11 says:

            Honestly, op ed writers are probably about the least important avenues for driving interesting discussions that make sense of the world, at this point. Worrying overmuch about what the editorial writers at the NYT are saying is a bit like using an index of railroad and telegraphy stocks to predict the direction of the economy in the present day.

            Online discussions, podcasts, vlogs, blogs, long-form articles–all these have a lot more impact on what ideas get discussed. And it seems to me, though I may not be right about this, that as the influence of the legacy media companies over public discussion has decreased, they’ve become narrower in what ideas they want to allow to be discussed. I have far more objections to news reporting, where a bunch of apparently otherwise serious news outlets will just omit some facts as not fit to print in ways that leave their readers understanding less of the world, and where you often see (in the NYT at least) the contrary-to-the-narrative facts crammed into the last couple paragraphs of a long story. (Which at least isn’t omitting them, so they get at least partial points.)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        There’s a difference between a “bent” and…extreme manipulation of facts to support an incoherent agenda.

        It’s the doublethink. The NYT is the same people behind the 1619 Project, which seeks to frame the below average performance of modern blacks as the legacy of slavery. This becomes a political problem with a political solution. But if whites only have more wealth/power on average than blacks because of oppression, what exactly is the explanation for why Jews are over-represented at the top of the pyramid? Are they going to bite that bullet and say the anti-Semites are right, and Jewish achievement is the result of devious plots, in the same way blacks are only down on their luck because of white oppression? How do they square this circle?

        Apparently, they don’t, they just get very angry about people noticing it. The answer to both black underachievement and Jewish overachievement is the same: average group income/wealth correlates nicely with average group IQ. But it’s hard to push their preferred political agenda with that inconvenient fact. If they were intellectually honest, they would shape their political agenda to fit the facts and not the other way around.

        Edit:kant spel intelektual write.

        • Matt M says:

          Right. Steve Sailer (among others) was making this point on Twitter. That if modern scientists end up discovering that Jews totally don’t have higher average IQs/intelligence, that this would probably lead to an increase in anti-Semitism, as the remaining explanations for “why do Jews control so much wealth and power” would be a lot more sinister than “they’re smarter than other groups on average.”

        • Guy in TN says:

          But if whites only have more wealth/power on average than blacks because of oppression, what exactly is the explanation for why Jews are over-represented at the top of the pyramid? Are they going to bite that bullet and say the anti-Semites are right, and Jewish achievement is the result of devious plots, in the same way blacks are only down on their luck because of white oppression? How do they square this circle?

          I can’t get inside the head of the NYT times editors to speak for them, but from my perspective its perfectly reasonable to simultaneously say that anti-semites are wrong about basically everything, and that on average Jews happen to have particular economic privileges (i.e., they are wealthier on average than other races).

          I don’t see any “square that needs circling” here.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            on average Jews happen to have particular economic privileges (i.e., they are wealthier on average than other races).

            And how did they get these particular economic privileges?

          • Guy in TN says:

            With the qualification that I have not studied the subject myself, and that this is all armchair theorizing, its at least reasonable to think that since Jews in the US are concentrated in the wealthiest city in the nation (more so than blacks, Hispanics, or whites), that by proximity to wealth alone they would become more wealthier on average.

            Or any number of other hypothesis, such as Jews having a culture than emphases education, and we happen to live a a society that distributes income more to those who are highly educated over those with useful physical skills.

            The point being, there are many more possibilities beyond the dichotomy you provided.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Are the Jews in New York wealthier on average than white New Yorkers and black New Yorkers? If so, simply being in New York doesn’t address the discrepancy.

            I’ll agree on “a culture of education.” However, I’m not sure how well the NYT would accept as an argument that whites are better off than blacks because black culture does not stress education as much as white culture.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Are the Jews in New York wealthier on average than white New Yorkers and black New Yorkers? If so, simply being in New York doesn’t address the discrepancy.

            If it is so, again, I can think of plausible explanations such as whites having more immigration into NYC which dilutes the overall income, while Jews being more insular.

            But I’m not interested in the object-level question. I don’t know the answer, and I’m not interested in investigating it. The point is that it is not reasonable to assume that the NYT must accept either that 1. Jews have genetically superior IQ, or 2. Jewish achievement is the result of devious plots.

        • Guy in TN says:

          You’ve got a false dichotomy, where “devious plots” and “genetics” are the only options. And you project this false dichotomy on the NYT, and assume that if they don’t support the “genetics” explanation, they must be advocating for the “devious plot” one.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure, it’s oversimplified, it could be some plots and some genetics, and also throw in culture (although there’s a fair overlap between culture and both plots and genetics).

            I don’t see the NYT pushing for nuance, though. If IQ is pseudoscience, then we’re looking at a 100% political/culture explanation for difference in group performance, correct?

      • albatross11 says:

        Guy in TN:

        I’m interested in knowing what’s going on in the world, how things work, and why. I’m looking for good sources of information about the world, so I can make better decisions and have a clearer picture of what’s going on.

        I also think the social value of news media is in doing that for the whole world–making it practical for interested citizens to know broadly what their government is up to, and what’s going on in the world, and how things work. That will lead to better collective decisions, as implemented in political campaigns and elections and public discourse and markets and migration and such.

        When the NYT lies (overtly or by omission), they diminish that value, both for me and for the whole world. They make us less informed, and lead us to worse decisions–albeit perhaps decisions that the NYT’s owners or editors find more to their liking that better-informed people would make.

        When the NYT worked as a de facto propaganda organ for the Bush administration in driving us into the disastrous Iraqi clusterfuck, they were lying overtly and by omission, for what they probably thought was a good cause. And then, the American people went along. How did that work out for us? (Best not to ask how it worked out for the Iraqis.)

        Now, I know it’s fun to play motte and bailey here with bomb-making instructions or secret agents’ identities. But we’re not talking about anything close to that–we’re talking about observable facts and things published in scientific papers. We’re also talking about a highly-respected part of our mechanisms for making sense of the world and disseminating knowledge that has decided to lie about available and widely known facts and science that represent the best available picture of the world, in order to avoid empowering the wrong side in current political debates. In doing this, the NYT spends their credibility with people who see what it’s doing. (Indeed, this sort of thing is one reason why I get essentially none of my coverage of science news from general-purpose media sources like the NYT.).

        Next week, perhaps the NYT will run an editorial explaining that the fearmongering around vaccines causing autism is silly and everyone should go ahead and make their kids get their shots[1]. And some of the people reading that will remember the times the NYT lied to them “for a higher cause,” and will discount the good advice the NYT is trying to give. As they should–once you’ve demonstrated you’ll lie to me for some good cause, I should remain skeptical of anything you say.

        Now, is the NYT free to lie overtly and by omission, to mislead their readers either to push forward whatever agenda is appealing to the owners or editors of the NYT? Certainly. Are they free to report on stories of practical day-to-day import to their readers and leave out or distort relevant facts, to make sure that nobody starts getting the wrong ideas and supporting the wrong policies? Yep. They can do that.

        And likewise, I’m free to think the current editors of the NYT are spending their paper’s credibilty on current political battles, and that they’re not remotely smart enough to know the long-term consequences of the misleading they’ve done. Just as they probably thought that the biased reporting they engaged in w.r.t. Iraq was all for the best and had no idea how it would wreck that country and unleash massive bloodshed and misery there. Nobody has enough information to decide what others may know, except in really narrow areas like “I’m not going to tell you the home address of this movie star so you don’t stalk her” or “I’m not going to tell you the exact times/places of planned military patrols in Afghanstan so you don’t ambush them.” For broad facts about reality, nobody’s that smart.

        [1] If so, they’ll be right–vaccines don’t cause autism and the normal schedule of childhood vaccines in the US is, as best I can tell, in the interests of the children who are to be vaccinated both collectively and individually.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Now, I know it’s fun to play motte and bailey here with bomb-making instructions or secret agents’ identities. But we’re not talking about anything close to that–we’re talking about observable facts and things published in scientific papers.

          Bomb-making instructions have certainly been published in scientific documents, and the knowledge of “how to make a bomb” is simply an observable fact about the world. These are not a qualitatively different sort of facts from race and IQ.

          And we’ve been over this before. The idea that the mere accumulation of facts necessarily leads to a more informed decision is contradicted by the Chinese Bank Robber Problem. Someone learning a list of indisputable facts about race and IQ could quite easily walk away with a poorer understanding of the reality of the world than someone who doesn’t.

          But the issue goes deeper than that. You are acting as if the NYT had printed “the Earth is round”:

          We’re also talking about a highly-respected part of our mechanisms for making sense of the world and disseminating knowledge that has decided to lie about available and widely known facts and science that represent the best available picture of the world

          I’m not well-acquainted to the object level topic at hand, but a quick glance at the Wikipedia page of Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence reveals that treating this as a “widely known scientific fact” is highly misleading. “Ashkenazi Jews are more intelligent due to genetics” is a controversial, unproven statement in the scientific community, and the NYT’s decision to publish it as “fact” is misleading in of itself.

          • albatross11 says:

            Bomb-making instructions have certainly been published in scientific documents, and the knowledge of “how to make a bomb” is simply an observable fact about the world. These are not a qualitatively different sort of facts from race and IQ.

            I think perhaps this is just a point where we are never coming to agreement. Detailed instructions of how to do some dangerous thing seem entirely different to me than statistical descriptions of groups in the country. I don’t really understand how you could come to the conclusion that these are in the same category.

            This seems enormously more like omitting any mention of the Armenian genocide or the ongoing cultural genocide of the Uighurs to avoid pissing off the Turks/Chinese than like refusing to publish bomb-making instructions.

            Anyway, if the NYT will withhold these facts to avoid giving me the wrong ideas, why shouldn’t I expect them to do the same with current political questions of fact–say, what Trump was up to in Ukraine, or the details of the latest flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians? Given that they’re willing to omit relevant facts in (for example) stories about selective schools in order to make sure the wrong side doesn’t get any aid or comfort from their reporting, surely I should expect the same behavior in other stories.

            And if that’s true, why on Earth would I or anyone else trust them as a source of information.

            Also, a clarification:

            “Ashkenazi Jews are more intelligent due to genetics” is a controversial, unproven statement in the scientific community, and the NYT’s decision to publish it as “fact” is misleading in of itself.

            Just to be clear, I don’t think the cause of Ashkenazi Jews being smarter on average than other groups is known. I think it’s plausible this is genetic in origin, but it may also be due to culture, historical accidents, etc. I think it might be interesting to look deeper into this, and I have the impression that Stephens’ editorial was kinda trying to poke around in to that question.

            But it’s really hard to look at the performance of Ashkenazi Jews over the last century or two and conclude that they’re not smarter than the rest of the population of the countries they were in at the time. In the US, they’ve flourished in intellectual pursuits more-or-less since they started arriving, penniless a with few saleable skills, in a huge wave of migration. Again, note that what’s happening now with Asian students in Ivy League colleges happened before, with the “Jewish quota”–in which Ivy League colleges limited the number of Jews allowed in, so they didn’t become too numerous and push out the more desirable ethnic groups. Nobody ever had to do that with Irishmen or Italians or Poles, who came to the US in similar waves of poor hungry immigrants with few saleable skills.

            Now, I’m not the NYT, and I don’t think there’s news not fit to print. So I think the incredible success story of Ashkenazi Jews in the US is something we should study and celebrate and try to learn from. It is, after all, one of the best advertisements for how our generally positive-to-immigrants society has gotten things right. We took in a bunch of poor foreigners who didn’t speak English, with a widely-disliked minority religion and little more than the clothes on their backs, and their kids were so successful in school that the best universities were afraid too many of them were getting in. In WW2, a lot of our science and technology muscle was made up of those immigrants’ kids.

      • Ketil says:

        If the NYT decided that including this “fact” (the accuracy of which is apparently still up for debate) would cause a net-harm in the populace, don’t they have a moral obligation not to print it?

        The main problem with elites deceiving the masses, is that the masses can react negatively when they eventually figure it out.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Are some facts not dangerous for people to know? (e.g., bomb-making instructions the Heliocentric theory) If the NYT Holy Inquisition decided that including this “fact” (the accuracy of which is apparently still up for debate) would cause a net-harm in the populace, don’t they have a moral obligation not to print it to prevent it from being printed?

        • Guy in TN says:

          I can’t tell if you are either denying that bomb-making instructions are dangerous, or agreeing that bomb-making instructions are dangerous but arguing they should be allowed to be published anyway.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I’m arguing that the Heliocentric theory is dangerous, you heretic!

          • albatross11 says:

            Motte: Don’t publish detailed bomb-making instructions.

            Bailey: Don’t publish facts that would be inconvenient for my preferred political policies.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You’re missing the best part, courtesy of user brberg on Reddit:

      Kinda weird that you also gave a glowing overview of that same paper in 2005.

      The “glowing overview” is archived here.

    • Aftagley says:

      Some news isn’t fit to print, some facts ought not to be shown to the public, and sometimes, the editors of NYT feel that it would be better for the public to remain in ignorance about big, important parts of the world, in order to ensure that the right policies are pursued politically and the wrong people are kept from power.

      Wait a second, presumably you think Ashkenazi jews being on average smarter than the average bear is a subset of this important type of news the NYT won’t report on, right? And your evidence for this is… and article about how Ahkenazi jews are smarter than the average bear that was published in the NYT?

      I don’t get your logic.

    • BBA says:

      The big error here is the assumption that “IQ”, a necessarily flawed measure of g (which cannot be measured directly), is a proxy for one’s value as a person, or the sole determinant of success. Almost everyone, on all sides of this debate, makes this assumption implicitly; at best, they give a sentence of lip service to the possibility that other factors exist, and never mention it again.

      It’s not true. I’m walking proof. But if you’re under the mistaken assumption that it is true, then the claim that this twisted exaggerated version of IQ is entirely genetic is discredited racist pseudoscience, and it’s no wonder that white supremacists like Steve Sailer flock to it.

      • Aapje says:

        @BBA

        Pretty much every societal outcome that we care about is multi-variate. Education is too. Do you think that we shouldn’t care whether one type of education is more effective at improving outcomes than the other, because education is not the sole determinant of success?

        It’s not black and white, where either something is 100% correlated and the only relevant factor or 0% correlated and can be dismissed totally. Most of the world is grey.

        IQ is one of the least flawed measures that sociology has, being strongly correlated with many outcomes that we care about. For example, the correlation between IQ and earnings is probably somewhere between 0.3 and 0.5. The correlation between other measures and earnings is typically a lot lower. Conscientiousness is probably the most significant other ‘general’ measure, which may correlate between 0.03 and 0.2.

        You can care about outcomes without equating them to the innate value of people (as opposed to their ability to do certain things). For example, we can value higher incomes and recognize that low IQ people have lower incomes, without looking down on low earning people like janitors, as people. Perhaps we should turn it around: the dislike that many on the left have of potential IQ differences between groups may be caused by them looking down upon or hating low-IQ people, which they consider acceptable as long as it is race-insensitive (where they harm and/or hate lower IQ white and black people equally). I would argue that these people have a fucked up and usually extremely hypocritical morality, which should be confronted with evidence* that, when put into their morality, would force them into beliefs even they consider repugnant, which in turn forces them to re-evaluate their belief system.

        This is true in particular because the ostensibly anti-racist rejection of even the possibility of group-level IQ differences can easily coexist with behavior that has disparate impact.

        For example, imagine that:
        – black people actually have lower IQs on average
        – there is a person called Bob, an anti-racist who supports policies that harm low IQ people

        Then Bob’s policy preferences have disparate impact on black people, but he cannot recognize that disparate impact, because by rejecting the possibility that black people have lower IQs on average, he cannot recognize that his discrimination of low-IQ people, can in effect also be discrimination of black people.

        * Note that potential racial IQ differences are hardly the only evidence that can do this. Cultural differences linked to ethnicity that impact outcomes are another example.

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t think this is fair.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        is a proxy for one’s value as a person, [snip]. Almost everyone, on all sides of this debate, makes this assumption implicitly

        You may be typical minding here. Or perhaps expressing Blue Tribe values. It is the Blue Tribe that puts greater emphasis on education, learning, science (i.e., proxies for intelligence). Red Tribe don’t need that highfalutin book larnin’. All that matters is if you’re good folk.

        • Baeraad says:

          All that matters is if you’re a swaggering alpha male or at least properly subservient to the same, more like it.

          This does nothing to diminish your point about left-wingers considering intelligence to be the ultimate sign of personal worth. They do, and that’s terrible. But let’s be honest here, no one cares if you’re good folk.

      • albatross11 says:

        BBA:

        There are indeed people who take a one-parameter model of the world and run with it, far past where the evidence or common sense will support. Some of those people have a one-parameter model whose parameter is IQ. Among mainstream voices, a far larger number have a one-parameter model whose parameter is racism, or years of preschool/school, or income.

        But none of us here are proposing a one-parameter model for everything. Intelligence as approximately measured by IQ tests seems to be a substantial driver in how successful you are, but it’s obviously not the only one. And you’d find that in the writings of folks like Steve Sailer or Charles Murray, or me, or anyone else who thinks seriously about this stuff.

        It’s tricky moving from individual attributes to group averages–just because you see a diference in group average IQ and a difference in performance in life between two groups doesn’t mean the performance difference is due to the IQ difference. On the other hand, in the particular case of Ashkenazi Jews, you see exactly the pattern you’d expect to see if they were, in fact, notably smarter on average than other groups, and that pattern has persisted across more than a century and across many different societies and environments and legal systems and languages and cultures.

      • The big error here is the assumption that “IQ”, a necessarily flawed measure of g (which cannot be measured directly), is a proxy for one’s value as a person, or the sole determinant of success. Almost everyone, on all sides of this debate, makes this assumption implicitly

        I cannot think of anyone I have ever observed making that assumption, implicitly or explicitly, since it’s obviously false.

        Are you thinking of that assumption applied to large groups, rather than individuals? It’s more plausible there, since many other factors will average out. But there will be some differences, such as culture, that don’t average out over such groups, and so can be part of the explanation of average outcomes.

        For one example, Thomas Sowell in Ethnic America argues that the poor average outcome for African Americans cannot be explained by either genetic differences or discrimination, since West Indian immigrants, who are more African genetically than most African Americans and look more African, are reasonably successful. He concludes that the explanation is cultural.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Almost everyone, on all sides of this debate, makes this assumption implicitly; at best, they give a sentence of lip service to the possibility that other factors exist, and never mention it again.

        I’ve never seen that argued (except perhaps by Yudkowsky when he tries to use his SAT scores as a substitute for his lack of technical accomplishments, but of course he’s Yudkowsky)

        • Dacyn says:

          Yudkowsky […] tries to use his SAT scores as a substitute for his lack of technical accomplishments

          I don’t know about this. He calls himself a “genius” and so on and he claims a perfect SAT score, but I haven’t seen him use the SAT score as a justification for why you should think he is a genius.

  2. The Pachyderminator says:

    In the fraught category of personal essays on abortion, this might be the best article I’ve ever read and should be challenging to both pro-life and pro-choice people.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      Pro-choice male. The arguments seem to be: When women are denied access to safe abortions, there will inevitably be women who opt for unsafe options. These can be extremely dangerous, often fatal. But look at this ultrasound! It appears so human.

      So: Clear benefits to fully sapient citizens with access to legal abortion, with harm to non-sapient fetuses. Not exactly persuasive to anyone who has ever seen an ultrasound (or baby for that matter) and still thinks abortion is fine.

      I wasn’t aware of the level of double entendre in those Lysol ads, and I’d seen several before. If anything, I’m more pro-choice after reading this.

      • Not exactly persuasive to anyone who has ever seen an ultrasound (or baby for that matter) and still thinks abortion is fine.

        Apropos of which, what’s your view of infanticide?

        I think the hardest part of the strong pro-choice position to defend is accepting late term abortions but rejecting infanticide, since most of the arguments apply to both.

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          I bite the infanticide bullet. I see babies/children as having a sort of “synthetic personhood” in which a combination of the parents’ property rights and the rights guaranteed by the state to citizens substitutes for the human rights owed to a sapient citizen. However, if once born, the baby’s legal guardian(s) wished to commit infanticide, I wouldn’t see that as being more objectionable than an abortion.

          Birth is a really convenient Schelling point for the state to extend certain protections, and for convenience’s sake I’m fine with infanticide being illegal if a clear demarcation is made between born/unborn if that makes the law simpler. As to when infanticide transforms into murder, I see it as more of a developmental progression of badness than a binary date. It’s definitely not okay to kill a 10 year old, but it might be case-by-case for 2 year olds. To prevent such confusion, as a purely legal matter I think infanticide should be illegal, but it isn’t morally repugnant to me.

          Technologies that allow fetuses to survive earlier and earlier outside of the womb I don’t see as being very relevant, since going to the expense/effort of giving a premature baby such care implies a desire to raise a child, which doesn’t bear on the morality of killing a non-sapient creature.

        • Protagoras says:

          I’m with Mr. Minderbinder. There’s not much reason for infanticide in a society with access to abortion, but I do not morally condemn past societies which employed infanticide for birth control in the way I morally condemn, say, past societies which practiced slavery or human sacrifice.

        • herbert herberson says:

          Doesn’t seem that hard to me: the moral status of the infant/late term fetus might be pretty comparable (altho not exactly equivalent, since imo there’s no need to be binary/categorical about these things–every day of development gets that individual closer to full personhood) but the weight of the counter-interest is not. Denying late term abortions is a significant infringement on womens’ bodily autonomy, denying infanticide is not. This is particularly true when there are “drop-a-newborn-off-at-a-fire-station-without-further-consequences” laws in effect, which I know there are in my state and assume are available in most locations.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, the bodily autonomy argument is unconvincing to me. I get a tapeworm, that’s an infringement on my bodily autonomy. I go out, have sex, and get pregnant – that’s as much an infringement on my bodily autonomy as “you mean that when I ate those six slices of cake, the excess calories went to my waistline? How very dare it!” In the latter case, there’s plenty of people to say “if you don’t want to get fat, don’t indulge in six slices of cake, and no ‘but I’m hungry, I like cake, I enjoy cake’ doesn’t matter a damn, be responsible and control your appetite!” However, saying “don’t have sex if you don’t want a baby” seems to be considered on a par with saying “starve yourself to death” or something.

          • Unsaintly says:

            Deiseach: Liposuction exists, and ~nobody seems to be interested in banning it or condemning it. There’s a bit of smugness about “Well, if they had eaten better they wouldn’t need to do this”, but no real stigma. And if Liposuction was as simple and effective as abortion, it would probably be even more widespread

          • herbert herberson says:

            re: Deiseach

            It may not be convincing enough to you, but surely you can agree it’s far more convincing than the alternative scenario where it isn’t in play at all?

        • Well... says:

          I think the hardest part of the strong pro-choice position to defend is accepting late term abortions but rejecting infanticide, since most of the arguments apply to both.

          The part the pro-choice people are more often called on to defend is rejecting late term abortions (as I think most of them do) but accepting mid-term abortions, and that seems plenty hard for them.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        The author is clearly pro-choice herself; she wasn’t trying to convince you otherwise.

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          Yeah, I got that. Sorry if I came off as rude, I just found my beliefs strengthened rather than challenged by the read.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            No problem, I don’t think you were rude. It seems you’ve already bitten the bullet that looking like a baby isnt a quality you care about, so it’s not strange that this doesn’t affect you. It’s more aimed at the less consistent mainstream pro-choice crowd.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I think you missed the point of the article 🙂 I read it as trying to de-polarize the conversation. Sure, it’s ending on the side of pro-choice, but it’s saying that it’s still a bad thing. I think it’s trying to speak to both sides to that end – no matter what you do, it’s still a tragedy. There’s nothing to be celebrated or to be proud about in an abortion. All that potential snuffed is not something to be happy about.

        Sometimes – hell, probably all the time these days – we tend to forget that we live in a cold, uncaring and often cruel universe. Choices we make are occasionally between bad and slightly less bad. But getting caught in ideological disputes takes us into a confirmation bias feedback loop where we end up thinking the choice we support is not “less bad”, but actually good. I think the article was reminding us it’s not so.

        • Dacyn says:

          Yeah… a good sentiment, though it doesn’t strike me as particularly novel. I wonder what percentage of pro-choice people actually think that an abortion is “something to be proud of”?

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            I don’t know about percentages, but on the political left in the US there really is a ghoulish trend of celebrating abortion, with cheering crowds, etc. One example from 2016

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not convinced that these people are celebrating the act (as opposed to availability) of abortion. But there does seem to be a sense, across a broad swath of Blue and Grey tribes at least, that abortion is the “obviously right” answer for a single young woman with an unintended pregnancy, with the response to such a woman choosing to keep the baby being essentially “WTF is wrong with you, throwing away your life/career like that”?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            I’d be perfectly happy with “you’re free to have an abortion for whatever reason” as long as it comes with “you idiot, now go get a contraceptive implant so you’re never in this position again”. The second part is conspicuously absent.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Ah yeah, the one thing that is lacking from the trauma of abortion is being verbally bullied by the people supposed to help with your recovery.

    • Plumber says:

      @The Pachyderminator says:

      “In the fraught category of personal essays on abortion, this might be the best article I’ve ever read and should be challenging to both pro-life and pro-choice people”

      I previously read the piece last month and agree with your assessment.

      For what little it’s worth I’m a male who’s witnessed two births and a stillbirth, have had friends who’ve had abortions and have had anti-abortion friends, and if I was running for public office I’d try hard not to answer a question about what I think the laws regarding abortion should be though for (small d) democratic reasons I support others having a vote on the legality of abortion but I’m grateful that I don’t have to cast a vote on this.

    • Matt M says:

      I think the issue of “if abortion is outlawed, some women will try to have them anyway, and they will be less safe, and may be dangerous and/or deadly” is largely a red herring.

      The question that needs to be answered is: Is abortion an act of aggression, or not? Does the fetus have rights, or not? Is this an inherently immoral practice, or not?

      If abortion isn’t immoral, then the issue is settled right away – there’s no justification in banning it.

      If it is immoral, then the potential harms suffered by people in the intentional commission of an immoral and illegal act aren’t typically something we worry about too much. Burglary is illegal, because it is immoral. Some people still choose to disregard both morality and the law and become burglars anyway. Operating in a criminal environment, they are exposed to danger, and even the risk of death. But nobody ever says “We should legalize burglary, because even though it’s been made illegal, some people do it anyway, and sometimes they die during their attempts.”

      • albatross11 says:

        OTOH, we’ve made exactly this argument w.r.t. drug laws for years. (Mostly without success, but we seem to be gradually allowing pot to be legal. Though the recent idiotic pushback on vaping and raising the smoking/vaping age to 21 seems like a step backwards.)

        The hard problem here, IMO, is the question of whether abortion, if it were illegal, would be a victimless crime. We’ve gotten rid of many of these laws, and should get rid of all or nearly all of them IMO. Drinking, smoking, doing drugs, birth control, gay sex, kinky sex,cross dressing, porn, gambling, prostitution–those are all victimless crimes. (The “victim” is assumed to be either the person seeking them out or the larger society.) And every one of those becomes safer for the people doing them when they’re legal and the gambling den or bar or prostitute can call on the police to protect them and the courts to collect their debts and enforce their contracts.

        Abortion is different because there’s an unborn baby involved. There is then this whole argument about whether or when that baby matters enough that its interests should be taken into account. The argument is very abstract and theoretical when you’re considering a newly-fertilized egg, and extremely concrete and disturbing when you’re considering a 36-week unborn baby.

        And this is ultimately a definitional issue, for which there seems to me to be no possible resolution. There’s no evidence that can be brought to bear, it’s a moral question, the way it’s a moral question whether slavery is wrong or whether eating meat is wrong. Suffering slaves or suffering factory-farmed chickens emotionally useful in that argument, but they don’t decide the moral category into which slaves or chickens or fetuses at various stages of development should be placed.

  3. johan_larson says:

    My Christmas gift was a cold that has me feeling pretty miserable right now. And that’s got me wondering: if we were to do some mad science to treat a cold, what might that treatment look like? And how much better might it work than just waiting for the body to fight the infection on its own?

    I’m not in the life sciences, but what I’m imagining is a microbiology lab that identifies the strain of virus the patient has contracted, and and uses that to produce specialized antibodies and white blood cells geared to fighting that specific strain. Inject those into the patient’s bloodstream, and an infection that normally lasts a couple of weeks is over in a couple of days.

    Is this sort of thing not done because it fundamentally doesn’t work, or because it’s not even vaguely cost effective?

    • metacelsus says:

      I’m not in the life sciences, but what I’m imagining is a microbiology lab that identifies the strain of virus the patient has contracted, and and uses that to produce specialized antibodies and white blood cells geared to fighting that specific strain. Inject those into the patient’s bloodstream, and an infection that normally lasts a couple of weeks is over in a couple of days.

      I am a life scientist. And that’s basically what your immune system does already. You’d have to do it better and faster than your immune system. While not impossible, this would be difficult.

      Stockpiling a library of pre-generated antibodies might work, but this would be impractical due to the vast variety of viral strains.

    • jstr says:

      You will be pleased to learn that the problem has been conclusively solved:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkohPfvUXjM

      Highly recommended Muppet Show episode ;-D !

    • broblawsky says:

      The amount of time required to produce specialized antibodies would probably be more than a couple of weeks.

      Personally, I would recommend DayQuil/NyQuil and/or Sambucol extract. The only thing you can really do is fight the symptoms while your immune system does the actual work.

      • beleester says:

        I had a similar thought, but since we’re talking about mad science here, is it possible to also suppress sickness behavior without wrecking the immune system in the process?

        Suppressing the cough and runny nose treats about 50% of the symptoms, but the real “cure for the common cold” would also fix the part where you feel crappy and want to lie in bed all day.

        • johan_larson says:

          Amphetamines would probably help.

        • Lambert says:

          C2H5OH?

          Best procured in a bioreactor which uses S. cerevisae to synthesise it from mono- and disaccherides (especially maltose) derived from germinated Hordeum vulgare.
          Fractionate off the ethanol along with small amounts of some other organic compounds.

          Bulk out with non-active ingredients including glucose-fructose syrup secreted by A. mellifera as well as fluids derived from C. aurantium X C. medica hybrids.

          • johan_larson says:

            Doesn’t alcohol suppress the immune system? So it makes you feel better, but the cold actually lasts longer because of it.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Well my step by step process comment was eaten thanks to WordPress deciding to log me out yet again.

      Basically you’re looking at a bare minimum, under the most optimistic scenario with all of the kinks worked out, of 3 days to generate the antibodies (or 2 days for injectable antibody-coding mRNA), after the person is sick enough to be shedding DNA or peptide sequenceable virus quantities (it may be possible to sequence the DNA earlier using degenerate/multiplex/parallel PCR for all possible viral strains, though this would add to the costs). At a consumable and operational cost around $1-$2k.

      metacelsus’ idea of pre-stockpiled antibodies would still take about a day.

      And after all of that this would basically short-circuit the immune system building its own antibody reservoir, likely resulting in you recatching the exact same cold shortly thereafter.

      I have no idea what it would take to engineer the white blood cells, but you’re probably looking at months, not days or weeks.

      • Lambert says:

        >And after all of that this would basically short-circuit the immune system building its own antibody reservoir, likely resulting in you recatching the exact same cold shortly thereafter.

        Isn’t this just an antiserum? Is the common cold different from things like tetanus and ebola where it’s an effective intervention?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Yes. The common cold is common in what’s circulating. It’s easily caught from microscopic water droplets in the air, or on objects. You can literally reinfect yourself by using the same hand towel you used earlier (and then rubbing your eyes or mouth). If you transmitted your virus to a door handle, you’re looking at the potential for recontamination up to a week or so later, depending on viral strain and environmental conditions.

          Catching Tetanus is hard. People take extreme measures to avoid (re)catching Ebola, which is a more difficult to spread bodily-fluid transmitted pathogen.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I do like the idea of engineering white blood cells, though. Not to cure someone of a passing illness, but to pre-generate stem cells which generate antibodies for a broad range of circulating viruses.

      You’d have to do this individually for everyone, and there might be some autoimmune issues in rare cases (self-crosstargeting antibodies), but this could ultimately lead to everyone not having to suffer any serious or lengthy illness.

      We could do it instead of immunizations.

      • albatross11 says:

        There’s something like this being done–CAR-T cells are used to treat cancer. (They’re cytotoxic T-cells–not involved in making/allowing production of antibodies. They’re chosen to have a receptor that targets them precisely at something on the surface of the cancer cells they’re supposed to kill. There are also a bunch of cancer drugs that are just manufactured antibodies targeted at something on the surface of the cancer cell, sometimes with extra nastiness stuck to the tail of the antibody, but those work differently.)

        This is slow and very expensive, so I can’t imagine using it against colds. If I understand correctly (I’m an interested amateur). the problem with treating a cold is that the symptoms are caused by the immune response, so by the time you’re annoyed by the cold, your immune response is already ramping up and clearing the infection. So drugs that kill off the virus faster are only going to take a day or so off the time till you’re feeling better. Plus there are a whole bunch of things that cause a cold–many strains of many different viruses–so you’d need a lot of different antivirals and either give them all or do some kind of test to decide which one you had. IIRC, Tamiflu is usually only helpful if given within the first day or two of flu symptoms, for a similar reason.

  4. Ouroborobot says:

    This article makes the argument that working against medicare for all can reasonably be considered tantamount to murder. I feel like there is a logical leap being made in comparing it to a hypothetical where racists actively work to deny medical care to POC, but I can’t articulate it. Perhaps it’s that many of the people who are against medicare for all are coming from the perspective that a semi-private insurance model can be justified on utilitarian priciples, and do so not to deny care but because they genuinely think it’s better for society, but is that too generous? The author is a socialist community college lecturer who considers himself an intellectual who argues from a place of logic, but this seems like a bad argument to me.

    • Well... says:

      One fallacy might be that those who oppose “medicare for all” (Hi!) aren’t opposed to “medical care for all,” they just don’t think it’s a good idea for the medical care to be exclusively paid for with taxes and exclusively provided by government.

      • John Schilling says:

        Or even just that Medicare(tm) is not the proper vehicle for providing universal taxpayer-funded medical care for all. But yes, a huge fallacy, closely related to “Something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done”.

        Roundfile it and move on.

        • Ouroborobot says:

          My first inclination was to do exactly that, but I wanted to see if perhaps I was being unduly prejudiced and missing something valid. In full disosure, the guy is a friend of a friend who I generally find absurd, especially the fact that he actually teaches philosophy in higher ed.

        • Viliam says:

          Something must be done, unless you want people to die!

      • Ouroborobot says:

        I think the classic “not wanting the government to do x != wanting x to be done” is a valid point, and one I strongly agree with. I suspect that medicare for all supporters are often making (arguably bad) implicit assumptions about the inability of anything short of full single payer to avoid anyone falling through financial or medical cracks (and therefore any valid philosophical argument against medicare for all must be one that justifies this).

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Its an argument from experience. Other countries have working private health care, but trying to write a functional set of regulations and rules for it under the US system appears impossible, see: half a century of attempts.
          Medicare exists, medicare works, lets just make it the system.

          • John Schilling says:

            That is an argument from experience; it is not the only argument from experience. When someone jumps from “this is my argument, based on my experience” to “…and if your experiences lead you to prefer any different argument, you’re a murderer”, then they have departed from the path of wisdom and reason and should be considered dangerous in proportion to their power.

          • cassander says:

            Medicare works in the sense that it delivers care at about the level of the rest of the US system at a comparable (meaning very high) cost. there’s very little evidence that making it the whole system would save lives, and it would be catastrophically expensive to do so.

    • TheContinentalOp says:

      People like Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, who want to end or seize drug patents, would be murderers if they succeeded. All the deaths that could have been prevented by drugs that weren’t developed because of Sanders and Harris’ actions can be laid at their feet.

      • You don’t have to wait that long.

        Sam Peltzman, in an old article, tried to measure the effect of the Kefauver Amendment to the Pure Food and Drug Act. His conclusion was that it cut the rate of introduction of new drugs roughly in half, while having no detectable effect on their average quality.

        If he was correct than Senator Kefauver, and everyone else in Congress who voted for the amendment, is responsible for a very large number of deaths.

        • Clutzy says:

          Its not just the US. The socialized systems of Europe and elsewhere are actively dragging down innovation with their pay schedules. One doesn’t need to work hard to figure out that without the US market new drug development would be miniscule over the past 3 decades.

          • AKL says:

            Dragging down innovation vs. what counterfactual?

            We’re not maximally invested in drug development, obviously, because we don’t spend all our money on it. In the US, effective drug prices are negotiated between PBMs representing IDK roughly 20% of the population each and each drug manufacturer. In Europe prices are negotiated between each manufacturer and the government representing IDK 90% (?) of the population.

            Who’s to say which of these levels represents the “most efficient” level of innovation-incentivizing profit? And what about the fact that the US subsidizes drug development by exempting healthcare spending from taxation? Doesn’t that mean the US is dramatically OVER spending on drug development?

            Not to mention, the vast majority of drugs that come to market don’t matter even to the patients that use them. For instance, Sovaldi came to market a few years ago and was a miracle cure for hepatitis C. It was shortly followed by more than a half dozen drugs that are functionally identical (they treat the exact same patient pool with exactly the same mechanism of action and efficacy). The innovation that we care about is the basic science that is NIH funded, which is the foundation that all of these molecules are built on. Who really cares if you have the choice between 8 or 9 drugs that are each perfect replacements for each other?

          • Clutzy says:

            Not to mention, the vast majority of drugs that come to market don’t matter even to the patients that use them. For instance, Sovaldi came to market a few years ago and was a miracle cure for hepatitis C. It was shortly followed by more than a half dozen drugs that are functionally identical (they treat the exact same patient pool with exactly the same mechanism of action and efficacy). The innovation that we care about is the basic science that is NIH funded, which is the foundation that all of these molecules are built on. Who really cares if you have the choice between 8 or 9 drugs that are each perfect replacements for each other?

            The reason for those duplicative innovations is because of regulation as much as in spite of it. People invest great amounts to get drug #! approved, then they can charge monopoly prices (in the US, Solvaldi is an example of a Drug that never would have been produced if US drug prices were like those in the EU). Competitors piling in is a result of those monopoly prices (which is a good example of capitalism in action), but they wouldn’t be as high if barriers to entry were low enough that drug manufacturers didn’t charge monopoly prices from the get go.

    • Dacyn says:

      Uh, why would that be too generous? Murder requires intent, death due to negligence is manslaughter. (And it is not so clear what negligence should mean in a political context…)

      • Another Throw says:

        It isn’t really that clear cut. My impression is that most states have some kind of “depraved indifference” standard, which some even go so far as to classify as murder. While it is therefore clearly possible to commit murder without intent, and the plain English meaning of the phrase might even suggest politicians could do it, the applicability to the present discussion is nevertheless rather tenuous.

        • Clutzy says:

          A classic depraved indifference standard is throwing rocks off an overpass onto cars.

          Medicare for all vs. not is not even close, because for a lot of cases there is either a lack of knowledge, or a reasoned and researched disagreement of fact.

    • Well, when Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg (and the health insurance executives who write the checks that fund their campaigns) go around arguing against Medicare for All, it seems to me that–even if profit-seeking is a less horrible motivation than “racial purity” or whatever–their behavior is closer to that of our hypothetical tactically savvy Klansmen than it is to “the couch potato” who simply “isn’t saving as many lives as the paramedic.” The Klansmen and the defenders of the private health insurance industry aren’t just not saving lives. They’re trying to prevent others from saving them. And that’s a whole hell of a lot more murder-y.

      This epitomizes the way a lot of people think: the government could be doing X, and those cruel Republicans for no reason whatsoever come in and block them from doing so. They don’t consider that the government is funded by tax revenue and that said programs would require a higher tax burden.

      • cassander says:

        I have a much bigger problem with the notion that profit seeking is a “horrible motivation” only slightly better than desire for racial purity.

    • Garrett says:

      Cool. And in order to provide this, you need to raise taxes. And taxes = continual theft = slavery.
      So you have to choose between supporting murder or supporting slavery this election season. Yay!

      Moral conundrum/perverse incentive: if someone is going to be treated as a murderer for opposing Medicare For All et al., and they’re going to be enslaved to pay for it, wouldn’t they be better off going around and murdering the people committing or benefiting from the enslavement?

    • Erusian says:

      “Anyone who doesn’t support my policy preference is responsible for hypothetical deaths that I have not rigorously proven will occur.” is a cheap political tactic and should be treated as such. It can be applied to virtually anything. “Anyone who doesn’t support funding the police is responsible for deaths by crime.” “Anyone who doesn’t support defunding the police is responsible for deaths in police shootings.”

      It can even be used to support the actual killing of people, as when it’s employed in the French Revolution/Communist Revolution/Nazi variant. “Anyone who doesn’t support the death of the nobs/class enemies/Jews is responsible for all the deaths they and their system will cause.”

    • An Fírinne says:

      I find it interesting that when communist government’s incompetent policies cause deaths (famines etc) it’s immediately said that these are murders and communism murdered x amount/has x amount of victims but when social darwinistic capitalist health care leads to deaths there is no murder or victims. Just a curious observation.

      • You don’t see a striking difference between a government taking food away from people with the result that they starve to death and a government failing to provide free health care to people with the result that some die who would otherwise have lived?

        • Guy in TN says:

          You don’t see a striking difference between a government taking food away from people with the result that they starve to death and a government failing to provide free health care to people with the result that some die who would otherwise have lived?

          No. Do you?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The governments literally mobilized forces to take food away from people (farmers), and left them to starve. The government spent resources with the end result of people starving.

            Versus the government failing to mobilize forces to provide food (medical care) to people.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Guy in TN

            Back in 143.5, you stated:

            This seems to be one of those “fundamental” value differences. From a utilitarian perspective, there is equal utility loss in directly causing a harm vs deciding not to stop a harm.

            and The original Mr. X responded:

            I think that very, very few people agree with utilitarianism on this point, even those who identify as utilitarians. You (assuming you’re a westerner of ordinary means who spends his money on ordinary things) could probably save lives by donating more money to charity, but I doubt you think of yourself as a mass murderer.

            I didn’t see a reply from you, Guy in TN (perhaps I missed it). Do you have a response?

          • Guy in TN says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            The governments literally mobilized forces to take food away from people (farmers), and left them to starve.

            Is it just a difference of temporality then? If someone has a thing at time A, and they don’t have that thing at time B, that is a difference from someone not having a thing at both time A and time B.

            A no-change situation doesn’t require any “mobilization of forces”. Is that what matters here?

            (For example, someone born into a communist nation, who doesn’t privately own anything, would be “no change” as the communist government continued to enforce its policies, while someone who was receiving medicaid, and had it taken way, would be “change”, requiring “mobilization of forces”)

          • Guy in TN says:

            You (assuming you’re a westerner of ordinary means who spends his money on ordinary things) could probably save lives by donating more money to charity, but I doubt you think of yourself as a mass murderer.

            I didn’t see a reply from you, Guy in TN (perhaps I missed it). Do you have a response?

            Among dozens of possible responses, I’m going to go with this one:

            It’s just a classic ad-hominem. “Your argument for utilitarian is wrong because you, Guy in TN , are probably not a perfect practicing utilitarian yourself.”

            But this isn’t about me. Whether I am or am not a saintly practitioner of utilitarianism has no bearing on the logic of the utilitarian argument. (Not to mention, posting under a pseudonym and not having a blogging presence,you don’t actually know anything about me, and what I do with my time, money, and my life ((other than the fact that I post on SSC)), so its all just empty speculation to begin with).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Guy in TN

            That argument could be made. I assume David and I are making the argument of action versus inaction.

            Taking someone’s health away from them is a far cry from watching as they become less healthy.

            Bystanders are rightfully castigated (to the limits of their excuses), but actors are rightfully charged with more serious counts (and have far fewer legitimate excuses).

          • Guy in TN says:

            Does enforcing an already-existing economic system qualify as “action” for these purposes, or do only the “actions” taken in the establishment of an economic system count?

            My position is that enforcement of already-existing economic systems should qualify as an “action”, since these system don’t enforce themselves. All economic systems rely on ongoing human decisions to be maintained.

            So for example, I think that post-revolution deaths under communism should count towards the “deaths due to communism” tally. The maintenance of the communist system is an “action”.

            The flip side of this though, is that deaths in neoliberal capitalist systems due to maintenance of already-existing neoliberal capitalist economic institutions (e.g. having people who die because they have no way of accessing healthcare except on the marketplace) should also count as “actions”.

            In capitalist systems, people die because of choices others make, just as in communism. An honest assessment should either exempt both systems, or exempt neither.

          • Ouroborobot says:

            @Guy: I would suggest that thinking of the actions involved in terms of only action in defense of a system is flawed in that it removes any notion of individual rights and treats the system as an actor without examining the system itself as a collection of individual actions. A person who acts in defense of a capitalist system can be said to be acting only to preserve their own “bystander” status and prevent themselves from being forcibly conscripted into an action against their will. Someone acting in defense of communism in the above example can’t really claim that. Maybe I’m biased as a libertarian-ish type, but I can’t help but think of the “system” as nothing more than the actions and rights of individuals.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Ouroborobot
            I’m not too hung up on the system/individual dichotomy here. If you prefer to think of it in terms of individual actors, that works for me. All systems are made up of individual actions, after all.

            A person who acts in defense of a capitalist system can be said to be acting only to preserve their own “bystander” status and prevent themselves from being forcibly conscripted into an action against their will.

            Property rights inherently impose obligations on others, as long as you count enforcement of the property owner’s authority over a given territory as the “use of force”.

            However, if you don’t consider this as use of force, then surely a communist state exercising its authority over a given territory couldn’t be said to impose actions on others, either.

          • Aapje says:

            @Guy in TN & An Fírinne

            Healthcare in the US was substantially better than healthcare in the Soviet Union. In fact, the Soviet health care system only remained functional by becoming de facto capitalist, in part, in the form of corruption.

            To wit:

            Even before [1991], Soviet reformers were striving to reconstruct a health care system plagued by “chronic underfunding, antiquated and deteriorating facilities, inadequate supplies and outmoded equipment, poor morale and few incentives for health care workers, and consumer dissatisfaction” […]. Even with their greater number of providers, Soviet citizens lag behind Americans in general health status, life expectancy, and infant and maternal mortality. Soviet physicians earn only 70 percent of the salary of the average nonfarm worker in the Soviet Union. Striking disparities in health status and outcomes exist as well among the fifteen Soviet republics.

            Also see this AskHistorian Reddit answer.

            While I do believe that the American system is too capitalist (giving too much extremely expensive care to rich people and not enough relatively cheap care to poor people), capitalist society appears to be a requirement to generate enough capital & technology to have good healthcare on offer & to have a strong enough economy to make large scale redistribution even an option (as seen in the preceding links, Soviet Russia’s healthcare spending stagnated around 3% of the GDP, half of the spending in OECD countries). In general, a flaw I see in many (IMO) overly socialist people is that they ignore the fairly unpleasant, but hard to escape truth, that human beings need to be coerced to benefit each other, with the semi-capitalist model of coercion having the best benefit to harm ratio.

            Alternative models seem to either crash when people refuse to sacrifice sufficiently for each other, coerce people in very harmful ways or worst of all, both at the same time.

            TL;DR: Soviet Union communism has ‘murdered’ more people due to lacking healthcare than Western countries.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Aapje

            Soviet Russia’s healthcare spending stagnated around 3% of the GDP, half of the spending in OECD countries

            Wouldn’t part of this deficit be due to the decreased pay of Soviet doctors?

            Also, how much of the general Soviet deficit is due to starting from a lower baseline of wealth than the West (many of them were serfs, not even tenant farmers, but serfs, in the 19th century), having fewer people than the West, while caught up in a hot/cold war with the West?

            @Guy in TN

            In most capitalist countries people can sometimes access health care through other means than capitalism. These other means just aren’t as incentivized.

            I believe the strength of your argument lies in the government-incentivized choke points of medical, training and licensing, as these are actions the government and market actors take that limit the availability of health care.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Guy in TN

            Among dozens of possible responses, I’m going to go with this one: It’s just a classic ad-hominem…

            Anyone who believes in an equivalence between (1) directly causing harm and (2) not stopping harm, must feel the burden of trying to meet an impossible moral obligation. They would seemingly have to bite the bullet of being directly responsible for unfathomable human suffering.

            Is there another way to interpret the implications of the equivalence you claim? Perhaps a person is responsible only so far as it doesn’t cost him/her something of comparable moral importance to stop the harm?

            If not, this seems like an impossible belief to hold, and that’s what I think the prior comment is highlighting. Likening that comment to an ad-hominem attack seem like a deflection, more so given that you seem to rest many of your arguments on this equivalence.

            What are some of the other dozens of possible responses?

          • Guy in TN says:

            Perhaps a person is responsible only so far as it doesn’t cost him/her something of comparable moral importance to stop the harm?

            The goal is to maximize human-well being. And since you yourself are a human, you get to include your own well-being in the calculation. It’s not an imperative to be Christ-like, putting your own desires at the bottom of the moral priority list. But it is an imperative to place the utility of all people at equal moral value.

            What are some of the other dozens of possible responses?

            Here’s one: For no other ethical system, is the fact that its adherents fail to perfectly uphold that ethical system’s values taken as evidence of the faultiness of that system. All Kantians have lied. All Chrsitians have sinned. Criticizing utilitarianism due to its adherents failing to be good utilitarians is an isolated demand for rigor.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Guy in TN

            Here’s one: For no other ethical system, is the fact that its adherents fail to perfectly uphold that ethical system’s values taken as evidence of the faultiness of that system. All Kantians have lied. All Chrsitians have sinned. Criticizing utilitarianism due to its adherents failing to be good utilitarians is an isolated demand for rigor.

            I’m not questioning utilitarianism in its entirety, I’m questioning the particular equivalence you assert.

            For that reason, I don’t think a comparison with Christianity is on target, since it’s arguably a collection of many values. Perhaps focusing on one of them would be more apt?

            If so, then consider the value[1] that homosexuality is a sin. Many adherents have attempted to avoid sinning in this way, but have failed miserably.

            And I think that a lot of people (many Christians included) have accepted this as evidence that this *particular* value is faulty.

            So, I don’t agree with your claim that, by questioning the moral equivalence you assert, that utilitarianism or its adherents is/are being placed under special scrutiny.

            ———————————–
            [1] It may be wrong to call this a value, or even an aspect on which there is a consensus. I’m asserting that it was, until recently, a fairly common belief.

            Edited to include the relevant part of your response.

          • AliceToBob says:

            The goal is to maximize human-well being. And since you yourself are a human, you get to include your own well-being in the calculation. It’s not an imperative to be Christ-like, putting your own desires at the bottom of the moral priority list. But it is an imperative to place the utility of all people at equal moral value.

            Drawing an equivalence between (quoting DavidFriedman):

            1) A government taking food away from people with the result that they starve to death.

            2) A government failing to provide free health care to people with the result that some die who would otherwise have lived.

            is counterintuitive to me, but your comment is helpful. Is it consistent with your understanding of utilitarianism if I say:

            “The negative impact on my utility from the taxes I must pay towards offering free health care outweighs the utility of 2)”?

            That is, are we allowed to construct any utility function we like (perhaps in order to get the outcome we feel is right)? If not, can you elaborate on the principles you use when calculating utility in the above cases?

          • Guy in TN says:

            That is, are we allowed to construct any utility function we like (perhaps in order to get the outcome we feel is right)

            This is just a weird question to me. If you are doing a utility calculation it in bad faith, what is the point? It’s your life, your ethical system that you are choosing to live by.

            It’s like asking “what if I choose to believe that the teachings of Jesus are the truth, but then I also purposely decide to just replace whatever he actually said, with what I want him to say instead”. It seems that if you are knowingly doing the latter, you don’t actually believe the former.

            An honest attempt at constructing a utility function does not result in someone constructing “whatever they feel like”, but one that most closely matches the reality of the world.

            Just like a scientist interpreting the results of an experiment, who can interpret the results however he wishes. But some interpretations are more accurate than others, and a scientist acting in good faith should be able to distinguish from the results he wants to get, from the results he actually does.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If not, can you elaborate on the principles you use when calculating utility in the above cases?

            Sure. The basic principle is that each person’s utility is assigned equal moral weight. So a one person having an increase in well-being by x amount, is worth the same utility as another person having an increase in well-being by the same x amount. The same applies for decreases in well-being.

            Determining utility is somewhat challenging in that it can’t be measured in any strictly quantifiable way, and instead has to be inferred. But again, the non-quantifiable nature of utility is not an open-door to just assume whatever you like. The good news is that humans are biologically pretty similar to one another, and have the same basic needs. For example, it is reasonable to infer that a person involuntarily going hungry has roughly the same utility decrease no matter who that person is.

            So there are many measure that can infer utility in broad strokes: Average lifespan, level of sickness/disability, caloric intake, self-reported life satisfaction, ect.

            And on the interpersonal level, utility does not become an unobservable black hole. Humans are evolutionarily well-adapted to obverse increases and decreases in utility among others, e.g. mothers are very good at being able to figure out how to raise the utility a child (food, water, shelter, ect), despite the child having no market mechanisms in which to express this utility.

            So as to the question of taxation and healthcare, you’ve got to compare the utility-loss from taxation, to the utility-gains of providing free healthcare to people. (I find the negative-utility approach to be easiest here, but the positive-utility approach works just as well.) Compare how many people would be made worse-off by each scenario, and by what degree.

            To me, its hard to see how a good-faith analysis would come to the conclusion that using taxation to provide free healthcare in the US would result in a net-utility loss. Being taxed is bad, sure, but dying is far worse. The counter would have to be that taxation itself would cause an amount of deaths exceeding that of lack of free healthcare, which seems fanciful.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Wouldn’t part of this deficit be due to the decreased pay of Soviet doctors?

            Do you mean that the Soviets underpaid doctors relative to other occupations, so got good care on the cheap? That is not borne out by the health outcomes and secondly, actually was ‘solved’ by corruption, which increased incomes, unofficially, destroying the model of equal and free healthcare for all.

            Also, how much of the general Soviet deficit is due to starting from a lower baseline of wealth than the West (many of them were serfs, not even tenant farmers, but serfs, in the 19th century), having fewer people than the West, while caught up in a hot/cold war with the West?

            The Soviet Union was about on par with Finland, Spain and Japan in 1913. All these countries didn’t see much net gain until after WW 2, when all countries benefited greatly from automation/industrialization, but with the Soviet Union having substantially slower growth.

            Note that Spain lagged behind due to a policy of autarky until they chose to liberalize in the 60’s, causing them to overtake the Soviet Union in GDP per capita and truly gapping the Soviets from the 70’s on.

            I don’t see how the cold war is relevant, since both sides had to pay those costs. The difference is that the West had the economy to keep that up.

            I also disagree that the population size is relevant or lower. In 1990, the Soviet Union had more people than the USA and Canada combined. However, small countries, like mine, can be very wealthy. Less densely populated countries, like Finland, can do just as well as more populated countries and vice versa. It’s not your population size or density, but what you do with it.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Guy in TN

            This is just a weird question to me. If you are doing a utility calculation it in bad faith, what is the point?…

            An honest attempt at constructing a utility function does not result in someone constructing “whatever they feel like”…

            …a scientist acting in good faith should be able to distinguish from the results he wants to get, from the results he actually does.

            You may be picking up implications of bad faith, but that’s not what I’m worried about. Note that I didn’t write “whatever they feel like”, but rather “in order to get the outcome we feel is right”.

            Using your scientist example, a lot of these people review scholarly manuscripts for journals. From a cursory reading of the main results/abstract, it’s common to form a strong but subjective opinion, and then justify it post hoc.

            For instance, a common justification is that the main results are “incremental”. But the calculation for what falls above or below the threshold for incremental contains a good deal of wiggle room.

            More alarming, I think the replication crisis should give us pause when determining whether scientists can dispassionately apply reason in the face of incentives, such as recognition for a result that won’t be considered incremental.

            So, I don’t see bad faith calculations as being the problem. Instead, I think people, are good at deceiving themselves and at motivated reasoning, and smart people can make a large range of conclusions sound justified. This behavior seems to be exacerbated when the rules are imprecise, which is what I’m worried about when discussing utility functions (as I see you’ve elaborated on in your other post) and then using the output to determine morality.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Guy in TN

            Thanks for this (comment at 1:05pm), it’s interesting.

            I’m running out of steam here, and I’m sure I won’t be saying anything new (also demotivating), but let me try to form up some thoughts.

            I think the main source of my distaste for the reasoning you describe is that it sounds scientific, but it’s extremely subjective. You state:

            To me, its hard to see how a good-faith analysis would come to the conclusion that using taxation to provide free healthcare in the US would result in a net-utility loss.

            But I don’t think it’s hard to imagine how the calculation could be dramatically changed. Taxation might reduce dollars that would otherwise be used to develop new technologies that save many more lives. It might decrease support for other life-saving social programs. It might breed sufficient resentment in society for violence, resulting in many deaths. A free public healthcare policy might contribute to a state of social apathy where underachievement becomes normalized, the necessary taxation becomes untenable due to decreased productivity, and the state of public healthcare actually gets far worse (again, resulting in more deaths). Some/all of these might be part of a good-faith analysis.

            The ethical system you’re describing seems so under-constrained that one can make the case for a moral equivalence, and convincingly argue the opposite. It seems no more legitimate than someone claiming “God says it’s right, so it must be right”, and it’s perhaps worse since it tries to obscure the lack of rigor behind the ill-defined notion of a utility calculation.

            Anyway, again, thank you for the conversation.

        • An Fírinne says:

          You don’t see a striking difference between a government taking food away from people with the result that they starve to death and a government failing to provide free health care to people with the result that some die who would otherwise have lived?

          No, what’s the difference? The end result is still the same.

          Well let’s say we had Medicare for All and then we privatised it and people died as a result. How about then?

      • Viliam says:

        Indeed, the communist governments made sure that treacherous doctors get punished.

  5. Radu Floricica says:

    Was by any chance this already discussed here? A post by Eric S Raymond called The Great Inversion. Relevant among other things to a recent conversation here on why left is still being called Marxism. But mostly an answer to my long time wonder of how the left got so far away from the classical socialism in its relation with the working classes – the post makes it explicit that it’s not only not supporting them anymore, but it’s usually against them.

    • Ouroborobot says:

      I know that the idea that the intellectual left never really cared about the working class so much as despised the bourgeoisie has been discussed before. If you buy into that notion, it certainly makes it less shocking that the actual working class would become an out-group since many of their strongly held beliefs are considered distasteful or are in outright conflict with issues important to the modern left.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I don’t think they never did. I was pretty young, but the way I parse communism in Romania is a revolution against intellectuals and wealth owners, done by and in favor of the workers and peasants. Not even much of a guiding intelligentsia – Nicolae Ceausescu was a shoemaker, and a quick google says his predecessor left school at 11.

        Which is probably why I am still shocked by the way the current progressive left here is completely ignoring the proletariat. And why I believe this article when it says that globally it’s actively hostile towards it.

        • sfoil says:

          The way I parse communism in Romania is that you were invaded by the USSR.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Geopolitically, sure. But that was just the push – the fall into communism itself was done by individuals, one expropriation and collectivization at a time. The geopolitics only decided which one of two relatively well defined paths we’re going to follow – just one literal bit of information.

        • Aapje says:

          @Radu Floricica

          George Orwell already wrote about Western leftists who didn’t love the poor, but hated the rich in 1937.

          I think that the major change is that the balance of power in socialist parties changed. It used to be that a lot of the socialist politicians had a blue collar background, but I think that greater accessibility to a college education has shifted this balance, to make the elitists dominate. I also think it has an impact on people if they spend their formative years in college, rather than working, as many historic socialist leaders did. Lots of leftists seem to consider college students the prototypical poor person or if they are less narcissist, the non-white janitor at college. The white proletariat seems invisible to many of them.

          These elitist leftists seem to be fairly left-libertarian, social-neoliberal or whatever you want to call it, in contrast to the working class, who are more social-conservative.

          Interestingly, my country, which has many parties, has a high-brow green party (GroenLinks, which adopted left-libertarianism), a medium-brow labor party (PvdA, also adopted left-libertarianism) and a low-brow socialist party (SP, formerly Maoist, which is fiscally socially-conservative, wanting lots of government spending and welfare, but is socially liberal). The PvdA used to be one of the large centrist Dutch parties, forming a coalition between elites and the working class, but both have been fleeing from this coalition. The elites mostly fled to left-libertarian parties, like the green party, while the working class went to either the fiscally socially-conservative SP or the populist PVV (headed by Geert Wilders).

          Note that the more explicitly working-class parties have largely been excluded from governance and when they weren’t, there were significant cultural clashes with the more elitist parties.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      To understand the Great Inversion, we have to start by remembering what the Marxism of the pre-WWII Old Left was like — not ideologically, but sociologically. It was an ideology of, by, and for the working class.

      I didn’t read the whole long essay, but this is the 4th paragraph. This is not true. Marxism was created by and has has always been touted by the intellectual class. Such as Marx himself. It is true that many more workers were seduced by this philosophy before WWII than they are today. But even then, the intellectuals owned the theory and were always the ones who took charge after a revolution.

      I think even today, probably most working class folks don’t trust the owners, suits, clipboard guys, or whatever you call them. But they also don’t trust any high-falutin’ theories such as Marxism.

      • tegeus-Cromis says:

        Your point about Marxism as originating from and being pushed by an intellectual coterie is true, but surely the difference today is that Marxcism is now wholly a intellectual class thing rather whereas in the early 20th century it did have a least some blue-collar appeal and adherents?

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Marxism was created by and has has always been touted by the intellectual class. Such as Marx himself. It is true that many more workers were seduced by this philosophy before WWII than they are today. But even then, the intellectuals owned the theory and were always the ones who took charge after a revolution.

        True, but in Europe before WWII, and to some extent even after it (in the Eastern block obviously, but even in some Western countries such as Italy and France), Marxism did enjoy broad support from the working class, and the intellectuals at least paid lip service to the struggle of the working class. Now this is completely over: the leftist intellectuals and the working class openly hate each other guts.

        • Clutzy says:

          True, but in Europe before WWII, and to some extent even after it (in the Eastern block obviously, but even in some Western countries such as Italy and France), Marxism did enjoy broad support from the working class, and the intellectuals at least paid lip service to the struggle of the working class. Now this is completely over: the leftist intellectuals and the working class openly hate each other guts.

          Its not such a contradiction if you replace “working class” with “poorest people available to do the work I need done.” When your only option for gardener, factory worker, and garbageman is an American working class male, you ally with those people. If you can import your cars and phones from Vietnam and your gardener from Honduras, the guy from Akron is now an expensive alternative, one who also happens to have too many rights and thinks too much.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Makes sense.

            In fact I think this is the reason why the left generally supports de facto, rather than de jure open borders: legal immigrants have legal protections, illegal immigrants instead, even if generally tolerated, can be always individually deported for arbitrary reasons (e.g. somebody with sufficient clout reporting them), hence they are much more exploitable.

          • Aapje says:

            No, they typically support de facto open borders out of empathy and kindness. It’s more naivete about the consequences, combined with them relatively often benefiting from those consequences and not experiencing the harms, that makes it a relatively ‘cheap’ stance (similar to how people who pay less in taxes are typically more in favor of government spending, because it is not their money, which is often not recognized as a reason for why they vote how they do, but their voting patterns do change when they pay more taxes, showing that it does influence their vote).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The consequences of closed borders are pretty bad.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            You failed to provide arguments for that assertion. Also, closed borders are not the only alternative to open borders, so even if your assertion is true, it is not a very good rebuttal.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I don’t have to provide arguments for this fact, as said arguments (anecdotes) for the current era are abundant in the media.

            Yes, closed borders are the alternative to open borders, because at the margin borders are completely closed.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            No, they typically support de facto open borders out of empathy and kindness.

            But de jure open borders are more empathetic and kind than the de facto ones, and yet, other than a handful of libertarians, nobody supports them.

            It’s more naivete about the consequences, combined with them relatively often benefiting from those consequences and not experiencing the harms,

            Most people just support without much thought what is popular in their peer group, which is ultimately determined by the intellectual authorities they recognize, at least until they are directly affected by the downsides of their position. The intellectual authorities probably have a plan.

          • Dacyn says:

            @anonymousskimmer:

            at the margin borders are completely closed.

            I don’t understand. The only way I can think of to interpret your statement is that the borders are currently completely closed, which is obviously false.

            @viVI_IViv:

            other than a handful of libertarians, nobody supports them

            Recently somebody posted here some sort of “political classification test” which made the claim that ~40% (IIRC) of Democrats support open borders (presumably de jure), I remember several people here being surprised by it. Though I don’t know how accurate that is.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            I don’t have to provide arguments for this fact, as said arguments (anecdotes) for the current era are abundant in the media.

            Do you mean the brain drain in Eastern Europe and the consequences for these countries? Have you considered what happens to countries that get drained from so many people, typically leaving the most vulnerable people behind and making their lives worse?

            Or the anecdote I’ve heard about the South-American family who were swindled by a coyote and lacking money to hire a new one, decided to stay in Mexico, where they were quite safe and had a decent income for Mexico?

            Also, have you considered how much of the media you consume is withholding information to convince you and/or uncritically allowing certain people to make embellished claims without checking their story?

            Ultimately, it’s a very complex situation and the case for open borders is hardly a slam dunk, especially if you consider 2nd order effects.

            Yes, closed borders are the alternative to open borders, because at the margin borders are completely closed.

            Please explain this sentence, as it makes little sense to me.

    • DinoNerd says:

      It’s a well written article, as I’d expect from Eric Raymond, but doesn’t seem to say much I haven’t thought before. I don’t know enough about the UK to comment on that part – but the rest rings true. More could be said about the class distinction – in the cultural sense, rather than as a distinction of wealth and prospects.

      Political contests are usually waged entirely among societal elites, though they require some support from non-elites to be successful. (Even in a miltary dictatorship, the foot soldiers won’t be from elite families :-() So no surprise the elites running the Labour party weren’t working class ;-( Nor that the folks who wrote the classic socialist literature weren’t either.

      The real question is why did they change their strategy, seeking support (only) from groups disadvantaged by things like race or sexuality, and not by their traditional disadvantaged group? Can it be as simple as elites being less and less in touch with people not born into at least the middle class? Or a decreased connection with their nations, as their careers became more and more international?

      And why did this strategy change happen in multiple representative democracies at more or less the same time? (Or did the US lead the way, with unions etc. losing relevance there before e.g. in the UK and Canada?)

      I’m suspicious that this might actually be a response (in the US) to a change in the strategy of the US right wong, in particular the “southern strategy”. More likely though, the motives are mixed.

      FWIW, it’s easier to get “group X” (currently subject to prejudice) a seat at the table, and to be regarded as sane and normal (etc.), than it is to solve the problems of the poor – as evidenced e.g. by the total lack of anti-Irish prejudice in the US today, as compared to the relative positon of the poor (compared to the rich) and their opportunities for advancement, just varying in a narrow band – better during economic expansion and worse during contractions. Maybe they made the mistake(*) of wanting to try something where they thought they could be successful.

      (*) Mistake because if a politician actually solves a problem, they need to find something else to campaign for.

      • cassander says:

        And why did this strategy change happen in multiple representative democracies at more or less the same time? (Or did the US lead the way, with unions etc. losing relevance there before e.g. in the UK and Canada?)

        I won’t speak to the exact timing in other countries, but why it happened seems fairly obvious. You can’t build a political movement around industrial workers when the number of them is rapidly declining. Not a successful one, anyway.

        I’m suspicious that this might actually be a response (in the US) to a change in the strategy of the US right wong, in particular the “southern strategy”. More likely though, the motives are mixed

        The southern strategy, as classically articulated, didn’t exist.

        • DinoNerd says:

          In Canada, I saw unions trying hard to expand into ever more of the service sector. (I wasn’t impressed by the way they approached unionizing my programming team in the early 1980s, but they certainly tried.) It seemed to me that the natural move for both unions and the union-associated political parties was towards all wage workers, with emphasis on those with least individual power – including of course those unemployed at any given time.

          That didn’t happen – or didn’t happen effectively, at least. I think that needs explaining. It might be as simple as Baby Boomer leadership – the ’60s were about individual freedom, and breaking social rules – not about uniting to ovecome adversity/enemies/etc. But that seems a bit too simplistic for me.

          • cassander says:

            that’s a good point. It didn’t happen in a lot of places, the government sector being the big exception, and something worth exploring.

          • It seemed to me that the natural move for both unions and the union-associated political parties was towards all wage workers, with emphasis on those with least individual power – including of course those unemployed at any given time.

            The basic function of a union qua union is to use its monopoly power to push wages up, which means employment in its field down. That creates a conflict with those outside the union, especially the unemployed, which may lead to tensions within a political party that tries to unite both groups.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            .. you may want to reality check your logic here. The most heavily unionized countries in the world also uniformly have very, very high labor force participation rates. Iceland is to a first approximation fully unionized, and has labor participation a full 16 percentage points higher than the US. Iceland is a tiny island that is a ridiculus outlier in many regards beyond just that, but Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Norway.. all very heavily unionized, all have higher labor force participation rates than the US does, and not by a little.

            Alternative just-so narrative: Unions drive up labor compensation, higher price means higher supply, as people with alternatives to labor for sustenance (like being a house spouse, retiring early, ect) are drawn into the labor force by the lure of lucre.

          • Lambert says:

            Comparing countries like that is a good way to Simpson’s Paradox* yourself.

            *Probably not quite that pardox, because the within-group effect isn’t being considered as a correlation. But close enough.

          • Clutzy says:

            As Lambert says, you should compare the employment rates of those groups in the US to their home countries.

            A classic example of the problems of labor force regulations in the US is their extremely negative impact on black employment, particularly young black males. Sowell and many others have shown some fairly convincing data sets that minimum wage laws and tight union laws have had very racist effects, and indeed were often explictly intended as racist legislation when passed in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

          • albatross11 says:

            Clutzy:

            The expansion of occupational licensing (usually including many hours of classroom instruction plus a written test) for more and more low-tier jobs also puts blacks at a big disadvantage in the workforce. Say, there’s this group that does worse than everyone else[1] in school and on standardized tests, and they also have lower-than-everyone-else labor force participation. Let’s make sure every menial job requires a year of classwork and a written test–I wonder what effect that could possibly have on their labor force participation.

            But remember, noticing this pattern requires knowing things that only evil, bad people know or mention aloud, so I guess we should just go ahead stomping on peoples’ chances for a decent life. What the hell, it’s not like real people are being hurt.

            [1] Except American Indians.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I think it’s a worthy question. My generation was pretty much born into it, and as far as we can see it… just happened. Maybe just a change of generations and suddenly the workers weren’t cool anymore. Or they just stopped being disadvantaged – in absolute terms, they’re easily as wealthy now as middle class was around 1900. But either way, I’m all in favor understanding how these things move, historically. I’m pretty sick of seeing things “just happen” around me – makes me feel vulnerable and easy to use.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I think his analysis of the UK is confused, to put it mildly. Labour voters are not elite – they’re urban middle class, particularly public sector workers. Nurses, teachers, social workers, students, council administrators, that sort of thing. Virtually no wealthy people voted for Corbyn, despite the dislike of Brexit among most of them, precisely because his explicitly socialist policy prospectus struck them as even worse than Brexit under a fiscal moderate (within the UK context) like Johnson. Gammon absolutely can refer to high social status outgroup members like the wealthy, privately educated Nigel Farage. Corbyn lost northern working class voters not because he was a socialist but because he was seen as vacillatory on Brexit, likely incapable of actually delivering his domestic policy proposals, and above all antipatriotic, and because the scars of the 80s which previously deterred many from voting Tory have faded.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I think his analysis of the UK is confused, to put it mildly. Labour voters are not elite – they’re urban middle class, particularly public sector workers. Nurses, teachers, social workers, students, council administrators, that sort of thing.

          They are the “gentry” class, the sort of people who read the Guardian and won’t despise writing articles for it. They might occasionally rant against capitalism, but they tend to like the “new money” globalist elite (e.g. Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon).

          Virtually no wealthy people voted for Corbyn, despite the dislike of Brexit among most of them, precisely because his explicitly socialist policy prospectus struck them as even worse than Brexit under a fiscal moderate (within the UK context) like Johnson.

          Citation needed.

          Gammon absolutely can refer to high social status outgroup members like the wealthy, privately educated Nigel Farage.

          Farage manages to come across as working class, the same way Trump does, regardless of their actual background.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Farage comes across as upper middle class. He speaks RP. My father – born wealthy, Westminster and Oxford, accountant, businessman and former bank director, treasurer of the Royal Philatelic Society and the diocesan synod, socially conservative Brexit voter – would also be described as gammon by many people. It’s about being male, conservative and probably old, not about class.

            And I know a lot of upper middle class people and a lot of Corbyn voters, and the only overlap is young people whose families have money but don’t make much of their own, mostly because they work in the arts.

        • Aapje says:

          @Tarpitz

          The modern split in society is not primarily by income. It’s “Culture War: Attack of the NPCs”, not “Class War: A new Hope and Change”.

          Although there also those who say that we are in the Clown Wars Holiday Special.

      • Garrett says:

        Anti-Irish prejudice was eliminated by self-civilizing from within.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I’m struggling to find the exit poll in question that shows Labor voters have higher incomes than Conservative voters. Does anybody have a link?

      In the US, there is a popular belief/meme (still being propagated by respectable news outlets) that Trump was more popular among low-income voters than Clinton in 2016, despite all exit poll data indicating the contrary. It is almost as if there is an ideological imperative among the right/libertarians that this must be so, reality be damned. So color me at least a hair guarded.

      • dodrian says:

        The Lord Ashcroft Poll is the only exit poll I’m aware of that broke down by socio-economic groups. It shows that all socio-economic groups voted more for the Conservatives than for Labour. However, with the details it looks easy enough to spin the narrative however you’d like to.

        It looks to me most like the most conclusive class statement you could make is that LibDem vote is correlated with income, taking 15% of the Middle Class vote. You could say that Labour did best with semi/unskilled & non-working. You could say Conservatives did best with skilled working class. Or you could compare with the full 2015 results and point out that Labour held the same proportion of support from unskilled/nonworking and bled votes from the middle class.

      • Clutzy says:

        The Trump narrative also amused me. Trump was the consensus choice of the middle quintiles, lost the bottom quintile quite handily, and barely won the top.

        This also happens to correlate well with him getting smashed in the black vote, which is a large percentage of the bottom quintile.

      • Aapje says:

        @Guy in TN

        Trump was much more popular among white low-income voters than earlier Republicans, but just as impopular among black low-income voters, who have lower incomes on average than whites with low income.

        Both the US and the UK have winner-take all political systems, which means that the only way to win is get votes from very different groups, with different anxieties, prospects, etc. It can be perfectly true that Trump was more popular with the low-income white segment, but also more popular with those with high incomes.

    • BBA says:

      There’s an assumption in this post and subthread that being “working class” is inherently white, and nonwhites are by definition not part of it – they’re all lumpen-proletariat or “recent immigrants” or something.

      This isn’t totally true anywhere, but it’s truer in Britain than in the US, which explains why Labour is nearly defunct while the Democrats are still hanging on to some power.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        We Americans have had a white, black, and mestizo working class since the 1860s or earlier, yeah. Compared to our country, Europe was very homogeneous except for language, and non-whites were a literal Reserve Army of Labour that the elites chose to import after WWII.
        I support right-wing European politics, but copied and pasted to our context, it would be unjustly inaccurate.

  6. Deiseach says:

    For the day that’s in it (28th December), it being one of the Twelve Days of Christmas, a poem!

    INNOCENT’S SONG
    by Charles Causley

    Who’s that knocking on the window,
    Who’s that standing at the door,
    What are all those presents
    Lying on the kitchen floor?

    Who is the smiling stranger
    With hair as white as gin,
    What is he doing with the children
    And who could have let him in?

    Why has he rubies on his fingers,
    A cold, cold crown on his head,
    Why, when he caws his carol,
    Does the salty snow run red?

    Why does he ferry my fireside
    As a spider on a thread,
    His fingers made of fuses
    And his tongue of gingerbread?

    Why does the world before him
    Melt in a million suns,
    Why do his yellow, yearning eyes
    Burn like saffron buns?

    Watch where he comes walking
    Out of the Christmas flame,
    Dancing, double talking:

    Herod is his name.

  7. An Fírinne says:

    Kosovo vs Crimea

    Am I the only one who finds the differing attitudes to Kosovo and Crimea strange and hypocritical?

    In both cases you have a people in a territory wishing to secede (Kosovars wishing to secede from Serbia, Crimeans from Ukraine) and a military campaign that allowed them to secede (NATO’s bombing/KLA campaign and Russian annexation) but yet the West supports Kosovo although not Crimea seceding. Seems quite hypocritical and Russophobic.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Was Ukraine about to commit genocide in Crimea?

      • An Fírinne says:

        Was secession necessary to stop that though? The Rwandan genocide was stopped without secession of any sorts for instance.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The Rwandan Genocide was stopped?

          Also, AFAIK, Rwanda didn’t have a strong territorial component.

          • An Fírinne says:

            Regardless seccesion wasn’t necessary. The Kurds were not given independence from Iraq but yet the Anfal genocide stopped.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Actually, bringing up the Kurds isn’t particularly helpful to you. The absence of territorial integrity for them exacerbates the issues related to their existence.

            Of course, were they given territorial integrity, we might have the same issue in regards to ethnic Turks in the now Kurdish homeland. Shit is complex. Trying to derive universal, simple guiding principles is … well nigh impossible.

          • An Fírinne says:

            Actually, bringing up the Kurds isn’t particularly helpful to you. The absence of territorial integrity for them exacerbates the issues related to their existence.

            How is the Iraqi Kurdistsn situation any different to the Kosovo situation prior to seccession in terms of the “territorial integrity” of the region?

          • mtl1882 says:

            For Alaska at least, we negotiated and agreement with and payed the country that was currently controlling it. More importantly, those were in the 19th century, when current norms against conquest (such as they are) didn’t exist. Even more importantly, there’s always the bedrock principle of international politics: might makes right.

            Around the time Alaska was acquired, there were serious disputes about whether conquest was appropriate, although for Alaska I think the controversy was mainly over whether or not it was even a desirable territory (the oil was discovered shortly after). During the Grant administration, there was vocal resistance to taking Cuba and other places. While there were definitely people who favored expansion, there were definitely norms against conquest, with the obvious exception of Native American land, at least by the U.S. These ceased to hold as much weight at the very end of the nineteenth century (Spanish-American war, etc.) In general, I don’t think most people tend to be very consistent on these things—interests dominate, and plausible explanations are easy to find in either direction..

    • broblawsky says:

      Is there any evidence that the people of Crimea wanted to secede before the Russian invasion?

      • An Fírinne says:

        Countless independent opinion polls

        • broblawsky says:

          Conducted before or after the invasion? By whom? Please list your sources.

          • An Fírinne says:

            What’s the difference between US annexation of Alaska or Hawaii and the Russian annexation of Crimea?

          • broblawsky says:

            That’s not on-topic for this subthread. I assume you were unable to find sources for your claims?

          • Noah says:

            @An Fírinne

            For Alaska at least, we negotiated and agreement with and payed the country that was currently controlling it. More importantly, those were in the 19th century, when current norms against conquest (such as they are) didn’t exist. Even more importantly, there’s always the bedrock principle of international politics: might makes right.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @Noah

            For Alaska at least, we negotiated and agreement with and payed the country that was currently controlling it. More importantly, those were in the 19th century, when current norms against conquest (such as they are) didn’t exist

            Well they exist now. So let us liberate Alaska from foreign military annexation by America!

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @An Fírinne
            Land masses can’t be liberated. Humans have a natural right to live on Earth.

            Now what Human-landmass coherence would you like to liberate, and what does the Human part of this coherence think about it?

          • An Fírinne says:

            I apologise. Let us liberate the oppressed Alaska s suffering under US occupation!

          • Evan Þ says:

            Yes, I too support the Alaskan Independence Party, whose main policy plank has been unjustly kept off the referendum ballot. If only their supporter Palin had gotten close to the White House in 2008, things might have been different.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I have no problem with Alaska seceding. As long as they pay the US back the original purchase price (less their portion).

            At $7.2 million -> $63.58 million in 1990 US dollars.

            Divided by $1,110,951 million in 1990 international dollars World GDP for 1870 (closest year).

            Times the current Gross World Product of $80.27 trillion (2017, closest year).

            Equals ~$4.6 billion US dollars. Less the multiple of the population of Alaska divided by the population of the US total ~= $4.58 billion US dollars.

            This is the price of freedom from the Russian Empire for the current state of Alaska. It seems equitable to pay this back to the liberators for their direct expenses.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I do not think that NATO campaign against Serbia in 1999 had as its goal Kosovan secession. It was motivated by fears that Serbian government is going to commit genocidal level atrocities in Kosovo. Those fears were imho quite plausible given what happened in Bosnia just few years back. Note: I am not claiming that Kosovo intervention was thus morally justified.

      However only sure way to prevent Serbia from doing atrocities was to occupy Kosovo by NATO troops, and since it is not ok to let Kosovo laguish as NATO or UN protectorate forever, after many years it was allowed to declare independence (in 2008). It is imho very reasonable to ask whether Serbian government of 2008, different and far less connected with Bosnian atrocities than Serbian government of 1999, shouldn´t be allowed to retain sovereingnity over Kosovo.

      Crimean case is imho far less morally ambigous. Surely many Crimeans wanted to reunite with Russia, but also many Crimeans wanted to stay as a part of Ukraine, there were no signs that Ukraininian government is going to commit genocidal level atrocities, and Russia did not intervene to prevent atrocities, not even to grant Crimea independence, but to simply annex it.

      • An Fírinne says:

        It is imho very reasonable to ask whether Serbian government of 2008, different and far less connected with Bosnian atrocities than Serbian government of 1999, shouldn´t be allowed to retain sovereingnity over Kosovo.

        How so? Milosevic and his fellow travellers are gone. Nobody suggested Iraqi Kurds should get independence due to Saddam Hussein’s genocide but when secession aligns with Western geostrategic goals all of a sudden people are all for it.

        but also many Crimeans wanted to stay as a part of Ukraine

        Plenty of Kosovars opposed secession. Take the Serbian Kosovar minority for instance. You just don’t hear about them because it’s inconvenient to the narrative.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Those are good points, and I find decision of Western powers to agree with Kosovan independence in 2008 somewhat problematic. However, this does not in my mind justify Russian actions towards Ukraine.

    • Anatoly says:

      1. Crimea didn’t secede, it was annexed by Russia. The formal trappings of secession were a fig leaf.

      2. It isn’t true that “countless independent opinion polls” supported Crimeans’ wish to secede prior to 2014. Prior to 2014, the major contentious issue was federalization of Ukraine. Neither secession nor joining Russia were serious political goals, the few parties proclaiming them languished with single-digit percent support by voters, at best, and it wasn’t a question pollsters were much interested in.

      • An Fírinne says:

        1. Crimea didn’t secede, it was annexed by Russia. The formal trappings of secession were a fig leaf.

        You’re splitting hairs here.

        2. It isn’t true that “countless independent opinion polls” supported Crimeans’ wish to secede prior to 2014. Prior to 2014, the major contentious issue was federalization of Ukraine. Neither secession nor joining Russia were serious political goals, the few parties proclaiming them languished with single-digit percent support by voters, at best, and it wasn’t a question pollsters were much interested in.

        A perfunctory Google search shows a vast majority of Crimeans wanted to join Russia.

        • broblawsky says:

          Being invaded by a foreign power vs secession isn’t splitting hairs. They’re completely different things.

          • An Fírinne says:

            What’s the difference between Russian annexation and US annexation of Aleska and Hawaii?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The US purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire. Now did the Russian Empire have the moral right to sell Alaska? Probably not. But it had all the legal right that nations recognized at the time.

            Hawaii didn’t belong to a nation, it was a nation. But Hawaii’s allies would have been justified in laying sanctions on the US. Also, no one died during the annexation.

          • zqed says:

            What’s the difference between Russian annexation and US annexation of Aleska and Hawaii?

            A few days ago you also had trouble seeing the difference between harvesting stem-cells from leftover IVF embryos and harvesting prisoners’ organs.

            There are many ways in which a Russian annexation of Alaska and the actual Alaska purchase would be dissimilar. If you can’t enumerate even one, then your understanding of your opponent’s views will be superficial at best, and you should probably spend some more time reading up on the topic. Of course, it might be that all potential differences are irrelevant, but if so, you should at least be able to state them.

            Or are you using difference in some kind of specific, technical sense?

          • Perico says:

            @An Firinne
            Less of this, please:

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/12/25/open-thread-143-75/#comment-835185

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/12/25/open-thread-143-75/#comment-835190

            That’s two instances in the same thread of you answering an inconvenient question with a change of topic. Bonus points for using the same new topic in both cases.

        • John Schilling says:

          A perfunctory Google search shows a vast majority of Crimeans wanted to join Russia.

          How does Google know what the Crimeans wanted in, say, 2012? All Google knows is that some web pages contain relevant words and are particularly popular among people interested in the subject – which is not exactly an unbiased sample here in 2019.

          Furthermore, when I do attempt a Google search, I get almost entirely A: irrelevant fluff and B: post-annexation reports of alleged post-annexation Crimean sentiment.

          Hitler and Stalin could certainly have cooked up a set of referenda in 1940, in which the officially recognized opinion of the Western Polish People was “Of course we wanted to secede from Poland and join Germany”, while the Eastern Polish People just substituted “Russia” at the end. That, plus mumble something ethnic Germans and Russians trapped on the wrong side of the borders written at Versailles, gives you about as much of a case for Poland being partitioned among Germany and Russia, as you are offering for Crimea being annexed by Russia.

          • An Fírinne says:

            They don’t report this on Western outlets but here you go:

            The results of the survey by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, conducted April 21–29, 2014, showed that 83% of Crimeans felt that the results of the March 16 referendum on Crimea’s status likely reflected the views of most people there.

            According to the Gallup’s survey performed on April 21–27, 82.8% of Crimean people consider the referendum results reflecting most Crimeans’ views,[157] and 73.9% of Crimeans say Crimea’s becoming part of Russia will make life better for themselves and their families, while 5.5% disagree.[157]

            According to survey carried out by Pew Research Center in April 2014, majority of Crimean residents say the referendum was free and fair (91%) and that the government in Kyiv ought to recognize the results of the vote (88%).[158]

            I suppose Gallup and PEW are Russian propaganda outlets?

          • John Schilling says:

            I suppose Gallup and PEW are Russian propaganda outlets?

            It would be nice if you were to provide a link so that I could look at their methodology. But if Gallup and Pew were making phone calls to random Crimeans in 2014 and said essentially

            “Hello. I am a pollster from Renowned Independent Western NGO. This voice you are hearing on the phone is absolutely not an FSB agent; you can trust me on that because I work for a Western NGO and we don’t lie about things like that. So, how do you feel about Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex Crimea?”

            Then Gallup and Pew acted extremely foolishly in a way that makes them in this case the moral and practical equivalent of Russian propaganda outlets.

            What you desperately need to support your case, are opinion polls or other such evidence prior to 2014 showing that a majority or even plurality of Crimeans supported secession and annexation. PRIOR TO 2014.

            It is possible that this is the case, that Russian colonialism over several generations had reshaped Crimean demographics to the point where the colonists outnumbered the natives and still favored annexation by the Motherland. But you haven’t provided any evidence of that. If you do, we can move on to the next step, which is a discussion of the ethics of colonialism.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @John Schilling

            The extensive empirical demonstration of vast Crimean support for Russian annexation can be seen here.

            It is possible that this is the case, that Russian colonialism over several generations had reshaped Crimean demographics to the point where the colonists outnumbered the natives and still favored annexation by the Motherland. But you haven’t provided any evidence of that. If you do, we can move on to the next step, which is a discussion of the ethics of colonialism.

            I’m sorry but you are blissfully ignorant of Crimea history. Ethnic Ukrainians are not natives to Crimea. Crimea was never even a part of any kind of Ukrainian entity prior to 1954 when Khruschev undemocratic ally and illegitimately transfered it to Ukraine from the Russian SSR.

          • Viliam says:

            Ethnic Ukrainians are not natives to Crimea.

            Neither are Russians. And the Crimean Tartars are mostly dead now, courtesy of the Soviet government.

            Keep moving the goalpost though. I wonder how long until you mention that Americans are racist.

        • Anatoly says:

          >A perfunctory Google search shows a vast majority of Crimeans wanted to join Russia.

          Others already pointed out the goalpost-shifting that’s taken place here. I won’t respond further to the troll, but I wanted to take this opportunity to tell others about a cool way to detect fraudulent elections. In the 2014 Crimean referendum, the results for the city of Sevastopol (counted separately from the rest of Crimea) are made-up. How do we know?

          Note the official tallies on the wiki page: 274,101 total votes cast, of those 262,041 votes for joining Russia, which is 95.6%. Now calculate 95.6% of 274,101: in whole persons it’s exactly 262,041. There’s a window of about 200 possible numbers that are 95.6% of 274,101, after rounding up to 1/10 of a percent. Consider the likelyhood of the real number of “Russia” votes ending up being the only one of those that is exactly 95.6%, rounded to a person – vs someone taking total votes and calculating the desired 95.6% of that.

          (the vote for all Crimea doesn’t have this property, only the Sevastopol vote is fraudulent in this way)

          I like this because any math-minded person can see what’s going on here just going off the official numbers, no need to trust any side’s rherotic. Obviously not all fraudulent elections will be caught this way, but I think when the falsifiers decide to just make up the final number, as opposed to other methods, they may well often be naive enough for this to work. I first heard of this when people noticed the results of the DNR (the separatist Donetsk republic in Ukraine) elections in 2015 were falsified in the same way, and then someone noticed it applied to the 2014 Sevastopol one as well. I see the knowledge hasn’t made its way into the Wikipedia. The 2014 elections of the president of Syria were falsified in the same way, too.

          • An Fírinne says:

            Gallup polls, United Nations polls and Pew polls have demonstrated vast majority support for Russian annexation. No amount of evasion or self-delusion can alter this.

          • Nick says:

            No amount of evasion or self-delusion can alter this.

            If you don’t have a response to @Anatoly’s argument you can just say so, dude.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @Nick

            The guy provided no arguments against anything I disagreed with. I have never claimed the Crimean referendum was fair, just that the vast majority of Crimeans support the annexation. The guy just danced around that issue.

    • cassander says:

      Secession should almost always be allowed. What shouldn’t be allowed is annexation. Crimea was an annexation.

      • An Fírinne says:

        Why? If Kosovo reunites with Albania as is Kosovo’s wish (Only reason it hasn’t happened is nobody wants a replay of the Kosovo War) would Kosovar seccession then automatically be invalid?

        • cassander says:

          as others have pointed out, there is little evidence, at least in english, that the people of crimea’s greatest desire was joining the russian federation. However, even if that had been the case, there should have been a vote BEFORE russia invaded, not after. It is unquestionably in interest of global stability to discourage naked aggression and land grabs, and the US should do so by whatever means it can.

          • An Fírinne says:

            as others have pointed out, there is little evidence, at least in english, that the people of crimea’s greatest desire was joining the russian federation

            I already responded to those by pointing out how Gallup polls and Pew polls say as much. Of course you are unaware of this because you are a puppet on strings.

            there should have been a vote BEFORE russia invaded, not after

            Accept that’s exactly what happened. The Automonous Republic of Crimea voted to join the Russia Federation and then became a Federal Republic of Russia. Crimea was only incorporated into the Russia Federation after the vote.

            BTW I notice you ignored my question about Albanian reunification.

            and the US should do so by whatever means it can.

            The US has annexed every territory on God’s green earth whether it be Hawaii, Guantanamo Bay, American Samoa or Puerto Rico. Perhaps America should abide by its own moral rules first?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            With the exceptions of marines invading Hawaii without getting permission from the US government, the US had been (past tense) actively *at war* (or at least in conflict, with respect to Samoa) with the Spanish or Germans or whoever claimed dominion over these territories. The territorial annexations were direct results of the armistices.

            They weren’t launching wars to claim these territories (though the yellow journalism leading to the Spanish-American war was really bad).

            And Guantanamo Bay was long-term leased from Cuba. And the US still cuts a check to this day to Cuba for the lease. Who are we to return Guantanamo Bay to? The government we leased it from no longer exists. Should we return it to the Cuban exiles? Wouldn’t that just launch a new Bay of Pigs crisis?

          • cassander says:

            @An Fírinne

            I already responded to those by pointing out how Gallup polls and Pew polls say as much. Of course you are unaware of this because you are a puppet on strings.

            I’m aware of this. I said polling before the annexation, not after, for the reasons that John Schilling already articulated above.

            Accept that’s exactly what happened. The Automonous Republic of Crimea voted to join the Russia Federation and then became a Federal Republic of Russia. Crimea was only incorporated into the Russia Federation after the vote.

            This would be wrong. the crimean parliament building was seized by russian special forces on february 27th. the referendum on joining russia was held in march. As for the popul

            >BTW I notice you ignored my question about Albanian reunification.

            I don’t understand what your question was. I’ve already said that if there had been a free and fair election for crimea to secede from ukraine, I’d have supported the idea, because I think secession should almost always be allowed. The same is true of kosovo and albania. What I don’t support is russia invading somewhere then holding a rigged referendum a month later to validate it.

          • An Fírinne says:

            With the exceptions of marines invading Hawaii without getting permission from the US government

            Let’s not forget without the permission of the Republic of Hawaii and its people!

            the US had been (past tense) actively *at war* (or at least in conflict, with respect to Samoa) with the Spanish or Germans or whoever claimed dominion over these territories. The territorial annexations were direct results of the armistices.

            So I guess just go around annexing territories that are disputed? In which case I hereby claim Rojava for the great nation of Montenegro!

            And Guantanamo Bay was long-term leased from Cuba. And the US still cuts a check to this day to Cuba for the lease. Who are we to return Guantanamo Bay to? The government we leased it from no longer exists. Should we return it to the Cuban exiles? Wouldn’t that just launch a new Bay of Pigs crisis?

            How about America stop occupying foreign territory? Its not much to ask for really.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @An Fírinne

            The territories mostly weren’t disputed. They were payments for armistice.

            And yes, as a liberal, I believe the Savior complex (whether European savior, or Han savior, or Russian savior) was never a good idea and should be eliminated. As should all other patriarchal superiority complexes.

            The elimination of those complexes should go hand-in-hand with the freedom of people to choose their paths.

          • An Fírinne says:

            The territories mostly weren’t disputed. They were payments for armistice.

            Nobody forced them to accept them. Now stop whitewashing colonialism.

          • @ Anatoly:

            A clever way of spotting some fraudulent election returns.

            But it doesn’t tell us whether an firenne’s claim, for which he has now provided substantial support, is true.

            One thing he doesn’t mention, and that one may or may not consider relevant, is that the reason the Crimean Tartars make up such a small fraction of the population of Crimea is mass deportation of the population by Stalin.

          • I said polling before the annexation, not after,

            Looking at the Wiki article, the critical date may be the change of government in Ukraine. It wouldn’t be surprising if the shift of the Ukrainian government from pro-Russian to anti-Russian sharply increased support by Russian residents of the Crimea for annexation by Russia.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think a good indicator that the Crimeans are okay with being part of Russia is the non-existence of the Crimean People’s Front (not to be confused with the People’s Front of Crimea) committing terrorist bombings in favor of liberation.

            Ethnic Russians outnumber ethnic Ukrainians 3:1 in Crimea. Ukraine is worse off economically and geopolitically than Russia. A significant part of their economy is tourism, from rich Russians. They were joined politically with Moscow from 1783 through 1991, and only part of Ukraine for a little over 20 years.

            It seems obvious Crimeans have more, longer and stronger ties with Moscow than with Kiev. What’s the argument the Crimeans would rather be part of Ukraine besides “don’t want to buy new maps,” and where’s the evidence?

          • A possibly interesting angle on the Crimean situation.

            Imagine the following. A large country controls a small province, with a population of a million, most of them members of a different ethnicity. The large country deports all members of that ethnicity and forbids them from coming back. Over the next few decades, they are replaced in the province by immigrants from other parts of the country.

            There is now a vote on whether the province should leave the large country, and a large majority votes against. Is that a proper expression of democracy?

            My story exaggerates the Crimean situation — as best I can tell, the Crimean Tartars were a plurality but not a majority ethnicity prior to the deportation under Stalin, although that may have been a result of previous actions against them by the USSR. But I think it points out two rather different intuitions about the justice of majority vote as a decision procedure.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think one needs to deal with the situation as it stands. The USSR isn’t around anymore, and “independent Crimean Tatar state” is not a viable choice.

            A lot of people in this thread are just assuming of course the Crimeans would want to be part of Ukraine, and elections/polls suggesting otherwise are fraudulent or unreliable. Why?

            What’s the argument for staying with Ukraine?

            If you were Joe Average Crimean and you had to choose between Ukraine and Russia, which would you choose and why? I would pick Russia because they’re bigger, richer, stronger, and more stable. And if I were an ethnic Russian Crimean dependent on Russian tourism for my livelihood, the choice is a no-brainer. What’s Kiev offering me?

          • Matt M says:

            Well, as a strong libertarian, I’d prefer the smaller power myself, as they’re likely to be less able (even if no less willing) to oppress and steamroll over me. But I suspect most voters in that region are not strong libertarians.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think there’s something wrong with this logic. I’d rather be under US law than Cuban law, even though Cuba is a much smaller and weaker country than the US. What matters as a libertarian is less how powerful the country is than how much of its power it imposes on its own citizens.

          • Matt M says:

            If you live in, say, the Domincian Republic, preferring to be annexed by the US rather than Cuba might make sense.

            But if you lived in, say, Lichtenstein, I’d take Cuba in a second. Because Cuba is simply not capable of projecting the force that would be necessary to oppress Lichtenstein in any meaningful way (whereas the US probably is).

            The original argument was basically “why would anyone prefer to join a small and weak nation when they could join a big and powerful one!” The obvious answer is that the small and weak one is less capable of oppressing you. Now, if the smaller one is also the more oppressive one then maybe it’s better to side with the bigger. But I think my point still stands.

          • albatross11 says:

            I see your point, but the local government can be worse than the faraway higher-up government. If the local county sheriff wants to send me to jail for saying he’s a corrupt idiot[1], it’s a benefit to me that there are higher levels of courts and laws I can fall back on that will probably get me out of jail sooner or later.

            [1] Actually, I know nothing at all about the local county sheriff–he may be anywhere from corrupt idiot to paragon of virtue for all I know.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. But if push really comes to shove, you’re probably more capable of mounting a resistance against the local sheriff than you are against the US federal government.

            The Branch Dividians were able to come to an understanding and deal with their local sheriff (even though he didn’t agree with their religion or practices). Perhaps in part because the local sheriff may have surveyed the situation and said “I couldn’t overpower these people even if I wanted to, at least not without catastrophic (to me) losses.”

            Washington was… not similarly constrained.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Enough of the hypotheticals about Cuba and Lichtenstein, you’re one of the ~85% of Crimeans who are not ethnically Ukrainian. You could be one of the 67.9% who are ethnic Russians*. Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and politically unstable. Russia’s pretty corrupt, but also fairly stable.

            Do you choose Ukraine or Russia?

            * whoops, I read the wrong column on the Crimea wiki when I said Russians outnumber Ukrainians 3:1, it’s more like 4.3:1.

    • zqed says:

      Am I the only one who finds the differing attitudes to Kosovo and Crimea strange and hypocritical?

      Not remotely, but I do hope you’re the only one in this comment section.

      The Security Council placed Kosovo under UN administration in 1999, with the consent of all members (S/RES/1244, China abstained, everyone else voted yes). They agreed that the only way to stop the ethnic violence between the Albanians and Serbs living in the area was via self-government in Kosovo.

      The UN administered Kosovo for 7 years. The negotiations about how to achieve self-government for Kosovo made no progress. In 2003 FRY finally ceased to exist, Serbia and Montenegro formed a union state with a new constitution, and in accordance with that constitution, Montenegro withdrew from said union in 2006. Serbia, as the relevant successor state to FRY, made one last proposal on the status of Kosovo, with an accompanying change to the constitution, narrowly accepted on a referendum. The European Commission for Democracy through Law review found that this offer “does not at all guarantee substantial autonomy to Kosovo […]”. In response, the United Nations special envoy for Kosovo submitted a framework with twelve additional annexes which could guarantee substantial autonomy to Kosovo. His proposal was rejected by the Serbians, who reiterated that the June changes to the constitution were the only acceptable offer. In response, the UN Special Envoy concluded that no further talks would overcome the impasse, and recommended that Kosovo’s status be independence, supervised by the international community.

      Nonetheless, the negotiations continued until 2008 (they went as well as the Special Envoy predicted). In early 2008 the international administration of Kosovo reported that “the status quo is not likely to be sustainable”. On 2008-02-17, the Kosovo assembly declared that Kosovo was an independent state.

      The situation in Kosovo is closely supervised internationally: in particular, the ISG supervised the Kosovo legislature (with authority to annul any decisions or laws adopted by Kosovo authorities), and made sure that the UN proposal was fully implemented. Annexation of Kosovo by Albania was never an option. The independent Kosovo has managed to maintain a competitive, multiparty political system with regularly contested elections and substantial civil liberties.

      In contrast:

      1. The international community never agreed that the only way to stop ethnic violence in Crimea was self-governance. Indeed, there was no orgainzed ethnic violence in Crimea until the Russian invasion; whatever random ethnic violence existed was primarily Russian-on-Ukrainian and Russian-on-Tatar, with the autonomous Crimean legislature turning a blind eye (Throughout the Crimean parliament’s existence, there was always at least a 54% pro-Russian majority; cf. Kosovo, which was not even an autonomous part of Serbia).

      2. The only resolution the UN ever made on Crimea were the ones condemning human rights violations under the Russian occupation, and the General Assembly resolution condemning the annexation. Crimea did not vote on independence in 2014, but on joining Russia as a federal subject after the country was already occupied. Independence and self-governance were never even offered.

      3. Unlike Kosovo (or even present-day Serbia), Russia is an authoritarian great power with repressed civil liberties, an abysmal track record on upholding minority rights (I’m just going to mention that the Russian SSR deported 25% of Crimea’s population at one point, and they were not allowed to return until Ukraine’s independence), poor political participation, and low parliamentary autonomy.

      4. Unlike in the case of Kosovo, no formal international supervision bodies were involved in the annexation process. Russian administration took over, and the party that orchestrated the annexation merged with Putin’s United Russia.

      • An Fírinne says:

        Your whole argument seems to be “People are saying this about Kosovo so let’s just blindly follow along”

        • zqed says:

          Are there any particular sections you disagree with?

          W.r.t. blindness: “I don’t see the difference between X and Y” is your catchphrase, not mine.

    • What is the evidence that the people of Crimea wanted to secede, as opposed to Russia wanting to annex?

    • Guy in TN says:

      It is a testament to the power of US propaganda that “most Crimeans support annexation by Russia” is a controversial statement.

      • An Fírinne says:

        I could not agree more. This discussion if anything shows that although westerners like to talk about how brainwashed the Chinese or Russians are they themelsevs are but mere puppets of the ruling class.

      • cassander says:

        The US is terrible at propaganda. we just believe that we’re Good(TM), our enemies are bad(TM), and can’t imagine that most people would willingly sign up with bad guys.

        • An Fírinne says:

          Americans are narcissists and narcissists are easy to lie to

          • cassander says:

            Americans are solipsists, not narcissist. It’s not lying if you believe it, and americans are frighteningly sincere.

          • Enkidum says:

            Americans are solipsists, not narcissist. It’s not lying if you believe it, and americans are frighteningly sincere.

            Lovely. +1.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @cassander

            No Americans have national narcissistic personality disorder. They can’t accept criticism or reality by virtue of their psychology. From birth they are told America is the land of the free, the leader of the free world and the greatest country on earth. They are bred to be narcissists.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Well this is rich coming from a presumably Irish Milesian.

            What about the Tuatha Dé Danann!!

          • John Schilling says:

            Well that certainly escalated quickly. Are we done here? Because I think we’re done here.

    • proyas says:

      I see the parallels between the two cases, but the big difference is that Kosovo under imminent threat of ethnic violence from the central government, whereas Crimea was not.

      Considering the historical context of 1999, in which ethnic civil wars in Bosnia and Croatia had just happened with enormous loss of life and the West felt guilt over letting it unfold, NATO’s preemptive intervention in Kosovo is understandable, and shouldn’t be looked at as naked imperialism.

      All that said, the West’s intervention in Kosovo and the way it achieved independence later on are deeply disturbing, and in retrospect, I question whether the intervention should have happened. The last three preventative/preemptive wars the West has waged–Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya–weren’t worth it.

      • An Fírinne says:

        Serbia is now a normal democratic country and an EU candidate. Why not return Kosovo since the threat of ethnic violence by the government has now disappearrd?

        and shouldn’t be looked at as naked imperialism

        The same nations who cried crocodile tears for Kosovo were coincidentally sitting on their hands during the East Timorese, Rwandan and Rohinga genocide. Is it because they only intervened in kosovo for imperialistic reasons or because they simply had a coincidental change of heart when it came to genocide?

        • proyas says:

          Serbia is now a normal democratic country and an EU candidate. Why not return Kosovo since the threat of ethnic violence by the government has now disappearrd?

          I’m not against it. Serbia and Kosovo should have referendums to see if their people are interested in reuniting.

          I also supported the idea of the two countries doing land swaps.

          The same nations who cried crocodile tears for Kosovo were coincidentally sitting on their hands during the East Timorese, Rwandan and Rohinga genocide. Is it because they only intervened in kosovo for imperialistic reasons or because they simply had a coincidental change of heart when it came to genocide?

          East Timor genocide – 1970s – Arguably, the West gets a pass because cultural attitudes were different then.
          Rwanda genocide – 1994 – Happened within the space of a few weeks, so the West didn’t have enough time to react. Accurate information about the full extent of the violence was not available until afterward anyhow. There was not enough time to respond.
          Kosovo “genocide” – 1999 – As I said, the historical context must be remembered. The Rwandan genocide and the ethnic civil wars in Bosnia and Croatia had just happened, and the West felt guilty about letting so many people die. It was primed to overreact at the next opportunity, and it did so when problems arose in Kosovo. My point here is that the invasion of Kosovo can be explained without invoking expansionism or imperialism.
          Rohingya “genocide” – 2016 – Debatable whether this actually counts as genocide. U.S. sanctions and international diplomatic pressure on Myanmar’s government seem to have stopped the violence (or at least reduced it to a tolerable level), so no need for military invasion.

          • An Fírinne says:

            I’m not against it. Serbia and Kosovo should have referendums to see if their people are interested in reuniting.

            So the Peoples wishes should be respected? What about the wish of Crimeans to be Russian citizens?

            Rwanda genocide – 1994 – Happened within the space of a few weeks, so the West didn’t have enough time to react.

            A few weeks is plenty of time. All they had to do was have a meeting and come to an agreement. They simply didn’t care.

            East Timor genocide – 1970s – Arguably, the West gets a pass because cultural attitudes were different then.

            So what if it was in the 70s, the same crowd involved in the NATO intervention were around back then.

            Rohingya “genocide” – 2016 – Debatable whether this actually counts as genocide. U.S. sanctions and international diplomatic pressure on Myanmar’s government seem to have stopped the violence (or at least reduced it to a tolerable level), so no need for military invasion.

            Its internationally recognised as an act of genocide and ethnic violence.

            Let’s also not forget the present genocide again the Syrian Kurds by Turkey and the Anfal Genocide.

          • proyas says:

            So the Peoples wishes should be respected? What about the wish of Crimeans to be Russian citizens?

            I’d attach weight to the result if the 2014 referendum had been free, fair and properly conducted. It wasn’t: http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1458089893

            FWIW, I think a legitimate referendum among Crimeans about what they want for their own future should be a starting point for resolving the issue. If most of them do actually want to join Russia, then I think the West should be open to that outcome and should start talking to Kiev about legitimizing it.

            More generally speaking, I think we should be willing to redraw some national borders in cases where ethnic heterogeneity just isn’t working, and to even pay some people to move. There’s a lot of repression and wasting of human talent across the world because some people just can’t get along. Being totally closed off to doing this is a weird hill to die on since so many existing borders were arbitrarily drawn to begin with.

            A few weeks is plenty of time. All they had to do was have a meeting and come to an agreement.

            No, it’s not that simple or that fast to organize and dispatch a military force deep into Africa.

            So what if it was in the 70s, the same crowd involved in the NATO intervention were around back then.

            The people who were in charge of NATO in the 1970s weren’t the same people in charge in 1999. And as I said, broader cultural attitudes changed over that period, which influenced decisions made at the top.

            What country are you from?

            Its internationally recognised as an act of genocide and ethnic violence.

            And the Crimean referendum to join Russia is internationally recognized as being illegitimate and illegal.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          What’s the argument for returning Kosovo to Serbia instead of returning Serbia to Kosovo?

          And who would do this returning?

      • proyas says:

        Let me add that, as an American, Kosovo and other wars my country has fought in has made me aware of a disturbing pattern that keeps leading to global conflict:

        1) Problems arise with some admittedly bad, but not totally bad, dictatorship. The problem might be internal unrest, noncompliance with some international law, or a dispute with a neighboring country.

        2) High-level politicians and generals in the U.S. and some of its allies decide to attack the bad country.

        3) The PR campaign to convince average Americans to support the attack begins. Human rights, democracy, the rise of Hitler, and claims that the leader of the bad country might be about to do something really bad are always part of the pro argument. 95% of Americans can’t find the bad country on a world map and don’t know anything about it. To make up their minds, they rely on reports from the mainstream American media, which are usually overwhelmingly in favor. The con- side is poorly represented, and intelligent arguments from the bad country’s government or its allies are never relayed to average Americans. Convinced that they must fight for right, most Americans agree to let the war go ahead, if reluctantly.

        4) The West attacks the bad country and usually destroys its bad guy government. The aftermath is usually an expensive mess–the country might fall into protracted disorder, more powerful countries might turn against the West after seeing what happened, or the bad country might get a new government that is even worse than or no better than the old one, but bad in ways that are more palatable to the West.

        5) The American public quickly forgets about the war against the bad country, and within a few years, 95% of them can’t find it on a map and they can only dimly recall that there was a conflict. After a few more years, the cycle can restart from step 1, without the typical American perceiving the existence of a pattern.

        Two important things result from this pattern:

        1) Almost every time the U.S. attacks another country, most Americans will approve of it, and will sincerely tell you that they think their military is fighting for noble causes like freedom, democracy, and human rights. They will have formed this view in large part because they were never exposed to good counterarguments, such as the illegality of the operation under international law, the future consequences of setting a precedent by attacking the bad country for Reason X, or evidence that the alleged Good Guys who are against the bad country’s government are actually bad as well.

        2) Most people outside the U.S. will make up their minds about the war based on different facts, leading to a much more negative view of American foreign policy and America’s global objectives. When this boils over in the form of a terrorist attack against the U.S., or a country like Russia being hostile and obstructionist towards the U.S., most Americans can’t understand at all where the behavior comes from, and just assume that those people/countries are just “crazy” or mean.
        (“Muslims are just crazy” is something I’ve heard many times.)

        This explains why foreigners consistently report having dichotomous views about American people vs. U.S. foreign policy. Most of them say that Americans are sort of fat-happy, honest, generous people, but that the U.S. government is a highly destructive and aggressive world player with the same, self-interested objectives as China or Russia. This view was even common in WWII and the Cold War, as German and Soviet propaganda depicted average Americans as gullible people who were being used as pawns by malevolent generals, leaders and tycoons who had their own objectives.

        • Aapje says:

          +1 to how non-Americans see America(ns).

          Note that Russia perfectly logically sees the West as the aggressor, given that the West promised not to expand NATO to the east. False claims that these promises didn’t exist have been made time and again, so Western audiences are mostly unaware or believe lies, but many Russians definitely know that truth.

          Top diplomat George Kennan argued in 1997 that the decision to expand “NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.

          Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”

          Note that Russia is presumably not acting differently from what the US did and would do if major superpowers start building up military strength in the Americas (see the Cuban missile crisis and the Monroe Doctrine).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            In all fairness, the political entity that this promise about NATO expansion was made to ceased to exist.

            By 1994, Russia had officially signed up to the NATO Partnership for Peace programme, a military-to-military cooperation initiative aimed at former Soviet bloc countries, which US President Bill Clinton described as a “track that will lead to NATO membership”.
            https://www.debatingeurope.eu/2019/01/23/could-russia-ever-join-nato/

            (“However, Western countries never really took the idea of Russian NATO membership seriously.“)

            Note that Russia is presumably not acting differently from what the US did and would do if major superpowers start building up military strength in the Americas (see the Cuban missile crisis and the Monroe Doctrine).

            Are you arguing that some countries shouldn’t be held to higher standards than other countries? I somewhat agree with this, though I wonder if An Fírinne would as well.

          • proyas says:

            The post-Cold War example of NATO’s expansion is a great example of an event where there is a major information asymmetry between Americans and everyone else. Again, 95% of Americans don’t know it happened, don’t know which countries are in NATO, and don’t know what the “NATO” acronym means. However, average Russians know about this event in great detail. The average American only sees occasional mainstream news reports about Russia “behaving aggressively” by doing things like flying bomber patrols to Cuba and Venezuela. The conclusion is that Russia is just a mean country that wants to fight for no rational reason. The U.S. media will just fail to mention the NATO expansion, the Kosovo War, or U.S. bomber patrols near Russian airspace as possible explanations for Russian behavior.

          • Civilis says:

            The post-Cold War example of NATO’s expansion is a great example of an event where there is a major information asymmetry between Americans and everyone else.

            Well, obviously not everyone else, since the countries that wanted to join NATO obviously thought it was a better option. Any discussion of the expansion of NATO would benefit from looking into why countries wanted to join NATO in the first place. There’s probably a chicken and egg problem where the desire for NATO membership of countries bordering Russia and its allies is mutually reinforcing with Russian paranoia about NATO expansion; the more paranoid Russia gets, the more beneficial NATO membership seems.

            If there’s an absolute ignorance by Americans about the wider world, there’s also a curious blindness by those with a dislike for America when it comes to fixating on blaming America when it acts in its national interests instead of the interests of those that dislike America, in this case, writing off the interests of US allies in powerful governments like the EU with regional stability, especially with regards to the Balkans and North Africa (Libya); in these cases, it’s not the US politicians and generals as the driving force behind the decision making.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            The idea that Russia was planning to join NATO is disinformation:

            Declassified documents from U.S. and Russian archives show that U.S. officials led Russian President Boris Yeltsin to believe in 1993 that the Partnership for Peace was the alternative to NATO expansion, rather than a precursor to it, while simultaneously planning for expansion after Yeltsin’s re-election bid in 1996 and telling the Russians repeatedly that the future European security system would include, not exclude, Russia.

            Presenting: “we’re making an alternative to NATO and you will be part of it” as if what was said is “we are expanding NATO and offering you a spot” is a falsehood.

            Are you arguing that some countries shouldn’t be held to higher standards than other countries?

            I’m arguing that Russia is logically wary of being held to a standard by the West when that is convenient to the West and inconvenient to Russia, when those Western countries violate those standards when it is in their interest.

            When Cuba let the Soviets place nukes, the US didn’t argue that the Cubans had a right to build up whatever military they wished against the US, like the US later argued Eastern European countries had the right against Russia. When Soviets and their sympathizers tried to bring communism to the Americas, including by democratic means, the Americans fought back against that with covert and overt means, yet when the West tries to export their systems to Eastern Europe, Russia fighting back with covert and overt means is a faux pas & they have to respect the wishes of the people (at least, as long as those wishes are pro-Western).

            Lots of hypocrisy, IMO.

            Note that the Russians are also hypocrites, bastards, etc; and assuming bad faith seems to be a cultural trait, but the West did their best to make Russia feel cheated and victimized.

          • Civilis says:

            When Cuba let the Soviets place nukes, the US didn’t argue that the Cubans had a right to build up whatever military they wished against the US, like the US later argued Eastern European countries had the right against Russia.

            There’s a curious thing when it comes to standards: unwritten standards are always going to be interpreted to benefit the party doing the interpretation. The concern with Cuba wasn’t with Soviet forces, but specifically Soviet nuclear weapons in the context of the Cold War. I don’t think there’s been any talk of basing short range nuclear missiles in the former members of the Warsaw Pact that are now part of NATO. One could make a case that the Russians have a right to be concerned about US missile defenses in the former WP, but that’s not the same standard.

            Obviously, the Russians want to be treated as if they were still the USSR for the purposes of international relations. If the former WP members that are only too glad to have escaped the USSR’s domination don’t want to be under Russia’s thumb, that’s their business. Granting them NATO protection may be better for everyone involved, ultimately including Russia, than setting up a regional conflict between Russia and its former Soviet protectorates because there are more options than just ‘give Russia domination again’ and ‘NATO protection’, and those options are a lot more dangerous than NATO protection.

          • Aapje says:

            @Civilis

            If the former WP members that are only too glad to have escaped the USSR’s domination don’t want to be under Russia’s thumb, that’s their business.

            Of course, but that’s a completely different question from whether the West should encourage this, including by offering all kinds of memberships in Western constructs, especially when this means breaking promises.

            There are advantages to doing so, but also a cost in that it predictably antagonizes Russia and thereby causes wars and such.

          • Civilis says:

            There are advantages to doing so, but also a cost in that it predictably antagonizes Russia and thereby causes wars and such.

            And of course failure to protect also could lead Russia to a sense of complacency regarding how much control it is allowed to express over the former parts of the USSR and also cause a war. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, at least with regards to Russia. Giving Poland and other Eastern European states the promise of NATO protection at least lets them get on with recovering their economies without needing to prepare to take on Russian aggression alone.

            The danger, and fault, is in Russia’s thinking it still deserves to be treated as a global power. Unless you change that, there’s always the risk of a war. Russia won’t be a global power again, at least not without serious reforms to stem the massive internal problems it has, and those would hurt the Russian oligarchs in power.

          • Aapje says:

            @Civilis

            They are definitely a global power, given their involvement in Syria and such. Perhaps you meant to say ‘superpower’?

            Note that Russia has a veto on the security council, has lots of nukes and has lots of fossil fuels that are desired in Eastern and Western Europe. The power, nor the ambitions of a superpower disappear just like that. Wishfully thinking that the country is unimportant is a dangerous game.

          • Civilis says:

            Note that Russia has a veto on the security council, has lots of nukes and has lots of fossil fuels that are desired in Eastern and Western Europe. The power, nor the ambitions of a superpower disappear just like that. Wishfully thinking that the country is unimportant is a dangerous game.

            Superpower would probably have been better for me to use than global power, but Russia’s stretching to maintain that global reach (see the fate of its aircraft carrier and the recent accidents with its weapons development program).

            Ultimately, there’s no safe approach and no approach that will benefit everyone, and nobody can be trusted to not advantage their own interests in discussing a solution.

          • albatross11 says:

            Specifically, Russia’s large nuclear arsenal means that we have to deal with it differently than we’d deal with a similar-powered European country.

        • Civilis says:

          The problem is that this ignores history. American foreign policy is often driven by avoiding the mistakes the last time the Americans got involved.

          There was once a dictator that did a really bad thing in invading a neighboring country. America did exactly what the international community said they wanted. They built a widespread international coalition, got UN approval, and waged a war that had surprisingly few major mistakes. They kicked the dictator out of the country that he invaded, but left him in power with sanctions so he wouldn’t threaten his neighbors again. It was just about how everyone said that a just war should be run.

          The far left hated it, partly because it left America looking good. They bought into propaganda from the dictator that he wasn’t such a bad guy and it was all America’s fault because it fit their biases. In any dispute, the far left took the dictator’s side. All the bad stuff that happened in the dictator’s country after the war was blamed on the sanctions and American weapons and not the environmental destruction the dictator did during the war or the ruthless suppression campaigns he ran against his own internal enemies. To add to the confusion, the center-left establishment, though initially supportive of the war, supported the far left to use them as a political weapon against the American right, and the far left fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Finally, other anti-American groups seized on the far left’s arguments and used them to justify their own hatred for America.

          And so America was attacked directly, with one justification being the oppression of the poor dictator’s country and the forces left to contain the dictator. What happened next was completely predictable: the American government, at the time again controlled by the center-right establishment, took the following lessons from the previous time:
          1) Leaving the dictator in power was a bad idea. Unfortunately for him, by skimming the edges of the restrictions on him and otherwise being a pest, he’s left us enough justification we can sell taking him down to the American people. And this time ignore the UN, since it was their idea to leave the dictator in power.
          2) We’re going to be blamed for any humanitarian disaster that results. The only way to possibly prevent a humanitarian disaster is to have boots on the ground control of the territory so we can feed the people, because their dictator was perfectly willing to let them starve if it meant he could claim to be the good guy, and the far left happily bought into this framing.
          3) The far left hates America no matter what we do, and they serve as useful idiots for our center-left establishment. Ignore them. And ignore the center-left media, who, once the initial shock wears off, will return to whatever benefits the center-left and sells papers.

          And what happens next time will be completely predictable based on the disastrous results of that time (unless Libya counted as the next time, which I don’t think it did, but it does show the pattern starting to form):
          1) The American opposition party’s most effective weapon in placing blame on the party in power is pictures of American flag draped caskets, so little to no American troops on the ground.
          2) A humanitarian disaster is going to happen anyways. Fortunately, without US boots on the ground the resulting country will be practically a no-go zone, so the media won’t be covering it very much (as pictures of humanitarian disasters are almost as good as flag-draped caskets).
          3) The far left is irrelevant to American foreign policy because they’re reflexively anti-American and everyone knows that now, so its safe for both sides to ignore them. All they do is encourage America’s enemies to be even more ruthless because whatever happens will get blamed on America, thus leading to more pictures of humanitarian disasters and flag-draped caskets, which are bad when the center-left establishment is in power.

          In addition, the right has learned another lesson:
          4) The so-called international community (the EU, mainly) is partners with the American center-left establishment, and is sometimes the senior partner in the arrangement (see Libya). If they try something and fail, America will take the blame. If they want something, they’ll ask America to do the work, then blame America for all the failures.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            … Speaking as an actual leftist, I have literally never heard that view of the first gulf war, and I do pay attention to what my own fringe is saying. I am not saying nobody held this view, because, well, crazy exists, but consider that your sources for what “the left” is thinking may occasionally engage in rather extreme cherry-picking.

          • Civilis says:

            … Speaking as an actual leftist, I have literally never heard that view of the first gulf war, and I do pay attention to what my own fringe is saying. I am not saying nobody held this view, because, well, crazy exists, but consider that your sources for what “the left” is thinking may occasionally engage in rather extreme cherry-picking.

            I live outside Washington DC. Due to my personal history, I pay close attention to US foreign policy. I can find all these hot spots on a world map. I watch the ebb and flow of protests of US foreign policy, both what gets on to the news and what those in the ever present protest on the Ellipse out front of the White House are putting on their signs. That probably gives me a narrow view of the far left, but it’s the part that directly connects to US foreign policy, because it has its foot in the door in Congress (often literally, and the problem is often getting it out again).

            Since you didn’t provide me with your opinion on the first Gulf War, I can’t try to reconcile what you think with what I see. But what I see directly matches up with what I find shows up indirectly, and I don’t see any evidence that disagrees. I don’t see any refutation of the original “No blood for oil!” slogans that were recycled a decade later or apologies to Kuwait. I don’t see any on the left trying to even moderately correct the accusations of war crimes against HW Bush; the far left seemingly would rather add Obama to the long list of American presidents you want tried for war crimes (and don’t deny that one, I’ve seen it on SSC; to the credit of the far leftists here, some of the SSC far left was at least visibly making that argument before he left office).

            Obviously, the center-left establishment doesn’t believe this, but it’s found it convenient to let it go public when the right is in power (as with a lot of leftist talking points; there’s a running gag about stories about the homeless problem popping up immediately when the right takes power and.vanishing again when the left takes power). The center-left establishment and the visible section of the far left are a small part of the left, and the visible section of the far left is visible because it suits the center-left establishment (although they are getting close to losing control). Code Pink can’t get off the news during the W administration (once the news got past the shock of 9/11 and immediate aftermath), and can’t get on the news during the Obama administration.

            Ultimately, what percentage of the left believes this narrative isn’t as important as that this cycle more matches the behavior of the US government’s foreign policy than proyas’s theories about how stupid and evil we Americans are. The US behavior in Gulf War I is different than its behavior in Yugoslavia, and Gulf War II differs from both of those, and Libya and Syria differs from all three of those (and the latter three differ depending on the administration in power). And it closely pattern matches to different schools of American foreign policy each trying to solve the problems the previous school had in the previous war and creating different faults. To the credit of the far left as well, the US hasn’t tried the non-interventionalist left-wing (Jeffersonian) approach since perhaps Carter, but that’s because the center-left is interventionist (Wilsonian), but it has just as obvious fail conditions as the others.

            From the US, the actual chain of individual events looks something like this:
            1) Problems arise with some admittedly bad, but not totally bad, dictatorship.
            2) This makes the evening news and papers in the US and EU. The public demands something be done. Some people on the extremes of the left and right liken this to a propaganda campaign, and it often partly is… by both sides. Normally, though, one side has the advantage that its propaganda campaign fits well with both the facts on the ground and the news footage. There’s not much propaganda can do to smooth over annexing Kuwait by force, for example.
            3a) Sometimes, there’s nothing that can be done, and so the UN issues a strongly worded letter or something else useless happens. [END]
            3b) Sometimes, something can be done, and since the US is frequently the only one that can do things, it falls to the US to do it. Whatever gets done is done in a haphazard state given that every country and other party involved has its own interests.
            4) What the US does is determined by the messed up foreign situation, domestic politics, and by an over-correction of the flaws the last time the US did something.
            5) The US keeps doing what it’s doing until the administration changes (at which point it may merely decide to do something else), the situation improves, or the media just stops getting stories out of it.
            6) Everyone blames the flaws in part 5 on their political opposition, and you will get flaws because there’s no quick and easy solution. [END]

          • ECD says:

            My initial response to this was sarcastic, but I’ll just say that this radically overstates the power of the ‘Far Left’ and leaves them as the tail which wags the dog which is…nonsensical.

            Also the far left as reflexively anti-american, or america hating or whatever else you want to say is pretty much mind-killing nonsense.

          • Plumber says:

            Re: The Gulf War protests of ’91; I remember the Bay Bridge being closed by protesters and I personally saw a car on fire surrounded by onlookers on my way home right after I left my night shift job.

            No protests have matched that intensity since in the San Francisco bay area, the protests against the Bush 2 Iraq invasion and “Occupy” were pale shadows of ’91, ’91 wasn’t to the scale of the ’70’s, and (from reading about them) the ’70’s were a shadow of the ’30’s and the riots of the 19th century.

            Now is rancorous compared to the late ’90’s, but it’s still peaceful compared to before then.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            .. That Saddam engaged in a naked war of aggression, and was daft enough to pick a target the world cared about enough to actually enforce international law, such as it is, so he got slapped down. Nobody really disagreed much that it needed doing other than the outright pacifists and the way Bush the elder observed all the legalities earned the US a lot of credibility.

            Lets put it this way? The standard mocking nickname for Bush II was “The Lesser” for a reason.

            And before you ask, the beef with Bush 2 boils down to “What the fuck is up with sending soldiers to Iraq under false pretences that were damn well needed in Aghanistan?”

          • Civilis says:

            .. That Saddam engaged in a naked war of aggression, and was daft enough to pick a target the world cared about enough to actually enforce international law, such as it is, so he got slapped down. Nobody really disagreed much that it needed doing other than the outright pacifists and the way Bush the elder observed all the legalities earned the US a lot of credibility.

            Then where did the “No Blood for Oil” protests come from? They certainly didn’t come from ‘outright pacifists’, given that they weren’t there to object to Saddam’s spilling Kuwaiti blood to get their oil. A quick Google search brings up this contemporary article, with a 75,000 member protest featuring a number of usual left wing of the Democratic party suspects, such as Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D), and Susan Sarandon. And, in fact, there are some things that never change: “Many of the students took issue with the disproportionately high number of black soldiers among the troops. “Down with racist poverty draft,” read one sign.”

            I feel like I’m being gaslighted here. I’ve seen leftist antiwar protestors protest every administration after Carter, and most of them have ties to groups to the left of the Democratic party (which I think is safe to call the ‘far left’), sometimes with the aid of those on the Democratic party’s left wing. ANSWER is an offshoot of the Workers World Party, for example. Admittedly, per Plumber, the protests in my lifetime have probably been smaller than those for Vietnam, but they make the news, especially when a Republican is in the White House.

            One of the reasons this is fresh in my mind is that in the past couple of weeks there was a minor controversy in the video game discussion circles I frequent regarding the description of a fictional war including a battle known as the “Highway of Death”, which is (paraphrased) ‘obviously insensitive, as the historical “Highway of Death” was a real US war crime’ (referring to US airstrikes against routing Iraqi forces), at which point the complainer goes on to cite an inapplicable section of the war crime conventions. One can make a case that the actions in question were immoral and even arguably against the rules, however it’s not an objective fact. The fact that it penetrated this far into unrelated discourse is disconcerting, to say the least.

            Where’s proyas on this? The narrative he describes matches what I saw the leftist arguments against the first Gulf War perfectly.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            The US protests were, honestly, probably simply a bunch of people reliving their glory days protesting nam. Thats uncharitable, perhaps, but, well.. people do tend to take actions based on pattern matching a lot.
            My perspective is from europe, and what I recall was that pacifists opposed it on grounds of “War, Bad”, and the rest of the discussion was mostly that Saddams attempts to involve Israel were an obvious smoke screen for a blatant oil grab.

          • Civilis says:

            The US protests were, honestly, probably simply a bunch of people reliving their glory days protesting nam. Thats uncharitable, perhaps, but, well.. people do tend to take actions based on pattern matching a lot.

            Given the number of Vietnam references in the article I cited, that’s not an uncharitable assumption. Vietnam was where the protestors believed that their protests worked, so obviously they tried to repeat the pattern. Although I wouldn’t consider posing on an anti-aircraft gun preparing to shoot down your countrymen as ‘anti-war’ or ‘pacifism’; since that was during the cold war, I’ll charitably attribute that to ‘leftist solidarity’ rather than naked ‘anti-Americanism’.

            I do also worry that I too fall into pattern matching, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Today’s news is violent protests by Iranian-backed militias breaching the US embassy in Iraq and the US response. Setting aside the questions about what led up to it and how smart the response was, it’s instructive to illustrate how this was framed:
            1) The center-left media’s framing of the incident was that the incident was ‘Trump’s Benghazi’.
            2) The right wing’s framing of the incident was that ‘Trump has avoided the mistakes of Benghazi’.
            3) Whether or not Trump’s response was right, he’s at least avoided the visual result of the failures in Benghazi: a flag-draped casket for a US ambassador.

            Both sides frame the current incident in terms of the previous incident, the party in power by highlighting how the end result was different than the previous administrations failures (though whether or not there are different failures remains to be seen), and the party out of power by claiming that the administration has repeated the previous mistakes.

          • albatross11 says:

            Civilis:

            a. A lot of us oppose US violent intervention in foreign countries because it often doesn’t seem to work out very well. You can call that “hating America” if you like, but it seems to me that a real patriot is someone who wants what’s best for his country, even if that means not supporting the latest plan to invade some horrible third-world country full of heavily-armed religious fanatics and then occupy the place for a couple decades.

            b. It is always possible to find someone on the other side of any issue who has terrible motives and offensive rhetoric. This is exactly what the left routinely does with opposition to immigration (look, here are some people with racist motivations to limit immigration, therefore all opposition to immigration is racist). It’s bullshit when they do it, and it’s bullshit when you do it.

            c. There are times when our country does bad things. When it does, patriots ought to oppose them. When my country ran formal programs to kidnap people off the streets of foreign cities and ship them to secret prisons and torture them, that was a really horrible thing to do. I opposed it, and I believe the world would be a better place if those responsible stood trial for their crimes. Again, you can call me “anti-American” for that, but magic-word arguments don’t really work so well on me. I’ve already decided I’d rather think straight about the world than avoid being called a racist. I’d also rather think straight about the world than avoid being called anti-American, or whatever other magic word is supposed to somehow make me shut up.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      …it’s now hypocrisy for a nation to oppose it’s geopolitical enemies? The territorial integrity of Ukraine is irrelevant (to the American government, and certainly to the vast majority of American citizens) outside of denying Russia said territory (specifically, making it harder for them to operate in the Black Sea).

      I’m not sure support for self-determination has ever been pursued without ulterior motive. It’s my understanding that a goodly portion of the American government’s official support for post-WWII decolonization was driven by its desire to access said post-colonial markets.

      • An Fírinne says:

        it’s now hypocrisy for a nation to oppose it’s geopolitical enemies?

        It certainly hypocritical to clutch your pearls when they do the same as you do.

      • cassander says:

        Russia had access to the Crimea before all this happened. The worry about Russian behavior isn’t Russia getting Crimea per say, it’s the damage naked aggression does to the international order and the precedent it sets for places like Taiwan.

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          I was under the impression that the annexation was motivated by increasing Russian uncertainty about continued access. Specifically, the increasingly pro-Western stance of the Ukrainian gov’t. I don’t think Russia would have risked international opprobrium solely to “liberate” Russians.

          Russian can both secure Black Sea ports and fulfill the desires of a (democratic majority, it must be admitted) portion of people in the Crimea. Naturally, they will emphasize the latter while downplaying the former (abroad, at least).

          America can decry the damage to the international order and use this to strike a blow (economically and international public opinion) to a geopolitical enemy. America’s reasons for denouncing the annexation will certainly highlight the universal principles at stake, and not the obvious interest they have in opposing Russia.

          It certainly hypocritical to clutch your pearls when they do the same as you do

          @ An Fírinne

          I’m pretty lukewarm on the idea of “self-determination” (personally, I’d rather a ruler that doesn’t speak my language but upholds fair laws than a “man of the people” who will screw minorities as polls/desire for plunder dictates). Support for independence movements throughout history have been mediated by the interests of the nations doing the supporting (it’s not like Louis XVI had a great deal of respect for the separation of powers, yet his support was crucial in securing the independence of my own nation).

          I’ll fully concede that some governmental rhetoric is wildly hypocritical, but it doesn’t seem unusually hypocritical for a political situation of this type. I guess I had, from the word go, looked at this issue purely in its realpolitik terms, and mostly ignored any “official” explanations.

          • cassander says:

            The Russians were concerned about accesses, but they also think that the West was trying to lure the Ukraine in to deny them access, which we aren’t.

            As for Russia being a geopolitical enemy, they’re more a problem than an enemy. Russia has an outsized view of their own importance, add get upset when they aren’t treated like a great power. This is an issue with a county that has thousands of nuclear weapons and an economy the size of Spain. The U.S. has little need to counter Russia the way it did the ussr or does China, but the Russians are also solipsistic, and don’t see it that way.

    • Atlas says:

      There are substantial differences (s.a. possible threat of mass war crimes, legality, norms) between the cases that other commenters have outlined. However, I (an American, because that’s apparently very relevant to you) don’t think that Russia’s annexation of the Crimea was a big deal, and I think that the principle of self-determination is the overriding concern in both the Crimean and Kosovar cases. I would describe myself as a left-neoliberal anti-imperialist, a position which I think is surprising rare. (Though right-wing libertarians who are strongly anti-war are somewhat similar.)

      Accusations of hypocrisy are a double-edged sword/ouroboros here, as they so often are. (Scott has probably written a good post about this. I guess it’s sort of what he addressed in “Beware Isolated Demands for Rigor.”) “Ha! The US supported the secession of Kosovo, but not the annexation of the Crimea, therefore the US is hypocritical, therefore the US sucks!” can easily be flipped around to: “Ha! Russia opposes Kosovar independence, but annexed the Crimea, therefore Russia is hypocritical, therefore Russia sucks!”

      Likewise, one could point out hypocrisy in the Russian government’s positions on e.g. Libya and Syria. In those cases, Russia claims to be Extremely Concerned that NATO is violating the very important principle of state sovereignty, which is more important than stated or alleged considerations like democracy, human rights, interests of foreign states, etc. But Russia flagrantly violated the sovereignty of the Ukrainian government on the basis of such concerns.

      This is an example of why I don’t think that accusations of hypocrisy are always good arguments. They can be, but only if you have well-thought out, consistent principles that you’re willing to apply more than your interlocutor is. Otherwise it just looks like the Spider-Man Pointing at Spider-Man meme.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Of course not. You’re accompanied by ~100% of Russian governmental propaganda sources and most of the right-leaning independent (i.e. not directly controlled by the government) Russian sources, down to the usage of the word “Russophobic”. Not saying that it proves or disproves anything, but one should always be worried when finding oneself in such a company.

      The main difference is that Kosovo became, and still is, independent, while Crimea never went through this stage. And now it is illegal (up to 4 years in prison) in Crimea to publicly advocate for independence or for return to Ukraine – so much for respect to the Peoples wishes. Also, those genocide and UN decision things which others have mentioned. Saying that Kosovo wast pure good and Crimea was pure evil would be hypocritical, but saying that one was far better than another is not.

      • Viliam says:

        The main difference is that Kosovo became, and still is, independent, while Crimea never went through this stage. And now it is illegal (up to 4 years in prison) in Crimea to publicly advocate for independence or for return to Ukraine – so much for respect to the Peoples wishes. Also, those genocide and UN decision things which others have mentioned.

        In a perfect world, this would conclude the debate. In real life, it never does.

        Another round of “yeah, maybe Kosovo is independent while Crimea is not, and maybe Crimeans who oppose Russian occupation end up in prison, and maybe also this and that technical detail, but otherwise… isn’t the situation in Kosovo and Crimea exactly the same?” coming in three… two… one…

  8. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Is there a name for the trope or philosophical issue Doctor Doom is embodying here?

    It seems to run along the lines of “under liberal democracy, everyone is free to be as bad as they want, within the limit of laws they vote in. The advantage of a dictator is that a virtuous one could command people to be good.” And is this ever a realistic trade-off, or does something ensure that dictators are always vicious rather than virtuous?

    • ECD says:

      In general parlance “Benevolent Dictator,” in Tvtropes parlance, ‘Hobbes was right,‘ otherwise not sure.

      Your broader question goes back basically the original source of the the word ‘dictator‘ and the shift from Cincinnatus to Sulla and Caesar. I think the key point of the shift was a shift from ‘dictator to solve this specific problem’ to ‘dictator to solve the problems’. More generally, dictators can obviously do good things, but a general lack of democratic checks and the standard corruption which comes with long-term power means non-time-limited dictatorships tend to end badly, even if they don’t intend to (and that’s without getting into the death/transfer-of-power/coup issues).

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        If the world gets complex enough (which it probably will), a dictatorship can’t adapt fast enough without a lot of extra deaths and misery compared to what a less centralized government would have done.

    • Machine Interface says:

      The trade-off is that autocracy requires ruthlessness to hold onto power, lest you be couped by people more ruthless than you. Ruthlessness then lends itself poorly to benevolent rule and open-minded reformism (people like to point out at Atatürk, but by modern standards Atatürk was a single-track-minded butcher — just one that happened to push for agressive westernisation and secularization instead of communism, fascism or islamism).

    • Mary Renault’s historical novel The Praise Singer has portraits of three tyrannies in ancient Greece, where “tyrant” meant “popular dictator.” In one the tyrant is corrupt but competent. In order for him to live well the island he rules must prosper; when he is killed things go rapidly downhill.

      One, the tyrant of Athens, is both competent and benevolent. He dies, his sons take over, and they are neither.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      Most real dictators don’t have superpowers. Seriously. Superman (or Fnargl) could be a benevolent dictator, because there isn’t a realistic way to challenge their authority, so they are free to be as repressive or lenient as they wish. Real dictators are (probably) mortal men with all the weaknesses and shortcomings that implies.

      • Clutzy says:

        IMO this is kind of an offshoot of the problem of ruling a polis regardless of form. That which is popular, is rarely good policy.

        Because of recency bias, far too many people assume dictatorial systems cause human suffering. However, that doesn’t account for the fact that most modern dictators come to power through popular support, at least at the beginning. Modern dictatorships more accurately are described as democracy gone wrong (Hitler, Stalin, Xi, Chavez, Castro, Modi, etc). In the end, the evil of a regime is moderated by its people.

        • Viliam says:

          Stalin came to power through popular support?

          I thought it was a result of infighting within the CPSU (Stalin vs Trotsky), while CPSU was at war with mostly peasant population of its country.

    • An Fírinne says:

      or does something ensure that dictators are always vicious rather than virtuous?

      Suppressing political dissent is something that is a staple of a dictatorship and something dictators tend to believe in because they aren’t fans of Liberal democracy. If you believe suppressing dissent makes them vicious then you’re only looking at one slice of the pie. Liberal democracies suppress dissent also. Do something they don’t like and the police come knocking on your door. Dictators just take that to its logical conclusion and aren’t as different to Liberal Democrats as Liberal Democrats like to believe. After all the very existence of a state is an act of violence.

    • broblawsky says:

      Doom isn’t describing just being a “benevolent dictator”; people regarded as benevolent dictators usually focus on human development (like Lee Kuan Yew) and sometimes liberalize their countries (like Tito in Yugoslavia) rather than focusing on enforcing virtue specifically. Foucault has some interesting things to say about dictatorial enforcement of virtue in Discipline & Punish, though.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I though it’s a given that the first problem of dictators is succession, which usually brings regression to the mean. See the prototype of the philosopher king himself, Marcus Aurelius.

      But in more realistic terms, and in updated modern timescales (in which everything happens faster), there is a pretty long list of reasons why a dictator might fail. Note: there’s nothing to say democracies don’t suffer of the same.

      First would be that “a virtuous one could command people to be good”. That’s in itself a dystopia – the chances that one person actually has the superior morality he thinks he has and has the power to impose it to all of us… *shudder*.

      Second is related – a person is usually static, especially later in life. Reality on the other hand isn’t – what was good 40 years ago isn’t necessarily good now.

      Third would be the inherent limits of a human mind. Just like an auto-regulating free market is better than a planned economy by orders of magnitude, a “living” morality is free to use resources that far exceed a person. This probably stands true even after looking at the current civilization, but that’s another topic.

    • sharper13 says:

      Not sure about in wider popular culture, but the LDS Church calls it “Satan’s Plan”. His rejected plan is summed up as Satan to have all the power and use it to force everyone to be good, in the process destroying everyone’s agency/freedom to choose for themselves. See Moses 1:1-4.

    • mtl1882 says:

      It’s generally recognized that a benevolent dictator can do good work–when he’s a political and organizational genius, with no genocidal tendencies and a good sense for balancing conflicting forces, in the short-term the results will probably be quite good. I would say that in practice, it is hard to call it a realistic trade-off, though. Such leaders are very rare—it is almost guaranteed that the next guy will not maintain a similar command of his massive powers. He doesn’t even have to be particularly bad—wielding that much power makes common errors or misunderstandings very dangerous and can destabilize the whole system. And it’s hard to pass on all the relative knowledge, especially with regard to how things connect and interact. On a longer time scale, you’re asking for trouble. In emergency situations, generally during war, this trade-off sometimes does get made, and is probably worth it. But the power expansion tends to carry over and cause problems. Also, not everyone follows commands, so a huge part of this model has to do with the effectiveness of a dictator who can simply remove those who don’t become virtuous, which can solve a lot of problems but also tends to provoke abuse and backlash. Panic during war tends to increase tolerance for this approach.

      • albatross11 says:

        Right, autocratic leaders who are actually wise and benevolent can advance their country quickly. But the actual Hugo Chavez:Lee Kwan Yew ratio turns out to be pretty unfavorable overall. And many of the reasons for that turn on stuff described in the excellent book _The Dictator’s Handbook_.

  9. GearRatio says:

    @Aftagley

    That’s where Trump’s statement crosses the line between “normal locker room banter” into “maybe a problem.” Even allowing for creative interpretation, it still implies that he is completely fine with using his fame and overall presence to justify aggressive sexual initiations with women.

    I’m not convinced there’s not both A. Having one’s cake and eating it too and B. Worst-case-scenario interpretation going on in both these instances. First we decide this is all completely literal, but we give ourselves the liberty of ignoring the fact that when the specific woman didn’t want to sleep with him he apparently buggered off; so we go “well, he mentioned a specific woman!” and then ignore the equally specific part where he never got anywhere with her. If we don’t like him, we assume he did a bunch of other mean sexual stuff to her in the process of “failing”, but we are making this up wholecloth.

    Then we can go “well, but he mentioned other women”, lumping them in with the specificity even though the second part isn’t specific. In addition to this, we use the term “justify aggressive sexual initiations with women”, something that we (generally) think is fine so long as it’s consensual. Then we decide it’s probably nonconsensual, deciding that the phrase “they let you do it”, and only this phrase out of the whole recording (because it defends him), is non-literal hyperbole.

    And then we don’t draw equivalence – if any of us has ever touched a boob or gone in for a kiss without asking for explicit verbal permission, we’ve done what Trump is saying he does in the second part if we don’t assume non-consent, we just talk about it differently. Unless 100% of us are affirmative consent hard-liners, we are either reading this the worst possible way and disallowing hyperbole to get non-consent out of it, or we are hypocrites.

    So then we go to people who aren’t doing “Well, I hate him, so the worst case interpretation of this is probably true and he’s admitting to sexual assault” math and tell them to do it too, and they sense we aren’t necessarily doing an even-handed, forgiving read of the evidence and we act SHOCKED that they’d support clear sexual assault. Which at this point seems reasonable, since we’ve settled on a version of this where Donald Trump walks into rooms, sees women he thinks are attractive and immediately, wordlessly and ruthlessly palms their genitals in a maximally evil bias-confirming way.

    Maybe you and I aren’t as bad as the scenario above, but there’s no shortage of articles/commentators who were; a simple google search easily turns up a dozen “Trump admits sexual assault” headlines.

    And then on the other side, there’s people like me, whose reflexes are to go “ah, that’s just how dudes talk, y’know? It’s harmless” and ignore all the bad that’s rolled up there, too. So I don’t end up thinking a lot about the part where he’s trying to sleep with a dude’s wife for funzies (something I think just slightly more moral than murder) and instead focus on the part where I think everybody else is being dishonest to cover up my own internal lies. That’s at least as bad as the other, I’m not cutting slack here.

    I say all this, but understand that if I had to lay money on it I’d probably bet that Trump has done FAR WORSE stuff than this statement implies; he seems like a big creep who thinks he owns the world and everyone in it who does what he wants to most of the time. Where I’m at on all stuff like this is that it feels good, but it doesn’t convince anybody; worse, it gives them permission to ignore you next time. So I’m willing to defend the devil on stuff like this, because I think the “This is literal admission of sexual assault!” people did harm rather than good here. Same with the “This is nothing, he’s a normal guy” stuff said about a sadist having a calm conversation about hurting a marriage.

    On the generation gap bit:

    I think there’s probably a generation gap in terms of “ways you never speak around women”. I would be surprised if this applied much to one’s sexual partners/spouse in any generation, though, or was ever as strong a prohibition as it appears in hindsight; you and I are two young to remember the 60’s or 50’s, so our only reference to it is pop culture and probably gets sanitized a bit.

    I’d keep in mind that it wouldn’t be bad to have those conversations with women (or at least any worse) as long as they thought the conversation fun to have; to the extent there are less women who want to have those conversations in different generations, you’d at least hope there were less of them in proportion to that for charity’s sake.

    @David, @Cliff:

    I’ve never quite understood the whole “sex object” thing. Can’t you want to have sex with a person without knowing anything about them except for how they look, without thinking of them as an object? They are just a very sexy person, right?

    Suppose you admire a singer for her singing, knowing nothing else about her. Are you treating her as a “song object”?

    Certainly you can want to have sex with someone without knowing anything else about them; this is the default position when you see an attractive person – that’s what seeing an attractive person is. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. But, as with anything, there’s good versions and bad versions. If you do this in a mindset that there’s, you know, a person there, one that has some value besides sex, then you aren’t doing the sex object thing in the way I’m talking about.

    But there’s a bad version of this where a person’s primary value is sex; sex-object-thinking guy doesn’t want anything out of them but that. To sex-object-thinking guy, that’s what they are for. Think of a guy who leaves money on the nightstand to make sure the prostitute leaves right after – she’s a sex-thing. Once he’s done having sex, she should leave; her value is exhausted. In that case, she’s a consensual sex-thing just as he’s a consensual money-thing; but it’s certainly not a stretch to understand that not every woman on earth wants to be thought of as an otherwise-useless thing whose primary value is as a gratification machine. Colorfully, that’s why “cumdumpster” is an effective recent insult – it’s intent is to inform the target of they are considered to have a very limited, specific value.

    Remember I said these relevant bits:

    It’s easy and automatic to see an attractive woman and view her only as a sexual object; something like “look at that thing over there; I’d like to have sex with it”. But this isn’t a noble reflex. At the least it’s not noble if it isn’t tempered by humanity a huge amount.

    Most good people with high male sex drive spend a lot of time resisting it and understanding that despite the fact they’d like to have sex quite a bit, that women are also people and equals and have value equal to men, that the “they are sex things” is an important animal impulse but that we are supposed to be more than our animal reflexes. Not doing this is ugly and bad; fully leaning into “women should have sex with me, that’s their purpose and they have no value besides that” is incel stuff.

    That whole segment is chock-full of qualifiers – see in the word “only” in the first paragraph, see me mentioning that it’s not bad if it’s tempered by other things, etc. I though this would preempt some of this conversation, but the general point is that sexual attraction isn’t bad, but limiting people value to that one thing often is.

    There seems to be some embedded puritanical moralizing here that you have to know and like a person’s personality before you can have sex with them.

    To be clear I do hold the puritanical view you are mentioning; I don’t pretend I don’t. I’ve only ever slept with the one girl, I’m a gold star traditionalist.

    But to be equally clear I’m very confused how you can find someone and sleep with them without liking their personality and claim they aren’t a sex-thing to you – what else are they, if you don’t like them in any way besides their sexual potential? Ditto if you don’t know them at all yet, except with the possibility of them eventually becoming more than a sex thing – at that moment before you know them, I’m not sure how their non-sex-thinglyness is more than a theoretical event.

    I can sense there’s some nuance here I’m not getting. Maybe it’s in a lack of maliciousness, or something – I’m asking because I don’t understand the difference, and I’d genuinely like to know. It’s a foreign mindset to me.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      But to be equally clear I’m very confused how you can find someone and sleep with them without liking their personality and claim they aren’t a sex-thing to you – what else are they, if you don’t like them in any way besides their sexual potential? Ditto if you don’t know them at all yet, except with the possibility of them eventually becoming more than a sex thing – at that moment before you know them, I’m not sure how their non-sex-thinglyness is more than a theoretical event.

      Can you (the theoretical you, obviously not you, GearRatio) imagine getting to know a woman you are sexually very attracted to and want to have sex with, but then, based on getting to know her, deciding that sex is off the table based on her personality alone (even assuming you will never interact with her again in any way, and that she’s hygienically clean in every way)?

      • GearRatio says:

        I (the actual me, GearRatio) definitely can imagine falling out of lust in this way, but I’m atypical in a lot of ways so I wouldn’t take me as representative. I can think of many dozens of times when an objectively physically attractive person stopped being subjectively attractive to me, at all, when I found out said person was merely dumb, which is probably only like 4th or 5th on my “things not to be if you want GearRatio to be attracted to you” list.

    • GearRatio says:

      This wasn’t actually supposed to be posted up here, for whatever reason when I try to post and it makes me log in it then fools me, surprisingly(or unsurprisingly) often into posting at the top level like a dope. Apologies.

    • Evan Þ says:

      We people who think Trump’s statement was unsavory don’t – at least, I don’t – consider “they let you do it” to be hyperbole. I wouldn’t be surprised if he really thought they let him do it (at least, insofar as he considered the subject at all). The problem is that people can appear to acquiesce to something without actually liking it. Specifically, women can sometimes not resist sexual assaults – perhaps the proverbial “lie back and think of England” – while definitely not consenting. The “Me Too” movement should at least teach us this much. It seems to me this’s all the more likely when faced with someone like Trump who shows no sign of caring about them as anything other than tools.

      Yes, it’s theoretically possible that all the women Trump did this to were fine with it. But his selection methods barely at all select for people who would be fine with it.

      And I say this as someone who thinks Trump, for all his flaws, has still been better as President than Clinton would’ve been. We elected him as President, not as a role model. If anything, the media glare of the Presidency has made him less able to keep assaulting women.

      • GearRatio says:

        We have very differing opinions on the first paragraph here in weird fundamental ways that’s going to make this hard to talk about. The first paragraph sort of demands affirmative consent; I.E. Trump though he was OK touching vaginas, but the women secretly didn’t like it, so we must still revile him. I’m very starkly against affirmative consent as a social norm for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that I don’t think it would even resolve your issues in the first paragraph above; I think we’d just be saying “well, of course they’d say yes – he’s a powerful man, and they were afraid”.

        Worse than that, though, I’m not really sure how Trump would be functionally different than a high school kid who briefly got to second twice during makeout sessions during the summer would be if it later on turned out that he had misread the situation. I’m not at all sure I blame that kid, and I’m not at all sure that there’s a workable system that doesn’t involve someone being willing to say no. That’s a big separate conversation and I’m not sure I’m openminded enough to be honest arguing it; I just bring this up to say our worldviews are pretty different in a way that I’m not sure can be solved in this conversation in a way that would let me argue against the first paragraph intelligibly.

        The second paragraph is a little weird to address. It breaks down to something like “We can safely assume some or most of an unspecified amount of women weren’t OK with Trump doing this, because we are already working under the assumption that he’s a chronic sexual offender”. I don’t know that I’d complain about someone saying “If you work under the assumption Trump is a rapist, this means comes off as very rapey”. This is, if I read correctly, sort of what you are saying; the part where you say “the media glare of the Presidency has mad him less able to keep assaulting women” sort of implies you consider him a chronic molester independent of this.

        But that wasn’t how it was used; it was used as “This is an inherently rapey thing, this should be read in a maximally harsh way, and it amounts to an admission of sexual assault.”. Those are sort of two separate things. I’m not arguing Trump is a good guy; I’m arguing hyperbole exists in conversations between men in some segments of culture that sounds worse than it is, and secondarily that this exact statement doesn’t stand as an admission of sexual assault. I’m not OK with those two things. I’m pretty much OK with “considering a lot of other things I already believe about him, this sounds really bad to me”.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I don’t take verbal affirmative consent as an ethical requirement, but I think ethically there should be some form of consent beyond “didn’t violently resist.” If someone tries to read “the situation” and turned out to have misinterpreted the woman’s reaction, that’s one thing. But Trump flatly said he didn’t even try: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

          Maybe this’s hyperbole. But given the rest of Trump’s behavior (e.g. repeatedly walking through the pageant dressing room), I’m not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      • perhaps the proverbial “lie back and think of England”

        At a slight tangent.

        That phrase is generally attributed to Queen Victoria, in the context of marital intercourse. My understanding is that the closest anyone has found to support for the story, in a letter of hers to a friend, is a reference to childbirth.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Hey David, phrases.org.uk traces it to a 1905 poem, and in the sense used here to the (purported) 1912 diary of a Lady Hillingdon.
          https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/close-your-eyes-and-think-of-england.html

          • Thanks. I hadn’t seen that source.

            Another online source says, about that attribution:
            “A book published in 1972 asserted that the first statement was written in a personal journal in 1912, but no researcher has located this journal, and apparently the tale was apocryphal.”

            It sounds from that source as though the phrase may have originated in the 1940’s and been backdated to the Victorian period.

        • Deiseach says:

          My understanding is that Victoria enjoyed marital intercourse with her husband very much*, but found childbirth (the almost inevitable result of same) miserable and painful, and indeed may have suffered from post-natal depression. See the popularisation of anaesthesia during childbirth to the work of John Snow and administration of that to Queen Victoria:

          Snow’s work and findings were related to both anaesthesia and the practice of childbirth. His experience with obstetric patients was extensive and used different substances including ether, amylene and chloroform to treat his patients. However, chloroform was the easiest drug to administer. He treated 77 obstetric patients with chloroform. He would apply the chloroform at the second stage of labour and controlled the amount without completely putting the patients to sleep. Once the patient was delivering the baby, they would only feel the first half of the contraction and be on the border of unconsciousness, but not fully there. Regarding administration of the anaesthetic, Snow believed that it would be safer if another person that was not the surgeon applied it.

          The use of chloroform as an anaesthetic for childbirth was seen as unethical by many physicians and even the Church of England. However, on 7 April 1853, Queen Victoria asked John Snow to administer chloroform during the delivery of her eighth child. He then repeated the procedure for the delivery of her daughter three years later. Medical and religious acceptance of obstetrical anaesthesia came after in the 19th century.

          *She seems to have enjoyed her wedding night:

          Describing her wedding in February 1840, she said: “I felt so happy when the ring was put on, and by my precious Albert.”

          Later she describes her wedding day and night.

          “I never never spent such an evening!!,” she writes.

          “My dearest dearest dear Albert sat on a footstall by my side, and his excessive love and affection gave me feelings of heavenly love and happiness, I never could have hoped to have felt before!

          “He clasped me in his arms, and we kissed each other again and again! His beauty, his sweetness and gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband!”

          She describes it as the happiest day of her life.

          “To lie by his side, and in his arms, and on his dear bosom, and be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief!” she writes.

          “When day dawned (for we did not sleep much) and I beheld that beautiful face by my side, it was more than I can express!

          “Oh! was ever woman so blessed as I am.”

          • Evan Þ says:

            I unfortunately can’t find an online source, but I remember reading how, after Princess Beatrice’s birth, the doctors told Queen Victoria that another pregnancy would put her life at risk. She replied, essentially, that she and Albert couldn’t possibly give up sex.

            (In the event, Albert died four years later, after on his deathbed preventing war with the United States.)

          • SamChevre says:

            Prince Albert – possibly the only Prince with both tobacco and body jewelry named after him.

        • Ketil says:

          perhaps the proverbial “lie back and think of England”

          At a slight tangent.

          And another: after reading Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver (I believe), where they referred to the king (like nobility in genreal) simply by his demesne “England”, I realized the alternative interpretation of this adage. I.e., not that you should accept suffering for your country, but pretend that the guy you’re sleeping with is the king. And of course, closing your eyes makes more sense in that respect.

          Which of course fits with one interpretation of Trump’s locker room talk: when you are as rich or famous as he is, lots of women will happily have sex with you. Ask any rock star.

    • Dacyn says:

      To sex-object-thinking guy, that’s what they are for.

      But to be equally clear I’m very confused how you can find someone and sleep with them without liking their personality and claim they aren’t a sex-thing to you – what else are they, if you don’t like them in any way besides their sexual potential?

      There seems to be some equivocation here: thinking they have no use/value to you other than sex is different from thinking that they have no value at all other than sex, or from thinking that’s what they are “for”.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        If you don’t care about their value to anything else (left as a sentence fragment because I don’t know how to complete the thought verbally).

        This entire discussion is assuming an individual-centric world view. This is appropriate, as all values ultimately derived as individuals.

        The later part of your statement is irrelevant to the topic at hand (“different from thinking that they have no value at all other than sex, or from thinking that’s what they are “for”.”) In fact, that attitude is just as bad, as you’re still seeing the person as valuable to others, not intrinsically valuable in themselves as a source of value judgements.

        Chattel is seen as valuable for multiple reasons, but not valuable in and of itself.

        • Dacyn says:

          I am having a hard time decoding your comment. I agree with the second and fourth paragraphs but don’t see how they are relevant. As you note the first is incomplete, and I don’t know how you mean to complete it. In the third, it’s not quite clear what “that attitude” is, but if you were referring to “thinking they have no use/value to you other than sex” [note, I probably should have written “direct value” instead of “use/value”], then I don’t see at all how this implies “not intrinsically valuable in themselves as a source of value judgements”. People in China have no direct value to me (i.e. my life is not directly improved by them), but it doesn’t mean that they are not intrinsically valuable.

      • GearRatio says:

        @Dacyn

        I’m legit asking about the mindset here – I don’t understand it, I want to know. I think that’s why it looks like equivocation; to me “OK, I’ll have sex with you, but after that I never want to see you again”is a pretty foreign concept.

        As you said, there’s some sunlight between “you are worthless in general, besides your sex potential” and “you are worthless to me, besides your sex potential, which I am still willing to use”. But while I can imagine the first and have seen it, I am unfamiliar with the second; I can’t even imagine being attracted to someone you know you don’t like.

        • Dacyn says:

          Fair enough, maybe I was reading too much into your comment. Anyway, have experienced the “second” I can try to describe it. First of all, I agree with you that it is weird to be attracted to someone you don’t like. That has also happened to me, but I did not want to have sex with that person. The one I did have casual sex with, I didn’t dislike.

          I don’t know. There was adrenaline, obviously. And it seemed like we were just “doing the thing people do when they hook up” — like, that is a thing people can do together that is accepted at least in a certain subculture. I didn’t expect either of us to be hurt by it (and I don’t believe either of us was). It’s not like I didn’t want to talk to her — we did that, both before and after having sex.

          I got her number in case I wanted to talk to her again. Ideologically it seemed exciting — like, I can be one who tries to stay a part of people’s lives? But I eventually decided it didn’t really make sense to continue the connection — we didn’t really have that much in common, and I thought it was unlikely I would want a serious relationship with her so I didn’t want to lead her on.

          I feel like I am stating a bunch of obvious things (I mean aside from the semi-personal details) but maybe in a narrative form they will help you get some feel for the experience?

      • John Schilling says:

        Much of the advocacy of casual sex (or advocacy of tolerance for casual sex, at least) seems to take the position that sex can be treated as simple recreation. Taking that at face value, I can certainly imagine myself walking through a park in a city I do not expect to visit ever again and seeing a group of people playing ultimate frisbee at about my level, or someone sitting alone at a chessboard, and asking if they would like another player.

        If they say “yes”, we’re going to have some fun playing ultimate or chess or whatever, and maybe some friendly conversation along the way, but I’m almost certainly never going to see them again. And any friendly conversation, etc, is purely incidental to the game. All I care about is that they can play the game at a level I can enjoy, and that they not be so obnoxious in other respects that the enjoyment of the game goes away.

        Does this mean that I am seeing these people as “frisbee objects” or “chess objects”? Am I demeaning or degrading them by this? Is there anything wrong about my doing this, or anything wrong with me for wanting to do this?

        Or maybe the fact that we all intuit that something wrong with this means we all understand that sex can’t really be just good clean fun the way chess or ultimate can, and that the simple pro-casual-sex argument is a rationalization for something else. But if the criticism is “you don’t have the depth or kind of emotional connection with your sexual partners that I think you ought to”, then we really need to pin down what the allowable range of emotional connections between sexual partners ought to be.

        • SamChevre says:

          This comment feels right to me. (Obviously, I’m in the “sex isn’t simple recreation” camp–but that’s a really common POV in a lot of popular argument around sex.)

        • Dacyn says:

          I don’t know if “recreation” is a good word for such an intimate experience, but I agree with the idea that maybe it doesn’t have to be so complicated. I’m not exactly sure how to parse your penultimate sentence, but I’m guessing I will disagree about whether “we all intuit” something…

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t know if “recreation” is a good word for such an intimate experience,

            I’m skeptical myself, but I’ll note that Playboy magazine has always called its sexually objectified (YMMV) women “playmates”, so the concept has been a part of the casual-sex-positive movement for a long time. And not, I think, a small part.

          • Dacyn says:

            @John Schilling: Yeah, I’ve always found the Playboy stuff kind of creepy. And you are right that they are not the only ones 🙁

        • LesHapablap says:

          Objectification means thinking of women in a way that feminists don’t want women to be thought about. ‘Objectify’ is just an obfuscated way of saying ‘disrespect,’ preferred because the confusion around it makes it a better weapon.

          I don’t usually agree with @HowardHolmes, but he should be here in this thread talking about how ALL of our interactions are self-centered and we can ONLY treat each other as objects to satisfy our own needs.

        • Protagoras says:

          It is difficult to avoid complicated emotional entanglements when having sex (at least if the sex is any good). I do suspect that some promiscuous types try deliberately to avoid thinking of their partners as people too much in order to avoid those entanglements (which can lead to vulnerability and heartbreak). My own feeling is that they’re doing it wrong, that the emotional entanglements make the sex better and that good sex is worth the heartbreak, but people obviously don’t always do things for the same reasons.

          • This is close to my theory about the connection between sex and hostility, exemplified by the non-literal use of f**ck.

            Having intercourse with a woman creates feelings of love and affection for her, an emotional concomitant of the physical act. If you don’t want those feelings, you defend against them by feeling hostile to her, looking down on her.

  10. rubberduck says:

    I realize this question has been asked online a thousand times already, but I’m asking it anyway:

    When job-hunting, how should one go about figuring out a reasonable salary for a position?

    I’m seriously job-hunting for the first time after finishing school and don’t know anyone in my field (chemistry) to ask for advice. Of course, everyone online says “do you research to figure out how much your skills are worth”, considering living costs, etc., but the range of salaries reported online seems so broad as to be useless.

    Also, how far away can one apply and still have a decent chance? I don’t have any especially unique or in-demand skills and assume that companies prefer local candidates, but would a job, say, 5 hours away still consider me, or should I not waste my time?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Caveat: I don’t necessarily know what I’m talking about.

      Apply as far away as you want. Relocation costs are a fixed cost that won’t come out of the hiring department’s budget (assuming you qualify for the relocation costs). The hiring manager will care about fit, not how far away you currently live.

      For a starting position I would think it’s more important to have a salary that you’re comfortable living on (while paying down school debt), as well as a job that will help advance your career.

      The reason you’re seeing large ranges for particular position is two-fold:
      1) A Research Associate job classification (for example) consists of 4 subdivisions – RA1 (sometimes called “Research Associate”) through RA4, (sometimes called “Staff Research Associate”, with “Senior Research Associate” and “Principal Research Associate” as the intermediate levels). Sometimes the pay ranges for all four of these titles are smushed into one.
      2) Within a range there are people with varying experience, from people fresh to the title to those with many years in the title. The trick is is that people A) get pay increases, but B) those pay increases can’t knock them out of the pay range entirely (or instead of getting a raise, they get a lump sum bonus). So people with no post-school experience will be hired onto the low end of the range, while those with years of post-school experience will report incomes toward the middle or higher end of the range.

      If you were Biology, with a fresh B.S., looking for a job in industry, I’d say anywhere from the lower $40k to maybe mid $50k range, depending on where the job is located (this would be within the standard pay range for a Research Associate I position, and as a rank newbie you don’t have years of experience to merit a higher position in the pay range, yet). This is assuming you apply for an associate position and not an assistant position (which may have a lower salary range, or is an hourly position).

      Feel free to bargain their initial offer (I’m saying feel okay making a single counter-offer, not going back and forth forever, or making wildly unreasonable demands, or being unwilling to budge), if their initial offer is lower than you think you’d be okay with. You can mention the cost of living, or remoteness of the region, or any other topical issues you consider relevant when making your offer.

      Not bargaining the initial offer is a mistake most people make on their first salaried job.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I tried editing but it won’t let me anymore.

        The reason you’re seeing large ranges for particular position is two-fold:

        1) A Research Associate job classification (for example) consists of 4 subdivisions job titles – RA1 (sometimes called “Research Associate”) through RA4, (sometimes called “Staff Research Associate”, with “Senior Research Associate” and “Principal Research Associate” as the intermediate levels). Sometimes the pay ranges for all four of these titles are smushed into one.

        2) Within a range single job title there are people with varying experience, from people fresh to the title to those with many years in the title. The trick is is that people A) get pay increases, but B) those pay increases can’t knock them out of the pay range entirely (or instead of getting a raise, they get a lump sum bonus). So people with no post-school experience will be hired onto the low end of the range, while those with years of post-school experience will report incomes toward the middle or higher end of the range, thanks to their annual raises.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I am curious about this — doesn’t your school help with this? My experience is far from yours — I graduated 40 years ago and in accounting, not chemistry, but I would think it would work the same way. I knew the going salary for a newly graduated accountant; I think I got it from the placement office.

      • rubberduck says:

        I did an overseas master’s program. I had a great 2 years overall and learned a lot, but even if they had salary information, it wouldn’t be relevant in my case.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Try asking your bachelor’s institution what is the going rate for people with a masters.

          At best you’re still probably looking at RA2-level positions. So in the low $50k to low $60k starting salary (again, if you were a Biology person with no non-school experience).

      • acymetric says:

        This depends heavily on your school and chosen discipline. I went to a reasonably nice (not Ivy league or even Stanford/Duke level, but nice) private school and the help they offered (to find an internship that was required in order for me to graduate, no less, was “try to Google it and see what you find.”

        Certainly others have had better experiences, so it is definitely worth it to check with your job placement/career services department but you may or may not actually get useful help there.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      You should apply as far away as you feel comfortable. If you have a solid resume, people will consider you. Companies typically budget relocation expenses and expect there to be a certain amount of Relo. Also, we typically budget to run at full-staff. If we have an open position, we are usually favorable on our budget, and we can pay Relo out of the open salary savings. Also, Relo is an expense that often feeds into corporate’s recruiting budget, IE, it doesn’t hurt the actual hiring department.

      As for your other question, I’d recommend asking around your school’s recruiting office. They MIGHT know, assuming they are actually worth a damn. You can also ask alumni through school alumni networks. If someone asked me how much they should be making out of school, I’d have no problem letting them know.

      It’s not just about knowing salary, BTW, but knowing what kind of positions you should be applying for and what career experience you need. I don’t know if you’re going into academia or private sector or what. But I can tell you I know some chemistry engineers: our Warehouse manager is one. He somehow started in quality, ended up in quality management, and moved to warehouse management, because it made more money than food quality. He could do this because he was picking up transferrable skills along the way.
      If you are going into private sector, as soon as you get a job, you need to be thinking about your next job. Do not let anyone tell you different. If you spend more than 3 years at a job, you are leaving money on the table. Do not leave money on the table.

      Also, always counter-offer at least once. Don’t go crazy high, but definitely counter. If you cannot get more salary, ask for more PTO. From a salaried perspective, PTO is literally costless: you are costing the company the same whether you are there or not, so they can grant you marginal PTO and it costs them no money. You should prefer the money to the PTO, but you might as well negotiate some days off if you can.

      Regarding online research: I see what everyone makes at my plant makes now, since I am the controller and I set the budget. I also see what a lot of other people make, because we’re going through accounting changes. Big companies typically pay at the higher end of the range for experienced positions, but a bit above middle for junior hires, at least for my company.

      • Viliam says:

        If you are going into private sector, as soon as you get a job, you need to be thinking about your next job. Do not let anyone tell you different. If you spend more than 3 years at a job, you are leaving money on the table. Do not leave money on the table.

        This. I’d say it is even more important that getting your first salary right. Even if you underestimated your market value at your first job, as long as you keep searching and keep changing jobs when someone offers to pay at least 30% more, the problem will gradually fix itself. (Also, your value will grow, because now you have experience.)

    • brad says:

      The online wage library from the department of labor is surprisingly useful. (Assuming you’re in the US.)

      • Garrett says:

        I managed to boost my first job starting salary by about 50% by doing this. Look up the salary data at every applicable level (city/State/nation-wide). Counter-offer with whatever number is higher. “I’m surprised by that offer because the median salary range in the $AREA for that job is \$$X – I consider myself to be an above-average candidate so I was expecting an offer at least that high”.

    • SamChevre says:

      My advice is to network aggressively. Give as much info as you comfortably can, anywhere that you can–and eventually, you’ll find someone who can tell you. (And maybe, someone who knows someone who needs someone with your skills.)

  11. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    So, let’s talk windows!

    We’ve put off window replacements for the last few years. If it ain’t broke (that badly), don’t fix it, right? They are original wood windows with aluminum storms over the top, and they sweat like hell, but the last quote we got to upgrade 20 openings was something around $24,000, so…

    But I’m getting pretty frustrated with these old windows.

    Anyone done any replacements recently and have strong opinions on the product offerings?

    • Cliff says:

      $24k seems crazy

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        It’s a bit high. Which isn’t surprising: the salesman was applying some rather aggressive sales tactics which quickly turned me off his whole approach.

        However, depending on the type of window and the installation…windows are pretty damned expensive. These ones unnecessarily so (triple pane yadda yadda yadda)

        • acymetric says:

          Could you reach back out to him to get the quote for a cheaper (but still nice) window? This is definitely something to check around and get multiple quotes on. My parents just redid a bunch of windows…the first quote they got was probably similar to yours but they ended up being able to get it done for a little less than half that (I think) from a different contractor/servicer. Not sure how much of that was cheaper windows and how much was cheaper rates for installation.

          Do you happen to have any friends/acquaintances involved in construction? They might be able to refer you to someone that will do good work at reasonable prices but maybe isn’t the top search result online/in the Yellow Pages/wherever you are looking. I will second what was said elsewhere that you do want to go with a quality/reputable window company due to the lead dust concerns.

    • hls2003 says:

      Pella windows are good quality. That price doesn’t seem much off for installed. We had about half ours redone some years ago with double-pane sealed windows, and those were Pella. They have mostly held up but one or two have unsealed and get vapor again, which happened quicker than I was expecting and was kind of disappointing. I don’t know if that was the windows, the installation, or the operation, though. If they’re not ruining anything else I’d live with the old ones (well, I would, my wife is another matter). If the sweating is threatening to ruin other stuff, then you may just have to bite the bullet.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Are you getting vapor between the panes or are you talking about vapor inside the house?
        Anything breaking that early on sounds like an installation issue, but vapor inside the panes seems like manufacturing.

        I like pella windows, but right now I’m leaning towards buying a bunch from a Big Box Store. My Dad did windows for a living, so I’m hoping we can do some relatively easy pocket installs that will save on labor costs. At that point it’s just easier to get something from a Big Box.

        Re: living with old windows. Yeah, that was my plan, but the sheer condensation on the window is really bothering me, and they seal pretty damn poorly. Plus, cleaning them is a bear, since there are the main windows and the storms.
        Also, aluminum storms are horrifically unsightly.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Strong opinions on windows? Well, I think Windows 10 was much better than Windows 8. I especially liked the restored Start menu.

      /s

    • Eternaltraveler says:

      Be careful replacing old windows as that can be a large source of lead dust (often the largest). Do you have any small kids?

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Oooo, good point, that’s going to be nasty. We have an infant, but we were planning on having her away while we did window replacement. Unfortunately I don’t think that’ll be enough since lead dust is going to settle….

      • SamChevre says:

        A careful contractor will make sure the lead dust is cleaned up well–it’s a legal requirement at this point. But you really need a “does this all the time” contractor. One good source is if your state has a energy saving program run through the electrical or gas company (like MassSave in MA); the contractors for those tend to be more professional, and window replacement is often somewhat subsidized as well.

  12. Anonymous Bosch says:

    This topic sentence comes off as more aggressive than it’s meant: What is the deal with Andrew Yang’s fans?

    I’m not asking the deal with Andrew Yang. He’s rich, he wants to be President, and he’s internet-savvy enough to make his millions go farther than Steyer’s billions. I get it. I don’t even consider him a bad candidate. Of the remaining Dems, he’s easily in my top half.

    What I’m asking about are his supporters, more specifically a *type* of super-fan doing him no favors whenever I see them engage other Democrats in something that I assume to be persuasion. The “Yang or bust” folks have an opaque locus of affection for him that absolutely cannot be sussed out. When I talk to them, I tend to get four kinds of non-answers.

    Circular ones: An example of this is when Yang fans claim he’s the only one who can beat Trump because he’ll get crossover votes, usually accompanied with a self-citation (“If it’s not Yang I’m voting Trump/libertarian/staying home”). This is not especially persuasive, both because Bernie fans are more numerous and make the same threats more credibly (many of them *did* vote Stein or couch in 2016), and because it’s ultimately Not An Argument, revealing nothing about *why* he curries such devotion while actively antagonizing non-fans out of sharing it.

    Ignorant ones: An example of this is when I was told by a stone-faced Yang supporter that he was the only candidate talking about the opioid crisis. Literally every candidate has patter on the opioid crisis! If anything Yang talks about it less than some other candidates (it’s a regular focus of Klobuchar’s stump speeches), and his specific plans are distinguished mostly by how bad they are (focusing mostly on making legal prescriptions more difficult, which is what drove the black market to fentanyl in the first place). All this tells me is that Yang fans are mostly not paying attention to other candidates, which again, doesn’t get at the why.

    The bag: In fairness, this is a pretty universal flaw in how people differentiate within the primary. I have long thought the debates should focus more on foreign policy and criminal justice and less on issues like tax hikes and health care, which are ultimately dictated by whatever kludge gets votes from the median Senator and not Presidential platforms. But Yang’s UBI (especially the VAT required to fund it) is the sort of radical plan that I don’t think could even get past a highly unlikely 60/40 D senate. His more fair/wonkish/contingent supporters, if asked privately, will admit that he’s likely stuck with some incremental step like beefing up the EITC, which plenty of other candidates (Warren, etc.) want to do.

    Trust/Affect: An example of this is when I asked someone why they weren’t voting for Bernie, and they said “Yang is a capitalist.” I pointed out “Capitalism 2.0” is also Warren’s gimmick, but this was dismissed because she took money as a bankruptcy consultant. Yang was not in a monastery during the 00s; he was working in biglaw, a health care IT company, and a GMAT prep company where he boasted of having McKinsey, Goldman, etc. as clients. Another example is Yang’s skepticism towards “identity politics,” a criticism echoed by multiple other Dem candidates (most notably Buttgieg). The Yang fan I spoke to dismissed the latter because of how quick Buttgieg reaches for his identity as a gay man; but Yang is not shy about bringing up his race in the service of a point about immigration or the alt-right. I *believe* his supporters when they say they trust him more than other candidates. But the source of that trust remains mysterious.

    I want to stress that Yang isn’t alone in having off-putting fans. As someone who has Bernie/Warren for a top 2 I am endlessly disappointed at how seamlessly the online Hillary/Bernie beef has transposed to Warren/Bernie. (I am convinced Warren is dropping because all the extremely online types who unironically enjoyed “Fight Song” and made Khaleesi memes are now Warren stans, while Biden seems to have soaked up the less-engaged normies who voted Hillary out of reflexive support for the known quantity.)

    I am also aware candidates don’t control their supporters and don’t hold Yang responsible for any of this except insofar as most of his plans remain frustratingly vague and invite his supporters to fill in the blanks. But what is the deal? Is there any kind of rational formula that yields “Yang > Trump > Other Dems”? This seems like a question where the SSC commentariat (whether they share this view or not) might have a steelier man than randos on social media.

    • Aftagley says:

      My theory is that candidates who actively try to be different and appeal to a different crowd (Yang in 2020, Bernie in 2016, Ron Paul in 2000) end up activating new segments of the population who were not very active politically.

      He’s pretty explicitly a nerd, err sorry, grey-tribe member and is actively courting other people like him using language they understand and mannerisms they’ll connect with. This leads people who had previously never been excited by a candidate to feel like he’s the real deal. The excitement they feel for him is the same kind of excitement you see in anyone just getting involved in something; they kind of overdo it.

    • NazbolPink says:

      An example of this is when Yang fans claim he’s the only one who can beat Trump because he’ll get crossover votes, usually accompanied with a self-citation (“If it’s not Yang I’m voting Trump/libertarian/staying home”). This is not especially persuasive, both because Bernie fans are more numerous and make the same threats more credibly (many of them *did* vote Stein or couch in 2016)

      Yang doesn’t have a history of drooling over communist regimes. It’s not circular reasoning to cite anecdotal evidence of Yang’s crossover appeal, it’s limited evidence but evidence nonetheless. Every alt-righter I know intends to vote for Yang.

      I pointed out “Capitalism 2.0” is also Warren’s gimmick, but this was dismissed because she took money as a bankruptcy consultant.

      Warren’s dishonesty is shown by her repeated identification as Native American. I spent many a night in high school doing my homework, studying for the SAT, trying my hardest to get into a good college and get a good scholarship because my family didn’t have any money, and it NEVER once occurred to put anything other than white, European, Caucasian male on the application. She’s apologized, and I could forgive her if she were just some random person. But I wouldn’t take that person and make them President, it’s a slap in the face of everyone who’s ever worked hard for something.

      Another example is Yang’s skepticism towards “identity politics,” a criticism echoed by multiple other Dem candidates (most notably Buttgieg). The Yang fan I spoke to dismissed the latter because of how quick Buttgieg reaches for his identity as a gay man; but Yang is not shy about bringing up his race in the service of a point about immigration or the alt-right.

      Yang’s trying to heal racial divisions. With Buttgieg it’s like he wants everyone to applaud him for being gay. Imagine being a soldier, told to run into a hail of bullets and then being reminded that your commander in chief is taking it up the a**. You don’t go around telling everybody about your porn preferences and he shouldn’t go around telling people about that.

      except insofar as most of his plans remain frustratingly vague and invite his supporters to fill in the blanks

      Yang’s policy proposals are the most numerous and detailed of any candidate.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        Yang doesn’t have a history of drooling over communist regimes. It’s not circular reasoning to cite anecdotal evidence of Yang’s crossover appeal, it’s limited evidence but evidence nonetheless. Every alt-righter I know intends to vote for Yang.

        Democrats don’t just have to worry about marginal voters flipping to Trump. They also have to worry about marginal voters flipping third party, or marginal voters not turning out at all. “Bernie will scare off the normies” is an argument against Bernie, not an argument for Yang. (It was also an argument for Hillary in 2016, so it doesn’t carry as much force.) And to the extent we can assume you’re speaking to a Democrat already convinced to reach for the center rather than the outskirts, they have little reason to chase some groyper-heavy army of young people (not a valuable demographic in terms of votes) rather than, say, the blue-collar old people that Biden is pitching.

        But most importantly, this is a circular argument in the context of persuading other Democrats. Simply stating your guy is the only guy merely invites the supporters of other Democrats polling higher than Yang to defect in the same way. You have to talk to them about *why.*

        Warren’s dishonesty is shown by her repeated identification as Native American.

        Yang’s trying to heal racial divisions. With Buttgieg it’s like he wants everyone to applaud him for being gay.

        I have no doubt that every “Yang or bust” person can, if asked, find some specific reason to disparage every other Dem candidate. I’m less sure that those individual reasons will be mutually consistent and stem from a coherent underlying worldview rather than being back-filled from sentiment. Your dismissals of Buttgieg and Warren, for instance, make me question if you’ve read Yang’s health care plan, which includes such knee-slappers (to someone voting primarily on idpol skepticism) as “Invest in implicit bias training for healthcare providers to ensure Black women receive life-saving maternal care” or “Ensure access to non-discriminatory healthcare, like gender-affirming services.”

        His health plan also provides an ample (and far more recent) demonstration of dishonesty, as earlier this year, Yang’s website touted his support for Medicare for All, and specifically used the term “single-payer.” His current plan claims to support the “spirit” of M4A but now simply contains an extremely vague public option. (And when I say vague, I mean it: it’s literally one single sentence.)

        This gets at two issues: the typical Yang balance of being very vague on the big questions and very specific about the small ones. (“Who pays for what” is not asking the wrong questions unless you’re unprepared to answer them.) And dishonesty: You can say that “well, the term Medicare for all doesn’t necessarily mean yada yada yada” but in terms of the contours of popular debate, it’s been fairly consistently used to mean Bernie/Warren’s plan or something similar, and crucially *not* used to mean a vanilla public option. (Just as it should’ve been clear that “Native American” did not mean “I was told so by my Grandma and contributed a recipe to Pow Wow Chow”).

        I’m not particularly interested in debating the merits of anyone’s health care plan (because, as I said, while the President can nudge it’s mostly gonna be up to Congress). But “having a lot of policy proposals” (I definitely won’t grant that they’re more detailed) is not necessarily meritorous when the central pillars are liable to change two months before the first primary. And going back to my first point about these laundry lists being mutually inconsistent backfills, “having lots of plans for stuff” sits ill alongside his supposed crossover appeal to libertarians and conservatives!

        • Deiseach says:

          “Invest in implicit bias training for healthcare providers to ensure Black women receive life-saving maternal care”

          That is pretty stupid. From a small amount of looking up “so why do black women have high rates of maternal mortality?” it looks like that would be better stated as “invest in training for healthcare providers to make them aware of the higher risks of hypertension and cardiac disease in black women, also higher rates of haemorrhage during delivery and of embolisms in the weeks after delivery”, and indeed it looks more like “outreach to black women of childbearing age to make them aware of potential health issues” rather than “teach midwives and obstetricians not to be racist bigots” would be of use.

          • Garrett says:

            The only one of these I wasn’t taught in my EMT class as a risk factor for pregnancy complications was the risk of embolism which is also greater for black women. (I read up on it subsequent to the Serena Williams clothing controversy)

            The rest of these are all effected by obesity rates. I can’t find any immediate data for only women of childbearing years, but the overall rate of obesity for black women is almost twice that of white women, which predicts a good bit of what is being seen here.

        • Pink-Nazbol says:

          Your dismissals of Buttgieg and Warren, for instance, make me question if you’ve read Yang’s health care plan, which includes such knee-slappers (to someone voting primarily on idpol skepticism) as “Invest in implicit bias training for healthcare providers to ensure Black women receive life-saving maternal care” or “Ensure access to non-discriminatory healthcare, like gender-affirming services.”

          That’s not surprising to me. My hope is that Yang, the Asian guy who likes math, knows that the maternal deaths claim is just whooey.

          And going back to my first point about these laundry lists being mutually inconsistent backfills, “having lots of plans for stuff” sits ill alongside his supposed crossover appeal to libertarians and conservatives!

          Plans do not imply a planned economy. Many are things conservatives can easily get behind, such as this, by far the best education plan any candidate has ever proposed, something conservatives would be proposing if any of them had spines:

          https://www.yang2020.com/policies/controlling-cost-higher-education/

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            These are the only two bullet points that mean anything to me, but without a student-centric goal of helping students find what’s best for them they mean nothing (hints: some people thrive in current academia, regardless of background, while others obviously dont; There are at least half a dozen major elementary school teaching paradigms, yet almost all tertiary institutions are term- and course-based programs; how many entering students have a clue about the genuine options open to them? And sure: some students wouldn’t complete school if they didn’t have athletics to help them feel at home.).

            – Increase the options for students looking at higher education
            – Get schools to focus on their ideals and invest their money in increasing the quality of education while decreasing the cost of said education for their students

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Imagine being a soldier, told to run into a hail of bullets and then being reminded that your commander in chief is taking it up the a**.

        “Sir, could we maybe talk about that some other time?”

      • ECD says:

        With Buttgieg it’s like he wants everyone to applaud him for being gay. Imagine being a soldier, told to run into a hail of bullets and then being reminded that your commander in chief is taking it up the a**. You don’t go around telling everybody about your porn preferences and he shouldn’t go around telling people about that.

        Okay, I’m not a fan of Mayor Buttigieg, but (1) saying ‘I’m gay,’ is not the same thing as telling people your porn preferences; and (2) you really didn’t want a military angle on this argument with him as your subject, that’s just an incredibly counterproductive argument against a veteran on behalf of a man who has never served (as well as being remarkably distasteful and inappropriate, in my view).

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t care about Mayor Pete being gay, what annoys me is (a) he’s so freakin’ Episcopalian (“now, we’re not saying that Jesus was a white upper middle-class liberal, indeed we’re saying he wasn’t and that’s the trouble with what certain persons *sniff haughtily here* have made of his message of love and tolerance and niceness and not serving sherry at room temperature”) and (b) he’s a technocrat-wannabe who in relative terms has not overseen anything large enough to warrant thinking he can run the country. Congratulations, you’re mayor of South Bend. Does that really scale up to running a nation of 327 million people with international obligations as well? Sarah Palin got soundly mocked for talking about “They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska” which the SNL skit turned into “I can see Russia from my house!” but at least she was aware of supranational concerns. What can Pete see from his desk – Touchdown Jesus?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I don’t care about Mayor Pete being gay, what annoys me is (a) he’s so freakin’ Episcopalian (“now, we’re not saying that Jesus was a white upper middle-class liberal, indeed we’re saying he wasn’t and that’s the trouble with what certain persons *sniff haughtily here* have made of his message of love and tolerance and niceness and not serving sherry at room temperature”)

            Ahaha.
            “now, we’re not saying that Jesus was a white upper middle-class liberal, indeed we ought to bring up that he was brown to stick it to the wrong sort of people, but He certainly believed everything we do and not the horrible things those black Anglicans teach, and really, isn’t that the core of His message, not supernatural stuff like how many persons God is or being born of a virgin?”

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Supranational concerns are the least of my worries with Buttgieg. Guys in navy intelligence (especially those who deploy) aren’t hicks, and he’ll also be a damn sight more able to absorb and process new information than his pension-eligible competitors.

            I just don’t think he’s that good a politician or administrator, and will struggle mightily in the Getting Shit Done department.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          as well as being remarkably distasteful and inappropriate

          Well, yeah, but what else would you expect from a commenter who literally has “Naz” as a part of a nickname…

    • hls2003 says:

      Can’t say I’m really plugged into the Yang boosters, or have even heard much from them, but it sort of sounds like you’re describing selection bias. You’re going to get similar flaws from basically anyone who is super excited about any Presidential candidate. Pretty much by definition, superfans are going to be atypical in their activism and their enthusiasm, and that is often grating to less involved non-superfans. The average primary voter is already going to be substantially more activist and enthusiastic than your average American. When you add in that RCP has Yang polling at around 3-4%, he’s already got a very small slice of that activist voter base, so I would expect a higher percentage of his voters to be superfans than, say, Joe Biden. So they’re going to seem abnormal because they probably are abnormal. I would expect the same to be true of, say, hardcore Tulsi Gabbard fans or Cory Booker fans too, and I would expect anyone still sticking with them as they remain mired in low single digits will be pretty hardcore.

      Besides the selection bias, I think there might be two other things: (1) Yang’s fans are presumably more tech-y and online on average, and everything is terrible on the Internet; and (2) Yang’s fans are presumably a bit younger on average and identify as nerdier than other voters, and part of being young and nerdy is a deep conviction that you are smarter than other people, which is always irritating.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Yang’s fans are presumably a bit younger on average and identify as nerdier than other voters, and part of being young and nerdy is a deep conviction that you are smarter than other people, which is always irritating.

        His “Math” pin on his shirt is a good encapsulation of this. If you disagree with him it’s not because you have ideological differences, but rather it is because you do not believe in Math, Reason, or Logic. The “math” lapel lets you know that he has transcended your petty ideologies, and his positions are simply Objectively Correct.

        (If this sounds vaguely familiar, its the same posturing used by people who use “Conflict Theorist” as an insult.)

        It comes across as extremely off-putting and condescending to people who might have actual substantive disagreements with his policies. Which is to say, it comes across as extremely off-putting to basically everyone who isn’t already part of the roughly 1.75% of the population that supports him.

        The difference between him and, say, Klobuchar fans (of which there is roughly equal support as Yang) is that Klobuchar fans don’t imply that those who support her opponents must be ignorant or irrational. This, I think, is the “deal” with Yang and his ardent supporters.

        People who advocate for the UBI should take note of Yang’s failures in this regard, and not repeat them the next go around.

        • Deiseach says:

          I dunno, Guy, I see a selection of ironic(?) support for Yang on the basis of “NEETbux!” which does not sound to me like taking his UBI policy seriously and does sound like “it’s fun to support this guy to wind up the normies” 🙂

          What I’m saying is that some of his ‘support’ is definitely tongue-in-cheek and neither he nor anyone else should really count it as “down with the youth” who are going to turn out to vote for him.

    • Plenty of people feel culturally closest to Yang, followed by Trump, followed by the other Dems. When Yang talks about the opioid crisis, people feel as if he actually cares about the victims, Trump doesn’t care about them, and other Democrats have contempt and hostility for them for not having elite educations and not caring about global warming.

      There’s a school of thought that says “that’s irrational, all a rational person would care about is policy.” Well the question needs to be asked, what’s a “policy?” Here’s a quote from Jared Polis, the current governor of my state, Colorado.

      “It seems like we ought to provide more of a legal framework, then, that allows a reasonable likelihood standard or a preponderance of evidence standard [for deciding whether to expel college students accused of sex offenses]. If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people. We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about them being transferred to another university, for crying out loud.”

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/09/11/better-that-five-innocent-students-get-expelled-than-one-guilty-student-stay-enrolled/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4b13ffb05675

      Is this a “policy?” It fits the dictionary definition of a policy pretty well. But you could also say “it’s not in his policy proposals list on his campaign website, he’s made no attempt to implement it as law during his governorship, so it can’t count as a policy, it’s just an off the cuff comment, and a rational voter should disregard it.” I argue that they should not disregard it. What actually happens in the real world is often only weakly correlated with the letter of the law. The university bureaucrats can read that quote, figure he’s their boss in a roundabout way, and decide not to wait for the politicians to implement his vision for real, not openly, but for real. And that’s the argument for preferring Yang then Trump then the Democrats if you’re someone who agrees generally with the Left on economic issues but isn’t willing to just shut your eyes and pretend that certain things are not there.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        Plenty of people feel culturally closest to Yang, followed by Trump, followed by the other Dems. When Yang talks about the opioid crisis, people feel as if he actually cares about the victims, Trump doesn’t care about them, and other Democrats have contempt and hostility for them for not having elite educations and not caring about global warming.

        This is a restatement of the trust thing but not a real answer. I have a low opinion of, say, Amy Klobuchar, but I do not consider her to be a serial villain who can’t discuss the opioid crisis without randomly taking shots at the uneducated for being global warming skeptics (since she does, and doesn’t). I am assuming you also don’t think this, since you say “people feel” as if this is happening rather than it actually happening. But what specifically is he doing or not doing (that every other Democrat, from Bernie to Biden to Bloomberg is not or is doing) to convey this impression?

        • I am assuming you also don’t think this, since you say “people feel” as if this is happening rather than it actually happening.

          It is to at least some degree. I’ve been around enough gatherings where people assumed I was a Democrat to have heard it all myself, people expressing happiness at middle America’s problems. I just can’t prove it in any specific individual.

          But what specifically is he doing or not doing (that every other Democrat, from Bernie to Biden to Bloomberg is not or is doing) to convey this impression?

          Here’s what the said about her defeat:

          If you look at the map of the United States, there is all that red in the middle, places where Trump won. What that map doesn’t show you is that I won the places that own two thirds of America’s Gross Domestic product. I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, Make America Great Again, was looking backwards. You don’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women getting jobs, you don’t want to see that Indian American succeeding more than you are, whatever that problem is, I am going to solve it.

          https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/03/13/hillary_clinton_in_india_places_i_won_are_moving_forward_own_23_of_americas_gdp.html

          This is a good summary of the worldview of many on the left. If you’re a white man and you’re struggling, it’s your fault. And the struggling of the people in the oppressed coalition, that’s also your fault, and they need affirmative action to compensate for their disadvantages, and you aren’t allowed to ask for evidence they are real. Compare Hillary’s narrative above to Yang’s narrative about automation. I don’t believe the Yang narrative about automation, but it’s obviously going to go over much better than Clinton’s.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Is that Sanders’ worldview? Is that Buttgieg’s? You can’t really say that about either of them since they talk frequently about reaching out to Midwestern Obama-Trump voters and it’s not like that.

            I’m asking you for the specific reasons that you think only Yang is projecting this. Not being Hillary is the opposite of unique.

            (This is kind of an example of what I mean when I say Yang fans have a very inaccurate idea of what other candidates sound like. Look: the first primary is in a red state and everyone saw Hillary get roasted for the “deplorables” shit. You’re not watching the other candidates if you think that’s their pitch.)

          • Clutzy says:

            If you look at the map of the United States, there is all that red in the middle, places where Trump won. What that map doesn’t show you is that I won the places that own two thirds of America’s Gross Domestic product. I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, Make America Great Again, was looking backwards. You don’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women getting jobs, you don’t want to see that Indian American succeeding more than you are, whatever that problem is, I am going to solve it.

            https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/03/13/hillary_clinton_in_india_places_i_won_are_moving_forward_own_23_of_americas_gdp.html

            This is a good summary of the worldview of many on the left. If you’re a white man and you’re struggling, it’s your fault. And the struggling of the people in the oppressed coalition, that’s also your fault, and they need affirmative action to compensate for their disadvantages, and you aren’t allowed to ask for evidence they are real. Compare Hillary’s narrative above to Yang’s narrative about automation. I don’t believe the Yang narrative about automation, but it’s obviously going to go over much better than Clinton’s.

            Isn’t it also…kinda not true? Clinton’s sentiment. Like, yes she won the cities. Which have a lot of productivity. But she really racked up big margins in those cities among poor blacks/hispanics, its not like she won 90% of people making over 100k in cities as well. A Clinton voter is statistically much more likely to have been in the bottom quintile.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Yang’s central policy proposal represents a life-changing amount of money for a lot of his online supporters, some of whom are otherwise ideologically right-leaning. Maybe mass unemployment as a result of automation is a thing of the distant future, but long-term unemployment and thankless dead-end jobs are things of the present, and the prospect of Yangbucks means a lot to people in those situations. And, well, a lot of NEETs hang out on the internet.

      That drives the passion, that plus halo effect is probably why people think he’s great on everything else.

  13. Milo Minderbinder says:

    Does anyone know of good analysis of cultural stickiness (fidelity of intergenerational meme transfer)? I’ve read both Albion’s Seed and The Secret of Our Success, and I left pretty convinced of both cultural persistence and importance.

    Relatedly, what do y’all think of the idea of a “Frodo Meme/Achilles Meme?” That is to say, in a sufficiently intelligent memetic species (so, humans), might the memetic benefits of self-sacrifice or dying gloriously (in an information transfer sense) have a payoff sufficient to offset the genetic loss? Martyrs and heroes have disproportionate memetic weight (The “Great Man” theory of history, depictions in art, etc.). To the extent that such sacrifices preserve/spread specific meme clusters (Christianity, for example, but also more general concepts like self-sacrifice), I’m curious to what extent these individuals impact their respective cultures, and how much potential for altruistic self-sacrifice could exist in a specific culture before it became maladaptive at the group level.

    • imoimo says:

      I hadn’t thought of the memetic benefits of self-sacrifice before, but it makes sense. You don’t even need a genetic driver of the self-sacrifice, just an intelligent species with a pro-social bent. If a single initial sacrifice saves the species/community it will be lauded and encouraged, leading to more self-sacrifice in the future. The cultural notion of armies for defense could spontaneously arise in this way. Communities where this didn’t happen would also be selected against in war times.

      (Not sure this response was helpful, I’m just musing out loud.)

  14. Nick says:

    I haven’t been checking SSC this week, so sorry if I’ve missed an identical thread, but: favorite Christmas movie.

    I’m going to go Home Alone. It’s been 5+ years since I’ve seen this one, and oh what a classic. Even funnier than I remember. Everything comes together so much better than I appreciated as a kid. The Santa Clause, meanwhile—a favorite when I was a kid—has not aged as well.

    • S_J says:

      This year, I re-watched the film Miracle on 34th Street. I saw the version created in 1947, not the remake from 1994.
      It looks old, and was done in black-and-white. But the story is a well-crafted story. The acting and direction are very well-done.

      I also enjoy Home Alone, and its sequel Home Alone 2. The humor works on more than one level, which is probably the key to its success. Not only could the adults enjoy a movie that they could take their kids to see, but the kids could enjoy it again once they grow up.

      But my favorite Christmas movie is The Muppets Christmas Carol. I remember seeing several other movie-renditions of A Christmas Carol as a child. Most of them were good movies. But the Muppets rendition makes it fun to watch the story unfold. The combination of music, the interactions of the the human characters and the Muppets, and the interjection of humor into the story-telling make it fun story.

    • The Santa Clause is such a depressing movie. I’m not sure why it was so popular. Home Alone is about bringing family together. The Santa Clause is about tearing it apart.

      • Nick says:

        I rewatched The Santa Clause last night, and two things stuck out to me: 1) Neal—’scuse me, Dr. Miller—is way more of an ass than I remember, but 2) holy cow is taking your kid away for a month after you just lost custody rights a terrible, terrible idea.

        When I said it didn’t age as well, I had (2) in mind, but also the special effects. Those really didn’t hold up.

    • Kuiperdolin says:

      Eyes Wide Shut.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas with the Kranks, hands down, nothing even close to contention.

      We did with Christmas Prince: Royal Baby, or whatever, and that has to be one of the more amusing movies, since they placed a China analogue where Armenia is.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      It’s like no one here has ever watched Rare Exports.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I haven’t been checking SSC this week, so sorry if I’ve missed an identical thread, but: favorite Christmas movie.

      I’m going to go Home Alone.

      Are we discounting It’s a Wonderful Life? Because that beats Home Alone handily. HA is probably still in the top three though.
      The ironic-best is The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special, because the villain Skeletor works for is terrified of two Earth children spreading the story of Jesus, and it climaxes with a spirit turning Skeletor good against his will (the Calvinist doctrine of Irresistible Grace).

    • j1000000 says:

      I agree with others that Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life are great and the best Christmas movies but I do think they could easily take place at any time of year with only slight tweaks. I’d say my two favorite movies that are truly about Christmas are Elf and Christmas Vacation.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I agree with others that Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life are great and the best Christmas movies but I do think they could easily take place at any time of year with only slight tweaks.

        Not going to argue. It’s interesting to look at the original 1946 trailer, which doesn’t show Pottersville, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!” or any supernatural elements, making it look more like a romantic comedy.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      If I’m trying to show off, episode 3 of Kieslowski’s The Decalogue. If I’m trying to fit in among normies, Die Hard. If I’m being honest…I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve met my Christmas movie soulmate yet. (Both of the films I mentioned are great, but they’re not quite it.)

    • A Christmas Story.

      Kid wants a BB gun for Christmas. Kid gets a BB gun for Christmas. What more could you ask for?

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I haven’t watched Christmas movies in a long time, but when I was younger my favorite was A Muppet Christmas Carol.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      A thought occurs: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is another movie (and book) where the plot would be mutilated by moving the action away from Christmas.
      There, it’s a Christmas movie! (And Good Friday/Easter…)

    • Ransom says:

      What, no votes for Forrest Gump? (And Die Hard, of course.)(I second the vote for A Christmas Story.)

      • Nornagest says:

        Forrest Gump covers something like thirty years. Bound to be a few Christmases in those, but that doesn’t make it a Christmas story.

  15. Well... says:

    “Full disclosure: my dad became my mom,” Tom said transparently.

  16. rahien.din says:

    Asking for a translation :

    Thograinn thograinn bhith dol dhachaidh
    E ho ro e ho ro
    Gu Sgoirebreac a chruidh chaisfhinn
    E ho hi ri ill iu o
    Ill iu o thograinn falbh
    Gu Sgoirebreac a’ chruidh chais-fhionn
    E ho ro e ho ro
    Ceud soraidh bhuam mar bu dual dhomh

    It’s from “Christmas at Sea,” from Sting’s Christmas album If on a Winter’s Night. Not sure if it’s his own writing or part of a traditional song.

    Paging Deiseach, maybe? TIA

    • Liam Breathnach says:

      Don’t have a translation but while it looks very like Irish Gaelic, it’s not, suggesting to me that instead it’s Irish’s nearest relative, Scots Gaelic.

    • acymetric says:

      These people have done a little work on this, it appears.

      • acymetric says:

        Thograinn Thograinn
        Thograinn thograinn bhith dol dhachaidh
        (I wish we were going home)
        E ho ro e ho ro
        Gu Sgoirebreac a chruidh chaisfhinn
        (To Scorrybreck of the white-footed cattle)
        E ho hi ri ill iu o
        Ill iu o thograinn falbh
        Gu Sgoirebreac a’ chruidh chais-fhionn
        (To Scorrybreck of the white-footed cattle)
        E ho ro e ho ro
        Ceud soraidh bhuam mar bu dual dhomh
        (The first blessing from me, as is my right)

        Can’t vouch for the accuracy. As @Deiseach noted below, it appears Ceud means “first”.

    • Deiseach says:

      Quick casting of my eye over it indicates that it’s Scots Gaelic rather than Irish; it’s got the older spelling and more archaic diction.

      I have poor Irish and no Scots, but words like “ceud” would be “céad” in Irish, which would be “hundred” (as in “a hundred times”). Or “first”, because “céad” also means first. Depends on context!

      “E ho ro e ho ro” is just nonsense syllables for a chorus. I’ll have a gander online and see what I can dig up!

      EDIT: Googling turns up the same source as acymetric references, and I’d agree that it’s probably not a translation of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem into Scots Gaelic but a different original. It looks like a mix of quoting Gaelic original and lines from Stevenson interspersed. If it is a waulking song then it’s in the same genre as this famous one 🙂

      EDIT EDIT: Using an online dictionary, the first line translates out to something like “I wish, I wish I was going home/was homewards bound”, and in Irish would be “Tothluighim, tothluighim beith (ag) dul abhaile”, and the verb there is archaic (taken from Dineen’s dictionary).

      Ceud soraidh bhuam mar bu dual dhomh, to throw it into modern Irish, would come out something like “Céad slán uaim mar is ceart agam/mar is nádúrtha liom” (the terms “dual” are older Irish and again would be found in Dineen), meaning “A hundred farewells from me as is natural” (meaning “something I am entitled to do/have a right to do”).

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      “Gaelic-speakers need not apply,” Tom said gnomically.

  17. zardoz says:

    [Post 5 reviewing Business Adventures]

    Previously: Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4

    Chapter 5 of Business Adventures is about Xerox.

    I think most people in Silicon Valley remember Xerox mostly as the company that funded the legendary Xerox PARC laboratory that Steve Jobs and others “borrowed” so many ideas from. But in the 1960s, Xerox was viewed quite differently. In fact, Brooks describes Xerox as “the most spectacular big-business success of the nineteen-sixties.”

    Xerox’s big innovation, of course, was the Xerox machine for making copies of documents. Copying machines had existed before Xerox, but they had various technical limitations that made them inconvenient, expensive, and messy– especially when the number of copies needed was small. (The mimeograph machine gets a shout out in this section. This is a bit of nostalgia for me, since I am just barely old enough to have interacted with some of those blue mimeographed sheets.)

    Xerox machines came on the market in 1959, and the product’s popularity grew exponentially after that throughout most of the 1960s. The research behind the Xerox machine actually started more than twenty years earlier, though, with a physicist named Chester Carlson. Carlson was a sort of part-time tinkerer, who managed to get some funding from the Battelle Memorial Institute. Battelle sounds like an interesting institution– a sort of nonprofit angel fund?– but Brooks doesn’t really go into detail about it.

    Eventually, in the late 1940s, Chester convinced the Haloid Corporation to invest in his invention. And invest. And invest some more. All told, over the next decade or so, Haloid invested about 75 million dollars– money it could not really afford, since that was twice what it earned from operations during that period. The company issued stock and took out loans to cover the balance. In Brooks’s words, the investment gradually became “a do or die affair” for the company. Luckily, once the invention finally was ready, it was wildly successful. So successful that “Haloid” changed its name to “Xerox.”

    Would any modern company be willing to spend more than ten years working on an invention like this? Ten years without showing any profit at all, and while spending a lot of money? I think most modern-day companies would hesitate, to put it mildly.

    To put it more bluntly, Xerox’s origin story is kind of a fairy-tale case where corporate R&D worked the way it’s supposed to. A plucky inventor experimented with new technology in his garage (well, ok, kitchen). Then, far-sighted capitalists bankrolled him to do basic research for ten years before showing a profit. After that, the invention took the world by storm, and everyone was properly rewarded for their efforts. Brooks himself acknowledges this, saying that “the story of Xerox has an old-fashioned, even a nineteenth century, ring…”

    Despite the old-fashioned origin story, some aspects of Xerox seem distinctly modern. In fact, as I read Brook’s sometimes gushing praise of Xerox, I was often reminded of Google. Xerox took political stands in favor of left-wing causes of the time, such as the United Nations and civil rights. The company donated heavily to educational and charitable institutions. Like Google, Xerox didn’t want to be an “ordinary business.” Its executives talked a lot about what would now be called corporate social responsbility.

    We are still in the 1960s, though, so Brooks can write passages like this:

    A girl who uses a typewriter or switchboard has no interest in the equipment, because it holds no mystery, while one who operates a computer is bored with it, because it is utterly incomprehensible. But a 914 [Xerox machine] has distinct animal traits: it has to be fed and curried; it is intimidating but can be tamed; it is subject to unpredictable bursts of misbehavior; and, generally speaking, it responds in kind to its treatment. “I was frightened of it at first,” the operator I watched told me. “The Xerox men say, ‘If you’re frightened of it, it won’t work,’ and that’s pretty much right. It’s a good scout; I’m fond of it now.”

    (On an unrelated note, “If you’re frightened of it, it won’t work” is a good thing to tell your parents if they ask for computer help.)

    [continued]

    • zardoz says:

      The dawn of cheap and ubiquitous xeroxing put tremendous strains on copyright. When any book can be copied, where will it all lead? Marshall McLuhan gets namedropped (ugh). The whole thing feels like a kind of dress rehearsal for the software piracy debate that would happen decades later. It would eventually culminate in the copyright act of 1976, which established the now-familiar concept of “fair use.”

      You might expect that Xerox would be on the side of the copiers, for obvious reasons. You would be wrong. Instead, Xerox took a “seemingly quixotic stand… flatly opposing any kind of special copying exemption.” The reason, Brooks speculates, is some combination of high-mindedness, plus the fact that Xerox was a big publishing firm as well as a copying machine firm.

      Brooks discusses the fluctuation in the value of Xerox stock (it took a dive, and then quickly recovered in the mid-1960s.) He also talks to some of the scientists working for Xerox. Somewhat interestingly, it seems like the decision to use selenium for the photoconductive surface was done by researchers “acting on a hunch, unsupported by scientific theory.” “Nor do we understand exactly how selenium works, even now,” Dr. Clark helpfully adds. Inventing stuff was a lot more empirical back then. (Or was it? How do people decide on new neural net architectures, exactly??)

      Brooks talks to Joseph C. Wilson, the company’s chairman. Can the company keep its unique culture with twenty thousand employees? The company doesn’t want to take a stand on national elections, but a lot of other political issues seem to him to be fair game. Shades of Google again.

      He also speaks with C. Peter McColough, the company’s president, about “facing the problems of growth.” This paragraph is perhaps worth quoting in full:

      Future growth on a large scale simply isn’t possible in xerography, [McColough] went on– there isn’t room enough left– and the direction that Xerox is taking is toward educational techniques. He mentioned computers and teaching machines, and when he said he could “dream of a system whereby you’d write stuff in Connecticut and within hours reprint it in classrooms all over the country,” I got the feeling that some of Xerox’s educational dreams could easily become nightmares. But then he added, “The danger in ingenious hardware is that it distracts attention from education. What good is a wonderful machine if you don’t know what to put on it?”

      I’m sure that whole computer thing will go really well for Xerox. All they have to do is spend a decade carefully researching it, right?

      • zardoz says:

        [I wanted this to be one comment, but the spam filter ate it so I separated it into two.]

        Happy new year, all.

      • broblawsky says:

        Battelle is an organization that runs a number of the DOE’s national laboratories. Another example of a major company coming out of government-funded research, I guess?

      • j1000000 says:

        How do you like the book?

        • zardoz says:

          I liked the book, on the whole. When I started, I wasn’t expecting it to be from the 1960s, since the copyright on the audible edition that I listened to is very recent. But that’s actually just the copyright on the spoken edition, not the original 🙂 I think the book’s age gives it an interesting time capsule quality.

          Some chapters are better or worse than others, I think. I particularly enjoyed the Edsel chapter. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy the income tax chapter. The tax code is just so painful that I don’t want to think about it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I am just barely old enough to have interacted with some of those blue mimeographed sheets.

      Those are from a spirit duplicator (one brand of which was Ditto) rather than a mimeograph. They were even cheaper than a mimeographed copy.

      • zardoz says:

        Heh, that’s a good point. I don’t know what kind of machine made the blue-inked handouts that I remember as a kid. I assumed it was a mimeograph, but maybe it was a spirit duplicator or similar.

        I also don’t remember exactly what color it was, sorry. I do remember thinking that it was weird since I was used to photocopied or printed material.

    • SamChevre says:

      My great-uncle–one of the most influential people in my life–worked for Battelle for much of his career, focusing mostly on demographics. The Xerox machine was a huge win for them, and as I understood it from him financed a huge amount of research through the 1990s.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I remember mimeo as purple not blue. Different sorts of mimeo, or different color perception?

    • Aftagley says:

      To put it more bluntly, Xerox’s origin story is kind of a fairy-tale case where corporate R&D worked the way it’s supposed to. A plucky inventor experimented with new technology in his garage (well, ok, kitchen). Then, far-sighted capitalists bankrolled him to do basic research for ten years before showing a profit. After that, the invention took the world by storm, and everyone was properly rewarded for their efforts. Brooks himself acknowledges this, saying that “the story of Xerox has an old-fashioned, even a nineteenth century, ring…”

      Follow-up questions to this statement:

      1. Was this common back then, or was it also abnormal for the times?
      2. Has this ever happened since then?
      3. Could this kind of behavior still “work” in the modern era, or has something fundamentally changed about the market?
      4. Wait, isn’t this just Uber/WeWork/Early Amazon/insert VC-funded tech startup here?

      • Cliff says:

        #4 my thought exactly. People seem more than happy to send billions of dollars down a hole in hopes of a return a decade letter.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I guess it depends on which “people” we’re talking about. There are definitely VCs who are willing to throw money down toilets, but in our company, our capital investments need to have payback periods of less than 18 months. Certain strategic initiatives are allowed to go up to 7 years for pay-back, which is a much higher hurdle than 10 years for ANY positive cash flow.

          • Aftagley says:

            Why 7 years?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I have no idea. This is probably among the things I need to learn if I want to advance, but right now my responsibility is just calculating the expected return of operational improvement projects, not trying to allocate the entire capital budget.

            Based on what I’ve seen, though, the capital budgeting process is a complete mess. For a while our factory was just given millions of dollars to spend as we saw fit with no cost justifications required or provided. That’s a good way to piss away millions of dollars on useless crap.

          • Aapje says:

            7 is the biblical number for completeness, so it might have been chosen for kabbalistic reasons.

            Also, if the bosses are the right kind of Christians/Jews, one may be able to convince them that the number is metaphorical, rather than literal 😛

          • zardoz says:

            7 is the biblical number for completeness, so it might have been chosen for kabbalistic reasons.

            Well, Kabbala seems to have worked out pretty well for the WeWork founder.

      • cassander says:

        my thoughts exactly.

      • broblawsky says:

        1. Was this common back then, or was it also abnormal for the times?

        I’d say it was abnormal. Most of the largest technological innovations of the 1940s – 1960s came out of either government labs or large corporate R&D labs; this was the heydey of corporate R&D.

        2. Has this ever happened since then?

        Microsoft comes to mind – MS-DOS was developed under contract from IBM in 1980.

        3. Could this kind of behavior still “work” in the modern era, or has something fundamentally changed about the market?

        The major difference would be that big hardware innovations are harder and harder to do for a small company – anything that involves chip design, for example, is flat-out impossible for individuals.

        4. Wait, isn’t this just Uber/WeWork/Early Amazon/insert VC-funded tech startup here?

        Yeah, kinda. The major difference is that there was less of an expectation that Xerox’s technology would see a quick financial turn-around. It’s 15 years between Carlson beginning his work with Battelle and the release of the first commercial Xerox machine.

      • zardoz says:

        It’s true that modern-day investors are often willing to wait for years for companies to become profitable. That is one similarity with the Xerox story.

        However, I think the two cases are really quite different. In the case of Uber, WeWork, Amazon, etc., the businesses were selling products and making progress on certain metrics during the time they were unprofitable. Uber could point to the number of customers and drivers it had signed up; WeWork could point to the number of leases, and so forth.

        It’s just not common for companies to spend more than a decade developing a single product. The main cases I can think of are probably be the companies working on quantum computing and nuclear power. Maybe someone else could think of some other examples. Medical devices? Drugs?

        • SamChevre says:

          The new geared turbofan engine design took about 20 years, and the estimates in the business press have been that R&D costs for Pratt&Whitney were $10 billion plus.

      • zardoz says:

        Microsoft comes to mind – MS-DOS was developed under contract from IBM in 1980.

        Hmm. I might be misunderstanding your point, but I don’t see how the MS-DOS story is similar to Xerox.

        If anything, MS-DOS is an example of the opposite: an extremely rapid development cycle. It was programmed in six weeks by one guy, Tim Paterson. Hence its original name, the Quick and Dirty Operating System.

        Bill Gates then bought QDOS for a flat fee of $50,000 dollars (and NO royalty rights…). And then he renamed it and sold it to IBM.

  18. Baeraad says:

    I have a theory for why intellectual conservatives (for lack of a better term) keep referring to feminism as “cultural Marxism.”

    I am here taking as a premise that the term and its implications are blatantly ridiculous. The supposed connection between Marxism and feminism seems to amount to both of them being left-wing philosophies with the stated aim of advancing egalitarianism. I recently watched a debate between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek, where the latter demanded to know just who these Marxists are that the former are always claiming runs all of contemporary leftism. Zizek, after all, is an actual Marxist, and would know better than anyone that that’s a very lonely thing to be in this day and age. This was the only time I’ve ever seen Peterson squirm, as he sputtered that, er, he couldn’t think of one off-hand, but there were definitely tons of them!

    Uncharitably, one might be tempted to think that the real reason is that the word “feminism” still has a ring of righteousness to it, while the word “Marxism” has all sorts of useful negative baggage that intellectual conservatives would love to tar their enemies with. But somewhat more (but still not one heck of a lot more) charitably, I think that intellectual conservatives are just idealogically opposed to the notion that it is possible for an idea, especially an idea with which they disagree, to emerge organically.

    Leftists are often accused of thinking that things just happen. That wealth just sort of naturally appears, without needing to be worked for. That history just unfolds on its own, without the need for great men and heroic stands. And, yes, that (a central Marxist belief, I seem to understand) ideas and philosophies are the products of the times and conditions under which they appeared, not of the brilliance of individual thinkers and philosophers. And to an extent, that’s fair. I believe that if Thomas Edison had not invented the light bulb, someone else would eventually have done it; I also believe that be that as it may, Thomas Edison was the one who did in fact do the work of inventing it. I agree that leftists are often a little quick to dismiss personal effort as just “taking advantage of what was already there,” as if “what was already there” didn’t still require thought and hard work to take advantage of – or, for that matter, as if “what was already there” would not quickly decay into nothing if the thought and hard work of individuals didn’t constantly maintain and improve on it.

    But what I sometimes see in the Jordan Petersons of the world is nothing but a polar opposite of that same fallacy – instead of dismissing thought and effort, it considers them the only reasons why anything happens at all, as if the Earth only kept spinning because of human work and ingenuity. In their worldview, nothing of consequence could ever happen naturally or organically, but only through explicit, structured effort and planning. (one easily gets the impression that Jordan Peterson halfway believes that it’s only his own white-knuckle self-discipline that keeps him functioning as a biological entity instead of collapsing into a puddle of primal ooze) So it can’t be that people took a look around and said, “hey, you know what, there are entirely too many douchey alpha males around, and they have entirely too much power.” It can’t be that people, starting from nothing but their own lived experience, thought of something all on their own – that’s like saying that someone could invent nuclear fission by banging rocks together at random! No, they simply must be building on the work of a professional thinker, or else the world makes no sense – and since Marx is the only one who had some ideas that look vaguely similar if you squint and was widely read at about the right place at the right time, they must have gotten it from him.

    Again – I consider it self-evident that popular feminism has and requires no intellectual foundation. There surely are high-brow feminist philosophers who write long, boring books justifying the things they wanted to do anyway, but they are entirely irrelevant to the sort of feminism that actually matters enough for people to argue about it. Popular feminism requires nothing beyond the following fact: Donald Trump is the President of the United States. For the sort of person who’d become a feminist, everything else follows naturally.

    I’m serious. Take a feminist, remove all her memories and dogma, and then show her a video of one of Donald Trump’s speeches. Within five minutes, she’ll have reinvented the framework of contemporary feminist thought just by articulating the visceral loathing she will feel at the amount of smirking boorishness on display. It might take some time for her to develop the finer details, I’ll grant you, but those details don’t actually matter anyway. All that is actually impactful about feminism can be derived from looking at Donald Trump and feeling that the world should be cleansed of everything that even remotely resembles… that.

    But again, or so goes my theory, conservative intellectuals can’t stand the idea that anything can emerge organically. Which is why they end up taking the frankly ludicrous position that the only reason why you’d want Trump to stop waving his dick in your face is because Marx told you that you should.

    (for the record, I am plenty hostile to feminism, because I think that in its eagerness to make the world pristinely clean of all things Trumply, it ends up effectively burning down the house to get rid of the persistent spots. I’m just saying, I need no grounding in Marxist theory to understand why they are so overzealous)

    • Snickering Citadel says:

      Wikipedia says: In contemporary usage, the term Cultural Marxism refers to a far-right antisemitic conspiracy theory which claims that the Frankfurt School is part of an ongoing academic and intellectual effort to undermine and destroy Western culture and values.According to the conspiracy theory, which emerged in the late 1990s, the Frankfurt School and other Marxist theorists were part of a conspiracy to attack Western society by undermining traditionalist conservatism and Christianity using the 1960s counterculture, multiculturalism, progressive politics and political correctness.

      This conspiracy theory is associated with American religious fundamentalists and paleoconservatives such as William S. Lind, Pat Buchanan, and Paul Weyrich; but also holds currency among the alt-right, white nationalists, Neo-Nazi organizations, and the neo-reactionary movement.

    • Ms. Morgendorffer says:

      On point : I’m really surprised to see how you, Snickering Citadel and wikipedia define cultural marxism, as from what I recalled it was coined by the lobsterman to define a kind of thought resembling postmodernism where all cultures were seen as equal axiomatically (this is obviously a very bad, quick and simple summary of what he said). Going from that to feminism or to far right antisemitic conspiracy theories is a huge wtf to me.
      Off point : I get you don’t like Trump but getting him here to say that he can be used as a generator for feminism by his sole existence as POTUS.. I’m really getting tired of it. I don’t think he’s a racist, I don’t think he’s a misogynistic pig. More than that, prior to 2016 I don’t think anybody thought he was a racist, and that most would at worst say at the time that he’s a womanizer. The ‘grab them by the pussy’ comment is fun and all, and was a part of banter captured by a hot mic, but I do believe that any heterosexual man here more than say 30 year old has a top 5 of the worst comments on girls he ever said that FAR outshine this ‘grab them by the pussy’ line.
      So, for the record: I like him and I’m really tired of the constant stream of unbased attacks on the man, his work, and the fact that he’s ‘obviously corrupt’ when he’s one of the few elected official that seem to have LOST money between the start of his campaign and today.

      • Well... says:

        I remember hearing about Cultural Marxism way before the Lobsterman rose to fame. I heard about it from John Derbyshire, whose affiliation with the all-trite is quite clear, and I’m sure he wasn’t the first to use it either.

        That said, I am surprised and skeptical to hear that the all-trite is where the term originated. To me it always seemed like something appropriated from elsewhere, though I could be wrong.

        • Randy M says:

          I definitely saw “cultural marxism” well before I saw “A- Right”. Perhaps it could be said they came from the same milieu.

        • Aapje says:

          @Well…

          ‘Cultural Marxism’ as a term was invented first by a left-wing promoter of critical theory at universities. The 1973 book in which it was coined got nominated for the National Book Award, so it presumably wasn’t too obscure at the time (although such books obviously have a limited audience).

          This revisionism where things that originate from the far-left get called inventions of the far-right is a little tiresome.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            This revisionism where things that originate from the far-left get called inventions of the far-right is a little tiresome.

            Seconded.

          • quanta413 says:

            I’d like to add to Aapje’s citation to an actual book with my memory. It’s not some obscure reference that no one outside of the field would have known.

            When I took humanities classes as gen eds in college back in the distant times of 2009-2011, it was professors and TA’s teaching classes I took who used the term “cultural marxism”. And their description of it was neutral to positive. They described it as a theoretical advance over previous Marxist ideas because in addition to studying class struggle it also considered racial struggles or gender struggles etc. And the intersection of various struggles.

          • Enkidum says:

            Huh, you learn a new thing every day.

          • spkaca says:

            Worth noting also that initially at least second-wave (i.e. 1970s) feminism emerged in large part from a Marxist milieu. This may have been more true of Britain and Italy, the countries I’m most familiar with, than in the USA. British and Italian feminists, though differing in some respects, tended to emerge from the late 60s/ early 70s New Left, in large part as a reaction to its theoretical sole focus on class, also partly in reaction to the sexism of the comrades (I recall reading one Australian feminist philosopher summarising the attitudes of her former New Left male comrades: “perhaps the most aggressively sexist male breed alive”).
            One consequence of this initial milieu was that 1970s feminism could sometimes look like Marxism with sex/ gender replacing class as the primary tool of analysis. By the mid-70s there had emerged, in both the UK and Italy, a distinction (perhaps oversimplified) between socialist feminists (who retained class as a major analytical category alongside sex/ gender; examples would be Sheila Rowbotham, Ann Oakley and I think Luisa Passerini) and radicals (who prioritised sex/ gender based analysis and relegated class to at most secondary importance, IIRC Sheila Jeffreys and Alessandra Bocchetti would be examples of this tendency).

      • Machine Interface says:

        I do believe that any heterosexual man here more than say 30 year old has a top 5 of the worst comments on girls he ever said that FAR outshine this ‘grab them by the pussy’ line.

        That you have such a low opinion of all heterosexual men does a lot to contextualise your defense of Trump.

        • hnrq says:

          Exactly, what a dreadful observation. Also, how can one say that Trump isn’t racist? There are more than plenty of evidence than he his.

          • I disagree with the “any heterosexual man” claim, since I’m male, heterosexual, over thirty, and can’t think of anything I have ever said that fits the pattern.

            But I also disagree with the claim that Trump is obviously a racist. He’s not a very nice man, and he is clearly prejudiced in favor of himself and against anyone who doesn’t support him, but what is the evidence that he is more prejudiced against blacks who are not Trump than against whites who are not Trump?

          • Aftagley says:

            @ DavidFriedman

            So, like everything else, racism as a concept is hard to prove, because it’s really, really difficult to know what’s going on inside someone’s head.

            That being said, Trump’s attitude on race almost certainly are somewhere in the spectrum of “Actively Racist” to “Maybe not Actively Racist, but sure acts that way.”

            His housing practices (denying leases to African Americans) his employment practices (Clearing his casinos of African Americans when other racists came to gamble) his political practices (the spear-head of birtherism) all paint himself as someone who actively harbors a negative perception of others based on their racial background.

            Now, I’m sure he’s absolutely fine with black people who support him; and at this point I’m sure he has a higher opinion of Ben Carson than he does of Nancy Peloci, but that doesn’t negate decades of pretty clearly judging people based on their race.

          • The Nybbler says:

            His housing practices (denying leases to African Americans)

            Settled with no admission of guilt.

            his employment practices (Clearing his casinos of African Americans when other racists came to gamble)

            This would be the case of Robert LiButti, who used various sexist, raclst and ethnic slurs to refer to Trump Plaza employees. Seems strange a racist would be employing the kind of people LiButti would be insulting.

            his political practices (the spear-head of birtherism)

            Obama birtherism is no more racist against blacks than Cruz birtherism is against Cubans or McCain birtherism is against whites.

          • acymetric says:

            Settled with no admission of guilt.

            As with almost all financial settlements. Doesn’t tell us much.

            Obama birtherism is no more racist against blacks than Cruz birtherism is against Cubans or McCain birtherism is against whites.

            Which of those are actual widespread movements with serious traction, and which are comprised of tiny fringe groups (or completely fabricated for the sake of this example)? Do you think maybe that is important?

          • The Nybbler says:

            As with almost all financial settlements. Doesn’t tell us much.

            Indeed, it does not tell us he was innocent, but it also fails to establish his guilt.

            Which of those are actual widespread movements with serious traction, and which are comprised of tiny fringe groups (or completely fabricated for the sake of this example)? Do you think maybe that is important?

            None were fabricated. I don’t think the size of the movement is important to determining how racist it is.

          • Aftagley says:

            @TheNybbler

            Settled with no admission of guilt.

            You’re conflating the fact that legally a consent decree imposes no criminal guilt or civil liability with the bizarre idea that it means the individual didn’t do what he or she was accused of.

            Let me put it to you this way: If I accused you of doing something, then we went into a back room, and then you came out and agreed to take steps to fix the thing I’d accused you of, would it be unreasonable of a bystander to assume you’d been doing what I accused you of?

            This would be the case of Robert LiButti, who used various sexist, raclst and ethnic slurs to refer to Trump Plaza employees. Seems strange a racist would be employing the kind of people LiButti would be insulting.

            Well, there’s also individuals who claim the casinos cleared out black people for Trump also. I also don’t think that hiring a certain class of people prevents accusations of bias against them when you treat them in a different way that their non-black coworkers. Mind expounding on this point?

            Obama birtherism is no more racist against blacks than Cruz birtherism is against Cubans or McCain birtherism is against whites.

            What acymetrics says for the overarching points here, but also Cruz birtherism (also peddled by Trump) is IMO anti-Canadian, not anti-Cuban.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You’re conflating the fact that legally a consent decree imposes no criminal guilt or civil liability with the bizarre idea that it means the individual didn’t do what he or she was accused of.

            No, you’re conflating the fact that legally a consent decree without an admission of guilt does not establish the innocence of the party involved with the bizarre idea that it establishes that party’s guilt. It does not. A consent decree may simply mean it was cheaper to pay that continue the court battle.

            Well, there’s also individuals who claim the casinos cleared out black people for Trump also.

            One individual makes that claim. Another — who Trump fired, which may have something to do with it — makes some claims also, though not the same claim.

          • Aftagley says:

            A consent decree may simply mean it was cheaper to pay that continue the court battle.

            Right, so we go back and look at the evidence. It was pretty well established (through testers) that white couples with identical financial histories as black couples were offered properties that the blacks were not. It has also been established that black applications were marked with the letter C, which pretty obviously indicated their colored status. It has also been alleged that numerous individuals throughout the case who worked for the Trump organization were pretty open with the company’s racial bias. Furthermore, all this happened before Trump became a mind-killer.

            makes some claims also, though not the same claim.

            Ok, so do you deny the claim’s accuracy then?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ok, so do you deny the claim’s accuracy then?

            I have no idea. I can only say the word of one employee, whose history with Trump I have no way of judging, is very weak evidence of anything.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @DavidFriedman

            All but the worst antebellum slave owners owned blacks that they *liked*. This did not make them any less racist.

            And during and preceding the Civil War I dare say that many of those same slave owners hated the anti-slavery Northerners far more than they hated any black person (enslaved or free). This did not make them any less racist.

            The outgroup, and all that.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            [R]acism as a concept is hard to prove, because it’s really, really difficult to know what’s going on inside someone’s head.

            Given how hard it is to prove, shouldn’t we be commensurately resistant to jumping from accusation to conviction to retribution?

            As for Trump, ISTR he’s associated with several blacks over his life, including having his picture taken with them. Muhammad Ali once referred to him as “the best friend a black man could have”. He’s invited Kanye West to the White House. I recall a meeting with the Young Black Leadership Summit last year, where he called them the “future leaders of America”, to loud cheers. And he went out of his way to de-segregate his country club. To this day, IIRC, his is the only club in Florida that’s open to black membership. Does this seem like racist behavior to you? Or does it strike you as anti-racist?

            If Trump does things that seem racism at one moment and things that seem against racism on another, how do you propose to resolve them against each other? Do you want to infer net racism from having done anything racist in the past? Or net anti-racism from anything anti-racist? If either of these, why does one get primacy over the other? If neither, then what’s the tiebreaker? Net harm? Recency?

          • Dacyn says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            To this day, IIRC, his is the only club in Florida that’s open to black membership.

            Uh, do you remember where you might have heard that? Because it seems like a fairly surprising claim. (For the record, I looked on some of the country clubs’ websites and and none of them said anything about blacks not being allowed, though I also couldn’t find them saying anything that would contradict that.)

          • Aftagley says:

            @Dacyn

            He’s mostly wrong, and what he’s right about is seriously up for debate.

            First, there are laws against excluding minorities from clubs who’s membership exceeds 400 members in Florida. These laws were on the books when Trump made Mar-A-Lago, so he couldn’t get around them the way all the other clubs do which is only let in the family members and/or close friends of your current membership who all joined when discrimination was legal.

            Second, Trump likely integrated it mostly out of spite. Basically, in the 80s/90s Trump tried to join a Waspy Palm Beach club and was rejected for being, well, Trump. This pissed him off, so he publicly denied being angry about it by claiming he didn’t want to join a club that excluded minorities (which again, all these fancy clubs definitely did).

            Later when he was forced to turn Mar-a-lago into a money-making enterprise, he tried to turn the property into a bunch of subdivisions. The same people who ran the club also ran the town and told him he couldn’t do that. So, instead, he turned the place into a private club and made the fact that it was open to anyone as A) part of the marketing campaign and B) something he could use to insult the wasps in Palm Beach who didn’t like him.

            TLDR: It’s not the only club that’s open to minorities. All clubs are technically “open” to minorities by law, he just exploited the de facto exclusionary practices of the other clubs for a nice marketing win / hammer to beat people he didn’t like.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Aftagley: Thanks, interesting. I suppose it means it is plausible that Mar-A-Lago is still the only club to have black members.

          • Aftagley says:

            I suppose it means it is plausible that Mar-A-Lago is still the only club to have black members.

            Like all boring arguments, that’s almost certainly going to come down to what you mean when you say “club” and “have black members.”

            If you count every Podunk regional golf club as a “club” then the statement is obviously false, those places will admit anyone willing to pay the $20 course fee. But there’s obviously a difference between the gilded country clubs like mar-a-lago and some small town’s 18 hole course.

            It also matters what you mean when you say “admit black people.” Augusta National (not in Florida, but emblematic of club culture) began admitting black people in 1990; two notable current African american members are former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former NFL star Lynn Swann. If the club lets in black people, but only if they are nationally famous, does that count as being equal opportunity?

            For an example in Florida, think about Tiger Woods – he is likely a member of The Bears Club in his home town of Jupiter Florida… but does a club get to claim open membership for letting in the best golfer of our time?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It’s not the only club that’s open to minorities. All clubs are technically “open” to minorities by law, he just exploited the de facto exclusionary practices of the other clubs for a nice marketing win / hammer to beat people he didn’t like.

            Look at what you’re doing here. You’re taking evidence of a club that does as anti-racist does and arguing it’s not really that because of technicalities. However, you earlier assert that there are things Trump does which indicate he’s at best “Maybe not Actively Racist, but sure acts that way”.

            But again, when we go back to Mar-A-Lago’s membership policy, you seem to reject the possibility that it’s “maybe not Actively Anti-Racist, but sure acts that way”.

            What if people dig into the things Trump has done which are commonly claimed as racist, and find specific evidence he did them for other reasons? Would this, by your standards, weaken the case for Trump being racist? Or at least weaken the argument of “maybe not, but sure acts that way”?

            For example, what of all the other things I mentioned? They seem pretty blatantly anti-racist to me.

            (Side note: who, generally, does Augusta National admit? Maybe it’s just biased against non-famous people.)

          • Aapje says:

            Perhaps Trump is not so much racist or anti-racist, but simply opportunistic.

            In other words, he may implement racist policies when racist policies fill a gap in the market, but may have anti-racist policies or hire black people when that works out best for him.

          • Dacyn says:

            Like all boring arguments

            I suppose that depends on which arguments you thinks are boring 😛

            (is bored by the “Is Trump a racist?” argument, leaves thread)

          • Ransom says:

            Honestly, the effort to paint Trump as racist seems to be really strained. I attribute it to a desire by his enemies to find some way to bring the left’s main superweapon to bear on him.

          • Anthony says:

            The evidence that Trump discriminated against blacks in his housing developments is evidence against his anti-semitism. Trump’s father *did* discriminate against blacks in his developments, because he didn’t want to lose Jewish buyers, who really didn’t want to live in the same buildings as blacks. If Trump actually did discriminate against blacks, it’s probably for the same reason.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Positive racism is still racism (model minority stereotypes).

            This especially comes to light when some members of the minority do something that the positive racist dislikes. See the discussion on objectification elsewhere in this OT.

        • GearRatio says:

          I think about how this statement is treated by both sides a lot, and I think there’s a truth in between the extreme positions on both sides that’s hard to get to for both sides. I’m willing to make myself look bad to articulate it as best I can:

          Where the defense is clearly wrong:

          There’s a lot in that statement besides the “grab her by” line: He’s admitting trying to sleep with a married woman; he’s admitting to offering to take her furniture shopping, but it’s a false pretense and he’s only doing it to aggressively put the moves on her; he says he “moves on her like a bitch” which is just an ugly thing to say; he says she now has “big phony tits” and has totally changed her look, more than kinda-sorta implying that this makes it unfair in some way that she hasn’t slept with him.

          Combined with the “I just start kissing them” and “grab her by the pussy” stuff, this represents him of thinking of women as sexual objects to have sex with with not much value besides that. It’s not a nice look.

          I do think that if we are being honest and not trying to make absolutely sure that it’s evident there’s contrast between us and Trump, some/most/all men have this “women are sex things” reflex in them. It’s easy and automatic to see an attractive woman and view her only as a sexual object; something like “look at that thing over there; I’d like to have sex with it”. But this isn’t a noble reflex. At the least it’s not noble if it isn’t tempered by humanity a huge amount.

          Most good people with high male sex drive spend a lot of time resisting it and understanding that despite the fact they’d like to have sex quite a bit, that women are also people and equals and have value equal to men, that the “they are sex things” is an important animal impulse but that we are supposed to be more than our animal reflexes. Not doing this is ugly and bad; fully leaning into “women should have sex with me, that’s their purpose and they have no value besides that” is incel stuff.

          I think that ignoring the ugliness of the statement as a whole, even out of context and in isolation, is a unjustifiable stretch.

          Where the prosecution is clearly wrong:

          There is a certain context of sophomoric, hyperbolic talk among men that’s ignored; this is fed by the reflex to think of attractive women as sexual objects. Acknowledging it puts me in a vulnerable position, because it’s really, really easy for somebody to come in and say “Nope! I never talk about women that way, or feel they are mere sex things. You are just bad in an unnatural way, in the way where you’ve cultivated a bad thing that wouldn’t exist otherwise”.

          I don’t doubt that there are men who don’t exist in a social context where this kind of hyperbole exists and is understood, in the same way where I don’t doubt there are men of weaker/different sex drive who don’t see an attractive woman walk down the street and see her, for an uncontrolled semi-second, as a mere sex-thing. But I do think that more people know about it and understand it than admit to it on the prosecution side.

          To make myself look worse, I’ve said the following phrase.

          I would f___ her so hard she’d break in half.

          The context I spoke this in was to a close friend who also knew the young woman in question. In our shared language context, the statement was meant to say something functionally identical to “I find that young woman to be very physically attractive, and I am shocked at the amount of sexual feelings I feel towards her; it’s quite overpowering.”.

          More importantly, the statement was understood to say what I represented it as saying above, and I knew it would be before and while I said it. The guy I said it to agreed with the statement, and went on to treat the girl with love and respect, eventually marrying her and carrying on treating her well.

          A person could easily (and will) disbelieve my statements above about the context and understood meaning of the ugly-worded statement. If they decided the statement should be taken mostly literally and without any other context included about who I was talking with, how I expected the statement to be understood, how I treat women or how I deal with and channel that impulse, I would seem monstrously misogynistic. If they took it fully literally, full stop, I would seem like I intended to commit a murder and would when the opportunity presented itself.

          Where I think the prosecution oversteps is in doing just that; pretending or naively(IMO) believing that this kind of language context doesn’t exist. In Trump’s case, this real or feigned disbelief manifested itself at the extreme end as “Trump admits to sexual assault, and nobody on the right cares!!!”.

          To anybody from a culture that has that kind of language context, though, this doesn’t ring true; they’ve said those kinds of things meaning them as “I have a strong sex drive, and it is inconvenient to me and lamentable especially in the context of being in the presence of this woman” and having them be understood that way by their audience. To me, that kind of safe-space lets-commiserate-about-feelings usage of this language was/is so common that functionally denying it exists by acknowledging only one possible meaning to those words looks, at first glance, incredibly dishonest.

          So you have this distinction between groups of people:

          1. One group has a context of language like this being used non-literally to express a certain feeling (or will dishonestly pretend they do) and is willing to ignore other, ugly stuff in the statement once the other side has “lied” and said this is and can only be interpreted as admitting to sexual assault.

          2. Another group does not have a context of language being used like this (or will dishonestly pretend they do not) and would instead say something like “I have very strong sexual feelings towards this woman; they are inconveniently and surprisingly powerful” for the same thing. Or they have a weaker/different sex drive and don’t feel those urges as powerfully so it doesn’t make sense at all (or will dishonestly pretend they don’t feel them). Being without or pretending to be without this context or these urges leads them to believe there’s only one possible interpretation of this statement which is “Donald Trump is saying he sexually assaults women”.

          I do think this is a little scissors-statement; I also think to a certain degree how charitably you interpret this statement is correlated with how you feel about Trump otherwise. But if one side thinks the others are pretending they don’t understand hyperbole and feelings of sexual impulse and the other side thinks that anybody who uses that kind of language can only be expressing monstrous things, it’s going to stay that way.

          • ECD says:

            I think there’s something to your second point, though I haven’t (despite being male) personally witnessed it. However, I’m sufficiently anti-social that my time in locker rooms, or other all-male gatherings has been limited and it’s entirely possible I simply missed it (I’ve been told by several people I trust for instance that my sister’s suddenly ex-boyfriend repeatedly attempted to accost me after class at the university we all attended and through a combination of reading and listening to music while walking, I managed to simply not notice until he gave up, thinking I was deliberately ignoring him).

            However, I think this overlooks the age of the person in question. This was 14 years ago. President Trump is 73. If I can do subtraction, the man was 59. I’m going to think it’s pretty pathetic (and disturbing in someone who occupies the highest office in the land) to still be talking/acting like the horny teenagers out of a bad comedy when he’s 59.

            I’ll also say, I have a hard time with reading the ‘prosecution’ version of your case above (which seems fairly good, if not entirely accurate, missing the cultural impacts of the behavior criticized, as well as President Trump’s other statements/behavior which seem to indicate this is not necessarily ‘hyperbole and feelings of sexual impulse’) in the summary you give.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @GearRatio:

            The thing you are missing in your summary of where the prosecution is wrong is, pretty ironically, all of the context. You gave us an “outrageous” statement, then proceeded to give us a lot of context that allows us to interpret the meaning of the statement.

            Trump’s comment isn’t one statement. He didn’t merely say “I’d grab her by the pussy.” Rather, he told an entire story, and the context isn’t the kind of story you are telling. There isn’t any context of respect, at all. You adding that in to your story smuggles in the idea that you can make these kinds of statements within a larger context of respect. But that context doesn’t exists for the specific conversation Trump had.

            The other big thing you are missing is the difference between “I would” and “I did”. Trump is largely talking about things he claims to have done, so the statements can’t be assumed to be hyperbole in the way yours is. He does claim to walk up to women and actually grab them, he does claim to actually just start kissing them, and this is in the larger context where he is admitting this may not be desired, as the story is about not “getting there” with someone.

          • GearRatio says:

            @ECD

            I wanted to spend a bit more time on Trump having his own context of who he is and the kind of things he does, and how that effects interpretations. Yes, it’s worse if a 70-something man talks this way than an 18-year-old; I’ve stopped talking this way at a mere 35. But at the same time, there’s a big difference between “I think this is in bad taste; he should have more refined words for this message” or “these words might be meant to be taken literally, but given that he’s a creep in other ways they have much more creepy implications” and “This is a literal admission of sexual assault”.

            I think the short version is that there’s some reasonable in-between points, like “I understand for some people this might be hyperbole, but I think that Trump is more on the ‘I actually sexually harass/assault women’ side, EVEN IF he thought he was participating in harmless hyperbole, which I’m not sure of”. And I think some people hold this view, I don’t blame them for it or even necessarily disagree.

            I think where this fell apart for a lot of people on the Defense side is that there were a ton of headlines/articles/talking heads who said something to the affect of “This is a literal admission of sexual assault; he has admitted it, this is a smoking gun, and nobody cares”. When the most visible take or the take you notice due to it’s harshness is “We want to treat words like this like admissions of guilt, judging them as fully literal and with as harsh an interpretation as possible” and you sometimes talk like that (or have talked like that) without meaning what they say or being a rapist, It’s pretty difficult not to get your hackles up.

            So what happens there is what I think we observed – “It’s just locker room talk” being shorthand one side thought the other would understand meant hyperbole and a certain mode of speech, and “If men talk about sexually assaulting women for fun in locker rooms, that’s terrible” being the response.

          • Dack says:

            No victim, no crime.

            This has been out there for years and no one has come forward to confirm it.

            IIRC, there was a “share real life Trump experiences” thread on reddit in the lead up to the election, and they were almost universally positive.

          • Cliff says:

            I’ve never quite understood the whole “sex object” thing. Can’t you want to have sex with a person without knowing anything about them except for how they look, without thinking of them as an object? They are just a very sexy person, right? There seems to be some embedded puritanical moralizing here that you have to know and like a person’s personality before you can have sex with them.

          • Aftagley says:

            @GearRatio

            I kind of disagree with your assertion. Having done a fair bit of locker-room talk myself, the topics always break down into two categories – speculative/fantasy or storytelling.

            You address the first category very accurately during your summary. When in loose social environments and while motivated by strong sexual urges, people tend to talk in a way that’s pretty crude. I agree, these statements arguably sound worse than they actually are and shouldn’t be taken as actual intent.

            But, then there’s the second category – people bragging about their sexual conquests. The kind of “you know X girl, I Y’ed her” talks. These still might involve creative storytelling, but there is generally a core of accuracy involved in telling them. If we were engaged in this kind of conversation and you said “Man, I F____ed her so hard she broke in half” I wouldn’t assume, you’d actually coitused someone into fractional parts, but I would walk away with the assumption you’d engaged in some rather energetic intercourse.

            That’s where Trump’s statement crosses the line between “normal locker room banter” into “maybe a problem.” Even allowing for creative interpretation, it still implies that he is completely fine with using his fame and overall presence to justify aggressive sexual initiations with women.

            Side note: Is this whole “men only have sexual conversations with other men” thing generational (i’m pretty young), or am I just an anomaly? Looking back, I’d say all of my top 5 most graphic conversations involved my female friends actively participating. Admittedly, I spend most of my time in male-dominated environments so the women tend to be “one of the boys” and a high number of them are lesbians, but even so this whole “men talk dirty to eachother” thing has not been born out in my experience.

          • albatross11 says:

            Crass sexualized discussion of women isn’t uncommon at least among young men. It’s something I’d be utterly unsurprised to hear from a bunch of 20 year old guys, and pretty surprised to hear from a 40 year old guy. OTOH, Trump’s whole brand is a mix of luxury and crassness, so it’s not a shock to hear it from Trump. Trump’s comments don’t reflect well on him, but they’re about what I would have expected. They’re clearly not admitting a crime—even Trump’s got more self control than that—but they’re exactly the kind of “I’m a rich guy living in luxury but with no class” message I’d expect from him. Sort of like the Stormy Daniels scandals, which again, would have been shocking misbehavior from almost anyone else, but seemed utterly unsurprising from Trump.

          • Protagoras says:

            I’ve never quite understood the whole “sex object” thing. Can’t you want to have sex with a person without knowing anything about them except for how they look, without thinking of them as an object? They are just a very sexy person, right? There seems to be some embedded puritanical moralizing here that you have to know and like a person’s personality before you can have sex with them.

            The moralizing also plays a role, but the connection of the idea of femininity with being passive and lack of agency means that sexualizing women particularly can be in tension with recognizing their personhood. There do seem to be some men for whom this tension is particularly strong, though I do think many feminists (and prudes, and of course especially feminist prudes) exaggerate how much this is at work in a typical heterosexual man’s attitude toward women they are attracted to. Though in fairness to the feminists and prudes, I suppose it’s possible I’m typical minding my fellow heterosexual men in thinking this is overblown.

          • I’ve never quite understood the whole “sex object” thing.

            My feeling as well.

            Suppose you admire a singer for her singing, knowing nothing else about her. Are you treating her as a “song object”?

            I expect Trump’s attitude towards women is largely exploitative, that he isn’t much concerned with the effect on them of his sleeping with them, or trying to. But that’s also his attitude, mutatis mutandem, to men.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Subject, object, verb. -> An objectification implies that a subject (the man) wants to verb (screw) the object (woman).

            A singer has developed a skill. Remarking on the talent, ability, and effort behind their developed skill is no more objectifying them than comment on the skills of a particular athlete is objectifying the athlete.

            So yes, remark on the skills of that burlesque dancer all you want. Comment “great makeup” or “great outfit” to an attractive person, or even “she always looks hot”, sure. But these are probably distinguishable from an objectifying comment.

          • Aapje says:

            Some questions:

            Do women who expect a man to pay for her, financially objectify the man?

            If I only want have conversations with a woman, but not have sex with her, even though she wants to have sex with me, am I mentally objectifying her, ignoring her sexuality for my selfish benefit?

            If I know a great tennis player and want to play tennis with the person, but don’t like talking with the person and merely do the minimum in this regard to convince the person to play with me, am I objectifying the person and abusing the person for my benefit?

            I see quite a few women sexually objectifying men. Is this just as bad?

            IMO, ‘sexual objectification of women’ is warmed over patriarchy.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Aapje, if my analysis is correct, it is trivial to answer all of your questions (“no” in all cases). Is there some reason for thinking my analysis (taken from Beauvoir) is not a good way to understand complaints about sexual objectification?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Aapje

            A lot of objectification goes on. And it shouldn’t be okay-ized.

            Do women who expect a man to pay for her, financially objectify the man?

            Outside of a club where this kind of behavior may be explicitly expected of all concerned, and even encouraged, show me this happening between two people who don’t have a more complex relationship. If you already consider the person as more than just a money machine (and even gold-diggers tend to quid-pro-quo), then this is not objectification. At best it’s applying an adjective (“sexy thing” vs “sex thing”).

            If I only want have conversations with a woman, but not have sex with her, even though she wants to have sex with me, am I mentally objectifying her, ignoring her sexuality for my selfish benefit?

            Probably not? Does she not want to have conversations with you in addition to the sex? There is a give and take in conversation. Now if you solely wanted to demagogue to her without caring about what she says back, then yes, you’ve objectified her. This is why some women complain about mansplaining.

            If I know a great tennis player and want to play tennis with the person, but don’t like talking with the person and merely do the minimum in this regard to convince the person to play with me, am I objectifying the person and abusing the person for my benefit?

            I don’t know. Are you abusing a burlesque woman by watching her show? No. It’s possible that this could meet objectification criteria, but this doesn’t scan as abusiveness, as these are skills they specifically developed to generally interact with people with.

            I see quite a few women sexually objectifying men. Is this just as bad?

            Generally men don’t fear being forced to assume a sexually objectified role compared to women, so no. But for a specific man, yes, this could be as bad. (e.g. see: https://youtu.be/OO4wpAnRWiE?t=110 [starting at the 1:05 minute mark with the money quote at the 1:50 minute mark linked])

          • Cliff says:

            Subject, object, verb. -> An objectification implies that a subject (the man) wants to verb (screw) the object (woman).

            I think Protagoras has this concept right and you have it wrong. There’s nothing wrong in general with wanting to have sex with someone and that’s not the objection. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get to know someone, dance with someone, collaborate with someone- all examples of objectification under your criteria. I think it is clear that is not what people are referring to. People want to have sex with their girlfriends but that doesn’t mean they are treating them like sex objects. That would make the term really meaningless.

            I think here “object” is being treated as distinct from “person.” I.e. the claim is you are not treating them like a human being.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            A sentence can have two subjects.

            I stand by my analogy.

          • Dacyn says:

            @anonymousskimmer: The problem is that e.g. “He listened to her sing” clearly has “her” as an (indirect) object. Now maybe she is somehow still “conceptually” a subject, but it needs to be explained what exactly this means.

            @Protagoras: If I understand correctly, you are saying de Beauvoir’s position is that objectification is “viewing someone as passive and non-agentic”? That’s an interesting view, I don’t know how much in common it has with current objectification discourse, but at least it is pointing to something identifiably distinct from other sorts of actions.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            An analogy is not meant to be fully analogous in all ways.

            If a person is unwilling or incapable of treating another person as a co-subject, or even lead subject, in a sentence, this is analogous to objectifying them.

            I’m not trying to mandate politically correct phrasing here. I’m trying to draw an analogy for thought purposes.

          • Dacyn says:

            @anonymousskimmer: I mean, it sounds like you are saying the same thing as Protagoras, but in a more confusing manner.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Well it’s less confusing to me.

            But yes, I would probably agree.

          • Protagoras says:

            Beauvoir is obviously an important forerunner of the present feminist discourse, and the idea that treating an agent as non-agentic is the very definition of wrongness is present in Kant’s second formulation of the categorical imperative (as Beauvoir obviously knew). Honestly, I get the impression that a lot of people who talk about objectification don’t actually have any clear idea what they’re talking about, but the more intellectual the discussion, the more signs of influence from Beauvoir and Kant can be found.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            A lot of objectification goes on.

            Sure, but one of my objections to this discussion and a lot of feminist discussions in general, is that the kind of objectification that more often harms women is called a large problem that needs to be fixed, while the kinds that harm men or are gender neutral get ignored.

            Nussbaum’s seven possible features of objectification apply very well to the way in which men are often treated. Stoicism can actually be considered a (partially) taught trait that makes it easier to objectify men.

            Once the concept is not applied universally, but is exclusively applied to one gender, it is gender warfare, rather than striving for egalitarianism.

            Outside of a club where this kind of behavior may be explicitly expected of all concerned, and even encouraged, show me this happening between two people who don’t have a more complex relationship. If you already consider the person as more than just a money machine (and even gold-diggers tend to quid-pro-quo), then this is not objectification.

            I don’t get this.

            If the men who buys the woman a drink/dinner/etc merely to have sex is considered to be sexually objectifying the woman, then why wouldn’t the woman be financially objectifying the man if she expects him to pay for her?

            Probably not? Does she not want to have conversations with you in addition to the sex?

            My idea behind the scenario was that the man is uninteresting, but very pretty, where the woman indulges in conversation merely to get him to sleep with her, but does not like the conversation. Basically, the mirror image of what men are regularly accused of.

            There is a give and take in conversation. Now if you solely wanted to demagogue to her without caring about what she says back, then yes, you’ve objectified her. This is why some women complain about mansplaining.

            A traditional male complaint is that women ask their partner for feedback, but don’t want an honest answer, but self-affirmation (“Do I look fat in this?”). The man is then simply used selfishly to get an ego boost. That is then objectification too, right?

            Also, the stereotype is actually much more about women talking men’s ears off about things they didn’t care about than vice versa. Yet this wasn’t and isn’t called objectification or womansplaining.

            Also, the original meaning of mansplaining was telling a woman what she already knew, with a prominent example being a man who explained a book to the writer of the book. IMO, you are using an expanded, abused and further weaponized term.

            IMO, it all supports my point that ‘objectification’ and related terms are not objectively used, but used as weapons in the culture war.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Aapje

            I agree. It is important to seek female allies in the opposition to male objectification. I fundamentally believe that people are responsible for championing their own causes, and that other people should not lead this charge, merely stand behind the leaders, lest the voices of the “allies” swamp out the voices of the wronged. Male objectification is on the shoulders of men. And as suffragettes were demonized in the 19th/20th century border, and as blacks were demonized in the mid-to-late 20th century (US and SA, that I know of), some men are demonized today. It takes work and time to build an ally network. I think the Youtuber I linked to might be willing to be such an ally, however much she likes “Barihunks”, she at least recognized its negative effect on some men.

            If the men who buys the woman a drink/dinner/etc merely to have sex is considered to be sexually objectifying the woman, then why wouldn’t the woman be financially objectifying the man if she expects him to pay for her?

            People should be allowed their fetishes in peace. It’s easy to avoid this objectification fetish by simple going elsewhere to drink and mingle.

            My idea behind the scenario was that the man is uninteresting, but very pretty, where the woman indulges in conversation merely to get him to sleep with her, but does not like the conversation. Basically, the mirror image of what men are regularly accused of.

            If it’s a mirror image than it is equally as wrong, especially if any implicit power plays come into it (i.e. upper-class woman, lower-class man).

            A traditional male complaint is that women ask their partner for feedback, but don’t want an honest answer, but self-affirmation (“Do I look fat in this?”). The man is then simply used selfishly to get an ego boost. That is then objectification too, right?

            Here it’s necessary to use simple deconstruction to identify that the woman and man at hand are typically in a relationship, and that the woman is seeking affirmation of said relationship from the man, not an ego boost. To the extent this isn’t the case one must also look to said fetishism mentioned earlier (and it wouldn’t be nice of the woman to seek to get her fetish fulfilled from a random man who hasn’t indicated he’s into the fetish by taking the action of, say, entering that kind of club). However, I disagree with you partly here. I believe that the majority of women who asked a random man whether they looked good in an outfit, would genuinely want an accurate answer. This is why they are asking a random man instead of an intimate.

            Also, the stereotype is actually much more about women talking men’s ears off about things they didn’t care about than vice versa. Yet this wasn’t and isn’t called objectification or womansplaining.

            Some women objectify. Here you have two issues: generally in relationships there is a quid pro quo in acting as both a listener and a demagogue, and more importantly being open to conversing (and thus not objectification). Historically when women have been treated as the listener this has been seen as something they shouldn’t complain about (emotional labor). I believe the reason for the stereotype is that men haven’t been conditioned to not complain about women “talking their ears off”, thus feel free to complain about it without ever being aware of the instances when they have reciprocated.

            Also, the original meaning of mansplaining was telling a woman what she already knew, with a prominent example being a man who explained a book to the writer of the book. IMO, you are using an expanded, abused and further weaponized term.

            I was giving an example, not claiming the example applied to all instances.

            IMO, it all supports my point that ‘objectification’ and related terms are not objectively used, but used as weapons in the culture war.

            See my opening paragraph in this post for my take on it. All personality types and sexualities are prone to trying to control others in various ways pertinent to their personalities and attributes. And all types of people can act in non-objectifying ways too. It is up to each person to identify their own objectifying cause, and to try to convince others to support this cause, or at least not act in such an objectifying manner anymore.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Male objectification is on the shoulders of men.

            The problem there is that (success) in male gender role is built on making sacrifices for others, not selfishness. This is why men are so impotent at defending themselves from abusive feminists (including the Big Lie where male sacrifice is misrepresented as oppression) and why MRAs are regarded as losers.

            Women could gain status by adopting the male gender role, because even though they lost a little status as inherently valuable people or status as mothers/housekeepers/etc, they gained status by working. Men just lose status if they focus on parenthood/housekeeping or worse, demand to be seen as inherently valuable.

            Here it’s necessary to use simple deconstruction to identify that the woman and man at hand are typically in a relationship, and that the woman is seeking affirmation of said relationship from the man, not an ego boost.

            Demanding that your partner affirms his love for you, by forcing him to lie, is an ego boost, executed in a rather abusive way.

            I believe the reason for the stereotype is that men haven’t been conditioned to not complain about women “talking their ears off”, thus feel free to complain about it without ever being aware of the instances when they have reciprocated.

            If they discuss this with other men, but accept it as the price of the relationship, they have been and are actively conditioning each other.

            All personality types and sexualities are prone to trying to control others in various ways pertinent to their personalities and attributes. It is up to each person to identify their own objectifying cause, and to try to convince others to support this cause, or at least not act in such an objectifying manner anymore.

            I think that it is more a matter of people with compatible pathologies seeking each other out.

            But…my point is that it’s abusive and unfair when one gender can attribute such behavior to a grand conspiracy theory and thereby apply a superweapon against the other gender, but not vice versa.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            oh FFS.

            “Am I pretty” = “Am I still attractive to you / do you want me still / etcetera” that the woman is too anxious about to directly ask.

            But…my point is that it’s abusive and unfair when one gender can attribute such behavior to a grand conspiracy theory and thereby apply a superweapon against the other gender, but not vice versa.

            Some men attack these women (I remember the term “Feminazi” from when I was listening to Rush Limbaugh). There’s nothing preventing men from talking about grand conspiracies either.

            The men AND women who talk about grand patriarchal or feminist conspiracies both tend to be rightfully glanced askance at by men and women both.

            The solution to this for both men and women is to honestly lay out how they feel marginalized or objectified and to try to convince others to be allies to the cause of ameliorating said objectification.

            If they discuss this with other men, but accept it as the price of the relationship, they have been and are actively conditioning each other.

            Just like the women. Only for some reason the stereotype of the “nag” has been far more ingrained in cultural understanding than the equivalent masculine stereotype.

            The problem there is that (success) in male gender role is built on making sacrifices for others, not selfishness.

            🤨

          • Aapje says:

            “Am I pretty” = “Am I still attractive to you / do you want me still / etcetera” that the woman is too anxious about to directly ask.

            That’s not the example I used, which involved a form of manipulation by ostensibly asking a question, but actually demanding a stock answer. Disallowing people from choosing how to respond is controlling and manipulative. Demanding that people lie about the truth to prove their love is even worse. Neither are merely a demand for affirmation.

            You are actually pretty consistently proving my point by arguing away bad behavior of women against men, but not the opposite.

            Some men attack these women (I remember the term “Feminazi” from when I was listening to Rush Limbaugh).

            Conservative men who believe in traditional gender roles have these exploitable weaknesses, because they are part of traditional gender roles.

            Feminism doesn’t tend to oppose the parts of traditional gender roles that benefit women at the expense of men, which is exactly the issue.

            For example, both conservatives and feminists tend to reject the idea that women have, just like men, a certain innate tendency to sexually abuse/exploit the other. So you don’t tend to see conservatives reject sexist definitions of rape that make laws sexist and have corrupted scientific surveys into sexual assault for 30 years. Nor do you see them advocating that male victims seek legal justice against female perpetrators as often as women do. You will more likely see them shame male victims into silence, which is extremely common behavior from feminists as well.

            Feminism embraced and exploited certain aspects of gender roles that allowed them to implement a certain agenda much more effectively, even though this embrace made gender roles part of mainstream feminism.

            It’s like the Marxists who, once they chose dictatorship and elitism to shape and implement their plans, could never have a bottom-up democratic system. The means of power that they chose prevents it, just like the means of power that mainstream feminists use, prevents gender equality.

            The solution to this for both men and women is to honestly lay out how they feel marginalized or objectified and to try to convince others to be allies to the cause of ameliorating said objectification.

            The reality of the situation is that women who do this gain allies and get backing from powerful elites (in the media, politics, etc), while men who do this get harmed. It’s not a level playing ground at all and never was.

            Men cannot gain equality until neither conservatism and feminism are dominant (cultural) forces.

            Only for some reason the stereotype of the “nag” has been far more ingrained in cultural understanding than the equivalent masculine stereotype.

            Gender roles are different, so the stereotype that you think is equivalent is not actually an equivalent.

            🤨

            Note that I’m not arguing that women don’t sacrifice for men, but rather, that the feminist tendency to frame male sacrifice as oppressive behavior, while not objecting to women’s feelings of entitlement to those sacrifices, puts men in a no-win situation. If they sacrifice, they wrong women, if they fail to do so, they withhold what women are entitled to, wronging women.

            Note that there is a study that suggests that people see a lack of special treatment by men of women, as misogyny. Men can’t give up on or complain about much of their gender role without being seen as misogynist and/or a loser.

            Note that the lack of empathy for men can be seen in how the very disparities in outcomes that progressives tend to see as horrible oppression of black people, are completely accepted when those exist even worse for men.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            For F*CKS sake Aapje! I”VE ALREADY ADMITTED THAT SOMETIMES WOMEN CAN BE JUST AS BAD> FOR THAT SPECIFIC EXAMPLE IN YOUR OPENING PARAGRAPH HERE I AGREED THAT THAT WAS OBJECTIFYING BEHAVIOR!!!!!!!!!!!

            BUT THAT IS, AT BEST, ONLY A PORTION OF THE MOTIVATION AND ACTION FOR THIS CLASS OF BEHAVIOR>

      • broblawsky says:

        the fact that he’s ‘obviously corrupt’ when he’s one of the few elected official that seem to have LOST money between the start of his campaign and today

        Not to pile on, but there’s very limited evidence for this – he’s estimated to have lost ~$200 million from the damage to his personal brand from his actions as president, but this isn’t taking into account side-benefits, like when the Qatari government bailed out Jared Kushner on a bad real estate deal to the tune of $1.4 billion. That probably wouldn’t have happened if his father-in-law wasn’t President.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I do believe that any heterosexual man here more than say 30 year old has a top 5 of the worst comments on girls he ever said that FAR outshine this ‘grab them by the pussy’ line.

        Um, I have no interest in getting into American CW debate over holidays, but that is deeply factually incorrect statement. Not all men talk like that among themselves.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-former-miss-arizona-tasha-dixon-naked-undressed-backstage-howard-stern-a7357866.html

        I consider Trump talking about hanging out in the Miss Universe dressing room even though he knew the women didn’t like it to be much more serious evidence of sexism than him saying “Grab them by the pussy”.

        As for racism, he persisted in claiming the Central Park Five were guilty after they were cleared. There’s also his birtherism.

        • The Nybbler says:

          As for racism, he persisted in claiming the Central Park Five were guilty after they were cleared.

          Which doesn’t say a lot of good things about his sense of justice, but it’s quite the leap to say that it’s because they were black.

        • As for racism, he persisted in claiming the Central Park Five were guilty after they were cleared.

          I bet he also believes O.J. Simpson is guilty, despite being “cleared.”

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            They were exonerated by DNA evidence.

          • Cliff says:

            No, they weren’t. Read the Wikipedia entry. There was a report after their release that concluded they probably participated in the crime.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            oh, for. Confession and DNA established that Matias Reyes, a serial rapist and murderer assaulted and raped Meili. Believing the central park five had anything to do with that after that point is just bonkers, this is not the sort of shit people randomly join in on! Sure, group sexual assaults happen, but they happen because a pre-existing group of assholes assaults someone, not because thugs come across a rape in progress and go “That looks like fun”.

          • Confession and DNA established that Matias Reyes

            But the confessions of the central park five(all confessed to some part in it) were “unreliable” right?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            … Sigh. The guy is a serial offender of this exact type of crime, and his confession is backed up by physical evidence. Yes, his confession is more credible to the point of moral certainty. Its hard to put a charitable gloss on you arguing with that.

          • Cliff says:

            I will just say that in my mind there is reasonable uncertainty about their innocence. Weren’t they were running around in the area that night attacking and severely beating people?

            Following these events, in 2002, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly commissioned a panel to review the case, “To determine whether the new evidence [from the Reyes affidavit and related evidence, and Morgenthau’s investigation] indicated that police supervisors or officers acted improperly or incorrectly, and to determine whether police policy or procedures needed to be changed as a result of the Central Park jogger case.”[74][82] The panel was made up of two lawyers, Michael F. Armstrong, the former chief counsel to the Knapp Commission; and Jules Martin, a former police officer and now New York University Vice President; as well as Stephen Hammerman, deputy police commissioner for legal affairs.[82][83][84][85] The panel issued a 43-page report in January 2003.[82][74]

            In its January 2003 Armstrong Report, the panel “did not dispute the legal necessity of setting aside the convictions of the five defendants based on the new DNA evidence that Mr. Reyes had raped the jogger.”[82] But it disputed acceptance of Reyes’s claim that he alone had raped the jogger.[82][83] It said there was “nothing but his uncorroborated word” that he acted alone.[82] Armstrong said the panel believed “the word of a serial rapist killer is not something to be heavily relied upon.”[82]

            The report concluded that the five men whose convictions had been vacated had “most likely” participated in the beating and rape of the jogger and that the “most likely scenario” was that “both the defendants and Reyes assaulted her, perhaps successively.”[82] The report said Reyes had most likely “either joined in the attack as it was ending or waited until the defendants had moved on to their next victims before descending upon her himself, raping her and inflicting upon her the brutal injuries that almost caused her death.”[82]

            Despite the analysis conducted by the District Attorney’s Office, New York City detectives supported the 2003 Armstrong Report by the police department. The panel said there had been “no misconduct in the 1989 investigation of the Central Park jogger case.”[82]

            As to the five defendants, the report said:

            We believe the inconsistencies contained in the various statements were not such as to destroy their reliability. On the other hand, there was a general consistency that ran through the defendants’ descriptions of the attack on the female jogger: she was knocked down on the road, dragged into the woods, hit and molested by several defendants, sexually abused by some while others held her arms and legs, and left semiconscious in a state of undress.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            @Cliff
            What are you quoting? Do you have a link?

          • randallsquared says:

            @The Pachyderminator

            @Cliff
            What are you quoting? Do you have a link?

            Not Cliff, but:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Park_jogger_case#Armstrong_Report

        • Cliff says:

          Trump talking about hanging out in the Miss Universe dressing room even though he knew the women didn’t like it to be much more serious evidence of sexism

          I get that it’s a jerk move, but what is sexist about it?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I am not sure if it is sexist, but it definitely sexually predatory behavior.

          • Cliff says:

            Agreed.

            Re: sexism I think it’s usually acknowledged that he is happy to hire and promote women to high positions in his organizations.

          • BBA says:

            I find that an utterly bewildering distinction to make. You could say the same thing to defend Harvey Weinstein, but it sounds ridiculous putting it that way.

            Weirdly, some people still defend Bill Clinton like that. I guess at the time it made sense, but after #MeToo (which couldn’t have happened until the Clintons were out of the picture for good) it means you just don’t know when to take the L.

          • Cliff says:

            As I so often do, I guess I have to go back to the dictionary again:

            sex·ist
            /ˈseksist/
            Learn to pronounce
            adjective
            adjective: sexist

            characterized by or showing prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

            I’m no fan of Trump, just accuracy. I imagine that if Trump or Weinstein were bisexual, they would be assaulting men as well.

            Is Kevin Spacey sexist because he only sexually assaulted men?

          • Aapje says:

            Arguably, heterosexuality and homosexuality are sexist, but it is the kind of sexism that most people accept.

            Another question is whether predatory behavior requires a lot of sexism.

            PS. Note that I think that under Cliff’s definition, nearly everyone is sexist, including ~99.99% of feminists.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Heterosexual man under 30. If the Ms in your name is in any way indicative of gender, I’m sorry for the male company you keep. Trump’s comments code as extremely low-class male. Prior to 2015, I was aware of Trump’s promotion of Birtherism, which, uh, was super racist.

        • Trump’s comments code as extremely low-class male.

          Lots of behaviors code as low-class, yet are indulged in by people of all classes so long as they believe that no one is watching.

          • Milo Minderbinder says:

            True, young men of all classes engage in unfortunate misogyny. The actual locker rooms I’ve been a part of had their fair share (lower-middle income high school and an Ivy League college). But, now at age 25, the (explicit) sexism is mostly gone from my friends from the latter, while still pretty rampant in the former. Also, I don’t remember many “elites” on the Right promoting Birtherism.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        More than that, prior to 2016 I don’t think anybody thought he was a racist

        Let me google that for you: https://www.google.com/search?q=donald+trump+racist&safe=active&tbs=cdr%3A1%2Ccd_min%3A1%2F1%2F1980%2Ccd_max%3A1%2F1%2F2000&tbm=

        https://ew.com/article/1991/05/31/trumped-inside-story-real-donald-trump-his-cunning-rise-and-spectacular-fall/

        The portrait of Donald Trump drawn by former Trump insider John R. O’Donnell is not a pretty one. According to O’Donnell, Trump is a racist. (”Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”)

        And did you completely forget the birther movement, and Trump’s role in promulgating it?

      • lvlln says:

        On point : I’m really surprised to see how you, Snickering Citadel and wikipedia define cultural marxism, as from what I recalled it was coined by the lobsterman to define a kind of thought resembling postmodernism where all cultures were seen as equal axiomatically (this is obviously a very bad, quick and simple summary of what he said).

        I’ve seen lots of people claim that the Lobsterman popularized the term “cultural Marxism” or that he uses it a lot, but the only times I recall hearing him use the term is in a meta way, in reference to the term itself as something other people use. A similar term he has used often – ad nauseum by my lights – is “postmodern neo-Marxism,” which is obviously a different term than “cultural Marxism.”

      • Guy in TN says:

        It’s not restricted to feminism. Many people, even educated SSC commentators, seem to often forget that “Marxism” refers to a specific political/philosophical ideology, that makes rather specific claims, and instead lob the term at every left-wing movement in existence (communism, socialism, environmentalism, anti-nationalism, anti-racism, ect)

        The reason why people revert to the word “Marxism” for practically any left-leaning ideology, is probably no more complicated than the reason why low-minded people use the word “Nazi” for any ideology to the right of Mitt Romney.

        (Although I will grant that perhaps a deep unfamiliarity with the philosophies at hand could cause someone to mistakenly conflate say, Marxism and socialism, in a non-malicious way. They are still wrong of course, but only for reasons of ignorance. But I can’t see how such charity could be reasonably applied to people conflating ideas as clearly distinct as Marxism and feminism.)

        • cassander says:

          and instead lob the term at every left-wing movement in existence (communism, socialism, environmentalism, anti-nationalism, anti-racism, ect)

          To be fair, Marxism was enormously influential during the 20th century and certainly had hand in shaping just about every current left wing ideology and movement. this is not to say that people shouldn’t lazily fling around terms like marxist, but it’s less ridiculous than slinging fascist.

          someone to mistakenly conflate say, Marxism and socialism,

          That conflation is not always mistaken, Marxism is a subset of socialism. And the dominant form of revolutionary socialism.

          • Enkidum says:

            Eh… the phrase “cultural marxism” is just silly when it is used to mean “annoying left wing people who I disagree with”, which is the only use I’m aware of. Whether it’s a more forgivable mistake than saying MAGA types are fascists is debatable, but it’s still silly.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Very frequently marxism shaped left-wing thought via rejection. One reason a lot of social democrats get very annoyed indeed when people call them communists or marxists is that the entire foundation of social democracy is the rejection of The Revolution and a bunch of other marxist garbage in favor of fighting for tangible progress for the working class.

          • cassander says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Via partial rejection, sure. But social democrats absorb an awful lot of marxist class analysis, his critique of capitalism, they just reject marx’s assertion that reform is pointless/counterproductive and violent revolution the only path to socialism. Granted, that last bit is important, but I would say it’s wrong to say that social democrats reject marx. They reject parts of marx.

        • Many people, even educated SSC commentators, seem to often forget that “Marxism” refers to a specific political/philosophical ideology, that makes rather specific claims

          My impression is that a lot of academics in fields far from economics or political science, English for example, refer to themselves as Marxists.

          • DeWitt says:

            You don’t need to be an economist or a political scientist to have strong opinions on economics or science. In fact, the opposite might be true.

          • I was unclear.

            It isn’t that they describe themselves as English scholars who also happen to be Marxists, but that they have a Marxist English department, self-viewed as such.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I have a theory for why intellectual conservatives (for lack of a better term) keep referring to feminism as “cultural Marxism.”

      If you ask them (and I’m not one of them), they’ll tell you. At length. It usually involves a group called the Frankfurt school, true enough. There’s no point in engaging in idle bulverism, nor in paying much attention to a Wikipedia entry written as a smear job.

      • And of course, those involved in the Frankfurt School were communists who were trying to explain why some aspects of Marxist theory was incongruent with the world. As in other things, the influence of the Frankfurt School on the ideas of today is something you’re allowed to notice, unless you disapprove of it, in which case it turns in to a conspiracy theory.

        • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

          The degree of influence of the Frankfurt school, relative to other strains of leftwing thought, is something the average left winger is much better placed to judge than the average right winger.

          • You can draw a straight line from the founders of the Frankfurt School to the Critical Theorists, post-structuralists, and post colonialists that dominate the leftist intelligentsia today. It’s not like this is some hidden esoteric knowledge. They tell us that themselves, denying it only when conservatives say it. It takes a certain amount of audacity to do that but it is what it is.

          • Enkidum says:

            You can draw a straight line from the founders of the Frankfurt School to the Critical Theorists, post-structuralists, and post colonialists that dominate the leftist intelligentsia today.

            I guess? They were certainly a very influential node in the history of left wing thought, moreso than they probably would have been otherwise because many of their fellow travellers had been murdered in the Holocaust and so they were just one of the coherent groups left around. But you can also draw other lines to other people.

            Now that I have a better understanding of the term, it seems fair enough. But I’ve pretty much always seen it used as a kind of “gotcha”, the undertone I pick up always along the lines of “you can ignore this, it’s cultural marxism”. Which is not something that seems an obvious derivation from “this person is an an intellectual tradition which has an important contribution from Horkheimer and Adorno”.

          • Aapje says:

            @TheAncientGeeksTAG

            I think that the average left winger has, like the average right winger, extremely little clue where their talking points come from, especially if the influence was indirect (A morphed into B, which was combined with C into D, etc).

            The past is a susceptible to revisionism anyway, where history is perceived in a way that fits modern narratives.

    • S_J says:

      I have a recollection of hearing “Marxism in disguise” and “cultural-Marxism” as descriptions of currents in left-wing political thought in my teen years. (To lay down a marker of when those were: I can recall news stories about the sexual behavior of both Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton. One of the two just preceded my teen years, and the other was near the end of my teen years…)

      I was not aware of the connection to the Frankfurt school at the time. I did form a head-canon that Marxism was about a narrative of overcoming economic oppression, and that cultural-Marxism was about a narrative of overcoming cultural oppression.

      I, and the cultural circle that my parents moved in, considered such attitudes about oppression to be a cloak for some effort to reduce individual freedom. One of my siblings took to the narrative of cultural-oppresssion-and-opposition-thereto during his college studies. This caused much intra-family dispute–which coincided with the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and the responses of the United States to those attacks. (This may be a simplistic rendering, but I recall a narrative of oppression-and-resistance which felt like Marxist discussion, but the the serial numbers filed off and a few labels switched: “proletariat” was switched out for “Muslim”, and “Western Imperialism” replaced “economic oppression by the bourgeouisie”.)

      I was never aware of the ‘anti-semitic’ undertones of the ‘cultural-Marxism’ accusations.

      However, the currents of cultural conversation that I took part in were heavily influenced by an attitude that tried to be race-blind. Opinions and ideas were judged on their effects, not on the racial/social attitude of the person who produced them. These people may have shared some languages and cultural assumptions with other people who were racist: but the lesson that I internalized was that I should judge people by the content of their character, rather than by the color of their skin.

      There may have been other people aligned with the cultural right who were actually anti-Semites or racists. I know that it is easy to argue over what counts as anti-Semitic attitudes and ideas. (Recent discussion over the attitudes of Labour/Tory parties in Britain show how contentious that can be.)

      My take: it is far easier to label a political opponent as racist, and try to ignore their arguments on those grounds, than to find any other argument to use against that opponent. Thus, I try to tune out accusations of racism, and figure out whether the argument has any value separate from the motivations of the person making the argument.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I have no real theory here, but I’ve noticed that for some people, the primary meaning of a lot of words appears to be their negative connotation. So for them “Nazi” means “bad person” as its primary meaning, with any specifics secondary or entirely forgotten. They can be observed using negative words interchangeably to carry the basic meaning of “I don’t like this person; you shouldn’t like them either”.

      This seems to be even more common in children, calling each other “gay” or “retard” or whatever is currently the fashionable insult in their schoolyard, with little sign that they even know the original meaning of the word.

      However, I’ve observed it on the internet a lot, from people I believe to be adults; a stint moderating several mailing lists taught me all too much about human behaviour online ;-(

      So the null hypothesis here would be “for some people, ‘marxist’ is a generic insult”.

      • Garrett says:

        I grew up in Canada where the adjective “American” was used as an epithet in much the way the word “communist” was used in the US.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Take a feminist, remove all her memories and dogma, and then show her a video of one of Donald Trump’s speeches. Within five minutes, she’ll have reinvented the framework of contemporary feminist thought just by articulating the visceral loathing she will feel at the amount of smirking boorishness on display.

      Can you elaborate on this? Which exactly parts of the contemporary feminism framework do you expect to be reinvented? Because that’s actually a testable hypothesis. There’s enough females who self-identify as feminists but either largely unfamiliar with the modern dogma, or familiar with it but disagree in large parts. One can ask the former to opinionate about Trump and see if they’ll reinvent the parts you expect to be reinvented, or ask the latter to read Trump’s speeches and see if they [begin to] agree with those parts.

    • Take a feminist, remove all her memories and dogma, and then show her a video of one of Donald Trump’s speeches. Within five minutes, she’ll have reinvented the framework of contemporary feminist thought just by articulating the visceral loathing she will feel at the amount of smirking boorishness on display.

      Can you go into more detail about what, exactly, will anger her when hearing of five minutes of a Trump speech? She’ll figure he’s a braggart and a generally arrogant person, but I don’t see how she’s supposed to draw a conclusion that gender relations need to be reformed. You might not think any woman could be that arrogant, but her memories have been zapped. To psychoanalyze the hatred of Trump, I would say that people who hate Trump hate him not because he’s arrogant and self-congratulatory but because he’s arrogant and self-congratulatory and low class. They have credentials and believe that believe that society ought to give them respect for said credentials. Trump’s not any more self-congratulatory than a typical TED Talk speaker, but the TED talk speaker has the credentials or at least tries hard to pretend he has them. Trump doesn’t even pretend because he has absolutely no respect for said credentials. That’s what really drives these people insane.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I might be a feminist – though I part company with many self appointed feminist leaders and thinkers – and I’m not an avid follower of Trump’s speechs – but I can take a stab at part of this.

        Trump is a bully(*). He’ll bully just about anyone, and use whatever leverage he thinks he has, some of it related to social status. AFAICT, this is a stable personality trait.

        He also very much enjoys demonstrating his superiority and receiving positive feedback – and it can be easier to appear superior by putting other people down rather than by doing positive things which will draw respect from others. (AFAICT, he attempts both.)

        One of the many reasons why he has the power, and thus the right to bully (some) people, in his own eyes, is because he’s male and they are female, and he’s thus more important, more deserving, and of course more powerful. This shows.

        Other reasons include – he has more money, he has more power, he has a louder voice, he has better lawyers, he’s white, he’s American, he’s their boss, he controls something they want, and (in the past four years) he’s POTUS.

        If you disagree strongly with a specific reason for bullying – and particularly if you have a chip on your shoulder because it affects you directly – than you will see him as specifically prejudiced against your group, whatever that is, whether it’s women, blacks, or whatever.

        (*) I don’t know whether he’s actually the kind of person that merely wants to find out whether opponents have the guts to stand up for themselves, a behaviour which can look like bullying to people for whom that is not normal. I don’t think so, but it might account for some of his friendliness to other people who behave similarly.

        At any rate, if you happen to be a woman who believes she’s just as good as any man, you are unlikely to appreciate anyone who talks as if being male makes him better/more important/superior to you, and you’re highly likely to call him sexist.

        FWIW, I see him first of all as a plutocrat, “better” than me in his own eyes primarily because of his bank balance. So I primarily charge him with “might makes right”; “money is power is status”. But if I had to deal with him in person – which I fortunately do not – he’d use any stick he had handy, indifferently, to assert his overall superiority.

        • Aftagley says:

          +1

          I really like this idea and think it’s one of the best explanations of Trump out there.

        • cassander says:

          One of the many reasons why he has the power, and thus the right to bully (some) people, in his own eyes, is because he’s male and they are female, and he’s thus more important, more deserving, and of course more powerful. This shows.

          Does Donald Trump gets up every morning intent on proving to absolutely everyone that Donald Trump is not a loser, then rubbing their face in how awesome he is? No question. But I see absolutely nothing gendered or racialized about that. He absolutely thinks he’s better than you, but he thinks that because he’s richer/more famous/smarter/more powerful/bigger handed than you, not because you’re black or a woman, or anything else intrinsic. After all, if he’s only better than you because of intrinsic qualities, it would detract from his greatness.

          As for the money, he doesn’t think he’s better than you because he has money, he thinks the money is proof that he’s better than you.

        • I don’t know whether he’s actually the kind of person that merely wants to find out whether opponents have the guts to stand up for themselves, a behaviour which can look like bullying to people for whom that is not normal.

          For what it’s worth, that was my conclusion about Jerry Pournelle, who some here may be familiar with and who pretty clearly was viewed very negatively by some in SF fandom.

        • One of the many reasons why he has the power, and thus the right to bully (some) people, in his own eyes, is because he’s male and they are female, and he’s thus more important, more deserving, and of course more powerful. This shows.

          Maybe. I think it’s more that Trump is an equal opportunity asshole, who didn’t get the memo that women are equal to men but also that it’s far more outrageous when they rather than men are mocked on the basis of their looks. So he mocks both men and women with gusto. Regardless, the brain-zapped feminist wouldn’t reach this conclusion in five minutes of watching a Trump speech. Trump wouldn’t say he has “the right to bully (some) people, in his own eyes, is because he’s male and they are female.” It would take some time to reach that conclusion.

        • Aapje says:

          @DinoNerd

          Other reasons include – he has more money, he has more power, he has a louder voice, he has better lawyers, he’s white, he’s American, he’s their boss, he controls something they want, and (in the past four years) he’s POTUS.

          So according to you he bullies everyone…

          Why then do you ascribe all these different motivations to Trump? And why would women feel targeted in particular, unless they already believed in a narrative that makes them pattern-match equal-opportunity offenders to misogyny?

          • DinoNerd says:

            I believe that everyone finds it easier to notice bad behaviour that targets people they identify with. If you are a woman, his bullying women, especially bullying women as women, will stand out more. If you aren’t, something else will probably stand out instead. And of course if you like/approve of him, you’ll tend to see something else again – e.g. a powerful person who’ll stand up for you against others.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        It seems silly to psychoanalyze your attempt at psychoanalysis, but you’re certainly off somewhere. I have a low-status job and zero credentials, not even a college degree, and I find Trump the most viscerally loathsome, repulsive public figure currently active. (Not the most evil in any objective way, which is a different question.)

    • I recently watched a debate between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek, where the latter demanded to know just who these Marxists are that the former are always claiming runs all of contemporary leftism. Zizek, after all, is an actual Marxist, and would know better than anyone that that’s a very lonely thing to be in this day and age. This was the only time I’ve ever seen Peterson squirm, as he sputtered that, er, he couldn’t think of one off-hand, but there were definitely tons of them!

      Can you name more than two Islamic terrorist leaders? Osama Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are easy. Who’s the new guy in al-Qaeda? Ayman al-Zaka-something? And the leader of Hezbollah, I forgot his name, Nasaral-something or other?

      See! This proves it’s all a bogeyman, a figment of your imagination!

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I can name two (non-state) terrorist *organizations* that themselves claim to be Islamist. Heck, it’s explicitly in one of their names.

        Add state organizations and I can name a couple of others.

        To draw a parallel:

        Hi+ler can in no way be said to be a Roman Imperialist, despite his borrowing of bundles-of-rods-ism from them. Hi+ler’s political organization was its own thing.

      • Aftagley says:

        Can you name more than two Islamic terrorist leaders?

        This argument is facile. Jordan Peterson has made numerous videos about cultural marxism, enters into debates with people about cultural marxism and routinely presents himself as an expert on the subject.

        An expert on terrorism would certainly be able to provide an overview of the organization charts of most of the major terrorist organizations; if they were unable to do so it would be significant evidence that their claimed expertise was, in fact, fraudulent. This isn’t hyperbole, I’ve seen under-prepared analysts laughed out of the briefing room before.

        • lvlln says:

          This argument is facile. Jordan Peterson has made numerous videos about cultural marxism, enters into debates with people about cultural marxism and routinely presents himself as an expert on the subject.

          Do you have any links to examples of such videos or presenting himself as an expert on it? The only times I’ve seen him use the term is in a meta way in mentioning the term itself as something to talk about, rather than the underlying concept. I’ve seen a lot of people conflate his constant ad nauseum use of “postmodern neo-Marxism” with “cultural Marxism,” but those are obviously 2 different terms.

      • Ketil says:

        See! This proves it’s all a bogeyman, a figment of your imagination!

        Another reason not to name names is that it is probably a ruse to derail the discussion.

        Perhaps a better comparison than terrorists (where there exist lists collected and rubber stamped by governments) is to ask who are the most prominent leaders of feminism? I predict the discussion will quickly turn into hairsplitting about what constitutes true feminism and whose views and behavior makes them worthy of the title- this doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about feminism as a concept.

    • Jaskologist says:

      It’s because Actual Communists did in fact view the family as a bourgeois institution to be abolished, pushed many policies with that aim. A lot of those policies are pretty much the ones pushed by feminists now.

      It is becoming a monthly tradition for me to repost this 1926 article: The Russian Effort to Abolish Marriage.

      When the Bolsheviki came into power in 1917 they regarded the family, like every other ‘bourgeois’ institution, with fierce hatred, and set out with a will to destroy it. ‘To clear the family out of the accumulated dust of the ages we had to give it a good shakeup, and we did,’ declared Madame Smidovich, a leading Communist and active participant in the recent discussion. So one of the first decrees of the Soviet Government abolished the term ‘illegitimate children.’ This was done simply by equalizing the legal status of all children, whether born in wedlock or out of it, and now the Soviet Government boasts that Russia is the only country where there are no illegitimate children. The father of a child is forced to contribute to its support, usually paying the mother a third of his salary in the event of a separation, provided she has no other means of livelihood. At the same time a law was passed which made divorce a matter of a few minutes, to be obtained at the request of either partner in a marriage.

    • lvlln says:

      Again – I consider it self-evident that popular feminism has and requires no intellectual foundation. There surely are high-brow feminist philosophers who write long, boring books justifying the things they wanted to do anyway, but they are entirely irrelevant to the sort of feminism that actually matters enough for people to argue about it. Popular feminism requires nothing beyond the following fact: Donald Trump is the President of the United States. For the sort of person who’d become a feminist, everything else follows naturally.

      “Popular feminism” (i.e. the subset that tends to get labeled as “cultural Marxist”) posits a ton of non-obvious non-trivial things on power and oppression dynamics as well as gender-essentialism. This doesn’t follow naturally from noticing that Donald Trump is POTUS or any other state of the world and largely directly contradicts basic liberal and enlightenment ideas. As a feminist myself who rejects those faith-based suppositions of “popular feminism,” I find your considering this “self-evident” to be no less absurd than if Richard Spencer claimed that it’s “self-evident” that white nationalism as he practices it requires no intellectual foundation because simply looking at the state of the world makes the inherent superiority of whites just follow naturally.

      • albatross11 says:

        The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.

        ― John Maynard Keynes

        I think this is a pretty accurate description of the world. Many people look at the gap between the rich and the poor or the people doing the grunt-level work and the people collecting dividend checks, and feel like something’s not right. But when they start organizing to do something about it, they’re going to speak in a language provided by socialist thinkers like Marx, and they’re going to organize and plan at least partly along the lines laid out by those thinkers. Lots of women will naturally note ways society is organized that gives women a raw deal, and attitudes and behaviors among men that nearly all women find offensive, but when they start organizing to do something about it, again, they’re going to speak in a language provided by feminist thinkers and organize along lines that make sense w.r.t. the feminist thinkers’ ideas. The same is true of black identity politics, or white identity politics, or libertarianism. Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard aren’t around to guide the discussions of people who think the government too intrusive and powerful and prefer to let markets and individual choice decide things, but when such people organize, they (we) speak in the language of Friedman/Rand/Rothbard, and organize at least somewhat along the lines suggested by their writings and ideas.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Leftists are often accused of thinking that things just happen. That wealth just sort of naturally appears, without needing to be worked for. That history just unfolds on its own, without the need for great men and heroic stands. And, yes, that (a central Marxist belief, I seem to understand) ideas and philosophies are the products of the times and conditions under which they appeared, not of the brilliance of individual thinkers and philosophers. And to an extent, that’s fair. I believe that if Thomas Edison had not invented the light bulb, someone else would eventually have done it; I also believe that be that as it may, Thomas Edison was the one who did in fact do the work of inventing it.

      I look at innovation as a chaotic process, in the chaos theory sense. The key to the highest quality of life for all is frequent innovation, and the empirically surest path to it is to reward higher QoL to whichever individual comes up with them. The route to the most equalized QoL is to insist on the opposite – any innovation is studiously distributed to all – which leads to each individual not bothering. Equality of outcome is guaranteed, at the expense of it all being very low – just enough to get by.

      Thing is, the more individual rewards for innovation, the more inequality of outcome, which motivates calls for equalization. The more stagnancy and destitution from strict equalization, the greater the motivation to let innovators go ahead and get their mansions and yachts.

      I see the American left as somewhat schizophrenic toward rewarding innovation. The staunch Marxists continue to stick to the equalization doctrine, but they’re currently allied with a progressive movement with a lot of artists, who see little problem with rewarding artistic pursuits. This drives the American right bonkers; they believe society ought to reward farmers, miners, manufacturers, craftspeople, and repairmen, and see the left instead rewarding musicians, actors, and poets. Then I see the left retort in turn at the right’s apparent non-problem with rewarding CEOs and its own brand of performers (racers, pro athletes, country music stars, evangelists).

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        To be fair, the vast, vast majority of artists are known for drastically undercharging for their work, or even giving it away free.

        Also, there is a popular idea that the vast majority of people who desire artistic work desire it for free, or very cheap.

        • quanta413 says:

          Undercharging by what criteria? Market value, labor theory of value, or something else?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Federal minimum wage.

          • How do you distinguish between “undercharging for their work” and “spending their time doing worthless things”?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I work a salary, and previously worked hourly. I know I have spent salaried or compensated-hourly time doing worthless things (or even making costly mistakes).

            Most consultants are also paid hourly.

            It’s the weird world of independent contractors who charge on a per-project basis that dips into the below minimum wage terrain.

            To answer your question: I’ve read artists complaining about newbie artists undercharging (on the basis of how long it takes to make their art e.g. $140 for a project taking 20 hours to make + materials) for their art, and the effect this has on the market.

          • quanta413 says:

            The federal minimum wage is pretty much a labor theory of value (if X time is spent laboring on something then it should pay at least Y).

            It’s possible that producing art is partly a consumption good for some people making it. They would do art on the side for free anyways, but now they can sell some stuff on etsy. Their work is unlikely to be as technically skilled as someone who spends all their time on art, but less skilled art is still a partial substitute for more skilled art.

            Like you said many people tend to prefer very cheap art. But I think this is a very reasonable preference. Lots of times the marginal gain from the buyer’s perspective of technically superior or aesthetically “better” art isn’t going to be worth paying the increased price that would be required to cover the additional skill and labor.

            I see why some artists might not like this situation, but buyers benefit and no one is being coerced to become an artist.

            Of course, some people probably are undercharging in the sense they could sell their work for more and the same amount of art would be bought. But I’d bet this is common for a lot of people in skilled jobs when they first start working (and others who first start are probably overcharging).

          • Andrew Cady says:

            How do you distinguish between “undercharging for their work” and “spending their time doing worthless things”?

            How do you distinguish between a valuable work of economics and one that is worthless?

          • How do you distinguish between a valuable work of economics and one that is worthless?

            By reading them.

            Is your claim that you have evaluated a large enough sample of art, and have sufficient faith in your expertise, to conclude that much art is sold for a price below its actual value?

            If so, how do you define “actual value”?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Strip the name off the artwork.

            How much would the median artist capable of making that artwork charge?

            To compare to other disciplines: how much is the Boeing MCAS software worth (in terms of direct costs)? Indian engineers charged significantly less than the median US engineer for it.

            In terms of value, we now have software capable of determining how many people spend how much time appreciating, say, a webcomic. Find out their median hourly income and you have a loose proxy for the value of the webcomic.

          • Strip the name off the artwork.

            How much would the median artist capable of making that artwork charge?

            Why does that have anything to do with value?

            Suppose my art work is a very large pile of heavy rocks. The average person capable of producing it would charge a lot, since it took a lot of work. That doesn’t tell us if it’s worth anything at all.

            In terms of value, we now have software capable of determining how many people spend how much time appreciating, say, a webcomic. Find out their median hourly income and you have a loose proxy for the value of the webcomic.

            I don’t see how.

            Suppose there was some other enjoyable activity, say chatting with each other, that cost nothing, was enough better than working so they would spend those hours doing it, and was not quite as much fun as reading the webcomic.

            The value to them of the webcomic isn’t the money they could have earned by spending that time working, it’s only the amount by which they prefer reading the webcomic to chatting, which could be tiny.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Don’t try to convince me, David, try to convince the Federal Reserve.

          • @anonymousskimmer:
            Tthe definition being suggested there was how much you have to be paid to be willing to give something up. That doesn’t fit either of your suggested definitions.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I never even said a thing about art. I just asked you a question about works of economics.

            How do you distinguish between a valuable work of economics and one that is worthless?

            By reading them.

            Why can’t you just look up the price and multiply by sales? Why wouldn’t that tell you the most and best information about the true value of the work?

          • Why can’t you just look up the price and multiply by sales?

            I was arguing with someone who thought artists were underpaid, that the price they sold their works for was less than it should be. So he needed a different criterion, and the ones he offered did not seem to me to make sense.

            My apologies if I misread the role of your question in the argument.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            @DavidFriedman

            So… why can’t you just look up the price and multiply by sales?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @DavidFriedman

            We can measure worth in many ways. Unless someone is giving it away for free (or cheap). The moment you give something away you distort the market.

            Thus people valuing aggregators (Facebook and Google) at absurd values that they would never have paid in order to have them in the first place.

            We can’t see the control scenario in which various art forms don’t exist, or exist in fewer numbers.

            Art is one of those weird things that, like books, can be enjoyed by many people following purchase by one person (via copyright violation or lending). The initial purchase price may not be the best way to value it.

      • Anthony says:

        I see the American left as somewhat schizophrenic toward rewarding innovation. The staunch Marxists continue to stick to the equalization doctrine, but they’re currently allied with a progressive movement with a lot of artists, who see little problem with rewarding artistic pursuits. This drives the American right bonkers; they believe society ought to reward farmers, miners, manufacturers, craftspeople, and repairmen, and see the left instead rewarding musicians, actors, and poets. Then I see the left retort in turn at the right’s apparent non-problem with rewarding CEOs and its own brand of performers (racers, pro athletes, country music stars, evangelists).

        The “progressive” left doesn’t see a problem with “progressives” making a lot of money, whether through artistic pursuits or writing software or looting the Bank of England. The right by and large doesn’t care if people make lots of money, even leftist entertainers; they despise the *status* that the Left tries to give those people, and despise leftists for trying to deny status to people who keep our civilization running.

        • Matt M says:

          I think that’s a pretty good way of thinking about it. The right is happy to “leave the distribution to the free market” in terms of material wealth. The left is happy to “leave the distribution to the free market” in terms of social status.

    • Deiseach says:

      I have a theory for why intellectual conservatives (for lack of a better term) keep referring to feminism as “cultural Marxism.”

      Hang on, what? My perception of the usage is that “cultural Marxism” is an over-arching term for the kinds of academic/media/intelligentsia presences which are all, well, pro-Communist in the “Lenin did nothing wrong and if Stalin did crack a few eggs, WHAT ABOUT HITLER????” sphere. There certainly was a heyday of theoretical Marxist-Leninism which was triumphant in the field (there’s a reason Eric Hobsbawm, for one, was both a respected historian and a noted Marxist), Maoism was trendy and there were apologists for any and every brand of Communism one desired.

      The attitude seems to be resurgent again, post the fall of Communism, amongst those too young to remember the heights of the Cold War and/or who never lived under Communist regimes; I’ve seen entertaining Tumblr spats between “I am/my family are Eastern European, we lived under Communism, you are living in fucking Cloud Cuckooland if you’re nostalgic for a regime that would have turned you into mincement” people responding to the “Communism has never been really tried, all the states you mention were not real Communists!” types.

      The reason whatever-wave-it is now-feminism gets lumped in with “cultural Marxism” is (A) all the political theoretical work done on that kind of framework and (B) the attitudes are part of the wider social liberalisation of society which, yes, does want to tear down conservative social structures. And generally when any kind of “what replacement framework would you put up instead?” is offered, it’s along socialist/communist lines of the Marxist theoretician kind.

      Maybe it’s different in America, I don’t know. But bloody hell mate, “Popular feminism requires nothing beyond the following fact: Donald Trump is the President of the United States”? There does exist the entire rest of the world, and we have feminists and feminism there too, and I have my own views on contemporary feminism both pro- and anti- and they were formed a long time before the 2016 election.

      • Enkidum says:

        Hang on, what? My perception of the usage is that “cultural Marxism” is an over-arching term for the kinds of academic/media/intelligentsia presences which are all, well, pro-Communist in the “Lenin did nothing wrong and if Stalin did crack a few eggs, WHAT ABOUT HITLER????” sphere.

        That’s an incorrect perception. It’s literally (and I’m using the word “literally” literally here) used to describe anyone remotely who discusses culture and/or politics from a perspective that includes things like racial/sexual/etc identity.

        You are correct that there’s a resurgence of pro-Communist types on the internet, at least some of whom don’t appear to be doing it ironically or just for the lulz. These people are, generally speaking, not Cultural Marxists, in that they don’t tend to be terribly sympathetic to identity/woke left-wing discourse. Which makes the term even more confusing.

        The reason whatever-wave-it is now-feminism gets lumped in with “cultural Marxism” is (A) all the political theoretical work done on that kind of framework and (B) the attitudes are part of the wider social liberalisation of society which, yes, does want to tear down conservative social structures. And generally when any kind of “what replacement framework would you put up instead?” is offered, it’s along socialist/communist lines of the Marxist theoretician kind.

        You’re missing at least one verb here, and I have no idea what you mean by “that kind of framework”.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’ve seen “Cultural Marxism” used in basically the way described by many people here, among folks on the (alt) right. Basically as a term for the whole identity politics/grievance studies/critical race theory/feminist theory/decolonializing/etc. intellectual movement. This is pretty silly (I think the connections to Marxism are pretty tenuous, and the previous centuries’ Marxists would have had a good belly-laugh about. Westerners’ self-conscious concern with using the right pronouns.), but isn’t any crazier than the way that everyone to the right of Mitt Romney gets turned into a white nationalist or is somehow incorporated into “systems of white supremacy” in rhetoric from the other side.

          • Enkidum says:

            I think hls2003 gives a very good account of where the “Marxism” part comes from. I still think it’s a so-bad-it’s-misleading phrase, but it makes a lot more sense given that context.

        • Deiseach says:

          I have no idea what you mean by “that kind of framework”

          I mean the theoretical framework is one built upon, if not adapted nearly wholesale, of the dialectical materialism philosophical explanation of the forces within society and history; the kind of power relationships and inequalities that represent all human interactions. I mean that instead of building a different theoretical platform, the Marxist one is useful as a base. I mean it in the same sense Liberation Theology used such dialectics as a jumping-off point until the Marxism vastly overcame any theology. I mean it in the sense that you get The Shining Path founded and influenced by a professor of philosophy and an anthropologist at a Peruvian public university.

    • hls2003 says:

      The form of “cultural Marxism” that I have heard doesn’t really cohere with this.

      Back in early-mid 20th century academia, there was a species of scholar in many departments – especially and obviously the humanities – who did his scholarship through a Marxist lens. Marxist in a pretty literal sense, applying the lessons of Das Kapital and the Manifesto and the rest to re-interpret history, political science, sociology, literature, anthropology, etc. I think the existence of this Marxist school of academics is not particularly controversial. These literally Marxist academics used and referred to Marxist dialectic methods and generally re-interpreted texts, events, societies, biographies, etc. explicitly through the exclusive lens of Marxist class conflict theory. Soviet academics, of course, were more-or-less required to do this; but it was also a substantial strain of Western academia. See, e.g., history and literary criticism. Naturally, they also tended to be more Communist-friendly and anti-Western.

      Meanwhile, around the same time, Critical Theory was also a prominent strain of thought in academia. There really was a Frankfurt School, although there’s nothing nefarious about it, it’s descriptive in the same sense of the “University of Chicago School” of economic thought. Critical theory had roots in Marxism also, and among other things popularized the concept of power dynamics to analyze and describe society, history, and literature. They also tended to be more Communist-friendly and anti-Western.

      The analytical framework, interpretive / deconstructive methods, and terminology of Marxist academics and Critical Theorists overlapped substantially. However, at some point Critical Theorists began to diverge from strictly conventional Marxist class-based economics, and instead focused on other loci of power and conflict. This is where you start to get the rise of Feminist Critical Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory, and similar academic movements in the ’70’s through the ’90’s and later. It’s the same basic toolset, but instead of talking about the proletariat, the capitalists, and the bourgeoisie, the power structures being addressed are patriarchy, heteronormativity, or racism. Instead of deconstructing literary texts for signs of capitalist contradictions or proletarian consciousness, they deconstructed texts through a queer lens, or feminist, or racial. Academics practicing these critical theory schools of thought also tended to be more pro-Communist and anti-Western.

      It’s primarily this subsequent evolution of critical theory that I think of when I hear the term “cultural Marxism.” I think the truth or falsity of that label is a very strong candidate for motte-and-bailey tactics. Proponents of the label point to the common history, methodological tools, and even overlapping personnel of the various schools, and their genuine historical roots in honest-to-goodness pro-Communist (often pro-Soviet), Das Kapital class-consciousness Marxism. Opponents of the label suggest that Marxism must have the proletarian class consciousness element or else it is not Marxism at all, and newer scholars object to being tarred with the “pro-Soviet” label (after the pretty clear economic, political, and humanitarian failures of Communism) – even though they will simultaneously tend to prefer more leftist economic policies also. In either case, idiosyncratic definitions of “Marxist” are being used to support or attack, depending on the situation.

      Personally, I think “cultural Marxism” provides a useful catch-all label for an identifiable strain of thought, or at least a method of thought, that has a long and objectively known pedigree in academia. It is, to me, at least as useful as (for example) “Progressivism” would be – even though most current progressives do not share all their ideological positions with Herbert Croly, there’s an identifiable through-current there, an intellectual pedigree or tradition that has been in dialogue with itself for a century of political evolution. Labels are inherently reductive and subjective, but I think this one at least says something identifiable to me.

      • Enkidum says:

        Thanks for this. Hell I’ve read a bunch of the Frankfurt school and this is the clearest description of the term that I’ve seen.

        I suppose it’s about as valid a label, used in this way, as something like “Materialistic Newtonianism” would be to describe modern physics, in the sense that the tradition which is being described does have (genuine, deep, important) historical connections and derivations to/from Newton/Marx. But it’s misleading in the sense that this is not a great way of signalling the primary concerns, methods, or theories of the modern fields. And “Marxism” comes with a whole lot of baggage in modern America that is completely inappropriate in the context of modern identity politics.

        I guess I’ve never seen anyone use it in a way that didn’t seem to be clearly intended as pejorative. But “has important connections to stuff Marx thought about” just doesn’t seem insulting to me, and so it loses any useful power when people refer to, I dunno, Judith Butler or someone like that as a cultural Marxist.

        • quanta413 says:

          I guess I’ve never seen anyone use it in a way that didn’t seem to be clearly intended as pejorative.

          I’m honestly surprised to hear this from you considering IIRC you’ve been in a university environment for well over a decade now (judging by postdoc status a year or so ago). When I took classes in X studies ~10 years ago, professors were using the term Cultural Marxism neutrally or positively. As in “Cultural Marxism is better than ordinary Marxism because it accounts for race and gender as well as class and the intersection of these elements.” And not just occasionally, it was a repeated point. It was in some of the reading. Etc.

          I think there’s a decent chance it was mentioned in some history classes I took too, although it was not nearly as salient in those classes if it was mentioned.

          Maybe this is a difference between universities or professors or something?

        • Clutzy says:

          It also strikes me as accurate, and easily could be used a pejorative. Think of something like the Green New Deal. It accomplishes all of AOC’s goals, but uses “greenness” as a vehicle for a set of goals that really are only tangentially related to, or wholly unrelated to the environment. The same critique is true of, at least the early, cultural marxists. They are simply taking a different rhetorical tack towards achieving the same, or very similar goals that they had before they took this new rhetorical mantle of culture/race/sex instead of class.

        • Enkidum says:

          Maybe this is a difference between universities or professors or something?

          My undergrad’s actually in humanities (and we studied books by members of the Frankfurt school, de Beauvoir, and Marx, among others), but that finished almost 20 years ago, and I don’t remember hearing the term then (but as people have pointed out elsewhere on this thread, it comes from a left-wing book from the 70s). I’ve since migrated to fairly hard sciences, we don’t do a lot of that stuff here.

          I guess I’m just ignorant, and had only encountered it online from people who I took to be arguing in bad faith.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I guess I’m just ignorant, and had only encountered it online from people who I took to be arguing in bad faith.

            It can be both.

            Compare to Seven Mountains dominionism. That’s a real thing, is being actively pursued, and is believed in even by some members of Congress. It’s hard version is a call for, essentially, a theocracy.

            But many of the same people who see cultural Marxism around each corner would also argue that the left is just smearing the right by mentioning it, and it’s not a very relevant ideology. I’d argue that dominionism is far more relevant than cultural Marxism, even while agreeing that many arguments against are made in bad faith.

            The fact that you are not even aware of cultural Marxism is some proof that CM isn’t the dominant ideology of the academy.

          • SamChevre says:

            Re: dominionism

            I think that’s the right parallel for socialism (not for Marxism specifically). It has the same range problem, and in both cases mixing up ranges is a mostly a smear. Mao and the Great Leap Forward is not a great argument against Bernie Sanders, even though both were socialist. Similarly, Rushdoony and Christian Reconstruction are not a very good argument against Ted Cruz and the idea that the government ought to be just and isn’t always–or that the shift in church-state relations since 1960 was a bad thing. (Which is what almost all the examples listed in the article are.)

          • quanta413 says:

            @Enkidum

            I’ve always been in the fairly hard sciences and yet I encountered the term in gen ed requirements. But terminology can go in and out of fashion in the humanities fast. So maybe there was only a 5 or 10 year window of its use and since you’re a little older than me you missed it and people a few years younger than me also missed it.

            I’d add integralism to HBC’s mention.

            I agree with SamChevre that dominionism or integralism is better compared to socialism.

            Cultural marxism is not a very clearly delineated ideology anyways in distinction to socialism or dominionism or integralism. It’s not obviously distinct from various other academic left ideas of the past several decades.

          • Enkidum says:

            Eh, it’s also possible people in my degree used the term and I forgot. It happens.

          • Aapje says:

            Cultural Marxism as a term is obviously perfect fodder for the right, being very much a dysphemism to people who dislike Marxism, which is most people.

            Of course, an interesting question is who gets to pick terminology. It seems unfair if the proponents get free reign. If I rename my terrorist organization from Murder Inc to Gifts For Sick Kids Inc, we might see lots of people being deceived by the name and opponents refusing to use it for that reason.

            Some people consider ‘critical theory’, ‘anti-racism’ and other such terms to be very deceptive terms that actually consist of uncritical theory and racism, respectively.

            IMO, the proponents of an ideology also have an obligation to use terminology that is neutral enough so opponents are willing to use it. If one side is too euphemistic and/or deceptive, you can’t really blame the other side for hitting back with dysphemisms. Cultural Marxism is hardly the worst offender in this regard, because it is an actual left-wing term, that was the actual name for an ideology that morphed into Critical Theory.

            I also think that it is far from the worst term because Marxism has often been used as a term for a methodology, where the actual ideology that was implemented was Marxist-Leninism, Maoism, etc. So Cultural Marxism is then the application of the Marxist method to culture, which is how the left-wing originators of the term seemed to have used it and how the more intelligent detractors who use the term also seem to use it.

      • Ketil says:

        (Great writeup, where is the “like” button?)

        Would a fair, two-line summary be that Marxism (various flavors) observes differences in outcomes between groups and explains it as caused by oppression by some other group?

        For classical Marxism, the groups would be the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, for cultural marxism, it’s other groups: women by the patriarchy, people of color by the whites, LGBT by the straight.

    • Garrett says:

      Marxism at its core comes with a solid bit of class-conflict analysis as a part of its socialist message. Not all socialism is or needs to be Marxist in nature.

      Likewise, there are many different varieties of feminism. First-wave and second-wave feminism need little class conflict to have support. However, third-wave feminism is ripe for class conflict. After all, once you’ve accepted women as people, and women as independent agents able to pursue their own careers and lives, what’s left to be achieved by feminism tends to be around the fringes of the key point.

      So the internal logic of Marxism applies to some forms of feminism. Consider every problem or discussion where the answer is “patriarchy”. Clearly the standard social class conflict doesn’t exactly apply, but the logic has been shoehorned into gender differences and conflict.

      See also ESR’s recent piece on how the UK labour class is now opposed to the Labor Party.

    • Pink-Nazbol says:

      About 40% of women, and a majority of White women, voted for Trump, so obviously they did not have the same reaction as the hypothetical woman you present. You’re assuming that feminism is the “default reaction” of women to Trump and using this assumption to construct a hypothetical to prove it. Circular reasoning.

      Trump reminds (some) women of the brash, borish alpha male they let talk them into a one-night stand back in college. They aren’t sure what in particular he did wrong, after all, it’s not like he lied to them, said he was going to marry them and didn’t. You needed to do that back in 1950, but not today. Consenting adults and all that crap implies no one did anything wrong, and this just makes them even angrier. They regret their actions, but aren’t going to take personal responsibility for them.

      Likewise, beta bux who later marries said woman is angry as hell at the unfairness of the situation. When Trump is overheard saying “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” he is enraged, because he knows it’s true. High school never ended, those ‘undeserving’ men still get the girls. He is angered less by the fact that Trump may have forcibly kissed a woman then by his certainty that this man he thinks so little of has consensually gotten so much more tail than he has.

      FWIW here I am not a fan of Trump whose neoliberal economic policies I could never support.

    • SamChevre says:

      For a complementary perspective, I would recommend Leftism: from de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse. It’s from 1974, and uses “leftism” rather than “Marxism” – but it’s making the same argument.

      I’d agree with hls2003 that “what if Marx’ basic analysis was right, but his class definitions were not quite right” is an important strain of what becomes critical _ analysis, which is very influential in “identity politics” and “_studies”.

    • brad says:

      Powerless nutjob professors from 30+ years ago make great weakmen.

  19. salvorhardin says:

    My 7 year old son is starting to get really curious about crossword puzzles, asking me about the clues when I’m doing them and demonstrating enough reasoning ability about how they work that he might be ready to start doing simpler crossword puzzles himself. Can anyone recommend books of crossword puzzles geared to kids?

    • Don P. says:

      The magazine section of my supermarket has literally dozens of crossword magazines, and I’m pretty sure you can find several aimed at kids there.

  20. Facebook has started blocking comments that link to my web site. The complete explanation, for a comment of mine linking to an article on how to build a medieval rope bed, was “This comment goes against our Community Standards on spam.” Two other comments by other people, both containing links to my site, were also blocked.

    My guess is that they have some automated tool and it doesn’t work very well. I’ve asked for an explanation, have not yet gotten one.

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Did you know that a University of Southern California academic published a research paper claiming that most criticism of The Last Jedi came from the Kremlin, not unhappy Western viewers?
    I hate this Bizarro Cold War where everything that big business doesn’t like is the fault of the evil right-wing Russia.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      I did not know that, and now that I do, I wish I was surprised. The Last Jedi was obviously a magnet for “people who disagree with me do so out of political motivations and/or demographic bias, not a sincere difference of opinion”, but this is taking it to a whole new level.

      I hate this Bizarro Cold War where everything that big business doesn’t like is the fault of the evil right-wing Russia.

      If you printed this quote on a T-shirt, I would buy one.

    • k10293 says:

      I’ve glanced over the study – and this is a gross mischaracterization of its findings.

      The paper found that approximately 20% of the negative tweets they looked at were from trolls and bots, only some of which might be Russian. Another approximately 30% were from accounts that were politically active and on the right.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      I’m someone who isn’t on twitter and didn’t think much of TLJ (though enough to be seeing RoS in a half hour). Just read the study. It only analyzed 967 tweets, all specifically aimed at Rian Johnson. Their methodology for identifying “trolls” seems like it might be too sensitive (it was based on number of retweets and profile picture change frequency), but their bot detection methods seem reasonable. There were non-zero Russian bots/trolls, but more in the sense that alot of twitter is bots/trolls. </