2,226 thoughts on “Open Thread 155.5

  1. DavidFriedman

    I am seeing news stories about a recent increase in Covid cases. So far, not one of the ones I read even mentioned the possibility of a connection to the demonstrations.

  2. original-internet-explorer

    I know plenty of people here have Jewish ancestry. I have an awkward complaint to make. I’m sure it is not novel but it bugs me.

    I don’t have a rant about Jews – but I do have one about what happens if I mention the word Jew(s) in conversation. The word Jew is so loaded it is insane and even with current events Black is less loaded where I am than Jew. There is the urge to use “Jewish people” but the Geiger counter keeps chirping. Maybe this is because nobody knows any.

    The context or who you’re with doesn’t really matter – we could be talking about New York bagel production numbers. Whatever. This sounds like a Larry David skit but it’s real. Something like this happens – eyes are averted, I hear the brakes squealing on the topic was. I’m reading ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodgetmeoutofhere from body signals. It is as if the rant about – I mean take your pick from the tropes – is auto implied. I even feel bad myself and I haven’t done anything wrong. Forcing down the compulsion to mention something cringe about “my Black Jewish friend” as preemptive defense. Am I supposed to go through the world forever without mentioning Jews just in case antisemitism is summoned? How do you get your head around this? I don’t want to give up words.

    tldr; Help how not to become a Curb Your Enthusiasm character

    1. souleater

      This is not just you, I was talking to my fiance about the book of exodus, and at one point she stops me to ask me not to say “jew”, and instead say “jewish people”. I was discussing biblical history, and wasn’t saying anything antisemetic. Its odd that our society seems to have decided that the actual, demonym for for a people group is considered a slur, and I wonder if it will have some weird unintended consequences.

      I later asked a (atheist if it matters) jewish friend about it, and he said he doesn’t think its a slur.

      Thats just the way of the world, I guess.

      1. original-internet-explorer

        There has to be a way to short circuit the bullshit.

        Often with humour it works out – right? With friends you joke around with stereotypes for laughs. I have high confidence there exist Jews in Israel blaming the Jews for everything just as blue collar guys joke about our white privilege and extra bank accounts. This could be nostalgia but it seems that sticks were not always so firmly up in our butts – Eddie Murphy even ran a segment on SNL as Mr White https://youtu.be/l_LeJfn_qW0

        I wonder more often today if we could ban all news media – if the world would be a lot better. All the time there is reference to fringe organizations and websites but I believe a real analysis of where conflict gets generated would show up most major newspapers. There was a podcast talking about how the site Stormfront is most likely to visit is the New York Times. This is not surprising to me. Most trolls I know used to live in the comment areas of the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. We are used to connecting racial aggravations to society but maybe it’s mostly not – the other idea proffered is they serve as a lightening rod as violent cinema does for crime – but lightening is not addicted to lightening rods so a figleaf?

        Think of the lower blood pressure! What is the worst thing that could happen if the press was muted for a month?

    2. Murphy

      I kinda get this.

      “Jew” and “jewish” aren’t insults or slurs in their own right, but any mention can attract a crazy amount of hate online.

      I remember with one of those GPT-2 chatbots experimenting to see what it would produce from various prompts, it turned out to be pretty hard to get it going on racist rants.

      Then I tried feeding it some jokes. Almost joke with the word jew in it, in almost any format seemed to quickly trigger a seague into talk about jewish conspiracy. I tried feeding it the same jokes with the group changed a few dozen times and it didn’t do the same seagues.

      Of course that’s very weak evidence.

      But it does sort of imply from the dataset of millions of web pages and chat logs there is a somewhat strongly weighted connection between any mention of jews and batshit conspiracy talk.

      I suspect “jew” has gotten loaded down with so much negative effect that it’s well on the way to being fully considered a straightforward slur.

      1. Etoile

        So do you think the hate is decreased by saying “Jewish people”? I figure the haters will keep up with any terminology! The fact that there exist lots of sites talking about Jews in an unflattering way is why GPT-2, which I guess learns from whatever is out there on the internet (is my understanding correct?) can also give you the results you saw.
        But if you put in anything else referencing Jewish People into it, wouldn’t you get a similar result?

        1. keaswaran

          I think one of the points is that people who specifically care not to be seen as haters will follow arbitrary preferred terminology, people who specifically care to be seen as haters will do the opposite, and people who don’t specifically care will fall a bit behind. The changing terminology doesn’t do anything on its own, other than reveal the amount to which the people care, which is useful.

          1. baconbits9

            other than reveal the amount to which the people care, which is useful.

            Proper language has long been used to distinguish classes of people. It isn’t about showing who cares its about showing that you are a certain type of person. If the next wave of euphemisms is developed on college campuses (as many of the previous ones were) then recent college grads and college professors will appear to care a heck of a lot more than non college grads.

            Euphemisms are, and always has been, about showing how with it you are language wise to differentiate yourself from some other group who doesn’t ‘get it’ and isn’t close enough to the place where euphemisms spontaneously generate.

    3. Bobobob

      Yes, for some reason, the word “Jew,” as opposed to “Jewish,” raises my hackles. “He is a Jew” sounds much more ominous than “he is Jewish.” I’m not sure why, maybe because the noun is objectifying?

      1. Erusian

        Because using the noun instead of the adjective puts the emphasis on the group instead of the individual. “Bobobob is Jewish” means “Bobobob has the trait of Judaism.” whereas “Bobobob is a Jew” means “Bobobob is a member of a group called Jews.”

        Neither of these are inherently good or bad (“He is a Spaniard” doesn’t have the same effect.) But there’s good historical reasons for Jews to be wary of people referring to them as their group, especially as their primary characteristic.

        1. Nancy Lebovitz

          As far as I can tell, this edginess around the word Jew is a recent phenomenon and a side effect of people-first terminology.

          Something I read long ago and might have been old then– that in Russian, if you wanted to be polite, you’d say “of Hebrew ancestry” rather than “Jew”. Anyone know whether this was ever correct?

          1. bullseye

            If it’s recent, it’s a revival.

            Footnote from a 19th century translation of 1001 Nights:

            Arab. “Yahudi” which is less polite than “Banu Israil” =Children of Israel., So in Christendom “Israelite” when in favour and “Jew” (with an adjective or participle) when nothing is wanted of him.

            Page 210 here.

          2. Nancy Lebovitz

            Probably not very recent, but my guess is pre-Russian revolution, but not by a huge amount.

          3. Noah

            I can’t really help you on whether this was ever correct. For at least the last hundred years, you had the words “zhid” (which I think used to be the normal word in the 19th century and earlier, now is pretty clearly a slur) and “evrey” which is the standard/normative/PC word (the latter does come from the same root as “Hebrew”, if that is what you’re thinking of).

            I have heard of the phrase “people of Hebrew nationality” used in a context that was described to me as a well-known antisemite was denying being an antisemite, but couldn’t bring himself to use the word “evrey”.

          4. Nancy Lebovitz

            I’m fairly sure if was “of Hebrew ancestry” or “of Hebrew descent”. Would it have been normal to refer to Jewishness as a nationality?

          5. original-internet-explorer

            We’ll be using Chocolate-Americans unironically by the end of the decade.

            Worthy of note are Tamler and David – friends who run the Very Bad Wizards podcast and they trample over all this with no mercy. It’s the running joke they have it in for each other – Dave’s supposed signs of leaning into fascism and plotting by Tamler just coming so naturally – the in-jokes won’t come across in an internet comment but their good humour is infectious. It doesn’t solve the nonsense but it’s a tonic and much funnier than the professional comedians. I haven’t laughed at comedians in years and I’m beginning to believe it’s a problem with them and not me.

            That’s what is missing – to use the ideal of Tolkien – common human fellowship is noticeable by the lack. I don’t know Twitter would be that attractive if people had more friends to prescribe them a ribbing to get out of their heads. Elon Musk and Donald Trump – lonely and Twitter addicted /cautionarytale!

          6. Nancy Lebovitz

            I think there’s a lot of variation– I have friends and we don’t to identity teasing with each other.

          7. AlexOfUrals

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            Assuming “Hebrew” corresponds to the Russian word “evrey” (еврей) – because there may be alternatives, but they make less sense in the context – I’d agree with everything Noah said, and add that “a person of Hebrew nationality/descent” is not so much more polite but rather more formal and officious. Some media might use this wording, but to me it sounds like something coming from Soviet TV or newspapers. I can’t remember ever hearing it used straight (as a means to actually increase politeness) in conversation. If anything it sounds borderline sarcastic because of how officious it is, and I’ve seen it used as such.

          8. original-internet-explorer

            @Nancy

            It could be a male bonding thing. With foreign friends it is common to explain something by being a few pints short – talk of the potato shortage threat and general concern with potato based activities is high fun, your American friend is stirring his drink with a gun, the Lithuanian is suicidal – everybody’s happy.

        2. SamChevre

          I remember around a decade ago, someone noted that “Jews” was often appropriate, but “the Jews” was so frequently part of anti-Semitic rants that it put comments into moderation.

        3. Paul Brinkley

          It might be because one connotes a rigid property (“he’s a Jew”), while the other connotes a non-rigid one (“he’s Jewish”), to borrow terminology from metaphysics.

          You say “he’s a Spaniard” doesn’t have the same effect, but I disagree somewhat: I think that phrase is still has a stronger effect than “he’s Spanish”.

          Consider:
          “he’s cheap” vs. “he’s a cheapskate”
          “he’s male” vs. “he’s a man”
          “he’s Caucasian” vs. “he’s a Cauc”

          Each of these might have different baseline levels of offense, but the latter is always greater than the former (at least, to me). Even a normally positive attribution sounds more aggressive: “you’re only human” vs. “you’re a human being”.

          In the philosophy I’ve studied, the rigidity of a property is itself a rigid metaproperty, determined by its actual meaning – “person” is rigid, “living person” is not, etc. You can’t change a property’s rigidity by merely phrasing it as a noun rather than an adjective. However, you can offend people (or amplify offense) by phrasing a property they have as necessary when they believe it’s not. “You’re being ungrateful!” vs. “you’re an ingrate!”. Or, in general, by phrasing a property as more necessary than they believe it is. “You did this because you’re Jewish!” vs. “you did this because you’re a Jew!”.

          It’s a very abstruse, nerdy way of putting it, but I have a feeling this is nevertheless a part of everyone’s instinct.

        4. Ventrue Capital

          Yes, David Gerrold once mentioned that if you want to dehumanize, or at least stereotype, someone you call them *a(n)* X using the noun form: a Jew, a Japanese, a Chinese, a Black, a Cossack, a Goy.

          Instead, he decided to train himself to think in the adjectival form: so-and-so is Jewish/Japanese/Chinese/Black/Cossack/Goyish.

    4. bullseye

      I think maybe it’s a regional thing. Half my family and some of my friends are Jewish, and I’ve never heard any of them object to the word “Jew”; I’ve even heard one of them be baffled that anyone would find it offensive. On the other hand, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about it being offensive.

      1. Paul Brinkley

        It’s almost certainly regional. Or perhaps more accurately, an outgroup / fargroup thing.

        I grew up in rural Texas, and met zero Jews AFAIK until college. My exposure to Jews was through Jewish jokes and as the (usually) protagonists of the Old Testament. The jokes made little sense to me unless I simulated the idea that someone who was good at money was somehow a bad person. (It’s possible I would have internalized “Jews bad!” more if I wasn’t good at numbers myself.)

        If I had been around Jewish strangers long enough to see what strike me as the central examples that drive irritation – e.g. one of them behaving like a Shylock, or, from the other side, seeing a Jew being accused of behaving that way – that sensitivity to calling them “Jews” might be in me as well. Instead, the term “Jew” sounds merely descriptive to me; I’m sensitive to it only because of other people expressing sensitivity to it, and I simulate it, just as I simulate the notion that it’s bad to be careful with money.

    5. Eugene Dawn

      I’m Jewish, and I have more or less no objections to the word “Jew”–“the Jews” can sound a bit weird especially depending on context, and I think “he’s Jewish” sounds better than “he’s a Jew”, but I think you are being a bit oversensitive. I think substituting “Jewish people” for “Jews” in a sentence like, “Jews keep kosher” is unnecessary.

    6. broblawsky

      “Jew” can be used as a verb, invariably in an offensive way. You can’t do the same thing with “Jewish”.

      Speaking more broadly, the hardness and monosyllabic nature of the word “Jew” just makes it hit harder, draw more attention. The “-ish” modifier attenuates it, makes it go down smoother for listeners. You rarely use the word “Jew” unless you’re trying to make it the centerpiece of whatever sentence you’re constructing, e.g. Shylock’s big speech in The Merchant of Venice.

      1. AG

        I think a lot of people underestimate how much phonaesthestics influence word usage and our connotations for any particular word.
        Like if you take Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler parody speech from The Great Dictator, and replaced every instance of “Juden” with “bubbies”, it doesn’t sound nearly as harsh.

        Even “homo” is a fairly soft word, which is why the more popular slurs were the likes of gay, dyke, queer, etc., which are more satisfying to spit out.

    7. Simultan

      Maybe it’s because racists have an all-too popular word other than “black” to refer to black people in a derogatory way. There isn’t really a popular equivalent for Jews, so all the anti-Semites will use the word “Jew” (but of course with that special emphasis that’s so easy to recognise), impregnating that word with all of their hatred, whereas anti-black hatred is partly “diverted” to the n-words. Nazi literature and propaganda mainly used the word “Juden”, for instance. Just a theory …

      1. bullseye

        Anti-semites do have a word other than “Jew” to refer to Jews in a derogatory way. I guess it’s less well-known than the n-word, but I assumed most people did know it.

        1. Logan

          I can never remember which one’s for jews and which one’s for lesbians though. As slurs go it’s not great.

          For example “fag” gets a lot of play in queer punk, obviously the n-word is popular in black music, but I can’t imagine Matisyahu or Y-Love or Moshiach Oi using “kike” as an emotional beat. Speaking as a gay jew, for reference.

    8. Nancy Lebovitz

      I’ve been feeling it myself– a reflex to say “Jewish people”, and then a thought of “What’s wrong with “Jew”?”

    9. Erusian

      As an anecdote, I used to refer to basically everyone this way. Ie, “He is a Chinese.” It was, as far as I can tell, an ESL habit I picked up through contact. Some people found this offensive (though not usually members of the group) and I adjusted.

      I suspect the wider trend is just the treadmill of euphemisms. Certain Hugo Boss wearing political movements shout very loudly about the Jews, so having a word to signal that you’re not one of them is probably part of the point. You can also get into deconstructive philosophies about the Jews as the eternal other and its relation to whiteness if you want to get into critical theory.

    10. keaswaran

      I think this is just something to get used to. Any demographic group has various nouns and adjectives that are used to refer to them, and somehow some of them develop more negative feels than others, for no particular reason. The phrase “gays and lesbians” sounds fine, but somehow referring to someone as “a gay” in the singular sounds really weird, but using the adjective “gay” is perfectly fine. With some nationalities, using it as an adjective is fine but as a noun is weird (“Chinese”), while with others, both are fine (“Italian”). Everyone’s familiar with the spectrum of terms for Black people, with “Black” and “African-American” being just fine, “Colored” and “Negro” being at best weird and old-fashioned, and of course worse ones. I have a hard time thinking of a demographic group where using the word as a noun is fine but the adjective sounds weird, but “Democrat” has something of this force (It’s fine to say “Harry Reid is a Democrat”, but it weirdly sounds like an attack to say “Harry Reid was a Democrat senator”, even though “Harry Reid was a Democratic senator” is great).

      There are some phrases in a language that are just always on some sort of euphemistic treadmill. In the past century, this has occurred most commonly with terms for demographic categories, but in the previous century there was clearly a proliferation of terms for the place you go for excretion, with different English-speaking countries settling on different rankings of weirdness and rudeness among the words “toilet”, “water closet”, “washroom”, “restroom”, “bathroom”, “powder room”, “ladies’/men’s room”. A few millennia ago, in the far north, there was a similar taboo on saying the name of certain dangerous animals – although Latin/Greek/Sanskrit speakers kept the Indo-European word ursus/arktos/raksha for bear, the Germanic word “bear” comes from “the brown one”, while the Baltic word “lacis” means “the licker”, and the Slavic word “medved” means “the honey eater”.

      https://www.pitt.edu/~votruba/qsonhist/bearetymologyslovakenglishwelsh.html

      Some people might think it’s a sign of healthier concern for others to care more about euphemism for demographic groups than for excretion or dangerous animals, though I can see why someone might think that taking any care with one’s words is a bad sign.

    11. Uribe

      “He’s a black” sounds a lot worse than “He’s black.”

      “The blacks” sounds worse than “black people “.

      So not buying the premise.

      1. original-internet-explorer

        The problem doesn’t go away if I replace the Jews or Jew(s) with Jewish people – people of Jewish origin, Hebrews. I never hear Jewish-American as I do Irish-American or Italian-American. The line-up is the terrible, the bad and the ugly – we are going into the same place as asking people their preferred pronouns.

        Saying Israelis works great but I can’t refer to Americans Jews by saying Israeli-American it’s absurd. Judaic-Americans? I could use Ashkenazim but it’s like using Latin taxonomy to make yourself sound intellectual.

        Jewish-American seems to be the least loaded or ugly of the bunch and probably I’ll start using that unless somebody has a better idea.

        1. Nancy Lebovitz

          My better idea is to alternate “Jews” and “Jewish people”, but I have no idea whether it’s a good enough idea.

          “Jewish-American” has a high risk of tripping you up because a lot of Jews aren’t Americans.

          Speaking only for myself: I think having a culture where “Jew” isn’t a slur is an achievement*, and I hate to see it thrown away.

          *yes, a very sad thing to say

          1. original-internet-explorer

            Yes it’s no good. People suck.

            I think it was the same day GF was murdered that SpaceX launched the manned mission – strong juxtaposition. The culture has taken a pessimistic turn for some time but it’s not justifiable – I don’t mean economically or technologically – in terms of social relations this spiteful focus on the negative. The lists of positive contributions from Jews are long and sublime. This civilization is the greatest this planet produced – and people want to qualify the positives but not the negatives – about time there was pushback.

        2. Eugene Dawn

          Jewish Americans is not uncommon in my experience.

          Not all Jews are Ashkenazim, so you also risk being incorrect if you use that as a synonym.

          I’d say “Jew” is fine except in the case of “a Jew” or “the Jews”; and you won’t be alone referring to “Jewish Americans” if you really don’t like “Jew”.

        3. bullseye

          I’ve seen “Jewish-American”, and it bothers me, because it breaks the pattern established by “African-American”, “Irish-American”, etc. African-Americans aren’t African; they are Americans whose ancestors were African. But Jewish Americans are both Jews and Americans.

    12. Etoile

      So I am Jewish, but I am from another country which had actual anti-semitism, with quotas and everything, and so didn’t grow up in the American Jewish community, and it’s harder for me to sympathize with their travails maybe, I don’t know. I see people doing this, not about the word “Jew” but about lots of other similar things, e.g. being wished Merry Christmas– and I don’t understand it.

      In the short term, for OP, Jewish people vs. Jews isn’t that big a deal — it’s not as egregious as “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women”.

      But I see other people doing this assigning antisemitism – as well as other racist/sexist/prejudicial intent – to innocuous words and interactions. And it gives me such a deep, deep sense of foreboding and, honestly, disgust. When you pick out an innocuous phrase, and then unilaterally decide that it’s BAD, and then start treating people who use it as though they MEANT the bad thing — you INVEST the word with the bad meaning. And along the way you will turn a fraction of people who were not anti-Semitic into anti-Semites. It’s like when you’re in a fight with a significant other, and you’ve already resolved THIS issue, but then – on your way up to the bedroom for makeup sex – you dredge up something from a year ago. (I’ve done this and it never leads anywhere good.)

      And people rightly bristle at this: it’s not about the right to offend, or be mean. It’s about a minority of people having unilateral and arbitrary say, at any time they choose, over the language that you use (hey that rhymes), and the ability to dress you down when you transgress.

      Anyway, that’s my piece on it. I think only Jews can stop this sort of thing (when it’s with regards to antisemitism – I don’t mean other examples of the word policing). I don’t know what to do about it.

      1. keaswaran

        I think this arbitrariness might be the point. If there’s a very minor token that you ask someone to do on your behalf, then whether or not they do it can reveal whether or not they are motivated to do a minor thing on your behalf. There’s no point in doing this at a time of major strife, but in a calmer time, but when there’s still some question about who cares about you and who doesn’t, these minor symbols can be helpful.

        It’s the same with all sorts of arbitrary cultural rules, like saluting the flag, or taking your hat off when you go indoors, to help reveal whether or not someone is willing to go along with the more important norms that don’t get called on as often.

        1. Etoile

          I think you’re absolutely right. But it’s a motte-and-bailey to claim that it’s “do this one-time minor thing” for me, when this one word-change is put in context of all the other word-changes that come out of the same place, at accelerating rates.

          In JUST the space of what is anti-semitic: people have been criticizing Mr. Soros for funding the likes of MoveOn.Org back in the 2000s, and it wasn’t considered antisemitic then. On an advice blog, someone complained of antisemitism because their colleague referred to a neighborhood as “Jew-town”. But it’s not limited to that. There’s lots of words in the racial and gender and LGBTQ dialogue which also went this way, SUPER-quickly. (E.g., “All Lives Matter”, for one.) When I see people called out for really old tweets, their offenses are SO MILQUETOAST, it’s almost funny…. except it’s not. It’s a concerted effort to change a broad range of previously accepted mores and behaviors — telling off-color jokes, using ugly language in private, etc.

          And that concerted effort really bothers me; now I see all these “small polite requests” as part of an agenda; and they might not be, but this is as hard to unsee as e.g. unconscious sexism is, once someone convinces it exists. (Don’t wanna debate whether it does or not — some claimed aspects do, some don’t. But still, some of the incidents where people claim to have been victims of __-based discrimination, the impression is false.)

      2. Nancy Lebovitz

        I don’t think this situation is especially caused by Jews– it’s caused by non-Jews who are so jittery about being accused of prejudice that they’re over-reacting to harmless things.

    13. Purplehermann

      Jew here. (Kipa, tzitzit and all.)

      I was unaware of this being an issue until I read your comment.
      I’m not sure I believe it is outside some specific circles.

  3. Forward Synthesis

    I’m thinking about the idea of a Dyson Swarm or Dyson Bubble (not the rigid shell type that is impossible with any possible materials), and sometimes it’s portrayed as a swarm of colonies, whereas other times it is portrayed as a mechanism for collecting power to then beam elsewhere, but then I wonder whether wireless power transfer would really be worthwhile. When I’ve seen speculation on this topic, I’ve never seen anything on what the collection method would be like. If the solar collectors are transferring power to colonies, isn’t that not ideal since you should have the colonies be attached and use the power directly? I suppose the idea is to transfer power to Earth or Mars… I guess.

    1. keaswaran

      I assume the idea is that the sort of structure that can have an orbit that is part of a power-collecting swarm isn’t necessarily the best sort of structure for living on, and sometimes the losses of transfer are made up for by the convenience of having specialized locations for energy gathering that are separate from specialized locations for residence and commerce. I think this isn’t totally obvious for all energy-gathering technologies, though it is for some. It used to be that most people lived on farms, where energy was gathered, but now farms are a specialized industrial resource and most settlements are elsewhere. I think very few homes were ever attached to coal-fired power plants. With solar power, there seems to be quite a back-and-forth between the advantages of rooftop residential solar and the advantages of massive centralized solar plants that send electricity to residences.

    2. John Schilling

      Solar power collection is typically a low-density affair, whereas you consume power at much higher densities. So you need to get the power from the solar collectors to the concentrated use location somehow.

      One way to do that is to put concentrated clusters of power-users at the center of every solar collector and run wires to them. But that’s not necessarily where the power-users want to be. Among other things, they’re scattered across a couple astronomical units of space, with up to half an hour of latency if they want to talk or tweet or twitch-game with one another. And wires suffer resistive losses that increase with distance, unless you use superconductors that have to be actively cooled.

      Microwave power transmission is close to 90% efficient end-to end, works across vast distances if you’ve got at least one big antenna (and, hello, Dyson shell speaking), and it lets your power-users be wherever they want to be; maybe a nice tight cluster of habitats or a ginormous hollowed-out moon all in one place.

      1. Paul Brinkley

        And the usual objection I hear to microwave transmission is that it’s also easily used as a weapon. John would know better than I what the physical engineering obstacles are to solar power in space, but I can at least guess that whatever they are, weaponization concerns are slowing the rate of clearing those obstacles (and perhaps speeding the rate of researching them…).

    3. AlexOfUrals

      If you redirect a significant percentage of total solar energy output to Earth and Mars, you’ll not just toast, but melt everything on the surface and then the surface itself pretty soon, so that’s definitely not the answer.

      One use other than colonies which can require massive amounts of energy is powering – i.e. accelerating and decelerating – starships. You can either power arrays of giant lasers pushing on light sails, or just focus the light on the sails directly (with the obvious upsides and downsides of each approach). And of course if you have the technology to work with antimatter and use it as a fuel, its production will require insane amounts of energy as well. Then there may be other energy demanding manufacturing processes – if e.g. you want to convert Mars or Venus entire mass into rotating habitats to maximize the living surface, then you likely want to melt the entire thing (the part which is not molten yet, that is), and perhaps take it down atom-by-atom depending on the technologies involved. There’s also some theoretical concepts for harvesting the matter from the Sun itself, which also takes tons of energy (very literally) since you’re pulling it out of quite a deep gravity well.

      Or maybe you want to power colonies or facilities located very far out – Uranus, Neptune or far beyond that. There may be a number of reasons to do that, at the very least that even if all you want is to convert the material there to colonies located at a comfortable distance from the Sun, you need first to harvest that material and bring it in. At this distance collecting the energy closer to the Sun and then transmitting it over a tight beam will almost certainly be more efficient than attaching the solar panels directly to the consumers.

  4. Phigment

    So, I think I’ve figured out something about modern U.S.A. politics, which clarifies a few things that are otherwise inexplicable about the current state of the government and the economy.

    I hesitate to post it here, but it’s a culture-war-OK thread, so I’m going to take the plunge.

    Donald Trump has access to a magical genie.

    To expand, at some point in the past, President Trump discovered a magical lamp, probably ostentatiously decorated in gold, and rubbed it, whereupon a genie popped out and offered to grant him three wishes. It’s possible this genie is Melania Trump, hiding in plain sight.

    Mr. Trump wished to be the President of the United States. This wish was granted, and events lined up to get him elected despite the predictions and efforts of every member of the current political, social, and journalistic elite.

    Then, knowing that the state of the economy is often more critical to a President’s popularity and re-election chances than any actual policy he attempts, Trump wished for the best economy ever. This wish has also been granted, and is why the stock market is so high even in the face of pandemic and rioting, and generally why it has grown so much over the course of his Presidency no matter what he or anyone else does or does not do.

    The major question now is whether Mr. Trump has already used his third wish, or it is still outstanding, and if so, what he will wish for next.

    1. baconbits9

      The major question now is whether Mr. Trump has already used his third wish, or it is still outstanding, and if so, what he will wish for next.

      He wished for a second term which is why Biden is the Democratic nominee.

    2. b_jonas

      I find this theory inelegant because it has so many variables that it can explain anything, so it has no predictive power. Trump is hard to predict, he could wish for just about anything, even for something that you would consider stupid. A genie could do basically anything.

      I prefer Scott’s theory in the Epilogue of the 2017 article “A Modern Myth” “https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/27/a-modern-myth/”. Note that I’m talking about just the Epilogue, which you can consider almost independently, without the rest of the blog post. This is more specific, because it doesn’t let Trump wish specifically for good economy or whatever other observation it is that you want to explain. It explains why Trump became President, and a little else.

  5. BBA

    Re abolishing the police – are there any reasonably populated parts of the world today that don’t have police, or something resembling a modern police force?

    I’m aware that 200 years ago most of the world didn’t have police, but then we didn’t have electricity or running water either. Anywhere with 1820 levels of development could probably get by with 1820 levels of law (non-)enforcement. “Ungovernable tribal regions” aren’t what I’m looking for here.

    1. Jake R

      My first thought was one of those remote Alaskan villages that are inaccessible for days at a time. Some googling turned up the “city” of Nulato, AK, population ~250. In 2016 a drunk snowmobiler crashed into an Iditarod sled dog team, killing one dog and wounding 2 others a few miles outside of Nulato. The article says the suspect “has been identified by a Nulato village police officer” so no luck there, although everything after that is handled by Alaska State Troopers. It’s unclear to what extent village police were involved.

      McMurdo Station is the largest research station in Antarctica. In addition to being remote, the antarctic treaty makes everyone there subject to their home jurisdiction. The station chief of McMurdo is “a special deputy United States marshal, with training in evidence protection and the power to arrest Americans for offenses committed against other Americans” (NYT Article). It sounds like it’s just him though for a population of up to 1000. Not sure if that counts or not.

        1. RogetOfHentzau

          I don’t know about the film, but the pair of Greg Rucka comics (Whiteout, Whiteout: Melt) it is loosely based on are pretty good.

      1. Aftagley

        I know I’m late to this conversation; but I was once in a bar in McMurdo and saw someone get arrested. The nearby airforce base helps out in prisoner detention/removal.

    2. Atlas

      On a similar note, I would really like to hear the pro-Black Lives Matter activists/newspapers/politicians point to an example of a major city with a history of systemic racism against its 10% or more black population that has a criminal justice model they find largely acceptable. There are 50 states in the US, so you would think that at least one of them would have a big city that has BLM-approved policing and a history of systemic racism against its 10% or more black population. It’s clearly not, say, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C. or Minneapolis.

      What about places outside the US? It doesn’t seem to be Toronto, where there’s a Black Lives Matter movement and a councillor has just put forward to reduce the police’s budget. It doesn’t seem to be London, where there were riots in 2011 over a police killing and big Black Lives Matter protests now.

      Of course, I would suspect that cities like e.g. Reykjavik and Tokyo have quite laissez-faire policing. Given that they don’t have histories of systemic racism against 10% or more black populations, though, I don’t think they can confidently be pointed to as a model for reform here.

      So, what exactly is the reference case that this movement for radical policing reform is pointing to here?

      I’m aware that 200 years ago most of the world didn’t have police, but then we didn’t have electricity or running water either. Anywhere with 1820 levels of development could probably get by with 1820 levels of law (non-)enforcement. “Ungovernable tribal regions” aren’t what I’m looking for here.

      I think that’s, along with extremely high pre-modern rates of homicide, very relevant to suggestions to abolish the police.

      1. Tatterdemalion

        I’ve seen Camden, NJ, cited by some people as a model; I haven’t looked into it myself.

        1. Clutzy

          They fired the cops to bust the union, then hired even more. Its not the model they think it is.

        2. J Mann

          Is Camden better than other similarly sized cities on the relevant data? (Crime activity, disproportionate stops, overall satisfaction with the PD, etc.) If so, union busting may be an area that’s worth looking into in other cities.

          The news stories show individual incidents of Camden cops grilling hot dogs at community events, but I think most police departments do at least some of that.

          1. Noah

            From what I recall, Camden is still a very high-crime city (not sure about the other metrics).

            So what they did may be useful if you have insanely high crime and police malfeasance and want to get down to merely very high crime rate and somewhat less abysmal police-public relations.

          2. baconbits9

            I think that undersells their success. Camdem’s peak crime year was either 2011 or 2012 (2011 for total crimes and 2012 for peak murders). Major crime is down over 50% from the peak and has decreased every year since the 2011 peak.

          3. J Mann

            That’s my understanding – Camden had an exceptionally challenged police force. Busting the union let them raise the number of police from 175 to over 400, which predictably lowered the rate of crime and increased the clearance rate on crimes.

            My question, though, is whether Camden’s reforms moved them above the national average on the principal BLM issues. Is there a sense in Camden that African Americans aren’t hassled to the extent they are in an average city of that size, and do the data support that sense. (If so, great!)

          4. Eugene Dawn

            Apparently Camden has seen a 95% drop in reports of excessive force; this is the Department’s own statistic, so there may be reasons not to trust this. Still, combined with a decline in crime, this seems promising.

          5. Garrett

            > Busting the union let them raise the number of police from 175 to over 400

            How did one lead to the other? Did they just start paying less?

      2. keaswaran

        I’m not sure why you’d think that 50 states is anywhere near enough to have one with the relevant policies. Urbanists who want a relaxation of zoning don’t have any models in the United States to point to (some Pennsylvania jurisdictions experimented with a land-value tax, but no loosening of zoning; Houston has no zoning, but still has extensive parking regulation and deed restrictions everywhere). Environmentalists have a bit more options to point to with local regulation of pollution, though even there most examples for most relevant policies are relatively recent. 50 states and a few hundred medium-to-large cities isn’t really enough to explore the logical space of municipal regulations, when there’s so much correlation among the cultures sustaining all of those governments.

      3. thisheavenlyconjugation

        The optics of the 2011 UK riots were completely different. Although the initial cause of the riots was protests about a police killing that the protestors believed to be unjustified, that very swiftly ceased to be a relevant part of it. There was essentially no-one justifying the majority of the rioting as anything like righteous indignation.

        To the extent that current British BLM protests are about police killings in the UK (I think this extent is actually very small), they’re obviously silly. Three people were killed by the British police in 2019, one of which was the London Bridge terrorist (and the other two appear to have been drug dealers during raids).

        1. Nick

          To the extent that current British BLM protests are about police killings in the UK

          As best as I can make out on Twitter, the current British protests are about defacing statues. ಠ_ಠ

    3. DavidFriedman

      I’m aware that 200 years ago most of the world didn’t have police, but then we didn’t have electricity or running water either

      Electricity I’ll give you, but running water goes back a good deal farther than that.

      1. achenx

        Unevenly distributed of course; my grandmother didn’t have running water somewhat less than a century ago (Appalachia).

        Apparently the White House first got running water in 1833, so almost 200 years but not quite.

        1. SamChevre

          I grew up in Appalachia: there were still a few people living in dwellings without running water then (~30 years ago). (Obvious-ish, but given other topcis in this open thread…–they were all white.)

      2. keaswaran

        Running water and (more importantly) sewage disposal did exist in some places going back many thousands of years. But I don’t think either of them was standard across most of the developed nations of the time until the late 19th century.

      3. Ventrue Capital

        Nu, David, what’s your reaction to hearing all the people saying “abolish the police”?

        Me, I’m just farklempt and grinning from ear to ear.

        1. Doctor Mist

          There are a lot of kinds of anarchy and most of them are not as good as David’s. If I thought any of the CHAZ nuts had even heard of him, I might be guardedly optimistic.

          1. Doctor Mist

            Kind of you to offer, and certainly an intriguing thought, but I don’t really have time.

    4. Forward Synthesis

      I don’t think you’ll find a system without modern policing.

      One of the problems with this is that it’s hard to tell whether pre-1820s policing systems were universally more brutal in themselves, or whether there were big confounding factors like the level of technology, and the particulars of the moral philosophies of the time. It might be that you could take some elements of previous systems and modernize them as an alternative. It may be telling that we don’t see any examples of policing systems that significantly deviate from each other across developed nations, but on the other hand, developed nations share so many ideological characteristics that this may not be the case for entirely functional reasons. I’d lean 99% towards modern police structure being inherently better, but we’re not able to compare them to older systems in a vacuum, so there’s some tiny measure of doubt.

      The idea of “no police” is kind of similar to the idea of “no state”, in that although these things didn’t exist in the forms we are familiar with, there has always been some kind of mechanism in which force was used to ensure compliance. Considering that the idea behind abolishing the police is that without police there can be no brutality, any plausible replacement to the police would still need to apply force to criminals, and then we are back to having to worry about specific practices and not the existence of enforcement mechanisms in of themselves.

      In the medieval period, soldiers, officials, and community associations variously acted as the equivalent of the police depending on the region and time period. In England they used to have a system called tithings, which was a sort of organizational unit of households, which held collective responsibility for criminals, and they could actually be fined if a criminal escaped.

      So not having the police would still mean people going about and tackling criminals for violating the law. It’s similar to how a state may be specifically defined as involving a bureaucratic distance beyond the dunbar level, but this doesn’t mean that stateless tribes operate on the basis of voluntarism and pacifism. They have very high levels of violence, in fact.

      Since “abolishing the police” is very close to left-wing anarchism, we can assume that the replacement involves something less bureaucratic and more community oriented and decentralized. The model of tithings may be applicable. Whether this would result in the outcomes they seem to want I don’t know, but it seems to be the closest fit to abolishing the police under those ideological constraints, in the sense that anarchistic abolition of the state also doesn’t literally mean that there is no structure of rules, but that there is more direct democracy.

      1. cassander

        we can assume that the replacement involves something less bureaucratic and more community oriented and decentralized.

        when has the modern left in the US seriously pursued a solution to any problem that wasn’t bureaucratic or centralized?

      2. Forward Synthesis

        Oh no, I mean that’s what left wing anarchists want. They’ve never truly got what they want because it seems like their model for society does not work, but hypothetically they want a directly democratic police force, even if they stop calling it “the police”.

    5. original-internet-explorer

      The world did not have police but it was policed by militia organizations and reputation and if this failed then the King sent his pro guys in. Large standing armies are new too.

    6. actinide meta

      Cruise ships (not the most popular example today, I know) are basically floating cities, and as far as I know all law enforcement at sea is entirely private.

    1. smocc

      I am astounded because I made almost exactly this joke to annoy my wife several months back. I had to invent a contrived hypothetical scenario to justify the headline, and now here we are in real life.

  6. SamChevre

    This is a top-level note of thanks to Eric T and Aftagley, both of whom have articulated a position I don’t share, that’s not popular here, helpfully. Thank you both.

    1. Well...

      +1, also to anyone else SamChevre missed but to whom this note of thanks applies. Well-articulated positions most people in a given context don’t share, articulated by people who are patient and willing, are immensely valuable.

    2. Statismagician

      Well done both of you, and anyone else doing similar things. We only work so well because we have people of diverse opinions willing to defend them eloquently.

    3. Eric T

      To slightly hijack this – I wanted to thank everyone who took me up on my offer downthread and actually took the time to email and chat with me today about SJ issues, I enjoyed being able to answer your questions and concerns, and am delighted that several people were so open and willing to have extended conversations about a difficult and often uncomfortable topic. It gives me hope that we’re not all doomed to see such willingness to learn and challenge and discuss. ETA: And I too learned from many of you! I don’t think I made that clear enough 🙂

    4. J Mann

      Agreed – I thought that was a very helpful discussion on all sides and learned a lot!

  7. Clutzy

    In response to a few things said by a lot of people here, I’d like to remind people that Slippery Slope is a logical fallacy, but logical fallacies do not govern in political discussions.

    I’d go further, the slippery slope is more often correct than not in political discussion, unless the person arguing that its merely a fallacy has explicitly indicated a limiting principle wherein passing that line violates that person’s own core political beliefs.

    1. Faza (TCM)

      Slippery Slope is a logical fallacy

      A commonly held misconception.

      A properly constructed Slippery Slope is nothing but a chain of modus ponens:

      1. If A then B
      2. A
      3. Therefore B (1, 2)
      4. If B then C
      5. Therefore C (3, 4)
      6. If C then D
      7. Therefore D (5, 6)
      etc.

      We can question the truth of the premises (does B, in fact, lead to C, for example), but formally the argument is valid.

      1. Nick

        +1. Slippery slope arguments can be dubious, but they are indeed valid. Eugene Volokh has actually written in defense of them. Scott also wrote years back on one way to halt a slide down a slippery slope, which he called a Schelling fence, adapting the concept of a Schelling point to the spectrum of positions on a question.

      2. Eric T

        My understanding is the difference between a Slippery Slope and a chain of Modus Ponens is the argument A then B is used as a justification for B then C: (Ie – If we can go from 12 to 13% income tax, than we will in the future go from 13 to 14!)

        1. Faza (TCM)

          To the extent that our acceptance of the premises should be justified, I see nothing wrong here.

          Suppose we hear Great Leader Jones say “Read my lips: no new taxes!” and we assume this to mean that taxes will not be raised, but later Great Leader Jones signs a bill that raises the income tax from 12% to 13% and reconciles the two positions by saying “Technically it’s not a new tax. It’s an old tax, but higher.”

          Prior to the tax hike, we could reasonably assume that “no new taxes” meant taxes won’t be raised. Post tax hike, we can no longer use the “no new taxes” claim as a rebuttal against the suggestion that Great Leader Jones will raise taxes in the future, because we’ve already seen that the claim does not preclude it.

          It doesn’t make the claim that taxes will be raised in the future more plausible, in and of itself, but it makes it less implausible. (Yes, it’s the same thing in terms of changing probabilities, but it’s worth being explicit about what we’re doing here.)

          All of the foregoing aside, people seldom construct formal logical arguments in day-to-day conversation, so few slippery slope arguments encountered in the wild will have a valid form. Same as with every other kind of argument.

  8. Atlas

    (Okay, I’ve mostly gotten it out of my system and things have started calming down a bit even in the Blue Tribe. This will be my last post on such hot-button issues for the near future.)

    A common thing that people in Blue Tribe news and social media now are saying is like what Ijeoma Oluo,
    “speaker and author of the book So You Want to Talk About Race,” said in this Vox interview:

    Right now, you need to be running two tracks at the same time.

    You have to be running your track of education, asking why didn’t I know about this? Why wasn’t I doing something sooner? Where am I lacing? What words are confusing me? Start reading up and start learning.

    This kind of messaging has had results. According to the NYT:

    As protests around the country against racism and police violence extend well into their second week, demand for books about race and anti-racism has surged.

    As of this writing, almost all of the top best-selling books on Amazon (seven out of 10) and at Barnes & Noble (nine out of 10) take on these topics, including “How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi, “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo, and “So You Want to Talk About Race,” by Ijeoma Oluo.

    On the most recent New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction in e-books and print, five of the Top 15 titles address racism. One of them, “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander’s book about mass incarceration, was published 10 years ago.

    The week before, there were none.

    And, aside from the aggressive tone and suggestion that not previously being thoroughly informed about an issue represents some sort of personal or moral failing, I actually strongly agree with this sentiment. If you want to really understand what is going on now, you do have to read careful analyses about the relevant issue that go beyond just the current moment. “Knowledge is good,” as they say.

    And, sure, read some of those books by Ta-Nehisi Coates/Ibram X. Kendi/Robin DiAngelo/Michelle Alexander etc. I have, not least because they’re extremely influential in the Blue Tribe circles I walk in, and I think I could pass an Ideological Turing Test on this issue, perhaps even get a solid A- on it.

    But those represent one very particular perspective, and, if you want to understand the issues, you should read books from other perspectives too. Without further ado, here’s my list of some interesting books with an alternative perspective on race and related issues (I’ll add short descriptions in a follow up comment):

    Why Race Matters, by Michael Levin. Despite being published in 1997, this would be my top recommendation. Professor Levin, an academic philosopher, thoroughly and carefully examines the relevant empirical evidence and moral issues at stake in debates over race in America. I think one of its most important contributions, among many, is explaining on a deep level why mainstream conservative answers like “I just don’t see race,” “It would be too complicated to figure out how exactly to implement reparations,” “The problem is a culture of fatherlessness,” etc. keep losing ground on this issue to more and more radical left-wing ideas in the culture war. (We see this dynamic at this very moment with e.g. AG Barr’s statements that: “I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist…I think we have to recognize that for most of our history, our institutions were explicitly racist.”)
    I like to describe it as “The book that people who haven’t read The Bell Curve think The Bell Curve is.”

    Human Diversity by Charles Murray.

    Who We Are and How We Got Here by David Reich.

    A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade.

    The 10,000 Year Explosion by Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending.

    Cognitive Capitalism by Heiner Rindermann.

    Ethnic America by Thomas Sowell (Also Black Rednecks and White Liberals and Race and Culture by the same author)

    The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America by Barry Latzer.

    The War on Cops by Heather Mac Donald.

    Beyond the Melting Pot by Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

  9. Uribe

    So what was that 75 year old man trying to scan? Was he just acting weird? He looked like someone scanning tickets at a stadium entrance. Is he from the future?

    1. Eric T

      Not to hijack this thread or anything but for some reason I find the fact that I know exactly who you are talking about with 0 context quite cool.

      1. The Pachyderminator

        I didn’t, but I guessed it had something to do with the old man who was pushed and fell over backwards at a rally in Buffalo, and Googling “75 year old man scanning” seems to confirm this.

        Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?
        — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2020

        I can’t be sure of what he was up to, he could have been scanning police radio or communicating with Johan Larson’s alien friends for all I know, but that does not look like a controlled fall. The theory that he took a dive in order to “set up” the police seems far-fetched.

        1. Murphy

          To me it looked like he was recording badge numbers with his phone.

          his head gets smashed against the ground, within seconds there’s a very significant pool of blood and someone is shouting “he’s bleeding out of his ear” and “he’s rigid” and he very much looks like decerebrate rigidity.

          He’s definitely been fucked up quite badly with some major head trauma.

          1. DavidFriedman

            To me it looked like he was recording badge numbers with his phone.

            That explains it. I once got arrested for merely being the accomplice of someone else asking a policeman for his badge number.

    2. Nick

      My God, his tweet about this was disgusting. He’s apparently trying to top my comments last week about his Scarborough tweets.

      1. CatCube

        To add a ladle of stupid to it, there’s a huge leftist intramural slapfight about “Abolish the Police” that this will suck oxygen from. Napoleon’s dictum about it being rude to interrupt your enemy while he’s making a mistake would apply even if if it was 100% slam-dunk truth that the guy was up to something nefarious.

        1. Murphy

          Ya, I’m sorta cringing at that one.

          “demilitarise the police” would be a way way better call to action, particularly when there’s a thousand clips of cops turning up with military gear and looking like they’re finally getting to act out a childhood dream of being an action hero by acting like soldiers in a combat zone.

          “Abolish the Police” seems like too close to a scissors statement to split the idealists from the pragmatists on the left. Any discussion of it turns into a fight with one side arguing that, “ya we still need police.” which is perfect for splitting a group protesting police behaviour.

          While I can’t rule out the random stupidity of the internet throwing up such a thing in the middle of things it’s almost too perfect for splitting the left. It feels like something crafted by a PR firm.

          1. AG

            “De-militarize the police” has been tried as a slogan in previous years, and every time, got de-fanged in compromise or just ignored as not enough impact.
            So as per below discussion about negotiation tactics, I think that the activists are trying from the exaggerated starting point to bargain down to de-militarized police. We’ve already seen the actual bills introduced come down to “significantly defund the police,” and there will be further reductions in order to get past the Senate.

        2. Le Maistre Chat

          To add a ladle of stupid to it, there’s a huge leftist intramural slapfight about “Abolish the Police” that this will suck oxygen from. Napoleon’s dictum about it being rude to interrupt your enemy while he’s making a mistake would apply

          I believe in individual rights. If Twitter banned the President of the United States because its CEO and most employees hate his speech, I’d see it as a red flag of the end of “liberal democracy” or whatever we should call our system of government.
          So I’d like to see President Trump take his own Twitter account away.

    3. Bobobob

      “I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

      Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.

      I don’t even know what to say anymore. Would anyone here like to provide a steelman argument (I hope I’m using that phrase correctly) about Trump’s motivation for constantly tweeting this kind of nonsense?

      1. Aftagley

        This was one of the few public disagreements he wasn’t involved in and he wanted to change it?

        He’s done pretty well so far by following a strategy of explicitly making everything that happens turn into a referendum on him. Maybe he truly thinks the best way forward is to always be at the center of every discussion and this was the fastest way to get there.

        1. Bobobob

          You know who else inserted himself into every conversation? Hitler!

          Just kidding, but I am growing increasingly anxious/afraid/despondent about how Donald Trump continues to lower the standard of public discourse. He is the president, part of his job is to say well-reasoned things that calm people down. I sometimes feel like I am on a runaway train heading over a bombed-out bridge.

          1. cassander

            Say what you will about Hitler and Goebbels, but I think they’d have been pretty great at twitter.

          2. Bobobob

            I just flashed back on a Monty Python sketch. “I am not an anti-semite! But…und, this is a big ‘but’…”

          3. Eric T

            Say what you will about Hitler and Goebbels, but I think they’d have been pretty great at twitter.

            The sheer amount of what the average person believes about Nazi Germany that actually comes from Triumph of the Will or other Nazi propaganda makes me believe Goebbels would have been a force of nature on twitter.

          4. keaswaran

            Now I’m trying to imagine what Leni Riefenstahl’s TikTok channel would have looked like.

          5. Witness

            Say what you will about Hitler, but well… he did kill Hitler!

            (shamelessly stolen from an episode of QI)

          6. Paul Brinkley

            [Trump] is the president, part of his job is to say well-reasoned things that calm people down. I sometimes feel like I am on a runaway train heading over a bombed-out bridge.

            I think a lot of people think Presidents have been failing to say well-reasoned things that calm people down since the invention of political parties, so they’re wondering why you’re only getting despondent now. Since political parties are presumably older than you, you should have long since factored this in – about as soon as you internalized the concept of a political party.

            For them, the train has been running away since about 1796, the bridge site has been taken over by old-growth forest, and they’ve muddled along by not being on the train in the first place, and are wondering why other people are so obsessed with climbing back on board.

      2. original-internet-explorer

        If this is about the old man who got pushed backward and cracked his skull – then it might be the rumour the man had a blood bag on the back of his head for the camera.

        Don’t ask.

      3. gbdub

        No steel man for Trump getting involved. Nothing good will come of it, if he wants to push the Antifa angle there are almost certainly better cases to highlight that don’t involve an old man getting his head busted. Needlessly divisive and a conversation that needs the nuance that Twitter lacks.

        Steel man for the opinion is 1) old man really did seem to be doing something weird to the cops with his phone 2) he does seem to be a rather active and uh, outspoken protester 3) dedicated protester provoking a cop reaction is hardly a far fetched scenario

        I don’t think either side planned for him to fall as hard as he did, but “old man trips and hurts himself after being shoved” is again not a scenario that requires a nefarious explanation.

        EDIT: to be clear I definitely don’t think the guy “took a dive”. I do think he may have intentionally provoked a reaction.

      4. broblawsky

        Steelman attempt: conspiracy theorists are more likely to suffer epistemic closure, and people who have suffered epistemic closure are less elastic voters (e.g., less likely to change who they’re voting for). Promoting these kinds of ideas might help turn regular Republicans into conspiracy theorists, thereby securing Trump’s base.

      5. Conrad Honcho

        I mean…because wasn’t the guy a left-wing agitator trying to provoke a response? His entire purpose of doing that thing while being filmed so he could “prove” how violent the police are, right? Is there any likely explanation for this that isn’t a set-up? Like, was he asking for directions or something and got attacked for no reason?

        1. broblawsky

          He’s an unarmed 75-year-old. Left or right, his motives are irrelevant; they had a lot of options beyond knocking him down. They did it because they thought there would be no consequences for their violence.

          1. Conrad Honcho

            Or they did it because he sure looked like he was grabbing at their equipment or weapons. His goal was to provoke a response and he got the one he wanted. I would wager he’s very happy about how everything went down.

          2. Eric T

            @ Conrad

            That seems a little beyond the pale, he was seriously hurt. I doubt that was his intention.

          3. Murphy

            From his age, the way his body went and the bleeding from his ears, if he’s happy then he’ll be happy to not have some brain damage.

          4. broblawsky

            Or they did it because he sure looked like he was grabbing at their equipment or weapons.

            If that was their justification for attacking him, why did the Buffalo PD’s initial statement omit any mention of any attempt by Gugino to seize their weapons? Instead, they claimed that he “tripped & fell”. Why wouldn’t they shore up their position by charging him if they actually had hard evidence of illegal activity? Even Trump hasn’t claimed that Gugino tried to take their weapons.

            His goal was to provoke a response and he got the one he wanted. I would wager he’s very happy about how everything went down.

            Even if that’s true, that doesn’t justify the imbecilic brutality of the Buffalo PD.

            With all due respect, it seems to me that you’re trying to cast aspersions on Gugino’s character and actions in order to justify Buffalo PD’s response, regardless of whether reality or the available evidence support those aspersions.

          5. Erc

            He’s an unarmed

            In the actual moment, they rarely know for certain if an individual is unarmed, just that they don’t see a weapon. You’d know this if you thought about it for five seconds.

            they had a lot of options beyond knocking him down. They did it because they thought there would be no consequences for their violence.

            I went and bought a chocolate bar because I thought there’d be no consequences, that isn’t an argument the course of action is immoral. They had to be thinking not just of his situation but the entire situation. Constructing a Rube Goldberg machine to avoid doing violence to someone breaking the law, and thus making themselves temporarily unable to address other possible lawbreakers in the area, is not something they were required to do. I really don’t lose much sleep over it. What do we do in war? We try to win as quickly as possible, not spare the lives of those who attack us. Live by the sword, fall down and get a concussion.

          6. Eric T

            What do we do in war? We try to win as quickly as possible, not spare the lives of those who attack us. Live by the sword, fall down and get a concussion.

            Jesus christ he’s an unarmed protestor not an enemy combatant! He was by no means “living by the sword”

            Peaceful protest is a constitutionally protected right, and the hoops you are jumping through to justify two cops giving an old man a concussion for exercising that right makes me more than a little uncomfortable.

            In the actual moment, they rarely know for certain if an individual is unarmed, just that they don’t see a weapon. You’d know this if you thought about it for five seconds.

            This logic basically justifies an unlimited use of force of police on any unarmed person any time. If someone is at all uncooperative, if there is any chance they are armed, should the police just give them head trauma? I think the discussion below about reasonable expectations of force are a lot more nuanced than you are giving them credit for.

            This is before we launch into the coverup. You don’t generally cover something up if you think it was the right or legal thing to do.

          7. broblawsky

            What do we do in war? We try to win as quickly as possible, not spare the lives of those who attack us. Live by the sword, fall down and get a concussion.

            @Eric T made my point far more eloquently than I could have, but I just have to address this: the police are not at war with the civilian population. They are servants of that population. This kind of “warrior cop” mentality is exactly what leads police officers to kill civilians.

          8. Edward Scizorhands

            Just because someone is dangling bait in front of you doesn’t mean you take it.

            Olds are rare in these protests. If someone looks like they might fall over, spare 1 officer to grab him by the arm and frog-march him out.

          9. Guy in TN

            What do we do in war? We try to win as quickly as possible, not spare the lives of those who attack us.

            Meta commentary: “it’s okay to kill protestors, we are at war with them”, and its inverse (too dangerous to say online, even under a pseudonym) are probably more widely held positions than people are usually willing to reveal in civil discourse.

            [Personal note: I want to leave this country and never come back.]

          10. Eric T

            Meta commentary: “it’s okay to kill protestors, we are at war with them”, and its inverse (too dangerous to say online, even under a pseudonym) are probably more widely held positions than people are usually willing to reveal in civil discourse.

            I have no way to know if that is true, but I think we still are obligated to push back against them. If rightists (again – is that even the correct term? It sounds incorrect) hold people calling to kill protestors to the fire, and Leftists hold people who want to kill cops to the fire than hopefully we will at least make people marginally less likely to believe they should act on those opinions.

            And while you may not want to name the inverse – in my never-ending crusade against fear I will. Yes some leftists are advocating killing cops. They’re fucked in the head and I have as much an issue with them as anyone advocating killing peaceful protestors.

          11. albatross11

            If any substantial number of policemen believe they’re at war with people protesting (which is a right they’re guaranteed under the US constitution), then we really do need to abolish the police force and replace them with people who understand that their job is to protect the public, not to bash them, even when they’re protesting the cops.

            Indeed, we expect the police to be able to stand up to annoying and provocative behavior without bashing people who are obviously no threat. Every police department expects that on paper, even if some get a little shaky about enforcement. This jackass knocked over a senior citizen and left him bleeding on the pavement when the whole world was watching. What do you imagine he does when nobody’s watching and some kid mouths off to him, or some little old lady calls him an asshole for giving her a traffic ticket? The question answers itself, no?

            This person should never work in law enforcement again. He has demonstrated his unsuitability for the job.

          12. John Schilling

            What do we do in war?

            Step one: Check whether we are ourselves United States citizens.

            Step two: Consider whether the people we are at war with, say a group of United States citizens exercising their first-amendment right to speak freely and petition the government for redress of grievances, might be considered a manifestation of the United States.

            Step three: Read Article III section 3 of the United States Constitution and ponder whether we might have made a teeny tiny mistake with this “war” thing and start looking for the list of countries the US doesn’t have an extradition treaty with.

          13. Erc

            “it’s okay to kill protestors”

            I’ve never said it’s okay to kill protestors. Many people in this thread don’t seem to understand the notion of an anaology.

            “@Eric T made my point far more eloquently than I could have, but I just have to address this: the police are not at war with the civilian population. They are servants of that population. This kind of “warrior cop” mentality is exactly what leads police officers to kill civilians.”

            What leads police to kill civilians is civilians attacking the police. I have more more sympathy with some Iraqi grunt who was forced to serve and indoctrinated to hate Americans than a “civilian” who attacks a cop. Cops shouldn’t think they’re at war with civilians, but it’s fine by me to have a mentality that they are at war with the criminals.

            “If any substantial number of policemen believe they’re at war with people protesting (which is a right they’re guaranteed under the US constitution)”

            Freedom of religion doesn’t give al-quaeda the right to go for the high score, freedom of protest is not a licsence to violate the law.

            “Step two: Consider whether the people we are at war with, say a group of United States citizens exercising their first-amendment right to speak freely and petition the government for redress of grievances, might be considered a manifestation of the United States.”

            That would imply any crime against Americans citizens is an act of treason. My ancestors fought for this country. I won’t be leaving.

            “[Personal note: I want to leave this country and never come back.]”

            Gee, as if we haven’t heard this before. *eyeroll*

          14. broblawsky

            What leads police to kill civilians is civilians attacking the police. I have more more sympathy with some Iraqi grunt who was forced to serve and indoctrinated to hate Americans than a “civilian” who attacks a cop. Cops shouldn’t think they’re at war with civilians, but it’s fine by me to have a mentality that they are at war with the criminals.

            Sean Monterrosa didn’t attack any cops. He was shot while trying to surrender. Are you fine with that?

          15. Ketil

            He’s an unarmed 75-year-old. Left or right, his motives are irrelevant; they had a lot of options beyond knocking him down.

            the imbecilic brutality of the Buffalo PD.

            two cops giving an old man a concussion for exercising that right

            Cops regularly move people out of an area, even quite fragile people, without smashing their heads open.

            It looks to me as if he at least was breaking the curfew, and obstructing the police in their enforcing it. The video clearly shows him swiping his phone over the police officers. The police responded by pushing him in the chest, while you can call it “assault” if you like, I’m curious what those other options would be. They didn’t punch him, pepper spray him, throw him to the ground, or hit him with clubs.

            The fight is ostensibly about the motte of racially motivated excessive violence, but what the crowds fight for is the bailey of holding police responsible for unintended consequences of otherwise reasonable actions. And yes, pushing him off is a reasonable thing to do.

            The optics of this is bad, and the important bits are showing close-ups of an old man lying with bleeding from his head. This gets everybody enraged, and nobody cares about the actual circumstances.

            In what way was that particular protester violating the law?

            Breaking curfew? I don’t know the laws in detail, but I would imagine that it is illegal to interfere with or obstruct police. Obviously, if police are required to have protestors meddle with them as they please, and/or people over a certain age are considered untouchable, any advancing police picket can trivially be stopped by a couple of old guys. I would have said this is an untenable position, but it seems that this is what the majority wants.

          16. Murphy

            Meta commentary: “it’s okay to kill protestors, we are at war with them”, and its inverse (too dangerous to say online, even under a pseudonym)

            Honestly I’m sometimes shocked that this isn’t more of an issue.

            In a country where so many are armed to the teeth, it seems remarkable that events like the D.C. sniper attacks are, in real terms, so insanely rare.

            Particularly when there’s such extreme partisanship, it’s remarkable to me that we don’t see extreme escalation.

            In theory the justice system is supposed to defuse that, no need for a blood feud if the murderer from the “other side” is going to get proper punishment. But with the trend of one side getting let off scott free for even the most straightforward cases of murder, and more importantly, the perception/knowledge of that being the case, it’s remarkable to me that we don’t see more people inflicting tit for tat vigilante “justice”.

          17. Nancy Lebovitz

            “The police responded by pushing him in the chest, while you can call it “assault” if you like, I’m curious what those other options would be. ”

            Having better judgement about how hard to push him, if it was necessary to push him at all.

          18. Edward Scizorhands

            99+% of cops’ behavior can be modeled as trying to teach people a lesson.

            That’s understandable in many ways, because the cops are part of government’s way of enforcing its laws. Pushing the guy was intended to be a punishment. He won’t like it, so he’ll stop doing whatever it was that they didn’t like.

            But the cops aren’t supposed to be the ones meting out justice. It’s the judicial system. The guy wasn’t found guilty of anything.

            “The process is the punishment” is a real thing.

            If you need to move someone out of the way, pushing them backwards is the worst way to do it safely. You start with verbal orders, and then lay hands on him to turn him around so he’s pointing in the right direction, and keep him moving.

          19. Paul Brinkley

            I think the vast majority of this subthread is sorely lacking in information from anyone with current experience as an LEO and serving riot or protest control duty. We could really use an Effort Post from such a person. Otherwise, there seems to be a great deal of “simulated LEO” going on.

            I’m thinking about reaching out to two friends of mine who are LEOs at this point, although it’d take a lot of my (and their) time.

      6. Ninety-Three

        Steelman: Observe the behaviour of Conrad and Erc above. Trump successfully polarized an issue where the cops looked terrible and rallied some of his supporters to a position of condemning the septuagenarian.

        More broadly, if Trump has a base of dedicated partisans who will support him no matter what (and it seems hard to otherwise explain his 80-90% Republican approval ratings), why not explore the vast possibility space of “no matter what”?

        1. Erc

          “More broadly, if Trump has a base of dedicated partisans who will support him no matter what (and it seems hard to otherwise explain his 80-90% Republican approval ratings), why not explore the vast possibility space of “no matter what”?”

          I’m not supporting Trump no matter what. I stopped supporting him due to his empowerment of the warmongerers.

        2. cassander

          More broadly, if Trump has a base of dedicated partisans who will support him no matter what (and it seems hard to otherwise explain his 80-90% Republican approval ratings), why not explore the vast possibility space of “no matter what”?

          Are you claiming trump is different in this regard than other politicians? Because I’m pretty sure most presidents have a loyal base. I don’t recall obama’s followers abandoning him over all the skysassination, or bush’s when he went from a “humble but strong” foreign policy with no nation building to occupying iraq for a decade.

          1. Ninety-Three

            Regardless of whether Trump’s base is actually more loyal, there has been a longstanding belief that you can’t just act like Trump and get away with it. Trump was acting Trumpy from day 1 of his campaign, so by the time he got elected he had thoroughly disproved the conventional wisdom, at which point to answer Bobobob’s question, why wouldn’t he keep tweeting this kind of nonsense? It’s not like his base is going to vote Democrat to punish him.

        3. Bobobob

          It’s the vast possibility space of “no matter what” that scares the crap out of me.

        4. Conrad Honcho

          Uh, it wasn’t Trump that made me “condemn” the septuagenarian, it was the actions of septuagenarian that made me…I don’t even know, “not care?” I’m not even condemning him, I’m just shrugging. “What did you expect would happen?” There is a reason I don’t go running up to people and screaming in their faces, because they might hit me, and it would hurt. You’d really think by the time somebody reaches 75 they’d have figured this out already.

        5. gbdub

          I think the issue was already polarized, Trump just picked a side. I mean, you’ve got Trump supporting one extremely unrealistic version of events, but the other side isn’t much closer to reality – reading the anti-cop narrative you’d think the police came out of nowhere and beat a helpless old man to within an inch of his life for no reason at all.

          Can we just not do context or nuance any more? Seriously, watch the video, it’s not that long, and neither narrative really holds up. It’s clear that:
          1. Gugino intentionally went up to the cops to impede and maybe deliberately antagonize them. He got right up in their faces, was doing weird stuff with his hands and phone, almost but not quite touching them.
          2. Gugino might be old, but he’s a very tall guy and hardly looks decrepit. Plus he had a mask on. “He’s a 75 year old man” really should not be the salient fact here, and yet it’s in every headline (currently the top result for “75 year old man”!)
          3. The officer shoved him straight back pretty hard in the chest, but that’s it. He doesn’t drive him to the ground, he doesn’t fall on him, he doesn’t even touch him after the initial contact. It hardly seems likely that the officer intended to injure Gugino or even make him fall.
          4. Gugino really does fall hard – you can hear him hit the ground, and that’s exactly the sort of fall you’d expect to result in cracking the back of your head. It seems very obvious he’s not “faking” or “taking a dive”.
          5. The police do immediately call for a medic once they realize that Gugino is hurt.
          6. Toward the end of the video you see the police arrest another guy who refused to move out of the way and got in among them, but they just grab and cuff him after ordering him to move repeatedly and maybe shoving him a bit. So they were clearly forcibly clearing an area, but they weren’t being particularly brutal about it.

          So to be clear, I think punishing the police in some way is appropriate, they really did cause serious injury, even if unintentional. And it’s reasonable to hold them to a standard of better judgement in cases like this. And those who participated in the lying about the incident should definitely be punished (maybe more severely!). But reversed stupidity is not intelligence, and the extreme anti-cop narrative in this incident is not the truth either. And that narrative was live and being promulgated before Trump got involved.

      7. Matt M

        Easy. Every part of this statement is at least plausible.

        Anyone who has watched sports understands the concept of “flopping” or “diving” wherein someone receives very light physical contact, but throws themselves to the ground, hoping the other guy will be punished severely. Trump’s read of the video is that this is what happened here. Given that this is a thing that we know can happen, it’s really just a matter of subjective opinion. Trump believes the fall was more dramatic than the push warranted. Perhaps you disagree, but he’s not obviously wrong.

        I don’t know about a “scanner” specifically but the guy was clearly doing something kinda weird with his phone. Maybe it was completely innocuous, but given his general non-compliance with the police, it’s reasonable to suspect he may have been up to something.

        And given that the guy has a long history of being an extreme protestor, it’s entirely reasonable to speculate that this was a “set up”, particularly if you go back to point #1 (that he exaggerated the force of the push) combined with the fact that someone was convienently nearby to take video, and that said video was edited for maximum anti-police impact and quickly made the rounds of all the typical anti-police media.

        I’m not saying that any of the above is obviously true. But it’s not obviously untrue either. And the fact that Trump is President doesn’t mean he is not allowed to express his personal opinion on subjective issues being debated in the public square. Literally every President did this. Obama expressed not-obviously-true opinions on every public scandal that ever happened. It was never considered “beyond the pale” until Trump started doing it (because Trump’s opinions, unlike those of all of his predecessors, are not filtered for maximum political correctness).

        1. Bobobob

          And the fact that Trump is President doesn’t mean he is not allowed to express his personal opinion on subjective issues being debated in the public square

          This used to be done with televised speeches, or press conferences, or offhand comments to the media, not with exponentially shared Twitter bait aimed at millions of followers. It is the way Trump expresses his “personal opinion” that has (hopefully not irrevocably) degraded the national conversation about important issues.

          1. Matt M

            A non-trivial reason of why certain people liked Trump was his willingness to do this. Not just to give clearer and more direct messages, but to give them quickly and directly to the people, and not channel them through media organizations who hate us.

            Once again, you may not like it, but it’s not clearly and obviously bad that Trump communicates to his supporters directly rather than through intermediary organizations.

          2. Jaskologist

            Note, for example, the NYT thread, discussing the current media consensus that they should not publish opinions by politicians they dislike.

            The problem with Trump’s tweets is the content, not that fact that he doesn’t run things by a NYT censor.

    4. Dragor

      What I really appreciate about that incident was that the two officers were suspended and charged. It seems like we might be entering an era where police officers who commit assault etc on video are promptly suspended and charged…like a normal person would be when they are filmed appearing to commit a crime.

      1. MisterA

        The fact that the department initially issued a false statement to try to cover for them does seem to indicate this only applies if the crime is actually recorded on video, though, which isn’t great.

        Particularly when you consider that this particular crime happened in clear view of a large number of other cops on an otherwise clear and empty sidewalk, in broad daylight. And yet until the news went public with the video, the department was happy to report that this guy was caught up in a fight with imaginary protesters, and innocently tripped and fell.

        1. gbdub

          Yeah this seems like the worse part. Shoving a guy out of frustration is bad but maybe understandable. Covering it up is just bad.

        2. DavidFriedman

          Am I the only person who is reminded of David Brin’s Transparent Society?

          Bring argued that improved surveillance technology was moving us towards a society where everything was recorded, stored, and findable. He didn’t think the change could be stopped, but thought the bad effects could be ameliorated by transparency in both directions. The cops could watch us but we could watch the cops.

          I was unconvinced, in part because the context was video cameras on poles in England, feeding to the police. I figured that with an expanded version of such a system, the police could make sure that the camera in the room where they were beating up a suspect was pointed in the wrong direction or turned off.

          But as it has turned out, the relevant surveillance is by individuals with smart phones, not under the control of the police, so Brin was more nearly correct than I thought.

          1. MisterA

            Yeah, I think you are definitely on to something here. Part of all this is the social upheaval resulting from sousveillance becoming a real thing.

          2. DavidFriedman

            would you recommend it?

            I thought the first chapter or two were quite interesting, and have turned out to be more nearly correct than I thought at the time. My memory is that the rest of it was less good.

            But I may be biased, because I don’t like the author for other reasons.

          3. Ketil

            The most interesting thing about the panopticon we have turned the world into, is that there is such a wide interpretation of the facts. Several reasons:

            – careful editing: we don’t get to see the raw material, only clips selected for impact. Social media is horrible about this, mainstream media is (IMO) doing an OK job of objective reporting
            – selection bias: There have been two weeks with protests in a hundred cities, in DC alone there were hundreds of thousands of people out protesting. Yet, a handful of incidents are taken as representative of police violence or violent riots and looting.
            – confirmation bias: if you hold a belief with sufficient fervor, everything you see is taken as evidence in favor of it. I.e. any rough handling by police is evidence of police brutality (or racism, if the colors align), any thrown object or car on fire is evidence of the violent behavior of the protestors.

            If anything, this whole mess has reduced my faith in transparency as a means to justice.

            One interesting thing about this particular case, is that it seems to reflect “systemic” racism in that what matters isn’t intent or causes or reasonably expected consequences, but the final outcome. The fact that an elderly man was hurt is sufficient to condemn the police, just like the fact that black people do worse on average is sufficient to condemn white people (or at least, society as created or governed by white people).

            If you want to blame somebody for this incident, my finger would point at the mayor or other political leadership of Buffalo, who chose to enact a curfew, ordered police to enforce it, yet now wash their hands by condemning subordinates.

          4. MisterA

            @Ketil

            I have the same question for you as I had for Erc. If the cops did nothing wrong with that old man, why did they concoct a fictional scenario from whole cloth to explain how he got hurt and issue it through an official spokesman?

          5. Conrad Honcho

            +1 Ketil

            @MisterA: Can you link me to the original statement by the Buffalo PD? Not a news article that summarizes it, but the actual statement?

            I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I have no idea, but I think people’s biases cause them to editorialize things and I’d like to see the source document before agreeing it doesn’t match the events as seen.

          6. Fahundo

            The fact that an elderly man was hurt is sufficient to condemn the police, just like the fact that black people do worse on average is sufficient to condemn white people (or at least, society as created or governed by white people).

            Just going to register here my opinion that if you have video evidence of an individual somehow pushing all of black people down, causing them to do worse on average, I think it’s fine to condemn him for it.

          7. MisterA

            @Conrad

            I am not able to find any public statement venue for the Buffalo police to have issued this directly to the public; it’s not on their website or twitter feed that I can find. As near as I can figure, it looks like they issued a press release that went to local news affiliates.

            The most complete version I could find is here, from WBFO, the Buffalo NPR station – https://news.wbfo.org/post/graphic-video-two-buffalo-police-officers-suspended-after-elderly-man-shoved-and-injured

            A Buffalo Police spokesman issued a statement at 8:50 p.m. Thursday saying “a 5th person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors and also charged with disorderly conduct. During that skirmish involving protestors, one person was injured when he tripped & fell.”

            WBFO posted video of the incident on Twitter at 9:13 p.m. Following that posting, department officials said a full Internal Affairs investigation was underway and that Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood had ordered the immediate suspension of the two officers involved, without pay. The officers have not been formally identified, but the name plate of one is visible in the video.

      2. Erc

        The police were told to clear the square. There was nothing about not using force, nothing about only clearing those over or under a certain age. That is not a crime. The local police are behind them and hopefully action will be taken to assure the charges are dropped.

        1. Eric T

          Ah yes, the Nuremburg defense! I wonder how that worked out for the people its named after?

          1. Erc

            Extermination of Jews is a criminal order. Clearing the square is not a criminal order. It is a routine. And even if it was a criminal order, in Nuremberg those who gave the orders were prosecuted to the extent possible.(You can’t prosecute Hitler’s corpse.) There are no calls to prosecute those who gave the order, thus, I conclude that this is entirely due to people being ignorant of the realities of policing. It’s an attempt to scapegoat the grunts for what was ordered by the higher-ups. My hope is that action will be taken by the police union to remedy the situation.

          2. Murphy

            @Erc

            There’s typically a concept of reasonable force.

            If you’re a cop and I’m your commander and I order you to clear a square and you do it by machine gunning everyone in it, then it wasn’t an illegal order but how you went about it would be utterly unreasonable to the point that you could not reasonably hide behind “following orders”

            If you are ordered to clear people out of the square and you could do so without seriously maiming anyone, but you start cracking heads and maim some citizens anyway, then the same applies.

            Cops regularly move people out of an area, even quite fragile people, without smashing their heads open.

          3. Eric T

            It worked fine for everyone on the winning side, alas.

            I know what you mean, but it took me 2 reads to realize you weren’t lamenting the Nazis being found guilty.

        2. redoctober

          It seems like what we actually need to do here is carve, in flaming letters 100 feet high, Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics Policing into the facade of every precinct in the land:

          First Law
          A robot police officer may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
          Second Law
          A robot police officer must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
          Third Law
          A robot police officer must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

          1. Noah

            One of Asimov’s stories, called “Evidence”, makes a point out of the fact that the three laws are also largely how a morally upstanding human would behave.

          2. Murphy

            >also largely how a morally upstanding human would behave.

            Do whatever anyone orders you to do unless it will kill or maim someone?

            I’m not so sure.

          3. AG

            I mean, they are supposed to be servants of the people.

            (The longer answer is that the will of the people is translated through democratic processes, so the robot/police only following the orders of its/their chain of command to an elected official satisfies the requirement.)

          4. Evan Þ

            @Murphy, IIRC it didn’t come up in “Evidence,” but that was a minor point in Asimov’s other story “Bicentennial Man.”

          5. Garrett

            > There are nine, when it comes to policing

            “the public are the police”

            I’ll believe that just as soon as all of the laws granting special privileges to police officers are revoked.
            Hell, I’d love to see a UK citizen show up at a police department and ask for their sidearm as a member of the police (yes, I know most British police aren’t armed … use whatever local terminology would be appropriate.

    5. Conrad Honcho

      I went to bed last night and this subthread blew up, so I’m moving my response out here for clarity.

      I’m increasingly feeling like I’m adjudicating a fight between my 5 and 7 year old. She comes crying into the room, “he hit me!” “No, she fell!” “Because he pushed me!” “I didn’t mean too! And she started it, she called me a poopy-head!.” Okay, time out for everybody. You: no calling people poopy-heads. You: just because somebody called you name, you don’t get to push them. They could fall down and get hurt.

      A racist wants to “prove” BLM and black people are violent, so he wears a klan costume to a BLM event, runs up to a black guy and starts screaming the n-word in his face and gesticulating wildly. The black guy shoves him off, he falls down and busts his head open on the concrete, and his buddies got it all on video. They show it to you. Is your response, “wow, that guy was just expressing his first amendment guaranteed freedom of expression and the violent black guy attacked him. I guess he was right, black people can’t control themselves.” Or is it, “wow, what a jerk. He was looking for a response and I guess he got one.”

      I don’t know about you, but mine is the latter, and it doesn’t change because it’s an old man and a cop instead of a racist and a black guy. People are more like shaved wookies than protocol droids. We can’t all act perfectly all the time, and the lizard brain part of you does “stop threat” and not “do maximally diplomatic action.” A 75-year-old really ought to know better.

      The message I seem to be getting now is “we want to be able to behave in extremely anti-social ways, going up to and over the line of criminality while receiving only perfectly measured and even responses. If any response at all.”

      Going all the way back to George Floyd, no, he shouldn’t have died. Chauvin should not have kneeled on his neck. The other cops shouldn’t have let him. We all agree this should never happen again. But ya know, I can’t help but notice there’s another way to help prevent this from happening again, which is to not be high on drugs in public trying to defraud shopkeepers with fake $20 bills. That’s pretty anti-social behavior. I don’t want old men pushed by cops cracking their skulls on pavement. Should never happen again. But I can’t help notice there’s another way to prevent this from happening again, which is to not be running up to cops and screaming in their faces while flailing your arms around. That’s pretty anti-social behavior.

      Perhaps some two-way civility could help the situation. As is it seems like a pretty one-sided demand, and I find myself getting less and less sympathetic to the “peaceful protestors” as this continues to draw out.

      1. Randy M

        it doesn’t change because it’s an old man and a cop

        I would absolutely tell my kids or friends that it’s the same with a cop–don’t provoke them, because provoked people will often respond, and when your head hits the concrete, you’re the one who has to lie in a hospital bed.

        However, it being a cop does change how we as third party observers judge the situation. Representing the state and enforcing the law requires greater discipline than being Joe blow hanging out when a provocation erupts. Cops are there to keep the peace, and if that means taking disrespect*, so be it. In return, we grant cops a greater measure of deference–but only in return.

        *(I don’t have an opinion on the extent to which this cop was in fact)

      2. MisterA

        Conrad, same question to you as Ketil above. If there was nothing wrong with what went down in Buffalo, why did the department lie and make up a fake story to explain the man’s injury?

        Remember, they didn’t just say he tripped and fell. They said he tripped and fell because he got too close to “a skirmish involving protesters” which we can plainly see is total fabrication.

        Why fabricate events if the real ones are fine?

        1. Faza (TCM)

          Why fabricate events if the real ones are fine?

          Because the real ones clearly aren’t fine, at least in the court of public opinion.

          Having seen the video, I’ve updated my assesment to “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”. I am in the minority.

          1. keaswaran

            In this case, the “stupid game” is agreeing to be a public servant, which requires being subject to the court of public opinion.

          2. Eric T

            I agree to some extent that he provoked a response and that he should have expected something – I think the far more interesting and relevant question is “are we cool with cops responding like this?” Like yes maybe he should have expected that, but do we want to live in a society where that is the expected response?

            Like, he was being a bit disruptive sure, and doing something with his phone, looks like recording to me but who knows? And for that he gets his head busted open? Like maybe cops should:
            A. Have thicker skin and not reacted like this. I worked in retail for two years and got all manner of abuse thrown at me, I never cracked any heads open.
            B. Have better ways of removing people from a place not involving shoving them? I buy the cops didn’t intend to seriously hurt them – doesn’t mean it wasn’t a move that introduced that risk and there were way less dangerous options available (as discussed in this thread, cops manage to move people from places all the time without this kind of force)

            I’m also not sure if I’m entirely willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the cops, just based on my own personal experiences trying to peacefully record the NYPD.

          3. Fahundo

            he was being a bit disruptive sure, and doing something with his phone

            I see this thrown around a lot, and could have conceivably brought this up in a lot of threads, so I’m not intending to pick on you.

            What exactly is waving a phone around supposed to change in the police’s assessment of how to handle this guy? I could maybe see it if they had mistaken it for a weapon, but no one seems to have claimed they did, and the video makes that seem implausible. Filming the police is legal, so what else is the phone supposed to mean, and why is it relevant? If there’s something sinister or dangerous he could have been doing with the phone, what exactly is it?

          4. Conrad Honcho

            Like yes maybe he should have expected that, but do we want to live in a society where that is the expected response?

            I’d like to know what the society looks like where this sort of thing is prevented from ever happening. Are there any humans in it?

            A lot of this is getting back to the issue of selective…I’m not sure what the word is. Cherry picking, kind of? How many peaceful protests have we had over the last two weeks? Hundreds, across the country? With probably hundreds of thousands of protestors and police. And we’re freaking out about the handful of times something goes wrong?

            It would nice we could put some numbers on this, so I’m going to make some up, but if we’ve had 100,000 police/public interactions over the last two weeks, and in 99,950 of them the police behaved appropriately, shouldn’t be saying “wow, what a great job, 99.95% success rate, we sure do have great police in this country!” and not “they screwed up .05% of the time! Abolish the police!”

            Which ties in nicely with the innumeracy around the entire killing of unarmed (black) people thing. It’s really, really, really, really rare. I did the math before for the overall killings, with 41 killings of unarmed people out of ~55,000,000 police interactions (lowball average of the recent numbers on the BJS website) and figure the police are getting it right 99.99993% of the time, and yet the rhetoric is that the police are hunting blacks for sport in the street.

            I don’t know where you’re going to find the automatons who are going to close out those last .00007% errors, so it’s hard for me to imagine the society you want to live in. I don’t think there’s humans in it.

          5. metalcrow

            @Conrad Honcho

            I’d like to know what the society looks like where this sort of thing is prevented from ever happening. Are there any humans in it?

            Any other first world country? I’m open to being wrong, but my understand is that this stuff (brutality seen in the video with the older man) doesn’t happen in other first world countries outside the US (UK, Australia, Scandinavian countries, etc). Yes the counter to this is that those countries are different, but really, i think a fundamental difference may be that i truly believe the US CAN get it much much better.

            And i mean, the other part of the claim is just that because they still happen doesn’t mean we shouldn’t punish them. Murder happens in every society and will continue to happen, but it’s still not ok and we try and stop it.

          6. Fahundo

            I’d like to know what the society looks like where this sort of thing is prevented from ever happening.

            I can only speak for myself here, but preventing this from ever happening is obviously unrealistic. I think the relevant issue here is not “police violence sometimes happens, and it shouldn’t ever”, but rather “there doesn’t seem to be much of an effort to hold people accountable, unless the incident happens to be caught on video.”

          7. Jake R

            I am generally predisposed against the police. I think many police departments systemically disregard civil rights, and many officers are unusually prone to escalate situations when their perceived authority is challenged.

            After reading about this story for the last day I just watched the video, and while there are no heroes here I find myself agreeing more with the police.

            There’s a term poker players like to throw around called “results-oriented thinking.” The idea is that in poker you can play your hand perfectly and still get beat by the guy who played terribly but got lucky. In this situation it would be a mistake to change the way you play in response to this result.

            Watching the video of Gugino falling I can’t but think there’s a nearby universe where he just stumbled back a step or two and nobody ever hears about him. We can debate the wrongness of a cop shoving a guy who got in his face. It would be a better world if it never happened. But in a world with 800,000 cops interacting with hundreds of millions of civilians, it seems unreasonable to expect nobody to ever get shoved by a cop the way Martin Gugino was.

            What strikes me most about this is what a terrible example this is to raise a standard around. We live in a world where whole counties treat the fourth amendment as a troublesome suggestion, where by-the-book procedure is to break down doors, handcuff everyone, throw them on the ground face down, and point loaded weapons at their heads. If you want to reform law enforcement, I’m with you, but we’ve got to get better at PR than this.

          8. Eric T

            And we’re freaking out about the handful of times something goes wrong?

            300+ times isn’t a handful

            People have lost eyes.

            10,000+ people have been arrested.

            Please come down from up there and look at reality – some police are attacking protestors and trying to quash protests using a variety of means.

            They’ve attacked reporters

            repeatedly

            And as others have pointed out, other WLDs don’t seem to have this problem, so maybe it’s not as absurd a fix as you posit. Maybe it’s even easy? Maybe we just need to make sure we don’t give people who commit unneeded assault on camera a pass as a start? Seems fairly low cost to try.

          9. Conrad Honcho

            Any other first world country? I’m open to being wrong, but my understand is that this stuff (brutality seen in the video with the older man) doesn’t happen in other first world countries outside the US (UK, Australia, Scandinavian countries, etc).

            Is that true or not, that police in other countries don’t ever get into altercations with peaceful protestors? I don’t think I’ve seen anyone claim or refute that yet, so I’d be curious to know if other countries’ riot police are better than ours.

            If you’re talking about police killings in general, we did the math on that one, too and the US is not uniquely bad. From the various wikipedia* pages (you can look them up yourself or I can link them), there were 6 police killings in 2018 (ETA: IN SWEDEN. WHOOPS). In the US there were 1004 in 2019. So per capita, the US police kill about 5 times as many people as Sweden. However, by gun homicide rate, the US is about 10x more dangerous than Sweden (4.46 per 100k vs .43 per 100k). You’d think if the US was 10x more dangerous, we’d be killing 10x as many people, but we’re not, it’s only five. Be thankful we don’t have the Swedish police, we wouldn’t have 1,000 dead a year we’d have 2,000. If the Swedes had police as competent and restrained as our boys in blue, they’d only have 3 killings instead of 6. Perhaps the Swedes are a little trigger happy given the country they’re policing is 10 times safer than the US.

            So, no, I don’t think the US is particularity bad. I think everyone is doing pretty well.

            * since we did that calculation last week it looks like the Wikipedia page on police killings has been updated a dozen times. I guess there’s something of a war going on over the page with everyone referring to it to demonize or exonerate the police in their online debates. They’ve upped the US number from 1,004 to ~1,500, but that’s not what we’ve got in the WaPo database.

            Depending on which countries and which years you pick you can probably say the US is the same, twice as good, or twice as bad as everybody else in the western world. But you have to factor in how much more dangerous the US is than those places or else you’re not comparing apples to apples.

            It would probably be worth doing a multi-year average to figure out just how good or bad police are by various metrics. I don’t want to be like, “Hey, Scott Alexander, please do this statistical analysis for me,” but, um, “Hey Scott Alexander, please do this statistical analysis for me!”

          10. Fahundo

            But in a world with 800,000 cops interacting with hundreds of millions of civilians, it seems unreasonable to expect nobody to ever get shoved by a cop the way Martin Gugino was.

            I agree with this, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that at the very least the cops are instructed not to shove an old man who is outnumbered and presents no threat to anyone.

            To be clear, to me there is a very significant difference between “this is against the rules, but every now and then an individual cop breaks the rules anyway” and “the department was going to pretend it didn’t happen until a video surfaced”

          11. Conrad Honcho

            300+ times isn’t a handful

            We’re talking about peaceful protests and you’re moving the goalposts to police clearing out riots.

            Yes, I am absolutely not surprised police are using teargas and rubber bullets against rioters, and that occasionally the “peaceful protestors” acting as their human shields get gassed too.

          12. metalcrow

            @Conrad Honcho

            If you’re talking about police killings in general, we did the math on that one, too and the US is not uniquely bad.

            That argument is very reasonable and sound, and i’m not about to challenge it. But what i specifically was referring to was cases of brutality, not just killings. Do cases like that happen at the rate we are seeing in the US in other countries? If they do i haven’t heard of any outcry about them from those countries, so it would surprise me.

          13. MilesM

            @metalcrow

            Any other first world country? I’m open to being wrong, but my understand is that this stuff (brutality seen in the video with the older man) doesn’t happen in other first world countries outside the US (UK, Australia, Scandinavian countries, etc).

            I’m sorry, but… you cannot be serious.

            https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/12/police-must-end-use-of-excessive-force-against-protesters-and-high-school-children-in-france/

            https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/12/spain-police-used-excessive-force-catalonia

          14. metalcrow

            @MilesM
            I was not aware of these, thank you! In that case, this raises the broader question; instead of “Why are the US so bad and how can we fix it” to “Why are police in general so prone to brutality and how can we fix it”

          15. DavidFriedman

            I haven’t seen the video, but it sounds from the discussion here as though what the police did was not “break his head,” which to me requires hitting his head. What they did was to shove him, which is a pretty normal thing to do to someone who isn’t moving back when he is supposed to be — I gather they were clearing the area, and a curfew was on.

            He then fell and hurt his head badly enough to bleed.

            If that’s a correct account, the reaction seems much exaggerated. And the initial police statement sounds more like “we don’t know exactly what happened, but he ended up falling over and hurting himself” than like a deliberate lie.

          16. Garrett

            > hurt his head badly enough to bleed

            There’s “I scraped my scalp and now I’m bleeding. Whaa!” and then there’s this dude. He went down *hard*.

            I’ve dealt with patients who’ve (presumably) died from far less serious injuries. I wonder how he did.

          17. Aapje

            I think that the cop was used to people either pushing into him or paying attention to him, while he wanted to clear them. Those would presumably handle a push much better than this guy, who was acting very peculiar.

            I also think that most people would be quite willing to give someone a push if they wanted someone to move. I do think it is bad police behavior, but also something that is not very obviously bad (unless you have a bad outcome and then reason back).

        2. Conrad Honcho

          Same response in case you didn’t see it above, can you link me the original statement that you believe was false? I haven’t seen it so I don’t know, but in this polarized climate I’m finding people’s perceptions of events don’t always agree, so I’d like to make my own assessment before agreeing with yours.

        3. Conrad Honcho

          Okay I saw your post in the other thread but I’ll respond here because clutter.

          This is what I’m talking about with the editorializing I don’t trust. The BPD claim:

          “a 5th person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors and also charged with disorderly conduct. During that skirmish involving protestors, one person was injured when he tripped & fell.”

          But you called this:

          Remember, they didn’t just say he tripped and fell. They said he tripped and fell because he got too close to “a skirmish involving protesters” which we can plainly see is total fabrication.

          Your alleged fabrication is a fabrication. I’m not saying you did this intentionally, I think people have a tendency to bias their interpretations of events against their outgroup (oddly enough I seem to be the only human who sees Reality As It Is. I’m pretty amazing that way, being perfectly unbiased in every way and all). Anyway, you claim they claim he fell because “he got too close” to a skirmish involving protestors. No, they don’t say anything about “getting too close.” They claim:

          1) There was a skirmish with protestors.

          2) During that skirmish, one person was injured when he tripped and fell.

          There was indeed a skirmish with protestors. The police were clearing them out and they arrested several people. During the time that the skirmish was going on, the man tripped and fell.

          This is true. The worst you can say is they lied by omission by leaving out that they shoved him as part of the skirmish. That they skirmished, and during the skirmish the guy tripped and fell is…really just leaving out a detail of the exact nature of the skirmish.

          Yeah, they should have put in a more detailed description, but this is hardly a grand conspiracy.

          1. Eric T

            That they skirmished, and during the skirmish the guy tripped and fell is…really just leaving out a detail of the exact nature of the skirmish.

            I think the average reasonable person sees a big difference between “he tripped” and “he was pushed”

            Or at least my mom did when I was a kid and I tried to get out of trouble for pushing my brothers.

          2. MisterA

            There was indeed a skirmish with protestors.

            This is so divorced from plain reality that I genuinely don’t believe that you actually believe it. There is a single person in that video surrounded by cops. There are no other protesters. There is no skirmish with protesters. There is no conceivable world in which that is an accurate description of reality, and frankly there is no way a reasonable person could conclude that it is.

            This isn’t like the last video where I could sort of see where you’re coming from. I literally don’t think it is possible to view that video and come to the conclusion you are claiming to have come to here based on it.

            (And given that the police commissioner pulled a 180 and suspended the cops in question within the hour of the video becoming public, I don’t think I’m alone in this.)

          3. Conrad Honcho

            @Eric T

            I doubt the people upset by this would have liked any description the police used that described Gugino’s actions leading up to the event.

            “During the skirmish, one man accosted officers in a threatening manner. Officers responded by pushing the man away from them. The man subsequently tripped and fell.”

            Would that be reasonable, or would you object because Gugino was just expressing his constitutionally protected first amendment rights to peaceful protest?

            If they’re going to say they shoved the guy, they’d need to give a reason why, and since that reason will almost certainly not be acceptable to their critics, it’s probably better just to leave out the details rather than editorialize.

          4. Fahundo

            in a threatening manner.

            Threatening them with what? Accosted, sure, but threatening? How?

          5. Conrad Honcho

            This is so divorced from plain reality that I genuinely don’t believe that you actually believe it.

            Come on man, if you want an explanation for how I could think that just ask for one.

            There is literally a single person in that video surrounded by cops. There are no other protesters.

            They’re off camera. We know this because they were clearing the square. What were they clearing the square of? The other protestors. They arrested five people. I don’t see five people in that video, but five people got arrested. Where are they? Off frame. Or are we now claiming they lied about how many people they arrested?

            That little clip wasn’t the (ETA “entire”) skirmish. The skirmish was the entire confrontation involved in clearing the square and arresting several people. During that larger skirmish, this guy accosted the officers, was shoved away, tripped and fell.

            ETA:

            Threatening them with what? Accosted, sure, but threatening? How?

            The yelling and the shoving of his hands in weird ways. I would feel threatened if someone did that to me, wouldn’t you?

            Then again, we can probably leave that part out anyway because I’m not sure it’s possible to “accost” someone in a non-threatening manner. It’s kind of baked in.

          6. MisterA

            That little clip wasn’t the skirmish. The skirmish was the entire confrontation involved in clearing the square and arresting several people.

            Which all occurred after Mr. Gugino was already on the ground bleeding from his ears, which means attributing the injury to the skirmish is a lie.

          7. Fahundo

            The yelling and the shoving of his hands in weird ways. I would feel threatened if someone did that to me, wouldn’t you?

            No. Double no when the guy doing it is a lanky fuck with thinning white hair. Triple no when I’m armed and in armor and he’s not.

            I’m not sure it’s possible to “accost” someone in a non-threatening manner. It’s kind of baked in.

            It is possible, and it’s not baked in. You can accost someone by bombarding them with questions, for instance.

          8. metalcrow

            @Conrad Honcho

            The yelling and the shoving of his hands in weird ways. I would feel threatened if someone did that to me, wouldn’t you?

            I agree i would feel, uh unnerved, threatened is a bit strong. But the proper response to someone yelling (which i didn’t see or hear him do in the video) or moving their hands strangely (i didn’t see him physically touch any of the officers, so not shoving) is NOT to shove him backwards so hard he falls over. Especially if i have both a less-lethal weapon and a gun on my person AND backup surrounding me. The action they took was disproportional to the threat, caused far more harm then necessary, and most importantly, wasn’t in good faith. If i was the policeman, i simply would not have shoved him. Lay my hands on him, move him backwards more carefully, march him away? Sure! But the action they took lead to permanent damage to that man for the crime of walking up to them. That is an unacceptable level of response.

          9. Conrad Honcho

            @MisterA

            Which all occurred after Mr. Gugino was already on the ground bleeding from his ears, which means attributing the injury to the skirmish is a lie.

            The confrontation with Gugino was part of the larger skirmish of clearing the square. During the skirmish, the police fought with people, including Gugino. During the fight with Gugino, Gugino tripped and fell and was injured, after being shoved by the police.

            @metalcrow

            Lay my hands on him, move him backwards more carefully, march him away? Sure! But the action they took lead to permanent damage to that man for the crime of walking up to them. That is an unacceptable level of response.

            “The crime of walking up to them?” Don’t you think it was a little more the yelling and the gesticulating and not the walking up?

            I get it, I get. “We get to behave like animals indiscriminately but the police must behave like robots 100% of the time.” This is not reasonable and I am not sympathetic.

          10. metalcrow

            @Conrad Honcho

            “The crime of walking up to them?” Don’t you think it was a little more the yelling and the gesticulating and not the walking up?

            Honestly? No. If someone did that to me i would be in the wrong to push them.

            We get to behave like animals but the police must behave like robots

            While this is hyperbole, i think it’s not that far from the truth. The police must behave substantially better than the average citizen. Otherwise, why are they the police? How can we trust them? How do we know, if they’re not better then average, they won’t freely murder, kill, and be bad?

          11. Fahundo

            Don’t you think it was a little more the yelling and the gesticulating and not the walking up?

            Since when is this a justification for shoving someone?

            “We get to behave like animals indiscriminately but the police must behave like robots 100% of the time.”

            So the standard for behaving like an animal is yelling and waving your hands, and the standard for being a robot is refraining from cracking open someone’s skull?

          12. Conrad Honcho

            Otherwise, why are they the police? How can we trust them? How do we know, if they’re not better then average, they won’t freely murder, kill, and be bad?

            The police are there to enforce the law and keep the peace, not act as your therapy screaming dummies.

          13. metalcrow

            @Conrad Honcho
            I really don’t understand how you got that this guy was screaming at the police. But frankly it doesn’t matter. If you are screamed at, you cannot use violence to make the other person stop. Full stop. That is the argument behind https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/23/in-favor-of-niceness-community-and-civilization/
            That is the argument behind rationality
            That is the argument behind democracy and non-violent civilizations as a whole
            And if this had happened between a civilian and another civilian, it would still be wrong for the most basic reasons behind anti-violence and utilitarianism.

          14. Fahundo

            The police are there to enforce the law and keep the peace

            So we’re agreed that they’re not there to start fights and injure people.

          15. Conrad Honcho

            @metalcrow

            But frankly it doesn’t matter. If you are screamed at, you cannot use violence to make the other person stop.

            Sure, but because you provoked someone into a barely violent response with your completely unreasonable screaming behavior doesn’t mean they’re a bad person and the class of people to whom they belong are bad people.

            The racist in the klan outfit who gets laid out by the black guy for screaming the n-word at him doesn’t prove that particular black guy or all black guys are bad.

            The agitator who gets shoved for screaming at the cops and reaching at him in weird ways doesn’t prove that cop is bad or that all cops or most cops are bad.

            “If I get in the face of enough X-people* and scream at them enough, one of them will shove me” is true for nearly all X-people. And is therefore really not worth discussing.

            And linking the niceness and civilization post? Isn’t that kind of my whole point that you seem to think that niceness and civilization is only a one-way thing? You really want to talk about rationalism in defense of a guy screaming at police? I don’t think “screaming at people” is how the Rationalist project works. I haven’t read the Sequences so I dunno.

            * Le Maistre Chat do not make an X-Men joke.

          16. Fahundo

            The agitator who gets shoved for screaming at the cops and reaching at him in weird ways doesn’t prove that cop is bad or that all cops or most cops are bad.

            The fact that one cop shoved him proves that, at least, he was caught on a bad day. The fact that the department attempted to obscure what happened with “he tripped” proves that there were several bad cops involved, even if we don’t know exactly who.

            “If I get in the face of enough X-people* and scream at them enough, one of them will shove me” is true for nearly all X-people. And is therefore really not worth discussing.

            Normally we can recognize that something is an inevitablity without condoning it. The fact that various people are condoning or attempting to cover this up are what make it worth discussing.

            I believe that if I leave my apartment door unlocked every day while I’m at work, eventually something will be stolen from my place. That doesn’t change the fact that whoever took my shit would be a thief.

          17. metalcrow

            @Conrad Honcho

            provoked someone into a barely violent response with your completely unreasonable screaming behavior doesn’t mean they’re a bad person

            I agree that it does not made you a bad person. It it is, however, a bad act, and frequent bad acts make you a bad person. So we need to punish people who do bad acts to prevent them from becoming bad people.

            class of people to whom they belong are bad people.

            Bad may be used rather loosely here, but i think the group of other cops who stood around, let this happen, the didn’t immediately try to help him after he fell are also performing bad acts and are bad people in the moment.

            Isn’t that kind of my whole point that you seem to think that niceness and civilization is only a one-way thing? You really want to talk about rationalism in defense of a guy screaming at police

            Ok, did we read the same post? Scott says in it “The respectful way to rebut Andrew’s argument would be to spread malicious lies about Andrew to a couple of media outlets, fan the flames, and wait for them to destroy his reputation. Then if the stress ends up bursting an aneurysm in his brain, I can dance on his grave, singing. I’m not going to do that.” The explicit statement here is that, because one person is screaming at you and stating harmful things, you are not justified when you respond by silencing them or using violence against them.
            If the police officer screams back, while that STILL goes against the principals of the post, i wouldn’t even object

          18. Nancy Lebovitz

            Conrad Honcho:

            “a barely violent response”. Enough force to knock a basically healthy person down hard is beyond barely violent.

          19. Conrad Honcho

            @metalcrow

            Ok, did we read the same post?

            Yes. I’m noticing that you’re lobbing the complaint about not doing the Rationalist thing only at the cop and not at the agitator. “Rationalism for thee but not for me.” “We get to act like animals, you must act like robots.”

            It is not a reciprocal relationship. If you wanted to say “Gugino’s behavior was inappropriate, so was the officer’s” I’d be more sympathetic to your claim to virtue. But it seems as though you demand your opponents live up to the highest ideals of civilized discourse but not your allies, they can get dirty. I dunno man. This doesn’t look like a good deal.

            @Nancy

            “a barely violent response”. Enough force to knock a basically healthy person down hard is beyond barely violent.

            I don’t think the shove was that hard. I don’t think a reasonable person would have expected him to fall down and crack his head. It was a reasonable use of force with an unfortunate outcome.

          20. Edward Scizorhands

            I’m finding this discussion useful to watch, but some comments are over-the-top.

          21. metalcrow

            @Conrad Honcho
            I can give that some credence. I’ll say that Gugino’s behavior was inappropriate, and so was the officer’s. However, the officer’s was significantly worse then Gugino’s.
            And again, i told you what i think about “We get to act like animals, you must act like robots” before! For the people that carry guns and get the right to murder and arrest, you don’t have to be robots, but you gotta be much better than the normal citizen. We give you more power, you get more responsibility.

          22. metalcrow

            @Edward Scizorhands
            Just in case, if that is addressed to me, please do call me out. I sincerely apologize if I have been overly aggressive or uncharitable.

          23. Conrad Honcho

            I’m finding this discussion useful to watch, but some comments are over-the-top.

            Aww man I don’t wanna get banned! Is there anything I can edit? You can’t say that without pointing out what we need “less of, please.”

            ETA: metalcrow, I thought you were fine and I was enjoying our discussion, although I think we’ve basically wrung this one out and are just repeating ourselves at this point.

          24. Mark V Anderson

            Wow what a long discussion, not getting anywhere. I do want to register that I mostly agree with Conrad, so not everyone is in the other camp. What I saw in the video was a cop shoving the guy to get him out of the way (not all that hard). The guy then tripped and fell. As Conrad says, it is a bit suspicious there was someone carefully videotaping the whole incident. It probably was a set-up, though presumably the guy wasn’t expecting to crack his head when he fell. Maybe the shover didn’t even realize he caused the guy to fall. It then appeared to me that the guy who fell just lay there for some reason I couldn’t tell — it looked to me like he was doing it for dramatic reasons, like the soccer players who take a knee. I have since heard there was blood around him, so apparently not fake. The whole incident appears to me one of those accidental events that the anti-cop side way way over states because they are looking so hard for evidence.

      3. Witness

        This may be the best, or the worst, place to put this. I dunno yet.

        The biggest problem with this take is that it excuses fundamentally bad policing. I say this because the fundamentals of good policing are at least 200 years old, and they are good ones: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peelian_principles

        Your basic argument does hold some water: sometimes idiot thieves try to break into our favorite coffee shop and hold a w- I mean, hold Sergeant Angua hostage. If the officers list the resulting injuries as “self-inflicted”, I’m not going to be too upset.

        This is different enough to at least warrant some disciplinary action towards the officers involved.

  10. Purplehermann

    @Bean you mentioned below that god(s) used to be falsifiable, and seem to think this changed once they were falsified.

    How far back do you think the old religions were falsified? Christianity seems kind of abstract, and maimonides (1138 a.d.) considered those who believed in a god with a body to be blasphemers.

    1. Beans

      So, my comment there was intended as an existential rather than a universal, which is to say: Clearly, given all the different strands of religious thought, not everybody who was a theist in previous millennia believed in a literal walkin’ talkin’ body-havin’ thunderbolt-throwin’ deity. But I am under the impression that a) there did exist plenty of people who did, and b) modern westerners pretty much don’t, since we know so much about the world now, but more subtle concepts of transcendental gods still stick in our heads. (Please leave the veracity of god proposals aside, not debating (a)theism here.) I am not an authority on this topic.

      1. theredsheep

        It’s not clear to me that even Greek myths were very committed to the idea of mostly-corporeal gods. When you consider that Apollo was supposed to spend every day driving a chariot around the sky, but all his other myths have him running around after nymphs and boys, having music contests, showing up to scold heroes, etc. in broad daylight, it becomes debatable to what extent these bodies are just vehicles for the divine nature we think of as Apollo.

        I don’t think it’s that people used to think of Gods as physical and now they don’t; it’s that people had a bunch of different conceptions of any given deity, and weren’t terribly bothered about making them compatible with each other or any given conception of the natural order.

        1. danridge

          I think that generally the god who drives the chariot of the sun, Helios, is not necessarily identified with Apollo, although they both share the epithet Phoebus and Apollo is a sun god; sometimes the two are conflated though.

        2. Jake R

          In chapter 10 of Miracles by CS Lewis he gets into this in some depth. He argues that it’s not quite right to think of the ancients as believing in physical gods and then later believing in spiritual gods. His claim is that the entire distinction between physical and spiritual reality was not something that would have occurred to people in ancient times. This makes some sense to me. The idea of a god “living in the clouds” no doubt means something very different in a time before airplanes or knowledge of what clouds are made of.

          1. Jake R

            Apparently CS Lewis’s works have passed into the public domain…in Canada. The ethics of stealing a work of theology are left as an exercise for the reader. His best known work of non-fiction is probably Mere Christianity but I find the arguments laid out in Miracles to be a much more thorough apologia.

        3. MisterA

          I think people who spend a lot of time thinking about theology might be surprised how many modern believers still think God is a literal bearded man who lives in Heaven, an actual literal place, and not a fuzzy philosophical concept.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            Look, Michelangelo’s art is so great I don’t care if it confuses some Christians into believing God the Father is a flying bearded man. 😛

          2. Gerry Quinn

            People who spend a lot of time thinking about theology are as committed to rationality, in their way, as people who spend a lot of time thinking about atoms. For others, ontological distinctions between spiritual metaphor and reality may not be all that much more significant to modern believers than Jake R suggests they were to the ancients (they probably are a little).

        4. m.alex.matt

          It’s not clear to me that even Greek myths were very committed to the idea of mostly-corporeal gods.

          It’s complicated.

          First of all, they certainly believe their gods were physical beings: They literally believed their gods inhabited to statues and figurines they made for them to live in.

          At the same exact time, they had no problem at all believing their gods could be in multiple places at once. Many different temples to the same god could exist in many different places and the god would be present in all of them.

          These different statues would usually have an epithet, an additional name appended to the god’s normal name as a way of distinguishing them. And this distinction could go pretty far, too: while, in some sense, they were all the same god that doesn’t mean they were exactly the same.

          Greek paganism didn’t have a formal theology (they spent a lot of time inventing the discipline, but never really established an orthodox interpretation), so the sense involved here is vague and not really easy to grasp without access to individual believers to talk to it about.

  11. lambiguo

    Can anybody point me in the direction of books (or articles) of people advocating for the removal of privacy?

    I’ve been interested in this after hearing some of Daniel Schmachtenberger’s ideas in a “The portal” episode and had little luck in finding any resources (might be my lack of searching skills and relevant background). Note: the episode has little overlap with what I’m asking.

    The general idea I’d give is: most of humanity’s time has been spent in a group roughly the size of the Dunbar number. In such a setting, there’s very little place for privacy and anonymity: everybody knows everybody else. Thus, there’s very little possibility of displaying truly selfish behavior at the expense of one’s peers. Could we exploit this in some way in the modern world?

    One example I’ve thought of, would be removing financial privacy from citizens in places that suffer from chronic corruption problems. For example, southern Italian’s mafiosos would have a much harder time doing anything if all assets over €500 had to be registered in a public ledger. Simply not registering one’s assets can be disincentivized. For instance, give anyone the ability to summon authorities and gain possession on anything that is not on the ledger by paying a €500.

    In fact, privacy is currently being taken from everybody in a way that benefits big businesses and makes central governments stronger. Is a way of doing the same but in a truly public way possible? I think the crypto space might have something to say about this, but discussion there seems to think privacy is sacred.

    But this is just me rambling, has anybody given serious attention to this idea?

    1. johan_larson

      David Brin believes that with improving surveillance technology, privacy as we know it will increasingly become impossible. It will simply be too easy to have cameras everywhere filming all the time. He believes that what we should fight for is not the ability to maintain privacy, but equal access to the gathered information.

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

      1. Randy M

        I remember reading him discuss that several years ago. I wonder if the rise of the volunteer thought police has given him cause to reconsider.

      2. Matt M

        Yeah. I don’t “advocate” for the abolition of privacy, but I think it is basically inevitable.

        Someone else here (I can’t recall who) once made the prediction that future generations will view our obsession with privacy similar to how we view past societies obsession with “honor.” They’ll have a rough sense of what it means, but caring a lot about it will seem to be an entirely out of date and primitive notion…

        1. keaswaran

          One important analogy here is that what counts as “privacy” is extremely culturally variable. Some people think privacy requires having opaque hedges and fences around your backyard but don’t worry about their financial transactions being tracked, while others think it’s more about keeping transactions private and don’t mind having public view of their yard.

    2. Christophe Biocca

      Aren’t your ideas basically in place already? In the United States:

      – Almost every financial transaction (or cash transaction done at a financial institution) is recorded with automatic reporting requirements for various kinds of suspicious activity. Structuring (the act of shaping your transactions to avoid hitting the reporting thresholds) is a crime even the underlying transactions were legal and not associated with criminal activity.
      – American companies doing business with overseas businesses over a certain amount require forms declaring what kind of taxable category the beneficial owner belongs to.
      Third party doctrine means any record you provide to third parties, or any record the third parties collect about you legally, is fair game to be obtained without a warrant (except in Utah, apparently?).
      – Political donations are generally public. Want to get a coworker in trouble over supporting/opposing some ballot measure in California? It’s pretty trivial to find out what they gave to in the last 2 decades.

    3. Dragor

      I recall reading a longform article about this ex mormon guy who was running for congressman who had had a pseudoreligious conversion to, among other things, polyamory and the fact that everyone should have access to everyone’s information all the time. I think he was livestreaming his life as part of his election campaign. I remember that he gave his interviewer the password to his email and bank account, and the interviewer ultimately felt that even though the man had given her permission to read his email, his romantic liaisons hadn’t, which made it morally wrong for her to do so.

  12. anton

    So, someone mentioned piracy on the comments in the paywalls article, so I wanted to share my personal perspective and ask a question.

    I pirate stuff without compunction, but then again, I grew up next to a library. To me the pirate websites looked like online libraries, and as I used libraries since before I had memory I felt and feel no moral scruples.
    Now that I think about the matter again, however, I am instead surprised at brick-and-mortar libraries.
    A naive guess would be that these should be ruinous to writers.
    If I compare the cost of what I read if I were to buy it, say, from amazon, against the library subscription fee I see they have a couple of orders of magnitude of difference. Some of this can be explained in several ways, e.g. this is no doubt publicly subsidized and I read more than average so in some sense I was a free rider to those who read less, but I don’t think all those factors and more along those lines would be enough to explain the entire difference, unless I’m seriously underestimating them.

    Has anyone done the legwork of figuring out the economic impact of libraries to the publishing industry? (and ideally written about it for the layman?)

    Put more provocatively, are or were libraries preventing some sort of renaissance?

    1. Edward Scizorhands

      Libraries don’t buy 1 copy of JK Rowling’s book and create 10,000 copies for people to read on opening day. If you want to read that 1 copy, you need to wait your turn, and books get lost, and stolen, and worn out. The waitlist and the lost copies create pressure for the library to buy more copies.

      Small authors I’ve spoken to love when their books get into libraries and they say it’s economically beneficial for them. I don’t know if they’re lying but they seemed content. If someone loves book one from an author, they probably do not want to wait for the library to get out the next copy.

      Getting a book from a library is inferior in most ways to owning it yourself. The people waiting months to read a book really are waiting months to read it.

      1. AG

        Libraries buying a book can be a far larger number than individuals buying the book in the first year, for a small author.

      2. Well...

        Getting a book from a library is inferior in most ways to owning it yourself.

        I think that’s only true for a relatively small number of books that end up being very special to you. For all the other books, aside from the fact of not having to pay anything to hold them in your hands and take a few weeks to read them, another nice thing about borrowing from the library is at the end you drop the book in a box and it’s gone again; you don’t have to find a way to get rid of it and feel like you’re throwing your money away.

        I have many books that I first borrowed from the library, read, and then bought my own copy because I wanted to own it myself. But there are orders of magnitude more books I borrowed from the library, read, and then never thought much about again.

        1. cassander

          I take great pleasure in owning my books and displaying them on my wall. I read most of my books digitally and try to buy cheap used copies for the bragging wall bookshelves.

          1. Well...

            I never read books digitally but I agree about the pleasure of owning and displaying books. I probably stand in front of my bookshelf admiring my collection at least once every few days. But this is still a relatively small number of books compared to those I read.

        2. Edward Scizorhands

          (I have clutter in my house, and the ability for a book to go away without my thinking about how to responsibly dispose of it was what I was going for in the phrase “in most ways.” Someone taking a book of my hands is a service! But I think I am unusual in this and lot of people just toss the book in the trash or whatever if they don’t want it.)

    2. Matt M

      My rough sense is that libraries are generally used by people lower-class enough that if the library wasn’t around, they’d either go without, or try and find bargain used books… they wouldn’t be paying full hardcover/kindle price on Amazon.

      And conversely, the type of people who like to buy brand new hardcover books within weeks of their release generally don’t go to libraries much at all.

      In marketing terms, these are dramatically different customer groups, so there really isn’t any “cannibalization” going on at all…

      1. ana53294

        I would never waste my limited shelf space on a new hardcover of an untested author.

        And, while I’m willing to pay under 6$ for an ebook, anything over that seems extortionate to me.

        I can afford and do buy new books of authors I really like and whose books I’m waiting for. However, I have only five such authors. For most others, I’ll pick it up in the library if it’s available, or buy the ebook if it’s not overpriced, or buy a second hand book.

        1. The Pachyderminator

          And, while I’m willing to pay under 6$ for an ebook, anything over that seems extortionate to me.

          You may be overestimating how much of the price of a new book represents the cost of printing, manufacturing, warehousing, etc., vs. how much represents editorial costs, acquisition, royalties, and so on. Ebooks are somewhat cheaper to produce than print, of course, but not so much that you should expect to pay only 25% as much for a new ebook as a new hardcover.

          1. ana53294

            I think you’re also underestimating how much the whole dinosaur of the publishing industry, the bookshops, the returs system, and warehousing represents.

            Just the simplification of the accounting system, where you don’t have to hold all earnings against returns save a lot of money.

            You know editing is notorious for being a low paid job, right?

            I’ve published a book on Amazon, both in paperback and ebook form. In order to earn 1$ from each, I had to make the paperback worth double the ebook. Yes, POD is more expensive, but then POD doesn’t require warehousing, or accounting for returns, etc.

            And a hardcover costs even more than Amazon’s trade paperback to print.

            So yes, ebooks should be much half as cheap as paperbacks which should be half the price of hardbacks.

          2. DavidFriedman

            Ebooks are somewhat cheaper to produce than print, of course, but not so much that you should expect to pay only 25% as much for a new ebook as a new hardcover.

            When I self-publish my books, as both print and kindle, I set the price at a level that doesn’t give me a very large royalty, since I’m mostly writing to spread ideas. Checking a couple of them, the paperback costs about three times as much as the kindle.

          3. The Pachyderminator

            I think you’re also underestimating how much the whole dinosaur of the publishing industry, the bookshops, the returs system, and warehousing represents.

            Just the simplification of the accounting system, where you don’t have to hold all earnings against returns save a lot of money.

            I’m aware of all of those things. The fact remains, they’re a relatively small part of the total cost of publishing a book.

            The economics of a self-published book on Amazon are completely different from those of a traditional publisher. How much did you spend on editing, typesetting, cover design, and marketing? Presumably you didn’t have to buy the rights to your own book from yourself or give yourself an advance?

            Yes, this system is archaic and convoluted. Do you know why it’s convoluted? Because producing a good book is actually a lot of work requiring many different kinds of skilled labor, and if you neglect any of them, consumers can tell the difference. Most of the self-published books out there are badly edited and badly designed. (Obviously I’m not saying anything about yours in particular, which I haven’t seen.) A consumer who couldn’t say much about book design if asked can still sense the lack of quality control in an amateurish product. That does affect the decision to buy or not to buy, and all the hoopla about how anyone can throw up an ebook on Amazon and therefore publishers are obsolete is just not reality.

          4. Evan Þ

            On the other hand, Kindle self-publishing for physical books is Print On Demand, which incurs higher incremental costs than a normal print run to get lower up-front costs. So, when you compare incremental costs between ebooks and paperbacks, the PoD cost should be an upper limit for paperbacks but nothing more.

      2. MPG

        @MattM

        That’s in my experience untrue for children’s books, for libraries in university towns, or (of course) for academic libraries. But children and academics can both go through a great many books quickly, in the latter case often things out of print and not yet out of copyright (and so not on Google Books or Internet Archive). While municipal library buying patterns might suggest lower-class interests, I’m not at all sure: all kinds of people no doubt are interested in dieting books, for example. Perhaps by “lower class” you just mean “relatively poor”? That would cover a lot of academic families, for example.

        EDIT: Not to suggest that online access is as good as print access. Each is preferable for different purposes, and lockdowns make one realize that an all-digital readership is scarcely desirable. I mean only that there just is no alternative to print in many cases.

    3. LT

      I don’t remember if libraries specifically are discussed, but for much more along the lines of your questions, check out the book Against Intellectual Monopoly. (Which I originally found through Kaj Sotala’s “Books that have had the biggest impact on my life” page)

    4. AlphaGamma

      The UK and some other (mostly European) countries have a Public Lending Right system, where the government pays authors for each time one of their books is borrowed from a public library.

      In the UK, they get around 8-9p per loan with a maximum payment of £6,600 per year- though the vast majority of authors get less than £100 from this scheme each year.

      1. Evan Þ

        The vast majority of authors already get very small amounts of money per year through all systems.

    5. keaswaran

      I wonder if libraries are sort of like insurance. A library will buy one copy of many books, including ones that wouldn’t have gotten any buyers in the community, and ones that would have gotten several buyers in the community. This smooths out the number of purchases across communities, and helps each author avoid the risk of zero sales while losing out on the chance of getting many sales.

  13. FLWAB

    So James Bennet, the editor at the New York Times who approved the now infamous Tom Cotton opinion piece has now resigned. If there is any doubt that he chose to resign instead of being fired, it can be mostly put to rest by the comments of NYT publisher Sulzberger who wrote the following in a note to staff:

    Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we’ve experienced in recent years. James and I agreed that it would take a new team to lead the department through a period of considerable change.

    In my general experience when a person resigns and their boss says that they agreed things needed to move in a new direction, it means they were fired but given the chance to keep their dignity by resigning.

    Personally, what little respect I had left for the New York Times is gone. They’ve made it clear that publishing opinion pieces that are unpopular with their staff is a firable offence, and that their staff is highly left wing. “All the news that’s fit to print” has been replaced with “What we see fit to print.”

    1. Eric T

      Counterpoint: If you were the publisher at a major publication and you had been convinced, either through your staff or the general public, that an opinion piece you had let run actively put people’s lives in danger, it seems reasonable to maybe let go the person responsible for that.

      Before you push back on whether said opinion piece does or not – I believe it didn’t. However, last OT (I think, maybe this one? It all blends together) I read a couple of arguments that didn’t convince me, but certainly I think could have convinced a reasonable person.

      1. souleater

        You have a lot of credibility with me so please let me know if I’m misrepresenting you, my understanding of your thesis is as follows:

        A reasonable person could believe that running a news article that puts peoples lives in danger should be a punishable/fireable offense

        I would agree with this thesis. I think many reasonable people might believe something if they haven’t put much thought into it. but if I could modify it slightly…

        A reasonable journalist could believe that running a news article that puts peoples lives in danger should be a punishable/fireable offense after carefully considering it

        I would completely disagree. Information that puts peoples lives in danger is a category so broad as to be meaningless, and by necessity only be enforced against policies that are disfavored by the NYT
        Depending on who decides what information is dangerous the new rule could include prohibitions on such things as:
        Advocating going to war with Iran
        Advocating in favor of the death penalty
        Advocating for increased firearms ownership
        Advocating for reducing firearms ownership
        Advocating in favor of the war on drugs
        Advocating in favor of ending the war on drugs
        Advocating for abortion
        Advocating for the protests despite Covid concerns
        Advocating against the protests due to Covid concerns

        If the New York Times is truly committing to no longer print information that could conceivably harm someone, then they simply can no longer be called a news organization by any definition of the word.

        1. Eric T

          You have a lot of credibility with me so please let me know if I’m misrepresenting you, my understanding of your thesis is as follows:

          Aww thanks 🙂

          A reasonable journalist could believe that running a news article that puts peoples lives in danger should be a punishable/fireable offense after carefully considering it

          I would completely disagree. Information that puts peoples lives in danger is a category so broad as to be meaningless, and by necessity only be enforced against policies that are disfavored by the NYT

          So first, I think adding to this discussion the dimension Aftagley mentioned below (which partially in said discussion I referenced). It was a bad article, and part of the reason it was dangerous was it misrepresented the facts on the ground.

          I agree that perhaps “causes harm” is too weak a brightline, maybe updating to “incite violence” would be a better one? I think newspapers do have SOME responsibility not to cause undue harm to people in their quest for the truth (And the Supreme Court agrees with me if my understanding of the Pentagon Papers case is correct). Take when they published the Snowden Report – they did everything in their power to excise information that would put American soldiers at risk. No such caution was taken here.

          Lastly, this is an opinion piece, not some groundbreaking truth-bombshell. I think the standard for opinion pieces should be higher simply on the grounds that unlike newsreporting, there isn’t a duty of the paper to present some truth the public is unaware of, they are legitimately just boosting a person’s opinion.

          1. Guy in TN

            How about: Newspapers should not publish pieces that advocate for things that they strongly think will do more harm than good.

            It is reasonable to have a staff-revolt over being asked to assist in making the world net worse-off.

          2. gbdub

            Proves too much – That would preclude running basically any political opinion contrary to the majority view of the newsroom. I suspect that is actually something a lot of people on the staff want, but I think it IS a fundamental shift in the NYT’s vision of its ideal self.

          3. souleater

            So first, I think adding to this discussion the dimension Aftagley mentioned below (which partially in said discussion I referenced). It was a bad article, and part of the reason it was dangerous was it misrepresented the facts on the ground.

            If the guy just bungled fundamental portions of his job, then I have no issue with firing him.
            I’m not clear on how the article misrepresented the facts. the Poynter.org (I’ve never heard of them before) linked above says that he factually wrong in 2 ways.
            1) Antifa being present
            2) The police bore the brunt of the violence

            But these things strike me as normal things to say in an op-ed piece. Antifa is an ideology/distributed organization.. I don’t know what evidence anyone could want that some members were there at this massive protest. That the police bore the brunt of the violence I think is a matter of an opinion. I don’t really know how you could quantitatively measure who bore the “brunt” of the violence in a balanced way.

            It was also pointed out that Cotton didn’t mention that George HW bush sent the national guard at the request of California’s governor. But it doesn’t seem deceptive for Cotton not to include that.

            These all seem to me like isolated demands for rigor. Maybe they don’t seem that way to you.

            I agree that perhaps “causes harm” is too weak a brightline, maybe updating to “incite violence” would be a better one?

            Can you clarify what you mean by “incite violence”? I think of inciting violence to mean ginning up a lynch mob against someone, which is very different to me from advocating for the national guard to enforce the law.

            I don’t want to tiptoe around, or make you guess at my real frustration here.
            1. I think that conservative ideas and liberal ideas are treated differently by the NYT
            2. That the firing wouldn’t have taken place if the op-ed was more popular with the left.
            3. That the NYT would be perfectly fine with a senator writing an op-ed advocating bringing the national guard in to quell for example Tea Party riots.

            ETA:
            Aftagley beat me to it, even down to the point about isolated demands for rigor. Unless you feel like I made a point they didn’t please don’t feel the need to repeat yourself here.

          4. Randy M

            Is using “Inciting violence” to refer to advocacy for government actions that are violent (either to lawbreakers, or generally) a new usage of the phrase? As opposed to an attempt to rouse a mob for extra-judicial beatings/lynching, etc. It seems like a way to make certain, formerly acceptable opinions beyond the pale.
            For example, arguing for capital punishment is “inciting violence” under this new usage. As is advocating for any war or military action. Involuntary commitment for any reason, too. And one step removed from that, any law whatsoever that is actually enforced, be it taxation or quarantine is advocating violence.

            This is particularly an unfair rhetorical trick when we are also deciding to call words that hurt feelings violence as well.

          5. Eric T

            @ Randy M

            I think Guy in TN’s “More Harm than Good” standard probably better captures my thoughts on the matter while dodging the rhetorical issues.

            I’m not married to any specific brightline, as I said in my response. I am however fine with there being a line. However as I already posted, I’ve mostly bowed out of this argument as I have been convinced that this was the Wrong Move elsewhere.

          6. Nick

            @Guy in TN
            That’s a very interesting policy, but that is not the policy the NYT actually has. They have social media guidelines for news staff, which their revolt flagrantly violated. There were no consequences for violating these guidelines; instead, editors caved:

            • In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.

            • Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.

            This is one of the reasons I have a hard time believing the “but there were factual errors and the New York Times takes its reputation very seriously!” argument—it’s obvious the rules are already being selectively enforced.

          7. John Schilling

            I agree that perhaps “causes harm” is too weak a brightline, maybe updating to “incite violence” would be a better one?

            That seems like an invitation to the heckler’s veto, though. If I write a private letter to the editor of the NYT saying that I’ll get so mad that I’ll run out and kill someone if I see one more editorial promoting abortion or gun control or immigration or feminism or whatnot, does it become unethical for the NYT to publish such editorials? If not, how many like-minded friends do I need to gather, and how many people do we have to kill to prove we’re serious?

            But then, the bit where you retract your own editorials because your junior staff threaten to strike and the blue-checkmark twiteratti call you unspeakable names is just another form of the heckler’s veto. Possibly an improvement in that it doesn’t have a “kill people to prove we’re serious” step, but then if you extend the peaceful version of the heckler’s veto only to the left, that also incites violence because now it’s rational for the right to go for the violent heckler’s veto.

          8. Guy in TN

            @Nick

            What the NYT’s official policies and employee guidelines are has no bearing on what I think they should/should not publish, or how I think their employees ought to behave.

        2. keaswaran

          I think your comment here runs together opinion pieces and news pieces. There’s no reason that a news organization needs to run opinion pieces at all, in order to be called a news organization. Someone might decide to accept a rule of the relevant sort on opinion pieces, observe that all the opinion pieces you mention would violate it, and therefore decide that their news organization doesn’t publish opinion pieces. (I don’t think this distinction is particularly relevant for the topic under discussion, since we can all agree that the NYTimes wants to run some opinion pieces, and only opinion pieces are under discussion here.)

          In any case, I don’t think the line has to be exactly where EricT put it, in order for us to agree that it makes sense for there to be a line. If it’s 1931, and Adolf Hitler contacts the Times with the suggestion of an op-ed piece advocating for the extermination of all Jews, it seems quite reasonable for the Times to decide that this is not the sort of opinion piece that should be run. If the opinions editor ran it anyway, the publisher might naturally fire the opinion editor for running it.

          There’s a version of the argument that says that any newsworthy opinion should be published, even in that sort of case. But I don’t think a news agency with an opinions section has any particular obligation to stick with that. So the question would be whether there is some reasonable line that the Cotton piece crosses. (Perhaps one thinks that it’s, ironically, a first-amendment sort of line, saying that an opinion piece should never advocate the use of the military to put down mostly peaceful protests, even if some physical and verbal violence is being advocated by some of the protesters.)

          1. souleater

            I think your comment here runs together opinion pieces and news pieces. There’s no reason that a news organization needs to run opinion pieces at all, in order to be called a news organization.

            Yup, You’re right about this. I shouldn’t have conflated the two.

            In any case, I don’t think the line has to be exactly where EricT put it, in order for us to agree that it makes sense for there to be a line. If it’s 1931, and Adolf Hitler contacts the Times with the suggestion of an op-ed piece advocating for the extermination of all Jews, it seems quite reasonable for the Times to decide that this is not the sort of opinion piece that should be run. If the opinions editor ran it anyway, the publisher might naturally fire the opinion editor for running it.

            Also fair. My quibble was with were the line was drawn. Refusing to print the genocidal opinions of a hostile foreign power doesn’t bother me. I do not expect the NYT to be neutral in geopolitics. refusing to print the opinions of a popular US senator does. Tom Cottons opinion is not that of a fringe minority.

            Look, NYT has a right to refuse to print common, mainstream, rightwing opinions, but they can’t refuse to print those opinions and still claim to be politically neutral.

    2. zzzzort

      I think MattM made an observation last open thread with respect to the Buffalo cops resigning that if a significantly large fraction of the employees disagree with a decision, then the manager is presumptively fired. Whether or not publishing the Cotton piece was a good idea, when half of your staff is in public revolt it calls into question your effectiveness as a manger.

      1. RalMirrorAd

        The problem is that it, intentionally or not, treats the disposition of the employees as a given. I.E. Not something that can in any way be hedged or protected against in a manner that doesn’t require selective and incremental acquiescence.

      2. ltowel

        I don’t think half of his employees disagreed with him? It seemed to me like a bunch of the newsroom employees (a different division) were demanding he get fired. There’s supposed to be a wall between news and sales – i’d think there should be a similar wall between news and opeds as well.

      3. A Definite Beta Guy

        That was me and it definitely applies in this case just as much as it applies anywhere else. You hired these employees because you think they are essential to your organization, their goodwill and opinions matter a great deal.

    3. Aftagley

      I’m annoyed because Bennet needed to go, but now his departure is going to be seen only in light of this larger issue. His negligence put the times in this bad position.

      The NYT originally reached out to Cotton to ask him to write this opinion piece. That’s not entirely unusual, after all, if you waited only for unsolicited opinion pieces, you’d have way less opinion pieces, but for something like this… well, they knew the dangerous waters they were wading into. They should have been as careful as possible with this piece.

      But they weren’t. In a rush to get this out the door as fast as possible, they didn’t follow established practices. They rushed the editing, allowed factual errors to slip through and generally did nothing to arrive at the best piece possible. Bennett admits that he never even read the piece before publishing it. It looks like the editing process was run by a 25 year old staffer who’d previously worked with Cotton and was approved for print by an unrelated editor on the masthead. It’s unclear if the 25-year old was empowered to push back on Cotton’s opinion piece at all, although reading between the lines, it sounds like he wasn’t.

      Overall, Bennett has failed one too many times at his job here. He’s clearly lost the support of his staff and the trust of his bosses. Him leaving was the only sensible outcome.

      1. FLWAB

        Can you point out the “factual errors” that keep being talked about? So far I haven’t seen anybody actually present any. Has the NYT run an official correction laying out these errors?

        1. Aftagley

          Not to be a dick here, but from the piece you linked in your original post:

          But the counter-argument: Cotton’s op-ed makes claims and assertions to back up his case that simply are not true. He wrote, “nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.” Yet there is no proof antifa is involved.

          Cotton also asserted police have “bore the brunt of the violence,” yet that, too, cannot be proven.

          And, as New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote, “Cotton notes that President George H.W. Bush sent federal troops into Los Angeles in 1992 to quell the riots that broke out after the police who beat Rodney King were acquitted. But he doesn’t tell readers that Bush did so at the invitation of California’s governor.

          “That’s very different from the federal government overriding local elected authorities and occupying their states and cities, which seems to be what Cotton is proposing. It’s an idea that appalls many military leaders.”

          In other words, it would appear Cotton’s opinion — and his case for convincing readers his opinion has merit — is not based on truth or fairness.

          1. albatross11

            Any chance those same standards are going to be used on op-eds that support the prejudices of the NYT staff in the future? For example, no doubt the next op-ed to talk about women making 60% of what men make will be told they need to correct that to account for hours worked and experience, right? And the next time someone writes an op-ed about Trump’s ties to the far-right, that will also be allowed only when solid proof is shown? Because otherwise, this looks like a very isolated demand for rigor.

            Now, I don’t have much of a dog in this fight. I don’t get much news from the NYT, and don’t have a great deal of trust that they will try to get the facts straight in any culture-war-associated story. (That’s bad for the country, because they still have a lot of mainstream credibility, but that’s much more of a problem for their factual reporting than their editorials and op-eds.). I haven’t sought much opinion journalism from mainstream newspapers since the advent of blogs. I think Cotton’s proposal was a terrible idea and Trumpism is a disaster for the country. But let’s not pretend this is some kind of demand that would be made if the writer were saying things that the staff of the NYT agreed with. My guess is that if you looked at the most recent 20 op-eds in the NYT, you would find multiple problems at least as large as those pointed out for Cotton’s op-ed. But since those didn’t offend anyone important, who cares?

            The NYT basically just said out loud that the views of some large fraction of the country (probably not half but probably more than a third) are unpublishable in their newspaper. In what world does that lead to the people in that subset of Americans to trust anything else they say?

          2. Eric T

            Any chance those same standards are going to be used on op-eds that support the prejudices of the NYT staff in the future?

            I know people in media, the NYT’s standard’s are legendarily strict according to writers. I’m not sure they will – but if any of the major Liberal news outlets will, it would be them over WaPo or CNN any day of the week.

          3. FLWAB

            Those are not factual errors: those are differences of opinion, and I dismissed them as such when I first read the article.

            Supposed error 1: “left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches”
            Tom Cotton certainly believes there are, and since it’s an opinion piece that’s what matters. Given that Antifa has a history of wearing masks and attacking people during protests, and given that there are many “bad apple” troublemakers who have been wearing masks and attacking people at these protests, it’s not at all unreasonable to say Antifa is there. Given that Antifa has no larger organization and that anyone who says they are Antifa is, essentially, Antifa, it would be hard to believe that there has been no Antifa presence at the protests.

            Supposed factual error 2: “Police have borne the brunt of the violence.”
            Again, this is an obvious statement of opinion by a man who clearly believes it, in a clearly labeled opinion piece. Notice the didn’t say “500 cops have been attacked, and only 100 protesters!” If opinions like this have no place in an opinion piece than I don’t know what does.

            Supposed factual error 3: Cotton says (factually!) that Bush sent troops into La in 1992, but didn’t mention that the governor asked for them.
            How is this a factual error? Tom Cotton is advocating for sending in federal troops. He notes a factual occurrence where federal troops were sent in and he believes they helped. How is it a factual error for him to not mention something that is irrelevant to the point he’s trying to make in an opinion piece?

            Just because you don’t like someone’s opinion, or you think that it is “not based on truth or fairness” doesn’t mean it is wrong to print it: if you’re going to print any opinion pieces at all, some people will thing they’re not based on truth or fairness.

          4. Eric T

            @FLAWB
            Can we at least all agree that him saying “left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protests” despite having no evidence of that fact is at the VERY least the kind of thing that a competent editor should have noticed and probably asked him to change his wording on slightly?

          5. FLWAB

            Can we at least all agree that him saying “left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protests” despite having no evidence of that fact is at the VERY least the kind of thing that a competent editor should have noticed and probably asked him to change his wording on slightly?

            I can agree on that.

          6. Eric T

            @FLWAB
            Okay. And can we also agree that, at least in part because of Bennett’s choices (whether or not they were mistakes), the Times faced a massive public backlash, probably lost some readership, and faced internal conflicts that probably hurt their reputation with their primary readership? (I think you can probably predict where I’m going with this)

          7. FLWAB

            Do you think if an editor had asked Cotton to “change his wording slightly” on the Antifa bit that it would have prevented the things you mentioned? I’m also not convinced there was a massive public backlash. If anything the public backlash against them retracting the column has likely been larger, and seems more likely to have lost them readership. There were definitely internal conflicts though, and I don’t for one second believe that they’re based on little quibbles about misleading lines, and instead had everything to do with the general position of the piece itself.

          8. Eric T

            If anything the public backlash against them retracting the column has likely been larger, and seems more likely to have lost them readership.

            My suspicion is that backlash is more likely to be among people not paying for a Times Subscription. The Times readership definitely skews left.

            Do you think if an editor had asked Cotton to “change his wording slightly” on the Antifa bit that it would have prevented the things you mentioned?

            Nope, but as you probably guessed, that doesn’t mean Bennett’s mistakes were forgivable. Because it was such a controversial essay, the mistakes and shoddy work were dragged out in the public. Imagine you are a car manufacturer, and your plant manager sometimes does a shit job making sure the breaks work. A prominent celebratory buys one of your cars, crashes it and dies. It may be very likely it wasn’t the fault of the brakes, but you know damn well the second the news comes out about the faulty brakes it’ll be very very bad for you, so you sack the guy. Every company does things like this when they face public backlash, they find someone who fucked up and make them the scapegoat, then go back to largely doing what they did before. I guess I’m not sure why this time a major company goes to “Plan 5 on the PR disaster playbook” we have to have an issue with it.

          9. Nick

            I hopped over to the Times and took a look at columnist Michelle Goldberg’s latest. Here’s a paragraph from it:

            Engel’s district, New York’s 16th, encompasses parts of Westchester, some quite wealthy, and of the Bronx. As Bowman told me, if it were a country it would be one of the most unequal in the world. Though it’s majority-minority, affluent white people tend to vote in primaries at higher rates than poorer people of color, and the suburbanites in the New York 16th are probably not as left-leaning as the young gentrifiers who helped elect Ocasio-Cortez. Engel seemed safe.

            Where is Michelle’s citations? No map or chart, and no evidence whatsoever for the claims about white voters or suburbanites. Is that a claim Bowman is making and not her? At the very least, that’s something a competent editor should have caught and asked to be clarified. This piece was run on June 8th, after Katie Kingsbury took over for Baquet on the 7th. Did she read the piece? If not, why not? I think it’s time for Kingsbury to step down.

            And let’s not forget, the original claim was that the piece was endangering black staffers. Putting a note at the top saying it has “factual errors” does nothing to stop staffers from being murdered by the military. And that is, of course, the basis for the loss of faith in Bennet, not the purported factual errors, which were only discovered well after the original complaints. This whole argument is being made in bad faith ETA: strategy by the Times is being done in bad faith—did not intend to accuse any of you of bad faith.

          10. DavidFriedman

            they didn’t follow established practices. They rushed the editing, allowed factual errors to slip through and generally did nothing to arrive at the best piece possible.

            Do you assume that when a paper runs an op-ed the paper first edits and fact checks it? I would assume that that’s the business of the author of the Op-ed.

            If what it says isn’t true, that provides material for another op-ed on the other side.

          11. Nick

            @DavidFriedman
            Cotton’s office claims that the editor, Rubenstein, went over the piece with them line by line, the same as with their prior op-eds.

          12. Matt M

            @Nick

            I guess it proves the old saying, if journalists didn’t have isolated demands for rigor, they wouldn’t have any demands for rigor at all 😉

          13. DavidFriedman

            Can we at least all agree that him saying “left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protests” despite having no evidence of that fact is at the VERY least the kind of thing that a competent editor should have noticed and probably asked him to change his wording on slightly?

            No.

            A competent editor should see if he can get someone good to write an op-ed responding to Tom Cotton’s.

            Beyond that, I don’t see what’s especially objectionable about that claim in the context of a signed opinion piece. Everyone agrees that there were some people in some demonstrations throwing stuff at cops and some people who took the demonstrations as an opportunity for looting and vandalism.

            Cotton thinks those people were “left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.” He obviously can’t know if that’s true, you can’t know it isn’t true, an he is entitled to state his opinion.

          14. Eric T

            Hmm I think I’ll bow out of this one, I’ve been shifted back towards my previous position of This Was the Wrong Move by y’all, but I don’t have much of a dog in this fight.

            I do think though this isn’t weird at all. When PR nightmares happen, someone gets sacked as a scapegoat. It happened at the charter school network I work for, it happened at my the comm. firm my dad works for, it happened at my mom’s hospital. Sometimes the scapegoat probably didn’t have it coming, but if my thoughts on the opinion piece are an Isolated Demand for Rigor, this thread feels like an Isolated Demand for Fairness on the part of the NYT for doing something that feels like a Standard Company Move.

          15. Edward Scizorhands

            My suspicion is that backlash is more likely to be among people not paying for a Times Subscription. The Times readership definitely skews left.

            It’s about 50/50. https://twitter.com/wordpower2018/status/1270072397564121089 The NYT audience skews left, but they also skew “adults with jobs who are used to paying for things and who are comfortable with, and even eager to pay for, the idea of reading conflicting opinions.”

            If you want a primary source, you can read the letters page:

            https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/opinion/letters/james-bennet-tom-cotton-op-ed.html

            1.

            I read the Tom Cotton Op-Ed and survived. It was a poor piece of writing with a ridiculous premise. But it was written by a U.S. senator who was making a newsworthy claim that was completely different in tone from the other editorial pieces that day. To claim that it put in danger the lives of protesters because it incited violence is ludicrous.

            2.

            I was glad to see the resignation of James Bennet over the publication of “Send In the Troops,” by Tom Cotton. Senator Cotton has a right to his authoritarian, fascist, un-American views, although it is a shame that he holds them. But The Times need not lower its reputation and standing by publicizing those views.

            3.

            As a dutiful Times reader for more than half a century, I was very saddened that James Bennet resigned as opinion editor. In his years as editor, he has been a stalwart voice for social justice and for eloquent dialogue about the deep problems that roil America. . . . While the decision to publish the Cotton Op-Ed had drawbacks, the dialogue it produced and the vigorous outcry against his positions it spurred, which would have never occurred had it not been printed, are testaments to the journalism that Mr. Bennet championed.

            4.

            While I deplore the views of Senator Tom Cotton, I am dismayed at viewpoint censorship on the opinion page of my daily source of news. As a retired editor of the opinion page of a national newspaper, I labored (albeit sometimes with gritted teeth) to make sure that my pages were used as an honest platform and not a selective method of indoctrination.

            5.

            I detest what Senator Cotton stands for and disagree totally with what he espouses in his Op-Ed, and I have zero respect for Ms. Owens’s grandstanding statement. But we should be reminded of George Orwell’s observation that “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

            6.

            As the saying goes, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In Donald Trump’s world, there is even more reason to defend it.

            So, among people who wrote letters, it looks like about 1-in-6 defending his firing, and most not liking Cotton’s words but being even more scared of a world where they wouldn’t be available to them.

          16. Randy M

            So, among people who wrote letters, it looks like about 1-in-6 defending his firing

            I don’t know it to be the case in this point, but just as selecting which story to feature on the front page is an example of a media filter (whether conscious agenda or unconscious bias or attempt to be fair but having limited resources), so too are what letters appear in the letters page.
            You can have decent faith that someone holds those particular positions, but I wouldn’t trust any conclusions drawn about the ratios.

            (Of course, in this case one might expect the times to favor letters that supported their decision. Which suggests they were trying to be fair to opposing viewpoints)

          17. Nick

            @Eric T
            For the record, as the person who broke the Times story on SSC the other day, it’s not about fairness toward conservatives in my view. It’s about whether we can trust the Times as a useful newspaper. If they don’t want to publish conservative opinion pieces anymore, or want to hemorrhage good journalists whenever this happens, so be it; it’s their loss. It’s all our loss, too, of course, but that can’t be helped.

            But I have no compunction about criticizing them for their mistakes. And they have made a multitude. First they hired staffers who shriek hysterically at opinion pieces; then they caved to their demands, but offered a fig leaf justification that it had “factual errors.” Then the junior editor’s name was leaked, which is blatant scapegoating. Then they all but retracted the op-ed, with a lengthy note prepended. In the meanwhile staffers were lying shamelessly about it, saying that the op-ed called for “military force against protestors” and the like, even in the news section of their own paper, and they stealth-edited the lies afterwards. (There’s your legendary strictness at work!) This is such a comedy of errors that it is impossible not to criticize them.

          18. Briefling

            @Aftagley:
            I can’t possibly scream “double standard” loud enough to express how ridiculous your position is.

            @Eric T:
            The NYT’s foundational principle is supposed to be journalistic fairness. When a mob called for their editor’s head because he published a Republican op-ed, they found a pretext to fire him. Do you really not see how that undermines what they stand for?

          19. Erc

            Yet there is no proof antifa is involved.

            I guess all those antifa symbols seen on the rioters could just be a conspiracy by some other group. But this is just isolated demand for rigor.

            And, as New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote, “Cotton notes that President George H.W. Bush sent federal troops into Los Angeles in 1992 to quell the riots that broke out after the police who beat Rodney King were acquitted. But he doesn’t tell readers that Bush did so at the invitation of California’s governor.

            Not including info you think needs to be included is not a factual error.

            Your comment is report-worthy IMO.

          20. Nick

            @Briefling

            I can’t possibly scream “double standard” loud enough to express how ridiculous your position is.

            The least you can do if you’re going to say that is show everyone the double standard.

          21. Eric T

            I mean I’ve said I agree with you all so everyone responding to me is probably wasting their time. I appreciate the perspectives though!

            @erc

            Your comment is report-worthy IMO.

            I mean literally all he did was quote an article the person above had posted, in response to being asked to show the evidence. You may think the evidence is flimsy, but merely presenting it can’t possibly be report worthy no?

            This thread got like weirdly hostile weirdly fast.

          22. Briefling

            @Nick:
            No. Sometimes you just have to say the sky is blue. Anybody who’s read more than two op-eds in their life knows that Cotton wasn’t particularly egregious in his treatment of the truth, by the standards of the medium. But Aftagley wants to use Cotton’s ostensible inaccuracies to justify the firing of the editor who published him.

            It is a completely indefensible position.

            You are welcome to do a deep dive if you like — I encourage it. But for as long as I’m discussing this particular point, I’m not going to let more than two sentences go by without saying “anybody who really believes Aftagley’s position is a lunatic.”

          23. Eric T

            I’m not going to let more than two sentences go by without saying “anybody who really believes Aftagley’s position is a lunatic.”

            In this OT I’ve seen people argue a variety of beliefs I thought were beyond reason, from believing there is an imminent threat of leftist lynch mobs to arguing that pushing a 75-year old unarmed protestor to the ground was the right call. I have managed to avoid calling any of them lunatics. You can do the same.

            Less of this please.

          24. Gerry Quinn

            I’m confused as to how you get from “something that cannot be proven” to “factual error”.

          25. Briefling

            Okay, okay, I’ll address the claimed inaccuracies. Cotton’s putative falsehoods are taken from Aftagley’s quote of the Times.

            [Cotton] wrote, “nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes.”

            Cotton’s claim here is weak enough that it is probably literally true.

            Cotton also asserted police have “bore the brunt of the violence,” yet that, too, cannot be proven.

            If you think “police have borne the brunt of the violence” is grounds for firing the editor who allowed it to be published, you’re a lunatic. As I’ve already said.

            And, as New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote, “Cotton notes that President George H.W. Bush sent federal troops into Los Angeles in 1992 to quell the riots that broke out after the police who beat Rodney King were acquitted. But he doesn’t tell readers that Bush did so at the invitation of California’s governor.

            And again, Cotton’s claim is literally true.

            ***

            Conclusion: if you want to fire the editor on the basis of these supposed “falsehoods,” you probably have to fire every editor who’s ever published an op-ed, anywhere. That’s what I meant when I said there was a double standard.

            ***

            And we’re done! But now you can see why I didn’t want to analyze Aftagley’s stance. First you read his post and it’s obviously ridiculous. Then you read it again in blockquote form and… it’s still obviously ridiculous. But now you’ve spent several paragraphs straying from the central point, which is: anybody who would really make this argument is a nutjob.

          26. Eric T

            @Briefling

            I don’t think this comment isn’t True – it is. But I don’t think it is Necessary (as pretty much all of this has been said already upthread, in a much nicer tone as well!) and it certainly isn’t Kind. Stop calling people lunatics and nutjobs because they hold beliefs you think, or are even 100% certain, are Wrong.

            This seems to pretty clearly violate the comment policy. Please chill out.

          27. LesHapablap

            Reported Brieflings posts. You’re not wrong Briefling but there’s no place here for calling people lunatics or calling posts ridiculous

          28. Eric T

            My comments are clearly true and clearly necessary. But ok.

            True? Oh almost certainly.

            Necessary? Ok let’s have an actual conversation about this.

            Your first post is a partial response to me (this part is probably fine) and calling out Aftglay for having a double standard. I agree with Nick that you probably should have elaborated – especially because your later posts morphed away from “double standard” to “crazy idea” which are two different things. But ultimately I didn’t have any issue w/ this post hence why I didn’t respond to it.

            Your second point is where I think you lose the “clearly necessary” credibility. In it you: make a point already made plenty of times in this thread (that these supposed errors weren’t very strong) and then incorrectly attribute this argument to Aftagley, when in actuality all he did was present a quote from OP’s own article at the request of the OP asking for evidence. You then proceeded to call them a lunatic. Not sure what point of this post was necessary.

            The main thrust of your third post – that the NYT response that Aftagley posted isn’t true – had been made by several people already. FLWAB in particular already had a detailed response pretty much outlining everything you said, so it wasn’t like you were added a needed new dimension to the conversation. Nick had already pointed out that this was an Isolated Demand for Rigor, so the whole double standard thing wasn’t really new either. They also managed to do it without insulting Aftagley I would add. You then follow up by calling the post ridiculous, calling him a nutjob, and smugly adding “so you can see why I didn’t want to analyze it”

            What part of that was necessary? Every conversation I’ve been a part of these last few days on SSC has been substantially less vitriolic than the one I just witnessed – if you were taking down an unchallenged opinion maybe I’d accept it was needed. But you didn’t you hopped on a fairly large dogpile of people already pointing out that the NYT’s “issues” with cotton’s opinion piece were bogus.

          29. Briefling

            Look, we all agree that Aftagley’s post was an unreasonable and indefensible attack, made against a journalist who just got thrown to the wolves for trying to uphold his profession’s most sacred principles.

            The question is, was it so bad that it justifies me using the word “lunatic” twice and “nutjob” once?

            On SSC that’s an extraordinarily high bar… but my position is that yes, it was that bad, and I’m not interested in walking my comments back.

          30. souleater

            The question is, was it so bad that it justifies me using the word “lunatic” twice and “nutjob” once?

            We don’t do that here

            In a different forum it would not be unusual to see people call each other “nutjob” or “lunatic” but thats not the kind of discourse we have here.

            I happen to agree with your points, and what you’re saying here. but name calling nd personal attacks is simply not what we do here. For a few reasons.

            1) Its not nice to call people names.
            2) Self interest. Despite how it looks, This is actually not a right wing space. This is one of the few spaces that tolerates non-conformity, lets not ruin it.
            3) Despite the fact that this is a blue tribe space, there are very few members of the blue tribe here. I like talking to people I disagree with, so lets take the 3 or 4 leftist here and treat them as the valuable, precious commodity that they are, and not insult them when they say something we think is wrong. and especially don’t dogpile on them.

            I don’t love the idea of crowning myself the word police here, and if the situation was different I wouldn’t inject myself, but it shouldn’t just fall to the 3 leftists to circle the wagons for each other.

          31. Randy M

            Look, we all agree that Aftagley’s post was an unreasonable and indefensible attack

            Also, it’d rather rude to put words into other peoples mouths, and not terribly convincing when you tell everyone that they agree with you.

          32. nkurz

            @Briefling:
            > Sometimes you just have to say the sky is blue
            > anybody who would really make this argument is a nutjob.
            > I’m not interested in walking my comments back.

            I agree with you on the color of the sky, but if insults like this were to become the norm, this forum would be much worse for it. Aftagley might be wrong here, but he’s entitled to his opinion, and his recent posts on the protests have been fantastic. Driving him off would be a big loss. As it stands, despite your logic, for the good of the community I feel you need to be banned. Please take some time to reconsider your stance and apologize before this happens.

          33. Edward Scizorhands

            +1 to “don’t speak for everybody”. Even if I do agree with you on a dry assessment of the facts.

          34. Paul Brinkley

            We need a punchy term for “contrapositive Voltaire” now.

            “I agree with everything you say, but will defend to the death your having no right to say it…”

    4. Guy in TN

      “All the news that’s fit to print” has been replaced with “What we see fit to print.”

      Does this not describe literally every news outlet with an opinion section? Doesn’t every content curator necessarily have to decide what content they are going to allow, and what they aren’t?

      It seems really weird to me that anyone was ever under the impression that newspapers published without bias or favored ideology. I suspect this is because many people in the US mistake liberal centrism for being “non-ideological”.

      If you want to ditch the NYT for shifting their content outside of your ideological comfort zone, that’s perfectly reasonable. But I just can’t understand people who are angry at the NYT, because now that the left is (supposedly) in charge instead of the center, they are publishing with “bias” and have become “ideological”.

      1. FLWAB

        It seems really weird to me that anyone was ever under the impression that newspapers published without bias or favored ideology.

        We got that impression from the fact that they put slogans like “All the News That’s Fit to Print” on their mastheads, and proclaimed publicly time and again that they were neutral parties pursing a journalistic ideal. They claimed they were unbiased, and while I never believed them you can’t say the claim was never made. Just last year NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet said in a BBC interview

        I make it very clear when I hire, I make it very clear when I talk to the staff, I’ve said it repeatedly, that we are not supposed to be the leaders of the resistance to Donald Trump. That is an untenable, nonjournalistic, immoral position for the New York Times. If I was the editor of Mother Jones, I would say otherwise.

        Yes, it’s true that no source is unbiased. But the NYT in particular has claimed to be unbiased and to just report the facts. They set the standard that they are failing to live up to.

        1. Eric T

          Again though – this wasn’t a factual report it was an opinion piece. Does the NYT have any obligation to run ANY opinion pieces? I buy they have an obligation to report factual news, not sure if I buy that obligation extends to their opinion section.

          1. Briefling

            Nobody’s saying they’re obligated to run Cotton’s op-ed.

            But they are obligated to not fire the editor for running that op-ed.

      2. Jacobethan

        It seems really weird to me that anyone was ever under the impression that newspapers published without bias or favored ideology. I suspect this is because many people in the US mistake liberal centrism for being “non-ideological”.

        This is a fair point. And, indeed, to conservatives the NYT has always been seen as a left-leaning paper to some degree, though not necessarily uniformly across all issues. Moreover, you’re certainly right that even the view from the “center” is still a view from somewhere.

        I think a large part of the issue now is this. American politics is organized by the divide between two broad, numerically-roughly-equal factions. In the past, virtually any opinion issued by a nationally prominent politician representing one of the two major parties, and enjoying wide popular support within that party (not to mention support across party lines) would have been seen as presumptively appropriate for the Times to print. They might have chosen not to in a particular case, because it struck them as boring or badly argued or whatever, but the notion of “this idea that’s mainstream within [GOP/Dem] circles is too barbarous to be entertained by civilized people” would have been extraordinarily, to the point of vanishingly, unusual.

        That fact, that virtually the whole of American electoral politics lay within the paper’s Overton Window, was absolutely crucial to the NYT’s status as “the paper of record” and everything that went with it. It’s the whole reason why the NYT’s reputation, its prestige, its reach aren’t just like that of Mother Jones or First Things or Reason , or any other publication that’s always more selectively overlapped the American ideological mainstream.

        There isn’t any great deontological, first-principles reason why the Times can’t just decide to slink away and become The Nation. It’s just that it’s a really big story if they do. And if what the Times actually wants — as seems obvious — is to have their cake and eat it too, by retaining their legacy “arbiter of the national discourse” status while simultaneously narrowing their ideological gauge (relative to the American two-party system, not in some absolute philosophical sense), then it’s fair to ask if that amounts to an attempt to kick one faction out of the discourse entirely, and what the consequences of that might be.

      3. DavidFriedman

        “All the news that’s fit to print” has been replaced with “What we see fit to print.”

        The older version of that complaint was:

        “All the news that fits we print.”

    5. Bobobob

      I’ve known various people at the NY Times throughout my professional life, and believe me, they are (were) all miserable. Satisfaction (and job security) is evanescent at that utmost peak of the journalism biz.

        1. Bobobob

          The way it used to work at the Times (I don’t know if it’s still the case) is that you literally had to work your way up to even being *considered* for employment–10 years as a beat reporter at a podunk paper, another 10 years as a bureau chief at a slightly-less podunk paper, then, just maybe, they will consider you. It really is considered the pinnacle of journalism–once you’ve been employed at the Times, you do not want to go back to another paper. So I’m not sure the extent to which that’s analogous to the entertainment industry.

          1. Well...

            I was supposing it was analogous in the sense that satisfaction (especially in terms of pay, perhaps, and visibility of upward career mobility) and job security are very low.

    6. Well...

      Personally, what little respect I had left for the New York Times is gone. They’ve made it clear that publishing opinion pieces that are unpopular with their staff is a firable offence, and that their staff is highly left wing. “All the news that’s fit to print” has been replaced with “What we see fit to print.”

      Why did you have respect for the NYT, or any other news organization, in the first place?

      I know lots of people do/did have respect for news organizations, but I’ve never directly asked anyone and I want to know why, so I’m asking you since you said it. I’m genuinely curious.

      1. FLWAB

        I’m a sentimental traditionalist, and the Gray Lady is an old and storied institution. It’s been the paper of record since time immemorial (ie, before I was born and I’ve never bothered to find out how long before). I respect things that are old and storied. It’s a personal quirk of mine.

    7. AlesZiegler

      I do not think that newspapers having what is sometimes called an editorial line is bad. If National Review would fire somebody for publishing far left opinion piece, my level of respect for them would not be changed.

      1. Paul Zrimsek

        NR is an advocacy journal, not part of the mainstream press. The whole idea of the op-ed page in a mainstream paper is to provide a range of opinion which doesn’t necessarily line up with the paper’s editorial line. If the Times is no longer going to publish op-eds which fall outside its staffers’ Overton peephole, it’s taking a big step in the direction of the advocacy press.

        1. AlesZiegler

          I think that what you call mainstream press never in fact existed, and it was always advocacy press all along.

          1. Statismagician

            Yes – this essay by Paul Graham is about economics, but it’s also true of journalism; the era of a few centrist organizations dominating all discourse that lasted from ~1940-2001 was really really weird, without historical precedent, and will not be coming back.

          2. Paul Zrimsek

            I think there’s still a useful distinction to be drawn between a paper which tries to be neutral and fails, and one which doesn’t try. The fact that the Times found it necessary to lie about why the op-ed was removed suggests that they still subscribe to the mainstream ideal even if they’ve abandoned any thought of trying to live up to it.

          3. AlesZiegler

            @Paul Zrimsek

            True neutrality of newspapers is imho a fiction. Blogging platform might be neutral, but not medium like NYT. People far more knowledgeable about the matter are pointing out in this thread that what is in fact happening is that NYT is moving from an editorial line of establishment centrism (which is also a viewpoint) to something more on the left. That is unsurprising, since establishment centrism in the US is gradually losing political ground.

  14. Beans

    I am now seeing a screed going around, that universities I am affiliated with are taking seriously enough to acknowledge, demanding a halt to academic activity. Evidently this will somehow do something about racism.

    Predictably, the institutional response is to not actually shut themselves down, but keep going as normal and throw in some perfunctory words about taking some time to remember to not be racist. I think this is an appropriate response, since halting all academic and research activity benefits precisely nobody. Of course, those systems have problems of their own, but that’s not what this is about. Maybe if you’re tenured you can just stop what you’re doing for awhile and feel self-righteous about it, but for the multitude of students and non-tenured researchers whose livelihood depends on continuing to do what they do, stopping everything for ill-defined, politicized reasons will just ruin people’s lives/careers and do nothing to stop racism.

    In the aforementioned screed, there is a particular sentence that highlights one of my primary disagreements with the current cultural climate in educated liberal bubbles: “Unless you engage directly with eliminating racism, you are perpetuating it.” This can be generalized to the statement “Unless you engage directly with eliminating X, you are perpetuating X.”. This is obviously absurd. Just because I am not actively working to, for instance, lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of mars, does not mean that I am contributing to that amount.

    In general, I want to take actions that I have some reasonable evidence will actually have a desired effect, not take dramatic steps without some consideration of their consequences. We need to think about our actions and figure out what their consequences are, and certainly, some of our actions are bad and contribute to bad systems! But if we want a world that works, randomly shutting things down out of emotional fervor will not help our progress. Unfortunately, the purity spiral that seems to drive much recent activity in social justice is not friendly to cautioned action. Unless you’re all-in, no questions asked, you’re the enemy. Thus, even though I am entirely in favor of fair, kind, and reasonable treatment of people, the fact that I do not immediately purge from my life all thoughts and actions that do not directly benefit Social Justice makes me an enemy of the people.

    If that’s the way we’re going to do this, then fine: I’m an enemy of the people. враг народа!

    1. Aftagley

      “Unless you engage directly with eliminating racism, you are perpetuating it.” This can be generalized to the statement “Unless you engage directly with eliminating X, you are perpetuating X.”. This is obviously absurd. Just because I am not actively working to, for instance, lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of mars, does not mean that I am contributing to that amount.

      This statement only obviously fails for systems you are clearly not a part of. For example, your mars counterexample works because you are not on mars and have nothing to do with it’s CO2 count. But if we change mars to earth, well, now you are contributing to the total amount; in a minute way, sure, but you’re a factor. A better version of the argument would be “If you are in a system that includes X, unless you engage directly with eliminating X, you are perpetuating X.”

      So the crux of this argument is – do you think you’re part of a system that has some inherent systemic racism?

      1. Beans

        This is all reasonable, and for me personally, my answer is: Yes!, and therefore, I want to figure out which of my interactions with the system are having good and bad consequences, and I want to be able to actually discuss and debate the facts in order to determine what the best next steps are. But I don’t want to jump headfirst into grandiose rhetoric that I’m not allowed to question, but that is a lot of what I feel like I am getting from the people around me, these days.

      2. zzzzort

        Would you disagree that academia is a system? Or an academic department? Certainly there are obligations (peer review, sitting on grant review committees), and methods of feedback (every faculty serves on some sort of committee, hiring decisions are often subject to a vote) much stronger than a city.

        1. Eric T

          But I’d assume that most people don’t think their individual departments are perpetuating racism

          This right here is the point though. Us SJ types argue that yeah, you don’t think it’s happening but it is so it would be helpful for you to take a day, examine your biases a bit, and move on from there.

          We all have subconscious biases we are unaware of. I was told interrogating them and trying to challenge them was a core principal of the Rationalist community no? ;P

        2. zzzzort

          If most people think that other departments perpetuate racism, but not their own, then it seems like they should figure out what’s going on, because that isn’t logically consistent.

        3. Eric T

          I don’t know about that. I think other people commit murder but that I (and people so close to me that I’m morally responsible to police their actions) do not, and I’m pretty sure I’m correct.

          I would counter that it’s a lot easier to know if you committed murder than if you are engaging in any behaviors that are actually X-ist (this thinking can apply to class or sex too, not just race!). If you think you are always perfectly aware of whether or not you’re not being “X-ist” I think you have a much higher opinion of your own self-awareness than the average person should.

          Similarly if it were the case that people could somewhat unknowingly commit murder, I’d probably support a strike where everyone stops to figure out if they’ve murdered people.

        4. Eric T

          I liked this meta-analysis personally. I found its definition of Implicit Bias very fair, and thought its inclusion criteria was good. I hope you appreciate it because it actually argues AGAINST my point – it purports that is very hard to change implicit bias through conscious effort.

          In particular I liked the simple way they broke down implicit/explicit bias.

          Measures were considered implicit if they did not require the target association to be actively brought to mind. For example, the Black/White good/bad IAT requires participants to categorize Black faces, White faces, positive words, and negative words, but it does not require them to introspect about their feelings about Black people relative to White people.
          Measures were considered explicit if they required the target association to be actively brought to mind. For example, a survey item asking “How warm do you feel toward Black people?” requires participants to actively assess their personal feelings about Black people

        5. Beans

          I would counter that it’s a lot easier to know if you committed murder than if you are engaging in any behaviors that are actually X-ist (this thinking can apply to class or sex too, not just race!). If you think you are always perfectly aware of whether or not you’re not being “X-ist” I think you have a much higher opinion of your own self-awareness than the average person should.

          Once overt racism has been shown to be absent from a given context, but very subtle covert racism is being argued to still be active, I become suspicious. Not because it can’t be happening: it can, we are certainly unaware of our biases in all sorts of contexts. But this gets tricky.

          Being accused of being racist is serious, in the present context, but when the alleged racism is so subtle, it is very hard to prove its existence one way or the other. The problem is that in these cases, people who seem to have some personal interest in finding racism assume by default, axiomatically, that if overt racism is absent, there must be some covert racism still lurking. Hence an infinite string of committee meetings and money thrown around to try and root out the racism. The HR people hosting the racism workshops are presumably getting paid for this, but it’s hard to see who else benefits.

          This reminds me of how the concept of god as sold to modern people is often something really abstract and unfalsifiable, whereas in the past, the god-claims were much bolder and totally falsifiable, but we’ve learned that they were wrong, so those with an investment in maintaining the notion of god in the present make him subtle enough to be un-probe-able by direct analysis.

          I’m sure subtle racism exists and so on. But when it gets this subtle, how sure are we that it is concretely responsible for a given problem X or Y or Z? Seems to me that we absolutely aren’t and could get along fine discussing it much less with little lost.

          Occasional self-reflection and all that is good and reasonable, though, we should always keep examining our biases as a general rule.

        6. DavidFriedman

          I think one issue in the “perpetuating racism” claim is the difference between causing a problem and not helping to fix a problem. From one angle they seem the same, but to most people in most contexts they are not.

          The Institute for Justice is a libertarian public interest law firm that litigates against things such as civil forfeiture and restrictive licensing. I will assume that Eric opposes civil forfeiture but doesn’t donate to IJ.

          Is then fair to accuse him of “perpetuating civil forfeiture”?

          I think most people would say not, would distinguish between acting to promote something and failing to act to prevent it. But a lot of the SJ “perpetuating racism” rhetoric appears to treat the two as equivalent.

        7. Eric T

          The Institute for Justice is a libertarian public interest law firm that litigates against things such as civil forfeiture and restrictive licensing. I will assume that Eric opposes civil forfeiture but doesn’t donate to IJ.

          Is then fair to accuse him of “perpetuating civil forfeiture”?

          I’d actually say that it is in fact fair (however as you may have guessed from how many times I’ve brought up Civil Forfeiture in this very thread, I’ve got issues with it, and I’ve been taking other actions against that one like protesting, among other things, hell arguably just yelling about it here is “fighting it”) – so maybe the wrong example XP

          I’m actually a big believer there is no action/inaction distinction – if you don’t fight X or Y thing, you’re contributing to it or at least a tiny bit responsible for it. I am indeed a Bad Man because instead of donating $15 to like the AMF or MIRI or whatever EAs think is great these days, I bought a cheeseburger. (My actual view is a bit more nuanced than that – but I think it’s helpful to understand it comes from that angle)

          I think this feeds into a slightly more interesting discussion – what do you have to do to be considered “fighting” something. I think a common issue with the SJ people I see is that they have a very narrow description of that.

      3. albatross11

        I will admit I have a knee-jerk negative reaction to coerced expressions of political, social, religious, etc., belief, as a way of demonstrating your innocence or atoning for some kind of alleged sin.

      4. AlexOfUrals

        If you are in a system that includes X, unless you engage directly with eliminating X, you are perpetuating X.

        That doesn’t help a bit. We are all parts of the systems that include racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, war, deadly diseases and a million of other awful things including death as a phenomenon and the end of human civilization. Not in some cosmic sense, we pay money to the governments and companies that – deliberately or not, either through action or failure to act – perpetuate all of it and much more. Can you, or anyone, honestly say that you engage directly in eliminating all of these Xs? And if no, I don’t think everyone should constantly feel guilty about it. And if you think they should why isolate the demand for virtue to one particular cause?

    2. DarkTigger

      Are you the Battleship Beans? Why don’t you have the link to your blog in the name?

      I think this is complicated. On the one hand all “if you’re not part of the solution you are part of the problem”, claims make me inherently distrustful. On the other hand systematic racism in it’s Motte meaning obviously lives from nobody trying to change it.

      1. Beans

        And so I say, let’s try to change it, but let’s think about how to do it right. The current mob is not thinking that clearly, and it actively discourages clear thinking, so I cannot trust it.

        (No, I’m not that guy! Coincidence.)

    3. metalcrow

      Gonna strongly +1 this. A lot of the more radical statements coming out of this movement, especially “If you’re not with us, you’re against us”, is freaking me the hell out and seems pretty blatantly bad for both the movement and anyone around it (i.e. everyone). I take comfort in the fact that i don’t think anyone reasonable actually agrees with this, and the hyper-woke who are espousing it will naturally just get so radical they start their own separate movement.

      1. Beans

        I also think that most reasonable people don’t agree with this, but I’m freaked out by the fact that many intelligent people I know are happy to advocate for it anyway. Things are clearly dramatic enough that either 1. people actually agree with this nonsense or 2. they’re scared enough of becoming a dissident that they proclaim things they don’t really believe, which is miserable.

      2. Conrad Honcho

        Ben Stein writes:

        I got a call from my friend Myra, a woman of about 60 whose parents had survived the Holocaust. She had come down to look at real estate in the desert, then come over to our club to cadge a swim in our pool. Her hotel pool is closed because of COVID.

        Our house is 30 seconds from the front gate, but she managed to get very lost and called me 10 times to cry and complain. Finally, the club security took her to our house.

        She cried some more and then told us about her ordeal leaving Westwood, a fairly good neighborhood in L.A. where UCLA is and where she lives.

        “The protesters were blocking the 405 [freeway],” she said. “They wouldn’t let me through unless I shouted ‘black lives matter,’ so I did that and then they wanted me to make a sign that said ‘black lives matter,’ and I had some poster board and a magic marker in my front seat so I made one, and they applauded, and let me through.”

        She cried a lot more and added, “And then I tore it up and I threw up.”

        1. Matt M

          Logistical question – are Apple/Google maps routing people around known protest/blocked roads… or does forcing people into them without warning count as part of their very-public commitment to fighting for racial equality or whatever?

          1. Conrad Honcho

            Unless they specifically programmed it otherwise, I would think protest-heavy areas would show up as congestion and they’d route around.

        2. Well...

          Does it set off red flags for anyone that this woman happened to be driving around with posterboard and markers in her front seat when she was ostensibly on her way to the desert to look at property?

          Ben Stein also writes:

          You have to be a black leftist, white-hating white, or some other form of maniac to get along in today’s world.

          Hear that whooshing sound? I like Ben Stein as an actor/game show host/Republican-in-Hollywood — he’s endearing as hell — but that’s the sound of his credibility on this topic blowing out the window under high pressure.

          1. Erusian

            Does it set off red flags for anyone that this woman happened to be driving around with posterboard and markers in her front seat when she was ostensibly on her way to the desert to look at property?

            No, because it’s very common for real estate, especially rural real estate, to make do with handmade signs. I’ve seen lots of rural property, including in the west, using such signs. Hell, I once saw an abandoned amusement park with one of those large posterboards I used in middle school stapled to the ticket booth specifying the price, acreage, and who to contact.

            I’m not sure I agree with the whole framing but this doesn’t set off any alarm bells. And I don’t think it would to anyone who commonly deals in rural property.

          2. Eric T

            My respect for Ben Stein went out the window when he wrote:

            The idea of calling this poor young man unarmed when he was 6’4″, 300 pounds, full of muscles, apparently, according to what I read in The New York Times, on marijuana. To call him unarmed is like calling Sonny Liston unarmed or Cassius Clay unarmed. He wasn’t unarmed. He was armed with his incredibly strong, scary self.

            about Michael Brown. Like.. come on man.

          3. FLWAB

            My respect for Ben Stein went out the window when he wrote:…about Michael Brown. Like.. come on man.

            What is there to lose respect about? As far as the best experts can tell (re, the FBI, the US Department of Justice, and the grand jury that declined to indict him) Wilson was telling the truth when he said that Brown first tried to take his gun, and then later turned and charged him. Given that, you don’t think a 6’4″ 300 pound man charging at you is a danger to your life?

          4. albatross11

            It’s maybe worth remembering that both the grand jury investigation of Darren Wilson (the policeman who shot Brown) and the justice department’s independent investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of Wilson. The available physical evidence supported Wilson’s testimony, as did some but not all of the (contradictory) eyewitness testimony. And while I have little interest in Ben Stein or other talking heads on TV, it’s also worth remembering that the initial coverage of the shooting definitely did not convey the idea that Brown was a big, physically imposing guy who might plausibly have looked like a serious threat to Wilson. And this followed much the same pattern as the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

            The way it looks to me, US media outlets really want to tell a certain kind of story about police and race. And the result is that that story gets told, and facts inconvenient to that story either don’t get reported, or are at least de-emphasized. (Quick: what race was the policeman who shot Philando Castille?)

          5. Well...

            @Erusian:

            I thought this woman was looking to buy some real estate in the desert, not advertise that she was selling some. Maybe I read it wrong and got confused?

            @Scoop:

            You don’t have to be a black leftist or a self-hating white or “any other kind of maniac” to decide that “the degree to which white racists currently cause disparities for black people” is not an appropriate workplace conversation topic. Point being, anyone can get along just fine if they know the basics of getting along!

            In a nutshell, Ben Stein was trying to say that the Overton window has shifted much farther to the left than it really has. I suspect he has forgotten that the circles he moves in (in Hollywood for example) are not representative of most of the rest of the country.

          6. Erusian

            I thought this woman was looking to buy some real estate in the desert, not advertise that she was selling some. Maybe I read it wrong and got confused?

            Regardless of whether she was buying or selling, it’s a tool of the trade. It’s a little like looking at a locksmith who’s going to open a safe and then saying, “Isn’t it suspicious they just happen to have a set of lockpicks for opening house doors? Obviously they were planning a robbery!” I know at least one real estate agent that made a tidy bundle selling a convenient bag for carrying around signs, paper, markers, etc. It’s that common.

        3. keaswaran

          Westwood is definitely not Bel Air or Brentwood or Beverly Hills. But it’s fancier than Palms or Koreatown. Probably somewhere between Culver City and Santa Monica, if you don’t mind students. By the standards of west side LA, “fairly good” actually seems about right.

      3. Ketil

        especially “If you’re not with us, you’re against us”

        I think it is a deliberate attempt to alienate the outgroup, and that this is a common tactic for political movements of all stripes.

    4. Eric T

      This is obviously absurd. Just because I am not actively working to, for instance, lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of mars, does not mean that I am contributing to that amount.

      Notice that you had to specify Mars – but you very much are contributing to the CO2 here on Earth. Like Aftagley said above, SJ people like meself would argue this is much more the CO2 on earth situation.

      But if we want a world that works, randomly shutting things down out of emotional fervor will not help our progress. Unfortunately, the purity spiral that seems to drive much recent activity in social justice is not friendly to cautioned action. Unless you’re all-in, no questions asked, you’re the enemy.

      Is this actually true? I’ve seen a lot of this rhetoric here in SSC (having flashbacks to a certain conversation about Leftist Lynch mobs) and I think its a bit hyperbolic. There are absolutely 100% people pushing whatever their Zeitgeist is at the time, and the extreme edges of the SJ community can be… vocal. But the idea that cautious support = you are the enemy just doesn’t match up with what my experience online, in person, at protests, or at university has been. I was very much a cautious supporter for a while, and I was welcomed in with open arms, and have since made the blood pledge to full SJW willingly (obviously this is partially facetious – but I really did find myself once thinking more in the “cautious support” category as you do).

      I have said this before and I’ll say it again, I caution against painting the Left with this brush of generalized intolerance that has become the like go-to on most of the Right-leaning places I interact with. I don’t think its accurate, rather born out of a low-number of high-profile incidents, but even if it is slightly accurate the way its discussed here I think is doing more harm to attempts to reach across the isle and engage productively than not.

      “Unless you engage directly with eliminating racism, you are perpetuating it.”

      For many of us SJ types, this line isn’t supposed to be some kind of purity-test thing. Rather I hope you’ll do me the charity of believing it’s more about how inaction is what allows injustice to foment.

      1. Beans

        But the idea that cautious support = you are the enemy just doesn’t match up with what my experience online, in person, at protests, or at university has been.

        It matches enough of my experience to freak me out. If I’m exaggerating, then the onus will be on me for making that mistake.

        Rather I hope you’ll do me the charity of believing it’s more about how inaction is what allows injustice to foment.

        If one has the presence of mind to actually discuss things in more detail, as you have done here, than I am completely happy to extend that charity.

        From many others, in contrast, I feel an attempt to control, emotionally manipulate, and to polarize. I am by no means right-leaning and “social justice” in the general sense is something I want. But I don’t know how to digest a lot of what’s coming at me, these days.

        1. Eric T

          It matches enough of my experience to freak me out.

          I am genuinely sad to hear that. I will never deny that the SJ movement needs to do a better job reaching out to moderate/ non-SJ types, and it disappoints me to see that we have failed again here. It is my firm belief these people are almost certainly just venting a long-building anger and frustration targeted at the system writ-large, not you specifically, and much of this anger is Hot Air, which will go away in time.

          From many others, in contrast, I feel an attempt to control, emotionally manipulate, and to polarize. I am by no means right-leaning and “social justice” in the general sense is something I want. But I don’t know how to digest a lot of what’s coming at me, these days.

          I would be more than happy to discuss anything further if you would like, either here or 1-on-1 (I posted my email somewhere in the OT, but to save you searching for it – ericjtannenbaum at gmail)

          I hope that, if I can do nothing else, I can help put your fears at ease.

          1. Beans

            I would be more than happy to discuss anything further if you would like, either here or 1-on-1 (I posted my email somewhere in the OT, but to save you searching for it – ericjtannenbaum at gmail)

            Your openness is appreciated.

            I would probably be won over by groups with social justice goals but that have concrete evidence-based ideas and do not appeal to emotion to get support. Those must exist, but they also are likely to be drowned out by the large volume of hot air in recent years.

        2. keaswaran

          > I feel an attempt to control, emotionally manipulate, and to polarize

          And that exists all across the political and non-political spectrums. It would be nice to have some movement that didn’t have that element within it. But advocating purges of unwanted voices doesn’t sound like a good thing to be doing in this context.

          1. Beans

            And that exists all across the political and non-political spectrums.

            And its not a coincidence how uncomfortable I feel in all sorts of them.

            But advocating purges of unwanted voices doesn’t sound like a good thing to be doing in this context.

            Who is doing that? I’d say let’s keep the voices, but encourage more thinking and less lemming-like behavior in the brains that control the voices.

      2. anon-e-moose

        First and foremost, I (and others I’m sure) greatly appreciate more leftist/SJ/non-red representation. Truly. It’s very valuable.

        That said, I would like to anecdotally push back on:

        it’s more about how inaction is what allows injustice to foment.

        My interests overlap with some very, very lefty social groups (tiny houses/homesteading) and this sentiment is absolutely the northstar in these groups. To the point where if you don’t actively support BLM, you’re ostracized. This is bifurcating communities based on politics and leading to siloing.

        Ironically, this has been a boon for me personally, as it’s exposed me to folks more aligned with my social values. But this bifurcation is absolutely not creating more tolerance, but less. My prior tiny-house friends who didn’t split are now talking more with hard lefties, and the new folks I talk with have a lot more guns than the old group.

        1. Eric T

          this sentiment is absolutely the northstar in these groups. To the point where if you don’t actively support BLM, you’re ostracized.

          It sounds like the groups you interact with are very very left indeed, based on my own interaction with the leftists who like the homesteading position. I hope if these protests have demonstrated everything, it’s that there is widespread leftist support for Social Justice among people who don’t fall on the extreme end of the spectrum. Sadly, all too often for both Leftists and Rightists (Is Rightists correct? It doesn’t sound correct) the vocal minority does a good job shouting down what the larger public believes.

          The vast majority of my SJ friends have at least “little c” conservative friends and none of them ostracize people for not actively supporting BLM. My best mate Nick was a card-carrying republican until last election cycle, and he’s a big part of our friend group that is 95% SJ-types. In college and in my debate league, while the group skewed left for sure, there were plenty of moderate lefts, grey-tribers, and the like.

          In the same way that I don’t legitimately believe the alt-right represents y’all I hope y’all won’t believe the whackos on twitter represent me.

    5. zzzzort

      disclaimer, I personally know the organizers of the academic strike, and will be striking myself.

      stopping everything for ill-defined, politicized reasons will just ruin people’s lives/careers and do nothing to stop racism

      It’s a one day strike. At a time when most universities are shut down, out of term, or both. The advice to students (assuming we’re talking about the same strike, as there are two semi-independent ones) is “you should not do something that jeopardizes your grade or standing at your institution”

      We need to think about our actions and figure out what their consequences are, and certainly, some of our actions are bad and contribute to bad systems

      Tomorrow seems like a good day to do stop and do some serious thinking about how to make the system better.

      This is obviously absurd. Just because I am not actively working to, for instance, lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of mars

      You don’t live on mars, but if you work in academia then you contribute to the climate of academia, and imo you have some responsibility for making that climate better.

      Unless you’re all-in, no questions asked, you’re the enemy.

      If you don’t join the strike, I promise you won’t be the enemy of the people (if you proudly proclaim yourself to be an enemy of the people, that might be a different story). If you work from home as most of us do these days then literally no one will know either way. But even if you work publicly no one will hate you, the purpose of the strike is about taking time to make academia better for black people, not about shaming non-black people.

      1. Two McMillion

        If you don’t join the strike, I promise you won’t be the enemy of the people (if you proudly proclaim yourself to be an enemy of the people, that might be a different story).

        Am I the enemy of the people if I loudly proclaim that I am not participating in the strike?

        1. keaswaran

          If someone asks you to do a thing, and you loudly and publicly proclaim that you are not doing that thing, then yes, you have declared that there is an enemy relation between the two of you (though only people who believe that one of you two speaks for “the people” will believe that one of the two of you is an “enemy of the people”).

      2. Beans

        I took the general concept as a jumping off-point for the airing of other, related grievances, which I continue to stand by. But if I misinterpreted the intention behind this specific academia-related strike, my fault. My reading of what I was linked about this recently did not specify in a way that I was able to absorb that the intention is for a single day. An occasional pause to evaluate one’s actions and circumstances is certainly a good thing.

      3. DavidFriedman

        but if you work in academia then you contribute to the climate of academia, and imo you have some responsibility for making that climate better.

        Sounds like a fine sentiment.

        My daughter attended Oberlin for two years. She found it to be a political monoculture. The general assumption was that if you disagreed you were either ignorant or evil. One result was that the only people who openly disagreed with left wing orthodoxy were the sort of people who liked exchanging insults right against left, the sort of people who make political parts of FB such a cesspool.

        That strikes me as a fault in the culture of academia — Oberlin may be an extreme example, but I have observed similar patterns elsewhere — that clashes with the claimed goals and principles of academia far more than anything to do with race.

        To be fair to Oberlin, what I am describing is the student culture. The faculty, by my daughter’s observation, had similar political views but were less intolerant.

        (If I am misreporting her experience, I expect she will correct me here)

        Do you disagree? If not, what are you doing, supposing that you work in academia, to make that climate better?

        1. Rebecca Friedman

          Stupid or evil. “Ignorant” would be giving people who disagreed with them too much credit – you had to be really stupid to not immediately see they were right as soon as you encountered one of their arguments, was my impression. And the (eight, I think) people in the Libertarians And Republicans club weren’t, mostly, nasty, like most of the political internet today; they could write careful, reasonable arguments for their point of view, and did. They didn’t think everyone on the other side was either stupid or evil (they hardly could, there were eight* of them and they presumably knew people outside the club). They just liked getting into fights, had no problem with people yelling at them. Which worried me.

          The faculty were mostly fine; the one person who most notably wasn’t handled it extremely well when it was pointed out to him (by I suspect one of the top students in his class. In tears. But he did take it well) that there were problems with making constant anti-non-leftists jokes. (The person who less notably wasn’t was my first year, and I didn’t dare say anything.) But the students were toxic to anyone who wasn’t loudly One Of Them, or so it felt to me.

          *It might have been seven, I forget whether the number I have memorized was counting or not counting me.

        2. zzzzort

          I agree in principle, though I think it’s less of a problem at the graduate+ level and outside of small schools (for the obvious reason that large schools will have student bodies more representative of the polarized public)

          I’d push back on saying this is more of a fundamental threat to the principles of academia though. A political ideology is much more of a choice than race, and one that many people form during their college years, so arguing for and against political positions is much more a core activity, even if the standards what constitute an argument are often lacking.

          Also, academia has often been a source of political organizing, e.g. tienanmin square, Korea’s April revolution, the velvet revolution, the anti-vietnam protests, etc. Honest question, should political organizing by students be considered a principle of academia or just a common feature?

          1. DavidFriedman

            I’d push back on saying this is more of a fundamental threat to the principles of academia though.

            Academia is supposed to be about finding and teaching truth. An environment where only one set of views is present, people are taught that only those views are defensible, and there is strong social pressure against anyone who argues for a different set of views, is not consistent with that goal.

            What fraction of those students do you think could do a halfway competent job of presenting the arguments against their positions?

            The problem isn’t people arguing for political views. I spent my freshman year writing up one or two page defenses of my views, taping them to the inside wall of the freshman union, and standing around arguing with people.

            The problem is that, with rare exceptions, only one set of political views is being argued for. Badly.

            As one would expect in such an environment.

    6. Atlas

      In the aforementioned screed, there is a particular sentence that highlights one of my primary disagreements with the current cultural climate in educated liberal bubbles: “Unless you engage directly with eliminating racism, you are perpetuating it.” This can be generalized to the statement “Unless you engage directly with eliminating X, you are perpetuating X.”.

      Related to the thread below, one thing you can point out is that, to whatever extent that this is true of racism, it is surely then likewise true of COVID-19. “Unless you engage directly with eliminating COVID-19, you are perpetuating it.” As per the discussion below I am…less than convinced that mass gatherings of tens or hundreds of thousands of people practicing little if any social distancing are, um, “contributing to the elimination” of COVID-19. The coronavirus has killed around 100,000 Americans this year, police killings less than 1,000.

      1. Randy M

        Honestly, though, given that this:

        “Unless you engage directly with eliminating COVID-19, you are perpetuating it.”

        is pretty much literally true, your post has made me more open to the other version, manipulative as it is.
        I don’t really think racism is analogous to an infectious disease, though.

    7. Marlowe

      I agree. I look at what’s happening with a mix of bewilderment and sadness. I’m a STEM professor, and I know some signers of the petition. There’s a weird mix of complaints in this “Shutdown STEM” call for Wednesday that I don’t think accomplish anything. I could go on and on, but what bothers me the most is the not-so-implicit idea that the small number of African Americans in STEM is due to bias in academia. I’ve served on lots of hiring committees, which in general are falling over themselves to try to hire people from under-represented groups. These are liberal professors (including me), who would yearn for chances to further diversity. The issue, which is obvious if you’re on any committee, is that the candidates are *very* few; not uncommonly zero out of a hundred. The problems arise not at the “Ivory tower” level, but far earlier; if you want more African American scientists, work with K-12 students, insist on high math/science standards in all schools, etc.

      I do, in fact, work hands-on with underrepresented K-12 students. The signers of this statement that I know don’t do this. (Though I’m sure some do.) Instead, they like to view all these issues through a lens of “structural” issues orchestrated by cabals of old men who don’t exist. This then spreads to other pronouncements on structural racism: you shouldn’t use exams to evaluate people, because exams are racist; a miasma of unfalsifiable “implicit bias” drives all our thoughts; etc. The tone throughout is very much that of a if-you’re-not-with-us-you’re-racist witch hunt.

      Striking causes harm. The work I do is valuable; the students I interact with benefit from the interaction. (We’ve got classes in session.) If I’m going to strike, I need a far better justification than this sanctimonious, naive letter.

      I fully expect that my lack of participation in this strike, despite my actual work on equity and access, will mark me as one of the bad people.

      1. Beans

        The issue, which is obvious if you’re on any committee, is that the candidates are *very* few; not uncommonly zero out of a hundred. The problems arise not at the “Ivory tower” level, but far earlier; if you want more African American scientists, work with K-12 students, insist on high math/science standards in all schools, etc.

        Absolutely. In my field, it’s clearly exactly the same. There is definitely a problem, but it doesn’t start where common rhetoric claims that it does.

    8. Mark V Anderson

      “Unless you engage directly with eliminating racism, you are perpetuating it.”

      IMO, most of those who consider themselves to be actively fighting racism are instead enhancing it. The best way to be against racism is to try to be racially blind. This is hard because people are visual creatures and I think we are genetically wired to make quick decisions on what we see, including first impressions of other people’s appearance.

      Most of those fighting racism are bound and determined to make everything about race. Half the time when I hear an accusation of racism relating to some activity I am involved with, I hadn’t even noticed the race of the other people until racism was mentioned. These “anti-racists” make it very hard to be racially blind. This makes racism worse. This group Beans complains about is one of those groups causing racism.

      1. DinoNerd

        The worst example I recall was an individual whose participation in an online group was criticized. I don’t recall their handle, but given the group, the chance of it being their real name was negligible. And it didn’t scream “this person is black” to the person who told me the story.

        At any rate, their reaction to this criticism was to howl that people were picking on them becase they were black. Much surprise was expressed – mostly about how they expected people to have reached through the internet and discovered this detail.

      2. Randy M

        The best way to be against racism is to try to be racially blind.

        I agree with you, but the progressive side has moved so far beyond this that it is a bone fide scissor statement.

        1. brmic

          Consider the numbers: Say 95 of 100 people are acting race-blind, and you have 5 people with various degrees of racial animus. Consider, how over a whole society 5 percentage points more of people work against the interests of a particular group and how that affects outcomes for the group. Consider – this is easiest with antisemitism – that there is small fraction of the population which will nonetheless over your lifetime remind you repeatedly, that they’d like to send you and your family to the ovens, and how that would affect you. Consider, that while 95% believe they act race-blind, only a fraction of them do, and the really race-blind are between 50 and 90% of the population.
          I’m sure you can see _why_ people argue ‘everybody giving themselves a pass’ is not sufficient. You don’t have to agree, but it should be obvious why people hold that opinion.

          1. albatross11

            brmic:

            It’s notable that both Jews and Asians in the US have indeed faced some fraction of the population hating them, and yet have done pretty well in society, including both having a higher average income and lower crime rate than Gentile whites, and disproportionately occupying positions of power and influence. A large fraction of the people at the top of media and finance and law are Jewish; a large fraction of professors in STEM subjects, doctors, and highly-paid STEM workers are Asian.

            That doesn’t mean they don’t run into prejudice, even really vile nasty prejudice by people who want them and their families dead. But it does make the model that says “things are worse for blacks than whites because of those 5-10% of racist people looking to screw them over” a lot less plausible.

          2. baconbits9

            Consider the numbers:

            How about we consider the actual numbers and not hypotheticals? How about we consider the number of people who were actively racist and actively tried to keep blacks down from 1860 through 2020. Is this the period with the most or the fewest realtive to overall population? Are the actual tools being used now more powerful than literal whips and chains, fire hoses, legal segregation, lynchings etc?

            I’m sure you can see _why_ people argue ‘everybody giving themselves a pass’ is not sufficient.

            In what way is it actually expected to make an impact?

          3. Mark V Anderson

            @brmic
            I don’t understand what you are getting at. Yes, there will always be those that will not be racially blind, and some in the atrocious ways you indicate. Certainly we should denounce such people. In fact if we succeeded in making 95% of the people racially blind then in fact the 5% would feel very left out. Maybe some of them would even try out being racially blind to fit in with the crowd? If most people are moral, then conformity with the masses can be a good thing.

        2. original-internet-explorer

          In theory the Left believes this and I expect the old Left still does.

          The rightist dark enlightenment and the liberal intellectual dark web claim the Left used entryism on the institutions. I think they did too – but the results look less like Marxism and more to be a hybridization of liberal and leftist doctrines. So much hybridization has occurred that people claiming to be right wingers are claiming they stand for equality of opportunity – which should be a horrible idea to them.

          Listening to the podcasts of Red Scare and Steve Bannon – same species different camo. We’re just a temporal shift from recognizing they’re the same animal. Pure partisans are endangered and their pedigree should be protected.

          This then is why the Culture War is getting worse – we’ve become too similar and are competing for the same niche.

          Bring back the extremists!

          1. The original Mr. X

            In theory the Left believes this and I expect the old Left still does.

            I don’t know if you’ve seen the Pyramid of White Supremacy graphic which has been doing the rounds of social media, but “Colourblindness” is explicitly listed on it as an example of covert white supremacy. Of course, one graphic isn’t “the left”, but at least amongst the young, educated leftists I know, I don’t think that people believe the statement even in theory.

      3. Ketil

        The best way to be against racism is to try to be racially blind.

        This works only against explicit individual racism, MLK style. The progressives and identitarians have long since left this viewpoint, since it doesn’t help at all with “systemic” or “structural” racism – i.e. the observable differences in outcome between ethnic (and other kinds of) groups.

        1. Nancy Lebovitz

          “The progressives and identitarians have long since left this viewpoint, since it doesn’t help at all with “systemic” or “structural” racism – i.e. the observable differences in outcome between ethnic (and other kinds of) groups.”

          I wonder if we could have gotten farther if efforts had been made to teach people to see the people around them accurately rather than focusing on irrelevent factors.

        2. Mark V Anderson

          The progressives and identitarians have long since left this viewpoint

          Yes and to the extent this is true they are enhancing racism. I have been trying for decades to make sense of the concept of systemic or structural racism and I still don’t get it. Upthread some folks seem to be defining it as Blacks being disadvantaged because of a history or racism.

          If that is truly the definition then I am all the more convinced that being racially blind is the best way to fix racism and those that bring racism into every issue inevitably make it worse. We can’t fix the past, only try to give people the best opportunities we can in the present. Think of all the possible disadvantages people have had in the past that negatively affects their present: being physically disabled, having bad parents, being disfigured in a fire, growing up in Appalachia, having terrible acne on the face, being autistic, born in a third world country, being very short, having mental illness, being deaf, going to jail for a trumped-up crime, low intellectual skills. All of these things will result in most people having problems today. I suspect many of the groups I mentioned have worse lives on average than the average Black. But most of these attributes we can’t change , and for none of them we can change the past. And I don’t think the best way to help people do better is to dwell on the past, but to give them opportunities in the present. Do the best you can to help disadvantaged people pull themselves up, and don’t be prejudiced against them in the present. That’s the way to a better world.

          1. Eugene Dawn

            But most of these attributes we can’t change , and for none of them we can change the past. And I don’t think the best way to help people do better is to dwell on the past, but to give them opportunities in the present.

            I don’t disagree with any of this, but taking one of your other groups, say, “people who went to jail for a trumped up crime”–it seems weird to say that being “people who went to jail for a trumped-up crime”-blind would help give them opportunities; rather, we’d want to identify those who went to jail for a trumped up crime, and tailor the opportunities to them and their specific situation.

  15. Eric T

    But a few Days after I proclaimed my love for the Falcon 9 in the last OT, Elon is at it again, this time pushing for SpaceX to focus on the next generation of rocket.

    I am dubious about some of the Starship claims, especially this one:

    SpaceX is developing Starship with the goal of launching as many as 100 people at a time on missions to the moon and Mars.

    Maybe launching 100 people at once to the Moon is possible, but certainly we should at least succeed in sending ONE dude to Mars before we try to send 100 at the same time?

    However as I have established in the past, SpaceX has beaten my skepticism routinely. I’m not sure if this means I should update my preference here though, because every fiber of my being says this is absurd.

    1. Edward Scizorhands

      If you want to launch 100 people at once to Mars, you have to start that process very early, before all the prerequisite technologies are complete and fully tested.

      There are a lot of things we need for a Mars mission, like in-situ resource production, methane engine, and super-heavy lift. We are capable of working on more than one of them at a time, and need to if we are going to get it done in the next 40 years.

    2. Purplehermann

      I assume it will go through an insane anount of testing before even 1 person is sent.

      If anyone dies on his rocket that could set him back a lot

    3. gbdub

      I have long maintained that Falcon 9 was a good idea that was going to work, eventually (just not on Elon’s constantly insanely optimistic timetables or meeting his grandiose claims about basically just paying for the cost of fuel like an airliner). It was “incrementally radical” basically tacking a few key innovations onto a basically conservative, proven design philosophy. It served an obvious market need. Now that most of the kinks are worked out, SpaceX can print money by launching them at a quick pace and low cost relative to the competition, even if the pace and cost aren’t as radically different as Elon once claimed.

      But I’m really skeptical of Starship. For one, it doesn’t really seem to have a market outside Elon’s PowerPoints. Nobody needs that much capacity for anything, if anything the launch market seems over saturated. For another, it seems to rely on tech that is simply not ready for prime time. They’ve blown up 4 of them already, all seemingly failures of the very technology (welded stainless steel tanks/structures) that are supposed to enable the whole thing. Maybe I’m completely wrong and Starship really will fly and be a game changer (but if it does, I’d bet heavily on more like a 10 year timeline than the usual “test flights next year” that seems to be Elon’s default claim for everything). But I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that Starship is Elon’s Spruce Goose.

      1. Thomas Jorgensen

        It probably will work… Once they stop trying to weld them and go to someone with a licence to forge nuclear pressure vessels. – What Musk wants is something steel can do, but the applicable parallels all shun welding like the plague, and where it cant be avoided, follow the welder around with an x-ray machine.

        1. gbdub

          Right, but if you can’t weld it you probably can’t meet the cost and performance goals that the program counts on to make any sense.

          1. keaswaran

            This sounds structurally a lot like Hyperloop and Boring, where something is promised to have certain cost and performance advantages, but in order to do what is claimed, it doesn’t seem plausible that it can have those advantages.

        2. gbdub

          I’d also add that Falcon 9 was a useful, marketable rocket even before the crazy stuff like a reusable first stage, super chilled propellants, etc. worked. It doesn’t really matter that Dragon got too heavy to soft-land, because ocean landing was a workable option. The goofy fairing catcher ship probably won’t ever be really reliable, but who cares.

          Starship seems much more all-or-nothing – if any of it doesn’t work, the whole thing falls apart.

      2. tossrock

        For one, it doesn’t really seem to have a market outside Elon’s PowerPoints. Nobody needs that much capacity for anything, if anything the launch market seems over saturated.

        There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.

        – Ken Olson, maybe

        Nobody needs that much capacity today, for launching communications satellites. But revolutionary products create their own markets. If access to space is an order of magnitude cheaper, new markets (like space tourism, space manufacturing, etc) may appear. They also may not! But as Thiel said, “never bet against Elon”.

    4. Aftagley

      IMO the correct perspective on Musk should be cautious optimism that around 1/2 of the things his companies set out to do will be successful while ignoring everything he says publicly. This kind of bridges that policy, so I’m going to err on “ignore it until I see a prototype.”

    5. cassander

      the cost of sending 100 people is considerably less than 100x the cost of sending 1, and the capability of sending 100 is considerably more valuable than that of sending 1. I’m not sure where the optimal point is, but 100 doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable.

      1. Eric T

        the cost of sending 100 people is considerably less than 100x the cost of sending 1, and the capability of sending 100 is considerably more valuable than that of sending 1. I’m not sure where the optimal point is, but 100 doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable.

        I totally agree, but this seems like quite the jump. How many did Challenger have, 7 right? The leap to be able to put 14x as many people in space at once while also trying to be able to perform the first manned spaceflight to Mars seems like maybe too many balls being juggled at a time.

    6. Etoile

      I remain cautiously optimistic at seeing Mars within Musk’s lifetime (absent some kind of catastrophe) because honestly, someone just saying “I will make private space flight, including of people” and then doing it is enough of a resume to at least award some benefit of the doubt.
      One can probably ignore the marketing and timetables though.

    7. DarkTigger

      I know nothing about SpaceX plans, but the old claim “if you are in orbit you are half way to anywhere”, is still true.
      If you are able to shoot up 100 people at a time up there, bringing parts to construct an spaceship large enough to bring them to Mars is also possible. Also if you bring 100 people at once, it probably gets easier to bring specialists + backup for most expected problems. But I think the first If in this paragraph carries a lot of load.

      1. Eric T

        I know nothing about SpaceX plans, but the old claim “if you are in orbit you are half way to anywhere”, is still true.
        If you are able to shoot up 100 people at a time up there, bringing parts to construct an spaceship large enough to bring them to Mars is also possible. Also if you bring 100 people at once, it probably gets easier to bring specialists + backup for most expected problems. But I think the first If in this paragraph carries a lot of load.

        Not true for manned spaceflight – you do have to get off of Mars too! Unlike the (comparatively) easily escapable moon, launching back from Mars is going to be rather tricky no? Especially if you need to launch a rocket larger than any that has ever been launched here on Earth?

        1. DarkTigger

          Well on the one hand the Musky-Boy does not seem to really want the people to get back, isn’t he?
          On an more serious hand. You can send 100 people to a Mars orbit, and just send 5 – 10 down. You would still have the advantage to have a big crew in oribt, that can react a lot faster if something goes wrong, but don’t have to pull all of them back from Mars gravity well.

        2. gbdub

          The moon is less easily escapable than you think. It’s easier (in terms of energy) to get to the orbit of Mars, or land on one of its moons, than to land on Luna. Actually it is easier to land on Mars because you can do most of the deceleration with aerobraking.

          Getting off Mars is hard, but only a bit more than twice as hard as getting off the moon.

          1. gbdub

            It might be a good idea, but it’s not strictly required. It’s all the tyranny of the rocket equation.

            Practically speaking, sure, it might be better to send a diaposable craft ahead filled with gas so your crew vehicle only needs enough fuel to land and can gas up for the return trip. Otherwise you need even more fuel to land the fuel you need to fly your big rocket home.

        3. Edward Scizorhands

          Unless you are dealing with something too small for humans, any craft landing on Mars intended to later launch Mars is likely to produce its fuel using in-situ resource production.

          There are some things about this that make it riskier — if your in-situ resource production fails, your mission fails.

          But there are things that make it safer — you can verify that you have a fully-fueled return craft waiting for you on Mars before you launch.

    8. John Schilling

      Maybe launching 100 people at once to the Moon is possible, but certainly we should at least succeed in sending ONE dude to Mars before we try to send 100 at the same time?

      Disclaimer: I think Elon is smoking the good stuff when he says Starship can carry people to Mars 100 at a time. I’m only about 50-50 on Starship working at all, ever, but if it does work its maximum passenger capacity to Mars will be double digits at best, and for useful capacity (i.e. with enough equipment and supplies to do anything but say “we made it”) the first digit will probably be a one.

      But:

      Columbus had eighty-nine people on his first expedition, of which about half stayed in the New World to establish a mini-colony. And Werner von Braun’s first proposal for a manned Mars mission, as published in Colliers IIRC, was for seventy men.

      The only reason to send one or two or six people to “explore” a strange new world, is if the thing you’re really after is the status points from getting there six months before the other guy. See also Peary at the North Pole and Amundsen at the South. And the historical track record of this sort of expedition is, fifty years later the place is still an uninhabited wasteland that you haven’t done anything with.

      If the plan is to settle, colonize, or develop a world (which for SpaceX it definitely is), you need a transportation system that can carry hundreds of people even if not all on one vehicle. That’s going to have almost no overlap with a bare-bones kludge of transportation system designed to carry half a dozen people. And the things you’ll need to learn are not “will my transportation system deliver the crew alive?”; you should know that with fairly high confidence before you send any number of people.

      What you need to learn is how to transport large numbers of people and material economically and sustainability. How to live on the world for long periods, which almost certainly means figuring out what local resources you can use and how, what construction techniques are appropriate, what crops to grow, etc, etc. And what you can profitably sell to the Earthlings who will be building your rocket ships for you. Half a dozen people aren’t going to figure out enough of that to make a difference. Odds are, they’re going to spend most of their time dealing with your highly specialized half-a-dozen-poeple-only systems.

      And picking a lot of low-hanging scientific fruit, which can be useful in its own right. But it isn’t enough.

      If I were designing a permanent lunar base or colony, almost everything I would want to know is either, A: stuff we knew before Neil Armstrong took his small step, B: stuff we’ve learned since without going past Earth orbit, and C: stuff we still don’t know because twelve men spending a few days each on the Moon didn’t even scratch the surface. So if I see someone spending $bignum on the very specialized systems needed to put a couple of astronauts on Mars, I’m going to conclude that they’re mostly interested in flags and footprints, that the scientific community will go along for the virtual ride and be happy with their low-hanging fruit but then move on to the next-easiest target, and that nothing of substance will come of it.

      Go big or stay home.

    9. Forward Synthesis

      @Eric T

      Maybe launching 100 people at once to the Moon is possible, but certainly we should at least succeed in sending ONE dude to Mars before we try to send 100 at the same time?

      I wonder why we don’t entirely focus on Moon bases to begin with. Mars isn’t greatly more hospitable than the Moon. On both Mars and the Moon, you need to live inside enclosed and pressurized capsules with breathable air, and although Mars has higher surface gravity, it’s still a fraction of Earth’s. I don’t think we’ll make a self-sufficient base for a long time, so we should use space bases as an experiment like we do with the ISS. In that vein, it makes way more sense to colonize the Moon first, because neither Mars nor Lunar bases will be self-sufficient for a long time, but the Moon has the distinct advantage of being much closer if things go wrong.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Maybe neither celestial body has any economic value other than science, or tourism when Earth gets far far wealthier, but the scientists who colonize Mars will terraform a breathable atmosphere by planting traditional academic foliage like ivy and hemp, which the Moon can’t support.

        1. Lambert

          It’s probably much easier to make realistic red brick from martian regolith than lunar.

      2. Lambert

        Moon dust sucks. There’s no atmosphere to erode it so it’s incredibly sharp and it’s havily affected by static electricity and it’s probably awful for your lungs and it wears down any moving parts it gets into. And there’s no atmosphere to stop it flying hundreds of metres on a ballistic trajectory when a rocket plume inpinges on it.

        Also Mars’ atmosphere and hydrosphere are useful, even though they’re much less than what Earth has. You can do ISRU and make oxygen and water for life support much more easily than on the moon.

        1. AG

          Doesn’t that make training on the moon even more useful, then? If it can survive on the moon, then Mars will be a cakewalk.

          1. Edward Scizorhands

            We can’t have “start with the Moon because it’s easier” and then, when we find it to be harder, say, “exactly, start with the Moon because it’s harder!”

            A lot of the big challenges we learn from colonizing the Moon will not be useful for Mars. We won’t need to figure out how to recycle carbon at 100%, or how to survive micrometeorites, or how to efficiently strip oxygen from the lunar regolith, or how to survive a 2-week night at -150 Celsius and a 2-week day at +120 Celsius, or how to handle direct exposure to cosmic rays long-term, or how to make sure everyone must have a solar storm shelter within a few hours available at all times to not suffer likely prompt death.

          2. AG

            Going to the moon is logistically easier. Surviving on the moon is technologically harder.

            I’ll concede your other points, though arguably those things are useful for the trip to Mars (even stripping oxygen from regolith, since that opens up some resource replenishing via asteroids or something on the way).

      3. Edward Scizorhands

        There are lots of things that make Mars more hospitable than the Moon, besides gravity.

        – Day/night cycle like Earth’s.
        – Much easier temperature ranges.
        – Carbon and probably nitrogen available locally.
        – Oxygen much easier to extract than ripping it out of rocks.
        – Local water.
        – Atmosphere provides protection against micrometeorites and radiation.

        You can fix some of the above by going for the lunar poles.

        The energy to get to the Moon is about the same as the energy to get to Mars. The launch windows for getting to/from the Moon are more frequent.

      4. bullseye

        One advantage of the Moon is travel time; if things go sideways they can get home or we can send help a lot faster.

  16. TimG

    I found this thread interesting. For me the most unnerving part is a few tweets down.

    According to some poll (I think only in PA) the trust in medical experts dropped significantly across the board during this shutdown. For Republicans it went from 87% to 35%. For Dems a less dramatic 99% to 91%. For independents, though, a still significant 88% to 66%.

    This seems to reflect the skepticism a lot of people on this board showed toward the “expert” response to the protests in light of Coronavirus.

    I’m someone who thinks Climate Change is a real and significant problem. I’m also someone who thinks the way it is often reported on (with the backing of scientists, to be honest) is worse than it actually is. (For example, I don’t think it will cause the end of civilization.) And I doubt I’m the only one that thinks that way.

    I’m actually concerned that the “anti-science” bent you see in the US (and elsewhere) is going to continue to gain legs the more things like this happen. And it really worries me.

    We don’t need more anti-vaxers or flat-earthers. But I think that’s what we are about to get.

    1. Two McMillion

      My confidence in “experts” has decreased because it has become clear they are liars.

      First it was the masks thing. “Oh no don’t buy masks they won’t help you”- when it was obvious to everyone with half a brain that they would.

      Then it was a number of them endorsing these protests, which cannot help but spread COVID-19.

      I had previously believed that global warming was the victim of slight exaggerations on the part of experts, but this experience has caused me to revise my expectation upward.

      1. Tatterdemalion

        First it was the masks thing. “Oh no don’t buy masks they won’t help you”- when it was obvious to everyone with half a brain that they would.

        “obvious to everyone with half a brain” is no substitute for “we have enough evidence to justify confidence”. Right now, my understanding is that the best guess is that wearing a mask doesn’t provide any protection to the person wearing it, but probably does slightly reduce the risk of spreading it to others. But good evidence is sparse, and it’s still very much an open question.

        Then it was a number of them endorsing these protests, which cannot help but spread COVID-19.

        Yes, and no-one has denied that; those epidemiologists who support the protests have completely open about the fact that they do so in spite of the fact that they will spread covid, not because they think they won’t.

        1. Wrong Species

          Do you seriously need someone else to tell you that a disease that is spread by coughing and talking can be prevented from spreading by covering your mouth?

          1. Aftagley

            To cover my mouth? No. Not since I learned that in preschool, that is. Someone had to tell me back then though.

            To institute a society-wide major shift in PPE usage in a manner of weeks? Yes, I need an expert to tell me that. I’ve been sick before and walked around during flu season for my entire life and never worn a mask and it’s never been an issue before.

          2. Doctor Mist

            To institute a society-wide major shift in PPE usage

            Bosh. I see a budding pandemic. I think, “I should have some masks.” The experts say, “No, you shouldn’t.”

            The experts should not be thinking about “instituting society-wide shifts”. They should be giving me expert advice that I can use in making decisions. Instead, they lied to me.

        2. Eric T

          This ^

          I’m confident that scientists, like everyone are biased. I’m not sure about the claim that they’re a pack of liars.

        3. John Schilling

          Right now, my understanding is that the best guess is that wearing a mask doesn’t provide any protection to the person wearing it, but probably does slightly reduce the risk of spreading it to others.

          Almost every study of the subject says that masks do provide protection to the person wearing it. The level of protection is small for the sort of cloth masks most people are wearing, and it may be overshadowed by the risks of handling and reusing contaminated masks – but none of the studies are quantitatively addressing that risk. So it’s clearly not the intra-expert consensus that “wearing a mask doesn’t provide any protection to the person wearing it”

          Furthermore, the studies I’ve seen that cover both, find that the protection to the wearer is greater than the protection to others. Again, absolute numbers are small and maybe overshadowed by mask-handling issues.

          The January/February expert take of “masks provide zero protection to the wearer, so knock it off”, was obviously and correctly interpreted as stupid propagandizing, and hurt the credibility of the experts. Saying “small protection, not worth the bother and please save them for the medical workers” would have been a more honest assessment, but I saw too much literally-zero messaging.

          The reversal from “did we say literally zero protection? We meant that masks provide absolutely vital protection, just in a way that we didn’t bother to mention before but now everybody should wear masks”, was another blow to expert credibility.

          1. Garrett

            > just in a way that we didn’t bother to mention before but now everybody should wear masks

            And, if I understand correctly, there haven’t been any trials of significance done since then. So the “wearing masks means you’re stupid and paranoid” and “not wearing masks is genocide” statements are both supported by the same sparse evidence.

          2. Matt M

            And, if I understand correctly, there haven’t been any trials of significance done since then.

            This is really the most egregious part. They did a complete 180 on their position despite the complete and total absence of any new evidence whatsoever. Everything we know about masks today, we also knew last year.

            It was completely and entirely a reaction to them “losing their grip” on the narrative. People just didn’t believe them, so they figured they’d switch to the more believable “masks work” side.

          3. Aftagley

            The reversal from “did we say literally zero protection? We meant that masks provide absolutely vital protection, just in a way that we didn’t bother to mention before but now everybody should wear masks”, was another blow to expert credibility.

            Have I fallen down the memory hole? I seem to distinctly remember the process going something like,

            1. There aren’t any known cases of public transmission of COVID in america but there is a shortage of masks. Please don’t horde masks if you’re healthy, leave them for medical professionals and the immuno-compromised.

            followed by

            2. Uh oh, looks like there are some instances of community spread now. Time for masks.

            They did a complete 180 on their position despite the complete and total absence of any new evidence whatsoever. Everything we know about masks today, we also knew last year.

            Right, but we weren’t wearing masks last year because there wasn’t a known infection vector. Now there is; when that switch flipped is fuzzy but it makes sense that public instruction on mask wearing flipped when it did.

          4. DarkTigger

            @Aftagley
            Can’t say for your neck of the woods. But around here it was pretty clearly: “Please don’t wear masks, as there is no evidence that they would provide any protection to you”. Which even in this pretty mild form was balantly not true. Which was in line with what the WHO said, who just changed their public opinion about that last week.
            I mean I agree, that the “please leave them to the professionals who need them”, was the important part of the message, but claiming the first part wasn’t there, is simply bull.

          5. Aftagley

            @DarkTigger

            I should be clear: I’m not trying to lay out a competing narrative, I’m saying that my memory of events has no recollection of anyone saying stuff like this.

            I’m fully accepting of the possibility that experts were saying masks were useless back in February/early March and my brain just absolutely discarded and memory of it, but if so that’s kind of odd/scary.

            That being said, it’s apparently in line with what the WHO was saying. Hmm, I need to research this.

          6. Matt M

            The official/expert position was “masks don’t work” well into late March and early April.

          7. Wrong Species

            “It seems kind of intuitively obvious that if you put something—whether it’s a scarf or a mask—in front of your nose and mouth, that will filter out some of these viruses that are floating around out there,” says Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. The only problem: that’s not likely to be effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. If it were, “the CDC would have recommended it years ago,” he says. “It doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations.”

          8. Aftagley

            Ok did some research:

            1. My memory was incomplete. I fully did not remember that various experts, including the CDC, WHO and other public health officials, were challenging the efficacy of masks.

            ETA: I’m thinking more about this and getting more concerned that I had no memory of any of this. It implies that either back then I wasn’t paying very close attention to what turned into likely the most important thing that would happen all year OR that the switch to “everyone wear masks now” was so total that my brain dumped the previous arguments. This is going to stick with me.

            2. I was correct that the restricted supply of surgical and N95 masks was a concern. There was the added concern at the time that public health officials were worried that sick people would feel like they could go out in public if they wore a masks and that healthy people might take more risks if they were wearing a mask. I don’t have a good feel for the quality of these arguments.

            3. That being said, if you trust the CDC, they claim that they only changed their official position on wearing cloth masks after they learned more about COVID, specifically the number of asymptomatic carriers the disease tends to have. Quote:

            We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

            In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

            (Source – Dated April 3

            I’m going to admit that my original position was not 100% accurate, but I also don’t think it’s fair to say that experts were duplicitous here. It looks like they got new evidence and updated recommendations accordingly.

          9. DarkTigger

            @Aftagley
            Well fair enough, I can’t tell you what you recall or not.
            Would you beliefe what our esteemed hosts wrote, 3 months ago, what the official experts opinion about masks was at that time?
            https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/03/23/face-masks-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/

            Your own post said it better.
            BTW I never questioned that the restriced access to masks was an concern. I would even wager it was a major concern. But that gets close to conspirancy theory territory.

          10. Randy M

            If it were, “the CDC would have recommended it years ago,” he says. “It doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations.”

            Oh man, that’s some pretty insular thinking. “Listen to me, I’m a scientist, and I say: ‘Listen to those guys, they are scientists.'”
            Can we cut out all the middle men and just get the primary sources on the record, or at least people willing to read them? It makes things a lot easier to double check for those who remember that science is built on challenging assumptions.

          11. albatross11

            The received wisdom in the medical community in the US before C19 was that masks for the public were a waste of time. This wasn’t a reaction to a shortage of masks. My understanding is that the consensus view in the medical community in Asia was quite different.

            Also, despite that consensus wisdom, every doctors’ office had surgical masks for anyone with flu symptoms during flu season, chemotherapy patients were told to wear masks in public, etc.

            I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the consensus arose by political/social means other than any one person or committee sitting down and carefully examining/weighing the evidence.

          12. gbdub

            Part of the problem is that “The CDC does not recommend that the public wear masks” and “The CDC recommends that the public do not wear masks” technically mean two very different things, but practically have the same outcome (nobody wears masks). The CDC took too long to switch from “cautious scientist mode” to “proactive pandemic fighters mode”.

          13. Viliam

            @Garrett

            And, if I understand correctly, there haven’t been any trials of significance done since then.

            Face Masks Considerably Reduce COVID-19 Cases in Germany

            We use the synthetic control method to analyze the effect of face masks on the spread of Covid-19 in Germany. Our identification approach exploits regional variation in the point in time when face masks became compulsory. Depending on the region we analyse, we find that face masks reduced the cumulative number of registered Covid-19 cases between 2.3% and 13% over a period of 10 days after they became compulsory. Assessing the credibility of the various estimates, we conclude that face masks reduce the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 40%.

        4. Two McMillion

          “obvious to everyone with half a brain” is no substitute for “we have enough evidence to justify confidence”.

          If a person makes a statement that turns out to be incorrect, there are only two possibilities.

          1. They are ignorant.
          2. They are lying.

          I do not believe that the experts were ignorant.

          1. albatross11

            I heard this same notion (masks aren’t helpful for the public) on TWIV in the months before C19 was known to be in the US. The TWIV hosts were talking to a tiny niche audience that mostly has medical or biological training (it’s an academic virology podcast). No way were they trying to conserve masks. They were repeating received wisdom, probably without thinking much about it.

        5. gbdub

          Yes, and no-one has denied that; those epidemiologists who support the protests have completely open about the fact that they do so in spite of the fact that they will spread covid, not because they think they won’t.

          The willingness of the experts to suborn their actual area of expertise to the political cause du jour as soon as (but not before) one comes along that they are sympathetic to, and indeed to use their position of expertise to argue things that are probably not true in order to support that cause, is a definite mark against their trustworthiness, no?

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            +1
            Either support onerous lockdowns because they will save lives, or don’t. I called the lockdowns basically totalitarian in another thread, but these guys are epidemiologists. No one’s going to blame you for having a narrow rather than holistic view! You do your thing, and not seeing the big picture isn’t morally culpable, OK?
            Then suddenly they had a holistic view of society and lockdowns shouldn’t apply to protests they approve of for political reasons unrelated to their field, but which were drilled into them in college.

          2. Randy M

            Yes. The best response is something like “As an epidemiologist, it is my duty to inform you based on X that activities of this nature (specifics here) increase the chance of catching and spreading this respiratory illness. If one were to engage in such activities, the risk can partially be mitigated by blah blah blah.” With any opinion on whether the activities are therefore worth the risk neither asked for nor given, because that’s not the purview of science.

          3. albatross11

            But then maybe make the same recommendations w.r.t. going to church services or funerals, both of which are, I assure you, very important in the lives of many people who have refrained from attending them to avoid spreading C19.

          4. Tatterdemalion

            The willingness of the experts to suborn their actual area of expertise to the political cause du jour as soon as (but not before) one comes along that they are sympathetic to, and indeed to use their position of expertise to argue things that are probably not true in order to support that cause, is a definite mark against their trustworthiness, no?

            What “things that are probably not true” are you referring to? I kind of suspect you may be conflating “value judgements different to the ones I would make” to “false claims of fact about matters with objective correct answers”.

            If you can find examples of experts making the latter then yes, that’s absolutely a serious strike against them. I haven’t seen any of that, though, and the former isn’t.

          5. Randy M

            I was trying to go for an “anti-recommendation”; straight reporting of facts with no implied judgement.

            It’s hard, because scientists are also citizens with interests in the various issues and ideas about how society should be run. But if they want to continue to be seen as arbiters of truth, they need to be scrupulous about sticking to just the facts.

          6. gbdub

            @Tatterdemalion –

            In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.

            – Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo

            Nuzzo is a fairly prominent epidemiologist (Johns Hopkins prof, associate editor of a health security journal, has a Wikipedia page and a blue check on Twitter). Do you believe that statement is factually true? Do you believe it would stand up to even the lightest rational scrutiny that Dr. Nuzzo would normally expect from fellow epidemiologist asserting facts in their area of expertise?

            What is the point of turning to “experts” if they are giving us “value judgements” and not facts?

    2. Tenacious D

      My views on climate change are in the same ballpark as yours.

      One memorable phrase I’ve seen on Instapundit with respect to climate change is “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis”. At the start of the Covid19 shutdowns, there was such alignment in behaviour: people that were early to sound the alarm also took costly personal actions like cancelling in-person conferences or moving to a hotel away from their families in the case of some front-line medical staff. Unfortunately the message sent by experts’ actions has gotten more muddled as the crisis has dragged on.

      It’s not so much about hypocrisy as it is about the actions of people in a position to be well-informed as a reasonable heuristic for gauging the true seriousness they assign to an issue.

      1. Matt M

        Right. This is something I’ve been saying for quite some time.

        People supported lockdowns when the governor appeared to be staying home himself. They won’t when the governor is out protesting in a giant mob of thousands for social justice.

        Similarly, I might listen to Al Gore lecture me on climate change when he sells his mansion and his private jet. But not a moment before.

      2. FLWAB

        Yeah: I realized I could dismiss the Green New Deal as soon as I saw that memo stately clearly that nuclear power was out of the question. If this was a big a crisis as you claim, then you wouldn’t be throwing out one of our most powerful tools to stop it.

        1. TimG

          Yeah: I realized I could dismiss the Green New Deal as soon as I saw that memo stately clearly that nuclear power was out of the question.

          This is one of those things that is so painfully obvious to me that it makes me worry not everyone else sees things the same.

        2. Wency

          I’ve had the exact same thought. Nuclear power is under a quasi-religious purity taboo. When all your fanciful solutions to a problem happen to align 100% with your purity taboos, and you’ll have nothing to do with the one obvious solution that violates them, then from where I’m standing all I can hear is proselytization to join your religion.

          It’s as if scientists started telling us that wild hogs will surely consume all our food and wipe us out unless we start praying towards Mecca five times a day. All the chanting has some sort of weird effect on the hogs’ brains. We’re a bit skeptical, so some of us start suggesting that we just kill and eat the hogs — proven technology — and we are told “IT IS FORBIDDEN.”

          1. toastengineer

            I don’t think there’s anything “quasi-religious” about it. Average folks think “nucular = big explod!” and all us nerds telling each other that nuclear reactors are actually safer than the alternatives won’t reach them.

      3. Simultan

        Timothy Morton has written about climate change (and other phenomena) as hyperobjects, things that are intangible and so distributed in time and space that they become sort of invisible to us. That may be a useful model, or it may not. In any case, it’s absolutely possible for a thing to have severe detrimental effects 50-100 years from now and not cause a panic now. With climate change it’s especially tricky as (assuming here that the basic claims of most climate scientists are correct) action needs to be taken years before most effects are seen. Humans don’t really operate on that timescale.

        I think the pandemic is an unfair comparison as it poses a threat to you and your loved ones this year. It would be more fair if the pandemic necessitated social distancing this year but caused deaths & disease only in the year 2100, but I guess we’ll never know how many of the virus believers would distance in that scenario.

          1. Eric T

            Does this seem like logical behavior from someone significantly concerned about sea-level rise?

            Obama is nearly 60. Statistically speaking he’ll be dead in 25 years, probably long before that property is under da sea.

          2. Edward Scizorhands

            If the Federal government is backing his mortgage against flooding — and, without looking, it probably is — then buying the land is indeed a good idea. Enjoy it, let it get flooded, and make all your money back!

          3. Matt M

            Obama is nearly 60. Statistically speaking he’ll be dead in 25 years, probably long before that property is under da sea.

            He has kids. Probably hopes for grandkids. Isn’t it a bad investment? Won’t the property slowly lose value (at least relative to similarly nicer landlocked properties) as the seas rise and it becomes more obvious/evident he will soon be underwater?

            Could he really not have found anywhere nice to live that wasn’t directly on the coastline?

          4. Eric T

            Could he really not have found anywhere nice to live that wasn’t directly on the coastline?

            I don’t know man, maybe Obama just misses the Hawaiin coastline. Maybe he doesn’t spend all day thinking of climate change? Maybe it’s an insurance scheme? Maybe he, like all of us is a human being, who are notoriously bad at putting our long term health and happiness over our short term goals, which is why the Climate Change issue is such a threat because honestly the policy proposals required to change the course of our carbon emissions were frankly non-intrusive but every year we put it off it gets harder and harder and probably by the time its a Real and Imminent enough threat that the general public and politicians take it seriously it’s going to be incredibly difficult for us to deal with it?

            Or maybe he’s got family there.

          5. Randy M

            Thing is, in Obama’s case, merely him owning the property is probably enough to increase it’s value until it is literally six feet underwater, and given the pace of climate chance, his descendants will have plenty of time to cash out before that happens.

          6. gbdub

            Forget about where it is, that’s a stupid amount of consumption from anyone that cares about carbon footprints.

          7. AG

            The charitable take is that Obama is also funding plenty of climate change mitigation initiatives, and supporting climate change mitigation policies.

          8. DavidFriedman

            Looking at the picture, I doubt it is within a meter of sea level, so probably safe for the rest of this century, judging by the projections in the fifth IPCC report.

          9. CatCube

            @AG

            So most of us have to shiver in the dark, but if you bought an indulgence you can partake in climate sin?

            Or, since we’ve beaten the indulgence metaphor to death here, you can be drafted to fight in the Civil War, unless you’ve paid the $300 ($50,000 today) commutation fee that exempts you from it?

          10. AG

            @CatCube

            No, it’s more like you can live in the world you create. And Obama is trying to create a world where climate change is mitigated enough that it doesn’t wreck coastal residences. It doesn’t mean that Obama secretly doesn’t believe in climate change.

            You can be drafted to fight in the Civil War, but you can also negotiate a ceasefire/peace treaty between the participating factions.

            Or, you can comply with COVID lockdowns, but also vote against any pro-lockdown politicians.

          11. 205guy

            Fact check people:

            This property is not oceanfront, it borders a saltwater pond or lagoon.

            While the pond is at sea level, it is separated from the ocean by a sand dune.

            This dune is artificially breached to maintain fish stocks. Otherwise it forms naturally.

            While the pond may be equally affected by sea level rise, the sand dune and pond protect the shoreline from wave erosion and storm surges.

            As pointed out in another comment, Martha’s Vineyard is not flat, and this area has about 10 feet of elevation—though I’m not exactly sure which house is involved and how high it actually is. Furthermore, I believe the island is hard rock and not sand that can be washed away like an atoll.

            In other words, if you wanted to purchase an exclusive waterfront property that is Fairly well protected against sea level rise, this would be a good example.

            Thus I believe the point you are trying to make is perfectly undermined by the example you provide. An own goal if you will.

            Sources:

            https://www.google.com/maps/place/Turkeyland+Cove+Rd,+Edgartown,+MA+02539/@41.362484,-70.5470978,1156m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x89e52e6da5d55435:0xc9ac674a5214fd7!8m2!3d41.366232!4d-70.541144!5m1!1e4?hl=en-us

            https://mvmagazine.com/news/2014/07/01/how-it-works-opening-great-pond

            https://www.topozone.com/massachusetts/dukes-ma/island/marthas-vineyard/

        1. Juanita del Valle

          The link claims that weather derivatives reflect climate models. It does not imply at all that the futures markets are anticipating a climate-induced crisis.

      4. tossrock

        I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis

        This is pretty clearly false, because when Greta Thunberg took a boat instead of a plane, the climate skeptic response was not, “Oh wow, she’s really serious, maybe I should take this more seriously”, it was “Pff, just another manipulative media stunt by a stupid girl”. Actually it was much, much worse than that, but this is perhaps the steelman version of the response.

        1. Eric T

          Actually it was much, much worse than that

          Oh god I’m remembering that now. I actually saw someone who had that drawing of her being… well you know… on their car.

          ehhhehheheduhedueufnujgtujftifrkemvc

          I need mindbleach.

        2. Statismagician

          Greta Thunberg is just a random Swedish teenager whose international relevance is 1,000% a manipulative media stunt, is the problem with that line of argument – if CNN or somebody starts using boats over planes for its official travel purposes, that would be a real substantive signal, but they haven’t.

        3. anon-e-moose

          The pushback came when it was revealed that her boat trip required four additional support flights in order to happen. So it was a media stunt by definition-if she’d just flown directly, she would have contributed less carbon than she did using the yacht + support team.

        4. souleater

          Greta Thunberg was a 9th grader who decided to protest climate change in August 2018, which generated such an upswell of support that she visted the UN 4 months later to give a speech calling the world leaders present immature. She was later nominated for a nobel peace prize.

          I think everything about Greta Thunberg is a publcity stunt.

          Her rise to fame is so odd and out of place that I suspect shes a character in an Orson Scott Card novel. +1 to simulation theorists I guess..

          1. Nick

            I don’t see how there’s anything odd or out of place about it. You just have to consider who has the ability to produce an “upswell of support” around her.

        5. ana53294

          Because two crewmembers had to fly to take the boat back. It was calculated that her boat trip produced more CO2 than if she’d flown.

          Taking it seriously means making serious, calculated decisions rather than making performative stunts.

          Like not allowing people to go to a beach in Florida while sending sick people back to care homes.

    3. Erusian

      It doesn’t surprise me. The wages of politicizing a profession is that the political opponents will discount everything they say. A political monoculture that produces evidence that always bends towards one party and is hugely disproportionately different from the general population is going to create populism. Not necessarily right wing populism, but populism.

      For example: You know why so many people deny climate science? They think the experts are lying to them (or fooling themselves) in pursuit of a political agenda. They are objectively correct. Not that climate change doesn’t exist but that the experts are lying to them or self-deceived in pursuit of specific policy goals. Why is it that the solutions are inevitably what the Democratic Party would want regardless of whether climate change is real? Why is it they inevitably involve giving more funding and power to the class making the predictions? If you think it’s because those are the objectively best policies and there are no good alternatives, you have a rather parochial view of policy.

      To be clear, I absolutely believe global warming is a real thing with real effects that we should fight. I think government action is probably needed and that we can benefit in net from fairly substantial investments in fighting climate change. But I don’t necessarily agree with all the solutions proposed.

      This is a real physician, heal thyself scenario. The scientific profession has no inherent right or privilege to be believed. Academics sitting around making snarky comments in cushy, posh bubbles as they take big institutional money makes the problem worse. They are making a series of unforced errors because they are walking around with one eye blind and have no intermediaries to explain the mistakes or retain trust among the majority of the population.

      1. albatross11

        This.

        If you want science, journalism, history, police reports, etc., to be taken at face value as the best available picture of the world, you can’t also tolerate activism using the labels and prestige of science, journalism, etc., to spread social truths that aren’t literally true or to suppress facts that might give the proles the wrong ideas. Once you start down that road, you’re a propagandist, not a scientist, and it now becomes very hard for anyone on the other side to believe you.

        This is one reason why it’s disastrous for us as a society to have politicized science and media to the point where people can and do visibly have their careers ended for crossing some ideological line, even when making a totally defensible factual statement. Every time you do that, you make it harder to buy the things some other scientist tells me that goes against my political goals or ideas, because I know full well that there are a bunch of people in various areas of science who dare not publish some true things, or who dare not investigate some important questions, or who must always make some kind of obeisance to a political dogma in their public statements/writings to avoid being purged.

    4. Purplehermann

      Maybe science will focus more on… doing science instead of political activism if this happens?

      Maybe we’ll see a lot more replication studies, because people decide to check personally if the scientists are lying again?

      1. Aftagley

        I don’t get this. If I do science, and my results find that political action is necessary… why should I be proscribed from taking that action?

        Dumb example: If I’m an astronomer and my research uncovers that aliens are coming to kill us, shouldn’t I take political action to unite against the extraterrestrial menace?

        Less dumb example: If I’m a marine biologist, and my science uncovers that fish stocks are depleting and will collapse unless we impose bans on fishing, shouldn’t I take political action to make those bans happen?

        Climate change example: If I”m a climatologist, and my science leads me to believe that we’re on track for a catastrophe, shouldn’t I take political action to avert that disaster?

        ETA: Fixed the homonym. TY Erusian !

        1. Erusian

          why should I be prescribed from taking that action?

          Pedantic, but proscribed. Proscribed means forbidden, condemned, or punished. Prescribed is what you do with medicine. Sorry, that specific mix up is a pet peeve.

          Climate change example: If I”m a climatologist, and my science leads me to believe that we’re on track for a catastrophe, shouldn’t I take political action to avert that disaster?

          My response to this is yes. But you should expect, and not act like you’re too good for, political responses. That’s sort of where my disconnect is: if climate scientists want to make political change they should expect to have to engage in the political process, which is messy and includes making concessions and doesn’t include automatic unquestioning buying of their premises or beliefs. Likewise, they should expect they have just made themselves a legitimate political target. Why shouldn’t they?

          1. Matt M

            Right, it takes some serious gall to show up at the door of Congress and say “my science requires political action” and then become indignant that some people who disagree with your proposed action have “politicized the science.”

        2. Edward Scizorhands

          Science can give advice about the risks of going to church, or going to protests. That is good. It should do that!

          Science cannot tell how to order different goals.

          1. J.R.

            +1. See this article for a good summary.

            Science, as we are often told, has its special authority precisely because it is ruthlessly indifferent to the dictates of politics, religion, and brute preference. Paradoxically, this makes science a powerful political ally. But its power depends on public trust, and this trust is poisoned by the way science has become weaponized in political debates.

            A key feature of these debates is that they invoke science not just to bolster the political legitimacy of one side but also to deny the political legitimacy of the other. Succeed in attaching one of the labels anti-science, denialism, paranoid, irrational, or culture of fear to your opponent, and you elevate yourself as calm and rational while tarring your foe as a troglodyte whose opinions do not even deserve a hearing in enlightened company. This invocation of science reduces it to an instrument of political power—the very abuse this rhetoric claims to combat.

            More significant than the erosion of scientific trust, the weaponization of science is profoundly illiberal, and so undermines the political process itself. It betrays a cynicism about the capacity of open debate to secure proper resolution of political disputes. What gradually takes the place of open debate is a power play to exclude our opponents as legitimate participants in the political process, usually by labeling them foes of reason.

        3. Purplehermann

          You can take political action. However this will distract from your efforts to advance your science, and puts your science at risk of not being trusted. The more you do this, and the less checkable your claims the more risk.

          All it takes is incongruence from a few members of the people pushing this to create distrust.

          I think it generally better to leave politics to politicians, activism to activists, and science to scientists

        4. gbdub

          Science can identify problems that need a political solutions. It can estimate the impact of various proposed solutions. But there is a wide gulf between, “in order to reduce global temperature rise below X degrees you must cut carbon emissions by Y%” and, “You must pass this particular set of multi-trillion dollar proposals to effect said reduction in carbon”. The farther you stray down the path of “you must take this Political action at this Time”, the more you are doing “political activism” and the less you are doing “science”. If nothing else, politics involves a lot of trade offs between multiple issues at any given time and your expertise almost certainly doesn’t cover all of them.

          Which is not to say scientists should not be allowed or encouraged to engage in political activism. But what they absolutely should not do, but I think often do, is accuse people who disagree with their politics of being “anti-science”.

        5. albatross11

          There’s nothing wrong with taking political action, but there’s a whole lot wrong with letting your political goals override your commitment to the truth.

        6. John Schilling

          I don’t get this. If I do science, and my results find that political action is necessary…

          Then you are mistaken. Scientific results can never find that political action is necessary, because “necessary” involves value judgements and other people have different values than yours. Reconciling different values is what politics is for and science is not.

          Scientific results can make predictions about the consequences of actions, or of inaction. But even if your scientific results predict that the consequence of inaction will be a thing you see as a catastrophe and the consequence of a particular countermeasure would be to avert that catastrophe, then

          A: To people with different values, the “catastrophe” may not actually be catastrophic

          B: To people with different values, the cost of your proposed countermeasure may constitute a greater catastrophe

          C: You haven’t considered all the other possible countermeasures with their own tradeoffs.

          As a scientist, you can legitimately say “The consequence of X will be Y”. When you say “It is necessary that we do Z to avoid catastrophe”, you’re taking off your scientist hat and you ought to make it clear you’re taking off your scientist hat.

        7. J Mann

          If I do science, and my results find that political action is necessary… why should I be proscribed from taking that action?

          I’d say at a minimum, science requires you to show your work.

          If an epidemiologist said “my model shows that the protests will result in the loss of 7,512 lives from coronavirus and 57 lives from violence, plus $1.3 million in property damage and police over time, but it will save 12,014 lives by reducing systemic racism, here is the model and the data,” then I agree that the epidemiologist tried to do science.

          Alternatively, if the epidemiologist said the first part, then said “whether to protest is a policy decision that depends on your assumptions about the probability of the protests doing more good by reducing systemic racism,” that’s OK too.

          But when epidemiologists just declare, on the basis of being epidemiologists, that their intuitions about which protests are OK have priority, they’re not IMHO doing science.

          At most, they’re arguing from authority. (Which isn’t nothing from a Bayesian perspective, but it’s not IMHO science).

    5. souleater

      I was always a global warming skeptic, but trusted the medical community’s advice when it came to Covid.

      I don’t have a medical background, and while the expert’s claim that we shouldn’t wear masks, and that wearing a mask was harmful, seemed obviously wrong to me, I trusted the expertise of experts instead of my own judgment.

      I feel like a fool for trusting our medical community and not buying masks when I had the chance. In the future, I’ll be going with my gut, and common sense over the advice of the “experts”. I would greatly prefer for our society to have highly trained, trustworthy, and apolitical experts to rely on. But it seems obvious to me that they knowingly misrepresented the mask situation in order to preserve medical supplies for themselves, at the expense of people who trusted them. I am still very angry that they abused my trust in them.

      Fool me once shame on them.

    6. DavidFriedman

      I’m more skeptical on climate change, mainly the consequences rather than the climate science part, than you are. But I think the fundamental problem is analogous to the problem that if you set up a measure for something you want to target you end up targeting the measure (teaching to the text) rather than the thing it measures.

      You start with a scientific establishment that is reasonably objective and reliable. So people take “prominent scientist, or scientific organization, says X” as good evidence that X is true. Now there are people who want some X to be believed. As a first step, they find individual scientists who agree with them and report the story as
      “scientists say.” Further along, if there are enough people on their side, they get scientists who agree with them to volunteer for positions within scientific organizations that let them speak for the organization. Still further, they try to make sure that the journals they control don’t publish anything offering evidence against X, and do their best to pressure journals they don’t control. They try to make it easier to get jobs in the field if you agree with X, harder if you disagree.

      By the time the process has run all the way, the scientific establishment is no longer objective and reliable when it comes to anything related to X.

      For the specific case of climate, one sign is that when, rarely, someone publishes a paper weakening some part of the climate catastrophist story, he is almost always careful to include something making it clear that he still thinks climate change is a serious problem.

  17. proyas

    How true is this statement? 

    “Not all juvenile delinquents grow up to be psychopaths, but all psychopaths were once juvenile delinquents.”

    1. Protagoras

      For various reason, children have some difficulty avoiding getting themselves into trouble (poor impulse control, lack of understanding of consequences). For a slightly different set of reasons, psychopaths also have some difficulty avoiding getting themselves into trouble. So while I don’t know of any specific research, it would be pretty shocking if people who are both children and psychopaths didn’t have exceptional difficulty avoiding getting themselves into trouble.

      1. FLWAB

        I don’t think any of those people were psychopaths, just ordinary humans like you and me who chose a path of evil, one step at a time.

        I think we might have a tendency to call everyone evil a psychopath, because if we can pathologize them we don’t have to worry about our own evil tendencies and our own capacity to do evil.

        1. Gerry Quinn

          I’ve not made a study of any of them, but from what I know of the history surrounding them, I think Pol Pot could likely be described as a psychopath, but I doubt whether Goebbels or particularly Mao could. At least psychopathy in the extreme sense – they were all political leaders who played free and easy with the lives of others, which can in some sense be described as psychopathy, but then we would have to say the same of many or most political leaders.

    2. Two McMillion

      Given that juvenile delinquency is one of the things asked about on the O’Hare psychopathy checklist, it wouldn’t be surprising if there was a lot of overlap.

    3. Wency

      Might depend on your definition of “delinquent”.

      For “psychopath”, we have a tendency to use “serial killer” as a proxy, which might distort your results, but it’s the easiest way to do it.

      That said, I think Dahmer might have the least delinquent childhood on record among the most famous American serial killers. He also seems to have come from one of the happiest homes. He dissected and dismembered roadkill in ways that was troubling but probably not illegal. Not so much record of torturing live animals. He said he planned to ambush and rape a male jogger as a teen but didn’t actually do it. He apparently drank a lot in high school, and I have to imagine he was stealing all that booze, but I haven’t seen that confirmed anywhere.

      1. FLWAB

        I read a very intersting book once, My Friend Dahmer which was written by someone who knew him in high school. His opinion was that Dahmer’s parents should have noticed there was something wrong with Dahmer and gotten him help, and that authority figures in Dahmer’s life dropped the ball when there were warning signs everywhere. Its a sympathetic book: the author really believes that if Dahmer was not a psychopath, and that his desire to kill people and do unspeakable things to their bodies caused Dahmer great mental anguish in his youth, at least. He believes that Dahmer knew his desires were wrong and that he didn’t want to hurt people but felt deeply compelled to. He also noted that Dahmer drank a frightening amount of beer during high school, and he believes that his constant inebriation was an attempt to self-medicate and get away from his strange and dark desires.

        Of course, who knows what Dahmer really felt inside, though I think it’s telling that his last words were (to his killer) “I don’t care if I live or die. Go ahead and kill me.” So I think it plausible that he might not have been a psychopath, though he certainly had other extreme psychological problems.

    4. fibio

      Almost certainly falsifiable as it contains an absolute. Psychopathy is a complex condition and how it manifests depends greatly on the environment in which a psychopathic child grows up in. A large percentage of psychopaths live mostly normal lives with no criminal behavior.

  18. gbdub

    “Defund/Abolish the Police” seems at first like exactly the sort of motte-and-bailey concept that Scott introduced to this blog in his post “Social Justice and Words, Words, Words”. The motte is a bunch of reasonable sounding reforms, some perhaps arguable, but most being things that a majority of people would likely support. The bailey is, well, do what it says on the tin and abolish the police.

    I find this incredibly frustrating for two reasons. First, and most importantly, the motte is a really good motte. No seriously, there is a lot of good stuff in there, things that would be useful, meaningful reforms, some of which might actually work to solve some serious problems that most people agree exist. Unlike concepts like “privilege” the motte is not some banal truisms that are unobjectionable but also unactionable. The motte sits atop a treasure vault. Let’s all do the motte.

    But naming this thing “Abolish/Defund Police” actively turns off people who would otherwise defend the motte. Ergo it makes the accomplishment of the useful motte things less likely, and I am frustrated.

    Frustration two is what the hell is useful about the bailey? As far as I can tell it is incredibly sparsely populated. Outside of a few radicals, nobody seems to seriously believe in actually eliminating police. The closest reasonably mainstream thing you can find support for is more like “remove and replace” a la Camden, or “replace some police officers with what amount to social workers with arrest authority”, or “reallocate a small portion of the police budget to some other cause related somehow to social justice”.

    And unlike “privilege” or “racism” the bailey definition is not some useful rhetorical weapon you can use for strategic equivocation to shut down people who disagree with you. Calling someone “not a police abolitionist” is not some career ending takedown (heck, Joe Biden is openly against “defund the police”).

    So if “Abolish the Police” turns off needed allies, and you don’t actually want to abolish the police, and it’s not even a good weapon for rhetorical combat, why the hell call it that and not “Reform the Police” or “De-Escalate the Police” or whatever?

    Four reasons I can think of, roughly from most to least charitable:
    1) People who say “Defund/Abolish the Police” honestly believe their punchy but misleading slogan will win them more attention, and this will be a net positive.

    2) The fringe who legitimately believes in “abolishing the police” is bigger (or maybe just more sympathetic) than I imagine, and the slogan is really just a way for cooler heads to mollify this fringe while advocating for more reasonable reforms. At the same time, to the skeptical public it makes the people yelling “FUCK THE POLICE” a little more palatable (they don’t actually want the police fucked you see, they just want [MOTTE]).
    (I note that “ACAB” and “FUCK 12” are pretty damn common graffiti / chants. And there was a group that interrupted and split up a racial justice march in Ann Arbor because said march was allowing the local police to march in solidarity with their cause – in all their messaging, this group referred to their members as “abolitionists”. To the extent that the fringe of “actual police abolitionists” is made up of young and/or low income black people, I can see why you would not want to be seen to be alienating or directly contradicting their stated goals)

    3) I underestimate the attraction of the bailey… Either the literal definition is a more popular position than I give it credit, and/or lots of people just like dipping their toes in the radicalism to signal how truly dedicated to the cause they are

    4) The people that use “Defund/Abolish the Police” like that the term is confusing because they really like making and sharing smug statements “Voxsplaining” (sorry, I warned you this part was the least charitable) why it doesn’t mean what it literally means and what kind of dense rube wouldn’t understand that its just shorthand for a bunch of common sense reforms every good thinking person ought to agree with (again, sorry, this is the uncharitable one).

    So which is it? Or what am I missing?

    1. Matt M

      A libertarian thinker I respect recently posited that the end-goal here is to fully federalize the police power.

      Which strikes me as entirely plausible, despite there being a lack of direct evidence for it (i.e. few to no protesters who are currently saying this is the goal).

      1. gbdub

        I highly doubt Democratic governors or state legislators actually want this. I’m sure they think Trump will lose, but I have a hard time believing they’d voluntarily cede their monopoly on the use of force within their state to a friendly president, let alone a possibly Republican one.

        1. Matt M

          I highly doubt Democratic governors or state legislators actually want this.

          They probably don’t.

          But they want to be called racist even less. And if this is what they think they have to accept to get people to stop calling them racist, then, well, like the mayor of Minneapolis, they’re probably going to accept it.

      2. RalMirrorAd

        I don’t think they will or have to be federalized. Just have the state or municipal government break up the existing police unions (Which has some positives) and replace them with ideological loyalists. (Which has serious negatives)

        What’s most important is that “Police” has a moral texture. The people saying ‘Defund the police’ probably don’t conceptualize police as whichever group of people is armed and empowered to enforce written or unwritten laws; the violent arm of the state.

        So whichever group replaces the police will not be called, nor be conceived of as being police even if they 1. have the guns 2. enforce the [new] rules

        1. cassander

          I don’t think they will or have to be federalized. Just have the state or municipal government break up the existing police unions (Which has some positives) and replace them with ideological loyalists. (Which has serious negatives)

          There’s little chance of either of those things happening. The first, because the local police unions are powerful political actors, especially in the democratic party that controls most of the big cities and half the states. The second because (A) even if they did break up the unions there’s not going to be a mass firing of cops and (B) How? The mayors of decent sized cities don’t have hundreds of unemployed loyalists standing around itching to be cops and patrolmen. Sure, a lot of idiot brothers in law will get some nice sinecures, but there’s already plenty of room for that, and I don’t think it changes much in the long run once the process gets re-bureaucratized.

          1. RalMirrorAd

            Well if the unions can’t be broken up then the police will never be de funded and the question is moot. As for who i expect the replacements will be, those officers willing to make diversity statements plus former activists willing to do legwork.

          2. Clutzy

            One of the studies I saw about the “Newark example” is they did all the things a Republican would have done: They fired the entire police force to break the union, then they hired almost double the number of officers and deployed most of the excess as beat cops in high crime areas using COMSTAT or an equivalent.

      3. Garrett

        > the end-goal here is to fully federalize the police power.

        This won’t result in everybody having the Secret Service for police services. Instead, they’ll get the TSA.

      1. gbdub

        But holding territory is expensive, not something you do unless the territory is valuable. Especially if it makes you less likely to hold your motte.

          1. gbdub

            You don’t make a strong opening bid and then immediately undermine it by saying you don’t actually want the thing you just said you want.

          2. Randy M

            They might not actually be good at this.
            Probably because “they” are a large and unorganized group with similar sentiment but differing goals.

          3. Matt M

            You don’t make a strong opening bid and then immediately undermine it by saying you don’t actually want the thing you just said you want.

            I dunno, I feel like we’ve been seeing more and more of this lately. Reminds me of AOC’s green new deal “draft” that was published, then when it got pushed back against, declared to be a leak/mistake, and then when pressured to bring it up for a vote, was declared to be a right-wing smear campaign.

            You seed the public conversation with “X is a legitimate and serious policy proposal” and it implants X as a meme in people’s heads. Then if it looks like X is actually unpopular, you back down from it and insist you never really wanted X in the first place. But overall, you’ve still probably increased the total amount of people willing to publicly support X. And as soon as that number becomes high enough that backing it is no longer embarrassing, you come right out and say “See, I supported X long ago!”

        1. Gerry Quinn

          Yeah, the original bailey was fertile land that you wanted to work on an ongoing basis, even if you had to retreat to a tower when attacked.

    2. cassander

      the core motive for left wing politics is tearing down oppressive hierarchies. “abolish the police” is a stupid idea, but it directly tickles the left wing lizard brain the same way this the tickles the right wing. as such, it’s useful for organizing people. And in politics, getting a core of highly motivated supports is more important than mass appeal, at least in certain contexts.

      1. Eric T

        This may also be a partial negotiation tactic right? If I want the police to have 50% less money, then starting by saying get rid of all their money might help ensure I actually get what I want?

        1. gbdub

          See above, you can’t use this as a negotiating position if you immediately undermine it before the negotiation gets started in earnest. Everyone knows you’re bluffing. A strong opening bid needs to be something you actually want, even if you’re willing to settle for less.

        2. cassander

          But it’s not an offer, it’s a slogan that bubbled up memetically based on what appealed, not rational calculation.

        1. Two McMillion

          Does the left believe that taxes are necessary to run a society in the same sense that the right believes police are necessary? That would be an interesting cultural difference.

          1. cassander

            I’d take it one step further. I’d argue that the left believes taxes are capital G Good in a very similar way that the right feels about cops and the military. That however unpleasant they are for individuals, they are the price of civilization and should be supported and applauded.

          2. Aftagley

            I think you’re off base here.

            People on the left strongly think that a central government is capital G good. We also think that we need to pay for this central government somehow. Thus, we support taxes. If you could find a way to build roads, educate, police, etc. without paying taxes you might see some drop off in this support.

          3. zzzzort

            I think generating revenue for the central government and enforcing laws are both required for a good society. I think both slogans conflate the specific institutions that perform those functions with the functions themselves. If you have police but no taxes, presumably the police are financing themselves through fines and have become stationary bandits.

          4. cassander

            @Aftagley says:

            Sure, the terminal value for the left isn’t taxes for their own sake, just like the terminal value for the right isn’t cops and soldiers for their sake. Both are means, but that rounds off to “Cops/Taxes are Good(TM)” in practice.

          5. Aftagley

            he terminal value for the right isn’t cops and soldiers for their sake.

            Really? I think your discounting how much the right favors cops and soldiers for their own sake. When I’m in right-dominated areas I see countless bumper stickers that say stuff like, “Support our Troops!” and “Blue Lives matter!” I don’t see a corresponding enthusiasm for IRS agents when I drive through blue areas.

            I bet that if I went up to people who have those bumper stickers and said, “do you personally support cops or the overall societal goals they represent” I’d be told pretty explicitly that they support individual cops.

          6. Randy M

            People on the left strongly think that a central government is capital G good. We also think that we need to pay for this central government somehow. Thus, we support taxes. If you could find a way to build roads, educate, police, etc. without paying taxes you might see some drop off in this support.

            For sure, some. But not all. Part of the use of taxes is to reduce wealth inequality. See the California “Board of equalization.”

          7. Wency

            I do think many in the left think that taking money away from the rich is good for its own sake, and in some less numerate circles I’ve heard rhetoric suggesting that low taxes CAUSE income inequality.

            But I also know there’s a thought deep in my lizard brain “COPS GOOD, CROOKS BAD” and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Seeing bad guys punished is a source of endorphins all its own, and possibly older than the notion that punishing bad guys leads to a better society.

          8. cassander

            @Aftagley says:

            Really? I think your discounting how much the right favors cops and soldiers for their own sake.

            As someone on the right, I’d have to disagree. “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” is a sentiment that will be universally nodded to, and then not thought about much as we wave our flags and guns.

            >I bet that if I went up to people who have those bumper stickers and said, “do you personally support cops or the overall societal goals they represent” I’d be told pretty explicitly that they support individual cops

            At roughly the same rates you’d get people on the left saying they support higher taxes on the rich, I’d bet.

            @Wency says:

            I do think many in the left think that taking money away from the rich is good for its own sake, and in some less numerate circles I’ve heard rhetoric suggesting that low taxes CAUSE income inequality.

            I don’t think that, I know that. Because I’ve asked that question, and gotten that answer.

          9. Guy in TN

            @Wency

            in some less numerate circles I’ve heard rhetoric suggesting that low taxes CAUSE income inequality.

            This seems plainly correct to me. Care to explain?

            A total derailment of the point of the thread, I’m aware.

          10. Aftagley

            At roughly the same rates you’d get people on the left saying they support higher taxes on the rich, I’d bet.

            Oh, sure. But that doesn’t mean that the left thinks taxing the rich is the capital G good. If you asked follow up-questions you’d almost certainly hear a mix of
            A) The rich pay too little now and should have to pay their fair share.
            B) We need more public spending, and the only way to finance that is by taxing the rich
            C) economic disparity needs to be reduced and taxing is a mechanism for doing so.

            Overall what I’m seeing from this argument is that my assumption of “the right thinks soldiers and cops are a great” was a not-particularly nuanced assumption about my out group that doesn’t capture the complexity or underlying concerns of the right. I think you might be doing the same for the left and taxes here.

          11. RalMirrorAd

            @Guy in TN

            Obviously a cause of post-tax equalization to the extent people are honest about their sources of income/consumption.

            The pre-tax inequality argument is a bit more sophisticated in the sense that, if taxes on high income are high to begin with people won’t negotiate for them in salaries and so forth.

            Super-big brain take is that despite the change in income inequality it doesn’t necessarily reduce consumption inequality [standard of living] or wealth inequality [peace of mind/security]

          12. cassander

            @Aftagley says:

            Oh, sure. But that doesn’t mean that the left thinks taxing the rich is the capital G good. If you asked follow up-questions you’d almost certainly hear a mix of

            And if you ask people why they support the cops/military you’d get because they protect us from bad guys, because they’re brave, because it’s a dangerous world, and so on. I’m not seeing much daylight here between the two.

            Overall what I’m seeing from this argument is that my assumption of “the right thinks soldiers and cops are a great” was a not-particularly nuanced assumption about my out group that doesn’t capture the complexity or underlying concerns of the right.

            I don’t think most people have complex or nuanced political views about most subjects. Sure, if you drill down on them you can get them to get more nuanced, but most people don’t do that on their own, especially when it comes to the knee jerk reaction and rounded of reasoning I’m talking about.

          13. zzzzort

            I think there’s a cultural affinity for police (beyond just the right) that is not purely instrumental. There’s no IRS equivalent of Paw Patrol, tax collecting procedurals aren’t a thing, people don’t give money to IRS affiliated charities.

          14. achenx

            I think there’s a cultural affinity for police (beyond just the right) that is not purely instrumental. There’s no IRS equivalent of Paw Patrol, tax collecting procedurals aren’t a thing, people don’t give money to IRS affiliated charities.

            When my son was in kindergarten he did a thing at school once about “I want to be a police officer”. As a libertarian who had long followed, e.g., Radley Balko, I was a bit chagrined there. When you asked him about it though it was essentially “I want to fly the police helicopter”.

            Maybe the auditors need to fly in on a helicopter, is what I’m saying. (Well, or not, I don’t really want to encourage the IRS to seem cool either…)

          15. Baeraad

            tax collecting procedurals aren’t a thing

            For the record, I’d totally watch one! Though I will grant you I don’t think most other people would.

            I’d take it one step further. I’d argue that the left believes taxes are capital G Good in a very similar way that the right feels about cops and the military. That however unpleasant they are for individuals, they are the price of civilization and should be supported and applauded.

            … yes, pretty much. Though as usual I have to add the disclaimer that I’m in many ways a walking-talking liberal strawman, and that I sincerely believe a number of things that mainstream liberals probably don’t.

    3. Tatterdemalion

      I think that it’s precisely the opposite of a motte-and-bailey, and I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it before.

      “Motte-and-bailey” usually refers to the situation where the same slogan refers to a minimalist and a a maximalist position; the defensibility of the minimalist one being used to capture the territory covered by the maximalist one.

      Here, I think that most people using the slogan “defund the police” really do genuinely intend more minimalist interpretations by it – they only want to capture the motte, and I don’t understand the function of the bailey at all.

      I share your frustration.

      1. Randy M

        No, that’s what Motte and Bailey means. Territory outside the castle that you want, territory inside the castle that you can more easily retreat to (because it’s easier to defend).

        1. Tatterdemalion

          Hang on, I’m arguing that in this case they don’t want territory outside the castle. I think your response would apply if I was arguing the opposite?

          1. Randy M

            Yes, I missed that point. Which, since it was your only point, is not a trivial issue with my response.

            I suspect there is a not insignificant fraction that would take “abolish police” if offered, though.

          2. Tatterdemalion

            Yes, I missed that point. Which, since it was your only point, is not a trivial issue with my response.

            I am going to remember this line, and treasure it. Thank you.

      2. gbdub

        So Scott’s original examples were “white/male privilege” and “structural racism”. I would argue that both of these sound objectionable, or at least kind of argumentative, at face value. Not as extreme as “abolish the police”, sure, but I think it still fits the paradigm. It just doesn’t make tactical sense.

    4. John Schilling

      Nobody ever won a war with the battle cry, “We need to implement modest changes in the behavior of our opponents!”. If you need motivated people who can stand up to even rubber bullets, you really need something in the “Destroy the Enemy!” line.

      1. qwints

        Exactly. The main alternative demand coming out of the police brutality protests is Campaign Zero’s 8 Can’t Wait. Our local city council almost instantly moved to adopt all of those changes, which they wouldn’t have done if there weren’t thousands of people in the street. Having a radicals make radical demands makes passing more moderate reforms easier not harder. As in other social movements, the most likely outcome is that eventually enough moderates get satisfied by reform that the radicals get isolated and lose power. Alternatively, those in power can refuse to grant concessions which fuels the radicals and lead to heightened conflict until either the social movement is repressed or the establishment is overthrown.

      2. gbdub

        But you also don’t win battles by alienating key allies, or stranding them on indefensible terrain. You generally try to avoid delivering powerful weapons into the hands of your enemies.

        I think that might be what is happening here – the sorts of Democrats actually positioned to implement the required changes are being forced to give awkward non-answers to “do you support defunding the police” and Trump is campaigning against the extreme rhetoric by simply taking the slogan at face value. See e.g. Chris Cillizza of CNN saying basically the same thing here.

        1. qwints

          From my perspective as a socialist, Donald Trump’s vocal opposition to a policy is the best way to motivate moderate Democrats to support that policy. Leftists already know there’s zero hope of passing meaningful reforms in areas controlled by the right, but we can extract concessions in cities and states controlled by moderate pro-business Democrats.

    5. Nick

      It seems a little premature to say this is all a horrible strategy that will backfire completely when it’s just getting started.

    6. zzzzort

      One explanation I’ve seen is that it’s about making a credible threat to police unions. If ‘abolish the police’ is an unpopular position, then it’s a costly the signal that politicians are willing to spend political capital on police reform, and that if the police unions don’t play along they could just be destroyed.

      That said, as overton windon shifting it doesn’t look bad.

    7. Guy in TN

      @gbdub
      The public’s perception of “what is the police” is different from the technical/academic definition of “police”. Many people are trying to be cute about it and say something along the lines of “a-ha, but don’t you know that giving your peace officers the legal authority to serve warrants technically makes them a “police” under common law, therefore…” which doesn’t actually matter.

      It is not a motte-and-bailey to argue for abolishing the police, as the police are currently understood by the public. One way to think about it, is “Abolish the Police [Department]”, instead of “Abolish the social role of policing”. If you want to fault them for the ambiguity that’s fine, but is a slogan after all, not an exhaustive policy prescription.

      As others have pointed out: The best strategy in any negotiation is to demand more than you are expecting to get. If the protestors try to workshop and audience-test their slogans too much, reducing their demands to the lowest common denominator, they will surely get even less.

      1. gbdub

        This is exactly the sort of academic rhetorical game that Scott was complaining about in Words x3 and I was pointing at in my point 4). Take some words that have a strong emotional punch and a common, well understood meaning (e.g. police, abolish, racism, patriarchy) and redefine them in an idiosyncratic way used/understood only by academics and subject matter experts. This makes your position literally unarguable because accepting your definition cedes the whole argument. Then, take advantage of the ambiguity to abuse the emotional punch associated with the commonly understood meaning for fun and profit and retreat to your motte if you get called on it.

        If you mean “abolish the police”, then say that. If you really mean “Reconsider how we structure the various responsibilities and achieve the goals currently assigned to the social concept of policing/public safety” then say that. Well don’t say that, it’s a terrible slogan, but find a punchy way to say the same thing without using a phrase that clearly means something very different (and much more objectionable). Maybe “Reimagine Policing” or “Police Should Stick to Policing” or something like that, I don’t know.

        1. Guy in TN

          @gbdub

          Take some words that have a strong emotional punch and a common, well understood meaning (e.g. police, abolish, racism, patriarchy) and redefine them in an idiosyncratic way used/understood only by academics and subject matter experts. This makes your position literally unarguable because accepting your definition cedes the whole argument. Then, take advantage of the ambiguity to abuse the emotional punch associated with the commonly understood meaning for fun and profit and retreat to your motte if you get called on it.

          You’ve got who is being “academic” and playing a “rhetorical game” backwards here. “The Police” have a well understood meaning common meaning in the United States, and it’s not “a person with the authority to serve a warrant and make arrests”.

          When we say “Abolish the Police”, most people understand what this means, and their understanding is correct. The Police as you know and understand it in American society will not exist. It’s only people who try to be technical/academic, by equating The Police with “someone who performs the social act of policing”, who are trying to rhetorically trick Police Abolition advocates into inarguable positions.

          1. Randy M

            What do police do that another type of warrant-server/arrest-maker would not?
            “Police” means “law enforcement” to me, and all attendant actions that ensue when someone resists that enforcement.

          2. baconbits9

            “The Police” have a well understood meaning common meaning in the United States, and it’s not “a person with the authority to serve a warrant and make arrests”.

            It is? I’ve lived in the US for 35 years and I would say that prior to a month ago I never engaged anyone who has used a different definition and I am an ancap who has argued for the abolition of the ‘police’.

          3. Guy in TN

            What do police do that another type of warrant-server/arrest-maker would not?

            I don’t think you are quite getting my specific argument here.

            There’s an easy answer to your question, and that is that the Police Departments in the US have extended their reach into a vast array of positions that do not require warrant serving/arresting as part of their job capabilities (e.g., traffic patrol, drug investigations, domestic disputes), and thus many of jobs we have given to people who we call “Police” do not actually need to have all the powers that would qualify as “policing” under a technical/academic definition.

            But that doesn’t hit at the heart of it. My take is that “The Police” in the United States refers to a specific set of institutions, with certain norms and laws, and most people understand that when you say “Abolish the Police”, you are referring to this.

            If I say: “fire all officers, eliminate their positions, sell all the patrol cars and precinct buildings, reduce their funding to zero, and create a new, highly reduced agency, that only carries guns when they are specifically called out for and only makes arrests in the most extreme circumstances”

            I think most people would understand this as “I have abolished the Police”, since the new organization resembles nothing like the police are understood to be in the in the United States. Only people being pedantic/point-scoring would say “a-ha! But don’t you know the new organization has policing powers and therefore technically qualify as the police, and therefore you have technically failed completely in your goals…(I am so smart!)”

          4. Edward Scizorhands

            When conservatives said “Repeal Obamacare” it was irresponsible and dangerous because they didn’t have a single coherent plan to replace it with.

            When some dude held up a “Government out of my Medicare” sign at a Tea Party protest it was a sign that the movement had no idea what was going on.

            When Trump said “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” it was a sign that he wanted armed protestors to succeed and there’s no need to read anything else into it. Can you believe these people who try to apologize for the verbal diarrhea Trump produces? Just read the words for themselves!

            However, when someone says “Abolish the Police” we need to listen to John Oliver explain what the black people meant.

          5. baconbits9

            I think most people would understand this as “I have abolished the Police”, since the new organization resembles nothing like the police are understood to be in the in the United States. Only people being pedantic/point-scoring would say “a-ha! But don’t you know the new organization has policing powers and therefore technically qualify as the police, and therefore you have technically failed completely in your goals…(I am so smart!)”

            If I told someone ‘the police in England don’t carry guns except in extreme circumstances’ I don’t think I would ever get the retort ‘well they aren’t really police then’, similarly if I were to get a parking ticket and mutter ‘effing cops’ under my breath I wouldn’t consider myself to be wrong even if I knew that township outsourced the metermaids to a private company.

            The very first time that your ‘non-police’ get in a violent confrontation with a citizen a bunch of angry people are going to yell about how you said you were going to abolish the police and yet here they doing X, Y and Z again.

          6. Guy in TN

            @Edward Scizorhands

            However, when someone says “Abolish the Police” we need to listen to John Oliver explain what the black people meant.

            Slogans are a bad way to understand anyone’s political position, no matter what side of the isle you are on.

            So if someone has a slogan that seems on-its-face preposterous, and you genuinely want to understand what they want, you should ask them to explain what they mean (although you should probably specifically not ask John Oliver, in this case).

          7. baconbits9

            Slogans are a bad way to understand anyone’s political position, no matter what side of the isle you are on.

            If you are going to chant ‘abolish the police’ and then argue that you really mean this super nuanced interpretation of ‘police’ that people will agree with you on only after a long conversation then you are being misleading. Slogans like ‘my body, my choice’ don’t get the nuance through but they aren’t misleading on their face.

          8. Guy in TN

            @baconbits

            If I told someone ‘the police in England don’t carry guns except in extreme circumstances’ I don’t think I would ever get the retort ‘well they aren’t really police then’

            I didn’t attempt to give an exhaustive list of all the proposed changes. And just changing one aspect, in isolation, would not be enough. If you are trying to answer the question of “what is the defining aspect of someone who is police vs. non-police, that translates across all countries and contexts”, you have already gone astray.

            The very first time that your ‘non-police’ get in a violent confrontation with a citizen a bunch of angry people are going to yell about how you said you were going to abolish the police and yet here they doing X, Y and Z again.

            And that’s fine. I will promise, on my honor, I will let them dunk of me over my slogan. They will say: “You fired all the corrupt cops, broke the police unions, and drastically reduced incarceration rates and police shootings, but you didn’t actually abolish policing-as-a-concept like I was made to believe!”

            And I will be so owned. I will totally let you own me over this.

          9. Guy in TN

            @baconbits9

            If you are going to chant ‘abolish the police’ and then argue that you really mean this super nuanced interpretation of ‘police’ that people will agree with you on only after a long conversation then you are being misleading.

            There’s no way to solve this question. You think that I’m being pedantic and super-nuanced in regards to this slogan, but I think that you are the one being pedantic and super-nuanced.

            You think that we are having to have a long, complicated conversation because I’m using an academic/technical definition, but I think the same about you.

            No way out.

          10. Edward Scizorhands

            There’s a motte-and-bailey where you tell people “defund the police” or “abolish the police” doesn’t really mean that, get them to support it, and then when someone starts defunding or abolishing the police they say “what, you agreed with it!”

            It’s the same mushmouth jibber-jabber than makes engaging with the current President impossible and frustrating. I get some people see how it benefits Trump because he can’t be nailed down to anything besides damage to his opponents, but it also makes progress on any actual policies difficult because the words change day-by-day.

            Joe Biden is getting forced into saying he doesn’t want to defund the police. And just like I get insane unfalsifiable 4d-chess explanations about how nearly anything stupid Trump does is amazing, I’m getting fed some bullshit that this slogan is some amazing strategy. Amazing strategies don’t need hundreds of thinkpieces explaining how they are really a good strategy, you just don’t understand. We are witnessing an internecine war, where lots of African-Americans demand and deserve better police, but unquestionably do not want cops gone from their neighborhood. But some very privileged radicals are trying to hijack it.

            Nothing’s wrong with “fuck the police.” Go with the classics if you can’t make them better.

            *EDIT* You want it from the horse’s mouth? Here it is:

            https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/us/politics/biden-defund-the-police.html

            On Monday, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina — who is now the highest-ranking black member of Congress but, in his youth, was jailed during protests — complained on a private conference call with other lawmakers about those trying to “hijack” the swelling movement with calls to defund the police.

          11. baconbits9

            but you didn’t actually abolish policing-as-a-concept like I was made to believe!”

            So in other words everyone doesn’t share your definition of police like you claim?

            I didn’t attempt to give an exhaustive list of all the proposed changes. And just changing one aspect, in isolation, would not be enough

            There are potentially dozens of differences between english and american cops, listing them all won’t end up getting a neutral observer to say ‘they aren’t really police then’.

          12. baconbits9

            There’s no way to solve this question. You think that I’m being pedantic and super-nuanced in regards to this slogan, but I think that you are the one being pedantic and super-nuanced.

            You think that we are having to have a long, complicated conversation because I’m using an academic/technical definition, but I think the same about you

            Except this isn’t what is happening. You are making the statement that there is a near universally accepted real definition of police that makes the slogan work, and I am claiming that as an American citizen who has had arguments where I am in favor of abolishing the police I have never once used your definition and nor has anyone I have argued with. Our arguments are not mirrored because I have never claimed that no one could ever hold your position, and my argument doesn’t hinge on such an assumption.

          13. Guy in TN

            @baconbits9

            So in other words everyone doesn’t share your definition of police like you claim?

            Where did I claim this? I said it’s a definition most people share, not literally everyone to-a-tee. For any given political statement, someone is going to be misled, because language is naturally nebulous and all communication imperfect.

            There are potentially dozens of differences between english and american cops, listing them all won’t end up getting a neutral observer to say ‘they aren’t really police then’.

            Confused why you are using English cops as a baseline…?

          14. gbdub

            @Guy in TN believe we may just have incompatible understandings of what “most people” think. I really do think most people consider any civilian agent of the government with the authority to physically detain them (EDIT: or even write them a ticket) on suspicion of criminal activity to be “police” whether their jackets say “NYPD” or “FBI” or “BATFE” or “FDA” or “EPA” or “NPS” or this new friendlier thing you propose.

            I will grant that your proposal sounds reasonably close to something that might honestly be called “abolish the police”. But to be honest I’ve not heard anything as extreme as your proposal from the people in my sphere of influence who make favorable noises about abolishing or defunding the police. Simultaneously it seems less extreme than what I hear from the sort of people (actual anarchists, fringier campus African American groups) who more or less sincerely want the police gone, full stop.

            So your seeming assertion that , upon hearing the phrase “abolish the police”, anything like a majority of people are going to imagine something like your proposal is not in my mind well founded. But I could certainly be wrong.

          15. Randy M

            @Guy in TN Thanks for the response.

            FWIW, I think a lot of the attendant badness of police has to do with them being required to put people in places they don’t want to be (courts, prisons) for violating the will of the city council, state legislature, congress, etc.

            So if there are laws, there will be unpopular police action (or those are not de facto laws).

            But granted that a lot of practices and policies develop to make cops lives easier that unduly burden the citizens (or even culprits) and should be frequently scrutinized.

          16. Guy in TN

            @gbdub

            I really do think most people consider any civilian agent of the government with the authority to physically detain them on suspicion of criminal activity to be “police” whether their jackets say “NYPD” or “FBI” or “BATFE” or “FDA” or “EPA” or “NPS” or this new friendlier thing you propose.

            As a counter-anecdote: I had never even considered that EPA officials could be considered “police” until this moment.

            I wonder how many people think “Abolish the Police” includes, for example National Park Service rangers? I’m guessing surely a tiny fraction, but again, it’s just my anecdotes/intuitions against yours without actual polling.

          17. John Schilling

            There’s an easy answer to your question, and that is that the Police Departments in the US have extended their reach into a vast array of positions that do not require warrant serving/arresting as part of their job capabilities (e.g., traffic patrol, drug investigations, domestic disputes)

            True but irrelevant to the question at hand. If you ask someone for a one-sentence description of the police, it will almost always be some variation of “the guys who arrest people”, not “the people who respond to domestic disputes”. The police are culturally, legally, and literally defined by their exercise of law enforcement power, with arrests as the central example of that power.

            What police do when there isn’t a criminal at hand to arrest, is negotiable. If you want to argue that we shouldn’t send people whose core job description is arresting criminals to try and resolve a domestic dispute, that’s a reasonable proposition. If you want to say it was a mistake to have them spend so much time giving out traffic tickets and investigating victimless drug crimes, great.

            But when you’re finished unbundling all those tasks, you’re still going to have a bunch of people whose job is to enforce the law by arrresting criminals. And everybody is going to look at the multitude of agencies you’ve created, ignore the names and the uniforms, point at the law-enforcing criminal-arresters and say “those guys are the police”. I’m not sure what you hope to gain by calling them anything different.

          18. Erc

            “The Police” have a well understood meaning common meaning in the United States, and it’s not “a person with the authority to serve a warrant and make arrests”.

            There comes a point in which you just have to say: I think you’re being disingenuous.

            that do not require warrant serving/arresting as part of their job capabilities (e.g., traffic patrol, drug investigations, domestic disputes)

            The Left made domestic violence a mandatory arrest offense in many states. What this means is that the police have discretion to make arrests in ordinary assault cases, but not in domestic violence cases. Do you disagree with it or are you ignorant of it? I’m pretty sure this undoing this isn’t what the BLM movement is thinking of. The Left seems to understand the power of force and punishment quite well so long as its seen as being in pursuit of its ideological goals.

            If I say: “fire all officers, eliminate their positions, sell all the patrol cars and precinct buildings, reduce their funding to zero, and create a new, highly reduced agency, that only carries guns when they are specifically called out for and only makes arrests in the most extreme circumstances”

            I think most people would understand this as “I have abolished the Police”,

            I think most people would laugh at the notion of this group of people making arrests without squad cars.

          19. Le Maistre Chat

            The Left seems to understand the power of force and punishment quite well so long as its seen as being in pursuit of its ideological goals.

            Exactly. So “abolish the police!” slogans make no sense in context.

          20. Guy in TN

            @John Schilling

            The police are culturally, legally, and literally defined by their exercise of law enforcement power, with arrests as the central example of that power.

            I contend that you are conflating the “police” with “law enforcement”. The average Joe does not put the EPA, National Park Rangers, and the Police Department in the same idea-bucket.

            So no, not “cultural defined”. “Legally defined”-maybe, but not particularly relevant.

          21. Guy in TN

            @Erc

            There comes a point in which you just have to say: I think you’re being disingenuous.

            Ditto for everyone who thinks the “Abolish the Police” must mean “Abolish the government’s ability to enforce laws”.

            A good rule of thumb is: If you think your opponent’s positions have blatant logical contradictions that even a small child could notice (“So you are opposed to arresting people, and yet you want to arrest George Floyd’s killer? Hmmm, ever thought of that???”), you are probably wildly misunderstanding them.

          22. cassander

            @Guy in TN says:

            Ditto for everyone who thinks the “Abolish the Police” must mean “Abolish the government’s ability to enforce laws”.

            Except I am seeing people arguing that

            A good rule of thumb is: If you think your opponent’s positions have blatant logical contradictions that even a small child could notice you are probably wildly misunderstanding them.

            That’s not a bad rule. of course, some positions do have blatant logical contradictions, and we’re currently seeing that on full display.

          23. Le Maistre Chat

            @cassander: This guy is getting roasted in Twitter replies, though, so “abolish all law enforcement” is empirically not the new hegemonic belief.

          24. ECD

            @Cassander

            Oh, come on. If I click your link, the man’s very next tweet is:

            “Welcome cynics and conservative trolls! Glad you’re dropping by. While you’re here, please take a gander as to what abolishing the police actually looks like. Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t mean absolutely no police anymore!”

          25. cassander

            @Guy in TN says:

            He literally says replace the police with social workers.

            @Le Maistre Chat says:

            I didn’t claim everyone actually thought that, I said I’m seeing a lot of that.

            @ECD says:

            I did take a look at what he said abolishing police looks like, and he said it looks like replacing the cops with social workers and affordable healthcare. Those aren’t my words, those are his. that doing so is idiotic is my point.

          26. Guy in TN

            @cassander

            He literally says replace the police with social workers.

            I don’t think that was intended to be an exhaustive list. Twitter only has so many characters, you know.

          27. Guy in TN

            Inferring positive claims from the absence of claims is always a risky move.

            A: “I support black people, Hispanic people, and white people to live in harmony together!”
            Headline: “Person A says Native Americans Are Excluded From Harmonious Living”

          28. Le Maistre Chat

            @Guy in TN:

            A: “I support black people, Hispanic people, and white people to live in harmony together!”

            Always. I want to be with them.
            And make believe with them.
            And live in harmony, harmony

            Headline: “Person A says Native Americans Are Excluded From Harmonious Living”

            … OH. 🙁

          29. John Schilling

            The average Joe does not put the EPA, National Park Rangers, and the Police Department in the same idea-bucket.

            I’m pretty sure that if you show the “Average Joe” a picture of the kind of Park Ranger that wears badge, uniform, and gun, or the kind of EPA agent who wears a badge, uniform, and gun, and ask “is this a kind of policeman?”, the answer is going to be “yes”. If you show them in the act of arresting someone, I’m now very sure.

          30. Erc

            “A good rule of thumb is: If you think your opponent’s positions have blatant logical contradictions that even a small child could notice (“So you are opposed to arresting people, and yet you want to arrest George Floyd’s killer? Hmmm, ever thought of that???”), you are probably wildly misunderstanding them.”

            I don’t know. If I look at the person you cited, so you can’t accuse me of weak manning here, saying “while you’re here, please take a gander as to what abolishing the police actually looks like. Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t mean absolutely no police anymore!” Imagine that being said about, say, slavery or taxation. Maybe they should say “reducing the responsibility of the police.”

            Reminds me of a conversation I was having with a feminist who was going on about how it was outrageous that anyone would suggest the state should be able to tell women what they can and cant do with their bodies. I asked her if she thought prostitution should be legal. She said no, of course not. When I told her that seemed contradictory, she just rolled her eyes and said I didn’t “get it.” Is there a contradiction there? Well, she holds the belief, and I think she does so honestly IMO, wasn’t like she was trolling. And she could say that I was “misinformed” about her position, which on the surface is her ‘s saying X, but what she really means is X plus a laundry list of exceptions and if I point out the exceptions conflict with X, well, I don’t “get” it. It reminds me, too, of the IHR:

            “The question [of whether the IHR denies the Holocaust] appears to turn on IHR’s Humpty-Dumpty word game with the word Holocaust. According to Mark Weber, associate editor of the IHR’s Journal of Historical Review [now Director of the IHR], “If by the ‘Holocaust’ you mean the political persecution of Jews, some scattered killings, if you mean a cruel thing that happened, no one denies that. But if one says that the ‘Holocaust’ means the systematic extermination of six to eight million Jews in concentration camps, that’s what we think there’s not evidence for.” That is, IHR doesn’t deny that the Holocaust happened; they just deny that the word ‘Holocaust’ means what people customarily use it for.”

            What you’re doing here is going a step further and asserting that everyone else accepts your humpty-dumpty definition of “police.” And I’m not accusing you of honestly holding this belief. I am accusing you of lying.

          31. CatCube

            @Guy in TN, @ECD

            *Sigh.* Okay, I really hesitate to bring in another commenter who hasn’t participated in the thread, but this is such a perfect, jewel-like example I can’t let it pass.

            If you’ve ever looked at a @Conrad Honcho post and wondered, “How could he possibly defend Trump over this?!” I want you to get up from your computer, walk into the bathroom, turn on the lights, and gaze into the mirror.

            Because this, right here, is how Trump supporters twist themselves into pretzels about how whatever Tweet he just farted out isn’t nearly as facile as it seems.

            Whatever emotions you’re feeling right now are exactly what they feel, because “Abolish the Police” is profoundly stupid. It is not a defensible statement. Demanding that we spend all this time trying to read nuance and subtlety into an unnuanced and unsubtle statement is a fool’s errand. You’re spending untold numbers of bits to “Well, ackshually…” why a stupid statement isn’t stupid. It’s not going to sound any more convincing to people who aren’t already drinking that particular flavor of Kool-Aid than the latest defense of the President. You have already spent more time thinking through this statement than whatever idiot babbled this out and got it picked up by Twitter.

            Come up with a better slogan that describes your objectives (Reform the Police, for example), and stop participating in the workshop trying to rescue this one.

          32. Guy in TN

            @Erc

            And I’m not accusing you of honestly holding this belief. I am accusing you of lying.

            What’s even my angle here? Its like: “I’m gonna secretly confuse everybody with a slogan most people will misunderstand, making my position seem much more radical than it actually is, thus ruining the momentum of the movement I support” Hell yeah, the perfect troll

          33. Guy in TN

            @CatCube
            “Abolish the Police” is a pretty good slogan. It resonates because it is decidedly anti-police and captures the anger people feel right now. It doesn’t give much wiggle-room, unlike “reform the police” and “defund the police”. “Reform” could be a meaningless as making them watch anti-racism training videos. And “defund” could be interpreted as a 5% budget cut.

            “Abolish the Police” sends the message: The police in the United States are a menace and must be stopped. We want to radically change law enforcement in our society.

            I’m not sure it matters, really, as the protests are in the process of fizzling out as we speak. But I honestly think its is pretty good and I’m struggling to think of something else that captures the anger and the policy to such an extent.

          34. nkurz

            @Guy in TN:
            > “Abolish the Police” is a pretty good slogan.

            You didn’t call it out, but I think the echoes of “Abolition of Slavery” and “Abolitionist” as applied to the American Civil War help make it an appropriate slogan. It’s a rare word in other contexts, and closely associated with these issues when it is now used. I think its literal meaning is terribly misleading, but I agree with you that it’s a catchy phrasing and seems to be working well

          35. Nancy Lebovitz

            I just saw Rebecca Solnit on facebook making just that comparison.

            “Abolish slavery is such strong language, and it’s sure to offend and alienate people, especially slaveowners, so those abolitionists should find language that everyone is comfortable with like “subtly adjust the peculiar institution at some point.” Or “make lifestyle improvements in perpetual debt bondage.” And really, sweeping change is impossible, as the historical record shows: we are never going to abolish slavery, anyway, and how can you picture the American economy without it? Be realistic and have a nice day, everyone, and happy 1847 out there.”

            https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.solnit/posts/10158135727980552

          36. baconbits9

            Abolish police! Well we don’t mean abolish law enforcement, just reform it but do it dramatically.

            Abolish slavery! Yes abolish it, don’t replace it with a different form of slavery, don’t replace it with Jim Crow.

            When people said ‘Abolish Slavery’ they meant get rid of it, not get rid of the more brutal aspects of slavery but keep the general concept around.

          37. Aapje

            @Guy in TN

            It’s a good slogan in the sense that it appeals to worst parts of human nature. Just don’t come complaining to me when Trump or anyone else you disagree with, does something similar.

          38. A Definite Beta Guy

            “Abolish slavery” really was incendiary language, incendiary enough that it sparked a Civil War. Granted, we have the privilege of calling it a Good War (along with WW2 and the Revolution), because none of us Living Folk had to actually fight and die in it.

            Does the meme brigade really want to fight a civil war?

          39. Conrad Honcho

            If you’ve ever looked at a @Conrad Honcho post and wondered, “How could he possibly defend Trump over this?!” I want you to get up from your computer, walk into the bathroom, turn on the lights, and gaze into the mirror.

            I agree that ECD and Guy in TN are handsome and wise.