Open Thread 156.25 + Signal Boost For Steve Hsu

[UPDATE: As of 6/19, Professor Hsu resigned as VP of Research. He still encourages interested people to sign the petition as a general gesture of support.]

Normally this would be a hidden thread, but I wanted to signal boost this request for help by Professor Steve Hsu, vice president of research at Michigan State University. Hsu is a friend of the blog and was a guest speaker at one of our recent online meetups – some of you might also have gotten a chance to meet him at a Berkeley meetup last year. He and his blog Information Processing have also been instrumental in helping me and thousands of other people better understand genetics and neuroscience. If you’ve met him, you know he is incredibly kind, patient, and willing to go to great lengths to help improve people’s scientific understanding.

Along with all the support he’s given me personally, he’s had an amazing career. He started as a theoretical physicist publishing work on black holes and quantum information. Then he transitioned into genetics, spent a while as scientific advisor to the Beijing Genomics Institute, and helped discover genetic prediction algorithms for gallstones, melanoma, heart attacks, and other conditions. Along with his academic work, he also sounded the alarm about the coronavirus early and has been helping shape the response.

This week, some students at Michigan State are trying to cancel him. They point an interview he did on an alt-right podcast (he says he didn’t know it was alt-right), to his allowing MSU to conduct research on police shootings (which concluded, like most such research, that they are generally not racially motivated), and to his occasional discussion of the genetics of race (basically just repeating the same “variance between vs. within clusters” distinction everyone else does, see eg here). You can read the case being made against him here, although keep in mind a lot of it is distorted and taken out of context, and you can read his response here.

Professor Hsu will probably land on his feet whatever happens, but it would be a great loss for Michigan and its scientific community if he could no longer work with them; it would also have a chilling effect on other scientists who want to discuss controversial topics or engage with the public. If you support him, you can sign the petition to keep him on here. If you are a professor or other notable person, your voice could be especially helpful, but anyone is welcome to sign regardless of credentials or academic status. See here for more information. He says that time is of the essence since activists are pressuring the college to make a decision right away while everyone is still angry.

This was supposed to be a culture-war free open thread, but I guess the ship has sailed on that one, so, uh, just do your best, and I’ll delete anything that needs deleting.

3,025 thoughts on “Open Thread 156.25 + Signal Boost For Steve Hsu

  1. Edward Scizorhands

    Jeremiah said:
    “I hear the whisperings of many:
    ‘Terror on every side!
    Denounce! let us denounce him!’
    All those who were my friends
    are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
    ‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
    and take our vengeance on him.’

    1. CatCube

      This was the reading I had to do for our online church service this week. That passage jumped out at me, too.

    2. AG

      Didn’t God also say that he was going to harden hearts in this case, though? To punish them for their faithlessness.
      I got the impression that Isaiah was like their last chance to turn it around, while Jeremiah needlessly suffered as a Cassandra.

  2. Deiseach

    As if I have any right to be even mildly surprised about how the sausage is made, but apparently we won our seat on the U.N. Security Council at the expense of Canada because when coaxing the foreign envoys and national representatives to give us a job (a) they preferred U2 to Celine Dion and (b) we’ve spent the past twenty years throwing the jar into them 🙂

    Critics question the cost and effort required from years of lobbying, including the endless meetings, wining and dining for Ireland in foreign countries, to win the temporary seat.

    An Irish diplomat once joked there were “no crustaceans left on the sea bed” after the culinary hospitality showered on foreign envoys during the campaign to win a seat 20 years ago.

    It is hard to fathom that a singsong with overseas guests in a Co Cork seaside village could have helped Ireland’s election to a United Nations Security Council seat this week, but it did.

    The night out in a pub in Crosshaven came during a visit by political leaders from small island developing states around the world to a conference on oceans and the climate.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs wanted to build an emotional connection between the islands of the world by inviting them to the SeaFest maritime festival in Cork in June 2019.

    …After speeches from the stage in the shadow of the Le Corbusier UN building in Manhattan, Bono and Ireland’s ambassador at the UN Geraldine Byrne-Nason – described by the U2 singer as “Ireland’s secret weapon in New York” – were mobbed by country ambassadors. They were later treated to a U2 gig at Madison Square Garden a few blocks away. The Canadians, as part of their campaign, invited ambassadors to a Celine Dion concert in March.

    “All I can say is we got 128 votes and they got 108 so Bono should feel very proud of his popularity,” said Mr Coveney, joking, when asked about what this says about the two singers.

    …Mr Coveney believes last year’s get-together in a Co Cork seaside village helped win the seat in the final stretch of the campaign but it will be brought up again as a reminder of promises made.

    “When you ring people to make sure they’re still onside, and they remind you of a sing-song in Crosshaven, you know you are are winning,” he said.

    “But those people will be back to us on the security council, if they have an issue. They will be reminding us of Crosshaven too, saying: ‘You said you would help us; now we’re asking for help.’”

    Take note, Canada, and up your schmoozing game! 😀

    1. Erusian

      As someone who’s lived in DC and been to embassy parties etc, a huge amount of the sausage getting made is kitschy stuff like this. People obsess over who’s going to what party, who wore it best, who threw the best party, etc. There’s a huge amount of wealthy socialites who make money off government connections floating around and ambassadors are often just sponsored versions of those wealthy socialites. (As are lobbyists.)

    1. keaswaran

      Most liberals think Woodrow Wilson is a deeply problematic figure. Even if we ignore the stuff about the KKK, resegregating the White House, and women’s suffrage, and just focus on the famous stuff theorizing about what a nation should be, and the treaty that replaced Westphalia as the more modern statement of what a nation is, it’s heavily mixed with both good and bad. It enshrines an idea of popular sovereignty, which is generally good, but it also ends the Westphalian idea that a state is a mere political entity, and replaces it with an ethnic identity – Versailles is all about self-determination of *peoples*, not of individuals. And of course, the actual League of Nations mandates drawn up by France and the UK didn’t really respect the ideas at all anyway. But his ideas reflected the Progressivism of his time, which is quite interesting, and still progressive in many ways, but also deeply flawed.

      By contrast, I don’t know of anyone, of any political persuasion, who has much of an opinion at all about Coolidge. The articles you link are interesting, but this is just one person mentioning a single event twice, and doesn’t really tell me much about Coolidge’s general attitudes or policies. Before this, basically all I know about Coolidge is that he was famously “Silent Cal” – there’s the story of some woman who met him at a party and said her friend had bet her that she couldn’t get him to say three words to her that evening, and he replied “you lose”. I guess I also know that he’s some paradigm of “rock-ribbed” New England Republicanism (I don’t know what “rock-ribbed” means exactly, but it’s somehow always used for old-school Vermont and New Hampshire Republicans).

      Harding had famously the most corrupt presidency between Jackson and Trump (with only Grant competing). And Hoover is a fascinating character, though neither the pro- nor contra-Hoover case is quite as interesting as the cases for Wilson. But to my mind, Coolidge is just a blank in between them, sort of like how I think of the presidencies from 1840-1855 and 1884-1899. (Hmm, somehow those gaps in my mind are actually shorter than I expected them to be, given how many presidents did nothing of interest in those periods.)

      1. cassander

        By contrast, I don’t know of anyone, of any political persuasion, who has much of an opinion at all about Coolidge.

        Libertarians love him

        Harding had famously the most corrupt presidency between Jackson and Trump (with only Grant competing).

        really? you’re leaving out LBJ, who stole the election in texas and made a fortune on getting favors from the government? Or nixon, who was, you know, Nixon?

        1. anonymousskimmer

          I believe Harding (or at least his administration) was just so bad that it blows the rest out of the water.

          Johnson’s stuff appeared to happen outside of the Presidency. While Nixon merely set out to burgle the Dems and cover it up (that thing with Vietnam happened before the election).

          1. cassander

            Johnson’s crimes started before the presidency, but there’s no reason to assume they didn’t continue. We won’t know the details until Caro finishes his damn book. I’d be shocked if even a generous assessment of how much trump has profited from the presidency came close to johnson’s. LBJ’s net worth is usually recorded at 9 figures in the 1960s, despite growing up dirt poor, marrying middle class at best, and working for the government his whole life.

            And nixon got strung up for more than a single burglary.

  3. Jacobethan

    A lot of discussion on this OT about the increasing difficulty of finding meaningfully CW-neutral spaces — professionally, recreationally, spiritually — for those who want them. Much of this is clearly coming from a distinctively American perspective. In particular there seems to be a growing resignation to the thought that a large segment of US elite institutions may have become irretrievably committed to a project of Blue Tribe inculturation, with uncertain implications downstream. But I also sense a certain feeling of surprise and alarm from folks elsewhere at what seems like a rapid “Americanization” (in this specific sense) of the terms of discourse in their own countries as well.

    It is, of course, eminently contestable how much this is really happening, and if so whether it is in fact a bad thing. Nonetheless the feeling is clearly very real, at least in some quarters. You’re already starting to hear people talking about voting with their feet, picking up and moving to a different US region or out of the the country altogether if the current evangelical mood doesn’t show signs of dying down.

    In a more optimistic, or maybe just pragmatic, version of that spirit, I thought it’d be interesting to hear people’s impressions about which places/institutions/careers still have it relatively good. (Where “good” unabashedly means “having a coherent culture defined neither by Blue Tribe activist entryism nor by reactive self-positioning as Red Tribe ‘alternative.'” SSC is in this sense a good example of a good thing.)

    So… currently accepting nominations for “most non-CW”* in any of the following categories (and feel free to add your own):

    Country (Anglosphere):
    Country (other economically advanced):
    US geographic region:
    US major city:
    US religious denomination:
    Professional-class vocation:
    Non-professional-class vocation:
    College major:
    Military service branch:
    Popular entertainment medium:

    * You can interpret “non-CW” however you like. I’m thinking of it mainly in terms of a strong sense of separation between politics as such and other forms of social or cultural activity (i.e., this is a norm that most people intuitively understand and accept as legitimate); a generally low salience of politics in people’s overall self-presentation; and a default sense of “live and let live” when it comes to tribal affiliation, which I can best define as “180 degrees from cancel culture.”

    1. outis

      This is like a New Yorker in April looking for a nice town without COVID to spend the pandemic in. Stay put.

      1. Reasoner

        To the contrary, I think “neutralist” immigrants like Jacobethan are just the thing if you want to inoculate yourself against CW warriors. It’s like the difference between someone who has never been exposed to the virus, and someone who has been exposed and has developed immunity.

        1. outis

          My response sounds harsh, but it’s really only due to the first two items in his list; and even more specifically the second, since the Anglosphere is already too far gone. But if any other country wants to avoid the CW, they have to curb American influence in general. There are the Americans that will actively make it happen, and the Americans that will passively let it happen, but both will make it worse than just not having Americans around.

          For the inoculation, it’s enough to listen to your expats in America (pretty much every country has enough).

    2. Uribe

      I’m a blue triber who’s done 20 years in the oil industry in Houston. I’ve learned to keep my head down when it comes to politics at work, but Houston itself is relatively CW free. It’s bad form to get in heated political arguments in real life, at least in my circle. Some of this might be generational, though.

      1. GearRatio

        My actual feeling is conservatives are being whiny bitches about not being able to express their politics at their private industry jobs when that has always been the norm in the USA. You don’t talk religion or politics at work. I try to let everyone at my work believe I’m a conservative like them, because that’s part of the uniform wear given the industry I am in.I get it, because our clients tend to be conservative also.

        As a conservative who doesn’t express politics at work because it’s too much trouble, I’d like to quibble with this just a little: It’s not, in my experience, “can’t talk politics at work, because we don’t talk politics at work”. At least in the past five or ten years, it’s been “I can’t talk politics at work, because they are the wrong politics; someone on the left can talk politics all the live-long, though”.

        While you might argue that this perception is inaccurate, it’s a fair bit different than what you put forth. Being singled out as a monster whose views deserve instant firing/muzzling when the opposing views are lauded/allowed is very different than everyone being held to a “no political discourse” standard.

      2. Skeptical Wolf

        My actual feeling is conservatives are being whiny bitches about not being able to express their politics at their private industry jobs when that has always been the norm in the USA.

        I firmly believe this is a miss-characterization of the issue, so I will attempt to clarify. When I say I want a CW-neutral space, that means I want a space where:
        – I can do my job and read the literature of my field without encountering calls for violence against people like me (or, preferably, against anyone) more than once per month.
        – I can take a walk of a couple miles without being obstructed and screamed at by someone who is attacking a political position I don’t even hold, just one they assumed because of my skin color and gender presentation (unless there’s a protest going on).
        – Demographic descriptors that apply to me do not routinely appear as derogatory terms in award acceptance speeches and corporate pep-talks.
        – My career advancement is not dependent on active participation in political advocacy activities outside of work hours. Nor is donating money to a political campaign I oppose a prerequisite for being employed.
        – When I attend a conference or convention, the panels that spend their entire time complaining about and insulting people like me are sufficiently labelled that I can avoid them and not accidentally end up stuck in a struggle session when I expected to hear a talk on graph databases or east asian folklore.
        – Harassment campaigns against people like me are not actively cheered in casual social interaction.
        – When someone in a demographic group I belong to posts a creative work related to one of my hobbies, “We have too much work by people like this” appears in the first five responses no more than half the time.
        – The conditions listed above are also available to people of other demographics and would not be lost if I switched parties/tribes.

        I do not currently enjoy such a situation and do not know of a place I can move or a career change I can make that would allow me to do so. This is a change that, to me, seemed to begin sometime in 2013, increase rapidly until 2016, and maintain roughly that level since. It has not “always been the norm”.

        I do not believe that the desire for anything on that list makes me an “oppressive fuck”.

        1. AliceToBob

          +1

          with the exception that I haven’t experienced scenarios like the second bullet:

          I can take a walk of a couple miles without being obstructed and screamed at by someone who is attacking a political position I don’t even hold, just one they assumed because of my skin color and gender presentation (unless there’s a protest going on).

          Out of curiosity, can you describe an instance? I only ask because it seems outside the norm, but I don’t live in a large urban area, so that might be the reason.

        2. AG

          I will note, “The conditions listed above are also available to people of other demographics and would not be lost if I switched parties/tribes.” did not apply to many people in the switched situation before 2013, and is in fact why they started agitating for places where they could feel as you did before 2013.

        3. anonymousskimmer

          Yeah, I’ve got all of that in the more affordable areas of the SF Bay Area with a government lab job. My degree and career is in biology.

          We get diversity talk, but outside of management emails and anti-harassment training these are optional things to attend. And frankly they rarely “demonize” white men except through omission or via the proxy of unconscious bias.

          And as a white man I had a brief chat with the chief diversity officer about issues that I think affect people like me (not white men, but asocial people vis-a-vis the exclusion inherent in a social outreach policy, which I acknowledged was a truly difficult thing to address).

        4. Skeptical Wolf

          Out of curiosity, can you describe an instance? I only ask because it seems outside the norm, but I don’t live in a large urban area, so that might be the reason.

          The large urban area seems to be a requirement for this to occur. The most egregious example was during the second Iraq war when I got “Why do you want to bomb babies?” from a person blocking the sidewalk. A more recent example was “This road closed to Trumpers” from a small group in the same downtown.

          This is one area that I have been able to avoid recently, mostly by not walking in the downtown areas of heavily-blue cities.

          I’m tempted to add that the weirdest was a very aggressive “Where’s your mask!?!”, but since the answer to that question was “On my face”, I think that was just me running into a crazy person rather than an example of the same phenomena.

          I will note, “The conditions listed above are also available to people of other demographics and would not be lost if I switched parties/tribes.” did not apply to many people in the switched situation before 2013, and is in fact why they started agitating for places where they could feel as you did before 2013.

          I am aware that not every area and culture has historically maintained the level of tolerance that I prefer. However, if someone had posted my list in 2012 and said “I don’t feel like I have these things in my current community, where could I go to get them”, I would have been able to tell them “Come here and join my community”. I miss being able to do that as much as or more than I miss not existing in a cloud of low-level threats of violence.

          I do not believe that converting a culture that welcomed everyone into one that actively discourages empathy towards an entire segment of the population is an improvement.

        5. DinoNerd

          Demographic descriptors that apply to me do not routinely appear as derogatory terms in award acceptance speeches and corporate pep-talks.

          As long as such demographic terms are used, someone is going to be the often-unintended target. I once did an exercise of trying to communicate, for a 2 or 3 day conference, without ever e.g. referring to a person who made a stupid decision as a “retard” – or any other metaphor of this kind. I found it incredibly difficult. Then there are the common metaphors equating white or bright with good, and black or dark with bad.

          I see no reason that you should be exempted from being such a target, that doesn’t apply to the hypothetical black crippled transwoman next door, or an elderly ugly immigrant with a foreign accent, or frankly anyone else.

          In the 19th century, one common way to insult individual men was to compare them with women – this applied even in academic discourse. Its still common in face to face conflict. Why do you deserve a better experience than all the women overhearing such insults?

        6. outis

          DinoNerd:
          In the 19th century, one common way to insult individual men was to compare them with women – this applied even in academic discourse. Its still common in face to face conflict. Why do you deserve a better experience than all the women overhearing such insults?

          Why does he deserve a worse one? If we have decided that it’s bad to use “woman” as an insult, why go out of our way to make “white man” one?

        7. AliceToBob

          @ Skeptical Wolf

          Thanks for the info. It sounds bizarre and unpleasant.

          @ DinoNerd

          Your position comes across as more vindictive than logical.

        8. DavidFriedman

          Why do you deserve a better experience than all the women overhearing such insults?

          That question only makes sense if you believe that those women deserved the insults. If they don’t, if they deserved a better experience than that, why doesn’t he also deserve a better experience than that?

      3. John Schilling

        My actual feeling is conservatives are being whiny bitches about not being able to express their politics at their private industry jobs when that has always been the norm in the USA. You don’t talk religion or politics at work.

        A: Reported for the “whiny bitches” part. Way to open a dialogue, there.

        B: The norm has been that you don’t talk politics at work. The norm is now, across a large section of the economy, that you talk liberal politics at work. Any of a thousand variations of “Orange Man Bad” are common water-cooler conversation, as are the orthodox liberal positions on race and gender and immigration. Any dissent, any expression of conservative political belief on any of a dozen hot-button issues risks a talking-to by HR on “hostile work environment” grounds, and while actual firings may be rare for now the chilling effect is real. And, as of the past few weeks, I’d wager at least half the Americans in this commentariat have had senior executives of their firm explain that it is the firm’s policy to endorse the orthodox liberal position on race.

        Which I expect will be defended on the grounds that the orthodox liberal positions on those issues are not “political” because they are Too Important For Politics. Which ought to be ignored as Too Silly For Words.

        1. AG

          I find that this situation tends to occur, ironically, in places that weren’t too ideologically diverse in the first place, which is how they developed the confidence that their politics weren’t politics.

          Workplaces (like mine) where there are actually a good number of people on opposite sides of the aisle tend to develop a culture of not talking politics, and said people on opposite sides of the aisle are still inviting each other to BBQs at their house and such.

        2. b_jonas

          > The norm has been that you don’t talk politics at work.

          I find this believable. I have a specific memory from shortly before the 2004 referendum. All of us agreed that the norm is no politics within the university but were also too excited about recent news, so I debated politics with a certain professor in the Goldmann György tér tram stop, since that was clearly not part of the campus area and the professor clearly wasn’t in any official capacity anymore. I remember this episode because I now think the argument I gave was wrong, even though the professor couldn’t convince me about that back then, so this is a very rare case when I can identify that I changed my mind about a political belief.

        3. Skeptical Wolf

          … which is how they developed the confidence that their politics weren’t politics.

          This seems like a fully-general argument against any sort of non-political or politically inclusive space or culture existing. Is that how you intended it?

          It also seems rather uncharitable. When someone describes a change in the political climate of their workplace, my first thought is not normally “They must have failed to realize how political the space was until the winds shifted.”.

          When someone on the left describes feeling uncomfortable in a space they were once comfortable in, is your response “They must not realize that their politics are actually politics”?

      4. Deiseach

        My actual feeling is conservatives are being whiny bitches about not being able to express their politics at their private industry jobs when that has always been the norm in the USA. You don’t talk religion or politics at work.

        I’d be happy to take that bargain, Uribe, but now I myself in little green Ireland have seen (1) someone putting their preferred pronouns at the end of an email when sending an announcement from an associated state body (2) this month, for the first time I have ever seen it, the front page of the website for the state body that manages our funding, amongst other entities, there’s the rainbow Pride flag and a brief anodyne message about “(we) administer and manage Government and EU funding to address disadvantage and support social inclusion”.

        Now, the day that same body puts up a banner announcing the feast of Corpus Christi (just gone by), or that TERF is an offensive term please don’t use it, then I’ll accept it that we’re just whiny conservatives.

        The Americanisation thing is all too true, if I bother my backside reading or listening to the activists marching in the streets and plainting on social media over here, then I would be convinced that Donald Trump was Uachtarán na h-Éireann and not Michael D. American terms out of the American context are being bolted on to non-American situations in a Frankenstein’s Monster creation. I don’t care a tuppenny damn if the clients we deal with are gay, trans or foreign (we had such clients in my last job – except for the trans and who knows?- and we all managed an attitude of ‘that’s nice, now fill out this form’). I do care that I am expected to get out there and wave the rainbow flag and loudly cheer or else I am being insensitive, discriminatory and in need of remedial training via video courses, when I am not the kind of person who waves flags for anything (e.g. I always forget the ‘wear green to work for St Patrick’s week’ stuff).

        EDIT: I have also seen two examples of progressives being whiny bitches, one someone on Twitter complaining about being tired of being black and queer because the recent Supreme Court decision was being celebrated, it’s okay for white queer people because this is just more privilege for them and another person complaining – in the same week as this decision, remember – that they can be fired from their job just for being trans.

        Some people just want to cling hard to that aura of victimhood no matter what concessions or decisions they are awarded, yeah, Uribe?

      5. Edward Scizorhands

        It’s bad form to get in heated political arguments in real life,

        This used to be the norm.

        And it worked, too. It could be the norm, again.

        My dad said “you don’t discuss politics or religion at a party.” I didn’t quite get it, or why, when he first told me. But I understand now.

        1. AG

          Thing is, I sympathize with why people tore that norm down. “You don’t discuss politics” can get stifling when people making low-key swipes about you and your stereotypes gets filed under non-political, and so you can’t complain about it. (For example, dress codes that discriminated against black hair styles, or as we discussed several OTs ago, “where are you really from?” small talk, or see the case of Bon Appetit where not talking about it resulted in skewed outcomes. “Man, girls are bad at math” a la XKCD is considered non-political, but objecting to that sentiment is.)

          The Bible doesn’t include the book of Esther for funsies.

          I think that humans are so fallible that tearing the norm down did more harm than good, but understand how it was a tradeoff that they decided to make, because the status quo from before had harms, too.

        2. keaswaran

          I’ve found that norm really stifling since I moved to Texas. I try to ask my local progressive friends who I should be voting for in local elections, and what their opinions are of the ballot measures we have (nearly as many statewide ballot measures as I had every year in California). But no one wants to talk politics, and so I end up voting in a very uninformed way.

      6. cassander

        For the record, I work for a media publication that has a decent mix of ideological perspectives, but is still a media company. I got mildly chewed out once when someone overheard me saying in a friendly conversation “Hillary Clinton belongs in jail”. What I actually said was “Hillary belongs in jail and Trump belongs in an asylum”, but the first half of what I said was all that was reported as being too political at work, the second half quietly ignored. The boss that administered the reprimand was a republican who I’m pretty sure agreed with the assertion, and I never found out who complained to him.

        This is not some great tale of woe. I suffered no meaningful consequences from it. But it’s the sort of blatant double standard that pervades corporate america and which really rankles the right wingers I know, because they all have similar stories. We’d be fine with everyone talking about politics, or no one. We’re not fine with some positions being ok and some being forbidden.

      7. DavidFriedman

        @Uribe:

        but this new oppression of conservatives in the workplace is nothing new under the sun.

        The complaint some people are making is that the rule has shifted from “You don’t talk religion or politics at work” to “you only talk left wing politics at work.”

        Do you agree with that description, or is your claim that, in the past, it was common to have the rule “you only talk conservative politics at work”?

      8. Wrong Species

        Who are these conservatives trying to proselytize at work? That’s not a thing. It’s the other side that does that, constantly.

      9. Jacobethan

        My actual feeling is conservatives are being whiny bitches

        As is our wont.

        ….about not being able to express their politics at their private industry jobs when that has always been the norm in the USA. You don’t talk religion or politics at work.

        At this point I’m largely just echoing what others have said in response to this. But let me be clear that I am in fact extremely in favor of this norm, and am complaining about its apparent rapid deterioration.

      10. DinoNerd

        Oppression of some people in the workplace, because boss/coworkers/community standards don’t like their politics is nothing new under the sun. And those of us who are old enough to have been in the oppressed group at one time, do tend to find people newly finding themselves in that group kind of “whiny”, or worse, particularly if people with opinions like theirs were previously able to speak freely while we were not.

        Better workplaces simply reject contentious topics entirely – none of us were hired to talk politics at the water cooler, unless we’re working for a politician, after all. But even then it leaks, and some opinions are “non-controversial” and freely expressed, while those who disagree had better keep their mouths tightly shut.

        I personally think it’s unkind to rub one’s political opponents’ noses in their relative inability to speak without unpleasant consequences, but for some categories of opponents, I’d regard the view as so bad that (a) I wouldn’t expect anyone I liked to have that view and (b) I wouldn’t care about the feelings of those who had that view. (Fill in the most crazy egregious beliefs you like for that example – the one that came to mind for me was someone who honestly supported the modest proposal of some women bearing and rasing babies for richer people to eat.)

        That doesn’t mean I don’t do it myself, though generally accidentally. Nor that I don’t take some private delight in people sharing what used to be majority opinions expressing shock and distress at being outshouted, or worse, and their fellow travellers suddenly discovering “freedom of speech”, “oppression”, etc. now that it’s happening to them. And I even do it unfairly, when the person complaining is too young (or from the wrong country) to have personal experience suppressing speech by those who disagree with their positions.

        Human nature, I’m afraid. I’m no better than anyone else, and if I had $100 for every time I shut up and swallowed statements “oppressive” of me, I’d probably be richer than Bezos and Gates combined.

        1. John Schilling

          Human nature, I’m afraid. I’m no better than anyone else

          That is, I believe, an understatement. Perhaps I misunderstood your previous paragraph, but you seem to be saying that you take pleasure when people like me suffer, even as you acknowledge that it is unfair that we suffer. And that when you are the cause of our suffering, it’s usually an accident.

          You may excuse yourself with the belief that, because “everyone else” does this, it’s OK for you to do it too. That’s easier than trying to be a better person. But, please try to be a better person.

    3. anonymousskimmer

      I’ve got all of that in a government lab job in the SF Bay area. If I was a high-level manager I’d have to send out emails about how all are welcomed, and would likely feel some pressure to append my preferred pronouns. But I’m not a manager, or even a supervisor.

      Of course this works because I’m not that politically social IRL, or that social at all, so don’t interact enough to notice the “culture” (outside of union activities and a brief flirtation with MoveOn in 2015/6).

      Huh, some of this may have to do with how many people of foreign extraction work in my workplace. To the extent I’ve initiated political conversations it has been about attitudes in their countries of origin, or about basic rights in the US.

      Edit to add: Emails from my union leadership is very liberal, but that can be ignored if I was of a different opinion (heck, I ignore a lot of it now anyway).

    4. 205guy

      I feel this comment is redefining non-CW to mean right-leaning. In your hypothetical non-CW location, are there lots of bike paths, homeless shelters, abortion clinics, overpriced cafés, and married gay couples holding hands?

      I also think it’s sort of an American thing to talk about moving to align with politics, Europeans don’t have that view. The left has talked about doing the same when Trump was elected, and now you’re saying the right is thinking the same way in response to BLM and cancel culture (which is the first I’ve heard of it—the right wanting to move away). Also, I feel it’s kind of grand to call the strong left-leaning tenets “evangelical” when the actual evangelical movement in America has been so oppressive towards people (women, lgbt, etc) and active in pushing its own cultural politics (creationism, etc).

      As for the Americanization of issue, I assume you are referring to the international rallies in support of BLM. In my view, I think those rallies are two-fold: showing support for Black people in America, and shining a light on the racism and police abuses in their own areas. For example, I’ve seen French news where French-Arabs feel they are discriminated against by white French people (I’ve heard the same-resumé-different-name effect is there too) and also targeted by police with unnecessary violence.

      1. SamChevre

        I share the OP’s observation, and I’m definitely not defining non-CW as right-leaning. When I started working as a professional 20 years ago, it was absolutely a norm in my profession that professional organizations, and reputable companies, limited their public statements to their specific area of expertise. Actuarial organizations would comment publicly on pension funding, not on police misconduct or historic monuments. Insurance companies would advocate for favorable tax laws, but not for or against gay marriage.

        That norm seems to have disappeared.

        1. keaswaran

          For what it’s worth, I think that norm was still in place as of February 2020. It’s only after every business had to tell everyone their covid plans that they all started commenting on other things as well.

      2. Etoile

        I think in some sense non-CW does mean right-leaning in today’s world because left defines part of its platform as simple kindness or civility, and notes that silence is violence, and the right (which is expanding to include people on the left who disagree with the rest of the left) don’t agree.

        If I avoid all Pride, BLM solidarity, etc. activity — I don’t attend events, I don’t post it on social media, I don’t display paraphernalia in my cubicle, don’t post my “preferred pronouns” — is that to be construed in any way as me being racist or homophobic or transphobic? If so, then it is NOT CW-free. Because if I am socially pressured to engage, it is a CW-space, and it is the left which usually forces you to engage; maybe in some workplaces, like Houston oil or small family businesses – it’s the reverse, and people push religion on you, but that’s definitely not an issue for the biggest companies across the country, like big tech and big healthcare ones.

      3. Deiseach

        In your hypothetical non-CW location, are there lots of bike paths, homeless shelters, abortion clinics, overpriced cafés, and married gay couples holding hands?

        We have a rake of bike paths over here and the couple running the overpriced café were lesbian (though it was not overpriced and was very popular). Homeless shelters yes, that’s a perennial problem to get enough funding and placements, and no abortion clinics yet but thanks to our newly passed legislation that yet may happen.

        Now, would you like to ask us righties if we’ve stopped beating our wives yet?

      4. Jacobethan

        In your hypothetical non-CW location, are there lots of bike paths, homeless shelters, abortion clinics, overpriced cafés, and married gay couples holding hands?

        Maybe yes, maybe no. I’m talking about discourse norms, not substantive policy.

        If the debate over what level of shelters/clinics/cafes to have stays within its own discrete box that people who are agnostic or indifferent are free to ignore while still pursuing the things that actually interest them through the full range of associational life, then it’s non-CW.

        To the degree that school and church and museums and sports and hobbyist groups and the workplace and the media devolve into so many occasions for obligatory hectoring and virtue-signaling on one side or another of the great Shelter/Clinic/Cafe Question, then it’s CW.

        Also, I feel it’s kind of grand to call the strong left-leaning tenets “evangelical” when the actual evangelical movement in America has been so oppressive towards people (women, lgbt, etc) and active in pushing its own cultural politics (creationism, etc).

        Look, you’re free to fight me on the “Is Wokeness a Religion?” issue. But insofar as it is “like a religion” in some sense, it seems clear enough to me that the sort of religion it’s like is, in its emotional temperature, much more revivalist and evangelical than, say, High Church Anglican.

        Another way of putting this is that America is historically a pretty evangelical country, and American social movements tend to partake of a strongly evangelical character, regardless of whether they come from the “left” or the “right.”

      5. DinoNerd

        @205guy

        I’m not sure whether this is a direct response to Jacobethan, or whether it’s one level down in the hierarchy – this UI makes it hard to tell.

        Assuming the former, I disagree. Uribe brought in a more specific tribal orientation, and most of the discussion took off from there. Jacobethan’s request seemed neutral to me.

    5. original-internet-explorer

      I share your concern. There is a lot of value we get from America but this is real.

      In my country bad political decisions and cultural problems all stem back to the American Culture War.

      One of our politicians set up the migration system such that tens of thousands of Nigerians migrated here just because they wanted to. Now we have lots of anti racist screeds in newspapers and anti-racist slogans spraypainted in train stations. The entire project is obviously from the American Culture War and has nothing to do with our context. I know from personal experience the attitude of the Irish changed from openness to black residents to suspicion their presence is not warranted.

      And I’m going to say it. The guy who did this was Jewish, lives in New York culture and heavily influenced by the American Culture War and his Progressive SJ beliefs. He’s a walking alt-right stereotype. I understand what he was going for with his ideals – I understand he thought he was performing a moral action – and I understand also that his effort is in the end a form of progressive accelerationism.

      When somebody of my race or class or political faction does something bad – it’s important for me to come out and say Not In My Name. A while back there was an attack on a synagogue in America where Jews were killed. I wanted to come here and say that didn’t represent me – but felt it was easier not to – to not open to possible attack – and I think now that was a mistake on my part even if I received verbal abuse. So I understand when black communities are mute when their people are badly behaved and why a Jewish American might feel they don’t want to possibly further antisemitism by putting a spotlight on immoral behaviour by a Jew but I think in the end we are all the better if we are saying without equivocation that some people don’t represent us – because the signal to the other factions is unmistakable when we fail to act – it might be invisible but it is not overlooked. People notice hypocrisy – that is the hidden source of aggravation that gets worse in time. In a way it’s not hard to stop – I just had to let go of the feeling I was ceding something and I know when I’ve heard black Americans acknowledge the problems of their culture or Muslims acknowledge the cancers in theirs it is like balm on a wound.

      This might sound stupid sometimes – surely I as right winger don’t need to explain I’m not for genocide of blacks or what have you – but actually there is going to be somebody out there who has the feeling I’m tacitly in support of such a thing and because that could be an interpretation I have to say overtly what I’m about or my allies in other factions just won’t have much to work with and might one day have the same suspicions if my faction isn’t restraining the impulses of their worst type and is silent. The most recent example we should have said something was the New Zealand attack. The problem as I see it is there exists a ratchet. We might think enough time passes and this goes away but it doesn’t – it just pegs into a higher slot with each event – and the only force that moves the ratchet down is where different groups feel compelled to be charitable to each other. The problem with the Culture War is it becomes difficult to cede a point you should be making to allow the game to remain fair – even the worst partisans have a principal of fairplay but ceding anything is rare because when each faction feels like it’s being backed into a corner it becomes attached to its precious positions even if the result is terrible.

      1. Deiseach

        One of our politicians set up the migration system such that tens of thousands of Nigerians migrated here just because they wanted to.

        …And I’m going to say it. The guy who did this was Jewish, lives in New York culture and heavily influenced by the American Culture War and his Progressive SJ beliefs. He’s a walking alt-right stereotype. I understand what he was going for with his ideals – I understand he thought he was performing a moral action – and I understand also that his effort is in the end a form of progressive accelerationism.

        I might be very confused here, is the politician you are alluding to someone with the initials A.S.? Because “New York culture” isn’t what I’d associate with him, and while he is certainly very socially progressive in certain matters, he’s perfectly conservative in other ways (e.g. I don’t think he was hounded out of office and I do think he was too cosy with the police management and behaved in a high-handed manner). In sum, he’s a grandee of his particular party culturally and with regards to class.

        1. original-internet-explorer

          You might be correct here – I’m in the habit of confusing a few different characters from FG – usually A.S and Peter Sunderland and another one I can’t remember.

          The country is bedeviled – as I see it – by the absence of an Irish version of the Tory. I’m sticking my neck out there but I’m holding onto that – Edmund Burke has to be resuscitated. I’m sure if he was around we would have housing and land reforms, more original thought sparked in all areas.

      2. Etoile

        Man, the vicious cycle of people being stereotypical, and then the majority responds to the stereotype, and then it reinforces the stereotype, and then tensions and bad things ensue — it’s so hard to break.

        I’m a Jewish woman, and I’ll say I hate seeing that sort of thing. It pains me to see this just like it pains me when business-people and entrepreneurs treat employees like shit; when men, particularly right-wing men, treat women even on their side like shit. It sets back any kind of personal advocacy I might engage it to make the world more liberal (classically), more sane, more economically free, etc.

        BUT I’ll also say: ok, but when someone decides that they don’t like the fact that I’m Jewish, are they going to care that I said “not in my name”? Or am I condemned by blood? There’s no winning, unless I abandon the Jewish identity entirely and keep it secret – then maybe nobody will care. And it is true that a certain subset of people will view actions I take completely naturally — but if they find out I’m Jewish, it will be me “doing those actions while Jewish” and the actions take on completely new significance. And I have *no way* of proving them otherwise.

        I don’t know how to solve this problem, other than people being judged on their individual merits, and that becoming the standard again.

        1. original-internet-explorer

          The cure is better conversation and defecting on bad team players. I don’t think Hsu is bad but Stefan is in that category for me – he is too activated for his own good – and he needs to be in debate with another rightist like Sowell who agrees with him on something and has written books in his topic area – not a liberal or a leftist.

          On the minister’s case – he did it for the same reasons Deiseach said – it’s the memes in his culture and class because it’s the same kind of political mistake Angela Merkel made – the blindspot of social progressives. This said – I cannot provide cover because antisemitism went up because of his actions. He is the author of his actions and should have known he was trading virtue points in exchange for racial animus later. It would be an error to whitewash – it doesn’t work as a tactic because if political partisans have one virtue it is that they found x-ray vision at discerning just where the flaws of the other factions are. I’d have all the time in the world for him if he came out and said he made a mistake.

          It does feel like a bind – it would be immoral to make anybody to feel ashamed of their heritage or ancestry – I hate to see that. Eric Weinstein was talking about how horrifying it would be were Germans forced to debase themselves before him when referring to the cringe videos of whites being made to kneel and swear oaths against racism – but there is a big wave of this disturbing behaviour being promoted and most of the anti-semitic tropes are the same class as the ones against anybody of European ancestry – so you are not alone in this feeling that winning is not one of the possible options.

          The way to get rid of the gotchas is I believe for each faction or group to call out their own faction’s problem behaviours, blindspots, weaknesses in plain language in public. This risks being interpreted as being antisocial – but it’s possible to be diplomatic and speak plainly at the same time. In my country we sooner or later had to have a conversation and cultural change around men mistreating their wives. I believe the British newspapers had that as a trope about us – but that changed and our culture doesn’t stand for that anymore – we developed new problems – we can talk about those another time.

          Without an open conversation people are left with the darkest possible interpretation to grow in their minds – the right is fearing that the left is using transgender rights to one day forward sex with minors – were prominent LGBT people to affirm that is not part of their program and never will be – they aren’t ceding ground even if it feels like opening the gate to attack and most partisans would be more charitable in the next round. Another version of this is where some Jewish guys were coming out against circumcision and that gave them points with me because they weren’t going private with their concern and acting as a monolithic block.

          There is skeletons is everybody’s closet – as some people here have pointed out there is some merit to some Social Justice ideas and a conversation can be had – but what we see presented to us in the media is this holier than thou attitude offending everybody except themselves. Most transgenders I’ve met are not crazy – and these people never appear on television right? I seem to remember in the earlier days of television there was real conversations between people with different politics – and that counted for something. Here on SSC we can talk one to one – a liberal I presume to a rightist – and that’s how it should be more widely. I’m confident at the meet-ups most people are very different and still reasonable – that is the culture to promote – the liberalism of the cafe or coffeehouse with scones and some forgiveness for error instead of the trench warfare we see each day on social media. The world is becoming boring – it gets more noticeable each day – we’ve become too synchronized by the social media and it will end with a series of moral panics.

          1. DavidFriedman

            The way to get rid of the gotchas is I believe for each faction or group to call out their own faction’s problem behaviours, blindspots, weaknesses in plain language in public.

            The clearest example I know of that was George Orwell.

          2. original-internet-explorer

            @DavidFriedman

            It’s like the Vatican’s devil’s advocate – you need Orwells for each stakeholder in a policy. Opposition partisans seem to be good at spotting policy errors connected to different values but the inside baseball spots other types of mistakes – policy possibilities that rest in a faction blindspot.

            One of my pet examples of something that seems missing in policy space is precached genetic searches for organ transplants like bone marrow. This would be positive for all people but most of all those rare biracial combinations – it would break your heart to look at the websites set up for this purpose. I have never heard a Leftist or a Liberal discuss solutions to this – when I bring it up it’s waved away and I became suspicious it’s because the proposal isn’t interpreted charitably. If you had the inside baseball right liberal reviewing healthcare policy and genomics – mandating organ matching in advance of illness seems to me like an easy win. I could be mistaken here but nobody has explained to me why I am and my suspicion is the inside baseball person could steelman the case in a way other factions find to be acceptable.

          3. original-internet-explorer

            @anonymousskimmer

            The grimdark version I watched was called The Promised Neverland – recommended!

            The response I get suggests – usually ignorance there exists a cause of harm by not being proactive – but sometimes I sense it’s the topic of race being radioactive and short circuiting the brain.

            It makes sense for all people to have precached entries instead of searching for possible matches at the point of organ failures – late by years not weeks. In the ideal when you are a newborn the matches are found and arrangements organized were any from that category in need of assistance.

            The West has a horrible Not Invented Here Syndrome – there are useful ideas in the Iranian, Russian, Japanese medical systems like sanctioned organ markets, phage therapy and preventative healthcare like Ningen Dock. I’m not an expert in these areas – but I don’t hear compelling arguments against adoption. I searched a lot on Ningen Dock and know nobody has heard of it so they can’t have argued it’s a bad idea.

    6. Gerry Quinn

      I think we are still pretty good in Ireland, even if the media have been infected to some extent with the American psychosis. You can have opinions across a pretty wide spectrum without a lot of people deciding that’s the only important thing about you.

      1. original-internet-explorer

        @Gerry

        You have to pay heed to the small reveals – the direction we’re going in is not positive.

        In the last 10 years I’ve seen more gates, cameras and security systems and the people I speak with sometimes imply it’s because of blacks and illegals – and there has been a lot of shocking murders we didn’t have before. These used to be rare I’m sure you recall. It doesn’t have to be about a specific race – it can be a sign of social stresses opening cracks. It’s a sort of ecology where one animal in its niche can change the behaviour of other animals in ways which are not obvious.

        We are also seeing the same caste pattern in the UK and USA where blacks or POC are becoming classified automatically as an underclass while most whites get a strange upgrade we didn’t have before and the different groups are moving into places where they can remain separated. This isn’t as formalized yet but it’s happening fast because we are learning from the Americans instead of thinking for ourselves

        None of this is said outright – it just happens and then we gaslight the left by saying it’s not happening and they interpret all of it as bigotry. Meanwhile the newspapers start to overlook ethnic and cultural criminality and the right swells with us natives. To date the liberals in government are mostly keeping their eye on the ball but the American CW is going to keep throwing us new additions to play with and the minute our Liberals become as corrupted as the American versions we are in the same trouble they are now.

    7. cassander

      San Diego seems a remarkably sensible place, the biggest city in the country where republicans aren’t totally marginal, but not particularly red tribe.

      1. Jacobethan

        San Diego is a really good call. At least that was my impression of it going back a while, don’t know how it’s changed since.

        I’d wondered a bit about Miami. “Remarkably sensible” is probably not the description we’re going for, but South Florida would also seem to have a specifically local form of conservatism — the whole anti-Castro thing — that doesn’t really map onto what we’d normally think of as Red Tribe either. But I haven’t really spent any time there and I’m not sure how strong that tendency is with the younger generations.

      2. Reasoner

        San Diego is just to the north of Tijuana and is also substantially safer than it, right? I imagine that contrast could create appreciation for the fact that America still does some things well.

        They’ve also got a big military base right?

    8. AliceToBob

      In terms of countries (other economically advanced), how would Japan rank? I honestly don’t know, but I personally haven’t seen any CW issues involving them.

      1. AG

        Conflict is brewing in Japan, though. Conversations and activism about their culture’s ethnic discrimination, homophobia, right nationalism, and police brutality are increasing. This is what I mean above about how the “no talking about CW” norm is sometimes simply mandating the conservative view as the default.

      2. John Schilling

        The Japanese culture war runs along different lines than the American one, for obvious reasons. Not much point in e.g. arguing about whether Black Lives Matter when there’s only a few thousand black people living in your country. So if you’re an American looking for someplace to move where “The Culture War” isn’t going to be a problem, maybe Japan is a place where you could simply ignore the whole thing.

        Small probability of that working out really bad if the “All foreigners really are hopeless barbarians, and the Americans were especially evil barbarians for picking on us in WWII” faction wins the Japanese Culture War, but I think that’s only slightly more likely than the white supremacists winning the US Culture War. For now, it’s a fairly marginal position.

    9. Doesntliketocomment

      I’m going to be bombastic about this: The reason there seems to be no safe haven anymore form the culture war is because this is quite literally World War 3.

      WWI and WW2 were as earth shattering as they were was because at the start* Europe was the wheelhouse of the world. (*but not by the end) The main European powers called the tune and the world danced, and so when they decided to really go at it with a fervor that would have made Napoleon blush, the rest of the world from the most backwater Siberian hamlet to the heart of Africa, was compelled to join in.

      So Europe faded, and in the last 60 years the US has come to dominate the globe in a way that has likely not be equaled in the last 1000. US cultural detritus can be found at the heart of the Amazon, the bottom of the ocean, and on the airless surface of the moon. American artifacts have even pierced the heliosphere. But for all this might, who is really in charge of the US? By design, the United states was not built around a people but an ideology, and a half-formed one at that. So we come to a place where all of this power and influence has no clear direction, no ownership. Unclaimed power beckons to men, and its calls are seldom unheeded. Sides have formed to claim this mantle, their hodgepodge ideologies are designed more for opposition than consistency. Taken as a whole they make little sense, with individual causes picked the way children might draft each other for a soccer match.

      What we are seeing now is a fight in the cockpit of the world. Until this is put to rest, it will continue to expand until encompasses every human being, whether they understand it or not. So when looking for islands insulated from the storm, keep in mind that they might not last.

    10. keaswaran

      > a large segment of US elite institutions may have become irretrievably committed to a project of Blue Tribe inculturation

      I think this is a mistake. This large segment of US elite institutions has *always* been irretrievably committed to a project of inculturation into a very specific culture. Our politics has also had a Republican-Democratic axis for over 150 years. Separately, there has also been a culture war in the United States for well over 150 years. It’s quite well-known that the partisan axis and the culture war axis have rotated in this higher-dimensional cultural space in various different ways over the decades, with one period of alignment in the mid to late 19th century, and another period of (reverse) alignment in the past 20 years or so. But it’s less appreciated that the US elite institutional axis has *also* rotated gradually in this space, and is currently very aligned with these aligned political and cultural axes. This can make it seem like it’s a new thing for universities to be a place where people are brainwashed into elite globalist white culture. But that’s always been what they are primarily about, with knowledge of math and science and social science and humanities being a tool that is incidentally provided along the way.

      1. original-internet-explorer

        If this is true there should exist undiscovered scientific development – unexplored parts of the tech tree in easy reach.

      2. cassander

        This large segment of US elite institutions has *always* been irretrievably committed to a project of inculturation into a very specific culture. Our politics has also had a Republican-Democratic axis for over 150 years.

        True, but prior to the 1930s, it didn’t matter all that much. the biggest prize you could win was a federal government that controlled a couple percent of GDP, and used most of that to hire soldiers and postmen. Today the prize for winning is orders of magnitude more power and influence.

  4. outis

    This is the most interesting and concerning article I have read about the Floyd case:

    https://medium.com/@gavrilodavid/why-derek-chauvin-may-get-off-his-murder-charge-2e2ad8d0911

    Interesting because it explains aspects of police procedure in that department which I had not seen discussed elsewhere. It gives the first credible account I’ve seen of how the cops involved ended up acting as they did; without justifying them, of course.

    Concerning because we can all imagine the consequences if he does walk.

    1. Anteros

      Agree about it being an interesting article. If I was on the jury and all we had was the video and that article, I’d be tempted to acquit.

      I also agree that there would be consequences if Chauvin does walk, to put it mildly.

      I can be very idealistic about things like ‘innocent until proven guilty’, and ‘everyone deserves a fair trial’, but if I felt certain that acquitting someone would cause chaos and a complete breakdown of law and order in a country of more than 300 million people, I might lose a certain portion of my idealism. I really wouldn’t want to be on that jury.

      1. Gerry Quinn

        If you’re in that spot, the chaos is coming soon anyway. A tougher issue might be a country that is stable and you need to cover up a crime by the government to keep it so.

    2. DeWitt

      On the point talking about ‘the department’s policies said it was okay’..

      .. Is that really evidence in favor of anyone, right now?

      Chauvin was not under any orders to act as he did, and he made the call by himself. If the department’s policy had been a hypothetical ‘if a black man does anything you dislike, just shoot him’, we’d not exonerate him either. Why should a jury care about the department’s policies? Why is the proper move not both to convict Chauvin and punish the people so cavalier in their attitudes about human life?

      1. smocc

        The parts of the argument here that shook me were that all of Chauvin’s training and information would have taught him that the hold he used was non-lethal (and even perhaps safest for everyone involved) and that there’s reasonable doubt as to the cause of death.

        If those two arguments hold up then you could still argue for a manslaughter conviction but murder becomes hard to prove.

        1. Matt M

          If those two arguments hold up then you could still argue for a manslaughter conviction but murder becomes hard to prove.

          Yeah… it seems obvious that in this case (and the Atlanta case as well), the prosecutors are over-charging for political reasons (to placate the angry mob). The mob, of course, doesn’t understand that the higher the charge, the harder it is to convict. But in the event that one or both of these guys walks, the DA will throw their hands in the air and say “Well I did my best but the jury was racist, what can you do?” and walk away.

          We already saw this basically play out with George Zimmerman. They overcharged him and he walked. They probably could have got him on manslaughter, but charging him with manslaughter was not politically optimal.

          1. Evan Þ

            Fortunately, the Chauvin jury will have the option to convict on the lesser included charge of manslaughter.

      2. Matt M

        If the department’s policy had been a hypothetical ‘if a black man does anything you dislike, just shoot him’, we’d not exonerate him either.

        I’m not so sure. At least depending on your definition of “we.” I find it entirely plausible that 1-in-12 Americans would, in fact, exonerate a cop who was “just following orders.” And that’s really all Chauvin needs.

      3. AliceToBob

        @ outis

        Thanks for sharing that.

        @ DeWitt

        Why should a jury care about the department’s policies?

        Perhaps for the same reasons this article updates my views on the death of George Floyd. Up until this point, it’s been very difficult to interpret the arrest video as anything but police brutality.

        The article plausibly argues that the actions taken by Chauvin followed from policies designed around the safety of police officers and those they deal with. It’s a tough tradeoff to strike, and the outcome here is one of the worst.

        But, yikes, this article offers an alternate perspective of Chauvin’s state of mind. That, along with the claim that respiratory distress began even before the arrest due to the “potentially lethal” levels of fentanyl and meth in Floyd’s system (he was claiming he couldn’t breathe while standing upright), mitigates some of the worst inferences from the arrest video.

        Hopefully, we’ll get to the bottom of these things in court. But if these two aspects are both supported, it shifts my view away from “this is murder” to “Chauvin may be acquitted”. It’s possible that some jury members may feel the same.

        Why is the proper move not both to convict Chauvin and punish the people so cavalier in their attitudes about human life?

        Feels like a rhetorical question…but because details like those in the article matter when deciding to convict a person of murder and potentially jail them for life? To do otherwise seems equally cavalier.

        1. anonymousskimmer

          That, along with the claim that respiratory distress began even before the arrest due to the “potentially lethal” levels of fentanyl and meth in Floyd’s system (he was claiming he couldn’t breathe while standing upright), mitigates some of the worst inferences from the arrest video.

          Doesn’t this make it worse? Let’s not believe anything an arrested person says about a medical condition, when we do have reason to believe that he has imbibed drugs (at least alcohol) in sufficient amount to plausibly give him a medical condition?

          1. AliceToBob

            @ anonymousskimmer

            I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding your claim (my fault, most likely). Can you elaborate further?

          2. anonymousskimmer

            Sure. I can be more clear. 🙂

            If the police did what they did to George Floyd but Floyd never mentioned he was in respiratory distress then their behavior would be more understandable than them doing the same when Floyd claimed to be in respiratory distress.

            The fact that Floyd’s claim of respiratory distress was plausibly true based on the facts that they, the cops, believed (i.e. he was intoxicated) is yet another aggravating factor. With that plausible claim the police should be entertaining the possibility that Floyd isn’t engaged in actively resisting arrest, but is responding as would a typical, non-resisting person in respiratory distress.

          3. AliceToBob

            @ anonymousskimmer

            Thanks, I think I understand what you’re saying.

            Doesn’t this make it worse? Let’s not believe anything an arrested person says about a medical condition, when we do have reason to believe that he has imbibed drugs (at least alcohol) in sufficient amount to plausibly give him a medical condition?

            The fact that Floyd’s claim of respiratory distress was plausibly true based on the facts that they, the cops, believed (i.e. he was intoxicated) is yet another aggravating factor. With that plausible claim the police should be entertaining the possibility that Floyd isn’t engaged in actively resisting arrest, but is responding as would a typical, non-resisting person in respiratory distress.

            I’m guessing the police officers may have entertained several possibilities: he’s drunk, he’s on drugs, he’s faking, he’s in medical distress, and others I’m can’t think of.

            On top of having to weigh those possibilities, Floyd was also exhibiting respiratory distress AND actively resisting (perhaps quite vigorously) AND checking some boxes for ExDS.

            I imagine there might not be a typical set of criteria that allows a cop to untangle this, at least not in real time. But I don’t know.

            If respiratory distress and ExDS are mutually disjoint conditions, and the police are trained to know this, then I think your point stands and, yeah, it’s worse.

            On the other hand, if they can occur together, then the cops may have been legitimately worried about ExDS and decided that was the overriding medical concern.

            On the other other hand, ExDS seems to encompass a broad range of behavior/symptoms, and so it seems like it could be used by malicious officers as an excuse for doing harm.

            But the main takeaway for me is: the situation doesn’t seem so clear cut anymore, and I could see jury members feeling the same way.

            Edited: to add “symptoms”

          4. anonymousskimmer

            @AliceToBob

            Yeah, I agree with you. I ultimately think this comes down to a duty-of-care standard, and that, in my opinion, police officers have a particularly high duty-of-care when making an arrest or incapacitating a person.

      4. John Schilling

        Why should a jury care about the department’s policies? Why is the proper move not both to convict Chauvin and punish the people so cavalier in their attitudes about human life?

        If the captain of a warship, knowing that a particular vessel is a refugee transport, tells his crew that it is an enemy troop transport and orders it sunk, do we convict the gunner of war crimes?

        It is not reasonable to expect that Derek Chauvin hold independent expertise in the diagnosis or management of Excited Delirium Syndrome. His state of mind, his belief as to what would result from his actions or from his hypothetical inaction, are based on the policies and training of the MPD. And the crimes of which he has been accused, require him to have believed his actions would likely result in the death of a man who posed no immediate danger to innocent life.

      5. A Definite Beta Guy

        If the department’s policy had been a hypothetical ‘if a black man does anything you dislike, just shoot him’, we’d not exonerate him either.

        Well, yeah, but that’s because it’s an entirely different situation entirely.
        Sort of like how if my boss says “it’s okay to reclass this expense into this capital order” it’s pretty strong evidence that I am not willfully committing fraud against the investors because it’s a company policy over a gray area between expenses and capital, and if my boss says “kill everyone in the plant I am an evil supervillain BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” then it means my boss is crazy.

        Telling police officers that it is okay to kill ethnic minorities if the officers don’t like them is basically comic book supervillainry, and knee restraints are a common practice throughout most of the country for specific situations.

        Also, if we suddenly decide that, say, LIFO accounting is basically tax fraud and we need to ban it, like Obama tried to do, then we should obey the Constitution’s whole “Ex Post Facto” thing and not throw me in jail for something legal at the time. I would also prefer a spirit of charity and not tar me with feathers if it is suddenly decided some legal and commonplace accounting practices currently in use are actually Really Bad, so that I can continue to go to my daughter’s soccer games and eat at restaurants without Cancel Brigade showing up every 5 minutes.

    3. 10240

      The article says that the neck restraint used is not especially dangerous, the situation was dangerous for the people involved regardless of what they do, and there was a significant risk of death regardless of what restraint is used; but it also says that what the officers did was wrong, and the rules they acted on (and thus the police department) are responsible for Floyd’s death. Conditional on the article getting the facts right, what should the policemen have done instead?

      1. Deiseach

        The Floyd case is just an entire mess, but I am seriously asking a question here: what is the best way to restrain an unarmed person who is agitated or disturbed?

        I’m asking because today is the state funeral of an Irish police officer who was killed by such a person, who grabbed the guard’s weapon and shot him with it.

        The case is strange for a couple of reasons; first, Irish police are not routinely armed, so that an armed officer was sent out to deal with this guy is unusual. Secondly, that it seems he was sent out on his own. Thirdly, that it seems this guy has a record of causing trouble due to mental health problems. And fourthly, of course, how on earth did he grab the gun?

        But from this side, a case like this, you can see why American police might be trained/conditioned to be aggressive/proactive and not assume that just because the person seems to be unarmed that they are not dangerous. That kind of attitude can then lead to being trigger-happy or using dangerous restraint methods.

        1. John Schilling

          The Floyd case is just an entire mess, but I am seriously asking a question here: what is the best way to restrain an unarmed person who is agitated or disturbed?

          I think step one is, if at all possible have at least two people for each subject that needs to be restrained. I share your bafflement at the Garda sending one, armed, officer for that job.

        2. Nancy Lebovitz

          Floyd was handcuffed behind his back, so less drastic methods would be needed than for someone who isn’t restrained.

    4. Viliam

      George Floyd was experiencing cardiopulmonary and psychological distress minutes before he was placed on the ground, let alone had a knee to his neck.

      Doesn’t seem like a reason to keep suffocating him. (“His health is already in bad shape. Might as well kill him and blame it on his health.”)

      Restraining the suspect on his or her abdomen (prone restraint) is a common tactic in ExDS situations, and the white paper used by the MPD instructs the officers to control the suspect until paramedics arrive.

      Someone please explain: does “restraining on their abdomen” include “kneeling on their neck” or not? (If not, how is this relevant?)

      Floyd’s autopsy revealed a potentially lethal concoction of drugs — not just a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, but also methamphetamine. Together with his history of drug abuse and two serious heart conditions, Floyd’s condition was exceptionally and unusually fragile.

      Unusually fragile, you say?

      …but yes, I can see that a sufficiently motivated person could use this as an excuse to let the murdercop go.

      1. AliceToBob

        @ Viliam

        …but yes, I can see that a sufficiently motivated person could use this as an excuse to let the murdercop go.

        I assume you mean motivated in the sense of gathering as many of the relevant facts as possible before coming to a conclusion.

        1. Viliam

          Relevance is the issue. If we investigate someone’s rape, is it okay to mention that the victim was promiscuous in the past? If we investigate someone’s murder, is it okay to mention that the victim had health problems in the past? Some people believe that this only provides a convenient excuse to dismiss the crime as no big deal because the victim had it coming anyway.

          1. AliceToBob

            @ Viliam

            If we investigate someone’s murder, is it okay to mention that the victim had health problems in the past?

            I think it depends on the circumstances. Consider if the article is correct about a couple points. First, Floyd took a potentially lethal dose of drugs in the recent past, unbeknownst to the cops. Second, these drugs made lethal a typically non-lethal police restraint. Then, I can see how a charge of murder might be blunted.

            …but yes, I can see that a sufficiently motivated person could use this as an excuse to let the murdercop go.

            I shouldn’t have referred to “facts” in my response to this, since we don’t know the truth of these things. Even if true, a jury might not find them relevant. But at least their inclusion as inputs into the trial seems reasonable, particularly if we care about allowing for a robust defense of the accused.

            And I don’t think one needs to be “sufficiently motivated”–whatever you’re insinuating with that terminology–to reach that conclusion.

    5. DavidFriedman

      I haven’t read the article, but my conclusion from the original stories about the Floyd killing was that it was manslaughter, not murder. I don’t think the cop intended to kill him, he was merely criminally irresponsible in how he restrained him, at a point when it was no longer necessary.

      1. outis

        Yes, this is why I said “it gives the first credible account I’ve seen of how the cops involved ended up acting as they did”. It never seemed plausible to me that four police officers woke up that day and said “let’s go kill ourselves a black man in broad daylight in front of cameras”.

        Clearly a lot of people thought it was, having much higher priors on the police being bloodthirsty racists than we do. Of course, in Bayesian terms, they could rightly point at the video and say “see, it did happen, update your priors!”. But if we raise our prior on the police wanting to kill black people out of racism to the level required to make this murder plausible, that is, to the point that four officers of various races feel comfortable committing a racist murder in broad daylight, in front of cameras, with a completely calm demeanor, as if what they were doing was normal and they expected no consequences; if police racism is so widespread and powerful and bloodthirsty as to make that plausible, then we should expect to see way more police killings of unarmed blacks than we actually do, and in a much higher proportion compared to police killings of whites.

        So when I saw the video I was outraged, but I always thought that there was something unexplained about the behavior of the officers. This article is the first source I’ve seen that fills in the blanks to allow a plausible version of their thought process.

        1. Nancy Lebovitz

          I don’t think police typically end up killing because they intended to kill.

          I think it’s more like habitually thinking that if it looks as though they themselves are at risk, they won’t be inhibited about violence up to and including killing.

          1. outis

            Sure, but you’re not out in the streets smashing windows and toppling monuments, presumably. I think the average protestor, and probably the average African-American, really does think that cops are out to brutalize and kill blacks specifically (the protesters literally say this, and more). They believe that cops kill black people nearly exclusively, and I don’t blame them for it, because that’s what TV shows them

            If the media were forced to report all such killings with equal emphasis, irrespective of the race of the victim, it would reduce racial tensions, and it would bring us much closer to dealing with the police brutality problem.

      2. Clutzy

        Having read the article I think the prosecution has a hard road to hoe. I’m not sure they are going to be able to prove the officers actions are a but for or proximate cause of the death. I also am not sure they are going to be able to prove the force used was excessive or unreasonable.

        The more you learn about Floyd, the more you start to think he was going to die on that night unless some miracle happened.

    1. roflc0ptic

      Apparently just from his administrative post. Kevin Bird’s twitter says something like “the campaign was never about getting rid of Hsu’s tenured position.” More ominously for MSU, he also writes

      “Thank you @michiganstateu for making the right choice. There’s a lot of work ahead to address and heal the deep structural problems at our university but I’m optimistic we can get there together.

      Hsu’s repeated interaction with alt-right people wigs me out, but as far as I could tell, Bird really was flagrantly taking Hsu’s statements out of context to make him look like he supported ideas he explicitly disavowed. He really wasn’t being honest. Even if the dishonesty isn’t widely known, I hope this level of drama makes Bird unemployable. Certainly administrations wouldn’t want him around. Much like Hsu at this point, Bird is an institutional risk.

        1. roflc0ptic

          Thanks, I think I read through that. Not trying to re-litigate: just making a further point based on new info from after the firing. Maybe would’ve been better on that thread.

          That said – those are political positions which aren’t strictly institutional risks. Universities are generally unthreatened by employees just having far left views. As someone who knows the mind of a lot of academics and radicals, he’s not alone in that thinking, though many are circumspect enough not to say it so publicly.

          Publicly mounting campaigns (based on evident lies) against members of a university administration, and then saying essentially “I’m not done yet!” is a different category of thing.

      1. albatross11

        That’s great sauce-for-the-gander stuff, but I’d rather Bird get hired for jobs based on his competence and knowledge, regardless of his distasteful and socially destructive extracurricular activities. The person who failed here isn’t Bird, it’s the president of MSU.

        1. roflc0ptic

          It’s a fair point. If we take out my own vindictive motivations here… I’m really unclear on what I think here, or if I agree.

          In some principled universe, I think I would prefer that MSU’s president judge Hsu baed on his competence and knowledge, but in real life, taking that stand would be matyring himself and probably matrying MSU. The incentives are heavily aligned against him ever taking a principled stand that hurts the university, and the context of Hsu’s case here in 2020 makes it worse.

          Organizations(/cultures/hobby groups) can’t really exist without people acting in the organizations interest. E.g. the Shakers don’t exist anymore because of their principled, self destructive policy of not reproducing. The political moment changed, Bird took his shot, and Hsu became a liability. The institution acted.

          If a biologist wrote on the top of their resume, “My goal is to cause as much harm to this institution and my colleagues as possible while also putting out top notch biology papers”, I kind of feel like this should be disqualifying, but I’m not sure what principle to tie it to. If he had a penchant for murdering his colleagues over petty disagreements, I think everyone could agree that would be an overriding consideration: don’t hire the guy. Hsu and Bird’s case are much less clear cut. But for institutions like MSU to thrive, they have to protect themselves pretty strategically, over principles.

          I’m personally happy to sacrifice MSU’s wellbeing for the greater good of limiting the power of twitter mobs and principles of meritocracy, but principles that say “everyone should self harm for my principles” feel wrong, and I think asking that Hsu and Bird only be judged on their professional competence seems like that sort of principle.

          .. Which I think can all be summarized with a confused shrug.

          1. Paul Zrimsek

            I can agree with this inasmuch as I expect MSU to look after the interests of MSU, much as I expect the Minneapolis police department to look after the interests of the Minneapolis police department. What I find myself unable to do in either case is approve, especially considering that they are both taxpayer-supported: if I were in the Michigan legislature, I’d incline to the view that if MSU is only going to look out for MSU, it should do so on its own dime.

          2. Ninety-Three

            If a biologist wrote on the top of their resume, “My goal is to cause as much harm to this institution and my colleagues as possible while also putting out top notch biology papers”, I kind of feel like this should be disqualifying, but I’m not sure what principle to tie it to.

            Hiring is meant to select the candidate who will best advance the goals of the organization (e.g. write a bunch of biology papers). Normally the main variables candidates on which candidates differ are how many papers they write, and how good those papers will be, so we judge candidates based on their competence and knowledge. But Mr. Tear Down My Peers will significantly reduce the organization’s overall output of papers by diminishing the productivity of his coworkers. Choosing not to hire him is part of the normal and consistent principle that underpins most hiring, it’s just on an axis that rarely comes up because most people try to emphasize that they’re a team player.

        2. Le Maistre Chat

          Would someone on the Right who Tweeted in support of some non-BLM rioters actively burning buildings face arrest for federal conspiracy charges?

          1. roflc0ptic

            It’s not illegal, so at first blush this sounds like fairly conspiratorial thinking. Are there examples of this happening?

          2. Ninety-Three

            If by “support” you mean that they said “Seeing [this] is the proudest I’ve been of America in a long time”, no, not even close, that’s super protected.

          3. Le Maistre Chat

            @Ninety-Three: That’s a relief to hear.
            Just to clarify, if Google firing James Damore had resulted in mobs of Republicans coordinating through social media to go burn down Google-owned buildings, nobody who cheered it on with the post “Seeing Google buildings burn is the proudest I’ve been of America in a long time” would be prosecuted? It would be such an open-and-shut protected speech case that no poster would be subjected to the process as punishment?
            Obviously that’s not morally equivalent, since George Floyd was murdered rather than fired and banks had nothing to do with it, but it seems the equal Free Speech hypothetical.

          4. Ninety-Three

            @Le Maistre Chat
            Yes, speech protections go really far here, imminent lawless action is a pretty strict test. Given a statement several degrees milder than those permitted by famous court cases, and little precedent of the government prosecuting people out of the blue for bad tweets, it’d be pretty wild to go after “proud of America” guy.

            Like, you know that the internet is fully of edgy boys who cheer on mass shooters right? The feds have never gone after them.

          5. roflc0ptic

            For a very fleshed out example, check out “Endgame” by Derrick Jensen, where he’s advocating for the violent overthrow of civilization “by any means necessary” – blowing up dams, destroying powerlines.

          6. Lambert

            Or Hess vs Indiana, for a more protest-related example.

            They’re serious about the ‘imminent’ part.

        3. LesHapablap

          Keeping out toxic jerks is extremely important to every organization. One toxic jerk will ruin the morale and productivity of a team and cause good people to leave. There is probably no worse hiring decision than to bring someone like that on.

          One of your goals running a company should be to create an organization that reflects your values. Hiring people with similar values is important to that goal, and if you think your values are morally correct (you should) then creating a powerful organization that reflects and promotes those values is a morally good thing.

          1. silver_swift

            if you think your values are morally correct (you should) then creating a powerful organization that reflects and promotes those values is a morally good thing.

            It’s worth pointing out that the bolded part is not quite true. You should only believe that no other set of values is more likely to be morally correct than yours.

            You should definitely not be 100% certain that your values are morally correct. That’s what the whole asymmetric weapons thing is about, fighting with weapons that make it more likely the good guys win, even if you happen to not be one of them.

          2. LesHapablap

            That’s certainly a fair point. I just meant it in the sense that if you try to be a good person for whatever definition you have, it is likely that your values are morally good and you shouldn’t subscribe to a wishy-washy moral relativism. You should apply your values to your business and get everyone else to do so as well, and there is nothing to be ashamed of about that.

            I realize that this gives carte blanche to the worst sort of SJW-saturated organizations to keep out anyone who disagrees, but that’s still good in the same sense that it is good that the constitution gives carte blanche to let people say awful things.

          3. anonymousskimmer

            @LesHapablap

            Any business that controls patents is a government-licensed monopoly. They need to be held to higher standards than a fungible business.

  5. Error

    Is there a word for the meta-opinion “I’ll treat your opinions on topic X as relevant if you actually know something concrete about X”?

    I remember encountering the idea in an SSC comment that went roughly “you have the right to an opinion on nuclear power iff you know how much of your energy comes from nuclear”. I could swear the author of said comment had a word for it, but google has failed me in finding it.

    1. Belisaurus Rex

      It signals that you might be a good conversational partner on the topic instead of just mood affiliating. It’s a little rude, but I wouldn’t want to waste an hour talking about nuclear in a “college freshman bull session”.

      For example, if someone talking about renewables doesn’t even know about storage/peak load, there’s nothing productive to say.

  6. proyas

    Has there ever been a case where two, identical twins were born, with the only difference being their 23rd chromosome pair (i.e. – one had XX and the other XY)? I’d be interested in learning about such cases to better understand sexual dimorphism.

    1. anonymousskimmer

      I think this is about as close as you can get: https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2019/02/28/semi-identical-twins-resulted-from-two-sperm-fertilizing-one-egg/#3fd8a4059093

      The twins are chimeras sharing ~77% of paternal DNA and 100% of maternal DNA. The female twin had noticeable medical problems.

      Though it technically could be possible if a twining resulted from an embryo resulting from an XY sperm and an X egg or an XX egg and a Y sperm. I have no idea how to search for this without getting a bunch of undesired papers.

  7. Betty Cook

    On the subject of worries about attention…

    I am married to David Friedman, have been for a long time, and he has been on the internet since Usenet days, posting under his own name. Regulars here will have a good sense of how controversial he is likely to get. I have spent something on the order of 30 years with a slight worry that one of these days, someone mad at David will come throw a brick through our front window or the like.

    Hasn’t happened yet.

    Granted, Twitter didn’t exist when the internet was Usenet, and it is orders of magnitude easier to join a Twitter mob than to get to someone’s house across the country and throw a brick through his window. But if the latter was going to happen to someone for internet comments, David seems to me to be a likely candidate, and, for whatever comfort this may be, it hasn’t.

    1. Nick

      FWIW, to narrow the range a little further, it seems to me like it’s only been since the gamer controversy that it has become an actual (if still remote) danger to Be Controversial on the Internet (TM). The Usenet days, at least the way everyone tells me, were full of eccentric weirdos who really liked to talk; these days we’re surrounded by (or have become) conformist NPCs who really like to shut others up.

      1. samboy

        Well, if people got really out of line, the Usenet mob would gang up and work on making the person in question unable to post again. There was, in the mid-1990s, some Holocaust denier nut case over at Netcom who would post in a bunch of newsgroups (think sub-Reddits, but mostly without moderation) his Holocaust denying screeds until, after getting a bunch of complaints, Netcom set things up so he could only post in a handful of newsgroups.

        Cancel culture wasn’t really a thing until the mid-2010s, but people would go to a lot of effort to harass and deplatform people who used Usenet to post spam.

      2. Gerry Quinn

        People would hurl insults and abuse at each other on usenet, but for the most part it was all in fun, and nobody worried about cancel mobs. Though even then there were some sensitive souls who didn’t like the rough and tumble.

        It was with the advent of social media for everyone that stuff started to get weaponised.

    2. Reborn

      I don’t think the fear is of bricks through windows but getting fired, and I think it’s a more legitimate fear than many here seem to suspect.

      People downthread were speculating that the number of people canceled is probably in the dozens or maybe just over a hundred. I looked for some good figures, but I couldn’t find them, and frankly, I don’t think there’d be any way to collect them because most cancellations will never make any news.

      My wife has worked for about a year at a company with a couple thousand employees. She knows of five people who have been fired in the past year because of complaints from social media.

      Unless her company is a huge outlier, that would suggest that the total number of cancellations could easily be in the low thousands rather than the low hundreds. And there’d be no way to know of any of them because not a one of them made the news. (I looked.)

      1. samboy

        0.25% of employees getting fired (i.e. 5 out of a “couple thousand” which I made 2,000) because of cancel culture would result in (in the US at least) 389,430 people getting fired. [1] That seems a few orders of magnitude higher than the number of people who have lost their jobs that I hear about in the news.

        I have never seen anyone or heard of anyone who was fired, reprimanded, or otherwise held accountable for something they did on social media in my many years working the tech industry.

        [1] Before COVID-19, the US had 155,772,000 employed people

        1. jewelersshop

          Two who made AFAIK only local news:
          One, a couple years ago, was Marriott’s social media graveyard shift guy. His job was “monitor social media and if anyone says something good about Marriott, like/retweet/whatever from the corporate account.” Someone tweeted a thank you to Marriott for recognizing Taiwan, so he did his job – and China insisted he be fired; Marriott promptly caved. So you can get fired in the US if you violate China’s speech norms. (Whether wumao will notice this comment I do not know; no idea if they monitor this blog all the time, or just check front-page virus posts).

          The other was last week. Someone posted something on social media (What was it? Local news helpfully did not include that information.) that someone else deemed racist. Based on the name, the latter someone decided the poster was the son of a certain restaurant owner and started a protest outside the restaurant.* Customers had to be escorted to their cars by police for several days, and police were also called to the owner’s home as the protest group showed up threateningly there for two nights in a row. So the restaurant closed permanently. Keep in mind, this was not for something that had happened at the restaurant, nor for something the owner did or said. He lost his business due to being related to someone who said something deemed objectionable.

          Two anecdata isn’t much, but both are impressively bad for a free society (successful international pressure to fire a low-level functionary; cancelled because you’re related to someone).

          *The protestors also did not like one menu item’s name, a biscuits-and-gravy-dish named the Robert E. Lee; when the place opened in 1976, that was a “hello Northerners, here is a Southern dish” name. They told local news that they wanted the dish renamed and to have a menu item named after a black person (because that would never be deemed racist).

          1. original-internet-explorer

            I can’t put myself in the brain of somebody who wants to cancel Uncle Ben.

            For decades millions of people have interpreted the symbol and name as a proud old black man and now he’s on the wrong side of history.

            It’s not interesting there are fringe views held by some faction. It is interesting that the society is pampering the social justice fringe. If you visit an alt-right website you will see complaints about bigoted advertising – these are not typically minor details but horrifying attitudes against men or whites being passed off as fun or virtuous. If reversing the races in the advertising makes it racist to contemporary society then the society is hypocritical.

          2. anonymousskimmer

            @original-internet-explorer
            There are a ton of food products with old white women on them as well. Given that the historical reason women tended to cook more often than men was due to patriarchy, shouldn’t those be changed as well?

            I mean this seriously as a liberal.

            I think it best that these things be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and only ones that should be removed be removed (based not on stereotyping, but based on whether the original reason was stereotyping and the intent of that stereotyping).

          3. Edward Scizorhands

            A lot of cancelling is just entertainment.

            Like going to the Coliseum to watch people devoured by lions.

          4. original-internet-explorer

            @anonymousskimmer

            A symbolic win is important like the Berlin Wall but the cancelers are having micro scale wins at an expense like using a blowtorch to remove zits. All the indefensible behaviour we have seen on video – it’s social stress – this is not how these people conduct themselves on better days.

            I would like to be part of Cancel Culture – and here is what I would do – I’d cancel almost all news media except Steve Paikin and the North Korean team who produces news reports on Coronavirus. I don’t want to do this but we have run out of options.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGQNc1Nrvlo
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI_MG3ZnDak

      2. Alejandro

        Does “because of complaints from social media” include non-ideological stuff like a customer complaining that an employee was rude, incompetent, etc? I wouldn’t say that e.g. a waiter fired because of several Yelp reviews complaining about their service has been “cancelled”.

        1. Edward Scizorhands

          Someone (that I used to respect) tried to cancel Domino’s Pizza because they liked a tweet in 2012.

          The 2012 tweet was an anodyne “I like your pizza” sent by someone who is today a Trump person.

          1. Conrad Honcho

            Hmm. This is a tough spot. I’m in favoring canceling anyone who likes Dominoes pizza. It’s awful cardboard.

    3. original-internet-explorer

      If the comment was aimed at me – I accept the feedback. As defense – the proposal wasn’t to wind SSC community up – it comes naturally. Some of my relatives are unusually responsive to threats – it’s not pathological – it is characteristic – but I appreciate discounting the wins is also a species of mistake.

      In the preweb days we argued long and hard but there were no photographs to divide us. It is bittersweet to see how it has turned out to date. Originally we wanted commerce and there were a sense it validated the existence of the network – but now – I could have been ignorant of it at the time but it seemed freer and culture war free.

  8. Nancy Lebovitz

    Black People in the US Were Enslaved Well into the 1960s

    This is about sharecropping– sharecroppers aren’t paid in money, instead they have a manipulated debt which means they can never get away from paying in crops and other labor. So far as I know, they don’t get sold, and I’ve never heard of them being traded from one farm to another. It might be like being a serf, but I don’t know enough about serfs.

    How could sharecropping (in the US or elsewhere) be eliminated?

    If you prefer, suppose that big scary aliens show up and say sharecropping must be eliminated in five years or all the non-sharecroppers will be hauled away to spend the rest of their lives working in alien factories.

    From my facebook discussion:

    Diantha Day Sprouse: my grandfather and great grandfather on my mother’s side were sharecroppers. My grandfather share cropped until the late 1940’s. When my grandmother’s parents died they left her a small sum of money which she invested in a farm for her husband. If not for that tiny bit of inheritance he would have remained a sharecropper until he died in 1987.

    Nancy Lebovitz: Do you know what happened with the sharecroppers who didn’t get an inhereitance?

    Diantha Day Sprouse: there are still a few sharecroppers around. Most of the ones that I knew of have died off . their children getting jobs in factories and such and moving off the farms. A lot of the farms big enough for share cropping have either been broken up or gone to industrial commercial farming with hired labor. There are still a few men who stayed on the farms or sharecrop someone else’s farm land but not many. Many of the farms I knew as a child are lying fallow.

    Diantha Day Sprouse: the small inheritance was $120.00 in 1948.

    1. Evan Þ

      Ideally – listen to General Sherman, break up all the plantations in 1865 as punishment for the planters’ treason and nonpayment of federal taxes (or at least most of them), and parcel them out to the freedmen as an act of justice. That’s unlikely, but not beyond the bounds of possibility if a Radical succeeds to the Presidency instead of Johnson.

      After Johnson issues pardons all around, it becomes much more difficult.

      1. broblawsky

        Yeah, this sounds about right. White supremacy is built around economic advantage; redistribution of land would’ve done a lot to help break it down.

      2. anonymousskimmer

        I’d rather the plantations not be (immediately) broken up, merely placed under new management with the former slaves receiving all of the income as salary. In 1866 or 1867 each plantation-corporation can reevaluate.

        1. Evan Þ

          Who would that new management be? And how would the freedmen’s salary be calculated when crop prices can vary dramatically from year to year? I think you’ve just reinvented sharecropping with a couple epicycles.

          On top of that, most of the freedmen hated gang labor and really wanted to work their own land.

          1. anonymousskimmer

            Who would that new management be?

            Ideally an ex-farmer who doesn’t need an income or formerly enslaved foreman who trains the field hands in how to manage a business.

            most of the freedmen hated gang labor and really wanted to work their own land.

            They’d be the shareholders in the company and could ultimately vote to break it up, buy out other shareholders, or sell it entirely.

        2. zzzzort

          Land use reform (breaking up landlord’s holding and giving the land to the people working it) worked out great in Taiwan and Japan. Not doing it during reconstruction probably significantly held back the economy of the south.

        3. keaswaran

          In 1865, was there a good enough market for corporate governance that these owners of shares of a plantation could legitimately expect to receive this income? Remember, these are people that have never owned a financial instrument in their life, so they would really have very little way to evaluate whether their agents were managing the capital in an efficient way, rather than somehow pocketing the money and sending it to New York.

          However, these people did have a lot of experience with managing the land itself, and growing crops on it.

          1. anonymousskimmer

            The entire corporation would have consisted of the freed slaves and maybe a couple of others to help them get set up and going.

            Basically the only way to abscond with money would be to sell the crops and run away with it after having sold it. Or that whoever they sold the crops to ripping them off in price.

      3. Nancy Lebovitz

        Apparently Sherman didn’t finish the job.

        My guess is that it’s harder to find the smaller farms which are doing this.

      4. Lambert

        What’s the risk of falling into the Soviet Union/Zimbabwe failure mode, where badly executed expropriation of land, however unethically owned, leads to a massive drop in productivity?

        That said, crashing the agricultural system once might be worth it in the long run to avoid 100 years of jim crow. Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita has started growing again after a decade.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          Approximately zero. Land reform goes wrong when you hand land over to people who were not farming it before hand.

          The southern blacks were the people doing the actual work, so have the actual skills so no problem there. The issue is, it gets really difficult to predict where the south goes after that – the planter class utterly dominated the place, in terrifyingly destructive ways in otl, without that bunch of malignant magnates, whence the south?

          1. Spookykou

            This seems right in terms of knowing how to farm in the place where you are already farming, but I thought the soviet system mostly involved moving farmers around and bad incentives, did they actually just throw a bunch of randos from the cities onto the land and tell them to farm?

          2. Lambert

            > did they actually just throw a bunch of randos from the cities onto the land and tell them to farm?

            That was generally a maoist thing, right? Like, the Khmer Rouge was big on it. Probably just what happens when your revolution is lead by peasants, rather than proletarians.

          3. matkoniecz

            Soviet system was primarily problem of bad incentives, poor plans combined with deliberate mass murder.

            In Ukraine it was outright crime against humanity/genocide, with giant pile of skulls (3 to 7 millions dead). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

            I just discovered https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazakh_famine_of_1932%E2%80%9333 article

            man-made famine where 1.5 million (possibly as many as 2.0–2.3 million) people died in Soviet Kazakhstan, of whom 1.3 million were ethnic Kazakhs; 38% of all Kazakhs died, the highest percentage of any ethnic group killed in the Soviet famines of the early 1930s.

            In other regions without mass scale famines successful farmers were deported/murdered/vilified and on collectivized farms there was no benefit from productive work for anyone.

            Polish farmers fiercely resisted collectivization. In some cases, they cut down forests which were marked for nationalization. According to sources, peasants feared collectivization more than a hypothetical future World War Three, hoping that such a war would help them to keep their land.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivization_in_the_Polish_People%27s_Republic

    2. anonymousskimmer

      How could sharecropping (in the US or elsewhere) be eliminated?

      Go door to door informing people of their right to declare bankruptcy and offering to help them file for free. Then throw in a social network elsewhere that will help them set up a new life.

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        “Going door to door” might be a little harder than it sounds if you’re going through rural areas. Satellite photo should make it easier, though.

      2. yodelyak

        Exactly this. Bankruptcy law is anti-slavery law. And being visited by an attorney who may be interested to hire one as their attorney–that’s a right that applies to undocumented immigrants, arrestees in police custody, and yesyesyes, to sharecroppers, even if the land they are on is owned by somebody who doesn’t want lawyers there and posts “no trespassing signs” and demands every lawyer who approaches to leave. If fact, if people live there you can probably get a court order requiring the landowner to provide for *safe* entry/egress of lawyers, so he can’t leave a barbed wire fence with no gate, or a dangerous dog, in your way.

        It’s also why non-severable student debt is insane, when you think about it.

        Also, when you see a rich person deliberately abusing the bankruptcy system via driving multiple businesses bankrupt (but only after they’ve paid him handsomely), well, somewhere someone else has to carry the bag for that.

        1. 10240

          Bankruptcy law is anti-slavery law.

          How? Not having personal bankruptcy doesn’t mean that the creditor can enslave the debtor. It only means that the debtor has to pay a certain fraction of his income (in Hungary 1/3 AFAIK) until the debt is paid off, potentially until the rest of his life.

          1. m.alex.matt

            Not having personal bankruptcy doesn’t mean that the creditor can enslave the debtor.

            That, in fact, used to be exactly how a lot of people fell into slavery. Debt slavery and PoW slavery were the two main sources of slaves throughout history.

            It only means that the debtor has to pay a certain fraction of his income (in Hungary 1/3 AFAIK) until the debt is paid off, potentially until the rest of his life.

            This is also pretty much slavery. Skill artisans that were enslaved have been given surprising amounts of freedom to go to a city and ply their trade, as long as they pay the correct portion of their proceeds to their master, for the entirety of human history.

            yodelyak is right: Bankruptcy law is anti-slavery law.

          2. matkoniecz

            This is also pretty much slavery.

            ? this is insanely broad definition of slavery.

            Skill artisans that were enslaved have been given surprising amounts of freedom to go to a city and ply their trade, as long as they pay the correct portion of their proceeds to their master, for the entirety of human history.

            And what happened when they failed to earn enough or refused to work?

            Wage garnishment is not slavery – at least with sane limits (minimum sufficient to live is protected from garnishment, later only part can be garnished).

          3. 10240

            That, in fact, used to be exactly how a lot of people fell into slavery. Debt slavery and PoW slavery were the two main sources of slaves throughout history.

            @m.alex.matt That’s correct: many (most?) societies had debt slavery in the past. My point is that it’s entirely possible (and not uncommon) to abolish debt slavery without instituting personal bankruptcy.

          4. Ninety-Three

            It only means that the debtor has to pay a certain fraction of his income (in Hungary 1/3 AFAIK) until the debt is paid off, potentially until the rest of his life.

            This is also pretty much slavery.

            @m.alex.matt I’m curious how you feel about taxation, because there are governments that take more than a third of people’s income, without the possibility of getting out from under it.

          5. ana53294

            without the possibility of getting out from under it.

            If you can’t get out under the government (like in the USSR, or Cuba, or whatever), and they take a third of your income, and force you to work if you don’t produce that income (as would happen if the debt slave of the past just stopped working and became a beggar), then it would be slavery, yes.

            So Gulags were a form of slavery. And other concentration camps, too.

            Not allowing your own people to get out of your country is still a grave violation of human rights.

          6. matkoniecz

            If you

            Yeah, in such cases I agree that it is form of slavery or at least de facto the same thing.

        2. bullseye

          I read a book (whose title and author I can’t remember, unfortunately) written by a man who studied sharecropping in southern Georgia in the 1870s. I don’t know how much of it generalizes to other times of places, but he lays out how debt leads to more-or-less slavery:

          The farmer doesn’t get paid until the crop is sold, and until then he needs to borrow money to put food on the table. The only person willing to lend is the landowner. If prices are high and the landowner is honest about what price he gets, the farmer can pay off the debt and get a little extra money. Otherwise, the farmer remains in debt, and must borrow again the next year. The debt can build up until there is no hope of paying it off. If the farmer tries to leave, the landowner can have him arrested for failure to pay the debt. I don’t recall any mention of bankruptcy in the book; in any event, the farmer has no hope of getting the law on his side thanks to judges’ racial bias. (All sharecroppers in that time and place were black.) It’s better than actual slavery mainly in that the farmer could choose how he did the work without a white man looking over his shoulder, and that the farmer’s children did not inherit the debt.

          1. John Schilling

            If the farmer tries to leave, the landowner can have him arrested for failure to pay the debt.

            “There shall be no imprisonment for debt.”
            Georgia Constitution, Article I Section 18 (1868)

            So unless I’m missing something, sharecropping as you have described it was flat-out illegal in the way that slavery was flat-out illegal. Black-letter constitutional law. Workable only if the landowners are flat-out lying to the sharecroppers and being backed by the local police and courts.

            Which I certainly believe could have happened, but it does constrain the plausible solution space.

          2. SamChevre

            @John Schilling

            One of the tricky distinctions here is between imprisonment for debt and imprisonment for fraud: if I pay you $100,000 to work for me for a year, and you go work for someone else and don’t return the money, is that sufficient proof of fraud? It was until Bailey vs Alabama (and it seems that was one of those cases where the principle doesn’t apply anywhere else).

        3. Edward Scizorhands

          The US has the most, or nearly the most, liberal bankruptcy laws in the world. Compared to other countries, you can get out of legitimate debts with remarkable ease.

          It never occurred to me that this might be some remnant of anti-slavery. I’m not sure it is, but it’s something to consider.

          (The fact we let 17-year-olds sign up for non-dischargable debt is that much more insane when you look at the rest of US bankruptcy law.)

          1. Paul Zrimsek

            My impression is that liberal US bankruptcy goes back too far to have originated as an anti-slavery measure, and that the true explanation is more like “This is what you get when a bunch of people farming mortgaged land decide to have a revolution.”

    3. SamChevre

      Sharecropping wasn’t just a black thing – there were a LOT of white sharecroppers. My first boss grew up sharecropping in the 1950’s-he was white. What the VICE article describes isn’t much like typical sharecropping.

      The more typical arrangement was an agreement between a landowner and a farmer to farm a piece of land; the landowner provided land, generally seed and fertilizer, and heavy equipment. The sharecropper provided labor and got half the crop. Done fairly and in an economy where farming was economically feasible, this was a reasonable arrangement. Where it became a problem was in its interaction with the store credit system, as well as the inevitable opportunities for exploitation offered by a system with a lot of poor, semi-literate people.

      In general, this provided a lot less opportunity for exploitation and cruelty than any system where farmers have to work under direct supervision.

      So the question is – what kind of arrangement are you trying to get rid of.

      1. DavidFriedman

        Sharecropping has been a common system in lots of societies. One argument for it, as opposed to a standard rent system, is that it spreads the risk of a bad harvest.

        1. Lambert

          I think the argument is that it’s better for the farmer to own the land they work, and that under sharecropping, rent or manorialism, too much capital is accumulated by too few landowners.

      2. Edward Scizorhands

        The family of my BIL are some white sharecroppers, and they are working their whole lives for nothing, and don’t seem to listen when people tell them it’s a bad plan. I don’t get it.

      3. Nancy Lebovitz

        From the article:

        ************

        Mae’s father, Cain Wall, lost his land by signing a contract he couldn’t read that had sealed his entire family’s fate. As a young girl, Mae didn’t know that her family’s situation was different from anyone else’s. The family didn’t have TV, so Mae just assumed everyone lived the same way her brothers and sisters did. They were not permitted to leave the land and were subject to regular beatings from the land owners. When Mae got a bit older, she would be told to come up to work in the main house with her mother. Here she would be raped by whatever men were present. Most times she and her mother were raped simultaneously alongside each other.

        Her father, Cain, couldn’t take the suffering anymore and tried to flee the property by himself in the middle of the night. His plan was to register for the army and get stationed far away. But he was picked up by some folks claiming they would help him. Instead, they took him right back to the farm, where he was brutally beaten in front of his family.

        When Mae was about 14, she decided she would no longer go up to the house. Her family pleaded with her as the punishment would come down on all of them. Mae refused and sassed the farm owner’s wife when she told her to work. Worrying that Mae would be killed by the owners, Cain beat his own daughter bloody in hopes of saving her. That evening still covered in blood, Mae ran away through the woods. She was hiding in the bushes by the road when a family rode by with their mule cart. The lady on the cart saw the bush moving. She got off to find Mae crying, bloodied and terrified. That white family took her in and rescued the rest of the Wall’s later that night.

        ************

        I would like to get rid of a system which keeps people that helpless and isolated.

        I’m not sure about the specifics. I’m not usually fond of compulsory education, but it might help.

        1. SamChevre

          Right. The reason I asked was that the kind of direct control over everyday life that the landowners have in that account is exactly what sharecropping was designed to AVOID–so getting rid of that sort of exploitation and getting rid of sharecropping seemed like distinct goals.

    4. John Schilling

      One thing I couldn’t find in that article was anything about the legal basis of sharecropping. As in, what’s stopping the “slaves” from just walking away and starting a new life in Detroit or whatever? As anonymousskimmer points out, if there’s a debt it’s almost certainly dischargeable by bankruptcy. And even Cain from the article seems to have understood that he could just walk into a military recruiting office and be done with it.

      So it seems that the system worked on the basis of, A: Lying to people and saying that they had to keep being quasi-slaves Or Else, B: Having local thugs beat up anyone who didn’t go along with it and presumably having the Good Old Boy sheriff look the other way, and C: the victims being risk-averse in the face of uncertainty and not willing to walk away from the life they knew for the uncertainty of starting over with nothing in Detroit. And I’m guessing a measure of D: the landowners and their GOB network controlling the specialized resources and market access necessary for small farmers to succeed.

      So, land redistribution may not work. The white guy with the big house, even if he only holds legal title to a tiny bit of land, can lie and tell people that he has a mumbo-jumbo lien on the ex-slave’s land and they have to give him a share of their crops or else. His thugs can still beat them up if they don’t go along with it. The victims will still be scared of running away with just the clothes on their back. And presumably the local Good Old Boy merchants will all agree that nobody sells shovels or plows or seed to or buys cash crops from ex-slaves without going through their ex-masters.

      This is a job that calls for something like the Underground Railroad, working under more favorable protections now that the Union Army is the ultimate guarantor of order. Explain to everybody that no, they don’t have to put up with this. Offer them whatever support they need to make the leap to Detroit.

      And maybe set up local support for the ones who still want to keep farming the land they always have, with e.g. carpetbagger merchants to trade with. But that’s going to be tricky if the GOB sheriffs keep turning a blind eye towards the thugs supporting the old order. You could give the sharecroppers guns, but that’s the sort of thing that lead to the last Civil War and we’d prefer not to have an immediate rematch.

      1. DavidFriedman

        As in, what’s stopping the “slaves” from just walking away and starting a new life in Detroit or whatever?

        Nothing.

        The black population of the North is largely descended from people who left agricultural poverty in the south, whether as employees, renters, or share croppers, to come north.

        1. Nancy Lebovitz

          You underestimate how gung ho racists can be, especially when they have the political advantage.

          https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/long-lasting-legacy-great-migration-180960118/

          “Resistance in the South to the loss of its cheap black labor meant that recruiters often had to act in secret or face fines and imprisonment. In Macon, Georgia, for example, a recruiter’s license required a $25,000 fee plus the unlikely recommendations of 25 local businessmen, ten ministers and ten manufacturers. But word soon spread among black Southerners that the North had opened up, and people began devising ways to get out on their own.

          Southern authorities then tried to keep African-Americans from leaving by arresting them at the railroad platforms on grounds of “vagrancy” or tearing up their tickets in scenes that presaged tragically thwarted escapes from behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. And still they left.”

          1. DavidFriedman

            I knew about state restrictions on labor recruiters, although I think the early cases were mainly recruiting blacks in parts of the South where they were treated badly for jobs in other parts of the South. That ended up as a Supreme Court case, and the court came down on the wrong side, permitting the regulation, arguably contrary to their support for free markets in previous cases.

      2. SamChevre

        This is also partly a response to Scott below.

        The big thing that kept sharecroppers impoverished (beyond the general poverty of subsistence farming) was the way credit was handled: breaking up the rural store credit and crop-lien system was an important goal for the Farmer’s Alliance for a reason. Functionally, most sharecroppers owed half their crop to the landowners, AND owed most of the rest to the store. If you were caught buying from any other store, the store near you wouldn’t extend any more credit.

        Sharecropping died when tractors and cotton-pickers became common in the late 1940’s; that meant far less labor was needed per acre, and so sharecropping, like small farming all over the US, largely died out. Industrial growth provided the opportunity to earn cash (garment manufacturing especially), improving transportation meant that travel to more than one store became feasible, and the whole system just kind of died. Alabama’s Song of the South captures the dynamic pretty well.

        Papa got a job with the TVA,
        We bought a washing machine and then a Chevrolet

        One great book about sharecropping and the post-war south is Lanterns on the Levee; it’s very one-sided, but the one-sidedness is hard to miss.

      3. Nancy Lebovitz

        John Schilling, I agree with your points, and I’ll add one more– one person can leave, but that puts the rest of their family at risk of being severely punished. It’s harder to get a whole family out at the same time.

        1. John Schilling

          Very good point. And I note that many of the techniques apparently used to make the sharecroppers stay put on the land they’ve always lived on doing the work they’ve always done, closely match the techniques now used by human traffickers(*) to make sure their victims don’t go back to their ancestral homeland and trade.

          * The real ones, not the “we need to make sex work look disreputable again” ones.

    5. Scott Alexander

      This says “well into the 1960s”, which suggests it ended – does anyone know how (if?) it was ended IRL?

      1. Erusian

        There are still some sharecroppers but not many. It began to decline with the mechanization of agriculture and was almost wiped out when agricultural policy wiped out the smaller landlords and farming communities in the 1970s. Perdue’s strategy, initiated in 1968, is typical.

        Honestly, attacking sharecropping is ridiculous. If you want to help farmers, you should deal with their current issues like exploitative corporate contracts and corporate power abuses rather than something that’s a tiny edge case. That’s what farmers are asking for. They don’t want an end to sharecropping, they want an end to a system where large corporations force them to race to the bottom and punish them for complaining while the government runs programs that transfer income from rural to urban areas which keeps them from accumulating enough wealth to be independent and often driving them into debt.

        1. OutsideContextProblem

          > the government runs programs that transfer income from rural to urban area

          It seems to be a universal rule that state subsidies transfer wealth from productive urban areas to rural landowners – often under the guise of ‘protecting our way of life’ or ‘small farmers of nation x are the only real xians’ or something. This is especially true when you include the various tariffs and ntbs, again almost universally adopted, which transfer wealth from domestic consumers to domestic producers.

          1. cassander

            Farm programs are ubiquitous, but they’re a tiny share of national budgets. meanwhile, richer urban dwellers pay higher taxes and get their own subsidies in the form of transit and other infrastructure. I’m not saying the subsidies all go to the cities, just that its not that clear cut and a solid answer would need a lot of study.

          2. Erusian

            It seems to be a universal rule that state subsidies transfer wealth from productive urban areas to rural landowners – often under the guise of ‘protecting our way of life’ or ‘small farmers of nation x are the only real xians’ or something. This is especially true when you include the various tariffs and ntbs, again almost universally adopted, which transfer wealth from domestic consumers to domestic producers.

            This is simply wrong. The way the current system works is that the government slants the market so that food is extremely cheap (thus transferring wealth from rural to urban households) and then recompenses the farmers with some basic agricultural support. Another way to think of it: are poor families in cities or farming towns richer? If we’re doing a net transfer of income, why are American farming communities poorer relative to urban communities than those in virtually any other country? Including globalized powers like Great Britain?

            Edit: Wow, that was fast. Apologies to the Scotts (and North Irish, Welsh, Cornish, etc.)

          3. DavidFriedman

            The way the current system works is that the government slants the market so that food is extremely cheap

            I don’t think so — could you explain what you mean? The biofuels program pushes up food prices as a way of buying farm votes, as Al Gore admitted in explaining why he supported it. I’m not sure of the details of other relevant policies at present, but government programs ever since FDR have been aimed at pushing up food prices, not down.

          4. Erusian

            I don’t think so — could you explain what you mean? The biofuels program pushes up food prices as a way of buying farm votes, as Al Gore admitted in explaining why he supported it. I’m not sure of the details of other relevant policies at present, but government programs ever since FDR have been aimed at pushing up food prices, not down.

            You are overestimating the impact of biofuels as a part of total US agricultural policy (it’s small). Seriously, if Al Gore was buying so many votes why did he lose? And you are mistaken as to the nature of agricultural subsidies, which are designed to stimulate overproduction while decreasing price by artificially reducing price while decoupling price from compensation.

            The primary concern of agricultural policy is not to keep the agricultural industry productive but to keep food prices low. This is because of a very simple incentive: everyone eats food but only a shrinking minority of the population produces food. So cheap food is an easy way to increase the disposable income of poor voters who outnumber food producing voters. If you read through FDR’s speeches he repeatedly brags about increased standards of living and the nutritional plentitude at cheap prices enjoyed by Americans. There was propaganda produced about how FDR’s controls meant that food was cheaper than it had been during World War 1. There is a fairly clear pattern that the US government steps up subsidies when prices increase, not when net farm income goes negative. Indeed, net farm income has been negative for decades. And anecdotally, you can look at the food price protests in the Nixon administration or the Democrat’s abandonment of rural farm collectives to see policy.

            The average American spends less than their compatriots in virtually every country on food if you remove dining out. This pattern is true even compared to other wealthy and developed countries. Because the US has prioritized cheap food, including crony arrangements with a series of corporations I could rant about for hours.

          5. matkoniecz

            @Erusian – you have not answered how supposedly “government slants the market so that food is extremely cheap”.

            Government taking credit for low food prices proves nothing, government will take credit for anything at all (I guess that you can found someone taking credit for failing prices of electronics and for a good weather).

            AFAIK low food prices are primarily result of technological progress and some practices of questionable sustainability (soil loss, fossil fuels).

            BTW, any citation for negligible impact of biofuel subsidies on food prices? AFAIK there was noticeable one, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_vs._fuel#Food_price_inflation

          6. Erusian

            @Erusian – you have not answered how supposedly “government slants the market so that food is extremely cheap”.

            Do you know how current farm subsidies work? How do they work?

            AFAIK low food prices are primarily result of technological progress and some practices of questionable sustainability (soil loss, fossil fuels).

            As I pointed out, Americans’ food prices are low even compared to western Europe with its subsidized farms. I presume you’d agree that western Europe has access to comparable technology?

            BTW, any citation for negligible impact of biofuel subsidies on food prices? AFAIK there was noticeable one, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_vs._fuel#Food_price_inflation

            Well, your own citation has shown a rapid decrease in food prices post-2008. It’s mainly talking about a period from 2001-2007. And I freely acknowledge food prices rose for those six years but I’d point out, as your own citation does, it is now lower than it was even in the ’90s. USDA stats show food was the cheapest it’s ever been from about 2009 to Trump’s trade war (about 2019).

          7. matkoniecz

            @Erusian – you have not answered how supposedly “government slants the market so that food is extremely cheap”.

            Do you know how current farm subsidies work? How do they work?

            Highly depends on a location. In EU farmers in at least some cases got paid for not producing food.

            As I pointed out, Americans’ food prices are low even compared to western Europe with its subsidized farms.

            I suspect that taxation and cost of labor may be important here, but I would probably believe any trustworthy-looking source.

            BTW, any citation for negligible impact of biofuel subsidies on food prices? AFAIK there was noticeable one, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_vs._fuel#Food_price_inflation

            Well, your own citation has shown a rapid decrease in food prices post-2008. It’s mainly talking about a period from 2001-2007. And I freely acknowledge food prices rose for those six years but I’d point out, as your own citation does, it is now lower than it was even in the ’90s. USDA stats show food was the cheapest it’s ever been from about 2009 to Trump’s trade war (about 2019).

            I am not claiming that food prices are always increasing, I am claiming that biofuel policy results in noticeably increased food prices compared to world without subsidizing/forcing/encouraging biofuels.

          8. Thomas Jorgensen

            Cheap is not the goal of most agricultural subsidies. The reason just about everyone does this is to ensure a reliable and domestic food production, for, essentially, military reasons. Nobody wants foreign chaos or a naval interdiction to turn into a domestic food shortage, so it is very much preferred if trade in food is caloric neutral – that is, Itally sells tomatoes to points south, buys papaya, ect, ect, and the exceptions – the places that are consistently in caloric deficit mostly import from places which might as well be domestic -that is, no member of the european union worries about supply from other union members being disrupted. (Brexit violates this, which is kind of breathtakingly daft. )

          9. DavidFriedman

            As I pointed out, Americans’ food prices are low even compared to western Europe with its subsidized farms.

            European agriculture is protected by trade barriers, resulting in high prices.

            The U.S. farm policies I am familiar with, aside from biofuels, were either paying people to hold land out of production or buying crops in order to hold prices up. Both of those make food more expensive. The Supreme Court case that legalized the New Deal farm policy was about a law limiting the amount a farmer could produce in order to push agricultural prices up.

            I am still waiting for you to describe what policies have the opposite effect.

          10. Mabuse7

            @DavidFriedman – I’m not aware of the specifics myself but I have heard that Nixon changed agricultural policy so that the subsidies lowered food prices rather than raising them.

        2. Nancy Lebovitz

          My point in attacking sharecropping is about helping people who are horribly trapped to escape, it isn’t about helping farmers in general.

          Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if some sharecroppers have been switched to manufacturing– I’ve only heard of immigrants (legal and illegal) being trapped into manufacturing, but it seems like something which could be done to sharecropping.

          I don’t know what efficient altruism for human rights would look like. Efficient altruism is about things which can be measured easily, but that’s hard with politics.

      2. Nancy Lebovitz

        I think “well into the 60s” means it hadn’t ended by then. There’s an implication it might have, but possibility it didn’t end is left open.

    6. Paul the Fossil

      Kind of tangential, I’m reading “War & Peace” for the first time and it’s updating my understanding of serfdom. E.g. they were bought and sold all the time, sometimes as part of land transactions and sometimes separately. Among the Czarist-Russia equivalent of plantation owners serfs were viewed and valued exactly as lifestock. In the chapter I just finished one character trades three families of his serfs for a hunting dog that he wanted, and nobody at the time thinks that at all unusual.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        BE AWARE THAT Russian serfdom was different from Western European. Western manorialism tied most farmers to “their” land through payments to an employee of the King’s national security company.
        It’s not clear to me that the definition “human chattel” for “serf” even existed elsewhere in Eastern Europe. This Wikipedia article on Polish-Lithuanian serfs next door doesn’t make it sound like they were detachable from land as domestic etc. slaves.

        1. matkoniecz

          This Wikipedia article on Polish-Lithuanian serfs next door doesn’t make it sound like they were detachable from land as domestic etc. slaves.

          Local variation was forbidding to leave land (“przywiązanie chłopów do ziemi”), it was not only economical – but migration was outlawed.

          By the mid-16th century no peasant could leave the land without explicit permission of the lord.

          So you would be able to buy village (and therefore serfs), but there was no selling people like livestock to buy a hunting dog.

        2. Erusian

          While Russian serfdom lasted longer and certainly changed, the idea that serfs were secure in their land is a myth. Medieval lords could and did force serfs to leave their homes. They could not be sold on the open market, but then neither could Russian serfs (since owning a serf was a right annexed to a specific class).

          Also, you’re incorrect in asserting it’s primarily an eastern phenomenon: serfdom in England was unusually harsh. And in every system there was at least a class of serfs (the villeins in England) who could be sold apart from land.

          1. matkoniecz

            And in every system there was at least a class of serfs (the villeins in England) who could be sold apart from land.

            Not a historian, not an expert, serfdom was evil etc – but AFAIK in Poland such outright slavery never was happening. Are you sure that every serfdom had such outright slavery?

          2. Erusian

            I’d like to start this by saying I have a particular fondness for Poland. Several of my friends and teachers were Poles and I’ve long been an admirer of Polish culture, particularly Polish nationalist culture and its poetry and literature.

            But Poland these days has got a strain of revisionism that’s distorting things. There was a class of Polish serfs and slaves that was treated that way from tribal times until the late 15th/early 16th century when serfs were basically made uniform in rights and privileges. But that system also made serf’s labor salable and was not such an immediate change. The Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth did make strides towards improving the rights of serfs eventually. But until the 18th century or so it actually did the opposite, increasing noble rights over serfs. And ultimately the PLC’s most radical steps took place as the nation was collapsing. It was Napoleon who finally swept away the vestiges of serfdom in western Poland and the system continued with Russian blessing, with Russian laws and terms, in their sections.

            I’m not sure every serfdom had some form of outright slavery. Perhaps there’s an exception somewhere. But not in Poland-Lithuania.

          3. matkoniecz

            until the 18th century or so it actually did the opposite, increasing noble rights over serfs.

            I 100% agree and that it was horrible system, barely above slavery.

            But from what I know – without outright selling people as trade goods and at least in theory legal rights of serfs were greater than theoretical rights of slaves in most of systems.

            But Poland these days has got a strain of revisionism that’s distorting things.

            Just as disclaimer: serfdom was a horrific system, I am not enthusiast of nobility, as far as I can trace my family was not any kind of nobility but farmers. What I quite like.

          4. Erusian

            Sure, I’m not accusing you of anything. But I have made comments about the PLC and gotten told it was a perfect society and golden beacon of liberty etc etc. Rising nationalism and all that.

            But from what I know – without outright selling people as trade goods and at least in theory legal rights of serfs were greater than theoretical rights of slaves in most of systems.

            Depends on the system, I suppose. In the earliest days Poland was basically tribal and had slavery by name with chattel and all that. Over time a patchwork of rights and arrangements cropped up, including some serfs with fairly extensive rights and some with fairly few. Indeed, some serfs in the 14th century just had to pay a small nominal tax to their lords while others could be sold like chattel. The system was semi-standardized as part of legal reforms in the 14th/15th century, the general trend being the ending of cash payments and the increasing extraction of labor and direct lordly control. These serfs had rights that distinguished them from slaves but there were still a few marginal cases where they could be sold like chattel. And it was, as you say, still a horrible system, leading to an (in)famous case where a particular serf was forced to provide eight days of labor a week and so was whipped weekly for failing to provide this impossible amount to his lord.

            In the 18th century increasing commercialization, declining power of the nobility, and an enlightenment emphasis on democracy encouraged Poland-Lithuania to think of its serfs as incongruent to their ideals of liberty and increased their relative power. Things shifted back towards cash payments and there were concrete steps to improve their lives as well as a movement to emancipate the serfs. This was finally only done in 1793, though, as the nation was collapsing. The law never fully took effect because Poland-Lithuania ceased to exist in 1795. It was more fully wiped out in the west by Napoleon (though somewhat reintroduced by Prussian Junkers along Prussian lines) and converted to something closer to the Russian from in the East.

            Austria, which had only a small part of Poland, made a concerted effort to actually end serfdom because they had outlawed it decades ago. They still had a system of noble corvee that applied, though that ended in the early 19th century. Indeed, local Polish peasants in Austria were able to make a great deal of political hay playing the local magnates and the Austrians against each other.

          5. matkoniecz

            gotten told it was a perfect society and golden beacon of liberty etc etc.

            Perfect society? Wat?

            Something along lines “”quite good for its times” or “X was quite nice and unusually good” can be justified.

            Bur to describe it as a perfect society?

            leading to an (in)famous case where a particular serf was forced to provide eight days of labor a week and so was whipped weekly for failing to provide this impossible amount to his lord.

            AFAIK this is legend and misinterpretation of more complex situation – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serfdom_in_Poland

            in extreme cases requiring a peasant to labor eight man-days a week per 1 łan of land farmed by a peasants family for their own needs (the land belonged to the landlord), which in practice meant that the male head of the family worked full-time for the lord, leaving his wife and children working on the peasant’s family land, and even then they had to help him occasionally, unless a peasant hadn’t hired additional workers (poorer peasants)

            In the earliest days Poland was basically tribal and had slavery by name with chattel and all that.

            I admit that I forgot about that early history – and depending on where you begin history of Poland start may be 100% tribal.

            but there were still a few marginal cases where they could be sold like chattel.

            Can you recommend any sources to learn about that (preferably something online)? I was pretty sure that by 14th/15th century it would not be happening.

          6. Erusian

            Perfect society? Wat?

            Something along lines “”quite good for its times” or “X was quite nice and unusually good” can be justified.

            Bur to describe it as a perfect society?

            I have ties to Poland and its intellectuals, so I probably get exposed to more raw Polish nationalists than most people. Some of them say very silly things. And a lot of them attack me online in certain forums. I’m not trying to claim it’s a widespread opinion but I have heard it.

            AFAIK this is legend and misinterpretation of more complex situation – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serfdom_in_Poland

            It is possible that particular story is made up. It’s reported to us by contemporary primary sources but it does seem particularly egregious. It might have been a polemic about conditions rather than meant to be taken as literally true by the writer. Regardless, we have very strong evidence that there was a shift to noble power and control over labor. For example, the so called religious freedom was actually freedom of nobles to choose their religion even for their peasants (as it was in Germany, except on the princely level).

            As I admitted in my answer, even if that story is true (and there were a few who could be sold like chattel) these were exceptional cases after the reforms of the 15th century. The vast majority of peasants could not be sold like chattel, as you describe.

            Can you recommend any sources to learn about that (preferably something online)? I was pretty sure that by 14th/15th century it would not be happening.

            As I am failing to communicate, you are correct for the majority of peasants. I’m afraid I don’t have any online sources but Wikipedia cites a series of online sources in this article. My understanding is that the 14th century did see a major change to serfdom which mostly did separate them from slavery but didn’t eliminate chattel classes entirely. Certainly, my understanding is being a Polish serf was far superior to being a Russian one (especially by the 18th century when Polish serfs were becoming Russian serfs).

      2. ana53294

        Yes, early nineteenth century serfdom in Russia was terrible. But it did improve a bit with time.

        Ironically, Nicholas I banned the sale of negroes in Russia and ordered they all be freed, while keeping russians serfs in slavery (he did it because of an international treaty he signed in London). But he did do a few things to improve the Russian serfs’ lot. Since 1833, sales of individual people were banned. This makes it a bit less destructive to the institution of the family.

        Still, Russian serfdom was horrible, with the same problems of not giving people the land (although without the horrible Civil War, thankfully). Russians got freed only five years before US blacks did. But it does seem like the was merely delayed and not avoided.

        1. Paul the Fossil

          “Russians got freed only five years before US blacks did” — before _southern_ US blacks did. Northern states started abolishing slavery in 1777 and had all made it illegal by the 1810s. (Though outside of New England some of those abolition laws were phased in, so there were declining numbers of slaves in some non-NE northern states as late as the 1840s.) As one historian put it in critiquing the NYT’s “1619” articles, “We launched into a bloody civil war in 1861 because half, actually a bit more, of the country had _rejected_ slavery.”

    7. Erusian

      Firstly, sharecropping is incomparably better than slavery. The idea that sharecropping was equivalent to slavery is a frankly insulting meme I wish would die. I’m not going to say sharecropping as practiced in the US was great but it was much, much better than slavery. If you want I can go on at some length about how it was better. Also, keep in mind the majority of sharecroppers were white.

      Sharecropping’s issues were less due to the inherent economic arrangement of sharecropping and mostly other factors of landlords taking advantage of unequal power relationships. There were attempts at sharecroppers unions or strikes and their demands weren’t to end sharecropping but to negotiate terms with landlords.

      Anyway, historically you’d need to prevent the land confiscations that followed Redemption. If you could stop Redemption generally that’d do a lot to forestall Jim Crow. But that would involve politically excluding the majority of the population.

      In modern day, you could simply pass a law banning sharecropping if you wanted to get rid of it. Just ban landlords from extracting rent as a percentage of crop: require them to demand fixed rents. But it’s a rare arrangement these days. Agriculture has moved on to hired seasonal labor, even in the South.

      1. Evan Þ

        But it’s a rare arrangement these days. Agriculture has moved on to hired seasonal labor, even in the South.

        There’re a number of farms still rented out in the midwest; my mother actually inherited one several years ago. Last I heard, it was mostly planted in corn and soybeans. IIRC our tenants pay most of their rent as flat cash (after selling the crop on the open market themselves), but I might be wrong. At least, I could easily imagine the contract being written so that they pay rent as a fraction of the crop’s selling price, which would technically make them into sharecroppers.

        1. ltowel

          I believe my family is the beneficiary of a trust in SD structured in a similar way – annually we get a nice letter from the farmers who work the land an they send my parents delicious marmalade. My understanding is that they work it along with the adjacent land they own and get the vast majority of the profits, which in a good year with the crop insurance are like tens of thousand dollars and the trust gets royalties which are hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. Of course if my brother or I ever feel a need to move to Clark, SD, I have a line on a place. I don’t know what will happen after this older couple dies or decides not to keep working this land, and I don’t think it’s important to the family aside from being where our grandparents grew up.

          1. Erusian

            This sounds like your parents own a little plot of land that a local farmer is renting for some nominal price. I’d guess it was undeveloped and they negotiated the right to work it in exchange for a small rent. This isn’t that abnormal. Indeed, you can still get free land out west, though not free funding to develop it into a productive farm.

          2. ltowel

            @eurasian oh, absolutely that’s it that. being said, based on the letters I’ve seen it looks like the farmers are renting it for a share of prophets, but it might just be an annual renegotiation of rent where the rates are informed based on crop insurance rates/payouts. I’m hoping that my family is not getting the winning side of this negotiation. Although, these farmers are old enough that this will probably hit the oncoming farming demographic failure.

        2. Erusian

          I can almost guarantee sharecropping isn’t the arrangement they have. Farmers do sometimes pay landlords but usually in cash. The current model is basically corporate, with farmer corporations buying or renting land and then buying the labor and inputs before selling the produce to big ag corporations. This can be problematic because the government is heavily slanted towards those corporations to suppress the price of food. For example, the contract is often structured where the farmer is the caretaker of the assets of the big corporation. So, for example, the corporation delivers a bunch of chicks and the farmer then has to pay to raise them and sells them back to the corporation. Naturally, this is ripe for abuse.

          1. Paul the Fossil

            I’ve worked in Midwestern agriculture for several years now and learned a lot firsthand about the current economics of the Corn Belt. I work mostly with farm-sector trade organizations but also with some farmers directly.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “farmer corporations” — if you mean that a farming family has formed an LLC, that is what I deal with all over the place now. In virtually all cases some members of that family are doing the actual farming, or did before getting too old for it. (There are lots of farm widows out there now.) The percentage of Midwestern farm ground that is owned by parties who do no farming themselves (i.e. big-city investors, REITs, etc) has turned out to be much smaller than I thought a few years ago when all I knew about it was from MSM articles.

            Meanwhile though it turns out that in some Corn Belt states a _lot_ of active rowcrop land is being rented. Many of those farm families that formed all those LLCs are farming some ground that they own _and_ some that they rent. (E.g. from all those farmer widows, seriously there are enough of those to be a sizeable landowning constituency now.) That’s what is normal now: according to the USDA about 40 percent of all U.S. farmland today is leased but only 10 percent of all active farmers are _only_ tenants (don’t own any of the ground that they farm).

            And yes, all that leasing is on a cash basis. I’ve not yet come across any examples of sharecropping or anything resembling it.

    8. Dack

      People still rent farmland. Some of them still rent it for a percentage of the grain rather than a flat rate. So in a sense “sharecropping” still exists.

      The difference, as far as I can tell, (I know little about historical sharecropping) is that the rates are not extortionary and your grain is converted into money on demand.

    9. Radu Floricica

      If you want to fix the situation I think you should think a bit more about the cause of the problem. I don’t think sharecropping is it, fundamentally.

      People are (and should be) able to get into bad deals. From sharecropping on bad terms to borrowing to buy a waay too expensive car. Society doesn’t, as a rule, protect against bad business sense. And it should be noted that sharecropping would offer both a higher degree of independence and higher potential earnings than being employed – at a greater risk. Just like any small business. So it stands to reason that there will be winners and losers.

      But then – why _are_ things so ugly, at least on occasion? Because I do believe you that they’re ugly. I just don’t think sharecropping as a concept is the proper culprit.

      Usually it’s a mix of bad laws (30%), breaking laws (30%), and a systemic mix that ensures people don’t get access to knowledge or representation – call it “cultural context” (40%).

      How can people get so deep in debts in a system that’s nominally about sharing a crop? It’s likely because in that case, that’s not really the system at play. Just like company stores, that can make you work not just below minimum wages, but you may potentially end up deeper in debt the more you work – and that’s a much simpler example, where people (should) just get an hourly wage.

      I don’t know enough about the situation to say what are the specific problems and solutions. But it’s likely a good start would be higher-abstraction things like bankruptcy and zero physical violence.

      1. Lambert

        I think the cultural context of a landed gentry that’s doing everything they can to cling onto the vestiges of their antebellum power is probably the big factor.

  9. Belisaurus Rex

    I don’t exactly have a word for these (rhetoric maybe?), but when I see one in an article (scientific or social sciences) I immediately get suspicious (although I suppose you could obfuscate even when the facts are on your side, merely out of habit). Below, some times I give examples, other times reasoning. Anyone want to add to my list?

    Evidence based/ fact based (implies the other side is so bad they don’t even have any evidence to support their fever dreams)
    Opinionated (I have opinions, but you’re opinionated)
    Lashed out (protest by people on the other side, implies illegitimacy of their complaint)
    Speak to (instead of speak about; no idea why this one is so grating)
    X informs your understanding of y (x is why you’re too clouded to think)
    Nitpicking – because when you generate an argument out of nothing, all the complaints will sound like nitpicking
    Unpack (What the sophisticated individual prefaces his nitpicking with)
    Nuance – generic criticism word, when used in the positive takes effort to point out something specific (Book had a nuanced depiction of X), but in the negative does not require specificity (Book lacked nuance)
    Clearly/obviously (if you have to say it…)
    Equal to X years of education (support for UBI correlates with an increase of 4 years of education)
    Scientists think (which scientists? Why not just state it as a fact?)
    Growing body of evidence (by definition not a majority or you would just say a majority, this could mean any size)
    Growing trend (Same as above)
    It is said (by who?)
    Up to sixty percent (by definition less than 60%)

    1. Conrad Honcho

      My pet peeve is “divisive.” (“I think you should give me your stuff and do what I say.” “I disagree.” “You’re being divisive.”)

      1. Nick

        Conrad, we need to have an open and honest dialogue about you giving me your stuff and doing what I say.

      2. Paul Zrimsek

        If your guy makes us furious, that proves how divisive your guy is.
        If our guy makes you furious, well, h8rz gotta h8.

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        “Lashed out” isn’t weaselly though, it’s just smuggling in assumptions. I tend to think of weasels as hedging: probably, maybe, it depends. Not wanting to put themselves down as saying something definite.

    2. Nick

      I had a whole list of “banned” words at work:

      authentic, encounter, feel(s) safe, re-victimize, accompany, dialogue, weaponize(d), paradigm shift, rigorist, concrete situations, changing realities, conscience (unless you define it), develop (if used transitively), moral ideal, exponential(ly), discern(ment), fascist, parasitism

      Naturally, having listed them, folks made an effort to drop them in conversation with me. I can’t tell you how many times I heard during a meeting, “This change to [software] would be a real paradigm shift.”

      1. DinoNerd

        – Exponential works for me, when referring to something we can count, that really is growing in an exponential fashion. That would require the speaker to be numerate to the point of recalling some highschool algebra/pre-calculus, rather than being an arts type using “exponential” as a generic intensifier. (I’m guessing you see the latter much more often than the former.)

    3. 10240

      Growing body of evidence (by definition not a majority or you would just say a majority, this could mean any size)

      I don’t think this one should be contrasted with the majority of the evidence. A typical situation is that originally there is little knowledge about something: no evidence either way. A study or two come out in favor or a particular proposition; at this point as much as 100% of the evidence may be in favor of the proposition, but the evidence is not strong. “Growing body of evidence” indicates that more and more evidence has come out in favor, though it’s still not conclusive.

    4. DinoNerd

      – “could mean”, “could be” etc. – This finding (2 anecdotes) could mean that (something we’d all like, that’s vanishingly unlikely) is true.
      – xxx % of members-of-relevant-high-status-profession agree that …. (Reads like advertising copy).
      – someone’s truth (as compared to the truth)
      – “… is a religion” – when applied to opinions or behaviours that plainly aren’t

    5. theredsheep

      I have always appreciated “science says”; it’s so much more concise than “an amateur or poorly-paid journalist came across two journal articles and decided to overgeneralize from their results to meet a clickbait quota.”

      1. Wrong Species

        It’s one thing when people say “scientists say”. It’s almost always oversimplified but it can be justified. But “Science says” demonstrates that our fundamental psychology is really no different than the pre-moderns. I really question what those people think is happening.

          1. sharper13

            Just went looking for the article again and couldn’t find a link, but I saw a headline the other day regarding the pandemic along the lines of Science in conflict with economics!

            I really wanted to ask when economics stopped being part of science, but what they probably really meant was something along the lines of health scientists in conflict with economists over restrictions.

          2. Wrong Species

            @sharper

            There’s the pantheon of different sciences like Economics, Physics, Biology, etc. However there’s the big cahuna himself, Science. He’s the arbiter of all science related issues. So there’s conflict between the lesser Economics and the Great Science.

      2. John Schilling

        an amateur or poorly-paid journalist came across two journal articles

        Two journal articles? I think you’re talking about the highly-paid elite professional journalists there – and even they only occasionally look for a second article to support their thesis.

    6. Paul Zrimsek

      In my experience, “nuance” is not generic: it usually means the speaker has been caught in a self-contradiction or falsehood, and you should stand by for some bafflegab explaining it away.

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        Oh, you mean it in a DEFENSIVE sense.

        “You just missed the nuance in my work.”

    7. Spookykou

      All of these seem very common on SSC, do you find them equally suspicious in this context, or does your ‘opinion of the media’ inform your understanding of rhetoric? I have seen a growing trend of opinionated, anti-media posting, that speaks to a general need to lash out against the perception of antagonism. Ultimately this position does not seem to be very nuanced, maybe you could unpack some of your terms?

      🙂

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        Assuming you even wanted your question answered, SSC uses different language to substantially the same effect. Even useful jargon can be misused.

        Inferential gap –> “I don’t want to explain it”
        Rational X –> e.g. “rational ignorance” (like justifying by putting rational in front makes it better?)
        Bayesian –> “Evidence based”
        More light than heat –> “lashed out”
        Singularity –> True Communism has never been tried before… with computers
        Etc –> I can’t think of any more

        1. DavidFriedman

          “rational ignorance” (like justifying by putting rational in front makes it better?)

          Neither better nor worse — predictable, since it is a consequence of rational behavior, not a mistake.

          The term comes from public choice theory.

          More light than heat –> “lashed out”

          Don’t you mean “more heat than light”?

  10. GearRatio

    Feedback from my friend who is a Phoenix-area cop who is often tasked with protest/riot duty:

    About three weeks ago, a curfew of 8:00 PM was instituted in Phoenix. Cop friend likes this, because it keeps him from trying to keep people from burning stuff down deep into the night, which would be necessary whether or not they were for-sure trying to burn stuff down. But after a few days of the curfew, he noticed that what he called “legitimate” protesters were starting to leave super-snappily at 8:00 PM, to the point of visibly organizing to have everybody leave faster just before 8:00 PM.

    What they were doing, he says, is hanging the rioter cohort out to dry. The rioter section had/has a separate organizational structure running it and was less capable/willing to leave at the curfew time; the legitimate protesters leaving quickly left them scrambling to change from rock-chucking behaviors quickly enough, and let the police scoop up the violent group in greater numbers for a brief period every night and then made keeping riots at bay mostly trivial for the rest of the night, since nobody was supposed to be out at all.

    Whether or not you think this is positive depends on whether you think he can differentiate between violent rioters and non-violent protesters or not, and that you approve of curfews and such, but it was interesting to me that the “good” protesters seemed in some way to be intentionally assisting police in trying to purge the rioter contingent. My buddy likes protests/protesting in a general sense and has been pretty consistent on this since I’ve known him, so I trust him a bit more because of that, but YMMV.

    1. Wrong Species

      What they were doing, he says, is hanging the rioter cohort out to dry.

      Good. That’s what we want. Those who actually support peaceful protestors over the rioters should be aiming for this result. Of course, violent criminals should be in jail for longer than “a brief period every night” but it is what it is.

      1. GearRatio

        Disambiguation: I mean there was a brief period every night where the protesters were gone, but the rioters were still there doing riot-ey things you could see and get them for.

  11. Trofim_Lysenko

    So, I want to propose a radical (and also not very radical) alternative to “Defund The Police”. If you are an American in your 20s or early 30s, fit and healthy, intelligent, and passionately believe that systematic change in the way law enforcement is conducted in America is one of the greatest issues facing us today, there’s an obvious measure I haven’t seen anyone suggest: Become a Cop.

    No, seriously.

    1) Puts you in a prime position to become a whistleblower on bad officers in your department, if any.

    2) The not-so-long march through the institution. Columbus, OH has ~1,800 sworn officers. Seattle, WA has ~1,400. Minneapolis has (had) 840. These are big cities and these are NOT big numbers. Even if we assume for the sake of argument that every last one of the cops on these forces are unethical thugs, 92 Seattle PD Cops quit in 2018 and 64 were hired. Those numbers aren’t all that unusual for a metro PD as far as I can tell. Get a real entryist campaign going, and how many years at that rate of exchange before you have a critical mass of people who share your values in place?

    3) You prevent abuse of power at 100% of the dispatch calls you answer. You’re confident in your moral compass on the issues of police use of force. Who better to be entrusted with that responsibility?

    4) You will be directly helping your community: You will be literally serving and protecting the men and women you share a city or town with. Police work is, at its core, altruistic and about helping people.

    Possible downsides:

    1) Increased risk of injury/death: If you don’t think policing is particularly dangerous (see the arguments about it being safer than being a landscaper elsewhere), then great! Feel free to ignore this one. Otherwise, yes, you’re probably going to be exposed to the risk of injury both from negligence on the road and malice.

    2) Mental Health: Police officers have to deal with a lot of shit. I don’t mean just the public attitude towards police (though that can be part of it), but exposure to a lot of the ugliness that most people will either never encounter or will only see once in their lives. Finding suicides, responding to car wrecks, etc.

    3) Possible infohazard: That is, exposure to the culture and values of police training, and the experience of serving as an officer might threaten to change your views on the appropriate way to deal with police abuses of power. To which I’d say first that to the extent the new perspective offers legimately new and better data that you didn’t have before, that’s not losing your way, that’s changing your mind on the basis of new evidence, and second that forewarned is forearmed and precommitments are a powerful thing.

    SSC is probably the wrong audience to make this pitch to. Most of us are either older, already settled into alternate careers, or are passionate about pursuing other goals. But it’s absolutely the pitch I’d make (and have made, along with my one about independent investigations and refinements to bodycam systems) to any BLM supporters who seemed the right demographic.

    1. lhudde

      There’s a strong current of classist contempt for working-class men running through ACAB/ Defund the Police measures. I would not expect that the college-educated women who largely populate these movements would wish to lower themselves to such a position.

      1. leadbelly

        There’s a strong current of classist contempt for working-class men running through ACAB/ Defund the Police measures

        What evidence do you have for this? In my experience, those advocating to defund the police are leftists who are wholly supportive of the working class, especially those that are black or minority ethnic, but also white. Just not cops.

        Also, are you seriously suggesting that the majority of the ACAB type are “college-educated women”?

        1. sharper13

          Proportionally, besides black men, “college-educated women” appears to be the primary demographic supporting the idea on Facebook judging by my feed. There may be some availability bias at work there, but I’ve also heard that mentioned by others elsewhere.

          It may also be that one of those groups just happens to be more about intensive virtue signaling online than some other groups, though.

        2. lhudde

          I mean, missionaries would doubtless declare sincerely that they were “supportive of” the welfare of indigenous tribes, and British industrialists that they were “supporting” the best interests of workhouse inhabitants. When Group A benevolently lobbies for (public-funded!) programs for Group B, but only at A’s discretion, promoting A’s values and strengthening A’s structures of social authority, then I think it’s fair to ask whose interests are really being served. Leftists should be extra super aware of this, given Marx and Engels’s very dim view of bourgeois humanitarian and philanthropic movements.

          I obviously haven’t done an exhaustive demographic survey of the “abolish the police” movement, but to take a couple central examples:

          –Rolling Stone compliments the Minneapolis lobbying groups Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block for “lobbying for $45 million worth of MPD’s budget – $193 million in 2020 — be redirected into violence prevention programs, youth homelessness programs, an opioid taskforce and mental health response team.” The organizations have overlapping leadership, but all the major figures appear to be college-educated women. In this press release for the orgs, every single blurbed person is a college-educated woman, mostly in arts fields (recall: culture & education are middle-class strongholds).

          — All of the city council members who voted to defund the police are also college-educated professionals, including a couple lawyers and the son of a Congressman.

          — MPD employs 840 officers. Assuming budget cuts translate to redundancies, you’re talking about removing ~200 jobs for working-class people (mostly men). These will apparently be replaced by jobs for healthcare workers, social workers and psychologists. Guess what class and gender mostly occupy those positions? Guess whose class values are served by a broader pivot away from strict rules and physical strength and toward a medical/therapeutic/caring/ talky-oriented approach to crime?

          — If you want to help the residents of Minneapolis, left-leaning sources frequently recommend you donate to the “grassroots” We Love Lake Street. The committee members who will determine how this money is disbursed? All professionals, most with impressive advanced degrees.

          I think I’d take a more charitable view if any of these initiatives appeared to be genuinely led by the working class folks they’ll affect, or indeed if there was any active role envisioned for working-class men in the restructurings– beyond being the guinea pigs, mascots or passive clients of bougie-designed-staffed-and-run social services.

          Serious question: of the working-class-supportive leftists you know, how many of them have a ton of actual working-class friends that they hang out with on the regular?

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            I think I’d take a more charitable view if any of these initiatives appeared to be genuinely led by the working class folks they’ll affect, or indeed if there was any active role envisioned for working-class men in the restructurings– beyond being the guinea pigs, mascots or passive clients of bougie-designed-staffed-and-run social services.

            +1

    2. Viliam

      Question is, how do the rotten cops deal with whistleblowers. If they protect each other, it would be easy to frame you for something, or get you accidentally killed.

      1. Trofim_Lysenko

        I listed risk of injury and death as one of the downsides. I don’t personally consider that particularly more risk than day to day policing duties, especially in the context of a fight to save lives.

      1. Trofim_Lysenko

        All the entryist argument for becoming a sworn officer go double for joining the union. See Plumber’s frequent posts on the advantages of joining unions. Police academy slots are basically available via a civil service process.

        And no, in most states there aren’t closed shops. Instead there are agreements where non-union employees get a chunk of their paycheck deducted for “Fair shair fees” regardless (this sort of thing is why I am less than fond of unions in general, but that’s orthogonal to the point of this thread).

        1. TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

          All the entryist argument for becoming a sworn officer go double for joining the union. See Plumber’s frequent posts on the advantages of joining unions.

          Assuming you reform the union, not vice-versa.

          1. Trofim_Lysenko

            I mentioned that concern in my OP. The third of possible downsides/risks to the choice.

    3. Edward Scizorhands

      I brought this up a few OTs ago, and I can’t find it right now.

      We got one commenter (Well?) here who said they were becoming a cop (not because of my comment). There are also lots of difficulties in becoming a cop, because they make it really hard to apply unless you have someone on the inside, which seems like a violation of civil service guidelines. Someone else reminded me that people have been rejected from being cops for having an IQ too high.

      1. Anonymous Bosch

        There are also lots of difficulties in becoming a cop, because they make it really hard to apply unless you have someone on the inside,

        This may be one of the most pernicious effects of cop unions. Having more cops on the street is trivially better than paying fewer cops 150-200% of their salary in OT, but it’s way more lucrative to bullshit your buddy’s time cards. Plus rookies needing friends on the inside means they start out loyal and less willing to cross that thin blue line when their superiors start doing some Training Day shit.

        One of the reasons you’re seeing “defund the police” is because funding has rarely made its way to the populace in the form of better trained and more responsive policing.

        1. digbyforever

          This is only one department though.

          I’ve been wondering this myself. I know it’s popular to reference this case, but, it’s just one police department out of thousands. Has there been any research into how many other — really, if any — police departments do anything like this? My sense currently is it’s popular to cite but it’s currently a one-department example which seems like a poor basis for a broad criticism.

      2. Trofim_Lysenko

        they make it really hard to apply unless you have someone on the inside

        This is vastly exaggerated. As with any job, knowing people you’re going to be working with gives you an in, but most departments are short-handed and looking really hard for new people, almost to the point of desperation.

        Having more cops on the street is trivially better than paying fewer cops 150-200% of their salary in OT, but it’s way more lucrative to bullshit your buddy’s time cards.

        Citation very much needed, because that does not accord with literally any police officer you can speak with on the subject, or any EX police officer who quit due to overwork. Police departments are desperately trying to find people, the trouble is finding people who will A) jump through the hoops created to ensure that police are of sufficient quality AND B) can handle the rigors of the profession without quitting in the first few years (again, note the Seattle PD numbers, those were JUST voluntary resignations).

        A lot of departments use non-standard work periods specifically to minimize payments of overtime despite working extra hours. For example, a popular one follows the pattern “3 On, 2 Off, 2 On, 3 Off” where “on” are 12-13 hour shifts.

        As anonymousskimmer said, New London PD is one department. So my suggestion is withdrawn to anyone who only wants to be a cop if they can work in New London, Connecticut.

        EDIT: One of the basic principles of policing is that the police are supposed to be a PART of and representatives of the community they are policing. So I would suggest that any citations regarding the requirements for entry, OT, etc refer specifically to the agencies in your local area or the area where you would actually like to join. Alternately if you’re willing to say where you live, I’ll look up the local requirements and hiring pages myself.

        1. AG

          people who will A) jump through the hoops created to ensure that police are of sufficient quality

          Which is yet somehow way fewer hoops than basically any other profession requires, by training/education hours, as well as fewer hoops than most non-US nations.

          1. Trofim_Lysenko

            If by any other profession you mean college, sure. On the other hand, I think there are some obvious reasons why 12-14 weeks in a law enforcement academy are less attractive for a lot of young people than 4 years in a liberal arts college setting.

            You might find “defund the police while providing adequate law enforcement” and “make police jobs require a 4 year liberal arts degree” cut against each other a little bit.

          2. AG

            Not just college. Licensing requirements for several non-degree professions also far outstrip police training.

        2. Anonymous Bosch

          Citation very much needed, because that does not accord with literally any police officer you can speak with on the subject, or any EX police officer who quit due to overwork.

          Overtime scandals have been extensively documented in Chicago, Boston, Louisville, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Baltimore (The Wire was a documentary).

          Comment thread seems to be eating my posts though so this might not show up until several days later.

          1. Trofim_Lysenko

            To review, your original claim is that police unions deliberately make it hard to become a cop so that they can increase union members’s salaries via falsified overtime.

            So, of those links, 5 of them simply discuss that there’s a lot of overtime going on. No evidence is presented that there is falsification of time cards going on, although two of them frames the most extreme individual examples as suspicious, one of them while noting that the majority of OT is accounted for and legitimate, and one (Chicago) noting that the OT is NOT accounted for (unsurprising, you’ll note I’ve called out Chicago PD for being one of the cases where there actually is unquestioned institutional corruption in other posts). See previous comments and other threads regarding almost every local law enforcement agency in the US hurting for patrol officers, in some cases hurting really badly.

            One of the stories (Louisville) cites three officers who WERE busted for, as you put it “bullshit[ing] your buddy’s time cards”, who defended their actions with “everybody does it” but provides no substantiation of that claim beyond “there’s a lot of overtime in general, and for a few individuals there’s so much it’s suspicious”.

            That gives you 1 Department out of the six you linked that actually support your original claim (Chicago), and that only if we assume that the lack of documentation is presumptive evidence of fraud. Then we have 1 clear-cut example of abuse by individuals (who were in fact caught and punished), and 4 articles that describe disproportionate overtime but have no evidence of falsification.

            This is, at best, weak evidence for the sweeping generalization of your original argument. Would you like to try again?

            EDIT: Or even better, consider a more modest claim like “The conditions of widespread and chronic manpower shortage create an opportunity for bad cops to game the system for their benefit and at the taxpayers expense, and police unions and leadership have the same problem rooting those bad actors out they do with the ones using excessive and/or inappropriate force”?

          2. Anonymous Bosch

            No evidence is presented that there is falsification of time cards going on, although two of them frames the most extreme individual examples as suspicious,

            Because they are. The top OT earners in a given police department are massively more likely to be bullshitting. For example, the Baltimore story notes that the top OT earner is in trouble for falsifying arrest reports and the second place OT earner is literally banned from being a court witness; you think their misconduct stopped short of time theft? For a more systemic example, the Cincy story specifically notes that overtime fell 47% after the audit was announced; this is not the behavior of a department going by the book. That is not “no evidence,” it’s evidence short of a deductive slam dunk that you chose to ignore.

          3. Spookykou

            FWIW I worked for a while in conjunction with a union(non-police) and overtime abuse was rampant.

            Eight people on the clock, a silent shop, not a soul in sight, was a normal night.

          4. Trofim_Lysenko

            Because they are. The top OT earners in a given police department are massively more likely to be bullshitting.

            I think you don’t have the evidentiary support to back up that “massively”, but I’ll certainly agree that there are some examples of suspicious individuals. Except that this doesn’t actually provide any particular weight to your original claim regarding labor unions and provides equal support to your claim and to my suggested alternate formulation.

            For a more systemic example, the Cincy story specifically notes that overtime fell 47% after the audit was announced; this is not the behavior of a department going by the book.

            Did you miss the part where the report also specifically concluded there were no criminal acts, and no recoverable wages? “Bosses announced that rules that were previously ignored were being examined closely, and everyone suddenly becomes a stickler for those rules” Is an almost universal pattern, and given the audit’s conclusions that there was no evidence of fraud, again I think my model fits the data better than yours does.

            How many jobs have you worked where hourly labor shortages and OT were a recurring issue? I’ve worked a few now, and been a front line supervisor in them, and the pattern I’ve observed in multiple industries is exactly what we see here: If you need to get a job done and you’re short, you don’t give a shit about controlling overtime unless:

            A) the people working it complain to HR, or
            B) The big bosses above you who actually worry about the budget crack the whip and announce they’re cracking down/auditing.

            Again, I actually AGREE that this is a prime opportunity for abuse by bad actors, that such bad actors exist, and that a combination of police unions and institutional culture cover for and excuse those bad actors. But your logic chain so far is:

            “Most Police Departments rack up a lot of overtime”
            “In some of these departments, the top couple of OT workers are racking up SO much overtime it is suspicious.”
            “In one police department, 3 officers were caught falsifying time cards.”
            “In Chicago PD, infamous in the US for institutional corruption for decades as part of the larger problem of Chicago and IL political corruption, there is also systematic failure do correctly document OT so it’s impossible to tell if there is fraud or not.”
            ____
            “Therefore we can conclude that the general rule in the United States is that police unions deliberately create and maintain manpower shortages in order to enrich their members via widespread overtime fraud”

            I’m not ignoring your evidence, I just think it fails to support the leap from “we have evidence of bad individuals and one example of a corrupt department” to “it’s a national epidemic of institutional corruption”, ESPECIALLY when we have the alternate narrative which actually fits more of the facts.

            @Spookykou

            I believe you, and I’ve already argued in the past few threads -against- public sector unions, specifically to include police unions. But your anecdote doesn’t actually support Anonymous Bosch’s narrative either in more than a very weak “It’s plausible this could be happening” sense.

      3. TK-421

        That was me. As an update I’ve completed the initial multiple choice exam for one department and am scheduled for another. The hiring process – at best – is months long but I’ll keep people updated if there’s any interest.
        For context I’m in my mid 30s and switching from a career in software engineering.

        1. Scott Alexander

          If you’re interested in writing about your experience, I’m possibly interested in publishing it.

      4. Dack

        This was a few years back, but I applied to a small town PD. They said they had 1 opening. ~100 people paid $20 up front to apply and take an “aptitude” test. Maybe a week or 2 later they started doing interviews. I’m not sure how many of the ~100 made it that far, but I was interviewed. Next would have been the physical fitness test, but a couple weeks after my interview they announced that they decided not to hire anyone because “budget issues”. I didn’t get my $20 back.

    4. AG

      As other people have pointed out, non-white who join the police aren’t any better than their white counterparts, by the statistics. This is part of why ACAB has staying power as a meme.

      The few cases of successful police reform have required police union leadership change. NPR interviewed the Camden chief a few days ago, and they noted that while it’s actually the same union, with many of the same members, the real change when they disbanded and re-formed the department was a change in union leadership, who negotiate hard on pay, but cooperate on IA and procedural reform.

      1. Trofim_Lysenko

        The few cases of successful police reform have required police union leadership change.

        And you don’t think a concerted influx of entryist BLM supporters into police departments could produce leadership (and union leadership) changes?

        1. AG

          No, because union leadership influences who gets to climb up the ladder and risk becoming union leadership. And much of old union culture is about seniority.

        2. Trofim_Lysenko

          Which is why entryism never works? I don’t find this a plausible counter-argument, certainly not long-term. Police unions have more control than teacher’s unions, media, academia?

          1. Trofim_Lysenko

            I’m not aware of any concerted attempt by conservative entryists to change labor unions.

            I AM aware of the way progressive and liberal entryism radically shifted the composition of the examples I gave between about 1960 and 1980-90.

            The irony is that a big part of what made that work was that it wasn’t actually coordinated “entryism” in a lot of cases. It was multiple generations of young liberals and progressives who were told and believed that the best jobs to get to move the levers of power and change the national conversation were as teachers (defining the values and overton window of the next generation) and media (framing the narrative, drawing the public’s attention to injustices and corruption, spreading inspiring and energizing stories to sway people on the big issues of the day, etc).

            Telling a whole bunch of young, idealistic, and passionate baby boomers that journalism, academia, and unions were the careers to fight the good fight completely changed the political makeup and orientation of these fields over the course of a few decades. I’m saying that telling a whole bunch of young, idealistic, and passionate millenials and post-millenials that the place to be if they want to transform what law enforcement looks like in the United States is IN the field of law enforcement could and would work the samee way, and probably notably faster.

          2. AG

            But we have seen police departments themselves get more diverse. The effect was that non-white officers commit police brutality at about the same rate as white officers, and the thing that actually produced change was directly changing union leadership by force, not waiting for someone to climb the ladder organically.

    5. littskad

      My oldest son just finished his first year of college. He’s wanted to be a police officer for a few years now since one at his high school befriended him a few years ago. He would probably make a very good one, I think. He’s very friendly and kind, works really hard and is very organized, keeps himself very fit, and really cares about helping people. But when he was working on his class schedule for the fall, he told me that he’s decided to change from his criminal justice major to a technical major (he’s thinking maybe an actuarial major), and asked me for advice on math courses to take. When I asked him why he was going to change his major, he told me it was because he thought it was going to be too politicized and that there would be a good chance that the fact that he is a (mostly) white male would be held against him for his whole career. He likes that an actuarial career has a very legible career path and seems to reward smarts and hard work. He’s also looking into the national guard.

      I suspect that he’s not the only person making this sort of decision right now.

      1. Trofim_Lysenko

        Young people have been making that decision more and more since the late 90s/early 2000s, and the number of them making that decision has steadily grown. That’s a non-trivial contributor to WHY most police departments are having chronic manpower shortages.

    6. roflc0ptic

      This is a radical proposal in the sense that radicals sometimes propose this, and even have a name for it – it’s called “salting”. I personally knew leftists who talked about salting the police, I don’t think very seriously. It’s related to the communist “vanguard” strategy, whereby they covertly salt various organizations and then align them with communist goals.

      In my own experience with the left in Florida, circa 2012, there was a communist organization called FRSO with secret membership that… tried to get leadership positions in as many leftist organizations as they could, and align their goals with that of FRSO. They ended up having lots of infighting that was pretty machiavellian, and there were several accusations of sexual misconduct, at least one of which was spurious and one of which was quite serious. They now have a snazzy website: https://frso.org/

      The FRSO name is from an older organization, but I don’t know if there was some kind of lineage, or if they were just resurrecting it because it was cool. I was left aligned but wasn’t a communist, so I didn’t get invited to join their club.

        1. Trofim_Lysenko

          So your argument that this doesn’t work to me above was insincere? You seem to be pivoting on a dime here.

          1. AG

            If the place has already been salted by the enemy, what makes you thing that they’ll let their enemy climb the leadership ladder?

        2. DavidFriedman

          I don’t see any evidence in the linked story that white supremacists had successfully infiltrated and taken control of police departments, only that there were some in police departments and the FBI was concerned.

          1. AG

            The fact that they are allowed to be an active presence indicates a law enforcement culture that doesn’t view them as a detriment. Our president pardoned a sheriff convicted for openly racially profiling.
            The FBI published their concerns, and the power/influence of the right-wing group was enough to get any further investigations dismantled, and even got an apology from the DHS secretary. They have successfully prevented any counterterrorism efforts from focusing on white supremacy.

            That is real power.

      1. DavidFriedman

        I believe Frank Meyer, who had been a communist, claimed that when he was at Oxford (or possibly LSE) the communist party there controlled every student organization, including the conservative club.

  12. INH5

    After looking more into the Steven Hsu thing, I’ve changed my mind on the issue.

    Hsu didn’t just host Ron Unz on his own podcast to talk about unrelated subjects. The title and description of the podcast prominently promoted the Unz Review as “a controversial, but widely read, alternative media site hosting opinion outside of the mainstream.” He allowed Unz to promote his own column, “American Pravda” without any pushback whatsoever. Here’s what Unz’s column archives looked like only a few days before the podcast was published. The most recent article is “American Pravda: How Hitler Saved the Allies,” which as the title suggests, includes historical revisionism and blatant apologetics for Nazi Germany. You only have to scroll down a little bit to see American Pravda articles espousing Holocaust denial and other serious antisemitism.

    To my knowledge, Hsu has not responded to the accusations involving Unz in any public statements since this thing began.

    The Stefan Molyneux stuff seems pretty mild by comparison, but for the record, the idea that Stefan Molyneux was not a “controversial figure” in 2017, as Hsu stated in a blog post, is complete nonsense, as shown by even a casual glance at Molyneux’s Wikipedia page in early 2017 Even Joe Rogan was aware that Molyneus had been accused of running a cult all the way back in 2014.

    I’m not a big fan of cancel culture, but I don’t think it’s crazy to question if someone who lends his platform to a Holocaust denier, allows that person to promote Holocaust denial publications unimpeded, and does not admit fault when other people bring this up, is qualified to hold a position that involves deciding which research projects should get funding. Especially when this is part of a repeat pattern of, at best, failing to recognize obvious and even potentially dangerous cranks and failing to admit fault when those issues are brought to his attention.

    1. Marlowe

      Does this mean that Hsu’s hosts for seminars he’s given at UCLA, Google, Cold Spring Harbor, UC Berkeley, etc., should similarly be canceled (or stripped of any positions of responsibility)? How many degrees of separation from odious people are enough?

      My main objection to this argument, though, is that we really should mean it when we claim to support free inquiry, especially among academics. I don’t like everything Hsu does, though his work on prediction of polygenic traits is really good (see talks or papers), but I’m really impressed that a great fraction of his work is imaginative, and pushes the limits of possibility. (It’s also potentially highly beneficial, e.g. polygenic prediction of cancer risks — again see papers.) So much of academic science is the opposite: even with the amazing freedom of tenure so many people do dull, milquetoast work, writing yet another paper that one knows no one will ever read, never pushing any envelopes. I think we need more people who explore, think, and write freely. We’re going to get fewer, however, with mob-driven denigration like this.

      1. INH5

        I just re-read the “How Hitler Saved the Allies” article, and it’s even worse than I had remembered. It promotes a number of antisemitic canards, including but not limited to: Jews had an “overwhelming role” in Soviet Communism, and that Jews control media and finance in modern America and had a “strangehold” on media and finance in Weimar Germany. It claims that Hitler was merely trying to “run the country in the best interests of the 99% German majority.”

        So to be clear here, this isn’t a case of merely associating with an unsavory person, this is allowing an unsavory person to use a platform that you control to promote explicit antisemitic propaganda and Nazi apologetics without any pushback at all. The most charitable possible interpretation is that Hsu displayed an appalling failure of due diligence when he invited Ron Unz on his podcast, and failed to acknowledge this when other people brought it up. This goes well beyond Guilt By Association.

        With regards to the issue of free inquiry, Hsu is still a tenured professor. But I wouldn’t want someone who has, at best, repeatedly failed to recognize cult leaders and Holocaust deniers that could have been uncovered with just a bit of due diligence managing my university’s limited research budget either.

        1. [Thing]

          without any pushback at all … failure of due diligence

          I haven’t listened to the Unz interview, but this characterization of it reminded me of Steve & his cohost Corey Washington’s Manifold podcast interview with David Skrbina, the philosopher who had a long correspondence with Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), and published a book of Kaczynski’s writings elaborating their shared anti-technology thesis. I thought it was weird that Steve & Corey just sort of politely nodded along while Skrbina went on about how humanity needs to revert to, IIRC, a late Medieval or early Renaissance level of technological development, in order to avert some vaguely specified catastrophe. From other things I’ve read & heard by Steve & Corey, they obviously don’t share that belief, but they didn’t make much of an effort to question Skrbina’s premises, or interrogate the implications for politics or human welfare of his call to reverse several centuries’ worth of technological development. After a certain point they almost sounded like call-in radio-show hosts politely humoring an obviously nutty caller, trying to run out the clock to avoid an unpleasantly confrontational tone. Skrbina was a philosophy professor in the UMich. system at the time, so maybe they underprepared for the interview on the assumption that they wouldn’t be dealing with something so far out on the fringe? Although the connection with the Unabomber should have been a tip-off …

          Anyway, I’m still more sympathetic to Hsu overall than his antagonists, because I worry that the successful campaign against him will have a chilling effect on research like the intelligence & police-violence research that the campaigners objected to for nakedly political reasons. That seems like a more important issue than Steve’s eccentric proclivity for palling around with crackpots.

        1. silver_swift

          A problem with that is that in practice it is going to be really hard to draw the line at two degrees. Once someone gets fired for going on a podcast with known bad people, it makes it really easy to frame them as a known bad person themselves, which then opens the doors to attack other people for hanging out with them, etc.

          Now, this is unlikely to go literally infinite as blameworthiness probably does dissipate a little with each hop, but with the level of nuance that is used in these kinds of situations (ie. none) I don’t see how you’re going to be able to make a firm stand on exactly two degrees of separation.

      2. anonymousskimmer

        is that we really should mean it when we claim to support free inquiry, especially among academics.

        How can having any human intermediary with respect to directing academic funding be “supporting free inquiry”? The only use I can see is in calling BS on absurd funding requests (i.e. gaming the system by asking for way more or way less than you need). Anything else is a Valkyrie choosing the saved.

      3. DavidFriedman

        I also read the Hitler article, although not all of it — I didn’t get to the antisemitic part. What I found interesting was that it felt like a fraud, an attempt to put something over on the reader. I’m not entirely sure about all the reasons it felt that way, but it wasn’t just that I found its claims implausible — the author pretended that he found them implausible until he in various ways confirmed them.

        I have been saying for a long time that a critical intellectual skill not taught, to some degree anti-taught, in the conventional K-12 program is the ability to evaluate sources of information on internal evidence, how something is written, and this seemed like a good example.

        1. roflc0ptic

          In my k-12 education, I had an English teacher who made us read this book of essays both for and against various positions – e.g. universal health insurance. This is the only instance I remember in which I was even *presented* opposing views.

          I do know that our local IB had an epistemology course, but I didn’t breathe that rarified air.

          1. Lambert

            Wow, your history teachers were not doing their jobs.

            We spent a couple of years looking at various sources that took different positions on questions like ‘how competant were the generals of WWI?’

    2. viVI_IViv

      I’m not a big fan of cancel culture, but I don’t think it’s crazy to question if someone who lends his platform to a Holocaust denier, allows that person to promote Holocaust denial publications unimpeded, and does not admit fault when other people bring this up, is qualified to hold a position that involves deciding which research projects should get funding.

      You mean like when Columbia University hosted the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to give a speech?

      1. INH5

        Your own link shows the university President arguing against Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and so on, demonstrating that he had prepared for the occasion by researching Ahmadinejad’s previous statements and actions. If Hsu had done the same when he had Unz on, I wouldn’t have objected.

    3. outis

      I’ve listened for about five minutes, and Unz talks in a somewhat meandering and entirely generic way about finding flaws in mainstream narratives until they begin to unravel, while also mentioning that “90-95%” of conspiracy theories are bunk. They say nothing about Hitler, the Allies, the Holocaust, or any specific historical event or figure. There is nothing for Hsu to object to.

      Now, you might say that if this were a TV program the staff would have been expected to look through Unz’s output and find things to actively bring up and challenge him on, or just to determine that he is a bad person not to be “given a platform”. But these are just two academics recording a niche podcasts. They don’t have the time, the staff, or the responsibility to do any of that.

      We’re talking about a YouTube channel run by two professors who have very dry conversations on a range of intellectual topics. It has fewer than 1500 subscribers at this time. The Unz video has around 3200 views, probably inflated by the SSC traffic now. The audience consists of a small number of highly educated people, who, after listening for 47 minutes, are exposed to a reference to Unz’s American Pravda series of articles “from ten years ago”.

      I want to ask you exactly what danger we are supposed to be fighting here. What is the threat model? Are we concerned that a handful of nerds with PhDs are going to end up reading Unz’s articles and be intellectually defenseless before their supreme persuasiveness? That such materials are so devastatingly powerful that no level of education or intellectual capacity can make them safe to handle?

      Are we concerned that one of those 3K views is going to be the snowflake that starts the avalanche that overturns the popular understanding of World War II, which is the foundational narrative of the contemporary world, and which is taught and re-taught to every citizen throughout their life by school, books, newspapers, movies, comics, songs, videogames, websites, board games, public art, and pretty much any other form of human expression? All of this, overwhelmed by one fateful mention of Unz’s articles?

      And in the wreckage of the American Age, we will look back and say, “if only we had cancelled Steven Hsu sooner, all this could have been saved?”

      1. outis

        Was this too sarcastic? I’d like to adjust my tone to the community’s expectations, so please let me know.

        I do honestly think that we need to weigh the harms of cancellation against the concrete benefits, and I don’t see people doing that. I’m not talking about cancelling Unz, but cancelling Hsu for talking to him before a small audience, and further degrees of separation (after all, people have to cut ties with Hsu because they would be punished otherwise).

        The harms are often discussed, but what about the supposed benefits? We all agree that holocaust denial is wrong, of course. But what, concretely, would happen if we didn’t cancel Hsu for talking to Unz without bringing it up?

        1. roflc0ptic

          I don’t know if this is “too sarcastic” for community norms, but since this is a moment to promote some norms I cherish: generally sarcasm and irony are tools for indirectly enforcing social norms and/or dunking on people, and aren’t really value add. It’s just a low signal to noise ratio, because you’re not making any claims. You’re just dismissing other people’s claims. Some people get away with it (Deiseach is the notable example), but she’s regularly skirting the line, and IMO only reason she isn’t banned is because she’s so danged likeable.

          I think your second comment is more succinct, represents mostly the same position, and is easier to engage with than your first.

          I think you’re making a good point. I certainly know people who, if you disagree with them about some point of orthodoxy, they’ll say manipulative stuff like “This may be intellectual to you, but actual lives are at stake.”

          Taking that at face value, those same people being silent on COVID-19 and the incompetence of the US government’s response is fucking baffling. If our authentic concern is people literally dying, which kills more people: police brutality, or the incompetence of the CDC and the Trump admin?

          Individually and collectively, we do not rationally allocate our attention.

          That said, somewhere Scott has an essay where he talks about how, when you have limited ability to enforce social norms, a somewhat random, terroristic, and overzealous enforcement strategy can be effective. The function it serves to maintain a permanent chilling effect on holocaust deniers, which is a goal I’m pretty down with. Should we as a society sacrifice Hsu to that particular idol? Idk. I guess we answered yes.

          (If someone could let me know what that esssay called or link to it, I’d be grateful.)

          1. Deiseach

            IMO only reason she isn’t banned is because she’s so danged likeable.

            I think this is the first time I’ve been called likeable, so take this disparaging grunt of acknowledgement in return! 🙂

          2. AG

            I’d like to say here that, in my estimation, the reason Deiseach is allowed to be snarky and sarcastic is that when people take issue with said snark and sarcasm, Deiseach doesn’t take it personally, and will genuinely engage with any points raised by those disagreeing with her.

            Usually snark and sarcasm are predictors of a conversation quality already in the dumpster and not going to get any better, but a response to a Deiseach comment full of salt and vinegar can be quite productive!

    4. Anonymous Bosch

      Hsu didn’t just host Ron Unz on his own podcast to talk about unrelated subjects. The title and description of the podcast prominently promoted the Unz Review as “a controversial, but widely read, alternative media site hosting opinion outside of the mainstream.” He allowed Unz to promote his own column, “American Pravda” without any pushback whatsoever.

      I have the same opinion as you. I was still ambivalent when I finally got around to finishing the Molyneux appearance. The Unz appearance was him being more chummy with a worse guy and zero pushback, and on Hsu’s show at that.

      To my knowledge, Hsu has not responded to the accusations involving Unz in any public statements since this thing began.

      To my knowledge, none of Hsu’s defenders has. Not even Scott when I directly pointed it out.

      His defenders are, of course, free to ignore the most damning detail and pretend it’s just about some dry posts regarding genetic variation, the same way Hsu breezily refers to Unz as “alternative.” Not even acknowledging it, let alone addressing it, makes me infer the operating principle here is closer to “no enemies to the right” than it is some commitment to open scientific inquiry and education (which I can see in the Molyneux appearance if I squint, but not the Unz one). If you want to spend your podcast having a friendly kvetch with a guest about media bias and plugging their website, there’s eleventy jillion conservatives you can book who don’t deal in Holocaust denial ✌️revisionism✌️.

      And if your position on university veeps getting chummy with Hitler apologists is one of those “Yes” memes, then I’m not terribly interested in what you have to say about the anti-intellectual leftward drift of campus politics.

        1. Anonymous Bosch

          For the episode I was the Ombudsman. I believe that criticism is made because of Ron’s views on the Holocaust. I was unaware Ron had unusual views on the Holocaust before the show; we did not discuss them during the show; and I have not bothered to read about them since.

          The show’s ombudsman did not know Ron had “unusual views” about the Holocaust? And has gone out of their way not to find out? And then praises him for being “a remarkably successful conservative social entrepreneur” and repeatedly cites the popularity and traffic stats of Unz Review, the website whose contents he claims to be ignorant of (and indeed would have to have never looked at to truthfully claim ignorance about Unz’s “unusual views about the Holocaust,” as virtually every article’s sidebar of suggested reading has at least one eyebrow-raiser) and yet still felt was worthy of Hsu’s praise?

          🙈

          If you are an academic, you may want, and want others, to ignore the likes of Ron Unz and Edward Blum, but bear in mind: they are paying attention to you. In fact, it could be argued that it is this intentional ignorance of their divergent view, that has allowed them to chip away at the long-standing traditions of the education system from the outside without much resistance.

          But the show offered no resistance either! He didn’t platform him in order to challenge him, he platformed him to offer a a full-throated endorsement of his website and studiously ignore all the Nazi shit! This is manifestly worse than ignoring him entirely unless you feel our institutions are suffering for lack of “was Hitler really all that bad” perspectives.

          Well, thanks, I guess. This defense makes me feel a hell of a lot better about Hsu getting shitcanned.

          1. [Thing]

            From the letter:

            We have a division of labor on Manifold. One person invites the guest and reads
            background material, the other person goes in “cold”, generally unprepared and acts as
            the audience “ombudsman”, seeking to ask questions from the point of view of the
            listeners.

            So Washington didn’t know about Unz’s Nazi-adjacent beliefs going into the show specifically because he was the “ombudsman.” I don’t know why he hadn’t looked into it before writing the letter. Maybe he rushed it out because Hsu said things were moving fast? Anyway, none of that excuses Hsu.

          2. Anonymous Bosch

            That’s a weird and almost auto-antonymic usage of “ombudsman” but I’ll cop to it being a legitimate reason Washington didn’t know about Unz ahead of time (EDIT: just missed the edit window on my above post but consider the first sentence struck).

            The deliberate ignorance afterward (especially contrasted with his detailed, specific defense of Cesario, which is one of Hsu’s critics’ weaker points and IMO fully justified by the defense) is still a terrible look for him, which honestly makes me suspect he has looked at Unz since and knows better than to try.

          3. DavidFriedman

            And then praises him for being “a remarkably successful conservative social entrepreneur”

            Adolf Hitler was a remarkably successful political entrepreneur.

            That isn’t praise. But it was a good reason to pay attention to him, and similarly is a reason to pay attention to Unz. That, pretty clearly, is the point being made.

          4. Anonymous Bosch

            Adolf Hitler was a remarkably successful political entrepreneur.

            That isn’t praise.

            The podcast was.

            “We have to engage Holocaust denial” is an argument for debate. I don’t fully buy it for reasons laid out elsethread, but it utterly fails as a defense of this podcast since it was a hugfest, not a debate.

      1. Atlas

        And if your position on university veeps getting chummy with Hitler apologists is one of those “Yes” memes, then I’m not terribly interested in what you have to say about the anti-intellectual leftward drift of campus politics.

        I’d appreciate it if you could elaborate a bit on what your position is here. Are you saying that anyone employed by a university who associates with someone with extreme or dangerous views without challenging them ought to be fired from their position? If so, that would seem to be a very unorthodox principle that few universities currently follow.

        That is, many universities employ people who have associated on friendly terms with, or are themselves, Marxists, foreign policy neoconservatives or (to take a very topical example) police abolitionists. I think there is good reason to believe that these are all extremely radical and destructive beliefs that have little intellectual merit. However, I, and most people within the Blue Tribe, believe that they ought to be able to express their views without being punished for doing so. Indeed, this notably seems to be the position of Noam Chomsky, as per the article I linked below.

        Consequently, I don’t see that the belief “someone who has associated on friendly terms with someone with extreme or dangerous beliefs ought not to be fired because of that” that I and other defenders of Hsu are expressing is an unusual or unsound one.

        1. salvorhardin

          Yeah, this. I’d respect as consistent (while still disagreeing with) those who think Hsu’s poor associational judgment disqualifies him for a leadership position *if* they also wanted to disqualify everyone in similar leadership positions who, say, interviewed Angela Davis about prison abolitionism without pushing back on her history of literal-not-exaggerated unrepentant advocacy for Soviet Communism. But I’m skeptical that such people exist.

        2. Guy in TN

          @Atlas
          @salvorhardin

          I’d appreciate it if you could elaborate a bit on what your position is here. Are you saying that anyone employed by a university who associates with someone with extreme or dangerous views without challenging them ought to be fired from their position?

          I don’t know how many times we have to reiterate this.

          When our criticism of Hsu is “he gave a platform to a Holocaust denialist, unconditionally praised his work, and has a pattern of lending his scientific expertise to give credence to people promoting racial nationalism”, and you respond with “oh, so you’re saying it is bad to associate with people with radical viewpoints”, at some point you are fundamentally no longer engaging with our argument.

          I don’t think a single person has said that the problem is that Hsu merely associated with these people. Yet how many times has this word been used throughout this thread?

          And the issue has never been that Unz and Molyneux’s views are radical. It’s been that they are white nationalist. The counter-arguments of “Well, if you are against him promoting radical positions, what about Marxism?” doesn’t move anyone, because you are assuming our problem is that Unz’s ideas are outside the mainstream, when the issue is actually that Unz’s ideas are bad. If you insist on us to articulate a meta-level rule here, it’s “don’t promote ideologies that make the world a very bad place”.

          Atlas:
          If Hsu’s allowing Unz to have a platform is beyond the pale and thus grounds for his removal, it is difficult to see why anyone who has expressed sympathy for Marxism, or indeed, by the standards of this case, allowed Marxists to express their ideas without immediate challenge, is allowed to keep their position.

          salvorhardin:
          Yeah, this. I’d respect as consistent (while still disagreeing with) those who think Hsu’s poor associational judgment disqualifies him for a leadership position *if* they also wanted to disqualify everyone in similar leadership positions who, say, interviewed Angela Davis about prison abolitionism without pushing back on her history of literal-not-exaggerated unrepentant advocacy for Soviet Communism. But I’m skeptical that such people exist.

          Are you two unaware that the belief of “Marxism is worse than the racial nationalism espoused by Unz and Molyneux” is highly idiosyncratic, particularly in academia? At the very least, few enough people believe it to be assumed like it is some fact-of-reality. You are aware of the modern resurgence of socialist viewpoints in the US, no?

          “If my opponents were sincere, they’d actually be doing things that conform to all my priors and values. That they don’t is evidence of their duplicativeness!”

          1. outis

            Guy in TN:
            When our criticism of Hsu is “he gave a platform to a Holocaust denialist, unconditionally praised his work, and has a pattern of lending his scientific expertise to give credence to people promoting racial nationalism”, and you respond with “oh, so you’re saying it is bad to associate with people with radical viewpoints”, at some point you are fundamentally no longer engaging with our argument.

            I don’t think a single person has said that the problem is that Hsu merely associated with these people. Yet how many times has this word been used throughout this thread?

            Thank you, I think we’re getting somewhere here. Let’s try to approach the gap from the other side: what would constitute mere association with Unz?

            If the only interaction one is allowed to have with person X is actively attacking them for their bad positions, even when they have not being brought up in the conversation, that very much sounds to me like “you may not associate with person X”.

          2. CatCube

            Are you two unaware that the belief of “Marxism is worse than the racial nationalism espoused by Unz and Molyneux” is highly idiosyncratic, particularly in academia?

            I can’t speak to the awareness of @Atlas or @salvorhardin, but not only am I aware of it, the fact that this view is “highly idiosyncratic” is the problem to which I’m objecting. This is the core of raging hypocrisy of the people pushing “cancel” bullshit.

            “Oh, we can’t let somebody who is adjacent to monstrous ideology responsible for historical evil have a bigger platform in academia!” “So we’ll be firing the Commies, then?” “No, you see, that’s different!”

            It really, really, isn’t different. It’s just excuse-making for the monsters on one side. I’d mind a lot less about Hsu if this alleged “rule” was applied in anything approaching a fair fashion.

          3. salvorhardin

            I’m perfectly aware that most people in academia don’t believe that aiding and abetting Soviet Communism (as e.g. Angela Davis did for years and has not to my knowledge ever apologized for doing) is on roughly the same moral level with aiding and abetting white nationalism. And so likewise they don’t believe that associating with and legitimizing unrepentant Communists is on the same moral level with associating with and legitimizing unrepentant white nationalists.

            That doesn’t make it any less obviously true, at least to those who actually know the history of both. And indeed much of the fear of cancel culture springs from its being spearheaded by people who are either so historically ignorant, or so bereft of moral compass, that they don’t think Communism was all that bad. I’m not claiming they’re not consistent with respect to a viewpoint that says that white nationalism is a terrible evil ideology but Communism isn’t. I’m saying that they’re inconsistent with respect to any humane general principles for determining what ideologies are terrible evil ones.

          4. Guy in TN

            @CatCube

            This is the core of raging hypocrisy of the people pushing “cancel” bullshit.

            Can you spell out the hypocrisy for me here? What are the things they say they believe, and the actions they take that betray the sincerity of this belief?

            If one of the priors necessary for their hypocrisy is “Marxism is worse than white nationalism”, I’m going to have to stop you right there: you’ve already agreed that they don’t share this belief.

            If you just want to say that they are wrong, then say it. Don’t baselessly imply that they are insincere, hypocrites, duplicative, lying about their intentions, ect.

          5. roflc0ptic

            I know about some of the horrors of Russian and Chinese communism, but I haven’t ever read a book about it. Do y’all have recommendations for relatively objective explorations?

            Also, do y’all have evidence of the academic consensus on soviet Russia being “not that bad”? Are there faculty studies? (I know there’s that recurring philosophy survey that asks philosophers what they believe. ) Or can you point to academics saying this? I personally knew some communists who are soviet apologists, but they generally weren’t employed, and not as academics. I don’t know any academics who take that position.

          6. Conrad Honcho

            @salvorhardin

            I completely agree with what you said.

            That said, what I find concerning about the cancelers is that I don’t think they’re really mad about Nazis. The Nazis are dead. Have been for 75 years. I think they’re really after regular old conservative schmucks like me and are just using the generally agreed upon contempt for nazis as cover.

          7. cassander

            @roflc0ptic

            https://www.amazon.com/First-They-Killed-Father-Remembers/dp/0060856262

            https://www.amazon.com/One-Day-Life-Ivan-Denisovich/dp/0451531043

            https://www.amazon.com/Great-Terror-Reassessment-Robert-Conquest/dp/0195317009

            https://www.amazon.com/Gulag-Archipelago-Aleksandr-Solzhenitsyn/dp/1843430851

            https://www.amazon.com/Maos-Great-Famine-Devastating-Catastrophe/dp/0802779239

            All excellent books. And for people defending these holocausts, see my response here. For the most part, these atrocities are not outright denied once they’re over (but they are while ongoing) as continually excused and memory holed.

          8. DavidFriedman

            The Conspiracy of Silence by Weissberg.

            The author was an Austrian physicist, a communist who went to the Soviet Union, got caught up in the Great Purge, eventually turned over to the Nazis (he was Jewish), survived it all, and wrote a book describing his experiences in the Purge and trying to make sense of it, to understand what had happened and why.

            It’s apparently out of print (and shouldn’t be), so you may have difficulty finding a copy.

          9. CatCube

            @Guy in TN

            Why do they hate white nationalism? I’m presuming they have a better reason than that one day they said, “Hey, we need to pick something to hate on,” reached into a Scrabble bag, and got an “A”, an “I”, an “N”, an “M”, an “S”, and the “Z”.

            I know why they should, and why I think they do, but I’m curious what you think their reasons are.

          10. rogerc

            @salvorhardin @Nick @Conrad

            I’m curious to understand your viewpoint on the equivalence you mean when you say “on roughly the same moral level”.

            To be more specific, do you think that
            1. An individual, today, who defends the Nazi government of Germany overall
            2. An individual who defends Soviet communism overall
            are equally deserving of condemnation?

            Even more specifically:
            1. Someone today who argues that the Jewish population is shadowy and dangerous, and that Nazis did a lot of good things for Germans
            2. Someone today who says that there may be some validity to a centralized command economy, and the USSR made a valid attempt at it.
            deserve the same amount of condemnation?

            Note that I don’t necessarily mean de-platforming, or any particular sanction. Just on a moral level, as you say.

            If you do think they are equally bad, why?

            PS. I’m not referring to Angela Davis in particular with individual #2. She seems to have done some fairly abhorrent other stuff that is beyond Marxism, I think.

          11. Guy in TN

            @CatCube

            Why do they hate white nationalism? I’m presuming they have a better reason than that one day they said, “Hey, we need to pick something to hate on,” reached into a Scrabble bag, and got an “A”, an “I”, an “N”, an “M”, an “S”, and the “Z”.

            I can’t speak for other people, but I can tell you why I’m against white nationalism, although I’m afraid the answer will be rather dull and unsurprising. The basic rationale is that I believe the benefits of society should not be distributed according to race. This is because my terminal goal is to increase the well-being of humanity, not increase the well-being of only some subset. I see racial nationalism as a form of amoral egoism, with “I want things that benefit my race (at the exclusion of other races)” as no more justifiable than saying “I want things that benefit me (at the exclusion of other people)”.

            As for the question of “why focus on white nationalism right now?”, the answer is that it’s at the following intersections:
            1. Quite dangerous in content, for a political ideology
            2. Appears to be increasing in popularity in the late 2010’s- I’m not just talking about the Trump/alt-right crowd but also in “respectable techie” circles that are pushing a “scientific” form of it (yes, I’m talking about a certain subsection of Rationalists)
            3. As of 2020, there is a growing backlash against white nationalism and racism in general, due to the George Floyd protests and a general “awokening”, with a lot of anger to harness for purposes such as this.

          12. cassander

            @Guy in TN

            1. Quite dangerous in content, for a political ideology

            When’s the last time white nationalism wrecked a society? When’s the last time socialism did?

            2. Appears to be increasing in popularity in the late 2010’s- I’m not just talking about the Trump/alt-right crowd but also in “respectable techie” circles that are pushing a “scientific” form of it

            has there ever been a more anti-racist society than the modern US? the groups you’re talking about are utterly marginal, and mainstream culture gets more anti-racist every year (as you seem to think in point 3). you sound like a protestant worried about papist conspiracies…in the 1800s UK.

          13. matkoniecz

            1. An individual, today, who defends the Nazi government of Germany overall
            2. An individual who defends Soviet communism overall
            are equally deserving of condemnation?

            For me someone who overall defends either Nazi government or Soviet communism government is on on roughly the same moral level.

            Discussion about which one was more evil may be entertaining but for me both states are with North Korea, Mao’s China, Cambodia under Pol Pot, Congo Free State and Sparta in one category.

            1. Someone today who argues that the Jewish population is shadowy and dangerous, and that Nazis did a lot of good things for Germans
            2. Someone today who says that there may be some validity to a centralized command economy, and the USSR made a valid attempt at it.
            deserve the same amount of condemnation?

            Not on the same level. Centralized command economy works on a small scale and in theory may work on larger so it is not completely invalid and works on small scale (family/company/tribe).

            Though USSR attempt went so bad that repeating this particular experiment should require ridiculous amount of safety and demonstration that new attempt is not going to end with a new pile of skulls.

            “Jewish population is shadowy and dangerous” is not useful/true even on such limited scale and was used solely to justify evil things.

            Also, “Nazis did a lot of good things for Germans” is lying by omission, while “USSR made a valid attempt at it” is true as in “and it went so bad that we should wait several centuries before trying again”.

            Mostly because “Nazis did a lot of good things for Germans” is claiming good outcomes while “USSR made a valid attempt at it” is claiming that they attempted to do something.

            Equivalent would be “USSR made a valid attempt at centralized command economy” and “Germany made a valid attempt to exterminate several nations” and both would be true.

            Or “Nazis did a lot of good things for Germans” and “USSR did a lot of good things for Russians” with both being technically true while being a complete lies (primarily by omission – it is hard to be a state for longer time and avoid doing any good things, even if overall outcome is horrible)

          14. roflc0ptic

            @cassander @DavidFriedman thanks for taking the time to make those recommendations.

            and @cassander I get the sense that tribes always work to minimize things that are unhelpful in the current moment, including/especially atrocities. I gave a cursory look at Chomsky’s Khmer Rouge “denialist” stuff that Friedman is pointing at, and it looks pretty bad. If I assume good faith on Chomsky’s part, the only thing I can imagine is that he was so ideologically blinkered that he just blindly trusted the Khmer government. Which would be pretty insane when there are refugees alleging a genocide. I think I would grant the point that “denying atrocities is terrible behavior” isn’t an evenly applied principle.

          15. Conrad Honcho

            @rogerc

            To be more specific, do you think that
            1. An individual, today, who defends the Nazi government of Germany overall
            2. An individual who defends Soviet communism overall
            are equally deserving of condemnation?

            Pretty much. “Mass murder because class” isn’t any better than “mass murder because race.”

            That’s at an intellectual level, though. On a gut feeling, I’m more repulsed by a hammer and sickle than I am a swastika, but this is an animalistic self-preservation response. I’m a productive white guy. The problem with the Nazis is that they like me too much. Guys, I totally agree, I am pretty awesome, but you don’t need to go around killing anybody else on my behalf, everything’s fine. Calm down. The problem with the communists is that they want to either put me up against the wall and shoot me, or send me to gulag and work/starve me to death. When I see a swastika I think “what’s wrong with you? Don’t be like this.” but when I see a hammer & sickle I think “danger! Threat of imminent violence!” I would imagine the opposite is probably true for someone who would be a target of Nazis, like Jews.

            Even more specifically:
            1. Someone today who argues that the Jewish population is shadowy and dangerous, and that Nazis did a lot of good things for Germans
            2. Someone today who says that there may be some validity to a centralized command economy, and the USSR made a valid attempt at it.

            Those don’t seem to be on the same level. The first one is arguing “is” and the second is arguing “may be.” One of these is musing, the other is certain. Perhaps instead of “Jewish population is shadowy and dangerous” say something like “Jews may have outsized influence in hollywood or finance.” Or maybe criticism of AIPAC.

            As for “what about the good things Hitler/Stalin did,” I think that’s fair to speculate on. Autobahn was pretty good. I’m not sure what if anything was good about Stalin except he helped fight Hitler, though.

          16. roflc0ptic

            @conrad honcho I just want to comment that the actual, real life communists (marxist-leninists, maoists, trotskyists) I know expressed deep skepticism about identity politics. I’ve heard them refer to it disparagingly as “the oppression olympics.” While I know for a fact that some of the early members of the formal Black Lives Matter organization were communists, it’s not a communist organization. The cultural movement that is ascendant in this moment is not ideologically communist. While I get that you might feel threatened – the threat of physical harm is just unrealistic. I know people that I personally believe might want to build a system that ultimately puts us both against a wall and shoots us – but they ain’t running this show. It really feels like a fear based misread.

            Perhaps some of the misunderstanding stems from the fact that taxonomically speaking, Political marxism isn’t the same as communism. It encompasses communism. Academic marxism also isn’t the same as political marxism. Academic marxism is about analysis rooted in the historical materialist perspective. While state communism is objectively pretty terrible, academic marxism does not, as far as I can tell, lead to state communism.

          17. Edward Scizorhands

            (Someone asked deep below, in a thread about BLM, if executives really believed it, and would there ever be a leak saying otherwise. I was going to comment but got distracted and didn’t bother, but I was reminded of it here.)

            There will never be a leak from the NBA, or any other organization, where they argue “1 million Uighurs in a concentration camp is worth X billion dollars in revenue by the following moral calculus.” It’s not that it’s not something important: it’s that no one involved wants to think about it. At all. And if no one in your circle talks about it, you can pretend it doesn’t exist. Lots of organizations of all kinds of different factions have let great evil persist this way.

            Similarly, we will never find the email leak that “the outgroup’s philosophy caused 23 million skulls. Our philosophy only caused 21 million skulls, and it turns out that 22 million skulls is the magic threshold where you can openly support the philosophy versus flushing out people who invite proponents of the philosophy on their podcast.”

            And it’s not that the millions of skulls aren’t important.

          18. DavidFriedman

            Academic Marxism is about analysis rooted in the historical materialist perspective.

            Is that really an adequate definition?

            A very long time ago, when almost all Japanese economists were either Marxists or Moderns, my father asked a Marxist economist to define what that meant. The answer was along the lines of “believing that the nature of a society is largely determined by the structure of the means of production.”

            My father made the obvious response — that he agreed with that. He thought a system where the means of production were owned and controlled by the state would be tyrannical, poor, … in contrast to one where they were controlled by market institutions. (From memory of a long ago conversation, so not very precise)

            Hence my skepticism of your definition. It seems to me that when an academic describes himself as a Marxist, that signals a bunch of beliefs that go far beyond historical materialism.

            For example, I think one can predict with high confidence that someone who calls himself a Marxist won’t vote for Republicans. Does that follow from historical materialism?

            One could also predict, back when Stalin was in power, that someone who called himself a Marxist was much more likely to have a sympathetic view of Stalin than someone who didn’t, and the exceptions were mostly Trotskyites. Later, more likely to have a positive view of the USSR and Maoist China.

          19. CatCube

            @Guy in TN

            “Quite dangerous in content, for a political ideology” is a phrase. Let’s unpack what makes it “dangerous”–my personal objection to it, and one that seems to be shared pretty widely based on what I see on Twitter, is all of the murder and slavery. Do you know what else had an awful lot of murder and slavery?

            The argument about whether Nazism or Communism had a bigger pile of skulls in tendentious, so I won’t rehash it here, but I think that even if Communism’s pile was smaller, it was still big enough to justify a “quite dangerous” label. And, note, it’s still being used to justify repression to this day, so you can’t appeal to it being of historical interest, and it has adherents who’d like to apply it here.

            @roflc0ptic

            Perhaps some of the misunderstanding stems from the fact that taxonomically speaking, Political marxism isn’t the same as communism. It encompasses communism. Academic marxism also isn’t the same as political marxism. Academic marxism is about analysis rooted in the historical materialist perspective. While state communism is objectively pretty terrible, academic marxism does not, as far as I can tell, lead to state communism.

            This is part of what I’m talking about. Your insistence that we have to very thinly slice your side’s monsters into tiny movements with their own precisely-defined names and very carefully evaluate what they’re saying with the maximum level of charity, but that this arrow only points one way.

            I don’t bother to keep up with the degrees and kinds of white nationalists, nor do I care enough to DDG the issue now, but I do know there’s a strain (white separatists, I think?) that insist that, yes while they think that whites are better than other races, they don’t advocate any actual violence, just a peaceful separation into their own countries where they can see to their own affairs. Do you think their view is still problematic? I sure do, because the notion that you could execute this plan without violence is bonkers–to start with, who gets what piece of the US is going to be, shall we say, controversial.

            I think at least some are likely to actually be genuine about wanting this to go without violence, through some very wishful thinking. If you have a VP at a university who believes this, do you give him the same charity you do to your “academic Marxists” about how they don’t believe in actual violence, and let him remain? Or do we note that both are going to result in actual, physical violence when it escapes the academy.

            I’m not actually all that interested in protecting white nationalists here. I just demand that the standards be applied equally. If you want to go on a witch hunt for WNs, then all of the people you discuss I’ve quoted above also need to be tied in a bag, stamped “Commies” and thrown out as well.

            The reason for this is that I frankly don’t trust your side to actually fairly make judgements so that we can just throw out whoever you consider to be a “white nationalist”. Let me be even franker: as far as I’m concerned, “white nationalist/fascist/Nazi” is just the mouth-noises left-wingers make when they’re mad about something, and the accusation from the left carries no informational content.

            Not to say that these people don’t exist! Heck, I agree that Unz probably qualifies. But the left is very, very free with this accusation. Remember “Bushitler?” Pepperidge Farm remembers. Same thing with people whining about how could anybody be against a movement called “Anti-fascist”. While I’m against fascism, I note that the people who call themselves “Anti-fascist” aren’t super-careful with who they call “fascists”, and it’s mostly just “right-wing stance we don’t like, even if it’s not repressive or connected to historical or current fascist movements in any way.”

            Whenever I see these accusations, I have to check sources myself, because more often than not it ends up with something as anodyne as Charles Murray’s stances. I’ll be frank, though, I usually don’t bother and just ignore the accusations.

          20. Conrad Honcho

            I’m not talking about BLM, though, I’m talking about literal Hammer & Sickle Communists. The difference between them and theoretical Marxists is like the difference between “we’re not anti-black/Jew we’re just pro-white” white nationalists and literal swastika flag waving Nazis. They know the horror of their system and they like it.

          21. DavidFriedman

            Possibly relevant to the Marxist/Communist discussion, an old post on my blog about my interaction with Robert Wolff, who published a (left wing) anarchist book a year or two before I published my (libertarian) anarchist book.

          22. Monkey See

            Replying to CatCube:
            ” The reason for this is that I frankly don’t trust your side to actually fairly make judgements so that we can just throw out whoever you consider to be a “white nationalist”. Let me be even franker: as far as I’m concerned, “white nationalist/fascist/Nazi” is just the mouth-noises left-wingers make when they’re mad about something, and the accusation from the left carries no informational content.”

            I legit thought Bolsonaro was some random schmuck when I heard Brazil had elected a far-right crackpot as president.

            Then I saw Bolsonaro quotes. I wish words meant something anymore, because some folks do deserve to be called nasty names.

          23. CatCube

            @Monkey See

            I’ve not made a deep dive into Bolsarno, but from what I’ve seen, I’d tentatively agree with your assessment.

            It’s not that these terms are bad (well, they describe bad things, but the terms themselves are appropriate), or that the people they describe don’t exist, it’s that there’s a large contingent out there that can’t be trusted with them.

            They fling them around with abandon because it’s in their political interests to slime their opponents with terms that would be bad, if they actually applied to the opponents in question. It’s just that the terms usually don’t apply.

            If you read somebody’s writings and they’re advocating the 14 words, or they’re a Grand Dragon in the KKK, etc., you should use the term “white supremacist.” But if somebody else tells you that so-and-so is a white supremacist, you should actually go check for yourself before telling others.

          24. outis

            Why do they hate white nationalism? I’m presuming they have a better reason than that one day they said, “Hey, we need to pick something to hate on,” reached into a Scrabble bag, and got an “A”, an “I”, an “N”, an “M”, an “S”, and the “Z”.

            I’m picking this quote because it’s the most concise, but the whole thread is hopelessly confused. The nation in Hitler’s National-Socialism was the German nation, not some mythical “nation of whites”. “White nationalism” is an American concept which may not even have existed at the time, and certainly didn’t exist in Europe. The fact that they continent self-destructed in two vicious wars between white nations can serve as a useful reminder.

          25. Aapje

            @outis

            I don’t think that’s entirely right. There definitely was the concept of a superior Aryan race, based in part on ‘superior’ exterior features. However, this superior Aryan or ‘Nordic’ race was seen as a subset of Caucasians.

            In practice, it was more centered around Germans, but that was also because Naziism wasn’t all that popular in the other ‘Aryan nations.’ For example, In The Netherlands, the local national-socialist party never got more than 8% of the votes and that was during their ‘Italian’ period, when they weren’t yet anti-semitic and racist. Once they adopted much more of a Nazi agenda, the support dropped to 4%.

            This is a far cry from the NSDAP, which peaked at 44%.

          26. matkoniecz

            This is a far cry from the NSDAP, which peaked at 44%.

            AFAIK during war (at least before things started to get bad also for Germans) they had even higher support, though it is all estimate – not a hard reliable data.

        3. Anonymous Bosch

          I’ve tried to reply to you twice below and once here. Something in my reply is hitting a comment ingest key word and I don’t care to test what it is infinitely. Here is a very brief gist with every possible swear word censored.

          I’m not opposed to cancellation from the left either but “M*rxist” is too broad for me to buy your reflection given the specificity of Unz’s defenses of the Th*rd Re*ch and the an-c*m leanings of most M*rxist profs. Show me a prof praising a website that directly denies specific C*mmunist atrocities like the C*ltural R*volution and I’ll sign the petition.

          Hey that finally worked!

        4. Le Maistre Chat

          @Catcube & @salvorhardin have it exactly right. The ethical consensus in academia is objectively wrong (you could defeat that argument that by going Full Hume, but that would cover neo-Nazis as much ad Communists).

        5. INH5

          The equivalent to Unz wouldn’t be a generic “Marxist,” it would be a hardcore Soviet apologist or “tanky” who outright denied that, for example, the Holodomor ever happened. And is prominent enough that the fact that they hold these views has caught the attention of the mainstream media. And Hsu didn’t just “associate on friendly terms” with Unz, he helped Unz actively promote his website in general and Unz’s column series in particular, both of which regularly publish Holocaust denial, antisemitic claims, and Nazi apologetics.

          Find me a professor who promoted a website and series of articles that prominently deny the well-documented atrocities of Stalin or Mao, and is in a leadership position where he manages the allocation of research funds, and does not admit fault when this is brought up to them, and I’ll say that the same standard should apply.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            Find me a professor who promoted a website and series of articles that prominently deny the well-documented atrocities of Stalin or Mao, and is in a leadership position where he manages the allocation of research funds, and does not admit fault when this is brought up to them, and I’ll say that the same standard should apply.

            I don’t know if Grover Furr manages the allocation of Medieval English literature research funds, but he checks all other boxes abundantly.

          2. cassander

            Noam Chomsky, for one. his take on china in the late 60s:

            But take China, modern China; one also finds many things that are really quite admirable. Many things, in fact, do meet the sort of Luxembourgian conditions that apparently Dr. Arendt and I agree about. There are even better examples than China. But I do think that China is an important example of a new society in which very interesting positive things happened at the local level, in which a good deal of the collectivization and communization was really based on mass participation and took place after a level of understanding had been reached in the peasantry that led to this next step.

            And for a more recent example, we have the uncountable number of people who praised hugo chavez’ Venezuela. We have legions of left wing holocaust deniers among us.

          3. DavidFriedman

            Will someone who actively promoted Chomsky do? Chomsky wrote apologetics for the Khmer Rouge, the most murderous of the communist states.

            Not a web site, but a book chapter and I think articles as well.

          4. w40nsk1

            Chomsky was involved in a few scrapes that at least come close. With regards holocaust denialism, his defense of Fuarisand is arguably similar to Hsu’s involvement with Unz.

            A bit different, but arguably more damning, is Chomsky’s praise for, than equivocation for, than outright retrospective ass-covering regarding, the Khmer Rouge regime.

            Chomsky does not come out of either affair looking very good, but it would be hard to say his hypothetical dismissal (even if just from some ancillary academic role) would not have had a chilling effect on academic speech. What, after all, would be the limiting principle(s) involved? if you read his defense of Faurisand (mostly on free speech grounds), there is something that doesn’t quite feel right. Similarly, I imagine one could develop a suspicion that Hsu is more sympathetic to some of Unz’s ideas than he lets on. But even your take on academic freedom is less liberal than Chomsky’s, ‘feelings’ and ‘suspicions’ are subjective and easy fodder for demagoguery. There is a reason academic freedom is meant to be robust.

            Aside the hypocrisy of those who would criticize one prof. but not the other, Hsu’s firing is indefensible on open inquiry grounds. It makes sense in some totalizing view whereby academia is meant primarily to provide the intellectual muscle for the ‘right’ side on a political debate. It may also makes sense in the careerist calculus of academic politics, or in terms of reputational risk for administrators.

          5. anonymousskimmer

            @DavidFriedman

            I agree with your general point, but to make the comparison exact: Is Chomsky doing this now?

          6. Clutzy

            I mean, tankies are, sadly, incredibly common. One of my professors in law school denied that the Red Guard existed and terrorized the local population with tacit party approval. Another class had The State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin as required reading, the professor obviously loved it as it was tangential to the actual class. In a Psych class we had to discuss the writings of Marx and the professor discussed how Tianeman square was an illegal protest.

            Even expanding just slightly we see that Bernie Sanders is Tankie-Adjacent being an apologist for nearly all the Latin American Dictatorial Marxist regimes.

          7. Le Maistre Chat

            I don’t know how tankie Bernie Sanders himself is, but there have been news stories like “Second Bernie Sanders Staffer Praises Gulags“.

            Martin Weissgerber, Sanders Field Organizer: “What will help is when we send all the Republicans to the re-education camps.”

            All the Republicans. That’s about 29% of registered voters. There were 157.6 million registered voters in the last big election.
            How many Stalins is a Gulag Archipelago for 45.7 million people?

          8. INH5

            Was Chomsky ever in an administrative role similar to Hsu’s position as Vice President for research and graduate studies? I can’t find any evidence that he ever was. If he wasn’t, then he’s irrelevant to the question.

            @cassander:

            And for a more recent example, we have the uncountable number of people who praised hugo chavez’ Venezuela. We have legions of left wing holocaust deniers among us.

            Most of those people aren’t even academics.

            @DavidFriedman:

            Will someone who actively promoted Chomsky do? Chomsky wrote apologetics for the Khmer Rouge, the most murderous of the communist states.

            If someone actively promoted his apologetics for the Khmer Rouge, especially decades after the fog of war was lifted and the atrocity stories were proven to be true, then yes. I’d say no for Chomsky’s general work, because most of it is on unrelated subjects.

          9. DavidFriedman

            If someone actively promoted his apologetics for the Khmer Rouge, especially decades after the fog of war was lifted and the atrocity stories were proven to be true, then yes. I’d say no for Chomsky’s general work, because most of it is on unrelated subjects.

            Chomsky is the equivalent of Unz, not of Hsu. Hsu didn’t actively promote Unz’s apologetics for the Nazis, he just had him on his blog. Lots of people have promoted Chomsky, had him on their blogs or equivalent, in contexts unrelated to his linguistics work.

            Is it your view that any administrator who does so who manages the allocation of research funds should be fired?

            I should add that writing apologetics for the Khmer Rouge when they were still in power and killing people is, in my view, a much more serious offense than writing apologetics for the Nazis seventy some years after they were defeated.

            If you think what Chomsky wrote can be explained by fog of war, I suggest that you read the chapter on Cambodia in the book he coauthored with Herman, and take a look at his sources. He was treating as reliable a book based entirely on what the KR told the authors, and never hinted at that fact in the chapter.

            That’s what convinced me that he was being deliberately dishonest, not merely mistaken.

          10. INH5

            @DavidFriedman:

            Hsu didn’t actively promote Unz’s apologetics for the Nazis, he just had him on his blog.

            Hsu had Unz on his podcast specifically to promote Unz’s website, among other things. Just look at the title and description. The Unz Review regularly publishes antisemitic content and Nazi apologetics.

            Hsu also allowed Unz to specifically promote his “American Pravda” series of articles, which had included explicit antisemitic content, Holocaust denial, and Nazi apologetics for more than a year when the podcast was published, including in an article that had been published only 3 days prior. I think the context is pretty damning:

            Steve: So Ron, I want to switch topics, but before we switch topics I want to ask you the following question. If you have a skeptical guy like Corey who…

            Ron: Sure.

            Steve: …I’m joking here, but blindly trusts what the media says to him, what’s the way for him to awaken from his slumber? What things should he read, what facts should he check? How would you awaken him from his slumber?

            Ron: Okay, I think probably a reasonably good starting point is actually my article “American Pravda.”

            [Unz goes on to describe his series of articles, Hsu does not object at any point.]

            This is close enough to actively promoting Nazi apologetics that I see no practical difference.

          11. outis

            Here is the American Pravda article discussed in Hsu’s show. Although Unz later used the same name for a series of article, the transcript you posted explicitly talks about this one article.

            Please quote the parts of this article Hsu should have objected to.

          12. DavidFriedman

            @Outis:

            That’s very interesting. If I correctly understand you, the basis for claiming that Hsu was promoting antisemitic material by Unz was the confusion between two articles with the same title, where the one Hsu actually referred to had nothing anti-semitic or Nazi in it.

            If that is correct, people here who were convinced by seeing the other article that Hsu was at fault should revise their conclusion.

    5. Edward Scizorhands

      To my knowledge, Hsu has not responded to the accusations involving Unz in any public statements since this thing began.

      You can take that as you will, but there’s a mentality in cancel-culture that keeps on raising hoops and insisting you jump through each one, so I see the point in never starting. It’s the same as never apologizing to a mob.

    6. Atlas

      I’m not a big fan of cancel culture, but I don’t think it’s crazy to question if someone who lends his platform to a Holocaust denier, allows that person to promote Holocaust denial publications unimpeded, and does not admit fault when other people bring this up, is qualified to hold a position that involves deciding which research projects should get funding. Especially when this is part of a repeat pattern of, at best, failing to recognize obvious and even potentially dangerous cranks and failing to admit fault when those issues are brought to his attention.

      I don’t think the Unz interview, which I mentioned in my initial post and discussed in a later comment, provides sufficient grounds for Dr. Hsu’s cancellation. I think the core issues of freedom of speech are the same in both cases. People should not be punished for expressing—or, in this case, not actively challenging others who express—ideas, even ideas that we think we have good reason to think are false. (Note that my position here is consistent both for controversial ideas I think are true, e.g. genetic differences between human populations, and for ones I think are false, e.g. Holocaust denial.) They may in some cases be punished for acting maliciously upon certain ideas, but it is such credibly substantiated bad actions, not expression of ideas that may lead to them, that is the punishable offense. I think this is a real and important distinction; if nothing else, it makes easier to keep track of people who may commit bad actions. As far as I can tell from the cases made by Kevin Bird and John Jackson for Hsu’s cancellation, there don’t seem to be many or any specific allegations of Hsu misusing his VP position in the several years that he’s held it. (At least related to the topics surrounding the Unz interview; there was e.g. an accusation that Hsu had supported research that ultimately found no racial bias in police use of force, which I think was an entirely legitimate use of his position.) By contrast, Hsu and the defenders of his who posted open letters on the subject seem to be able to point to a successful and defensible substantive record in the VP position. (See also Is it Possible to Have Coherent Principles Around Free Speech Norms?)

      However difficult it may be to have coherent principles around free speech norms, I think it is more difficult to have coherent principles around anti-free speech norms. If Hsu’s allowing Unz to have a platform is beyond the pale and thus grounds for his removal, it is difficult to see why anyone who has expressed sympathy for Marxism, or indeed, by the standards of this case, allowed Marxists to express their ideas without immediate challenge, is allowed to keep their position. RJ Rummel estimated that Marxist governments killed several tens of millions of people in the 20th Century. Yet there are non-zero numbers of Marxists in American universities today (or at least circa 2006; source in an earlier comment, I’m trying not to add too many links because that triggers the spam filter):

      The highest proportion of Marxist academics can be found in the social sciences, and there they represent less than 18 percent of all professors (among the social science fields for which we can issue discipline-specific estimates, sociology contains the most Marxists, at 25.5 percent).

      Should there be a campaign to cancel everyone in academia who either is a Marxist or has ever let Marxism go unchallenged? I don’t that would be a worthwhile endeavor; I think that Marxists have a right to freedom of speech and I don’t think that trying to make it impossible for people to openly express Marxist views would be very effective at reducing the number of people who actually hold such views. Yet I find it hard to see the difference between the two cases.

      On the specifics of the case, which I discussed a bit in the earlier linked comment, the reality is that the Unz Review is an increasingly popular and influential website on the American right; at least according to the Alexa figures in this post, its traffic has exceeded that of The Nation, The New Republic, Marginal Revolution and Quillette, which Google Trends search interest makes at least plausible.

      It’s already relatively hard for people to express anti-Semitic views publicly. Given that websites and figures who make anti-Semitic arguments, e.g. Unz, The Daily Stormer, E. Michael Jones, Nick Fuentes (Google search “Groyper wars”), seem to have been getting considerably more popular in the past 5-6 years anyway, I don’t think that trying to make it even harder on the margin to express anti-Semitic views is going to be an effective strategy. To whatever extent that you find anti-Semitism concerning, I think the most efficacious response is to point out flaws and fallacies in anti-Semitic arguments, as Nathan Cofnas is doing and as I have occasionally done.

      1. Clutzy

        whatever extent that you find anti-Semitism concerning, I think the most efficacious response is to point out flaws and fallacies in anti-Semitic arguments, as Nathan Cofnas is doing and as I have occasionally done.

        As with slavery, for many people, they only understand that these things are bad because of indoctrination and cannot derive the reasons from first principles. They need to go an read the 1850s abolitionists and other such writers to actually articulate why slavery is bad, because they honestly don’t know.

    7. webnaut

      It gets much darker – the true crime of Hsu is he has the RSS logo up for the Manifold podcast but it is a link to obnoxious Google nonsense. I’ll email-shame him until he repents or adds me to his spam filter.

      Update: I was wrong – WordPress dressed up the Google link to make it look like an RSS feed and the true RSS feed was there all along.

      https://manifoldlearning.com/feed/podcast/

  13. DavidFriedman

    I have seen a variety of news stories claiming that Covid infection rates have risen. Some blame it on states reopening. None that I have seen blame it on the demonstrations.

    That suggests a possible research project. States have varied with regard to the size of demonstrations. States have varied in whether and how much they have opened up. States surely vary in what has happened to the infection rates.

    So it should be possible, by seeing which factor is more closely related to changes in infection rates, to get some idea of which, if either, of the two potential causes is more responsible for increases.

    I haven’t tried doing it. Has anyone else?

    1. albatross11

      One complication: If most of the protesters were young and healthy, then it might take a couple hops before we see cases getting tested, because probably you’re only going to get tested if you’re feeling pretty sick, and young healthy people often don’t get very sick from C19. But yeah, I think this would be a really good thing to research. Most of the protests were outside, so if little transmission happened, then we can probably do outdoor concerts and church services without a huge amount of risks.

    2. samboy

      Well, as a quick and dirty study, I have looked at the COVID-19 rates in Hennepin, Minnesota—the county where George Floyd died, and where a good deal of protests happened. There isn’t any real spike in the number of COVID-19 cases since the day Floyd died (May 25). Indeed, Hennepin had 253 new cases on the day after George Floyd died, a record which it has not matched, much less surpassed.

      It could be because the protests were outside and a lot of people were wearing masks at the protests. It could be any of a lot of things.

      As an aside, The New York Times has COVID-19 data available at https://github.com/nytimes/covid-19-data

    3. lhudde

      I’d think the weather would be an important confounder, though. Uncomfortable weather conditions like rain and heat should lessen protest participation (so: lower COVID risk from protests), but also drive people indoors (so: higher COVID risk from other contacts), reducing the extent to which protest-driven transmission would be visible in the data. Not sure if you could control for that by assigning some sort of subjective discomfort score to different weather conditions?

      1. No One In Particular

        I wonder how many people are willing to risk tear gas, but won’t go out in the rain.

    4. DinoNerd

      I suspect that state level data obscures as much as it reveals. Locally, the reopening is at least partly controlled at the county level. I’m not sure there’d be enough signal left in the noise if this research was done at a state level. (Note: concluding “yes, there was some impact from both causes, complete with wide error bars,” seems both most likely to me, and least useful; smaller areas [with consistent reopening policies] might get the error bars down to halfway reasonable sizes. Meanwhile, it seems that like everything else in this country, which explanation one favours seems mostly based on one’s political outlook.)

      1. Evan Þ

        We’ve just started seeing increases here in Seattle in the last couple days. They might be due to the protests, or maybe not.

        But I’m starting to get worried.

        1. samboy

          I am seeing that, for the last two days: 94 new cases on 6-18 and 109 new cases on 6-19. But, keep in mine, Kings county had 105 new cases on May 5-31 but that spike quickly went away.

          Regardless, Kings county is actually doing quite well. Doubling time is 68 days (actual; i.e. you guys had half the number of total cases you have now 68 days ago) and 95 days theoretical (based on the last seven days growth, it would take 95 days for cases to double). Even if this spike remained, doubling time would be around 60 days, and if only 10% of actual infected people have been tested, it would take about nine months for everyone to get the virus up there. But the doubling time has been going up and it doesn’t look like this spike will remain.

    5. salvorhardin

      Are there readily available graphs anywhere in changes in the age mix of reported cases over time by locality? If reopening is causing a spike you’d expect to see that reflected in new cases skewing more toward young people who are (arguably, could be convinced otherwise) more likely to take advantage of the reopening. And in places which have had major protests and seen no spike, you’d want to check and see whether a redistribution of cases toward young people might reflect that they went out to protests and got infected more, while everyone else stayed in more and got infected less, resulting in no overall total change but only a mix shift.

  14. theredsheep

    Anybody else concerned that actually defunding the police would lead to a massive upsurge in domestic terrorism? Here I’m thinking of the aftermath of the Iraq war, where we basically fired the entire Iraqi army and trusted that matters would take care of themselves. This, you may recall, did not happen; the ex-soldiers had no means of supporting themselves and only knew how to do one thing, plus they were understandably a bit ticked off at America and anyone who cooperated with it, so they all joined the nearest militia and everything went straight to hell.

    Many of the same variables apply here. Being a cop is one of the few decent-paying jobs you can get without a degree, and if lots of cops got fired at once they wouldn’t really have a lot of viable options for maintaining themselves and their families at an acceptable standard of living. They would see themselves as the humiliated victims of an injustice which they lacked any feasible peaceful means to rectify, which is more or less perfect conditions for producing a terrorist movement–shame is a very powerful drug. Most of them have guns already, apart from their police-issue weapons, and all of them know how to use those guns. They were increasingly tending towards a warrior mentality in recent years, from what I have read. Even if only a few surrendered to the temptation to take up arms at the next protest march, they could make an awful lot of trouble.

    For the record, I don’t have any especially strong positive or negative feelings about the police themselves, and plead agnostic about the question of “structural racism,” since I’m still not totally sure what that’s meant to imply. Would be pleased to see qualified immunity, asset forfeiture, and the rest of the abominations die. I don’t mean to imply that police officers are natural terrorists, but there are limits to how hard your life can come crashing down due to forces outside your control before you surrender to the desire to just set everything else on fire too.

    1. suntory time

      It all comes down to what ‘defund the police’ means in practice. If it’s literally get rid of all police and replace them with nothing at all, that’s not going to work.
      In a realistic situation where the police are either reformed significantly or replaced by a different structure, then officers that were let go will do what just about anyone else does that is let go – find a new job.

      1. John Schilling

        then officers that were let go will do what just about anyone else does that is let go – find a new job.

        Right, just like all the demobilized officers and men of the Iraqi army went and found new jobs.

        The new jobs that ex-cops will wind up taking, will not involve cleaning bedpans at the local nursing home, and they will not involve learning to code. Probably the best we can hope for is that they all go on long-term disability, costing the taxpayer close to a hundred billion dollars a year, and as often as not becoming political gadflies in their new spare time. Next-least-bad option is working as private security for corporations or gated communities that think (poor) Black Lives need to Matter someplace out of sight, and with their colleagues still on the job and in the DA’s office covering for them as always. Then there’s the exciting new employment option of using their professional connections with the criminal community to take a leading position in that community – note that one of Mexico’s biggest drug cartels was formed by members of one of Mexico’s elite military anti-drug task forces.

        Then there are the really ugly options.

        1. suntory time

          All due respect, but the US is not Iraq. There are other jobs that exist for an ex-cop, and not all are dystopian fiction.
          If done in the least sensible manner, ‘defunding the police’ would be a disaster, but it doesn’t have to be done that way.

          1. John Schilling

            All due respect, but the US is not Iraq. There are other jobs that exist for an ex-cop, and not all are dystopian fiction.

            The mere existence of other jobs is a necessary but not sufficient condition for all of our hypothetical newly-ex cops being happily employed elsewhere. They also have to take the jobs, and like them.

            In the United States, nobody is required to take a job if they don’t want to. We don’t lock people up for refusing their labor assignment, and we don’t let them die in the street. If they’ve got a decent social support network (most cops do), they won’t even drop more than one rung on the status level.

            And, the observed behavior of Americans is that once they’ve spent a decade or so climbing the ladder in one industry, they tend to be very reluctant to start over in a new one. Collecting unemployment or disability, looking fruitlessly for work in their old industry, and taking “temporary” jobs while being very disgruntled about it, are common alternatives.

            However you implement “Defund the Police”, you need to be prepared for maybe half the cops you “defund” to be up to no good in your brave new world. I’ve given you fair warning of the sorts of nogoodness to expect. Do with that what you will.

        2. albatross11

          I gather it’s often hard to find enough policemen to fill out the needs now, so I expect that abolishing (say) the Minneapolis police department will just cause most of those policemen to go find somewhere else to ply their trade.

          My other guess is that there’s a subset of policemen who impose very high costs on both the citizens and the city budget. If they could find a way to move those guys on to some other job (or even disability), it would be a big win.

          Abolishing police all over the US, well, they’d all be back on the job one way or another come the next election. If we were very, very lucky, that would end up with Trump as president and a lot of Guiliani types as mayors in big cities. Probably the people who’d get elected after a year or two of chaos and unchecked crime would be much worse, and we’d get that high-tech police state we’ve always wanted a few years early.

          1. Trofim_Lysenko

            Trying to find the studies, but the last time I looked the evidence was that the supermajority of complaints in a lot of departments could be traced to a literal handful (5 or fewer) of officers, so that’s always been my model unless there was fairly strong evidence of systematic corruption of the entire force (e.g. NOPD, Chicago PD)

      2. albatross11

        Note that when Camden shut down their police department, they basically used that as a way to bust the police union. They rehired most of the police, but at lower salaries and with different terms. I assume they avoided rehiring the biggest troublemakers from before, but I’m not sure.

        One qualm I have with the slogan is that a lot of the police reforms I think would do some good (body cameras, better training, maybe some people with some kind of psychology or social working training to help deal with people having a mental breakdown, being more selective about whom they hire) cost money.

        1. Nick

          One qualm I have with the slogan is that a lot of the police reforms I think would do some good (body cameras, better training, maybe some people with some kind of psychology or social working training to help deal with people having a mental breakdown, being more selective about whom they hire) cost money.

          I’ve found it weird that body cameras don’t come up more often in these conversations. Wasn’t it the reform du jour a few years ago? I get the emphasis on choke holds given the way Floyd died, but body cameras seem to me like a solid choice, too.

          1. albatross11

            I think they’ve had mixed results on police brutality complaints overall.

            I think one basic problem here is that the police turn out to have a lot of control over what gets recorded, and often over what gets turned over to anyone outside the PD. That needs to change. This story is recent but there are a bunch of similar ones–the police were (illegally) raiding a journalist to figure out who’d leak some document to him, and were ordered by a captain to turn their body cameras off during the raid.

            I propose two simple rules:

            a. If you are supposed to have your body camera with you and turned on, you don’t, and any question is raised about your conduct while that body camera is off or missing or taped over or whatever, you’re automatically fired and barred from police work within the state ever again.

            b. If the body or dash cam footage that is supposed to be there is missing, due to being turned off or having a malfunction or accidental erasure or misfiling or whatever excuse, then any civil suit against the police should start with the rebuttable presumption that the complaints that led to the civil case are true, and the police department have to disprove those claims to win the case. This seems reasonable, since the PD was in the position to make sure the evidence that was supposed to be there actually showed up. If they either erased it or couldn’t be troubled to keep that equipment working, well, I guess they can afford the payout in the lawsuit.

          2. Trofim_Lysenko

            They’ve tended to reduce the number of complaints made officers and the number of complaints sustained and turned into disciplinary actions. Choose your own narrative or combination of narratives from the options below

            Narrative A: This is because the knowledge they are being recorded deters police from committing abuses they were otherwise inclined to commit. The cameras work.

            Narrative B: This is because many complaints are spurious, and the recordings prove it. The cameras work.

            Narrative C: Police commit just as many illegal acts as before and simply turn off the camera every time. Thus you only THINK you have Narrative B, but in reality the police are controlling what you see. The cameras are a total failure.

            My money is on a mix of B and C, but that rather than argue about what individual cases tell us to think about the ratio of truth in those two narratives, we should be working on making recordings cover 100% of an officer’s time on patrol and creating robust medium-term storage while having a very permissive FOIA-style release system.

            The biggest issues there are cost and data storage capacity, especially given that often arguments are going to hinge on relatively fine details. That’s another aspect, actually, call it narrative D: “The Camera Never Lies” is itself a lie. Cameras never tell you EVERYTHING, and reconstructing details later from video evidence is at best a tricky business. Cams work-ish, but not as well as their proponents wanted because low res shakycam footage of a traffic stop at 2AM on an unlighted back road does not produce material that’s easy to analyze.

          3. Thomas Jorgensen

            The early pilot programs were extremely promising. The issue is that once more widely adopted, it became really clear that they only help police departments that want to be helped.

            If the local IA and prosecutor do not consider a turned off or disabled body cam and a complaining, injured or dead citizen overwhelming evidence of Mens Rea, then the camera just does not do anything. Which means that cameras can make departments which already had very clean records start smelling of actual roses, but..

          4. CatCube

            Yeah, people are relying on “oh, just record it on bodycams!!” way too much.

            My section got some GoPro Hero 8 Blacks about two months ago for us to use during inspections. I used one for a dam inspection a month ago, recording the whole thing in 4K, to maximize my ability to go back and grab screen captures that would be useful as figures.

            I was recording for maybe two hours, and the files are consuming about 40% of my hard drive. If I were to upload the entire files to our permanent repository, I expect I’d get immediate hate-mail from our system administrators, who six months ago were sending out e-mails about 2 GB files (I have some of those as data captures over a period of a few years from strain gages). I’m probably going to have to upload these files anyway, because according to our lawyers, these may now constitute records that we can’t destroy and have to archive according to recordkeeping laws. This is for one engineer, recording a couple hours, over a couple of days. Can you imagine the sheer amount of money spent to handle hundreds of people 24/7?

            Sure, you can crank down the resolution, but you start to eat into your ability to distinguish fine details quickly. 1080p is only, what, 2.1 megapixel? That’s pathetic these days for photos I expect to archive. I don’t know if people really understand what “oh, let’s just keep all the videos” really means. There’s going to be a really, really, big burden on just maintaining hard drive space to do that. That’s aside from any quirks like two-party consent and all of that.

          5. Trofim_Lysenko

            @CatCube

            I did a rough napkin calculation for the NYPD, based on the average ratio of patrol to non-patrol officers, 40 hours per patrol officer per week, storage for 1 or 2 years, and 1920×1080 resolution.

            It came out to either 5x or 10x (for 1 or 2 years storage) 2019 Facebook Inc’s total data storage capacity.

            So when I say “there are cost and data storage issues” I am perhaps underselling that portion. However, I want to make clear that I am not a computer science guy, I went with a middle of the range MP4 codec “byes per minute” estimate, so I may have been either grossly pessimistic OR optimistic.

          6. Vitor

            @CatCube, @Trofim_Lysenko,

            you’re both being extremely pessimistic. 4k video is incredibly detailed, even 1080p is way overkill. People could watch movies on DVD just fine, and that’s 720×480 or thereabouts. Nowadays we record video at huge bitrates because we can, and because storage is cheap (for the casual GoPro consumer usage profile and similar). We’re waay past the point of diminishing returns here.

            I think a reasonable resolution for this application would be 360p with around 1 Mbit/s. That’s not enough to unambiguously identify everyone who appears on the video, and you won’t be able to see fine details like licence plate numbers etc, but it will give you the broad strokes of what happened. Typical security camera footage is probably worse than this. A quick estimate: 1 Mbit/s, 8 hours a day, for 250 days = 900 GB. So 1 hard drive per officer per year of storage. Totally doable.

            You can also do mildly smart things like keeping higher resolution video from any time window where a police engagement happened. This could be auto-triggered whenever a police report is filed. Still roughly the same order of magnitude of total storage, but now the critical moments most likely to be scrutinized can be 10-100 times more detailed.

          7. Trofim_Lysenko

            @Vltor

            I was thinking about things like storing high res only for incidents where force was used or for specific callouts, but I think you’re overly sanguine about the utility of low res video. I agree that it can work for broad strokes, but often the disputes can hinge on small details like the exact movement of someone’s hands against their body, facial expressions, etc.

          8. No One In Particular

            Trofim_Lysenko

            I did a rough napkin calculation for the NYPD, based on the average ratio of patrol to non-patrol officers, 40 hours per patrol officer per week, storage for 1 or 2 years, and 1920×1080 resolution.

            It came out to either 5x or 10x (for 1 or 2 years storage) 2019 Facebook Inc’s total data storage capacity.

            It’s interesting how different framings can tell completely different stories. If we figure somewhere around 1gb/hr, and we pay $100 for a 1tb hard drive (it’s government, so they’ll likely overpay), that’s 10 cents/gb. So we’ll have to budget an extra 10 cents per hour into our payroll budget. And that’s if we keep everything forever.

        2. Edward Scizorhands

          Reforming the police, like reforming the schools, almost will certainly require pouring more money in.

          If you think the entire institution is rotten, this generates a lot of disgust. “Why should they be rewarded with more money for screwing things up?”

          And I totally get that disgust. There are lots of corrupt institutions that use their failures to keep on absorbing money like a sponge.

          But other times people really do fail because they simply are not given the resources needed to do the job right, and they keep on being punished by their budgets being reduced and they can never get out of the hole.

          I’m not sure of any easy heuristics to apply here. I suspect institutions filled with un-fire-able people are prime candidates for being money-sponging failures, but I want to be careful because this is a hard problem.

          So we have to do the hard work. Look at where the money is going. Figure out who is responsible. Examine feedback mechanisms. Is it good money after bad? Is the new money changing things?

          1. AG

            Way more money is going to buying (militarizing) equipment than there should be. A bunch of money is also about paying off settlements. So low hanging fruit is to divert the money buying military equipment into other things, and stop behavior that gets the police sued.

          2. John Schilling

            Do you have any idea what fraction of the typical police budget is spent buying militarizing equipment? I believe that it is fairly small, as they are getting much of it free or for pennies on the dollar as military hand-me-downs. But hard data would be appreciated.

            Also, would you consider the problem solved if the Army said, “To help out our brothers in law enforcement, we’re going to make these M-16s and MRAPs and whatever else they want available to them at no cost whatsoever”?

          3. AG

            @John Schilling.
            We can compare budgets/headcount for police departments vs. other departments. Are there as many police as there are teachers and administrative staff, and who is getting more funding? Where does the rest of that money go?

          4. cassander

            There might government agencies somewhere that are squeezing every possible util out of their budgets and are still failing largely for lack of funds, but I doubt any of them is an american police department. Certainly not any big city PD.

          5. John Schilling

            We can compare budgets/headcount for police departments vs. other departments.

            How does that answer or even address the question? We’re talking specifically about spending on militarization, not total budget. Police departments have lots of expenses, unique expenses even, that are not part of any plausible definition of “militarization”.

          6. AG

            It answers the question because it compares equipment expenditure for , say, education vs. policing. I don’t believe that equipment expenditures for policing should be so completely different. They should have proportional IT upgrade expenses, so what remains would be either car upgrades (fair), or…militarized equipment.
            In contrast, most of the costs of regular supplies are not even covered by the education budget, and are pushed on to the teachers and students’ families to provide.

          7. DavidFriedman

            Reforming the police, like reforming the schools, almost will certainly require pouring more money in.

            We did that experiment with the schools, and it didn’t work. Real per pupil expenditure has increased sharply, roughly doubling during the thirty years after 1965, with essentially no improvement on outcome measures.

            We could improve educational outcomes with no increase in spending by switching to a competitive system, a voucher for the per pupil amount spent on the public schools.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if we could do it by just reversing the increase in size of school districts that occurred in the post-war decades; number of students per district increased by more than an order of magnitude between 1946 and 1974 — and educational outcomes declined. The larger the district, the less the ability of individual parents to affect things.

            But we won’t do either.

          8. Edward Scizorhands

            Hence, “there are lots of corrupt institutions that use their failures to keep on absorbing money like a sponge.”

          9. No One In Particular

            John Schilling

            Also, would you consider the problem solved if the Army said, “To help out our brothers in law enforcement, we’re going to make these M-16s and MRAPs and whatever else they want available to them at no cost whatsoever”?

            The is a different between price and cost. Just because the military is not charging money doesn’t mean there’s no cost. If the military isn’t charging what it costs, then that’s just transferring money from the military budget to the police.

    2. BBA

      The good news, as it were, is that there are thousands of police departments in the country, and although a few cities might jump on the defund/abolish bandwagon, it’s unlikely to spread to the suburbs, let alone the boonies. State and federal police agencies are also unlikely to go anywhere.

      The bad news is that every city, county, and state agency is getting defunded anyway, thanks to COVID destroying the tax base and almost every nonfederal government being required to run a balanced budget. The proverbial money printer will only go brrr for the feds. Maybe Congress will pass a relief package, but I’m not holding my breath. If they don’t the police are getting defunded, and so are the schools and the roads and the fire departments and the DMV and so on.

      1. Matt M

        The proverbial money printer will only go brrr for the feds. Maybe Congress will pass a relief package, but I’m not holding my breath.

        Congress absolutely will bail out every state and locality that needs it. Donald Trump himself has spent the last month bragging on Twitter about how much money he’s sending to keep the Portland transit system afloat.

    3. Nancy Lebovitz

      They would probably end up as security guards. Defunding the police could increase the market for security guards whether there’s an uptick in crime or not.

      They’d have jobs but not be as well paid, so it’s not that much like disbanding the Iraqi army.

    4. Edward Scizorhands

      I’ve seen calls from cop-reform people I respect that cops should require a college degree.

      It might solve the cop problem, but I suspect it will cause other problems. We all know about the credentialism craze here.

      A good compromise may be requiring cops to be at least 24 years old to be hired.

      1. Oldio

        I doubt it would solve the cop problem at all. “Require a college degree” just happens to be a common American non-solution to problems we choose not to ignore.

        1. AG

          I mean, a cop that’s willing to jump through a year of resume-building for applications and then another 3-4 years of paperwork seems less likely to me to be trigger happy. Almost by definition, our current system filters out people who couldn’t hack it into college as those who become cops.

      2. John Schilling

        I’ve seen calls from cop-reform people I respect that cops should require a college degree.

        I believe most cops already have a college degree. Maybe only from a two-year college, but four years is not rare. Usually in a degree program that’s effectively “Pre-Cop”. And the exceptions are mostly people who have four-plus years in military law enforcement (MPs, Coast Guard, etc). Is the intent that military veterans should be mostly barred from working in law enforcement?

        If you want to complain about American police being inadequately trained, you can point to the fact that there isn’t literally a federal law saying “all policemen must have college degrees”, and hope that nobody notices how little this has to do with the facts on the ground.

        The facts on the ground are that most cops are trained at the college-graduate level, but it’s the wrong training.

      3. BBA

        Minnesota (to pick a state entirely at random) requires police officers to hold at least an associate’s degree as a condition of licensure. There are reciprocity exemptions for people with five years’ experience as police officers in other states or four years as military police.

        So I looked up Derek Chauvin, the cop at the center of the current fracas. He qualified for the Minneapolis PD through the military route, but earned a degree while a police officer. And he was 25 years old when he was first hired. He’s 44 now.

        Any other One Neat Tricks that need to be debunked?

        1. BBA

          Just two off the top of my head:

          “Police should have the same racial makeup as the cities they serve.” They tried that in Baltimore, and it’s as bad as ever there.

          “Police should be required to live in their cities.” There are obvious ways around this, like renting a small apartment as one’s official address and commuting in every day from the “vacation home” in the suburbs. Also, Staten Island is in the same city as the Bronx, but they’re worlds apart.

          1. Clutzy

            TBH the only proposal that seems to me to be plausible is that, if your PD sucks, bust it like they did in Camden. Then hire the appropriate amount of non-corrupted officers. Also you move all investigations of officers from the local level to the state level so as to avoid the situation where prosecutors know the cops they are prosecuting.

          2. Edward Scizorhands

            I suspect busting and re-hiring a police department is the kind of thing you can’t do in multiple places at once all over the country.

            Camden could rely on the state to take over for things while it was happening, and the state only had Camden and not 5 other cities doing it, and the ability to draw on a workforce depends on the good people not having 200 other PDs also bidding for them.

  15. Le Maistre Chat

    Mid-June in the Year of Our Lord 2020. It’s an election year in the United States, and the incumbent President is a first-term Republican.
    Tucker Carlson on FOX News: “Mobs can’t be sated. We thought Republicans understood that. That’s why we supported them. … now it’s time to find new leaders.”

    1. ManyCookies

      I’m not familiar with Fox News anchors these days, is Carlson a central pundit like O’Rielly or Hannity? And is this like a bold opinion for a Fox News pundit?

      Also how did Political Youtube reverse the Conquest’s Law so hard? Like a Last Week Tonight video will be at 2:1 up/downs with a comment section shitshow, but this video is at 20:1 with circlejerk harmony in the comments. Gotta say it’s an embarrassing performance from the lefties, letting the comments of a political video on fucking Youtube not be an acrimonious shitstorm.

      1. suntory time

        No lefty is watching Tucker Carlson, even for a chance to rebut. It’s like listening to nails on a chalkboard.
        Google up Jon Stewart’s famous appearance on Crossfire (which featured Tucker Carlson at the time) for a comedic take on Tucker and his whole schtick.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          Google up Jon Stewart’s famous appearance on Crossfire (which featured Tucker Carlson at the time) for a comedic take on Tucker and his whole schtick.

          Stewart told Tucker and Foghorn Leghorn to stop being apparatchiks and say what they really believe, don’t just barf up each Party’s talking points for a paycheck.
          You will note that Tucker is denouncing the Republican Party in the strongest terms tonight.

        2. BBA

          Of course, that was back when Carlson’s shtick was a respectable National Review-style conservative in a bow tie. His current bomb-throwing populist shtick is only a few years old.

          1. albatross11

            BBA:

            Any idea whether it’s an act or he’s changed his mind? How would we tell?

          2. Rob K

            @albatross11

            As the saying goes, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them – the first time.”

            You are, of course, free to believe that a guy who pulled a hefty salary doing one act when that act was what sold, and is now pulling a hefty salary doing a different act during that act’s moment in the sun has in fact decided to stand up for his deeply held principles.

          3. Clutzy

            Any idea whether it’s an act or he’s changed his mind? How would we tell?

            He’s done several interviews about this. He wrote a book about it. Its pretty clear the reason Tucker went new Tucker is the same as the reason intellectual Trump voters went for Trump in the primary: They were tired of lies and incompetence. Lies on foreign wars and immigration, incompetence in the carrying out of wars and domestic policy. That’s why he still is railing on Trump. These riots are something a competent administration that had enacted proper personnel would have avoided.

          4. John Schilling

            …the reason intellectual Trump voters went for Trump in the primary: They were tired of lies and incompetence.

            Wait, what?

            I mean, Trump wasn’t exactly going for the intellectual vote in the first place. But, OK, he must have picked up at least a few. Are these people satisfied with the degree of honesty and competence they have received from their new leader? And, where are they going to look for honesty and competence next?

          5. Clutzy

            I mean, Trump wasn’t exactly going for the intellectual vote in the first place. But, OK, he must have picked up at least a few. Are these people satisfied with the degree of honesty and competence they have received from their new leader? And, where are they going to look for honesty and competence next?

            The Anton/Coulter types are most definitely not please with Trump. No wall. Didn’t fire Comey day 1. Hired quite a few people they considered idiotic like Bolton and Kushner. ETC ETC.

            There are also some pessimists like Victor Davis Hanson who simply thing the government is ungovernable for a proper conservative.

          6. Conrad Honcho

            I mean, Trump wasn’t exactly going for the intellectual vote in the first place. But, OK, he must have picked up at least a few. Are these people satisfied with the degree of honesty and competence they have received from their new leader?

            I mean, I feel like as the sort of person who reads and posts on SSC I qualify as something adjacent to an “intellectual” (although I would consider myself an anti-intellectual intellectual…I’m smart enough to know the other intellectuals don’t know what they’re doing, either), I didn’t go for Trump because I was tired of lies and incompetence. I go for Trump because his policies are in my interests and what I believe to be the national interest while his opponents’ policies are the opposite. A version of Trump that is thoroughly lying and incompetent is vastly, vastly preferable to an impeccably honest and contempt HRC or Joe Biden.

        3. AG

          And when the outgroup does watch, it’s not on the original video, it’s from excerpts posted to social media precisely so that the original video doesn’t get clicks.

      2. albatross11

        Carlson is interesting. From what I’ve seen of his output (not all that much), a fair bit is low-quality hackery and owning-the-libs and stirring up outrage/fear. But he also actually sometimes goes waaaaay off message for Fox and says something that’s maybe interesting. A year or so ago, he basically went through Elizabeth Warren’s proposed policies and more-or-less said “Why can’t we have leaders who say this stuff?” My sense is that he was in agreement with like 80% of her policies.

        1. Nick

          As I’ve said before, Tucker’s tone when it comes to “the elites” concerns me. Even when I sorta agree with him. I guess that’s inevitable for a TV pundit, but I still wish he indulged in mistake theory a little more often instead.

        2. Le Maistre Chat

          A year or so ago, he basically went through Elizabeth Warren’s proposed policies and more-or-less said “Why can’t we have leaders who say this stuff?” My sense is that he was in agreement with like 80% of her policies.

          He’s pretty explicit that his ideal President would be someone who implemented 80% of Elizabeth Warren’s policies while protecting us from progressive mobs.

  16. samboy

    Link: https://www.wilx.com/content/news/MSU-Vice-President-of-research-and-innovation-Stephen-Hsu-resigns-571381341.html

    I consider slippery slope arguments to be a fallacy, but we’re slipping down a pretty dangerous slope here. Right now, Stephen Hsu still has his position and, in his resignation, the president of MSU did state that “The exchange of ideas is essential to higher education, and I fully support our faculty and their academic freedom to address the most difficult and controversial issues.” But how long before we outright fire professors for publishing peer reviewed science we do not like?

    This is like the recent Washington Post article where they doxxed an otherwise non-notable woman for wearing a politically incorrect costume to a Halloween party two years ago, causing her to lose her job. This kind of doxxing used to be something only clickbait rags like Gawker would do; now Washington Post has become a clickbait doxx-the-witch rag.

    1. suntory time

      I consider slippery slope arguments to be a fallacy,

      Ahem.

      Anyway, this is nothing like the WP article. It’s about a notable professor and VP. It’s not a doxxing, and it’s based on his own published works, not a misjudgment about how to attend a halloween party.

    2. Gerry Quinn

      It’s more complex here, the ‘blackface’ incident was at a party held by a WAPO cartoonist, and WAPO were frightened. They could have maintained their integrity with probably little consequence, but they opted to bow to and join the witch-hunt – mostly, I think, out of fear and stupidity.

  17. sharper13

    The facts don’t matter in the face of the current prevailing media and academic narrative.

    He committed heresy by referring to a study which didn’t show racial bias in police brutality statistics and had to be punished for that.

    1. suntory time

      He still has a position. If anything, it’s more directly research-oriented. If you want to be mad about him losing his VP position, fine, but he’s not ‘gone’.

      1. suntory time

        I’m not mad, but words are important. Facts are important. It’s not a distinction without a difference. He is still a member of the faculty, and his academic freedom has been preserved.

      2. CatCube

        @suntory time

        Uh-huh. So if we bounced somebody from a VP position back to a research professor for being gay, you’d be okay with that because “his academic freedom has been preserved?” Hey, we’re not going to like, pull somebody’s tenure, but we don’t want one of those people in charge of funding research. It’s not like this hurts him in any way, so no problems?

      3. suntory time

        As I said,

        If you want to be mad about him losing his VP position, fine

        What was unclear about that?

      4. AliceToBob

        @suntory time

        …and his academic freedom has been preserved.

        Hsu cannot hold an administrative position at his university because of writings and speech he’s conducted regarding his research.

        Is this congruent with your notion of “academic freedom”? If so, this seems like the source of a few disagreements throughout this comments section.

  18. AlexOfUrals

    Content warning: about as controversial, uncharitable and culture-warry as it gets. For which I’m sorry, but today’s Juneteenth craziness at work has been a bit too much so I need some advice or at least a way to let it out.

    What attitude does one take to avoid being constantly frustrated with the insane hypocrisy of near-everything going on with anti-racism lately? In other terms, what’s the charitable way to think about it?

    By hypocrisy I mean – I totally understand the position where every human being is equal and none is worth more or less because of their skin color or where they were born or the language they speak or whatelse – I was brought up in this view. And (with certain caveats) I also can tolerate – although don’t share – the position of “This is my country and I care only about my fellow citizens, everyone else are welcome to suck it off”. What I can’t take and what completely pisses me off is when people do the latter with the face of doing the former. I.e. pretty much all the anti-racism I’ve encountered personally. Yeah yeah, I get it the blacks in America have it much worse than whites and that is awful. But by any reasonable metric they do it far better than people of any color in e.g. Russia, where I was born and where most of my best friends and all of my family still lives. So when people around me are expecting me to be concerned and angered and politically active about the US blacks, I can’t see it as anything other than shameless hypocritical status signaling of well-off people who have no other problems but to show how virtuous they are, which just drives me mad.

    Ok, nevermind Russia, it’s not like us Slavs ever suffered from slavery and in any case our skin color is completely out of fashion this season, so generally fuck us. (To think about it, I’d rather have the things the way they are, at least I can tolerate this, if barely. If this merciless display of virtue were targeted to any group I belong to, it’d be waaay more condescension than I can bear). But, surprising as it may come for some people, the USA isn’t the only place on Earth where black people live. One can also find them in, you know, Africa. And I don’t even need to google the statistics to tell that in every country on the entire continent the black population have lower standard of living than the US blacks, in most of them vastly lower. What about those guys? Shouldn’t the movement be called American Black Lives Matter? I mean, I can totally accept that someone who grown up in the US would care more about the [black] people from their country on this basis. But these same people proclaim someone who opposes immigration to the US as “beyond repair”, and loudly tell how they are against discrimination on “any basis”, not “any basis except being born in the wrong place”. And the gist of their moral argument is “you have privilege over these people, so it’s morally imperative to help them”. The part where it’s stil ok to disregard anyone over whom your privilege is sufficiently large is conspicuously missing.

    Of course this argument equally applies to most other mainstream social justice topics. Gays, transgenders, women and most other minorities in the most of the world have it far worse than in the US. I’m talking about race only because that were anti-racism talks at work that driven me to writing this post today.

    Or maybe it’s all just a load of bullshit and what it really is about is my natural contrarianism. You can probably make me hate any movement or organization including SSC itself, if you shoved it down my throat forcefully for long enough. Anyway, I apologize for dumping this all out here. Hopefully someone of nice and intelligent people here can provide a less frustrating way of looking at these things.

    1. ECD

      Isn’t this a fully general counterargument against ever caring about anything or anyone except the eventual victor (?) of the oppression Olympics?

      ETA: Actually, isn’t this just playing in the oppression Olympics?

      1. matkoniecz

        No. “American Black Lives Matter” would be resistant, similarly “American Whatever Foundation”.

        Though for me it seems clearly implied anyway.

        1. ECD

          Does it likewise infuriate people that Games for Heroes doesn’t literally send games to all heroes?

          No?

          Then I’m going to take the little diversion into ‘you have to care about what I care about and prioritize it over what you want to discuss or you’re secretly a traitor to your own alleged ideals’ (paraphrase) as an attempt to at whataboutism.

          1. AlexOfUrals

            you have to care about what I care about and prioritize it over what you want to discuss or you’re secretly a traitor

            Funny you said that, because that phrase (with omission admittedly important part about your own ideals) is exactly the position I can’t stand and am complaining about. In case it’s not clear, as it probably isn’t – I absolutely do not expect everyone to care about Russian or African or whatever problems. No do I lose too much sleep over them myself, frankly. My point is that there’s a shitton of problems that almost nobody cares about, so people should be a little less smug and aggressive to somebody not caring about their petty issue, and not attempt to guilt-trip other people into caring about it, because, well, there can be only one winner in this game and it sure as hell is not the US blacks (nor any of the Russian citizen groups).

          2. ECD

            My point is that there’s a shitton of problems that almost nobody cares about, so people should be a little less smug and aggressive to somebody not caring about their petty issue, and not attempt to guilt-trip other people into caring about it, because, well, there can be only one winner in this game and it sure as hell is not the US blacks (nor any of the Russian citizen groups).

            I don’t know what happened at your work, but this sounds an awful lot like mind reading to me. “This is why I care about this and so should you” =/= “This is the most important thing and the only thing you should worry about.”

          3. CatCube

            @ECD

            Let’s run that out for another two iterations: “This is why I care about this and so should you” –> “I don’t care about that, because what you’re saying lacks perspective and is therefore a little bit dumb.” –> “You’re a filthy racist who shouldn’t work here anymore.”

            That basically rounds to “This is the most important thing and the only thing you should worry about.”

            If you’re not on the “right side” of these alleged “conversations” this is all just hunting heretics and forcing people to speak falsehood. If you don’t understand why this is a problem, consider how you’d feel on Monday if your boss made you say the Nicene Creed to him over Zoom at the beginning of every workday. It’s just words, right? So just say them and move on with your day, right?

          4. AlexOfUrals

            @ECD

            May I suggest you not to put words in my mouth “paraphrase” my words, and then when I do exactly the same with, in fact, the same words toward my colleagues, accuse me of mind-reading? I really appreciated your effort to be less of a dick in the comments below, and tried my best to reply with the same, so let us keep it up.

          5. ECD

            @AlexofUrals

            Not trying to put words in your mouth, but here’s how you describe it below:

            “X is bad and everyone should feel sad and scared about it”

            That says nothing at all about Y, or its badness. People can care about multiple things. Unless they said something very much else, which I’m not seeing anywhere in your comments, then yes, it looks to me like mind reading and/or oppression olympics (or just good old fashioned story topping).

            @Catcube

            Let’s run that out for another two iterations: “This is why I care about this and so should you” –> “I don’t care about that, because what you’re saying lacks perspective and is therefore a little bit dumb.” –> “You’re a filthy racist who shouldn’t work here anymore.”

            That’s certainly a way it can go on any political topic, which is one reason why talking politics at work is a bad idea.

            But if we’re trying to figure out how to deal with it without getting pissed, let’s maybe not create a hypothetical where the person we’re working with is a giant asshole, when it’s equally likely (knowing nothing about his workplace) that the conversation would go:

            “This is why I care about this and so should you” –> “I realize that, but I’m more concerned about Y.” –> “Y is important, but we have a chance to hopefully actually do something about X, so I’m going to focus on that for the moment.”

            Even if it would end up being the first one, personally, I prefer to attempt to assume good faith on the part of people I work with and generally like. It makes for a much more pleasant working environment.

          6. Spookykou

            Talking politics at work is only bad for a specific subset of political beliefs, which beliefs have it bad seems highly variable with regard to time. However my understanding is that the classic norm was, don’t talk politics and if you go out of your way to talk politics then you might get in trouble for talking about the wrong ones. I think at least part of AlexOfUrals complaint is that the current norm is not, don’t talk politics, it is, everyone clearly and loudly voice their active agreement and engagement with a particular set of political beliefs.

            I agree that talking politics at work is bad, I don’t want to talk about politics at work, I don’t want all my coworkers repeating their political beliefs at every opportunity, I don’t want them constantly asking me to talk about politics, but there is a current running through many organizations that is directly counter to this. The old norm is dead, and increasingly my apolitical, epistemologically helpless, outside view position seems to be something that will eventually get me in trouble. It is humiliating and unpleasant to lie about what you believe, even if you don’t really believe in much of anything.

          7. Belisaurus Rex

            “This is why I care about this and so should you” –> “I realize that, but I’m more concerned about Y.” –> “Y is important, but we have a chance to hopefully actually do something about X, so I’m going to focus on that for the moment.”

            If we’re going from easiest to solve to hardest (“a chance to actually do something”), X isn’t even close to where we should be starting. Why pick X as the thing to go all-in for right now?

            Edit: And if assuming good faith gets you fired or ostracized, then it is probably not the smart thing to do.

          8. anonymousskimmer

            @Spookykou

            The old norm is dead, and increasingly my apolitical, epistemologically helpless, outside view position seems to be something that will eventually get me in trouble.

            As a last-case scenario you could go to HR and tell them that the sheet amount of political speech is making your workplace seem like a hostile place, and could they please ask people to tone it down.

          9. ECD

            @Belisarius Rex

            If we’re going from easiest to solve to hardest (“a chance to actually do something”), X isn’t even close to where we should be starting. Why pick X as the thing to go all-in for right now?

            Because X is in the zeitgeist right now and as a result, for the first time in a very long time some sort of national police reform is being discussed and acted upon. If you want to have influence on this, this is your moment to do so.

            Edit: And if assuming good faith gets you fired or ostracized, then it is probably not the smart thing to do.

            If only I had repeatedly and explicitly said don’t talk politics at work.

            No, the question is how do you deal with people who do? You can be infuriated at them, or not. How you interpret their comments (unless they really are saying ‘this is the worst thing in the world and the only thing you can care about,’ in which case they’ve revealed themselves as ignorant assholes who need to be handled with kid gloves) is up to you. If you want to assume your colleagues are ignorant assholes, you are free to do so.

            Neither of these are actual conversations which should be had at work. Both are perfectly valid interpretations of the actions described. I know which one makes it easier for me to work with people and choose that interpretation.

      2. Chalid

        The argument is more general yet.

        e.g. “American conservatives sure get upset about American taxes, but they don’t seem interested in complaining about the still-greater taxes paid by Scandinavians.”

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          Hold their beer.
          (Or to speak more clearly, I’ve seen a variety of complaints about Scandinavian taxes by conservatives online, though as you might surmise, not all by Americans.)

          1. Chalid

            Sure, and you definitely see American antiracists complaining about other countries too. No one is saying that the discussions about other countries’ policies literally don’t exist.

            I don’t think it’s at all obvious that tax complaints are less locally biased than the race complaints.

        2. viVI_IViv

          It’s not just about caring more about what happens in your country, it’s about being dishonest about the facts and morals behind your reasoning.

          If we accept the BLM/SJW dottrine of collective historical responsibility, then the logical conclusion is that African Americans should be paying reparations to white Americans and erecting statues to the slave traders because the slavery of their ancestors is what caused their standard of life to be much better than anybody in Africa. Present day African Americans are the primary beneficiaries of the Atlantic slave trade.

          Of course, this conclusion so morally repugnant that is blasphemous to even entertain as a thought, which implies that the doctrine of collective historical responsibility is morally abhorrent. But If you accept it, that’s the conclusion.

          The BLM and SJW types play dumb by ignoring the basic observation that the US is indeed the only country with a native black population that doesn’t have Third World standards of living.

          1. matkoniecz

            to the slave traders

            That is collective historical responsibility in consequentialism version, not just “collective historical responsibility”.

            “collective historical responsibility” has problems, but consequentialism adds more.

          2. viVI_IViv

            That is collective historical responsibility in consequentialism version, not just “collective historical responsibility”.

            If you remove consequentialism the whole theory falls apart.
            The typical SJW argument is “Blacks are underreresented in [good group] and overrepresented in [bad group] because of systemic racism, therefore white people need to pay reparations, implement affirmative action, and so on”. Without consequentialism outcomes don’t matter.

          3. matkoniecz

            If you remove consequentialism the whole theory falls apart. (…) Without consequentialism outcomes don’t matter.

            You can have “your ancestors did evil things, we should be compensated” without any consequentialism but based on a moral guilt.

            (no idea how it is usually presented and is it focusing on bad outcomes or also “you need to repent for a evil in your past”)

        3. No One In Particular

          I’m sure than many American conservatives would be perfectly fine with the IRS charging Scandinavians more taxes.

          1. Monkey See

            Not sure I’d call those people conservative, per se, but that does seem intuitively right.

      3. AlexOfUrals

        No, it’s a nearly-general counterargument against telling the other people what they’re supposed to be concerned about.

    2. albatross11

      I guess I find the current wave of being So Very Concerned About Black Lives a little annoying, because:

      a. I think many of the issues they’re concerned with are real issues we ought to try to do something about.

      b. I think their broad approach to understanding those issues is not very useful or informative.

      c. A huge amount more media/social media energy seems to be being spent on prosthelitizing for an overarching ideology of race relations in the US than on actually working out how to solve the real problems. (And I think this ideology isn’t actually very helpful in understanding or solving those problems.)

      d. Much of the movement affiliated with this push is intensely opposed to open discussions of the kind that might help us try to address those problems, or even the open publication of data that seem off-message this week.

    3. cassander

      What attitude does one take to avoid being constantly frustrated with the insane hypocrisy of near-everything going on with anti-racism lately? In other terms, what’s the charitable way to think about it?

      I’d suggest realizing that people are insanely hypocritical about most political matters, and either accepting that as par for the course or deciding to ignore politics as much as possible.

      1. AlexOfUrals

        That’s been mostly my approach up until now, but on the current workplace it seems to be very difficult to practice – we’re a very small startup team and when everyone suddenly became very upset about racism ignoring is rather conspicuous. Which is a pity because I like the position and the team in every other regard, hence the frustration.

        1. suntory time

          Are you not upset about racism? Or just want to solve every other problem in the world first?

          1. AlexOfUrals

            Nope, only the ones which are more pressing and damaging – i.e. kill or have potential to kill more people. Which, I admit, a fairly long list.

            To your first question, depends on your definition of “upset” I guess, but likely not. There’s too many evils in the world to be upset about each one. Acknowledging something as a problem is one thing. Constantly experiencing (or claiming to experience) negative emotions about it is another.

    4. DinoNerd

      I’m not in the same situation as you, but I’ve been handling this by reminding themselves that many of the most enthusiastic are very young. They really are discovering things that the rest of us feel as if we’ve known for all our lives. And they are prone to believing in easy fixes – now that we know there’s a problem, we can defeat any opposition, and trivially solve it. (Past generations were either too stupid to see the problem, or actively in favour of it, being evil/selfish/etc.) I felt that way in the ’60s. I no longer feel that way in my 60s ;-(

      I strongly suspect that even in Russia, some people are more equal than others, and the differences may persist over multiple generations. A halfway sensible local movement, inspired or triggered by the US’ Black Lives Matter, would focus on those differences. But that’s much more difficult, and potentially dangerous – someone might have to give up their local privilege, or they might get targetted by local law enforcement, elites, etc. A less risky version would focus on how Russia was so much better than the US, because Mother Russia doesn’t have these particular injustices. (Never mind what injustices it does have ;-()

      Other than that, I’m susprised you are experiencing anti-racism talks at work, assuming you are a Russian living in Russia, rather than living in the US. I’d guess you must be working for a multinational based in the US, but perhaps I’m just naive about how far imitation of the US – and confusion about the extent to which US cultural tropes apply locally – actually stretches.

      FWIW – I am experiencing a certain amount of anti-racist fervor at work, but I’m in California, working for a large multinational.

      1. AlexOfUrals

        Oh so sorry for the misunderstanding, I am a Russian living in the US, in California in fact. So what I’m saying is that it’s hard for me to be shocked or angered by learning what the blacks in America are experiencing if I myself seen much worse and many of the people I care about still live in the conditions much worse. I’m saying this very much not as an attempt to play the Oppression Olympics, as ECD above suggested, but just to explain how these emotions which I’m expected to express are completely fake and unnatural to me. And it’s not just me, we have folks from China and Balkans on the team, who I’m sure also have reasons to feel the same (and have been mostly missing from the “discussions” of this topic).

        Thank you for your support! I’m probably not quite the right age myself to apply the way of thinking you suggest directly, but substituting “very young” for stupid sheltered naive, it can be helpful.

        1. DinoNerd

          I got fairly upset about this whole thing early on, because I was afraid I was going to get into interpersonal trouble for failing to show the proper emotions – I’m on the autistic spectrum, and so not much good at figuring out how to appear to be a right thinking, acceptable person, particularly at any time when the social definition of acceptable is changing.

          Fortunately, the discussion at work has been channeled into forms where I can listen politely but say nothing; of course it helps that covid-19 has most of us working from home, with no lunch time conversations or similar.

          But I may have caused a couple of people outside of work to distance from me, by expressing these concerns on my personal blog, readable only by people known to me. (Aka “friends-locked”.)

      2. Plumber

        “…I’ve been handling this by reminding…”

        It’s past my bedtime so I won’t do a full proper response but I wanted to compliment your post @DinoNerd as it seems like truth and wisdom to me!

    5. ECD

      In an effort to be less of a dick:

      What attitude does one take to avoid being constantly frustrated with the insane hypocrisy of near-everything going on with anti-racism lately? In other terms, what’s the charitable way to think about it?

      While at work–don’t engage. Seriously, if this is happening at work, just do your work. Talking politics at work is almost never worth it, regardless of what the politics are. Usually ‘I have to get back to work,’ ends that coversation in my experience (may vary by local custom).

      For stuff you overhear or can’t avoid, a little humility can really help here. They’re talking about how terrible it is for blacks in the US. That doesn’t actually say, or mean anything about how good or bad Russians have it. I think Guy in TN had a great quote on this a while back, but I can’t find it at the moment. My worse example is, if you hear someone talking about how much his daughter’s recital and how much he loves her, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his son, it’s just not what he’s talking about at the moment.

      That plus a bit of a reminder that we always know all the shit we’re going through, but we never know all the shit anyone else is going through, so try to remember a time when you had just heard about something that really upset you and were sharing it with someone. How would you want them to react? As a story topper or as a friend?

      1. AlexOfUrals

        While at work–don’t engage.

        A very reasonable suggestion and I’m trying to follow it as much as possible. The problem is that it’s hard to stay completely clean in a small team working closely together (socially I mean, we all still WFH of course) with a couple of politically active members eager to “get everyone involved in the discussion”.

        They’re talking about how terrible it is for blacks in the US. That doesn’t actually say, or mean anything about how good or bad Russians have it.

        I agree with what you’re saying, but there’s a thin line here. If you say “X is bad”, that doesn’t imply anything about how bad Y is. But when you say “X is bad and everyone should feel sad and scared about it”, that can cause people who know of Y[1] raise an eyebrow. Especially if the list of Y’s is ten pages long. Like, you can’t experience emotions proportional to your X over all those Y’s, because no human can. If you’re picking the one you like more to emote about, don’t act like I’m some kind of monster for not picking the same. If you genuinely believe this is the only one that matters… well you have very weird preferences and definitely don’t act like I’m some kind of monster for not sharing them.

        That plus a bit of a reminder that we always know all the shit we’re going through, but we never know all the shit anyone else is going through

        Sure. Except for first-world born straight cis-male able-bodied well-off whites. We all know they don’t have anything to complain about. [2]

        [1] – Not necessarily from personal experience! To use SJW jargon, I’m not claiming any oppression points for myself or saying that the whole concept is a good idea. Just saying the world is generally full of horrifying ugly shit, and some of us have happened to notice.

        [2] – Just being generally sarcastic here, I don’t imply you personally said anything to this meaning.

        1. albatross11

          One thing that’s worth remembering here: Americans mostly have no f–king idea that there’s a world outside the US. When we do, we often have only the most cartoonish of understandings of what foreign countries look like. Mexico is just all drug gangs all the time, China is a nightmare police state + Apple sweatshops, Russia is Putin and probably some kind of scary Commies or something, Germany is BMW and beer-drinking guys in liederhosen, Africa is a whole continent of starving children lying around listlessly in a cloud of flies+elephants and lions, etc.

          Most Americans have never been outside the US, speak no languages other than English, consume no foreign media (at least traditional media–maybe this is different now online, but I doubt it), and mostly have no friends who live in other countries. That’s not so true in more educated circles, but our culture is still extremely insular and given to knowing almost nothing about the rest of the world.

          So, when Americans talk about how terrible things are for blacks in the US, they mostly haven’t given any thought at all to how much worse things are for, say, blacks in Haiti or Nigeria, or for poor people in Venezuela, or for tons of people in Syria or Libya, or….

          Now, it’s perfectly sensible for Americans to be concerned with fixing broken stuff in the US first, IMO. (And there’s plenty broken here, much of which screws over blacks disproportionately because blacks tend to be on the bottom in our society, and our society seems bent on taking all the people from the bottom and grinding them up in the gears.) Most of the rhetoric and ideology of antiracism seems unlikely to me to fix any of that stuff, though….

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            One of the most heartwarming things that ever came to my attention, re: American parochialism, was conservative Americans in the Anglican Communion noticing that the entire Third World had their back against heresies copied & pasted from secular leftism in the Episcopal Church. It dawned on a significant number of conservatives that they were in a mostly black and brown Church, and they liked it.

          2. AlexOfUrals

            This is a good point. Because in Russia roughly one third of political discourse and people’s thoughts on politics are about the US or tied to the US in some way (and another 20% about the rest of the First World). Obviously I understand perfectly well that it’s a one way street, but maybe on the emotional level there’s some lingering feeling that people know about how things are elsewhere and choose to ignore, as opposed to genuinely having no idea.

            Now, it’s perfectly sensible for Americans to be concerned with fixing broken stuff in the US first, IMO.

            No arguing with that, as long as it’s framed as such.

            our society seems bent on taking all the people from the bottom and grinding them up in the gears

            Sadly, no arguing with that either. Much as I love this country, I’m a software engineer and have come here already being one. Being poor sucks in any country, but certain things in America look as if they were deliberately designed to keep poor people poor.

          3. Cliff

            certain things in America look as if they were deliberately designed to keep poor people poor.

            What are you thinking of?

          4. Viliam

            I am just guessing, but the following policies seem to me as if they were designed to keep the poor people poor:

            * At-will employment, and health insurance that depends on your employer. In other words, your employer can take your health insurance away at any moment, for whatever reason. That contributes nicely to the power imbalance, I guess.

            * For-profit prisons. Like, seriously, there are people with a huge financial incentive to keep people behind the bars as much as possible? They decide how the prisons are organized, and I would be surprised if they optimized it towards reducing future criminality. They also lobby for huge punishments for everything. That makes the country a better place, I guess.

            * Plea bargaining. If you are too poor to have a good lawyer, and you are accused of a crime you didn’t do, it makes sense to admit to a crime anyway and take the short sentence, rather than insting on your innocence and get the long sentence with some two-digit probability. Also, the process itself is the punishment; while you are kept in jail, you can lose your job. That makes you believe in justice, I guess.

            Just the three things that came to my mind immediately.

            Just in case it is not obvious how this relates to wealth: If you are rich, you don’t need a job or you have enough savings to pay your own health insurance; you also have a good lawyer, so you are unlikely to end up in prison even if you do the same thing as the poor person.

          5. Nancy Lebovitz

            Health insurance depending your job was a historical accident.

            During WW2 there were wage caps, so employers offered fringe benefits, one of which was health insurance. I don’t know the history of why this wasn’t changed.

          6. John Schilling

            I am just guessing, but the following policies seem to me as if they were designed to keep the poor people poor:

            All of these may seem like they were designed to keep the poor people were, but none of them actually were. As Nancy notes for your first example, the historic cause and intent of these policies is not hard to find. Increased poverty is an unintended consequence.

          7. Nancy Lebovitz

            It’s conceivable that keeping insiders comfortable is why those policies are so hard to change.

          8. albatross11

            What are you thinking of?

            My own list (off the top of my head):

            a. Basically every part of the justice system that is run at a profit is incredibly destructive. People get into some small legal trouble that involves fines and fees they can’t pay, and then they keep getting into more trouble because they couldn’t pay those fines and fees. They get put in jail (a strategy to extract money from otherwise-unwilling targets) and lose their jobs, and then when they get out they owe still more money. (Many places bill you for your jail stay.) The whole system is vastly corrupt, in classically American ways–the judges will follow the legal rules but make decisions knowing they are required to bring in revenue, private companies get sweetheart deals for providing “services” to small-time criminals (prison phone systems, those awful systems where you pay per day for monitoring bracelets that let you stay out of jail so you can keep your job, private prisons and treatment facilities, etc).

            I mean, I’d like to see the justice system working better along several axes (quality of evidence, speed, eliminating bias, etc.), but just getting it to stop being run as a way to fund the city/county budget or enrich the mayor’s cronies would be an immense improvement. And a big part of that would be getting rid of this financial/legal quicksand where someone gets further and further in debt by not being able to pay their fines.

            b. Immigration policy in the US has operated in such a way as to bring in a lot of competition for unskilled labor. I strongly suspect this has kept wages depressed at the bottom, in ways that have really screwed over people at the bottom. Construction sites and work crews in my youth were mostly white and black Americans; now they’re mostly hispanic. The hispanics are doing the work and adding value to the world, but these are jobs that were once available for the kind of people who dropped out of high school because it was too confusing, and now many of those jobs are taken. That has combined with technological change to make life a hell of a lot harder for people who got a shitty roll on their INT score.

            c. Occupational licensing across hundreds of different fields, along with various other kinds of dumb local regulation, have added barriers to poor low-skill people getting jobs or starting businesses for themselves. This especially screws over blacks, but it’s a cancelling-offense to point out why: The group with the much lower average IQ turns out to have extra trouble jumping through hoops involving formal schooling and tests.

            d. The construction of welfare program poverty traps, where the kind of behavior that would help you get out of poverty is often bad for you to do now, lest you lose (say) the medicaid eligibility that makes sure your asthmatic kid can get some kind of care.

            e. Minimum wage laws, which basically just make it illegal to hire someone below a certain level of productivity. This makes everything worse in terms of labor markets. Further, any minimum wage that makes sense in high-cost-of-living parts of your nation/state/county/city prices a lot of people out of the market in the low-cost-of-living parts.

            f. Child support obligations create a fairly large class of men who, thanks to imprudent and socially destructive decisions in their youth, now have a permanent outflow from their income they are required to pay. If they lose their job, typically, the debt accumulates. In some states, they will lose their drivers’ license, occupational licenses, etc. In some cases, getting a new above-ground job will immediately lead to half their wages being taken to pay that debt. (Obviously you should be responsible for your own actions including kids you’ve fathered, but this definitely creates another kind of poverty trap.).

            g. Housing policy that seeks to make it very hard to find affordable housing anywhere close to jobs. This just makes everything harder all around.

            h. Basically everything about how we pay for healthcare. This is a disaster from beginning to end, and in some places, people have been put in jail for nonpayment of these debts. (I think technically for not obeying the judge’s order to repay them and not jumping through the legal hoops to avoid getting in trouble.)

            i. Generically, all this is made way worse by the fact that so much of our society involves complicated hoops that must be jumped through in the right order to stay out of trouble/get whatever help you might need. Less intelligent, less educated people, people with too much on their hands (say a single mom), etc., find this really hard to get through, and failing often screws them over royally. If the matter goes to court, then in many places that involves months or years of delays until it can be resolved.

            j. The other thing that suffuses this is that there are major problems with the culture of people at the bottom, both black and white. Unwed parenthood isn’t forced on anyone, but it’s commonplace among the underclass of all races. Similarly, involvement in small-time crime. These things are hugely socially destructive, mostly to other people on the bottom living around you.

            I think there are dozens more.

          9. smocc

            I think albatross11 just doxxed himself as Charles Murray. Nice to have you here, I loved Coming Apart.

          10. Edward Scizorhands

            Very few prison are for-profit. And the non-profit state-run prisons often have the same power imbalances: over in California the CO union put $1 million into the Three Strikes Law.

            I’d tend to be against private prisons, because it’s something the government should do. One of the very few things.

            There is just one good argument for private prisons, but it’s more appropriately called “prison choice”: prisoners get to pick where they serve out their sentence. It tends to be considered an extremely radical proposal, but if prisoners could choose where they served, I expect we would rapidly find the casual rape and assaults drop to zero because the first thing prisoners would choose is safety.

          11. AlexOfUrals

            @Cliff

            What are you thinking of?

            First of all, this all is based on my first-hand experience of coming into a country and thinking “What-the-hell, it sure is good that I’m compensated well enough to just trough money on this, and I don’t envy anyone who’s not”. It’s not a well informed political opinion so don’t hold me accountable to this, if you studied the actual relevant laws or statistics for any non-zero time and came to a different conclusion, most likely you are right and I am wrong. And second, I do understand that none of these was actually designed by someone to keep the poor people poor, and most of these things weren’t deliberately designed at all. It’s just the way they look at first to an unaccustomed eye.

            1) Everything is built around a car. Yeah I understand those can be dirt cheap, but a dirt cheap car will have all sorts of issues and you still have to pay for gas, parking etc. And when it inevitably breaks you’re incapacitated to the point even a grocery shopping or getting to work become a problem.

            2) Using credit score for anything other than getting a credit. Such as apartments rental, car rental, or even an internet connection. Usually you can pay more if you don’t have a good score, but the lack of money often is exactly the reason people don’t have it in the first place.

            3) albatross11 mentioned occupational licensing. It’s just ridiculous that it takes a license to cut hairs.

            4) Lack of low cost low quality options in general, and especially for housing. I didn’t investigate the lower end of the housing market myself, but when a student sharing pretty much the most affordable apartments they could find with 2 roommates still has a swimming pool onsite, free (therefore included in price) parking and an individual fenced backyard to their apartments, I feel like it’s not exactly the most cost-effective arrangement.

            5) Everything having to do with medicine, obviously. It suffers especially from (3), and also from the fact that everything requires a prescription, which takes a doctor visit, who will get you through all kinds of checks even if all you need is e.g. an eye exam and charge you accordingly, which is again (3). Did you know that in some countries you can even buy safer antibiotics and antivirals off-the-shelf? And of course those can be dirt cheap there, at least the lower-quality versions. Not to mention contact lenses, even after 3 years I still can’t get over the fact that those require a prescription. What the fuck, it’s much easier to damage yourself with a toothpick!

            6) The tremendous amount of hidden fees everywhere, first and foremost taxes not being included in price. For someone keeping a tight budget, that turns a grocery shopping into a math contest. Yeah you can use your phone or calculator, but that would take even more discipline than just keeping a budget, and statistically discipline and math skills isn’t something poor people have in abundance.

            7) The mockery called “secured credit card” falls into (2), but it deserves a honorary mention of its own as the most shamelessly extortionate financial product I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen loans with 900% annual rate.

            That’s the main things that come to mind.

          12. DavidFriedman

            and also from the fact that everything requires a prescription, which takes a doctor visit, who will get you through all kinds of checks even if all you need is e.g. an eye exam and charge you accordingly,

            I have a vague memory that one of Peltzman’s articles, or possibly a talk of his I heard, found that the introduction of prescription requirements had roughly doubled the amount spent on medical care.

        2. ECD

          Like, you can’t experience emotions proportional to your X over all those Y’s, because no human can. If you’re picking the one you like more to emote about, don’t act like I’m some kind of monster for not picking the same.

          And here I’m going to ask, are they acting like you’re some kind of monster? If so, good God find another place to work, this one is toxic.

          If not, it may be worth considering that you’re reading condemnation into complaint.

          I’m going to strongly advise against advice you’re getting elsewhere about just thinking they’re young, or stupid, or naive. That is a recipe for a terrible working relationship.

          I recommend, even if you believe in your heart-of-hearts that this isn’t likely to be true, taking the position that what you’re seeing here is what they want to talk about right now and doesn’t say anything about their position on Y.

          Think of it this way, do you know that they don’t go home, do bunches of research and donate half their income to the worst case of Y they can find? No, right? So why assume something that infuriates you is true when it is at least possible that it is not?

          Note: This is not a recommendation for how to discover the truth about your colleagues, but it is advice about how not to have utter contempt for people you work with and very much need to not show contempt for (at least in a non-toxic workplace).

          1. AlexOfUrals

            And here I’m going to ask, are they acting like you’re some kind of monster? If so, good God find another place to work, this one is toxic.

            No, because I’m not showing any heretical views to begin with. But the fact one of them called a taxi driver who argued against immigration “beyond repair” and another boasted how they stopped talking to an old friend because he was on the other side of the barricades, and other such stories, give me some clues.

            Think of it this way, do you know that they don’t go home, do bunches of research and donate half their income to the worst case of Y they can find?

            No, in the same way I don’t know there’s no unicorn behind by back while I’m typing this. In both cases I have reasonably good guesses.

            it is advice about how not to have utter contempt for people you work with

            It’s not the coworkers who induce anger and contempt really, it’s the SJW crowd creating this discourse. Imagine someone you know as a nice guy gets converted to a sect and starts spewing out a load of the cult propaganda periodically, but otherwise remains a nice guy. And because it’s your boss, you have to put up and nod along with it. Your contempt would likely be something like 10% to that guy, and 90% to the sect and its leaders and other members. But the whole issue would be terribly frustrating nevertheless.

      2. lhudde

        While at work–don’t engage. Seriously, if this is happening at work, just do your work

        I think you’re underestimating the extent to which people expect active displays of lavish mood affiliation around these issues as part of the regular social cost of doing business.

        In my workplace, at least, there have been a lot of conversation circles where white coworkers compete to use the most intensely emotive language to describe their feelings around the issue (e.g.: “heartbroken” “enraged” “destroyed” “gutted” “terrified” “grieving”), then stand back and narrowly watch to see if anyone else’s lukewarm assent will out them as a secret witch. There have been specific callouts of people for not mood-affiliating enough (“I wonder why _____ hasn’t said anything yet”), presumably supported by social-media memes like “silence is violence.” If anyone claims a near connection to a person of color, there’s a whole other layer of additional requirement in place to render that person active (yet not intrusive), learning-oriented (but not question-asking), and deeply-felt (but not self-centering) support, like an endless version of the socially impossible moment where you have to figure out something to say to someone at their child’s funeral.

        The level of demand for emotionally complex, socially perceptive room-reading and signaling is so high that I seriously wonder about the implications for neurodiverse individuals: even if they genuinely agree, I can’t imagine an autistic or socially awkward person being able to convincingly perform the right kind of nuanced-yet-passionate emotional reaction to keep themselves on the right side of these discussions. I seriously doubt anyone would be satisfied with a coworker who just calmly nodded and went back to their work.

        1. ECD

          That sounds pretty fucked up. My workplace is still mostly teleworking and (for other reasons) is unlikely to engage in this, but on other topics, I’ve had very good luck with not being part of those social circles at work.

          I agree, by the time its gotten to ritual denunciations of something, excusing yourself won’t work, but, again, my recommendation is not to be involved long before then. If you don’t stop by the watercooler (or coffee cup, or whatever) a lot of this problem is avoided. Unless these are actual formal meetings or something (in which case there’s a different set of problems, but it’s never been my experience that anyone penalizes folks for not talking in meetings. Frankly, if we could get about half the people who talk to shut up we’d be much more productive).

        2. anonymousskimmer

          Just don’t respond appropriately and when they interrogate you as to why say it’s because you’re exhausted from caring about things like this: https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/502571-four-poachers-arrested-for-killing-endangered-silverback-gorilla

          Being happy about this: https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/d80r59/antipoachers_protecting_gorillas/

          Sad about the dead bird you saw in the street on the drive in to work. It’s emblematic of how people care about their own minor problems compared to the unnecessary deaths and maimings our convenience inflicts on animals.

          That things such as wildlife corridors give you hope, but they’re still just a drop in the bucket.

          Or pick your own favorite topic.

    6. bullseye

      Americans have more influence over American policies than we do over Russian policies or Third World poverty. Putin wouldn’t care if Americans protested him, and who would a protest against Third World poverty even be directed at?

      1. AlexOfUrals

        Luckily there’s another way to fight Third World poverty – just give people money.

        But, again, I’m absolutely not saying that everyone is obliged to do so, I’m completely OK with the idea of Americans caring for Americans, Kenians caring for Kenians, and Americans expecting me to care about other Americans when I come to their country – that’s all fair. What really rubs me the wrong way is the people who include in their circle of concern all the People of Color within the US (~25%), then exclude all the Trump voters and conservatives (~50%), then still keep excluded the rest of the world, and go around being smug about how inclusive they are. Or rather the fact that I’m supposed to show support to such people.

    7. J.R.

      Is there any way you can just write this off as the “cost of doing business” in the US? That seems less frustrating than your current attitude toward things.

      As an American, slavery is this country’s Original Sin*. To be charitable to your coworkers, they may simply be sheltered — having grown up in very nice suburbs, perhaps — and feel some guilt about that. So now is the time where the legacy of slavery is germane to the National Conversation, and they are very loudly proclaiming their opinion that they are Not Racist. Which I think shows that they have good intentions. But I agree with albatross11 that the framing of the debate by BLM is likely to be counterproductive, because it shuts down the conversation about actual solutions.

      If you liked these people before they started doing this, you should continue to tolerate and maybe even enjoy their company. Try to forget about this and in a few weeks it will blow over. That’s what those of us with heterodox opinions would want from our coworkers if politics ever came up.

      * = Okay, maybe the joint Original Sin with Manifest Destiny.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        As an American, slavery is this country’s Original Sin*.

        Doesn’t the Establishment Clause protect us from establishing an official Original Sin everyone has to believe in? (see also the Free Exercise Clause?)

        1. zero

          The First Amendment to the Shrouded Constitution establishes American Civil Religion as the state religion of the United States.

      2. AlexOfUrals

        Yeah, I kind of accept that if I plan to work – and live! – in the US for the rest of my life, I need to learn to cope with such things more calmly (unless I move to Texas, which I sometimes consider). That’s why I’m asking, and your answer helps a lot actually, thank you for that.

        1. Matt M

          Moving to Texas won’t help. All the big cities are super woke. Downtown Houston was smashed and looted, too.

          If you move to rural Texas, I suspect you’d be fine… but if you move to rural anywhere you’ll be fine. New York and California have deeply red tribe areas… just not as many of them.

          1. AlexOfUrals

            *sighs* duly noted. I know countryside is conservative in nearly every state, but am too much of a city person to consider this option.

    8. AlexOfUrals

      Guilty as charged, “ambivalent toward the nation-state” describes me perfectly, even as “super-intelligent” certainly does not. But if I were given a choice of what’s the “price” of living in the US for me – pledging allegiance to the US nation state or to the SJW ideals – I’d pick the nation state any day.

        1. anonymousskimmer

          I’d expect one of his kind to think that way. 😛

          Huh, interesting speech.

    9. AliceToBob

      @AlexOfUrals

      I just wanted to say that I see this situation mostly the same way as you. Given your work situation, it sounds like you’re just going to have to grit your teeth and smile while you tolerate this behavior, and perhaps make the bare-minimum noises of support.

      Also, venting can help. But in that case, I’d pick a single person (like a spouse) who you trust a great deal. Or do so online, but under a user name that does not include any part of your real-world name, or can be tied to your biographical info (like the fact that you were born in Russia). Just my two cents.

    10. AG

      Would you prefer that the latest thing getting crammed down your throat is the latest fashions and the hottest celebrity relationship drama and top 40 pop music?

      People are gonna do what’s popular and be hypocritical about it. You can decide if politics being the popular thing is particularly bad or not, but there will always be something that the normies around you will keep being disproportionately excited about.

      1. Matt M

        Would you prefer that the latest thing getting crammed down your throat is the latest fashions and the hottest celebrity relationship drama and top 40 pop music?

        Yes, actually. Very much so. Celebrity gossip is vapid and pointless but at least it doesn’t try to teach my children that they are bad people because of their race, gender, and/or beliefs.

        1. AG

          Nah, they’ll just try to teach your children that they’re bad for wearing last season’s clothing, and like the wrong music artists, and mock them as inferior for not knowing the latest gossip.

          1. Matt M

            That’s a lot better. Those things are much easier and cheaper to quickly remedy than your skin color.

          2. AG

            That’s fair.

            Of course, bullies probably escalated to issues with more moral weight precisely because people had learned to resist pressure on the old vapid topics.

      2. AlexOfUrals

        Of course I’d prefer that. Even if I’d say that I don’t know and don’t care at all who’s the winner of Eurovision, there’s pretty much zero chance it’ll have a noticeable effect on my career. With these topics, even much more positive, but insufficiently positive, sentiment can cause problems.

    11. James Banks

      It has seemed a little odd to me that social justice-aligned people wouldn’t make a big deal out of international poverty. Actually, there is one person I know of who does, Jason Hickel. He has either not tried to get his views into mainstream social justice thinking, or has been effectively unsuccessful. (He suggests that a lot of third world problems come from international institutions screwing them over. One fix, from his point of view, would be debt cancellation.)

      I studied International Agricultural Development in college, but in a way didn’t learn much and remained naive. Then I encountered EA (specifically the Drowning Child Argument) and then was all for making international development a bigger thing in America. I happened to be part of a Facebook group from my alma mater for IAD people and voiced that view. The wise 40 year old there was not so keen on my idea. I think there have been a lot of naive do-gooders come through development, and that’s what he took what I was saying for. Then there’s the thought of angry, unthoughtful people putting pressure on the way things are done. Development professionals might prefer that their issue not be politicized.

      If that’s the case, I think it’s unfortunate that there isn’t some way to redirect the energies of people toward the things that probably do matter more. Maybe the hard metaproblem is to solve the cultural problem by which people’s caring about problems ends up being counter-productive. We have the professionals, who are somewhat disconnected from emotions and the social world; angry, passionate, sometimes crazy, naive people; and people with their heads in the sand / who just mind their own business. Cultural change is hard, but subcultural creation is a step in the right direction. Realistically, the solution might be to create a subculture that is sort of like a cross between the EA ethic and Martin Luther King, Jr. If the subculture is attractive and effective enough, it can grow to take in some of the social justice people and mobilize some of the “head in the sand / mind your own business” people, too. Ideally it should combine the emotional and social resonance of the best of social justice with an emphasis on wisdom and on work that connects with reality (from the professionals). So it could be something development professionals would consider as advancing their own interests, and also something that would advance the interests of people who care and want to do something. That might be a good way to shift people’s energies away from relatively unproductive conflict.

      1. Matt M

        I think part of the reason the American left doesn’t place “international poverty” as a high priority is that they don’t really have any viable plan for it ready. Their default plan would presumably be something like “raise taxes on Americans and give the money to Sudan”… but that’s a tough sell because we’ve already tried that on a more limited basis and it has failed massively (foreign aid). “Foreign aid doesn’t really work” is pretty much a mainstream and universally accepted position, even among blue tribe, so “foreign aid, but 100x as much” isn’t really a viable plan.

        Now personally, I don’t expect that within-US racial reparations would work any better/differently. I suspect that there is pretty much no amount of money that you could steal from whites and give to blacks that would dramatically and significantly alter noticeable patterns in test scores, crime rates, or whatever else you think justifies such a policy. But so long as we’ve “never tried it before,” people are going to keep demanding it because there’s nothing opponents can point to saying “but we already tried doing this for decades and all it did was enrich a bunch of bad actors who mostly made things worse.”

        1. anonymousskimmer

          I think part of the reason the American left doesn’t place “international poverty” as a high priority is that they don’t really have any viable plan for it ready.

          This is the entire “fair-trade” movement.

          In the US it’s the “minority and women owned business” requirement. Which is more of a (what’s the word? “moderate”? “centrist”? “neo-liberal”?) plan.

        2. James Banks

          I think something somewhat like “foreign aid” is effective — at least, that’s the premise of effective altruism (which you may not buy into, I don’t know).

          There’s a pretty big “development industry” that thinks it does good. In theory, you could divert more talented young people their way, and fund them better, and they would do more good. It’s true that it’s better for people to understand how to fix their own countries’ problems, because problems tend to be social-system problems in the long run. (And this was mentioned in my IAD education, to some extent, so I think it’s already in the “DNA” of international development.) Maybe the approach should be “get really good at solving social-system problems, get good at communicating that wisdom, communicate it to other countries”.

          What if everyone in America (or the world) thought about “how can I become better at solving social-system problems?” Especially, if they were connected to a community that was good at thinking about that. It’s true that a lot of political activism is about pressuring the government to do things (spend money, change laws, reform institutions), and maybe that’s in the very nature of the term “political activism”, but if people see political activism as a means to an end, they might substitute for it some other means.

          1. Matt M

            I think something somewhat like “foreign aid” is effective — at least, that’s the premise of effective altruism (which you may not buy into, I don’t know).

            I buy into effective altruism precisely because it is not “foreign aid” as we have come to know and understand it. It is highly targeted towards specific ends, accountable to those ends, and organized privately and voluntarily. The entire reason effective altruism is necessary is because of how ineffective foreign aid is at achieving altruistic goals.

            If you were to come up with an intra-US race-based reparations program that met all of those criteria, I would definitely support it (although I would not donate to it myself).

      2. roflc0ptic

        I think that many social justiced inclined people do. In my high school/college days I was radicalized reading Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein, along with others who IIRC both talk about the idea of “debt colonies” and the function and role of the IMF and World Bank in the 3rd world to create unpayable debts, and use those debts to extract natural resources from those countries. (I don’t know how true that is in general, anymore – with time and further knowledge, the clarity of my definitely-correct worldview continues to get cloudier and cloudier – but certainly e.g. the history of Haiti’s poverty is a sordid, colonial affair, which the west seems complicit in causing and continuing to enforce.)

        Indeed, this was the whole “battle in seattle” anti-WTO, anti-globalization stuff that has happened and continues to happen. Certainly the more thoughtful anarchists and Earth First adjacent radical environmentalists I know are deeply motivated by those things. The wider milieu seem to have evolved more towards identity politics, but yeah, they know, and they care.

        1. James Banks

          OK, that makes sense. The debt colony idea sounds like Hickel, so he’s just part of that lineage.

          A naive Twitter user might or might not find someone like them (as I found Jason Hickel), but would definitely find the regular CW stuff. Maybe we could say that identity politics has been “effectively politicized” in that enough people know about it to make it an election issue, but anti-globalization (or being pro-global South) has not been effectively politicized.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            but anti-globalization (or being pro-global South) has not been effectively politicized.

            This looks like a job for conservative Christians!

          2. roflc0ptic

            Well. think it was pretty effectively politicized in the 90s, though maybe just in leftist circles. My sense of the overton window is certainly warped by my own history.

            I wanted to comment, though, about development – the left is deeply skeptical of international development efforts. Basically the position is that free markets and development are nice, but in practice are tools of expropriation and control. Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” lays out a pretty damning story about the liberalization of the Iraqi economy after the 2002 invasion.

            I think Shock Doctrine also talks about the Chicago Boy, who are economists notorious for their role in Pinochet’s rule – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Boys

            A notable tie in – they trained under Milton Friedman, who also had some role in the Chilean government. Milton is David Friedman’s father. I suspect if my leftist friends knew I posted on a forum with David Friedman (and far worse, generally like his contributions) I’d get excommunicated ASAP.

            @le maistre chat can you unpack what you mean by that joke? The humor I see is the vertigo I feel at thinking of the far left aligning with conservative christians, but realize you could mean something totally different.

          3. Le Maistre Chat

            can you unpack what you mean by that joke? The humor I see is the vertigo I feel at thinking of the far left aligning with conservative christians, but realize you could mean something totally different.

            I’d be happy to!
            I’m having trouble finding data that isn’t ten years old, so look at this.
            In 2010, there were almost as many Christians in sub-Saharan Africa as in Europe. The Americas have 50% more, at 36.8%. And the poorer the country, the more conservative the theology. Philip Jenkins has been writing academic tomes for a couple of decades now on the conservative rebellion against leftist theology. A recurring theme in his research is that Global South Catholics, Anglicans, and members of all the global Protestant communions really believe in the Bible. Their beliefs about economic justice and immigration may sound leftist, but they also believe Marxism is false*, LGBT is neo-colonialism and the family is the foundation of a healthy society, the Holy Spirit and demons are active on Earth, and so on.

            *You don’t need to collect data for a utilitarian calculus or have a PhD in Economics to get this right, you can just believe atheism = false.

          4. cassander

            @roflc0ptic says:

            Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” lays out a pretty damning story about the liberalization of the Iraqi economy after the 2002 invasion.

            Naomi Klein is a deeply ignorant person, and that book is egregiously terrible. Among its many rambling conspiracy theories tying together concepts that have nothing in common besides the word shock in the name, it strongly implies that military use of the term shock is a modern invention. Her basic these that catastrophe leads to less government is demonstrably false, and the idea that iraq was some free market paradise in 2002 is complete nonsense. There are plenty of good books criticizing the iraqi occupation, but hers is not one of them, and I wouldn’t cite it.

          5. roflc0ptic

            @cassander your position is noted. I’m… in the process of re-evaluating a lot of beliefs – I am deep in the well of epistemic learned helplessness – so if you can refer me to more in depth criticism, I’m happy to engage with it. To be clear, this is a book I read half of over a decade ago, so I’m really pretty hazy on its contents. There might be better leftists to read, or maybe they’re all wrong and first world development of the third world is totally altruistic and never used to exploit and control, although that just doesn’t sound plausible.

          6. cassander

            @roflc0ptic says:

            There might be better leftists to read, or maybe they’re all wrong and first world development of the third world is totally altruistic and never used to exploit and control, although that just doesn’t sound plausible.

            Those aren’t the only two options. There has been lots of aid, most of it well intentioned. It has almost always been administered by people on the left using the (then) latest theories of how to do the most good. It has often been ineffective. It has sometimes been used as tool for control, but not usually and rarely effectively. The idea that it’s all a right wing plot is laughable. That it’s responsible for the global south’s underdeveloped is absurd.

          7. DavidFriedman

            A notable tie in – they trained under Milton Friedman, who also had some role in the Chilean government.

            Actually, they were students of Arnold Harberger.

            My father’s “role” in the Chilean government consisted of going to Chile under private auspices and, while there, having one conversation with Pinochet in which he gave him his usual economic advice. Similar to, but rather smaller than, his role in the Chinese government, Polish government, Yugoslav government, …

            If you rely on Naomi Klein as your source of information you are likely to reach mistaken conclusions.

          8. James Banks

            @ Le Maistre Chat

            This looks like a job for conservative Christians!

            Yeah, I don’t know if I like politicization, but publicization is different. I think it would be good if Christians publicized the problem, and were part of a supportive movement, like the EA + MLK idea I mentioned upthread.

            There’s something about the conservative religious mindset which tends to find things really true or really false. So it’s really true, really wrong, that people are poor. It’s possible to have that sense of “really wrong” outside of something more or less theologically conservative, but it tends to be “morality gone wild”. But for a biblical Christian, morality is subordinate to a God of love who underwrites trust. So the tonality of their “wrong is wrong” ought to be different than the wildest secular morality.

          9. roflc0ptic

            @david friedman wikipedia, actually.

            The Chicago Boys were a group of Chilean economists prominent around the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of whom trained at the Department of Economics of the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger

            If that’s incorrect, then it’s incorrect. I will take your word for it.

            @cassander (and @david friedman) So I’m here saying, look, I’m at a place in my life where I’m actively looking to grow my viewpoint. I’m actively soliciting reading recommendations. Neither of you are reading me especially closely, nor reacting to the things I’m actually saying.

            I’m not saying I especially trust Naomi Klein. I’m actually saying I have serious doubts about most of my historical positions. I’m also saying Klein is a place to get a lefty perspective that’s critical of globalization. I did not say that Klein’s perspective is correct, just that it’s a daming story. I’m trying hard to limit my claims to solid epistemological ground, and I’m pretty sure I’m succeeding.

            Cassander, you’re responding to a false dichotomy I didn’t pose. I didn’t say it’s all a right wing plot: that’s you extrapolating totally incorrectly.

            If either of you would like to give me reading on the reasons for the impoverishment of the global south from your perspective, I’d love to engage with them. Just making up a position for me and then dunking on it is dumb.

          10. DavidFriedman

            under Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger

            The question is what that means.

            Graduate students end up with a thesis sponsor. I believe that for most or all of those that was Harberger, who was the relevant specialist. It’s quite likely that they at some point took a course from my father, just as they took courses from other professors in the department.

          11. anonymousskimmer

            https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/minitext/int_alharberger.html

            This is an interview of Harberger about Latin America and the Chicago Boys. The only mentions of Milton Friedman in it are:

            1) “people use the Chicago School to represent an ideology. I think that this has a certain ring truth, but basically, Chicago was not an ideological place. Milton Friedman taught for many years at Chicago, but he didn’t teach Free to Choose [by Friedman and his wife, Rose]; he taught A Monetary History of the United States [also by Friedman, and Anna Jacobson Schwartz]. And the rest of us, in our classes, were not teaching ideology”

            2) “Oh, Milton Friedman’s visit took place in March, I believe, of 1975, and his judgment about the economy was not in any sense unique. I mean, it was what any good economist, looking at the Chilean economy at that time and seeing that kind of a mess, would say. But I think that Milton’s presence probably helped to maybe stiffen the spine of people who were trying to insist on better economic policies. Maybe his remarks convinced some people that would otherwise not be convinced that this kind of change was needed.”

            3) “INTERVIEWER: Of course Milton Friedman especially then became a kind of a kind of hated figure, didn’t he? There were demonstrations…” … HARBERGER: … “so these are the people for whom Milton Friedman then became a figure of hate. They organized demonstrations against him wherever he went, and this went on for a period of years, and I see nothing that he did to deserve that.”

            4) “INTERVIEWER: But going back to those demonstrators, still [there’s a sort of] question on Milton Friedman, because of this association. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong, but just why do you think their people are so horrified?

            AL HARBERGER: Well, as I say, I think that the whole response picture to Chile has to be linked to somebody loving Allende and somebody being terribly disappointed when Allende was put out of office.” … “Allende is what distinguishes the Chilean case from all these others. I mean, Milton Friedman went to Chile for one week. You can take the top 100 economists in the country of that time, and probably 85 of them had been working seriously in places like Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, Bolivia, Paraguay — you name it — and were not getting any demonstrations.”

            5) “INTERVIEWER: One of the points Friedman was making was that these kind of free-market policies ultimately lead to a freer political system. In other words, was he sort of suggesting that the free-market policies would ultimately undermine Pinochet’s [regime]?

            AL HARBERGER: Oh, I think he always said that.”

          12. cassander

            @roflc0ptic says:

            I’m not saying I especially trust Naomi Klein. I’m actually saying I have serious doubts about most of my historical positions.

            That’s good! She is a particular pet peeve of mine because her book was very popular when I was in college, and it’s very bad.

            I’m also saying Klein is a place to get a lefty perspective that’s critical of globalization.

            I think she does articulate the general left wing (as opposed to center left) perspective and that this does not reflect well on left even when you accept that others have argued the position more cogently.

            Cassander, you’re responding to a false dichotomy I didn’t pose. I didn’t say it’s all a right wing plot: that’s you extrapolating totally incorrectly.

            You didn’t say that, but Klein does.

            If either of you would like to give me reading on the reasons for the impoverishment of the global south from your perspective, I’d love to engage with them.

            The south was never made poor, like everywhere it started that way. the question is why did the north get rich?

            the usual left wing answer is that the north got rich by plundering the south by colonialism and exploitative capitalism.
            this does not fit the facts. Sailing around the world and colonizing places is difficult and expensive. A society that can do it almost by definition has to be far richer and more powerful than the society getting colonized. So to get the colonies in the first place the north had to already be richer. moreover, getting colonies doesn’t seem to directly lead to increased wealth. the first big colonizers were spain and portugal, but while they got immense quantities of bullion from the americas, their societies remained relatively poor, soon outstripped by the french, english, and dutch, who took their colonies from them in wars. the dutch famously had a huge maritime empire, and the far east trade made big profits for the owners, but the vast majority of dutch trade was hauling grain, ship stores, and fish around northern Europe, and that’s what made the east indies empire and trade possible. Outside of a few sugar islands and gold and silver mines, colonies were a consequence of national wealth and power, not a source.

            As you proceed into the industrial era, you see even less connection. Germany never had colonies worth a damn, but had the largest industrial output in Europe by 1913, and was richer per capita than the UK by 1970 despite losing two world wars in between. Switzerland sits quietly at the heart of europe with a pacifist foreign policy and no natural resources, and becomes one of the few places in the world that isn’t a tax haven or petro state can claim to be richer than the US.

            When we look at the south, we also clearly see that engagement with the north is correlated with wealth, not poverty. What are the richest countries in Asia? South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, all of which were militarily occupied by the US. China stays desperately poor under Mao, but starts to explode once they begin to invite foreign investment under Deng. When we look at development efforts, big infrastructure projects fail to transform economies. Loans and grants fail. Import substitution fails. What works is foreign direct investment. Engaging directly with the supposedly exploitative north produces the most wealth for developing countries.

            The reason why? Because the reason the north got rich was building productive institutions that allowed for positive sum competition. the Netherlands in the 16/17th century is the first society on the planet bigger than a city state where most people are engaged in producing goods for market exchange rather than personal consumption. Why these emerged first in the north is an open question, but they definitely did, and they are what allowed the north to get rich, no one else has gotten rich any other way. Because fundamentally, capitalism is about mutual gain, not exploitation. Western companies “exploiting” foreign labor are paying double the prevailing wage, in companies that are usually better run, less nepotistic, and less corrupt than local industry. Engaging with them transfers knowledge and institutional capital to locals AND makes money for the north. Everyone wins, except, of course, the people whose self identity is wrapped up with insisting that capitalism is exploitative regardless of the evidence. There used to be people on the left who understood this, and wanted to achieve left wing goals without killing the goose that was laying the golden eggs, but they seem to be declining in number as memories of the horrors of socialism fade. So we see countries like Venezuela pursuing the same old policies, getting the same old results, and seeing the same excuse of another failure as bad luck.

        2. Mabuse7

          If you want a book by a well regarded expert as to why most western foreign development efforts have failed or had negative effects then Bill Easterly is your best bet. As for the “impoverishment” of the Global South? Economic historians would say you’ve got it backwards, the Global South is closer to the historic economic steady state, the question is how did the Global North get so wealthy. And if you want the answer to that question, well that is an active and very much contested area of research, from the “History of Capitalism” literature that says that it was all slavery and colonialism to Deidre McCloskey’s Bourgeoise Trilogy that argues that it was the development and dominance of a specific culture that valued and encouraged material productiveness and delayed gratification. Here’s a good booklist to get you started.

    12. No One In Particular

      You seem to be confusing whatsaboutism with hypocrisy.

      It’s difficult to see what your argument is. People are concerned about how black people are treated, but Russians have a low standard of living. Huh?

      The fact that people are focusing on black Americans doesn’t mean that they are declaring that no concern should be shown towards nonAmericans. Should people just not protest the treatment of black Americans until Russian standard of living is brought to black American levels? Should protests be allowed, but only if they also include mentions of Russia?

      It is a premise of modern politics that a country is a preeminent unit. Even more so within the democratic context, as citizenship defines who is the “demo” in democracy. The idea of democracy is that we all get together a vote on the rules that everyone has to follow, where “we all” and “everyone” means “the people of the country”. People in Russia don’t get to vote in our elections, and our elections don’t decide what rules they have to live under. Thus, any problems that Russians have with their government is framed as problems caused by Russians, and not the responsibility of the US. That doesn’t mean we’re not concened with them, just that we are, at least to some degree, not responsible. And on top of that, people tend to prioritize harm from humans over harm from nature, and general economic conditions are generally viewed as the latter. With black people, they are living under rules that we’ve put into place, enforced by cops we pay for. This is viewed as harm from people, and we are the people. We are participating in their oppression in a way we are not with Russians.

      You seem to be expecting people to be perfect effective altruists, calculating a (increase in utility)/(resources required) score for each cause, and supporting only the one with the highest one. That’s not how humans work. Police force against black people is currently the most salient issue, and is serving as a Schelling point for social justice. Instead of thinking of all the people who aren’t getting attention, perhaps you should just be grateful that some people are?

      1. AlexOfUrals

        My original comment was admittedly poorly phrased and structured, so it’s understandable that pretty much all of your interpretation is totally not what I was saying. However I’ve clarified what I meant in the comments above a few times, so you can check those. In two words – I am absolutely not trying to tell people what to care about, here or anywhere, and what infuriates me is when they don’t return me the same courtesy. All the mentions of Russia or Africa are just to emphasize that they have no moral grounds in doing so.

  19. WoollyAI

    So the idea of cancellation insurance that @Reasoner brought up downthread has stuck in my mind, as has all the recent discussion of cancellation, and I want to explore it.

    So let’s imagine tomorrow you receive an email from the Icelandic Cancellation Insurance company offering you the following deal:

    A. For $5/month, they will offer cancellation insurance.

    B. This will cover 18 months of your income, provided you’ve been fired from your job for culture war issues/cancellation.

    C. To get your payout, you will need to provide some documentation of a cancellation effort. It could be documented in your termination, it could be copies of correspondence from your managers regarding calls/tweets, it could be a massive Twitter thread or newspaper article, but you will be required to show documentation.

    Would you, personally, take this deal?

    1. Matt M

      For $5 a month? Sure, why not?

      Although I’d like a longer term deal (and would be willing to pay more for it). Like, I’d much rather pay $25 a month and be insured for 10 years of income or something.

      (Although that would probably create a moral hazard wherein I actively tried to get myself cancelled…)

    2. voso

      Is cancellation insurance a widespread phenomenon in this hypothetical, or are you the only person who knows about it?

      If cancellation insurance is widespread, than employers will just choose to fire people based on another pretence, like the whole “we can’t fire you in retaliation because of the current laws so we’ll just fire you for some other reason, good luck proving anything” that seems to currently exist.

      (I’m also worried that this directly incentivizes the insurance companies to dig through your online presence and determine how cancellable you are)

    3. suntory time

      There’s no way $5 a month would cover this, since it’s possible to actively try to get cancelled.

      1. haroldedmurray

        It’s possible to try to burn your house down too, but that doesn’t stop fire-insurance being a thing. They could have investigators who try to determine how much you attempted to provoke said cancellation, or something.

      2. thisheavenlyconjugation

        I think you would want to structure the payout as something like “we pay 70% of your previous income until you get a new job” to discourage this.

    4. b_jonas

      I suggest that you rewview the full contract very carefully. Insurance terms usually have so many exclusions that when you actually read them, half of the time you find out that you don’t want the insurace because it doesn’t cover for the most likely event that you wanted to cover anyway. The price of 60 dollars a month makes this extra suspicious. They probably have serious restrictions on what kind of things you’re not allowed to say publicly or you lose the benefits.

      1. matkoniecz

        My favorite is excluding damage caused by firefighting, AKA most of costs in case of fire actually happening.

  20. AG

    Is it just me, or have we lost the male tenor voice in modern music genres?

    Ladies have gotten to expand out from falsetto to belting at all pitch ranges. Guys can sing baritone and bass, but at the higher end, you either get weird screeching, falsetto (countertenor), or backing down on the volume. There’s no more projecting higher pitches with a clear tone in head voice.
    This brought to you by my watching a Rossini opera and thinking “huh, I can’t think of any popular male artists that sing like this.”

    Or am I just ignorant of what kind of genres American Idol / X Factor guys are doing? Vocal belting adlibs are still a thing in Kpop. Are there secret One Direction songs with adlibs?

        1. Well...

          Depending on what you mean by “modern” (last 10 years? last 30 years? last 70 years?), and by “recommend” (someone who’s undeniably popular? someone who’s popular AND whose music I’d recommend?)…and, do these men have to sing exclusively in the tenor range, or can it be more like they sang in many ranges but are perhaps well-known for their ability to sing in the tenor range?

          1. AG

            I’m talking about music genres developed after, let’s say, the late 40s or so. As below, I consider the crooners to be about the last group of artists where singing with that kind of projection was the norm.
            We’re also excluding any current opera or theater singers, of course.

            They don’t have to still be alive. They don’t have to exclusively sing as tenors, but it should be a notable part of whatever song it is, not just a few belted notes during the bridge.

            I might count Josh Groban?

            Like, we have undeniable lady belters, like Lady Gaga or Christina Aguilera or Whitney Houston. I’m looking for male equivalents.

          2. Well...

            I don’t know if these are “equivalents” to the ladies you mentioned, but off the top of my head here are some noteworthy men who sing (or sang) very popular music in what I’m pretty sure is the tenor range, for at least a significant portion of many of their songs:

            Chris Cornell
            Stevie Wonder
            Dave Matthews
            Layne Staley
            Thom Yorke
            That guy from Coldplay who was basically ripping off Thom Yorke
            Al Green
            James Brown
            Maynard James Keenan
            Hank Williams III
            Randy Travis
            Donald Fagen
            Billy Corgan
            Perry Farrel

          3. AG

            A lot of these may sing in the range, but they don’t have the projection. When they go for a loud note, either the timbre gets gravelly, or they don’t go for loud notes at all.
            But thanks for the suggestions, I’ll check the ones I don’t know out.

    1. Dino

      One possible factor is that good tenors are relatively scarce compared to other pitch ranges.

    2. Rebecca Friedman

      Freddie Mercury was a tenor – er, wait, Wikipedia says… four-octave vocal range, that’s… OK, he often performed in the tenor range, how’s that? And there’s a bunch of the Italian popular operatic stuff that stars tenors – some of the Italian rock, too. I don’t know a lot about modern American popular music, I’m afraid – most of my other examples are people like Billy Joel (judging “tenor” by “can I match pitch with him” please do not take this as definitive at all), so a little dated.

      1. anonymousskimmer

        It has been scientifically determined (via vocal analysis) that Freddie Mercury was a baritone: https://reverb.com/news/scientific-study-confirms-freddie-mercury-voice-was-one-of-a-kind

        quote from classical soprano Montserrat Caballé, who once said, “He had a baritone voice. I told him one day, ‘Let’s do a small duet of baritone and soprano,’ and he said, ‘No, no, my fans only know me as a rock singer and they will not recognize my voice if I sing in baritone.’”

        While on this thread I want to drop this great contralto/countertenor duet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y85DCKKJTBc

        1. Deiseach

          Ah, if we’re recommending duets – soprano/countertenor for the final aria from “L’incoronazione di Poppea”, where the two Baddies get the most beautiful finale 🙂 and mezzo/soprano for Caesar and Cleopatra’s final aria from “Giulio Cesare in Egitto”.

          And the exquisite English contralto, Kathleen Ferrier.

      2. AG

        Tenor isn’t strictly about pitch range. There are lots of music artists who can sing upper pitch. I’m talking about the style of projection. I’m looking for a depth in the timbre, a projection style. Crooners (a la Sinatra, though he is not a tenor) would be the most modern music genre I consider to have this singing style, and the height of that era had several people who overlapped with opera, such as Vic Damone and Mario Lanza.

          1. AG

            Yes, I would consider Nick a tenor. He’s theater-trained, did some Broadway. That said, I do not consider his singing in that song to be tenor-like. It’s aping the Justin Timberlake style. More nasal, less resonance, and the higher notes are done in falsetto. Nick sings differently in his theater roles.

            A good rule of thumb is “can I imagine this vocal timbre being used to sing an opera aria?” For example, Aretha singing Nessun Dorma.

          2. anonymousskimmer

            Listening to your Josh Groban possible example (the song “River”) it reminds me of Country and Christian music. Perhaps you can find examples in those genres?

            When it comes to music I’m a wiseacre; sorry I can’t help. 🙂

    3. ana53294

      There is Andrea Bocelli, an italian singer who sings more popular music with a classical bent (but popular). Con te partiro is super famous (at least in Spain, everybody has heard the Spanish version). I was familiar with it even though I didn’t know the singer. You can see his songs have millions of views in Youtube. Him singing with Celine Dion (he’s blind, that’s why he looks a bit awkward).

        1. Dack

          Here’s one you can sing along to:

          True. Thanks for showing me that. Would sing along again.

      1. AG

        See above. I’m not talking about pitch range, I’m talking about projection style. Justin Timberlake clearly is in upper pitch ranges, but he doesn’t sing like a tenor.

        Aretha Franklin could sing Nessun Dorma. Justin Bieber most definitely could not.

        1. Dack

          Tenor, etc are literally defined by their range. Bass, baritone, and tenor are all basically shorthand for “a voice in this pitch range.”

          I think what you are talking about is belting, a technique that a singer in any range can learn.

          Why don’t more modern tenors learn to belt? No idea.

    4. Gwythyr

      I’ve just read a Rossini biography! One notable quotations from there is Rossini’s opinion that “a true art of bel canto disappeared with male sopranos” (aka castrati). Not because male soprano is necessary for that but because castrati usually lived and breathed their art to a degree that no other singers did.

      1. AG

        Well, Rossini should be happy that falsetto-ish voices are back with a vengeance for R&B styles.

        Also, I was thinking about how Kpop was one area I thought might still have tenors, and it occurred to me that Asia is one of the last few places where a shamelessly soppy ballad (in the style of Whitney’s Houston’s AND IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII) is still viable as mainstream pop. And, in turn, those songs are somewhat close to an opera aria, in composition. Example
        (And while picking an example I did indeed find out that one of the Kpop boys performed a cover of Nessun Dorma lol)

  21. FLWAB

    Over and over through the last five months or so I have heard Trump criticized for his “lack of leadership.” I’ve heard people say that the coronavirus requires “leadership” that Trump is not providing, and now I’m hearing right wing pundits complaining that in the face of riot and disorder Trump is not providing “leadership.” After hearing this complaint so many times and mulling it over I have come to the conclusion that I have no clear idea what people mean when they say “leadership.” What exactly do they want Trump to do? Make a speech? If they want Trump to do a specific action, why aren’t they complaining about that? I’m not trying to make any political point here, I’m just honestly confused.

    So I’m asking around. What do you think people mean when they complain that Trump is not providing “leadership?”

      1. Matt M

        Yeah, I definitely think it’s “make a speech” but also “have consistent messaging over your speeches.”

        Trump has said a lot about COVID, but at various times, he’s taken pretty much every position including “this is a huge threat that necessitates an extreme response” to “this is a Democrat hoax” and everything in between.

        I don’t agree that it’s necessarily positive – but I think in the American mind, “leadership” is someone who plants a stake in the ground and defends their position, no matter what. Taking a cautious approach, updating your priors based on new evidence… all of these things that rationalists might value are seen as signs of weakness at best or incompetence at worst within the context of American politics.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          No. You can have leadership that updates on evidence.

          One of the mid-century Danish prime ministers had a biting one liner about that “When the evidence changes, I change my mind. Is that not what you do?” (it scans better in danish. Sorry).

          It just needs to be clear that this is, in fact, what said leadership is doing.

          Trump is failing at providing leadership because it is abundantly clear there is no underlying reasoning beneath his stances at all, merely chaos. It is not difficult to get people to follow a leader with the level of institutional mystique the US president has, but there does have to be something there to follow.