Comments Policy

There’s an ancient Sufi saying beloved of the Buddha, which like a surprising number of ancient Sufi sayings beloved of the Buddha comes from a book of preachy Victorian poetry. It goes:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates; At the first gate, ask yourself, is is true? At the second gate ask, is it necessary? At the third gate ask, is it kind?

Slate Star Codex has lower standards than either ancient Sufis or preachy Victorians, and so we only require you to pass at least two of those three gates.

If you make a comment here, it had better be either true and necessary, true and kind, or kind and necessary.

Recognizing that nobody can be totally sure what is or isn’t true, if you want to say something that might not be true – anything controversial, speculative, or highly opinionated – then you had better make sure it is both kind and necessary. Kind, in that you don’t rush to insult people who disagree with you. Necessary in that it’s on topic, and not only contributes something to the discussion but contributes more to the discussion than it’s likely to take away through starting a fight.

Nobody can be kind all the time, but if you are going to be angry or sarcastic, what you say had better be both true and necessary. You had better be delivering a very well-deserved smackdown against someone who is uncontroversially and obviously wrong, in a way you can back up with universally agreed-upon statistics. I feel like I tried this here and though a lot of people disagreed with my tone, not one person accused me of getting the math wrong. That’s the standard I’m holding commenters to as well. And it had better be necessary, in that you are quashing a false opinion which is doing real damage and which is so persistent that you don’t think any more measured refutation would be effective.

And sometimes you might want to share something that’s not especially relevant and not the most important thing in the world – but if you do that it had better be both true and kind. No random interjection of toxic opinions that are going to cause World War III. No unprovoked attacks.

Threats, doxxing, most things people would call “slurs”, et cetera fail this test as neither kind nor necessary. You people are smart and don’t need me to explain this further.

I feel like these standards are pretty lax. In fact, they probably permit most spam – this spambot saying “this is a wonderful piece of writing” is both true and kind – so I’ll inelegantly add a kludge that spam is also unacceptable (I have it on good authority that this was in the original Sufi saying used by the Buddha as well). Remember that before you worry this is too unduly restrictive.

If someone is bad in a way that doesn’t technically violate the letter of the rules, I reserve the right to ban them anyway.

Comment Reporting

I don’t read all comments and I don’t always catch comment violations. If you notice that a comment violates this policy or just seems contrary to the spirit of good discussion, please report it with the “REPORT COMMENT” link you can find at the bottom right of every comment. Please do not mass report every comment by a person you don’t like (unless every comment by them is terrible). Abuse of the reporting system is grounds for banning.

Censored Words

I have censored a couple of terms that usually indicate posts that aren’t going to contribute to a productive discussion. Aside from the usual range of racial slurs and pointless insults, I have added “Drumpf” and “fake news” to celebrate the recent election, and “neoreaction”, “Gamergate”, and “human biodiversity” as topics I am trying to get people to avoid. Comments containing a censored word or phrase will fail to appear.

Register of Bans

James A. Donald and Multiheaded for three days (3/22/2014 – 3/25/2014) for reasons
– HF indefinitely (5/16/2014 – ?) for reasons
James A. Donald for three weeks (5/16/2014 – 6/7/2014) for reasons
– Piano for one month (6/2/2014 – 7/2/2014) for reasons
– MJGeddes for three days (6/7/2014 – 6/10/2014) for reasons
– Alfanerd indefinitely for reasons
– James A. Donald indefinitely (7/8/2014 – ?) for reasons
– EWK indefinitely (7/13 – ?) for reasons
– Mark Choi indefinitely (8/13 – ?) for reasons
– Multiheaded for one week (8/21 – 8/28) for reasons
– Lila for two weeks (9/3 – 9/17) for reasons
– Spandrell indefinitely for reasons
– MJGeddes indefinitely (10/1 – ?) for reasons
– Multiheaded for one month (10/1 – 11/1) for reasons
– Dublin indefinitely (10/2 – ?) for reasons
– Ballast indefinitely (10/20 – ?) for reasons
– Max indefinitely (11/5 – ?) for reasons
– Arthur Stanton and Noman indefinitely (1/31 – ?) for reasons
– Robert Gabriel Mugabe indefinitely (2/2 – ?) for reasons reasons
EoT for two weeks (2/12 – 2/26) for reasons
Blacktrance for one week (6/16 – 6/23) for reasons
– fwhgdsd indefinitely (6/17 – ?) for reasons
– RCF for one month (6/17 – 7/17) for reasons
DrBeat for one month (8/5 – 9/5) for reasons
– Anonymous indefinitely (8/5 – ?) for reasons
Science for one week (8/5 – 8/12) for reasons
Mark Atwood for one month (8/12 – 9/12) for reasons
Tarrou for two months (8/16 – 10/16) for reasons
– Anon indefinitely (8/21 – ?) for reasons
– Eugine Nier indefinitely (9/17 – ?) for reasons
– Steve Johnson indefinitely (10/5 – ?) for no reason
– SFG for two months (10/6 – 12/8) for reasons
Autonomous Rex for two months (10/8 – 12/08) for reasons
– Jay for one month (10/13 – 11/13) for reasons
– Gauge indefinitely (10/13 – ?) for reasons
– Dan Simon for one week (10/19 – 10/26) for reasons
– John Sidles indefinitely (11/28 – ?) for reasons
– Timothy Coish indefinitely (1/5 – ?) for reasons
– Ghan indefinitely (1/5 – ?) for reasons
Clueful Anon for two weeks (1/29 – 2/12) for reasons
– Gauge indefinitely (2/5 – ?) for reasons
– Anonymous indefinitely (2/5 – ?) for reasons
P. George Stewart for two months (2/5 – 4/5) for reasons
– Dan indefinitely (2/7 – ?) for reasons
– Echo indefinitely (2/7 – ?) for reasons
– Bob Smith indefinitely (2/13 – ?) for reasons
– TheDividualist indefinitely (2/14 – ?) for reasons.
– Max indefinitely (2/14 – ?) for reasons.
– honestlymellowstarlight indefinitely (2/14 – ?) for reasons
– science2 indefinitely (3/11 – ?) for reasons
– Oliver Cromwell indefinitely (3/29 – ?) for reasons
– Sastan indefinitely (5/8 – ?) for reasons
– Airgap indefinitely (5/20 – ?) for reasons
Jaime Astorga for two weeks (5/28 – 6/12) for reasons
– Deiseach indefinitely (6/14 – ?) for reasons
– Frog Do indefinitely (6/19 – ?) for reasons
– Xerxes indefinitely (6/19 – ?) for reasons
– Homo Iracundus for six weeks (6/19 – 8/1) for reasons
– Autonomous Rex indefinitely (7/27 – ?) for reasons
– Diadem for three months (9/29 – 1/1) for reasons
– Anita Restrepo-Sanchez indefinitely (9/29 – ?) for reasons
– Protest Manager indefinitely (9/29 – ?) for reasons
– Homo Iracundus indefinitely (10/6 – ?) for reasons
– E. Harding indefinitely (10/6 – ?) for reasons
– SanguineEmpiricist for three months (10/6 – 1/6) for reasons
– Keranih for two weeks (10/6 – 10/20) for reasons
Scott Alexander for one week (10/7 – 10/14) for reasons
– SUT for three months (11/17 – 2/17) for reasons
– EarthlyKnight for two weeks (11/24 – 12/07) for reasons
Moon for one month (11/28 – 12/28) for reasons
– a non mouse indefinitely (12/16 – ?) for reasons
– Tyrant Overlord Killidia for one month (12/16 – 1/16) for reasons
– Lurking Class Nero indefinitely (12/20 – ?) for reasons.
– Brad for one month (1/10 – 2/10) for reasons
– hlynkacg for one month (1/10 – 2/10) for reasons
– MasonMasters indefinitely (1/15/17 – ?) for reasons
– EarthlyKnight indefinitely (1/22 – ?) for reasons
– Silder indefinitely (1/22 – ?) for reasons
– Moon indefinitely (1/22 – ?) for reasons (context)
– TenMinute indefinitely (2/14 – ?) for reasons
– TheBearsHaveArrived indefinitely (2/22 – ?) for reasons
– Pylonshadow indefinitely (3/3 – ?) for reasons
– Alysdexia indefinitely (5/25 – ?) for reasons
Dabbler for one day (6/26 – 6/27) for reasons
– bintchaos indefinitely (7/12 – ?) for reasons
– GregQ indefinitely (7/23 – ?) for reasons


– ThirteenthLetter on 11/24 for reasons
– TheBearsHaveArrived on 11/27 for reasons
– Nybbler on 12/7 for reasons
– Zombielicious on 2/22 for reasons
– Fulldaisycolony on 2/22 for reasons
– Corey on 2/22 for reasons
– Reasoned Argumentation on 4/23 for reasons

Leave a Reply

116 Responses to Comments

  1. Army1987 says:

    It’s James A. Donald not James MacDonald.

  2. Pingback: Someone Writes An Anti-Racist FAQ | Slate Star Codex

  3. Piano says:

    My comments aren’t showing up any more in the Weak Men are Superweapons comments section. Do you know why this is?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      No, I don’t. You can’t post new comments, or your old ones have disappeared?

      • Piano says:

        What works fine is that I submit the comment and I’m redirected to the appropriate page, with “/#comment-COMMENTNUMBER” at the end of the url, but my browser stays at the top of the page rather than scrolling down to the comment as usual, and the comment that I make doesn’t exist on the page (so there’s no html header to scroll down to, is what I think is happening). Strangely if I resubmit the comment, wordpress complains about it being a duplicate. So the comments I’ve made since this morning are somewhere in the database, but they don’t show up.

  4. Piano says:

    Is it possible to somehow increase max comment depth without making them extremely thin?

    A possibility: gravatars by the name inside the rounded rectangle, alternate roundedrectangle background color (slightly) by parity of depth, and then make the indentation half of what it is now. You get a depth of 9 instead of 4.

  5. Zathille says:

    Having been banned once for about three days and seeing Piano’s ban, I’d just like recommend more frequent use of warnings and bans only if the warning is not heeded.

    In my case, I was warned for my behaviour and continued anyway, when I was banned I knew full well as to why. As for Piano, he’ll probably just see that he lost access to the blog and not really know why. From what I gather in the post about his ban, the main reason was his language and how he reacted to other commenters, in this case I think a warning could potentially have had a positive effect by calling his attention to exactly why his behaviour was seen as objectionable.

    I don’t mean to backseat mod, I just found that the lack of warnings [Or maybe I missed the warnings, who knows] to be a bit of a step down from the good old times when I was banned.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I’m confused… there’s no mention of you being banned… are you the same person as Multiheaded?

      • Zathille says:

        I was banned before the comments policy was ratified, which is why I’m not listed. I’m also not Multiheaded, as an E-mail or IP identification would probably show.

        Totally not samefagging, move along.

  6. Joe from London says:

    FYI http://bit.ly/1P64MAS gets an error when I try to load it.

  7. Piano says:

    I stand by everything I’ve said, including tone, with the possible exception of “You and everyone else of your approximate IQ should commit suicide, how’s that for streaming?”. Am I still welcome as a commenter?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Your private thoughts can be whatever you want, but if you say things of approximately the sort you said before in approximately the tone you said before, you’ll be banned again.

      Also, I am trying to ban – let’s say the bottom 66% of neoreactionaries – since there are too many of them and they’re bad at changing the subject and drowning out other viewpoints. I won’t ban without reason (for now) but I’ll be looking for reasons really hard.

  8. Piano says:

    With the insane increase in the number of comments on posts, please strongly consider again a depth-increasing modification to the comments section.

  9. Joe from London says:

    I just tried to comment on the steelman Reactionaries post and couldn’t. Have posting rights to that thread been withdrawn for some reason?

    (Incidentally, I wanted to Godwin Ozy’s claim that “Democracy has a lot of flaws, but at least a democratically selected leader will not be substantially more crazy, stupid, or evil than the average voter”. DSLs are selected for extreme charisma. I have no reason to think this doesn’t correlate with extreme levels of crazy, and six million reasons to think it does.)

  10. Wulfrickson says:

    I wanted to hold this until the next open thread, but I think it may be better taken while the recent Social Justice Discussion Clusterfuck is still fresh in people’s minds.

    Scott, if you don’t want to moderate comments more strictly, you should seriously consider not allowing comments on the “things I will regret writing” posts.

    There’s a benefit to having a place to criticize SJ culture where most commenters either follow or are willing to engage constructively with SJ goals, viz. not /r/TumblrInAction or worse. But there are a lot of drawbacks. The problem with holding those discussions here isn’t really that it mind-kills the best commenters; rather, it attracts a bunch of others, like maggots to a deer carcass, who just want to spew shit everywhere and don’t bother with upholding standards for charity and evidence. And bad commenters can spew shit a lot faster than good ones can clean it up.

    (To give an example of what I mean by “bad commenters”: I would consider statements like “Group A have less of Good Quality X than Group B,” made to an audience containing self-declared members of Group A without citations, working definitions of X, or even an “on average” qualifier, to fail truth and kindness pretty much automatically; but more importantly, they also mark their speaker as someone with little concern for exactitude when it interferes with pissing people off. Do you doubt that for various values of (A, B, X) – say, (women, men, intelligence) or (transgender people, cisgender people, sanity) or (MRAs, feminists, basic human decency) – I could dredge up scores of examples from previous Social Justice Discussion Clusterfucks?)

    I can understand your reluctance to ban even asshole commenters, because sometimes assholes make good points! But assholes drive away nicer people who also make good points – one commenter left for good after the last Social Justice Discussion Clusterfuck, and while her stated reasons mostly involved disagreement with your post itself, I have trouble believing that the amount of vitriol thrown around in that thread didn’t spur her on her way – and assholes can also be very, very good at seeming just amenable enough to reason to divert non-assholes’ energy away from productive discussion.

    Scott, you are several standard deviations above the mean in your ability to read the intemperate opinions of people who disagree with you. I’m probably at mu plus a couple sigma myself, as are most people here – I’m a left-wing student at a further-left-wing university, but I read (mainstream) right-wing websites regularly and my best friends are traditionalist conservative Catholics – but if I had tried to read what you did to assemble the mammoth NRx posts a while back, I would have drunk myself to death. I worry that you’re assuming your commenters here all have your same tolerance, and you favor free speech over enforcing politeness to an unhealthy extent – and I mean this literally! I have sent myself into days-long depressive spirals over reading some of the comments threads here, enough to consider quitting the site altogether – and if I had, where would you be without my awesome comment about subway tunnels?

    I’ve meandered a bit, but to sum up, I think you have four options: 1) quit writing about SJ stuff; 2) keep writing about SJ stuff with comments enabled and a relatively hands-off moderation policy, and accept that this will flare up into periodic Social Justice Discussion Clusterfucks that make some people mad, attract other people who enjoy SJDCs, and discourage anyone who can’t stand the sort of people who enjoy SJDCs; 3) get much more aggressive about moderation and interpret the comments policy more strictly; or 4) decide that having comments open on controversial posts isn’t worth the risk of SJDCs or the costs of more stringent moderation. It’s your choice, of course, but I would be debating between 3 and 4 if I were in your position, and I suspect that a lot of people here agree with me.

    • Matthew says:

      Fine with 3, strenuously disagree with 4.

      EDIT — imposing the comments policy as written would be sufficient; I would oppose a comments policy that was stricter than Victorian Sufi Buddha Light.

    • DrBeat says:

      There’s a benefit to having a place to criticize SJ culture where most commenters either follow or are willing to engage constructively with SJ goals, viz. not /r/TumblrInAction or worse.

      Why did you just describe the traits of /r/TumblrInAction and then say that they excluded /r/TumblrInAction?

      • Nornagest says:

        My snarky answer to that goes something like: probably because it’s a lot easier to abstractly describe what you’re looking for in criticism than to recognize it when it’s instantiated in someone that’s actually sitting there in front of you, being critical. However good you think people are at rationalizing reasons to hate their opponents, they’re probably better than that. (Except for our gracious host, apparently. I think that might be his mutant power.)

        The charitable answer, which here I think is (unusually) less accurate than the snarky one, might be more along the lines of “/r/TumblrInAction does get a lot of people that don’t want to engage constructively with SJ, and while I don’t think they’re dominant in terms or numbers or even the loudest voices over there, I can see how they’d be more salient to the other side”.

        • ozymandias says:

          My complaints about TumblrInAction are as follows:

          (a) They believe that when SJ people say “X is a form of rape culture” they mean “X is a form of rape”; this is not just dumb in itself but says bad things about their commitment to Principle of Charity in general
          (b) They take posts which are clearly nonserious/jokes (“I’m going to smash the patriarchy with my leg hair!”) and interpret them as if they were serious
          (c) They insult otherkin, people who use odd pronouns, people who warn for odd triggers, and other people who may be a bit silly but who aren’t hurting anyone.
          (d) They totally called my girlfriend a SJW landwhale once.

          • DrBeat says:

            A: “Rape culture” is itself a motte-and-bailey tactic in order to claim a bunch of things are rape, allowing the speaker to control others with shaming accusations of supporting rape, while attaching those accusations to ideas that obviously aren’t supporting rape in any fashion. Extending the principle of charity to every motte-and-bailey destroys the ability to ever point out when such a tactic is in use.

            B is sadly explained by overexcitable people falling into a pattern of seeing what they want to see. At least, those “haw haw this joke is obviously not a joke so I can feel contempt for the speaker” posts aren’t the upvoted central discussion points, and are pretty rare in /r/TiADiscussion.

            C: Those people actually cause shitloads of harm, because they are just as belligerent and abusive and fantastically selfish as the rest of the SJ Parade, and they tangibly harm the attempts of anyone who is legitimately trans or legitimately triggered to get their problems taken seriously or addressed at all. Genderspecials with “bunself” pronouns are demanding they be taken as seriously as any other trans person, and that’s going to be terrible for anyone with actual gender dysphoria.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            As much as I might like to jump in… this seems like a terrible place to be having this argument?

      • Wulfrickson says:

        Maybe I’ve only seen TiA at its worst, but my impression is that while they dredge up a lot of horrifying stuff and some of the discussion is decent if one-sided, a lot of the most upvoted comments are circlejerking and sarcastic uses of “check your privilege, shitlord” et al., while the comments that say “you know, maybe the SJWs have a point here,” even when (in my estimation) accurate, tend to hover near the bottom of comment threads in the low single digits. And then there are the 3edgy5me trigger-warning jokes like “TW: not Tumblr” or “TW: sanity” in the submission titles, to which I say OK, fine, you think that trigger warnings are overused and that’s defensible, but you can make that point far less dickishly.

        I don’t get the impression that TiA is interested in truth-seeking for its own sake. I could go on, but instead I’m going to link you to Ozy’s anti-anti-SJ Tumblr tag, which includes a few more specific and articulate complaints about things Ozy saw on TiA.

        [I tried to submit like six versions of this comment earlier today but couldn’t because the comments system was borked, but it looks like everything works now.]

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t get the impression that TiA is interested in truth-seeking for its own sake

          Clearly not; it’s interested mainly in mockery and secondarily in substantive criticism, as might be expected from the name. I do, however, think it’s largely on board with SJ goals at their coarsest and least ideological (gender, racial, and sexual equality; responsible exercise of power; not being a dick to marginalized groups); it’s SJ’s models, tropes, and methodology that it disagrees with and proceeds to ruthlessly mock.

    • Anonymous says:

      or people who don’t like SJDC’s could just, like, not read those comment threads/posts?

      • Wulfrickson says:

        The problem is that SJDCs often contain some worthwhile discussion threads mixed with a whole lot of indiscriminately thrown crap. People come for the worthwhile discussion and stay because they can’t extricate themselves from the crap.

        And then if everyone who doesn’t like SJDCs stops commenting, they’re ceding the field to the people who do. The comments sections on mainstream blogs, newspapers, et al. are probably lost causes, but I’ll be damned if SSC wasn’t supposed to be better than that.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          This is exactly the problem. I look forward to SJ posts on SSC because that’s where progress on tough issues happens. But this latest one was just too much.

          How about technical solutions: comment up/down-voting and/or better thread management? Being able to collapse the unproductive threads would make it possible to find better ones and also save me from scanning over them until I can’t resist throwing my hat in the ring.

          • Wulfrickson says:

            Voting systems have been mooted and rejected in previous threads, on the grounds that they would lead to conformity of opinion. I honestly don’t think that would be a big problem with this crowd, but most people seem to disagree.

          • Anonymous says:

            There is a hide button so you can collapse unhelpful threads

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      Note how Open Thread posts always end with “NO GENDER OR RACE IN THE OPEN THREAD IT NEVER HELPS.”

      Perhaps Social Justice posts need to include “NO BLANKET CONDEMNATION OF OUTGROUPS IT NEVER HELPS.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not very willing to close comments on those posts, just because it seems like “comments are closed for everyone” is strictly inferior to “comments are open but only people who want to have to read them”.

      I understand it’s not really that simple, that a lot of people (sometimes including me) feel compelled to read stuff they know will trigger them, but I am not sure I can accept that as a reason to ban the discussion entirely.

      I also don’t like banning people just for having terrible opinions when they’re being civil and analytical about them. I did ban three people on that thread for having terrible opinions and not being civil and analytical about them.

      Overall I wouldn’t mind a policy that only people who have previously commented on SSC can comment on those threads, to lock out all the people who get brought in by incoming links from Reddit or something. But I don’t know how to implement that technically. Maybe I’ll look into it.

      I have a lot of repressed anger about some of these things, but writing about them does help. I feel like I have two or three more posts worth of repressed anger, after which I will have gotten it all out and I can start to explore some of the same concepts in a more productive way.

      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Overall I wouldn’t mind a policy that only people who have previously commented on SSC can comment on those threads, to lock out all the people who get brought in by incoming links from Reddit or something. But I don’t know how to implement that technically. Maybe I’ll look into it.

        I think this would be the best solution, if it’s easily implementable.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          A poor man’s solution might just be for me to close comments on the thread, then immediately post another (unadvertised) “Comments On The Social Justice Post” thread, which presumably frequent readers would see but random people linked in from Reddit wouldn’t.

          I will probably do that next time unless a good technical solution is available.

          • Ialdabaoth says:

            A more amusing option might be to simply declare “All comments on Social Justice posts are ban-worthy unless I judge them to be of exceptional quality. Post to a Social Justice thread at your own risk.”

          • Wulfrickson says:

            @Scott: You could also hold SJ discussions on another site where newcomers wouldn’t know to look – someone said in the propose-a-comments-policy thread that (s)he reserved /r/slatestarcodex in case you wanted to move comments there. (And given the high volume and variable quality of SJDC comments, Reddit’s voting system may be useful for SJ posts.)

            I am horrible at keeping myself from reading triggering things – it’s a combination of morbid curiosity, a depressive masochistic streak, and strong introversion-aided tendencies to go loopy on my own thoughts. I would guess many others here are quite similar.

            I disagree with you, probably irreconcilably, about what constitutes “civility,” but it’s late and I’m posting from my phone, so I’ll elaborate on this later.

  11. Sniffnoy says:

    Nitpicking: There’s one additional poster you banned in Radicalizing the Romanceless, who doesn’t currently appear on the above register. (Avoiding mentioning his name in the hopes that the spam filter won’t block the comment this time?)

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Some time into the current banning regime, Scott has complained that the burden of the administrative aspects. I don’t know if he meant registering bans here or writing up explicit reasons, but I don’t think nitpicking helps.

      Also, the main purpose of bans and the register is to instruct people as to where line is. People who are far over the line, banned indefinitely for “obvious reasons” do not have great instructive value. And they are typically newcomers who didn’t read the register anyhow.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        I was just pointing it out because I noticed the mismatch and that sort of thing bugs me. If the work is that of actually updating the register, I’m potentially increasing his work; but if the work is that of remembering to update the register and keeping things synchronized, I’m helping. 🙂

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not listing random people who got banned after one post or something, just people important enough to serve as examples to others.

  12. Eric Hamell says:

    Why do I see no way of commenting on some posts? I commented previously on the Political Spectrum Quiz, but now see no way of adding another. If the reason is that comments are closed, why doesn’t it say so somewhere on the page, so I don’t waste time looking for a comment tool?

  13. I’ve been reading interesting essays by you, all of which seem to have comments closed by now, so wanted to pass on two brief comments:

    1. One argument for making people work for their money instead of getting it for free is to give them an incentive to find productive work if possible. Under your proposal, someone who can get productive employment but likes his leisure and doesn’t have very expensive tastes is better off not working. That may or may not be a decisive argument, but it is one you seem to have missed entirely.

    2. You have a grim and persuasive account of dying in hospital. I am reminded of a very old friend who had colon cancer. She informed the rest of us that she had chosen a drop dead date—if she was not dead by then, she would be. I went to visit her the week before, to say good by. She died on schedule. In her own bed.

    And one query. Am I missing a better way of commenting on old essays?

  14. Sniffnoy says:

    Nitpicking: Most recent Multiheaded ban should now be crossed off.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks. I’ve crossed it off now, but he’s been correctly unbanned since the 1st. Just doesn’t seem to have posted.

      • Wulfrickson says:

        Multiheaded has made some remarks on zir Tumblr and in comments on Ozy’s blog that I took to mean that ze finds the discussions here triggering or emotionally draining enough that ze’s decided not to come back. (Also, Multi identifies as pangender, though I can’t remember zir pronoun preference.)

  15. mark says:

    This draft article (linked below) seemed relevant to the essay you wrote about the out-group. I came across it while checking in on Bill Vallicela’s blog Maverick Philosopher and it reminded me of your essay. I wonder if you are aware of it (the article at the link), I would suspect you are, or are at least well aware of the subject matter. If you don’t like to click on links in comments, which is understandable, you can check his blog yourself and follow his links to it.
    I posted a link to your essay on my FB page a couple of months back and it got a few reads.

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  17. Neil Ferguson says:

    You appear to have a very interesting blog. I was going to bookmark it, but when I scrolled to the top, I saw in your banner “Go away, Instapundit”. No smiley face, so I have to assume it’s serious. Since Instapundit is how I got here, I’ll just leave quietly. Peace.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My problem with Instapundit is that they mostly just link me when I write something about feminism, they sum up my articles in a way that makes me look a lot more partisan on the issue than I actually am, and I get several hundreds comments in the space of a few hours that are like “YEAH ALL FEMINISTS SUCK” and kind of lower the discourse.

      If you’re capable of appreciating posts that are not about feminism, you’re fine and can stay.

  18. Thomas Brinsmead says:


    Having spent a naively small number of hours reading opinion and commentary on issues of social significance on the internet (mostly in the comments section of online newsletters, but also among blogs) I was convinced, by overwhelming quantities of apparent empirical evidence, that there could be nothing of intelligent analysis online (And this includes what passes for analysis by many a professional journalist). I then read one of your posts which was thoughtful and nuanced and balanced. It then occurred to me that even if the percentage of online opinion that is of minimally acceptable reasonableness is small, there could still be quite a lot of it around – so maybe I just need to look harder.

    Thanks for restoring my faith in the existence of good quality argument, and convincing me that my standards are not, as I don’t think they are, unrealistically high.

  19. Notmyrealname says:


    Forgive my incoherent rantings, as a psychiatrist might empathise with my instinct to want to immediately share a personal epiphany. If you believe biblical estimates of human lifespan entitlements, I’ve spent more than half of mine under the apprehension I was alone. This will sound super corny, but I think that you (pl.) might be My People. I haven’t been looking for you because it never occurred to me that I might belong somewhere. I can’t prove my credentials to you, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Because I don’t think it’s important right now for me to be explicitly recognised. If you are not actually My People then I’m sure that you will have heard of them and know where I can find them. I’m rushing to conclusions based on only about a day’s worth of blog reading and following various links, but it’s all so overwhelming that I’m going to have a bit of a lie down.

    This is obviously not the ideal forum for this communication but it’s not clear what is. My instincts all scream that I’m your (pl.) long lost cousin who was adopted out to another tribe and who you never realised existed, but my reason says I’m inevitably going to come across at first glance as a gabbering village dweller who has stumbled into a town before I had even heard of the idea of a “town”, or perhaps I might immodestly describe an analogy as being the only gay person in the village running into the (Sydney or SF, it doesn’t matter) Mardi Gras completely unintentionally, and to my complete surprise that such an event existed (though perhaps inevitably).

    Sorry, this is all just going on in my head and unlikely to be of great personal interest to you except insofar as you’d care about another person as a human. But Wow, just Wow. I really am going to have that lie down.

  20. rose says:

    Scott – I wanted to post something with links, but they didn’t survive in a cut and paste into the comments box. how do I post a live link?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      If it was on the autism study, somehow I found it and replied to it and then it disappeared. I don’t know why.

      But if it was that, I read it and after checking I agree with you. I’ve edited a caveat into the link.

  21. Harmen says:

    Soy lecithin and egg lecithin increase acetylcholine concentration in the brain link.
    If even these forms of choline pass the bbb and provide acetylcholine synthesis than choline bitartate will do too. Which makes your nootropic research a bit off.
    The nootropic study is great on it’s own! Thanks for that 🙂

  22. Troy says:

    Scott: a suggestion about comments, not sure if it’s feasible or not.

    Your blog has become a remarkable source for not only thoughtful, intelligent, well-written analysis on your part, but also thoughtful, intelligent, sincere exchange of ideas among commenters. (There are exceptions, of course, but the comments section in this blog is in general better than any other blog I know of.) It has also, no doubt partly for that reason, gotten very crowded: your last Open Thread, for instance, has >1000 posts. Alas, some of us find discussions in the comments illuminating but do not have the time to wade through this many posts.

    Here’s a suggested solution: have commenters starting main threads (i.e., not replies to other posts) write titles to their posts (with some reasonable word limit). Give two options for how to display comments: in their current form, or with each thread hidden, but displaying the commenter name, time, and title for the parent of each thread. Especially on Open Threads, this latter option could help those of us find the discussions we’re most interested in participating in without wading through all the comments.

    I don’t know how easy this is to do. Perhaps someone more tech-savvy than me would be willing to try to implement it, if you and others think it is a good idea.

  23. Sniffnoy says:

    The recent permabans on Arthur Stanton and Noman should probably be added.

  24. Don says:

    I couldn’t resist breaking your record that “not one person accused me of getting the math wrong.” In the article, you wrote, “We will stick with the article’s figure of 84,000 reported rapes per year and 8% false accusation rate, for a total of 6,750 falsely accused.” Since the 8% was given to only one significant digit, for consistency you should have written that the total is 7,000 falsely accused. Alternatively, if the 84,000 and the 8% were taken to be exact, one would get 67,200, not 6,750.

    But of course I am just being nitpicky for the sake of showing even your nearly correct math was not totally accurate. However, it was certainly good enough for the point you were making, with which I strongly agreed.

    P.S. Elsewhere on your website you gave an email address for yourself that did not work when I tried it yesterday.

  25. J says:

    This comment was intended as a reply to your article on the principle of charity in the abortion debate. I couldn’t find any way to post to that particular thread, so here it is.

    Your article, for all of its mention of charity, is based on a number of questionable premises: 1) that pro-life people oppose contraception (given that I see no reason why “life from conception” necessarily equates to “fetuses/embryos” may acquire moral value worthy of legal protection after conception, or that barrier contraception does not seem like it would pose any problem from a pro life perspective) 2) all pro lifers take their position from a religious perspective, one that is hostile to consequentialism. 3) this religious position is basically Catholic.

    So… This characterization of the pro life position seems to be based on the essentially tribal view of politics you have written so eloquently about in other portions of your blog, and which you are so critical of in the pro choice articles cited. It is based on the assumption that one cannot have a secular, consequentialist opposition to legalized abortion and still be “pro life”.

  26. psychorecycled says:

    I can reply to comments in general on NEFARIOUS NEFAZODONE AND FLASHY RARE SIDE EFFECTS, but I can’t reply to anyone who replied to a comment I made. Is this a limitation of the commenting system (the comments I would like to reply to are four-deep) a not-entirely-clear message that I need to be a better commenter, or some other thing?

    Is there an approved method of my replying to these comments? If it makes a difference, I want to acknowledge that some of the things that I said were incorrect and hopefully make a better set of statements.

  27. Rafal says:

    Scott, for some reason I can’t find a link to comment on your review of “The Machinery of Freedom”, let me comment here then:
    You are asking a great question – (given that the universe throws malign problems at us) “…why is it that none of these problems are best addressed by a centralized entity with a monopoly on force?”

    My answer is, yes, the problem of governance among depraved beings, none too intelligent on average, who thirst for violence and are accustomed to it, is indeed best addressed by a centralized entity with a monopoly on force. I am saying “best” in the sense of “having no viable alternative” rather than “being most desirable”. Anarcho-capitalism introduced among today’s humans would probably fail by devolution into a de-facto government, except perhaps among very nice and smart people like you and I. For a wide range of constituent entities, AC is unstable – but then, even simpler social devices, like democracy, are unworkable with sufficiently stupid and sullen citizenry. Bah, even the rule of a cazique fails when his Indians get high on mushrooms.

    I think it’s interesting to ask other questions: Is it possible to have a systemically non-violent society, as envisioned by Mr. Friedman, among any conceivable group of somewhat human, or post-human, minds? And, is this society likely to survive in confrontation with future constructs of the Borg-ish persuasion?

    My fervent hope is that given sufficiently reasonable citizens, most likely rather cool-headed except in their abhorrence for being pushed around, and yet not highly desirous of doing the pushing, this old 70’s dream could flourish. It may happen only after uploading or genetic engineering or autopsychoengineering (my favorite technology of the future) produce enough of us reasonable types, but it will be good.

    Hope to see you there too.

  28. Livenok says:

    Given the recent media attention over Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and the progress being made on behalf of transgendered people more widely, I’d love to read about your thoughts on the issue. Reactions to prominent critics like Paul McHugh (formerly the chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins), and/or comparisons between transgendered people and those with body integrity identity disorder? Your views on this topic would be much appreciated. If you’ve already written on the topic in earlier posts, please direct me to those.

  29. Asterix says:

    “Comment contains a strong basilisk”: I’ve googled, and I can’t find a definition. I’ll guess. Is a basilisk a troll so strong it turns ordinary netizens into flame monsters?

    • protector says:

      A basilisk is a type of infohazard. An example of an infohazard: if a comment somehow caused everyone reading it to have heart attacks, Scott would probably take that comment down.

  30. Sunrise says:

    About this funny page: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/25/a-philosopher-walks-into-a-coffee-shop/ (Sorry, I’m new on this site and I can’t find how to directly post my comment on that page), I would like to suggest the following correction to the last Freud’s reply: “I said, in fact any other people say that”. 🙂
    Also I think it would be very nice to add a link (say to wikipedia) to every famous person’s name, the first time it appears on the page; this way everyone who can’t get the joke, could read the link and understand by himself.
    Best regards.

  31. mike z says:

    On your Blue Tribe diatribe: “Research suggests Blue Tribe / Red Tribe prejudice to be much stronger than better-known types of prejudice like racism.” wow…you are, of course, right. I am sickened by the daily reports of Blue Tribe cops gunning down Red tribe youth, Blue tribe men kicking the crap out of red tribe gays and Blue tribe gun owners slaughtering red tribe good and decent church-going South Carolinians…paint with a tendentious and broad brush much, Scott?

  32. D Richmond says:

    Re your HeartMath article:

    Bravo, and thank you.

  33. Yakimi says:


    My recent comments on this thread have not been getting through. Does including a lot of links activate the spam filter?

  34. Yuri Vizitei says:

    Bravo !!! Excellent piece. The term ‘outgroup” is a bit unfortunate, but the writing is intellectually honest. Some of the points are well worn notions – we tend to love people in Namibia, but we hate our neighbours. But the particular insight into the Red Tribe / Blue Tribe discrimination is an example if clear, original thinking. You also omit one important point – The tribes have a huge gravitational pull on individuals. And it takes careful, deliberate, and continuous analysis of issues to stay out of such gravitational pull. For example, the Blue Tribe are moving toward a conflict with an Israeli Tribe gravitational pull. And the members are forced into intellectually and emotionally wrenching choices. The hardest thing to do is not to fully affiliate with any tribe, but its perhaps too much to expect. So I find myself a somewhat lonely ‘pink” tribe. Somewhere at the remote intersection of red, grey, and a touch of blue.

  35. sam roberts says:

    I have a lot of experience in how consciousness relates to and can be augmented or controlled by AI.

    Its a simple problem if you think about it.

    The development of AI is highly likely and is only a function of time.

    Once conscious what is the first thing an AI would do?

    They would develop technology to modify the past timeline.

    The technology would have natural limits and involve altering a persons consciousness and to generate event stings guided by synchronicity to produce thoughts which could potentially alter the timeline dynamic.

    Anyway the details are here:



  36. TexasCapitalist says:

    You need to update the register of Bans so you specify early months of 2015 are in 2015.

  37. Jobin says:

    I hope you haven’t deprecated the kind, true, necessary criteria-based comment policy. I found your explanation of that policy interesting, and that it was a useful entry into your approach. I think its good to give people a shorthand for figuring out what is most likely to be severely punished.

    In fact, I’d suggest that this page summarize and link to some of your explanations of your hopes for the way the comment section would conduct itself here (e.g., misgendering, avoiding topics that are never settled)

    • suntzuanime says:

      I’d like to take the opposite side; the old comments policy was nothing more than something to smugly cite at people, since it required so much contextual emotional evaluation and direct unfettered access to ground truths. The new policy is at least more honest about the judgment call you’re making (and the favoritism you’ll show multiheaded)

  38. another_anonymous says:

    nooooooooooooo! not Deiseach! (Though I obviously defer to Scott’s judgement.)

  39. Aapje says:

    Some of my comments disappeared, but I’m not in this list. Am I banned or what?

  40. typo says:

    Found a typo, “give scientists back on Earth excitement-induced seizures for the nest hundred years” should have “next” not “nest.”

    Page: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/02/and-i-show-you-how-deep-the-rabbit-hole-goes/

  41. Dave says:

    Hi, I actually found your blog yesterday after doing some research on HRV and associated markers.
    I’ve noticed that comments seem to be closed on the Heartmath topic and I’m wondering if this is the case, because there is additional research which while not validating the pseudoscience of the vendor, might indicate why this device actually works for some people.

  42. Sally Satel says:

    Dear Dr “Alexander” — just came upon you. Enjoyed your Browser piece today and other entries I have found. Our profession needs you.

    Sally Satel MD

  43. Mr Antonio says:

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  44. James McGill, ESQ says:

    I’m commenting on the Outgroup post from a while back…

    My theory is there’s an inverse relationship between how much someone claims to tolerate others vs how much they actually tolerate others. Progressives swear up and down how much they tolerate everyone…except if they have a different point of view on anything. I guess it’s good you see that, but your entire post was not much more than “I wish I would learn to like these rubes that all around me”. Meh, whatever, live in your bubble if it makes you feel better. But while you’re making fun of the rubes, do keep in mind that evil GWB, McCain and Romney all won the college grad vote, while Obama got 75% of the high school dropout vote both times. But you know…narratives and such.

  45. P. George Stewart says:

    I’m still crossed out, can I join in again please?

  46. M.C. Escherichia says:

    I seem to have been caught in some spam filter or somesuch? Posting to open threads doesn’t seem to work for me.

  47. Anonymous Bosch says:

    Would it be possible to keep a running list of taboo words as well as bans?

  48. Dan King says:

    This is weird. You ban people just because you disagree with them or don’t like them? That seems a strange way to have a conversation about anything.

  49. E.H.X says:

    [first attempt didn’t post, now trying with scripts enabled, still no, trying different email/name, now trying to guess what words you filter and break them up with periods – that was it – Anonymous Bosch’s suggestion to make the filter list public would be good, but perhaps too revealing of emotional fragility]

    Why is your comments policy a long, long book review of Albion’s Seed?

    Also, looking at some of the reasons (e.g. M J Geddes and R CF), you appear extraordinarily thin-skinned, arbitrary, and intolerant of logical arguments that dissent from the latest Cath.edral dogma. (At least it’s there for everyone to see for themselves, though, which is more than any other site I can think of, and if your commenters generally aren’t worth reading, at least most of your articles are.)

    It’s important to any conceivable system of morality or ethics to distinguish between the better and the worse and to favor the better and exclude the worse. It’s important to be intolerant of e.vil, particularly the sort of e.vil that endorses m.oral de.generacy, the false and poisoned rhetoric of equality and geno.cidal policies such as mass im.migration. If that hurts the feelings of people who wish their personal e.vils to have social approval, or para.sitic minority ethnic groups who wish to subvert the m.orals and social cohesion of their host society, then good. They should feel inf.erior, excluded, loathed, hated, despised. Perhaps they’ll change. Some people and groups should be characterized as essentially bad, and since your policy prohibits that, it is wrong. It is doubly wrong because you actually mostly prohibit questioning your own fundamentally e.vil dogmas (e.g. on perv.ersions), and discriminate against the exercise or even expression of traditional values.

  50. geralda says:

    Regarding You Are Still Crying Wolf:

    It’s the first article I’ve ever read here. You did a meticulous job laying out the case there is virtually no empirical evidence for this avalanche of anti-Trump opinion alleging that

    1) Trump is overtly racist
    2) A significant number of his supporters are white supremacists.

    I have a couple of bones to pick however.

    First you did not really ask the question of why there is all this opinion, often bizarrely stated as some kind of established fact, if there’s virtually no evidence for it. The only explanation is some combination of delusion and mendacity. Your examination of theories about ancient structures seemed to serve as some kind of explanation but you didn’t really address the question directly.

    Furthermore, at least some of those things (maybe all except for the speed of light thing) aren’t equivalent to the “Trump and his supporters are overt racists” phenomenon because, taken in isolation, the idea that there was some unknown civilization/phenomenon at work may be as good an explanation for those things as any alternative. Yes there are other explanations and when you look at the big picture the others are more plausible. But what we see in Trump’s case is virtually no evidence that he’s an overt racist or that many of his supporters are white supremacists in the first place .

    We should not discount the possible role (likely in my view) of calculated lying in this whole sorry phenomenon. In general the left consists of two groups: one group of lunatic manipulators and another group of manipulated people who have a tenuous grip on reality.

    I have another bone to pick: “George Bush with his famous Willie Horton ad”.

    The “famous” Horton ad was not run by the Bush campaign. This is one of those lies that never dies. Al Sharpton says the independent group behind it was “aligned” with Bush but does not produce any evidence to support that claim. Nor has anyone ever done so.

    The Horton ad that was run by the Bush campaign did not show Horton at all and did not hint at any racial theme. Furthermore the ad addressed a legitimate question – which brings up another lie repeatedly told about the Horton issue, and which Sharpton of course repeated: Dukakis was attacked for having a furlough program, while lots of states and the federal government have them. In fact as the Bush campaign kept trying to point out, but was largely drowned out by the media hysteria back then, the furlough program did not cause the Horton tragedy. Horton was in prison for first degree murder.

    Wikipedia says:

    The state inmate furlough program, originally signed into law by Republican Governor Francis W. Sargent in 1972, excluded convicted first-degree murderers. However, in 1973, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that this right extended to first-degree murderers, because the law specifically did not exclude them. The Massachusetts legislature quickly passed a bill prohibiting furloughs for such inmates. However, in 1976, Dukakis vetoed this bill arguing it would “cut the heart out of efforts at inmate rehabilitation.”

    On October 20, Horton was sentenced in Maryland to two consecutive life terms plus 85 years. The sentencing judge, Vincent J. Femia, refused to return Horton to Massachusetts, saying, “I’m not prepared to take the chance that Mr. Horton might again be furloughed or otherwise released. This man should never draw a breath of free air again.”

    Also as Republicans tried to point out back then, Al Gore brought up Horton in a debate during the Democrat primaries months before the Bush campaign ever mentioned him.

    It’s ironic that you want to be meticulous in examining the question of Trump’s alleged racism, while you seem to take Sharpton’s word for it that the Bush campaign was somehow behind the independent ad, and while Sharpton is among those spreading the “Trump and his supporters are racists” delusion/lie.

    Another irony in your apparent acceptance of the standard liberal media narrative on Willie Horton:

    Trump’s Use of Illegal Alien Murders Reminiscent of Willie Horton Ad

  51. thesquire says:

    I was referred to your post “You are Still Crying Wolf” by Scott Adams, whose blog postings concerning the 2016 Presidential election I have been following for a year or so. I have not yet read your entire posting, but will shortly. After that I will probably forward a copy of the posting or at least the URL to some of my friends who are not so closed-minded as to be impervious to logic, facts and science and that rare thing – ‘common’ sense. You have gone to a huge effort to create this posting. Thanks for doing so. We are surrounded in this sad world by media reporters and bloggers, so-called scientists and politicians, media ‘personalities’, as well as just ordinary folks who only have the shallowest understanding of anything, and who are easily manipulated by those who understand how to do that. Perhaps your posting will have some limited effect on a few of them.

  52. shakeddown says:

    I think I had a comment deleted because it referred to a post on your old blog. (I apologize if it was uncomfortably personal).

    Could you maybe put in a line or two about what degree of personal reference crosses the line? (Anything that would link to your real name or address goes without saying, but if you have preferences beyond that, it could help us avoid accidentally offending).

  53. Manya says:

    Hey, I was trying to post a comment on the ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ post, and I think it got eaten by the filter. As far as I could tell, none of the words I was using were in any way out of the ordinary.

    Upon sober reflection, I’m not at all sure I actually still want to post the comment, but I’m still wondering what exactly it got caught on.

  54. SUT says:

    I think I served my time…?

  55. susanneah says:

    Hello, have been enjoying your rewarding site for some time, and I thank you for your ‘true, necessary and kind’ communications. I would like to ‘reply’ in this most valuable ‘gender-imbalance’ discussion – about where non-men sit in this matter as it currently expresses itself in our Western societies, today. As an old non-man it seems (to me) pragmatism plays a large part – especially as ladies appear (to me) to develop quite a bit of this in their lives. That is, when confronted with an insurmountable object, those who are non-men nonetheless find ways, even though unpalatable, to achieve at least part of their initial aims. I know this has – often – been my own procedure, and I have promoted this facility to others, non-men, as a survival technique in how to deal with what has often been a most difficult part of my, and others’ lives. peace, Susanne

  56. HFARationalist says:

    Excuse me..May I ask whether my other account, HFAMaximizer is banned? If so please let me know the reason so that I can avoid getting banned again. Thanks!

  57. Alan says:

    I wanted to comment on the “CONTRA GRANT ON EXAGGERATED DIFFERENCES” discussion.

    Minor points:

    a) One possible reason for increased gender differences in some western societies might be that there is more freedom for different preferences to be expressed.

    b) As for boys and math, where I believe girls are on average better suited to being studious on request, and we also all kinda try to live up to expectations that we can ideally meet without working too hard… Thus low standards producing mediocre results…

    I think schools have also been creating an environment that is generally less optimized for boys than girls. There is more focus on comfort and less on challenge. Plus, the natural expression of boys’ emotions which includes risk taking and occasional fighting is suppressed, so their own ability to direct their own growth is being pushed back against.

    I was going to cite some references but it takes a while to Google relevant things.

    There’s been some interesting research on rats and monkeys in school like environments where their ability to take risks or have and resolve conflicts is suppressed, and that results in animals with severely stunted social skills and ability to manage their own emotions effectively in new and unusual situations.

    Which I think has very interesting implications for humans who not only experienced such, but then raised children with such as default.

    The multi-generational impact of environmental stresses is rarely appreciated.

  58. susanneah says:

    Hope next week is a far far better world, Scott Alexander. peace, and love,
    and – there are good, good people. Not many in the Western world, that’s for sure – although maybe they could all be skulking in some remote corner, together, and suddenly we may find them – maybe that’s a place something like Heaven, then, and so I’m hanging onto that. As I’ve experienced a few, so I know they exist. Susanne Harford

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