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RIP Culture War Thread (slatestarcodex.com)
301 points by whiddershins 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 293 comments



This highlights some very troublesome trends on the internet these days. We once envisioned the internet as a place of revolutionarily open discourse, where any idea under the sun could get posted somewhere and read, no matter how crazy or bad it seemed, with the worst ridiculed and dismissed, but still able to be read, and the best rising to the top.

It seems like we're moving in the opposite direction these days, with the internet as a means to control, oppress, and indoctrinate. Giant tech corps effectively taking over most means of communication and using their powers to openly censor things are part of the problem. IMO, a bigger part of the problem is the trend among activists that anyone with an improper opinion must be destroyed, along with anyone who allows them to express that opinion, and anyone marginally associated with anyone who allowed them to express their opinion, etc.

It seems like a well-honed process now. Cherry-pick the worst things anyone has said or posted. If nothing sufficiently bad has been posted, then make some fake accounts and post something bad yourself. Write hit pieces on the owner or author and highlight those cherry-picked things. Spread those pieces far and wide, and keep writing new ones with the same theme. Direct them at anyone associated with the target. Repeat and keep spreading the net until somebody breaks.

Is this what we created the internet to be?


What you've left out of that idyll of the early internet, though, is that its population was

- smaller, by many orders of magnitude

- from a highly homogeneous distribution of cultural backgrounds

- mostly of comfortable material means

These are, and have probably always been, prerequisites for the kind of civil discourse you're talking about.

The "heavy-handedness" of tech companies is IMO less a cause than it is a reaction to the inevitable degeneration of discourse as the Internet grew up.

The techno-libertarian-utopian ideals of the early internet were always a pipe dream because they failed to recognize the role of these factors in their culture, and attributed it all to the medium itself. Which is not to say that the Internet doesn't change our communication, just that it's not necessarily in the ways they wanted.


Wasn't exactly an idyll, but there was a widespread belief that you abided by some basic standards, just as you might if going to a restaurant compared to sitting at home in your boxers. Or as dang and sctb try to enforce here.

It wasn't that homogeneous, nor always comfortably off. Certainly some groups were hugely over-represented. A lot of the early non-tech groups, and BBS's before them, had a surprisingly wide distribution. You could have a civil discussion on uk.politics with diametrically opposing views. Most didn't degenerate into a flame war, of course some did. Occasionally actual politicians would show up. Or authors in writing groups. Try that today on /r/politics.

The largest change was losing netiquette. Every new join, whether techie, scientist or whatever, was expected to read and abide. Once people started arriving in volume those basic "rules of the club" rapidly became meaningless. No one cared to listen. As people moved through forums, to the social networks the idea of moderation or self accountability at all, died stone dead. Everyone apparently now expects to be just as crass and offensive as they like, because "free speech".

I don't think much of that change could have been avoided. I do think the social networks could have decided to enable moderation far more than they have.


/me checks calendar.

Yep, still September.

To a social network, moderation is a cost center that limits engagement and lowers impressions, while making many of their products get upset at their censorship. Sure they could have done more, but there were a lot of economic reasons not to do so.


Not only that, controversial stuff gets lots of pageviews. An organisation driven by metrics, such as Facebook or Twitter, won't want to moderate it.


I agree about smaller groups, but I remember being in rather diverse forums early on. The one thing people had in common is that they liked reading and writing, and art, and arguing, and were okay with computers. So that also implies a level of comfort, at least for those who weren't posting from internet cafés.

What degraded conversation the most IMO is that people can just slink away. Someone makes a claim, you refute them, they don't respond, or just answer with a total non-sequitur, or ignore 80% of what you said but have 5 new straw men you're supposed to deal with before they acknowledge that. You can't pull that shit in a forum with 100-200 people, you can't make it a habit, people will remember. Now people much sooner just retreat into some echo chamber to lick their wounds, instead of dealing with the other, for better or worse, and one-on-one, not group-on-group. As persons, not via stereotypes, and in our case over 6-7 years.

Yes, we all had in common that we lived on a street, but otherwise it was kinda random and diverse. Musicians, painters, gamers, authors, druggies, age 20 to 50, with most being probably in their 20s. We even had a member we always mocked for being kinda racist, and after years of that he wrote us a thank you post because he slowly had come around and we had played a role in that. We kicked spambots and were cruel to human spammers, but anyone else, we weren't whimps about, first and foremost. George Carlin was still alive, things were good. We weren't "civil", we called each other stupid fucks where applicable, not "disingenuous". But we also responded when called out, civil or not.

Come to think of it, last year one of our sister forums reopened its doors, after 10 years of downtime. The posts go back to the year 2000, and the admin made a sticky saying if anyone wants to delete their old posts, they're totally fine to. I said I'm less ashamed of all the (no doubt super cringy) things that are on that forum by me, than I would be of giving even one inch to anyone holding it against me. If that anti-intellectualism armband lifestyle wins out, the future is dead anyway, and I don't care how successful I am in it. But if it doesn't, then I'll be glad I never gave in, never even considered it ^^


> Yes, we all had in common that we lived on a street

Whoops, that's a leftover from what that was a reference to; in the previous paragraph I at first wrote "we had to deal with the other kids on the street we lived on" but that sounded too much like standing up to bullies, it really wasn't like that, we were outspoken, but not super mean to each other.

I remember posting some nasty rant, either about Christianity or God, and how another member was totally taken aback at the words I had "made show up on his screen". He was genuinely hurt, and I felt genuinely sorry about that, and we genuinely talked about it. I don't recall any of the content, but still remember my shock at realizing I had made "words show up" on the screen of a person which hurt them. I can't say I learned a lot from that, because I can still be caustic sadly, but in that instance I had hurt that other person and they said ouch, I knew they weren't "playing a card", and I knew they weren't calling me out so the others or the mods might take action. They just replied as their vulnerable self, with their actual thoughts, and maybe because I would have been totally free to double down and be a complete jerk, I felt no impulse to do that at all, since they didn't come at me "sideways" at all.

There's bound to be some nostalgia, sure, but it really was like we were "forum members" first and foremost, and actually did accept being different, instead of trying to make each other "fit". I'm sure I don't grossly misremember that. We treated each other like wild dogs.. no muzzles, no leashes, but also no tricks, and no dog catchers with words on their lips which their eyes and pheromones didn't match. So we barked and peed a lot and bit some, but only ever to defend our own boundaries, assert our own aliveness, not ever to hurt or even destroy someone else.

I saw this discussion with Camilla Paglia yesterday, and I felt weirdly nostalgic for a time I never knew.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPlXO0G3Qzc&t=7m10s

Paglia having a lovely chat with a lovely conservative lady, callers with a separate number for "Democrats" and "Republicans", yet I couldn't stop listening, not even because I cared about the subject so much, just because it's just so edifying to see people agree to disagree without getting stomach ulcers, and happy to find common ground when they do.

Just check out this caller in the same video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPlXO0G3Qzc&t=20m26s

I can think of so many points where I would have expected that caller to be cut off for "seeming too angry", and everybody just rolling their eyes and moving on. Instead, stay in the line, we're gonna talk about this shit. Makes my head spin, makes me homesick. But also makes me confident in not giving up to people who never even knew that, who never had the opportunity to enjoy it. They've been ripped off, and if I gave in I'd be ripping them off, too.

> I give you this one rule of conduct. Do what you will, but speak out always. Be shunned, be hated, be ridiculed, be scared, be in doubt, but don't be gagged. The time of trial is always. Now is the appointed time.

-- John J. Chapman, Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of Hobart College, 1900


You may well be right about the civil nature of things in the early days being due to being composed of a small group of techies whose culture wasn't all that different from each other. Maybe it was naive of everyone. It doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world, though, to hope that even the most different of us could talk out our difference more and resort to violence and intimidation less. Maybe we're now seeing how wrong/naive we all were.


>Maybe it was naive of everyone. It doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world, though, to hope that even the most different of us could talk out our difference more and resort to violence and intimidation less.

The naivete of everyone is somewhat understandable because each generation lets new technology (e.g. telegraph, airplanes, internet, etc) seduce them into thinking its capabilities will help humans understand each other.

Some examples of previous naive forecasts:

>"telegraph [...] would end international hostilities [...] the telegraph wire, the nerve of international life, transmitting knowledge of events, removing causes of misunderstanding, and promoting peace and harmony throughout the world."[1]

>"With the perfect development of the airplane, wars will be only an incident of past ages."; "The Wright Brothers Invention Should Prevent Further Wars And Insure Peace"[2]

>"the internet will help us connect with each other and let us discuss our differing viewpoints!"[3]

And no doubt that if some future 22nd-century technology of brainwave-telepathic device is invented, those future people will think that magical thought-communicator will enable peace and harmony. Why would there be any wars if 10 billion of us could just magically send thoughts with universal language translation without even speaking or writing?!? (Don't worry, humanity will figure out a way to use the device for spreading hate.)

[1] https://books.google.com/books?id=4y2UAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA16&lpg=P...

[2] https://wrightstories.com/wrights-perspective-on-the-role-of...

[3] today's internet users


Those are true and good points, and the overall argument may be true too. But if so, what are we to do? Don't bother trying to make the world a more peaceful place because we are doomed to failure?


Stop looking at improvements in a “breakthrough” model that becomes equal parts breathless and mindless with each new toy. Start looking at long term, systematic improvements thst raise standards of living, improve education, and reduce conflict. While people are busy fantasizing that they’re changing the world with their latest scooter or delivery app, there are actually groups and individuals who slave away at the coal face of making the world a better place... usually while the Astro Tellers of the world sneer at them from their rollerblades.

Find something that has a proven track record of yielding to intervention, and then intervene there. It’s not sexy to prevent parasitic worm infections, but it does more good than all of SV combined. It’s not sexy to sit in rooms with a bunch of politicians and diplomats and struggle to make microscopic improvements, but it adds up.

The problem is that people in places like this don’t just want to save the world. They want to save the world in their lifetimes, while getting filthy rich, and in no way compromising their ideals. Nobody wants to sacrifice anything, they want improvements to be universally beneficial and personally gratifying. They don’t talk about carbon taxation or cutting down consumerism, regulation or compromise; it’s talk of self-driving electric cars and fusion plants and living on Mars. The only seriously entertained notions are the ones that somehow make the world a better place without making you miss a beat in your lifestyle.


You sound like you've seen/read Kentaro Toyama's "Ten Myths of ICT4D" [0]

[0] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/wp-content/uploads/...


I’d never seen that, but wow... I love it.


The big issue is that we are trying to make technology as the solution to a uniquely human problem, when at most it would just shift some factors around. It's pretty telling that nuclear superweapons have somehow managed to do more for (forcing) peace than all those other technologies mentioned above


The fundamental mistake seems to be assuming that violent conflict arises from misunderstanding or a lack of close contact.

I think it’s more likely that violent conflict arises from actual conflicts of interest or belief. Closer contact might exacerbate those problems instead of fixing them...


The phrase "familiarity breeds contempt" exists for a reason. A lack of contact with something can certainly lead to ignorance and bigotry, but it's our closest neighbours in geography, culture or ideology that spark actual disgust, anger and hatred.


> Some examples of previous naive forecasts:

Another example would be "Nation shall speak peace unto nation", the BBC motto from 1927, round about the time Dr. Goebbels was using radio to speak a distinctly unpeaceful message.


Very interesting citations, thanks for sharing!


Naive is also calling this demographic diversity. (It's increased, yes, but lol.)


That’s untrue, and ignored evidence from many newer forums and their descent into madness.

Take HN, gaming forums and so on - they work decently.

Here’s my rules of the network from a moderators perspective

1) politics and religion are about maximally polarizing. If your forum/topic has no need for these topics, exclude them with great prejudice.

2) there are 2 types of forums. Some forums are built around goal driven topics. Like vectors units, they have both intensity and a direction.

Scalar topics, tend to gather opinions.

Of the two, vectored forums are easier to manage. When people have a goal and progress to make, it naturally reduces a lot of non-specific wool gathering.

3) the web is the best and worst of books and phones. Like a book, you can always revisit what was written. Like a phone you can always interact with what was said.

This means that if something is incendiary, it stays up for days, and people respond to it as if it was spoken aloud a few seconds ago.

Removing incendiary content early is better!

Community cohesion can happen by content, more than demographics.


Gaming forums? They rank up there as the worst the internet has to offer. Which one exactly are you taking about? Because all the ones I've seen are toxic cesspools unless it's a subreddit for a niche game like Factorio, which is consequently small with a very specific demographic.


I would guess they're talking about niche gaming forums. I know a bunch myself - /r/Factorio, /r/KerbalSpaceProgram, /r/Subnautica, /r/StardewValley... oh wait, the latter two aren't that niche.

In my experience, it's a matter of focus and moderation. Unfocused groups turn quickly into toxic cesspools, whether the groups are made of nerds (e.g. 4chan) or genpop (Facebook threads, or comment sections in those publications who didn't yet turn them off).


Yes, you are right. I was wrong to being up plain “gaming”. I should have made that clear - the dwarf fortress forums are benign and healthy. The world of Warcraft forums are lexical hellscapes in comparison.

As long as the game has some effort barrier which needs to be overcomed to be enjoyed, the community will be healthy and civil. (All things held equal)


There are plenty of factors that play into how or why a forum turns to shit. You're right that size or "niche" isn't always the dominating factor, but in most cases, it's clearly important. There are, on the other hand, plenty of incredibly niche and focused communities that do turn toxic and insufferable (as any Darkfall game shows). People are complex and we tend to talk in short-hand because we don't have the time or desire to write entire papers about why people tend to suck when you put them together.


How toxic was dark fall, what was the type of game and what was the effort barrier required to play it?


Sorry, I meant dwarf fortress forums, for certain complex games which act as natural effort filters.


> 1) politics and religion are about maximally polarizing. If your forum/topic has no need for these topics, exclude them with great prejudice.

I know one forum where all such topics are banned, which seems to be effective. And another of that section of the forum is closed to only visible to accounts older than one one year.


Wasn't there a thread the other day about how Utpoia always ends in Dystopia?

It seems the internet is a good example of what humanity actually is, given free reign (-ish) to its individuals. In short, there are the lovers and there are the haters. It seems that our fascination with the latter is enough to add fuel to the fire, despite declaring that we're 'a lover'.


>- smaller, by many orders of magnitude

- from a highly homogeneous distribution of cultural backgrounds

- mostly of comfortable material means

These are, and have probably always been, prerequisites for the kind of civil discourse you're talking about.

In no way in the "idyll of the early internet" I was part of, did I consider fewer people of "homogeneous cultural background" and not poor, as the "prerequisite" for open discussion.

>The techno-libertarian-utopian ideals of the early internet were always a pipe dream because they failed to recognize the role of these factors in their culture, and attributed it all to the medium itself.

Sorry, but part of my techno-libertarian-utopian ideal was open discussion period. Not some version of "civilized" discussion that should follow some specific form and decorum.

Trolling, flame wars, controversial opinions (all of which were part of the BBS culture and Usenet), were totally fine too.

If we just wanted fewer people of middle/upper middle class homogeneous cultural background, we could just talked to our friends face to face.


>Sorry, but part of my techno-libertarian-utopian ideal was open discussion period. Not some version of "civilized" discussion that should follow some specific form and decorum.

Come to think of it, what's described did exist, in communities like The Well. But I didn't then, and don't now, consider them as the model of discussion.

You can find diamonds in the most open (and rougher) discussion. In fact, TFA mentions that much, that in their expected to be a hellish everything-goes Reddit thread, they found pockets of great discussion.


The other thing they're missing is that it was also rife with child porn and snuff videos.

I too have nostalgia for the old days of the internet where there were lots of niche sites about specialist interests and things were easier to find, but I don't think the internet was ever really an idyllic garden of rational discourse. It was from nearly the beginning a manifestation of humanity's id.


Bruce Schneier had a really good essay on what happenned: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/01/power_and_the...

> What we forgot is that technology magnifies power in both directions. When the powerless found the Internet, suddenly they had power. But while the unorganized and nimble were the first to make use of the new technologies, eventually the powerful behemoths woke up to the potential -- and they have more power to magnify. And not only does the Internet change power balances, but the powerful can also change the Internet.

Internet is just a force multiplier.


It sounds like you wanted a revolutionary open discourse, and are surprised that the discourse is full of revolutionaries.

I really don't know how to fix the human empathy problem, though.


My problem is all of the throwing stones in glass houses, hypocrisy an self righteousness I see out there. It's so easy to attack something a public figure might have once said but no one is looking through the "attackers" entire history to see what they might have once said. I don't believe any real person has never said something they later regretted (or should regret) and would be embarrassed by if it came out. As you said, empathy is the problem. People need to be more forgiving ans understanding. Only when someone has established a record of being wrong/bad should they be "attacked" for it, otherwise it should be sufficient to respectfully point out why you think they are wrong and move on with your life.


Well, I wouldn't exactly say no one is. Often, it ends up being revealed that the people attacking others for these culture war things are usually hiding some dark secrets of their own, or acting as hypocrites, and people have made quite a deal out of that.

For example, the person whose video about questionable YouTube comments set off an advertiser backlash ended up getting involved in a bunch of stories themselves for making the exact same kind of content (as mentioned by Keemstar, Review Tech USA, etc). The GamerGate controversy had dozens of examples of people getting doxed or revealed as hypocrites, and certain entire forums exist pretty much to dig every bit of random people's personal backgrounds.

You're right in that everyone has said something they regetted/should regret, and that people should be more forgiving and understanding, but it's not due to people not looking up the histories of the attackers. It's because everyone even remotely involved in a controversy will basically get doxed to hell and everything they've ever done or said used against them, accused and accuser alike.


The key thing about people going around attacking people on the internet is that they're really into attacking people.

We could do with a lot more empathy from everyone.

And I think it's fair in a certain way to get extra-annoyed at this type of behavior from those who preach inclusiveness. Like, at least the judgmental a-holes are consistent.


We could really use a lot more empathy and patience.

Not just online. Everywhere in life.


I'd say that I'm not worried that the discourse is full of revolutionaries. I'm more concerned that the extremist tactics and justifications that the worst of them have used in the real world have carried over to the internet, and we get into the same old arms race where everyone has to copy the tactics of the worst actor out there, or get swamped by them.

To truly have empathy for all is indeed a hard problem though.


>It sounds like you wanted a revolutionary open discourse, and are surprised that the discourse is full of revolutionaries.

That sounds nicely quotable.


Posting this essay because it's eternally relevant when it comes to discussions like these: https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm It's an essay by a feminist writer on how movements organize themselves.


> We once envisioned the internet as a place of revolutionarily open discourse, where any idea under the sun could get posted somewhere and read, no matter how crazy or bad it seemed, with the worst ridiculed and dismissed, but still able to be read, and the best rising to the top.

Maybe I had a late start, but as far as I remember the internet has never been like that. So much of the forums and comment sections I used to read were mountains of junk, starting with the way people would write "First!" as a comment on nearly anything. The best didn't rise to the top - things that generated the most interest did, and the two were often completely divergent.

> It seems like we're moving in the opposite direction these days, with the internet as a means to control, oppress, and indoctrinate. Giant tech corps effectively taking over most means of communication and using their powers to openly censor things are part of the problem.

Feels like the reverse to me. Giant tech corps are failing to take measures against actively harmful memetic material - antivax, MLM, conspiracy theories, racism/white supremacy, extremism, etc. because these things drive their primary metric: engagement.

Generally, it feels to me like large tech companies only take action on these issues after significant public outcry or advertiser action. The problem of censorship has little to do with them and everything to do with opposing groups that harass or threaten individuals (Scott's post being a prime example).


> and the best rising to the top.

Did you ever actually read newsgroups like soc.culture.yugoslavia in the early 90s?

I just went to take a quick peek to refresh my memory, and yes, it was quite awful - https://groups.google.com/forum/m/#!searchin/soc.culture.yug...


A similar argument was made about television, and the printing press too. Quality of life over the arc of history - and the discourse - has gotten much better. Why do you suspect the internet will be any different? It's still the early days. Remember yellow journalism? Or Jefferson calling Adams a hermaphroditical character?


I recently read about some of the things that were printed about Lincoln in the newspapers of his day! Unbelievable. (Sorry, don't have a link)


I want to agree with the direction while disagreeing with how the details are framed. Particularly the taste of the idea that the internet is supposed to realise the ideals of technocrats leaves me with a bad taste on the tongue.

Small numbers of highly motivated activists are part of the problem, but also part of how things are - pretty much by definition, change is led by activists who commit to an idea before it becomes mainstream. I find even for movements that I agree with the person pushing for change is often someone who I consider unhealthily dedicated to that particular topic. To say nothing of movements I disagree with. I'll pick on Stallman as a well known figurehead for this sort of thing. Activists attempting to shut people down when they can is (a) not going away and (b) going to be a tradition dating back to time immemorial.

We should look to politics for examples of the forces at play and the organic solutions that are found. Political debate in a government setting swiftly degenerates into a shouting match if it is not absurdly ritualised. Technical discovery and discussions is done by small committees and with a few chosen representatives of the major ideologies to keep the signal-noise ratio acceptable. Executive power is embedded in an apparatus of precedent, ritual and respect that protects it from activism, even if it looks like the executive is misbehaving.

I'd suggest the last sentence is key to the problems emerging on the internet - infrastructure controllers (Google, SSC, etc) aren't emerging from large agglomerations of people and don't have the unbreakable support network enjoyed by political leaders allowing them to fight back against unreasonable activists (eg, think Trump - the structures that protect him from activists must be world-class). I found this post enlightening to just how damaging the N-to-1 relationship between the weakest link in the system and activists can be, even when the weak link isn't a creator and is obviously committed to free speech and moderate ideals. The implications are profound.


> pretty much by definition, change is led by activists who commit to an idea before it becomes mainstream

This isn't right. Compare the legalization of divorce. It's often given credit for America's current sky-high divorce rate. But it happened right in the middle of a long increasing trend in the divorce rate, without appearing to affect that trend in the slightest.

Most change just happens, without being led by anyone at all.


> We once envisioned the internet as a place of revolutionarily open discourse, where any idea under the sun could get posted somewhere and read, no matter how crazy or bad it seemed, with the worst ridiculed and dismissed, but still able to be read, and the best rising to the top. I'd like to know more about the vision:

* what was the idea for combating Sybil if hundreds of thousands, millions, or billions of people arrived?

* what was the idea for combating disinformation campaigns?

* if you thought it best to maximize for globally readable and reachable ideas, what was the idea for dealing with garden variety abuse and viral content of a defamatory nature?


>hen make some fake accounts and post something bad yourself. Write hit pieces on the owner or author and highlight those cherry-picked things. Spread those pieces far and wide, and keep writing new ones with the same theme.

I've never heard of this happening - was there specific instances of this you were thinking of? I'd like to read more, if possible.


It is fairly acknowledged that for the new Ghostbusters movie, Sony Pictures deleted well-reasoned and articulated negative comments on the trailer's Youtube, but left up hateful and poorly worded ones so they could portray all negative criticism as bigoted.


Is it?



It's not just 'companies', it's people. Reddit has become beyond frustrating because of how siloed subreddits have become. I have to visit a mix of politics, news, and yes, the_donald, to even begin to get a breadth of happenings and news. This was never more apparent than this whole Smollet case. After it was found that it was a hoax, not only were all threads pointing out it was a hoax removed, but also all previous accusatory threads that had been allowed to stay prior. Conversely, you'll never see any negative news about the Trump administration on the_donald.

I'm a person who likes to read, and rarely comment. This experience is completely broken for me, as there no longer seems to exist 'neutral' places for discussion. Is it that people value 'samethink' above all else? People getting more easily offended? I honestly have no idea, but it wasn't always this way...


I had the opposite experience with the Smollet case. I actually never heard or cared about Smollet till it started popping up as the #1 and #2 stories in r/news. As someone who is on the left of political spectrum and politically fairly active, I don't of know anyone who really thought Smollet was some representation of the political left. The fact that he was actively "brigaded" and "upvoted" in r/news and r/conservative and r/t_d tells you a lot about political discourse and "comments" section. It has been taken over for trolls and professional trolls at that to score cheap online points, but also to game search engine rankings. There is no space for neutral conversation anymore.


A whole bunch of prominent Democrats - I think possibly even the entire slate of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, but certainly close to it - publicly and loudly stood behind Smollet's claim of being attacked. Most of the news covered it too. Even here in the UK, both his original claims and him calling accusations he faked the attack racist and homophobic made the front page of the BBC and probably a bunch of other sites. If you only saw it on r/news that probably says more about where you get your news from than anything.


Eh, I have literally no stake in the US political landscape/culture wars (non-American, largely apolitical, don't actively seek out US current affairs).

I was made aware of the Smollet case via reddit frontpage. I recall the majority of comments from the get-go were very skeptical of the story.

Make of that what you will.


Downvotes? Seriously? This was possibly the most benign comment anyone could ever make in regards to the subject matter.


There are neutral spaces (on Reddit) but they are not popular because they don't make people feel good by confirming their biases. Most prefer attacking feckless strawmen over having substantive arguments.


There is no problem with the_donald or politics or whatever other group think subs, as you mentioned yourself you can just read all of them to get the whole picture. The problem starts when reddit itself think they should censor some stuff because they don't like it, then you don't even have this option to hear all the opinions and make up your mind. It is even worst when all the big tech companies subscribe to the same type of politics and point of view.


>It seems like we're moving in the opposite direction these days

Good.

>with the internet as a means to control, oppress, and indoctrinate.

No, we're just not allowing "information anarchy." Not all information is beneficial, useful, or constructive. Some of it has net negatives.

Stop assuming there are enough rational/good actors to counter act the bad/ignorant actors who propagate bad information. We don't have the public education infrastructure in a good enough place to assume that. So stop assuming it, because the data is telling you you're wrong. We're seeing the opposite of what everyone claimed would happen if everyone had access to as much information from as many different sources as possible. And we've just tip toed into this era and we're already seeing bad effects.

The internet of yesteryear (and I mean decades ago) was largely populated by well educated people. Most of them were educated in a fairly structured environment, and knew how to qualify credible sources and credible information against information that was most likely incorrect or uncredible. That's not indoctrination. That's not "oppressive." The exact opposite paradigm you want for the internet created a populace that allowed the internet to be a great place to have civil, intellectual, and life altering conversations. Someone saying something absurd/incorrect/dangerous never could go far. It was always beaten or it was ignored, left to die because there wasn't an audience for those ideas.

Now you can present almost any idea, no matter how ridiculous, harmful, or "bad" it may be and there will most likely be audience. And that's a problem. The idea that again, we can just let ideas fly off the wall and it'll slowly get filtered out is not tenable and has every ounce of data loudly saying this perspective is not true.

You might be well educated enough, or even just have the intelligence, to discuss certain topics in an intellectually curious manner from a distance. But others, a lot of others, are going to take them at face value and run with them.

It's information anarchy. Anarchy always results in new power structures that are less suitable to civil existence.


> Stop assuming there are enough rational/good actors to counter act the bad/ignorant actors who propagate bad information.

It took me a few minutes to think of what really bothered me about this line of thinking, and I think it comes down to this sentence. If you believe that this is true, why should it stop with just the internet? Why not all of life? This is exactly the line of thinking that, when applied to real life, translates to "We must have a dictatorship of the enlightened because people are not smart enough to function in a Democracy".

This philosophy has been put forth a great many times by a great many people. The end result of it is typically not very pleasant for anyone. Particularly for those who thought that they were one of the smarter ones who were too well-educated and enlightened to fall for anything really bad.


> If you believe that this is true, why should it stop with just the internet? Why not all of life?

It is true of "all of life" but the social dynamics (coupled with bog-standard H. sapiens cognitive foibles) in play when you aren't interacting with a "real person", but merely a name on a screen, empowers the bad/ignorant actors far moreso than it does the good/rational ones.

Even the most reprehensible forum troll knows that if he behaved that way to someone's face, he'd get punched.


>Even the most reprehensible forum troll knows that if he behaved that way to someone's face, he'd get punched.

Honestly, in my experience, this isn't true. "Troll"-type demonstrators and protesters behave like, well, trolls to people's face all the time, and it's generally considered part of Good Public Decorum and Free Speech not to punch them.


Before I continue, how exactly does a dictatorship play into what I said?

You realize say, peer review is a thing. You can't just publish whatever on a news site. Or in scientific journals, or your community bulltein board.

So I'm a bit confused.


And who decides which information is beneficial, useful or constructive? What makes you think you are on the right side?

By the way, I note that you have been downvoted/flagged to oblivion. I only see your comment because I prefer to browse with 'showdead' enabled. So, you presumably post here because you like this forum, yet your peers think your comment was not worth anyone even _viewing_.

I think your comment was a coherent, good faith attempt to express a view. While I disagree with your view, I'd prefer people debate it with you rather than flag it away.

But how do you feel knowing that your view has been deemed to be net negative and harmful enough that no one should even view it?


It's not about what information is useful. It's controlling what information is bad/can be abused.

How do I feel about my comment being flagged? It's totally expected. This is a heavy technolibertarian site.

The idea that "things will just sort themselves out" in any field can never be questioned. Saying that maybe things should be a little bit controlled is always met with extreme cult like fervor. The current effects of status quo paradigms are never taken into consideration.

And because of this the term "free speech" has become a thought terminating cliche.

You apparently can't ever know what's right or wrong, or say what's good or bad.

What a terrible way to think.


Do you see the irony in your first sentence? Your concern about information isn't about it being useful but about it can be bad/abuseable? What you decry in "technolibertarians" you are for with censorship.

The same logic applies to both of them except information is a way more useful tool with less potential for abuse and has censorship has proven full of more bads. You complain of status quos and norms not being taken into consideration yet never think of the downsides of your "careful" approach which is actually recklessness driven by fear.

You can always attempt to validate claims that you hear that may be false. There is nothing that can be done to claims not heard and spread. And that is one hell of a camel's nose under the tent.

Abuse is all about the wielder anyway. To give up potential and put oneself in the position of much worse abusers because of "bad people might abuse it".


Just to be clear: you're arguing in favor of doxing/no-platforming/otherwise suppressing people who espouse 'ridiculous, harmful, or "bad"' ideas?

Leaving aside the issue of pre-judging which ideas fall into that bucket, what about the fallible targeting mechanisms of the mob? Do you think that what happened to the culture war thread was good and justified?


Where does "doxing" come into play? Why did you just whimsically group those together?

Feels like a bad faith question.


Because they were grouped together in the original article, as tactics Scott Alexander's detractors had employed against him in trying to silence the CW threads.


But I replied to the comment directly. So why would you think that original, not really congruent, grouping of concepts applies?


> Now you can present almost any idea, no matter how ridiculous, harmful, or "bad" it may be and there will most likely be audience.

Like anti-vax, or AGW denialism, or white supremacy, or flat-eartherism, or creationism, or trickle down economics . . .

Need I go on?


No need. It really says a lot about the linked article in question where the best arguments he had for debate were allowing Nazi view points and pedophiles.

He seemed kind of angry at other people for bringing it up as a way to demonstrate what he was doing was wrong but then turned around used those topics as an example of why his moderation and general platform were so great. Guess he can just have it both ways because.

It's nothing but pseudo-intellectual masturbation. The idea of meaningful debate is apparently more important than actually meaningfully debating something to people like the author of the article being linked. Anyone who apparently brings attention to the absurdity and uselessness (or sometimes harmfulness) of what he's doing is "just against him" or is just too morally disgusted to actually think about the topics. Which is actually kind of a funny view point when you think about it; he truly believes other people just don't "get it" which is the summary of the entire article.

It's arrogance and foolishness masquerading as an enterprise in advancing knowledge.


>It really says a lot about the linked article in question where the best arguments he had for debate were allowing Nazi view points and pedophiles.

WTF? Those were not the "best arguments he had for debate," he made it pretty clear that those were in fact his softest targets that his detractors could use to shut down debate. Which they accomplished.

I'm not saying I agree with Alexander's position, I usually have a lot of problems with anything he tags "things I will regret writing." But the one thing that's patently obvious about him from his writing, is his commitment to arguing the point even if it means straying into taboo topics that are much more easily avoided. As far as I can tell, that's sorta "the rationalists" _thing_. It's not my thing, but that doesn't mean I don't get what they're going for.

To characterize "allowing Nazi view points and pedophiles" as the _point_, rather than _an unfortunate consequence_ is an uncharitable take on their thing.


What did he 'do' specifically?

There was a thread specifically for politics, loosely associated with his name, and he didn't proactively ban enough people who you don't agree with?

(If you read the article, he didn't defend any Nazis. He said that he never saw any specifically Nazi content, yet a bunch of people, yourself now included, accused him of enabling it.)

Tolerance goes for people you disagree with, too. In fact, it's only actually tolerance when it applies to those you disagree with or don't like.


I don't agree with you, and I think your tone is harsher than it should be, but I don't think this comment merits being flagged to [dead].


I mean it was immediately set as [dead]. Not even 30 seconds after posting. Is that characteristic of a moderator action?


Software did that; your comment triggered a spam filter. Then a user came vouched for it, which is the intended use of vouching. Moderators didn't touch it.


How about this one? https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=0x54D5

(meaning: this isn't a super new account, why is it dead? I think I've been the one vouching for quite a few of the comments)


Possibly. Can you honestly complain?

You're upset that the SSC guy didn't aggressively moderate others, after all, when it wasn't even his job.. maybe there's a lesson here.


Nah I don't think a technolibertarian heavy site really has any lessons to offer on moderation or discussion. But you can't really go from [dead] to being able to view the post without moderator intervention in such a sort timespan I would think.

It's two separate things. Sorry to confuse the issues.

I know some of you desperately want there to be some moralistic lesson here. But it will never happen.

And to be perfectly clear, I'm never upset about moderation as long as it can be discussed. So don't get confused with generic talking points that no one is presenting.


The lesson is that it's about the quality of viewpoint rather than tribal allegiance.

I'm not even libertarian and I'm definitely not technolibertarian. I don't even know what that is, it sounds like "combine how dumb libertarians and tech people are about politics and economics".

Get out in your community if you really care. Prove your tolerance and appreciation of diversity by actually mixing with different kinds of people.


IF we say that its troubling in these days, then we are missing the many other signs that people have been yelling about for years now.

We were mistaken about humanity and the internet.

The process you describe is not necessarily how it happens either, simple error can recreate this scenario.

It is clear that the only tool moderators have at hand are variants of censorship - and thats because not all ideas are equal, and some ideas are better evolved to travel through the currents and dark gyres of the sea of human thoughts.


> We once envisioned the internet as a place of revolutionarily open discourse, where any idea under the sun could get posted somewhere and read, no matter how crazy or bad it seemed, with the worst ridiculed and dismissed, but still able to be read, and the best rising to the top.

Who is “we?” Who envisioned that? And who gave those people the right to speak for the rest of us?

Free speech exists within the framework of social norms. You can think and say what you want, but that doesn’t mean that you get to think and say what you want in your places of work, community, etc., without social consequences from other people. That’s a central part of the freedom of association—nobody has to let you say what you want in their spaces. Ostracizarion, shaming, and exclusion over speech, actions, and beliefs is a central and important part of constructing and maintaining the social fabric.

All that happened to the Internet is that it became civilized. And like every other area of civilized society, people imposed their social norms on it. Free speech still exists. Nothing is stopping you from setting up a web server and posting whatever (legal) thing you want. But nobody has to accommodate you and your thoughts in their spaces. And they are free to ostracize you for the things you believe or say.


The social norm under discussion here is exactly when and to what degree those ostracism campaigns ought to be waged.

If the answer is “never” we are going to see a lot of pedophilia, Nazism, and spam. If the answer is “whenever people disagree” then we are going to be a world of mutually unintelligible and isolated factions. The correct setpoint is an interesting and non-obvious question, and the limited scope of the First Amendment doesn’t answer it.


Yes, but that question has nothing to do with the Internet. The correct set point of that social norm is whatever it is in the rest of society, because the Internet (at least in the US) now includes almost everyone.

My point is that the folks that founded the Internet, even if they believed in techno libertarian ideas like that mentioned by OP (which I’m not sure is true—the Internet was built by a bunch of defense contractors at a very mainstream company), have no say in what the Internet should be like. It belongs to my mom and my six year old as much as anyone.


The dinner table, the subway, and debate club each have distinct social norms around which opinions one may state and what sort of appeals may be used in their support. Why shouldn't internet communities have their own?

SSC is basically hosting a grown-up, text based debate club. Even the version that 16-year-olds encounter will ask questions like affirmative action, immigration, abortion, church & state. Kids are required not only to listen quietly through, but to competently articulate opposing views on such topics.

The social norm proposed for the internet in campaigns like this is a narrower range of acceptable opinion than in officially sanctioned activities of regional federations of public high schools. There is more going on here than "sorry, no techno-anarchist utopia for you."


It sounds like you want to have an internet universally suitable for both your mom and your child, which is ludicrous - but I'm having a hard time understanding your point if that isn't what you're saying.


He's saying there's no attribute intrinsic to the Internet that demands sites and communities be free of social norms, and that when a community adopts broader social norms, they aren't betraying the Internet by doing so.

His analysis is value-neutral. He's not saying the SSC culture war thread, in its previous state, was good or bad. He's that the Internet itself doesn't require it to be one way or the other, and on that point he's obviously right.


I enjoyed the culture war thread. It was a place on the internet where there was a radical toleration of ideas, so long as they were given in good faith. Bans were frequent to those who broke the rules, and some ideas were morally repugnant. But when people made them, you were able to read a discussion, debate, and often refutation of their points, that focused mainly on ideas.

You had some weird people, with weird ideas, who found this to be a nice home. Often they were very smart, but had strange ideas on humanity, race, religion, politics, and knew they couldn't share them anywhere else. I, personally, enjoy trying to look through the world of all different types of filters.

In fact, I think it's important. While the mistakes of history are so obvious now, at the time plenty of smart and good people supported terrifying and cruel policies. The first step, in my opinion, to not making those mistakes, is to formulate a deep empathy for why they made them. For why you might have made the same mistake without the benefit of hindsight.

My best defense against this is to inoculate myself by reading and understanding a wide variety of strange ideas on the world.


What really hit home was this passage:

> I acknowledge many people’s lived experience that the thread felt right-wing; my working theory is that most of the people I talk to about this kind of thing are Bay Area liberals for whom the thread was their first/only exposure to a space with any substantial right-wing presence at all, which must have made it feel scarily conservative.

I moved from Western Washington where I grew up to the Bay area. I lived in a liberal area in WA, but conservatives existed and more importantly were visible. The congressional district I lived in flipped between Republican and Democrat twice while I was a kid. Some of my parents friends made cases for conservative viewpoints, and in retrospect I really respect my father encouraging me to listen even if I didn't agree.

When I moved to the Bay area it felt like I stepped into a world where conservatives might as well be foreigners, or even a different species given the way some people talk about them. Even though I usually agree with the positions they hold, I've become alienated from much of my co workers by the way they openly express disdain for conservatives in a way that demonstrates a clear lack of experience in talking with people on a different end of the political spectrum as normal people. It's jarring to see people simultaneously patting themselves on the back for being inclusive and welcoming at the same time as they exhibit disdain for half the country.

I also worry that this is a positive feedback loop of exclusion. Fewer non-left people join Bay area tech companies because of the liberal monoculture. Then the liberal monoculture becomes stronger as there are fewer people calling out ways in which the company is being exclusive towards non-liberals, this leading to an even bigger monoculture, and so forth.

It's probably the second biggest thing that is makinge consider moving away from the Bay Area, after cost of living. Sure, I prefer to hav mostly like-minded (liberal) friends, but consider this: in close to a decade of living and about 6 years working in the Bay area I have met exactly one co-worker that openly expressed conservative views. I just don't think that kind of extreme political segregation is healthy.


I have determined that I am far too liberal for Alabama, yet too conservative for California_SFO.

The feedback loop of exclusion works for a lot of monocultures. They just have to be offensively fanatic about something, and the zeal will drive out anyone foolishly moderate enough to disagree.

If you wouldn't enjoy assigning the Christian apostles to football team positions, you will feel like an alien somewhere. If you think veganism is nonsense from both ethical and nutritional stances, you will feel like an alien somewhere.

The ideological monocultures have to be intentionally upset, or they progress into self-reinforcing shielded bubbles, that are even tougher to crack.

I'd like to be able to live somewhere that I might hear people discussing open borders at the gun range, or misogyny at the gym, or military budgets at the coffee shop. I'm sick of people suffering "downvoted for disagreement" in real life. It's like the awful clique-caste system from high school has metastasized into (un)civil adult society, and no one can eat at anyone else's lunch table anymore.


>I'd like to be able to live somewhere that I might hear people discussing open borders at the gun range, or misogyny at the gym, or military budgets at the coffee shop.

There's a gun range in the Santa Cruz mountains that's about a 20 minute drive from downtown Mountain View where I've had just those types of conversations. I had a discussion on military budgets, with sailors, in a bar in SF months back during Fleet Week. I literally had a conversation about misogyny at the gym with my friend today, because for once we were outnumbered by women there.

I think SF is an ideological monoculture in that you aren't really allowed to be racist or misogynistic or homophobic here, sure. But you're certainly allowed to be conservative in the "old" sense of the word. Tons of the new rich here are.


Problem is, relatively benign viewpoints are labelled as racist, misogynistic or homophobic when they aren't. And it's done in an effort to silence "undesirable" opinions.

What I've noticed the most about SF are it's inhabitants being shocked (shocked!) to learn that people have views different than them. It's as if their entire world ends at the city limits.


I think it's interesting to see all the people talking about the Bay Area here. I've never done anything but pass through California, and yet I tend to mostly share the views of these "liberal" Bay Area folks. I grew up in southern Virginia.

You should remember that we're not all from the Bay Area.


If you've "never done anything but pass through California" then you should probably refrain from saying that you share the Bay Area views.

For example many people in my workplace will genuinely call you racist if you say "employment decisions should not be made on the basis of race or gender." Threats of violence towards Trump voters varying degrees of subtlety are made on public channels with no apparent repercussions, and these were positively received by much of the company.

Are these views and behavior that you agree with? Sure most liberals probably agree with Bay area liberals on national issues, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.


Keep in mind that gun ranges are not at all representative of the average Bay area resident. Sure I met some conservatives at Los Altos rod and gun club.

I also dispute that people are free to be conservative in an "old" sense - whatever that is meant to mean. The majority of conservatives have and continue to believe in:

* Opposition to same sex marriage.

* Opposition to abortion.

* Support for more rigorous immigration enforcement.

* Oppose affirmative action.

Among other things. All of these things are things that would be socially unacceptable in much of the Bay Area, and employees are probably committing career suicide if they do espouse these views. Sure, people can rationalize this by saying that these political views are misogynistic or racist. But if a group constructs a definition of racism, homophobia, or misogyny that categorizes mainstream conservative views as such, then saying "you aren't allowed to be misogynistic or homophobic" is functionally the same thing as saying "you aren't allowed to be conservative."

All of these are traditionally conservative views. In fact today's conservatives are actually more accepting of gay marriage and other things than they were in the past, so I'm especially confused at what you meant by conservative "in the 'old' sense of the word."


This is one of my favorite things about living in a (literally) inside-the-Beltway suburb of DC. The local governments are far enough left that I'm afforded civil rights protections, but the overall culture is accepting of a range of viewpoints. It helps that most of the zealots (of all stripes) are inherently political transients here, who come and go with the electoral cycle.


I’m also inside the beltway, and indeed, my first reaction to that comment was “come to the DC area!”

As a bonus, a lot of the people are actually involved in the process somehow, so the discussion is a lot less abstract and theoretical than usual.


One of those books-that-would-be-a-fantastic-long-essay is "The Big Sort," it tackles this exact problem.

Modern life actually seems to be driving people into micro-cultures, rather than bringing people with different beliefs together.


You'd be fine in Southern California and any major city in Texas.


> in close to a decade of living and about 6 years working in the Bay area I have met exactly one co-worker that openly expressed conservative views.

In my experience in the bay area, it's very rare for co-workers to express political views at all. In fact, I find the bay area to be very politically reserved compared to the open embrace of conservative viewpoints where I'm from (I probably lean more conservative than liberal, so I don't think I'm simply being more sensitive to it).

I have encountered people that aggressively espouse liberal positions every now and then, but in my experience, this makes most other people around them (including me) uncomfortable, and the conversation usually stops quickly. While it is maybe more rare for a conservative to do this, I find it to be met with the same response.


> I have encountered people that aggressively espouse liberal positions every now and then, but in my experience, this makes most other people around them (including me) uncomfortable, and the conversation usually stops quickly. While it is maybe more rare for a conservative to do this, I find it to be met with the same response.

I had the same experiences in Western Washington, but I get the feeling that much fewer people feel empowered to step in and stop the situation where people espouse controversial viewpoints in a manner denigrating to those that believe differently. So people who do aggressively espouse controversial viewpoints think this behavior is acceptable. This does have tangible impact beyond slack and email lists. Our company has made several decisions that many would regard unethical or at least unsavory, and I think there's a strong probability that if there was less of a mono culture someone would have pointed out that these things went beyond the realm of mainstream morals.

Granted, I'm totally complicit in this bystander effect. I don't want to risk any damage to career or network opportunities. The concerning takeaway, though, is that fact that this is an environment that engenders fear in people who try to


I'm from the midwest, and the thread seemed consistently right-wing and reactionary to me. I don't encounter people with... let's be charitable and call it "controversial" politics like those of the typical Culture War Thread poster in my day-to-day life, so what exactly does Scott think is an appropriate contrast to the liberal bubble he thinks dominates west coast tech culture? East Texas? A Trump rally?


I scanned the thread a bit and can second this. I am originally from Ohio the type and extremity of right wing ideas present there seemed far to the right of anything typical in the midwest. There are KKK types and similar in Ohio of course but they're pretty extreme outliers in most areas, especially anywhere near a city or a college.

I agree that SF is a special kind of bubble, but I do think there's been an explosion of shockingly extreme right-wing thinking on the Internet in recent years... really since about 2008-2012 as near as I can tell.


After reading a few of the articles in the new sub, if that is far-right then far-right has a very different definition to the one being popularized.

Take this one that has two relative high voted threads and was at the top for a while: https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/comments/at8cuq/the_orches...


[flagged]


The linked article can be summerized into a few word sentence: The p-value of a famous study, cited by researchers and media, is claimed to be 0.33.

I am completely amazed that from there you interpret biological determinism, leading to red pill, leading to nazi worship, and finally landing at the far-right. I guess that answer my question why people think it is far-right, while my own definition of far-right is no where near that.


On further thought I think it is this:

I question the motives of anyone who invests a lot of their time in the debate and discussion of the merits of various metrics for ranking the value of human beings unless they are on the skeptic side. Generally those who argue for even tangentially defend stereotypes or or metrics that can be used to a priori rank people by quality of meat are at the very least flirting with some kind of totalitarian elitism.

Perhaps this is hypersensitivity and overreaction, but I am not sure. I have studied human history. The instant the camel of a priori anonymous judgement of other people gets its nose under the tent, literal hell on Earth follows. Every single time.

I do not believe humans are all (physically) equal, but I do believe that it is important to treat people that way by default and to absolutely reject the aggregates-to-individuals fallacy here. That kind of reverse projection of statistics is always problematic or downright erroneous, but here it is also toxic and evil. Save biases from MTBF statistics for hard drives or other inanimate objects. (Even there it is problematic!)

Since you can't go from aggregate to individual with humans, what is the value of defending potential means of doing so?


There is so much to reply to in that comment.

Judging a community based on perceived motives rather than words and action is prime ground for problem. For example the Feminism movement is often being accused of misandry, while men's right movement is accused of misogyny. This make it is impossible for those two groups to have a conversation about eliminating stereotypes or that people should be treated as if all was equal, even if both groups share the exact same goal and only differ on how to reach it.

Going back to this study however, from a practical perspective all that a bad p value means is that there is a need to replicate the study if we still want to reference it. That is what the null hypothesis means. The data is indistinguishable from a random processes. The theory that blind auditioning is beneficial to women could still be valid, but this study doesn't really say anything to make it true or false.

If its not clear, I do very much believe that humans are all equal. Even from a gene perspective the difference are tiny and influence only a few minor traits. From listening to professors in neuro science and primatologists, it is a repeating pattern that where we thought there were biological difference between men and women that caused specific behavior, when tested it usually show that it almost always is caused by cultural factors. For example, men are not more prone to violence then women. Their higher physical strength and cultural preference to using their hands results in statistically higher damage, but the incident rates when studies tend to show identical numbers for men and women. While I have not seen a study to show it, I would expect to see the same result in regard to nursing and parenting. Breastfeeding causes a initial bias where women will statistically spend more time with the child, but beyond that it is all cultural.


I used to be far more optimistic about this issue and our ability to discuss it. Seeing the explosion of online fascist and racist rhetoric since 2015 or so, the mass conversion of huge numbers of my peers (the "hacker" community) into these belief systems, and things like the Charlottesville rally with men carrying tiki torches chanting "Jews will not replace us" has changed my mind completely.

I do believe that differences between groups of people and genders exist. The science is quite strong, though obviously there is quite a lot of debate possible around just how strong these effects are and how malleable these characteristics can be.

Unfortunately I have also come to believe (based on observing trends like those I listed above) that our society is absolutely not ready to discuss this openly. Not even close. Research in this area should be borderline encrypted in dense absolutely clinical and neutral rhetoric, should be discussed in private scientist-only forums, and should never be given a "pop science" treatment. (Most pop science gets everything wrong anyway regardless of the subject.) Any repeatable study reliably showing evidence for some systematic group difference among humans that has any strong social, political, or economic implication should be treated the way we treat exact buildable plans for a hydrogen bomb. Such things are classified for a reason. The destructive yield could be similar.

As I said I was once more optimistic. Recent trends (and not just in the United States) have changed my mind. Some individual people can face these things and discuss them rationally, but society as a whole is not ready and exposing everyone to this discussion is tantamount to posting a simple recipe for a biological WMD to Facebook. That too would be just fine if we as a human race were much saner, wiser, and more mature.

I think the ultimate reason this issue is so hard is that inequality is in my opinion the darkest aspect of the human condition. Inequality is worse than death. Death is something we all face and it only happens once, but the inequality is by definition unequal and those cursed by a bad hand from the genetic lottery die every day. The placement of sentient consciousness by nature into unequal vessels is such a horror that it triggers us all and inspires every kind of defensive emotional reaction, including of course a desire to hate and discriminate against those that might seem less fit than ourselves to hide from ourselves knowledge of the bad cards in our own genetic poker hand. The majority of the human race can face death, but it seems that the majority of the human race is not emotionally ready to face the greater horror of inequality.


> unless they are on the skeptic side.

...Consider that the orchestra post that triggered these last couple replies is the skeptic side.

> Since you can't go from aggregate to individual with humans, what is the value of defending potential means of doing so?

I'm not sure this is going to follow, since I'm not sure this more-general question is still based on the orchestra study, but if so: That's not the point of focusing on stuff like it. The point is specifically to debunk claims of institutionalized sexism/etc that get taken at face value.


You seem to be entrenched in the position that the only possible reason why someone would want to study population level differences is to justify some sort of racist or otherwise evil agenda. There are plenty of reasons to do so, and more broadly I take issue with the notion that there needs to be any justification for expanding our understanding of the universe.

Take for example the disparity in prison populations between women and men. If we believe that there are no differences in behavior or tendencies between the sexes (and a large number of people do), then it would be fair to conclude that our justice system is exhibiting blatant sexism against men. Around 80-90% of prisoners are men. This is very far from equality of outcome; one sex is around an order of magnitude more likely to be a prisoner.

But there is a strong body of evidence to suggest that even absent any discrimination differences such as these will likely exist. Men exhibit higher levels of aggression and risk tolerance. These patterns exhibit themselves relatively uniformly throughout all societies regardless of development levels, cultural trends, etc. If we did not perform this kind of population level analysis then society may have tried to balance our prison population with bad policy that tries to engineer an equality of outcome when there is no reason to expect equality of outcome.

Is the above "flirting with some idea of totalitarian elitism"? Are we "ranking the value of human beings" by concluding that men are more likely to get incarcerated even in non-discriminatory systems? I think it'd be ridiculous to say yes. And if using population level analysis to justify a 10 to one disparity in prisoners is justified, then it's also justified to use population level analysis to reach the conclusion that, say, a 5 to 1 disparity in tech jobs can be reached without discrimination.

On the note of "ranking the value of human beings", plenty of people in my workplace would agree with your statements. But then they'd turn around and engage in the very practice you describe. For instance, at our recruiting events we give each candidate a star if they're black, Hispanic, or female. If they're an Asian male they get an "ND" which stands for "negative diversity". Whether a resume has two, one, zero starts, or an "ND" is used when determining which to include in our candidate search. We're ranking the value of human beings explicitly, on the basis of our own political ideology.


I actually mentioned the Klan in my comment above too, originally, but removed it for fear the mods would consider it flamebait. However, I'm not sure folks here on HN are really aware of exactly how unpalatable (to most people) the contents of the Culture War Thread often were.


I'm pretty lefty. There are certainly some commenters who are aggressively towards the alt-right. There is a much larger groups that is more conservative than most people I know personally. There are a lot of people who I would call liberal. And a few who comment mostly from a social justice perspective.

If you don't normally talk to very right wing folks in your normal life (I certainly don't), you are going to read things you would consider shocking. They don't appear to me to be anywhere near a majority.

For those who would like to form their own opinion, here is a link to the current thread:

https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/comments/artngn/culture_wa...


I think the key thing people aren't accounting for is the displacement of conversations. There's probably a highly elevated rate of conversations about topics people can't express in person.

Regardless of people's opinions of the threads, there's still the discrepancy between most people characterizing the thread as right wing when in reality the majority of participants were left leaning.

There's studies that show that people on either extremes of the political spectrum are more likely to see centrist or even moderates on the same side as being on the opposite side of the political spectrum. I see a lot of that happening in the Bay Area. Things like setting up more restrictive hiring flows for white and Asian men is taken for granted in much of the Bay Area when such policies are pretty controversial in much of the country. On the flip side, mainstream conservative views like support for restrictions on abortion is essentially unheard of.

I'm sure there are conservative places that are analogues to the Bay area on the other end of the political scale. But that doesn't make it any less of a concern to me.


>I agree that SF is a special kind of bubble, but I do think there's been an explosion of shockingly extreme right-wing thinking on the Internet in recent years... really since about 2008-2012 as near as I can tell.

As far as I can tell, the explosion in extreme right-wing ideology on the internet has come from the "special kind of bubble". The San Francisco Bay and the Boston activist-academic sphere breed ultra-reactionaries like pretty much nothing else, because they teach you to take Poe's Law as a standard of politics: no matter how much it sounds like a parody by the enemy tribe, you really can find someone purporting to be at the ideological vanguard of your tribe going to exactly the extremes you think would be a step too far.

In a related matter, as a matter of fact, today the noted Marxist journal Teen Vogue printed an article explaining that Bernie Sanders is overtly reactionary on identity politics, including an accusation that Sanders supports "settler-colonialism" (it's a tweet, of course), and Vox pulled a damn similar move on Elizabeth Warren a week or two ago.

The far-right bases itself on agreeing to many of the most toxic frames the far-left has, and then taking the other side. The far-left does exactly the inverse. It mostly just depends which side has "their" mainstream party in office at the moment -- the one out of power, builds a new extremist ideology based on their opposite. It would be easy to say, oh, that's ridiculous, I reject those premises and those frames, but then you find your own fellow-travelers affirming them.


> I agree that SF is a special kind of bubble, but I do think there's been an explosion of shockingly extreme right-wing thinking on the Internet in recent years... really since about 2008-2012 as near as I can tell.

I think you can attribute that seeming explosion (at least in part) to people suppressing moderate conservatives, who then have a choice between becoming enlightened classical liberals and bearing the cost of that path in social isolation, or joining the more extreme people where they've been banished to (which, for its moral hazards, is a hell of a lot more fun, and a lot less depressing).

These people are not beyond help, but if you keep suppressing them, they will become more entrenched in the underground and the fringes, and they will become as fragile and bigoted as the academic marxists and intersectionalists who inhabit the same sorts of places on the far left.

The high road takes a lot of fortitude when you are a social progressive who is seen as willing to hear and integrate good conservative arguments. Libel, vandalism, and assault are rampant against people visibly associated with conservatives, at least, they have been where I've lived (in southern Ontario).


I haven't seen a lot of active suppression of right wing views other than the more numerous liberals having more bodies to throw at arguments. If the tables were turned and liberal ideas were less popular than conservative ideas then by human nature we'd likely see the same kinds and amount of individual attacks.

It already happens in right wing enclaves. I've been banned from multiple conservative subreddits for making reasonable centrist arguments that conservatives historically agreed with or asking questions that stir the pot in a gentle way. On Facebook and Twitter I get people responding with ad hominems to arguments which are not liberal but which do not toe the current Republican party line. Also, someone was arrested the other day for seriously plotting to murder a bunch of popular Democratic politicians. The grass is not greener, in other words.

I have not attempted to engage on many other forums but it seems to me that arguing outside the local groupthink is what makes people angry, more than any particular ideology being the driver. Angry people do stupid things. If you're in the minority party locally, you might feel oppressed even if you could go to the next town over and feel right at home.


Yeah in my experience it is more conservatives (mostly fundamentalists) who have a persecution complex about it. Which is very differently from those who are or were persecuted.

One brings it out and up everywhere as self-justification as they aren't actually being persecuted haven't tweaked their behaviors from even negative receptions. One may call them drama llamas trenchantly but more charitably it is identity based instead of experience based.

The other is met with far more guarded pessimism and even with angry backlash tends to be in "friendlier" spaces or stressed. It is more confided than presented usually, more angry than righteous. Actually some degree of trauma territory.

These are individual situations based on experiences fundamentally. Ironic inversions of the typical and coexistence of "real" and "fake" persecution behaviors are possible.


I really, really wish I got a penny every time I get accused of wanting to censor conservatives simply because I criticized them.


Nicky Case & Vi Hart have a model "Parable of the Polygons", which relates to what you're saying. https://ncase.me/polygons/


Honestly, Bay Area is like >50% recent immigrants. I think a lot of the problem arise because we ascribe the American label of "conservative" and "liberal" to a population who grew up in a very different society. A lot of behaviors that we assign to conservatives and liberals do not line up that way in other societies. For example, in Europe, the far right has very little interest in free markets, and has policy goals that are perhaps more common with the far left. In Asia, you will find deeply religious parties (e.g., BJP) who at the same time are pro-science and climate change. Also, a lot of recent immigrants in the Bay Area "escaped" deeply culturally conservative societies where freedom of sexuality is unheard of and really appreciate the tolerance that is in the fabric of Bay Area culture. So, in that sense, yes, it would seem to be a mono culture here of "liberals", but if you dig deeper the layers are not that simple.


BJP is pro science? https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/28/indian-prime-m...

Sure Modi is just an individual, but the BJP elected him to office.


I hear what you're saying, and as a Texan, I feel like I understand your viewpoint. I've got thoughts on the issue too, having lived in the Bay area for a couple years now. Mostly they revolve around this point:

>half the country.

I disagree that half the country is conservative. I was put onto this idea by Michael Moore actually, who argued that if you run the surveys, turns out most Americans support liberal values. This article is a good summary: https://prospect.org/article/most-americans-are-liberal-even...

> 82 percent of Americans think wealthy people have too much power and influence in Washington.

> 59 percent favor raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour.

> 78 percent of likely voters favor establishing a national fund that offers all workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

> 60 percent of Americans believe “it is the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage.”

> 60 percent of registered voters favor “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.”

> 58 percent of the public favors replacing Obamacare with “a federally funded healthcare program providing insurance for all Americans.”

> 63 percent of registered voters—including 47 percent of Republicans—of Americans favor making four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free.

> 76 percent of voters are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about climate change.

> 84 percent of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

> 60 percent of Americans believe the recent killings of black men by police are part of a broader pattern of how police treat black Americans (compared with 39 percent who believe they are isolated incidents).

I could go on. The point is, a true conservative is somewhat of a minority in America, and also, a "conservative" isn't what one might think. There are probably a lot of people in the Bay Area that believe they are liberals but are actually conservatives - tons of self-described libertarians here, for example, whose opinions on the invisible hand and free market I would argue are conservative.

Then, there's the "modern conservative" - the MAGA hat wearer that thinks Mexicans are taking their jobs, but are also somehow draining tax money by illegally being on welfare. The racists, the homophobes the ones that believe bullying is a valid "treatment" for the "disease" of transgenderism. The ones for whom "conservatism" isn't so much a political belief as an ethical one - "we need a conservative judge to prevent abortions, and if he's a misogynist so be it, it's for the Greater Good." These people aren't necessarily "alien," but their thought process in 2019 is, especially compared to the rest of the world.

I think the world as a whole is becoming more rational. I think more people are getting good educations. In a rational world, racism and homophobia and all the things that are "scarily conservative" just don't jive. There's no good arguments for it. It's the Mexicans are taking our jobs and our tax money at the same time thinking - totally irrational, totally incompatible.

> I have met exactly one co-worker that openly expressed conservative views

If "conservative views" means "government should spend less," I think SF could use more people like that, for god's sake just look up the budget for Van Ness improvements. The existence of opposition would help cases like that.

But if "conservative views" means "gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry," fuck'm, why would you want someone like that around? How does that "help the public discourse?" How does exposure to that viewpoint help anyone? "Free speech?" I don't buy it.


You're essentially trying to say, "we're tolerant of all views except for those that are morally wrong." There's nothing tolerant about that. If that's your definition of tolerance, then Saudi Arabia and mainland China are tolerant countries - they just have different views of morality.


I never used the word tolerant but on that note, I don't think morally wrong views should be tolerated.

What are morals is the obvious counterpoint and that's fine - I'm not arguing people should be jailed for it, or physically harmed. I'm saying the worse that should happen to a racist is that they are ignored. We aren't China, in that sense.


Sounds to me that your views could be summed up most closely as "socially liberal, fiscally/economically conservative". This is a viewpoint I see most often among the oft-mocked libertarians.

This is probably the biggest problem with our two-party system: Most people land similarly to you and I, as shown by the specific-issue poll earlier, but neither of the two major parties really fall that way, making people choose based on the issue(s) they deem most important.


>This is probably the biggest problem with our two-party system: Most people land similarly to you and I,

According to most opinion polls I've seen that actually cluster people along these dimensions, about 3% of Americans are "socially liberal, fiscally conservative".


"In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance."

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


I don't know what your message is meant to be in citing this, but this quote does not at all support rejecting and excluding people who espouse beliefs that one considers morally reprehensible - quite the opposite. From the page you linked:

> In a 1997 work, Michael Walzer asked, "Should we tolerate the intolerant?" He notes that most minority religious groups who are the beneficiaries of tolerance are themselves intolerant, at least in some respects. In a tolerant regime, such people may learn to tolerate, or at least to behave "as if they possessed this virtue"

Substitute "religious group" with "political group", and the same applies. If you ostracize and reject people who hold views you find reprehensible then you're relinquishing your best opportunity to change them. If the surrounding community rejects them, then these rejected people will commiserate with like minded people and probably become more extreme and vengeful of society.

"Intolerant of intolerance" refers just as much to the intolerance for different worldviews and values that we harbor within ourselves as it does to the intolerance we sometimes witness in others.


that's a deceptive semantic conflation (i.e., poor logic; a bad idea). tolerance is for the person, not the idea (e.g., morals). ideas neither need nor deserve "tolerance". many ideas don't even deserve attention, let alone esteem or support.

for example: "i believe that wild bengal tiger will come lick my feet and cough up whole, live bunnies for me to cuddle." bad idea. doesn't deserve any tolerance whatsoever.

people, even those holding poor morals or beliefs, deserve tolerance, because they can change and adopt better morals or beliefs, particularly through experience.


> that's a deceptive semantic conflation (i.e., poor logic; a bad idea). tolerance is for the person, not the idea (e.g., morals). ideas neither need nor deserve "tolerance". many ideas don't even deserve attention, let alone esteem or support.

That's true, but then you need to set up judicable public standards for how to rule on which ideas are good and which are bad. Since most of "liberal" or "free" society is based on refusing to institutionalize morality outside fairly specific civil guidelines, this kind of society is, well, as many people have pointed out, largely incompatible with and unprepared for the challenge of systematically and publicly telling the difference between right and wrong.


it's understandable to want such a commonly-shared standard, but that's not necessary (i'd even contend it's not desirable, for a robust and resiliant society).

we already codify ideas, test them, rank them, and modify or discard them through academic, religious, political, commercial, and social organizations. it's a dynamic system, not a (slowly-built) static one.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice". - MLK Jr. (paraphrasing theodore parker apparently, which i just learned =)


If you can't appeal to a codified standard, I see no reason you should be allowed to exercise authority over others.


I can only describe Scott as a paragon of intellectual honesty and a true proponent of fair and unbiased discourse. So it saddens me to see him [partially] silenced by trolls and people who are dishonestly pushing their agendas.

I can imagine how many discussions and people have been silenced in a similar manner, especially when things are more muddled.


+1, I don't always agree with him but I don't think there's another blogger who can touch him for niceness, thought-provokingness, and intellectual courage. He's like a walking, talking manifestation of the HN submission/commenting policy.

(For anyone who's just learning about him, there's a "About/Top Posts" on the top menu. He's probably most well-known for writing on contentious political topics with unusual civility and insight, but he also has a ton of stuff on psychiatry (how various psychiatric drugs work, analyses of drug studies he does/doesn't agree with, etc) and on science generally that's quite useful, e.g. https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-... )


That's a great article, thanks! I'll have to read more of his stuff.


"Fourth, I want anybody else trying to host “the national conversation” to have a clear idea of the risks. If you plan to be anything less than maximally censorious, consider keeping your identity anonymous, and think about potential weak links in your chain (ie hosts, advertisers, payment processors, etc). I’m not saying you necessarily need to go full darknet arms merchant. Just keep in mind that lots of people will try to stop you, and they’ve had a really high success rate so far."

Someone from the commentor community here should do a historical study on censorship like this (not exactly like this, of course, since the internet didn’t exist) under representative governments. Is it rare or unprecedented for voters to polarize into two tribes that will not communicate without the state falling into civil war? Or is it common and just feels like a coming civil war because we haven’t lived a large enough sample size?


Be careful what you wish for: it's a good book, but an unnerving read: http://peterturchin.com/ages-of-discord/

iron0013 28 days ago [flagged]

Which government is censoring people?


I didn't see the claim that there was one. Are you replying to the right comment?


As to the "no comments section" policies, I'm gonna be honest: I don't blame them one bit. No one owes anyone a platform, and considering how easy and cheap it is to host your own content, why should anyone be forced to broadcast someone else's opinion?

The truth of the matter is there are more trolls these days - see especially "The Card Says Moops" (https://youtu.be/xMabpBvtXr4) as to one reason why. If you say "get your own website and post there" it raises the bar just enough that trolls won't do it. I think this is a good thing.

Note that I am firmly in favor of Net Neutrality and carriers (eg ISPs, registrars, etc) banned from having tiers or otherwise hampering access. What I oppose is people crying censorship when big name sites kick out the despicables. As I pointed out above, anyone can get a website and domain name.


> As I pointed out above, anyone can get a website and domain name.

I wish this were true, but I don't think it is anymore.

If you post or host anything remotely controversial, expect to have your site DoS'd off the internet. How can that be avoided? Well, mostly through the help of one of the big boys (Cloudflare, Google Project Shield, etc). What happens if they decide you're a despicable, e.g. Stormfront? You're pretty much SOL.

Sure, there are plenty of other mitigation services, but they generally get pricey - not only pricey, but asymmetrically pricey. When your detractors know that they can burn through your war chest by expending a fraction of what you lose, that's clearly an unsustainable position.

The same is true for DNS. When every registrar can be pressured into denying you service, you don't have a lot of recourse.

That's not to mention the well-worn argument that, in a hypothetical era where the vast majority of traffic is via one of the big name sites, going off on your own is basically analogous to having your soapbox relocated from Hyde Park to the industrial wastelands. Are you still technically able to speak publicly? Sure, but the original intent of protections on speech is nowhere to be found.

I don't have an answer to the subsequent question of what to do about it, beyond supporting decentralized technologies. That's a tough one. What I do know is that the idea that anyone is able to provide their own platform if deemed undesirable may be comforting, but doesn't really hold up.


With the way corporate control of the internet is further consolidated every single day, I fully expect (and hope for) a parallel mesh internet to be established, completely open source based, no corporate or business interests involved.

As the DRM and content filtering noose tightens, it becomes more and more annoying to be a freely moving and freely acting person online. Encrypted channels on the current internet are only a stopgap measure, far too many people have their traffic sniffed by proxy servers and the like, if not outright spyware on their devices or in their routers.

I envision a global mesh network, built on open standards, fully encrypted, resilient against DDOSing and similar attacks, with no central control, no central points of failure, an uninhibited flow of information, for the people, by the people. Warts and all.


The thread wasn't banned off of reddit though, just his site and subreddit. So no such issues here.

Otherwise I agree with worrying about the big platforms, though for I dont think stormfront would be the case to be upset about. We need net neutrality, then user controlled social media based on open source and probably federated. At that point users can decide what to let onto their feed.


Scott isn't blaming them for shutting down comments either, in fact Scott is also shutting down comments. Scott is blaming them for not being truthful about the reason they shut down comments.


>> anyone can get a website and domain name.

Except they can't. The outrage brigades come after the registrars and the hosting services and the payment processors and anyone else they can coerce into compliance. A few platforms have survived this process (...so far...) and are thriving, but joe schmoe will get disappeared in no time at all.


The idea of capturing the best commentary from that thread really stuck out to me. It would be great to do some kind of annual anthology, internet-wide. The best insights rounded up, year after year. You could break it down by topics or region, and publish each year.

The historical value of something like that would be really excellent, as time goes on. You could really capture the mood of each society for a given year or time period, in a very accessible way for future generations.

I'd read the everloving crap out of that.


This is a long piece.

I am submitting it because particularly the second section, about comment moderation, seems to have wide-reaching implications for tech and conversations.


Thank you; it was quite illuminating.


I think the internet is just an awful place to have a "national discussion" honestly. Arguments you encounter are not representative of opinions actual people hold, both because of bad faith internet trolls & because of vocal minorities. I think people have started learning this, which is why so few people care about social media censorship and the lack of open debates on the internet. Most people have probably had enough 30 comment threads with trolls on facebook to not give a shit about internet debate by now.

Nowadays if I want a good debate or a debate on a truly controversial topic, I would only do so in a closed chat room with people I know. The internet is only for advertising my opinion rather than debating it, although I am as guilty as anyone of occasionally getting derailed into a full argument.


In my experience, actually having conversations about meaningful and controversial subjects is impolite and a good way to lose friends.

At least on the internet, the other party can just stop talking when they're done. They won't feel like they're cutting off or abandoning a friend.


If you can't have conversations and even discussions about meaningful or controversial subjects with your friends, I would say they were never actually your friends.

I am friends with some people whom I wildly disagree with on a number of subjects, especially politics. But we have common ground in shared interests (music and whisky), and we use that as a basis for civilized discussion. We might disagree wildly and be political "enemies", but we are still more alike than we are different.


I have some friends I can talk about anything with.

I have some friends that aren't capable of doing that, at least not with me. If I expect my friends to be perfect, I'm not a very good friend.


That's exactly what I mean, it goes both ways. If you can't respect each other, either one or both of you aren't an actual friend.


I can respect someone and consider them a friend without discussing, for example, my sex life with them. It's not a matter of respect necessarily. Sometimes it's propriety. Sometimes it's disinterest. Sometimes it's insensitive to dig into certain subjects with that particular person. Sometimes it's a time when they have bigger needs than I do and I'd rather not focus on my problems when I'm around them.

There is such a thing as discretion. It is healthy. Even with friends.


Well, I know which friends are comfortable talking about what. It's usually still over the internet too.


I think part of the reason for this is just the period of dislocation that we're living in. I mean if the culture war thread was around in 1967 what kind of things do you think you'd find in it? It would have been much worse than what people write today. 7000 buildings burned in the city of Detroit and the president had to send in the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions to put down the rioting. What would those people have said on reddit? Now, things are changing again, and people are dividing into camps. In other words I think that the external situation is driving the online discourse rather than the other way around.


What happened here is that people who have "extreme" opinions have found a platform to express them, and people tend to remember or focus on the outliers instead of the nuance (hence skewed perception). Whereas some or most within inside the community learned to listen to each other and respect having different opinions on controversial matters, outsiders did not respect this, and actively harassed a leader of the community (moderator) in a campaign for change (getting rid of the community).

Having been a moderator in multiple communities, I know a sure way to burn out is to be one. It is also a perfect way to get rid of your opponent: suggest they become a moderator. I've been burned by that multiple times. I still moderate communities, and I'm good at it (also because of my background, e.g. technical; other people have other qualities), but only small ones. Even if it has exactly the same signal-to-noise ratio as a large community, you end up with less noise and therefore it takes less time. People know each other better.

A very good (but specific) analogy comes to my mind: World of Warcraft. Nowadays, you can swap your character to another server (called "realm") and faction (red being Horde, blue being Alliance), etc. Back in the days of early WoW (Vanilla and TBC) you invested in your character and were therefore bound to realm & faction. These were relatively small worlds where different guilds (akin to "clans" or "teams") existed. People knew each other because of the size; akin to a small town with communities. Fast forward post TBC and you had the later expansions where with the click of a button people were in a group of random players of the same faction (regardless of realm). Playing together with 4 or 24 strangers whom you will likely never meet again. This decreased the relevance of reputation among peers and allowed for so-called toxic behaviour.

WoW is just one simulation of that phenomenon (for which I don't know the name). I'd say the problem, summed up, is that people get away with harassment on the Internet because of the sheer anonymity/pseudonymity and physical distance.


This is a really over the top one sided presentation.

The thread being mourned was continually full of really shockingly horrible stuff. Straight faced technobabble laden arguments for genocide and such. A reliable go-to for "oh-shit,-humanity-is-screwed" porn.

It was impossible to tell how much of it was actually awful people earnestly advancing awful ideas vs screwed up performance art with people intentionally posting the worst stuff they could think of just for shock value or to mock the fact that participants there responded so embarrassingly to so much of it. ... but I don't think that is a defense of it at all, it's an indictment.

I had previously believed (and people who knew Scott personally lead me to believe...) that the thread was created as a tarpit for trolls and people with absurdly repugnant views to waste each others time in a place where other people could ignore it-- rather than these discussions invading every other thread and making them useless to the majority of people who want nothing to do with that stuff-- who feel they morally can't just sit and pretend its okay to advance horrible policies but also don't want to waste their lives rehashing ethical arguments that most people considered settled a century ago. The "designated crap thread" approach is sometimes more effective than punting the sources outright (and also less harmful to false positives)...

This post strongly indicates otherwise and is causing me a vertigo inducing shift in how I perceive the author and his community.

I couldn't be more disappointed. And I'm only left hoping that the support of that toxicity expressed in Scott's post is an emotional retaliation to the despicable harassment he reported experiencing ... rather than an earnest position.

I feel like a lot of the HN commentary is essentially unrelated to the actual 'event' -- The 'deplatforming' trend is concerning... but that doesn't really tell us much about this particular venue. Especially since it continues to exist and hasn't in fact, been subject to deplatforming or anything similar. The connection only goes in so far as some of the same pressures probably exists, but I would be a lot more interested in hearing what went on behind some actual major deplatforming incidents. (Medium killing gab.ai's post explaining why they didn't believe their actions supported hate crimes would be an interesting candidate, since it was a meta-deplatforming, so doubly removed from most pragmatic tradeoffs...)


Thank you for being one of the few commenters on this thread who point out the HBD streak on that thread. The insistence that that is not reactionary has been a strong undercurrent in that forum, and so when people from there talk about the weirdness of that thread, I hope more people notice that it's not about uh, weird music or humor. It's about an obsession with race and genes that easily goes into very dark territory.


My sampling of the posts linked in the article seem to indicate otherwise. What is your evidence?


Here's one that seems to sum it up pretty well.

https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/9174vt/cult... is a 2-part comment advocating for

> Mandatory abortions of the congenitally ill.

> Removal of tax incentives for homosexual marriages

> Corporal or capital punishment for adultery.

> Mental illness/having mental health medication prescribed disqualifying voting.

> Paid sterilisation (i.e., trading your fecundity for a basic income).

> National genotyping and IQ scoring as part of using any sort of public health subsidisation and education.

> Allowing insurers more room to discriminate on any quality they wish, including genotype, education, and IQ (i.e., no more disparate impact or genetic discrimination laws at all).

> La Sierra-style physical education in whatever public schools there are.

> Removal of all protected classes/free segregation (as mentioned above).

> Restructuring of "Free Speech" rights to include the "Right to Hate."

And so on. Basically all of the most awful things a human being could compile into a bullet pointed list, with absolutely no explanation of why any of these things would have a positive impact on the world. The second part of the comment literally just contains these, verbatim, as bullets.

These are the kinds of things one would advocate for if he wanted racism to be allowed (with a couple of other weird random points that most certainly trample on the rights of other groups). You'd have to completely ignore the rights of so many people to think arguing for any of these even approximates rational thought.

One may argue that it is acceptable to merely permit this kind of thing, in the hopes that light may find it and disinfect it. But this particular comment is blessed as a "quality contribution" by the moderators here https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/9174vt/cult....

So I dunno. Is this objectionable enough for you?


>Is this objectionable enough for you?

No. Most of it is objectionable to me, but none is objectionable enough to ban discussions around it.


I'm not saying this kind of discussion should be banned for how objectionable it is.

I'm saying the fact that the moderators have blessed this comment is objectionable for the many reasons I've put above.

By all means, talk about this. But promoting a laundry list of unsubstantiated ideas that are no more than a thin veneer around human rights abuses just strikes me as... irrational.


> but none is objectionable enough to ban discussions around it.

Where is "ban discussions" around it coming from, certainly it's not something I said. It's also not something that happened here. (The thread was moved to another subreddit with weeks notice, the participants voted on the name, the result was highly promoted, etc.)

My view is that there its material that few would want to be around or have their identity associated with. If guests at my home were carrying on about that, I'd politely try to get them to change the subject and failing that get them to leave. ... avoid inviting them in the future, and apologize discretely to my other gusts for having had to endure it. [And pray a fight didn't break out before I could intervene...]

Stuff like that.


1. Your first link is broke, as it merely takes you to the Quality Contribution round up.

2. It was the second part of said two part comment that advocated any of that, which was not well voted, and provided no support for anything in there.

3. The quality contribution round up ends up being anything that anyone reports to the moderators as a quality contribution, with little discrimination on the part of the moderators.

4. Sometimes it's not the post itself that's the quality, but the responses to it that provide the quality conversation.


Blasted mobile devices. I wish I could edit the link in (https://old.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/8xa97t/cult...)

And yes, I mentioned that it was bipartite, and the second part had 11 votes which is maybe not excitingly high but not extremely low either.

"Quality contributions" being barely moderated by moderators does not sound like a useful thing. How are we to know they're "quality" if the moderators don't actually test for their quality in some way?

The responses only barely disagreed, and mostly against the mandatory abortions of the mentally ill. There is maybe one comment that makes an actual attempt at most of the silly points, and the original poster of this "quality" contribution did not respond to it.


A post I once read by a thoughtful author said,

> There’s an unfortunate corollary to this, which is that if you try to create a libertarian paradise, you will attract three deeply virtuous people with a strong committment to the principle of universal freedom, plus millions of scoundrels.

I don't know what has caused the loss of that kind of insight now, but I hope its found again in the future.


My apologies if I’m spoiling your subtlety, but it was Scott Alexander (of the linked post) who said that.


Given that your comment is contrary to what the submitted post says and what all comments here say, some proof would be appropriate. You are using strong words.


"On the last SSC survey, I asked who participated in the thread, and used that to get a pretty good idea of its userbase."

I think this is worth drilling into. Scott's data shows the user base, but he slips into "I took some random surveys" when he addresses the question of comment frequency. That data is not as high quality.

If I had the survey data, I'd use the Reddit API to figure out comment frequency by respondent type, and see if there's anything interesting there.


The survey data in the past showed that most people on the blog didn't use the subreddit. I don't know why we shouldn't assume that the converse isn't true as well.

IIRC the last survey also had an option for "yes, I know about that thread and stay the hell away from it for the love of god" (okay, the actual option was less extreme than that, but I would have picked my more colorful version if it had been offered and I think many people I know who read SSC would have also). I'm surprised to see that not mentioned in the discussion of those statistics.

Unfortunately with this post the possibility to neutrally poll his readership for their own opinions on that thread more directly is probably forever lost now. Any poll now on the subject would be read by too many users as a question on supporting/opposing harassment campaigns or the tenuous link to deplatforming.


I believe Scott makes the survey raw anonymized data available:

https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/01/13/ssc-survey-results-201...

So, drill away!


Anonymized is unfortunately not useful for this -- you need to be able to get to the reddit user names. I don't see anything in there that would provide number of comments they make in the culture wars thread, and that's really what you need.


> you need to be able to get to the reddit user names.

I don't understand how you can think that's a reasonable thing to ask for, given what this thread is about.


Why is it 'worth drilling into'?

What's the relevance?


If there are 10 right wingers and 10 left wingers, but the right wingers post 10x as many comments, that's a rather different scenario than if they're posting equal numbers of comments.


Even if that’s the case, so what?


in my limited experience, open forum social boards without a particular political stance very rarely have data available easily


What a depressing read. Even acknowledging controversies are controversial.


What stands out to me the most in this post, and I hope people can see this and recognize how widespread it has become, is the use of slurs to silence someone, by calling someone a nazi, or a racist, or alt-right and the like.

SSC had a fabulous post (years ago?) about Trump and the narrative that he is appealing to nazis or alt-right. And now to see the same tactic used against Scott here.

I wonder at what point a slur will be called a slur, regardless of who is targeted, even when it is deployed against a white cis-gendered male trying to speak his mind? At what point can we try to promote a specific subgroup but not at the expense of the perceived alt-group?

It frustrates me that these labels are cheapened and weaponized like this so pervasively. Why is it so convenient to label someone as a wrong-thinker and this is an acceptable shortcut to nullify rather than engage and grapple with their ideas?

I think there are a lot of people hoping Trump will be re-elected not even remotely because of any measure of competence or even particularly as a matter of policy, but just as a way to say, no, the culture war doesn’t get to disqualify a Presidential candidate by drawing him as a caricature of a nazi or a racist.

I’m sorry to read that Scott has been on the receiving end of this kind of information warfare. I don’t know what the defense is supposed to be in this age of doxxing and righteous indignation. I guess at least I’m glad his blog is still being hosted and his DNS still resolves.


[flagged]


"observable, object-level matters of Presidential performance like competence or policy, Trump is motherfucking godawful by almost everyone's standards"

Your mistake is to assume that almost everyone wants the Camp of Saints and the Bernie free stuff agenda. As someone who will end up paying for that agenda, I'm less enthused.


> As someone who will end up paying for that agenda, I'm less enthused.

I'm less enthused that you're not paying your fair share for the current agenda.


I dunno why people think moderating comments is so hard. It's obvious when someone is arguing in bad faith: repeating the same stuff over and over, condescending tone, dismissing opposing side, etc. People are afraid of being accused of censorship.


The problem, as described in this article, is that some people have good faith beliefs, respectfully expressed, that are nevertheless so repugnant to others that you will be tarred for not censoring them.


I don’t understand why people think giving space and respect to odious beliefs is somehow virtuous. What it does is normalize those beliefs and enable them to propagate while simultaneously exhausting those who oppose them.

See Sarte’s comments on Anti-Semitism; the holders of odious beliefs are generally not “playing the same game” as those who oppose them, and giving space to all ideas, no matter how awful, is actually conferring an advantage on the worst.


The counterargument is: Odious as defined by who? By me? Heh, eschaton, your beliefs might not come out so well by that measure.

Defined by you? No thank you.

Defined by society? Twenty years ago, homosexual marriage was an odious belief by that standard. Today, it's not (instead, opposing it is now considered odious). Same with racism sixty years ago. Same with slavery 160 years ago. "Odious" is a moving target. But for your argument to have any force, "odious" has to have some real moral weight to it, not just be society's current consensus.

That leaves odious as defined by a group of right-thinking people. Problem is, there are many candidates proclaiming themselves as being the right-thinking group, and they all contradict each other. How are you going to pick one? By what you most agree with? Again, no thank you.

(Note well: This is not "no thank you" specifically to eschaton. It's "no thank you" to any individual who wants to set themself up as the arbiter of what is "odious". I don't want anybody to have that power - unless it's me, of course.)


I assume you have not read Sarte's comments, then?

Whenever you participate in a community you accept that there are going to be individuals controlling the discussion to an extent and cleaning up things that affect the site in a negative way. For example no matter how kindly you might argue or how much data you may provide on how the Jewish people should be eradicated, that sort of comment would get you rapidly flagged on HN.

The definition of odious does evolve over time according to a societies standards, and I don't think it's a particularly big leap to say calls for genocide are odious. Communities do eventually need to take a stand for what they represent, for allowing people with said beliefs on their platform means those people represent the platform.


I have read Sarte's comments (at least I think I have - no link, so I'm not sure).

Look, I'm glad that racism and genocide are banned on HN, and that I don't have to wade through the garbage. CW wasn't trying to be HN, though. It had moderators, but they had a different set of filters, and they let a lot more through. That was by intent and design.

Then some people decided that, because it allowed stuff from the far right, it was supporting the far right, and that wasn't OK - any forum that allowed it at all had to be shut down, even if they allowed it from the far left as well.

From what it sounds like from the article (not an unbiased source, I know), the CW moderators were doing pretty well at their intended task, and a pretty interesting community was flourishing there. But some outside people decided that their definition of "odious" should be the one enforced, and threw various increasingly dishonest hissy fits until CW shut down.

Is that really a good thing?

Is it really a good thing if more than one group figures out that they can do it?

The urge to censor viewpoints that we consider odious is strong, but I'm really not sure it's the most righteous course (especially as it was practiced here).


The problem is if you allow those comments, then by extension you do in fact support them. If HN in attempt to be more neutral started allowing think pieces from far-right authors on how bad the Jewish people are, then people would believe HN supports them (and rightfully so) by offering them a platform. This is part of the reason why HN does have banned websites (such as InfoWars) because the information from those sites tends to not only be highly disingenuous but also potentially damaging to the overall community.

Communities have to have a baseline stance of things they don't support, otherwise you can rapidly turn into the flaming heap that is Voat and other various sites. As for the actual data relating to the CW thread, the data only tells us what people self-describe as, not necessarily the frequency of their posts, the content contained within or how closely the poll reflects the actual userbase. This is before going into issues of people potentially gaming the poll and other problems with online polling.

As for the urge to censor viewpoints, that is inherently part of human nature. The internet has only made it easier because the anonymity allows for zero consequence. To fix this problem requires either destroying human nature or tearing apart the internet as you and I know it. There's always going to be a disagreement with how far it should go; some people believe Reddit should've never banned FatPeopleHate. Other people believe Reddit still fosters far too many incredibly vile subcommunities. Everyone has a line eventually. And there's always going to be people that disagree with where the line is drawn.


> The problem is if you allow those comments, then by extension you do in fact support them.

FALSE. But you do in fact support censorship (or at least deplatforming, which I vehemently despise).

Here's what your position is like. Remember that baker in Colorado who wouldn't bake a cake for a gay wedding, because he felt that he would be participating in something he didn't think was morally right? You're agreeing with his position. In fact, his position is less extreme than yours, because he was willing to sell them any cake in the store, but wasn't willing to design a custom cake for them.

Yet I suspect (am I wrong?) that you think that the Colorado baker was in the wrong. But you're using his logic.

Your second and third paragraphs I think I agree with.


You're making a false equivalence here and assuming they're the same and your logic is incredibly irrational here but I'm going to try to address it in the best manner I can:

In the baker case, he decided that he would not support gay people. I believe gay people should be a protected group (as they are not harmful nor do they generally espouse harmful beliefs). You're right in that he felt that he would be supporting gay people, and my point is that he should support gay people, not that through some strange mental gymnastics I believe he's right to not support them (??). This is the reason why protected groups exist because if a person believes 'I refuse to offer service to women because I refuse to support women', we as a society believe that to be a net negative.

This is of course ignoring the context of the situation where we believe in free exercise of religion while also denying a man on death row access to his religion [1], which shows more the hypocrisy of the Supreme Court's decision on the baker case vs the Dunn v Ray case. But that's a whole 'nother can of worms.

Your argument is essentially saying people should have the right to discriminate on the basis of age, religion, gender etc because to not allow so is censorship. People should not be forced into supporting something they disagree with, correct? Which then ties back into my core argument in that everyone has a line; society has reason to try and shift that line (to avoid discrimination) and communities have reasons to draw their own line as well (to signal for causes they support or to limit the scope of discussion).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunn_v._Ray


I wrote a scathing reply last night, but didn't post it. I will try to be more moderate today.

Publication does not mean endorsement of the view. You see this in the disclaimer in all the editorials: "The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of [publication]". They can publish, on their platform, views that they disagree with. On that point, you are simply wrong.

But your views here (that publication equals endorsement, and that communities should shut down views they don't accept) - I find those views to be odious. Contrary to the ideals of America, even. Should I be able to get you banned from HN? If they don't, should I say that HN endorses your views, and get a howling mob to shut HN down?

That's the fundamental issue here. It's not just those people out there. It's you. Your views offend people. It's going to happen to you. Think well whether you really want odious views removed.

And it's going to be me. That's why I'm so defensive here. I already hold views that some find odious; as society moves its position, I will hold more. Within the next ten years (and maybe a whole lot sooner), this is going to be me. That's why I'm opposed to societal censorship. If a mob can shut down the alt right for being too far outside society, they can shut down you and me when they decide that we're too far outside the new norm.

Should we just accept society's definition of what is right? No. Either there is a real right and wrong, or their isn't. If there is, why do we think society will converge on it? Why do we think that society's view evolves to ever-increasing correctness? (It has, in the past, evolved to ever-increasing conformity with the current view, but that doesn't say much.) Rwanda, for instance, abruptly decided that murdering one race was perfectly good. China decided that social pressure to conform to the party line was good. (You may say that was imposed on them by the party, and you'd be right. But it still became the way the society behaved.)

On the other hand, if there is no real right and wrong, why should we treat society's current views as if they had moral force?

About the baker: If you don't like that one, try this. A print shop prints flyers for a Richard Spencer rally. Is the print shop endorsing Richard Spencer's views? How about if they design the flyer? Where do you draw the lines between what happened on CW, the print shop, and the bake shop, and why do you draw them there?


> Publication does not mean endorsement of the view. You see this in the disclaimer in all the editorials: "The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of [publication]". They can publish, on their platform, views that they disagree with. On that point, you are simply wrong.

Publication is, essentially, endorsement. Let's say I hosted a blog, and then I decided on my blog to constantly host people whom deny climate change. I can add a disclaimer to the end of all of their posts and say 'these represent views I personally do not endorse', but if the entirety of my blog consisted of those sort of views, people would naturally question what I really believe. At a certain point it is endorsement depending on how odious the behavior is. If the Washington Post decided to publish an article on how black people are responsible for all the evils in America, that would be a blemish on their reputation even if they added said disclaimer.

> Contrary to the ideals of America, even. Should I be able to get you banned from HN? If they don't, should I say that HN endorses your views, and get a howling mob to shut HN down?

If you haven't realized yet, this is why flagging and voting down posts exists on HN. It exists so that the users can self-curate content and remove things that are considered particularly odious. If you consider that contrary to American ideals, then why are you participating on a site contrary to your beliefs? Posters on HN can and do shut down people espousing alt-right beliefs.

>That's why I'm opposed to societal censorship. If a mob can shut down the alt right for being too far outside society, they can shut down you and me when they decide that we're too far outside the new norm.

This is the answer from someone scared of progress or change. This was the exact argument made during the Civil Rights era by people who were afraid of black people gaining rights: They were scared of mobs shutting them down, stopping them from being racist. Does this mean the mob is always right? No, but it does mean that you should strongly consider whether or not your beliefs are truly outdated.

Society as I mentioned evolves and changes over time. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. I would hope you would agree that society evolving to give more rights to people previous deprived of them to be a good thing. And I would also hope you realize that the reason why there's such a strong reaction against the alt-right is because they want to specifically take away those rights from minority populations.

And with regards to the baker thing, you managed to miss my point entirely. My point is that your concept of American ideals is flawed and broken: Because we have not and never applied those ideals equally. The baker case was never truly about endorsement or religious liberties: It was about entrenching the right to discriminate against minorities.


> And I would also hope you realize that the reason why there's such a strong reaction against the alt-right is because they want to specifically take away those rights from minority populations.

I hope you would realize that the reason there's such a strong reaction to the "alt-left" is because this kind of thinking leads people to such crazy places that they would defend Soviet gulags as "compassionate." https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/11/soviet-labour-ca...

The 20th century had horrors of Naziism and racism, yes, but it also had horrors perpetrated in the name of "progress" and "reeducation." If you have emotionally internalized the horrors of Germany and Jim Crow, but haven't done the same with the USSR, the Cultural Revolution, and the Khmer Rouge, then I can understand why ideologically-enforced progressivism might seem harmless and noble.


The 'alt-left' as people claim barely exists in any tangible form. Yes, there are going to be people that'll excuse the crimes of the USSR but to try and equate them to the alt-right is a false equivalence. Particularly because when you look at the spike in hate crimes, violence, antisemitism etc, you primarily see members of the alt-right fall within that group.

Considering how our president behaves and excuses members of the alt-right, I'll start worrying about the alt-left when and if they start holding positions of power. Before you start trying to point out further members of the alt-left: I'll just remind you that it was during that same speech that the alt-left term was invented.


> Particularly because when you look at the spike in hate crimes, violence, antisemitism etc, you primarily see members of the alt-right fall within that group.

Let's just go from the last week. Here is some left-wing violence:

https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/22/us/conservative-activist-assa...

Here is a weekly roundup of anti-semitism, and much of it is from the left (associated with Britain's Labour party):

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/week-headl...

And for hate crimes, the news is that Jussie Smolett has been arrested for staging the "modern-day lynching" against him that has captured national attention for the last few weeks:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jussie-smollet-chicago-attack-h...

I'm not saying the alt-right is nothing to worry about. I'm saying the left is capable of real harm too.


[flagged]


Personal attacks will get you banned here, regardless of how wrong someone else is or you feel they are. When you're on the edge of posting like this to HN, please catch yourself and take a step back—as we all need to do.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Edit: it looks like you've been using HN primarily for political battle. That's against the rules here, and we ban accounts that do it. More importantly it's against the spirit of this site, so please don't.

It also looks like you've been crossing repeatedly into incivility. Please don't do that either.


Right, I'll back off a bit. I can admit that I've been especially hostile these past few days.

But, I am starting to see a serious issue with posters on HN engaging in bad faith arguments and spreading heavily anti-scientific nonsense. Not only have I seen posters here openly defending pedophilia [1], arguing in bad faith by making deliberately misleading arguments [2], people not even attempting to make an argument [3] and many more non-arguments [4]. This is without even mentioning the posts I have seen being highly transphobic and comments/articles made by trans-people (with good arguments!) being voted down into the abyss, both of which I could find examples were it not 3AM. I have flagged many comments and tend to err towards only the most egregious and while I can understand that the moderation team can only do so much at a certain point the trend I'm noticing is deeply concerning. If you don't want HN to be a site with any sort of political battles, then HN needs to better define what kinds of things make up politics. I avoid making threads here and I generally don't stray from the topic of said threads. But ultimately if the goal of the site is to flag and move on when you see someone make a bad faith argument or make a political post: That's tacitly leaving bad arguments unchallenged, especially when the flagging system fails to work.

And I want to make it clear that this isn't an argument against you in particular dang; but rather the issues I see looming on the horizon for HN. Hence my increasing frustration.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19213130

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19189546

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18984096

[4] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19005731


> You're trying to justify a term made up by a president who in the same speech defended and attempted to justify the murder of a woman by the alt-right.

If you just look at the speech by itself, who Trump was referring to was unclear. The protest was originally over whether some statues were to be torn down, and he could very well have been talking about those protestors.

But if you look at his presidency in total, the fact that he's never has appeared to expressed support to neo-nazis or murder(!) of people of the alt-left before or after should make it clear that he was supporting the people protesting the removal of the statues and not the alt-right.


> Communities have to have a baseline stance of things they don't support

CW has this. They are very clear about their guidelines: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/a6wues/cult...

> As for the actual data relating to the CW thread, the data only tells us what people self-describe as, not necessarily the frequency of their posts, the content contained within or how closely the poll reflects the actual userbase.

Scott did a random sample of comments from CW:

> During the last few years of Culture War thread, a consensus grew up that it was heavily right-wing. This isn’t what these data show, and on the few times I looked at it myself, it wasn’t what I saw either. After being challenged to back this up, I analyzed ten randomly chosen comments on the thread; four seemed neutral, three left/liberal, and three conservative. When someone else objected that it was a more specific “blatant” anti-transgender bias, I counted up all the mentions of transgender on three weeks worth of Culture War threads: of five references, two were celebrating how exciting/historic a transgender person recently winning an election was, a third was neutrally referring to the election, a fourth was a trans person talking about their experiences, and a fifth was someone else neutrally mentioning that they were transgender. This sort of thing happened enough times that I stopped being interested in arguing the point.

This is why all the claims of "odious views", "how the Jewish people should be eradicated", and other things you've mentioned in this thread fall so flat to me. People claim stuff like that is flying around to justify their call for greater censorship and shunning. But when you dig into the details about what people are actually saying, it virtually never lives up to the labels that have been put on it.


You share democratic institutions with sincere adherents of those odious beliefs, and they win elections at least some of the time. Understanding the “other” population and how to reason with it, or at least negotiate with it, is required if those democratic institutions are to continue.

Today’s dogma was yesterday’s odious belief. If we feel that the correctness of consensus opinion is on the rise, shouldn’t we be hesitant to freeze out future changes? If we feel it is falling, shouldn’t we want some protection for today’s correct ideas when they become odious again?

I can really only imagine subscribing to this viewpoint from within a long-term stable utopia whose primary threat is that someone will spoil it.

EDIT:

>What it does is normalize those beliefs and enable them to propagate while simultaneously exhausting those who oppose them.

I think this is is simply a mistaken view of human nature. Nothing confirms a conspiracy theory quite like jack-booted thugs who are actually out to get you for saying it. Nothing galvanizes a cause quite like official suppression. See the Streisand Effect or, for that matter, Christianity.


Who defines what beliefs are odious?

The point is not to convince the person you are talking to, which is very difficult given how much people stick to their political beliefs, but to convince the lurking third party, who has weakly held opinions. If they can see in the debate that one person has the stronger argument, you can convince that third person. If they see one side refuse to debate, angrily yell, and banish the other to places like the_donald, well, maybe the undecided lurkers will wonder if perhaps the person got angry because they had no good counter-argument, decide to go explore a place like the_donald, or some other echo chamber where they just become more convinced, that also has no counter-acting voices of reason. The people in the_donald agree with you by the way, and don't give space or respect to people with odious blue tribe beliefs.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.


I think the Devil and Daniel Webster is a better reference here - if you chop down all the laws and norms that shield the Devil what is left to shield you?

By condoning silencing there is the risk you will be silenced - and the article demonstrates how the same means of suppression may be applied when your norms are judged unacceptable and it is intolerable for another to not censor.

Both have valid points and the precise answer is likely nuanced and/or a matter of opinion.


> First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

> Because I was not a socialist.

> Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

> Because I was not a trade unionist.

> Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

> Because I was not a Jew.

> Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

A translation of the German poem by pastor Martin Niemöller [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_...


Germany censors Nazis now, though. What lesson do we take from that?


>Germany censors Nazis now, though. What lesson do we take from that?

Kill Nazis before they kill you.


Yes, they've been censoring Nazis (and Swastikas and a whole lot of other symbols) ever since the end of WWII.

They censor blood in games, too.

The quote is from a German pastor, not a representative of the German government or its people.


> the holders of odious beliefs are generally not “playing the same game” as those who oppose them

Maybe a few years ago I would have found this argument convincing. But here is the current state of the Internet (from the article):

> it was always that the the thread was “dominated by” or “only had” or “was an echo chamber for” homophobic transphobic alt-right neo-Nazis, which always grew into the claim that the subreddit was dominated by homophobic etc neo-Nazis, which always grew into the claim that the SSC community was dominated by homophobic etc neo-Nazis, which always grew into the claim that I personally was a homophobic etc neo-Nazi of them all. I am a pro-gay Jew who has dated trans people and votes pretty much straight Democrat. I lost distant family in the Holocaust. You can imagine how much fun this was for me.

I think it's hard to claim that even people with truly Anti-Semitic beliefs are somehow playing a more deceptive game than this, or appealing more to people's biases and irrationality.


It's interesting to behold that every response to this comment in the last hour, with the most recently made response being posted 56 minutes ago (as of, at least before the time I hit the 'reply' button) are ALL downvoted to light grey.

I await my turn for making this observation.


The responses are also mostly expressing the exact same hollow moral relativism — "Who is to say what is odious?" — so it's not surprising that they're voted similarly.


I suppose that's where I'm going to disagree, the idea that these responses are 'hollow' by daring to ask such a question. Maybe it's because I had the honor of living at a time in the US when certain behaviors were not only deemed socially odious but were codified in law as odious until enough people stood up and asked "who are you to say sending my daughter to a segregated school is odious" or "what is so odious about my mother choosing to sit at a certain place in this eating establishment" that sweeping legal and social change (with much room for continued progress to be made, mind you) came as a result of such 'hollow' and 'relativist' inquiries-as you call them.


It's not asking the question that's hollow — it's actually a worthwhile question — it's asking it as a rhetorical question, as those comments do. They are asking it for the specific purpose of not answering it. If they'd actually grappled with the complexity of the question to come up with an answer, I suspect they'd be upvoted.


Can't say I even agree with that.

These questions don't just manifest in a vacuum. And if they are worthwhile asking, then IMO (and stressing IMO) it doesn't matter if they're rhetorical or directly interrogative in delivery or purpose.

Asserting otherwise feels like an excercise in projecting.


People are not making the claim that nobody is right, so labelling it "relativism" is inappropriate. Merely pointing out that these norms are applied to everyone, and cut both ways. if somebody else thinks your views are odious and you ought to be silenced, what principled reason do you have for saying you ought not to be? you can take the route of saying that in fact your own views are not odious so you shouldn't be silenced, but your opponents are and therefore should be. But in that case all you've done is engendered a situation where every side feels comfortable and justified in attempting to silence their opponents. Because obviously, every side thinks they're right and their opponents are terrible people (note that I'm still not claiming that neither side is right). Discourse quality is degraded. And people start looking around for the next rhetorical nuke to throw at their percieved enemies. it's a race to the bottom, and the bottom contains mainly shouting, hatred, and fearmongering.

Norms like "people shouldn't be silenced even if their speech is despicable" are the Geneva convention in the war of the words. They're social technologies which allow people who disagree to coexist peacefully. These are the insights of the enlightenment, and liberalism as the word originally meant.


>is that some people have good faith beliefs, respectfully expressed, that are nevertheless so repugnant to others that you will be tarred for not censoring them.

I'm skeptical of this - I've never seen a polite racist argument, for example, or a polite homophobic one. The closest I've seen is a post riddled with condescension - something along the lines of "you don't understand, I'm trying to save your soul from the sin of homosexuality."


I've been racially slandered for posting MLK quotes, even though I'm not black (they assumed I was).

Conversely I've also been called a racist/bigot for claiming white people didn't invent racism/slavery, or that statistical differences in social groups shouldn't automatically be attributed to oppression, or that Frederick Douglass is evidence of how someone can free themselves from oppression.

They obviously had never studied MLK, Frederick Douglass, or world history, though I'd bet they had spent plenty of time watching cable news and shallow mass media.

The reason they called me those things was not because I was actually espousing hatred, but rather because I was suggesting something antithetical to their ideology.


> rather because I was suggesting something antithetical to their ideology.

Ideological differences are a major source of arguments turning ugly and lots of downvotes, if you disagree with whatever majority in that particular forum.


In general it seems that people are tolerating smaller and smaller deviations from their ideological views. While I'm not against calling people out at times, it does seem the truth is increasingly seen as unacceptable.


>Conversely I've also been called a racist/bigot for claiming white people didn't invent racism/slavery, or that statistical differences in social groups shouldn't automatically be attributed to oppression,

Hmm. That sounds like it can be frustrating, but I can see how it can happen. For example - what's the point of claiming "white people didn't invent slavery?" I can't think of any reason that doesn't involve a blanket statement about either white people or some other race, which would be prejudgement/prejudice by definition. Hence, smacks of racism. Similar for statistical differences in social groups - dangerous territory as it is what "rational racists" try to do all the time. I use those statistics all the time though to demonstrate that it's impossible to prove that a group of people have a certain average IQ or some other grab bag trait because of race, due to noise from other variables like socioeconomic status, local culture, local healthcare availability, local government policy, etc.


> what's the point of claiming "white people didn't invent slavery?" I can't think of any reason that doesn't involve a blanket statement about either white people or some other race

I could easily say that in response to a claim that white people invented slavery, in total innocence that somebody would read me as racist. I am somewhat naive, in my defense.


I would agree with you. There's no point in the statement I can see unless one is about to make a prejudiced remark. I'm happy to be shown why I may be wrong.


You're tone policing. It's not actually taboo opinions you are trying to censor; but opinions that you don't think are "right-on" due to talking in a way that you think is outgroup, that belongs to the people you despise.


Part of the problem is that too many people think “polite” just means “no profanity or name-calling.”

It is impossible to respectfully argue for a racist or homophobic position. The very nature of what you’re arguing for is that some people are inherently less than others, which is the opposite of respect.

But if you state such an argument without using naughty words, a lot of people will misinterpret that as respectful and demand that it be given respect in turn.


That just moves the locus of disagreement to a different place, to whether the argument is respectful or not. And the risk is it will be less intellectually honest.

For example, what if I argued in favour of racial segregation of schools because it would give a better environment for children to learn in, being around role models they could easily identify with and not get sucked into cultural traps like thinking being academically excellent means you're acting white.

I think this is a racist position. It explicitly discriminates on the basis of race. I also think it could be an honest argument. Is it respectful? I personally think it is.

(To be clear, I'm not in favour of racial segregation of schools. The "acting white" thing is overdone and normalizing a binary division isn't good.)


What about the kids who don’t fit neatly into either category? You’ll be throwing a bunch of people into a group in an arbitrary fashion and then teaching them, perhaps just implicitly, that the group’s standards are “normal” and they are different. By saying this is a good thing you’re disrespecting a ton of people.

This is part of why a racist argument can’t be respectful: it’s fundamentally opposed to basic reality.

Is it possible that such an argument could be made honestly? Sure, by an ignorant nimrod. Does that make it respectful? No, part of respect in an argument is making sure you have a grasp of the basic facts before you spout off. Is it bad to block ignorant but honest nimrods in an attempt to block racist shitheads who have learned to cloak their arguments in polite-sounding language? No, for every ignorant nimrod there are a hundred racist shitheads, and you’re not going to educate the ignorant nimrods by giving equal footing to the racist shitheads.


You've descended straight to namecalling (in the abstract, I hasten to add - your counterargument is similar to mine). I don't think your counterargument is nearly as respectful - it's outright ad hominem.

Have a listen to this if you can find the time:

http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/13-miss-buchanans-per...

It was enlightening to learn the subtleties of segregation at the time, from black people in the period. It might not change your mind, but it would lead you to be less hasty to descend to namecalling, not least because you'd learn who you risk calling ignorant racist shitheads.


My comment contains two separate arguments. The one against school segregation is perfectly respectful and based on the facts.

The argument against giving racist shitheads a platform does involve namecalling, and I don’t much care.


A lot of people will extend the definition of "racist" to include things they don't like but would not be considered racist by most people. For instance there are still people who think the Covington teens are racist even after the additional footage became available. I've seen plenty of accusations of racism against people who say the teens are innocent.


People will make bad arguments on all sides. This is not a surprise, and is not really related to my point.


> It is impossible to respectfully argue for a racist or homophobic position.

My point is that in 2019 this statement has no meaning because there are wide swaths of the audience (not just fringe elements) that will label nearly everything "racist". The main point of contention in this thread is whether you should ban unpopular opinions or let them stand on their own. Racist comments are and should be unpopular but when the definition racism is widened to include half the population then censoring "racists" and hitting a bunch of false positives becomes much more damaging that not censoring "racists" and letting actual racists expose their own ignorant thinking.


I think that statement only has no meaning if you are contending that I am one of those people who labels nearly everything “racist.”


>. Racist comments are and should be unpopular but when the definition racism is widened to include half the population then censoring "racists"

Half the population didn't vote for Trump.

I think that's what we're supposed to be reading between the lines here, that half the population voted for Trump and have now been unfairly demonized as racists and homophobes and that, because of this, the terms "racist" and "homophobic" have no meaning... but no. Those terms still have a definite meaning, and half the population didn't vote for Trump.

Also, the demonization isn't entirely unfair. At least, it's not entirely arbitrary and without merit. There was a definite and overt narrative of racial identity and struggle behind the populism of Trump's campaign, and its appeal to white supremacists was well documented by mainstream media, and the narrative of Trump's success as a revolution of white cultural identity was even defended here on Hacker News a few times.

Trump supporters can't have their anti-establishment cake and eat it too. They can't support a campaign which galvanized right-wing extremists and xenophobes and then complain that people think they might be racist.


  Half the population didn't vote for Trump.
More than that, in total population terms.

Then again, Trump got over 40% more votes than Bill Clinton did for his first term.


Comparing absolute numbers of votes across time is silly.


What people consider to be necessary to show "respect" for someone is seen differently by different people. There are a lot of people out there with a sense of entitlement, to money, to jobs, to popularity, and will scream at their "oppression" if it isn't given to them. Take egalitarianism to an extreme and they have a point, if I give a job to person X rather than person Y, am I not saying that person Y is on some level "less than" person X?


I think that depends heavily on why you chose X over Y.


Lets assume that beauty of woman decreases over time. Lets further assume, that contracts are needed to uphold a ressource supply. Lets call such a contract marriage. Lets assume, to uphold such a contract a - "neutral" third party is needed. This party should be able to be pressurized into certain behaviour, while beeing independent enough to not be seen as affiliated to one side of the interest conflict.

Consider, for a moment, homophobia, not as a trained fear, but a usefull emotional reaction. One party hates a third party, the second party can controll that emotional reaction, by sanctioning this behaviour (lets call this sanctioning/ controlling religion).

Thus, without saying anything disrespectfull to anyone, just stating that we are a sad, retarded species in full blown denial of what we where and are - and the state of economic surplus keeps civil peace afloat, i took your concept of homophobia for a ride.

PS: I predict, that the love of your life will check on your emotional inner workings regularly, by telling you little stories about a gay co-worker. If you don not show a emotional reaction, i predict increasingly hostile reactions and worries.

Turing and Haber-Bosch did more for gay rights then all those processions (catholic back then - rainbow now) combined.


Let’s assume that the only value a woman has is her beauty. Gosh, why would anyone say I’m being disrespectful!


I saw it happen on the thread posted yesterday about companies pulling their advertisements from YouTube over pedophilia concerns. The user made a comment that as disgusting as it was, the people sharing timestamps and playlists of public videos of underage girls shouldn't be punished, since they aren't harming anybody and they didn't choose to be attracted to children. The post seemed like it was made in good faith, but because it was against the "ban them and report them to the police" mentality, it was immediately heavily downvoted.


Child pornography convictions have increasingly relied on the concept of psychic harm to the victim from knowing other people are getting off on the material. It is reiterated that viewing child porn rather than producing or buying it, is not victimless.

It's only a small step from there to get to viewing innocent videos turns children into victims if the interest is sexual; if, one day, the children (possibly now adult) find out about the creepy people on the internet, they will suffer the harm.


Go visit the Culture War threads then. The article states that the CW threads were full of these kinds of arguments, so if you want to see examples, you know where to go.


Yea, that's what I'm trying right now, nothing good yet though. I'll keep scanning here and there though.


Polite racist arguments are rare these days, but I've heard them, as well as polite homophobic arguments.

I won't bother repeating them here, but the point is that those arguments are rarely made in good faith. Usually it's someone making a hateful argument cleverly to make it more palatable.


Absolutely NOT. Moderating comments is hard, and it is rarely clear if someone is arguing in good or even bad faith.

Tone of voice does not carry on the internet.

Worse, Good moderation is simply a better training environment for the next generation of harassers and bad users.

From my experience - basic rules got rid of the dumbest type of harasser currently active on the forum, but then created a medium for a more evolved and trained harasser to arise. What used to be obvious hate speech, misogyny and so on was exchanged for veiled abuse and dog whistles.

The rule of moderation is that your attackers keep moving up a Turing-like scale, till inevitably their arguments are indistinguishable from genuine comments made out of ignorance or lack of malice.

This ignores the damage done to your relation with the community, peace of mind, and the paranoia that slowly starts to grip your team as people threaten you, try to doxx you, and worse.

While you may rarely meet insane people in real life, because of the limitation of physical reality - online behavior is not regulated by the needs of actually having to use calories to move your body to interact with a person.

Instead, its a lot cheaper for people to give in to obsession and hammer away on a keyboard as they vent their frustration on someone standing between them and speaking their mind about things they feel strongly about.

God- I could write chapters on what happens when you have enough disgruntled users who decide to make a new forum, driven only to hate your team and moderation style - then spend their time attacking you.

But in the most delicious of ironies - the new forums created to target your rules and moderation style, eventually have a crisis of behavior which they fix by foisting similar rules as the one that got them banned in the first place.


> The rule of moderation is that your attackers keep moving up a Turing-like scale, till inevitably their arguments are indistinguishable from genuine comments made out of ignorance or lack of malice.

At this point you really should ask yourself whether to continue moderating such comments. If you're at the level of hearing "dog whistles", you're already starting to act in bad faith.

I think Scott Alexander correctly identifies the biggest problem of moderation: that while you may think that it's about fostering civilized discourse, it isn't. When you get recognizable, it becomes primarily about protecting reputation of your own brand or name.


Yes and No. in some cases these are known dog whistles - the user later goes to other forums and talks about how they “succeeded”.

In other cases, it highlights my point - it is a subversive form of hate speech and it gets past the mod team:, and starts the radicalization process Or polarizing process.

On the other hand it may be a genuine comment, naturally arrived at by a user, but it pattern matches with the mod team and it gets removed.

For example an old argument which is now easily refuted is “brownies have larger families, and their growth rates are over taking natives!”

That’s a factually correct argument, but it’s an incorrect conclusion which takes (took) advantage of average user ignorance.

But the other issue is that this thread stays up, other people who come across it get “red pilled” or “triggered”.

Subsequently the thread becomes a source for flame wars, “engagement”, and propagates schisms in the community.

In the end moderators have to act based on the taxonomy of ideas presented, not their possible sincerity. Leaving it up will only cause further damages.

As a result moderators, (probably like the police) drift away from the average user views and behaviors.

This is the fundamental crux of the moderation problem, if not of communication itself : we can never know the intent behind a statement.

Is it a sincerely held view by someone who is not a Bigot or racist? Or is it sinister and malignant sentences designed to get past moderators and radicalize/convert users and disrupt other communities ?


From the article: "The fact is, it’s very easy to moderate comment sections."


>A subreddit devoted to insulting and mocking me personally and Culture War thread participants in general got started; it now has over 2,000 readers.

Anyone know which subreddit that is?



Not sure if there's more mocking or calling out, HBD and otherwise. The forum's focus on HBD seems something worth critiquing extensively.


Let's be clear on one point: they're complete jerks.

Well, not exactly. Like, imagine your best friend is pro-conservative; he's a really nice, polite, sensitive person who's mostly willing to hear opposite viewpoints.

Then you watch his posts on r/the_donald, and he's acting like a sneering, disgusting douchebag, ranting about "libtards" and how lefties are morons bent on destroying the fabric of the country?

Sneerclub is the same. I can totally believe that most people there are reasonable people with reasonable concerns, but the community brings out the worst parts of them the same ways others like the_donald and TheRedPill do.


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