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The Four Quadrants of Conformism (paulgraham.com)
638 points by razin on July 24, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 803 comments

Loved this essay. The phrase “aggressively conventional minded” is genius, and may contribute a lot towards the solution.

As someone coming from an ex-soviet state, I’ve felt personal alarm bells ring more and more, as I experience the kind of intolerance and double speak America is heading into. Both the left and the right my opinion are missing the key points on freedom (the left suppressing and labeling, the right militarizing).

Yet, as PG points out, the independent minded are good at figuring out solutions. No matter what, the fundamental ideas that America is built on is focused so heavily on freedom that I trust the aggressively independent to protect, and the passively independent minded to innovate.

Also from an ex soviet state. Also feel alarm bells going off. I'm legitimately scared. I've seen this before, I know where it goes. It's really hard to convey my feeling of alarm to people here though. Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it, I guess.

Doesn't help that the conformists have been allowed to frame the narrative as 'either you agree with us, or you're literally Hitler/Stalin' depending on political alignment, which is a very powerful weapon to shut down discourse.

This rising culture is freedom and diversity in all things except thought. This is how totalitarian regimes form. This is what my parents dumped their entire life savings into escaping, and here I am watching it rise again.

I feel the same way, but I think this era is much more directly similar to the "red guards" period during the Chinese cultural revolution than Soviet examples. Some of the parallels are just so direct -- students denouncing their professors, forcing them them to recant, the ideologies of the students growing more and more rigid and narrow through the conformity of the mob, until they often ended up even denouncing the professors who encouraged the movement to start.

No one ends up being safe from this kind of thing as it grows. Even Mao almost lost control of the tiger, even though he thought he could steer it. My grandfather fought the Japanese as a preteen and later fought with Mao, and even he was disappeared for three days by the mob during the cultural revolution because someone denounced him as not ideologically pure enough.

The first best instance of this was during the French Revolution. People were guillotined in droves for being not merely enthusiastic enough.

I think there are some important qualitative differences with the French Revolution, at least in its relationship with the academy (although I'm not an expert). During the French Revolution, most of the aristocratic cadre of scientists did lose their positions, but less than a year into the Terror, the Institut de France was established with more-or-less conventional takes on merit and the scientific method.

In the cultural revolution, it was different. More than three fourths of the members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences were persecuted, most of whose work did have scientific merit and had no direct nexus with politics. But that was the problem -- just doing science wasn't sufficiently political/ideological for the mob.

There was a section on this in the sci-fi novel Three Body Problem. The students force a professor of physics to recant his claim that relativity is a legitimate theory, and he refuses, then gets beaten by students.

I remember thinking at the time it was such a bizarre piece of fiction, then I later found out this kind of stuff really happened.

I’ve heard the phrase “history is stranger than fiction” before .. and you discovered that!

I see the similarities, but one big difference is that the Red Guards were created by Mao as a way to purge the party of his enemies and reshape society to serve him more fully.

What's happening in the US emerging from below, without anyone orchestrating it.

>one big difference is that the Red Guards were created by Mao as a way to purge the party of his enemies...

No -- that's not the case, and that's precisely why I think the parallel to what is happening now is so strong.

The Red Guards started in 1966 as a student movement. They later developed a manifesto, which Mao thought he could leverage to his own advantage, so he endorsed its broadcast. This fanned the flames of the movement (being a kind of political endorsement), and from that point Red Guard cells sprung up organically across the country. From that point, things became chaotic and the leadership in Beijing made a series of sometimes opposing moves, some of which tried to restrain the movement to preserve the government and others which fanned the flames.

This comment is 100% correct and the fact that most people here misunderstand the Red Guards movement is the terrifying proof that they have no idea what we're dealing with in the US right now.

This ideology is not something that strives for or can be steered into a productive outcome, it inherently wants to expand its reach and list of enemies until it takes over the entire world or someone shuts it down. It's the cultural analogue of a cancer, and it masks its initial growth phase by pretending to rally behind a virtuous cause, and then shutting down any criticism of it as anti-virtuous.

People from Cambodia, USSR, China, Vietnam, Germany, etc. have seen this before, but the current generation of westerners has not, so they're giving it the benefit of doubt and allowing it to gain momentum - it seems to be rallying behind a virtuous cause, after all. This is what GP and I are saying: alarm bells are going off in our heads because we have 1st or 2nd hand experience of how this plays out. And just like back then, people now are going 'naaaah, it'll be fine'.

Lord of the Flies should remain mandatory school reading forever. It's a warning tale exactly about this.

I mean, Lord of the Flies is fiction.

In real life, the boys stranded on a deserted island made a pact to never quarrel, and kept that pact for a half century.


Lovely story! That said, lord of the flies had at least 20-30 boys involved, whereas this group was six boys who were already friends. More is different.

(Not arguing reality would go the way of lord of the flies, merely that the example above is not definitive. But boy would I like to see the movie they made!)

Keep in mind that the book that is from, Humankind, while a hope filled book (I enjoyed it thoroughly), makes the point that when we get together, the bonds between people can lead them to do horrendous things to others. Our power to cooperate is our superpower and our kryptonite.

I don't think children now would have the trust enough to cooperate.

I think you might be surprised. The sense of comradery between the younger gens is crazy.

My family in China are amazed that we in the US don't recognize the parallels between the marxist revolutionaries and violent Red Guards in China and today's US. The One Party that controls more and more of the institutions, the "news" reporters whose mission is obviously to sell the revolutionary narrative so the few stories that support the narrative are huge and meaningful while the much larger number of parallel examples that contradict the narrative are hidden by various means, all the entertainers gradually speaking with the same voice and same approved opinions as the "news", silencing of debate at the academies and ongoing purge of anyone suspected of harboring counter-revolutionary ideas there and in many other institutions and employers, young people taught that smart, independent thinkers such as themselves will become heroes by denouncing their parents and anyone they suspect of clinging to old ideas....

People who hear almost nothing that doesn't support the revolutionary narrative and are bombarded with stories about how those who "bravely" denounce dissenters are "heroes", and especially young people with little worldly success to be proud of, go on a rampage to feel the thrill of glory and power over others. The Red Guards are born. They burn whatever, destroy whatever, attack whomever, for whatever excuse they can come up, confident they'll be lauded as heroes by the "news" if they can somehow claim they are fighting enemies of the revolution, and if they can make it dramatic enough to compete with all the other aspiring heroes for attention. Because for most Red Guards, it's all about the thrill of feeling powerful and important.

My Chinese relatives frankly feel a bit of schadenfreude about it. "So, you were supposedly the ones with all the freedom to think and say whatever you wanted, criticize whoever you wanted, and freely argue for your own opinions. We were the ones who were forced to keep our mouths shut and not say what we really thought because we were still stuck with a conform-and-submit culture that wasn't yet enlightened."

In addition to Lord of the Flies, we had to watch a movie in my high school (long ago) about student movements getting out of hand, I think it was called The Wave.

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0083316/ might be it

As someone who grew up in China, I think this analogy is overblown. PG and others are up in arms about "cancel culture," but I'm not seeing substantial evidence of people's voices being suppressed by the masses. The few anecdotes cited (James Bennet fired by NYT, JK Rowling finally being called out for being anti-trans, random people being unfairly fired) don't seem to point toward a mass movement toward intolerance in the US.

On the other hand, it's clear, especially to young people, that traditional liberalism has failed at actually addressing inequality, racism, and other systemic problems that the US faces. A big part of what people refer to as "cancel culture" is frustration over the ineffectiveness of traditional liberalism, especially when the far right seems to play by a different set of rules.

I'm definitely concerned about far left zealotry, but I don't think that's what I'd happening in the US.

I understand why you would not think it is a problem. Unfortunately the only evidence for something like this is anecdotes, so unless you personally experience cancellation or are a member of a community where someone is cancelled, you won't notice. The lack of concern about the cancellation narrative makes sense in this respect.

Beyond "random people being fired", there are a number of notable examples in the programming community, like James Damore, Stallman, and Donglegate. After CoCs were added to open source projects, there are a handful of accounts of people being removed for their views expressed outside of the open source community.

In the wider world, things like the Harper's Magazine letter criticizing cancel culture (signed by many notable individuals, including Noam Chomsky), Obama's criticism of the "circular firing squad", leading philosophy researchers decrying sanctions for expressing ideas [1], the Joe Rogan discussion between Twitter Exec and Tim Pool on online censorship, the Evergreen College fiasco, and the rioting of Berkeley students into a Ben Shapiro lecture, paint the picture of a worrying trend: some subset of people on the left respond to argument not with argument, but with censorship, boycotts, and sometimes violence.

Hell, one from a few days ago: https://statenews.com/article/2020/06/michigan-state-geu-cal...

[1]: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2019/07/22/philosophers...

“ JK Rowling finally being called out for being anti-trans“

And where is the evidence for this assertion?

Apologies for the amp link. I would recommend looking at Twitter replies to the Harper's Mag letter about her being a signer, and then other discussions on it.


Turns out that we aren't electing a counsel composed of the liberals most active on twitter.

Lets look at the situation clearly.

I don't think JK Rowling is a bigot and yet and the internet hate machine is sure going full steam but her detractors are a smaller group than her fans and the woman is worth almost a billion dollars. She could burn dollar bills for warmth in her house for warmth for the rest of her life if she wanted. A minority of angry people on twitter can't cancel her life.

Cancel culture is a distraction from more relevant issues.

"A minority of angry people on twitter can't cancel her life.

Cancel culture is a distraction from more relevant issues."

Not true at all.

It's not about her money, it's about her ability to speak and to have a public opinion, and therefore a relationship with us - not about her 'personal wealth'.

She has specific views on gender, which she should be allowed to have and which I don't think are objectively 'anti trans'.

The statement above, ie that her views are 'anti trans' is really a problem.

'Shutting down her voice' is significantly worse than 'taking her money' - because it means the rest of us are not allowed to have a debate or to have our own opinions.

I generally agree with her assessment. It's nuanced, informed and not 'anti trans'.

Labelling it 'anti trans' is precisely the kind of 'Red Guards killing the unpure' we need to worry about.

'Cancel culture' has succeeded in banning speakers on most University campuses, and systematically disabled tons of voices from being heard. Speakers aren't even on the slot anymore 'can't afford the security' is now a common statement. This is inexcusable.

The fact that 100 or so of the world's leading thinkers had to take out page to tamp down people in their own midst is crazy, and a sign of a problem.

It's a fairly existential problem right now.

A lot of this actually may be a kind of 'anti Trump' anger exhibiting in an odd kind of way, maybe it dies down a little bit, but the 'winds' are heading in one direction right now, and the press in particular seem to have joined in.

JK Rowling's views on trans people are also nearly the perfect demonstration that pg's "aggressive conformism" analysis is spot on. See, not too long ago those particular views were in fact something that was doing quite a bit of harm to trans people. They were being used to succesfully lobby for laws that did things like effectively deny trans women access to rape counselling and domestic violence services, and justify pretty awful campaigns of online harassment against any openly trans woman - not by JK Rowling, who seemed quite happy to just quietly hold her opinions, but by others. The reason you didn't hear much about this is because when these views actually had power, the loud, aggressive, well-connected warriors for social justice kind of supported them.

Now, it wasn't quite mandatory to hold these views back when I started following things about a decade, decade-and-a-half ago (though I remember Shit Reddit Says, the group trying to force Reddit to police its content based on their ideological demands, got quite close). What was mandatory was covering for them, shutting up about the laws they passed and the harm they did and pressuring everyone else to do so with allegations of misogyny. The arguments used to do this were quite reminiscent of present-day claims that "cancel culture" doesn't matter and people only object to it because they're bigots, now I think about it - supposedly the people pushing this didn't hold any power, and therefore the only reason for trans women to spend effort objecting to them rather than fighting non-feminist men, who by definition were the ones with real power, was because they had a misogynistic hatred of women. It was only when those views actually lost their power and relevance that the loud, aggressive, well-connected online activists switched from covering for them to demanding that everyone support beating up elderly lesbians for merely existing in public whilst holding transphobic views. (I am unfortunately not exaggerating, this actually happened - and yes, it was definitely the same people. pg's remark about "an exclamation point after a variable" is an extreme understatement.) This shift was quite recent too - maybe around 2016 or so?

There were of course actually non-conformist people with moral views that didn't just follow the crowd and various levels of aggressiveness who balked at this at the time. They just ended up being effectively irrelevant - too far from the status quo for its supporters, but so throughly and aggressively labeled as evil supporters of it by its organised, orthodox self-proclaimed challengers that few people seeking to challenge it would listen to the non-conformists.

"not too long ago those particular views were in fact something that was doing quite a bit of harm to trans people"

I understand what you are saying, but there's a pretty big concern right there in the conflation of 'intellectual position' vs. 'ammunition supporting specific movements'.

That some systems take another persons nuanced views, possibly out of context, and use them to promote their agenda, should not in any way stop people from being able to have public discourse about them.

The fact of the matter is, JK's views are not anti-trans, even if they could be used by others as such.

However much we can decry other parties for using her words in a manner in which we do not agree, the same thing applies in the other direction: we don't get to shut her down because she doesn't 'toe the line' on the current, 'new' orthodoxy.

JK's views are reasonable.

It doesn't matter that 'some other organisation using those words to do this or that'. It's relavent, but not to the extent of censoring her.

Now - if we're talking about crude, casual bigotry from 'powerful voices' and the public effects of that, i.e. a 'Famous Person' tweeting 'bad things' - then yes, this is just populism.

But anyone willing to make a serious point within the boundaries of civility needs to be able to make it, full stop.

People can debate with JK, they can even ask her to not make her statements public 'because bad people will use it as ammunition' - but there's no way her words cross the thresholds of uncivil, and she should be able to make them without fear of being banned.


" she doesn't regard trans women as actual women"

I don't view trans women as 'the same as female women' either, to me, they are very objectively 'something else', 'not exactly like women', but I also have zero problems with them 'being women for the most part' and identifying as such if they want.

In my view, denying the glaringly obvious difference between 'trans women' and 'female women' is to deny reality, in the name of some cause.

Now, I have zero problem with people wanting to identify as women, if a trans woman wants me to call her 'she' - or whatever - it's fine by me. I hold zero concern or anything against them.

I will also tell you that in other cultures - particularly in Brasil wherein trans is far more common - that this is a popular view. The only trans women with whom I've ever had a conversation about the issue literally told me, unsolicited, that 'she is not like other women'. I kind of 'gasped' at the statement, but this woman was simply stating her mind and what to her was obvious. The statement was not ideological oriented, formed by 'mob opinion', and not a complex, intellectual thing. Just her view. Is this tans woman a bigot?

It's perfectly fine if people want to disagree with Rowling's view. I'm basically certain that Rowling doesn't mind a single bit if many would disagree with her.

The issue, is that she's not allowed to have her opinion because of the ostensibly ideologically held view that 'people who identify as women are women and that's it'.

And so this is one of the points made: "Agree with me on you're a bigot".

We don't want this.

People are allowed to think you are a bigot and say so. You are allowed to deride them while you roll in your scrooge mdduckian pile o money.

Well you seem to be able to help me make my point better than I ever could by myself.

I meant for clarity that people are allowed to think JK rowling is a bigot and she is allowed to roll in pile of money while denying it and attacking her detractors.

The subject of the sentence wasn't clear.

> A reasonable reading of her statement is that she doesn't regard trans women as actual women

Do people realize that this is just a linguistic question?

It's an argument about what the word "women" means or should mean. Not about any substantial real world issue.

To me, arguing about the meaning of words is one of the lowest forms of discourse.

It's not a linguistic question, it's a social question.

"Is a man who identifies as a woman, a woman, or a man?" - that's a pretty core question.

To be fair, it's pretty important to trans women that they identify and be referred to as 'women'. That's pretty core to the identity, so it's more than a word.

So, in that sense, I can understand how her arguments could be disconcerting to some.

But - when we talk about what is 'objectively a woman' or the policies we apply in sports, that kind of stuff, then it's an issue that transcends just self identification.

In terms of 'self identity' - well - 'who cares' really, I agree, but what about the legal requirement for others to use specific words, or sports, special facilities, access to gendered facilities and clubs etc. - then it becomes a real problem.

I think most people would admit he is a buffoon. I also think most people would not stand by if he did something obviously, materially, directly and apolitically harmful to people. I can't write people off if they continue to vote red until then. I also don't find republican rhetoric to be much different than democrat rhetoric. Both-sides-ism acknowledged, I think prominent Democrat and Republican and messaging both rely almost entirely on emotional argument. I think this is novel behavior for Republicans, since their old behavior was to meekly, logically and unsuccessfully argue their point. The change to unapologetic emotional argument is shocking to the left wing, but it prevails. A scream of "kids in cages" is no more convincing than a growl of "some of them are good people." A "womp womp" is as convicing as a "how absolutely dare you sir." You are right on the result: it pushes common people into irrelevant, trivial debates, preventing meaningful discussion.

I guess we've read different books about it. This is my source: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679746323/

What Mao did in secret may not be possible to know fully.

But are you really telling me that China in 1966 was a free enough society that students could just start an independent political movement that took over the country?

I haven't read that book, but the Wikipedia article gives a reasonable account based on what I've read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Guards#Origins

>But are you really telling me that China in 1966 was a free enough society that students could just start an independent political movement that took over the country?

It wasn't a free society by any stretch, but the students' radicalism was in line with the prevailing zeitgeist... they denounced university officials as intellectual elites, corrupted by bourgeois notions that threatened the success of the revolution. Meanwhile, Mao faced ongoing struggles to maintain and consolidate power, so he found endorsing their ideas useful. But the movement itself rapidly spun beyond his direct control.

Mao leveraged the movement to try and get himself back in the driver's seat, after he had been sidelined following the Great Leap Forward. He amplified them greatly for his own selfish reasons, which is also happening in our current moment, in different ways. They wound up being, surprise, unpredictable and destructive.

(A note, I read that book too, it's good but needs discounting for bias. Anybody who writes Beijing as 'Peking', or Zhou Enlai as "Chou En-lai" in the 21st century has clearly got a KMT-flavored axe to grind. But it also has some great original research.)

Yeah, the anti Mao sentiment is very clear.

This is not just a factual historical account. It also takes a lot of opportunities to point out how awful a person Mao was, and makes claims about his motives, which don't always seem knowable.

Of course, when writing about one of the worst rulers in human history, being a bit judgemental is understandable. But it does make me want to check other sources.

On the fact level, there seems to be an enormous amount of work behind the book.

>(being a kind of political endorsement), and from that point Red Guard cells sprung up organically across the country.

This is a massive understatement of what Mao's support and endorsement meant, and understating the "organic” nature of what happened after.

> What's happening in the US emerging from below

Partly, yes. But it is also being co-opted by people whose actual motives are very different from the perfectly justifiable demands for equality before the law.

> without anyone orchestrating it

It may have started without anyone orchestrating it, but I don't think it's that way now. See above.

Agreed. Recently read Born Red by Yuan Gao. Harrowing, both in what happened and how plausible it sounds today

Now, what happens to the "conventional" in Paul Graham's independent-minded world?

Can you be independent-minded in the wrong way? What if you're not independent-minded enough, according to someone?


This tends to be my gut reaction too. Maybe because I live in a very conservative area and come from a very conservative background. In my filter bubble I consistently see people saying really horrible, legitimately and unapologetically racist and mysoginist things and not being called out or cancelled in any meaningful way but actually encouraged. That makes it hard to take complaints about cancel culture seriously.

That being said I'm very sympathetic to people saying they've seen this before and know where it's headed. So I want to understand GP and try to act accordingly. I just can't stomach lending support to the gun-toting, trigger-happy, unapologetically authoritarian Trump regime.

So a key understanding here is the difference between common crude rhetoric - and other dynamics.

Concern over 'cancel culture' has nothing to do with the right for people to be racist jerkoffs.

It mostly a concern over people not to be able to hold opinions, intellectuals not allowed to speak, for actors not to be 'shamed' because they played someone of a different ethnicity - i.e. a lot of things for which there are thresholds of sensitivity but otherwise, most people are not offended because actions are not objectively offensive.

This idea that 'cancel culture' is defending the KKK or people calling people the 'n-word' is the biggest straw-man of the era.

Nobody cares about Nazis or Harvey Weinstein. But Nick Cannon, Kevin Hart, Jordan Peterson, JK Rowling etc. - this is ridiculous.

I'll bet $100 that the public at large is 'correct' in most cases of 'cancel culture'.

Should 'Weinstein' be cancelled? Probably 99% agree. JK Rowling? Probably 1% agree. Kevin Hart? Probably 2% agree.

People are not hopped up on ridiculousness and have some sensibility - the fighting is mostly on twitter and in the news.


Cancel culture is equally strong in the UK, where they have free public healthcare and the UK police kills about 2 people per year (usually well justified). These issues seem to be orthogonal.

The issues of cancel culture and "fighting for rights" should be unrelated. You can be against cancel culture and also against police brutality, for instance. The mob (and GP) wants to categorize you in an out-group so that one opinion you hold which they don't agree with means all your other opinions are irrelevant or invalid.

If you ask anyone on the Right what they think about police brutality or racism, more than 99% will agree with those on the Left that is an issue. We're pretty unanimous in this regard, but we disagree on what to do about it. The mob wants to sew division, so they will try to get you to "take the knee" to prove you're on the right side, but in fact, taking the knee is simply bowing down to the demands of the mob. If you don't take the knee, you're obviously "a racist" and deserve to be cancelled. The problem is the mob has a ringleader, the innocent sounding "Black Lives Matter", which is an openly Marxist organization which is using the race issue as a shield against criticism of its real aims. The clever naming means that when you criticize the organization, you're criticizing it's name, so you mustn't care about black lives - you're racist, again.

Everyone will agree that you have a right to life - there is no division here. In the US, this right, among others, are constitutionally protected so that lawmakers cannot (should not be able to) change the law to say otherwise.

Interestingly, those "fighting for human rights." are largely the same people trying to deny others their basic rights, such as possessing firearms for their personal protection.

In regards to "access to medicine", this is not a basic human right. GP is simply misunderstanding what is meant by the term. Anything that involves action from another person or group is not a right - it's a privilege. A right can only apply to an individual. You have a right to receive healthcare, go and forage for ingredients to make your own medicines, or provide healthcare to others - but there is no "right" that confers other people to provide you healthcare. Providers of healthcare and medicines have the right to request compensation for their services. How much compensation they want is up to them. The state should not be involved. The state cannot grant rights, it can only take them away.

It is state involvement which causes medicines to be so highly priced - because the State enforces patents - a tool which strips away your natural right to produce something because somebody else has declared a monopoly on doing so. If there were no patents in medicine, all medicines would become cheap generics, with the lower bound on price essentially being the cost to produce (which declines over time).

It is also state involvement which props up the salaries of healthcare providers, because they're protected from wider competition through licensing and regulatory capture. In the UK, however, the State involvement puts an upper cap on what most healthcare providers can earn - particularly nurses who are essentially minimum wage earners and can't take their services elsewhere, because there's (almost) no competition to the NHS, which of late has itself become part of the mob with the cult-like celebration of its workers. The conformists are precisely the Thursday evening clappers, and those who don't clap, for whatever reason, are terrible people who ought to be shamed.

> Interestingly, those "fighting for human rights." are largely the same people trying to deny others their basic rights, such as possessing firearms for their personal protection.

Gun ownership isn't a right. Yeah there's a piece of paper that says it is, but come on. It's dumb.

How on earth do you even find these things comparable? On one side, people literally dying because they can't afford insulin , on the other side someone wringing their hands because they think the government might forbid them from owning an AR-15.

Gun ownership is a natural right. You simply do not grasp the meaning of the word "right". It isn't what is in the constitution - that document simply puts a restraint on the US Government from taking away those natural rights.

Healthcare is not a right.

There is no "right" where others actions are required. Such thing cannot possibly be a "right" because it puts an obligation on another person to perform some action - hence, stripping that other person of their natural right to be sovereign over their own body.

A right is not something that can be granted - it simply exists. A right can only be taken away, through violence or the threat of violence.

I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't have access to affordable healthcare. I'm merely stating the fact that it is not a right.

I find it bizarre that comments like these seem to think the main battle ground for free speech is young people like myself "cancelling" people on twitter, when at the same time protestors are being arrested by secret police in the US.

Like there is an authoritarian government right there for you to criticise, but you choose only to talk endlessly about tweets like "can white people make rice, or is it cultural appropriation? A thread (1/329)".

You're engaging in a straw man of both sides and it makes me want to disregard your argument entirely.

> you choose only to talk endlessly about tweets like...

Do you really think that's what people are complaining about here? Not the professors being fired, the well known economists being forced to resign? There was a professor who lost his status running a residence hall because he was on the legal defense team for someone despicable.

As a society, we've decided that yes, even criminals need lawyers. To cancel someone and permanently affect their career for engaging in the most liberal of virtues and defending even criminals (especially if you believe we live in an authoritarian state) is beyond the pale.

> when at the same time protestors are being arrested by secret police in the US.

I've been working for police reform in what I believe is a flawed system for years. Everything the protestors are doing has probably set us back a decade. Every protestor killed by a fellow protestor (17 is the current count), every major spike in crime due to police being defunded instead of retrained, and every cop sent to the hospital because of folks throwing glass bottles and chunks of brick is not going to magically dry up and go away the next time we want to raise a serious issue.

We have a legal and social framework for affecting longterm change and it works much better than arson.

It's crazy to say "Everything the protestors are doing has probably set us back a decade." There have been literally millions of American citizens marching peacefully for change, and a very small number of bad actors.

There is no way you are informed or serious about what is going on if you are willing to make such broadly derogatory comments about one of the largest civil right movements in history.

And worse, taking the bad actions of a few, and using it to broadly discredit the valid actions of the many, is a textbook tactic for discrimination and maintaining the status quo. Who do you think you are helping by doing that?

There is no way you are informed... Who do you think you are helping by doing that?

This kind of turning on people who agree with you in principle but might have some of the details wrong is exactly the kind of fractally magnifying divisiveness that some of these subthreads are talking about.

We are all largely on the same side w.r.t. wanting positive outcomes for everyone. We will get there through deescalation and cooperation (not that I am perfect at either).

When you say "Everything the protestors are doing has probably set us back a decade." it really doesn't sound like you agree with the protestors. So maybe if you do agree with them, don't say things that undermine them, or they'll respond in kind.

Saying "Everything the protestors are doing has probably set us back a decade." isn't deescalating or cooperating, and insisting that the protestors need to deescalate and cooperate after you say something uninformed and inflammatory is self-centered, it implies that whatever you were doing is better than what they were doing. That they need to cooperate with you, but you don't need to cooperate with them. That it's their responsibility to deescalate, not yours. And, well, that really doesn't sound like cooperation to me.

IMO the more charitable reading of that is "everything [I've heard about the] protestors doing", in which case the blame lies on biased information sources, not directly on our fellow commenter.

So, again IMO, a productive reply might be, "Data shows that most of the protestors are peaceful, but I do acknowledge there are some bad actors that are getting the bulk of the attention. Maybe we can brainstorm solutions to this attention bias at the same time we try to solve these other problems."

You've sidestepped the main point, which was that they first escalated and then you've made it the other person's responsibility to de-escalate. I'm asking why it is not the original persons' responsibility to pick their words carefully so as to not escalate in the first place.

I just replied at the bottom of the thread. I'm not trying to single you out. Everyone has their part to play, but someone has to go first.

[As an aside, I just realized this is where a neutral arbiter can be valuable, someone who can say calmly what either side can't. I am thinking specifically about a STTNG episode.]

> This kind of turning on people who agree with you in principle but might have some of the details wrong is exactly the kind of fractally magnifying divisiveness that some of these subthreads are talking about.

> We are all largely on the same side w.r.t. wanting positive outcomes for everyone. We will get there through deescalation and cooperation (not that I am perfect at either).

I'm gonna take this and run with it.

IMO, one of the major things that drives "cancel culture" is concern about "concern trolling". I spend a decent amount of time on Reddit, and I've been downvoted to oblivion in the past for expressing nuanced views on some political topics. It's frustrating; yet, I can understand it. Between brigades and individual trolls, there absolutely are actors who get "some of the details wrong" in bad faith.

It all comes back to Poe's law. IRL there's body language and other clues that someone might not be arguing genuinely. On the internet it's extremely difficult to tell the difference. Without moderation, this can lead to things getting out of hand.

One problem is the inability of media to separate the issues of protesting for change, and the organization Black Lives Matter. As such, the protestors are basically being ignored, and BLM are being lauded. BLM are the "face" of the protest - made this way mainly by left-wing media.

But BLM is a questionable organization. It's aims are not merely supporting black lives - but there is an insidious Marxism to it (and an underlying anti-white racism). So if I disagree with BLM's other aims, I'm obviously not going to join the protests, or take the knee, because they're the face of it. The protestors have effectively become BLM endorsers - not merely people who have the opinion "black lives matter" (which includes the vast majority on the right), but they may as well be out in the streets saying "I agree with BLM on everything."

I've not heard of any protestors denouncing BLM's other aims. I'd like to think that it's because the media's agenda lines up with BLMs, and they chose not to air those opinions, but part of me thinks that the majority protestors are simply unable to make the distinction themselves between the phrase "black lives matter" and the organization "Black Lives Matter", or they're in agreement with the other aims anyway because they are also "woke" opinions. I'd doubt even half of the BLM endorsers have read the BLM website.

The right-wing media obviously focus on the riots, arson, looting and iconoclasm, which gives the protests a terrible image to the larger population, even though these are the actions of a tiny number of troublemakers.

What does one do if they want to express their support for persecuted minorities and denounce racism (in all of it's forms), but does not want to endorse the BLM in any shape or form? I also don't support the pulling down of statues and attempts at woke history revisionism - which let's face it, aren't doing anything to help blacks.

> there is an insidious Marxism to it (and an underlying anti-white racism)

I see this said so much and invariably there is no rational justification provided for these beliefs beyond "A founder made an offhand comment one time in an interview about their educational background"

Maybe I'll get a more thorough explanation on HN.

In what way does Black Lives Matter have an "insidious Marxism to it"? And what is your definition of Marxism?

The founder stated that her and her co-founder are "trained Marxists". Their trainer was Susan Rosenberg, former member of the communist terror group M19CO, who happens to now be vice chair on the board of Thousand Currents, the non-profit organization which funds BLM. (After her prison sentence was commuted by Bill Clinton).

They describe themselves as a continuation of the "Black liberation movement" (careful wording to not directly link themselves to the terrorist BLA, who were part of M19CO, but there's a striking resemblance in the demands of the BLA and the BLM).

There are plenty of other "offhand" comments these co-founders have made, declaring themselves to be "anti-capitalist", against the nuclear-family, "abolitionist" (referring to abolishing the police and the state).

Oh, and they keep the best company, as you do: https://twitter.com/abogadosvenezu1/status/12700347462618030...

No rational justification? Perhaps you can point me to something suggesting they're not a Marxist organization? Maybe they once made an off-hand comment in support of private property for example?

If it quacks like a duck...

“Black lives matter” is not an organization. It’s a simple statement that affirms that black lives should matter as much as white lives do. People say it today because data clearly show that in our society today, they don’t.

Mitt Romney says “black lives matter”... do you think he is an insidious Marxist? (For those not familiar with Romney, he got rich running a hedge fund and ran for president as a Republican.)

Yes there are a few people who are taking the phrase and adding in their own economic politics. Framing the entire movement based on those few people is the sort of bad-faith argument I’m complaining about above.

This is precisely what I was saying above: unable to separate the phrase from the organization. BLM is an organization. It was created in 2013, way before the recent protests, on tumblr and later got its own website and funding (via Susan Rosenberg, former ally of the BLA). BLM seized the opportunity from the current protests to put itself into the spotlight - not black lives, but their organization, which they've openly declared as anti-capitalists who want to abolish existing institutions of the state.

The media are at fault for making BLM the "face" of the protests. Not the phrase, but the organization.

This is no accident. It has been done deliberately so that if you criticize the organization "Black Lives Matter", you are seen to be criticizing the phrase "black lives matter", which suggests you don't care about black lives. BLM are using people's natural sympathy for the black cause to promote another agenda, which has little to do with black lives and a lot more to do with communism.

The vast majority of people, left or right will agree that "black lives matter", almost to the point where even saying it is moot. The tiny fraction of actual racists might disagree, and it might seem like there are many more of them than there really are - with some celebrities having to manufacture hate crimes because the supply of racism isn't meeting the demand that the left-wing media needs.

If I refuse to shout "black lives matter" or take the knee in solidarity with the mob, it isn't because I'm racist or think that black lives don't matter - it is because I don't agree with the BLM and don't want to endorse it in any way. I also don't owe anyone anything - nor do I believe most of these modern day "victims" are owed anything by anyone, and they're certainly not going to end racism by trying to swing the pendulum the other way - they seem to be stoking the flames (Both by increasing anti-white racism and in turn causing a reactionary rise in racism on the far right).

I can understand the historical plight of blacks and how some of that persecution still bleeds into modern day institutions - but I don't agree with the BLM on how this should be solved. Obviously, my opinion doesn't matter because I must "shut up and let black people speak." See where this is going? The BLM make the rules, you must conform or be "cancelled" by getting labelled as racist if you don't agree. No room for debate, no discussion on how we might actually fix the issues - just empty demands to shut down institutions and bring about a communist revolution.

I’m sorry but you are mistaken. Yes, there is an organization called “Black Lives Matter.” No it is not behind all the protests, nor is it in charge of the movement, nor is the press elevating it.

It has the approximate relationship to the protests as the Unitarian Church has to all of Christianity.

From your comments, I think you may have a diet of information that is too narrow. A few media outlets aggressively conflate the movement and the organization in an effort to use discomfort with one (the org) to gin up discomfort with the entire topic of racial equality.

I encourage you to think about a simple question: if Mitt Romney, who is clearly not a Marxist will say “black lives matter,” why won’t you? How can your concern be economics if conservative capitalists are saying it?

EDIT to add an example maybe more familiar it HN readers. There’s an open source movement, and an organization called the Open Source Initiative, which dates from the same time and even claims to have helped invent the term.

When you hear someone talk about “open source,” or read a news article that mentions “open source,” do you think they are talking about the broad social movement, or about the OSI specifically? The movement, right? Well it’s the same with Black Lives Matter, which is a rallying cry that is used widely and not owned by any particular small group of people.

Why do you need to get me to utter the phrase "black lives matter" specifically? Why can you not settle with, "I care about ending all forms of racism," as stated above, or even "I care about black lives"?

The specific phrase "black lives matter" is required because it is the same as the organization - it is designed to conflate.

Are you specifically able to say "I don't necessarily agree with Black Lives Matter?" (Think carefully, because the far-left are experts at taking something you say out of context)

The primary media outlets putting BLM at the helm of the protests have been left-wing media outlets. In the UK, it has been the BBC, Channel 4 and The Guardian.

> When you hear someone talk about “open source,” or read a news article that mentions “open source,” do you think they are talking about the broad social movement, or about the OSI specifically?

This one is interesting because the OSI claims itself the arbiter of the term "open source," and there has been much debate on this issue, for example surrounding MongoDB's attempt to call their SSPI license an "open source" license, despite not being accepted by the OSI or meeting their "open source definition" because it discriminates based on field of endeavour.

A lot of these protesters seem to be willingly acting as shields for the brick-throwers.

How many times have we seen a black-clad (thus like the 'secret police' unidentifiable and unaccountable) brick thrower seek shelter in the crowd of "peaceful" protesters?

The protesters are there on their own initiative to express their own opinion. They should not have to stop because a few bad actors show up and try to hide in them.

It would be like saying no one should go to the market because a few pickpockets use the big crowd to hide in.

People don’t go to the market to hide pickpockets. And protesters don’t protest to hide brick-throwers.

These protests are possibly the single largest protests for civil rights in the country's history. It is estimated that between 15 and 26 million Americans protested. Roughly 6% to 10% of the US adult population. If after almost 1 in 10 Americans protesting for the same thing you're pushing, you think you're less capable of succeeding at your job, I think you may want to question your approach.

And I don't mean that disrespectfully. I mean that in a sincere way. These protests were Americans saying that more of the same won't work. Yet another police sensitivity training class won't work. Yet one more less than lethal weapon won't work. Meeting with community leaders isn't sufficient. Raising the police budget so they can address this concerns isn't the answer. That's all been happening for a quarter of a century at this point and it's still fundamentally broken.

Almost 1 in 10 people are saying, we need a fundamentally different approach w.r.t. to policing. Police don't need to be called in for every mental health case, for every role of a social worker, for patroling schools and "arresting" kids because middle schoolers got into a fight.

The fact that out of ~20 million people, including plenty of outside agitators that disagreed with the protests and participated maliciously trying to discredit them, that the vast overwhelming majority have been peaceful is a testament.

The system is fundamentally broken, and has acquired sufficient power to resist all of the normal checks and balances. That's when protests is most useful - to raise awareness of what is truly happening and advocate for change.


I think it's important to step back see the bigger picture. Your comment IMO is exactly what PG is talking about when he defines "aggressively conventional" (down to using the actions of the masses to support your POV). A perfect system cannot exist, and getting there is limited by economics -> diminishing returns.

It seems like you are pushing for a social structure that will consume American freedom to lower rate of failure (which is a drop in the ocean considering our population size) from our social system.

The system is not fundamentally broken, it's just human; comprised and run by humans.

I have a number of disagreements with your comment.

The first is the following:

1. OP posted that they've been trying something for many years and it hasn't produced the end result people want

2. An unprecedentedly large protest event has happened

3. I'm suggesting that OP should use the awareness of this new event to consider a new approach.

4. You characterize the above as "aggressively conventional".

If saying someone should take new knowledge and do something different in your opinion is "aggressively conventional", then I reach one of two conclusions.


a. You have a very different understanding of "conventional" than PG meant.

b. It illustrates the uselessness of PGs framework for delineating conventionality, conformity and action.

My opinion is it's actually option "b". PG has essentially framed any opinion that someone advocates for, that he (and via implication the reader) strong disagrees with as being conventional, and any opinion that he or the reader advocates for as independent.

PG got a BA in from Cornell, an MS and Phd from Harvard. He went to study fine arts at Rhode Island school of design, and then at an art school in Florence. Following by going into business, and starting a company. I have nothing against any of those, and in fact thing it's a great path and laud him for the hard work and decidation of doing it. But it's true, that it's almost impossible to be in and leverage any more traditional, conventional methods of success in society than that. That is as conventional as it get. And yet he labels himself as independent. Amongst people who went to Ivy Leagues and started a company he advocated for something somewhat different (you can make more money doing X than by doing Y), but honestly it's pretty darn conventional. It's like being the rebel on Wall St., or the punk rocker that dyes their hair orange instead of the typical pink. He calls out teenagers, but doesn't see how exactly he's in that same mold.

Now directly on "conventional". Everything has been done before. Protests have happened before, people in power have used it to suppress ideas, there have been pandemics, there have been new technologies. If your definition of conventional is "has this ever happened", then from knowing even a tiny slice of history - exactly everything ever is conventional.

If you choose your definition of conventional to be more practical than "everything that ever happens", you come to a definition of conventional being supportive of those ideas, structures and systems of the existing groups in power. And independent meaning pushing ideas against them. Leveraging a non-infinite definition of "conventional" your argument above no longer makes sense. It becomes clear that you're arguing for using the conventional methods of trying to reform the system, which is what haven't been working. You are arguing for conventional thinking, while denouncing it.

> It seems like you are pushing for a social structure that will consume American freedom to lower rate of failure ... from our social system.

This is uninterpretable to me. I'm not even certain what social structure you're accusing me of pushing.

> The system is not fundamentally broken, it's just human; comprised and run by humans.

And this again to me seems to be the fallacy/oversimplification you've used. Because a system is comprised of and run by humans it not fundamentally broken? Every system is comprised of humans. That means you're arguing that no system can ever exist that can be broken. Again you're using a label and try to have it encompass the infinite. The fact a system is comprised of humans doesn't mean it can't be broken.

Who knows what PG thinks on that issue, his post lacked any specifics, other than slavery is bad.

If the mayor of Portland joins them, and many of them just chant "fuck Ted Wheeler" at him, maybe they need to come to the table with solutions rather than just problem?

> Do you really think that's what people are complaining about here? Not the professors being fired, the well known economists being forced to resign? There was a professor who lost his status running a residence hall because he was on the legal defense team for someone despicable.

So the only actual example I was able to google here was the last one: and I have to say, is that it? A guy wasn’t asked back as a dorm administrator once he joined Harvey Weinstein’s legal team? That’s the “cancel culture” you’re talking about, in contrast to one of the most brutal and grotesque onslaught of police brutality in the west in recent memory?

Like you realise the protests were sparked off by a murder, right?

This is what I mean when I say it’s ridiculous. The Harvard guy didn’t even lose his job, for goodness’ sake.

> Everything the protestors are doing has probably set us back a decade.

Where did I defend or endorse the actions of protestors? My point is simply that it’s ridiculous to think the main authoritarian crisis in the US right now is “cancel culture” when it is literally in the midst of a brutal police crackdown against protestors.

Also I’m sorry but it’s hard to take you seriously with regards to police violence when you didn’t mention a single thing the police did wrong in your list of grievances, but you’re happy to talk about the protestors.

> every major spike in crime due to police being defunded instead of retrained

This is not a view supported by the evidence.

> We have a legal and social framework for affecting longterm change and it works much better than arson.

The US has more prisoners per capita than any society at any point in history in the world. The police are armed and violent. And those systems which apparently work so well have been in place throughout all this. But maybe you should tell me more about how these systems work so well.

Also I’m continually amazed that Americans forget their proud history of violent protest so quickly. It always seems like protest against injustice was fine in some unspecified “past” but of course all of that Is behind us now and The best we can do is vote (vote for the party at least partly responsible for the state of the police today, by the way).

>So the only actual example I was able to google here was the last one: and I have to say, is that it?

125 examples (so far) of regular people losing their job or being threatened for thoughtcrime: https://twitter.com/SoOppressed/status/1282404647160942598

> Like you realise the protests were sparked off by a murder, right?

It wasn't a murder. I suggest you read the transcript from Lane's body camera. Key points:

* Lane approaches George Floyd asks him to show his hands. Floyd is so high, he has difficulty complying.

* They take him out of his car and try to get him in the police car.

* Floyd claims he can't breathe and begs to be allowed to lie on the ground.

* They call the ambulance (unclear if this is before after he is put on the ground).

* He keeps talking for a few minutes, before losing consciousness.


Wow, that was so nice of the police to let him lie down when he asked.

Then to thoughtfully apply a knee to his neck to prevent him from flying up into the sky if gravitational attraction were to suddenly reverse, so very helpful and just! And they kept at it for almost 9 minutes, such dedication to helping the public, wow.

Wow, the police were so helpful!

> Like you realise the protests were sparked off by a murder, right?

And since then they've resulted in 17 deaths. Tit for tat? Were those 17 people guilty in that murder? Yes that initial act was wrong and we should address that, vandalizing businesses and setting federal property on fire has nothing to do with that original offense.

> it’s ridiculous to think the main authoritarian crisis in the US right now

You keep asserting this. You don't show evidence for this. What's the authoritarian crisis? That cops have qualified immunity? That's not new. Is it that you think poorly of the president? I think poorly of him too but he's not Mussolini.

You can't vaguely claim there's something wrong with a system and use that as an excuse for violence and destruction - especially when the violence and destruction isn't even targeted at the people you're accusing.

> you didn’t mention a single thing the police did wrong in your list of grievances

No I didn't because it's not relevant. You're creating a strawman when the reality of the situation is complicated. This isn't cops versus protesters and attempts to cast it as a binary problem is partisanship. If you're interested in solving problems instead of stirring up anger then your interest should be in understanding the problem and not polarizing sides.

> This is not a view supported by the evidence.

1. https://nij.ojp.gov/library/publications/effect-higher-educa...

2. https://inpublicsafety.com/2014/07/how-education-impacts-pol...

> The US has more prisoners per capita than any society at any point in history in the world

That has nothing to do with this topic. Like, I agree that's a problem and we should address that by considering how we treat low level drug offenses, but it has nothing to do with police brutality and cancel culture.

> The police are armed and violent.

Police brutality has decreased mindbogglingly since the 1960s. Yes the police have more gear and we can talk about why it makes sense to do things like remove camo from their inventory and the pros/cons of using APCs, but that has nothing to do with canceling people and ruining their careers.

> But maybe you should tell me more about how these systems work so well


> proud history of violent protest so quickly

Violence is not something to be proud of. A violent victory for one person is a funeral for another. Violence is against justice and it deprives the accused of reasonable and rational defense.

You talk so much against authoritarianism, but violence is the fundamental tool of it. Courts and ballot boxes are the tools of democracy.

> And since then they've resulted in 17 deaths.

Wait---are you seriously not going to count the people the police have killed? What is wrong with you?

Regardless, my point was not that the protests are justified (although of course they are: for someone who claims to work in "police reform" all you have been doing is defending the police and demonising protestors), but that to not identify the militarised police force brutalising protestors as a more important sign of authoritarianism than "cancel culture" is ridiculous.

That's why I mentioned the protests were started by a murder. Because when you claim cancel culture is this huge problem, and mention a Harvard professor not having one of his duties renewed, I think it's relevant to show how grotesquely out of proportion it is with the George Floyd protests.

> You keep asserting this. You don't show evidence for this.

I'm sorry: in what capacity have you been "working for police reform"? I'm really getting the feeling that that is an extremely inaccurate description of your job.

I haven't shown evidence for the police brutality in the US because I assumed you were aware of it. Are you not? Do you not understand that police officers murdering peaceful protestors is an authoritarian crisis?

> If you're interested in solving problems instead of stirring up anger then your interest should be in understanding the problem and not polarizing sides.

All of the "solutions" for how to stop police violence which come from American police amount to (surprisingly) giving the police more money. Kind of like how all of the "solutions" to gun violence involve giving more people guns (teachers, cops, etc.)

The way to curb police violence is to defund and demilitarise the police. This is what has worked in places outside of the US, and this is the only realistic approach.

> 1. https://nij.ojp.gov/library/publications/effect-higher-educa.... > > 2. https://inpublicsafety.com/2014/07/how-education-impacts-pol....

This is not evidence for the claim that defunding the police causes a spike in crime.

> That has nothing to do with this topic.

Mass imprisonment is absolutely relevant to the question of the authoritarian nature of the police.

> Violence is not something to be proud of.

You can't think of a single instance of violent protest that you'd be proud of?

> You talk so much against authoritarianism, but violence is the fundamental tool of it.

It's difficult to take you seriously on the issue of police violence when you have yet to even acknowledge the horrific and obvious police brutality during the protests.

Rioters aren't protesters and there is nothing even close to "brutal" happening to the rioters. If anything, the state is showing remarkable restraint. Imagine if this shit was happening in China or Russia.

If you/they get what you want out of all of this, a neo-marxist-anarcho-commune-socialist-green-whatever, no-rules, but lots of rules enforced randomly by the mob, THEN you'll see real brutal-ism like you saw in CHAZ when the 'security' force gunned down two teenagers who were joy riding in a stolen car. The fact that current rioters have no real fear is because they know that the police are extremely restrained in what they do. Getting tear gassed or (rarely) hit with a baton/bean-bag is nothing close to what real brutality is.

Also, the fact that you are not aware of the deep reaches of cancel culture today is because you are aggressively conformist with your peer group so you only get your information from sources that are deeply filtered.

We're not yet living in George Orwell's 1984 either, but just because we don't live in the worst possible timeline with a Ministry of Love doesn't mean we can't criticize or ask for improvement of conditions or policies in society today.

To brush off the actions of the police in the US as "not even close to brutal" and "showing remarkable restraint" is beyond callous and demonstrates some pretty bad faith and a lack of empathy on your part. I will remind you that this started over the murder of a man accused of using a fake $20 bill, and __human lives are more important than property__.

I do not condone police escalation and I agree that we have seen examples of indefensible police behavior. But the fact that the "CHAZ security force" -- ostensibly the good guys who hate police violence -- shot two unarmed black boys within a month of being formed makes me skeptical that protestors actually know how to make policing less violent.

> there is nothing even close to "brutal" happening to the rioters.

If you aren't going to believe me, and if you're not going to believe your eyes with regards to the multiple clear videos of police brutality, then maybe you should listen to the multiple international human rights organisations which have called for an end to the police brutality?

I mean what would even convince you that the police are brutalising protestors? What evidence are you missing? Surely there is just as much evidence for the US brutalising its citizens as there is for China or Russia doing so? (I am not saying the level of brutality is the same, mind you)

To be honest with you it's difficult to have a conversation with someone so out of touch with reality in this way: if you can't see that the US police are brutalising protestors you're maybe too far gone.

> The fact that current rioters have no real fear is because they know that the police are extremely restrained in what they do.

How many people have the police killed since the protests began?

> Getting tear gassed or (rarely) hit with a baton/bean-bag is nothing close to what real brutality is.

You know people were killed by tear gas? You know people lost eyes from rubber bullets?

> Also, the fact that you are not aware of the deep reaches of cancel culture today is because you are aggressively conformist with your peer group so you only get your information from sources that are deeply filtered.

In contrast to you, the well-read worldly individual who gets their news from news.ycombinator.com.

Go on, then: tell me about the horrific cases of cancel culture which I was shielded from in my bubble.

I agree.

I think it's a strong indicator when someone takes the most absurd or niche demand of a movement of millions of people seeking justice for some of the worst oppression and state violence as a way to dismiss the whole of that movement they're probably not operating in 100% good faith or they're consuming sources that aren't particularly balanced. Or they spend too much time on twitter, I'm definitely guilty of this, but twitter isn't the real world.

For example, I don't particularly care about the master/main debate about Github, it literally does not concern me, I do not care, but if people want it renamed, why not? And if someone thinks that demand (by whom, certainly not the protestors primary concern or probably even in the top 1000) is stupid why does that invalidate an entire movement to seek justice for people suffering horrendous violence?

These supposed cases of cancel culture just show how sad the lives of these supposedly cancelled people are.

In the UK there's supposedly a "trans mafia" intimidating journalists and beloved childrens authors. But there simply isn't, these anti trans obsessives think people commercially boycotting or calling them out are some malevolent oppressor. And they complain about it weekly to their audience of millions in the leading papers and magazines (Bari Weiss wasn't fired, she quit). Meanwhile in the real world trans people suffer huge mental health issues and violence, they literally want it to be easier to be who they are. I find the whole concept mystifying and can't begin to understand what it feels like to be trans. But trans people are telling us.

We should call people what they want to be called and make healthcare available to them. It's that simple. Someone is not being oppressed for not using the right pronouns they're being a jackass to vulnerable people and they should literally stop being obsessed with toilets. Life's too short, and if you're a poor African American or a trans person it's a whole lot shorter, on average, and anyone who uses rebranding food packaging to dismiss that truth is telling on themself

So the Rowling example is a good case here. She was defending a woman who was fired for personally, outside of work, saying there should be safe spaces for women off limits to trans people.

You can disagree with the original claim and there's a good debate to be had there.

But firing someone for a private opinion, and not one calling for violence, is not aligned with my values.

Yes, Bari Weiss did resign because she was harassed in her workplace and her employer refused to resolve the situation. It's one thing to disagree with a coworker, it's another to repeatedly harass and demean them. Bullying someone into quitting isn't a definition of Justice that I agree with.

If someone doesn't want to use a "master branch" than more power to them. On the other hand, if you're going to attack and insult me until I follow your request then it's not a request - it's a demand. My response will be to decline following your demand.

Yes, you should address people as they want to be addressed and not be a jerk. Someone not following that behavior.. should still be treated like a human being. You don't get to doxx them and send them death threats because you disagree with their behavior.

I think with the Rowling Forstater case there's a nuance that her contract was not renewed, rather than being drummed out of the office in the middle of the day [0]. When you have a job representing an organisation there are expectations of how you act in your public role in a job and I would fully expect making discriminatory statements to see me not employed at a company if I didn't make an apology for them. I'd also expect making statements that talked down our product, or belittled a colleague, to be a disciplinary matter, we are professionals after all and if you want shoot the breeze with friends and family, twitter probably isn't the forum.

On Bari Weiss I've not really been following it, from a distance it seems like attention seeking. She's a public figure with a huge platform, people used their free speech to call her an idiot (no doubt tipping into abuse as the Internet tends to and that's a moderation issue). But we have a right to call columnists thick as shit. We all have a right of reply, speech is free (though less so in the UK where pretty much anything gets you sued for libel by free speech crusaders like Rowling). Speech isn't free of consequences, it doesn't exist in a vacuum and discriminatory and hostile speech has historically preceded violence against minority groups. As my previous comment getting downvoted shows, being in the outgroup on a forum can suck, but people don't have to uncritically upvote me and give me the warm fuzzies if they disagree.

Edit: typing on a phone so it's hard to do a long form reply. On the master thing, like I say I don't have a strong opinion one way or another, I'm happy for github to change it if only because it's shorter. I don't think it's a particularly valuable cause or hill to die on and I don't know of an instance of the enraged mob tearing down someone for keeping their branches named as master (though again they might use right of reply to call them a prick) but it's symbolic of white Liberal responses to injustice. We're not debating git branch names, except in the navel gazing tech world we inhabit. We're debating there being something like 5 days last year where the US police did not kill one or more people. We've (or rather for US readers, you've) got a president who wants to outlaw bail funds, protest medics, etc. The real cancel culture is the power wielded by states, as pretty much the entire ME for the past however many centuries could attest to or transgender, gay, black soldiers who serve or served the US in uniform, or corporations and lawyers, as blacklisted construction workers or Aaron Schwartz (sp) could tell you.

Discussions about whether we have to give Bari Weiss our eternal gratitude for excreting another column feel deeply unserious when they talk over real problems.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/dec/18/judge-rules-...

> We have a legal and social framework for affecting longterm change and it works much better than arson.

This is a non-sequitur. Police violence has (probably) been increasing for years[1]. Over the last 20 years the police have become more militarized and killings by police have increased even as crime rates have decreased sharply. Clearly the legal and social frameworks are not working.

[1] https://fee.org/articles/how-many-people-are-killed-by-polic...

Police violence has (probably) been increasing for years

From what I've gathered, police violence has likely decreased at least compared to 50 years ago. I would argue fewer incidents, but much more publicity around them.

It wasn't unusual in the least for cops to rough up a suspect. Disrespect the police, well, you'll get a good beating because you're a criminal and no one will believe you.

This video about "Whistling Smith", a Vancouver cop in the 70's was really eye opening for me.[1]. Look at his interactions, you think that would fly today?

Same thing with this quote from a cop investigating biker gangs in Quebec in the 90's.

"Don't forget this before the Charter of Rights. You saw a guy walking up the street in his colors, you kicked the shit out of him, and that was it".[110] Bouchard argued that the "old school" methods of beating up outlaw bikers were far preferable to modern policing methods as outlaw bikers only respect violence.[2]

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ5oYz6uufU [2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Boucher

From [1]:

> There are a few reasons to be skeptical of this trend. Reporting might be a lot better in recent years, and reports in prior years (if they were made at all) may be increasingly difficult to find the further back you go. In addition, FE’s totals for the last three years — the years they consider most complete — are pretty flat.

> Like a puzzle missing most of the pieces, the data so far are interesting, but not illuminating.

If you don't mind sharing, on what metrics (or other independently verifiable information) are we set back a decade? To make it easy on you and not go all "citation needed", names of the metrics will be sufficient. I'll go look at the numbers myself as close to 2010 as possible and as close to 2020 as possible and provide sources here, if I can.

Then if possible I'll compare last June to this June and see if it looks closer to June 2010.

It seems to me that we don't actually have a legal and social framework for affecting longterm change since its been co-opted by corporations and the ultra-rich. I just don't see any good alternatives.

But the reform way hasn't worked very well, if at all, either. Not saying that means one should revolt or anything, just that America seems like it's stuck between a rock and hard place, currently.

>But the reform way hasn't worked very well, if at all, either.

You don't see a difference between USA, 1960 and USA, 2020?

And you know what was the cause of the largest changes between 1960 and 2020? The civil rights protests.

And those protesters were disapproved of / hated by the majority of the population at the time. For upsetting the status quo - and "pushing for change to quickly". There are surveys that list this - that mirror the exact same responses that a number of people give today about BLM.

> And you know what was the cause of the largest changes between 1960 and 2020? The civil rights protests.

So there was change that was achieved by non-revolutionary ways, but this time it's different? This time it needs to be riots and proclaiming autonomous zones of a weird mix of war lord justice and lawlessness? I'm not convinced.

My understanding is that inequality is much worse now than in the 60s. It also seems like back then it was much easier to have a good quality of life with a non-skilled job than it is today. However, I haven't looked into it too much so I could be mistaken.

Census data on percentage of blacks living in poverty.[1]

2018 - 23.3%

1966 - 31.1%


Not saying that you're making it at all but there is a very common error people make when looking at the poverty stats.

"The official poverty definition uses money income before taxes and does not include capital gains or noncash benefits (such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps)." (https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty/guidanc...)

After these programs, the poverty rate is reduced by 53% (https://www.nber.org/papers/w24567.pdf)

This is a good point and something I had heard before! You are correct this is before gov't transfers.

I was looking more at the relative change versus arguing the numbers were absolute.

Thanks for posting this! Good to have numbers to discuss!

I'm having trouble opening the spreadsheets on my Mac. How do the numbers compare for all races? Do numbers like this factor in things like health insurance or renting versus owning a house?

It goes beyond Twitter. Take a look at what happened at Evergreen State College in 2017 [1] and you will find close parallels with the Red Guards mentioned in this thread. This is just one incident.

Multiple people are telling you they have personally lived through similar things, and they are scared because these things did not end well. These people are aware of the events you believe pose the greater threat, and they disagree with you.

> I find it bizarre that comments like these seem to think the main battle ground for free speech is young people like myself "cancelling" people on twitter

I truly don't mean to be patronizing, but I will say the following because I believe there is a lot at stake and I'm trying to get you to see the other side of this. If you find this view "bizarre", maybe there is something important you are missing. Is there something these people see that you are missing?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evergreen_State_College#2017_p...

Because there's a mechanism for changing that government: the upcoming presidential election. Whereas changing a cultural movement like the one we're watching unfold is a lot more difficult.

A lot of the people "being cancelled" on twitter are only freaking out because for the first time in forever, they get the direct opinion of people reading their texts unfiltered, and they find out that they are prey to criticism.

For example, Kelly Loeffler, claims to have been "cancelled" while being a sitting US senator.

Cancel culture by popular action is not new (see letter-writing to TV stations, Frank Zappa having to testify in front of congress about censorship for his music albums). The only thing freaking people out is that people who have traditionally been structurally shielded from criticism and direct action (and often behind the cancelling itself) are just now on the receiving end of it.

People expressing their opinions about one's ideas is not cancel culture: it's when critics go one step further and try to destroy the person they disagree with.

Many people have lost their livelihoods and even more are afraid to express their opinion at all because of the disproportionate cost they might incur.

People having been structurally shielded from mob justice in the past is a state worth returning to.

"Many people have lost their livelihoods"

Hmm, sounds intriguing. Do you have any sources for this or concrete examples which can be fact-checked?

The ones I can find quickly:

* Nicholas Sandmann (for an image taken out of context)

* Tenured UNC Professor Mike Adams

* Goya Foods' CEO Bob Unanue (attempted)

* Terese Nielsen (allegedly)

* Grant Napear

* Justin Kucera (allegedly)

* Aleksander Katai

* Kathleen Lowry

* JK Rowling (attempted)

* Cornell Professor Dave Collum

* Stephen Hsu

* Leslie Neal-Boylan

* James Bennet

* Melissa Rolfe

* Emmanuel Cafferty

Brandon Eich

* Steven Pinker (attempted)

Brett Weinstein

Matt Taibbi's had a few good articles on this recently. Some excerpts:

"Cancelations already are happening too fast to track. In a phenomenon that will be familiar to students of Russian history, accusers are beginning to appear alongside the accused. Three years ago a popular Canadian writer named Hal Niedzviecki was denounced for expressing the opinion that “anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities." He reportedly was forced out of the Writer’s Union of Canada for the crime of “cultural appropriation,” and denounced as a racist by many, including a poet named Gwen Benaway. The latter said Niedzviecki “doesn’t see the humanity of indigenous peoples.” Last week, Benaway herself was denounced on Twitter for failing to provide proof that she was Indigenous.

Michael Korenberg, the chair of the board at the University of British Columbia, was forced to resign for liking tweets by Dinesh D’Souza and Donald Trump, which you might think is fine – but what about Latino electrical worker Emmanuel Cafferty, fired after a white activist took a photo of him making an OK symbol (it was described online as a “white power” sign)? How about Sue Schafer, the heretofore unknown graphic designer the Washington Post decided to out in a 3000-word article for attending a Halloween party two years ago in blackface (a failed parody of a different blackface incident involving Megyn Kelly)? She was fired, of course. How was this news? Why was ruining this person’s life necessary?"

[This is not a direct reply to your comment, but a comment on Hacker News itself.]

It's interesting that a couple of minutes ago, I was unable to even attempt to reply to wrren's comment. It was grayed out, and I guess you can't reply to grayed-out comments. I read the comment and saw an exploration of ideas, not something that would be destructive to the Hacker News community or experience. I reloaded the page, the comment is no longer gray, and I am now able to reply to it. I guess it's been upvoted into acceptability again, and eligible for further discussion.

Did I just imagine that there was no reply link after this comment? (It's an honest question, since this might be the first gray comment that I've tried to reply to.)

Ironically enough (given that Paul Graham founded it) Hacker News itself seems to provide tools for silencing unconventional ideas through downvoting (unconventional for HN.) Apparently, it's not a particularly new problem: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17612885

Seems like there's some aggressive conventionally-mindedness right here on Hacker News. It happens structurally, in the way downvoting unpopular ideas gets them silenced, and conventionally, in the way discussion about voting on Hacker News is discouraged.

Deep threads hide the reply button temporarily as an anti-flamewar thing (You can still reply by clicking on the timestamp to go to the comments permalink, it's just intended to be a soft deterrent against too much back-and-forth). Purely downvotes shouldn't disable replies, only if a comment gets killed (by flags or automated filters) it gets disabled.

So, it's not related to whether a comment is grayed out, but to how deep it is and how recently it was posted. That's helpful to know. Thanks!

All communities, including this one, require curation and moderation. The down vote is a way to drive out "non-HN" ideas out of the square, as determined by the broad subset of HN users (and a small number of super users).

It isn't aggressively conventionally minded, it is pro social, as well as likely the only way to maintain a level of discourse that the majority wants.

Many people arguing against "cancel culture" like to say that it ruins people's lives when they're fired, and it's a statement that is inextricably rooted in privilege. Millions of people are fired or laid off every year - why should one only care when it's because someone said something and got cancelled?

I think there could be a few nuances:

- Since the internet does not forget, someone who is fired due to mob justice is likely to have it affect their ability to hold a job in the future in a way that isn't necessarily true for most firings or layoffs.

- Both losing ones job due to mob justice and due to other factors such as economics can ruin someone's life.

Mob justice hasn't been visible for a while often because regular justice was being used for direct oppression in its stead. Injustice is institutionalized, and so as long as the majority group does not see the mob, it does not see oppression even if it exists.

Tell me that for every person getting yelled at on Twitter you couldn't find countless more groups of minorities who have been denied justice over the years, whether because they are aborigines, black, lgbtqia+, or any other group of the kind. That open criticism and denial of cultures and ways of life wasn't just the default mode of operation. That one's life being valued less than someone else's property, beatings by police, harsher criminal sentences, and lack of equal rights wasn't just the mode of operation.

Getting yelled at on Twitter by people fed up with someone's bullshit is not even close to actual mob justice. It's just angry people shouting. Sometimes people shout enough that it turns to direct action (like letter-writing, which was used at least as far back as the 1800s), boycotts, and stuff like that. Today's cancel culture isn't mob justice any more than it was before, and it's not new.

Again, it's just a bunch of people who usually were never on the short end of the stick seeing its shadow pointed their way and freaking out.

This is a complete non-sequitur.

Let's respond to injustice and oppression, by trying to extend a little bit of injustice and oppression to other people who haven't experienced it yet, just because we can.

How about less injustice and oppression all around?

It's an exceedingly common deflection. "Group X has suffered and/or is suffering worse, therefore your complaint can be ignored." It tends to come up sooner or later when someone complains about the negative impact of certain types of policies.

Actually, maybe that's an interesting viewpoint splitter. Would it be better if everyone who hit a zebra crossing button twice were arrested or if only 26-year-old Irish-Americans with less than $500k in their bank account were arrested for hitting the zebra crossing button twice?

The former has less overall state oppression. The latter imposes it on one group. It feels reasonable to me that they could say "If this is going to happen to me, it should also happen to everyone else. If no one else is getting this, then it shouldn't happen to me either." (p->q, ¬q->¬p)

But perhaps you believe that the first part of that is not acceptable and only the second part is.

> Many people have lost their livelihoods

What are you referring to, specifically?

Good question! The phrase "many people" covers up the relative paucity of actual instances, as well as the exact nature of those instances.

Every person who loses their job to a misunderstanding is a tragedy to that person, and every person who loses their job claims it's due to a misunderstanding. We live in a polarized nation such that other companies seem to rush to hire those very same people on purpose, so it doesn't seem to be a huge tragedy, but I'm sure it feels tragic.

It also seems to happen very, very rarely, and usually after events that seem indefensible on their face. That is, rarely are people willing to say "they should have faced no consequences," but often people are willing to say "they should not have faced consequences quite that severe."

If you can't be bothered to recognize even a single instance of this happening, then you've shut your eyes and ears.

I mean I was interested in examples. People disagree about what counts as a “cancelling” so I was looking to see what the person I was responding to was referring to, with some examples.

Of course a version of it existed, but the going concern with cancel culture is that it doesn't require much thought or effort to cancel someone now. Social media allows you to easily join a mob without judging a person deeply by yourself.

Because previous mobs were well known for their thoughtfulness and judgement?

Well previously you needed an actual physical mob so you had to get enough people local to the victim outraged enough to be convinced it's worth their time. That's a much higher bar than doxing someone and sending hate mail to everyone around them.

No - that's why it is a mob.

It does not make sense to me that we should say the actions of a government are less important to criticise or examine because we can vote on that government.

I didn't say they were less important, just that they're more easily solved.

They're more easy to take one concrete step to try to change. How much that will actually solve remains to be seen.

> protestors are being arrested by secret police in the US

I genuinely don't have reliable information to determine whether they are peaceful protestors or violent rioters, nor whether the police are secret or not. Where would I go to find out?

Peaceful protestors being brutalised by police has been documented in almost countless cases by now. I find it hard to believe that you're asking this is good faith, but if you you are then you can:

* Watch any one of the hundreds of videos documenting what I'm referring to.

* Read pretty much any major news source in the US documenting these cases.

I'm sorry that I don't have a specific source to point you to, but it's genuinely because there is just so much evidence for the statement that it's hard to pick out one thing.

As to the secret police question, that's really down to your definition of secret police.

> Peaceful protestors being brutalised by police has been documented in almost countless cases by now

Yes, I've seen plenty of evidence for that[1]. On the other hand you said "protestors are being arrested by secret police in the US". That's quite a different claim and I haven't seen any evidence for that. I've heard a few reports and associated videos whose reliability I haven't been able to verify.

[1] For the avoidance of doubt my belief is that that kind of behaviour does not belong in a civilised society.

Operation Legend

Federal officials stage a major law enforcement operation in a city with zero coordination with the mayor of that city, who instead learns about it from twitter.


Operation Diligent Valor

A top U.S. Homeland Security official on Monday defended the federal crackdown on protests in Portland, including the use of unmarked cars and unidentified officers in camouflage gear and said the practice will spread to other cities as needed.


ACLU lawsuit: https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-sues-federal-agents...

Restraining order issued against attacking journalists:

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon today blocked federal agents in Portland from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or targeting force against journalists or legal observers at protests. The court’s order, which comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, adds the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service to an existing injunction barring Portland police from arresting or attacking journalists and legal observers at Portland protests.


Oregon just had their attempt to remove federal police thrown out.[1]

In a 14-page order, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman ruled that the state lacked legal standing to bring the suit and had “presented no evidence that these allegedly illegal seizures are a widespread practice.”


I assume you're aware of police obscuring their badge numbers, and refusing to identify themselves? That phenomenon is at least as common as the actual police violence.

While I have many problems with the following snopes article, I think the facts it presents are pretty incontrovertible:


> I assume you're aware of police obscuring their badge numbers, and refusing to identify themselves?

Er, is this what you would call secret police? The article's facts may be incontrovertible, but they don't agree with your description:

"What's Undetermined

While one person said he was detained without officers identifying themselves — and another viral video was interpreted by viewers as a case of the same thing — we have no verifiable evidence to prove or disprove whether agents in those cases explained for what federal agency they worked during the arrests."

So what's undetermined in the snopes article is whether specifically those police that detained people in portland identified themselves or not.

When I spoke about officers not identifying themselves I was talking generally, about the other cases from outside of portland, of officers obscuring their badges and not identifying themselves.

But no, that's not really what I would count as secret police. I mean I think the distinction is a little arbitrary and before long you basically get to arguing definitions which is almost always a waste of time, but I think the actions of the police in the snopes article constitute an overstep that I think qualifies as authoritarian. Especially when those agencies were sent in specifically by the executive.

Also, I should point out that the line you quoted is the one I have a problem with:

> we have no verifiable evidence to prove or disprove whether agents in those cases explained for what federal agency they worked during the arrests.

That's a very strange sentence to me: like how could you even prove such a thing? Have a video of the entirety of the person's interaction with the police?

I think if we're being reasonable here that it's overwhelmingly likely the police didn't identify themselves in this case. But of course it's not feasible to have "evidence" for that kind of thing, so I suppose I can't go ahead and say I'm sure on the point.

I think the "secret police" part is a red herring. My opinion is that the federal police were justified defending the courthouse, but were not justified hunting around for suspects in vans, unmarked or not(this is the state police's job!), but I don't think too many would agree that the federal vs state divide is what's important, which is why I didn't bring it up initially. I feel the anger against the federal agents is not rooted in principle, but the principles are used as a rationalization for removing an opposing force to the protests.

Hopefully we can agree that it's well within police prerogative to prevent rioting, serious property damage(like trying set fire to buildings), possible violence. I am definitely willing to concede that Trump is a tactless brute, and sending the federal agents in like this was far from the best strategy. We could even perhaps tentatively agree that his actual goal is to disperse the protests under the guise of preventing rioting, but again, we'd have to agree first that the rioting is there.

Which brings me back to the original post - is there protesting or violent rioting? Both. Is there secret police or not? Not really - there should be police to monitor the protests and prevent the rioting. If the state police is unwilling to do it, then the federal police may have to step in, although I'd have preferred to exhaust B through Y instead of going straight from A-Z.

> Hopefully we can agree that it's well within police prerogative to prevent rioting, serious property damage(like trying set fire to buildings), possible violence.

No, as it happens.

I mean I get I'm probably outside the Overton window for hacker news, but I think we could probably find common ground on the principle that whatever else, the police should not use deadly force to prevent vandalism. This should include rubber bullets and batons, and I believe that tear gas also is not justified to prevent vandalism.

I mean you have to understand that there are countries which don't experience the horrific brutality the US is going through right now. The police in these place isn't better because the government paid out millions to consultancy firms run by former cops, but because the role of the police is dramatically different, and almost always much smaller.

> I am definitely willing to concede that Trump is a tactless brute, and sending the federal agents in like this was far from the best strategy.

I don't like talking about Trump much in this context: the problem is far larger than him, and I think people talking about him alone are missing the point.

The problem is overly-powerful police departments and unions which have massive political power in the cities they operate. Violence is used to increase this power, which in turn increases their funding and capacity for violence.

We see this all the time with (for instance) the NYPD: their union directly threatened de Blasio's daughter, for instance. They also stopped patrolling in protest of the prosecution of their officers (famously crime dropped during this time).

The only way to stop the cycle is to cut the power.

Something that occurred to me might be referenced by that is the phenomenon of unidentified government personnel arresting protestors in Portland recently. It has been reported that they did not wear anything identifying the agency they work in or the particular individual (i.e. no equivalent of a badge number).

No, it hasn't. Because that's a made up narrative.

Please show me video of police purposefully brutalizing non-violent protesters who behave sensibly (maybe you can learn how to spell protester while you're at it).

I've watched pretty much all of them and the cases of protesters being hurt always involves in some way being a part of the violent protest group, being intermixed with the violent protesters, or refusing to follow police orders during the clearing of unlawful gatherings (which only happens after violent rioting).

Even that older man who got his head cracked open from falling, decided to ignore orders to vacate and instead got into the face of a riot cop and reached for the cops belt.

I have seen zero videos of cops just randomly going off on groups of protesters walking down the street peacefully. Although CNN/MSNBC/etc will ALWAYS edit the video to begin with the police jumping on some person, when you look at the full video, it ALWAYS starts with the person doing something violent, illegal, or stupid.

BTW I'm also sure that SOMETIMES police do do unacceptable things (Floyd) and the criminal court system is absolute garbage, but your BS narrative that PEACEFUL protesters are just getting smashed as a matter of course is pure fiction.

> Please show me video of police purposefully brutalizing non-violent protesters who behave sensibly (maybe you can learn how to spell protester while you're at it).

That's an interesting move you've done there: now protestors have to behave "sensibly" as well as peacefully? I suppose I didn't realise that deadly force was justified against someone behaving "not sensibly".

> I've watched pretty much all of them

Yeah, I mean then you're probably too far gone to have a discussion with. I guess I don't understand how someone can watch all of the same videos I have and come away thinking "yes, the police are justified in their violence". To be honest it suggests a quite shocking lack of basic humanity.

> in some way being a part of the violent protest group,

Being in a "protest group" when others are violent is not a crime, and does not justify the use of deadly force against you.

> being intermixed with the violent protesters

Being intermixed with violent protestors is not a crime, and does not justify the use of deadly force against you.

> refusing to follow police orders during the clearing of unlawful gatherings (which only happens after violent rioting).

So what, you think all of the unlawful gatherings were violent? Seriously what world are you living in?

> Even that older man who got his head cracked open from falling, decided to ignore orders to vacate

Stop a second. Think about what you're writing.

Every person with a basic sense of decency who saw that video was horrified.

An old man had his skull cracked open for refusing to step back. That's what you're justifying now.

I am not going to respond to any more of your comments, but I really hope you get a sense of perspective on some of this stuff. When you see a cop in riot gear beat some poor person to death your first response should not be "but what did the person do?" When you see a cop car drive through a crowd of protestors you should not immediately start looking up the local ordinances for whether or not the protest had a permit to be on the road at that time.

There is a simple, human way to respond to the obvious evil and brutality that you're seeing, and for some reason you are not doing it.

This video by YouTube channel Leagle Eagle has a good short summary of reports from Portland by observers (like the ACLU) and then a lengthy debate about the legality of it (consitutionality, federal vs. state law, etc.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uglv-fV1CqI

My cursory research, after sensing something was amiss or forced with the narritive, is that the situation is much the same as border detention centers. These cages were in use during Obama era, but only went viral under Trump. The same thing is happening here: The same not-so-secret police was active during the Ferguson Riots, but only now do we make a big stink out of it.

The police is not secret: They are from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (DoJ), called the Special Operations Response Team, specialized in disturbance/riot control and to assist local police in case of emergency.

Don't play the semantics game: Even rioters are protesters. It makes as much sense for a SORT to arrest innocent protesters than it makes sense for a taxi driver to sweer onto the pavement and hit people.

To partially answer my own question, here is a video of men in camouflage taking someone into an unmarked vehicle. There is no riot or other sort of violence on the part of the protestors in sight. I found this video via a Washington Post article about Constitutional rights around arrest.



I can't real imagine how you can say that you "cancel someone" on Twitter and not shudder inside.

My intention was to be self-deprecating.

(or, rather, I was trying to acknowledge that I know I am part of the demographic commonly held as responsible for "cancelling" people. Personally I find it impossible to use the word without a massive heap of irony)

since when are the feds a secret police?

Twitter warriors are absolutely a small piece of the pie, but I think you could say they are the online face of the amorphous force that the authoritarian secret police are attacking.

Each unit of the force is trivial (rioters are a trivial part of the protests, campus activists are a trivial part of the student body, AOC is a trivial part of congress, moral clarity journalists a la Wesley Lowery are a trivial part of news mastheads, online "SJW" people are a trivial part of Twitter, etc). However, in aggregate it freaks out and motivates the authoritarians you are talking about. When they criticize any of the forces, they are simultaneously fearing the larger whole.

Listen, if people want to say that “cancel culture” is a real phenomenon and it has a chilling effect on speech that’s one thing: I’d even be sympathetic to that point of view (although, as I said, I think it’s vastly overblown by people like Graham who are simply experiencing criticism from a broader range of people due to social media).

What I think is ridiculous is to jump to the authoritarian/soviet comparisons, especially when the US is in the midst of a horrific authoritarian violent crackdown by a militarised police force. I think that emphasis reveals a real lack of perspective.

> What I think is ridiculous is to jump to the authoritarian/soviet comparisons, especially when the US is in the midst of a horrific authoritarian violent crackdown by a militarised police force.

I mean, this too warrants authoritarian/Soviet comparisons, does it not?

Besides, what happens when someone who is ideologically aligned with the angry Twitter mobs takes the reins of power and has the full force of the government behind them (including that militarized police force)? Can you not see why people might be concerned about systematic suppression of "bad" thoughts and ideas from the top-down (apropos the Soviet comparisons) in that scenario?

Sure - I get it. The violent crackdowns are big part of why I'm making authoritarian/soviet comparisons, in addition to the institutional battles in universities and media/tech companies.

Obviously the Trump administration is, by far, the bigger threat.

The trouble is the left are staring to adapt his tactics.

At the beginning of Trump's term, there was a lot of concern about how Trump was trying to silence the press through his rhetoric about "fake news" and threatening spurious libel claims, trying to shut down speech he didn't like.

Now the left is adopting the mirror image policy of trying to shut down speech they don't like.

Very few are left to actually stand up for the principle of granting freedoms, even to people you don't like or disagree with.

> Trump was trying to silence the press through his rhetoric about "fake news"

Trump wasn't trying to "silence the press" - this was left-wing media rhetoric. He was simply calling them out for their sloppy journalism, and it worked to his favour.

Remember, the term "fake news" was conjured by left-wing media in response to Trump's election victory, referring to up and coming media companies which were eating away at their numbers (there were some obvious fake ones, but not with any significance to sway an election). Those on the left were unable to imagine from their bubbles, how people would vote for Trump, despite all of their efforts to put Hillary in the White House. It was a shock, and "fake news" was their reaction to it.

Trump managed to take their term, aimed at him, and aim it back at them. Now when people hear "fake news", they think of CNN.

> Very few are left to actually stand up for the principle of granting freedoms

Freedoms aren't granted, they exist. They can only be taken away. The State is usually the one taking them away, so anyone arguing for "more state" is really shooting themselves in the foot. We need less state, not more.

> Remember, the term "fake news" was conjured by left-wing media in response to Trump's election victory, referring to up and coming media companies which were eating away at their numbers

This is completely untrue and a deliberate reframing of Donald Trump's actions in the most benevolent possible light.

"Fake news" referred to actual fake news. Like 5G causes coronavirus, Hillary Clinton runs a secret pedophile ring and literally kills people fake news.

Trump repurposed it to refer to any news item that he disagrees with or that casts him in a negative light. (And in fairness, some actual fake news falls under this category as well, but the proportions are small enough to make this useless as a differentiator.)

He labels CNN "fake news" for calling him out on easily verifiable lies. At this point, anyone who doesn't acknowledge that he often conveys falsehoods to his audience is being purposefully obtuse - I have more respect for the people that admit this but believe it is a justified means to what they see as a desirable end.

> We need less state, not more.

I assume this means you are opposed to the untrained and unidentifiable federal troops occupying US cities in direct contradiction of the desires of local officials, right?

> "Fake news" referred to actual fake news. Like 5G causes coronavirus, Hillary Clinton runs a secret pedophile ring and literally kills people fake news.

This is part true, but not the entire story. "Fake news" was a reaction to Trump's rise in popularity. It was an attempt to censor alternative news sites which were taking numbers away from establishment media. The obviously-fake-news/conspiracy websites weren't what the left and social media companies were trying to shut down - it was an attempt to maintain their status quo.

The obvious danger of the "fake news" fiasco was that who decides what is fake and what is true? The left-wing media obviously declared that they were up to the task. They conjured up "fake news" to mean that their own news is true, and the alternatives are obviously not (or that if they had posted "fake news" at some point, then we can assume that everything they post is fake and block them entirely). The problem is all of these left-wing media outlets have themselves, all posted some fake news at some point, and so they should be equally liable to being cancelled, as they were attempting to have others.

They saw themselves as "above" the smaller, less established media, and so they wouldn't get cancelled, but they could rally the social media companies to block their upcoming competition.

Trump's relabelling of fake news to be aimed at left-wing media was popular precisely because people were not fans of the idea that the establishment media was attempting to declare themselves the arbiters of fact, when their journalistic integrity had fallen to terrible lows.

Obviously, Trump is no angel and has told plenty of lies, as has CNN. Proper journalism is in decline and the media has become about getting clicks and reactions - it's all about money. Most actual journalism these days comes from somebody you've never heard of on Twitter.

> I assume this means you are opposed to the untrained and unidentifiable federal troops occupying US cities in direct contradiction of the desires of local officials, right?

Yes, but I'd go much further and say that security should be private, not public. One thing I can agree with the left on is defunding the police, but I think we have very different ideas on what follows. (Have those on the left even considered what they're going to replace the police with, given that they also want to abolish private ownership and guns?)

"Fake News" was originally sites created in foreign countries designed to look like newspaper sites from specific US cities. It did not originally refer to actual US news organizations at all.

Trump very successfully changed the association of the term to refer to any unfavorable coverage of him.

I agree. I would like for someone to enumerate all the people who have been “cancelled” and then compare it to those that have been violently attacked.

Your "just count the cancelled" does not work.

I have lived in the East Europe pre-Perestroyka and back then, it was "just count political prisoners; see how few there are!". And it was true -- there were not that many by 1980s. But there were few not because thought police was not real, but because any appearance of acting against it would be quickly dealt with. So very few people would dare.

That's the path we are taking today.

> "just count political prisoners; see how few there are!"

You see how it comes across as a little ridiculous when you equate "being cancelled on twitter" to "being a literal political prisoner"? Especially when there are actual political prisoners, in prison, in the US right now?

Losing your livelihood, in a nation famous for it's relative lack of safety net, is in fact a big deal.

Here's the thing, you don't have to pick a side so hard. It's not, either we get this dude fired for citing a study about the 1968 riots or you're in favor of the border patrol arresting citizens without due process. These things are actually highly unrelated, and both can be bad.

I mean I agree with you: broadly I think things like the Yascha Mounk case are bad (I mean there are even better examples on the left: take Matt Bruenig, for instance), but like it's totally insane to say it's the main authoritarian crisis in the US today in the midst of brutal police violence.

Also, I do think that the Mounk or Bruenig case are actually a little different from "cancel culture": they seem much more like political machinations at the places those people worked. Like I think either of those things could have happened just as easily 20 or 30 years ago. When I think "cancel culture" I think more about random people getting twitter mobbed for saying something offensive.

Really I think it's an issue of emphasis. And I think identifying some social pressure to be more "woke" with threat of ridicule on social media as being the first step on the way to totalitarianism, while simultaneously insisting the police brutality is nothing of the sort, reveals quite a lot about people's lack of perspective and warped priorities.

As oisdk points out, I would consider the very real threat of violence different than a celebrity getting their contract cancelled. But that’s an important point to also make. There’s a vast difference between a celebrity being cancelled and an average person. Cultivating popularity is a part of being a celebrity — so isn’t avoiding being cancelled a natural extension of that profession?

As for regular people getting cancelled, there only seems to be a handful - particularly those that might actually have committed a crime (thinking of the Central Park Karen).

Maybe there's only a handful of "regular people" getting cancelled... but that's enough to create a chilling effect, scaring others into compliance with convention.

A good example might be Walter Palmer, the hunter who killed Cecil the lion. He's rich, but wasn't a celebrity. What he did was legal, as far as he could tell. He didn't ask for his guides to break the law for him. Yet he was doxxed, received death threats, and had his house graffitied. People showed up to protest at his business (which is unrelated to hunting) and lowered its rating on Yelp through bad reviews.

(Incidentally, I disagree with the practice of hunting for sport, but think sport hunters should be stopped with new laws, rather than through mob action.)

I don’t know that we can attribute doxing or death threats to “cancel culture”. It’s certainly unjustified outrage. However, it does beg the question what exactly “being cancelled” means.

I think you're splitting hairs here. The greater issue is unaccountable, internet mob justice, of which "cancel culture" is one part.

Kindness Yoga shut down after their pro-BLM posts online were criticized as "performative activism" by employees: https://coloradosun.com/2020/06/29/kindness-yoga-closure-dur...

A woman in Kentucky was fired after 20 years from her job as a Hearing Instrument Specialist after she said she didn't support BLM in a facebook video: https://reclaimthenet.org/tabitha-morris-cancel-culture/ (Her GoFundMe was also shut down.)

A high school teacher in British Columbia was fired after mentioned that he thought abortion was wrong, as an example of how personal opinions can differ from the law, in class: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/christie-blatchford-b-c-tea...

David Shor was fired after retweeting a black scholar's work on riots and election results: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/white-fragility-raci...

A Mexican-American utility worker was fired after someone filmed him making the "OK" hand and accused him of white supremacy: https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/sdge-worker-fired-ove...

A graphic designer was fired after the Washington Post published an article about how she wore a blackface-costume (attempting to make fun of Megyn Kelly) two years ago: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/why-did-the-washingt...

The operator of a campus cafe was fired after he posted an ad full of jokes, saying that he needed "a new slave (full time staff member) to boss around": https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/head-of-ontario-univers...

The founder of a charter school was fired after he was accused of "white supremacist language" in a blog post: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/11/ascend-cha...

An author withdrew her book because she was mobbed for being a white author writing chapters from the perspective of a Gullah Geechee person: http://elainemarias.com/2020/06/26/bethany-c-morrow-gets-ya-...

A Boeing exec resigned because of an article he wrote advocating against women in combat 33 years ago, when he was 29 years old: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-boeing-resignation/boeing...

I can post more if you'd like. None of these people are celebrities. None of them committed a crime. Some of them have stupid opinions, some of them made stupid decisions, one of them cracked his knuckles in the wrong way.

But if you don't believe that "regular people" are at risk here, well - I hope your opinions are all non-heretical and that they stay that way for the next 33 years.

Whenever I see lists like this, what's interesting to me is what's omitted. In this particular case I don't see mention of workers getting fired for trying to organize or advocate for unions[1]. I don't see the abuse that gets piled on cops who report the misdeeds of their colleagues[2]. And I don't see the NFL effectively blacklisting Colin Kaepernick for his views on police brutality.

It seems like it's only "cancel culture" when it happens to people we identify with.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/may/05/amazon-pr...

[2] https://www.kcaw.org/2019/12/12/sitka-settles-police-whistle...

I'll add Colin Kaepernick to the list for next time! I should also include things like the woman who lots her internship after she made a bad pro-BLM analogy: https://jonathanturley.org/2020/07/03/ima-stab-you-connectic...

In my mind, "cancel culture" refers to the phenomenon where an outraged group (usually on social media) seeks to retaliate against someone over a (possibly inferred) political opinion. Firing union organizers or harassing whistleblowers is bad, but doesn't fit into my mental model of cancel culture.

I'm glad you're expanding the list a little, but I'd also encourage you (and anyone else reading) to reflect on the difference and asymmetry, here.

(Rhetorical questions--no answer needed) What's the bottom-line difference in getting fired for roughly free-speech reasons by an employer of their own accord, or of their own accord but because a single person wrote them to bring your behavior to their attention, or instead because of a Twitter mob or a petition or a letter-writing campaign or a flood of bad news coverage or a boycott started by some group? How do we adjudicate which path is worse?

Part of what I find frustrating about this debate (as someone who takes this risk seriously, and has for a while) is selectiveness of the cases/scope/concerns that get brought up by a certain segment of outlets eager to catalog certain cases to build a narrative about who is censorious and who is censored.

There's a long history of people mobbing decision-makers (at schools, or libraries, businesses, media standards boards, advertisers, etc.) to lobby for action against things they don't like. The Dixie Chicks got caught in this fire. When One Million Moms threatened JCPenney over their deal with Ellen DeGeneres--what obvious outcome were they demanding? (They keep a brag-list of things they've gotten canceled at https://onemillionmoms.com/successes/, and a list of ~20 current campaigns. You can find even more at their parent org, AFA).

There are numerous teachers over the years who claim they were fired for being an atheist, teaching evolution, and a sad graveyard of articles about teachers sacked for exactly how they taught sex ed (of particular irony in this case, those fired for not teaching top-down abstinence-only dogma), or what books they're teaching.

(I realize this list is itself biased; I'm advocating expanding the umbrella, and suspicion of slanted lists, not trying to whatabout.)

But companies firing organizing workers isn't an example of cancel culture. Why would you be surprised that someone answered the question asked, and not a different question?

Great point.


You're suggesting the person would have to remain jobless for a long time for it to be a cancellation? We're talking people deliberately going for other people's jobs in a country where access to health care is often tied to employment.

The point, to spell it out, is about chilling effects.

If some organization starts killing everyone wearing a blue hat,pretty soone nobody would wear a blue hat.

And then people like you would think that since no blue hat wearers get murdered, this is fine. Even call it "non violent" perhaps.

Have we started killing cancelled people? Who has been “cancelled” anyways? What punishments have they endured? A lost job at a very public position?

As someone wisely pointed out, the only person possibly going to be jailed in the #MeToo movement will be Harvey Weinstein. Many comedians and politicians have recovered. Look at Al Franken - polls show he’s electable in his state (by the group that ostracized him no less).

More importantly, if cancel culture had any teeth, this President would have been cancelled.

It's rare to see someone so purely miss the point.

Please explain how I missed it. Or do we just disagree?


I was explaining how "chilling effects" can work using a hypothetical example.

Your answer argued against something entirely different, that I guess I reminded you of. But I didn't even talk about cancel culture.

That's actually a great summary of the beef with cancel culture -- it only punches down.

They can't touch Trump, or Ben Shapiro, or any of the other people that they really hate. Those people's actual jobs are to say things progressives hate.

Who can the cancelers get? Moderate liberals, working in liberal enclaves, who said the wrong thing. Get'em! That'll make me feel better.

That’s actually my point. Overestimating the reach of cancel culture because you live in a liberal enclave.

Maybe we're very precisely estimating the reach and are appropriately terrified?

If you can't get the people you want, but you really want to get somebody...

And what are the consequences of you getting cancelled? Really? You lose your job? People are fired everyday for silly things or no reason at all. But would you really want to continue working for a company/culture so incapable of enduring free thought? Perhaps companies need to suffer the consequences of losing talent to realize how intellectually bankrupt this process is.

Yes, I lose my job, and for what? Some dysfunctional people get a dopamine hit that lasts 5 seconds before they need to go get someone else?

I've got a family.

> But would you really want to continue working for a company/culture so incapable of enduring free thought?

In this economy? Hell yes.

Incredible how clueless some people can be to true mob evilness.

Being cancelled can mean that you will never get another job in your field. It depends on the circumstances. A cancelled professor on tenure track will probably never get another tenure track position.

So, to rephrase your words, "What so bad about not being able to feed yourself and your family...is that really so bad?"

Do you really think that the effect of "losing talent" will be accounted for when cancelling people? MAO "cancelled" (murdered) the intellectual class in his cultural revolution. Rational though isn't going to be emphasized in the midst of an irrational political movement.

By the way you write and think, you're probably a Millennial with a very weak grasp of history. Yet, you feel qualified to tell people that LIVED through communism that they should't fear what they are seeing.

I mean I think there's an argument to be made that discourse has become more rigid (although I do think it's overblown), but like I don't understand how you can write this:

> Also from an ex soviet state. Also feel alarm bells going off. I'm legitimately scared. I've seen this before, I know where it goes.

And not be talking about a massive police crackdown on protest and the army being brought in to police civilians. Like your alarm bells are dead silent for all of that, but some celebrity has to apologise for not saying "latinx" or whatever and suddenly you're all "ah yes, just like in the Soviet Union"?!

You don't understand, and that's the problem.

Well, elaborate please.

It's difficult, when we are in thorough disagreement of the facts.

> And not be talking about a massive police crackdown on protest

Is the police crackdown on protest or rioting? I can buy an argument that Trump hates the protests and is secretly hoping that sending the police will also disperse protesters, but on its face, do we disagree that there's rioting in Portland, and that it's the police's job to stop it?

> and the army being brought in to police civilians.


> but some celebrity has to apologise for not saying "latinx" or whatever

This is disingenuous strawmanning. There's plenty instances of people losing their jobs for saying the wrong thing, and even a few extreme cases of people ending their lives after intense internet vitriol(although it would be equally disingenuous of me to focus on those cases and claim that cancel culture "kills people"). I don't know why parent jumps on celebrities as go-to examples - a stronger example would be academia, where political censure has been normalized for decades.

I think that’s the point. “Cancel cultural” has always been around in some form or another when you challenge the cultural norms of some society or institution. The outrage over it now seems silly, particularly when it’s predominantly liberal people suffering from it. However, unlike other oppressed minorities of the past, the consequences are much less severe.

One of my early mentors was ex-Soviet, and he impressed to me the absolute dangers inherent in elevation of elevating collective identity over individual identity.

I see this happening now, and all too many of my colleagues gleefully signing on. Recently one posted content that appeared to be regurgitated Agile materials for dealing with organizational dysfunction. But this material had replaced all mentions of org dysfunction with 'white supremacy'. It basically blamed every workplace antipattern on colonialism and, conveniently, whenever perpetrated by a non white person, stated it was internalized white supremacy. The dev, who is very much on the spectrum, seems to take joy in having the world turned into a D & D game, with different rules depending on whether you are orc, elf, or human.

Did they talk at all about how they felt that should be balanced against the need for society to work together towards common goals?

I'm worried about some of the excesses of "cancel culture" but I'm more worried about the current Republican approach of basically saying that society has no obligation to its members. What worries me the most, is that I'm not sure I see a good way to balance the two extremes.

How do individuals meet their obligations to society (if any)?

Do they do it through voluntary exchange, altruism and compassion.

Or do they do it out of compulsion because they are threatened with violence?

The latter is obviously not what we want, but its the State we have. Reducing the size of the state therefore sounds like a good plan, since it should reduce the amount of threatening with violence that has to be done.

It seems to me that reasoning is backwards. People agree to come together in society because the believe that doing so will allow their needs to be met. If their needs are not being met but they still go along with society, then it is likely because of the threat of violence if they do not.

For example, I recognize someone else's home as private property because I want my own home to be recognized as private property. However, if a society's economy is such that I cannot afford a house then the only motivation for me to respect someone else's home as private property is because society threatens to throw me in jail if I don't.

As I said, the State we have is violent by its nature. I'm suggesting this is not what we want.

You not trespassing on somebody's home because you don't want your own to be treated that way is a great moral to hold, but not shared by everyone. A society can only function like this if people are on the same page - if they share a collective moral framework. Traditionally this was through religion, but these days "god is dead", and large scale immigration has led to societies with no common traditions or moral backgrounds.

In a nation where people have arms, then the most legitimate reason not to trespass in somebody's house is that you don't want to be shot by its owner. The decision to trespass in somebody's home is a choice between your life or whatever you may gain from trespassing. The choice is obvious.

Burglary is quite high in the UK where people don't have arms (or if they do for sport or hunting, they are not allowed to use them for self-defence). It is lower (per capita) in the US.

And self-defence, even if lethal force is used, is never "violence." (A common misunderstanding)

The way individuals should meet their obligations to society is through the non-aggression principle. One should not support any kind of violence, or threat of violence against others. What follows then, is peaceful, voluntary cooperation.

If I don't trespass because I don't want to be shot then that sounds like the homeowner is violating the non-aggression principle. They are using the threat of aggression to motivate me to do what they want.

As I stated above, self-defence is never violence. This includes stating your intent to defend yourself, your family and your property even with lethal force. You shouldn't need to state it though, it should be assumed.

A homeowner cannot possibly know the motive of a trespasser, and it is therefore completely rational for them to use lethal self-defence, because they must assume the worst-case, that the trespasser may harm them or their family.

So there is no violation of the NAP here - the trespasser is the only one who may be in violation.

Obviously, the vast majority of people aren't out to kill. They don't want to harm someone for stepping onto their lawn, nor do they want to clean up a dead body. The use of self-defence is a last-resort if they feel in danger, or if they feel their property is under threat and it's worth more than the perpetrators life.

If the trespasser decides that somebody's property is worth more than their own life (which is the case if they assume the owner may use lethal self-defence), then there should be no expectation of the property owner valuing the life of the perpetrator more than their property. Both parties agree that the property is worth more than the aggressor’s life.

One interesting thing I’m seeing is that both our (relative) extremes are culturally different how they try to silence and discredit opposing views, but both think the other’s approach and ideologies are more dangerous and Godwin’s Law is running amok in the real world. My analogy is the meltdown and chaos of many different online communities following similar paths of lack of social cohesion turning into decentralization and radicalization. It’s like watching cellular division happening as a super bacteria or bioweapon mutates.

I grew up in the US but have spent a lot of time watching how other countries have fallen and listened to both survivors that stayed and those that left. I also listened carefully to my elders’ stories both rich and poor about their lives in wars and how totalitarian and fascist regimes work.

Being called both a fascist and commie now by random people depending upon their alignment worries me because we are losing the ability to have nuanced conversations that might actually fix our problems without a full blown war.

It really is a sad sight to see as second generation immigrants when our parents worked so hard to leave oppression or for economic opportunities see these very things repeat.

And yes, I’m going to say that America’s “free speech” experiment has escaped the lab and is a Godzilla monster out of control. I don’t even care who’s at fault frankly as much as I want people to sit down and stop having bad faith arguments against each other as a rule.

The problem that I see is: what's the alternative?

Average people don't really have any political power in America so what alternative do they have?

I agree with you that some of the more extreme parts of the social justice movement (for lack of a better term) worry me, but the alternative seems to be to do nothing.

Am I misreading you or are you framing the left as the forces of conformity?

Only one side has badgeless forces snatching people off the streets and is talking about disregarding the results of our election.

My apologies if I misunderstood.

It's possible for the left and the right to both be conformist in nature.


So what should we do? Honest question.


You sound like someone who has never experienced the second phase of where this culture inevitably leads to. I pray that it remains that way.

This is not a left/right issue. This is a mental homogeneity to the point of militant aggression towards dissenting views issue. And it always leads to totalitarianism.

As someone who claims to be educated on history, it is important then to remind yourself of why this actually occurs. You can't make essays dismissing some angry mob as if they are a homogenous hivemind. They won't listen to you because they literally can't listen to you, they act independently and uncoordinated. You have to tackle issues which cause them to be aggressive towards racists to begin with. Police brutality, for example, is still a threat not yet addressed. yet in all of Paul's preaching about the mob I don't see him making an iota of effort to do something that would actually stop the mob: fixing their issues. Instead, the current plan seems to be to dismiss their outcries and trod steadily along down the path of least resistance in a world that was already collapsing with or without the anger.

You probably don't know this word, but you're literally advocating for ochlocracy, which is the very thing I was talking about in the upstream comments.

The mob has an infinite well of issues, the mob will never be satisfied. That's exactly how it transitions into totalitarianism. Pandering to the mob just adds more fuel to the fire.

Police brutality etc. are issues that should certainly be addressed, and there's countless other societal issues that need to be looked at. But dealing with those and pandering to the mob are orthogonal issues. We have a democracy, the rule of law, and a government structure specifically to define a process for addressing such issues. These are the mechanisms that differentiate the western world from the soviet nightmare my parents escaped. It's so bizarre and terrifying to watch people openly advocating for discarding them and embracing mob rule. Americans have fought and died to uphold these values, and now a pocket of their own citizenry wants to demolish them.

> You have to tackle issues which cause them to be aggressive towards racists to begin with

Pretty heavily loaded language there. Anyone mob targets = racist? There's far too much evidence of the mob targeting non-racists to even pretend that this is what motivates them at this stage. 'Racist', or rather the newspeak co-opted 'Bigot', is now just the current incarnation of 'Communist', 'Kulak', 'Witch' and whatever other generic labels for the enemy of the mob. The mob never runs out of enemies, the mob never runs out of issues to get angry about. It's Lord of the Flies at a national scale.

You are not addressing the point that the society at large has to continue to trust institutions to alleviate concerns of corruption by the institution. The mob is not formed in a vacuum. Democracy, rule of law, and government only have value when trust in those pillars of our society have not been eroded to the point where large swaths of people form a mob to carry out their own justice. It’s been made abundantly clear in the West that our systems are very vulnerable to bad faith actors from inside the system.

> Americans have fought and died to uphold these values, and now a pocket of their own citizenry wants to demolish them.

This is true for both ends of this spectrum and also never ending. The mob doesn’t see themselves as eroding those institutions just as our current government doesn’t see itself as obstructionists. What makes this difficult is two competing extremes. I don’t focus on cancel culture because I’m concerned more with the erosion of our voting rights and the dismantling of our institutions by our own citizens. It doesn’t invalidate your points what so ever but it makes them a blind spot for individuals with competing priorities.

"I don’t focus on cancel culture because I’m concerned more with the erosion of our voting rights and the dismantling of our institutions by our own citizens."

Maybe we need to focus on both as manifestations of the same disease, even though one is much worse than the other?

Of course, but I don’t have the personal bandwidth to mentally deal with every issue we need to resolve as a society. I get around this by not out of hand dismissing concerns by others but I also can’t take an active stance in their solutions. This is likely a more common story than we want to admit and the numerous issues across our political spectrum fragment our chances at a unified response to the problem.

You may be correct that it is not possible to satisfy the "mob". However, I don't think the mob exists in a vacuum. It seems to me that, at least to a degree, the mob and social unrest are a symptom of a society and democracy that as broken down and that is not working for people. In order to stop it, I think you need to restore people's confidence that the system is working for them.

Removing the immunity of police officers and killing only Canadian levels of civilians would literally take all the wind out of the protests. Pretending that the populace is an insatiable mob rather than people with legitimate grievances that could be addressed is just wrongheaded.

I think you need to spend some more time familiarizing yourself with American history. This is not the first time U.S. citizens have decided to protest for change.

You're acting like this is the first time people have ever complained about things or marched in the streets, and therefore we're on the precipice of communism. We're not.

> The mob has an infinite well of issues, the mob will never be satisfied.

We don't have a mob in the U.S., we have sovereign citizens. The right to march and complain about each other is firmly protected by the U.S. Constitution. The goal of improving the nation is shared by all of us, and we take it seriously, even if some feelings get hurt along the way.

Are you suggesting that just because there's a protest or mob, that they must be right, or that the expression of the mob's force is actually aligned with contending the overarching issue justifying the existence of that mob?

Everyone agrees police brutality is a problem. Not all of us think attacking speech, undermining important institutions, and destroying people over opinions is the way forward.

No one here is against protest in general, the right to march, or the right to complain. A lot of us are against this particular protest which is ostensibly combating police brutality and racism, but manifests in undermining universities, attacking, controlling, and suppressing speech, and establishing doctrine based on anecdote and emotional reflex.

I would argue a mob is just a sort of tumor clinging onto the back of a very legitimate protest movement. My point, which I maintain, is that people like Paul are using this as an excuse to dismiss the movement in its entirety by selecting the (real) problems created by the mob. You would not be allowing the mob to rule by satisfying the entire group's demands. This is a function of very ordinary protests that have gone on over the last forever.

And I don't think it's fair to compare racists, which are real, to witches, which are not.

"racist" and "witch" are just labels given to those that don't agree with you or are somehow disapproved of by the mob. Not surprisingly, their definitions just change as needed by the mob. The term racist is just as ephemeral as witch in the cancel-culture world.

Racist used to mean something around "believing one race was inherently better than another," but now it means anyone who doesn't agree with the BLM organization or who supports the Constitution, rule-of-law, Trump, etc..

In fact, if you've taken a look at modern critical race theory writings, you might be a racist if you:

- emphasize objective thought, cause and effect thinking - support nuclear families as a good structure - prefer individualism - "work before play" or believe that hard work is key to success

Is this how this is supposed to work, then? A lot of people get angry about something and demonstrate/riot, and in response the laws get changed to pacify them.

There's a term for that: "mob rule". It's not a good thing.

I'm not for one second saying that Police brutality isn't a problem. I don't live in the USA so I don't know. I am saying that if your system doesn't provide a method for fixing this problem without rioting, then your system is probably broken, and it might be better to fix the system and then use the fixed system to fix the problem.

That's how things tend to work when people are so alienated or disenfranchised from the system that change within the system becomes impossible, yes.

And while people like to dismiss any group whose concerns they disagree with as being merely an "angry mob," more often than not that "mob's" concerns are legitimate, and their anger is justifiable. Laws don't get passed to "pacify" them, they get passed because public pressure and awareness turns public opinion in their favor, making it politically infeasible for those in power to continue the status quo.

That's not the way it's supposed to work, but that's the inevitable result of a democratic process and society not working as it ought to begin with.

>> That's how things tend to work when people are so alienated or disenfranchised from the system that change within the system becomes impossible, yes.

And the endpoint of that process is revolution. Again, not a good thing. Revolutions are bloody.

How can you fix the democratic process so that works as it ought and prevent the disaster you're heading for?

I don't know. I never thought I'd see the day when Americans seem more concerned about "SJWs" exercising their free speech rights than actual secret police tossing political dissidents into black vans but I guess here we are.

This is a non-sequitur.

Getting low level employees fired for some kind of political faux pas does absolutely nothing to combat Trump's gross abuses of power.

Many people oppose "cancel culture" and "SJWs" because they see them as part of a vast leftist conspiracy imposing a political agenda across media, arts and academia and oppressing free (read: right-wing) speech at every turn. Many of the same people support Trump's abuses of power being wielded against those they consider "leftist agitators" like BLM and Antifa.

Both cases linked by fear of and opposition to the existential threat of "the left" as an insidious enemy within and a willingness to accept any means necessary to stop it.

I see both cancel culture and Trump's strange presidency as part of the same problem - the one that PG is talking about.

The rise of dogmatic orthodoxy and the inability to have a civilised dicussion where the participants disagree yet respect each other.

I look on in desperate horror at the blatant, authoritarian corruption happening every single day at the White House, and yet the only righteous anger I see on the “intellectual watering hole” of HN is towards cancel culture. I don’t get it. Don’t people read the news? How do you not have an ulcer from watching this shit every day for four years?

The legitimate concerns and justified anger tend to be characterized by long-term (multiple years), consistent pressure. People exerting it can listen to opposing views (without angry screams) and justify their own.

What we see today are angry flashes that can change direction on a whim. Flash mobs of statue tear-downs, coronavirus mask/no-mask outrages, etc. are in my view more of a symptom of pent-up aggression fanned by pre-election opportunism, not of legitimate concerns. My 2c.

With the exception of the coronavirus protests, everything else has had years of consistent pressure behind it.

There have been riots and protests over police brutality and systemic racism for years. People have been protesting America's whitewashing of its history and romanticizing of the Confederacy for years. None of these issues are new. The CHAZ wasn't the result of "pre-election opportunism," read their list of demands. It's fueled by anger, yes, but also seeks redress for grievances the black community has been complaining about for years. "Biden 2020" isn't in there anywhere.

> That's how things tend to work when people are so alienated or disenfranchised from the system that change within the system becomes impossible, yes.

And it almost never ends well.

In some ways yes. It seems to me that democracy requires those in power to have a healthy fear that if the government doesn't work for their constituents then they might overthrow it.

Jefferson said:

"what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? let them take arms. the remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. what signify a few lives lost in a century or two? the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants"

Granted I'm not trying to make some extreme, tough guy statement that the current situation is equivalent to a revolutionary war. I just mean that to some degree that is how a democracy works.

I can’t speak for the states but I feel strongly that the aggressive conformists are gaining ground on several levels of society. One can avoid the worst of it if as you say one stays away from certain threads online and I’ve personally taken steps to do so but the way it has started to permeate broader academia and work places is creating a real problem which needs to be addressed and the fact that sensible people are speaking out about it now is encouraging.

> I feel strongly that the aggressive conformists are gaining ground on several levels of society. ... the fact that sensible people are speaking out about it now is encouraging.

It is, but I am afraid sensible people speaking out may be on the decline. Many employers now schedule obligatory "sessions" where employees are given a spiel on a topic heavily pushing "the right view" with a short 2-3 minuted at the end dedicated to "discussion". With "just try to criticize this" as an unspoken seasoning.

This would have been dismissed as "ludicrous, never going to happen here" when I came to the US 20 years ago but is the accepted norm now. Ironically, folks leaving for Vietnam claim more freedom as their main reason for leaving...

> Many employers now schedule obligatory "sessions" where employees are given a spiel on a topic heavily pushing "the right view" with a short 2-3 minuted at the end dedicated to "discussion". With "just try to criticize this" as an unspoken seasoning.

That reminds me of what I've spoken about a few times with friends, that it's similar to what Hillary Clinton said about the need to have a public and a private opinion, only for different reasons. Most people know what is allowed and what is expected to be said in public, and they'll behave accordingly. But they have a different, real opinion in private.

It hasn't started permeating academia - the thing started its life in academia. Most of the newspeak and the mobs' grievances are rather directly born of "critical theory" born at the Frankfurt School. This is a bun that's been in the oven for decades.

The critical theory was originally a tool for a philosopher to use, a lens to view things through or toy for them to play with:

A way to look at things as power dynamics between societal groups, and how things those groups hold as truth are in part determined by how they speak. Language reinforces and spreads a view of the world, and a worldview is a tool for power. The way a group speaks of the world is their "discourse" of it.

The critical theoretical project's aim is to look at the dominant groups' discourses and critique them relentlessly, to deconstruct, devalue and delegitimize them, to rob the words they use of the meaning that they're purported to hold.

This kind of view is useful if it's a lens in a philosopher's toolbox and firmly sealed in a sandbox where it doesn't interfere with other programming, but utterly terrible to let loose on the world. Why?

Because it's the intellectual equivalent of a universal acid. Nothing in that process is constructive, its only purpose is to corrode, erode, destroy established things. The only way the mindset knows how to function is to outline problems in a thing or to torture them out by doing a "close reading" of the material. Suffice to say an enemy can mind-read basically whatever they want to into a body of discourse.

And that's what's going on out in the world: Basically every strand of activism from feminism, BLM, diversity trainings, X studies runs on that critical theoretical acid, and is actively trying to instill a "critical consciousness" (ie. ability and tendency to view things through the lens of critical theory and consequently take action to change the world against dominant discourses) in every corner of life.

This is a problem.

Why? Being more aware of power dynamics doesn't sound half bad in itself, and a more rounded curriculum might legitimately be a good idea. The problem isn't in the substance of what they claim they want to do, but the HOW of it. Critical theory is essentially an intellectual acid that's used to demolish pretty much anything into a feeble, shoddy and illegitimate-feeling house of cards, right?

They're literally trying to construct the societal world on acid and caring more about words used than actual reality.

They're literally trying to use a solvent as the foundation of society, the method that has two tools: Problematicize and delegitimize so as to tear down and destroy. There is no positive value - kindness, humor, gentleness in the program. Basically nothing is valued positively or viewed non-cynically, so next to nothing can be built. As a consequence, it's a destructive or takeover ideology. What it has has been taken from someone or is focused on tearing something down. Remove targets, you'll notice the whole endeavor is empty, because it stands against much, but truly stands for very little, if anything at all.

Ever see mentions that people are being literally killed or somesuch when someone makes a comment an activist deems inappropriate. The focus on words is why. Speaking constructs a hegemonic discourse that will lead to oppression which legitimates some crackpot bigot somewhere to kill a transperson, so it's sane to them to treat any criticism or disagreement as if it was violence.

Another problem is that some dominant discourses are not just social constructs in the sense that they're how the presumed-dominant group has ended up talking about things. Some discourses are dominant/hegemonic because they correspond well with reality and end up staying in a reality-connected memeplex where language is at least in part concerned with describing reality.

This is utterly irrelevant in critical theory land, and so the theory doesn't care, and will try to dismantle them because they are simply tools of power used to oppress oppressed groups whose discourses are unfairly sidelined. Who says things is important, what is said, not so much. Everything is reduced down to group-based power struggles, and conceived as zero-sum games where victory is tearing down the majority enemy.

What if someone isn't on board with the program? No sweat, in line with their Marxist social conflict theory heritage, critical theorists use the device of "false consciousness" or "internalized oppression" to sweep away people from oppressed groups who don't buy into the critical theoretical revolutionary narrative. It's really convenient how disagreement is just evidence of your rightness and proof that the opponents have done bad things. Needless to say, it means they're right in every case and the whole shebang is unfalsifiable because every counterargument is either the hegemonic discourse that is to be deconstructed and torn down or internalized oppression. Lived experience of minorities is only valid if they have woken to critical consciousness, ie. come to the right conclusions.

Now start looking around, and the fingerprint of the critical theoretical worldview is everywhere. Insistence on alternate ways of knowing, framing everything as oppressor-oppressed relationships, redefinitions of words so as to exclude majority groups from fair treatment (See eg. Reddit's hate speech rules. Orwell couldn't have done "some are more equal than others" better: https://www.reddithelp.com/en/categories/rules-reporting/acc... ). Many places where they simply try to force language to be reality rather than trying to find it.

One salient example: Trans-rights activists insisting that lesbians should be attracted to them because what defines a woman is that the person thinks themselves one. It leads to totally inclusive and accepting funtimes like this: https://lesbian-rights-nz.org/shame-receipts/

'Upward-thrusting buildings ejaculating into the sky' – do cities have to be so sexist? https://twitter.com/GuardianAus/status/1280221825973313537

The National Museum of African American Culture posted this: https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/whiten...

Robin DiAngelo whose video is on that page authored a book called White Fragility. According to her, a "positive white identity is not possible". Wonder why? https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/dehumanizi...

Critical grammar at Rutgers: https://www.thecollegefix.com/rutgers-english-department-to-...

Someone makes a joke about a model organism when asked about overrated animals. How to react?



Thank you for writing this.

It’s too far in the game to still make this claim.

Go through this list and tell us there is no “real” speech suppression:


In fact it's mostly worse than that, because it's barely even "speech", it's people getting picked on for making trivial "mistakes".

You can think of it as "The Twitter mob needs to destroy N people every day".

If they find genuinely bad people to destroy, they go first. But if not, pretty much anyone will do.

I think in some areas you are right: The general population is not that affected (yet!).

But in universities and open source projects there absolutely is an oppression of free speech. In open source projects it is usually corporate directed middle managers who no longer program, so they have to profile themselves as bureaucrats fighting for a cause in order not to lose their cozy jobs.

And fight they do, Robespierre style.

How confident are you that this is true? What kind of information would you have to see to feel alarm?

I would have to see the left gaining real political or financial power. Right now I am far more concerned about right wing fascism since that is gaining popularity in multiple countries.

The left controls academia, the arts, media, and corporate HR departments. That's a significant amount of power that can be wielded against people who don't conform.

As has been pointed out a couple of times, it's not a question of left vs right though, it's a question of liberal vs illiberal. The number of people who have lost their livelihoods for mere speech (on both ends of the political spectrum) goes to show that the illiberals do have significant political and financial power, and toleration is declining.

And as a counterpoint to my position Nick Sandmann has settled out of court with the Washington Post (after settling with CNN). I'm not aware of settlements in the opposite political direction.


And as another ex-Soviet I'd prefer they never do.

There is already real-life intimidation. 2 Seattle Councilmembers who disagreed to vote to defund police to a sufficient degree had protests around the house, and Oakland mayor's house got protested and vandalized for the same crime, voting "wrong". These are just few, very recent examples out of a rich tapestry of everything from rioting with impunity to getting fired for posting a link to a scientific study.

Frankly, if trump goons (and I really detest trump and most of what passes for his policy positions) literally machine-gunned whoever perpetrated the Oakland mayor's house vandalism, it would be super counter-productive, but morally the right thing to do in my book.

> Frankly, if trump goons [...] literally machine-gunned whoever perpetrated the Oakland mayor's house vandalism, it would be super counter-productive, but morally the right thing to do in my book.

How can you say something like this and still consider yourself a virtuous person. I will never understand the authoritarian mindset that thinks summary execution without trial is a legitimate response to property vandalism. It's not. It is murder.

No, it's not at all murder. At the very worst, it's disproportionate defense against crime. If you kill someone actively trying to kill you it's obviously fine, if you kill someone vandalizing a house it's the same principle; it would usually be disproportionate, but not wrong as such.

However, in this particular case, when fighting mob intimidation like this (or marxism in general, come think of it) ends justify the means.

I know at least two people who have been fired over the last month for wrongthink: one was due to a guy's stupidity; with the other, some woke vigilante went after him and intentionally took some jokes out of context. And this isn't an uncommon story. Did I imagine these two people losing their jobs, or did it really happen? Did they have their speech suppressed? And if it did happen, can you not see any parallels to how totalitarian regimes - Soviet or otherwise - operated?

> There is no real speech suppression going on (except, maybe, by the right wingers in power), but the leftists and mobs reminiscent of the soviet era certainly don't have any power right now.

During any coup d'etat, the perpetrators have two immediate objectives: isolate the existing leader and control the flow of information (usually the TV broadcasters or radio). This is true of almost every coup. For instance, a few years ago, the Turkish military attempted a coup against Erdogan, and were thwarted when he started making Facetime calls to the outside.[1] Schools are also often targeted over the longer term, and in places with state religion, the religious institutions are as well. I'd ask whether the "right wingers in power" are more isolated than any generic previous people in power, and I'd ask whether the "right wingers in power" have control over those culture institutions, or whether those are more guided by "the leftists and mobs" who "don't have any power right now."

The most we can really say is that some right wingers have titles, but I'd argue that they have little actual power. (The current right-winger can't even get his former National Security Adiver's charges dropped, which were filed during his presidency by his people.)

[1] https://www.vox.com/2016/7/16/12206304/turkey-coup-facetime


Someone from an ex soviet state isn't better positioned to understand our current crisis...

You'd think someone who is against fascism would be interested to hear from someone who actually lived in a oppressive, authoritarian state, whether it be communist or fascist (since they use the same methods).

I am interested in relevant perspective. I'm disinterested in listening wherein people disguise their lack of insight with the prop of their background and nationality.

Some people use their insight, intelligence, and education to dress up their ignorance in better clothes.

I'm also wondering why someone Who grew up in Russia and moved to Australia would have a deeper insight into the the country I've lived in all my life.

I'm referring to this statement:

Someone from an ex soviet state isn't better positioned to understand our current crisis anymore than someone who was once almost killed as a child by dogs is best suited to understand the "dangers" of dog ownership.

Your mixing words here. I would definitely say a child bitten by a dog has a "better perspective", but agree that they aren't "best suited".

How old are you that you've seen this before? If you are just seeing similarities to soviet steady state society, they might not mean we are headed towards that state, since its unclear if the process that birthed the social order you experienced was similar to it at all.

Is it inconceivable that someone who experienced Soviet life in the 70s or 80s might be around on HN? I didn't interpret either gp or ggp as talking about the October Revolution or collectivizing the "kulak" farmers. Just the ordinary totalitarianism where people who think for themselves (we might call them "aggressive-independent") have to go mute in order to not step on ever-changing minefields, or be very careful about who they talk to.

It's his personal problem.

He built the ultimate machine to attract conformists who want to get another badge. First the conformists will push out individualists by their sheer bulk and better ability to navigate the approval process. (It's their core competency in life!)

Y Combinator is a plant that has grown too large for its pot. Someday something is going to go wrong, there are so many people going through it that sooner or later there is going to be a scandal. Graham is not on a growth trajectory, and sooner or later decay is going to catch up with him. I don't know exactly how, but the logic of exponential growth will to discover it.

If he wants to do anything except "richmansplain" about how there's some kind of problem that he can't talk about except in abtruse code (e.g. I am clearly agonized about something, but I have to draw four quadrants to pretend that I'm thinking deeply about it rather than obscure what bothers me) because if he was able to put his ineffable thoughts into words then somebody is going to do something completely indescribable.

He won't listen but here is my advice.

Graham has accomplished as much as he can in the place he is at. If he stays where he is, he can at best tread water, at worst various problems are going to catch up with him, he's going to paint himself into a corner, the amoral conformists attracted to his organization are going to create a scandal, the u.s. becomes unable to support s.v. b ecause capital has waged an investment strike against most of it, etc.

If he leaves Y Co in the hands of people he trusts (does he trust anyone?) and spends a year or two doing something else in a different place I think he'll have something interesting to say and he

It's sad, but reading his essays feels so much like reading Peirs Anthony, it is just the same essay over and over again with very little feeling he's grown. Maybe he needs to hang out with some adults, admit that being a zillionaire doesn't make you immortal, that you're always going to be frustrated because your species is split into two genders, etc.

Well said.

pg might be interesting again if he said what "unsayable" and "aggressively independent-minded" things he actually wants to say, and I wish he bloody would - we've got no choice but to read it.

"independent-minded" is such a cliche now - it's often a euphemism for something else. Surely more truly "aggressively independent-minded" people are homeless addicts, not rockstar founders. What's the right balance between conformism and independent-mindedness? In what areas of life? This 2-axis system is way too simple. Start there, dude.

By implication pg (and YC) recognise and value independent-mindedness - but as you say, from the outside YC appears to reward conformism to their well-understood creeds (as well as just playing the odds of an enormous number of companies, rather than being clever pickers).

(edit: removed snark, however deserved)

It would be interesting if he developed a theory of "unsayable" things based on examples. One really good one is Freud's theory of infantile sexuality:


It's completely true that four year old boys get erections and play with themselves (I did), don't think about it all when they are ten, and then tend to think about it a lot when they hit puberty.

It is the basis for understanding how sexual abuse hurts children, but say it and people will report you to the FBI as a pedo.

If Graham were serious he could make a list of 20 diverse examples like this.

Interesting. Here's what he wrote about that in 2004:

"When you find something you can't say, what do you do with it? My advice is, don't say it. Or at least, pick your battles...The most important thing is to be able to think what you want, not to say what you want. And if you feel you have to say everything you think, it may inhibit you from thinking improper thoughts. I think it's better to follow the opposite policy. Draw a sharp line between your thoughts and your speech. Inside your head, anything is allowed. Within my head I make a point of encouraging the most outrageous thoughts I can imagine. But, as in a secret society, nothing that happens within the building should be told to outsiders."


Freudian Psychoanalysis is the basis of nothing. Freud never formulated testable, falsifiable hypotheses, and his "theories" were nothing but speculation and pseudoscience, which is why by 1980, US psychiatrists wanting to make their specialization more respectable and evidence-based purged the DSM of all references to Freud.

If anything, it's criticism of Freud and his theories, outside of strictly science-based objections, that is "unsayable":


The fact that you are posting this using your real name is strong evidence that it's not actually "unsayable".

Freudian psychoanalysis was a core component of orthodox leftwing thought up until fairly recently. His influence on the left was massive, perhaps second only to Marx. The idea that you could get cancelled for endorsing his theories today, even the parts that arguably normalize pedophilia by sexualizing infants (eg, their supposed sexual attraction to opposite-sex parents, or their psychological development being based on a progression of erogenous zones) is silly.

Despite the biographical problems, I agree with the comments on the essays. He's fighting the last war still.

Conventional thinkers are the builders of institutions. The people who bring us together. As an aggressively independent minded person, I see a dire need for that.

If socially minded people don't have a nice group to join, they fall back on the old toxic classics. We need someone to give us new unions, churches, universities, bowling teams, a group you aren't born into. The aggressively conventionally minded people are the ones who can do that!

He hasn't been running YC for years now. He left it to Sam Altman to run for the last couple of years. And even Sam has left the post to Geoff Ralston, which is currently running it. PG's twice removed. We're on Thomas Jefferson now.

He doesn’t run YC anymore. He lives in the Uk at this point

Thanks for the correction!

It might be nice to hear something about his experience in the UK then.

Is there more context on this? Why is he in the UK for example?

It's interesting that he doesn't share anything about his life, isn't it? Even if his body is not in the Bay Area he doesn't show any evidence of having been around.

Even Piers Anthony would talk about the random things that happened in his life, but Graham doesn't.

He's raising his kids. It's understandable if someone doesn't want to talk about the comings and goings of their family and personal life.

Occasionally he'll tweet out "darn things my kids say". But no, it's not interesting at all he doesn't share anything about his life.

I think he might have downvoted me even for asking :)

Seriously though, I can't really blame him. I got a few days fame back in the day and it was a scary thing to watch a mob of strangers picking on my past and judging. Even people who I thought are my friends acted extremely strange - as if they don't know me personally and joining the mob of haters or lovers.

Some ideas are dangerous, and closely tied to both actions and policies. It is the responsibility of smart, powerful and conscientious people to acknowledge that. I am not saying that dangerous ideas should not be discussed. But we should be careful what we say in public. How should society regulate pedophilia, if at all? Nambla has opinions about that. Does Paul draw the line at legalizing pedophilia? Does he advocate that our most popular platforms embrace and encourage that debate? Race-based eugenics is another idea that has surfaced again and again. Why not optimize the human species through sterilization of its less desired members? That idea seems to march in lockstep with policies of extermination. Does Paul draw the line at that idea? If not, why not?

By removing pedophiles from society through violence, naturally.

> the left and the right my opinion are missing the key points on freedom (the left suppressing and labeling, the right militarizing).

If I had to choose between “cancel culture” versus militarized violence, cancel me any day.

I see you slipped the word "violence" in there. Perhaps you misspelled "defence"?

The State is the primary perpetrator of violence, not "the right".

You shouldn't be thinking in "left vs right", but in "individuals vs the state". The only things sitting between your liberties and the State are: its constitution (if any), and the "militarized right" (gun owners).

There's some historical examples of individuals giving up their guns, perhaps you should read into what happened afterwards?

hello from europe, we got all the versions running for 150 years, none proved armed citizens turned out good I think?

> the fundamental ideas that America is built on is focused so heavily on freedom that I trust the aggressively independent to protect, and the passively independent minded to innovate.

If you saw that essay as a defense of existing social structures, how are you so sure you're not just one of the convention minded too?

To clarify how I see it -

I don’t see it as a defense of existing social structures, I see it as a defense of freedom. Some existing social structures promote it, and so would others that don’t exist yet (some ideas: social network that proliferates good debates, tool that shows a politician’s vested interests, laws on transparency and symmetry, a new kind of univ focused on experience in the real world, etc)

To answer the question, how do I know if I’m just one of the convention minded? -

I don’t think you can know with certainty, so you should question yourself, but there are a few signs:

- if your ideas are nuanced and don’t quite fit on an axis, sign of a good thing - if you read original sources, and reflect on your own experience to form theories, good sign - if you have gotten deeper on opposing views, and can articulate them well, good sign - if you notice most people in your social circle wouldn’t agree with some of your ideas, could be a good sign (conventionally minded folks are often conventionally minded to gain support of their immediate peers)

> I don’t see it as a defense of existing social structures, I see it as a defense of freedom.

Right, in the same sentence in which you identified "freedom", not as an abstract ideal that stands alone, but as one of "the fundamental ideas that America is built on". That tells me you're making a political point (or an identity one, I guess), not a principled one.

As far as your definition, I'd just go with this:

- Do you regularly find your ideas conflict in serious ways with people who hold actual power over your daily life.

- Do you do anything about it?

If you don't answer yes to BOTH of those questions, I think you can rule out the "independent thinker" label. If you do, well maybe I guess.

But I'd suggest toning down the identity stuff unless you're trying to signal to a particular tribe. It's conformist almost by definition.

You are mixing thought and values, in both of your questions.

Independent minded people can find themselves agreeing with people in power; the independence of mind is about the “why” not the “what.” If you independently, critically evaluate an issue and settle on the common belief that doesn’t make you conformist.

Likewise, if you settle on the opposite side and don’t act on it, it takes nothing away from your independence of thought, rather it’s a question of values. The answer to “is this worth my time?“ is yes or no independently of whether you agree of disagree with the zeitgeist.

Re: political or identity point

I am not quite sure I understand that view. Why is the statement “America was built on fundamental ideas of freedom” a political or identity point?

From the way our government is structured (checks and balances), to the constitution (free speech), I think they stand on the side of freedom pretty objectively

> I am not quite sure I understand that view. Why is the statement “America was built on fundamental ideas of freedom” a political or identity point?

Because freedom cannot be untied from politics and society. The initial constitutional congress defined freedom for those who owned land. Obviously with time it expanded to all white men, then all white women, and so on, but not with out a inherently political fight.

A fight which we may not encode into law, but which is effectively encoded into law by uneven enforcement of law.

Whether or not you believe America was built on freedom has a strong correlation to your political affiliation.

That has only been true for a few years. In any previous century, that claim was not political.

That's really not true. For the last 60 years or so (basically since the civil rights movement) the conventional understanding of "freedom" on the educated American left has been significantly more nuanced. It is, after all, a nation with the institution of slavery enshrined in its constitution, so people tend to talk carefully about which freedoms they mean.

On the right, that never took hold (we probably don't want to get into why). So when someone says something like "freedom is a foundational ideal of America" they're effectively making a declaration of identity as an American conservative.

And coming back to the upthread point: if I hear that statement as "I'm a conservative!" in the context of "I'm an independent thinker!", then I'm going to be a little dubious about how independent that thought is when it's defined in terms of a political identity. Political orthodoxy is perhaps the SAFEST form of (to use the terminology from the article) conventional-minded thought.

"Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek republics: Freedom for slave owners." —Vladimir Lenin

In the case of the early United States, the "slave-owners" part is literal, but even ignoring that, you have to remember that when the constitution was written, only land-owning white men could vote, and the men forming the new government were largely the same ones who had a leading role in British colonial society. The "freedom" in question was pretty much exclusively the freedom of the ruling class here to oppress others without the interference of the ruling class there. For instance, one of the sources of tension leading up to the revolution was the Proclamation of 1763, by which the British government forbade further colonization westward into Indian territory. Consequently, most Indians supported the British during the revolution. Which side do you think was better protecting their freedom?

You can also see this in the design of the original constitution, which has many "checks and balances" to protect against parts of the federal government usurping power, but has effectively nothing protecting freedom or democracy from the existing state governments, except requiring that they have a Republican form of government. Again, the freedom of the rulers here from the power of the rulers there. I'll admit that the first amendment was a genuine step towards freedom, but one which was taken primarily for the protection of the class interests of the type of men who'd participated in the committees of correspondence, which were frequently denied to people with less power, starting with the Alien and Sedition acts of 1798 and continuing in some form or another throughout all American history.

None of this is to say that there's no way that the founding of the US could be seen as representing freedom: just that there's another possible narrative depending on what parts of the story you do and don't tell. I started this comment by quoting Lenin, who in that context could be seen as a freedom-fighter, who indeed overthrew an absolute monarch in the name of freedom and equality. If you read the Soviet constitution, it also purported to guarantee free speech, press, and religion. However, Lenin ensured that the new government was a one-party state, which quickly eroded almost all freedoms that had been achieved in the revolution. Which part of the story you choose to tell and how it reflects on the present day is a matter of ideology and identity.

Yes to both: I was a staff eng at big co, where the way I wrote the ideas above would have been trouble. I didn’t kow tow during my tenure, and now I’m building a company.

> the independent minded are good at figuring out solutions.

Ideally it wouldn't cost one their life, liberty or means of sustenance in the pursuit of figuring out these solutions

Thinking little more on this. Today's independent become tomorrow's conventional. Not sure if the same person maintains the independence or gets tied to their idea and in a way loosing the independence. In scientific community too new ideas are challenged by conventional great scientist sometime.

>No matter what, the fundamental ideas that America is built on is focused so heavily on freedom

Freedom as long as you aren't threateningly critical of America.

The journalist of the Syrian War who took an anti-American stance and was targetted by American drone strikes would prove otherwise: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/how-...

You don't even have to look that far, there are secret police officers using unmarked rental cars to arrest protesters without telling them who they are and why they are being arrested.



How many bad apples makes a police black site?


The guy they’re “arresting” also doesn’t say anything, and is extremely compliant for someone who’s allegedly an anti-police protester. I believe that is a video of an informant extraction.

> I believe that is a video of an informant extraction.

It could very well be but it isn't an isolated thing (as far as I can tell) and it's in line with everything that happened in the last weeks/months in the US.

In absence of any proofs I wouldn't side with the law enforcement by default, but you're right to question it.

> it isn't an isolated thing (as far as I can tell) and it's in line with everything that happened in the last weeks/months in the US.

If that’s the case, then why is this very strange and anomalous video the one thing people keep talking about when there are much more clear-cut examples such as Lafayette Park? More importantly, why is that the one data point that people are building the narrative around and saying, “well, it isn’t an isolated incident”.

And while you are aghast at that, I’d have ask if you’d be aghast at the people who bully and gaslight and threaten individuals who are critical of some aspects of progressivism. I ask because if we ever had an “antifa” government I can be almost certain the abuses would escalate to heights we dare not imagine.

"Yes I understand you're outraged by killing people with drone strikes, but think of the people whose companies didn't want anything to do with them after they said something nasty!"

I also am not a fan of cancel culture or the sort of progressive Victorianism we see these days. Sure an antifa government would suck.

But that's just bad manners, these are people being assassinated because the government disagrees with them.

I wouldn’t be so optimistic. Level headed people in the French Revolution, the liberals in the Russian revolution, they had some rather horrible things happen. Done by very lucid people. You can’t say that was then. It’s hard to escape that fate.

The fact that an article exists, and it’s possible for him to sue, is a right and luxury afforded to us by this American belief in freedom.

His suit was dismissed by the government because having to defend themselves against the accusation would disclose state secrets. The right to sue only matters if you can meaningfully exercise it...

And your standards are ridiculous. If anyone anywhere was able to show you a story of the US trying to kill someone for committing ideological heresy then the very fact they could tell you the story is proof that Amrrica believes in ideological freedom? You see the contradiction surely...

I don’t quite see it, because at least in the part of the world I was raised, I can tell you that someone talking about this on the news would have sounded ridiculous.

I do agree that America has never been a perfect bastion of freedom, and there are large struggles today. It definitely saddens me to see that.

Yet, this is the whole point of the idea that our ties to freedom are fundamental — that some group in the U.S _will_ disagree with authorities, that even if a suit is dropped, they may continue the fight. It’s not ideal that we have to fight, but the fact that we can is a freedom that is very rare.

I was raised in such a world too.

I get what you're saying. But like everything there is a middle ground. US has good press freedom, but they also, like every country, will kill you if you "blaspheme" against them too much. There's a balance between freedom and security. And what the US deems "safe" and "unsafe" is always important to keep in mind


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