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Silicon Valley’s Safe Space (nytimes.com)
424 points by implying 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 729 comments



Given the rather enormous of time and attention spent on it, not to mention the vast amounts of heated debate it had already spawned, I'd sort of assumed the NYT would either publish a really, really solid article or (more likely) just spike it and try and forget the entire thing had ever happened. After all, given that the NYT was now so much a part of the story, writing anything good would be pretty hard.

But no, kudos to them, they found a third way: Just write a poorly written article that alternates between interjecting disconnected ideas and making vague attempts at guilt by association, and carefully ignore anything inconvenient.

> He denounced the neoreactionaries, the anti-democratic, often racist movement popularized by Curtis Yarvin. But he also gave them a platform. His “blog roll” — the blogs he endorsed — included the work of Nick Land, a British philosopher whose writings on race, genetics and intelligence have been embraced by white nationalists.

So he denounced the works of one person who believes bad things, but he also linked to a second person, who may or may not believe bad things, but is liked by a third group of people who also believe bad things, so...logically...that must mean he actually does...support the first person? Despite denouncing them, because he didn't link to them, which proves...something...?

It feels weird even writing this argument down. If you link to someone who supports X, then you're actually supporting every other person who has ever supported X? Link to a pro-vegan website, you must support every terrible ideology that has had at least one vegetarian supporter?

What a depressing waste of everyone's time.


> Just write a poorly written article that alternates between interjecting disconnected ideas and making vague attempts at guilt by association

The whole guilt-by-association thing that's going on these days is one of the most worrying cancelation techniques, because it can be done even through a very remote link. I like person A, who likes person B, who likes person C, who happens to also be liked by White Supremacists. therefore I am a White Supremacist (and person A, B, and C, too). How many degrees of separation do you need in order to be safe from the mob?


Poetically, if we assume 6 degrees of separation then you need 7 to be safe^.

The thing called cancel culture isn't rooted in a proud intellectual tradition, because intellectualism relies on knowing what the opposition's argument is to dismiss it (ie, the opposite of cancelling). It is group-forming action of identifying and attacking an enemy.

Although groups sometimes superficially seem to be using evidence, it is rarely important. The most secure kind of tribe is one that rallies around ideas that make no sense - because then if someone espouses the idea that proves they are in the tribe. If the idea makes sense then people who agree might have just arrived at it on their own.

Extreme guilt-by-association is a great cultural marker, because the only way that attitude makes sense is if the espouses is an adherent to cancel-culture ideas and is signalling support of the group. Otherwise it doesn't make sense. It isn't really being important in the mobs decision making, the only important thing is identifying an enemy and it doesn't matter how.

^ I know, I know, 6 is supposed to be an average.


> How many degrees of separation do you need in order to be safe from the mob?

There is no limit really. If you're targeted for cancellation, they'll dig up and use anything as evidence. Thankfully people seem to be wising up to these tactics and they're losing power as a result.


> they're losing power as a result

Ah yes, the old Conservative trope: eventually they'll go too far, and then you'll see.

How's that working out? Conservatives have lost on every issue since I was born.

But yeah, don't fight back. Power-hungry people will "defeat themselves"…eventually. Trust me.

Trust the plan.


Hmm, perhaps we should start passing laws to break up the mob think then.

Also you’re being hyperbolic or are a very well spoken 4 year old.


Some amount of shaming can be a good thing in society but the idea of not associating with anyone who may even remotely be connected with a bad idea is a terrible concept. It feels very cult like.


It's counter-productive too.

I was friends with a guy who was really into InfoWars in the early 2000s. I'm no longer in contact with him for unrelated reasons but I have to think that keeping friends who weren't in that world helps people from falling deeper into it.

Isolating people from good ideas doesn't seem like a great way to change minds.


Especially in a friendly context (and of course depending on your relationship) you can rag on them when they say something way out of line. It’s partially friendly banter, but also social pressure to consider infowars entertainment and not something to be taken as a serious news source.


Doesn't this go both ways though? I'd be willing to bet there are plenty of people that get dragged into white supremacy because they make friends with a few at the bar. Just normal chat at first with occasional "facts" about a group thrown in.


Sure it goes both ways. That’s why a culture of taking offense to minor transgressions rather than giving people the benefit of the doubt is so detrimental. It goes back to that comic where someone asks about racism and the anti-racist tells them it’s emotional labor and to google it, then the white supremacist pulls out all his “research” and talks about white supremacy at length.

That person who can easily be influenced to be a white supremacist doesn’t feel accepted. I don’t really mind accepting people and opening up to them about my own flaws and ideological inconsistencies. Some people are going to fall into the wrong crowds - you can’t win everyone over, but blocking someone out because they’re superficially racist or they have “regressive” views or whatever else is a great way to get a confused person to be very sure about those views.


It definitely goes both ways but I think it's important to recognize that _most_ people don't fall for those fringe beliefs. Keeping ties to the people that do fall into them gives them a lifeline to pull themselves out.

Additionally, I find the thought process of the person that wants to shut down those "dangerous" ideas pretty repulsive. It seems implicit to me that they are trying to protect those that are lesser than them. There's an implicit superiority there.


>How many degrees of separation do you need in order to be safe from the mob?

no one can be safe from the mob if mob behavior is a normalized practice of the society. It doesn't matter that a given mob at a specific moment in time is directed in the "good" direction. Mob is just a tool, it doesn't have any way to distinguish "bad" from "good" (by it is nature the mob forms when its members let go their own moral independence for the sake of unity, mutual validation and resulting safety and drunk high feeling), and thus it can be turned in any direction by the tool handler.


Not only that, it's also if you don't vocally condemn along with others (no matter the reason) you are also suspect. You support "the status quo" even if you try to stay away from mob behavior, etc.


But that’s true! You are supporting the status quo. Every action in the trolly problem is a decision. Once someone shows you the lever you have no choice but to make a decision even if it’s inaction.

What people want from you when they ask you to openly condemn something is to make a broad societal change that normalizes that condemnation.

There’s nothing wrong with not doing it. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that some issue isn’t worth getting involved with, or you don’t think an issue is a big enough problem, or you don’t like how activists are going about it. Plenty of valid reasons but the crucial thing that you have to recognize that you’re making a choice, own it, and realize that it might have consequences.


You make an excellent counterpoint.

I think your comment also exposes an ambiguity in the phrase "support the status quo."

One meaning is to affirm the status quo as generally acceptable.

Another meaning is to (implicitly) decide that one particular aspect of the status quo falls below the cutoff line of what you have the time or energy to deal with in the moment.

I don't know if conflating the two intentionally is a common occurrence, but I can see how doing so could be used to incite outrage amongst uncritical thinkers.


From what I have seen, it is extremely common to conflate doing literally anything other than trying to tear the status quo down as supporting it.


Yes, and it goes further: activists will sort into tiers of extremism and each tier will frame the less extreme actions of the tiers below them as supporting the status quo. It's the active ingredient in their recruiting pipeline. High tier extremism can't recruit directly from the general population but it can recruit from the tier below by guilt-tripping them for not doing enough.

If you don't decide to "support the status quo" at some point, you'll wind up in the deep end.


Or I could be in favor of whatever it is, but don't want my news feed to be filled with my commentary about whatever social issue du jour it is like everyone else who engages in this, and would rather it just be more personal.

Also I don't want to have to be attacked or have to defend my position if I don't word things perfectly (more commonly don't show enough outrage, because I don't have as strong of opinions as a lot of people on social media), which seems to be a common occurrence nowadays.


Ignoring the status quo is not “supporting it”. You’ve created a false dichotomy here. Do you support the current regime of North Korea because you don’t take time to condemn China for supporting it? By your definition, everyone not speaking out about this is supporting the regime.

This makes the word “support” meaningless because you can no longer distinguish between 99 percent of the population of the world that doesn’t have time and the 0.01% actively supporting the regime.


This mindset just seems impossible to implement in general. If someone came to me and said "you should denounce suchandsuch Estonian law because it's terribly unfair to burglary victims", I would have to decline - not because I think burglary victims don't matter, and not because I support the Estonian justice system, but simply because I have no idea what they're talking about and there's no easy way for me to find out.


It's got to be absolutely exhausting! Even when I have the context to understand, I have trouble keeping up with the ever growing list of things I'm expected to be upset about, let alone have time to visibly denounce each of them.


It's simple: I'm mad at everything all the time. Everything sucks and we should change it.

See! Easy! ;)


> Everything sucks and we should change it.

Careful there, now you just made the "both sides are bad" argument showing you support the bad guys!


But it’s not Estonian burglary law. It’s about racism. Your dancing around hypotheticals hides the core issues.

So you’re right and you’re wrong. The people in this example don’t care about racist activities of people they support, which in itself is indirect support to mainstreaming these issues.

Not understanding Estonian burglary law is understandable and forgivable, not understanding the negative impacts of racism is not. It would take willful determination to avoid learning even the basics of recent world history or current events and why it’s been such a problem.

It’s not that hard to say “I find some of the ideas by X interesting and useful, but also I don’t support racism in any way.” I get that they don’t want to do it, but that’s the level support that enables the problematic culture to be pervasive.


The word racism is meaningless to many people now. the definition is too encompassing and by denouncing it, particularly in conversation with a political activist, you have no clue what you are signing up for.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/dictionary...

From the linked article: Merriam-Webster captures this as well, noting that racism can mean “a political or social system founded on racism.”

So by denouncing racism I am literally denouncing the entirety of civilization I guess.


> So by denouncing racism I am literally denouncing the entirety of civilization I guess.

Considering the "denouncings" have included the US Constitution, Magna Carta, Greek philosophers, and math+science in general, this is more correct and scarier than almost anyone has thought through.

Exciting times ahead!


Is the entirety of civilization truly founded on racism or is just a part of it founded on racism? If it's only a part then what is wrong with denouncing the racist portion of civilization? How important is that portion?


To be honest… civilisation – at least, the parts the can be described as “a political or social system founded on racism” – isn't that great.

If we just eliminated the government, eliminated all hierarchies larger than 100 people, eliminated all nations and laws and institutions… well, most of us would probably die very quickly. But that doesn't mean that what we have now is even in the top 20% of possible ways that civilisation could be.


> top 20% of possible ways that civilisation could be.

This sort of an unmeasurable goal. I think we’re certainly in the top 20% of civilization from any time in history. Or top 20% ever attempted.

It’s hard to tell how good all possible civilizations can be.


Yeah; what I wrote was absurd. Most civilisations can trivially be improved; we're definitely pretty high up the possibilities. I meant we're not in the top 20% of feasible possible civilisations anybody currently alive would want to put into place (which is a qualitative claim, not a quantitative one).


> But it’s not Estonian burglary law.

That doesn't matter, because we all agree that burglary is bad. The question isn't "is burglary or racism bad," the question is "do I know enough about this person or topic to be sure that it deserves to be denounced based on my beliefs about racism or burglary?"


> the question is "do I know enough about this person or topic to be sure that it deserves to be denounced based on my beliefs about racism or burglary?"

And the answer is no, as per their post. We can agree burglary is bad but if you’ve never been burgled then how can you know? You see this a lot with gun control advocates telling victims of violence they don’t need a gun to protect themselves. How can someone know another’s perspective on life without titling at windmills daily from wrong assumptions as you attempt to figure out their point.


Spicy isn't dancing around anything. In his hypothetical there was no mention of it, and info that could illustrate to them that Estonian burglary laws had anything to do with racism had not propagated to be able to make heads or tails of it.

It's like a math problem without enough information. You don't get a result, you get "cannot compute from information given".

Making an affirmative or disavowing statement without all the pertinent information is irresponsible. Now we can argue the definition of 'pertinent' til the cows come home, and we do, every day. Real, meaningful, unambiguous communication with 100% accurate replication of surface and deep contextual meaning is hard, and at the very crux of humanity's difficulties putting up with one another.

It's why not having a view on something is perfectly okay. However, nowadays it is increasingly getting villified by a very vocal group who insists that everyone's viewpoint on the matter should be on record or inferred from their digital or social footprint. Which is a very dangerous position to take, because that viewpoint axiomatically requires an us/them divide. This is also a reason I reject this kind of cultural push out the gate. My, wouldn't it be nice to draw a circle around only the people willing to agree with us, and share our cognitive blindspots one and all, that does not a civilization or liberty loving people make. The true love of Liberty requires the love of all the ills it brings with it from those who will exercise it. We can argue endlessly around where the limits are, as long as we're all debating,and we're willing to revisit things to reevaluate the status quo over time, and maintain an agreed upon realistic representation of the progress we make over time moving forward.

Example:

Those that complain that what foundational/structural echoes remain of the very real institutional walls that used to exist are as bad as having the whole hog full in force are fools. Those that would tear down or dismantle material reminders of how far we've progressed, are also fools as well, because they are trying to break down the common record we measure our own progress as a civilization as a whole against. You see things like the 1619 project trying to completely rewrite history not in a "Hey, lets record what happened, and let people form an opinion of their own," sense but in the "all your narrative is belong to us, now" sense. People notice, can, and do read between the lines. Most just won't bring up that they do in public out of an abundance of concern for not subjecting everyone around them to a contentious atmosphere.

Long story short: There's more to life than being for/against a list of hot topics over time, and the people who care about those hot topics owe a bit of deferrence to those who have other more highly prioritized things to worry and devote. brain cycles to, just as those with other more pressing matters recognize and give due time to those who prioritize most highly things they are ambivalent about. The end result is an overall average whereby only the most pressing things capable of having consensus achieved are acted upon, or those so inconsequential that no need for resistance is recognized.

The entire practice of politics is concerned with shifting people between those buckets, and trying to push a social system to mandate picking a side is a Bad Idea (TM).


The comment I was responding to wasn't about racism. It was a general claim about all issues.


"normalizes that condemnation" is another way of saying "If you aren't for us, you are against us.", which many disagree with.


All right, I'll own it. I have failed to denounce people who are N degrees separated from me who believe terrible things, because I believe that guilt-by-N-degrees-of-asscociation-unless-denounced is both nonsense and deeply damaging to our society. I am not taking part in that kind of performance theater.


Surely there's some room for nuance, though?

If, say, large subgroups of white nationalists LOOOOOVE you, and are doing things to try and provide you support... passive acceptance of that support is questionable. There comes a point where if you continue to accept the support and not condemn that group that you're willingly associating yourself with them.


The problem now is that you can condemn something repeatedly and still be accused of not condemning it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99-yicMhjGo

https://www.factcheck.org/2020/02/trump-has-condemned-white-...


Large subgroups of white nationalists looooove In-n-out. What has the company done to stop accepting them as customers?


Despite being perhaps the most benign example anybody could come up with off the top of their head, In-N-Out has actually already been targeted as having racist and ageist hiring practices:

The class action suit, brought by a Berkeley law firm, claims that the Irvine-based fast food chain with the cute paper hats "recruits, hires and maintains a work force that is predominantly under the age of 40 and/or non-African American." Out of 210 locations and thousands of employees, "very few" are older than 40 years old or black. The suit is also calling for a payout in the form of back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages on behalf of everyone over 40 and/or not white that In-N-Out has wronged with their allegedly unlawful hiring practices.

https://sfist.com/2012/09/06/new_lawsuit_accuses_in-n-out_bu...

I suppose that, by implication, it would be par for the course for their corporate culture to be accused of supporting white nationalism by anyone looking to nail them on something.

Unless a company is aggressively promoting itself as anti-racist in a very public way, it's very open to this sort of criticism (regardless of whether-or-not there's any actual merit in it).


Thankfully, this out of control thread I inadvertently started is finally dead but I wanted to point out your comment reminds me of that scene from the original Ghostbusters, where whatever thing the guys thought of would appear to try to kill them. So they tried to think of the most harmless thing they could, and it still appeared and tried to kill them.

It looks like even the beloved In-N-Out can be associated with the r-word if you dig deep enough. I'm starting to be convinced that for any company or individual you name, no matter how benign or harmless they are, you will be able to go out and find dots to connect some kind of tenuous link to racism.


1. I see it akin to a small war. We are talking here about acts of mild aggression here (if only verbal).

2. There are soldiers (metaphor for politicians) and their job is to fight, so that civilians (citizens) could live free from violence.

3. The idea to put citizens to fight and to tell them to target the neutrals and opponents has to face this criticism: you are applying a huge multiplier to the sum of all violence in the world. You better do the multiplication and run the actual numbers to be sure that in the long run you'll come good.

4. If it turns out a group intimidated 100k people to free from intimidation 90k other people, they turn out not only horrible morally, but also crude simpletons.

5. The more opinions become weapons, the less opinions will be judged objectively by these citizens in future. Circumstances can change quickly and, in democracy, the only way to cope is to have masses of voters honestly predict the real life results of their choices. They need to clear their heads, not to wield opinions as weapons. (They have politicians for that after all.)


You're describing collectivism thought. Everyone shares an identity and as such everyone needs to participate. This only can happen on one side, the other side believes in individual choices that aggregate to a greater good so long as everyone is responsible in their own choices. So yeah that is how the extremes go about it, and it seems to have been successful to some extent in social media (apparently by who the current big platforms are).


That's part of the necessary practice of being "conspicuously upset"[1] about things, that SSC points out. It's not enough that I am upset by White Supremacists (I am). I must conspicuously post over and over how upset I am about things, lest someone confuses a brief period of silence with acceptance of something awful.

1: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anythin...


Okay, but it’s not like people expect Scott to denounce these things apropos of nothing. He publicly discusses them. It’s fine to have a nuanced take — but if you leave room for interpretation, don’t be surprised when people side-eye you for not taking a clear stance.


Ironically, there was a recent astral codex article about how much writings sucks and becomes useless when you have to appeal to too many stakeholders by constantly re-stating the obvious to keep everyone happy.


I think the disconnect here is that if your schtick is doing deep, ostensibly neutral investigations into controversial topics, a lot of people actually don’t find your true position obvious.


Im of the opinion that the “true position” of the writer behind writing is irrelevant. Teachers are supposed to grade essays anonymously to avoid biases against students but here we are preoccupied not only with the writer, but his “true position”.


Well, this article is about the writer. But maybe I was unclear — by “true position” I don’t necessarily mean the feelings of the writer, but the thrust of their argument. You said that there is pressure to continuously restate the obvious; my point is that to a lot of people, it’s not actually obvious at all.


Why is it important that peoples' intentions are obvious in every piece of writing?

Journalists, anthropologists, and plenty of others strive towards rhetorical neutrality intentionally, and just as someone can be a citizen scientist, someone could also be a citizen journalist or anthropologist.

And furthermore it just isn't any of your business anyhow. What you are talking about is the equivalent of worrying about thoughtcrime. No objective harm was done but you worry that someone secretly holds an opposing viewpoint.


You can write however you want to. But don’t be surprised if you write something that could be construed as sympathetic to race science, and people go “hey, this person might support race science”. You seem to be saying that you can be as ambiguous as you want and that people shouldn’t try to fill in the gaps, which is ridiculous.

And no, it’s not “thoughtcrime” to form an opinion about a person based on things they’ve written.


The only reason your statement here doesn't seem completely absurd is because you are invoking an issue which people have an acute emotional reaction on, to the point where even something which would be viewed as paranoid in another setting seems acceptable.

I shouldn't be surprised if people react in a paranoid or irrational manner, no. But I would hope that they would hold themselves to a higher standard.

In this case we are talking about a very humane and nuanced thinker, and under normal circumstances we should in fact withhold insinuation of malice unless evidence exists. It is called the principle of charity.


Well, no. Scott invoked the issue here, not me. And obviously, people see evidence of malice, which is why we’re having this whole debate.

But again, there’s nothing abnormal or “paranoid” about inferring someone’s intentions from their writing. You’ve done it yourself, which is why you described him as “humane”. Why shouldn't others be able to arrive at different conclusions?


> And obviously, people see evidence of malice, which is why we’re having this whole debate.

Because the entire point of attempting to force one to take a stance is to further whatever the narrative may be, or to cancel counter narratives. There is no other point. There’s nothing wrong with arriving at your own conclusion but stop there if you don’t agree. Don’t cancel, dox, or otherwise force their opinion to match yours.


No one is being “forced” to take a stance, or canceled or doxxed.


Yes, clearly. Come out from under your rock. Or try to view things from the alternate perspective. If this is not the intent, this is full well the idea has been implanted over the last 4 years. As a somewhat related source of evidence, see what they did with the Trump trial? It's mostly about what he did NOT say. This is one example, there are many many more from the last 4 years.


He's taken a clear stance on pretty much everything I've heard people complaining about him not taking a clear stance on – including some things this article implies he supports (or condemns).


It's not just being upset. It's, "Post the black square!" It's the guy who got accosted by BLM protesters demanding that he repeat their slogan. Havel's greengrocer provides a good characterization of this problem that has existed for a great deal of time: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_the_Powerless#Hav...


I'm reading it as a criticism of views, not a criticism of people, which seems like an important difference.

If your best friend growing up is now a white supremacist, and for various reasons you want to keep being friends with them - maybe you're trying to talk them out of it, maybe you know they've got some deep personal trauma that you can help with and you want to be compassionate about that, whatever - I think there's a pretty good argument that that's your business. (To be clear, I think there's also a pretty good argument that you should ensure you're not effectively making them think that you support their positions or actions, though, but that's beside the immediate point.) There's good reasons to choose to be friends with them and that's your judgment.

If you link to their white supremacist writings, though, you're giving a platform and publicity to white supremacist writings. You're not amplifying or supporting them as a person: you're amplifying the messages they're communicating. And so the moral weight of that is in fact on you.

I think the article does do a pretty good job of talking mostly about views and not people, though it is obviously easiest to refer to views by the people who espouse them (especially in the case of personal blogs, which is what most of these are). The article is not trying to say that it's newsworthy that Sam Altman is best buddies with Elon Musk who married to Grimes who hangs out on a discord with Scott Alexander. The article is not trying to say that the NYT of the future will create simulations of Grimes just to cancel her.

The article is trying to say that, for instance, it's newsworthy that OpenAI is heavily influenced by Rationalist rhetoric about the urgency of building a friendly AI that implements your worldview, and that the worldview of this Rationalist community happens to be a worldview that gets an uncomfortable amount of support from white supremacists (and not just in the "We like this" sense, in the "This argument supports our argument" sense).


This discussion is incomplete unless it also comprehends that the definition of white supremacy (or x-phobia, patriarchy, misogyny) in elite and academic circles has expanded incredibly, to the point where it bears no relation to any reasonable person's understanding of these terms. Despite this, apparently well-intentioned people try to have conversations about these concepts, but the terms no longer have shared meaning.

It's not clear whether SSC is being denounced for associating with cross-burners, or just with those who believe merit exists. In elite discourse, both of those positions are now white supremacy.


And for people who think it’s just some wackadoos who use “white supremacy” in this way, behold FCPS (the school board in the Virginia county where I grew up). https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/anti-racist-teacher-haras.... People railing against the “white supremacy” of a high school (the one I went to) that’s overwhelmingly Asian.

This isn’t Berkeley California. It’s a historically Republican county that went for Bush against Gore and only narrowly went for Kerry four years later.


I went to TJ too. Asra loves to make this argument but it is BS. TJ can engage in precisely the same systems that have historically excluded everybody but white people while still ending up dominated by south and east asian students. The article you linked is gruesomely biased.


> TJ can engage in precisely the same systems that have historically excluded everybody but white people while still ending up dominated by south and east asian students

You’ve got it exactly backward.

“Historically” “white people” didn’t need to use standardized tests to exclude non-whites. They just did it. Standardized testing was used to distinguish among white people (just as it’s been used in China since 650 CE to distinguish among Chinese people).

In fact, the opposite is true. Standardized testing is pretty much the only thing that has allowed non-white groups to advance in white societies. There’s only a handful of societies where ethnic minorities have come to out-earn the majority population. Almost without exception it’s been the result of standardized testing creating level playing fields for people who lack the social capital that would otherwise be necessary for advancement.


The proposals that Asra and friends decry as racist are random lotteries. How can a standardized test level the playing field more than that? The proposals further eliminate features that are either largely unrelated to academic capability or are tightly bound to access to wealth or attending the right gifted programs.


Performance in standardized tests is not “tightly bound to wealth.” Most of the Asians at the NYC test-based schools, for example, are lower income: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/stuyve.... It’s true most people at TJ are solidly upper middle class, but so are most families in Fairfax County (the median family income of the whole county is $150,000). It’s not like families at TJ are richer than those at McLean, Great Falls, Langley, etc.

Random lotteries don’t level the playing field, they eliminate opportunities for people to distinguish themselves. Societies that eschew objective metrics don’t just have radically flat mobility, they have rigid social frameworks based on non-objective indicators. Imagine the “holistic admissions” factors colleges use to exclude Asians (“leadership personality” or whatever) applied on a wider scale.


The "holistic application" is not what activists wanted. I agree that these fuzzy factors cause all sorts of trouble. What the activists wanted was randomness beyond some cutoff where students would be likely to succeed at TJ. This eliminates the need to "distinguish themselves" among everybody with increasingly ridiculous prep processes.

I remember doing this crap. Weekend test prep. Signing up for science magazines just so you could stick it on your resume for why you loved science. My parents were informed in preschool of decisions they should make to make magnet schools a feasible outcome. And this was decades ago. It is much worse today.

My family has some personal experience with this as we were pretty deeply involved in local activism to change the way that letters of recommendation were used to send people to GT programs (many decades ago) after it became clear that the letters were introducing all sorts of bias.

Yet Asra has personally called several of my old friends racists for seeking the lottery option. We must just hate south and east asian people. We must be brainwashed by leftist colleges (despite graduating a decade or longer ago).

The problems with TJ also extend beyond admissions. 8th period is dead. History education at the school was always awful and tied to the AP curriculum but it has further slipped against STEM. Colleges seem to be taking note, with admissions to what were previously backup schools like UVA now becoming much more difficult for TJ grads.


> The "holistic application" is not what activists wanted.

In the absence of objective criteria holistic evaluation (and worse) is what you’ll get. Not necessarily at TJ, but at the next steps, and if these ideas are applied generally.

> This eliminates the need to "distinguish themselves" among everybody with increasingly ridiculous prep processes.

I have never understood this demonization of the prep process. Yes, kids start prepping for TJ admissions in middle school. So what? Asians do the same thing to prepare for high stakes testing in their home countries too. Test prep isn’t free, but the average family income in Fairfax County is over six figures for every racial group. (Asians actually have significantly lower average income than whites in the county.) Test prep is not an unaffordable expense for most families in the county.

Given that test prep is mostly affordable for the families in question (and given that studies show it doesn’t help much) it seems to me that people are really complaining about cultural changes brought about by an immigrant group. They don’t like asian culture where childhood is single-mindedly dedicated to education (ideally an education in a narrow range of acceptable fields like STEM). Now I don’t consider that “racist” or “xenophobic” (I think natives have a right to protect their culture) but that’s what it is.

> I remember doing this crap. Weekend test prep. Signing up for science magazines just so you could stick it on your resume for why you loved science.

So?

> My parents were informed in preschool of decisions they should make to make magnet schools a feasible outcome.

This is a conversation my wife and I have about our kids. (Though we decided private rather than magnet school.) They’re 8, 2, and the third is due in June.

> My family has some personal experience with this as we were pretty deeply involved in local activism to change the way that letters of recommendation were used to send people to GT programs (many decades ago) after it became clear that the letters were introducing all sorts of bias.

That’s a good change.

> Yet Asra has personally called several of my old friends racists for seeking the lottery option. We must just hate south and east asian people. We must be brainwashed by leftist colleges (despite graduating a decade or longer ago).

In Kendi’s formulation of “racism,” the lottery approach is racist against Asians. It will exclude half to two thirds or so of the Asians who would otherwise have gotten in under a test-based model.

I think Asra is too quick to cry racism. I think the activists are just idealistic and misguided. That said, it’s not like the sentiment of white people not wanting to have to “compete with super study Asians” doesn’t exist. E.g. back in the day Wall Street would hire white guys from Ivy League crew teams, and today classes are overwhelmed by Asians with STEM degrees. As to colleges, they’ve been leftist since long before decades ago...


If there was a merit lottery, you'd still see a disproportionate number of south and east asian admits at TJ. That definitely doesn't fall under Kendi's formulation of racism (nor is he the God of activism).


I've seen you post this same debate about a certain high school's entrance exams before in these sorts of threads, and it continues to be as much of off-topic flamebait as it was last time. Whatever the actions of a school board in Virginia, it's at best indirectly connected with how the NYT defines "white supremacy."

And, in turn, the article is making a specific claim that Nick Land's writings are embraced by white supremacists. We can figure out whether that claim is true or not, and under what definition of "white supremacists," directly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Land says: "Land has promoted the Atomwaffen-affiliated Order of Nine Angles that adheres to the ideology of neo-Nazi terrorist accelerationism, describing O9A's works as "highly-recommended"."

If someone in this thread actually disputes that Nick Land's writings are inspirational to cross-burning white supremacists, which is what I read the NYT article to be saying, let's debate that.


> Whatever the actions of a school board in Virginia, it's at best indirectly connected with how the NYT defines "white supremacy."

It’s the same definition being used by both: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/17/us/white-supremacy.html. It’s probably only a minority of people with graduate degrees who use the terminology this way, but this group is highly represented both among people who read and write for the NYT and on school boards in wealthy, highly educated suburbs like the one I’m talking about.

It’s directly relevant to the discussion up thread. The post I was responding to pointed out that this expansive definition of “white supremacy” makes it hard to have these discussions. It’s impossible to follow the discussion above without Googling Nick Land to figure out which kind of “white supremacy” people are talking about. I don’t take the poster up-thread above to be arguing Nick Land isn’t a “white supremacist” in the narrow sense of the word. He’s just observing that the confusing created by the terminology (confusing that is, as far as I can tell, a deliberate consequence of the word choice) makes these sorts of discussions difficult.


It's difficult because the two of you are choosing to make it difficult! Perhaps it's impossible to follow the discussion above without Googling Nick Land, spending ten seconds skimming his Wikipedia page, and seeing the word "Atomwaffen" and reading the rest of the sentence. But you're interested in truth, aren't you? Are those ten seconds so much to ask?

What you're doing is plainly poisoning the well - you haven't argued that the NYT is wrong (either in this subthread or anywhere else in this comment section), you're arguing that the NYT cannot possibly make arguments worth listening to. Elsewhere you're mocking the NYT Editorial Board. Maybe they're worth mocking, but it has nothing to do with the merits of this article!

It's beneath you, and it's beneath this site. Maybe it works. But it only works because it's ruining reasoned discourse and scoring cheap points about those people at the NYT and how we don't like them. The debate is - ironically - no longer about the ideas the NYT is claiming and instead about the people and their proximity to other people we don't like.


> It's difficult because the two of you are choosing to make it difficult!

No, it’s difficult because the New York Times has chosen to adopt a phrase that has a well-understood usage with respect to violent extremists, and use it to refer to literally all other white people. If you don’t want people to complain you’re being confusing then don’t do that.

> Perhaps it's impossible to follow the discussion above without Googling Nick Land, spending ten seconds skimming his Wikipedia page, and seeing the word "Atomwaffen" and reading the rest of the sentence. But you're interested in truth, aren't you? Are those ten seconds so much to ask?

Imagine if the New York Times had chosen to call all traditionalist/conservative Muslims “jihadists.” That’s exactly what the Times is doing with “white supremacy.” Should we all just play along, and Google to see if someone actually wants to kill non-believers, or whether they just support the tradition of gender-segregated prayer?

> What you're doing is plainly poisoning the well

Poisoning the well is a form of ad hominem where you invoke an unrelated fact to detail a discussion. In discussing a newspaper article about white supremacy, it’s not poisoning the well to point out that the newspaper’s deliberate editorial choices have made it impossible to understand what’s being discussed without doing your own research. It’s totally relevant.


Similarly, this is an astonishing (and infuriating) interview with SF board of ed president Gabriella Lopez: https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-san-francisco-ren...

Even for SF, this is extreme.

Side note, for years I used to see the name "rayiner" and roll my eyes at the "reactionary libertarian" opinions expressed. In the past year though, I myself have come much closer to where you've consistently been. Part of it is the rapid leftward drift of major institutions -- media, workplace, education -- during the Trump years, and the distinct absence of any kind of critical discussion of this phenomenon. The other part is probably that I'm now at the point of having children soon. Either way, I now feel that the most sane and practical thing to advocate for is that there should be less institutional power available to be captured by extremists. In this case, it should matter a lot less that the school board is composed of lunatics, or that the NYT is trending towards naked culture war propagandism.


I think it's clearly better for our incompetent leaders to have less power than more, but better still would be to have competent leaders with adequate and no more power.


> Either way, I now feel that the most sane and practical thing to advocate for is that there should be less institutional power available to be captured by extremists.

I agree with this too! Which is why I think it's important the article calls out the institutional power of YC and the risk of it being captured by extremists!

Frankly, leave the question of connection to white supremacy (under whatever definition) aside - as someone who was a regular Less Wrong reader, seeing Y Combinator and the other agents of Silicon Valley power go "All right, we will invest heavily in building a friendly AI under our definition of friendly," just by itself, is kind of a worst-case scenario. I don't think the interests of Valley investors are quite fully aligned the interests of humanity at large, but it's Valley investors that have the most ability to make AGI happen, and they've decided to start work. The only reason I don't find it terrifying is that I don't really agree with the Rationalists' arguments about it. But they do, and they're smart people.


Umm.. there's definitely evidence of white supremacy in scientific research, especially older work now discredited.


Did I say otherwise?


> OpenAI is heavily influenced by Rationalist rhetoric

The sheer number of hoops you had to jump through to be a NYT apologist is just mind numbing. No, OpenAI isn't influenced by Grimes' chat messages on discord to mind-control us.


I specifically said the Grimes connection isn't the point being made. OpenAI is in fact influenced by, if not rooted in, Rationalist rhetoric about AGI and alignment: https://openai.com/charter/

Are you claiming it is not??


I think you're missing the point. It is the NYT that is making those absurd links and for you to defend it is indescribable and grim.


Name a single example of someone who has been 'canceled' for fourth degree associations with white supremacists?


If you’re a liberal, you need no degrees of separation. You read about what Trump said about the Central Park Five decades ago as a privatize citizen, but rarely about Biden’s outreach to the segregationist wing of his party. E.g. eulogizing Robert Byrd a former KKK member. (Back in the 1970s-1990s, Trump was almost certainly to the left of Biden on social issues but you’d never know it.)

Not to say I think Biden should get flack for that. But the guilt by association thing is an especially easy kudgel to wield in an uneven way.


Looking at US politics as a european, it seems like the republicans are far right and the democrats are center left. The problem is how these two parties have a duopoly. I'm pretty sure that Sanders supporters and other more progressive leftists heavily critisize Biden and the democrats.

So no, it's not only republicans and Trump that get "cancelled".


Which European country? I’m most familiar with Germany, because my wife lived there. I think American Republicans, and many moderates, would actually be happy with the German CDU. Not cruel to immigrants and refugees, but Merkel can say that she doesn’t believe in “multiculturalism” and it’s accepted as a mainstream opinion. Abortion is available, upon counseling and waiting periods, but only up to 12 weeks absent a special case. Bavaria can require government buildings to display crosses on government property. Schools are required by the basic law to offer religious instruction (so Christian and Muslim parents can ensure their children are socialized in their religion’s morals, and not a secular moral framework created for schools). Etc.

Part of Republicans’ apparent extremism is a response to the strongly left-wing nature of America’s cultural institutions, in view of the very conservative nature of American society. In the area of religion, for example, America is far more religious than Germany (and comparable to Poland or Turkey). But American liberals, through the Supreme Court, have effectively pushed religion out of the public sphere (especially schools) much more completely than in Germany.


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

That's the difference.

>strongly left-wing nature of America’s cultural institutions

America's cultural institutions are certainly strong and center-left, but not extremely left wing. You don't see Hollywood promoting kibbutzim or the abolition of commodities. The truth is way more boring: Rich people on the coasts are general pro-gay marriage or what have you, but don't try to build dense housing near them or raise their taxes.


American idpol is at the pretty extreme end) left I'd say, even compared to europe.


The democratic left were not very enthusiastic about Biden. Also, I think it's fair to allow people to change over time. Maybe Biden was right of Trump 30 years ago, but the recent actions by Trump and Biden make it very clear that they have swapped places.


[flagged]


A person can have different views on different topics.

You should be able to recommend a good article that you agree with from someone, even if you disagree with that person on other topics.


You can also recommend a good article that you disagree with because you think it argues an opposing point well.


Depends on the nature of the disagreement. Not to white supremacists like Charles Murray, no.


> white supremacists like Charles Murray

I’m not sure you’re using that word correctly. Do you think Murray is actually a white supremist? Or just made some bad science?


Abominable as it is, my views are not just based on the Bell Curve's race-IQ discussion.

* In Losing Ground, Murray talks about about how welfare should be restricted because Black people are having too many kids. His book had a great deal of influence on the "welfare reform" instituted in the mid-1990s in the US.

* In In Our Hands, Murray proposes replacing all government assistance with "an annual $10,000 cash grant to everyone age twenty-one or older". Not only is this eugenics because everyone, abled or not, with medical needs or not, must be able to survive on $10,000 a year; but note the absence of a UBI for kids: the proposal would punish poorer people--who are disproportionately Black for historical reasons rooted in racist institutions like slavery, redlining and the War on Drugs--for having too many kids.

All of this is pretty textbook social Darwinist white supremacism--all of these views are regularly espoused at Stormfront and other such places.

Charles Murray is quite clearly a white supremacist, and the race-IQ stuff is only a small part of the case for it.

---

Edit: I'm "posting too fast" so responding here: I didn't know about Nathan Cofnas so I googled him and he appears to be standard-issue IDW: writes for Quillette, defends bigots like Kathleen Stock, etc. Any blowback they got is well-deserved.

From https://quillette.com/2021/01/14/philosophers-smear-one-of-t...:

> Stock argues that, for example, it is okay for cis women to object to a lesbian with a penis—what in ye olden days of 2014 was known as a heterosexual man

This is of course a complete lie: trans people have been recognized and understood across many cultures for thousands of years, sometimes as a third gender but usually not as the gender they were assigned at birth. This is both ignorant and hateful. Cofnas deserves to be "cancelled", as does anyone else who writes for Quillette to be frank (for the same guilt-by-association reason, which remains just as valid for Quillette as it is for Murray).


In The Bell Curve, they report that Asian Americans have a higher mean IQ than European Americans, who have a higher mean IQ then African Americans. Wouldn't that make him an Asian supremacist, if anything?


White supremacists are happy to co-opt East Asian (not Asian in general, only East Asian) populations for their purposes when convenient.

Your response doesn't engage with the rest of my post either, which I think is the primary evidence that he's a white supremacist. I'm not going to rehash race-IQ arguments because I find them tiring and not very consequential.


It seems your response doesn't really engage with any part of that comment. What is the meaning of "co-opt East Asian populations"? You claim Murray is a white supremacist because he thinks whites have higher IQs than blacks, but when dealing with the point that Murray thinks Asians have higher IQs than whites, you dismiss it with this language about "co-opting"?


I'm claiming that Murray is a white supremacist primarily because his welfare reform and UBI proposals are white supremacist.


Race-IQ stuff as you call it is still a debated issue. The recent blowback over Nathan Cofnas’s work [1], for example, show there’s a culture where anyone not in line with the view there’s no connection is a target for cancellation. I don’t agree with the science from my layman reading of it, but I have much bigger issues with this attempt at silencing people by associating them with white supremacy.

1 - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09515089.2019.1...


UBI (your second point) is a common idea advocated by many people other than Bill Murray.

This is the first time I've heard it described as white supremacy and eugenics although I'm sure it won't be the last.


I like and support UBI (for complex reasons some of which are related to the arguments in Seeing Like a State). However, some implementations of UBI are white supremacist and eugenicist, and Murray's version is one such implementation.

This does not mean that UBI is inherently eugenicist or white supremacist. A UBI which did not replace literally all government assistance, which took into account the fact that some people will always need and should get more assistance than others, and which started from birth rather than adulthood, would not be eugenicist.


The reaction to my posts is rather remarkable. I've lost 30 karma so far just for stating a bunch of facts and opinions that challenge the hegemonic narrative on "Hacker News".

Oh no, I'm being cancelled. I should go write about it on Quillette. /s


I think you're getting downvoted because you are stating highly disputed things as if they were facts. When people question you, you refuse to engage with their arguments. You're also slandering a person (calling Charles Murray a white supremacist) on the basis that he supports welfare reform and you disagree with him on some edge cases of UBI. Downvotes are well deserved in my opinion.


"Supports welfare reform" and "edge cases of UBI" are doing a lot of work there.

I, too, support modernizing our governmental assistance programs, but not in a way that's white supremacist and eugenicist. There are welfare reform ideas I disagree with that I don't think are white supremacist either. Murray's ideas and policies, however, are beyond the pale.


See: here is an interesting case where you think I'm summarizing you unfairly or incorrectly. Do you think Charles Murray would feel you were summarizing and characterizing his arguments fairly?


No, I don't, because I'm sure he's constructed post hoc rationalizations in his head about how he's not actually as bad as it seems.

I evaluate him like I do any other public figure: based on his writing and the impact he's had on public policy debates. His internal state of mind does not matter at all.


If you accurately state what someone believes, they'll probably agree with you. I don't think you've managed that here.


Well, for his accurate beliefs, let's look to another excerpt from In Our Hands:

"The libertarian solution is to prevent the government from redistributing money in the first place. Imagine for a moment that the $2 trillion that the US government spends on transfer payments were left instead in the hands of the people who started with it. If I could wave a magic wand, that would be my solution. It is a case I have made elsewhere."

His eugenicist UBI is an alternative to his ideal proposal.

As a public figure with extensive writings, his internal state of mind does not matter.

---

edit to respond because I'm "posting too fast":

> So as long as you don't write anything down or have yourself recorded as having said racist things, you can't be racist?

What? A logical statement does not imply it's converse. I'm talking about public figures like Murray here, not average private individuals. Besides, structural racism of the sort Murray advocates for has a much greater impact on material conditions than what some rando believes in their heart.


Oh hohm.

So as long as you don't write anything down or have yourself recorded as having said racist things, you can't be racist?

I find you're making leaps reality can't cash here. I don't mind letting people's actions speak for themselves, but I'd caution against .


You seem to be equating libertarians with racists here. Is that what you intend to do? i.e. You mean that anyone who thinks there shouldn't be taxes is racist?


Not all libertarians, but many right-libertarians, certainly. (I have some wonderful left-libertarian friends.)

Anyone who ignores structural racism and espouses the policy positions that Murray does is either ignorant or racist. Murray, being a public figure whose ideas have had real impact on the material conditions of marginalized people, does not have the excuse of ignorance.

I'm speaking from personal experience here. I used to be on the right-libertarian train myself before I realized that oppression was primarily structural and that a laissez-faire approach always perpetuates it. I genuinely do not believe one can be non-racist and espouse Murray's policy positions once one understands this basic fact.

If you want to learn more about how welfare reform in the 1990s—something Murray influenced a great deal—affected millions of lives, I'd recommend the first season of a podcast called The Uncertain Hour.


I usually try to take advice on "learning more" from people who demonstrate a good understanding of a subject, or who seem well informed, people I want to be or think like. I'm not really interested in learning how to declare broad swathes of the political spectrum racist or in presenting the style of argument that you are here.


I haven’t been following this massive side-thread, but maybe you are getting downvoted because you are using white supremacy to describe anything that structurally favors white people. Policies that merely favor white people are not necessarily “white supremacist”, unless those policies are also motivated by a belief that white people are better than other people. Maybe “structurally racist” might be a better way to describe the things you are describing? But what do I know, I’m not a sociologist.


Given that a number of people on this site and elsewhere insist Murray isn't racist, even acknowledging that he is would be a nice change.


HN is more about intellectual posturing than it is about having discussions on anything.


Add on one more lemma - which is that you get to unilaterally decide who is a white supremacist, even over their objections, and you've got a recipe for cancelling anyone you like.


I've laid out my case for why Charles Murray is a white supremacist. Beyond that it's just a matter of free speech and free association.


No, you have not laid your case for why. You have losely described some of his policy positions, followed by the words "is white supremacist" and "is racist".

The "why" is entirely missing. This comes off as "it's so self evident I don't have to bother explaining it" to others, and is the main reason why you are getting downvoted.


Yes, white supremacists love openly Jewish bloggers.


> Guilt by association to one degree is completely valid. The further out you go the more attenuated it gets, but if person C is liked by white supremacists and doesn't openly denounce that fact, it would be accurate to call person C a white supremacist.

No:

- Nobody is obligated to engage in "openly denouncing" anybody.

- The US has a population of 325 million people - who knows what their beliefs are? How often do they change?

- And I'm sure leftists have a daily-changing definition of what "white supremacist" means.

(For those unfamiliar with the OP's illogical argument, that is what the left used to tar Trump as a racist - in reality, Trump never said anything racist. But he didn't denounce some groups to the satisfaction of the left, who would have just kept adding one more group.)


It's easier to understand the origin of this thinking if you put it in some of its more recent historical contexts:

* The "one drop of African blood" theory of the Democrats' Old South * "Jewish heritage", pretty much anywhere * "Class history" in the Marxist Socialist circles * "Intellectualism" in Khmer Rouge Cambodia

This is just another instance, from the same people who would have belonged to any one of these or similar groups. They all come from the same root intellectual history.


Incidentally, the "excommunication by implication" technique is used by none other than ISIS and their ilk. Quite the irony to see that the extremes on both sides are not really that different after all.


It's not ironic. That's human nature. All atrocities, no matter how benign, follow the same formula.


It's reeeeallly easy to avoid guilt by association. You just say 'no, I don't agree with Mr white supremacist'.


That works just about as well as apologizing.


Apologising and distancing yourself both work quite well. People are usually too proud to do either.


Just the other day, I decided not to go to a small event for exactly this reason, because I knew that one or two people there believed some fringe stuff. I don't, but being somewhere where they aren't kicked out is professional suicide for someone in my position. One never knows these days who might be recording and has to live his life as though it were being constantly observed.

Edit: to clarify, by fringe stuff, I mean that some believe that the election was stolen from Trump. I don't and have convinced others that it was not, but I guess I can't do that anymore.


I laughed when I got to this:

> “It is the one place I know of online where you can have civil conversations among people with a wide range of views,” said David Friedman, an economist and legal scholar who was a regular part of the discussion. Fellow commenters on the site, he noted, represented a wide cross-section of viewpoints.

Yes, David just said that, thanks for the repetition. Where were the editors on this?

I conjecture that they just felt like they had to publish something after all this time and they went with what they had.

It’s also strange that it doesn’t link to the NYT magazine article on rationalist retreats from a few years ago, nor the New Yorker article about this dispute, nor the New Yorker article about HN, all of which fill in the picture.


> Where were the editors on this?

Maybe the good editors at the NYT are too busy getting fired.



> MSNBC’s Brian Williams reads a tweet: "Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. U.S. Population, 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million"

> NYT Editorial Board Member Mara Gay: “It’s an incredible way of putting it. It’s true. It’s disturbing”


You're a smart dude. You know that reporters writing NYT features don't report to the editorial board.

Plenty of people that deeply respect NYT reporting (and I'm a WaPo person) think NYT editorial is, like that of the WSJ, a total clownfire.


The didn’t imply anything about the NYT’s reporting in that post. I was just adding a funny quote regarding a hilariously innumerate take.


> “It’s an incredible way of putting it, it’s true...it’s disturbing”

Where's the lie though? Incredible indeed…


Down-voters missing the joke and precise use of “incredible.”


I think it is indeed becoming an echo chamber. Everyone is holing up in their own little everyone-else-is-wrong silos including MSM, it's not just the fringe. There are a group of academics across the aisle from one another trying to fight it but I think it's a battle they can't win. Talks at universities cancelled because someone, who wouldn't even be going is "triggered", stories like this from the NYT, deplatforming people forever, etc.


For those of you unaware, let me summarize what this is referencing.

Recently a NYT freelance editor Lauren Wolfe, who mostly worked on the "live updates" team, was fired, but this firing caused some controversy due to the timing of some tweets and who knows what else. It's not completley clear why she was fired, as the NYT responded to requests for comment by the WaPo by saying [1]: "There’s a lot of inaccurate information circulating on Twitter. For privacy reasons we don’t get into the details of personnel matters but we can say that we didn’t end someone’s employment over a single tweet. Out of respect for the individuals involved we don’t plan to comment further. (To clarify something that has been incorrectly reported, Ms. Wolfe was not a full-time employee, nor did she have a contract.)"

Quite a few leftists initially blamed the NYT for caving to conservative pressure, apparently by making the claim there was a relation between the tweets she made and her firing, which she confirmed in another WaPo interview [3] by saying "...that an editor at the paper contacted her after she published the “chills” tweet. The Times couldn’t be associated with such a tweet, said the manager, and that her gig with the paper would be ending."

Some leftists also seemed to blame Glenn Greenwald for his involvement in the matter; a single tweet in response to hers that he later called "light mockery"[2]. Glenn Greenwald, previously strongly supported by the left and many others, has recently been victim to a series of character assassination attempts due to his unconformity to the mainstream leftists viewpoints, so it rather seems the twitter left mob just used him as a lightening rod without having all the facts in this case.

The tweets in question?

  LW: "The pettiness of the Trump admin not sending a military plane to bring him to D.C. as is tradition is mortifying. Childish
She later deleted the above tweet when it was revealed that Biden and his team chose to take his own plane, despite many mainstream media talking heads parroting the same narrative.

  LW: “Biden landing at Joint Base Andrews now. I have chills”

  GG: "If you're in the national press and will be on TV at any point today and being to feel the need to weep joyously, just hold it in until you find a private place. Nobody is expecting any adversarial coverage over the next 4 years, but it's just a matter of personal dignity."
1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2021/01/24/lauren-wolfe...

2. https://youtu.be/uL-e6XfWppo?t=293

3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/25/lauren-wo...


Not sure Wolfe would qualify as one of the "good" editors fired at the times. Maybe OP is referring to Bennet? I'm any case the power dynamics at the NYT have been shifting to the detriment of solid reporting for a while now. It's sad but the NYT and WaPo are now the Fox News of the repressive left and state power (so long as it's Blue).


The NYT and WaPo editorials and analysis are the most milquetoast center-left opinions you can find. That's always been their position.

The difference is now they're coming after Silicon Valley, because they realize they've lost their attention and advertising monopoly. It's all very predicable and boring.

It's the same deal with Balaji. The only reason he cares is because the reporting might hurt a company he's invested in.

Follow the money. Always follow the money.


James Bennet edited the opinion section, so his resignation wouldn’t have anything to do with the shift away from “solid reporting” you’re talking about.


Most of the times reads like opinion now, if you haven't noticed.


That just seems like the average English-language US Twitter thread. (Well, average non-abusive such thread.)


I laughed because that “wide range of views” is actually quite narrow in the grand scheme of things. Wide by the standards of the intelligentsia perhaps.


Could you detail this a bit for those who are not in the know? Maybe could you give examples of a few missing views/viewpoints? Thanks!


One thing left out of these discussions tends to be the views of just about every non-college Republican or independent. It’s just mainstream liberalism against elite Republican views, thirdway-ism, or some niche contrarian take from the right or the left.

If you’re going to bring in contrarian views on things like race, that some view as racist - okay. But I would recommend expanding that to bring in views that are also contrarian but perhaps not so controversial but nevertheless worth discussing.

My impression is SSC readers get caught up in a sort of intellectual exoticism rather than any rigorous analysis of what the landscape actually looks like; the non-conventional but ultimately boring takes are left unexamined.


> One thing left out of these discussions tends to be the views of just about every non-college Republican or independent. It’s just mainstream liberalism against elite Republican views, thirdway-ism, or some niche contrarian take from the right or the left.

Not just non-college Republicans, huge swaths of non-liberal Democrats (mostly people of color). Are the majority of Black Democrats, who believe you can’t be a moral person without believing in God, represented? Are there any Muslims who hold social positions their religion tells them to be true? When it comes to immigrants, anyone who actually believes what your typical Indian or Bangladeshi believes? (Or is it just the elite who deliberately left those countries and assimilated into white American culture? And even among the latter, is it the first generation parents hoping their kids will integrate to a degree, but hold on to traditional social morals, or is it the second generation ones who picked up western social morals despite their parents’ efforts?)


Correct. It’s weird how goofy race science stuff gets a platform and taken serious because it’s secular but tons of stuff from religious societies is beneath discussion


Yeah, as the original commenter mentioned, all these commenters take various assumptions as facts (it's okay, all political views do this, they must or they would be too vague to be useful): that politics functions best as the executed will of the majority, that democracy and voting is the best way to gauge public support for proposals they arguably don't understand the impact of, that authoritarianism is prone to abuse and thus inevitably abused, a skeptical / secular default way of looking at things and discussing them even among the religious.

Again, none of these assumptions are wrong or bad or right or good. My point is just these are the assumptions you'll see across nearly every commenter on the blog because of its narrow, Western-educated audience. There are many popular, interesting, and dynamic political discussions happening elsewhere in the world (I think the most interesting is Islamism, discussions within the CCP might also count), but those discussions and the elites who have them don't start from these principles.


It sounds strange, because there were/are a lot of posts/comments exactly about those problems. (Eg. https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/06/07/archipelago-and-atomic... and https://slatestarcodex.com/tag/conworlding/page/10/ )

And I can't find the anti-neoreactionary & in-defense-of-democracy post that goes through these problems, and tries to justify the assumptions.

> (I think the most interesting is Islamism, discussions within the CCP might also count), but those discussions and the elites who have them don't start from these principles.

If you could point these out I think SSC/LessWrong folks would love to ponder over them!


>it doesn’t link to the NYT magazine article on rationalist retreats from a few years ago

I want to read that, but Google failed me. Do you have a link or a clue to help me find a link?



This was indeed it! Much more interesting read IMO. I remember being struck in it, though, by the reference to Eliezer Yudkowsky as being known for espousing polyamory, As if to tell readers, watch out, sexually deviant person here! A lot of articles about rationalists seem designed to reinforce Scott’s broader point about the distance between the blue and grey tribes


Thank you!


> > He denounced the neoreactionaries, the anti-democratic, often racist movement popularized by Curtis Yarvin. But he also gave them a platform. His “blog roll” — the blogs he endorsed — included the work of Nick Land, a British philosopher whose writings on race, genetics and intelligence have been embraced by white nationalists.

> So he denounced the works of one person who believes bad things, but he also linked to a second person, who may or may not believe bad things, but is liked by a third group of people who also believe bad things, so...logically...that must mean he actually does...support the first person? Despite denouncing them, because he didn't link to them, which proves...something…?

Nowhere in the paragraph you quoted does it allege Scott supported Curtis Yarvin personally. What it implies is that Nick Land is one of the "neoreactionaries", which, according to Wikipedia [1], he is.

The "embraced by white nationalists" part is a bit more tricky. It does imply that Land's writings are bad because white nationalists like them (more than others do). In the abstract, of course, this is not necessarily true.

Perhaps it's just a coincidence that white nationalists like him, or he's just a symbol; one can like country music without liking conservatism. (But it's unlikely he's merely a symbol when he literally writes about race.)

Perhaps his writings are relevant but they're misinterpreting him; Social Darwinism does not implicate Darwin.

But a third possibility is that his writings are just racist – though perhaps cloaked, perhaps the motte in the metaphorical motte and bailey – and as such provide an intellectual foundation for white supremacy.

Personally, I'm not sure what the answer is, because I don't know much about these people. But my priors point to the third option as most likely, given how intellectual movements tend to be organized. Which means that the fact of his being embraced by white nationalists was informative, which means it was appropriate for the reporter to include it. Sure, if the reporter is omitting some critical evidence or context that would lead to an opposite conclusion, that would be unethical. But the reporter is not obliged to include every argument that could possibly be made in his defense, either.

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


It is also ridiculous to smear Nick Land because he is "ebraced by white nationalists".

For fucks sake, just read something Nick Land has written in recent years and let him smear himself. He literally argues for "hyper racism", composed of scientific racism and eugenics. He also has promoted Atomwaffen affiliated Order of Nine Angles. A literal neonazi terrorist network.

A pathetic hit piece.


I've never heard of Nick Land but this 'person X is bad because nasty person Y likes him' smear tactic has got to die.

Osama bin Laden cited Noam Chomsky in some of his anti-America diatribes, does this mean Noam Chomsky should be blamed in any way (even slightly) for the actions of Al Qaeda?


Isn't that analogy backwards? It'd be Noam Chomsky citing Bin Laden in his writing. SSC linked to Nick Land, not the other way around.


No, (I'm pretty sure) they're referring to:

> > It is also ridiculous to smear Nick Land because he is "ebraced by white nationalists".

Edit, with:

> this 'person X is bad because nasty person Y likes him' smear tactic has got to die.


Correct


Yeah, I've got to know Nick Land from Mark Fisher, who was a student of his and jointly participated in the CCRU (Cybernetics Culture Research Unit). Mark Fisher was the one who later wrote his most well-known book "Capitalist Realism", which was my first thorough introduction to leftist politics. Fisher would later decry Land's neo-reactionary turn (perhaps most explicitly in his post "Terminator vs Avator: notes on accelerationism", https://markfisherreblog.tumblr.com/post/32522465887/termina...), but he still acknowledged Land's accelerationist influence on him in the earlier years.

Land's history is... very interesting. His earlier works (such as "Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest") shows his materialist roots, but over time he began to be influenced heavily by the CCRU (which cyberfeminist Sadie Plant created) and Deleuze and Guatarri's works on schizoanalysis, along with a heavy doze of amphetamines(!). In his most productive, drug-fueled form he wrote what he called "theory-fiction", Deleuzian theory combined with fiction (cyberpunk, horror), leading to writings such as "Circitries" and "Meltdown". Land might have been overappreciated in the creation of accelerationist philosophy, but I still think he was an incredible poet. Sadly, his overreliance on drugs literally "broke" him, and after some physical/mental health issues he moved to Shanghai and after that became the neo-reactionary we know today. I think it's a quite lame ending to his philosophy career, many of his collegues tried to persuade him to budge towards the left and failed, and Land himself says that he wants to leave behind his amphetamine-fueled past self.


I'm not an expert on this stuff, but taken at face value, hyper-racism is the idea that humanity will evolve into eloi and morlocks, and is explicitly not about "black people are inferior" or anything like that.

What seem to me to be the key quotes [1]:

> The most prominent model of such a filter is found in the theory of assortative mating. [...] It is assortative mating on the basis of [socio-economic status] that has lifted it to prominence, both because it seems unquestionably to be happening, and because the implications of its happening are extreme.

> Assortative mating tends to genetic diversification. This is neither the preserved diversity of ordinary racism, still less the idealized genetic pooling of the anti-racists, but a class-structured mechanism for population diremption, on a vector towards neo-speciation. It implies the disintegration of the human species, along largely unprecedented lines, with intrinsic hierarchical consequence.

> The genetically self-filtering elite is not merely different — and becoming ever more different — it is explicitly superior according to the established criteria that allocate social status.

> That it is a consummate nightmare for anti-racism goes without question, but it is also trans-racial, infra-racial, and hyper-racial in ways that leave ‘race politics’ as a gibbering ruin in its wake.

Whilst it is clumsily reinventing ideas that have been done better a million times already in science fiction, it doesn't seem very neonazi.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20141007023855/http://alternativ...


citation? land has racist and extreme social-darwinist views but afaik he holds identitarian political movements in contempt, he is more of a nietzschean anti-human trying to usher in a machine god than anything like nazi politics


Racism and extreme social-darwinistic views are pretty much the core of nazi thought.


white nationalism is the core of contemporary nazism; land has no sentimental attachment to the white race or even people in general, but rather sees intelligence (abstractly) acting via darwinian selection as the agent of history. this is not limited to human intelligence; he sees capitalism as an intelligent process, and inextricable from AI, which he expects to subsume humans.


Violent revolution and utopianism were core beliefs of both Nazism and Bolshevism. Individual rights are a core belief of both social democratic liberalism and anarcho-capitalism. The existence of Satan is a core belief of both Christians and Satanists.

A and B sharing core beliefs does not mean A == B.


You point stands but most Satanism actually doesn't actually believe in a literal Satan, they identify with him as an allegory.

The largest sects, The Church of Satan (athiest) and the Satanic Temple (non-theist) don't have a belief in Satan as a deity.

There is a subset that actually does though but they are a minority of a minority.

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


Thanks for the correction. I didn't realize that!


Nick Land's probably the one of the most fascinating outliers among philosophers though. His philosophy career is very sharply divided in two parts: the first part involves leftist materialism + Deleuze-Guattarian schizoanalysis + cyberpunk + gothic/Lovecraftian horror + a whole lot of drugs. But his heavy amphetamine usage kinda "broke" him, and after that the second part involves dealing with drug withdrawal along with a heavy doze of right-wing libertarianism and hyperfascism. I really don't like the latter half for obvious reasons (but critiquing him more fundamentally, he seems to have an incredibly warped view on evolution which is making him fall back into outdated eugenics, and also he has a habit of viewing technological progress and capitalist progress as the same thing). I still read some of his earlier works though.


> Personally, I'm not sure what the answer is, because I don't know much about these people.

If only a world-famous newspaper could look into this and find out, so that you would not have to guess.


The problem is that the answer is largely a matter of opinion.

The article author could have simply labeled his writings as "racist" or "not racist", but newspaper articles traditionally stick to reporting sourced facts and quoted opinions and let the reader draw their own conclusion.

Alternately, the author could have provided context about Land in the form of additional facts and opinions. This would undoubtedly make the article more informative, but it would also make it longer. There are plenty of other things the article could have added context about, but ultimately the format demands a certain length.

I do think the article is suggesting that he's racist. Newspaper articles have to choose which facts and quotes to include and how to integrate them into a narrative, and those choices inevitably betray the author's opinions. In general, I think this phenomenon of hidden opinions is harmful. It's a downside of the traditional practice of separating factual articles from opinion, since it gives readers a false sense of having learned the objective truth when in fact what they've absorbed is partially someone's opinion. When newer media platforms choose to eschew the distinction between fact and opinion in favor of presenting an authentic but opinionated voice, there's merit in that. But I think there is also merit in the traditional approach of trying to preserve that distinction, even if the results are inevitably imperfect. I wouldn't want the New York Times to give up on it.


But instead we just have the NYT.


Wikipedia has long been unreliable when it comes to politically tangential articles, especially ones that cast characterizations. Wikipedia Cofounder Larry Sanger said so on his blog:

https://larrysanger.org/2020/05/wikipedia-is-badly-biased/


What I understand from his writings is that Scott feels that Nick land has made interesting observations and had novel new thoughts, and has then followed them off a cliff. For example, from Meditations on Moloch: [0]

> But the thing about grail quests is – if you make a wrong turn two blocks away from your house, you end up at the corner store feeling mildly embarrassed. If you do almost everything right and then miss the very last turn, you end up being eaten by the legendary Black Beast of Aaargh whose ichorous stomach acid erodes your very soul into gibbering fragments.

> As far as I can tell from reading his blog, Nick Land is the guy in that terrifying border region where he is smart enough to figure out several important arcane principles about summoning demon gods, but not quite smart enough to figure out the most important such principle, which is NEVER DO THAT.

[0]: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/


This is key. Nick Land is not fungible here, not either an interchangeable racist or an interchangeable cipher who some racists like. He's someone who started off as an interesting and creative thinker who had a lot of influence on the blob of lefty internet-flavoured critical theory philosophy stuff which still drives the online intellectual left [1], but then veered off into unproductive nastiness.

I suppose the link is there because Scott Alexander thinks that he's written some stuff which is worth reading, and that readers of the blog will be able to distinguish that from the rubbish. Needless to say, this is completely outside a present-day NYT journalist's model of the world.

[1] https://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/10459/1/...


The slightest bit of research before commenting would reveal that Nick Land is a prominent neo-reactionary with awful views on race and genetics. He’s not embraced by white nationalists for the cyberpunk aesthetic.


And then a slight bit more research would demonstrate that he wrote some fascinating left-leaning stuff before he jumped off that particular cliff, and that that's the stuff Scott thought was interesting.


> And then a slight bit more research would demonstrate that he wrote some fascinating left-leaning stuff before he jumped off that particular cliff, and that that's the stuff Scott thought was interesting.

And then, after a little more thought, you'd realize SSC's blog roll entry would direct the reader to the more recent neoreactionary stuff, not the "fascinating left-leaning stuff."

It's definitely a bad look to have present-day Nick Land on your blogroll. If you think some of his older stuff was interesting, it's a better idea to link to that directly rather than his home page.


He doesn't have present-day Nick Land on the blog roll for his new blog, though.


> So he denounced the works of one person who believes bad things, but he also linked to a second person, who may or may not believe bad things, but is liked by a third group of people who also believe bad things, so...logically...that must mean he actually does...support the first person? Despite denouncing them, because he didn't link to them, which proves...something...?

The NYT is apparently run by Glenn Beck now. Dude, just connect the dots. It all fits.


Indeed. The way society regulates behaviors these days is to pressure people to cut ties with someone labeled "bad" or be labeled "bad" along with that person (and jeopardize your own ties). You might be forced to denounce a good friend or your own spouse in order to keep a job.

I hope that when the mob comes for me or someone I care about, I'll be brave enough to tell them exactly what to do with their pitchforks.


The best thing to do is for everyone to ignore this article and don't let it get traction via Streisand. It's clearly not written in good faith. The reporter had to be biased against siskind after the saga and conflict they went through.

The second best thing is, should any reporters be reading this, to take the opportunity to write a better article.


The best is to remember this reporter and newspaper and trust them less.


Really, why does anyone take the NYT seriously anymore? It seems that barely a week goes by these days without some new way in which they discredit themselves. If you were a conservative "anti-woke" mole who'd infiltrated the NYT and wanted to publish fake content in a deliberate attempt to destroy the organisation's credibility you couldn't have done much better than the self-inflicted wounds the NYT has been pouring out again and again and again lately.


> why does anyone take the NYT seriously anymore

Does anyone? I’m not sure credible people do and no one I respect has referenced a Times article for other than crossword, Sunday magazine, fluff stuff.


An even better approach would be to distrust all reporters and newspapers and remember the exceptional good ones.


Actually, this article may be creating a streisand effect for Codex.


I had absolutely no problem reading this as SSC denouncing Yarvin, but platforming other prominent members of the neoreactionary movement.


Yes, I had no problem reading the reporter's words that way either, which is the exact thing I'm complaining about. :)

Bluntly: Which prominent member of the neoreactionary movement was allowed to guest blog at SSC?

Because if the answer is "none", then I think it's clear he did not do any such thing.


Platforming doesn’t mean guest blogging though, but I think you know already that


So how did he platform them? All the article offers is that he linked to the blog of a person that neoreactionaries also like. If that person has said or done anything controversial, the Times should say so. Instead, they just try to tar by the fact that bad people like him (something he has no control over).

Note how far removed this is from Scott Alexander himself.


It doesn't say he linked to the blog of a person that neoreactionaries also like. What the wording implies is that he linked to the blog of a person who is himself a neoreactionary and whom white supremacists also like. At least based on Wikipedia's narrative [1], it seems like Nick Land is in fact associated with the neoreactionary movement.

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


Then there is the another argument about allowing to use the blog comment section for promotion of neoreactionary ideas.

Which is kind of core to Scott's "Grey Tribe" ideas about free speech, but is very much against the "Blue Tribe" ideas of "no platforming nazis" etc.


Indeed.

It is true that Scott linked to Nick Land (and also Charles Murray but that is a different discussion) in his blogroll.


>platforming other prominent members of the neoreactionary movement.

Can't wait till we move past this infantile reframing of "showing people something you read" as "platforming".

We used to read the works of our enemies to understand them and read the works of kooks and crazies to avoid following their path (but also to see what truths, when followed too zealously, lead to ruin).

Now we have to read things, figure out the social credit of the things we read, and then decide whether or not to tell anyone we actually read it and thought about it.


It's not surprising from Cade Metz - he has a long track record of being deeply unethical.

https://medium.com/@garyweiss_86200/cade-metz-pulls-a-deep-c...


The article is plainly written and well written and allows people to decide for themselves what the intentions of Scott Siskind may be.

Contra to the insinuation that Cade Metz smears Siskind by unfairly associating him with Nick Land, Metz's article lays the evidence and allows readers to infer what that evidence may or may not mean.

For me, the concluding 3 paragraphs of the article sum up what Slate Star Codex (now "Astral Codex Ten") may be

> I assured [Kelsey Piper] my goal was to report on the blog, and the Rationalists, with rigor and fairness. But she felt that discussing both critics and supporters could be unfair. What I needed to do, she said, was somehow prove statistically which side was right.

This is ad absurdum at its finest. Proving whether an idea is correct using statistical analysis makes sense for many empirical matters. But proving whether proponents of extreme views (e.g. in the article, the idea that women are biologically not as capable as men to work as programmers) by using statistical analysis is a moral failure driven by scientificism. (I'm going to decline rehearsing the debates about whether women are biologically or culturally inhibited from programming.)

> When I asked Mr. Altman, of OpenAI, if the conversation on sites like Slate Star Codex could push people toward toxic beliefs, he said he held “some empathy” for these concerns. But, he added, “people need a forum to debate ideas.”

This really sounds unfortunately like John Matze's position on Parler. Slate Star Codex is not the same kind of gathering ground Parler was, but given the next paragraph, the comparison is not inapt.

> In August, Mr. Siskind restored his old blog posts to the internet. And two weeks ago, he relaunched his blog on Substack, a company with ties to both Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator. He gave the blog a new title: Astral Codex Ten. He hinted that Substack paid him $250,000 for a year on the platform. And he indicated the company would give him all the protection he needed.

If Slate Star Codex is somewhere self-described "Rationalists" can civilly and safely debate whether intelligence is statistically correlated to race and gender and these are "[t]he People Inventing the Future", then it's not surprising Horowitz would seek to protect that forum under the shelter of Substack.

However, it's slightly alarming to hear that Altman defends the promulgation of such ideas because "people need a forum to debate ideas". Too many of these ideas seep into the discussions even here on Hacker News.

Failing to object to immorality and immoral arguments cannot be corrected only by rationalism and statistics because Nature, at its core, is amoral.

Many dumb people are moral. Many dumb people are immoral. By the same token many smart people are immoral, too.

The real problem is when you realize that many smart people are, in fact, both immoral and dumb.

The article's last paragraph gives the lie to the controversy that has raged in tech circles surrounding publishing Siskind's name.

> In his first post [on Astral Codex Ten], Mr. Siskind shared his full name.


> The article's last paragraph gives the lie to the controversy that has raged in tech circles surrounding publishing Siskind's name.

>> In his first post [on Astral Codex Ten], Mr. Siskind shared his full name.

Did you actually read the post where Scott explains why? Because at that point it was impossible to keep it private. He was also forced to quit his job. The fact that he landed on his feet doesn't mean there wasn't a cost paid.


His name wasn't private to begin with. There are huge threads on HN about this from the time it happened and numerous ways to have easily stumbled across his real name, including the fact that he wrote some of his better known pieces first under his real name. Repeating over and over again that Scott Alexander's name was private using different words each time won't change that fact.

What was happening in this story was that Scott Alexander was demanding everyone else's assistance in maintaining his pseudonym and pretending the real identity behind it was unknowable. That's a reasonable request to make in a community of peers (it's why I'll keep using "Alexander" on HN, for instance). It is not remotely a reasonable demand to make of strangers, let alone journalists.

This is another instance of message board thought seeping into the real world, and it's always alarming to me to see that, because while message board thought is fun, it's also deeply weird and dysfunctional.


If you read any of those "huge threads on HN" you would easily know the crux of why Scott wanted to remain pseudonymous.

"Scott Alexander was demanding everyone else's assistance in maintaining his pseudonym and pretending the real identity behind it was unknowable."

Absolutely false. Scott admits many times that it's trivial for his real identity to be known if you search around for Scott Alexander.

Scott Alexander -> Scott Sisnick (trivial)

What Scott was concerned about what his searching his real name being resoundingly brought to Scott Alexander, a major issue for his psychiatrist-patient relationships, as he demonstrates that psychiatrists need to maintain a blank slate for their patients to project onto, so that the patients don't hide or alter the behavior knowing something about their psychiatrist. That's very mainstream psychiatry. And there were concerns about current psychiatric patients he was seeing possibly being affected by this.

Before: Scott Sisnick -> "psychiatrist, bay area, studied at X, etc."

After: Scott Sisnick -> "Scott Alexander, rationalist, providing a platform for white nationalists, racism, etc."


FYI tptacek has gone dozens of comments deep on this topic every time it has come up. I don't know why he picked this hill (although I believe he has said he dislikes Scott) but I do know he ain't budging.


People keep explaining to me why Alexander wants his identity not to appear in a newspaper. I understand that. I just don't understand why his preferences bind on anyone else.

By way of example, a friend just told me on Twitter that it's super important that patients not be able to look up their therapists on the Internet and learn more about their personal lives. But that's definitely not a norm! I checked with several therapists I know personally.

I feel like people are scrambling to invent Internet rules that allow Alexander to coerce journalists, and I don't find that effort especially persuasive.


> . I just don't understand why his preferences bind on anyone else.

I mean, they don't bind like a physical law or something. Ignoring people's requests for anonymity and getting them harassed or fired is certainly physically possible, it just makes you an asshole and there are ethical considerations about the effect on speech and discourse.

It's sort of similar to not wearing a mask out, it's certainly not illegal or impossible to go out without a mask and cough on people who would prefer you didn't, but it still makes you an asshole and there are ethical considerations about you putting others' lives at risk.


It's not a reporter's job to protect people from their own conflicting interests. They can choose to withhold parts of a story after processing the ethical considerations, but "associating my name with the thousands of pages of opinion I've published on controversial subjects would damage my reputation" isn't a clear cut issue. It's a judgement call, he could have done it either way, but that Metz went ahead and attributed the works to their actual author doesn't make him an asshole.


It's especially egregious here in a hit piece that deliberately makes the things he said horrible.

But even if it was an accurate representation, the media has to ask "is it our job as a powerful outlet to literally punish this much less powerful person because they have opinions we disagree with".

If it wasn't "opinions we disagree with" but like "has killed 3 people" sure appoint yourself judge, jury, and executioner. But in other cases yes it makes you an asshole to think that you should enforce your will by punishing someone who disagrees with you.


It sounds like the big issue for you and others is that this was a hit piece. Okay -- but it's not in general wrong to report the name of someone who has written a large body of influential work, especially when it wasn't unknown in the first place. You're exaggerating grossly.

Scott Alexander on the one hand is a practicing clinician, and on the other writes prolifically about culture war topics. This is majorly out of balance, and it's on Scott to fit these areas of his life and income together. Why would the responsibility be on the NYT to help him?


It's not on the NYT to help him, he's already managing fine on his own, it's on the NYT to not try to punish him by breaking the anonymity that's allowed him to both continue his job and practice his free speech without affecting that.


Why should anyone care about how their actions impact anyone else? Is "don't be a dick" not good enough for you?


I guess it's just a matter of decency. You certainly don't need to abide by that but don't be surprised when others don't agree with or want to be around you.


> I just don't understand why his preferences bind on anyone else.

His preferences bind on the NYT in that as Scott can take actions which are adverse to the NYT in order to maintain his preferences. Such as deleting the blog and having his fans sign a petition and cancel their subscriptions. None of those actions are unreasonable: he is free to delete his blog for any reason or no reason, and anyone can make in a petition. What is the problem here?


People in the rationalist community used his real name when discussing his pseudonymous writing. Searching for his real name identified him as Scott Alexander before too.


Yeah, his name wasn't private. That is partly because of a decision to publish under his real name when he was much younger, and partly because people have been working to keep his name public despite his attempts to scrub his name.

But, as Scott has said numerous times, he simply wanted to make it hard for his patients to google his name and find his blog, so that he could continue practicing psychiatry. That's a perfectly reasonable request to ask of anyone, including journalists.


Much younger? He published a blog post of his under his real name in 2017[1].

[1] https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Technological_Singu...


Alexander can certainly want his identity to be obscure, and has legitimate reasons to want that. That preference doesn't bind on strangers. He can't force the world to un-know things it already knows, and so no, that is not a reasonable request, especially not to a journalist.

These arguments about why we're all obligated to cooperate with Alexander's attempt to walk his identity back always seem to be inventing new norms, like the norm of "if a doctor slips up and writes political essays under their real name, then, for the sake of the doctor's career, every other person in the world should pretend that real name was never disclosed". It's a reasonable thing to want, but not to expect.


> These arguments about why we're all obligated to cooperate with Alexander's attempt to walk his identity back always seem to be inventing new norms

Not really. The NYT was perfectly willing to protect the anonymity of a different psychiatrist blogger. Yes, this person did a better job of keeping their identity a secret, but the justification was largely the same.

And let's not pretend that journalism is only about sharing information. There's a great deal that journalists don't share (or even try to actively suppress) for many different reasons. Partly because there are a lot of ethical considerations when publicizing information.

Worth noting that part of the issue is that, with psychiatry and counseling in particular, it really doesn't matter what he was writing about or what his politics are. Any such publicity compromises the blank slate that counselors are supposed to present to their clients. While this does mean that mental health professionals have an obligation to take care with their public image, it's not unreasonable to ask others (including journalists) to respect the particular cost they face with any kind of exposure.


I've lost track of the rationale you're trying to give me for why the NYT is obligated to pretend Alexander's identity wasn't public, or why the NYT is somehow a party to Alexander's professional practice.


It's not _obligated_ to, no one says it's illegal. NYT can decide to be an asshole and reveal it despite the request not to. Which it has.

Is there a real argument for why the NYT _should_ publish Scott's name? Other than "it doesn't care whether that hurts the subject, and it expects to get more clicks this way".


Journalists routinely protect people's identities when they think outing them could threaten their safety in some way. They do this regardless of whether a dedicated investigator might be able to piece together someone's identity from existing public information.

It's not a requirement to offer this protection, but declining when it's asked for by the subject of a story is certainly a weighty ethical decision that respectable journalists don't take lightly.

Outing someone in a vulnerable position simply because the journalist disagrees with their ideas and wants to harm them (vs. deciding it's in the public interest) would be a very clear breach of ethics.


If the NYT went digging and found a friend of Alexander's who revealed his name, this would have maybe some weight (but probably not: journalists write stories about people who would prefer, for economic reasons, not to be identified all of the time; that is often the point), but in this case, all they did was Google. I'm sorry, I still can't see the real-world rule that requires the New York Times to pretend that you can't just Google a pseudonym to unmask it.


They don't have to pretend that. But they also don't have to include someone's name when it's not pertinent to the story and could conceivably cause the person harm.

It doesn't matter if someone could just Google it. The NYT shouldn't make it easier unless there's journalistic value in doing so. Spite doesn't count.

Would you feel the same if this was a story about a sexual assault victim instead of a blogger?


Scott Alexander is not a victim of sexual assault; he's the author of a blog that he would rather not have connected to his name. The norms about sexual assault victims in journalism are specific (and they're contentious! Google CJR for examples) and you can't generalize from them.


In other words: no, you wouldn't feel the same.

He's a blogger, not an assault victim, but his concerns are similar. Avoiding harassment and physical violence against himself and his family. Avoiding negative consequences on his career.

Why are his concerns less valid than anyone else's? "Because I disagree with him" or "because he talks about ideas I don't think should have a platform" aren't good answers. There's no allegation he hurt anyone, did anything illegal, abused his influence, or acted in bad faith. So what's the journalistic purpose of exposing him?


Since we're making absurd comparisons, what about violentacrez, who moderated a subreddit devoted to creepshots of underage girls?

Should his identity have been withheld because it would hurt his career, or he might be harassed?


Are you really incapable of seeing the distinction between being able to find a real name from the pseudonym, and being able to find the pseudonym from the real name?


Both were possible already. People in the rationalist community discussed his pseudonymous writing using his real name.


Possible, yes. But not equally easy.

It's not like he was trying to hide from the NSA or anything. The goal was "I don't want my patients to see my blog on the first page of Google results when they search for my real name". The NYT completely obliterated that.

Additionally, the fact that the NYT chose to smear him means that now many potential patients may google his name, see the hit piece and nothing else, and decide "yikes, better not go there".


The first page of Google results had pages that linked to his blog. And I think patients would be more likely to click on pages containing his name than an obscurely named blog.

The article wasn't flattering. It wasn't a smear or a hit piece.


You're ignoring the main issue here: Metz has no legitimate reason for publishing Scott's name. It's a purely spiteful move that provides no benefit to his readers.

Based on his behaviour in this and other[1] situations, I have no doubt that if Metz thought he could get away with something more unsavoury, he would have tried to.

[1] https://medium.com/@garyweiss_86200/cade-metz-pulls-a-deep-c...


You're ignoring the main issue here: Metz has no legitimate reason for publishing Scott's name.

This would be reminiscent of the South Park planet Marklar where all people, places and things are named Marklar. It's fun for a bit but likely impractical. It's also not clear how using someone's name is 'spiteful' given the vast majority of readers would have never heard of Scott Alexander, pseudonymous or otherwise.


Do you realize that when covering chapo trap house the NYT referred to Virgil Texas by his pseudonym rather than revealing his real name, which he prefers to keep private? It's just as easy to find his name online and it's often mentioned on message boards. Why provide anonymity to one but not the other?


I guess I just don't care how they chose to refer to Virgil Texas. If it was me, I'd probably have used his real name.


It matters because either the NYT is inconsistent, or worse they are consistently biased, in how they respect the anonymity of their subject. But ultimately any justification they provide for publishing his real name rings hollow and comes across as a petty act of power.


I guess I just don't care how consistent the NYT is in offering people control of their portrayal in stories, because I don't believe the NYT has any obligation to offer anyone that control.


It's not about offering subjects control, it's about weighing the impact to the individual against the public interest of the reporting.

You seem to be under the impression that journalists are under no obligation with regard to how their reporting impacts their subjects, even when that subject is not a public figure per se. I'm pretty sure that's something that even most journalists (at least those working at relatively prestigious institutions) would disagree with.

Again, you are justifying Gawker-style journalism, which is pretty atrocious and doesn't serve to create a better informed public.


The subject here is a very public figure, as the article amply demonstrates.


"Very" is hardly the word I would use. Not to the same level as a politician, for example. And certainly wasn't a public figure under his real name.


You don't think journalists should follow some sort of publicly stated code of conduct or held to a higher standard than an anonymous poster on 4chan when it comes to revealing an individual's personal info?


I think the norms of message boards and the norms of journalism have literally nothing to do with each other, and you can't learn anything about one by analyzing the other.


Privacy-by-obscurity is still privacy. It seems absurd to argue that's equivalent to his name being front and center in the NYT of all things.


Taking things from obscurity to publicity is literally part of the premise of journalism. Alexander cannot demand that journalists pretend that his identity is secret when it's not, not remotely, not even plausibly.


> Taking things from obscurity to publicity is literally part of the premise of journalism

What a facile justification. By that metric there was nothing wrong with Gawker's antics. The question is always whether the things a journalist is publicizing in the public interest, and the fact that publications (especially prestigious ones) have an obligation to consider the impact of what they expose of citizens who often don't have an equal platform from which to defend themselves.

The very fact that you can find his real name from his pseudonym means that the NYT wasn't actually "exposing" anything of value. At the same time, they've made it considerably harder (if not impossible) for him to practice normal psychiatric medicine.

Also, does this article even cover what it was originally supposed to be about - i.e. a bunch of people online who saw COVID coming long before the authorities? I haven't gone all the way through, but my understanding is no. Instead there's no so subtle implication that the guy who wrote the "Anti Neoreactionary FAQ" may in fact a secret nazi or something.


Respectfully, I doubt a lot that any of us know what this article was "supposed to be about".


Well, that was the justification Cade Maetz provided when he was asking around about Scott initially. Are you saying we shouldn't take the author at his word?


That's plainly false.

Those who tried to find Scott Alexander's real name could find it.

But those who tried to find information about their doctor or colleague Scott Siskind most likely wouldn't find out that he writes a popular blog.


He published under his real name early on.


Which he regretted, so he removed his original blog and started blogging under a pen name.


Yes, you could only obtain Scott Alexander's real name if you were a little bit interested in knowing what it was.


The energy spent trying to miss the point here is kind of breathtaking.

There existed a trivial mapping of A -> B. There did not exist a trivial mapping of B -> A. Scott was trying to prevent his patients, who had information B, from being bombarded with the link to A. It is not a hard concept to grasp.


Yes, we have all heard this before, many, many times. The connection not being made here is why it is that a newspaper is obliged to care about this.


I cannot understand the point of you switching back and forth between "he was already doxxed" and "well ok but actually the NYT should doxx him" in 25 separate threads on the topic.


I don't know what this word "doxxing" even means in this context. Does it mean calling unwanted attention to public information?


And you have yet to explain why there was a public interest in giving his real name that level of exposure.


But if you did a google search for his real name, his blog was not on the first page of results. Which was the main objective.


Links to his blog were. People in the rationalist community used his real name when talking about his pseudonymous writing.


That seems like it's more between Alexander and Google than between Alexander and the New York Times.


Scott is perfectly justified being upset when the NYT tries to parade his name around in a hit piece knowing (probably even hoping) their cancel-happy readers will run with it.


> Alexander cannot demand that journalists pretend that his identity is secret when it's not, not remotely, not even plausibly.

This isn’t what he asked for. As you note there’s pages of comments and Alexander’s own account on Substack now. Maybe you’re claiming he isn’t being honest about his requests from NYT.


What is your take on what Alexander asked for?


That Alexander started the substack under his real name only after leaving his job is a pretty big hint that it wasn’t about “demand[ing] that journalists pretend that his identity is secret”.


I don't want to guess at how this connects to the question I asked, so can you be more specific about what you think it was Alexander was asking of the New York Times? I think he was asking them not to disclose his identity. Do you think he was asking for something else?


You're moving the goal posts here, pretty significantly. He didn't want them to disclose his identity, because he didn't want his patients to see his name blasted out in major media as that could potentially impact their care. This seems entirely reasonable, and well within the range of requests that NYT grants to many subjects of their articles. You can think it's unreasonable, because if you are trying to connect SSC to an IRL name you could find it, and that's fine. I don't, because I think Alexander should've been given the exact same deference NYT offers others.


I think we're going around in circles. Because Alexander's identity was not in fact private, I don't care why Alexander wanted the NYT to keep it out of the story, nor do I think there is any real-world norm obligating them to do so.


Sure, you're free to ignore that one (of several) motivations was protecting his patients (which there absolutely is a real-world norm around). "My Doctor is the guy who writes SSC?" isn't a question he wanted asked. You're also free to ignore that NYT journalists do, quite often and as a norm, protect the identities of their sources and subjects of stories, and in this specific instance choose not to do so.


The whole idea that the NYT is somehow obliged to protect Alexander's patients is deeply weird. If protecting Alexander's patients was so important, Alexander shouldn't have been running this hugely popular blog using an identity so trivially connectable to those patients. Either way: it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Times.


Why do you prefer to live in a world where professionals are afraid to blog? Scott himself shared [1] an example of a police officer facing disciplinary action and being forced to shut down his blog under similar circumstances (worse, his identity was uncovered through hacking by the reporter) [2]. I think the entire society loses, except for the newspaper that gets a few clicks. Good for them I guess.

[1] https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/still-alive [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Horton_(blogger)


The other case is completely different. The police officer hid his identity more carefully and the journalist broke the law.

I prefer to live in a world where professionals act responsibly. He could have stopped writing as Scott Alexander and started writing with a new pseudonym. He just didn't want to rebuild his audience.


I didn't claim they were obligated like it's a law to do this, but I do think it's a little strange you wouldn't expect a powerful media org like NYT to care about the second order effects of their reporting at all. To reduce this to it's simplest form: I am claiming that the NYT shouldn't have been an asshole about it. What is so puzzling to me is that you are a) intentionally not getting this, or saying "meh don't care" and b) are giving enormous deference to a very powerful organization that can negatively (or positively!) impact someone's livelihood.

>...using an identity so trivially connectable to those patients.

As others have pointed out, the connection was mapped as A to B and not B to A.

>...it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Times.

And the Times is what would've changed how his identities were mapped. How The Times' operates in this new tech-enabled media environment is absolutely relevant.


The connection was trivial to find both ways. People in the rationalist community used his real name when talking about his pseudonymous writing.


Sure, and there's an argument to be made that Alexander was taking some professional risk in that it was always possible one of his patients would wide up in the SSC subreddit and see his real surname.


Just searching the web for his real name would find those discussions. Someone can argue the NYT shouldn't make the connection more prominent. But it was mapped both ways already.


Private is not the same concept as secret.

My name is not secret. It is, however, private.


I've read a couple of these blog posts now, and I'm having trouble finding where he talks about quitting his job. Could you share a link?


>No, seriously, it was awful. I deleted my blog of 1,557 posts. I wanted to protect my privacy, but I ended up with articles about me in New Yorker, Reason, and The Daily Beast. I wanted to protect my anonymity, but I Streisand-Effected myself, and a bunch of trolls went around posting my real name everywhere they could find. I wanted to avoid losing my day job, but ended up quitting so they wouldn't be affected by the fallout. I lost a five-digit sum in advertising and Patreon fees.

At the start of the post but there's more further in.

https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/still-alive

There's s also this from The NYT initially contacted him with his reasoning for protecting his job (which didn't work out)

>I think it’s plausible that if I became a national news figure under my real name, my patients – who run the gamut from far-left to far-right – wouldn’t be able to engage with me in a normal therapeutic way. I also worry that my clinic would decide I am more of a liability than an asset and let me go, which would leave hundreds of patients in a dangerous situation as we tried to transition their care.

https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/22/nyt-is-threatening-my-...


Thanks for the link.

It seems like he's pretty clear that he chose to quit. He says his job was "tentatively willing to try to make it work". It appears to me that he's shown a consistent pattern of overstating the effects of his name being revealed, so I don't put a lot of stock in "tentatively".

I am quite convinced he simply didn't want his name in the paper because he knows he's said some edgy stuff (ie, explicitly comparing himself to Charles Murray).

The sources he provides as supporting the importance of therapeutic anonymity appear to be debates, as opposed to, say, APA guidelines emphasizing its importance. And that's a one sided picture, where Scott is digging for evidence to support his claim.

Part of his argument is that he has already faced threats and harassment. Okay, and he still didn't take basic steps to anonymize himself, so apparently this didn't concern him so much in the past. His argument is that he has a lot of crazy, nutso enemies. But those people could already easily find him.

He's been pretty clear about his dislike for SJWs and distrust for the news media (I mean this in the most value-neutral way possible). That's fine, but I think it's silly to make up a bunch of reasons your name shouldn't be in the paper.

He even comes out and says that it's simply his preference for anonymity:

>Why didn't I do this? Partly because it wasn't true. I don't think I had particularly strong arguments on any of these points. The amount I dislike death threats is basically the average amount that the average person would dislike them. The amount I would dislike losing my job...and et cetera. Realistically, my anonymity let me feel safe and comfortable. But it probably wasn't literally necessary to keep me alive. I feel bad admitting this, like I conscripted you all into a crusade on false pretenses. Am I an entitled jerk for causing such a stir just so I can feel safe and comfortable? I'm sure the New York Times customer service representatives who had to deal with all your phone calls thought so.

Again, he did not lose his job. They were willing to keep him, and he quit anyways.

>In the New York Times' worldview, they start with the right to dox me, and I had to earn the right to remain anonymous by proving I'm the perfect sympathetic victim who satisfies all their criteria of victimhood. But in my worldview, I start with the right to anonymity, and they need to make an affirmative case for doxxing me. I admit I am not the perfect victim. The death threats against me are all by losers who probably don't know which side of a gun you shoot someone with. If anything happened at work, it would probably inconvenience me and my patients, but probably wouldn't literally kill either of us. Still! Don't kick me in the fucking balls!

Replace "dox" with "include my name, which was found on my blog, in a news story about my blog", and yes, that's a default-allow unless you have some really extraordinary circumstances.


He chose to quit which makes it less of an issue for him to reveal his name. The NYT article ignores that and just says he reveled it in his first post, somewhat implying it wasn't even an issue for him.


The comment I replied to says he was forced to quit his job, which simply isn't true no matter how charitable you interpret it


>And I left my job. They were very nice about it, they were tentatively willing to try to make it work. But I just don't think I can do psychotherapy very well while I'm also a public figure, plus people were already calling them trying to get me fired and I didn't want to make them deal with more of that.

"Well crap now I'm a public figure because of this, I don't really have a choice if I want to do my job well in the future."

Using "forced" may be a little clumsy, but it's certainly directionally correct.


It's not directionally correct. It's not correct in any sense.

If he doesn't think he can do psychotherapy very while while he's a "public figure" (his name being in the paper a single time), why is he opening up his own practice?

I have already posted his own quotes in this comment chain, where he admits his case is weak and that anonymity is merely his preference.


>why is he opening up his own practice?

He is opening his practice only to patients that are comfortable with him and he is comfortable with. That's a different situation than working with who the hospital assigns him. Also he does say they were 'tentatively' willing to still keep him but it sounds like there was friction nonetheless.


I would submit there's a pretty big difference between his long term preference for pseudo-anonymity and the question of what to do, right now, with his patients. He made a decision to leave his practice and transfer the patients to someone else, and start his own where everyone is coming into the relationship eyes wide open. Given the circumstances, he certainly had a choice, yes. And given how he evaluated the costs and benefits for his patients and his career, he felt his only real choice was the latter. Like I said, "forced" is probably a clumsy adjective to use for something requiring a more nuanced explanation.


The article is plainly written and well written and allows people to decide for themselves what the intentions of Scott Siskind may be.

I would be curious to know what other articles you consider well written.

To me, this comes across as a hack job to elevate the writers status before the release of his upcoming book.

It’s a classic tactic that writers use to drive book sales.


It's written pretty deceptively. Yeah, it's not flat out wrong for the most part, but every part is presented in a way meant for you to take away that it has bad ties and questionable beliefs and to minimize why that might not be the right reading.


Failing to object to immorality and immoral arguments cannot be corrected only by rationalism and statistics because Nature, at its core, is amoral.

And there, indeed, lies the problem. What should society do when an an argument is factually correct but leads to an immoral result?


>What should society do when an an argument is factually correct but leads to an immoral result?

Choose a moral alternative. Humans aren't bound by (or even capable of) pure logic or animal instinct, that's why we invented abstractions like "morality."


But the moral alternative to the fact that “intelligence is mostly genetic” isn’t to ignore and/or deny the fact (which many people on the left, and most of mainstream media try to do), it’s “treat people as individuals” (exactly what was the moral alternative before knowing this fact).


This is a classic problem in philosophy, called the "is-ought problem, or "Hume's law". Hume argues that you can't get to a moral conclusion from facts alone. This is the sort of thing discussed in graduate courses in philosophy. Yet it causes us no end of political trouble when "what's morally right" and "what's reality" come into conflict.

This approach conflicts with the notions of "natural law" and much of Christian morality. It's a rather alien concept to most people. This leads to pressure to try to alter facts to fit a moral scenario.


Sure you can. Morality is hard wired into our brains by evolution. We’re not yet capable to understand all the details of how brain works, but it’s all there in theory. It’s understandable that this line of thinking would not be possible in Hume’s time, but we know quite a bit more to move past some of these ideas.


I'm not sure this is even that though.

Suppose you have 1000 applicants and 900 slots. 900 of the applicants are white, 100 are black.

In traditional racism you give all 900 slots to the 900 white applicants.

Using a woke quota system you would have to arrange for it to be exactly proportional, i.e. 810 white and 90 black, even if that required taking race directly into account in order to force the numbers.

Using some kind of merit-based evaluation, you might have 830 slots go to white applicants and 70 to black applicants.

The first system is clearly morally wrong, but it's also misaligned with the optimal allocation. The second system has the same issue as the first; it's basing the decision directly on race even when it doesn't align with merit.

The biggest criticism of the third system is that maybe your metric for evaluating merit is imperfect, but it might still be pretty good. And other than that it's clearly the one with the moral high ground. So where is the moral question? The moral system and the optimal system are the same one. All that's left is the technical question of how to implement a more accurate measurement of merit, if possible.


The problem is if the alternative is the same as the prior condition, why are they bringing it up?

hint-it's to treat people not as individuals at all, the genetic basic of intelligence is generally brought up to justify discrimination.

It's the same problem as arguing no free will; if the ultimate end is the same as if we had it, why are you bringing it up? But usually people want to order society around that truth, not just score points in a debate.


This possibility is nearly always discussed in the context of whether racial differences in outcomes are solely due to discrimination or whether there are other factors in play. Other explanations than genetic differences and racism are also often discussed.

This is important because the claim that racial gaps are solely due to racism is used to advocate for far-reaching reforms, which have huge risks and which won't actually close the gap if racism is not the cause or at least in the way as is claimed.


I'm a matematician, so from my perspective, figuring stuff out without having a clear idea how/if it will be useful doesn't sound weird at all. In fact, it's where most of the fun is!


>>What should society do when an an argument is factually correct but leads to an immoral result?

>Choose a moral alternative.

Are you saying that facts should be suppressed/set aside when they lead to immoral results? I can't assign any other meaning to your words.


>Are you saying that facts should be suppressed/set aside when they lead to immoral results?

I'm saying facts have no moral or immoral dimension - "immoral results" come from choices made in the interpretation of fact, choices which are relative and mutable because morality is an abstraction. There is no case where an immoral choice is made where a moral choice could not also be made.


Or: morality is a set of value judgements about facts (or not, as the case may be).


That makes sense, thanks for clarifying.


> it's slightly alarming to hear that Altman defends the promulgation of such ideas because "people need a forum to debate ideas". Too many of these ideas seep into the discussions even here on Hacker News.

Can you unpack this a bit further?

Are you saying that {a select group of people} should be allowed to discuss a controversial question, but {a wider group of people} cannot be trusted to have such discussion?


I don't understand how you could arrive at that reading. It seems clear to me that GP is worried about the erosion of free speech norms on HN, and isn't claiming anything like what you suggest.


> his is ad absurdum at its finest. Proving whether an idea is correct using statistical analysis makes sense for many empirical matters. But proving whether proponents of extreme views (e.g. in the article, the idea that women are biologically not as capable as men to work as programmers) by using statistical analysis is a moral failure driven by scientificism. (I'm going to decline rehearsing the debates about whether women are biologically or culturally inhibited from programming.)

I can almost guarantee this is Cade misrepresenting what Kelsey Piper said.

> allows people to decide for themselves what the intentions of Scott Siskind may be.

Except that he clearly throughout misrepresents or misunderstands things like above. I can only assume it seems accurate because you haven't looked into the relevant quotes or peope.


> The article's last paragraph gives the lie to the controversy that has raged in tech circles surrounding publishing Siskind's name.

>> In his first post [on Astral Codex Ten], Mr. Siskind shared his full name.

The fact that you think this after reading the article shows just how misleading it is. He shared his real name after quitting his job because of it. The NYT leaving that detail out is completely bonkers. It's a little bit like saying "what was the point of WW2, Hitler just ended up killing himself after all that trouble anyway."


> can civilly and safely debate whether intelligence is statistically correlated to race and gender

Why would you not want to debate that? If it's not true, or there's no evidence for it, then you have an actual argument for fighting people who believe in it. If it's true, then you have a new societal issue to discuss. Either way, you win.

You seem to be making a case against scientific inquiry and intellectual discussion.

> However, it's slightly alarming to hear that Altman defends the promulgation of such ideas because "people need a forum to debate ideas". Too many of these ideas seep into the discussions even here on Hacker News.

This is anti-intellectualism. What possible reason would there be to not debate ideas, of any kind? Bad ideas get analyzed, exposed, and proponents of such are forced to either change their position or be exposed as dogmatic.


Again, they are not bringing racial and gender disparties up for idle conversation; usually what comes after is what they want society to do about it. All you have to do is say "okay, for the sake of argument what you say is true. What happens next?" and then you see intentions. A lot aren't good.


I’ve seen the libertarian wave in HN. It was more prominent a few years ago. Posters here have seemed to evolve into the idea that basic income and a living wage aren’t just socialist ideas after all. I think there is growing recognition that current level of income inequality is not sustainable. It’s possible the pandemic has softened these beliefs as well. Which is to be expected. Major calamities tend to unify the people. It’s clear that the role of government is to protect us from existential risks. That actually fits with libertarian philosophy but they’d be hard pressed to admit it.

So when people say that rationalists and libertarians haven’t thought through the consequences this is what they mean.


But this "guilty by association" has been going on just about forever. Even Jesus was socially condemned for being a friend of tax-collectors and sinners.


Well, yes, by the hypocrites.


SlateStarCodex had the antineoreactionary FAQ, the best such writing around.


Also, "Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell" for a look at the "pro" side. It turns out that giving neoreaction a "platform" is not at all incompatible with also offering a rather robust critique of it, that many people might even see as "denouncing" the ideology and its proponents. (But clearly, this level of intellectual subtlety is rather beyond the understanding of NYTimes journalists or editors!)


Yes, and this is the 'Grey Lady' - bastion of credibility and objectivity.


>What a depressing waste of everyone's time.

That is an extremely accurate summary of American politics over the last 5 years.


and lots of labeling.

I always like to remember that poorly argued points are a click goldmine.


> Link to a pro-vegan website, you must support every terrible ideology that has had at least one vegetarian supporter?

We're all adults here, you can say "Hitler".

So, unless you completely denounce vegetarianism, you are literally supporting Nazis.

(For people who don't get it, Hitler was a vegetarian.)


> So he denounced the works of one person who believes bad things, but he also linked to a second person, who may or may not believe bad things, but is liked by a third group of people who also believe bad things, so...logically...that must mean he actually does...support the first person? Despite denouncing them, because he didn't link to them, which proves...something...?

I will never understand the pearl clutching that goes on when things like this happen.

As a person you are judged constantly by others, as a public figure this increases exponentially. You are judged on everything: the clothing you wear, the way you speak, and yes, the company you keep. In the age of social media influencing, each of us has a platform built upon the platform we choose. Each of us via that platform can spread influence, be it marketing, ideas, or (dis)information.

If you utilize your platform upon a platform (or just your platform) to spread bad ideas, purported by bad people, it is a perfectly rational reaction by your audience to reclaim the social capital they have given you. This is not wrong. This is not censorship. This is how social networks have worked since long before any of us had a smart phone, or indeed, when the social network was a fire in a cave, we have operated this way.

And reading this summation, yeah that sounds about right. It sounds as if he is embroiled in a social space that is spreading bad ideas. He has denounced one person who was in that social space, but he is still in contact with two others spreading similar ideas. This calls into question the sincerity of his denouncement.

I.e. if you say you're done drinking, and resolve to quit, and refuse to spend time with your alcoholic friend, but still spend time around two others who drink regularly, people would be right to question your sincerity in that resolve.

> If you link to someone who supports X, then you're actually supporting every other person who has ever supported X? Link to a pro-vegan website, you must support every terrible ideology that has had at least one vegetarian supporter?

This impulse to boil this activity into a set of always absurd sounding "rules" is probably comforting to those who would call themselves Rationalist, the sorts who fetishize facts and logic, while usually having a dearth of both in the things they say. But ultimately this isn't hard to understand: If you associate with people known to believe and spread bad things, you will in turn be viewed as possibly endorsing those things.

And all of this comes up against the simple and obvious truth that all someone in this position has to do is speak what so many would like to hear; that they didn't understand what this person was doing, that it isn't what they believe, and to create distance. But they won't. I wonder why?


> And all of this comes up against the simple and obvious truth that all someone in this position has to do is speak what so many would like to hear; that they didn't understand what this person was doing, that it isn't what they believe, and to create distance. But they won't. I wonder why?

The thing is we have lots of perfectly good examples of people associating with conservative people with a few noxious views. John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, for example, were well known as family friends of Kanye West but they managed to go years asserting they were personal friends and disagreed with his political views and hoped he would come around. Eventually Kanye went a little overboard and they started distancing themselves further, but pointedly that was Kanye’s fault and not the Teigan-Legend family’s.

It really is not that hard to adopt a “love the sinner, hate the sin” position. But when people adopt this position of hemming-and-hawing any time someone asks “do you really hate the sin though?” it understandably raises some questions. People have blogs where they engage with bad ideas all the time. There’s a style in how they present and engage with the ideas that doesn’t leave much room for doubt.

I also don’t think advocates for “places to debate” these things really understand the purpose of debate. These arguments for scientific racism are well known and understood and mostly debunked by actual well-regarded experts in the associated fields. There is no value in debating bad ideas ad nauseum with randos online. You’re not learning anything from that, you’re just engaged in a sort of rhetorical sparring match. Is society well served by you trading bad faith arguments with strangers? Maybe. At the expense of exposing impressionable spectators to arguments with poor empirical grounding that are nonetheless seductive for taking advantage of common misconception and flattering peoples egos? Not so sure about that.


>As a person you are judged constantly by others, as a public figure this increases exponentially. You are judged on everything: the clothing you wear, the way you speak, and yes, the company you keep.

Not everyone is a rich socialite looking to be viewed well at the finest private dinner parties. In fact, I dare say that anonymous and pseudonymous bloggers are the opposite of that.

Maybe you should go try judging someone with actual responsibility and a real role in public life. You know the Senate will vote to acquit Trump today, right?


> Not everyone is a rich socialite looking to be viewed well at the finest private dinner parties.

These social morays have applied to everyone, everywhere, forever. One does not need to be rich to have social capital.

> You know the Senate will vote to acquit Trump today, right?

This just in: two things can be bad at the same time. Perhaps more than two! Details at 11.


By the way, I thought "social morays" was absolutely brilliant and I will certainly be using it myself, but it's spelt "mores". It's a direct import from Latin.


> These social morays have applied to everyone, everywhere, forever.

Sexism has also been applied forever, doesn't make it right.


>These social morays have applied to everyone, everywhere, forever.

Any claim that any particular social more is eternal or universal is ahistorical. This is the clearest finding of the fields of anthropology and history. Everything about human life varies throughout time and space.


The culture you're describing is just utterly foreign to many people. It's certainly not how my social networks work; nobody's ever asked me to denounce my friends for believing bad things, nor would I ever ask someone else to do so. What you're reading as "fetishizing fact and logic" is an earnest attempt to understand what your unfamiliar cultural standards are.


> nobody's ever asked me to denounce my friends for believing bad things

Probably because you aren't in a position of social influence, and/or your friends aren't propagating dangerous ideas? That's all the more reason to skewer those that do and are, precisely because of the platforming effects they have.


SSC and the space around it fundamentally disagrees with you that the thing to do about dangerous ideas is block their propagation. It wants to know about them, understand them, turn them inside out, figure out why people believe them, understand what it’s like in their heads, and learn how not to make similar errors.

“Listen to your culture’s leaders and tastemakers, vigorously punish any heretics” is a terrible algorithm for that. It’s exactly why so many bad ideas have such power for so long.

Part of the idea of presenting bad ideas in such a sympathetic light is to then whack the reader with, “Do you realize what you were just nodding at?” To show that you too are capable of believing terrible things under the right circumstances, to encourage humility and skepticism.


> SSC and the space around it fundamentally disagrees with you that the thing to do about dangerous ideas is block their propagation.

I mean, they tried that approach with Roko's Basilisk... Let's just say it didn't work very well.


> I mean, they tried that approach with Roko's Basilisk... Let's just say it didn't work very well.

Roko's Basilisk is just Pascal's Wager restated for AI.

It falls to the same counterarguments, e.g. what if a superintelligent AI already exists somewhere in the universe and currently doesn't care about you but deigns to punish you for any attempt to create a competitor?


This whole "dangerous ideas" concept is ridiculous. The obvious connotation is that the peons can't be trusted with these ideas, so the intelligentsia needs to shield us from them; I find this to be more abhorrent than most bad ideas.


So not being in a position of social influence and having no friends that propagate dangerous ideas...is a reason to skewer people that do?

I find that idea pretty gross, to be honest with you.

Also, who says what ideas are dangerous? This is a ridiculously pro status-quo stance to take.


What dangerous ideas would you say Scott Alexander has propagated?


> What dangerous ideas would you say Scott Alexander has propagated?

The idea that the "Gray Tribe" is anything but a well-written propaganda effort targeting midwits to keep them supporting the Blue Tribe (and most importantly, to keep the Blue Tribe in power) as the problems mount and the failures become harder and harder to excuse.


Dangerous ideas? Whose clutching pearls now?


Again, you're assuming a lot of cultural context here that isn't universally shared. I truly, honestly don't know what people mean when they say "dangerous ideas". My intuitive interpretation is "ideas which tell people to go be violent", but the term is very frequently used to refer to ideas which don't call for violence, so that can't be right.


"Dangerous ideas" are ideas that are a threat to power; they don't need to be violent per se.


NY Times? They just do rage-porn now. They don't have the critical thinking skills for anything else.


I think the NYT article is basically saying, Birds of a feather... ??

Grouping of people by other people will forever be a "thing"


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