Judging things by their side effects

Normally I’d feel like writing this on the blog would be gauche. Believe it or not, I am trying to avoid fueling the culture war when possible, but something very specific caught my eye, and I’ve been feeling the need to address it for a long time.

This Medium post has been written about the Google Manifesto. Please read it. And then please read the following paragraph five times:

I am not staking out a position on the Google Manifesto. I am not staking out a position on this blog post. I am not making any comment whatsoever on anything object level or anything meta level concerning the political event or the blog post. What I am doing is taking an excerpt from this blog post that concerns me, and that I believe to be broadly representative of a social trend, and using this blog post as a convenient springboard to provide a context in which I can introduce my discussion. This is not a response to the Medium author. If at any point you wish to respond to anything I’ve said with “the Medium post didn’t say that”, then please don’t. I am not responding to the Medium post. I am responding to a broad trend that I perceive across certain elements of society.

Have you read the Medium article in full? Have you read the preceding paragraph five times? Then let’s begin.

For a while I have been considering a vague, half-formed thought that keeps floating around the edges of my ideas. To be blunt: when interacting with people who fall in the general direction of “Social Justice Politics,” their comments and actions are sufficiently baffling to me that I have a very hard time assuming good faith. Of course, assuming bad faith is a rather grim disposition, and if you find yourself assuming bad faith, you should consider this a warning light that you are missing some key detail. I’ve spent a lot, a lot of time trying to identify a key detail that fits into my mystery. I’ve considered some candidates, but they all inevitably strike me as “how can someone possibly believe that?”

A passage in this Medium post has put words to one of my more promising candidate key details. I still find myself somewhat at a loss for how anyone could believe this, but at least it feels right. Consequently, it should be noted explicitly that this blog post is epistemic status: exploratory. Every single statement that I make in this post should be interpreted as something like “is this true?” or “suppose this is true, what happens?”

The passage I’m interested in is the bolded part. The rest is quoted for a little bit of context within the article.

So it seems that someone has seen fit to publish an internal manifesto about gender and our “ideological echo chamber.” I think it’s important that we make a couple of points clear.

(1) Despite speaking very authoritatively, the author does not appear to understand gender.

(2) Perhaps more interestingly, the author does not appear to understand engineering.

(3) And most seriously, the author does not appear to understand the consequences of what he wrote, either for others or himself.

The author does not think it important to address upfront whether or not the manifesto’s statements are true. However, the author does think it is important to address upfront that the manifesto’s statements are dangerous. Further, he elevates the danger to be his biggest and most important concern.

He appears to believe that the side effects of saying words are strictly more important than the actual information content of these words.

It is my position that normatively this is a bad idea. I have two main reasons. First of all, it plays into something I’ve been calling “active denial of causality.” In a nutshell, it supposes that if an action (in this case, a statement) correlates with any negative effects whatsoever, then this is automatically bad and must be stopped, by a point intervention that forcibly shifts society in the direction away from the bad thing. In this case: Manifesto Author wrote the manifesto (action), and then people were hurt (correlation), so we must do whatever it takes to punish him and stop him or others from writing things like this again (forcible shift).

The critical detail missing from that line of reasoning is the mechanisms by which any of those things are related to each other. There is a post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc fallacy: He wrote this post, and then people were hurt. There appears to be no rational evaluation of how or why this happened. No consideration of other factors in play, and no meaningful allowance for any alternative explanations. So, for example, it is assumed as an inviolable axiom that the manifesto author is the only person with agency. It is assumed that his action always necessarily causes the harms posited and that the only way to stop them is to prevent his action. The idea that someone could possibly disagree with him and address him head on without exploding into threats and insults is written off without so much as a thought.

This dogmatic, unthinking insistence on a direct cause-effect relationship, with no attempt made at understanding contexts or motivations, creates a bigger problem. If the causes are arbitrary and direct, then changes can be as well. There appears to be a sincere, genuine belief that all it takes to stop this from ever happening again is a well-timed banhammer. This completely denies any discussion of the underlying causes of why someone might write this. It completely denies any other underlying causes for why people reading it may be hurt by it. It completely denies that there will be any side-effect reaction to the implementation of this banhammer. It is an authoritarian high modernist fallacy, assuming that anything not legible doesn’t exist.

This is bad and dangerous, in general, because it will cause people to make mistakes. This kind of thinking leads to an attitude that underlying structures do not matter, and can be blown away without a second thought if they are inconveniently in the way. It is the philosophical equivalent of an architect who smashes down load-bearing walls without hesitation, purely because the room was the wrong size. This makes buildings collapse. Or, to use an analogy the left might like: “If we blow up terrorists, there will be no terrorists to blow us up” is an insane and ridiculous statement because, among other things, it assumes that blowing up terrorists will not radicalize any new terrorists.

The second reason is somewhat more mundane and practical, but even more important.

If, when somebody makes a statement of fact, our primary concern is with whether or not those facts are true, this is a tractable problem. We can establish, for a certain subset of claims anyway, an objective and unchanging standard of truth. This allows all of us to coordinate against that standard, which facilitates communication and understanding.

In practice, one of our main standards of truth is a cluster of ideas that are broadly referred to as “the scientific method.” Essentially: An idea is proposed, data is collected, statistical methods are applied to the data in order to validate it, and then a conclusion is written, tying the observed data to the proposed idea.

Observed data is not up for argument. It is not up for debate. You cannot deny it, unless your argument is “the person providing this data is lying.” Statistically concluded data is not quite as ironclad, but it still cannot be denied unless one has concerns about the underlying data or statistical confounders.

Contrasting to this, if one’s primary concern is not with whether or not a statement is true, but whether or not it is dangerous, this is a much more subjective thing. If I measure something at 100kg, it is 100kg. It is 100kg regardless of who you are, where you are, what you are. However, if your assertion is “telling me that this thing is 100kg is dangerous,” that is more subjective. You can’t make the claim “this is universally dangerous,” only “this is dangerous to me.” Because different people will have different thresholds for danger, this makes it much harder to coordinate, communicate, and understand each other. It creates impossible-to-understand situations. It creates fundamental disagreements that ultimately cannot be resolved without resorting to violence, whether symbolic or physical.

This is important when one is creating systems that are supposed to stand as absolute, objective standards that we coordinate around. For example, if your rule is “anyone under 100kg can attend”, this is a rule everyone can easily understand. If your rule is “anyone who is not dangerous can attend”, what then? How do I know if I am dangerous? Do we use my standard of danger? Your standard? What if our standards are different? How am I supposed to know ahead of time whether or not I am allowed to attend?

In extreme cases, major ambiguities in social norms like this can be exploited by sociopathic bad actors. I don’t think I need to get into details on this; if you read our blog regularly, you can think of some examples.

If we adopt a social norm that the side effects of speech are more important than its truth value, another problem arises: we can no longer trust the truth value of anything by default, ever. If we know that, when one’s priorities come in conflict with the truth, society prioritizes one’s priorities, then a necessary precondition to trusting someone is “knowing that their priorities are in line with the truth.” However, as priorities are subjective things, we can never know this for sure. Especially in a world in which people’s communication about their priorities is itself subject to the same truth/pragmatism tradeoff.

Once we can no longer trust the truth values of anything by default, we can no longer be confident in the correctness of our own reasoning or actions. At the extreme, this creates a miserable society, where nobody can trust one another, where everyone is disconnected from the fundamental constraints of reality, and consequently where everyone is constantly accidentally hurting themselves and each other with foolish mistakes and petty manipulations.

From speaking to many left-leaning people, I understand that many of them would at this point like to make an argument of the form “yes, yes, I understand that, but you’re seriously defending $REALLY_BAD_THING. Can’t you tell that $REALLY_BAD_THING is really bad, and that in this case the trade-off is not only worth it, but imperative?”. The problem with this is that your perception of its badness is not objective. The problem is that you think that this is the really bad thing that needs an exception. And that guy over there thinks a different thing is the really bad thing that needs an exception. He thinks that your thing is actually a really dangerous exception, and you think the same about his. And, because you have both thrown out the window any hope of an objective, absolute standard to measure your claims by, ultimately the only way to decide which of you two is correct is “might makes right” aka “whoever actually pulls off the deceit wins.”

So, consider the following. Perhaps you sincerely and in good faith believe that, despite everything that the Google Manifesto says being true (because if it wasn’t, you could just say “this document is false” and be done with it), it will cause harm and danger to many people and so it should be nonetheless denied. Well, so, here’s a problem.

In 2003, the Bush administration knew damn well that there were no WMDs in Iraq. However, they really truly sincerely believed, according to whatever weird messed up metric they were using, that not bringing war to Iraq would cause massive harm and danger to many people, so that nevertheless we should lie about there being WMDs in Iraq. In a world where truth is prioritized, they have to come to us and say, “Ok, so, we don’t have a slam dunk argument for why we need to do this, but we still need to do this because of XYZ”. And then we can say “yeah but if we do this, ABC,” and then we can do a proper discussion of the tradeoffs of XYZ vs ABC and, hopefully, come to a good path forward. But in a world where “But I FEEL that that would be bad” is considered the trump card, then this discussion of whether or not we should glass the desert doesn’t happen, and mans with guns go murder a fuckload of people unless you are smart enough to realize that they are lying to you before they start deploying a carrier group. I generally think that not-murdering people is preferable to murdering people, especially when they didn’t threaten us with weapons of mass destruction.

I believe that SJWs, activists, etc., in general, act-as-if they don’t think truth matters. I believe that this concisely explains a lot of things that otherwise appear to be irrational or nonsensical. I also believe that this is a very dangerous attitude to hold, and I am genuinely afraid of our society becoming one in which this attitude is the normalized, default attitude.

Ultimately, a focus on truth is equivalent to saying “I trust you, fully informed with all the facts, to do the right thing”. And a focus on harm (or any subjective metric) is equivalent to saying “so-and-so has the right to impose their decision on you”. Of course this probably sounds great when you’re doing the imposing. It’s just somewhat laughable that the people doing the imposing are also the ones claiming to be oppressed.


About Simon Penner

Injecting compassion and humanity into political discussion. Disagreements welcome, but you must be kind and charitable.
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41 Responses to Judging things by their side effects

  1. jrdougan says:

    In your opinion is an “ends justifies the means” position good faith or bad faith?


    • Simon Penner says:

      It depends on many things. I generally accept it as a both a good faith position and a good idea, but I have a much broader definition for “ends”. So, for example, if you commit an atrocity to achieve a good end, you still have two other ends: 1) an atrocity; and 2) an increased likelihood of future atrocities.

      In terms of the benevolence of its faith, that depends on what the people are saying. If someone loudly protests that they’re a deontologist but then you find them using utilitarian arguments, then that is bad faith. If they are open and honest and upfront about it, then that is good faith. If they are ambiguous about it, that is highly suggestive of bad faith.

      It is unclear to me how this ties in to the task at hand. I don’t think that the side-effect-focus is what causes the bad faith. I think the side-effect-focus is bad and also the people leading it are bad faith, for other reasons


      • Harris Martin says:

        My sense is that there’s an emotional inflammation that makes any discussion of whether it is good faith or bad faith moot. People who are sensing danger feel they are acting in good faith and may be aware of an inner voice that says “I wouldn’t normally act this way” but they ignore it because: DANGER.

        I think the most fascinating discussion we can have about all of this is the role of taboo in society and how it functions. Over the past close to 15 years I’ve come back to this essay countless times. It touches ground that we’re going through now as we war over what will and will not be taboo knowledge: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html


    • Personally I pin the bad faith that Simon’s talking about on epistemic consequentialism — the view that something can only be right (in the epistemic sense) if it leads to a good outcome. http://www.iep.utm.edu/epis-con/ for more information.

      Liked by 1 person

      • blaisorblade says:

        But Simon’s reply is valid in a consequentialist framework (https://web.archive.org/web/20161115073538/http://raikoth.net/consequentialism.html)! It doesn’t just say “lying is evil”—it says “lying has bad consequences even here”. A proper consequentialist argument would dissect the dangers of telling the truth—which might be overblown, since committed actual mysoginists already found the science.
        In fact, actual consequentialist and rationalist communities (I’m familiar with SlateStarCodex) discuss the science but somewhat out of sight (as in, “please don’t send to people who might decide to doxx me or on Twitter”), given the potential effects.

        So even if I believe scientists defending the underlying science, I’m not sure I’d discuss complex statistics on a newspaper frontpage or on TV, unless I can explain VERY well, say, what “overlapping distributions” really means.

        But either way, I think this is the central question in the debate, and I thank Simon for discussing it.


      • Simon Penner says:

        I think that a consequence of lying is that lying is normalized, and I think that lying nearly-universally leads to bad outcomes, as decisions are made on false information.

        In terms of the task at hand, I would make two normative claims:

        1) If telling the truth has negative consequences, the ‘fault’ for those consequences should be assigned to the person acting on those truths, not the truths itself. This is because of the “lying almost universally leads to worse consequences” heuristic

        2) If telling the truth has negative consequences, then you have a major problem, because facts are and always will be neutral. Meanwhile, political, ideological, religious beliefs are normative and we don’t _need_ facts to support them. You don’t _need_ facts to decide that people are deserving of respect. You don’t _need_ facts to decide that you want to prioritize giving a chance to people who historically don’t get very many chances. You can just do it. You don’t need some faux-intellectual grounding in science to decide that “we all agree that discrimination and disrespect is wrong”


  2. Paul Hoffman says:

    Damn. Five times wasn’t sufficient. I still wanted to start a comment with “But the original article said…” That is a sign of a highly reactive topic, probably nothing more.


    • Simon Penner says:

      I appreciate your effort :).

      I actually don’t care much about what his letter said. It is fairly obvious that I agree with most of it, but, like, none of it matters. Group level aggregate statistics fundamentally do not matter when you can make individual measurements. Who the fuck cares whether or not women-as-a-group are statistically worse at programming, when you have a woman right here doing an interview right now and you can actually see how good they are. Not to mention that literally everyone at google is going to be at the extreme far upper end of various statistical distributions, so averages are near-meaningless anyway.

      However, what is incredibly concerning to me is the meta discussion about this letter. People are lying about this letter. They are accusing it of being a hateful screed. To me, it is really obvious that this letter is written in good faith, and the dude is getting this much shit over it? Proportionality is important. If this is the reaction to people trying very hard to be good faith, they’re going to stop trying for good faith really fast. I already believe that that’s pretty much how the US politics got to where it is today (Trump was essentially a fuck-you vote to people who made good-faith criticism and dissent impossible) and this strikes me as a really bad thing.

      That’s why I’m trying to stress very very hard that I’m trying to have a meta discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • anon says:

        It’s funny how people who claim to believe in “letting people eat the consequences of their own actions” always start complaining about unfairness and disproportionality when someone from their own identity group is forced to do just that. I mean, by your own logic, if there’s nothing unfair about firing people for, say, sleeping on the job or talking back to their boss or whatever, then there should be nothing unfair about firing them for writing a manifesto that violates the company’s (perfectly arbitrary and stupid, I know) social norms. It doesn’t matter if the guy was writing in good faith to correct a perceived fault in the system – from his employer’s point of view he was doing nothing but displaying a tone-deaf ignorance of the organization’s unwritten rules, thus proving himself _de facto_ unqualified to work at Google, a company that expects a high degree of social savvy of its employees. If you believe in letting him off the hook, you don’t really believe in the value of competition and failure in a free market economy, as you claim you do.


      • Simon Penner says:

        I can simultaneously think “companies should have the right to hire and fire at-will” while thinking that any specific hiring or firing is a bad decision.

        Under normal circumstances I would be 100% ok with this. The rules of any corporation are “HR gets rid of PR problems in the cheapest and fastest way they can. If you want to stick around, don’t become a PR problem”.

        However, I feel differently about this incident for two very specific reasons. These reasons are exceptions to the normal circumstances.

        The first is that the tech industry has a long history of encouraging employees to write things like this. Most of corporate American culture has, for most of history, held the social norm of “keep your mouth shut and get back to work”. But the silicon valley tech industry has very publicly and very consistently prioritized the opposite. The silicon valley tech industry has for years and years set standards of openness and free exchange of ideas that are orders of magnitude higher than anywhere else that I am aware of.

        Google, especially, has cultivated a reputation both internally and externally as being a place where writing a document such as this is not only permitted, but encouraged. It has set expectations that writing something like this is acceptable, and if people think it is bad, they will write their own document. Discussion will go back and forth, and the truth will prevail.

        I am perfectly happy to accept a norm of “Do not write things like this at work”. But it is fundamentally unfair for a company to spend a decade cultivating a culture that encourages open communication, only to suddenly clamp down and react extremely negatively towards it.

        The second reason that this situation is different is because people are lying about it. There is a document. It is public. We can all read it. And yet people are, en masse, lying about what it says. This is being promoted by a media that is complicit in this. I have seen so many people on social media say “ten page screed and he can’t even bother to cite a source”, because all of the sources that he cited were specifically stripped from the original Gizmodo argument. It’s not even about the firing anymore. Like I said repeatedly in this post, I really don’t care to discuss the document itself, or whether or not it was appropriate to fire him. What I am alarmed about is that I am watching a national propaganda machinery spin up in real time. It is operating blatantly in the open. And somehow, people are just ok with it. It is perfectly acceptable for someone who is a principle blogger at a free speech blog to be alarmed when the media starts publishing lies and censoring truths.

        But ultimately, to respond to your point directly: Google fired the guy. I am not here saying that they did not have the right to do this. I am not here saying it is unsurprising they did this. I do not want to change any laws or policies to make them unable to do this again. But, from everything I know about this situation, the circumstances around it were unfair. It is a perfectly consistent position to say “They are free to make whatever decisions they want, even stupid ones, but I think this one is stupid and would have preferred they not make it”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Witness the Invasion of the Body Snatchers says:

    A typical misunderstanding of nerds is that the world ought to be explained in terms of true and false. Homo sapiens tends to explain the world in terms of right and wrong. It does not matter if the Google manifesto said factually true or false things if it was the wrong thing to say.
    Of course, right and wrong are socially constructed and enforced. If true and false are not forming one’s fundamental algebra, but right and wrong do, that person may not be able to imagine that to be otherwise, and won’t have agency over their beliefs.
    I think what we are observing is standard ideological warfare: a new societal operating system, having conquered positions of power, is consolidating by letting the inquisition loose on the witches. Almost nobody in this war has agency, except for the witches (to the extent that they are aware that they are witches among religious converts) and the head inquisitors, which make the deliberate decisions to sacrifice the witches for the Greater Good, and to convert the heathens at gunpoint.


    • BAJAX says:

      So life is just made up of interminable warfare between different ideological systems, in which no truth can ever be found because there is no such thing as truth? Sounds very postmodernist imo.

      SJWs, by the way, are almost universally playing from a PoMo playbook.

      I recommend Stephen Hick’s critiques of postmodernism. If you’re confused about what’s going through these peoples’ heads, they will do a lot to un-confuse you. He’s done books and lectures– amazon and youtube respectively will have them.


    • Simon Penner says:

      I agree with everything you said, and think it is very bad. You can’t base a legal and social system for 350,000,000 people on one faction’s sense of right and wrong. It’s not stable.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exo says:

      > It does not matter if the Google manifesto said factually true or false things if it was the wrong thing to say.

      The author seems to actually be quite aware of that. So much so he makes a clear point of it:
      > As soon as we start to moralize an issue, we stop thinking about it in terms of costs and benefits, dismiss anyone that disagrees as immoral, and harshly punish those we see as villains to protect the “victims.”


  4. BAJAX says:

    It really sucks that discussion around this has become so disingenuous that you have to write this several-thousand-words-long article just to attack a FRACTION of the problem, and then only indirectly, and only the part of it that cannot be disowned plausibly (“I don’t intend that, you can’t tell what I really think, etc”).

    You’ve had to make so many concessions away from the truth, take so much bad faith as good, just to be on even ground with these people. Just to hope that just maybe, you can get one of them who hasn’t actually thought out their acceptance of this cult in self-serving terms and might be open to a dose of reality. This shows just how completely and utterly they’re controlling the dialog here.

    We may not be able to get out from underneath this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. BAJAX says:

    Basically, what you need to understand is that social justice types derive their permission to be as disingenuous as they are from postmodernism. They (at least the smarter ones) understand exactly what they’re doing, they know they’re lying and manipulating social perceptions to their ends, they know they’re playing on some of humanity’s most basic fears– being ostracized, being un-cool. But they’ve swallowed whole a warped view of reality that makes what they’re doing justified, or, in fact, the only thing justifiable.

    Usually there would be resistance to such a pathological belief system except for two things– First, PoMo is obtuse. The core tenets of PoMo are only taught at the high levels of the humanities, and they’re so covered up in jargon that most people don’t even recognize them for what they are, even people who make it through the coursework. Second, there’s great incentive among its adherents to follow it. With its focus on privileges, groups etc… it can accrue a lot of power to its followers. And think about it– can you really get rich making an honest living if you majored in THE HUMANITIES? Can you even make enough to pay off your student loans this century? I don’t think so.


    • zlrth says:

      > Basically, what you need to understand is that social justice types derive their permission to be as disingenuous as they are from postmodernism.

      It looks to me like you’re drawing a strong causal relationship between a concept (postmodernism) and a group of people (social justice types). I think “Judging things by their side effects” is arguing against doing that without explaining how the relationship is causal and not correlational[0].

      I agree with the article; I find it difficult to make statements that have the confidence you seem to have e.g. here:
      > They (at least the smarter ones) understand exactly what they’re doing, they know they’re lying and manipulating social perceptions to their ends, they know they’re playing on some of humanity’s most basic fears

      I do think you’re committing the fallacy the author is pointing out. You’re reading their intent (“they know they’re lying”), which either requires casual knowledge or another very-high-confidence type of knowledge. By contrast, I can’t claim to know any group of people as well as you seem to know postmodernists.

      The author also says in this article, “if you find yourself assuming bad faith, you should consider this a warning light that you are missing some key detail.” I assume good faith of postmodernists and social justice types[1]. It looks like you’re assuming bad faith (“they know they’re lying”). Would you agree?

      [0] See the paragraph beginning, “The critical detail missing from that line of reasoning is the mechanisms by which any of those things are related to each other.”
      [1] 99% of the time. Maybe even 99.9% of the time. Either way, assuming good faith from them has worked out for me.


      • Simon Penner says:

        I generally accept that the cultural marxist hypothesis is denotatively true but connotatively false. That is, I think it is literally true that:
        * There are academic marxists
        * Who turned their lens of analysis to race and gender
        * And were able to exert influence on society
        * Causing many of these events, which I think are bad.

        Where I am heavily skeptical is where people go into the realm of “and this was their plan all along for taking down western civilization”. I am not saying that BAJAX is saying this, but it is a thing that is often said in various circles on the right. Even if it is actually, literally true, I remain heavily skeptical, because it is the kind of thing for which heavy skepticism is warranted. Further, many elements on the right seem all too eager to blame it for everything, and I don’t see how that’s any different from blaming everything on the patriarchy tbh.

        However, I’ve reached a point where I do make a soft assumption of bad faith by default when I encounter pomos and SJWs. This is because of years and years of personal experience, extending charity and assuming good faith only to have it spat back in my face. This is a sad state of affairs and I wish I could go back to assuming good faith on their part, but I have yet to see the evidence for it.


  6. Non Sum Qualis Eram says:

    I think it is evident that a lot of people, indeed, do not care about the truth at all. In fact, a focus on the truth is seen as, effectively, social retardation. Can’t that [insert-autism-related-slur-here] see that it’s not important whether the study’s methodology is a farce, since it can be used to fight $BADTHING?

    Still. That in itself is progress. A socially unsuitable focus on the truth used to be treated via hemlock smoothie.

    Reading a lot of political discourse gave me severe headaches. I could not understand what they were on about, not really. It all seemed to have been generated by some AI system just on the wrong side of the Uncanny Valley. I felt perpetually—if you’ll suffer a brief descent into fiction—as if someone faced with two warring fractions, one of which believes that 2 + 2 is four and another certain it is five. I side with the 2 + 2 = 4 crowd because, well, it is four isn’t it? And then once I am among their ranks one of them casually mentions that 2 + 3 is also four. And if I object that, well no, it’s five, I get “Wait, wait, wait? Five? I can’t even! What are you a fivist??” and things generally go downhill from there.

    But once I’ve come to tentatively accept that it’s all predominantly tribal signaling and nothing more, it all started to make sense. $X is wrong not because $X is actually wrong (it might be, though!) but because it is a fivist thing to say and by extension it is wrong on a moral plane. Even talking about it is obscene.

    The difference between today and yesteryear is, in large part, in those four words that mean so much: “The personal is political.” We are all prone to tribalism because, well, the primate brain isn’t evolved to do abstract thought or philosophy, but it is very much evolved to do tribalism. Tribes are primitive entities in PrimateOS it seems. However, if we have a societal commitment to an ideal of non-tribal discourse we can at least gesture at that particular graven image and ask someone to try and fight the urge. It’s imperfect, but that’s okay, so are we. However, the “The personal is political.” meme actively discourages that, is in fact an antibody to a tribalism antibody.

    Gesturing at the ideal of non-tribal discourse is now seen as an attack on lived experience/personal narrative/whatever the jargon is and is actively resisted and is likely to lead right back to autism-based slurs and, if the insistence on truth over Truth is socially inappropriate enough, as close to a hemlock smoothie as modern mores will permit.


    • BAJAX says:

      I know it seems like tribal business-as-usual, but that’s gonna be your downfall. PoMos know how to play the tribal game. They’ve been doing it for a LONG time.

      This doesn’t have the normal self-limiting factors that most tribal politics do– they aren’t going to stop once some provincial concern or other is fulfilled. They won’t stop once the Shelbyville Sharks beat the Springfield Atoms. They’re in it for the whole pot. They want globalist domination or they’ll destroy it all, nothing in-between.


  7. James Miller says:

    “In 2003, the Bush administration knew damn well that there were no WMDs in Iraq. ” Why do you think this?


    • Simon Penner says:

      I am not an American and my knowledge of this country before I moved here is not great. It is my understanding that the WMD panic was generally believed to be fraudulent.


      • ahd says:

        Eh. I am not an American either, and even I know the American administration at the time was surprised as a very surprised thing indeed when after dismantling the country, Iraq turned out to have only chemical and biological weapons on the premises.

        Doesn’t take away from your point, much. But it wasn’t fraud; to the extent that the WMDs genuinely weren’t there, it was a horrible mistake generated by an error cascade within the US intelligence community.


      • Al Sadius says:

        My impression at the time was that virtually everyone thought Saddam had WMDs pre-war, because he’d definitely had them in past and acted like he still had things to hide. A typical anti-war talking point in early 2003 was “Of course he has WMDs, we sold them to him!”. It seems more like confirmation bias to me than an outright lie. (Others disagree on this point, of course)


      • T Michael Lutas says:

        In fact, what turned out to be true is that Saddam created a secret intelligence program to deceive the Iranians that he had WMDs and he ended up deceiving *everybody*, including his own military that he had WMDs. What he had were leftover, decaying chemical artillery rounds, not the nuclear program that everybody was worrying about.

        The worries were genuine. Saddam was acting like he had a secret WMD program and so therefore people were worried that he really had one. He had fooled the West before.


  8. Anon says:

    “You need to focus on outcome rather than intent” – I’m sure I’m not the only one here who’s been told that when the authoritarians come knocking at your door to tell you why you shouldn’t say $THING.

    i.e. I think you’re onto a key part of the dynamic going on. They are persuaded that the felt reality that they experience anecdotally via their victim network groups has primacy over other factors involved, including truth and the right to express the truth. I’m convinced that the majority of those on the authoritarian social justice side of the fence are reacting to deeply felt concerns (interpreted by them as empathy) and taking action that they have been collectively convinced are necessary to alleviate said concerns. I’m sure there’s a lot of academic pomo / marxist manipulation going on to fuel some of this but I’m still willing to believe that we’re in the midst of a moral panic that has simply got out of control and the “empathisers” currently have an ascendency. We just ought to take heart from the fact that never before has that particular group within our culture been able to maintain control over the social dialog for long, they just don’t have the systematic ability to regulate and control the strategic direction of what they are engaged in. If anything, the Google memo, and the very varied reactions to it and the amount of discussion it has generated are a sign that there things may be starting to crumble.

    I’m with @nntaleb on this: https://twitter.com/nntaleb/status/894372494215454720

    I also think styx has a healthy long-view perspective on this regarding “moral panic” and how history plays out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPxZrSj4P3U and also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxF2s3mdLxA

    Liked by 1 person

    • Simon Penner says:

      The way I see it, if they were really only concerned about “negative consequences” from something like this, they would do something very simple:

      “Yes, this science is true, but it does not in any way devalue our friends and colleagues, or give any justification for disrespecting them or treating them poorly”. There is absolutely no reason why _any_ fact of biology should justify hurting or hating other people, and this isn’t exactly a complex argument.

      And yet, they don’t make that argument. This is suggestive to me that protecting people from negative impacts is not the primary concern here, and so I suspect bad faith instead.

      Incidentally, this comment showed up in my moderation queue and I have no idea why. No other comments did. Just FYI.


      • Probably the number of links in it. I think that’s one of the things the spam filter trips on.


      • Harris Martin says:

        I really feel it’s two things: 1) fear of ceding any ground at all, and 2) something that Steven Pinker outlined in the book ‘The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature’.

        The argument in that book was that admitting nature (or biology) can determine parts of our of behavior is repellent to people because it attacks our sense of agency. What if we discover insurmountable things? That cuts to the core of aspirational progressivism.


      • Anon says:

        Well, whatever it is, I’m pretty confident that there’s multiple layers of dynamics going on. I know some genuinely well meaning people getting caught up in this that I can’t (in good faith!) ascribe bad faith to. But I do know plenty of other people pouring fuel on the first who are certainly have social engineering goals that go way beyond the scope of any of these discussions. While I still have difficulty attributing malice to any of these people, I guess the ulterior motivations could be construed as bad faith when they pretend that the scope of their criticisms and goals are much more limited than they actually are.


      • Simon Penner says:


        > admitting nature (or biology) can determine parts of our of behavior is repellent to people because it attacks our sense of agency. What if we discover insurmountable things? That cuts to the core of aspirational progressivism.

        Meanwhile, I want to find out exactly how genetic intelligence is, so I can CRISPR my way up to IQ 300.

        In a sense I understand the position you are describing, but it has always been very confusing to me. Knowledge is power. Understanding a thing is the first step to changing a thing. They think “how can you address the gender gap in tech if you go around telling everyone it’s biological?”. I think “how can you address the gender gap in tech if you go around telling everyone it’s cultural _and it’s not_?”


      • Martin Harris says:


        I think the only way to see it is as a form of vestigial terror. The wars of the 20th century were horrific. When we look back at media and popular discourse from the early to mid 20th century, the amount of casual stereotyping and othering of different racial and national groups was ‘off the charts.’ Eugenics was actually planned and practiced. In response we decided, as a culture, that we’d make nature taboo and claim it’s all nurture so that there could never be an essentialist argument that would lead to dehumanization on a slippery slope to genocide.

        The 20th century is going to cast a long shadow. The price we pay is denial of innocuous forms of homophily. I find it interesting that this arc is purely an issue for the West. As far as I l know there’s nothing quite like it in the East.


      • Martin Harris says:


        And yes, I agree ‘knowledge is power.’ That’s why it scares the everlasting hell out of people.


      • Simon Penner says:

        That actually makes sense, but if that’s what’s driving people, it seems to be pretty selectively applied. In my daily life I see white men stereotyped, caricatured, and scapegoated for basically every slight. I think that a lot of the backlash to these kinds of casual biology-denial arguments would be smaller if the people doing the backlash felt they were treated fairly


  9. Justis says:

    I don’t think that a reaction stronger or more layered than “This is false” suggests that one believes the thing in question is true.

    I believe, for example, the idea that the Earth is flat to be obviously false. However, if I’m talking about Flat Earthers, I’m not going to bother spending much time arguing against the claim. I’m more going to talk about the broader consequences of that belief being taken seriously.


  10. vxxc2014 says:

    ” bad faith”

    Yes it’s been bad faith all along. Most of humanity acts and speaks in bad faith esp when they covet their neighbors wives, goods, lands, LIVES. Which they do naturally.
    Americans automatically assume opposite.

    Now this is simple-we trusted the wrong people and they acted in bad faith.
    So now we act to punish their bad faith and destroy their power, expel them or they will do the same to us – as goes google so goes the nation< the object of all this nonsense.


  11. tmlutas says:

    Take a look at the Miseans and their concept of polylogism. Polylogism is a way of papering over bad systems so that they don’t die. It was first used to save communism and is Marx’s most enduring contribution to humanity. But the thing is useful to save and extend any idiotic set of ideas whose adherents don’t want to admit they were wrong and so today is used extensively for the sheer utilitarian use of the thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 3ghostninja says:

    “I’m not going to bother to explain why you’re wrong. In fact, I’m not qualified to. But I’ll just assert that you’re wrong before lecturing you about how empathy is critical to engineering.”

    The author of the Medium post linked in this post did precisely that.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Alexey Romanov says:

    > The author does not think it important to address upfront whether or not the manifesto’s statements are true.

    I am slightly boggled, because he does precisely that: he thinks “the author does not appear to understand gender/engineering” because (according to Zunger) those statements are false! So while he says (3) is most serious, the truth is addressed even before it.


  14. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2017/08/13) - Social Matter

  15. Sam J. says:

    “…To be blunt: when interacting with people who fall in the general direction of “Social Justice Politics,” their comments and actions are sufficiently baffling to me that I have a very hard time assuming good faith…”

    I think this is the KEY point to the whole post and people’s perception of each others “truths”. Now I think exactly the same as the above sentence and the amount of logic twisting, mind warping that the Left does confuses me. I want to point you and everyone else to a blogger that has an answer. He’s the only one I’ve seen that has a consistent, verifiable answer for why SJW act as they do The r\K theory related to genetic methods of passing along prodigy. One is rabbits(r), masses of children, and the other is wolves(K), less children and more care for each. He has tied this all up in a theory and a world view which is quite tidy and even if I can’t understand the rabbits motivations I can at least predict their patterns. Look at the “The Theory” link on his page.


    Now maybe anonymous coward is not 100% correct or all the facts are not in but he does have a good coherent theory that’s consistent and that’s useful in itself. It doesn’t have to explain 100% of everything to be useful.

    In the linked article you noted the,”… You can’t make the claim “this is universally dangerous,” only “this is dangerous to me.”..”
    That’s the rabbit in the writer. A lot of rabbit thinking is aligning up others so that the “K” centered people will not squash them. A.C. states that this is the “r” strategy. No standards. If we equate this to breeding then they want to have NO standards of breeding so they can out breed you and out number you. The same goes for their ideas. They think they can gang up on and out number the “K”‘s in ideas so you can’t shut them down.

    I might add that Google is mostly run by Jews and this is a case of their machinations coming back to bite them in the ass. The Jews are “K” but they use “r”s to attack other “K”s. So they have to promote silly assed nonsense but sometimes it rebounds on them personally. Most of the time they support the nonsense at a distance but it’s getting more difficult to do so with the internet propagating cultural trends faster and faster.


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