site banner

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

It's an essay about the various flaws modern feminist sex positivity culture has for women, and that it's often a good idea to refrain from sex even if one isn't religious. The author is an Only Fans model for context. I thought it did a great job laying out the downsides of ubiquitous sex.(Reposted because I accidentally linked to reddit instead of the original essay earlier).

Transnational Thursday is a thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or international relations history. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

Maybe I'm getting old, but I have a hard time reading the tiny font size for posts on my Android phone. I could be in the minority, but if others struggle with this as well, maybe we could increase the default font size a tad on mobile. I'd suggest including a toggle option for all, but that sounds like an expensive feature request.

Separately, I've tried to deal with my aging by using the browser's text scaling feature (setting -> accessibility). However, this site appears to ignore this setting in both Chrome and Brave. While other sites mostly accommodate (it seems to depend on the type of text; some classes adopt text scaling while others ignore it), the Motte appears to completely ignore text scaling requests, at least on Android. This feels like a bug...?

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

I thought the Origins of Woke was a great book personally, although I shared a few of Scott's criticisms. Namely I thought it was a little weird how focused Hanania was on making sure workplaces be more conducive to finding sexual partners, and how much he cared about funding women's sports received. But overall I thought the book was great and captured a major causative factor of how Woke is so incredibly strong.

When people aren't allowed to acknowledge the flaws of Wokeness in the workplace or their employees will get sued, it creates an immense chilling effect. That's probably not the sole cause of wokeness, there are other factors like supporting impoverished minorities being a very convenient luxury belief to signal how much of a good person you are, but Hanania convinced me it was a major factor.

Full text from Substack:

Nietzsche's Morality in Plain English

In 1924, Clarence Darrow’s eight-hour plea for Leopold and Loeb blamed the universities and scholars of Nietzsche (who died in 1900) for their influence on Leopold:

He became enamored of the philosophy of Nietzsche. Your honor, I have read almost everything that Nietzsche ever wrote. A man of wonderful intellect; the most original philosophy of the last century. A man who had made a deeper imprint on philosophy than any other man within a hundred years, whether right or wrong. More books have been written about him than probably all the rest of the philosophers in a hundred years. … Is there any blame attached because somebody took Nietzsche’s philosophy seriously and fashioned his life on it?

Nietzsche is popularly associated with Nazism and even before this with “the superman … free from scruple” that Darrow describes, but he was also popular among the left-anarchists and the Left generally. Meanwhile, Tyler Cowen reports that “if you meet [an intellectual non-Leftist, increasingly they are Nietzschean” (whatever that means). Common sense demands that some of these people are misreading him.

Pinning down a moral theory that we can engage faces some initial hurdles:

  1. Nietzsche’s views changed over time. His works appear to make contradictory claims.
  2. His writing is notoriously poetic and obscure.
  3. Huge volumes of notes left behind after his 1889 mental collapse were compiled into The Will to Power and the Nachlass notes. It’s unclear how to consider these since he wanted his notes destroyed after his death.

I favor Brian Leiter’s approach and conclusions in Nietzsche on Morality. He offers practical solutions: identifying his works starting from Daybreak (1881) as “mature work,” working to extract philosophical content from even his esoteric output, and avoiding claims that depend on unpublished notes, in part just because they’re low-quality.

Nietzsche’s overarching project is the “revaluation of all values”: a critique of herd morality (which he typically just refers to as “morality”) on the grounds that it’s hostile to the flourishing of the best type of person.

First his broad outlook. Philosophically, he supports a methodological naturalism where philosophy aspires to be continuous with natural or social scientific inquiry. Metaethically he’s an anti-realist about value and would ultimately admit to defending his evaluative taste.

His psychological views can be strikingly modern. He argues that our beliefs are formed from the struggle of unconscious drives which compete in our mind so that our conscious life is merely epiphenomenal. He advances what Leiter calls a “doctrine of types” where everyone is some type of guy and the type of guy you are determines the kind of life you can lead, and that you’ll hold whatever philosophical or moral beliefs will favor your interests. He doesn’t hold any extreme “determinist” position but is broadly fatalistic about how your type-facts circumscribe and set limits on the kind of person you’ll be and the beliefs you’ll hold, within which you can be influenced by your environment and values.

From here we can proceed to herd morality, the general class of theories associated with normal morality. Nietzsche criticizes three of its descriptive claims (quoting exactly from Leiter):

  1. Free will: Human agents possess a will capable of free and autonomous choice.
  2. Transparency of the self: The self is sufficiently transparent that agents’ actions can be distinguished on the basis of their respective motives.
  3. Similarity: Human agents are sufficiently similar that one moral code is appropriate for all.

In line with Nietzsche’s theory of psychology, these empirical beliefs are held in support of herd morality’s normative beliefs: free will is needed to hold people accountable for their actions and transparency of the self is needed to hold people accountable for their motives. Without invoking any strict determinism, Nietzsche’s fatalistic view of human types contradicts (1). His beliefs about the epiphenomenalism of consciousness attack the transparency of the self. Against (3), Nietzsche holds that what is good for someone must depend of their interests, and therefore on the type of guy he is.

In particular, herd morality is harmful to the “higher type” of man in service of the lowest. This concern is more essential than the descriptive claims. A few points:

  1. Who are these higher men? They’re mostly creative geniuses exemplified by Goethe, the person mentioned most in Nietzsche’s writings—Beethoven, Napoleon, and Nietzsche himself also qualify. Besides their genius, they share attitudes: they’re solitary and self-interested, using others for their benefit while maintaining a dignified and superior bearing; they demand great responsibilities; they’re resilient, energetic, and not pessimistic. Importantly, they would support the “eternal recurrence,” the repetition of their life forever.
  2. How does herd morality hinder their flourishing? a. It tells them that suffering is bad, so that otherwise great men who might suffer and create pursue pleasure instead. b. It encourages altruism, while really the higher men should pursue their demanding obsessions instead. c. It advocates for equal regard and treatment, which removes the motivation to improve and create since even if you do you’ll be no better than you were.
  3. How does this benefit the lower men? People believe things that serve their interests, and so per Nietzsche, the “lowest order” makes these rhetorical moves (quoted from Leiter): a. their impotence becomes “goodness of heart”; b. their anxious lowliness becomes “humility”; c. their “inoffensiveness” and their “lingering at the door” becomes “patience”; d. their inability to achieve revenge becomes their unwillingness to seek revenge; e. their desire for retaliation becomes a desire for justice; f. their hatred of the enemy becomes a hatred of injustice.
  4. Why is the flourishing of higher men important? Life is hard to justify with all of its suffering and striving interspersed with brief respites of pointless satisfaction. Nietzsche rescues life only by appeal to the aesthetic spectacle of genius, which he elevates to the most important business, the only thing making life worthwhile.

This straightforward description of his thinking sheds light on some aspects of his work. Some notes:

  • Nietzsche’s pessimistic view of human rationality helps explain the poetic and rhetorical style of his writing.
  • His metaethical views support his esoterism. He sometimes says outright that he’s writing for a particular kind of person and not for everyone.
  • Nietzsche’s higher man is an archetype well-suited specifically for artistic and creative work (Leiter describes “a penchant for solitude, an absolute devotion to one’s tasks, an indifference to external opinion”). He may also be unhappy, though Nietzsche seems a bit unclear about this.
  • Nietzsche explains past philosophers’ views with their alleged psychology and self-interest, so it’s tempting to subject him to a similar analysis based on his disruptive health issues and unrequited love.

The initial puzzle of which supporters are misinterpreting Nietzsche seems answered. Allan Bloom’s 1987 The Closing of the American Mind argues that the kind of life that Nietzsche values is compelling enough to be absorbed by different ideologies.

But in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, the latest models of modern democratic or egalitarian man find much that is attractive in Nietzsche's understanding of things. It is the sign of the strength of equality, and of the failure of Nietzsche's war against it, that he is now far better known and really influential on the Left than on the Right.

Transnational Thursday is a thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or international relations history. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

20

I'm sorry HighSpace, I love you, I really do, but something about this project has been calling my name.

It all started with an idea for a decentralized recommendation engine in the vein of stumbleupon.com (I posted about it, but I think it got sucked into the vacuum of that database stroke we suffered a while back), but it has since took on a life of it's own. Originally the idea was to collect all the content I'd normally click “like” on, across various platforms, and present it as a curated feed of cool stuff I saw. The decentralization would come later on, as other people would hopefully join in, and we'd aggregate the results, and present them to each user according to their preferences. I wasn't convinced it's that great of an idea, so it languished for a while, until I remembered an old setup I had with Miniflux and Nitter that I'd use for keeping up with some people I followed, without opening a Twitter account. I thought Miniflux would provide a nice scaffolding for what I wanted to make, and Nitter would be a good start for a source of recommended content.

Nitter's dead, long live Nitter!

As we've all heard Nitter is dead, or is it? At one point I saw someone here link to privacydev's instance and after the core Nitter team gave up, I was using it every once in a while. It sure got slow, and it sure got unreliable, but not unreliable enough for me to believe the core functionality is completely crippled. I suspected it's a question of them not having enough accounts to make all the requests to Twitter, to serve all the people using the instance. Lo and behold, turns out I'm right, even though guest accounts are gone, you can still use it with a regular account, and there's even a script for fetching the auth tokens necessary to make nitter run. So I set the whole thing up, at first mostly just to have a Twitter frontend that's not absolute garbage, and it works like a charm! It's probably a good idea to add a few more accounts to avoid rate-limiting, but I've been using it on a single login without really running into issues.

Nitter's fine and well, but one of it's annoying limitations is that you have to look up an account directly. Timeline support is on it's roadmap, but they never got around to it, and it looks like now they never will. But what they do have is an RSS view, so you can add all the accounts you're interested in, and put their tweets together into a single timeline. For this, as already mentioned, I've used Miniflux. This has a lot of advantages that I really like. First, the tweets are in chronological order, and you can use an “unread” feed to only check the stuff you haven't seen yet. I find it much better than Twitter's “slotmachine” feed that shuffles tweets, lies to you about new content being available, and promotes people you haven't even followed. Secondly the tweets are automatically archived. Some people delete their spiciest takes, and even on Elon's Twitter accounts get occasionally yeeted, but since you're storing the content locally, all their bangers are safe with you. Thirdly - searchability. Twitter's search isn't even that bad, but what's missing for me is the ability to search the stuff I followed or liked. My memory is decent, but vague - “I saw that in a tweet I liked around X time”, “someone I followed used a phrase Y”, etc. Limiting the search to only people I follow, or to bookmarked RSS entries helps a lot.

I also had some issues with the setup. Miniflux only renders the titles of tweets, not their content. On the other hand, for some reason, Nitter renders the whole Tweet in the RSS entry title, which you'd think is a solution to the previous problem, but if you add a feed from non-nitter source, you end up with inconsistent rendering - you can read the tweets without clicking on each entry, but you have to check every entry from other feed types manually. So I made some adjustments! Nitter only renders basic info in the title (tweet author, who they're replying to / retweeting) and Miniflux actually renders the entire content on it's feed pages. The commit also includes the script to get the auth tokens. You can now happily scroll through all your content.

But wait, there's more!

So as I was happily using this setup, it occurred to me that images are quite important in the Twitter ecosystem. Sometimes people post memes with very little comment, sometimes they post screenshots of articles, sometimes they post images of text to get around the character limit. That's not an issue, it all renders fine, but since archiving is an important feature for me, I thought I need to do something about the images in case of banger deletion / account yeeting. So I made further adjustments! When the RSS entries are downloaded, their content is scraped for image tags, and they're automatically saved to Miniflux' database.

But that's not all! Since search is also an important feature for me, I thought “what if someone posts one of those wall-of-text images containing something interesting, and I'll only remember a phrase in the image, but nothing about the text of the tweet or it's author?”. Don't fret, another adjustment I made was to use gosseract, a Golang (which Miniflux is written in) OCR package, to automatically scan and transcribe the images, and to extend the search feature to look up the transcriptions as well! No spicy screenshotted headline will be able to hide from you now!

We're quite far from the original “p2p recommendation engine” idea, but I'm quite happy with the result. Back during one of the dotcom booms there was a saying to the effect of “just make an app you'd want to use”, and by that criterion I feel like I struck gold, so I thought I'd share it. There's potential to develop it further, both Substack and Youtube (still) offer RSS views of their content, and both have relatively-easy-to-access transcriptions. Automatically downloading audio or video content might be a tall order storage-wise, but it definitely will help with my chronic “I know I heard this on one of the several 5-hour long podcasts I listen to daily, but don't know which one" problem.

Now, if you're thinking, "that all sounds nice in theory, but I fell asleep reading the README of the repositories you linked to, and there's now way I'll bother setting any of this up" - you're in luck! For my next performance, if anyone's interested, I might set up a demo server.

If you want to take a stab at setting it up for yourself, and need help, I'll be happy to assist.

46

Let me tell you a tale, young private, of my time after the service. Back in civilian land, a stranger to my own people. I got drunk for the better part of a decade. You think you want this life, listen up, because there's a price to pay for those stories.

When you're a drunk, your social circle is mostly in bars. I had my local. It wasn't the nicest or the grubbiest, it wasn't a meat market. It was a quiet, steady bar with a slightly older clientele. Dark inside, even darker booths. Stamped copper ceiling, left over from a wealthier time. A bullet hole over the bar that the owner claims happened during Prohibition, but I heard was from a drive-by in 1996.

This is the Nasty, and it's right on the strip. Hamilton Street. Five blocks of bars, restaurants and coffee shops with assorted tattoo parlors, barbers, bike shops and bail offices. Just across the river, the East side. One of the worst square miles in the US. Perennial murder capital contender, desperately poor, the abandoned urban underclass in the wake of de-industrialization. There were once over a hundred factories in Saginaw. Now there's three.

That's one three hundred yard bridge away from Hamilton Street, and it's the meeting place for the three sides of town. To the south, the Mexican quarter, to the west, the Township. The business owners on Hamilton are young and old. Some old proprietors hanging on for dear life. Some new ones filled with vision and ambition. All of them with more hope than sense. The town is dying.

I'd only been in town about four years at the time, fresh out the service and living with my younger brother, also just back from Iraq. It was a rough town, but we'd come from rougher.

Down to the pub, I like to think I was an excellent patron. Quiet, polite, my tab got paid in full, the staff got tipped every time, and well. A good pub can take years to get “in” to, but it's faster if you don't stiff the staff. You join the community. Learn the rules. Follow the code. The regulars and the semi-regulars. You start to learn about people slowly, over time.

John, an ever-so-slightly aged queen holds magnificent court with his coterie of fag-hags. It's always a fun time when they're in. Dom is rich or something and is forever buying rounds. Regulars stalk him. Neil, the manager, is forty and dating a different twenty-year-old every week. Nan, the heroically ugly and cantankerous bartender. She once threatened to “slap the dipshit out of your [my] face” for calling her “ma'am”. I wasn't going to try her.

But this story is about another regular. Name of Cowboy. He only comes in early in the day or late at night. A bit shorter than average, rail thin, all corded muscle, bad ink and long scraggly goattee. Works second shift, and hustles afterward. He makes the rounds at the bars late at night, sells beef jerky. Looks sketchy as hell, comes in a ziplock bag, but it is excellent. Kind of like Cowboy.

Now, Cowboy likes a drink, and I like drinks and beef jerky and we can both smell blood on the other. He's wizened, old before his time. Hard living, no doubt. He has full dentures, teeth knocked out in a prison fight. He's been in three times, he rides for the Outlaws, has the badges, has the ink. He's on parole for another ten years. I still don't know the details.

We bond over telling scar stories, every old soldier's favorite game. The stories start funny and get dark. There's some things you can't discuss with someone who can't directly relate, and when you find someone like that, there's a context to it. You don't understand now, you may later. It takes a while. You don't kiss on the first date with a guy like that. You gotta feel it out, get comfortable. Here we were, relative nobodies to the rest of the world, a broke-dick soldier and a lifelong criminal. But within our respective tiny subcultures, we were powerful and respected elders. The reason you're listening to my stories, young private.

Three terms, three deployments, three war zones.

Let me tell you son, my stories got nothing on old Cowboy's! I mean, mine might be crazier, and happen in a more exotic location, but his were so much more traumatic. It's one thing to go into battle with the might and money of a world superpower at your back, and another to have nothing and no one but yourself, and no win but more prison time with your opponents at the other end. Dude was a hard, hard man.

Generally kept my nose clean, by infantry standards. A bit of jail here and there for fighting, public drunkenness, stealing the flags off a golf course once...nothing serious.

So anyway, back to the story. The bar. The community.

I've been drinking in this bar for four years. I'm on my third set of owners. I've been here before most of the bartenders started. Now, one of the benefits of being a trusted regular is the lock-in.

So the boys hold a lock-in without us one night, lo and behold the cash is all gone in the morning. The whole night's takings. And half the liquor. None of this is discovered until Neil opens in the afternoon, and my brother and I wander in not ten minutes later.

The place is a bit of a mess, we help clean up and start figuring out what happened. Neil checks the security footage, and there it is, plain as day. The night bartender left the keys with one of his friends to lock up, and the guy cleaned the place out. We know this guy. We know his address. Nobody can think of his name right off, but who gives a shit?

The cops are no help, they'll take a statement but don't have time to waste on a few thousand in loose cash. This is bad for the bar, but it's really bad for those of us who like lock-ins.

Cowboy turns up, we brief him on what happened and he has a suggestion. For ten percent of the lost cash, he'll go over to the kids house with a couple of his Outlaw boys, put a bit of a fright into him, get him to give back the stuff. Way faster and cheaper than the cops!

Neil calls the owner, he says handle it. Cowboy goes outside to clear it with his boss in the MC. Comes back with bad news, the club won't sanction its guys for debt collection, and apparently this counts. Plan B.

What are the odds this popped-collar fuckwit knows what a proper Outlaw cut looks like? Are we outsmarting ourselves? Dan rides, he has a cut from a veteran MC. I used to ride, but sold my bike in Cali. We get on the phone.

Raoul is sixty-four, single, alcoholic. Looks like hispanic Colonel Sanders. I think he's been drunk since the seventies. He had a tough tour in Vietnam, I met him at the Purple Heart meetings. Sweet guy, a quiet and melancholy drunk, but good humored when roused. An inveterate poon-hound. He's a good dude, and hooks us up with a bike and a convincing-looking vest.

Cowboy has to work, so Dan and I do a basic recce. Walk the street, check the alley, count the exits. Windows are small and mostly high up, he's not gonna crawl out through those most likely. Three doors, one to the garage.

Back to our apartment. We talk over the plan, the scope. We leave weapons at home, pepper spray only. We're in sketchy legal area here. We aren't committing a crime, but we're going to be on his property and not necessarily friendly. If things go sideways, we don't want to escalate any more than necessary to break contact. We can always come back with more hardware, or men.

Cowboy turns up at midnight, and we roll out into the damp, dark night. Loud. This isn't a sneak operation, this is about intimidation. The whole neighborhood is going to peek out at this little show.

Fuck, I nearly forgot how much fun motorcycles are. And how incredibly scary they are when you ride with maniacs. I'm a highway cruiser, Dan has a death wish, and Cowboy was born on a bike or something. We come down that quiet cul-de-sac like thunder, line all three bikes up with the headlights pointed at the front door. My adrenaline is off the charts, I am not that good on a bike.

Dan splits off to the back, the garage is to our right, but the external door is closed. Cowboy mounts the steps to the porch, I stay one step back and to his left. The cut is a bit loose, Raoul is a lot thicker. Three loud raps at the door. Just enough to bounce the hinges a bit, you know? Take note, young private. Your knock should loosen a screw or two. Makes a good first impression.

Fuckwit comes stumbling to the door, must have slept the day. Queasy looking. Comes out of the door! Ok, we got this, this dude is not going to be a problem. If he barricaded, we might have had a time. He's quite a bit bigger than any of us, but that won't matter now.

He's disoriented, blinded by the lights behind us. He looks for a long moment at Cowboy, then at me. He's outside, the door is behind him. He's wearing sweatpants and flip flops. We're both within four feet of him. He knows us, but not by name, and not with biker gear on. We're both holding our helmets. He turns to go back through the door, and he can see straight down the hallway through the back sliding glass door, to where Dan is standing on his patio.

Cowboy puts his hand softly on Fuckwit's shoulder.

“Put everything back in your car, and take it back to the pub. We'll follow you.”

Fuckwit looks back at me. I give him my best evil grin.

He packs his car. People are looking. It's nearly one AM now, and suddenly people are wandering up and down the sidewalks, cell phones in hand. Whatever, Nasty PD ain't crossing the river for a noise complaint. It takes an uncomfortable amount of time though. That was a lot of hooch.

The escort is a good excuse for me to fall back and tail Fuckwit's ancient Buick. Dan and Cowboy are blasting up and down the wet, empty streets, popping wheelies, Charlie Mike. We take the scenic route through the neighborhood. It's last call when we roll back into the pub.

Neil boots the stragglers, makes Fuckwit restock the liquor and bans him from the bar. The whole of Hamilton Street already knows. Cowboy gets his ten percent, Dan and I get what turns out to be quite a lot of free drinks, and a special reward. We call Raoul to come down to pick up his bike and join us for a lock-in.

And that, ladies and gentle privates, is how I got a seat at the bar.

They've torn the place down now, but somewhere there is a small brass plaque that used to be nailed in front of the back corner stool of the pub.

Excuse me, but that's my seat. Is my name on it? Yes, yes it is. Would you like to speak to the manager?

Coda:

Cowboy died last year. Mid fifties,god knows of what. My brother rode up from North Carolina for the funeral. Six hundred people joined his wake. I had to borrow a bike. Older now, softer and relatively sober. I gave up the seat for a wife and a quiet life in the Nasty burbs. Dan has two kids and travels for work. Raoul is dead, years ago. There were no women at his funeral. I still see Neil from time to time. He's still dating twenty-year-olds and managing a bar. I never saw Fuckwit again. Still don't know his name.

I sometimes go back to the old neighborhood and walk its mountainous sidewalks, check in on old neighbors. Maybe have a drink at Neil's new place. Remind the streets. We're only old, we ain't dead yet.

9

This is the Quality Contributions Roundup. It showcases interesting and well-written comments and posts from the period covered. If you want to get an idea of what this community is about or how we want you to participate, look no further (except the rules maybe--those might be important too).

As a reminder, you can nominate Quality Contributions by hitting the report button and selecting the "Actually A Quality Contribution!" option. Additionally, links to all of the roundups can be found in the wiki of /r/theThread which can be found here. For a list of other great community content, see here.

These are mostly chronologically ordered, but I have in some cases tried to cluster comments by topic so if there is something you are looking for (or trying to avoid), this might be helpful.


Quality Contributions to the Main Motte

@RenOS:

@MadMonzer:

@Tenaz:

@aqouta:

@FiveHourMarathon:

@MollieTheMare:

Special Issue: The Whiteish Question

@KulakRevolt:

@ZRslashRIFLE:

@ahobata:

@WaltBismarck:

@FlyOnTheWall:

Contributions for the week of April 1, 2024

@Hoffmeister25:

@gattsuru:

@Folamh3:

@Amadan:

@FarNearEverywhere:

@RandomRanger:

@doglatine:

Contributions for the week of April 8, 2024

@Rov_Scam:

Contributions for the week of April 15, 2024

@clo:

@WestphalianPeace:

@ymeskhout:

@FiveHourMarathon:

@urquan:

Contributions for the week of April 22, 2024

@RandomRanger:

@FCfromSSC:

@Dean:

@Primaprimaprima:

@ControlsFreak:

@campfireSmoresEaten:

@Here:

Contributions for the week of April 29, 2024

@rokmonster:

@4bpp:

@dovetailing:

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

It's not just that my clients lie to me a lot, which will only hurt them --- it's that they're really, really bad at it.

[Originally posted on Singal-Minded]


My job as a public defender puts me in a weird place. I am my clients' zealous advocate, but I'm not their marionette. I don't just roll into court to parrot whatever my clients tell me --- I make sure I'm not re-shoveling bullshit. So for my sake and theirs, I do my homework. I corroborate. I investigate.

A significant portion of my job ironically mirrors that of a police detective. Every case I get requires me to deploy a microscope and retrace the cops' steps to see if they fucked up somehow (spoiler: they haven't). Sometimes I go beyond what the cops did to collect my own evidence and track down my own witnesses.

All this puts some of my clients of the guilty persuasion in a bind. Sure, they don't want me sitting on my ass doing nothing for their case, but they also can't have me snooping around on my own too much. . . because who knows what I might find? So they take steps to surreptitiously install guardrails around my scrutiny, hoping I won't notice.

You might wonder why any chicanery from my clients is warranted. After all, am I not professionally obligated to strictly maintain client confidentiality? It's true, a client can show me where they buried their dozen murder victims and I wouldn't be allowed to tell a soul, even if an innocent person is sitting in prison for their crimes. Part of my clients' clammed-up demeanors rests on a deluded notion that I won't fight as hard for their cases unless I am infatuated by their innocence. Perhaps they don't realize that representing the guilty is the overwhelmingly banal reality of my job.[1] More importantly, it's myopic to forget that judges, prosecutors, and jurors want to see proof, not just emphatic assurances on the matter.

But clients still lie to me --- exclusively to their own detriment.


Marcel was not allowed to possess a firearm. And yet mysteriously, when the police arrested him --- the details are way too complicated to explain, even by my standards --- in his sister's vehicle, they found a pistol under the passenger seat.

"The gun is not mine. I don't even like guns. I'm actually scared of guns." He told me this through the jail plexiglass as I flipped through his remarkable résumé of gun-related crimes. Marcel spent our entire first meeting proselytizing his innocence to me. Over the next half hour he went on a genealogy world tour, swearing up and down on the lives of various immediate and extended members of his family that he never ever ever touched guns.

I was confused why he perseverated so much, but I just nodded along as part of my standard early precarious effort to build rapport with a new (and likely volatile) client. What he was telling me wasn't completely implausible --- sometimes people are indeed caught with contraband that isn't theirs --- but there was nothing I could do with his information at that early stage. Maybe he thought if he could win me over as a convert, I'd then ask for the case to be dismissed on the "he says it's not his" precedent.

Weeks later, I got the first batch of discovery. I perused the photographs that documented the meticulous search of his sister's car. I saw the pistol glistening beneath the camera flash, nestled among some CDs and a layer of Cheetos crumbs. And on the pistol itself, a sight to behold: to this day the clearest, most legible, most unobstructed fingerprints I have ever seen in my legal life. If you looked closely enough, the whorls spelled out his name and Social Security number.

Public defenders are entitled to ask the court for money to pay for private investigators, digital forensic specialists, fingerprint examiners, or whatever else is needed to ensure a defendant in a criminal case is provided with his constitutionally guaranteed legal bulwark. The photographed prints here were so apparent that an examiner could easily rely on the photos alone to make a comparison.

Marcel had earned himself some trolling from me. I went back to see him at the jail, faked as much enthusiasm as I could muster, and declared, "Good news! They found fingerprints on the gun!" He stared at me stunned and confused, so I continued.

"Well, when we first met, you told me that you never touched the gun," I reminded him with an encouraging smile. "Obviously you wouldn't lie to your own lawyer, and so what I can do is get a fingerprint expert to come to the jail, take your prints, then do a comparison on the gun itself. Since you never touched the gun, the prints won't be a match! This whole case will get dismissed, and we can put all this behind you!"[2]

He was still reeling but realized I was waiting for a response. "You. . . don't need to do that," he muttered. I had the confirmation I was looking for, but I pressed him while maintaining the facade of earnest congeniality.

"But why not?" I sang in staccato, smile wide. "You told me. That. You. Never. Touch any guns."

Turned out Marcel might have accidentally touched the gun. So his prints could be on it. I had made my point, so I dropped the act. I explained to Marcel that the only thing lying to me accomplishes is to slow things down and worsen his own prospects --- how could I pursue any potentially helpful leads for his defense when I couldn't be sure I wasn't about to bumble into an incriminating revelation?

Marcel nodded sagely and claimed to understand, but he went on to lie to me many more times over the next two years that I remained his attorney. Marcel has and will spend the majority of his adult life in prison --- not necessarily because he lied to me but that certainly didn't help.


My first meeting with Kyle was useless. He insisted throughout that it wasn't him, that he wasn't even there. Now, personally speaking, if several witnesses claimed to have seen someone who looks like me, in my car, with my girlfriend in the front seat, commit a drive-by shooting in broad daylight, I would summon slightly more curiosity about who this apparent doppelganger might be. But Kyle gave me no leads, pantomiming an internal agony about not wanting to be a snitch, clutching at his stomach as if the mere thought was physically unbearable.

His tune eventually changed. "I need you to tell the prosecutor who was driving my car," he said."His name is Richie Bottoms." If the name hadn't given it away, I already knew where this was going,[3] and I was excited for the coming entertainment. I pretended to be enthused by his revelation, and let Kyle know that I had a "really great" investigator who's phenomenal at tracking "anyone" down --- even the elusive Dick Bottoms.

Based on his reaction, that wasn't the response Kyle expected; another illustration of a myopic theory of mind (not uncommon among the interpersonally inept) incapable of simulating anything but affirmation. He tensed up momentarily, but realized that he'd already committed himself to acting out a demeanor congruent with the "innocent client responds to helpful attorney" fantasy. Yet the only excuse he could muster up in the moment was that Richie wouldn't be found because he fled to Los Angeles.

I maintained what must have been an obnoxious level of optimism, explaining how "perfect" that was because my investigator "knew lots of people" there. My job affords me few if any moments of joy, and so forgive me if I overindulged in Kyle's vexation. I'll spare you a full accounting of the myriad reasons he gave why tracking down Sir Bottoms was a lost cause. Suffice to say that in addition to being out of state, Richie had maybe fled the country; also, Richie happens to look almost identical to Kyle, but also we might not even know his real name since he went by "Arby," and no one had his phone number, et cetera. . .

Even when we moved on to other topics, Kyle couldn't let it go, interrupting whatever we were talking about to repeat warnings about how tracking down Richie was going to be a total waste of time for my investigator and me. He was palpably angry, but had no viable outlet for his frustration, and so he just stewed, stuck with his lie. I kept my poker face. It's a stark contrast to my factually innocent clients, who cannot help but drown me with leads to pursue in the hopes that any are helpful.

The whole thing reminded me of Carl Sagan's parable of the dragon in his garage as a critique of certain unprovable religious beliefs. Can I see the dragon? No, it's invisible. Can I detect its fire's thermal image? No, the fire is heatless. Can I find Dick in Los Angeles? No, because now he fled the country.

There's always some excuse --- there's always some eject button allowing my defendants to evade specific evidence demands. No matter how ridiculous.


It's banal for my clients to deny the accusations, but a special breed takes denial to the next level by waging total jihad against their accusers. It's a sort of a reverse counterpart to the Narcissist's Prayer:

If they claim I was driving during the hit-and-run, they're lying. And if they're liars, then they exaggerated their injuries. And they're exaggerating because they're after an insurance payday. And we know they're after a payday because they sued their dry cleaners in 1993. And they're framing me to get money, which is how we know they're lying.

In these clients' telling, nothing is their fault. The random bystanders who randomly drew the unlucky witness card become a convenient scapegoat. Yet these clients are so myopically overwhelmed by the desire to bounce the rubble on a witness's credibility, they don't notice how implausible their story becomes with each new clause they tape onto their fabulist's scrapbook.[4]

Sometimes clients are self-aware enough to couch their denials in innuendo. Ivan, who was accused of [redacted], was waging the same Total War approach against Cindy, a social worker at the homeless shelter where Ivan regularly stayed. Cindy was a dangerous witness --- an uninvolved, respected professional who severely undercut Ivan's alibi defense about having never left the shelter to go on his [redacted] spree.

In yet another of our jail rendezvous, Ivan expounded at length about how Cindy's testimony was invalid because, as a social worker, she would be violating HIPAA.[5] The glaze over my eyes must have gotten too obvious for me to hide, so he switched tack, shuffled through his jail-sanctioned filing system (read: pile), and slid a flyer across the table about trash cleanup day at the shelter, with a smiling cartoon trash can picking up a baby garbage bag while announcing "Pick up a little trash, talk a little trash." It's cute, but what the fuck was I supposed to be looking at? Ivan stared at me grinning and expectant, but his demeanor quickly turned into disappointment at my ongoing silence. He snatched the flyer out of my hand and jammed his finger at the "talk a little trash" clause. "This!" he shouted, and then just stared at me again. I looked at the words that meant so much to him and nothing to me and just said, "Huh?"

His disappointment transmogrified into astonished anger. "Do I have to fucking spell it out for you?" he screamed. "I thought you were the lawyer here!" We had been ping-ponging across various aspects of his case for the last hour or so and I gave up on any posturing and reiterated my ignorance at the significance of the cartoon flyer. Ivan snapped, "Cindy is encouraging people to trash talk!" For, you see, she wrote the flyer. "I'm trying to show you that she's a fucking punk! And a liar!"

I immediately understood why Ivan was so attached to remaining within the realm of innuendo. Because as soon as he gave his claim some body ("We should infer lack of credibility from individuals when they author flyers that include garbage-related puns"), he knew how much of a dumbass he would sound like out loud.

Ivan moved on from the flyer, and instead asked how to disqualify a witness "for being a liar." I tell him that's not a thing,[6] which sent him into a further rage. "I need you to be on my side here but all I hear from you is 'NO.' Why are you working for the prosecutors?"


The manipulation attempts we just cataloged were comically inept, and fell apart with far less effort than it took to create them. Slightly more polished versions of these charades are regularly deployed within the Discourse™ but they're equally hollow and just as pathetic. So those are some of my clients --- individuals who cannot rise to the level of your average internet troll.


[1] There is a kernel of an exception that is almost not worth mentioning. The Rules of Professional Conduct 3.3 obligates me with the duty of candor. I am not allowed to present evidence that I "know" is false, which encompasses witness testimony. Some jurisdictions make exceptions to this rule for defendants testifying in their criminal trial (correctly, IMO) but not all. So assuming that a client truthfully confesses to me, assuming we go to trial, assuming they decide to testify, and assuming I "know" they're going to lie, then yes, this could indeed spawn a very awkward situation where I'm forced to withdraw in the middle of proceedings.

[2] I'm told I put on a good poker face.

[3] There was no Richie Bottoms.

[4] For example, Kyle asked if it was possible to present self-defense evidence on behalf of "Richie Bottoms," just in case.

[5] Does this sound familiar to anyone?

[6] During the editing process, Jesse was skeptical of this. "Wait," he asked me in a Google Doc comment, "there's NO way for one side to prove to a judge that a witness is so untrustworthy the jurors/judge shouldn't consider their testimony?" Correct. The closest rule is disqualifying a witness as incompetent, either for being too young, severely mentally ill or mentally retarded, or too intoxicated (on the witness stand!). Credibility is up to the judge/jury to decide, and if a witness has a history of lying, then it makes for a very easy credibility impeachment. Theoretically, in extremely rare circumstances, a judge could strike the testimony of a witness or find them in contempt, but they'd have to be seriously flagrant about their lying under oath. I have never heard of this happening.

4Chan's First Feature film is also the first Feature length AI Film.

The Conceit? Aside from a few Joke stills, none of the visual film is AI. It is a "Nature Documentary" Narrated by David Attenborough... It is also maybe the most disturbing film ever made, and possibly the most important/impactful film of the decades so far.

Reality is more terrifying than fiction.

11

By rule utilitarianism, here I will mean, roughly speaking, the moral stance summarized as follows:

  1. People experience varying degrees of wellbeing as a function of their circumstances; for example, peace and prosperity engender greater wellbeing than for their participants than war and famine.
  2. As a matter of fact, some value systems yield higher levels human wellbeing than others.
  3. Moral behavior consists in advocating and conforming to value systems that engender relatively high levels of human wellbeing.

Varieties of this position are advocated in academic philosophy, for example, by Richard Brandt, Brad Hooker, and R.M. Hare -- and in popular literature, for example, by Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape and (more cogently, in my opinion) by Stephen Pinker in the final chapter of his book Enlightenment Now. I do not believe that rule utilitarianism cuts much ice as a moral stance, and this essay will explain why I hold that opinion.

1. The problem of speciesism

In his book Enlightenment Now, psychologist Steven Pinker hedges on proposition #3 of the utilitarian platform, which I will call the axiom of humanism. Pinker writes, "Despite the word's root, humanism doesn't exclude the flourishing of animals" [p. 410]. Well, professor, it sho' 'nuff does exclude the flourishing of animals! If the ultimate moral purpose is to promote human flourishing, then the welfare non-human animals is excluded from consideration in the ultimate moral purpose. To be charitable, I suppose Pinker means that it is consistent with (3) that there is a legitimate secondary moral purpose in maximizing the wellbeing of animals. However, (a) I cannot be sure that he means that, and (b) it is unfortunate that he did not say what he meant, especially since this point is central to a weakness in the humanist position.

In The Moral Landscape, and in his TED talk on the same thesis, Sam Harris spends most of his time defending propositions (1) and (2) of the utilitarian position --- which is unfortunate, because I believe they are self-evident. To his credit, Harris does briefly address issue of "speciesism" (that is, assigning greater moral weight to the wellbeing of animals than humans), saying, "If we are more concerned about our fellow primates than we are about insects, as indeed we are, it's because we think they're exposed to a greater range of potential happiness and suffering." What Harris does not do is to place the range of animal experience on the scale with that of human experience to compare them, or give us any reason to think bottom of the scale for humans is meaningfully (if at all) above the top of the scale for other animals. Moreover, he gives no reason why we ought to draw a big red line at some arbitrary place on that scale, and write "Not OK to trap, shoot, eat, encage, or wear the skins of anything above this line." Perhaps that line reaches well down into the animal kingdom, and perhaps the line falls above the level of some of our fellow men. As a matter of ultimate concern, I cannot imagine an objective reason why it should not.

Perhaps Pinker and Harris don't spend much effort on the issue of speciesism because it is uncontroversial: of course human wellbeing has greater moral gravity than animal wellbeing, and the exact details of why and how much are not a pressing moral concern of our day. I submit, on the contrary, that accounting for speciesism is the one of the first jobs of any moral theory. I am not saying that perhaps we ought to start eating our dim-witted neighbors, or that we should all become vegans; I am saying that if you purport to found a moral theory on objective reason then you should actually do it, and that how that theory accounts for speciesism is an important test case for it. To wit, either animals count as much as humans our moral calculus, or they do not. If animals count as much as humans, then most of us (non-vegetarians) are in a lot of trouble, or at least ought to be. On the other hand, if animals don't count as much as humans, then the reason they don't, carried to its logical conclusion, is liable to be the reason that some humans don't count as much as others. Abraham Lincoln famously made a similar argument over the morality of slavery:

You say A is white, and B is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be a slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly? — You mean whites are intellectually the superiors to blacks, and therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you. [From Lincoln's collected notes; date uncertain]

In the spirit of Lincoln's argument, for example, do non-humans count less, as Harris claims, because they allegedly have less varied and vivid emotional experience? It is not clear to me that they do in the first place, or, if they do, that they do by a degree sufficient to make cannibalism universally forbidden and vegetarianism optional. Do non-humans count less because they are less intelligent? In that case, the utilitarian is obliged to explain why the line is drawn just where it is, and, indeed, why, in the best of all possible worlds, deep fried dumbass shouldn't be an item on the menu at Arby's.

A "slippery slope" argument will not do here -- for what obtains in practice at the bottom of the slope is irrelevant to what obtains in theory at the top of it. In other words, if non-humans count less than humans as a matter of ultimate concern because non-humans are less intelligent than humans, then dull witted humans presumably also count less than smarter ones. If someone is (1) a rule-utilitarian, (2) a speciesist, and (3) logically consistent, then he will have to say, "The best of all possible worlds would permit killing humans who are severely mentally disabled -- but, in fact, that world soon degenerate into one where we were killing smart people too, so I wouldn't want to live in it." If one does not say that, then he must disavow either (1), (2), or (3). Some thinkers, such as philosopher Peter Singer, choose to hold to (1) and (3) while disavowing (2). Singer argues, for example, that vegetarianism is a moral obligation, and that infanticide, if not absolutely excusable, must be less immoral than killing an adult -- precisely because babies are less intelligent and less self-aware than adults. I give Dr. Singer credit for his logical consistency, but I do not give him credit for playing with a full deck.

The fact that Pinker and Harris do not resolve the issue of speciesism is important -- not because their conclusions on the matter are or ought to be controversial, but because it is the first sign that they are not deriving a theory from first principles, but instead rationalizing the shared common sense of their own culture.

2. And who is my neighbor?

"All you need is love" -- John Lennon

Perhaps, but the real question is,

"Who do you love?" -- Bo Diddley

Suppose we were to grant (which I do not) that it is objectively evident that the wellbeing of humans is categorically more valuable than that of other animals. The fact remains the wellbeing of some humans might count more than that of others, from my perspective, as an ultimate moral concern. Indeed, some humans might not count at all except as targets and trophies -- and many cultures have taken this view unashamedly. For example, the opening stanza of the Anglo Saxon poem Beowulf extolls the virtues of the Danish king Sheild Sheafson for the laudable accomplishment of subjugating not just some but all of the neighboring tribes, and for driving them in terror -- not from their fortresses, not from their castles, but from their bar stools:

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
As his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
Beyond the whale-road had to yield to him
And begin to pay tribute. That was one good king.
[translation by Seamus Heaney, emphasis added]

The literature, monuments, and oral traditions of the world are replete with examples of this sentiment, but for the sake of space I will give just one more example. The inscription on a monument to honor the Roman general Pompey in honor of his 45'th birthday reads,

Pompey, the people’s general, has in three years captured fifteen hundred cities, and slain, taken, or reduced to submission twelve million human beings.

In the West today, people tear down monuments claiming that the men they honor were enslavers or imperialists -- but evidently other cultures put up monuments to glorify their leaders for those very characteristics. So it is not a no-brainer -- that is to say, not at all self-evident -- that the welfare of members of foreign tribes ought to play any role in our moral calculations at all -- or indeed that the subjugation and exploitation of foreign tribes is not a positive moral good from our own perspective. That is how the Romans and the Saxons saw it. If you or I had been born into those cultures we would probably would have felt the same way -- and so, I dare say, would Sam Harris and Steven Pinker.

I imagine the utilitarian response would that we are all better off if we take the modern Western view (of course) that exploiting foreigners is inherently immoral. I imagine Roman response to that would be "who is we all??" He might say that he cares little for what makes barbarians (that is, non-Romans) better off, any more than he cares what makes apes or pigs better off -- and that your way of drawing the circle of love, so as to include all humans but exclude apes and pigs, is no better than his. I imagine the utilitarian response to that would be, "You fiend!", and that the Roman response to that would be "Get out of my sight, you womanish punk". So, from a logical perspective, who won the debate? Nobody did.

Pinker almost concedes this, writing "If there were a callous, egoistic, megalomaniacal sociopath who could exploit everyone else with impunity, no argument could convince him he had omitted a logical fallacy" [Enlightenment Now, p. 412] -- but it is not clear whether he means that the sociopath could not be convinced because he has a thick skull, or whether he is actually not committing a logical fallacy. I emailed Dr. Pinker for a clarification, and he was kind enough to reply, acknowledging that the sociopath is actually not committing a logical fallacy. Note that (1) this is a second example of Pinker's writing being vague exactly where the argument is weakest (the first being the issue of speciesism), and (2) a Roman general is not a megalomaniacal sociopath or anything of the sort, and whatever we claim to be objectively self-evident ought to be evident to him as well as us.

In fact, Pinker considers something like the argument with the Roman general in his book. His imagined response (in his version to Nietzsche, a Romanophile, rather than an actual Roman) is as follows:

I [Steven Pinker] am a superman, hard, cold, terrible, without feelings and without conscience. As you recommend, I will achieve glory by exterminating some chattering dwarves. Starting with you, shortly. And I might do a few things to that Nazi sister of yours, too. Unless you can think of a reason why I should not [Enlightenment Now, p. 446].

But now that Professor Pinker himself has switched gears, from the strictly logical to the ad baculum, I submit that he is obviously bluffing and the Romans were not. Someone would win that debate -- and that the Roman argument might have something to do with a crucifix.

In any case, an allegedly universal and self-evident regard for "human wellbeing" leaves unanswered the central question of morality: in the words of the great moral philosopher Bo Diddley, Who do you love? Speciesism is only the thin end of the wedge: not only do I generally value the wellbeing of people more than that that of cows and rabbits, I also value the wellbeing of my people more than I value that of other people -- and, in my view, rightly so. Thus, premises (1) and (2) of the humanist/utilitarian position do not imply conclusion (3) because, as an ultimate concern, I value the wellbeing of people in my identity group over that of people outside my identity group, and it is only right that I should do this. Thus, maximizing human wellbeing -- in the sense where all humans count equally -- is not something I am actually interested in. Moreover, I do not feel it is something I ought to be particularly interested in.

Now in response to this, you might say that I am a scoundrel and a villain. In response to that, I say that's just, like, your opinion, man. Philosophers such as Peter Singer, and popular writers like Stephen Pinker, insist that I must be impartial between the wellbeing of my people on the one hand, and that of homo sapiens at large on the other. For example, Pinker writes, "There is nothing magic about the pronouns I and me that would justify privileging my interests over yours or anyone else's" [Enlightenment Now, p. 412]. To that I reply, why on Earth would I need magic, or even justification, to privilege my own interests over yours as matter of ultimate concern? Of course I privilege my interests over yours, and almost certainly vice versa. In fact, unless you are a friend of mine, not only do I privilege my own interests over yours, I privilege my dog's interests over yours. For example, if my dog needed a life-saving medical procedure that costs $5000, I would pay for it, but if you need a life-saving medical procedure that cost $5000, I probably would not pay for it -- and if an orphan from East Bengal needed a life-saving medical procedure that costs $5000 (which one probably does at this very moment), I would almost certainly not pay for it, and neither would you (unless you are actually paying for it).

I must not be alone in caring more about my dog than I do about a random stranger. The average lifetime cost of responsibly owning a dog in the United States is around $29,000 -- while, according to the Givewell organization, the cost of saving the life of one unfortunate fellow man at large by donating to a well chosen charity is around $4500 [source]. If those figures are correct, it means that if you own a dog, then you could have allocated the cost of owning that dog to save the lives of about six people on average (and if the figures are wrong, something like that is true anyway). Now, Steven Pinker himself once tweeted that dog ownership comes with empirically verifiable psychological benefits for the dog owner. In his excitement over those psychological benefits, I suppose, he neglected to mention that it also comes with the opportunity cost of six (or so) third world children dying in squalid privation. If Pinker really believes, as he claims to believe, that "reducing the suffering and enhance the flourishing of human beings is the ultimate moral purpose," he sure isn't selling it very hard. But then again, no one in their right mind is.

Not only do I actually value my dog's wellbeing above that or a random human stranger, I submit it is only right that I should. That is to say, it would be immoral of me not to privilege my dog's wellbeing over that of a human stranger. Indeed, if a man let his family dog pass away, when he could have saved the dog's life for a few thousand dollars, and he spent that money instead to save the life of a foreigner whom he had never met, then, all else being equal, I would prefer not to have him as a countryman, let alone a friend.

In one talk, Pinker has said, "You cannot expect me to take you seriously if you are espousing moral rules that privilege your interests above mine." But, professor, if I have more and better men on my side, it does not matter whether you take me seriously; it only matters whether they do. Again, I am not saying that it would be right to take advantage of that situation of having more and better men on my side; I am saying that the Pinker and Harris's egg headed argument yields no objective reason why I shouldn't.

3. Degrees of neighborship

One of Sam Harris's favorite examples to illustrate the objectiveness of values is "the worst possible misery for everyone", which he claims is self-evidently and objectively bad situation. I think this is an egregious misdirection, because moral questions are not about the choice between win-win and lose-lose. If iron axes work better than bronze axes, for everyone, at every level, all things considered, then by all means let us use iron -- but that is not a moral decision. I have a moral decision to make when, for example, (1) I have the opportunity to gain at your expense, all things considered, and (2) I don't care about your wellbeing as much as I care about mine.

But not all moral tradeoffs are one-on-one. Human nature being what it is, groups at all levels split into factions which then try to have their way with each other -- from nuclear families, to PTA boards, to political parties, to nations, to the whole of humanity. A code of conduct that is good for my community at one level might subtract from the good of a smaller, tighter community of which I am also a member -- so, real which of those codes should (should, in the moral sense) I advocate and adhere to?

As a matter of fact, the wellbeing of different groups, of which I am a member, often trade against each other in moral decisions -- and the purpose of moral precepts, largely if not mainly, is to manage tradeoffs between our concerns for the welfare of different groups, with different degrees of shared identity, of which we are a common member. What looks like the same group from afar, or in one conflict, may look like different ethnicities or religions when you zoom in, or look at a different conflict. This is nothing new. For example, the Book of Joshua, written at the latest around 600 BC, records nations being formally subdivided into hierarchies of tribes, clans, and families:

So Joshua got up early in the morning and brought Israel forward by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was selected. So he brought the family of Judah forward, and he selected the family of the Zerahites; then he brought the family of the Zerahites forward man by man, and Zabdi was selected. And he brought his household forward man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was selected.

And these various hierarchies were well known to endure conflicts of interest, if not outright enmity, at every level of the hierarchy, from civil war between tribes (and coalitions of tribes) within a nation, right down to nuclear families:

Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah [Southern Israel] shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all [Northern] Israel before Abijah and Judah. [2 Chronicles: 15]
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. [Genesis 4:8]

So what your "ingroup" looks like depend on the particular conflict we are looking at, and the level of structure at which the conflict takes place. These conflicts can be life and death at all levels, and someone who is in your ingroup during a conflict at one level may be in the outgroup in a conflict at another level on another occasion. This phenomenon is a major theme -- arguably the major theme -- of the oldest written documents that exist on every continent where writing was discovered. Thus is a mistake in moral reasoning to conceptualize a code of conduct that benefits "the community": each person is, after all, a member of multiple overlapping communities of various sizes and levels of cohesion, whose interests are frequently in conflict with each other.

Now hear this: when we are looking for a win-win solution that benefits everyone at all levels without hurting anyone at any level of "our community", this is an engineering problem, or a social engineering problem, but not an ethical problem. It is the win-lose scenarios, which trade the wellbeing of one level of my community against that of another, that fall into the domain of ethics. Of course we are more concerned for the welfare of those whose identities have more in common with our own -- but how steep should the drop-off be as a function of shared identity? Should it converge to zero for humanity at large? Less than zero for our enemies? How about rabbits and cows? As an ultimate concern, who do you love, and exactly how much, when it comes to decisions that trade between the wellbeing of one level of your community and another (self, family, clan, tribe, nation, humanity, vertebrates at large)? That is a central problem, if not the central problem, of ethical discourse -- and it is a question about which utilitarianism has nothing to say, and about which humanism begs the question from the outset.

4. No Moral Verve

At the end of the day, the conversation on ethics should come to something more than chalk on a board. When the chalk dust settles, if we have done a decent job of it, we should bring away something that can inspire us to rise to the call of duty when duty gets tough. The fatal defect of humanism in this regard is that practically no one -- neither you, nor I, nor Steven Pinker, nor Sam Harris, nor John Stuart Mill himself -- actually gives a leaping rat's ass about the suffering or the flourishing of homo sapiens at large. Such was eloquently voiced by Adam Smith, and his statement is worth quoting at length:

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquility, as if no such accident had happened. [Smith (1759): The Theory of Moral Sentiments]

Here is the point. As C.S. Lewis wrote, In battle it is not syllogisms [logic] that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of the bombardment ["The Abolition of Man"]. Lewis was right about this -- and, while we are making a list of things that do not inspire people to rise to call of duty when duty gets tough, we can include on that list any concern they might claim to have for the welfare of human beings at large.

5. Mumbo-Jumbo

Be careful what you do,
Or Mumbo-Jumbo, God of the Congo,
And all of the other
Gods of the Congo,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you,
Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-doo you.*
[ Vachel Lindsay: The Congo]

In a discussion with Alex O'Connor, Sam Harris invites us to imagine two people on an Island, who can choose either to cooperate and build a beautiful life together, or to start smashing each other in the face with rocks. It is immoral to smash someone in the face with a rock, he infers, because if we all started smashing each other in the face with rocks, we would all be miserable. Indeed, I agree that if I had a choice between everyone smashing everyone in the face with a rock, and nobody smashing anyone in the face with a rock, I would certainly choose nobody smashing anyone. But in reality, I do not get to choose whether everybody smashes everyone in the face with a rock. The decision I get to actually make, in which my ethics actually plays a role, is whether I smash you in the face with a rock, and take your wallet in the bargain, which, say, has $5,000 in it. With that, it is suddenly not so clear why that wouldn't maximize the satisfaction of my ultimate concerns -- especially if I value $5,000 more than I value your life (which again, unless you are a friend of mine, I unashamedly do).

On top of ignoring the multilayered, competitive nature of the human condition, and on top of having no practical motivational force even for its professed adherents, another problem with rule utilitarianism is the voodoo it invokes to connect (a) performing a particular action with (b) what would happen, counterfactually, if everyone followed the salient rule that permits the action. For a simple example, let us imagine that I steal a tootsie roll from a convenience store. In this scenario, let us imagine that I am poor and the convenience store owner is rich, and that tootsie roll does me more good than it would have done the store owner if it had remained in his store. In the world of mystical utilitarian counterfactuals, if everyone stole everything all the time, then everyone would clearly be worse off -- but in the actual world, me stealing a bite of candy is not going to cause everyone to steal everything all the time, or, probably, cause anyone else to steal anything else ever. Even if an individual tootsie roll pilferage did have some miniscule ripple effect on society, I would still expect the material impact on me personally to be less than the cost of the candy I stole. To put it more generally, when someone steals something and gets away with it, they do not reasonably expect to lose net income as a result. So, why on Earth should I care about what would happen in the counterfactual situation where everyone stole everything all the time? I cannot imagine an objective reason why I should.

Perhaps there is some deep metaphysical argument that establishes, on an objective basis, that one ought to behave in the way they wish others in "their community" to behave (if, again counterfactually, there were such a thing as "their community") -- or perhaps there is some kind of cosmic karma stipulating that what goes around invariably comes around on this Earth, but (1) I cannot imagine what that metaphysical argument would be, (2) the world doesn't look to me like it works that way, and (3) neither Pinker, nor Harriss, nor Singer, nor Benthem, nor Mill actually give such metaphysical arguments, nor attempt to show that the world does work that way.

Let me repeat once again that I am not advocating nihilism here. What I am saying is this: if utilitarians claim to base their moral theory on objective reason -- indeed, if they claim to do anything other than manufacture a flimsy rationalization for the moral common sense of their own culture -- then it is precisely the Devil's advocate that must contend with, and I believe they are in a hopeless position to do so.

Conclusion

When I say that utilitarianism has nothing useful to say about real world ethical problems, I mean it. Of course one might give evidence about the impacts of some rule or policy, which might then inform whether we want to adopt that rule or policy -- but I doubt the following words have ever been uttered in a real debate over policy or ethics: I conceded that your policy/rule/value-premise, if adopted, would benefit every level of our community more than mine does, but to Hell with that. The fact is that everyone prefers policies that benefit their communities when they are a win/win at every level -- whether or not they have read one fancy word of John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Peter Singer, Sam Harris, or Steven Pinker. Thus, to the degree that utilitarianism has any force in the real world, it adds nothing to the conversation that wasn't already inherent in common sense. On the other hand, to the degree that utilitarianism is not redundant with common sense, it has no motivational force, even for its professed adherents -- especially if they own a dog.

I submit that the position of utilitarianism is not only weak, but so evidently preposterous that its firm embrace requires an act of intellectual dishonesty. I can say this without contempt, because less than ten years ago I myself espoused utilitarianism. I knew then and I know now that I was not being intellectually honest in espousing this view. To my credit, I could not bring myself to write a defense of utilitarianism, even though I tried -- because I could not come up with an argument for it that I found convincing. Yet, I presumed that I would eventually be able to produce such an argument, and I did state utilitarianism as my position, without confessing that I could not defend the position to my own satisfaction.

I further submit that programs like utilitarianism are not only mistaken but harmful. They are not just a little bit harmful, but disastrously harmful, and we can see the engendered disaster unfolding before our eyes. The problem is not that utilitarians are necessarily bad people; it is that, if they are good people, they are good people in some sense by accident: reflexively mimicking the virtues and values of their inherited traditions, while at the same time denigrating tradition, and mistaking their moral heritage for something they have discovered independently. As John Selden wrote,

Custom quite often wears the mask of nature, and we are taken in [by this] to the point that the practices adopted by nations, based solely on custom, frequently come to seem like natural and universal laws of mankind. [Natural and National Law, Book 1, Chapter 6]

The problem with subverting the actual source of our moral norms and replacing it with a feeble rationalization is this: each generation naturally (and rightly) pushes back against their inherited traditions, and pokes to see what is underneath them. If the actual source of those traditions has been forgotten, and they are presented instead as being founded on hollow arguments, the pushback will blow the house down. Sons will live out the virtues of their fathers less with each passing generation, progressively supplanting those virtues with the unrestrained will of their own flesh. That is what we are seeing in our culture today -- and impotent, ivory tower theories of morality are part of the problem.

26

I made this list not out of snark or spite, but because it has rained all day, rained, even, on me as I took my walk, which I cut short, and because I have been making notes for months, and now seemed as good a time as any.

I had a long intro for this, hearkening back to grad school and people using terms they thought others knew and probably others did know but maybe not, and argots, and random musings, but I'll spare you.

These are words or terms I've seen in my many months here that I didn't know, or did know but didn't put together with their meaning. I am linking specific posts to where they were used, though these I found by doing a hard-search and are not necessarily the posts where I first saw the word/term. Any mistakes or misrepresentations are my fault. I hope this is helpful to others among us who are sometimes as confused as I am. Probably many of you know all these and must imagine me very old to post this. So be it.

If you recognize yourself as the author, I am not intending to be snide, or criticize your post. You just got lucky.

Edit: Many of these are probably going to need to be updated and tweaked. Feel free to add comments.

Let's start with the biggie:

asabiyyah: a concept of social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness, and a sense of shared purpose and social cohesion.

ex: “I don't think democracy, in itself, will help you maintain Asabiyyah any more than theocracy will, or vice versa.”

Bagdhad Bob: When war propaganda becomes so out of touch with reality it turns comedic and achieves the opposite of the desired effect. It is said such propaganda is "Baghdad Bobbed" exactly at the moment when this threshold is crossed. From Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, Iraqi War Information Minister in 2003.

ex: "In such a scenario, this is a very strong way to build a reputation for accuracy, and counter what seems like an emerging narrative even in the West that the Ukrainian government may be Baghdad Bobbing (I've seen a lot of palpable irritation about Zelenskiy's recent implausibly low figure for Ukrainian casualties, and before that the stories like the Kramatorsk air defence accident already strained the relationship)."

Baumol’s Cost Disease: From the late William Baumol, NYU’s Stern School of Business. used to explain why prices for the services offered by people-dependent professions with low productivity growth—such as (arguably) education, health care, and the arts—keep going up, even though the amount of goods and services each worker in those industries generates hasn’t necessarily done the same.

"This is Baumol's cost disease in a nutshell."

Note: @jeroboam helpfully linked a Wiki page in this instance.

Chesterton’s fence: rule of thumb that suggests that you should never destroy a fence, change a rule, or do away with a tradition until you understand why it's there in the first place

"So if you really believe that reality is created by our beliefs then this is a massive Chesterton's Fence."

consent à outrance: From the French. Suggests an agreement or consent that is given fully and without reservation, sometimes to the point of being excessive or without consideration of the consequences.

“It brings to mind feminist consent-a-outrance ideas, where second-to-second affirmative consent in the presence of a notary is the current-year standard for wholesome sex.”

CRT: Critical Race Theory.

"…CRT, BLM, Gays and Abortion, which between them comprise the majority of Social Justice's most visible ideological commitments."

DRM: (I saw it used as a verb but have no link because I can no longer find it). Digital Righs Management. Presumably restricting the ways in which content (music, whatever) can be used, copied, or distributed.

Dunbar-limited world: Reference to Robin Dunbar, biological anthropologist. The “Dunbar Number” is the upper limit on the number of social relationships a human can effectively manage. (I believe it is supposed to be 150.)

"When it comes to physical goods, proprietary knowledge, or genuinely clandestine information in a Dunbar-limited world, these concerns basically make sense."

Einsatzgruppen: : From the German. Actually, a German word. These were “mobile killing units,” best known for their role in the murder of Jews in mass shooting operations during the Holocaust.

"Seems to me large parts of the military were involved in it, or otherwise 'pacifying' to allow the einsatzgruppen to do their work."

Euthyphro: : A “straight-thinker.” A combination of εὐθύς (euthys), which means straight or direct and φρονέω (phroneô) which means to think or to reason.

"We can Euthyphro this all day but even setting aside questions of the One True Good, the loss of that external nudge has been disastrous."

NB: Alternate definition here.

Frasurbane: portmanteau of the sitcom Frasier and urbane, is the wonderfully specific aesthetic of late '90s interiors of people who want to come across as sophisticated and worldly.

“As a Frasurbane adult, I take edibles with my wife and go to a nice dinner and La Boheme and I think that is a just-fine thing to do.”

HBD: If you do not know what this means, that’s weird, because it is almost a theme here. Human Biodiversity. Some here swear by its truth, others do not swear by it but expect it’s real, others think it’s dubious. Too many instances to choose from.

lolcow : A person whose eccentric or foolish behaviour can be exploited to amuse onlookers.

“I suspect that a trans movement capable of producing activists that leave kiwifarms alone also would not produce so many lolcows.”

idpol: abbreviation based on identity politics is politics based on a particular identity, such as race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social background, caste, etc.

"We’re barely or not even a year removed from when the race-card was (successfully) played to agitate for Embiid getting the MVP instead of Jokic, to essentially zero pushback on the idpol front."

If-by-whiskey: If-by-whiskey is a type of argument that supports both sides of a topic by employing terminology that is selectively emotionally sensitive. Originates from a speech given by Mississippi state representative Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr. in 1952.

"There's a lot of if-by-whiskey, where sometimes the alt-right was just the nutty white nationalists when defining their ideology, others where it was people who hadn't denounced them heavily enough, and then other times the alt-right was pretty much everyone to the right of Mitt Romney."

Kolmogorov Complicity: Originated with Scott Alexander from his blog. Reference to the Soviet mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov. The idea of navigating or conforming to oppressive orthodoxies while still trying to contribute to the growth of knowledge and truth discreetly.

“Like I've said the last 3 times we've had this conversation, Kolmogorov Complicity is just Complicity.”

libfem: Stands for liberal feminist, also known as intersectional feminism or third wave feminism. A societal ideology focused on power dynamics and microlabels. a main branch of feminism defined by its focus on achieving gender equality through political and legal reform within the framework of liberal democracy and informed by a human rights perspective.

“The far end of libfem, maybe.”

MGTOW: an acronym for Men Going Their Own Way, an online social movement and backlash to feminism where men renounce interactions with women and seek to define and live out their masculinity on their own terms.

“It’s largely an excuse to remain single into middle age and to reject marriage without adopting the most cringe (some would claim) aspects of MGTOW.”

Orbanization: : (maybe) the process of adopting political strategies and governance methods that are similar to those of Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary. Orbán's tenure has been characterized by a centralization of power, control over media, erosion of checks and balances within government structures, and a move towards what is sometimes called "illiberal democracy."

"There won’t be a civil war, though, a slow Orbanization is more feasible and the modern American ruling class is much more disunited than they were 30 years ago (the Israel question discussed above is one example)."

Overton window: an approach to identifying the ideas that define the spectrum of acceptability of governmental policies. It says politicians can act only within the acceptable range. Shifting the Overton window involves proponents of policies outside the window persuading the public to expand the window.

“Transgender politics wasn’t in the Overton window at this point.”

Pascal’s Wager: the argument that it is in one's rational self-interest to act as if God exists, since the infinite punishments of hell, provided they have a positive probability, however small, outweigh any countervailing advantage.

"Pascal's wager is terrible because infinite rewards break game theory."

Pill colors: Red, Blue, Black

  1. Red Pill: In the context of online communities, particularly those focused on gender and relationships, "Red Pill" refers to the belief that men have been socially disadvantaged and that conventional beliefs about gender, attraction, and social interaction are misleading or false. It often involves the idea that men need to become aware of and confront these supposed harsh realities to improve their own lives. The term is frequently used in men's rights and certain dating advice communities.
  2. lue Pill: The "Blue Pill" is often posited as the opposite of the "Red Pill." It represents adherence to conventional or mainstream beliefs about gender, relationships, and society. In communities that use these terms, taking the "Blue Pill" means accepting societal norms and beliefs without questioning them, often portrayed as living in blissful ignorance.
  3. lack Pill: The "Black Pill" takes a more fatalistic and often nihilistic viewpoint compared to the Red Pill. It's associated with a belief that certain unchangeable traits (like physical appearance, height, etc.) predominantly determine one's success in areas like dating and social interaction. Black Pill ideology is often linked with extreme pessimism, defeatism, and a belief that systemic changes or personal improvements are largely futile.

PMC : Professional/Managerial Class

“I’ve been to many wonderful small towns in the US, but they were all in New England or in the outer suburbs of wealthy cities and the residents all had some source of external wealth, either from commuting into highly-paid PMC jobs in the nearest major city or from tourism.”

purity spiral: a sociological theory which argues for the existence of a form of groupthink in which it becomes more beneficial to hold certain views than to not hold them, and more extreme views are rewarded while expressing doubt, nuance, or moderation is punished

"Once the ground shifted underneath them and their purity spiral was broken, leftists would just forget their causes in exactly the same way they forget e.g. their support for Stalin in the 50s, or all the crazy shit they said in 2020."

quant: short for quantitative analyst.

A hard search for this term provided too many instances of other words using these five letters, e.g. quantify, etc. and I didn’t have the patience to keep looking. But I’ve seen this term used and you will, too, if you keep reading this forum.

quokka: I have no idea what this means except a small marsupial. Help. Thank you @naraburns. The origin is here. From what I can gather a quokka is a kind of gentle-dispositioned person, innocent of nature, who is a bit of a nerd and wants to discuss things in good faith. Often applicable to certain autists. It is not a pejorative term. Edit: Maybe it is.

"Can you imagine a bunch of quokkas going about EA and Skynet every two days on the forum?"

Russell conjugation: a rhetorical technique used to create an intrinsic bias towards or against a piece of information.

“Let's work out the Russell conjugation: I offer good-faith criticisms of the United States, you disparage America as part of a project to prove how great Russia is.”

shape-rotator: Someone with high mathematical and technical skills, often portrayed as rivals to the wordcels (who have stronger language and verbal skills)

“I thought we were shape rotators?”

soyjak: (I still only vaguely understand this.) An online image of an emasculate man, often with an excited expression, with an art style based upon the original wojak.

"This looks more like an excuse to draw your enemies as the soyjak and yourself as the, uh, tiger." Edit: Despite repeated attempts, I cannot get this link to work.

stochastic: having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.

“All efforts to reconcile the stochastic distribution of boons and curses dished upon us with a belief in an Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnibenevolent Creator are, well, rather moot when you recognize that there's no reason (or grossly insufficient reason) to assume one exists.”

technocrat: an adherent to technocracy, or the government or control of society or industry by an elite of technical experts as opposed to professional politicians.

“The technocrats pretend to believe in that so that they can trick normies into hypersexual practices that obliterate communities.”

thot: From “That Ho Over There.” A woman who has (or is presumed to have, for whatever reason) many casual sexual encounters or relationships. Likewise, e-thot is a woman who makes money online from male (or predominantly male) audiences, by doing whatever for cash.

"I've seen sponsored ads (with the "ad" tag) for individual OnlyFans thots."

Third World-ism: a political concept and ideology that emerged in the late 1940s or early 1950s during the Cold War and tried to generate unity among the nations that did not want to take sides between the United States and the Soviet Union.

“Third worldism, or really socialism in general, had a uniquely compelling message to many leaders, and to many of the young, middle/upper middle class students who wielded or would eventually wield significant amounts of power over many developing countries in the latter half of the twentieth century.”

Noe: various users question the meaning and use of this term.

tradfem: a portmanteau of "traditional feminism" in reference to belief that adherence traditional feminine gender roles are better or more correct, especially those held by conservative Christian Americans, especially WASPs. Edit: Also a play on "radfem" or radical feminist. Thank you again, @naraburns.

“The Harrington and the other tradfems are hard to place on the left-right axis.”

Varg: I still don’t know what this means. I found various meanings of varg but none are satisfactory. Help.

Von Neumann: synonymous with “really big-brained person” as far as I can tell. Refers to John Von Neumann, a computer guy. Notably a “Von Neumann probe” would be a spacecraft capable of replicating itself. Edit: As I said above, misrepresentations are my fault.

"I've worked in QA for a couple years and I wouldn't touch whatever software would be used for digitization with a ten-foot pole even if it would've been written by fifty von Neumanns."

Westphalian: the concept of state sovereignty and the idea that each state has exclusive sovereignty over its territory and domestic affairs, free from external interference. From a series of treaties in 1648. We also have a member with this as part of his username.

“Christian nationalism, which is hard to talk about because no one agrees what it means, is hardly guaranteed to impinge on Westphalian tolerance.”

Wignat "wigger nationalist" and was originally used to describe lower class, violent, and unattractive neo Nazis that were willing to engage in street violence and unabashed Nazism with the use of swastikas and other symbols.

"Hanania’s a gentile but he’s also Palestinian so most wignats would consider him nonwhite or an edge-case at best."

x

Listen on iTunesStitcherSpotifyPocket CastsPodcast Addict, and RSS.


In this episode, we talk about white nationalism.

Participants: Yassine, Walt Bismarck, TracingWoodgrains.

Links:

Why I'm no longer a White Nationalist (The Walt Right)

The Virulently Unapologetic Racism of "Anti-Racism" (Yassine Meskhout)

Hajnal Line (Wikipedia)

Fall In Line Parody Song (Walt Bismarck)

Richard Spencer's post-Charlottesville tirade (Twitter)

The Metapolitics of Black-White Conflict (The Walt Right)

America Has Black Nationalism, Not Balkanization (Richard Hanania)


Recorded 2024-04-13 | Uploaded 2024-04-14

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Transnational Thursday is a thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or international relations history. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).