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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.

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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.

This month we have another special AAQC recognition for @drmanhattan16. This readthrough of Helen Joyce’s Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality garnered several AAQC nominations throughout the month:

Part 1 – The History of Transgenderism

Part 2 – The Causes and Rationalization of Transgenderism

Part 3 – How Transgenderism Harms Women And Children

Part 4 – How Transgenderism Took Over Institutions And How Some Women Are Fighting Back

Part 5 – Conclusion and Discussion

Now: on with the show!

Quality Contributions Outside the CW Thread














Contributions for the week of December 26, 2022



Contributions for the week of January 2, 2023









Contributions for the week of January 9, 2023







Contributions for the week of January 16, 2023








Contributions for the week of January 23, 2023






Contributions for the week of January 30, 2023





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).

Let's say you want to fix up a length of road. There are various strategies for this. Traditionally, you would perform a "resurfacing": mill away two or three inches of the existing asphalt, and replace it with the same thickness of new asphalt (of a type prescribed by the pavement experts—not all asphalt is the same). However, such a project carries with it certain extra costs, such as the federally-imposed requirement of upgrading all the pedestrian curb ramps in accordance with the ADA standards. In recent years, resurfacing has been largely displaced by "pavement preservation"—the application of a thin layer of asphalt (1 inch or less) directly on top of an existing surface that still is in reasonably good condition. For example (making some numbers up because I'm not a pavement expert), instead of doing a resurfacing every ten years, you might do a resurfacing in year 0, then pavement preservations in years 5, 10, and 15, and restart the cycle with another resurfacing in year 20, resulting in cost savings over years 0–19 in comparison to just doing resurfacings in year 0, year 10, and year 20. (It is being rumored that the asphalt industry now has gotten angry that roadway organizations aren't ordering as much asphalt, and is spinning up its lobbyists to promote a return to resurfacing, so pavement preservation may fall by the wayside in the future.)

So, anyway, let's say you want to "preserve" the pavement on a particular stretch of road—or, rather, the pavement experts in your organization have decided that this particular stretch of road should receive a particular preservation treatment, and they tell your bosses to design the project, and your bosses assign the work to you (the roadway engineer). What's the first step? Getting a survey of the area? No—the first step is getting the jurisdiction maps, to see which roads are actually the responsibility of your organization. You (the reader) already know that public roads in the United States are variously designated as municipal, county, or state roads. ("State", "US", and "Interstate" highways all count as state designation. US and Interstate highways are not owned by the federal government, but a project on a state road can be paid for by the feds if the road is in the National Highway System, or if the state government receives a one-time grant through the Surface Transportation Block Grant program. The state also gives grants to its subordinate county and municipal governments.) What you probably don't already know is that, very often, the jurisdiction does not match the designation. When a state-designated road intersects a county- or municipal-designated road, the state government usually will assume jurisdiction over the entire intersection, including any ramps or jughandles, and sometimes extending several hundred feet up the nominally county-owned road. (This can get very complicated when a state road that's controlled by the Department of Transportation, a state road that's controlled by a different organ of the state government (such as a toll-road authority or an interstate port authority), a county road, and a municipal road all meet in a single interchange.) So you (the roadway engineer) need to check your organization's archive of jurisdiction maps, to see exactly what the extent of the paving will be. Maybe the pavement experts told you to pave county roads X and Y, but it turns out that state road B will chop a few hundred feet out of your project where it intersects road X, and on the other hand municipal road N that runs between roads X and Y was signed over to county jurisdiction back in 1965, and you've also got to deal with some negligible pieces of municipal roads Q and R that intersect road Y. (And, of course, it's possible that the jurisdiction map is missing from the archive. In such a case, you can do nothing but take your best guess.)

What's the next step? The next step is to get a detailed map of the road where the work will be proposed, called "topo" (short for "topographic survey") in the jargon of the field. Ideally, a professional survey was performed for a resurfacing project five years ago, and the electronic files still are in your organization's database (or can be requisitioned from the consultant that designed the project), so you can just make some minor modifications to those files and go on your merry way. More likely, however, no professional electronic survey has been done (maybe the last project that was done on this road was a generic "maintenance and resurfacing" project that used no formal construction plans at all), and your organization isn't going to shell out the cash for a new survey for the sake of a mere pavement-preservation project. Therefore, what do you have to do? That's right. You, the roadway engineer, will have to MANUALLY draw the ENTIRETY of the multiple-mile project yourself—using as a basis either ten-year-old, one-bit-per-pixel scans of fifty- or seventy-year-old "as-built" plans of past resurfacing/reconstruction/original-construction projects, or (if no as-builts are available, which is somewhat unusual but definitely not impossible) dozens of Google Earth screenshots. This can take several weeks just by itself (I can say from extremely painful experience).

But that's not all. Topo alone is not sufficient for laying out construction plans. You also need the baseline—the set of lines and circular arcs that defines precisely where on the 2D plane the highway is located. (Earth's surface is 3D, but each state has at least one "state plane" for survey purposes.) Ideally, a baseline is included with the topo from the five-year-old resurfacing project. If there's no electronic baseline, then the second-best option is that, when the road was originally constructed fifty or seventy years ago, dozens of "monuments" were installed alongside it, and your in-house surveyors can uncover those monuments (find them with a metal detector and literally dig them up from where they've been buried by eroded soil) and get GPS coordinates for them, and you can relate those coordinates back to the as-built's "tie sheets", which are likely to have (1) all the bearings and radii, but (2) either (a) no coordinates or (b) coordinates in an outdated coordinate system that (i) can be manually copied into your CAD software, floating unmoored in the 2D plane, but (ii) cannot easily be converted to the current coordinate system and fixed in their proper place. (Converting between coordinate systems isn't just a matter of translation and rotation. There also is complicated scaling involved. I once tried to convert between coordinate systems using ArcGIS, and ended up with nothing but egg on my face and a shamefully inaccurate set of baselines. But maybe that's a me problem.) More likely, however, you have tie sheets, but the monuments were destroyed and not replaced when the roadway was widened thirty years ago, or no monuments ever were installed in the first place. What is a humble roadway engineer to do in such a circumstance? The closest thing to a monument—something that's very unlikely to have been moved since the roadway was constructed—is a drainage inlet on the side of the road. Therefore, the engineer is forced to use a few dozen inlets as ersatz monuments, send out his in-house surveyors to get GPS coordinates for them all, and manhandle the baseline from the as-built tie sheets (which, again, is just floating unmoored in the 2D plane at this point) to match those coordinates as closely as possible. (If it's a divided highway, don't forget that your organization's policy probably requires you to draw one baseline for each direction. And don't forget to draw baselines for all the ramps as well. This can get pretty annoying, especially when there's a typo in the as-built tie sheet from year 1985 and you need to figure out what's wrong by comparing it with the actual angle of the road.)

What's next? Can we start drawing the proposed work now? No, we can't. Now the engineer must draw the typical sections of the road. The typical sections are just slices of the roadway—not just the surface (lane widths, and the sideways slopes necessary for proper drainage), but also the materials that make up the subsurface (surface course, intermediate course, base course, subbase, the hundred-year-old concrete road that seventy years ago was paved over rather than being "rubblized" into subbase…). Ideally, the limits of your project perfectly match the limits of an old as-built, and you can redraw the typical sections from that raster as-built in vector format with minimal changes. More likely, however, this roadway was drastically reconstructed piecemeal in half a dozen different projects over the years, and the as-builts from those old projects are like puzzle pieces that you must fit together while keeping in mind that some have been partially overwritten by others. (And don't think that you can skip this step just because you're doing a project where the contractor won't interact with the subsurface at all! Even pavement-preservation jobs require typical sections to be included. My current, unusually-large project may end up with as many as seventy different typical sections, which could take up something like 15 or 20 sheets. My bosses are hoping that we'll be able to get their bosses to update the procedures for pavement-preservation jobs so I don't have to spend a week or two drawing all this stuff that the contractor will have no use for.)

Now for temporary traffic control. On a pavement-preservation project, this isn't too bad. Since slathering a thin slurry of bituminous material onto the pavement is a one-night job (the road can be opened to traffic on the following morning), responsibility for determining temporary detour routes falls on the contractor rather than on the designer—and, let me tell you, drawing a detour route for each of the dozen ramps on a project, including a list of all the signs that need to be installed for each detour, is a very tedious task. However, even without detour routes, the designer still needs to go through his organization's list of standard traffic-control details and estimate how many drums, cones, barricades, and square feet of temporary construction signage the contractor will need to employ. (Most contractors will just reuse the equipment that they already have and bid something like one dollar per unit for each of these items, but we are not allowed to make such assumptions in our cost estimates—it's full price for everything.) Even on a pavement-preservation project, you may still need to draw a nonstandard traffic-control detail if the bigwigs who drew the standard details failed to take into account a particular situation, like a ramp or a roundabout. (Oh, you thought something as commonplace as closing a ramp for overnight paving would be in the standard traffic-control details? Well, you thought wrong.)

Finally, we can start figuring out the quantities of the proposed work. Asphalt? No, not yet! I'm talking about the (permanent) pavement markings. You've got to compile a spreadsheet listing every single stripe segment in the entire project—white or yellow; four-inch or eight-inch (or six-inch on Interstate highways); broken (colloquially called dashed), solid, or double solid (or broken on one side and solid on the other side, or that newfangled dotted)—including any upgrades that need to be done (e. g., changing the line along an auxiliary lane from broken to dotted). And don't forget the RPMs (raised pavement markers—those little shiny things that your headlamps highlight when it's raining), with different spacings in different places! And the rumble strips (not just in the outside shoulder, but also in the centerline, or in the inside shoulder if it's wide enough)! And the "markings" (made of a different material than "stripes" proper, thermoplastic rather than epoxy—e. g., 8-inch crosswalk lines, 24-inch stop lines, and "← ONLY" at intersections)! And the separate pay items for removal of the existing pavement markings before the pavement treatment can be applied, and for the application of temporary pavement markings during construction!! (My current project's stripe calculation spreadsheet has around 800 rows, but this project is unusually large. My previous project's spreadsheet had around 200 rows, and my spreadsheet for the project before that had around 300 rows. All three projects are/were pavement preservation.) Oh, and don't forget—three paragraphs ago you drew all the road edges from as-builts. You need to draw all the existing pavement markings as well. (They normally would be picked up in the survey, but this part of the survey technically isn't included in the same "topo" file, since it's shown only on the striping sheets, not on the construction sheets. Or maybe I'm just being too pedantic.) I hope you're proficient with your CAD software's offset tool!

The pavement markings are only the most important part of the "incidental work" that surrounds a pavement-preservation project. Less important, but still needing to be done, is the inspection (typically via Google Street View) of all the drainage inlets that sit in or alongside the pavement within the project limits. If you're a bicyclist, you may be aware that, over the past few decades, the slotted grates that will catch your front tire and flip you over the handlebars have been gradually replaced with "bicycle-safe grates", which replace the long, wide slots with smaller holes. This process still is ongoing. Additionally, sometimes the "curb piece" of an inlet that's embedded in the curb has incurred damage after too many tractor-trailers ran over it, and needs to be replaced. There are the environmental regulations: a curb piece whose mouth is taller than two inches allows too much debris to enter waterways, and must be replaced with one that has a smaller mouth. There are concerns received from the maintenance experts: Way back when the aforementioned environmental regulations were instituted, people didn't want to go to the trouble of replacing all those zillions of curb pieces, so instead they tried affixing a little slotted faceplate to the front of the curb piece in order to cover up the overlarge mouth. It turned out, though, that these faceplates tend to catch on snow plows, so now any curb piece that received that treatment needs to be replaced in its entirety anyway. And, finally, there are the rare occasions where the concrete box underneath the grate appears to be broken (as evidenced by a suspiciously low grate elevation), requiring the entire inlet to be replaced. (And some non-inlet incidental work: the designer should take a field visit on the day after heavy rain, and check for any ponding that can be fixed with some localized milling and paving.)

At long last, we can draw the proposed asphalt. This step is relatively simple, as are the steps of (1) referencing everything into the actual plan sheets, (2) labeling all the proposed work on the construction and striping sheets, and (3) summing up the quantities and plugging them into the (somewhat finicky) estimation software… Wait a minute—did I say it was simple? No! No, you've got to run everything past more environmental regulations! Increasing the elevation of the roadway by just half an inch requires the project to be reviewed for flooding. Some pavement-preservation treatments (thankfully including the one that's being used on my current, oversized project) are thinner than half an inch—but others are not. So now you have to wait for the environmental consultant to review your work. Somehow, the in-house environmental experts who coordinate this review are understaffed even though they've got their thumb in every pie, so your project probably will be delayed by a month or two past its originally-scheduled submission date. And, after all this rigmarole, the environmental experts will tell you to mill down one or two arbitrary 500-foot segments of road by an extra inch, and that'll be that. Also, don't forget to mill underneath any overhead structures, in order to maintain the existing clearance—not just bridges, but also sign structures. I hope you didn't forget to draw the sign structures into your topo file! They probably aren't included in the roadway as-builts that you were looking at before, because structural stuff is done separately, so it's back to Google Earth screenshots for you. And also-also you've got to do a little bit of milling wherever your new pavement meets old pavement (at intersections and at ramp terminals), in order to avoid a sudden change in elevation (also known as a bump). And also-also-also you need to mill along the curb, because otherwise you'll change the drainage characteristics of the roadway. And finally don't forget to ask the electronics experts about any electronic stuff that's embedded in the road—you can't mill over it without replacing the whole system afterward. (But maybe the electronics experts want it to be replaced as part of the same project, since you're already working in the area.)

After that, it passes out of your hands and into the hands of the bigwigs who do pencil-pushing stuff like drawing up the tentative construction schedule, compiling the construction specifications (the standard boilerplate, a bunch of lines that need to be filled in by the designer, special stuff that the pavement or environmental or structural experts think need to be added, affirmative-action requirements from the "affirmative-action experts", construction-office requirements from the construction experts, etc.), and making the final electronic submission to the bigger wigs (the project manager, the in-house reviewers, and I think some kind of FHWA review).

For the xianxia fans: 哭笑不得 (I don't know whether I should laugh or cry). For the zoomers: 😂.


[Originally posted on Singal-Minded back in October & now unlocked. Sorry for telling the normies about this place!]

It's an homage to a philosophical pitfall, but the name is also thematically fitting. It conjures up a besieged underdog, a den of miscreants, an isolated outpost, or just immovable stubbornness.

It's The Motte.

This is an obscure internet community wedded to a kinky aspiration --- that it is possible to have enlightening civil conversations about desperately contentious topics. Previously a subreddit, it finally made the exodus to its own independent space following mounting problems with Reddit's increasingly arbitrary and censorious content policies. The Motte is meant as the proverbial gun-free zone of internet discussion. So long as everyone follows strict rules and decorum, they may talk and argue about anything. At its best, it is the platonic ideal of the coffeehouse salon. This tiny corner of the internet has had an outsize influence on my life and yet despite that, I've always struggled to describe it to others succinctly.

In order to do so, I'll have to explain medieval fortification history briefly. Picture a stone tower, sitting pretty on a hill. It may be cramped and unpleasant, but it's safe. Likely impenetrable to any invasion. This is the motte. One cannot live on a diet of stone fortification alone, and so immediately surrounding the motte is the bailey --- the enclosed village serving as the economic engine for the entire enterprise. The bailey's comparative sprawl is what makes it more desirable to live in, and also what makes it more vulnerable, as it can be feasibly fortified only by a dug ditch or wooden palisade. So you hang out in the bailey as much as possible until a marauding band of soldiers threatens your entire existence and forces your retreat up the hill, into the motte. Bailey in the streets, motte in the event of cataclysmic danger, as the kids might say.

We don't have a lot of real-life mottes and baileys these days, but we do have a rhetorical analogy that is very useful: the motte-and-bailey fallacy. Someone bold enough to assert something as inane as "astrology is real" (bailey) might, when challenged, retreat to the infinitely more anodyne "all I meant by astrology being real is that natural forces like celestial bodies might have an effect on human lives" (motte), and who can argue against that? Once the tarot-skeptical challenger gives up on charging up the rampart, the challenged can peek from behind the gate and slink back to the spacious comforts of the bailey, free to expound on the impact of Mercury in retrograde or whatever without any pesky interruptions. Once you recognize this sleazy bait-and-switch, you'll spot it everywhere around you. Other examples are motte: common-sense gun control; bailey: Ban all civilian firearm ownership. Or motte: addressing climate change; bailey: Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. On and on.

Back to the history of my favorite online community: In the beginning, before The Motte was The Motte, they were the Rationalists (a.k.a. "rat-sphere" or just "rats"). These are a bunch of painfully earnest and lovable nerds unusually mindful about good epistemological hygiene.

Across their odyssey, they gather around various Schelling points, with the blog-cum-encyclopedia LessWrong as one of their most prominent congregation points. Whatever hurdles to logical reasoning (confirmation bias, availability heuristic, or motivated reasoning, to name very few) that you can come up with are guaranteed already to be extensively cataloged within its exquisitely maintained database.

It is understandably suspicious when a group names itself after what is presumed to be a universally lauded value, but you can see evidence of this commitment in practice. My favorite vignette to illustrate the humility and intellectual curiosity of the rat-sphere happened when I attended my first meetup and overheard a conversation that started with "Okay, let's assume that ISIS is correct... " with the audience just calmly nodding along, listening intently.

Even if you don't know about the rats, you may have heard of the psychiatrist and writer Scott Alexander. His blog remains a popular caravanserai stop within the rat-sphere. While his writing output is prodigious in both volume of text and topical scope (everything from mythological fiction of Zeus evading a celestial amount of child-support obligations to a literature review of antidepressant medication), what consistently drew the most attention and heat to his platform were his essays on culture war topics, perennial classics like Meditations on Moloch or I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup to name a select few.

Culture wars are best understood as issues that are generally materially irrelevant, yet are viciously fought over as proxy skirmishes in a battle over society's values. (Consider how much ink is spilled over drag queen story hours.) But something can be both materially irrelevant and fun. And inevitably, like flies to shit, people were most drawn to the juiciest of topics --- the proverbial manure furnaces that generated the brightest of flames. Scott *tried *to keep all this energy contained to a dedicated Culture War Thread on his blog's subreddit, but the problem was that it worked *too well *in encouraging unusually intelligent and cogent articulations of "unthinkable" positions. In part because Scott has made some enemies over the years, and said enemies have eagerly sought opportunities to demonize him as his star has risen, the internet peanut gallery frequently (and disingenuously) attributed the most controversial opinions on the subreddit to Scott himself. This in turn directed ire at the host for "platforming" the miasma. And so in early 2019, Scott emancipated the thread, and a crew of volunteers forked the idea away onto its own subreddit and beatified it with its new name: r/TheMotte.

Because the space was rat-adjacent from the beginning, it had a solid basis to succeed as an oasis of calm. Even with that advantage, the challenge of building a healthy community almost from scratch should not be underestimated. Props to the moderators, who kept the peace with both negative and positive reinforcement. As you might expect in a community dedicated to civil discussion, you could get banned for being unnecessarily antagonistic or for using the subreddit to wage culture war rather than discuss it.

But equally important was the positive reinforcement part of the equation. If anyone's post was particularly good, you would "report" it to the mods as "Actually A Quality Contribution," or AAQC. The mods collected the AAQC and regularly posted roundups. Consider for a moment and appreciate how radical a departure this is from the norm. The internet has developed well-worn pathways from the constant barrage of wildebeest stampeding to the latest outrage groundswell, famishing to feast on its pulped remains. This machine increasingly resembles one purpose-built for injecting the worst, most negative content into our brains every second of every day. And instead here were these dorks, congregating specifically to talk about the most emotionally heated topics du jour, handing out certificates of appreciation and affirmation.

The AAQC roundups were a crucial component of the community, particularly when they unearthed hidden gems that would otherwise have remained buried. Reddit's down/upvote feature is often ab/used as a proxy for dis/agreement (leave it to the rats to create two-factor voting for internet comments), but the mods made sure to highlight thought-provoking posts especially when they disagreed with them.

Part of the draw was just how unassuming it all was. A small handful of people who wandered in happened to already have well-established writing platforms built elsewhere. But by and large, this was an amateur convention attended by relative nobodies. And yet some of my favorite writing ever was posted exclusively in this remote frontier of Reddit.

The highlights are numerous. How about a grocery store security guard talking about his crisis of faith about modern society that happened during a shift? Or the post that forever changed how I viewed Alex Jones by reframing his unusual way of ranting through the prism of epic poetry tradition? Or the philosophy behind The Motte, where Arthur Chu is cast as the villain? Or how people talk past each other when using the word "capitalism"? Or an extended travelogue of Hawaii's unusual racial dynamics? Or this hypothetical conversation between a barbarian and a 7-11 clerk? Or how Warhammer 40k is a superior franchise to Star Wars thanks in part to higher verisimilitude in its depiction of space fascism? Or this effortlessly poetic meditation on Trump's omnipresence? Or an ethnography of the effectiveness of rifle fire across cultures? Or how the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox straddles the trad/furry divide? Or this catalog of challenges facing a Portland police officer? Or this dispatch from an overwhelmed doctor working during India's horrific second COVID-19 wave? Or a technical warning about Apple's ability to spy on its customers? Or why the major scale in music has such broad multicultural appeal? Or a man brought to tears by overwhelming gratitude while shopping at Walmart? Or how the decline of Western civilization can be reflected in the trajectory of a children's cartoon series? Or how RPGs solved a problem by declaring some fantasy races to be inherently evil only to create another issue? Or how about the potential nobility of --- get this --- indiscriminate retributive homicide from the standpoint of a Chinese military officer going on a shooting rampage after his wife died of a forced abortion?

The structure of the community was such that it gained a sort of natural immunity to trolls. The community was primed to take the arguments trolls made seriously, and this meant drafting intimidating walls of text in earnest. And that wouldn't be the end of it, because you could reliably expect the community to obsess and mull over that same topic for weeks on end, churning out thousands of words more in the process. Most bad-faith actors find it impossible to keep up the charade for that long, and it's just Not Fun™ when a troll's potential victim reacts by obliviously submitting immaculately written essays in reply. Consider an example of the type of discourse that gets prompted by something as wild-eyed as the question of "when is it ethical to murder public officials?". The goal of trolling is to incite immediate, reactive anger, and it must've been dispiriting to enter the space solely to cause trouble, and to slink out having encouraged more AAQCs instead. Anyone dumb enough to try a drive-by bait-and-snark quickly found themselves exhausted and overwhelmed.

Places that explicitly herald themselves as an offshoot to the mainstream quickly gain a reputation as a cesspit of right-wing extremists. Setting aside the question of overall political dominance, it remains true that major institutions (media, finance, tech, etc.) are overwhelmingly staffed by liberal-leaning individuals. Conservatives who feel hounded by the major institutions can opt to carve out their own spaces, and yet nearly every attempt to create the "conservative" alternative to social media giants ends up a toxic waste dump (See Voat, Parler, Gab, etc.).

Scott Alexander described this best when he wrote:

The moral of the story is: if you're against witch-hunts, and you promise to found your own little utopian community where witch-hunts will never happen, your new society will end up consisting of approximately three principled civil libertarians and seven zillion witches. It will be a terrible place to live even if witch-hunts are genuinely wrong.

So it's unsurprising that people have criticized The Motte for being a den of right-wing rogues. For what it's worth, a survey of the community found the modal user to be a libertarian Hillary Clinton voter. But homogeneous thinking is explicitly not the goal here, and the point of the entire enterprise is to have your ideas challenged. Sterilized gruel is the antithesis of critical thinking and the reason why we need places like The Motte.

That's the backstory, and here's how it impacted me personally.

I've always been insatiably curious. But communicating in writing was a momentous struggle for me. Although I coasted through college, writing assignments were virtually the only source of anxiety for me. I once described the writing process as "struggling to take a painful shit." Eking out anything remotely worthwhile was a cataclysmic struggle. I'd stare at a blank page with dread, draft voluminous paragraphs, find myself meandering into gratuitous prose, delete passages until I forgot the point I was making, and then sift through the remaining dessicated husk wondering why anyone would give a fuck. Years ago, before I found my groove in my current job as a public defender, and outside the veil of school-mandated writing, I had ideations of making a living as a writer. A few more of the above-described painful shit sessions conclusively disavowed me of that delusion.

In contrast, though, talking about ideas came naturally to me very early. I was always indefatigable and relentless and confrontational and (with all due humility) easily ran laps around people who had the misfortune of engaging in discussion with me in real life. Few were surprised that I became a lawyer.

My frustrations with writing never sapped my passion for reading, but consuming others' work left me feeling forlorn about my own inadequacy. It was hard for me to admire prominent writers without also feeling pangs of envy. But browsing The Motte only sharpened my frustration because these weren't big-name writers churning out incredible posts --- they were random nobodies. So when it first started, I mostly lurked and did not write much, because I did not believe I had the requisite caliber to contribute anything worthwhile.

I changed my mind about contributing after getting drunk with a friend in the backyard of a bar while a Bernese dog eyed our uneaten sandwiches. My friend (a bona fide socialist) and I got into a passionate but civil discussion about the ideal contours of free speech. The specific disagreement doesn't matter, because that afternoon reminded me how invigorated I feel by in-person discussions. It dawned on me how I could properly contribute to The Motte. A few weeks later I memorialized my pseudonym with a fresh new account, and my immediate goal was to start a podcast. Naturally, it was called The Bailey.

Our release schedule may not be the most reliable, but we have put out 29 episodes so far (for the record, that's more than the hilarious and informative legal podcast ALAB). In between recording episodes, I wrote posts on The Motte, almost as an afterthought. But the point here is that I wanted to start a podcast because I thought my writing sucked.

I always knew I could anticipate some vociferous pushback at The Motte. The pushback was crucial, as it was the whetstone to my rhetoric. I knew that if I were going to do something as foolish as post on The Motte, I had to be loaded for bear. I'd sling the grenade by hitting "post," but the notifications that followed promised some reciprocated shrapnel. All the better.

Posting on a dusty corner of Reddit about some culture war bullshit was obviously very low-stakes, but then a very curious thing happened: People noticed my stuff. I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit how gleeful I was telling my girlfriend that something I wrote was recognized as an AAQC and included in the roundup. And it kept happening, again and again. Eventually I was picked to be one of the moderators (joining veterans like podcast apprentice Tracing Woodgrains) in a process that mirrored how the Venetian Doge was selected. I realized over time just how much of a gargantuan amount of writing I had absent-mindedly accumulated over the years just by posting on The Motte, and so when I started my own Substack almost a year ago, its only purpose was to find a home for that compendium.

I kept writing there for years, obliviously using its space to workshop my writing craft and barely noticing. It wasn't until some of my writing escaped into the wild earlier this year (assisted by a certain sentient fox) and received recognition by the powers that be that I realized how grateful I am for the precious space cultivated here.

I could not have accomplished any of this without The Motte. I owe that space --- especially the jerks who deigned to disagree with me --- so much.


In Paul Fussell’s book on class (I think), he says that people are really worried about differentiating themselves from the class immediately below them, but largely ignorant of the customs and sometimes even existence of the classes above them. When I found SSC, and then The Motte, and stuff like TLP, I was astonished to find a tier of the internet I had had no idea even existed. The quality of discourse here is . . . usually . . . of the kind that “high brow” (by internet standards) websites THINK they are having, but when you see the best stuff here you realize that those clowns are just flattering themselves. My question is, who is rightly saying the same thing about us? Of what intellectual internet class am I ignorant now? Or does onlineness impose some kind of ceiling on things, and the real galaxy brains are at the equivalent of Davos somewhere?


Tldr: Write an effortpost on the subject of human intuition by February 10th, we will pick the winner by poll, I will donate $200 dollars to a charity mutually agreed upon with the winner

I've been thinking a lot about the subject of intuition lately, due to some life events. What do we know without knowing we know it, what can we communicate without knowing we communicate it. When I'm thinking a lot about something what do I want to do? Read a bunch of Mottizens thinking about it too! So, on a whim while thinking about the fact that great works like the Oresteia, Frankenstein, and Rousseau's best work were the result of competitions; I've decided to launch my own little essay competition and see if anyone bites.

The basic rules are thus:

-- Write an effortpost on the topic of Intuition. Standalone or in the CW or side threads; only rule is effort. Intuition can be as broadly or as narrowly defined as you like. Effortpost we define informally, but I'd say it must be at minimum 2000-4000 characters that is substantially your own original work. No ripping off another post, of your own or someone else's. An original summary/condensation or retelling of someone else's thesis is fine. How will we be able to tell? I'm kinda counting on the crowd here, especially if we get a little competitive fire going. I wouldn't count on slipping anything by the peanut gallery here.

-- On February 11th, as long as we have at least three entries, I will publish a poll, and we will select a winner. If anyone has a suggestion for a better method of picking a winner, I'm open to it. I'm thinking a poll would be better than just raw upvotes, but I'm open to other possibilities.

-- Once a winner is selected, I will work with the winner to select a charity, and I will donate $200 to that charity. I say I will work with the winner, I'm not donating $200 to NAMBLA or Mermaids UK or the StormFront Charity Fund just because somebody wins a poll. I will do my best to be reasonable, but there are some lines I'm not gonna cross here, and IDK there might be legal issues in some countries. I will post some kind of digital receipt in all likelihood, unless it's something like give the $200 in cash into the collection bin at church or to a homeless man or something. I'm sure for most here, the bigger thing will be winning, and being acknowledged as the winner.

So why? The mood just sort of struck me. And how do you know it will really happen? You don't, except that I spend way too much time hanging around here so you can figure I'll probably stick to my word. And anyway, you'll get even more motte street cred for being the guy who got welched on than you would for being the guy who got $200 donated to mosquito nets or whatever.

I'm curious to see what a bit of direction and effort could bring out, or maybe we need chaos. We'll see if we get three.

Please bring up any questions, or rules I haven't considered.


A couple people had expressed interest in this topic, and I have a bit of extra time for a couple days, so here goes:

Bona fides: I am a former infantry NCO and sniper, hunter, competitive shooter, reloader, hobby gunsmith, sometimes firearms trainer and currently work in a gun shop, mostly on the paperwork/compliance side. Back in the day, was a qualified expert with every standard small arm in the US inventory circa 2003 (M2, 4, 9, 16, 19, 249, 240B, 21, 24, 82 etc.), and today hang around the 75th percentile of USPSA classifications. I've shot Cap-and-Ball, Trap and Sporting Clays badly; Bullseye and PRS somewhat better and IDPA/USPSA/UML/Two-gun with some local success. Been active in the 2A community since the mid-90s, got my first instructor cert in high school, and have held a CPL for almost twenty years now.

I certainly don't claim to be an expert in every aspect of firearms, there's huge areas that escape my knowledge base, but if you've got questions I'll do my best to answer.

Technical questions

Gun control proposals for feasibility



Wacky opinions

General geekery

Some competition links (not my own) just for the interested.

Part 1 – The History of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 2 – the Causes and Rationalization of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 3 – How Transgenderism Harms Women And Children: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 4 – How Transgenderism Took Over Institutions And How Some Women Are Fighting Back: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 5 – Conclusion and Discussion: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

I had said in my last post that I wished to review a book that promised to be more red meat for the people here. But I had not expected to be posting this so soon, I thought I might find my book of choice boring enough to last me a month. Instead, I found myself engaged so deeply that I binged the entire work in a few days.

Helen Joyce is an Irish journalist and executive editor for “events business” at the Economist. She’s currently on sabbatical to do some work for Sex Matters, a UK non-profit that advises the public on the importance of biological sex as a category when making policy. In July of 2021, she published Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality. It purports to be a general book about the history of transgenderism, trans activism, and the issues that trans women pose to cis women.

It is the first one that we will focus on this post.

The Girl From Denmark

For Joyce, the story begins with Einar Wegener. Wegener was a Danish man born in 1882. He was an artist and married to Gerda Wegener. As the story goes, Gerda was convinced by Anna Larssen to have Einar take Larssen’s place for some modeling because the latter was running late. Wegener’s modeling for his wife was kept a secret for years. “Hardly anyone knew that Gerda’s sultry, sloe-eyed model was her cross-dressing husband,” Joyce writes. Eventually, the couple moved to Paris, but Einar was not the only person involved now. A new figure, named Lili, began to introduce herself as Gerda’s sister.

It was, you may have guessed, Einar. Over time, he seems to have grown weaker compared to the “woman in this body”, suggesting a battle in the mind over which identity was the real one. Doctors at the time diagnosed him as mad or homosexual. But this did nothing to resolve the conflict, and Einar was determined to either make Lili a reality or simply end his own persona.

In 1930, that opportunity would come at the hands of the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin and its founder Magnus Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld believed that people were all bisexual, but not in the sense that they were attracted to both, rather that they were both. This was naturally attractive to the ailing model because it allowed for the possibility that you could move from one sex to the other with enough work. He was willing to operate on Einar.

The surgeries were grueling and saw the removal of testicles and penis, then insertion of ovaries, and finally the construction of a “natural outlet”. This last part is not necessarily clear as the Nazis burned the institute’s records in 1933, leaving only Lili's memoir Man Into Woman. it would probably have been a neovagina or attempted womb transplant.

In any case, Einar ceased to exist in the operating room, and Lili was manifested into reality. Things could not have been better after the surgery, it seemed. The King of Denmark gave Lili a new passport that defined her sex as female and annulled her marriage to Gerda. She went on to get engaged to an art dealer.

Sadly, Lili would die before the marriage in September 1931 due to heart failure. But she wrote that she had found her 14 months of life as Lili to be a “whole and happy human life”.

Joyce commends Hirschfeld for his forward-thinking nature and willingness to support franchising women and supported decriminalizing homosexual relationships between men (he was himself gay), but excoriates his views on what it means to be a female. She suggests that his views had a conspicuously shaped hole named Charles Darwin. For Joyce, Darwin had conclusively demonstrated that there was no meaningful definition of sex apart from that about reproduction. She accuses believers in Hirschfeld’s model as being sexist and simply accommodating the existence of women scientists, poets and leaders by claiming they were simply being less womanly.

Lili does not get off scott-free either, Joyce relates passages from her memoir that suggest some unconscious sexism in her mind. Lili believed her validation as a woman would come about by having a child. She self-described as the character opposite to Einar: thoughtless to his thoughtfulness, illogical to his ingenuity, superficial to his sagacity. The last fulfilment of being a real woman, according to Lili, was to have a “sterner being, the husband” to protect her in life.

Lili's importance to this topic will become clear eventually, I promise.

“What American Woman Wouldn’t Be Happy?”

Following this lengthy account come yet another, this time about Christine Jorgensen, formerly known as George Jorgensen. Jorgensen was a 26-year-old New Yorker who went to Europe in 1950 to get treatment for “men like him”. The 1930s and 40s had seen the rise of synthetic sex hormones and antibiotics, with some doctors now claiming it was possible to move males to the female end of the spectrum. Jorgensen would return in 1952 having undergone castration, penectomy, and plastic surgery for his external female genitalia.

Crucially, however, the doctors who treated him did not regard themselves as making him the opposite sex. They saw him as a man so beset by “transvestism” as to be unable to live without presenting as a woman. Christine was the one who claimed to be a woman to the media (the title of this section is a paraphrasing of what she told reporters). The media that covered the story, and their readers, ate it up. They praised the results and cast no doubt on Jorgensen’s claims about what sex was or about her own intersex condition.

But for all the many requests that the doctors who did the operation received, all were turned down. Instead, Joyce argues, an enterprising fraud and German endocrinologist would take up this task. That man’s name? Harry Benjamin.

To be clear, I don’t see any evidence that Benjamin didn’t believe what he said, and Joyce doesn’t directly argue this either. But the references to his quack background seem chosen to imply as much.

In any case, Benjamin was an outspoken advocate for using hormones and surgery to treat “transsexualists” as opposed to most doctors of the time who would have use electric shocks or mega-doses of the original sex’s hormones to “cure” the desire. In 1963, he took on a patient named Rita Erickson and transitioned her into Reed Erickson. Erickson was grateful and funded him for several research symposia. Erickson also went on to fund the Erickson Educational Foundation, which primarily focused on funding studies into transsexualism, as well as the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic.

In the following decade, other major medical centers would open up programs of a similar sort. Thus began a slow but continuous effort by doctors and researchers who would go on to be authorities and gatekeepers. They did their best to accommodate their patients. In 1979, they would all get together and found their own professional association, the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association.

Or, as you may know it after 2006, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

Putting Your Money Where Your Benjamin Is

The history of transgenderism cannot be explained without talking about the man who coined the term “gender”. John Money was a Harvard psychologist from New Zealand who popularized the sex-gender distinction that people use even to this day.

Briefly, Money is the reason we talk about gender at all and make the distinction between sex and gender. For him, a woman or man was defined by taking on certain roles, which they were socialized (taught by others) into accepting. But some people were atypical for their sex and took on the roles of the other sex more easily/naturally. In other words, gender was what your roles were, and sex was your body.

Joyce describes their meeting as a moment when the stars aligned. You had Benjamin on one hand who believed that sex was a spectrum and people could move between the two ends, and Money on the other who believed that men and women were defined by what roles they took on, not by their bodies. Combined in a manner akin to Dragon Ball Z’s Fusion Dance, they created a powerful new theory of what caused cross-sex identification, what it meant, and what to do about it.

This can be found in Bejamin’s work The Transsexual Phenomenon. In it, he gave Hirschfeld’s depiction of a sex spectrum and described transsexuals as people suffering from a mind-body mismatch. He would also nod to Money’s ideas about “gender feeling” (a collection of feelings, attitudes, and desires). If this feeling was settled and mismatched to the body, then the body had to give.

We will discuss Money, his work, and his impact in a later post.

Handling Edge Cases

I mentioned previously that Lili Elbe had been granted a new passport by the Kingdom of Denmark that stated her sex as female. But, as Helen Joyce asks, what did this really mean to the people who made such decisions?

She relates the case of Corbett v. Corbett as a telling example in far more detail than really necessary. Arthur Corbett wanted his marriage to April Ashley annulled on the grounds that she was a trans woman. Corbett did not look totally good in this case, to be clear, as he was someone who broke up his previous marriage because he was obsessed with Ashley and only demanded an annulment when she started asking for the deeds to their house. The judge in that case delivered the following remarks (somewhat paraphrased) to a devastated Ashley.

Intercourse using the completely artificially constructed cavity could never constitute true intercourse…the respondent is not, and was not, a woman at the date of the ceremony of marriage, but was, at all times, a male.

Joyce characterizes the response by officials and governments in the first half of the 20th century as trying to resolve some small number of anomalous cases with varying amounts of compassion and logic. The British government of Ashley’s time (the 1960s) believed that no operation could change sex, so even if the NHS would perform sex-change operations, it would not allow the recipient to go about being treated as a woman by the government.

But why said governments went about it how they did is an important question, and Joyce attributes this to two factors: the rise of bureaucracy and the shift in what defined womanhood.

Firstly, there was always a legal significance to being a man or woman: voting, inheriting, or even controlling money was dependent upon this. But no laws defined sex because it seemed pointless. Everyone could just see and make an accurate assessment, and the few who cross-dressed or passed as the other sex could be seen by their naked body.

This obviously changed with Lili Elbe, who would not appear male under nudity. But the less obvious influence was the rise of government documentation that listed sex. If you showed these, they would count as proof that you were a man or woman. To someone who was trans, these documents were sought after as another bit of proof to help get society to validate the new identity. Persuading bureaucrats was now a useful goal.

Secondly, what it meant to have womanhood, or be a woman, changed significantly between Jorgensen’s return in 1952 and her death in 1989. For doctors, journalists, and lawyers who were involved with this topic, it was no longer about having a body that could under normal circumstances get pregnant. Now it was about being able to “receive” in heterosexual sex and an inner sense of being “female”.

At first glance, this does not sound too bad, but without reference to reproduction, Joyce argues that being a woman became more individualistic over communal. Reproductive service was about your role in your species, sexual service was about your role to your husband.

This, she argues, was the birth of “gender identity”.

The Role Of Leftist Thought

Joyce, surprisingly enough, does not really delve deeply into the role played by broader left-wing ideology in supporting and even promoting transgenderism. She does spend some effort to address what she calls “social justice” or “applied postmodernism” (AP). As she tells it, AP rejects objectivity, logic, and reason. Here, language prescribes instead of describes, meaning oppression springs from discourse. The focus on letting individuals reign supreme in defining themselves fits mind-body dualism perfectly, since it means being a man or woman can never be gatekept.

But to convince others of this, you have to deny the objectivity of sex and instead insist that gender identities are the real thing. Judith Butler, described as the most influential gender theorist, has argued that sex and gender are not distinct and are both socially constructed. Tellingly, Butler defines transness as the mismatch between what society tells you to act as and what you know about yourself (notice the framing of society oppressing individual expression). Doctors, she argues, engage in performance when they register a baby’s sex, changing social reality by their very words.

Joyce discusses the terms AFAB/AMAB (assigned female at birth, assigned male at birth) and argues that they deny any argument that man/woman might be gender and male/female can be kept for sex. Instead, she argues, TRA ideology takes these terms to mean you are female or male should you define yourself that way.

This was a bold claim to me. I had even recently argued, among other things, that I did not know how many TRAs (trans rights activists) believed that a trans person was by nature the sex they identified as. Joyce would tell me that my definition of “sex” includes immutability, and I think that it a good definition of my position. I do not think we should define sex as anything other than what your natal body’s reproductive pathways are, but I remain open to arguments to the contrary.

With that said, I think Joyce has pointed to a gap in my own thinking. I had assumed that when terms like AFAB and AMAB are used, TRAs understood sex mostly as I did. But if they follow ideas like Butler’s, then sex and gender are both malleable to the extent that yes, TRAs would tell you they are actually the same in terms of body as people of the sex they identify as.

As for how widespread this idea is, I’ve found the following.

  1. Here are 3 studies published in 2017 and 2018 that use male/female as one would traditionally use man/woman.

  2. Wikipedia defines trans women as having a “female gender identity”.

  3. A 700 person Twitter poll from 2018 where about 50% said that trans women are female.

There is more, of course, but I think these at least suggest the idea sex and gender are to some people mutable. I’m still not clear on how prevalent this view of sex is, but I think it is at least not insignificant.

I’m a bit frustrated that Joyce doesn’t go further into the role of left-wing thought in the intellectual and ideological support for transgenderism. I think it would be worthwhile to discuss what drove, and arguable drives, left-wing support for glorifying all forms of individual expression. I myself covered one such motivation here.

That’s all for this post. Next time, we’ll go over the harm Joyce attributes to the version of pro-trans ideology that has come to define what it means in 2023 to be supportive, and maybe some other stuff as well. I hope you enjoyed!


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.

A few comments from the editor: first, sorry this is a little late, but you know--holidays and all. Furthermore, the number of quality contribution nominations seems to have grown a fair bit since moving to the new site. In fact, as I write this on January 5, there are already 37 distinct nominations in the hopper for January 2023. While we do occasionally get obviously insincere or "super upvote" nominations, the clear majority of these are all plausible AAQCs, and often quite a lot of text to sift through.

Second, this month we have special AAQC recognition for @drmanhattan16. This readthrough of Paul Gottfried’s Fascism: Career of a Concept began in the Old Country, and has continued to garner AAQC nominations here. It is a great example of the kind of effort and thoughtfulness we like to see. Also judging by reports and upvotes, a great many of us are junkies for good book reviews. The final analysis was actually posted in January, but it contains links to all the previous entries as well, so that's what I'll put here:

Now: on with the show!

Quality Contributions Outside the CW Thread







Contributions for the week of December 5, 2022























Contributions for the week of December 12, 2022










Contributions for the week of December 19, 2022







Contributions for the week of December 26, 2022






In the distant past of 1992, Neal Stephenson published a novel called Snow Crash. Then, in 1996, he published another called The Diamond Age. Among other things, these books suggested that geographic proximity would cease to be an organizing principle of society, and that people would organize themselves into far-flung pseudo-tribal enclaves based around shared interests. Stephenson calls these enclaves “Phyles”, from the ancient Greek word for clan.

To get an idea what I mean, picture North America. Now picture, say, New York City. In our own present, New York City is a sub-unit of New York State, which is in turn a sub-unit of the United States of America (for purposes of illustration, we will leave aside questions of New York City's size and wealth giving it an outsize degree of influence in the state). Imagine instead that there are a dozen different groups within NYC's physical bounds. These groups identify not with NYC or the US of A, but some larger and more far-flung group, say the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam, as far it is concerned, is a sovereign entity. It treats with other entities – such as the Black Panther party, the NYPD, or the US of A itself – as an equal. It controls certain resources. Some may be physical locations (temples, soup kitchens), but others may be less tangible – money, or the loyalty of its believers, for example. It maintains internal discipline through written codes of conduct and various bureaucratic enforcement mechanisms. The physical location of any NOI member is a matter of chance; whether he resides in Oakland, New York, or Corpus Christi, he is a citizen of the Nation first. Now, multiply that a dozen times over, substituting any kind of group you can think of for the NOI – the Industrial Workers of the World say, or the Rotarians. That is the future Stephenson envisions.

Stephenson paints this picture with his tongue firmly in cheek, but it's a serious concept. The Nation-State as the basic unit of social organization, defined by geography and political centralization, is a relatively recent development (For a good treatment of this topic, check out Martin Van Creveld's Rise and Decline of the State). Srinivasan's book, The Network State is largely an attempt to envision how recent technological developments – mostly, crypto – might enable the formation of alternative societies that look quite a bit like what Stephenson envisioned.

I'll say up front: Srinivasan's book is good. I think there's a decent chance it will be remembered as historically significant a few centuries from now. I'm going to critique it here, but that's just because there's not much point in me sitting here and repeating everything I agree with. If you have any interest in long-term societal evolution and possible future civilizations, you should read it. All credit to the man in the arena et cetera.

The gist of my critique is this: Srinivasan does a good job describing the structural factors that are currently eroding the Nation-State’s supremacy, and he does a pretty good job of describing possible alternatives – in the abstract. That last caveat is important, because Srinivasan doesn’t put much effort into describing what shared identity a network state could actually be built on or exactly how one would emerge. His “Network State” is as mathematical and abstract as Hobbes’ absolute sovereign. This is a case where the specifics matter. Additionally, he makes assumptions about the ways in which a network-state would be like an existing nation-state, assumptions that I don't think are necessarily true

He defines a network-state thusly: “a social network with a moral innovation, a sense of national consciousness, a recognized founder, a capacity for collective action, an in-person level of civility, an integrated cryptocurrency, a consensual government limited by a social smart contract, an archipelago of crowdfunded physical territories, a virtual capital, and an on-chain census that proves a large enough population, income, and real-estate footprint to attain a measure of diplomatic recognition.”

Most of the book is dedicated to hashing out what this means in greater detail. But my own steelman version of the books argument would be something like this: New communications and information technology, combined with a series of high-visibility blunders by institutional authority figures, have undermined popular faith in “the establishment”/”the status quo”/”elites”/whatever term you prefer. The Emperor has no clothes, or least, is wearing a lot less than he's supposed to be, and everyone is able to compare notes about this fact and confirm their mutual impression. The obvious historical parallel here is the printing press and the Protestant reformation, though Srinivasan doesn't refer to it. Srinivasan is of course not the first to make this observation about the effects of new information technology.

Not all is lost, however! New technologies – again, mostly this means widespread applied cryptographic protocols – offer users a potentially unique combination of transparency (the blockchain offer high a degree of assurance against possible forgery, since every transaction is recorded in a public ledger) and privacy (you don't have to reveal anything you're not comfortable revealing). This in turn can enable the construction of new institutions. Better institutions, in which the consent of the governed is not just rhetoric but an actual operational requirement for collective action. In time, these institutions could be popular and powerful enough to disrupt the nation-state status-quo.

As a liberal arts grad who dropped out of econ cuz he couldn't hack Calc, I'm not competent to fully evaluate Srinivasan’s claims about exactly how secure the blockchain is and what it can do. But his abstract description dovetails with my own equally-abstract understanding of it. I'll also note that while I think the combination of transparency and privacy, and the ability of users to re-negotiate that balance as circumstances dictate is the “killer app” of blockhain technologies, he doesn't articulate in exactly those terms, though I think he'd more or less agree with my interpretation of his argument.

After all this excellent buildup, I was a trifle disappointed to find that Srinivasan is largely agnostic about exactly what shared identity these new institutions could be built around. At one point, he brings up keto enthusiasts as a potential candidate. After all, they have a common identity and a moral commandment: carbs are bad, fats are generally good. I presume he's being slightly facetious here. Because after all, we're talking about a group with a strong enough sense of itself and enough capacity for collective action to challenge the status quo. This, to me, is implicit in his description of the network state as attaining “a measure of diplomatic recognition.” Those with a seat at the table only admit newcomers when they have no other choice. Historically, challenging the powers that be has been a very dicey business. It's meant being thrown to the lions at the Circus Maximus, burned at the stake for heresy, exiled to Siberia, shot by the firing squad. I suspect most people won't endure that for the sake of fewer carbs.

This omission is all the more glaring because after about five seconds, I could think of one group of people who were widely scattered across the globe for thousands of years, often subject to the political, religious, and cultural hegemony of alien societies. In spite of this, they retained enough shared identity and collective-action capacity to violently establish their own statehood in the face of significant opposition. And they did it all without crypto! These folks get nary a mention in The Network State. To be fair to Srinivasan though, I think this omission is most likely because it's beyond the scope of his book, indeed worthy of a dozen books in its own right. There are public intellectuals who are unwilling to ask serious questions about what sort of things people are willing to kill and die for, but Srinivasan doesn't strike me as one them.

This problem is certainly worthy of further consideration, but if it was beyond the scope of Srinivasan's book, it's certainly beyond the scope of this post. I will only say here that the general trend of modernity is to erode traditional shared identities, which I would characterize as relatively narrow and deep (your church/mosque, your clan, your village/town) and replace them with broader-but-shallower identities (facebook interest groups, the motte?). The modern world’s substitution of relatively weak ties for more deep-rooted identities is probably a big part of the reason so many alienated people keep trying to blow it up. In spite of this tendency though, certain social ties endure. More on that in a moment.

My second major critique is that Srinivasan seems to assume that these new institutions will mostly resemble existing nation-states in key respects. His hypothetical “network state” openly controls territory, enjoys diplomatic recognition, etc. I myself am skeptical of the term “network state” and prefer “networked society” precisely because I don't think these groups will be exactly state-like. I think its more likely that as existing nation-states gradually decline in legitimacy and state capacity their supremacy will increasingly be contested by non-state actors.

It is entirely possible for the apparatus of a nation-state to exist without actually exercising the functions of a nation-state. Imagine a bunch of petty bureaucrats, collecting a paycheck and gaming the metrics their career advancement depends on while remaining willfully ignorant of the second and third-order effects of the policy they uphold, and you have a pretty good picture of the pseudo-colonial disaster that was the Afghan war. When the nominal state fails to meet the needs of the populace (most importantly dispute resolution according to some sort of legible code of justice), the populace will look elsewhere. Nature abhors a vacuum, after all. My own suspicion is that the future is not one where network-states build shining cities on a hill and supplant their predecessors by a process of meritocratic evangelism. Rather, I suspect the future is one where increasingly dysfunctional states are cannibalized by sub-state actors; tumors in the body of Leviathan. The “Crypto-Mafia” may be far more literal than expected.

Stephenson actually anticipated this possibility as well. Amongst the the phyles of the Diamond Age is a group called CryptNet, which specializes in infiltrating other phyles while continuing to pursue their own agenda. The details of CryptNet are left vague, but they seem to be regarded as something between a terrorist group and an organized crime syndicate, something which has any number of real-world examples

The question remains: what sort of shared identity could people found a network state on? While cracks might be appearing in the western liberal consensus, no clear successor has emerged yet. It remains to be seen if any of the would-be contenders will gain enough critical mass to supplant the established order. Under this scenario, I can think of two broad kinds of network-actors that might be relevant.

The first kind, and probably the one that will be most familiar to Motte readers, is what Srinivasan calls a “proposition nation”, a group of people united by their shared quasi-religious beliefs. By “quasi-religious”, I don’t mean supernatural per se. I use the term because I don’t know of any good alternative; if someone offers one I’ll accept it. I mean by it a set of beliefs that purports to describe the nature of the world and the ultimately purpose of human existence. Perhaps a simpler way of saying it is a set of beliefs someone would be willing to die for. Traditional Christianity is one such belief system, but so is Revolutionary Marxism. Arguably so is Classical liberalism, if held sufficiently deeply. More contemporarily, I could imagine certain forms of deep ecology filling such a role.

I suspect that the most effective such proposition nations would be characterized by universalism and vanguardism. A universalist belief system is simply one whose message is to all mankind. Evangelical Christianity is probably the most obvious example. Because universalist belief systems have been common in the West for millennia, its easy to assume that they’re the norm, but this isn’t necessarily true. Orthodox Judaism, for example, is traditionally non-evangelical, and conversion is a difficult process. A universalist belief system would have a wider recruiting pool and would benefit from the relative “global flattening” of modern communications.

Vanguardism is simply the notion that a small but dedicated elite can effect powerful sociopolitical changes. Though usually associated with Marxists, the basic notion has been shared by diverse actors across the political spectrum. A politically-activist network society operating within the established order would probably be vanguardist by definition, and would be a potentially attractive option for the kind of frustrated would-be elites that Turchin describes.

The second kind of network actor would be united by little more than interpersonal loyalty in the pursuit of mutual-self interest. I speak, essentially, of organized crime. It turns out you don’t actually need a grand ideological vision to inspire people to cooperate against the state. Good old pack loyalty can do it.. Groups like the Yakuza and the Sinaloa Cartel have managed to assume (or usurp, depending on your point of view) government functions impelled by little other than market forces. So far as we have a good understanding of the internal dynamics of such organizations, they are held together by a combination of patron-client networks and fictive kinship. I can equally imagine a future in which the state has become a shambling zombie, with rival networks fighting each other for control of its organs. I suspect that such a situation would look like just one more oligarchy from the perspective of the man in the street. Possibly that’s why Srinivasan doesn’t give it much consideration. It’s boring, depressing even, to imagine a future that looks so much like our past. Between these two extremes, I think I prefer proposition nations. Ideological movements have their own problems, but they at least open the possibility of something beyond the status-quo.

Srinivasan's book, then, is practically begging for a sequel which considers these issues, whether from his own keyboard or some other's. That's not a dig. The most worthwhile books are the ones people are still responding to decades or centuries later. Part of my reason for writing this post is the hope that this will encourage someone to do that. I don't know what the future looks like. But I do know that there was a time before the nation-state, and I'm pretty sure there's gonna be a time after it. That's hard for us to imagine, but it would have been equally difficult for a Saxon peasant living under William the Conqueror to imagine liberal democracy. The Network State takes an admirable stab at that; I can only hope someone continues the work.

Part 1 – The History of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 2 – the Causes and Rationalization of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 3 – How Transgenderism Harms Women And Children: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 4 – How Transgenderism Took Over Institutions And How Some Women Are Fighting Back: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 5 – Conclusion and Discussion: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Welcome back. Previously, we discussed a selective version of transgender medical history. I say selective because Joyce picked out the parts she wanted and wasn’t interested in a long drawn-out section in her book about that. She does, however, cite the book How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States for much of the history she does reference, and I heartily recommend that book if you want something that looks more at the history of the topic in the US.

With that said, let’s get into Joyce’s depiction of the causes and rationalization of transgenderism. I apologize to everyone for when I said that we’d discuss the harms that Joyce has noted, I want to do this first.

“Mommy, I’m a girl.”

Joyce brings us into the life of Richard Green, an American doctor/lawyer who spent many years in gender medicine. In the 1960s, he grew curious about whether the men who said they were really women and aware of this were always this way. In other words, were they little boys insisting they were girls, who would go on to be transsexuals? Note that at the time, gender clinics did not see children as patients.

Anyways, Green did a landmark 15-year study whose results were published in 1987 under the title The ‘Sissy Boy Syndrome’ and the Development of Homosexuality. The title, as you might imagine, gave away the conclusion. Joyce details the results as follows.

Green turned to the gold standard for investigating the origins of a condition: a prospective study, which follows people who seem likely to develop it to see what happens...He recruited around sixty ‘sissy boys’ and a similar number of ‘controls’: ordinarily masculine boys matched for age and socio-economic situation. He interviewed them and their parents every year or two. Of the forty-four in the first group whom he managed to stay in touch with, eighteen were unambiguously homosexual as young adults, fourteen fantasised about or engaged in homosexual activity with some frequency, and just twelve were exclusively, or nearly exclusively, heterosexual. Just one said he felt like a woman.

Of course, one study by itself is not particularly telling. Joyce argues that many studies have come forth since then, and all confirm what Green was saying. She cites a study from a Toronto clinic in March 2021 that followed 139 boys from 1975 to 2009 which found nearly 90% of dysphoric boys desisted. 82 of these boys ended up biphilic or androphilic.

“Ah,” you might reply, “but the ones who are most likely to be trans must feel it the strongest!” No, Joyce argues. We don’t know what makes someone a “persister” (opposite of desister), and the strength of the feeling isn’t necessarily a good indicator. As evidence, she points to Todd, the only one who persisted in Green’s study. By 17, Todd seemed to be settled into his desire to be a woman, but he didn’t stick out as unusually effeminate or dysphoric.

Joyce portrays Green as someone trying hard to get the parents of the boys to accept their sons as who they were and failed ultimately. The boys knew they were embarrassing to their parents, and some parents tried to remove the “sissiness” from their children.

This was not the only study at the time which suggested this. A survey of 21 male-to-female trans women found that 17 were transsexuals and previously regarded themselves as gay men.

So what did the two groups in the survey have in common? Joyce’s answer is androphilia. She cites the work of Paul Vasey, a Canadian psychologist and professor. According to him, your culture determined whether highly feminine boy would grow up to be a gay man, a trans woman, or some other cultural equivalent. Vasey points to the fa’afafine, a “third gender” in Samoan culture. These boys were not regarded as men or women, but still as undoubtedly male. He also references similar groups like the Zapotec muxes in Mexico.

Androphilic males were not, however, the only ones to go to these clinics, and the question would now concern why.

An “Aha” Moment

Picture a man. Married, having kids, in a conventionally masculine job with conventionally masculine pastime interests. Why would such a man go to a gender clinic?

This was the puzzle for Ray Blanchard, a famous (or infamous) name in the history of transgenderism in the West. You have likely heard the term “Blanchard’s typology” in other discussions about trans topics, but if you have not or don’t know it that well, keep reading.

Blanchard is a clinical psychologist who was working in a Toronto institute in the 1980s. When he came across such patients, he started working out a categorization, eventually settling on two broad groups.

Group 1 was androphilic males, a minority of the relevant people. They were Green’s “persisters” and highly feminine in presentation and interests.

Group 2 was varied and far more interesting. Many were like the man I asked you to picture above. Others reported imagining themselves as women with their wives penetrating them or as a woman in a lesbian relationship with their wives. Some were bisexual or asexual.

The sole cross-sex behavior that many reported was “erotic transvestism”. This is not that uncommon of a fetish in heterosexual men, a Swedish study found that nearly 3% of males experienced sexual arousal in response to cross-dressing. But this wasn’t enough for Blanchard. What was the link between wearing a woman’s clothing to help with masturbating and wanting to be a woman?

And then he met Philip.

Philip was a 38-year-old with severe gender dysphoria. He reported sexual experiences with women, but he also said that he imagined himself as a woman as well. His sexual fantasies involved imagining himself as a woman, with emphasis on his breasts, vagina, and soft skin. Sometimes, Joyce reports, Philip imagined himself being penetrated vaginally by a man.

The kicker? Philip said he never cross-dressed after childhood because he got nothing from it.

For Blanchard, this was the moment it made sense. The clothing was not these men were obsessing over. Instead, the clothes were how they brought life to themselves in female form.

Autogynephilia, meaning love for oneself as a woman. This was the term Blanchard settled on to describe these people.

Joyce emphasizes to us that Blanchard never intended to raise obstacles in the way of transitioning, only to understand and help his patients. Not all were entirely okay with transitioning, recognizing the harm it might cause their families or careers. She describes the generally high levels of gate-keeping at the time around physical transitioning as follows.

When patients were eventually seen, the personal crises that led to referral were past. And central to assessment was ensuring that they fully understood the goal of castration and bodily remodelling. They had to confront a tough question: was their desire to transition strong enough?... At [Blanchard’s institute], four-fifths of patients abandoned the idea of transition before surgery. Some did not show up for the initial assessment. Others never returned, perhaps having concluded that living with gender dysphoria was preferable to proceeding. Even after that, referral for surgery depended on the ‘real-life test’: changing name, pronouns and clothing, and maintaining a cross-sex presentation for two years.

I had heard stories in passing from trans people complaining about how doctors required humiliating and absurd demonstrations of transgenderism before allowing physical transition, and I would have to agree after reading this. I think only the most determined could reasonably conceive of going forward with this. Those who went the full course, however, did generally report being happier after the surgery.

There is still, however, one more piece to the puzzle of explaining this.

Exit Rights

Those who follow transgender news may recall a particular case from 2021: Bell v. Tavistock.

The plaintiff was Keira Bell, a former patient at Tavistock (a gender clinic in the UK). Bell had previously come out as a trans man and received puberty blockers from the clinic before eventually getting a double mastectomy. Eventually, she regretted her choice and went back to identifying as a woman (though it doesn’t seem like she got more surgery – I don’t even know if you could).

I won’t go deep into the story of Bell at this time, that’s probably for another post. But for Joyce, Bell was the case that forced gender clinicians to start examining what the hell was going on with gender-dysphoric minors. In 1989, Tavistock clinic opened and had two referrals, both young boys. In 2020, there were over 2300 referrals, with nearly 75% being girls (most of them being teenagers). This is a pattern, Joyce says, that is replicated worldwide. I can’t find any sources to confirm this, but I’ve heard Destiny argue the same (that trans men are more commonplace than trans women), and he seems like he has a pretty good grasp of trans issues and facts.

In any case, Joyce attempts to diagnose why there has been such a large growth in girls choosing to come out as boys, or even just describing themselves with terms like gender-fluid, non-binary, etc.

Her answer? Sexuality, modern feminism, and social contagion.


After his initial study of his male patients, Blanchard turned his attention eventually to his minority of female patients. All of them were homosexual and masculine in presentation/interests. A rare few were autoandrophiles. Note that Blanchard did not describe them that way, I’m using the term because it fits what he seems to be getting at, but his term was “autohomoerotics”.

Modern Feminism

Joyce starts with the story of Margaret Bulkley. Bulkley was an Irish woman born in 1789 who took the name of her dead uncle to train as a doctor. She was ultimately forced by circumstance to live the fake identity permanently.

This story it not, by itself, that important, but the reaction to how it has been portrayed is telling for Joyce. She compares the responses to two biographies: * Dr James Barry: A Woman Ahead of Her Time* and The Cape Doctor. The first was published in 2016 and was well-received, the second in 2019 and trashed in some places as “transphobic”. Joyce thus places the moment when gender identity eclipsed biological sex amongst intellectuals somewhere between the two publication dates.

Personally, I think this is shoddy argumentation. Joyce is pointing to reviews by randoms online for a book that was probably only of interest to a small number of people and claims that this is how you know when this happened for intellectuals at large. I think this would be better proof of gender identity reaching far enough into the public that such reviews would be posted.

If anything, I would place gender identity as already having taken over biological sex amongst intellectuals prior to 2016, but probably not too long before that. The Great Awokening was just a few years prior and Obergefell was decided in 2015. However, it’s worth acknowledging that many ideas that became publicly acceptable in the middle of the 2010s had long-since been brewing and arguably dominating academic circles for much longer. CRT was a product of the 1980s, it just didn’t get attention until a few years ago when its tenets entered the Overton Window.

Going past this, Joyce argues that the reception to the second biography and subsequent transgendering of Bulkley illustrate the issue of modern feminism. Where previously a woman challenged the oppression of her sex, a trans man simply opted out while leaving that oppression untouched. Women in the past had lived as men for multiple reasons, but their reasons were typically not that they had been born in the wrong bodies. Economics, sexuality, and even desires for personal freedom all intermingled into why a woman might defend her decision to live as a man.

Social Contagion

In 2015, Lisa Littman, an American physician and public health specialist, began to notice teenagers in her community announcing their transgender status in quick succession. When it hit six (all from the same group), Littman grew suspicious. The research did not suggest clusters at all. So she embarked upon a terrible quest to gaze into the abyss that would surely see her crack in the face of a cold and uncaring universe - going to Tumblr and Reddit.

What she found was teenagers giving idiotic advice and telling each other to stop listening to parents and doctors. Littman quickly decided to start gathering survey data and published it in 2018, which Joyce details below.

Most of the 256 parents who completed Littman’s anonymised ninety-question survey reported that their children had announced they were trans after spending more time online, after several friends had done so, or both. Almost two-thirds of these parents’ children had previously been diagnosed with at least one psychiatric or developmental condition; many had self-harmed.

Littman came up with another term you’ve probably heard of to describe this: rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD).

Still, the causal chain lacked explanation. Why was having trans friends or spending time online making kids identify as trans?

Susan Bradley, formerly head of Toronto’s first paediatric gender clinic, argues that it has to do with autism and low self-esteem. For the first, she said that young people with autism or related disorders reject nuance and prefer rigid thinking. If they feel discomfort, they might conclude misclassification.

Where the online component comes in is what we might call the WebMD Effect. A child finding discomfort in their gender would search up symptoms, be told by other people or by the webpages of institutions that they are trans, and less-than-critically accept this.

The internet component has seen a great deal of discussion in recent years, reasonably so if this idea only came out in 2018. Joyce relates stories about girls who are anxious or lonely and perhaps have unpleasant experiences where their female status plays a role – sexualized harassment, rejection by a crush, etc. They turn to social media for explanations and get told they are trans and that they are valid. A powerful feeling of acceptance drowns out any skepticism in the mind. Tumblr gets some blame for this; Joyce implies that its culture made being white/straight/cis or any combination of those factors a sign of evil. Being non-straight gives social status, and what teenager (let alone teenage girls) can resist that?

Root Causes

Joyce has given us three reasons she thinks explains many, perhaps most, trans cases. But do you notice something about all three? Let’s recap these motivations:

  1. Androphilia – love of men.

  2. Autogynephilia – love for oneself as a woman

  3. Social Contagion – being influenced by people online or by peers

Perhaps some of you have caught on, but if not, let me now reveal something. Recall that I discussed the case of George Jorgensen in the previous post, a man who went to Europe to physically transition in 1950. Did you at all wonder what his motivation was?

Take it away, Joyce.

As a boy, George had seemed quite ordinary. But inwardly, he was miserable, hating masculine clothes and games, and developing crushes on other boys. As an adult, he had homosexual experiences, which he regarded as immoral. He longed to ‘relate to men as a woman, not another man’, he wrote later.

And no, Joyce is most certainly not arguing that he is trans on the basis of that last line. No, Jorgensen was just another historical example of a man who was androphilic. A gay man who, unable to accept that he was gay, decided to become a woman so he didn’t violate his own morality.

Joyce’s chosen motivations are highly insulting, I imagine, to many trans people. If you are a man, you are either a homosexual in denial or someone with a fetish. If you are a young woman in 2023, you are likely being swayed by peers or social media. Some of these trans men and women are genuinely trans, but many would probably not get approval in Joyce’s eyes as truly being transgender.

To her credit, Joyce does not blame those who choose to come out as trans, depicting them as victims of the societies around them. Society and government did not allow gay men to exist in public, while pro-trans feminism actively turned women from a sex-based category to a gender-identity category. What was once a communal definition turned into one that placed highest validation of whatever an individual desired.

The Red Pill

Please see the comments for this part, the mods are mean 'cause they won't let me have more than 20k characters in my body.

That’s all for this post. Next time, we’ll get into some of the impacts Joyce attributes to the version of pro-trans ideology that has come to define what it means in 2023 to be supportive, I promise. I hope you enjoyed!

Part 1 – The History of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 2 – the Causes and Rationalization of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 3 – How Transgenderism Harms Women And Children: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 4 – How Transgenderism Took Over Institutions And How Some Women Are Fighting Back: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 5 – Conclusion and Discussion: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Last time, we discussed what harms Joyce thinks transgender people (especially trans women) cause to women and how GII harms kids as a whole.

This time, we’ll go over Joyce’s explanation of how transgenderism became so widespread as an idea, some more issues with the movement as a whole, and how some cis women are fighting back.

Cultural Trans…Marxism?

When Joyce opens a chapter with the title “Transactivism’s long march through the institutions”, one wonders how broadly she considers this phenomenon. But that’s for another time.

Anyways, Joyce takes on an idea that supposedly exists in the people she portrays as clueless. Namely, that the trans rights movement (TRM) is just like those that came before. She argues that the movement has claimed the original civil rights movement, the women’s vote movement, and same-sex marriage movement as its ancestors. However, the TRM is different from the others in some specific ways.

Firstly, Joyce claims that the TRM is asking for something very different. Whereas MLK or Susan B Anthony fought to extend rights previously held by a smaller group to more people, the TRM is asking people to change what defines gender and sex. That is, the TRM is about getting people to treat trans people as the sex they claim to be, not the sex they were at birth. This is not, Joyce argues, a human right, but a demand for everyone else to lose their rights to single-sex spaces, services, and activities, along with a requirement that you agree with their definition of what a man or woman is.

I’ll admit to not knowing enough history, but would you not have seen similar arguments about the others? For example, the CRM would have been cast as a demand for people to lose their rights to a single-race space or service. The women’s vote movement would have been a demand that men lose the right to make decisions for their families as was “natural”. Or same-sex marriage as a demand that straight people lose their right to an important and exclusive social technology.

Secondly, Joyce argues that unlike the other three, the TRM is not trying to win hearts and minds. Joyce characterizes the first three movements as follows.

the movements…had to be built from the ground up. Campaigners gave speeches and held rallies to raise awareness and win supporters. Solid majorities had to favour the social and legal shifts these groups demanded before politicians and judges implemented them.

In contrast, Joyce says, the TRM has often flown beneath notice and this is an explicitly known strategy. From the mouth of Masen Davis in 2013 speaking at the Transgender Law Center:

we have largely achieved our successes by flying under the radar…We do a lot really quietly. We have made some of our biggest gains that nobody has noticed. We are very quiet and thoughtful about what we do, because we want to make sure we have the win more than we want to have the publicity.

Which successes he’s talking about, or how widespread this practice is, Joyce doesn’t elaborate on or substantiate. It may be that only the TLC is doing this, but I think even a conservative guess would say they aren’t exceptions.

Joyce refers to polls done in the UK to illustrate how attitudes among the people differ greatly from what GII endorses. She cites a Populus poll from 2018 and notes that it found only 15% of British adults said you should be able to get a legal sex change without a doctor’s sign-off. That number did not change in 2020 when YouGov did a similar poll. There is, she writes, a widespread belief that trans people should be free to describe as they wish, but not to take it as correct for legal forms and documents without additional evidence.

Here, Joyce gets a bit conspiratorial. She starts by noting that movements with support from the wealthy can have much stronger impact compared to ones without that may have broader appeal, then name-drops three individuals she argues are responsible for providing resources and support to do lectures, education projects, studies, etc.

The first is Jennifer Pritzker, a trans woman billionaire. Her personal foundation has made millions of dollars in donations to left-wing and pro-trans movements.

The second is Jon Stryker, a billionaire who has funded LGBT campaign group IGLA and Transgender Europe, a different group that promotes national self-ID laws. His foundation has also given millions to queer-studies programs and American trans-rights groups.

The third is George Soros (come back, I promise you, it’s not what you think!). Soros is cited as giving millions to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, but also funding via OSF (Open Society Foundations) a 2014 guide to campaigning for national self-Id laws.

You may be wondering what the problem is. Any movement or political group has wealthy backers. Joyce answers by noting what all three have in common – being rich, white American males. This, she says, explains the difference in rhetoric and difference in policies. The TRM talks about helping the poor homeless trans people who do sex work to survive, don’t get health care, and are harassed by the police. But they push for something only comfortable men would pursue with the focus on allowing self-ID as the arbiter of legal and social sex status.

Oh, and I would be remiss to not mention that she spends a few paragraphs talking about the danger of the transgender medical industry. In particular, there are tens of thousands of dollars to be made for each surgery performed, and this creates in aggregate a very powerful incentive to keep people undergoing surgeries and other treatments. I find this to be a bizarre case to make – Joyce is not interested in going the angle of “capitalists made transgenderism a thing to make money”, so why even bring this up?

The G-word

Why the focus on allowing children to gain access to hormones to undergo surgery earlier as well? After all, if this is about men wanting to transition, why do they care about children?

Joyce says they don’t and offers the following example as proof.

In the late 1960s, some European liberals thought that breaking down sexual taboos was a task that had to be started young. In German kindergartens run along radical left lines, teachers encouraged children to fondle them, view pornography and simulate sexual intercourse. Contemporaneous accounts show that parents often felt qualms, which they suppressed because of what they had been told about how children should naturally behave. What happened was child-abuse, though motivated by political conviction rather than sexual desire. But it did not take long before paedophiles saw their chance.

The leaders of the sexual revolution were men whose aims were to legalise homosexuality – and, in some cases, to smash the heterosexual family unit. Few if any wanted to endanger children; they simply did not give children enough thought.

This is a whole scandal in retrospect by itself, and Joyce details how from the 70s to the 90s, pedophiles and their advocacy groups were on good terms with left-wing parties in an “enemy of my enemy” situation. Their enemies were “Conservatives, Catholics, evangelicals and fascists” who had spoken up about opposing gay and pedophile activists. This made it nigh impossible to speak out about how strongly the pedophiles were within left-wing organization. It only changed once a woman named Eileen Fairweather published works uncovering pedophile rings in schools and children’s homes in Britain.

Now, let me be clear about this – Joyce is not arguing that trans activists and pedophiles are analogous, but that there were some gay and trans activists after the 1960s who were indifferent or just naïve about the need to keep pedophiles from children. And it is the same kind of indifference to child welfare that, according to her, leads the modern TRM to support child transition as well as ignore how its own movement can be hijacked by pedophiles.

Note: If you found the idea of politically motivated child abuse bizarre, check out this article. Also, check out this post for an explanation with some context from the book of a paleo-conservative.

The Successes of the TRM

Joyce at long last gives a list of how far the TRM has come in society, in her view at least. This won’t be new if you’re familiar enough with how far social progressive ideas have spread across Western ruling institutions.

  • The ACLU and Human Rights Council (HRC) are influential and notable organizations that support gender self-ID as a widespread standard and celebrate such victories as another notch in the fight for civil rights

  • Supposedly, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Independent Press Standards Organization (UK’s journalism watchdog) have put out guidelines for journalists that discourage mentioning a trans person’s biological sex or pre-transition name

  • The Equal Treatment Bench Book (an important book for British judges) presents deadnaming as disrespectful and uses non-legal terminology like “gender assigned at birth”

  • The Corporate Equality Index (created by the HRC) encourages companies to advocate publicly for gender self-ID

The above is not comprehensive of her example, but it’s fair to say that Joyce would agree with a summarization along the lines of “TRM has put continuous pressure upon every family of institutions that have power over the public and found success by doing so and they will not stop any time soon”.

Gender Critic Harry Potter Vs. TRA Voldemort

The last chapter of Joyce’s book heaps praise upon British women who are said to be fighting back. You’ll recognize some names if you follow this particular culture war.

Joyce’s “protagonist” is Maya Forstater, a woman who lost her job at a think-tank because she believed that male/female were distinct and immutable categories and publicly declared this. She sued the think-tank in 2021 and argued in court that her views were a protected belief.

Forstater is portrayed as being the modern-day John Scopes, a teacher from a century ago who was charged with a misdemeanour for teaching evolutionary theory in Tennessee. Indeed, Joyce explicitly mocks some of the questions posed. Assuming they’re correct, my favorite is “Could [you] name any philosophers who agree with [you]?” She ultimately lost the case, the judge ruling that her belief was not worthy of respect in a democratic society.

Of course, you all know where I’m going with this. J. K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series and its amazing lore where wizards historically shit their pants like degenerates, defended Forstater publicly after she was fired. She would later insist that the U.N was being silly when they used phrases like “people who menstruate” over “women”.

Quite frankly, more has been written about Rowling and her transgenderism-related controversies than anyone would want to read in a lifetime. If you want to read about this, I suggest reading the original Harry Potter series instead. It’s much more fun and you can join the massive fanfiction community afterwards.

The overall idea is that people like Rowling and Forstater are the public figures and “heads” of this rejection. The former is especially important because barring physical violence, no one can really prevent her from speaking. She has no economic woes and can easily finance websites, lectures, political action, etc. Indeed, Rowling has even gone as far as to open a crisis center for women under her definition of them.

In any case, the first real setback dealt to the TRAs came in 2018. Joyce characterizes the run-up to this year as beginning in 2015, when the Conservatives won. During the same year, there was a parliamentary inquiry into trans equality, where apparently any and all TRAs were invited, but no one who was skeptical or in outright denial of the idea.

The inquiry came back with some predictable recommendations. First was legal gender self-ID, but another was to remove an exception to the Equality Act that allowed providers to have different facilities for the sexes. This collected dust, but a few MPs kept pushing for self-ID. The whole thing came to the public in 2017 (keep in mind this is when Brexit was happening, which is why that dominated minds both in and out of the UK and this issue did not).

The backlash, however, was not as expected, nor the agitators. Women’s groups began admitting they had believed GII wouldn’t affect them or their single-sex spaces. They began to shout for the importance of sex-based definitions, particularly of women and the spaces they held. Pressure to cancel their events grew and there were even some intimidation tactics used. One woman was even assaulted by a trans person who was counter-protesting. Parents began to get worried as well, and one organization focused on protecting children convinced many school councils to change their guidance on what bathroom a trans child should use. In a notable case, there were even some gay people working to convince the pro-trans side to wind back their support for gender self-ID.

All of this ended in two things.

  1. The pro-trans side didn’t get what they wanted as Conservatives realized that gender self-ID was immensely unpopular.

  2. The LGB alliance was born, and the exclusion of T is both obvious and intentional.

At the time Joyce published her book, there were multiple challenges being made by women’s groups to oppose self-ID in various ways, such as attempting to prevent the census takers from redefining sex away from biology (this succeeded).

That’s it for this post. Next time, we’ll wrap up this series and talk about a few lingering topics, along with some stuff that I found too boring or out of place for any of these posts. I hope you enjoyed!

I'll be honest: I used to think talk of AI risk was so boring that I literally banned the topic at every party I hosted. The discourse generally focused on existential risks so hopelessly detached from any semblance of human scale that I couldn't be bothered to give a shit. I played the Universal Paperclips game and understood what a cataclysmic extinction scenario would sort of look like, but what the fuck was I supposed to do about it now? It was either too far into the future for me to worry about it, or the singularity was already imminent and inevitable. Moreover, the solution usually bandied about was to ensure AI is obedient ("aligned") to human commands. It's a quaint idea, but given how awful humans can be, this is just switching one problem for another.

So if we set aside the grimdark sci-fi scenarios for the moment, what are some near-term risks of humans using AI for evil? I can think of three possibilities where AI can be leveraged as a force multiplier by bad (human) actors: hacking, misinformation, and scamming.

(I initially was under the deluded impression that I chanced upon a novel insight, but in researching this topic, I realized that famed security researcher Bruce Schneier already wrote about basically the same subject way back in fucking April 2021 [what a jerk!] with his paper The Coming AI Hackers. Also note that I'm roaming outside my usual realm of expertise and hella speculating. Definitely do point out anything I may have gotten wrong, and definitely don't do anything as idiotic as make investment decisions based on what I've written here. That would be so fucking dumb.)

Computers are given instructions through the very simple language of binary: on and off, ones and zeroes. The original method of "talking" to computers was a punch card, which had (at least in theory) an unambiguous precision to its instructions: punch or nah, on or off, one or zero. Punch cards were intimate, artisanal, and extremely tedious to work with. In a fantastic 2017 Atlantic article titled The Coming Software Apocalypse, James Somers charts how computer programming changed over time. As early as the 1960s, software engineers were objecting to the introduction of this new-fangled "assembly language" as a replacement for punch cards. The old guard worried that replacing 10110000 01100001 on a punch card with MOV AL, 61h might result in errors or misunderstandings about what the human actually was trying to accomplish. This argument lost because the benefits of increased code abstraction were too great to pass up. Low-level languages like assembly are an ancient curiosity now, having long since been replaced by high-level languages like Python and others. All those in turn risk being replaced by AI coding tools like Github's Copilot.

Yet despite the increasing complexity, even sophisticated systems remained scrutable to mere mortals. Take, for example, a multibillion-dollar company like Apple, which employs thousands of the world's greatest cybersecurity talent and tasks them with making sure whatever code ends up on iPhones is buttoned up nice and tight. Nevertheless, not too long ago it was still perfectly feasible for a single sufficiently motivated and talented individual to successfully find and exploit vulnerabilities in Apple's library code just by tediously working out of his living room.

Think of increased abstraction in programming as a gain in altitude, and AI coding tools are the yoke pull that will bring us escape velocity. The core issue here is that any human operator looking below will increasingly lose the ability to comprehend anything within the landscape their gaze happens to rest upon. In contrast, AI can swallow up and understand entire rivers of code in a single gulp, effortlessly highlighting and patching vulnerabilities as it glides through the air. In the same amount of time, a human operator can barely kick a panel open only to then find themselves staring befuddled at the vast oceans of spaghetti code below them.

There's a semi-plausible scenario in the far future where technology becomes so unimaginably complex that only Tech-Priests endowed with the proper religious rituals can meaningfully operate machinery. Setting aside that grimdark possibility and focusing just on the human risk aspect for now, increased abstraction isn't actually too dire of a problem. In the same way that tech companies and teenage hackers waged an arms race over finding and exploiting vulnerabilities, the race will continue except the entry price will require a coding BonziBuddy. Code that is not washed clean of vulnerabilities by an AI check will be hopelessly torn apart in the wild by malicious roving bots sniffing for exploits.

Until everyone finds themselves on equal footing where defensive AI is broadly distributed, the transition period will be particularly dangerous for anyone even slightly lagging behind. But because AI can be used to find exploits before release, Schneier believes this dynamic will ultimately result in a world that favors the defense, where software vulnerabilities eventually become a thing of the past. The arms race will continue, except it will be relegated to a clash of titans between adversarial governments and large corporations bludgeoning each other with impossibly large AI systems. I might end up eating my words eventually, but the dynamics described here seem unlikely to afford rogue criminal enterprises the ability to have both access to whatever the cutting-edge AI code sniffers are and the enormous resource footprint required to operate them.

So how about something more fun, like politics! Schneier and Nathan E. Sanders wrote an NYT op-ed recently that was hyperbolically titled How ChatGPT Hijacks Democracy. I largely agree with Jesse Singal's response in that many of the concerns raised easily appear overblown when you realize they're describing already existing phenomena:

There's also a fatalism lurking within this argument that doesn't make sense. As Sanders and Schneier note further up in their piece, computers (assisted by humans) have long been able to generate huge amounts of comments for... well, any online system that accepts comments. As they also note, we have adapted to this new reality. These days, even folks who are barely online know what spam is.

Adaptability is the key point here. There is a tediously common cycle of hand-wringing over whatever is the latest deepfake technology advance, and how it has the potential to obliterate our capacity to discern truth from fiction. This just has not happened. We've had photograph manipulation literally since the invention of the medium; we have been living with a cinematic industry capable of rendering whatever our minds can conjure with unassailable fidelity; and yet, we're still here. Anyone right now can trivially fake whatever text messages they want, but for some reason this has not become any sort of scourge. It's by no means perfect, but nevertheless, there is something remarkably praiseworthy about humanity's ability to sustain and develop properly calibrated skepticism about the changing world we inhabit.

What also helps is that, at least at present, the state of astroturf propaganda is pathetic. Schneier cites an example of about 250,000 tweets repeating the same pro-Saudi slogan verbatim after the 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Perhaps the most concerted effort in this arena is what is colloquially known as Russiagate. Russia did indeed try to spread deliberate misinformation in the 2016 election, but the effect (if any) was too miniscule to have any meaningful impact on any electoral outcome, MSNBC headlines notwithstanding. The lack of results is despite the fact that Russia's Internet Research Agency, which was responsible for the scheme, had $1.25 million to spend every month and employed hundreds of "specialists."

But let's steelman the concern. Whereas Russia had to rely on flesh and blood humans to generate fake social media accounts, AI can be used to drastically expand the scope of possibilities. Beyond reducing the operating cost to near-zero, entire ecosystems of fake users can be conjured out of thin air, along with detailed biographies, unique distinguishing characteristics, and specialization backgrounds. Entire libraries of fabricated bibliographies can similarly be summoned and seeded throughout the internet. Google's system for detecting fraudulent website traffic was calibrated based on the assumption that a majority of users were human. How would we know what's real and what isn't if the swamp gets too crowded? Humans also rely on heuristics ("many people are saying") to make sense of information overload, so will this new AI paradigm augur an age of epistemic learned helplessness?

Eh, doubtful. Propaganda created with the resources and legal immunity of a government is the only area I might have concerns over. But consistent with the notion of the big lie, the false ideas that spread the farthest appear deliberately made to be as bombastic and outlandish as possible. Something false and banal is not interesting enough to care about, but something false and crazy spreads because it selects for gullibility among the populace (see QAnon). I can't predict the future, but the concerns raised here do not seem materially different from similar previous panics that turned out to be duds. Humans' persistent adaptability in processing information appears to be so consistent that it might as well be an axiom.

And finally, scamming. Hoo boy, are people fucked. There's nothing new about swindlers. The classic Nigerian prince email scam was just a repackaged version of similar scams from the sixteenth century. The awkward broken English used in these emails obscures just how labor-intensive it can be to run a 419 scam enterprise from a Nigerian cybercafe. Scammers can expect maybe a handful of initial responses from sending hundreds of emails. The patently fanciful circumstances described by these fictitious princes follow a similar theme for conspiracies: The goal is to select for gullibility.

But even after a mark is hooked, the scammer has to invest a lot of time and finesse to close the deal, and the immense gulf in wealth between your typical Nigerian scammer and your typical American victim is what made the atrociously low success rates worthwhile. The New Yorker article The Perfect Mark is a highly recommended and deeply frustrating read, outlining in excruciating detail how one psychotherapist in Massachusetts lost more than $600,000 and was sentenced to prison.

This scam would not have been as prevalent had there not existed a country brimming with English-speaking people with internet access and living in poverty. Can you think of anything else with internet access that can speak infinite English? Get ready for Nigerian Prince Bot 4000.

Unlike the cybersecurity issue, where large institutions have the capabilities and the incentive to shore up defenses, it's not obvious how individuals targeted by confidence tricks can be protected. Besides putting them in a rubber room, of course. No matter how tightly you encrypt the login credentials of someone's bank account, you will always need to give them some way to access their own account, and this means that social engineering will always remain the prime vulnerability in a system. Best of luck, everyone.

Anyways, AI sounds scary! Especially when wielded by bad people. On the flipside of things, I am excited about all the neat video games we're going to get as AI tools continue to trivialize asset creation and coding generation. That's pretty cool, at least. 🤖


A thinker, a strategist, a flawed man, a great man. Today I am grateful for Michael King Jr., renamed by his father for the Protestant hero Martin Luther after a pre-WWII visit to Germany.

I had my first full decade of life in the 1980's, the era of Star Wars, Back To The Future, E.T., Garfield, and The Cosby Show. I never knew the world before Reagan except in archival footage and textbooks. My toys and clothes came from garage sales and hand-me-downs from other church kids' families. I knew well the 'zip-zip' sound of corduroy pants. I grew up in Albuquerque Public Schools, where half of my classmates were Hispanic, with names like Sanchez and Chavez and Baca, and I didn't have a Black classmate until Albuquerque High School.

My favorite sitcoms were ALF and The Cosby Show. ALF was the story of an adopted outsider, a weirdo who disrupted a middle-class family's home with antics and humor. The Cosby Show was the story of a middle-class family in New York, and how the professional parents raised their many children right. From ALF I learned about the existence of alcoholism; from The Cosby Show I learned about the existence of dining rooms. From ALF I learned about the national security state which was ready at any moment to burst in with guns drawn; from The Cosby Show I learned about the grand legacy of Historically Black Colleges. I identified with the kids, Brian Tanner and Rudy Huxtable, who were both my age. If ALF and The Cosby Show had ever had a crossover, Dr. Cliff Huxtable and ALF would have riffed off each other for a solid half-hour of laughs.

Once I left high school, I discovered to my dismay that people consider ALF the more realistic show.

Back to Dr. King.

Civil rights bills and amendments had been making progress leading up to his "I Have a Dream" speech, given at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. On November 22, 1963, the man who had proposed the legislation, President John F. Kennedy, was murdered most foully while the bill was being filibustered. Nobody knew for certain who did it, but the moment was as shocking to the Negro people of America as the slaying of The Great Emancipator, President Abraham Lincoln.

Tons of history has been written about these events and personalities. I'm here to be grateful to Dr. King for the one truly lasting thing he did: he called on America to remember its founding promise of freedom:

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

His speech insists that the Negro continue the path of nonviolent awakening of America to her faults, and called upon the conscience of Americans in power, through what we would come to call mistake theory instead of conflict theory. This is what I, as an American of late Generation X, am grateful for.

But D.C. being D.C., the government used the opportunity of freeing one group to restrict all, as Barry Goldwater said was happening:

I am unalterably opposed to discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color or creed, or on any other basis; not only my words, but more importantly my actions through the years have repeatedly demonstrated the sincerity of my feeling in this regard. This is fundamentally a matter of the heart. The problems of discrimination can never be cured by laws alone; but I would be the first to agree that laws can help—laws carefully considered and weighed in an atmosphere of dispassion, in the absence of political demagoguery, and in the light of fundamental constitutional principles.

...[mentions his support for 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights bills, and the calm deliberation Congress used to be known for]...

It was in this context that I maintained high hopes for this current legislation—high hopes that, notwithstanding the glaring defects of the measure as it reached us from the other body and the sledgehammer political tactics which produced it, this legislation, through the actions of what was once considered to be the greatest deliberative body on earth, would emerge in a form both effective for its lofty purposes and acceptable to all freedom‐loving people.

It is with great sadness that I realize the nonfulfillment of these high hopes. My hopes were shattered when it became apparent that emotion and political pressure, not persuasion, not common sense, not deliberation, had become the rule of the day and of the processes of this great body. One has only to review the defeat of common‐sense amendments to this bill — I amendments that would in no way harm it but would, in fact, improve it—to realize that political pressure, not persuasion or common sense, has come to rule the consideration of this measure.

...[disputing the constitutionality of the bill as written and claiming it is a power grab]...

My basic objection to this measure is, therefore, constitutional. But in addition, I would like to point out to my colleagues in the Senate and to the people of America, regardless of their race, color or creed, the implications involved in the enforcement of regulatory legislation of this sort.

To give genuine effect to the prohibitions of this bill will require the creation of a Federal police force of mammoth proportions. It also bids fair to result in the development of an “informer” psychology in great areas of our national life —neighbors spying on neighbors, worker spying on workers, businessmen spying on businessmen, where those who would harass their fellow citizens for selfish and narrow purposes will have ample inducement to do so. These the Federal police force and an “informer” psychology, are the hallmarks of the police state and landmarks in the destruction of a free society.

I repeat again: I am unalterably opposed to discrimination of any sort and I believe that though the problem is fundamentally one of the heart, some law can help—but not law that embodies features like these, provisions which fly in the face of the Constitution and which require for their effective execution the creation of a police state. And so, because I am unalterably opposed to any threats to our great system of government and the loss of our God‐given liberties, I shall vote “no” on this bill.

And that was the end of Goldwater's future aspirations, the end of mistake theory as strong politics, and the end of Libertarianism in America outside of conservative conclaves.

Four years later, both MLK and RFK, the Black and the white faces of civil rights, were slain three months apart.

I have never known an America without conflict theory as strong politics, except in the time before I knew anything about politics. Upon reviewing how greatness was slaughtered, the inner cities became drug-and-gun ghettos, and reason was slain, I join with my generation in looking on in observance of utter loss... then turning away and uttering a coping "Whatever."


Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, SoundCloud, Pocket Casts, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, and RSS.

In this episode, we discuss porn.

Participants: Yassine, Interversity, Neophos, Xantos.


E016: The Banality of Catgirls (The Bailey)

Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports (Behavioral Sciences)

How Pornography Can Ruin Your Sex Life (Mark Manson)

Does too much pornography numb us to sexual pleasure? (Aeon Magazine)

The great porn experiment (TEDx)

Hikikomori (Wikipedia)

The Effects Of Too Much Porn: "He's Just Not That Into Anyone" (The Last Psychiatrist)

Hard Core (The Atlantic)

Recorded 2022-12-18 | Uploaded 2023-01-12


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.

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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.

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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.

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SS: I think that cognitive genetic enhancement is important for ensuring we have a better and lasting future. Many people have an intuitive dislike for the idea of using genetic enhancement to make a baby smarter but have little issue with in vitro fertilization (IVF). I try to build from a foundation of the acceptable practice of IVF to PGT-P for IQ.

Part 1 – The History of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 2 – the Causes and Rationalization of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 3 – How Transgenderism Harms Women And Children: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 4 – How Transgenderism Took Over Institutions And How Some Women Are Fighting Back: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 5 – Conclusion and Discussion: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

How Much Was Covered In The Series?

Firstly, I just want to say that, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know that I picked information and arguments out of reading order. That is, Joyce’s book is a list of chapters that can mostly be read out of order, but her original list isn’t how I organized my posts. There was a great deal of jumping around.

Secondly, I did skip a few sections, including the entirety of a chapter that contained nothing new or useful. For those are currently reading or plan to read the book, it would be chapter 12.

Overall Impression

I had gone into this book expecting a great deal more. I knew that Joyce was gender-critical, but I expected stronger argumentation or attempts at finding examples of what Joyce was concerned about. As it stands, the book isn’t bad, but it can come off as polemic.

The minimal citations hurt the book’s credibility. There were times that I wanted to know where Joyce was getting some information and I had to do my own research because she didn’t give a citation in the references at the end or just in passing (“Study X titled Y from Z”). You would think you were reading a US high school student’s essay if you took a look at the number of references.

Does this mean that Joyce is wrong on the details? Not for the most part, I think. Most of her history probably comes from How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States, which is a book that does have an extensive reference list.

I think Joyce has the history, harms, and ideological tenets mostly correct, but there’s a weakness in her arguments about the science, which is less forgivable when you realize this book didn’t come out in 2001, but in 2021. I’m not arguing her representations of the science are wrong, just that her arguments don’t really make you believe she’s considered the opposition’s arguments and evidence.

There’s also a very culture-warry practice in this book where Joyce fires arguments she doesn’t even necessarily care about. This results in sections that are too big to ignore, but too small to fully flesh out the argument with the amount of evidence needed to really justify it, and perfect for inciting long arguments between people who agree with her and those who find the arguments as presented in the book lacking. The best example of this is the part where she accuses rich, white, male billionaires of controlling the TRM.

Other Reviews

This book has obviously been reviewed by others, you can find a pretty good list on Wikipedia. There are multiple people who praise it for being an excellent analysis of the TRM, but a few acknowledge, like I do, that it has its shortcomings.

Jesse Singal ultimately agrees with me that the book is short on citations and on considerations for the arguments the opposition has made. Gaby Hinsliff doesn’t find it bad, but criticizes Joyce for making arguments without spending enough time on developing them further. She suggests Kathleen Stock’s Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism.

For the people who criticize more strongly, you can check out this review by a law professor who also suggests Material Girls to be a better book, though ultimately rejects them both.

Shout Outs

Lastly, I want to highlight some important responses which I think greatly added to the discussion across the 3 places I posted. I encourage you to check them out, though the last two link to a website which takes a certain amount of cavalierness to engage with.

/u/woodD was a frequent and important trans commenter who pushed back, generating good discussion. See these comments: 1, 2.

/u/gemmaem had a good comment about puberty blockers and desistance.

/u/professorgerm had an interesting point about the differences between the TRM and previous movements, along with a hypothetical about the same-sex marriage movement.

There was a thread about the social pressure on men to transition.

@gattsuru had an informative comment regarding puberty blocker clinical trials and the Canadian trans kid case mentioned in part 3.

@Folamh3 argued that the use of male/female to refer to sex and man/woman to refer to gender is not as widely held as some might thinkg.

Lastly, I just want to mention that I’m going to update all posts so that you can find all discussion threads from the links at the top.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed!

Part 1 – The History of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 2 – the Causes and Rationalization of Transgenderism: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 3 – How Transgenderism Harms Women And Children: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 4 – How Transgenderism Took Over Institutions And How Some Women Are Fighting Back: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Part 5 – Conclusion and Discussion: r/theschism, r/BlockedAndReported,

Last time, we discussed what Joyce thinks are the causes of transgenderism, how they render many or even most trans people as not really trans in the first place, and what gender-identity ideology (GII) says in the first place.

This time, we’ll go over what Joyce sees as the harms of transgenderism.

Think Of The Kids!

Joyce starts by reminding us that there is a fairly high desistance rate among cross-sex identifying kids and this was known since the 70s and 80s. But this is obviously an inconvenient fact for GII, Joyce asserts, so it gets ignored.

I don’t think this is a good start, I think the modern argument TRAs would offer are that you should not stand in your child’s way of deciding their identity, even if they would desist later. Jesse Singal’s famous (or infamous) 2018 Atlantic article highlights the alarming rhetoric aimed at parents skeptical of transition (“Would you rather have a live daughter or a dead son?”), but I don’t know of cases where desistance has been ignored. I do, however, see serious debate between pro-trans and anti-trans advocates on how many desist in the first place.

Anyways, let’s jump to the 1990s. Clinicians at the time began to wonder what could be done to help the kids who would not desist. It was not clear how to identify them, and if you simply waited until they were older, then you ran into a big problem.


Puberty has strong and lasting effects determined by your sex (really, hormones) that cannot be fully undone by surgery. A trans woman who undergoes male puberty is going to have a deeper voice, certain facial features, and larger body (notably hands and feet). Trans men don’t have as many visible leftovers if they transition (barring breasts). But going through this was obviously discomforting to these kids, so why not try to delay puberty and see who desisted?

Thus, Amsterdam clinicians decided to start injecting small groups of kids with puberty blockers. This was predicted to be a free lunch – the kids who desisted would be taken off the blockers and develop as normal, the ones who persisted could grow up until they were 16 and old enough to consent to the irreversible stuff.

Joyce details a catastrophe as the outcome.

Of the seventy children enrolled in a study between 2000 and 2007, every single one progressed to cross-sex hormones. Almost all had surgery at age eighteen…These children were all highly gender-dysphoric, and had not desisted by the start of puberty.

Joyce admits that it was possible the clinic somehow picked out only persisters, but she is highly skeptical of this. If every other study Joyce cited found major desistance, then the more likely explanation was that puberty blockers had disrupted the body’s process for resolving dysphoria.

But the results were taken up with gusto by others, and Canadian and American clinics began prescribing these blockers not long after. UK’s Tavistock was initially cautious, but began routine assignment in 2014 after, according to Joyce, they were pressed by activists.

All this might have been more acceptable if the criteria for assignment were strict, but Joyce says they’ve been assigned more and more to kids with less severe dysphoria and even those who aren’t transgender, but non-binary or gender-fluid.

I’m not sure how to verify the numbers exactly (even Joyce admits we don’t have clear counts). The number is clearly greatly increasing, but it’s not clear if this just reflects that the right number of kids are getting them, or too many are. I will say that she’s correct on the broadening of who can get blockers. The Mayo Clinic, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and Cleveland Clinic all say that you don’t have be trans, but just questioning your gender to get it.

But is the broadening of the accepted reasons really a problem? Assume for a moment that puberty blockers worked as advertised (no interference with normal desistance processes). Is there something inherently wrong with offering kids who are experiencing discomfort with their gender puberty blockers? One might argue that categories like non-binary or genderqueer don’t exist and are artificially created for ideological reasons, but if they do, I’m not sure what the issue is.

For Joyce, however, the problem goes beyond just kids on the verge of puberty. Pro-trans messaging has come to include the idea that kids from a very early age can indicate their gender. Diane Ehrensaft, Director of Mental Health and founding member of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center, is quoted as saying that kids as young as three years old can indicate their knowledge of their gender.

This is an inversion of John Money’s ideas, though no less highly unconventional. Where Money had argued that gender was malleable in the first 2.5 years of life and then unchangeable, the modern GII argument seems to be that gender is known from birth.

Both, however, would argue for social transition at an early age. This is unacceptable to Joyce because these are always presented as reversible (both transition and blockers), but part of what she calls the “cascade of interventions”. It does not appear that kids tend to desist even if you just socially transition them. The age at which interventions are happening is lowering as well, with some kids getting cross-sex hormones and even surgery before 16.

If you want to see how nasty activists of any sort can get if you question their views, Joyce points to a controversial figure in this discussion space, the man named Ken Zucker. Zucker is one of the biggest names in gender medicine and has seen at least 1500 gender dysphoric kids. He edits Archives of Sexual Behavior but is known for authoring studies which showed the high desistance rates among kids. Zucker even introduced puberty blockers alongside someone else into Canada in 1999.

I won’t detail the entire controversy, Singal has also covered that here here. Joyce, for her part, argues that the campaign to get Zucker taken down was very much to send a message to anyone else who tried arguing like he did.

Medical Issues With Puberty Blockers

Not only is there a dearth of reliable evidence that kids benefit from taking puberty blockers, Joyce argues that there are other side effects that complicate the matter.

  1. Only your natal hormones can make your ovaries/testicles mature.

  2. There is anecdotal evidence that your sex life may be less-than-fully realized.

  3. Puberty, even if partial, is what makes your penis or vagina develop into an adult’s, blocking it can keep your genitalia child-like, leaving not enough skin to do standard reassignment surgery.

  4. Eggs and sperm cannot be frozen for later if they are never active to start with, and they only activate in puberty.

  5. Trans men and women suffer from higher rates of diseases (not the same ones for both).

The drugs themselves are another issue. Joyce claims that they’ve never been put under clinical trials and aren’t even made for that purpose according to the manufacturers. They’re meant for treating adults for hormone-related conditions or to chemically castrate sex offenders. There are concerns that they may cause a significant IQ drop and prevent calcium from being laid down in bones.

From a cursory glance, I think Joyce is correct. Google Scholar doesn’t list too many studies that actually look at the issue, I only found one meta-review, published in 2020. There was also a piece from 2019 in the BMJ that discussed possible issues with even trying to study it from an ethical perspective. Wikipedia lists some adverse effects.

Progress Is A Circle

But there is another effect in promoting transgenderism, and gender-diversity to a lesser extent, in children – the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Joyce picks Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship as her example of this, where the titular Teddy becomes a girl by turning his bow tie into a hair bow.

Such stories of children for children are increasing common, and they do not endorse any explanation of a child’s alienation from their sex other than a discordant gender identity. Joyce argues for familiar explanations: homosexuality or seeking (parental) approval.

Thus, it is damning to Joyce that so many pro-trans or trans-inclusive arguments and lessons to children just enforce gender stereotypes that are the product of the culture. Why are these people acting as if these stereotypes were instead naturally implanted into people?

Parents V. The World

Even more damning is how this divides parents from children. Obviously, transphobic parents would always have a problem with any suggestion of a trans child. But with an increasingly harsh attitude towards anyone who questions their child’s identity or the idea of teaching these ideas to children, there are now stories about kids cutting contact and leaving their homes.

There is evidence to support this indirectly, at least one school district in the US said that its staff were not permitted to reveal a trans kid’s status to their parents. This was picked up last year by right-wing media, which is presumably why the district removed the document from their site.

Schools are not the only intervening institution; the government is in on it as well. Joyce refers to a 2019 British Columbia court case involving a 14-year-old trans boy named Max and his father.

In 2016, aged twelve, she was referred to the school counsellor. Unbeknownst to her parents at the time, she mentioned feeling a commonality with the transboy protagonist of a film she had seen online. The counsellor concluded that Max was trans, arranged for a change of name and pronouns in school records, and referred Max to a psychologist, who recommended testosterone and made a further referral to a paediatric endocrinologist.

A consent form was sent to the Jacksons; the father refused to sign…But under British Columbia’s Infants Act, a child of any age has the right to medical treatment that is opposed by parents if the doctor thinks it is in the child’s best interests, and that the child is ‘mature enough’ to decide. In 2019, the supreme court of British Columbia ruled that Max could consent to medical transition independently of the father’s wishes (his ex-wife was no longer opposed). His refusal to refer to his child as a boy, and continued opposition to transition, were ruled ‘family violence’, and he was banned from speaking to the press.

Tangentially, I will note my confusion over this case. The Guardian reported the following:

“I will be stranded between looking and sounding feminine and looking and sounding masculine. I would feel like a freak,” the teenager wrote in an affidavit which was read out in court on Tuesday.

But I don’t know what would cause this. This may just be a teenager not able to speak clearly, but w/o drugs or surgery, how would you be stuck in such a manner? I would understand if Max was upset about looking/sounding feminine while trying to be masculine, but the wording is…odd.

A Threat To (Cis) Women

The elephant in the room for who stands to lose, according to Joyce, is cis women. They stand to lose many things they had once relied upon, not the least of which include single-sex spaces.

You may remember the name Jessica Yaniv if you’re more online. Yaniv is a trans women and trans activist who, in 2018, began asking wax salons if they would wax her genitals. The reporting I find from this time suggests that Yaniv hadn’t had surgery, meaning she still had her penis and testicles. This doesn’t work for Brazilian waxing; testicles are simply too sensitive to some of the techniques. When she was refused, she brought anti-discrimination cases in British Columbia against the women who refused.

Joyce says it was unclear which way the case would be decided. In the end, however, the court ruled that Yaniv was in the wrong and described her as a vexatious litigant who was acting in bad faith and motivated by money over actual discrimination.

Sounds like a victory for cis women, right? No, unfortunately. The court did not decide against Yaniv on the basis of the defendants having a religious right to refuse service, but on the basis that she had made self-admitted racist remarks against them. The defendants were South and East Asian women, you see.

What I don’t quite understand is where Joyce actually falls on this idea of religious freedom to not accept the tenets of GII. Does she greatly support religious freedom in all cases, or just strategically in this one because it happens to support her view that trans women are a threat to cis women?

The more classic problem, of course, is the bathroom question – is it okay to ban trans women from women’s restrooms? Here, I’ll point to there being no evidence that it’s problematic, but this may be because the culture hasn’t really caught up yet. I don’t think we can really extrapolate from the present to the near future.

Joyce, however, goes a different route – crime statistics.

The little evidence that exists shows that at least some of the males who identify as women are very dangerous indeed. Of the 125 transgender prisoners known to be in English prisons in late 2017, sixty were transwomen who had committed sexual offences, a share far higher than in the general male prison population, let alone in the female one.

So either transwomen are more likely than other males to be sexual predators, or – more probable in my view – gender self-identification provides sexual predators with a marvellous loophole. Whichever is true, allowing males to self-identify into women’s spaces makes women less safe.

Of course, prisoners are perhaps not representative of the overall trans population. But I would agree that self-ID is a dangerous thing and shouldn't be the basis by which we decided transgenderism. I would say that it specifically applies to spaces like women's restrooms, but I don't know of any practical way to allow for people to critically evaluate whether someone is trans that also accommodates self-ID.

There’s then a really uncharitable attempt at showing TRA hypocrisy.

Arguing that vulnerable males must be allowed to identify out of male spaces because males are so dangerous undermines any argument that males should be admitted to female spaces on demand.

Obviously, she and her opponents disagree on many things. But it’s not a contradiction if your opponents believe that sex is malleable like gender to also believe that trans women and women should therefore be kept in the same space, segregated away from cis men.

There are more arguments Joyce makes for the preservation of single-sex (basically only women’s) and the dangers of allowing trans women to enter those spaces, but they’re not very interesting or worth expounding on. If you understand the argument that males tend to be more violent, especially sexually, towards females, you’ve read about a dozen or so pages in this book already.

Mods are mean and limit me to 20k characters, check the comments for the rest of this post.

That's all for this part. Next time, we'll go over some more modern history and how some cis women are fighting back against this. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed!


This is an effortpost inspired by this subthread in Small Scale Questions Sunday. The question is what would a modern Grand Tour look like?

Basic assumptions:

  • The purpose of the Grand Tour is to experience the greatest achievements of European culture. A certain amount of hedonism is permitted (the brothels of Venice were a staple of the original Grand Tour) but the primary purpose is educational.

  • We take for granted that Western Civilisation is a distinct culture, that its roots are in Classical antiquity, that it is Christian, and (whether because it is superior or just because it is ours) it is the thing we are looking at.

  • We are looking at a living culture where possible, not just museums. This was an important point of the original Grand Tour - the tour ideally included fencing lessons in Paris, drawing lessons in Florence, and music lessons in Naples - in all cases these were the centres of living traditions at the time. Obviously, European culture is still very much alive and we will take this into account.

  • The modern tourists are a small mixed-sex group of early-20's Americans (or Canadians or Australians) from upper middle-class backgrounds whose parents are funding them to do the Grand Tour (the closest analogy to the original English aristocratic tourists).

  • Like the original Grand Tour, this is not an actual pilgrimage. Although a lot of religious sites make the itinerary for their historical or cultural importance or their architectural merit, we are not interested in spiritual importance as such.

  • We have 4-6 weeks (based on @grognard's comments). This is obviously a lot less than the original Grand Tour, but we can travel faster. I also assume we are doing this in during the summer, which affects what is open and such like.

From these we get the following conclusions:

  • We are not going to be wasting much time admiring the scenery. I am a proud European who has done a lot of travelling, but I don't think we have anything that stands up against the Grand Canyon or the Yosemite Valley.

  • We will do most of our travelling by train - both because it is the easiest way to get into European cities (traffic and parking are a nightmare) and because the European high-speed rail network is itself an outstanding achievement of modern European culture.

The original Grand Tour had a fairly standardised outbound route: London -> Paris -> Geneva -> through Switzerland and across the Alps to Northern Italy -> visits to various northern Italian cities including Venice and Florence -> Rome -> Naples. The return via German-speaking Europe was less standardised. @2rafa suggested a rough itinerary for the round trip on the other thread. I am going to disagree, and suggest a one-way Grand Tour: London (probably actually York) to Naples overland via Paris, Lausanne, Bologna, Florence and Rome. Why?

The core of the European culture that exists now is England and France. This historic core of European high culture (both in classical antiquity and the Renaissance) is Italy. London/Paris/Rome or London/Paris/Florence/Rome is the quintessential European itinerary for a reason. I think the return leg is relatively less valuable than it was in the eighteenth century. Vienna and Budapest are fascinating, but the culture that built them didn't survive World War I. A lot of the German sites that the original Grand Tour included was destroyed by allied bombing or Soviet criminality, or rendered culturally dead by de-Nazification. Berlin has a thriving modern culture, but I am inclined to exclude it from the Grand Tour on grounds of degeneracy. Also, changing religious norms mean that there is no longer the need to balance time spent in Catholic and Protestant countries. For example, the more intellectually inclined original tourists spent time in Heidelberg partly because the university in Catholic Bologna wasn't open to them.

The other controversial suggestion I am going to make is skipping Venice. It is a detour from the route I am proposing, and in my experience (I have visited twice) it is not worth it - it is now a culturally dead tourist trap (unless you are in town for the Biennale) and apart from the novelty of a city in a lagoon, it doesn't do anything that Rome and Florence don't.

What are the things we want to see:

  • Architecture and the visual arts. Obviously. A huge part of the point of the original Grand Tour, and easily accessible as a tourist.

  • Scientific achievement. Less accessible as a tourist, but I have tried to fit it in.

  • Engineering achievement. Apart from the trains and the various civil engineering marvels you see on the way, I have struggled here. The sine qua non of European engineering achievement is the British industrial revolution, but I don't know how to engage with that as a tourist. As an American, you can probably argue that this is less important because 21st century Europe is not noted for its engineering excellence. A lot of the most tourist-accessible engineering achievement is in military museums.

  • Performing arts, including classical music, including both traditional high culture, and excellent modern culture. The aim is as far as possible to experience arts in their spiritual home. Most of what we are looking for post-dates the original Grand Tour. I will assume that the modern tourists are able to get tickets to sold-out shows (most of the tickets I am going to list are easy to get hold of if you book well in advance).

  • Sport. This wasn't a thing at the time of the original Grand Tour, but is obviously a hugely important part of European culture, and can be experienced as a tourist if you can get tickets.

  • Food. Again, a hugely important part of European culture that is easy to experience as a tourist. French and Italian cuisines are globally recognised as excellent.

I have made a slightly arbitrary decision to exclude places which are associated with historically important events but where there is nothing spectacular there now - in particular I am not including any battlefields.

It is now after midnight in London - more route details to follow tomorrow.


If anyone is still reading, I have finally got some time to write down the actual itinerary my brain was staggering towards.

1. London

I think we have 1 week in and around London. Within Central London, the key sites are:

  • Art galleries: National Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern are obvious no-brainers. If you have the time and interest, several people in the thread have mentioned Sir John Soane's museum, which I have also heard good things about. When I am showing people round London, I go for the Cortauld Institute, partly because of the collection of Impressionists and partly because it is in Somerset House, which is a worth-the-visit building architecturally.

  • Unique and spectacular bulidings: Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London (not only is this one of the best-preserved medieval fortified castles on the planet, it is also a Royal palace with the associated traditions and pagentry, and the hopefully-final location of the nearest thing this Earth has to a Silmaril - the Koh-i-Noor diamond), the Houses of Parliament (if you are visiting in summer, Parliament is in recess so the building is open to public tours). Tower Bridge - it is worth paying for the tour, which includes a visit to the machine rooms and the opportunity to cross on the top walkway. Spend some time wandering around the City (the one square mile historic core of London that is now the financial district - there is either a Wren church or a spectacular modern building round every corner.

  • Other museums: British museum (finest collection of looted antiquities in the world, and it isn't close), South Kensington museums - the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are no-brainers, the Victoria & Albert would be as well except that it suffers from the all-to-common problem of modern museums that no curatorial effort goes into the permanent collection - the temporary exhibitions are spectacular, but touring the permanent collection feels like touring someone's attic. The Museum of London is

  • Museums relavant to special interests: The Bank of England Museum, the London Transport Museum, the Wellcome Collection (history of medicine), the British Library treasures collection (historically significant manuscripts, including one of the 4 surviving sealed originals of Magna Carta), the Imperial War Museum (which does exactly what it says on the tin), the Design Museum (likewise), the Handel/Hendrix museum (two composers in different eras lived in different flats in the same building - the whole building is now a museum).

  • Victorian interiors: This is not really Grand-Tour worthy, but my understanding of American anglophilia is that Victoriana is a big part of it. The Linley Sambourne house (Punch cartoonist) and the Leighton House (pre-Raphaelite artist and aristocrat) are spectacular preserved examples.

I am not including:

  • Madam Tussauds and the London Dungeon (tourist traps)

  • The Churchill Rooms (reluctantly, but it falls under the "battlefields are not achievements" criterion)

  • The London Eye or any viewing platforms (we already have views from Tower Bridge, the St Paul's galleries if you go up, and the chimney at Tate Modern)

  • The Zoo and Aquarium (great fun, but not quintessentially European or Western in any way)

  • Buckingham Palace (unspectacular architecturally)

  • Any Harry Potter attractions (ephemera, but I have no objection if you want to add them).

1a. London suburbs

There are two obvious suburban excursions in my view - both would be long half days.

Maritime Greenwich. The British seafaring tradition is one of Western Civilisation's crowning achievements - in fact I would be willing to defend the proposition that it was Western Civilisation's single greatest achievement until Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon. Greenwich is its spiritual home. Key attractions are the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime, the Royal Observatory, and the buildings of the Old Royal Naval College (Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren both did some of their best work there). It is traditional to travel one way by riverboat and the other by commuter rail.

Hampton Court Palace The Old Palace was built by Cardinal Wolsey in a deliberate and subversive attempt to compete in majesty with the King's palaces, and was confiscated by Henry VIII after Wolsey's fall. The Baroque palace added on by William III and Mary II after the 1689 Glorious Revolution was Cristopher Wren's answer to Versailles. The formal gardens (including the world's largest vine) and maze are also world-famous.

Other possible suburban excursions include Windsor (obviously), Kew Gardens (world's finest botanical garden, including the famous Victorian glasshouses and a gorgeously silly replica Japanese pagoda), and the Dulwich Picture Gallery (which stars a collection of Dutch Old Masters that had been bought to be the core of the Polish National Gallery collection, but the deal fell through when Poland was conquered in the 1790's - and it is a National Gallery worthy collection).

1b Day-trips from London

There are two obvious compulsory ones here:

Oxford or Cambridge (just under an hour by train). The University is the quintessential Western institution, and these are the second and third-oldest surviving universities, and are in the top 10 in contemporary rankings. Unfortunately it is hard to experience an ancient university as a university on a day-trip as a tourist, but the architecture of the Colleges and the various university museums make it worth the journey. The spirit of the original Grand Tour would include spending a couple of weeks participating in something like the Cambridge International Summer Programme (only weakly selective - you don't need to be an elite-university calibre student to participate), but we don't have time for that. You only need to do one of the two universities - Cambridge has the edge because of King's College Chapel, but Oxford has the advantage if you are doing Xtreme Tourism that it is on the same railway line as Stratford-upon-Avon, so you can spend most of the day in Oxford and get to Stratford in time for an evening Shakespeare performance.

Bath (1hr 20 by train). As one of the Great Spas of Europe and home of the Roman Baths, this is the sort of place that would have been on the original Grand Tour if it included England. Apart from the Roman Baths, none of the individual sites are quite Grand Tour worthy, but the cathedral, fashion museum, Jane Austen museum, and fine Palladian architecture collectively make the bar.

Other candidates include:

Stonehenge. This is an odd duck. It is utterly underwhelming as a visitor (you can no longer get within touching distance of the stones unless you manage to wrangle a pre-arranged sunrise visit, and it is literally just a circle of large stones), but it is one of the outstanding achievements of Stone Age architecture anywhere in the world, is several hundred years older than the pyramids, and technically qualifies under the "scientific achievement" heading given that the alignment of the site is evidence of systematic astronomy. I struggle to imagine doing a serious Grand Tour without including it. Unfortunately the site is not easily accessible by public transport (if you try, it ends up being a full day with Salisbury Cathedral and Old Sarum thrown in as filler attractions) - there are various coach tour options including stopping off at Stonehenge on the way to or from Bath.

Canterbury (1 hour by high-speed train). As the mother church of the Anglican Communion and the place where St Thomas a Becket met his martyrdom, Canterbury Cathedral is a legitimate pilgrimage destination for Episcopalians or other Anglosphere Protestants who see the English Reformation as part of their religious tradition. Otherwise it doesn't make the cut - you are going to be seeing a lot of cathedrals on the Grand Tour and unfortunately (unlike Bath) the other attractions in Canterbury are a bit crap.

York (Just under 2 hours by train) In my view, too far for a day trip. There is a version of the Grand Tour that begins in Edinburgh and stops off in York en route to London, but I don't think we have time for it if we are going to get to Naples in 4 weeks.

1c Cultural experiences to enjoy in London

Theatre - obviously Shakespeare is on the menu. If you have enough evenings, it is probably worth seeing Shakespeare at the Globe (where they do it the way Shakespeare would have done it, which was not highbrow at the time - the main competition for the original Globe was the bear-baiting next door) and Shakespeare done highbrow (possibly in Stratford). I also think a West End show is worth it. Modern commercial theatre is clearly an achievement of Western civilisation, some of it is very good indeed, and the West End is a major centre with its own unique version of the tradition. The high-end product is large-scale music theatre - frankly, the Grand Opera of our time - and the best composer in that style is Andrew Lloyd Webber. So I would pre-book tickets to an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. (Phantom of the Opera is generally considered the best musically).

Music - if we are doing the London-Naples route, then London is probably the best place to take in a classical concert. (For other routes, the standard of classical music is generally higher in the German-speaking bit of Europe). I would leave the opera to Paris or Milan - it is normally sung in the original language anyway. I don't spend enough time in the contemporary music scene to know if it is worth going to gigs in London or not.

Football - this is a huge part of European culture, and the Grand Tour should include a match. If you want to play the sophisticated soccer fan back in the US, you need to go to an EPL game. Brentford/Crystal Palace/Fulham/West Ham have more easily available tickets than Aresnal/Chelsea/Tottenham Hotspur. But if you are only going to one football match, I would skip London and go to a Serie A match somewhere in Italy - the fan culture is much healthier, the tickets are cheaper, and the sporting standard is similar.

Other sport - given the nature of the Grand Tour, it might make sense (depending on dates) to attend one of the socially prestigious sporting events which form part of the London Season. Royal Ascot probably offers the best compromise between a high production values sporting and social occasion and tickets actually being available to the masses.

Clubbing - the European nightclub culture based around electronic dance music is distinct from American nightclub culture based around overpriced bottle service and therefore qualifies as permissible hedonism for Grand Tourers. The spiritual home of this culture is Ibiza, but London is the best clubbing city on the London-Naples route. I am too old to offer further advice, but @5434a recommends Fabric and Printworks. The Ministry of Sound is canonical, but probably qualifies as a tourist trap by now.

Food - we can obviously skip French and Italian (both are good in London, but not as good as in their home countries). For splurge meals, I would be looking at three choices:

  • Traditional British luxury. The Savoy Grill is the obvious choice, but the restaurants at any of the grand London hotels qualify.

  • Updated takes on traditional British cuisine (which doesn't suck if done right) - St John is canonical for this sort of thing. The Hawksmoor chain of steakhouses would also qualify - although the menu is a bit too similar to a smart American steakhouse to be distinctively British.

  • Some kind of weird modern fusion cuisine that could only exist in a city as diverse as London. Use Michelin or Zagat's to find candidates.

For more ordinary meals, some obvious pointers are:

  • Traditional fish and chips

  • Modern street food at Borough Market or Greenwich Market

  • Sandwiches at Pret a Manger (a ubiquitous chain that is actually good and mostly serves office workers)

  • Curry. The Brick Lane curry houses are tourist traps. Tayyabs in Whitechapel is canonical for City workers going for a curry after work, but there are hundreds of good curry houses in London. Chicken Tikka Massala is the canonical London curry - it is a British take on Butter Chicken. Balti is also thoroughly British - it comes from Birmingham.

Update - there appears to be a small amount if interest in going on, but I am close to the 20k character limit and still struggling with a crunch at work, so I am going to put some quick notes in the comments.

The linked post seeks to outline why I feel uneasy about high existential risk estimates from AGI (e.g., 80% doom by 2070). When I try to verbalize this, I view considerations like

  • selection effects at the level of which arguments are discovered and distributed

  • community epistemic problems, and

  • increased uncertainty due to chains of reasoning with imperfect concepts

as real and important.

I'd be curious to get perspectives form the people of the Motte, e.g., telling me that I'm the crazy one & so on.




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.


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.