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User ID: 103



14 followers   follows 0 users   joined 2022 September 04 19:22:43 UTC


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User ID: 103

I very frankly do not care who someone is "adjacent to"; I care who they are and what they say. Your favored public thinkers, whoever they are, are extremely unlikely to talk about things as in the link above. Know why I can say that? Because I follow just about everyone who talks visibly about that stuff. People should talk about it more. That he does so is a credit to him and a strike against those who complain that I would so much as mention him.

Your line about "Jews" betrays your own ignorance about him, incidentally. He's anything but antisemitic, and inasmuch as I have disputes with him on that broad topic, it is that he sees Israel's hands as rather cleaner than I personally do. Your opponents do not all fit into a single bucket that you can label "fascist" and have done with it, and I have little patience for dark insinuations of this sort.

He posts astute and data-driven threads on a wide cariety of topics worth talking about, including a number that are of obvious direct personal interest to me. Why on earth wouldn’t I recommend him?

The best advice I can give for Twitter is basically “follow eigenrobot and work outward from there.” tszzl (roon) and growing_daniel are also good “hub accounts” for the tech side of things. If you prefer to start with motte-adjacency, go with ymeskhout, AnechoicMedia_, sonyasupposedly, CremieuxRecueil, and Kulak.

There are a lot more accounts I could mention (I follow around 900 people) but the clear entry point to Twitter for people from here is the ACX-adjacent section (TPOT), which maintains a high standard of amiability/sanity norms while talking about much the same stuff as here.

I’ve been spending a lot more time on Twitter lately, particularly since I can mottepost there now. What I formerly read as fundamental constraints in the directions you point turn out to be mediated pretty heavily by the part of it a person spends time in and who they choose to interact with. There’s a self-selecting group in and around the ACX-adjacent parts of Twitter that is pleasant and full of smart, well-mannered, somewhat ideologically sympathetic people, with two clear advantages in my view:

  1. The decentralized nature means that incompatible personalities can self-select into slightly different subcommunities where people who get on with both can still interact with both in what feels like the same space, meaning in particular that the ideological range is much broader than here.

  2. The public nature means that when you chat with people in your quiet corner, your posts will occasionally leave the bubble and contact a much wider audience, sometimes including the public figures you talk about. In the recent OpenAI drama, for example, the interim CEO was a well-known regular in Twitter’s ACX-adjacent sphere.

IIRC Tracing has "I am a furry, here is my favorite gay furry porn I made with the gay furry porn AI generator" in all his bios.


It's pretty much limited to profile pictures, to be honest, and I don't really talk about porn at all. I do AI generate pleasant SFW furry pictures on a quiet Twitter alt from time to time, but that's about it. It's only really a major part of my persona in BARPod Lore, and that's mostly just because that's what's appropriate for the show's vibe.

Very well put, and neatly in line (down to mentioning Jane Street) with a recent thought of mine:

smart, rational, capable, serious people shuffle into Jane Street and Silicon Valley and rationally, sensibly make millions of dollars. But they abdicate the role of culture-shaping to teenagers on Tumblr and TikTok. Many sane individuals exist in an insane culture, but deep-lying incentives point them away from building culture—and then they find themselves tossed about by the cultural and political forces they neglect.

There are absolutely competent people within it, inasmuch as there are people within it at all. The issue I'm pointing to is one of raw numbers, not one of competence.

I agree with the rest of your post, but it's myopic to say that these institutions are overwhelmingly progressive "because progressives showed up." It is absolutely not a stretch of the word "elite" to wonder why all the twenty-somethings going to law school all share these same ideological premises. They all grew up with a similar curriculum, a similar Grand Narrative of history, watching the same movies, receiving the same cultural signals. And you've already explained how the institution is self-reinforcing, so there's just not a lot of room in your own framing for conservatives to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and capture institutions by attending law school.

That's another layer up from the question of who's showing up. Yes, there's a reason all young, educated professionals share the same ideological premises, and yes, that reason is worth exploring. A lot of my answer basically looks like "progressives showed up" another layer up—that curriculum, those cultural signals, that Grand Narrative is what the people who prioritized making curricula and sending cultural signals and forming a Grand Narrative believe. Culture isn't infinitely malleable, but it doesn't just happen. The project of framework-building falls to those who take it seriously, and there's no law decreeing that good ideas will win out over bad ones. It's a power game many layers deep that every movement in history has played, and conservatives are on the outside of culture looking in at the moment because they lost the cultural power game at least a generation ago, and in some regards much longer, without realizing it.

The Republican Party is doomed.

I don't mean they'll lose every election moving forward. My case, rather, is this: they know exactly what they want someone to do, but in an increasing number of institutions, there is no one left to do it. Increasing age and education polarization means that Republicans are rapidly losing the capacity to run public institutions at all levels other than electoral, and this trend cannot realistically reverse within a generation. The near-term future is already written.

The demands of a two-party system mean each party will typically adjust over time to capture, if not 50% of the electorate, at least enough to remain meaningfully competitive. There is no reason to expect that to change. Republicans are electorally competitive and will likely remain so, particularly given their advantage in rural areas with greater Senate representation. People zero in on that, but electoral politics is a small part of governance writ large.

I am one of the most conservative students at my law school. More specifically: I, a gay, centrist Biden voter, am one of the most conservative students at my law school. The Federalist Society here is anemic and widely derided, while there's a dizzying array of progressive organizations. The professors and administrators are, if anything, even more progressive. My school is in no sense an outlier in this regard, nor is this specific to law. The same patterns are overwhelmingly visible in every group of educated, young professionals. Bloomberg documents how donations skew progressive in virtually every field.

People want to say young and educated people have always leaned left, but that simply is not true. Not like this. The leftward skew is a recent, and accelerating, phenomenon. Democrats have gained more and more ground among young and educated people alike, and the rightward shift people are used to seeing just isn't happening as it did before. Among young, educated professionals, the salient political divide is no longer between Republicans and Democrats, but between liberals and various stripes of socialists. The New York Times and Financial Times document the way long-standing patterns have shifted.

What's the conservative coalition? Truckers, farmers, business owners, construction workers. Don't get me wrong: these are useful, socially valuable, necessary professions. But they have nothing to do with the day-to-day of governance on the ground. About the only governance-related profession they remain influential in is the police force, which tells you all you need to know about the current reputation of the police force among educated, young professionals.

This means that, for the medium-term future, Republicans are dealing with a coalition of the high and low against the middle when it comes to politics. They authentically represent, to one degree or another, somewhere near half of the country. They have representation at the highest levels of government, controlling the Supreme Court, maintaining razor-thin margins in the House and Senate, and remaining competitive within Presidential races. But because their voters are increasingly old, rural, and less educated, they lack all but the slightest foothold in the great majority of institutions run by and filled with young, educated professionals: that is to say, the great bulk of institutions involved in the day to day of governance.

The field of education provides a good case study as to how this plays out. Educators are overwhelmingly progressive in their inclinations. Left to their own devices, they will take a policy and curricular stance broadly in line with progressive sensibilities. Teacher's unions are unambiguously and emphatically against the Republican Party. Conservatives like to emphasize school choice, pointing to charter and private schools as potential alternatives, but even there, the great bulk of educators are politically liberal. Eva Moskowitz, founder of high-achieving charter school system Success Academy, champion of school choice advocacy, and a model of what conservatives point to as an ideal in education, is a registered Democrat.

The most successful recent conservative education advocacy movement, Moms for Liberty, tells you all you need to know in its name: it is a movement not of educators or of students, but of parents looking from the outside at a system that broadly opposes their values. Florida politicians have spent enormous political capital to pull a single, tiny liberal arts college towards a conservative ethos.

Here's the problem: by the time you're trying to legislate every one of your preferences, resisted at every level by the people put in place to enact those preferences, you've already lost. Republicans want people who want to enact their values. What they've got is equal representation in the part of the government that can swing a big stick around trying desperately to corral a group where even the educators supported by their policies are likely to want nothing to do with them.

What of the rising stars in each political party? For the Democrats, you have Pete Buttigieg: working within the institutions at every step, from Ivy League to consulting to military to local governance and smoothly into high-level tasks within his own party, focused on technocratic proposals dependent on high state capacity. For the Republicans, there's Vivek Ramaswamy: downplaying his past within those same institutions, rising to incredible wealth via private enterprise, smashing into the scene of his own party as an outsider obviously loathed by those who have spent their lifetimes within it, focused on a libertarian "burn it down" ethos. To be a popular Republican in the Trump era, you almost need to be an outsider promising to tear the government to pieces. Image

Conservatives right now are desperate for public intellectuals who reflect their values. As soon as a conservative-coded intellectual shows a modicum of talent or originality, they skyrocket into prominence. Jordan Peterson spent a career in obscurity in academia before a fight over pronouns launched him into an enormous platform with millions of followers. Chris Rufo became one of the leaders of the conservative movement in moments after speaking cogently about critical race theory. Richard Hanania, despite constantly telling conservatives how stupid and ineffectual he thinks they are, has gained a massive conservative fanbase by virtue of being able to argue coherently for some of their values.

Perhaps most telling is the example of Aaron Sibarium, recently profiled for Politico: perhaps the most prominent conservative investigative reporter today, a secular Jew who voted for Clinton and Biden but, because he opposes social justice progressivism, has sauntered into the wide-open niche of investigative journalism from a conservative point of view. Why is he filling that role so effectively? Simple: there was nobody else to do so.

On a smaller scale, even a few tweets that capture the conservative zeitgeist can shoot someone into the public eye overnight, as Darryl Cooper (MartyrMade) discovered when an articulate defense of the 'stolen election' feeling took him from 7000 Twitter followers one day to 55000 three days later, or our own @KulakRevolt found as he went from no public presence to being the rising voice of the burn-it-down ethos in a matter of a few months of well-written diatribes. Costin Alamariu launched an obscure work of academic philosophy to the top of the Amazon charts off the strength of an absurdist right-wing pseudonymous persona. Ask any of them what they think of the institutional Republican Party sometime.

Conservatives are so desperate for a shred of cultural influence that they turn people like Oliver Anthony (“Rich Men North of Richmond”) into overnight sensations, only to learn that they, too, have nothing but scorn for the Republican Party.

Put simply: right now, at the nuts and bolts of governance, the Republican Party has a much shorter bench of talent than the Democratic Party. Even conservative intellectuals are trained in overwhelmingly progressive institutions. This affects every level of politics, but since it doesn't necessarily harm them electorally, there's no incentive to course-correct at the level of electoral politics. Quite the opposite, in fact: every single Republican politician, and every single conservative influencer, benefits individually from their coalition’s weakness among young, educated professionals. In many ways, they’re living the dream: massive audiences hungry for competence with little competition fighting to provide that competence in any given field.

Some want to frame it as institutional capture, a battle against the ruling elite, that could be corrected if the right people are in charge. Is there some of that? Sure. But at most institutions, it's a simple function of the politics of the people seeking those institutions out. My law school is not overwhelmingly progressive because the Powers That Be want it to be progressive. It's overwhelmingly progressive because progressives showed up. You can only stretch the word "elite" so far, and by the time you get down to schoolteachers, you've stretched it past the breaking point.

Conservatives, to be clear, aren't going anywhere, nor is the growing dissident right movement. But even when Republicans win electoral power, they lack the human capital at all levels of governance to accomplish what they really want with it. Under Republican rule, half of top government officials work to enact the approximate will of slightly less than half of Americans while virtually every educated, young professional anywhere near politics resists any way they can. Only a few have even the vision of changing this by re-entering those institutions, with most seeing no recourse beyond slowly fading or burning every institution to the ground.

The Republican Party will remain visible. It may even continue to win elections. But at the basic tasks of governance and defining culture at all levels, its death warrant has already been signed. The Republican Party is doomed.

(Also posted to Substack)

While I prepared this post for a general audience, I have a few more Motte-specific thoughts. At this point, I think the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that, whatever else this space is and has been, it is one of vanishingly few incubators for intellectually rigorous thinkers with sympathy towards one shade or another of conservatism. Kulak is one of the most prominent examples, but far from the only one who has an impact far beyond these quiet circles.

After I Tweeted out an initial version of this post, a high-level Republican official contacted me about it, broadly agreeing with the thesis while pointing out that parties are composed, broadly speaking, of those who show up. In his words, a political party is an entity that exists solely to conduct elections, and things can change in a hurry depending on who shows up. Speaking in general terms, he's part of the Thiel-adjacent set. He made the case that there is a lot of room, given the short bench, for people outside the traditional, highly polished, consultant-safe pathways to have a real impact on things, which in some ways can be turned to the good.

I don't have any sort of call to action here, for myself or others, but I think it's worth having a clear-eyed view of the political dynamics in play.

Not yet, but I’d like to polish it up a bit and post it on substack/disseminate it further.

I believe I address this adequately in my article, so before I answer I’d appreciate hearing your understanding of my opinion given my article’s commentary on the matter.

Yeah, I'm working on an article about it, but this is the most thorough account I think I've given so far. Copied for convenience:

Different people have different reactions to strict religious environments. I was a serious, religiously scrupulous kid who took my faith's commandments very seriously. I was also always a bit odd. Mormons have a strict prohibition against pornography, unmarried sex, or dating before 16 years old, something that extends to generally strict modesty standards and instructions not to look on women with lust more broadly.

I internalized those standards and, so far as I can tell, developed an instinctive disgust/irritation reaction to seeing women in any sort of immodest or 'sexy' settings: bikinis, billboard models, sex scenes or kissing in movies—everything intended to arouse, even tame stuff, was something to grimace and look away from. No dating, no relationships, no sex? Fine by me. I'd shove all that stuff into a corner and deal with it when I was an adult or something. This extended for me even to things like crude sex jokes from other guys, which bothered me in particular when they came from other Mormons—didn't they care? I valued modesty and chastity and was scrupulous in those values. Sexual things were threats and temptations. Noticing them with anything other than disgust was a personal failing.

But, well, I was still an adolescent boy, and hormones don't simply disappear when ignored. I took my faith's prohibitions seriously and rarely dug where I wasn't supposed to, but seem to have sublimated my romantic feelings into an interest in something safely outside the realm of the real. At some point, I wandered onto deviantArt, where I found a few extraordinary artists who portrayed the world of anthro animals in compelling, beautiful ways—see here or here for (safe) examples—and without being able to articulate why I was so fascinated by that world or was paying so close of attention to it, began to follow their work with interest. I've always loved nature and the sense of wildness; the artists I found excelled at capturing emotions close to my heart. Art (and I do mean art here, not as a euphemism) became a non-threatening, meaningful outlet for me to explore the idea of romance disconnected from the baggage, cruft, and uncertainty around a real world where I had internalized that I should clamp down on all feelings in that domain.

I'm not convinced that people are born with immutable romantic interests, but I am convinced that past adolescence, some stay more-or-less fixed. In my case, a strict upbringing that I took seriously, combined with the need for some sort of outlet and an insistence on staying glued to the computer when possible, meant that my own oddness was channeled and focused during a sensitive development period towards a deep-running interest in and appreciation for anthropomorphism, along with a conviction that I was asexual. I'm quite sure at this point that the interest is immutable, and I wouldn't change it—I remain mostly detached from the furry fandom for many obvious reasons, but I continue to love the impossible world I was so drawn to in adolescence, for all the same reasons.

I kept telling myself that romance would come later, that crushes and noticing interest in people and all the rest would be right around the corner, but as I got older and it kept not happening I started to seriously ask myself whether I was capable of being in love. In my early twenties, after I stepped away from Mormonism and let myself examine questions of romance in any way connected to the real without flinching away, I finally noticed a sense of romantic interest in people—men, that is—and was thoroughly relieved to learn I was normal enough to be able to fall in love. So then I started dating, met my now-husband, and lived happily ever after. The end.

In short, I see my interest as a sublimation of religious scrupulosity towards all things sexual, the result of being an odd person who took a strict environment seriously while having open access to outlets that eventually swept my pre-existing tendencies into a specific, peculiar cultural niche. I like to tell people, because I think it's true, that five hundred years ago I would have been a monk. But I grew up in the early 2000s, so I became a gay furry instead.

So it goes.

New from me: When "Punch a Nazi" Goes Wrong, a deep dive into a recent viral altercation between furries on a beach where one hit another over the head with a megaphone. In the immediate aftermath, the bulk of reactions were people celebrating it as a justified case of punching Nazis. The event first drew my attention due to my distaste to people celebrating political violence, no matter the target, then continued drawing me in as I realized how warped the initial story had been and how unlikely it was that anyone else would see a reason to get a clearer picture. I spent a couple of weeks interviewing everyone I could get in touch with who had some connection to the conflict, poking around and trying to construct a full picture of what happened.

Normally I would excerpt a chunk of my post here, but this one is long and not particularly well suited to excerpting, so I'll summarize instead.

I went in assuming that the victim was some variety of conservative, warped by the standard methods to "Nazi", but the closer I looked into it, the more I realized that not even that was true. When I spoke with the victim, he described himself as a "Bernie Sanders democratic socialist," and he had the social media presence to back it up, not to mention the shirt he was wearing at the time of the assault (covered in the full array of wine-mom-liberal slogans: "Science is real", "Black lives matter", so forth).

The full story is tragicomic, an initially petty dispute given meaning over the years by the participants working to frame it as a grand political struggle. The original cause of the "Nazi" allegations was the behavior of the victim's boyfriend, who, while having similar political leanings to the victim himself, had roleplayed as a Nazi furry in the video game Garry's mod half a decade ago. This, and a couple of other vague allegations, were enough to turn a personal disagreement into a half-decade-long mission to smear his name in public and private wherever he tried to go within his community. The dispute intensified after a disagreement about responsible Covid precautions at meetups (to wit: would a voluntary, masked, outdoor meetup in 2021 kill people?), ultimately escalating to threats of lawsuits, deep mutual acrimony, and eventually this assault.

Ironically, if the victim and his boyfriend had been the far-right figures they stood accused of being, they'd be in a much better position to weather the whole controversy, with sympathetic allies to spread a counter-narrative, presenting them as martyrs and providing a community to retreat back into. Part of the tragedy of the whole sequence is that the ostracization was so effective only because the two of them were inches away culturally and politically from the leftists celebrating the assault (different primarily, as one mentioned sardonically in a message to me, in not believing random people should be assaulted for political reasons).

There's a certain futility to writing something like this. It's unlikely to reach the core audience who would need to accept it to make a meaningful difference in the ingroup reputation of the victim. Narratives have a way of reinforcing themselves, and when I reached out to writers spreading the Nazi allegations with some authority, they found excuses for every piece of evidence that suggested something more complex was in play. I can only address a crowd of uninvolved onlookers predisposed to agree with me on the material issues at hand. I felt compelled to write about it, though—both because the event is a microcosm of a lot of current cultural trends, a reminder of how destructive personal disputes become when they become charged with the sense of righteous political struggle, and because it was the sort of story big enough to permanently ruin the victim's reputation in his own community and small enough that nobody else would bother to tell his story. If someone's going to become an outcast from a community of outcasts, they deserve that much.

Full article here.

I'm prepared to bite whatever bullet is here and say "those who read it and interpret it differently are wrong." It's a useful phrase with a clearly defined meaning. I use it as appropriate and if someone overinterprets it I'll correct them. I'm looking to describe a set of events that happen sometimes, not encourage overreaction.

I would say "You're welcome to suggest another phrase for the process of deliberate removal of a group of people from an area by any means necessary," but that feels silly. We have a phrase for that. It's ethnic cleansing. We don't need another. If people are overstating it or overinterpreting it, they should knock it off, since the word "genocide" already exists for that purpose.

Per the core definitions used, ethnic cleansing is explicitly "get them to leave" as distinct from "destroy them" entailed by genocide. This is common across most sources. See eg:

That's one of the major reasons to have separate terms for the two! They're often paired in history, but it's not weasel-wording to use the actual definition of the phrase as it's actually and deliberately used in practice.

My impression is that there's little reason to contain culture war in specific. Other similar spaces I participate in (eg /r/blockedandreported) do just fine with a discussion thread for most topics and independent posts for particularly effortful or relevant commentary. I think it would make sense to preserve the culture war thread as it stands while allowing effortful posts touching on culture war topics to stand independently if the author wants to post them at the top level.

It's the same set of 4 charts I embed towards the top of my article, showing the relative rankings of students of different races on academic, extracurricular, personal, and overall axes.

I wouldn't call them all amazing scholars. As I mention in the post, Harvard hasn't selected primarily on intelligence for a long while. I would call the ones I met noticeably capable, well-adjusted, balanced people when compared to the median individual: smart, knowledgeable, conscientious, well-connected, well-off, and ambitious, the sort of people who stand out in any group they're in as being the ones who get things done. Not better than anyone else in the world, but noticeably highly selected in those domains.

This is a generalization, of course, not a rule, and reality is always less shiny than generalizations of this sort allow for, but I've been sincerely impressed by the Harvard (and Yale, and similar-school) graduates in my life.

Oh, of course they're lying. To my eye, it's mostly kayfabe: they pretend to believe those things and other informed observers pretend to trust them. That's part of what makes holistic admissions so insidious to me, though: for uninformed observers, the kayfabe becomes real, and people start to accept that there must be sound, justifiable reasons for highly capable applicants to be rejected in favor of candidates with lower objective scores across the board.

I disagree. This chart is nothing if not ranking people from best to worst along every relevant domain Harvard can muster. Axes of diversity go into their rankings within some of those metrics, but while their numbers may not match up to what you or I would rank as "best" or "worst", they are very much trying to select, and justify their selection as, the best.

I don't have a deep-felt opinion on whether Harvard should be egalitarian. I prefer egalitarian entry criteria for elite institutions both for self-interested reasons and because I prioritize academic excellence over things like wealth, but there's something honest about an unabashedly elitist finishing school for the rich and powerful that I have to respect. I do think it's trying to awkwardly staple a facade of egalitarianism over a core of elitism, though, and that leaves it in a precarious and self-contradictory position.

You could be right about the amount of leverage it gives, but I think the way the ruling explicitly set California schools as a good example gives a lot of reason to be skeptical that the leverage will amount to a great deal in practice. I'll be watching with interest, and I expect mountains of litigation to come out of the ruling, but I have trouble anticipating serious changes as a result.

I wrote a rather long post on my reflections in the wake of affirmative action, detailing why I'm mostly ambivalent about its end and what I see as the core problem with college admissions. One section is mirrored/excerpted below:

[...] hearing some prestige university arguments for affirmative action in non-technical positions, I find myself almost persuaded.

Almost. And then I see the chart that gives the game away, the chart that should be seared into the mind of every observer to the affirmative action debate: the Asian Discrimination Chart.

Why, if the goal was to ensure representation of vulnerable or historically discriminated against populations—why precisely did Harvard and other top universities use "holistic" factors to ensure Asian Americans had to climb a steeper objective hill not just than under-represented minority students, but than all others?

Well, just what sort of business do you think Harvard is in?

Harvard's Business

You don't get to be in the position Harvard is without understanding certain games on a deep institutional level, without playing them better than all others. Harvard is no mere technical school, seeking to train domain experts in rigorous ways. No. It's an Ivy League School, and more than that, it's Harvard. Its mission is not to find the best, but to define the best. And with all due respect to Yale and new upstart Stanford, it's been the best in that business since before the founding of the United States.

Harvard students, put simply, are better than you. This isn't me saying this, mind: it's the whole holistic edifice of university admissions and university rankings, the Supreme Court and the halls of Congress, really every prestige institution in the country. Ask McKinsey or Deloitte if you need convincing. Check where your professors went to school. Run up to a random passerby on the street and see what they think of a Harvard degree. Like it or not, it's a near-universal symbol of competence.

Some are better than you because of their heritage, some because of their wealth, some because of their connections. Some, in part, because of their race: you cannot maintain credible elite institutions with few black people sixty years after the civil rights movement. And, yes, some because of their academics, their intelligence and their work ethic. What sort of elite would it be, after all, if it did not pay lip service to the ideal of meritocracy that inspires so many of the hoi polloi, did not reassure them that academic skill, too, would be counted among its holistic ranking? Most, to be clear, have a combination of the above, a mix precisely in line with Harvard's dreams. Admit just the right set to render your institution legitimate as the elite.

I've met many Harvard students by now, and to be frank, it was almost always clear quite rapidly why they were attending Harvard while I was not. I'll give their admissions team this: they're good at their jobs. It's comforting to imagine some sort of cosmic balancing, where aptitude in one domain is balanced by struggle in another, but Nature is crueller than that. I won't claim every Harvard student is peerless. But they are, by and large, an extraordinarily impressive group of young people, by any measure. That's what happens when you spend several centuries building a reputation as the best of the best. It is a true signal of excellence, one that any individual, rational, ambitious actor should pursue.

For twelve years, every student in the country toils away in a system shouting egalitarianism at every turn. Look at policy priorities and school budgets and you'll see it: an earmark for the disadvantaged here, a special program there, an outpouring of funding for special education in this district, and of course classroom after classroom where teachers patiently work with the students who just need a bit of extra help.

Then comes admissions season, and with a wink and a nod, the system strips away the whole veneer and asks, "So, just how well did you play the game? ...you were aware you were playing the game, yes?"

Let us not mince words: the role of holistic college admissions is to examine people as whole individuals, to account for every second of their lives and every bit of their cultural context, and to rank them from best to worst. Or, more precisely: to justify and to reify the values Harvard and its co-luminaries use to select best and worst. Not just the most capable academics, mind: are you telling me you want a campus full of nerds? Please. Leave that to MIT and Caltech.

I don't want to be reduced to just a number, you say. Very well, Harvard responds, we will judge the whole of you and find you wanting. Is that better?

Let us return to the question, then: why does Harvard discriminate against Asians?

Set aside every bit of high-minded rhetoric, even understanding that most who give noble justifications have convinced themselves of those justifications. Set aside every bit of idealism, even understanding that most at every level of education are indeed idealists. Harvard discriminates against Asians because it is not just an elite school, but the elite school, and Asians are simply not elite enough.

I try to be cautious in using the phrase "systemic racism"—I find it often abused past the breaking point. But as I've said in terser form before, if you want a pure example of the term, and a pure demonstration of just what game Harvard is playing, look no further than its treatment of Asian Americans. Elite values—the true values underlying an institution like Harvard—are never fully legible and never fully set. In easy cases, they align with the values trumpeted on the surface: we value intelligence, we value hard work, we want to give everyone an equal shot.

One problem: Asian Americans came along and took those values a bit too seriously. They started gaming the system by taking it earnestly at face value and working to align with explicit institutional values. But admit too many, and the delicate balance is upset, the beating heart of elite culture animating the whole project disrupted. Academics-focused students, after all, lack social development and, as Harvard infamously argued in the case, simply have bad personalities.

Harvard's been around long enough to have played this game a few times before. When a new group gets too good at understanding and pursuing the explicit values it uses to grant its project the veneer of legitimacy, it smiles, thanks them for their applications, and then changes its process.

As sociologist Jerome Karabel documents, this is in fact the original inspiration for holistic admissions. From The New Yorker:

The enrollment of Jews began to rise dramatically. By 1922, they made up more than a fifth of Harvard’s freshman class. The administration and alumni were up in arms. Jews were thought to be sickly and grasping, grade-grubbing and insular. They displaced the sons of wealthy Wasp alumni, which did not bode well for fund-raising. A. Lawrence Lowell, Harvard’s president in the nineteen-twenties, stated flatly that too many Jews would destroy the school: “The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate . . . because they drive away the Gentiles, and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also.” [...] Finally, Lowell—and his counterparts at Yale and Princeton—realized that if a definition of merit based on academic prowess was leading to the wrong kind of student, the solution was to change the definition of merit.

As public values change, the conception of "elite" changes with them. Harvard and its co-luminaries do not quarrel with each change in turn. They simply adopt them, embrace them, and embody them. In the '50s and '60s, this meant (again per the above New Yorker article) Yale accepting a mediocre academic who seemed like "more of a guy" than his competitors, proudly noting the proportion of six-footers, and watching out for troubling homosexual tendencies. In the 1980s, it meant disapproving notes from Harvard admissions about "shyness," a student seeming "a tad frothy," and one poor soul who was "short with big ears."

In 2023, it means hyperfocusing on one particular, often self-contradictory, frame of Diversity, on preaching ideals of egalitarianism, social justice, and inclusivity quite at odds with its pedigree. And yes, it means that Asians have stellar academics and extracurriculars but, alas, inviting too many would wreck the vibe.

What galls about this all—and look, how could it not?—what galls is the hypocrisy. What galls is watching some of the most elitist and exclusive institutions in the country preach inclusiveness while closing their doors to all but a minute fraction of those who apply, preach egalitarianism while serving as the finishing schools of the most privileged.

If the leaders of Harvard and Yale truly believed in the values they espouse, they would tear their schools to the ground, stone by stone, brick by brick. If the administrators and student body truly, in their heart of hearts, believed in a philosophy of egalitarian inclusiveness rather than the image of themselves as the deserving elite, nothing would be left of either by tomorrow morning.

In the other sections, I focus on a comparison to the Navy Seals (flat admission standards & high-attrition pipeline vs opaque standards where admission itself is the prize and graduating is trivial), examine my personal experience with the whole thing, and cover why I'm skeptical the AA ban will change much in a practical sense.

It’s mostly my fault, alas—she’s a private person who was understandably a bit overwhelmed by the flood of attention the post drew. I’m hoping she’ll be comfortable republishing the info in yet more anonymized fashion somewhere later, since it was a fantastic and useful post, but for now it’s down.

The author deleted the page, unfortunately.

Yeah, one of my friends with absolute pitch reports the same thing—but relative pitch really is an incredibly useful skill for music, and the former entails the latter. I think those who have it and dismiss it often do so in comparison to “a generally good musical ear” and not something like my own near-tone-deafness and total inability to carry a tune when singing without accompaniment (this despite training early-ish on piano and becoming quite competent at it).