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Culture War Roundup for the week of October 3, 2022

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Today I got a response to an old comment in which I'd argued

I'd credit [the positivity of leftist hobby spaces] not to an evangelist reward cycle, but to evaporative cooling. Leftist spaces are less likely to make people feel uncomfortable enough to leave.

...

A subset of the right wing has staked out "being allowed to use slurs" as their Gadsden flag. That circle is near-completely contained within the circle of users who value "owning the libs." As long as this is true, sane moderation is going to have a left-wing bias. To some degree, this must go out the window in extremist left spaces. I'm not going to claim ChapoTrapHouse was a bastion of reasoned debate. It's the hobbyist Discords and niche interests that live and breathe on niceness, community and civilization.

@desolation objected, noting that leftist activism is fully willing to make people uncomfortable:

Have we forgotten the whole phenomenon of "you can't be racist/sexist/whatever against [disfavoured group]" and every mainstream outlet defending using doxing and slurs against targets so long as they're in a disfavoured group?

In the interest of further discussion, I'm moving my response to the main thread.


I'll stand by the first statement, and emphasize that it refers to hobby-spaces-leaning-left, not extremists. I'm not sure what led you to this month-old post, but it was in response to a theory that "Leftists (especially LGBT-focused) congregate in highly socialized communities where every small action toward The Cause is socially reinforced." The OP had constructed a rather elaborate model of left-affiliated communities which portrayed them as hugboxing evangelists. In addition to being rather uncharitable, this overlooks an alternate theory: if a space is reasonably nice, will it end up full of leftists?

As for the second, yes and no. Yes, quoting Kendi or otherwise engaging in that flavor of anti-*ism is more socially acceptable than just being *ist. That's exactly why it drives away fewer users. It's both harder to deploy (and thus more rare) and less likely to offend leftists, centrists, or even most right-wingers.

If a community bans slurs, they will exclude some free speech absolutists. So long as there are more of those on the right, that will select for leftists. Banning slurs is a much more popular mod policy than banning "you can't be racist against X," probably because slurs are cheap and easy to deploy anywhere. Case study: Xbox Live. Would banning any discussion of critical race theory have had any impact on the population of 13yo gamers? What about banning the word "retard"? Apply the same conclusion to Discord, and we have a mechanism by which a neutral community adopts some "left-wing" norms merely by picking the rules with the most relevance. Repeat over months or years, banning the few who get really upset about censorship, and we end up with a left-leaning community which gets along smoothly.

Maybe every once in a while someone in that community gets away with...I'm actually struggling to think of anti-racist slurs? "Colonizer?" Maybe someone says that and right-wingers feel unwanted, or doxxing threats make them feel unsafe. It's also possible that the community enters a purity spiral and implodes. But this is rare, because we're talking about boring hobby groups, not activists.

Honestly, I don't see where mainstream publications come into this at all. The comments section for NYT op-eds is by no means a tight-knit hobbyist community. And while the media's stance on doxxing ranges from sympathetic to enthusiastic, I'm skeptical that such outlets have endorsed using slurs.

I am not sure how big the contingent of "wants to use slurs" is. Certainly I do not encounter people in my right-leaning spaces wanting to use the n-word. I guess I can think of a few if I try really hard, but I mostly think of examples of them being told to control themselves. Even the f-slur gets exasperated sighs.

Or maybe you are being expansive in your use of slurs. You can get quite a bit of power by declaring other people's arguments off-limits and you can do that by calling them slurs. Twitter banned the "NPC" meme because it was dehumanizing, and reddit banned the word "groomer."

RPG.net is very good at making people uncomfortable, because say the wrong thing and you are dead, and "lol just do not say wrong things" is hard when today's wrong thing was a normal thing five years ago. Was ResetEra running "smoothly" on their old server?

I don’t think it has to be very big. That subset gets to be very loud.

It only takes one “KKKILL_ALL_*******” or fedposter to make a lot of people nope out. Not dealing with that, going to hang out somewhere with fewer witches, etc.

Meanwhile, Twitter and Reddit and the like end up cultivating that image of non-witchiness as they attempt to catch the fleeing users. That means alienating the free speech absolutists, but not the garden-variety authoritarians.

It only takes one “KKKILL_ALL_*******” or fedposter to make a lot of people nope out. Not dealing with that, going to hang out somewhere with fewer witches, etc.

I think that's fair, and I don't like such accounts or posts either. But I don't see "banning people from spamming racial slurs" as symmetrical to the sort of ideological conformity that happens in a lot of left-wing spaces. Right-wingers, or at least a contingent of right wingers, certainly do use racial slurs sometimes. That's a real thing. And I agree it makes communities unwelcoming and witchy.

But left-wing spaces often ban people from expressing right-wing viewpoints in a polite, calm, and respectful manner. It's one thing if you have to walk past a rambling schizophrenic spouting off about the Jews controlling everything. But it's absolutely another when officers with guns walk up to you and say, "we don't care for your kind around these parts."

I feel bad that you often get ganged-up on. You've made a lot of valuable and constructive posts that I think got downvoted for ideological reasons or because people just didn't like what you said. If I had my way I'd get Zorba to get rid of downvote button tomorrow, because I think it makes this community worse instead of better. But when it comes to "left-wing social media spaces aren't as bad as you think they are"... I don't know, netstack, but if themotte and /r/rational are your main connections to social media culture, I would suggest you might be a little sheltered from what's going on in the broader culture.

You're in witch-land right now, just for willing to talk about this with me, a crazy religious pro-lifer from (ew) a flyover state. And I think you may not realize the extent to which "people who spam racial slurs" and "people who respectfully hold right-wing positions, even passively" are conflated by the moderation of many of these spaces. As far as RPG.net is concerned, even people who criticize a measure meant to promote a left-wing cause because it will be ineffective at promoting it is considered to be ban-worthy, as /u/gattsuru has noted. I'm pretty sure if I posted my personal opinions, no matter how polite, deferent, or kind I was, I would be nuked from orbit with the might of a thousand gods.

I think themotte strikes a great balance, and I would encourage any community that wants to have a forum or subforum dedicated to political discussion to adopt its rules. Many communities aren't like that, they wouldn't want to let me speak at all. So I have a general "no politics or religion" policy outside of themotte or specifically political/religious communities, and that serves me well in the strict minority of cases in which I judge a social media platform to offer more reward than risk.