site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of November 28, 2022

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

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

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

  • Shaming.

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

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

Finnish MP Quiz: Initial results

(note: I've created a second equivalent quiz, you may click here to take it if you want to test yourself more without reading analysis)

The quiz has been taken 237 times (at the moment of writing). The best results has been 19/20 (this may have been just me testing the quiz, though). The worst result is 3/20. The average result is 10.8 - while this looks like only a little better than random change, it should be mentioned that evidently not all answered every question.

Going through the individual MP's, here's how they rank on the basis of how correctly they were guessed (in other words, the number shows how many people correctly guessed a left MP as leftist or a right MP as rightist):


97 % Pia Lohikoski (Left Alliance)

77 % Tiina Elo (Greens)

68 % Anneli Kiljunen (Social Democrats)

65 % Seppo Eskelinen (Social Democrats)

64 % Pirkka-Pekka Petelius (Greens)

50 % Kimmo Kiljunen (Social Democrats)

47 % Ville Skinnari (Social Democrats)

14 % Markus Mustajärvi (Left Alliance)


73 % Vilhelm Junnila (The Finns)

71 % Janne Heikkinen (National Coalition)

68 % Mauri Peltokangas (The Finns)

64 % Ville Vähämäki (The Finns)

58 % Wille Rydman (National Coalition, currently independent pending review)

52 % Jouni Kotiaho (The Finns)

51 % Kai Mykkänen (National Coalition)

42 % Kaisa Juuso (The Finns)

41 % Hannakaisa Heikkinen (Centre)

32 % Ville Valkonen (National Coalition)

30 % Hanna Kosonen (Centre)

25 % Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo (The Finns)


The fact that there is one MP who was correctly guessed by 97 % shows people have tried to answer the quiz seriously, for the most part. It's not surprising that Pia Lohikoski would be guessed correctly by the most, as there are several cultural signals (red hair, glasses, jewelry) that probably are more associated with left-wingness than right-wingness interculturally.

On the other hand, her party comrade Markus Mustajärvi was the most wrongly guessed person in the quiz; it probably should be mentioned that while both indeed belong to the leftmost party in the Finnish parliament, Mustajärvi is probably the most "red-tribe-equivalent" leftist politician in the country, representing the deepest reaches of Lapland, being very much a "trad leftist" type, opposing for instance gun control bills when they have occasionally been proposed, once causing a scandal by drunkenly addressing a far-right rally etc.

Generally speaking, I suspect many simply associated women with left wing and men with right wing. Finnish political dress codes for women are typically looser than in countries like US and "normie dresses" and such are pretty normal female politician-wear; the sort of a "power pantsuit" you'd associate with Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi etc. would be reserved to a very distinct class of right-wing female politicians.

The two female politicians from the Centre were guessed more incorrectly than correctly, and Centre, indeed, would probably be the party whose members would most likely resent me placing them in the "Right" category; this party, stereotypically representing rural interests, identifies as centrist (as the name says) and is in government with the three left-wing parties, but it also constantly fights with those parties in all manner of policy issues, recently almost bringing down the government, and at least at this point I would guess most Finns would place the party on the Right.

Some people said that 20 pols is too little and they want to test again if they are now better at a particular form of cultural pattern-matching, so I've created a second quiz with 20 more MPs. My subjective appraisal is that this might be a little bit easier?

I did best by guessing. 12/20

My framework is basically "quirky/disheveled to lazy bureaucrat" primarily based on interactions with friend's families and government officials. The more disheveled ones would generally be overly helpful - and believe in homeopathy (but could easily be far right, green or christiandemocrat). The others would be more useful/knowledgeable, but difficult to urge into action - and always very by the book (but depending on the location, the book could involve bribery with chocolates or cash).

Trying it with facial structures went slightly worse than guessing.

Hot or not got me 10/20.

12/20, as a note I was really overthinking at the beginning. In the second half I just went by my guts and had a little better results. But it really seems like a random chance.

On the other hand, her party comrade Markus Mustajärvi was the most wrongly guessed person in the quiz;

I was applying my American political stereotypes here - to me he looks like a stereotypical late middle aged Chamber of Commerce Republican.

Generally speaking, I suspect many simply associated women with left wing and men with right wing.

Excepting the dyed hair lady, my heuristic here was if she looks like one of my aunts she's right wing and if she looks like Liz Warren she's left wing. With a robust sample size of n=3 or 4, the latter rule worked flawlessly. I don't recall the exact performance of the former rule other than that it was worse than randomly guessing.

I got 12/20 overall so whatever system I have doesn't appear to work.

edit: I did the second round and applied the Liz Warren rule again and it went disastrously. 11/20 overall.

13/20 this time, 12/20 last time. I think the sample size is now big enough that I can say my physiognomy detector works, but it isn't too good.

Thanks for the detailed update. I'm surprised that so many took the quiz, considering how relatively few votes and fewer comments these threads receive. You'd think it's far less effort to upvote/downvote than to take a 20 page quiz, but suppose a lot more readers here lurk in the shadows. Hi there!

It's not surprising that Pia Lohikoski would be guessed correctly by the most, as there are several cultural signals (red hair, glasses, jewelry)

You're too polite to spell it out, but I expect the high percentage can be additionally explained by: short hair, overweight, and generally less feminine appearance.

16/20, better than 13/20 last time. I just went with my gut. I'm not sure what I based it on. The only people I think I was ever sure about were women who were dressed a certain way seemed obviously left-wing. The biggest surprise was the young attractive woman who I thought I was sure was left-wing.

It would be interesting to poll people on their country of residence to see if people from different countries are better at placing Finnish politicians.

10/20, same as last time. It seems I'm really bad at this.

How representative/random are those people? Are you just screwing with us, by any chance, by picking a ton of similar women in glasses?

i did slightly better after i think after 4 guesses i just decided left->woman right->man because i assumed the leftist parties would have more women than men and the MP selection would be selected randomly and the the ideological composition would be random. given i have NFI about finnish politics these seemed like reasonable assumptions. tho the ideological composition or the quiz random selection are very dubious assumptions.

They're essentially random. I've removed some for having party pins or, in one case, being high-level enough to possibly have featured in foreign media stories, but the removed ones didn't follow a particular pattern.

Finnish politics has a lot of women and glasses probably feature in pics to add gravitas.

13/20 this time, not a big improvement.

14/20 the first time and 10/20 the second

It really does look like random chance.

Also because I'm Australian, anyone wearing green immediately strikes me as, well, a Green.

Green also happens to be Centre's formal party color (Centre is a rural party, so green represents agrarianism). However, even beyond that, I don't think there's a hard-and-fast "wear only your party's color" rule when it comes to dressing by Finnish politicians.

I did even worse with the second quiz, 11/20, and that was mostly down to over-correcting: I guessed a lot of the women in the first quiz to be right when they turned out to be left, so I went for left this time round and they were on the right.

So it does look like cues such as hair, jewellery, colours of clothes, etc. are what people are really reacting to when they say they can tell by a person's face if they're left or right. In the American context, I imagine "older, white guy with baseball cap and weather-beaten features" looks like 'right wing' and "younger woman with cat's-eye glasses and rainbow hair" looks like 'left wing'. Put all the women in red dresses or have all the guys wear blue ties, and the guesses go wrong more often.

The average result is 10.8 - while this looks like only a little better than random change, it should be mentioned that evidently not all answered every question.

I'll cop to this - sorry for throwing the final results off a bit, I didn't even consider data gathering. I went through about 10 or 12 of them, decided that if there was any result at all it was going to be that my guesses were slightly anti-predictive, and closed it. I felt like it pretty clearly demonstrated to me that I absolutely could not accurately guess the orientation of Finnish politicians based on their appearance.

Edit - Testing whether I learned anything, I took your new one and got 11/20. Amusing (at least to me) is that I got only 2 of the first 9 correct, but ripped off 7 correct in a row on the back end to salvage it. Maybe I'm learning something, but I mostly doubt it and would guess this is just a coin toss result. There were a couple that I thought were almost certainly going to be left based on their clothes, and I was correct on those.

Entertainingly I did the opposite. Got 10/20, 7 out of the first 10 correct and then 3 out of the last 10.

Clearly, there must be a very real pattern and a good reason for this! There's absolutely no way that we're both just tossing a coin 20 times!

(Well, except for the lady with the big necklace, I was pretty sure on that one.)


Compared to 14/20 last time.

Kinda funny that the most obvious left-wing politician was a woman wearing Tumblrina glasses.


Got 11/20 on this one. Guess I was just lucky last time.