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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 23, 2023

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Ancient developed societies had social technology that worked on an evolutionary level. Family name was important, and so the actions of a father would influence the repute of the son. The effect of this was that social defection, from criminality to serious corruption, would not benefit the proliferation of the defector’s genes. A cowardly general or a treasonous noble would reduce their children's opportunity for gene proliferation. Towns in the past were often mono-ethnic, as were many religions, and so civic engagement and “selfless prosociality” would benefit the expansion of one’s extended gene pool. Many human populations evolved prosocial tendencies because such genes were beneficial to the whole, but not necessarily the individual.

It is interesting, but not often stated bluntly, that the culture of the modern West is illogical from an evolutionary standpoint. We are taught not to judge a person by the actions of their parents or kin, and in fact having parents who were antisocial has a sympathetic residue in our media. Because a person’s behavior no longer affects their children’s reputation in any meaningful way (outside of losses from legal action), corruption and perfidy is the evolutionarily correct option in certain cases. It doesn’t matter how many customers you harm, how many people you lie to, or how corrupt you are in a bureaucracy — if you make more money than the legal repercussions take, then your children will go off to a good college and have as high a social standing as before. A Madoff can make off with money and his descendants are not worse as a result, and arguably better than had no corrupt moneys been accrued. (Social shame is essentially limited to the children of conservative politicians who haven’t publicly renounced their parents. Even the children of murderers are given a sympathetic lens.)

Prosocial actions in pre-modern living conditions almost always benefitted the expansion of one’s genes which, in the zero-sum mathematics of mammals, are a kind of dominance-action against other human groups. Helping a homeless person get back to working on a farm may have lead to gene proliferation greater than that of passing up the opportunity. Acting modestly and selflessly, living a simple life of following social rules, would benefit the whole group exorbitantly provided others aren’t defecting from the same standard. Most remarkably, the modern multicultural cosmopolitan America is perhaps the first society in history where prosocial actions are generally against your evolutionary interests. That is, when you don’t signal them to others! The action qua action, undirected to a stranger, is likely going to benefit someone whose genes are too far from yours to benefit your expansion. Even in the Rome of the Roman Empire, groups manly lived in the same neighborhoods, had extended kin groups, had region-locked gods, and in the case of the patrician classes put enormous weight on family/tribal ties. When cross-tribal empathy was practiced, it was so that the stranger would know the goodness of your community — (for instance, failure to be a good host in Greece to a traveler in Greece would dishonor your family and town).

When we talk about the decline in civic engagement, and the bureaucracies that aren’t working for the best interests of the people, and the inefficiencies of ostensibly prosocial organizations that care more about signal than substance, we may want to look at the evolutionary underpinnings of all of our actions. Perhaps we have fashioned ourselves a moral Gordian Knot. We simultaneously value and miss prosocial actions, while forbidding any natural evolutionary impetus for prosocial action. Ironically, the most natural and established methods of prosociality — extended gene nepotism and racism — are the very things that are considered most defective by the cosmopolitan liberal. If this is all true, and there’s no good way to slice this Gordian knot, we will somehow have to devise an advanced capitalist surveillance state that incentivizes substantive prosocial action and not just the signal.

"The effect of this was that social defection, from criminality to serious corruption, would not benefit the proliferation of the defector’s genes."

On the other hand, there is this from the Analects of Confucius:

The Duke of Sheh informed Confucius, saying, "Among us here there are those who may be styled upright in their conduct. If their father have stolen a sheep, they will bear witness to the fact."

Confucius said, "Among us, in our part of the country, those who are upright are different from this. The father conceals the misconduct of the son, and the son conceals the misconduct of the father. Uprightness is to be found in this."

So it might be said that in the Confucian model, filiality and family loyalty trump eusociality. This makes the model of the city/the state/the village (whichever political-social unit from the smallest to the greatest) as a family a difficult concept, since the idea of sociality is that all the members of the unit are, in a sense, 'family' and so acting in the common interest and common good is what should be done - if someone is a thief, inform the authorities. But Confucius here seems to say that bonds of blood relationship outweigh duties to the common good.

Prosocial actions may indeed be against evolutionary interests, but they are necessary for a functioning society. A society where fathers and sons hide crimes, and families act for their own interests first, is not one that is high-trust or low in corruption. American society may not be an earthly paradise, but you can still be reasonably confident that crimes will be tried and punished and that you as a citizen have rights.

Just saying “prosocial actions are necessary” does not magically induce the prosocial action, which is the problem in our cosmopolitan democracy. If prosociality is necessary, we actually need to create the evolutionary underpinnings, otherwise I doubt they will really happen to any meaningful degree. Maybe American parents would not try to conceal their children’s crimes, I have no idea. But America is precisely the country where “families acting for their interests first” is not significantly punished, whereas in ancient societies the descendant’s reputation would be harmed (and so would be their opportunities). In America, if you have the chance to be a Madoff and it sends your kids to the best schools, that is the best evolutionary choice. In ancient societies, it wouldn’t be, because it would affect the child’s reputation, and reputation impacted status, and thus resources and mates. The fact that the children would be punished may lead children to attempt to cover up crimes, but only a small minority of social defection can actually be covered up by one’s children in the first place.

cf. Proclus, Ten doubts concerning providence (De decem dubitationibus circa providentiam), 5th century AD:

Such being the problems regarding [ancestral sin], let us first say that every city and every family constitutes one single living being, more so than every single person, being to a larger degree immortal and sacred. Indeed, one single mayor presides over the city as over one single being, one relative over the family as one whole. And there is a single [life] cycle in common for the city and [one] for the family, making the life and the customs of each of them converge, different ones for different cities and families – as their lives are simultaneous as it were – and their different body sizes, different resources, postures and motions – as if one single nature were pervading the whole city and every single family in it, making both that city and that family one.

If, then, also providence is one and fate, with respect to these things, is one, if their life is of the same form and their nature from the same root, how could one refuse to call the city and the family one living being, and from now on to talk specifically about each of them as one, since, when compared to any one of us, [each of them] is a living being that is longer-lived, more divine and more like the universe in that it encompasses the other, smaller living beings and is akin to the everlasting?

So if, as has been shown, every city and every family is a single living being, why wonder if the [deeds] of the forefathers are paid out to the progeny and if the life of the cities, being one, spread out from above [over the citizens] like a canvas, encompasses the compensation, in other times, for actions, be they good or bad, committed in other times? For providence shows not only that every one of us bears the fruit of the things that he did in another time [of his life] and receives the penalty for them, but also that [this is the case for] the city as a unity and the family as a unity – and as a living being, at that – whereby the first to act are not disregarded either (for it is not allowed that something is overlooked, given that providence exists) and the later-born because of the co-affection to the first as to their founding fathers and by the fact that together with them they complete, as it were, one single living being, inherit from them the share that they deserve. For their origin is from them and they share a life and nature in common with them, so that it is obvious that because of them they receive honour and punishment.

Weren't things we call 'corruption' today, from "bribes" to "nepotism" ... rampant and even accepted among many premodern societies? Something somewhat similar to this may be true, but historical evopsych is very hard to get right.

A Madoff can make off with money and his descendants are not worse as a result, and arguably better than had no corrupt moneys been accrued.

... as opposed to crassus, who

Marcus Licinius Crassus' next concern was to rebuild the fortunes of his family, which had been confiscated during the Marian-Cinnan proscriptions. Sulla's proscriptions, in which the property of his victims was cheaply auctioned off, found one of the greatest acquirers of this type of property in Crassus: indeed, Sulla was especially supportive of this, because he wished to spread the blame as much as possible among those unscrupulous enough to do so. ... Crassus is said to have made part of his money from proscriptions, notably the proscription of one man whose name was not initially on the list of those proscribed but was added by Crassus, who coveted the man's fortune

Some of Crassus' wealth was acquired conventionally, through slave trafficking, production from silver mines, and speculative real estate purchases

The first ever Roman fire brigade was created by Crassus. Fires were almost a daily occurrence in Rome, and Crassus took advantage of the fact that Rome had no fire department, by creating his own brigade—500 men strong—which rushed to burning buildings at the first cry of alarm. Upon arriving at the scene, however, the firefighters did nothing while Crassus offered to buy the burning building from the distressed property owner, at a miserable price. If the owner agreed to sell the property, his men would put out the fire; if the owner refused, then they would simply let the structure burn to the ground. After buying many properties this way, he rebuilt them, and often leased the properties to their original owners or new tenants.[18][5][19][3]

... prosocial?

Weren't things we call 'corruption' today, from "bribes" to "nepotism" ... rampant and even accepted among many premodern societies?

Important I think. It does seem that in the past leaders had less of a problem with their actions being seen. That could be interpreted as social norms being enforced on them better. "Prosocial" in the relevant evolutionary sense is not the same as pro-equality. Moldbug argument about unclear assignment of power being the problem.

Fighting fires costs time and money. If he is obliged to fight fires for people who didn't pay him, he'd go broke. It just looks bad because the firefighters are physically standing next to the fire, but standing next to it and not fighting it is no worse than being far away and not fighting it.

Would you quote it the same way if a supermarket was refusing to give away food to someone who couldn't pay?

I'm not making an anticapitalist / anti-paying-for-insurance argument here - the key phrase is a miserable price, and often leased the properties to their original owners or new tenants. Compare this to healthcare pricing - during an emergency, your 'willingness to pay' is limited only by your wealth, and the hospital you are at / crassus's fire brigade can demand much higher prices than they could in a competitive market because they have no competition at the moment of emergency, a problem (sort of) solved by paying for insurance from competing providers. It's possible wikipedia is overstating that, but other sources seem to agree. Even if that's untrue, the other bits are similarly antisocial.

If he had no firefighters and he was just a real estate developer buying up burned properties for pittances, nobody would complain. Adding the firefighters increases his profit, but it doesn't make the situation worse--losing your house from fire is no better than losing your house this way.

There's also nothing preventing another company from offering "I'll do this and charge half the rent on the lease", leading to a price war that makes the price for the service go down to the point where nobody loses their house.

In general, using monopoly power of any kind to demand prices significantly above the "ideal" market price is (currently) considered bad and antisocial. Even moreso if the thing extorted was "your house" instead of eggs. The same is true of a hospital - sure, "without the hospital, the person just dies", but "give me your life savings or i won't stop the bleeding" is still "antisocial". Economics describes this as "the producer extracting all the surplus". If the cost to crassus of putting out fires is much smaller than the price he demands, and he uses this to extract wealth, that's ... 'antisocial', in the sense it's worse for society than demanding only a bit above cost.

Note that (again, according to wikipedia in vague language, notanexpert, might be wrong) the privately owned system of firefighting became ineffective, and was replaced with a volunteer force.

This led to

"A major duty of the Vigiles was to enforce preventative measures against conflagrations. Adequate fire fighting equipment was required in every home. The Digest of Justinian decrees that Vigiles are "ordered to remind every one to have a supply of water ready in his upper room". While the Vigiles only had advising authority, their recommendations were often followed to avoid repercussions for negligence."

Which is something crassus's force would ... not be incentivized to do.

It's much easier to have a price war over food or steel, which buyers regularly buy large amounts of, can choose the time and place of purchase, and have many sellers, all of which give buyers opportunity and motive to inform themselves and select low prices, than something like a fire or rare medical emergencies, which satisfy none of those. (And history doesn't record several roman firefighting startups pushing the price down a year after crassus's thing began - and even if they did, unless multiple show up to the same fire, extortionate pricing would remain).

If he had no firefighters and he was just a real estate developer buying up burned properties for pittances, nobody would complain

... not about him, but people would certainly complain about the un-fought fires. It may be better for a steel factory that illegally dumps runoff into rivers to exist than not, considering the many benefits of steel, but it's still very bad to dump it!

In some ways, markets and free exchange are very effective in coordination! In other ways, they aren't, and 'it's all voluntary' doesn't mean every action is moral.

In general, using monopoly power of any kind to demand prices significantly above the "ideal" market price is (currently) considered bad and antisocial.

Your description only says that he used monopoly power in the sense of being the only company around--not that he did anything to prevent other companies from being created and competing with him.

It's much easier to have a price war over food or steel,..., than something like a fire or rare medical emergencies... unless multiple show up to the same fire, extortionate pricing would remain).

Why wouldn't someone create another company, which would also show up? It sounds like there's information you're leaving out.

One problem is that the same power over prices exists if crassus is the only one to show up to any specific fire, even if other companies exist. This makes market competition and price discovery much harder. Compare this to: multiple hospitals exist, but you have a heart attack and are only delivered to one. If his company shows up to some fires, and other companies show up to other fires ... and cartels like this are a very common phenomenon in businesses today.

Another problem is that this is ... ancient rome, not exactly a well oiled machine for free enterprise. Startup costs, frictions, and risk of 'you get your property stolen because higher status person dislikes you' were higher than today.

I think it might be worth noting that, contra your comment about it only now being the case that signaling is the way to harvest benefits from prosocial actions, that signaling also is the source of the benefit in the original example you gave. In the case of the father who benefits his son, it is not actually doing good to other which helps, but the building up of the family name. Once again, feigning to do costly actions, if you are not caught, outperforms actually doing them, and lives of crime and the like can bring rewards, if done in secret.

Moreover, it's just transparently the case that those sorts of goings-on still happened. One need only think of rapacious tyrants or common criminals or of hypocrites (woe to you, scribes and Pharisees!) to see that there existed in the ancient times people who defected, and that signaling was common.

Of course, there is something to the fact that our familial connections are weaker than they have often been in the past. But I am not convinced that it has these large effects of disregard for ethics or one's reputation, given that there still exist substantial pressures toward having the politically correct views, or whatever falls within the socially acceptable range.

New Twitter file dropped that I think touches on a few live wires of the culture war.

First, media quality. Scott, Richard H., and Bryan Caplan all somewhat recently have posts out relating to the media. Only Caplan has taken a really negative view. In the new Twitter files, it seems that media without much scrutiny amplified Hamilton68; a project that appears to without evidence slander mostly anti right political opponents as Russian agents. This was a big complaint against Scott and Richard — when the media gets something wrong, it is generally a big thing and seemingly in one direction. This was big because it was used to tar (or further tar) many political actors with links to Russia; notably the then President of the US.

Second, misinformation. The argument presented by and large by progressives is that misinformation must be caught back against aggressively by social media because it pollutes our political system. Yet this article shows how easily “misinformation” is really short hand for “political beliefs I disagree with.” Matt T. compared it to McCarthy. The biggest difference I see is that Joe was actually correct about his targets being communists (doesn’t follow that Joe’s actions were correct). Here, it seems the factual claim (Russian bots / agents) are just wrong.

Third, Robin Hanson just produced a piece discussing the difference between elite and expert. The expert focuses on details and logic; the elite looks for the trees and how to navigate social (ie political) situations. The internal Twitter debates see the expert class somewhat at war with the elite class.

Anyhow, let me know your thoughts! Link to the story. https://www.racket.news/p/move-over-jayson-blair-meet-hamilton

Third, Robin Hanson just produced a piece discussing the difference between elite and expert. The expert focuses on details and logic; the elite looks for the trees and how to navigate social (ie political) situations.

Obviously, elites have power; experts do not. They have different priorities.

There's a pattern you'll see a lot in certain issues -- gun control and environmental issues, for instance -- where a previously little-known group is suddenly accepted as the unquestioned expert on the topic by the media. I interpret this as the Cathedral (or whatever you want to call it; I usually use "Left, Inc.") spinning up a new part of itself for the purpose of providing backing for the narrative that it has decided on. I suspect this is what was going on here; the Hamilton68 project was spun up by the same people who directed the media to pay attention to it, for the purpose of spreading the Russian collusion stories.

Not really, the central point of the Moldbuggian Cathedral concept is that it's emergent rather than coordinated:

The mystery of the cathedral is that all the modern world’s legitimate and prestigious intellectual institutions, even though they have no central organizational connection, behave in many ways as if they were a single organizational structure.

...

So it’s not just that everyone—at least, everyone cool—is on the same page. It’s more like: everyone is reading the same book—at the same speed. No wonder all the peasants are seeing conspiracies in their motherfucking soup. If you saw a group of bright red dots move across the evening sky this way, what would you think they were? Pigeons? Remote-controlled pigeons, illuminated by lasers? Sometimes even Occam is baffled.

...

It is not hard to see why, in the lecture halls and newsrooms, dominant ideas tend to outcompete recessive ideas. A dominant idea is an idea that tends to benefit you and your friends. A dominant idea will be especially popular with your friends and former students in the civil service, because it gives them more work and more power.

And a recessive idea, of course, is the opposite of all these things. A climate scientist who holds the recessive idea of climate denialism is saying to his colleagues and the whole world: climate science is not important. Is it surprising—in the Bayesian sense— that a consensus of climate scientists would conclude that climate science matters?

Moldbug's model has no predictive power over public choice theory or some generic conspiracy, and its allure lies precisely in stripping «The Cathedral», culturally close to him and his target audience (cough cough «dark elves»), of moral culpability inherent to conscious exercise of power while being aware of its consequences. If there is no genuine malice, we can hope to resolve our differences with another round of musical chairs, «reformalizing» power so that no perverse incentives remain and hobbits can return to their bucolic farms.

Much the same can be said of the brain-addled Memetic theory of politics in general, which is buttressed by Mistake theory (because Scott, of course, is a... half-dark elf himself, despite his polite differences with neoreactionaries, and also refuses to see simple malice in blue tribe). Memes and fads very much exist, but they are fickle epiphenomena of mass culture; consequential ideologies and even rhetorical frameworks that are perpetuated by human organizations have unlimited lifespans, rely on scholarship vastly more complex and cerebral than their "memetic" payload, and follow from material interests of self-aware groups.

The practical nonexistence of memes is one of the most underrated thoughts of our friend Julius, which he regrettably had not argued for with sufficient finesse.

Isn't this just ideology dressed up as something else? I think it was Scott who said that Moldbug can't argue that people are consciously aware of themselves in this way, but also can't bring himself to say that it's just people choosing to believe something because that sounds too mundane, so he came up with something that combines the inadvertant nature of ideological belief with the sinister tones of a conspiracy.

See below — isn’t it emergent order?

I guess. Just seems like its easier to just call it ideology - the term explains what people mean pretty well as opposed to Moldbug's attempts at casting this as anything other than the ideology of the elites enacting what it logically would.

Sure, ideas have some memetic aspect to them , but there is still considerable centralization. . Look how quickly the BLM protests evaporated after Biden won. These things are planned by professional activists . Same for the higher-ed administrative structure. Or media companies. But what makes some ideas dominant , is harder to know. It could be a competition for status and power as stated above.

Ironically, this is merely rediscovering the logic behind markets or emergent order. As someone described it, of human action if not human design.

Markets are great because its incentives generally harness market participants’ selfish interest in a pro social way.

The concern about elites (in bureaucracies) is that the incentives arguably harness the participants’ selfish interest in an antisocial way.

I disagree with Moldbug on that. There's a lot of flock-like coordination, but there's also centralized structures (like Jornolist). And if you try to look into the web of funding of the various NGOs, you find a snarl. They're all connected to each other -- often through foundations that are also connected to the media.

Power laws and competition don't disappear just because they're affecting your enemy. It can still be a decentralised process whilst appearing to be focused around a few key groups—this is a measure of success, the wheat winnowed from the chaff. There are very few moments where it's actually more efficient to create a thing/movement/site entirely from scratch rather than finding an already moving thing, no matter how fast, and boosting it.

Power laws and competition don't disappear just because they're affecting your enemy.

You can do a lot if you have solved the coordination problem.

And how have they accomplished that? And if so, why in heavens name would you seek to displace the first group ever to manage it? Such an innovation would instantly enable a utopia, and even if of an aesthetically malign sort, that must be better than our present straits? Surely on any remotely conservative principle such a breakthrough should be regarded as extraordinarily unique and not to be tampered with at all?

I personally very much doubt they have.

Utopia is impossible. Every attempt at Utopia invariably results in dystopia.

And how have they accomplished that?

I'll be damned if I know.

And if so, why in heavens name would you seek to displace the first group ever to manage it? Such an innovation would instantly enable a utopia

No, solving the co-ordination problem does not lead to utopia. It leads to great power for those who solved it.

More comments

This seems like an important distinction between the concepts of "Left, Inc" and "The Cathedral", right? I'm inclined to think both have explanatory power.

This has always seemed plausible to me, and I do believe it to be so in practice even if not necessarily in intention, but I do wonder if anyone has gone and actually collected some data on organizations quoted as experts compared to those organizations' actual track records. Obviously this is a muddy field to plow, so I don't really expect much.

It occurred to me recently that while I've seen a great many shows/movies/etc about prejudice/tribalism/bigotry/etc, none of them reflect the kind of dynamics I've seen in the culture war. The closest things I've seen were The Hunt, a completely non-allegorical satire of current day social dynamics, and "The Great Divide," a filler episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's hard to identify what phenomena I want reflected in this kind of story, but one of the most distinct aspects of our current polarization is how the dominant tribe justifies its antipathy towards the opposing tribe by accusing it of bigotry. Dehumanization isn't unusual, but dehumanizing people by accusing them of dehumanization seems novel. Or at least, novel enough that I haven't seen it outside of a South Park episode (The Death Camp of Tolerance) that treated the concept as inherently absurd because, at the time the episode was made, it still seemed outside the realm of possibility.

Do you guys know any good works of fiction that depict bigotry similar to that we've seen in America over the past decade? I don't necessarily mean stories where one group accuses the other of being bigoted. Just anything that leaps out to you as similar.

I think your use of the term "Dehumanizing" has derailed the discussion.

I've had somewhat similar thoughts/frustrations. It seems really hard to find stories with antagonists that use Woke tactics, or narratives that roughly align with the Anti-SJW ethos, that aren't tediously cringe or partisan or obviously ABOUT being Anti-SJW. It'd be really easy to wind up doing "straight white men are the REAL oppressed class," which is cringe even when true.

30 Rock: plenty of episodes involved Tracy or Jenna or some other character being super-entitled while claiming to be oppressed, using proto-woke, or just straight-up Woke, lingo. Or that black guy who flat-out says any woman who won't date him is racist or gay. This stuff is funny, but becomes less funny and more kafka-horror-y when every other character buys in hook-line-and-sinker.

House: there were plenty of situations where House was just being an equal-opportunity-asshole but gets interpreted as being racist or sexist or whatever.

but one of the most distinct aspects of our current polarization is how the dominant tribe justifies its antipathy towards the opposing tribe by accusing it of bigotry. Dehumanization isn't unusual, but dehumanizing people by accusing them of dehumanization seems novel.

I don't know why you are conflating calling someone a bigot is the same as dehumanizing them. Archie Bunker was depicted as a bigot, but he was not dehumanized. Dehumanization is something quite different.

You're absolutely right. I was being inarticulate. The accusation of bigotry, itself, is not dehumanization. The dehumanization comes when you say that because someone is a bigot, it's okay to "punch" them. That their rights, the rights that are supposed to extend to all of humanity, no longer exist. The trigger word they usually use is "Nazi," and they expand the definition of that term enough to include wrongthinkers of all races and religions. That's the most extreme example, but even it is frighteningly common.

I don't think Archie Bunker wouldn't be tolerated in today's world. While he was absolutely portrayed as in the wrong, he was also tolerated, even loved. Today, people like that are not deserving of tolerance. They get "cancelled." It's like.. you know how in the 00's, some Christians had a "love the sinner, hate the sin" attitude towards homosexuality, while others didn't want to let gay people anywhere near them? Leftists used to be analogous to the former, hating problematic attitudes while still loving people who possessed them. Now they're the latter. Or at least, that's how I perceive the situation.

Your link is broken; correct link is here

Ok, but "it is ok to punch someone who is x" is not dehumanization. Eg: it is considered ok for a woman to slap an obnoxious drunk. Does that mean that the drunk has been "dehumanized"? If a mass murderer is put to death, has he been "dehumanized"? I think you are referring to a different concept.

i marked this comment "bad" on the volunjanny page so i guess i should reply.

"it is ok to punch someone who is x" is not dehumanization

yes it is. "it is righteous to practice violence against the outgroup" is the last realization of otherizing rhetoric.

  1. outgroup is bad

  2. we should do something about outgroup

  3. we should be violent to outgroup

to give the sharpest comparison, that phrase is syntactically identical with "it is righteous to kill jews."

no motte & baileying. as-spoken "it's okay to" is to be heard and understood as "it is righteous to"

it's not righteous for a woman to slap a lush, but also nobody gives a shit. almost all of europe believes it is not righteous to execute criminals because their framing of human rights extends even to mass-murderers. this is a deep subject of philosophy where i largely though not entirely agree with the europeans. i blame none for being uncomfortable with the state ending lives.

it is not righteous to practice indiscriminate violence against anyone. even nazis. this was the point of postwar trials: moral authority. righteousness. because they understood the indiscriminate violence practiced during the war was bad in and of itself. that statement goes against the trials.

that statement necessarily affirms certain premises; it is okay to dehumanize, it is okay to practice indiscriminate violence.

that statement says what the nazis did was only bad because of who they did it to.

to repeat and conclude: there is nothing you can say more dehumanizing.

There are several things wrong with your argument:

"it is righteous to practice violence against the outgroup" is the last realization of otherizing rhetoric.

  1. Even if the last step of otherizing is making the claim, "it is righteous to practice violence against the outgroup", it does not follow that every incident of making the claim is necessarily the last step in the process of othering.

  2. We are talking about dehumanization, yet you are making a claim about othering. They are not the same thing. See, eg, Genocide Watch's "Ten Stages of Genocide", which distinguishes clearly between othering (what they call "classification") and dehumanization.

to give the sharpest comparison, that phrase is syntactically identical with "it is righteous to kill jews."

Perhaps I was imprecise when I described the class of statements as, "it is ok to punch someone who is x." As my examples showed, I did not mean to define "x" as group membership, but rather as exhibiting a certain attribute, such as drunken loutishness, or a tendency to commit murder.

More importantly, you seem to believe that I said that it is righteous for a woman to slap a lush, or righteous to execute a murder, or righteous to practice indiscriminate violence against anyone. I said no such thing, nor do I believe any such thing. I merely said that doing so was a phenomenon different from dehumanization. I was making an analytical claim, not a normative claim.

i marked this comment "bad" on the volunjanny page

I >90% agree with your post, but I marked the one you're replying to as neutral because I didn't see evidence that @Gdanning was dishonest. My theory is "we want honestly-wrong people to come here, say honestly-wrong things, talk to people about them, and stop being wrong, so I don't want people to get in trouble for saying honestly-wrong things".

If we say that dehumanization means strictly to treat someone as inhuman or less than human than maybe not. But people on the left have been using an expanding definition of dehumanization for decades. Feminists love to say that various forms of sexual attraction to a woman are dehumanization. Like if a man wants masturbate to images of pretty women, it's dehumanizing to the women. That sort of usage has the same flaws as saying that "it's okay to punch someone" is dehumanizing.

  1. I'm not a big fan of the "the other side does it, so it is ok for me to do it" argument.

  2. Those examples are re using "dehumanize" to mean "treat as an object, not as a person", as in the second definition here ["to deprive of human qualities or attributes; divest of individuality"]. I believe that the OP was using the first definition ["to regard, represent, or treat (a person or group) as less than human"]

I'm not a fan of "the other side does it, so it is ok for me to do it" either, but I think it makes far more sense that people saying "we should be able to inflict physical harm on a person without remorse" is an example of dehumanization, as opposed to "we should be able to imagine a person in sexual situations". The later doesn't make much sense for it to be dehumanizing.

The latter fits the second definition of dehumanizing reasonably well, it seems to me, if the claim is that the person in question is treating a human being like a fleshlight, as a tool, essentially, as opposed to a person with feeling of their own, etc. That is indeed what they are saying, as I understand it. I don't know that I agree with the claim empirically, but it is a reasonable use of the term. It is really a very different claim than the other definition, which I think OP was using, which was to see someone as less than human (note, by the way, that some have argued that, in some contexts, it is toxification, rather that dehumanization, which is what is really going on).

Archie Bunker was depicted as a bigot, but he was not dehumanized.

The Archie Bunker TV shows were made in the 70s/80s. Do you think that today a TV show would be made with such a character in the lead role, and as anything other than an out-and-out villain?

How is that relevant to my point, which is that claiming that someone is a bigot is not the same as dehumanizing them?

It's relevant in that you claimed Bunker was presented as a bigot but not dehumanised. That was forty-plus years ago. Today, we wouldn't get an Archie Bunker except as a villain with no redeeming features, or else he does a 180 degree turn and realises he was wrong about everything and current-day idpol is right, true and just.

Have you really not seen any online descriptions of Republicans? Even Freddie deBoer has to do the customary obligatory disclaimer about how bad they are:

if the odds of Democrats doing good are a 1,000,000:1, the odds of a third party or the Republicans doing good are even less

The issue is that “better than the Republicans” is a bar about as low as “better than slowly lowering your genitals into a blender.”

the same maniacal zeal the Republicans pursue a right agenda

Why the Republicans don’t appear to pay more of a price for the utter insanity of the messages in their media is a question for another time

The Republicans were asked whether they could continue to be the party of bitter racist yokels and hope to win elections.

you can engage with a roster of interchangeable lunatics who lie and dissemble in defense of a cruel revanchist movement

I like Freddie, I think he's honest and he makes reasonable points, but even he goes for "maniacal zeal", "utter insanity", "bitter racist yokels", "interchangeable lunatics" and so on. Maybe it's not yet at the point of calling Republicans actual rats and vermin, but some will go that far.

Ditto with the pro-life movement, TERFs, etc. It's a short step from "they're bigots and maniacs" to "they're not real humans, not like us, they have no compassion and are motivated only by hatred and spite and destructiveness".

"Customary obligatory disclaimer" implies that he's just saying those things due to outside pressure, not because those are his actual thoughts. Freddie is a socialist, you'd expect him to view Republicans very negatively.

This doesn't actually seem dehumanizing. There is no comparison of republicans to animals(unless you count the handwringing over dogwhistle politics), no description of disgust, no description of republicans as lesser-than.

It's an accusation of republicans being evil. And in a democratic system, that's far, far from unprecedented- the Greeks had a special word for it(stasis) and the Romans saw the same thing occurring in their republic and saw it as almost identical to the Greek process. Nor, by the way, is it a one way street; republicans also see democrats as evil.

This is an emergent process of republics and cannot be fixed by one party acting alone.

Online leftists call republicans "chuds" constantly, so there's your literal dehumanization.

Online rightists call leftists "NPCs".

Again, how is that relevant? My point is that the categories "calling someone a bigot" and "dehumanizing someone" are distinct categories. Hence, whether someone is dehumanizing Republicans is an empirical claim which must be established by evidence more than that said person called Republicans bigots. I note that deBoer's articles from which you got those quotes seem to have little to do with bigotry, for example.

I think the point is that "dehumanising != bigot" is ITSELF irrelevant because while you are right that it is theoretically possible to portray someone a bigot without dehumanising them, if you use a 1950s dictionary and several slide rules, it is not practically possible to portray someone a bigot without dehumanising them in The Current Year, because the incentives of the zeitgeist converge modern media writers on that conflation too incentivisingly.

That is true only if you are using a very eccentric definition of "dehumanize." it does not mean "immoral" or "evil" or even "loathsome."

It's interesting to note that Norman Lear meant for Archie to be seen as a bigot. The audience was supposed to laugh at the racist ignoramus, not with him. Lear was horrified when he realized that Archie was becoming the Fonz of the show and that the audience loved the old rascal for being so "politically incorrect."

That said, I can list many, many shows made in the 70s and 80s that would never be made today (or at least, not with the characters and storylines we saw then). Like for the example the infamous blackface/n-word episode of Gimme A Break!

Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is famously about white supremacists who envy black bodies while denigrating black minds. A true horror delight, and definitely Culture War fodder. His “Us” and “Nope” are less on the nose for your request, both terrific filmmaking in and of themselves, but also worth watching for what they have to say about the black experience/The Struggle.

The rather confusing hextuple film “Cloud Atlas” is what drove home for me the concept of privilege, but also how much social justicers want to be The Ally Who Helps Oppressed Group Get Unoppressed.

I saw Get Out and loved it. I don't think what I got out of it is the same as what everyone else got out of it, judging by other peoples' reactions to it and even what other people have directly told me, but I did love it. I should see the other movies you've mentioned. Thank you.

I saw the symbolism in Get Out, but I got more out of it as a sci-fi horror film dealing with the nature of brains and minds. I’ve always loved body transformation stories, and fantastic tales about what nerve networks can actually do, and this scratched one itch while giving a delightful ick factor to the other. I enjoyed “Nope” even more.

It’s worth noting that the truly subversive aspect of Get Out is that the “white supremacists” (as you call them) are old-school liberals who fetishize blacks, almost literally consuming them for their own advantage, reflecting the racial dynamics of the Democrat party.

Can you remind me what part of cloud atlas you’re talking about?

Five of the six stories has a person being dehumanized by their society because of one of their attributes: the slave, the gay guy, the senior citizen, the clone, and the “primitive human” on the Old Earth reservation. Each gains the sympathy of a person with a standard amount of privilege and together they struggle for the dehumanized person’s freedom from their oppressive situation, with varying degrees of success.

Five of the six stories has a person being dehumanized

In the sixth story, nuclear power is dehumanized.

Dreher's Law defied? Transgender rapist Isla Bryson moved to men's prison

After years of haranguing feminists and critics for suggesting that things like self-ID would lead to women being potentially at risk as unsafe males entered women's spaces, the topic has burst unto the scene as a rapist in Scotland sought movement into a female prison because he "transitioned" after being caught.

The basic economic logic of "if barriers are removed from socially deleterious activities people will do them" proven once again. Yet it somehow evades certain parts of the political spectrum.

Isla Bryson was remanded to Cornton Vale women's prison in Stirling after being convicted of the rapes when she was a man called Adam Graham. She has since been moved to HMP Edinburgh.

Bryson decided to transition from a man to a woman while awaiting trial.

She was taken to a male wing of HMP Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon.

It came after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that Bryson would not be allowed to serve her sentence at Cornton Vale.

This situation seems to have proven to be a boondoggle for the SNP. Sturgeon faced resistance in her own party to passing gender legislation already and the UK government even blocked it for equality concerns (leading to a -cynical imo - row on devolution as well, which I'm sure Sturgeon would prefer to be the issue).

Now this case came up and caused a bit of a stir. Sturgeon came out proactively and reassured everyone, saying that no rapists will be allowed into female prisons, making it clear where she stood & using the "risk assessment" argument to save face: every trans applicant will go through risk assessment therefore there's no problem unless they come to a wrong decision. Of course, the problem seems to be that a) these people are assessed at the female prison and b) maybe the best system is no system. All this effort won't change the fundamental reality of males vs. females so why not use the rule of thumb that works the vast majority of the time? Certainly, if the FM has to come out and reassure Scots that the right decision will be reached in each of these cases that says something about their confidence.

Of course, I've not seen even a hint of reflection on this from the very people who called it bigoted to suggest that weakening gender barriers and implementing self-ID would lead to these ludicrous situations. If anything, activists seem to be doubling down on the claim that anyone who raised the alarm about this was just being bigoted instead of letting the process play out.

Meanwhile, a second plane has struck the Towers

I'm astonished at the sheer amount of people and their new found concern for Scotland's prison population, so astonished I'm left wondering where they've been for the last however many centuries while men who rape other men were placed in, shock horror, men's prisons. Talk about the proverbial fox in the chicken house. Could it be that prisoner safety isn't really uppermost in the agenda of the red tops and certain politicians and commentators?

As for the case of Isla Bryson. How can anyone say the system failed when, at the time of this media storm, she had been found guilty before a jury, had been placed in Cornton Vale on remand in segregation while undergoing an assessment as to the proper place for her to serve the sentence that had yet to be served on her. Her sentencing is next month and the judge requires a variety of assessments.

If this media rumble hadn't arisen, it's overwhelmingly likely Bryson would have been assessed to be unsuitable for a women's prison and would have served her sentence in a male prison.

There are about 15 trans people in jail in Scotland and over 200 in England. Trans women are serving their sentences in male and female prisons north and south of the border (as are trans men) showing that individual assessments by the relevant prison authorities are taking place as they are statutorily obliged to do so.

Why is the sky falling in, people?

The problem for the SNP is that the Scottish courts could overrule her based on her own law. Why would a woman be imprisoned with men even if they are a high risk to women? The best to hope for is isolation within the women’s estate.

The prison estate is still divided by gender, if not by biological sex. If a transwoman is a women as Scottish law assumes, she must go into the proper estate.

(The SNP might be saved by British courts but rather than help Scottish nationalism this may hinder it).

Why is a Scottish nationalist party making this an elemental part of their program anyway?

Why is a Scottish nationalist party making this an elemental part of their program anyway?

The SNP styles themselves as the most-progressivest party in Scotland, cruelly held back by those evil evil Tories that England votes for. So you should vote for them so they can leave the UK and implement loads of progressive policies! Such as running to hand their leash to the EU immediately, and implementing loads of extra welfare! Somehow! After amputating 60% of their trade... when they're net receivers from the UK treasury already...

Honestly, don't think too hard about it. Their manifesto is basically "we're not the Tories, watch as we advocate the opposite of everything they say." Their speech restrictions and laws are even more draconian than the rest of the UK, they proclaim "refugees welcome!" despite having almost no refugees (and the ones who are placed there aren't happy about it and don't want to go), they call the rest of the UK horrible racists while basically being an ethnostate... give Humza Yousaf, their Health Secretary, a listen, and pay particular notice to the way he spits out the word "white" like it's venom and complains about the majority of positions of power being held by white people in a 96% white area.

Why is a Scottish nationalist party making this an elemental part of their program anyway?

I can't find the article anymore but I recall one making the argument that progressive virtue signaling and standing against England is what Scottish nationalism boils down to at this point (since blood and soil isn't a good sell in Europe anymore, even though it is the more standard or intuitive justification for nationalism).

The UK was perceived as stepping back on some of this stuff recently so perhaps Scotland decided there was an opportunity to distinguish themselves via moralism (aka the Canada model)

Gender dysphoria is no longer regarded as an illness therefore why would a Gender Recognition Certificate require two doctors signatures?

Remind me again how things like this would never, ever happen. I was told that several years back when part of a discussion about the possible problems in letting self-identified trans women use female-only spaces. No boy or man was going to undertake the social costs of dressing like and identifying as a woman just in order to get access to women's spaces.

How many formerly AMAB sexual crimes trans prisoners does this make now? And of course, if I take the lessons that I am being taught, Isla was always a Real Woman, so she was a Real Women when she raped two women with her feminine penis, and she still has her feminine penis while awaiting gender affirmation surgery while in a women's prison, and if you deadname her then you are inflicting real violence on her and denying her human rights.

Does that sound mean? Well, the liberal side like to pose the "what about the pregnant 12 year old victim of incestuous rape, are you going to force her to have her rapist's baby?" in abortion discussions and as we've seen this is a rare but real problem. The Real Woman trans sex offender is the equivalent for the liberal and progressive side, and a real problem they have to deal with, and decide if they are going to stick with the most extreme loons who declare that you can too be a Real Woman if all you do is grow your hair out and change your name. It would be instructive to count up how many "pregnant 12 year olds" versus "sex offender suddenly decided while in men's prison he was really a woman" cases and see who needs to do some tough decisions.

Of course, I've not seen even a hint of reflection on this from the very people who called it bigoted to suggest that weakening gender barriers and implementing self-ID would lead to these ludicrous situations.

Sure, and why not? Their opponents still concede the frame. The linked article continues to refer to the male rapist in question as "she", despite this guy looking like a parody of the "men will exploit this system" claim. Sturgeon says:

She said: "There is no automatic right for a trans woman convicted of a crime to serve their sentence in a female prison even if they have a gender recognition certificate.

Notice the verbiage there, that there is no "automatic right", as though it's something that's often entirely reasonable. She added:

The first minister also stressed it was careful that people "do not, even inadvertently, suggest that trans women pose an inherent threat to women", adding: "Predatory men, as has always been the case, are the risk to women."

Well, I'll go ahead and suggest it - trans "women" that look like parodies of men in drag pose an inherent threat to women. That this sentiment is still outside the Overton Window of polite conversation is precisely why it makes sense for the people that want to weaken gender to keep calling people bigots. Why not? If even the policy-makers that eventually move male rapists out of female prisons maintain that there's nothing particularly predatory about trans "women" in female prisons, continuing to press the point makes sense.

Sure, and why not? Their opponents still concede the frame.

I'm unsure, but maybe they have to in the UK? I know that they've sent policemen to people's houses for trans critical tweets, so it's possible it runs afoul of some hate speech law.

Lol. There were a few admittedly ridiculous instances here and there of police visits but a) they didn't result in anything (still silly but an important caveat) and crucially b) that it absolutely not the norm. I mean you can go on twitter right now and see loads and loads of British commentators and other twitter users with names and faces etc. taking a v. critical position on trans issues. I mean this is just an absurd suggestion to make.

"Predatory men, as has always been the case, are the risk to women."

So are they men or are they women? Because if this guy isn't a woman, then all the trans stuff is just pretence and he shouldn't be humoured in it; he should be referred to by his real name and not allowed prance about in wigs and false nails and pink.

If she is a real trans woman, then she's not a predatory man, she's a predatory trans woman who is an inherent threat to women.

You can't eat your cake and have it, too: if Adam Graham is not trans, then the whole trans thing is mainly a pretence since it's so easy to claim to be a woman. If Isla Bryson is trans, as claimed (and their origin story sounds like it's taking the familiar path - see below), then trans women can be threats and it's not being a TERF to think that allowing people with penises into spaces where other people have suffered at the hands of people with penises is a bad idea.

Imagine if Isla turned up at a domestic violence shelter where one of her rape victims was also living. Is it TERFy to say that maybe Isla should not be taken in to that shelter? Or indeed any female shelter, since Isla has demonstrated she is not safe to be around women?

Originally a male named Adam Graham, Bryson has claimed to have known she was transgender since the age of four, but did not decide to begin the process of transitioning until the age of 29. At the time of her trial she was undergoing hormone treatment and seeking surgery to complete her gender reassignment. Bryson was briefly married after meeting a woman through a dating app in 2015, but the marriage, which occurred the following year, ended unhappily. As a male Bryson told her trial she had also struggled with her sexuality, and had been in relationships with men as well as women.

This is also broader than the entire question of trans rights and if it's all a con job; the perfectly safe and harmless guy out on bail while awaiting trial for rape was able to enrol on a beauty therapy course as a woman and be around young women for a whole three months:

STV News has learnt that Isla Bryson, who was this week convicted of raping two women, attended classes at Ayrshire College’s Kilwinning Campus in 2021, while awaiting trial.

Bryson, previously known as Adam Graham, was on Tuesday found guilty of raping one woman in Clydebank in 2016 and another in Drumchapel, Glasgow, in 2019, following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

Susan Smith from the campaign group For Women Scotland said: “He was charged under his original name, Adam Graham, and presumably they knew him by his new name, so they (fellow students) probably wouldn’t have been able to find out anything about this person.

“It’s absolutely terrifying that people can hide their identities and gain access to young women in this way.”

The course involved Bryson enrolled on featured a mix of classroom work and practical elements such as students doing each other’s make-up.

The other students were almost exclusively female and much younger than Bryson, who is now 31.

A statement from Ayrshire College said: “We can confirm the individual was enrolled as a student at Ayrshire College for a three-month period in 2021 and is no longer a student with the College.

I suppose we can only be thankful she didn't decide to try raping anyone else during this period. What the hell kind of carry-on is this?

Also why women are paranoid about meeting men; this specimen met women online and seems to have done this as a deliberate strategy to find vulnerable women (his ex-wife and the two women he raped) so while it's not fair to treat all men as potential threats, this kind of case doesn't help.

As you suggest, this is because the Conservative government is blocking Scotland’s trans self-ID law, and so presumably the SNP wants to avoid embarrassing stories like this.

Of course, I've not seen even a hint of reflection on this from the very people who called it bigoted to suggest that weakening gender barriers and implementing self-ID would lead to these ludicrous situations. If anything, activists seem to be doubling down on the claim that anyone who raised the alarm about this was just being bigoted instead of letting the process play out.

Meanwhile, a second plane has struck the Towers

This is old news. It's not the first case of a male sex offender being sent to women's prison, it's the first where politicians found themselves answering for it. Activists have moved from "it will never happen" to "it's a good thing that it did" years ago.

"Predatory men, as has always been the case, are the risk to women"

says Nicola Sturgeon. Well, if this prisoner is not a man, then they're not a predatory man. If they're not a predatory man, then they are not a threat to women. If they are not a threat to women, then they should pass their risk assessment.

So, it follows from her view that even though the prisoner should not be transferred to the women's prison, they should be.

Yvette Cooper just seems overwhelmed by the whole matter:

"It should be clear that if someone poses a danger to women and committed crimes against women, they should not be being housed in a women's prison"

I am pretty confident that Cooper has never been to Cornton Vale, though she may have been to other women's prisons given she's Shadow Home Secretary. She would know that there are a lot of prisoners who are dangers to women and who have committed crimes against women. Sexual crimes? Well, probably not convicted, but "crime" and "sex crime" are not the same thing. One of the main reasons to put female criminals in a prison is that they are dangerous to other women. One would hope that Cooper, if she is going to be Home Secretary, would know that already.

I can see that Nicola Sturgeon is trying to say "not all trans people" and that's perfectly true. There are a lot of trans women out there who are not sex offenders and rapists.

The problem is the loudmouth activists and the crazy ones, as well as the predatory guys who suddenly discover their inner femaleness when the prospect of being sent to a men's jail and having the shit kicked out of them arises. If, like J.K. Rowling, you can be vilified as a TERF and have people doing their best to destroy you (thankfully their best is not very good at all) simply for commonsense observations that hey, maybe putting people with dicks in the same space as people who have been hurt by people with dicks is not a good idea, then we're going to have more of this kind of thing: the rapist was always a Real Woman and you are the insensitive boor for deadnaming her.

We really are going to have to look hard at the idea of transgender being a mental health issue, if the likes of these guys are going to be cropping up again and again. Maybe they really are trans, but it's all part of a pathology. It's a gradient - dysphoria is a mental health issue, but you have milder (person just wants to transition and live like an ordinary person) and graver (sex offenders who are probably getting off on the notion of being a woman).

We really are going to have to look hard at the idea of transgender being a mental health issue, if the likes of these guys are going to be cropping up again and again.

I feel like we should have looked at it hard as a mental illness or paraphilia when people started to suggest surgically removing their genitals. Like...we don't need more than that. Prima facie that is a strong indicator of potential mental illness that needs to be examined.

But an utterly contingent act of sidling up to another sexual minority civil rights movement seems to have led to people to be less critical in assuming that this is just more of the same: a harmless deviation from the norm.

And somehow the fact that trans are making claims that gays didn't (e.g. you need to provide an intensive suite of self-modification tools so I can pretend to be a woman or I will kill myself vs. just don't be bigoted towards me) doesn't seem to penetrate. If anything people use it in defense of uncritically accepting transpeople as the next civil rights cause when it seems to be the best argument for a mental illness definition of trans-identification.

I personally think this is incoherent but it manifestly seems to not bother others.

I'm not sure what Dreher's Law is - searching with DuckDuckGo suggests it's something to do with a Nazi prosecutor - but if defying it means trans women convicted of sex offenses will be put in male prisons, then while I would consider that a win, I wouldn't say it's completely out of the woods. Trans rights activists will almost certainly campaign for that trans woman to be put back in a female prison and may even end up reversing the decision.

Dreher’s Law of Merited Impossibility: X will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.

That is clever and astute.

I think it is.

Some people make accusations of conspiracy theory or slippery slope fallacies, but really would like to slide a step further down the slope and will suddenly switch to "and of course it is a good thing" after the latest slide down the slope has occurred. A handy term to group these people together could be valid.

It's a touch of motte-and-bailey while simultaneously pushing everyone down the slope while denouncing everyone who notices.

Is it really?

The original article is halfway to Moldbug levels of purple prose. The hypocrisy of the "overclass" is assumed rather than shown.

I'll agree with @4bpp.

I still think that it's actually more of a memetic superweapon in the class of bingo boards than an astute observation. Show me one example where someone actually says something that it is fair to gloss by this abbreviation, as part of one utterance, because as far as I can tell, all examples including the present one actually fall into one of the following patterns:

  • One person says "X will never happen". Another person says something that may be interpreted as "When X happens, you bigots will deserve it." This means nothing, unless you fall to the old temptation of treating the statements of all outgroup members as being coordinated.

  • One person says "X will never happen". Later, under different circumstances, the same person says something that may be interpreted as (...). This is only objectionable insofar as the person revised their former prediction without publicly conceding that they were wrong/miscalibrated/overdramatic before. The culture war is replete with people on all sides being wrong, miscalibrated and overdramatic and making no admission thereof, no doubt fueled by an overwhelming desire to imagine oneself the underdog ("the ingroup will NEVER win this much, since our enemies are too strong"), so I'm not particularly convinced that your outgroup is uniquely guilty of this.

  • One person actually says something like "X will never happen, but if X were to happen, you bigots would deserve it". I don't see anything inconsistent about this viewpoint, and I'm sure your ingroup believes lots of things that have this shape as well. If X does later happen, then the miscalibration thing above applies, but that's about it.

I personally encountered "vaccine passes will never be introduced in this country" and "why are you mad that vaccine passes have been introduced? Are you an anti-vaxxer?" during Covid. I can't say with perfect confidence that the same person said both, but I'm quite confident that I've never heard someone admitting fault for falsely asserting that vaccine passes would never be introduced.

That's the second point in my taxonomy, I believe. I stand by the statement that if the problem is just about mispredictions without subsequent apology, this is a nothingburger on the culture war grading curve.

Symmetrically, do you not imagine yourself possibly acting in the following way?

  • You predict that vaccine mandates will never be banned in the US.

  • Later, against all odds(?), compulsory vaccination is in fact banned. Someone in circles of what you thought were respectable right-wing peers is mad about this. You say something to them that amounts to "why are you mad that mandatory vaccination has been banned? Are you a progressive?". It does not seem relevant in this case to go out of your way to revisit your past prediction.

During the pandemic, I was seriously concerned that vaccine passes in the country in which I live were the first step on a slippery slope to a China-style social credit system, and sincerely predicted as much in public fora. When this came not to pass and vaccine passes were (eventually) abolished, I was only too happy to admit my error in judgement, as basic humility and epistemic hygiene demand. I am proud of my ability to acknowledge my mistakes and not to pretend that I have always been at war with Eastasia, even if it would be expedient to do so.

One example that I recall was that the classical liberal "You don't like gay marriage? Don't get gay married!" has turned into punitive attacks on cake decorators.

This is only objectionable insofar as the person revised their former prediction without publicly conceding that they were wrong/miscalibrated/overdramatic before.

The key observation is not that they were wrong, but that if a right-winger was foolish enough to believe them when they said it wouldn't happen, they'd be wrong, and that the right-winger probably shouldn't believe them the next time, either.

The general expression of this is "Cancel culture is not a thing at all, it's all a right-wing invention, nobody gets fired or removed from their job just for saying something" and then when someone has been fired, or otherwise removed from a position, just for saying something by the activists baying for blood then it's "X was engaging in hate speech and it's a good thing this happened to them".

You can argue (and I'm inclined to agree) that that particular instance is bad and calling it out is appropriate. What makes this a rhetorical superweapon is that it is effectively applied even in cases (such as, arguably, this one) where it is not.

One person says "X will never happen". Another person says something that may be interpreted as "When X happens, you bigots will deserve it." This means nothing, unless you fall to the old temptation of treating the statements of all outgroup members as being coordinated.

When One refuses to notice the existence of Another or treats you as crazy for believing that Another said something that may be considered representative, it's a mite insulting.

I think youre missing an important part. The whole conversation the idea describes goes more like this:

A: "We shouldnt do Y, that would imply we should also do X, which is bad"

B: "X will never happen, it would be totally safe to do Y"

Y is done, X happens

A: *angry*

B: "Obviously its good that X happened, its good for the same reason Y is good, are you really such a backward bigot that you think even Y is bad, or are you too dumb to understand consistent principles?"

Your third scenario is not a case of the pattern at all, because the "X will never happen" isnt used to assuage. Your second scenario might be, but I think youll find very few examples of conservatives using it that way. They just dont get enough wins for that.

As for the first example... well somewhere in between those two totally different people saying these things, the X did in fact happen. That would be very unlikely if noones mind changed. So propably there is a significant faction who made the switch in-one-person.

But thats not particularly relevant. The point is that you shouldnt believe the "X will never happen", and waxing about how totally sincere the liberals are and how mean and unsportsmanlike it is to say theyre not doesnt change that.

or:

I think it's interesting how it combines or reconciles two contradictory things ,one that is unpopular with another which is at least not as bad. For example, censorship is generally unpopular. It's hard to make a case for it. No company or group can easily come out as openly pro-censorship. But preventing hate or misinformation is at least easier to justify due to the socially desirability bias. So it's like, "We will not censor (or 'we are committed to speech'), but if there is censorship, it's to prevent hate speech/misinformation." This is the sort of logic I have observed with the left, at least. It's like a motte and bailey.

One person actually says something like "X will never happen, but if X were to happen, you bigots would deserve it". I don't see anything inconsistent about this viewpoint, and I'm sure your ingroup believes lots of things that have this shape as well. If X does later happen, then the miscalibration thing above applies, but that's about it.

I wish that this was the standard formulation of the law, for exactly the reasons you suggest. It's a case of bad argumentation that's not as simple as inconsistency, but which justifiably aggrieves people. You could probably spend years of research doing informal logic to work out what is wrong with it (insincerity? excessive discursive robustness?) but that doesn't mean it's right.

After all, our ability to systematically categorise and understand pathologies of human thought is far from advanced:

https://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/wrongthoughts.html

Hey I only got like ten paragraphs into this, and I would like to read the rest, but it feels a bit like a shaggy dog joke. Is the issue that when smart people are interested in something they get super invested in it and start talking in circles like an obsessed lunatic? Does he acknowledge that he is doing that in this essay?

He's talking like an obsessed lunatic, but not in circles. And the issue is that, when humans leave relatively concrete domains, our thinking tends to fall apart in a very diverse range of ways.

I'm not sure what Dreher's Law is

The Law Of Merited Impossibility

The Law Of Merited Impossibility is an epistemological construct governing the paradoxical way overclass opinion makers frame the discourse about the clash between religious liberty and gay civil rights. It is best summed up by the phrase, “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”

There are popular formulations that make it less specific to gay marriage like "that'll never happen but, when it does, you bigots will deserve it/it'll be good".

In this case, we've seen the absolute refusal to grant any potential downsides like this specific scenario, until it happened.

I wouldn't say it's completely out of the woods

Neither would I. To be frank: even having this discussion at all seems like a sign of vast confusion, in multiple domains.

But, while I did start to write a "Dreher's Law strikes again?" post I think it's fair to note that the worst didn't happen...yet. While pointing out that it still could.

the worst didn't happen...yet.

Yes it did. Like I said, it's old news.

I think it's fair to note that the worst didn't happen...

I don't think it's fair at all. If anything, the fact that Bryson ended up in a Women's prison in the first place kind of proves Dreher's point.

I think it's fair to note that the worst didn't happen

Not the worst, but a significant step on the slope. "What if a rapist identifies as trans and wants to be transferred to a women's prison?" was one of those steps on the slope that we weren't supposed to think about.

"What if a rapist identifies as trans and wants to be transferred to a women's prison?" was one of those steps on the slope that we weren't supposed to think about.

It was one of those steps we were told absolutely would not happen, could not happen, and we were just bigots and horrible people for even suggesting it. Years back on Ozy's old blog, to be fair to them, they did let a lot of discussion between conservative-leaning and others happen, and the trans thing was just taking off - this was the time of the bathroom laws. And one of the rock-solid principles the pro-trans right side insisted on was that no boy or man would ever pretend to be a woman, because the social costs were just too high, and for what? The chance to leer at naked women? And anyway, if any man did do this, they weren't really trans in the first place. So there could never be anyone pretending to be trans because if they did, then they weren't really trans, and only real trans people counted and real trans people would never do anything bad, they just wanted to use the bathroom.

Well, years of fighting hard to reduce the social costs of claiming to be the other sex have paid off with this kind of happening. And of course, we saw with the Loudoun County school case, they did all run out with "the boy wasn't really trans/never said he was trans or gender-fluid" after it was proven he did indeed assault two girls.

So where do you envision this slope leading?

On that matter, I'm not sure that this idea that people should actually be encouraged to think (non-quantitatively) about outrage-provoking edge cases of a policy would at all work in favour of the right-wing agenda. Most right-wing causes (access to guns, religious freedom, restrictions on abortion...) have edge cases that the median grilling centrist will find far more outrage-inducing (school shootings! sadistic pastors running special Jesus camps in their basement! 10 year old pregnant rape victims!) than that some rapist got transferred to women's prison. (Even if we assume that the prison environment is so lax that this basically guarantees that our protagonist will be able to rape the female inmates, they're prisoners! The median normie doesn't know any women who went to prison, can't imagine women going to prison for anything short of "microwaved her 2 year old", and probably has laughed about prison rape jokes when it was about male prisons)

I, for my part, don't find single instances of any of those situations to be particularly meaningful. In this particular case, if the prison can't be expected to prevent the rapist from assaulting other inmates, it seems to me that something is wrong with it that goes beyond admitting biologically male rapist inmates, and would only be hacked around by not doing that. Women sexually abusing other women is a thing that also happens; is the implication that that is less concerning?

Women sexually abusing other women is a thing that also happens; is the implication that that is less concerning?

The fact that cis women cannot impregnate other cis women is a major contributing factor why male-on-female rape has historically been considered a graver crime than female-on-female rape. For this specific reason, male prisoners raping female prisoners is a qualitatively different problem to female prisoners raping other female prisoners.

So where do you envision this slope leading?

If trans rapists have to be referred to as "she" by news reports, or else, even when they were still presenting as male at the time of committing rapes, then I think we're sliding downhill pretty fast.

If Isla and her ilk are really trans, then they're really women. And it's unjust and unequal treatment to make a woman serve a sentence in a men's prison. So they should be sent to female prisons. Otherwise we are not treating trans people equally, and it's TERF and it's the trans genocide and all the rest of it.

You can't say it's a mental illness. You have to accept it as normal. Look, they even have their own Pride flag! And if it's normal, then we will have women raping other women, using their feminine penis to do so, and nobody can say a word about it because you're guilty of transphobia and hate crime Trans rapists are real women too and should be housed in accordance with their gender, which means women's prisons.

Just accept the new reality, women can have dicks, men can get pregnant, and trans criminals are not representative of all trans people, even if they seem to be disproportionately sex offenders. Any questioning around what does constitute being transgender or how can we identify it is medical gatekeeping and oppression. Denial or psychological screening means driving trans people to suicide.

So where do you envision this slope leading?

A number of locations are plausible, but one of the more probable is towards treating trans women in the same way as non-trans women.

On that matter, I'm not sure that this idea that people should actually be encouraged to think (non-quantitatively) about outrage-provoking edge cases of a policy would at all work in favour of the right-wing agenda. Most right-wing causes (access to guns, religious freedom, restrictions on abortion...) have edge cases that the median grilling centrist will find far more outrage-inducing (school shootings! sadistic pastors running special Jesus camps in their basement! 10 year old pregnant rape victims!) than that some rapist got transferred to women's prison. (Even if we assume that the prison environment is so lax that this basically guarantees that our protagonist will be able to rape the female inmates, they're prisoners! The median normie doesn't know any women who went to prison, can't imagine women going to prison for anything short of "microwaved her 2 year old", and probably has laughed about prison rape jokes when it was about male prisons)

Do you think that outrage-provoking edge cases would not be used against right-wing agendas if the right-wing stopped encouraging median normies to think about outrage-provoking edge cases that could be used for right-wing agendas?

I, for my part, don't find single instances of any of those situations to be particularly meaningful. In this particular case, if the prison can't be expected to prevent the rapist from assaulting other inmates, it seems to me that something is wrong with it that goes beyond admitting biologically male rapist inmates, and would only be hacked around by not doing that.

Is your suggestion that everyone who is worried about biological male rapists in women's prisons are not concerned about rape in women's prisons?

Women sexually abusing other women is a thing that also happens; is the implication that that is less concerning?

It seems uncharitable to assume that the concern is about an asymmetry of outcome rather than an asymmetry of probability. Certainly, Mother Theresa killing and eating a woman is just as bad as Ted Bundy doing it, but that doesn't mean that we can't have asymmetries of concern. If you think you can demolish a widespread position in two clauses, perhaps you consider the possibility that you haven't appreciated some of the nuances of that position.

A number of locations are plausible, but one of the more probable is towards treating trans women in the same way as non-trans women.

I did get the impression recently that there is a push to drop the "trans" bit and just refer to them as "women".

And some are arguing that taking hormones means that trans women are indeed biologically female, so you can't make a distinction between biological sex and social gender. They are not biologically male, they are biologically female.

Some may not go that far, but they do hold that trans women are women and trans men are men, so you have to include trans women as well as cis women in the category of "woman".

Good points.

Slippery slope arguments aren't fallacious if you have good reasons to think that the slope is slippery.

some are arguing that taking hormones means that trans women are indeed biologically female

From the link: "to be a trans woman is to have been through, be going through, be intending to go through, or desire to go through a process that results in a change of a person's sex to female"

Tacitly admitting that only men can be trans women makes a poor argument that they're women. Wait a second, notice the sleight of hand in framing the premise in gender terms and the conclusion in sex terms? Very clever! But oh no, wait a second longer, that means a female can't be a trans woman.

Using the writer's own definition, either a) gender is primary and only a man can be a trans woman, or b) sex is primary and a female can never be a trans woman. Conclusion: Trans women aren't women and they aren't female. Alternatively, man and woman are empty signifiers and the pursuit to justify crossing from one category to the other renders the enterprise meaningless.

My position - the position a decade of high tempo trans rights advocacy itself has led me to - is that trans women aren't trans women either. It's a polite fiction. The uncomfortable reality is that they're transgender men with bad logic and a rhetoric built of sophistry. I've got no business telling them how to live their lives: change your name, buy some surgery, switch your wardrobe! I won't stop you. Demonstrate adequate commitment and I'll refer to you by the fitting pronouns and use practical labels out of simple pragmatism. But don't claim seriously that you are what you aren't and you aren't what you are.

[And vice versa re women/men and males/females.]

to go through a process that results in a change of a person's sex to female

Given that it is (currently) impossible to change one's sex, this definition implies that "trans women" is an empty set.

Even if we assume that the prison environment is so lax that this basically guarantees that our protagonist will be able to rape the female inmates, they're prisoners! The median normie doesn't know any women who went to prison, can't imagine women going to prison for anything short of "microwaved her 2 year old", and probably has laughed about prison rape jokes when it was about male prisons

I'm not sure it matters. Even putting aside a women are wonderful effect , I think some policies can be unpopular or eye-catching enough that it draws a serious political backlash. Which seems to have happened.

Especially when the underlying logic is also being used in other highly visible cases like women's bathrooms (which almost all women use) and schooling (which many people use) and sports (which many people don't play but gets outsized visibility)

I, for my part, don't find single instances of any of those situations to be particularly meaningful.

I do, when:

  1. The problem is totally avoidable and was in fact predicted ahead of time.

  2. It's motivated by a maladaptive ideology that will not be content to stop here.

  3. It is worse than a previously used or easily implemented alternative.

My problem with this is not that one person did it. I don't freak out at every car accident or serial killer. That's a real random, individual act that is probably not driven by policy - i.e. doesn't require large masses of people (or a small mass of dedicated elites) to buy into an ideology I find perverse and then instantiate that, even partly.

The fact that this - a rapist man - was even potentially a possibility is bad. Because going from an absurdity to a possibility for social ills is bad. Going from an absurdity to a possibility despite being clearly warned about it and the consequences being utterly predictable should make you worry about the ideological gulf between you and the lawmakers of your country.

Women sexually abusing other women is a thing that also happens; is the implication that that is less concerning?

The argument is simple:

  1. Women are less aggressive and physically powerful than men

  2. Therefore women are less likely to be in prison for violent crime. In fact: less women exist in prison period.

  3. Women are less likely to commit violent sex crimes.

  4. Women are also more likely to be the victims of said crime at the hands of men.

  5. Thus segregating women can not only reduce incidences of said male-on-female crime, but women's spaces can be more appropriately designed given their different crime patterns.

  6. Allowing men into female prisons breaks all of this. Not only are more powerful and aggressive men more likely to assault women (they assault men right now and they're harder targets), this will almost certainly lead to changes in female prisons to minimize this (e.g. more restrictive to provide more safety)

  7. Of course, as mentioned, there're far more men in prison than women so even a small transfer can have disproportionate impacts.

  8. Even worse than that: there are other practical considerations. The most obvious being the fewer men in female prisons the less the risk of pregnancies that the state will have to pay to take care of.

This situation seems like it makes women worse off for...minimal gain to say the least, while not helping the vast majority of men who do face more violence in prison. Women face increased threat from men. A few men get to transfer to women's jails while everyone else suffers. The more of them that do get to transfer, the more female jails simply resemble male jails and defeat the purpose.

I frankly see little to recommend this as a policy. If I had a metaphysical belief that TWAW then maybe I would feel differently. But I do not, and I think there's limits to how far people's self-making should go.

You might recall that an adjunct professor was let go from Hamline University after a Muslim student complained about a depiction of the prophet Muhammad shown in class. The immediate responses were not terribly surprising to me. Given past incidents, I assumed that college administrators would have an interest towards affirming the student's complaint, no matter how unreasonable it was. This panned out, with the university president issuing a very bizarre statement where she presented non-sequiturs like:

To suggest that the university does not respect academic freedom is absurd on its face. Hamline is a liberal arts institution, the oldest in Minnesota, the first to admit women, and now led by a woman of color. To deny the precepts upon which academic freedom is based would be to undermine our foundational principles.

What do the demographics of the university president have to do with academic freedom? Fuck if I know.

Similarly, I also assumed that non-profit organizations would have an interest to bolster their profile by seizing upon the incident. This too panned out, with the local Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter condemning the professor as Islamophobic. The local chapter's executive director even dismissed the fact that the professor went out of her way to add a content warning and said "In reality a trigger warning is an indication that you are going to do harm."

Since then, things have changed. First, the national CAIR organization felt the need to step in and rebuke the local chapter, and issued a (tepid) defense of the scorned professor. Then, Hamline University faculty just voted overwhelmingly (71-12) to ask the president to step down. For a defense of freedom of expression, the statement they issued is (at least on its face) pretty good.

Both of these developments surprised me, and it made me wonder whether this is a sign of a potential turning point on the topic of suppressed freedom of expression on campus.