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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 30, 2023

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Yer a Nazi, Harry! or, the alleged anti-Semitism in the work (particularly in the latest video game) of J.K. Rowling.

I think by now we are all aware of the ruffled feathers over J.K. Rowling, most heinous TERF of our time (if I believe all the gnashing of teeth and wailing). I'm going to immediately swerve off on a tangent to register my amusement about, ironically in view of where it's all happening, Nicola Sturgeon's attempt at No True Scotsman in the latest case of "sex offender decides he's really a woman so he should not be put in man-jail but in woman-jail where it'll be perfectly safe to put him, even though he still has a working dick and raped two women".

Okay, I've had my sardonic laugh, on to the main point of this rambling.

So the Gringotts goblins are supposed to the be an anti-Semitic caricature of Jews, because "hooked noses, love money, put it together yourself". While I wonder how it is that the brave defenders of minorities leaped to the conclusion "these beings love money and have certain features - THAT MEANS THEY'RE JEWS!!!!", I realise that the proponents of this don't care if it's true or not, because any stick will do to beat the dog. People who may not be convinced that Rowling is Female Hitler by the trans stuff may be convinced by "she's anti-Semitic" and "she's pro-slavery" (the house elves, who if you look at their depictions in the movies and games look more akin to the goblins than any other species. Are the house elves Jews, as well? Why not, may as well throw that into the pot).

I'm going to address the question "are the goblins meant to be Jews?" by yelling, once again, you durn kids get off my lawn. I don't want to blame Americans if it's not their fault, but this kind of thing - the whole progressive angle of antifa and the rest of it- is largely driven as an online phenomenon (I'm not going to talk about offline real world influences) by the stereotypical dyed-hair college kid types and from an American angle. This means that they have no idea what references in a British context mean or whence they are derived. Also, being young, they will never have heard of this reference that I am going to quote, since it's before their time.

I propose that the Gringotts banking goblins are not a reference to Jewish stereotypes but to the Gnomes of Zurich and to gnomes in general. When the Harry Potter books first came out, there was a lot of speculation about alchemical references, and even a Grand Plan, in the books. While I'm not sure about that, I think that as a fellow Gen Xer from the British Isle who is bookish, she would have had at least a nodding acquaintance with such references like myself.

Enter the Gnomes.

There's a series of influences that lead me to think the Gnomes came from the inspiration detailed below.

(1) The Gnomes of Zurich. She would have heard such references the same way and the same time I did, first as children growing up and then in 2010 when there were yet more banking crises:

But the current financial turmoil in Europe, as well as news that London's best bankers are considering moving to Switzerland to avoid stricter regulation and public hostility, has resurrected an ancient and intriguing phrase - the "gnomes of Zurich".

First coined by British politicians facing a currency crisis in the 1960s, the phrase has lurked ever since whenever speculators are suspected of destabilising a country. But why gnomes? And why Zurich?

Forget kitschy garden ornaments. These gnomes emerged from medieval fascination with the secrets of wealth, especially gold, buried underground and mined by mysterious beings. Goethe writes about them in his epic Faust - ambiguous characters creating wealth which others, depending on their morals, use for good or evil.

So as the secretive world of Swiss banking took shape, centred on Zurich, and based on underground vaults with anonymous numbered accounts in a fiercely independent, mountainous country, you can see why the idea of gnomes sprang to mind.

...Disparaging references to Swiss bankers had already been heard in Britain in the 1950s. But it was the intervention of the leading Labour politician George Brown in November, 1964, that made headlines. Emerging from a crisis meeting at which the Labour government discussed the plummeting pound, Brown snapped: "The gnomes of Zurich are at work again."

Mr Brown, famous for forthright utterances, had created a new catchphrase. Soon it was on many other lips, including those of the prime minister at the time, Harold Wilson, promising to resist the gnomes' "sinister" power.

The Swiss were unrepentant. "In the world it is not the image, but the substance behind the image which counts," sniffed top banker Paul Rossy at the time.

...Some Zurich bankers took to answering the phone to British callers with "hello, gnome speaking". Others retaliated mischievously by suggesting that trade union power - "the gnomes of Transport House" - rather than currency speculation, was weakening the British economy.

One enterprising, and courageous, Zurich banker moved to London to set up in business, where he was promptly dubbed "the gnome of Notting Hill".

(2) Gnomes via our boy Paracelsus (this is where the alchemical references come in):

A gnome is a mythological creature and diminutive spirit in Renaissance magic and alchemy, first introduced by Paracelsus in the 16th century and later adopted by more recent authors including those of modern fantasy literature. Its characteristics have been reinterpreted to suit the needs of various story tellers, but it is typically said to be a small humanoid that lives underground.

...The chthonic or earth-dwelling spirit has precedents in numerous ancient and medieval mythologies, often guarding mines and precious underground treasures, notably in the Germanic dwarfs and the Greek Chalybes, Telchines or Dactyls. The gnomes of Swiss folklore follow this template, as they are said to have caused the landslide that destroyed the Swiss village of Plurs in 1618 - the villagers had become wealthy from a local gold mine created by the gnomes, who poured liquid gold down into a vein for the benefit of humans, and were corrupted by this newfound prosperity, which greatly offended the gnomes.

(3) A recurring joke in "Private Eye" magazine:

Lord Gnome is purported to be the proprietor of the magazine, and is an amalgam of various different media magnates. Originally modelled on figures including Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Thomson of Fleet, first appearing under the name "Aristides P. Gnome" in the early 1960s, Lord Gnome has since accumulated other characteristics to encompass the likes of Rupert Murdoch. He is portrayed in the magazine as a man of great wealth, greed, unscrupulousness and vulgarity. Lord Gnome rarely writes under his own name, but issues his proclamations, editorials and threats through a fictional underling...

...Lord Gnome, as well as being a media magnate, is regularly referred to as having other business interests. Special offers from "Gnomemart" frequently appear in the magazine, which also carries an occasional column called "The Curse of Gnome", chronicling the subsequent misfortunes of those who have in the past taken legal action against the publication. ...The word "Gnome" may refer to the Gnomes of Zürich.

(4) This one is pure speculation on my part, but since the name "Gringotts" has various theories as how it was derived, this is as good as any. When I read the name "Gringotts" for the first time, it reminded me of the German greeting Gruss Gott which is originally from Austria, Southern Germany, and the mixed land of Northern Italy/bits of south Germany/bits of Switzerland called the South Tyrol:

The expression grüß Gott (from grüß dich Gott, originally '(may) God bless (you)') is a greeting, less often a farewell, in Southern Germany and Austria (more specifically the Upper German Sprachraum, especially in Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia, Austria, and South Tyrol).

The Tyrol and Tyrolean are terms associated over here with Switzerland as well as Germany, mostly from the 19th century:

The Tyrolean hat, also Bavarian hat or Alpine hat, is a type of headwear that originally came from the Tyrol in the Alps, in what is now part of Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

Which brings us handily back to our boy Paracelsus, inventor and populariser of the term "gnome" (amongst others for elemental beings) who was - wait for it - Swiss!

So this ties up all the Swiss/German influences behind the word "Gnome" which I hope I have at least presented as an alternative to the "deliberate anti-Semitism by the TERF trans genocider" theory.

I thank you.

I don't want to blame Americans if it's not their fault, but this kind of thing - the whole progressive angle of antifa and the rest of it- is largely driven as an online phenomenon

In part, unfortunately, there's a particular type of usually female, mostly-secularized, American urban liberal Reform Jew, who is unconnected with many day-to-day or theistic aspects of the religion, but for whatever reasons still wants to feel a very strong Jewish identity. This almost always manifests as extreme neuroticism, persecution complexes, and substitution of political ideology for theistic moral precepts.

I don't know if you can blame individuals in this archetype for all of the "Gringotts is Antisemitic!" panic, but I've seen multiple such individuals give ideas like this credence and credibility, at least in lefty identity-driven circles. So it seems likely to me that on balance they're contributing to the trope.

I'm tempted to pattern-match this to how deracinated people on an identity's periphery are more likely to develop toxic simulacra of that identity - Hitler was Austrian, not German; Ghandi developed his ideas about Indian nationalism while living in an ex-pat community in Zimbabwe; it took American "blacks" to invent Pan-Africanism, etc. - but that reeks of a just-so story and I'm not sure if the full historical record bears it out. It's an idea I've been playing with for a while, however.

I'm tempted to pattern-match this to how deracinated people on an identity's periphery are more likely to develop toxic simulacra of that identity - Hitler was Austrian, not German

Nitpick, this always seemed like a historically illiterate jab at the dictator. Austria not being in Germany is a pure accident of political history, the main population speaking German and being just as ethnically close as Bavarians, Hessians, Saxons, Prussians, Thuringians, and Westphalians are to one another. Austria did not join in 1871 because they were part of a large multiethnic empire under the Habsburgs and Bismark thought forcing them would destablize Eastern Europe and possibly cause Prussia to lose control over the politics of new state. Nowadays, 150 years later, there's been identity drift in Austria, in the same way there would have been if any other random prince hadn't joined the reich. In the 1930s, this was not the case.

I'm tempted to pattern-match this to how deracinated people on an identity's periphery are more likely to develop toxic simulacra of that identity

I've always assumed it was due to the whole defining characteristic thing.

Even in Australia/America/other immigrant societies there's kind of a joke about how ethnic groups here are far more invested in their kitsch and acting stereotypically 'whatever', whilst when they go back home it's far more about nuanced regional identities and nobody stresses on it too much.

In part, unfortunately, there's a particular type of usually female, mostly-secularized, American urban liberal Reform Jew, who is unconnected with many day-to-day or theistic aspects of the religion, but for whatever reasons still wants to feel a very strong Jewish identity. This almost always manifests as extreme neuroticism, persecution complexes, and substitution of political ideology for theistic moral precepts.

I knew someone like this as an undergraduate, at a university with fairly few Jewish students (not the US). She was my first encounter with a progressive - a left-wing person who wasn't "liberal" in any sense, and who in a previous generation could have been a perfect Mrs. Grundy. Intensely compassionate, intensely neurotic, and ironically also autistic enough to almost constantly upset/annoy people inadvertently, causing fights and anxious situations for her. (Who would have thought that Muslim feminists might not appreciate being invited to a Slut Walk?) Quite fun to be around, if only to see the fireworks.

Ive always preferred Dwarves as the fantasy-jews, myself.

As did Tolkien, who intentionally loosely modeled the dwarfs off of Jews and even had their language be Semitic. A people pushed out of their homelands. It was notably not a thing done with animus as he was fond of Jewish people.

I was always struck by the very sympathetic racial criticism from the narrator when Bilbo was caught by the trolls. Let me see if I can find it.

Edit: it was from chapter 12 and only referenced the troll incident

"The most that can be said for the dwarves is this: they intended to pay Bilbo really handsomely for his services; they had brought him to do a nasty job for them, and they did not mind the poor little fellow doing it if he would; but they would all have done their best to get him out of trouble, if he got into it, as they did in the case of the trolls at the beginning of their adventures before they had any particular reasons for being grateful to him. There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.”

It's a little more backhanded than I remember lol

I just looked this up because I find this hard to believe. The mountain-dwelling, hairy, clannish, greedy dwarves check off more Scottish stereotypes than Jewish ones.

I found this link: https://www.timesofisrael.com/are-tolkiens-dwarves-an-allegory-for-the-jews/ saying that Tolkien didn't intend the Jewish-Dwarf analogue

In that article it does say

According to Tolkien scholar John Rateliff, author of a two-volume “Hobbit” history published in 2007, Tolkien drew inspiration from Hebrew texts and Jewish history when developing the dwarves. As craftsmen exiled from a bountiful homeland, the dwarves spoke both the language of their adopted nations and – among themselves – a Hebrew-influenced tongue developed by Tolkien.

I think it's just a bit of a disagreement over words, he didn't mean them as allegorically representing the Jews, he just was inspired by the Jews while writing them. In fact I think this is the article that I was remembering.

Tolkien in general spoke numerous times agains explicit ham-fisted allegories. He preferred to work in much more subtle manner and let the reader derive conclusions from the whole story in it's full richness rather than do primitive pattern-matching. E.g.:

"I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author."

Is it even feasible for a premodern moneylender stereotype to not have connotations of greed? Being stingy about money of other people is an inextricable part of the occupation. And Jews are linked to that overwhelmingly due to their undeniable historical overrepresentation in moneylending in Europe (for reasons beyond the scope of this comment, but I'd say at least it wasn't about petty greed). If you are going to depict a stereotypical premodern banker, as befits the archaic Wizarding world (Eliezer in HPMOR justly mocked their financial system for its easy exploitability, by the way), people of European extraction will associate that image with a Jew; but that cannot be taken as an intentional depiction of a specifically Jewish stereotype. I suspect non-Westernized South East Asians would see a Han Chinese in the same portrayal, unless they try to see it through Western eyes. The point about physical appearance makes a little bit of sense but, really, Jews don't have monopoly on noses, and I think the association of long noses and untrustworthiness exists independently of ethnic stereotypes; it's a staple of physiognomy, even if woke Jewesses neurotically try to read Anti-Semitism into it (that vile now-deleted gnome thread is another case in point).

Truly, the day when we have to portray moneylenders as a whole as generous folk just to not offend groups which have historically been overrepresented in this line of work (and still are, just less so) will be a dark one. Reminds me of the war on the word «thug» which is ostensibly black-coded. (And it's counterproductive, too: all you'll achieve is switching gears on the euphemism threadmill, sending it to overdrive, so that an innocuous term like «urban youth» becomes a tongue-in-cheek reference to thugs.)

But on the other hand. The bigger issue here, the one that leads to such false alarms, is that Rowling's world, like all classical fantasy/sci-fi worlds and especially ones informed by British mythology, is biodeterminist. It's not just exaggeration of class differences; Rowling herself may be staunchly liberal but her intuitions are... quaint, and her commitment to not recognizing trans women as women is of the same intuitive root. Humans are treated as interchangeable M&Ms in settings like Harry Potter's one because the traditional, intuitively neat and narratively fertile descent-based stereotypization is safely displaced into sapient non-humans. These «races» don't just look different, they have obviously different philosophies, psychological and moral tendencies, talents; there is variation and overlap, but it's not obvious if culture can do much to bring them closer. Hermione's project of house elf liberation flops, and it is clear that Rowling considers it misguided and puts some effort into ridiculing it. Some house elves are just abused; the rest are quite content with their unequal symbiotic relationship to wizards, and while this can be framed as Marxist false consciousness, Hermione's belief in it comes across as unfounded condescension. The moral lesson here brings Moldbug's more inflammatory takes about «peoples better fit to serve» to mind. Centaurs, except very few, are inscrutable aliens and disdain human lifestyle. Mermaids are even more alien and unsettling. Giants and goblins are plain nasty, and have sound reasons to believe they're better off aligning with what human wizards consider evil. An American or a Japanese author would have brushed it off with a blithe foodie assumption of national superiority – once Aliens/Devils/Orcs/Elves taste our Burger/«Hambagu», they'll see the light and set their worthless peculiarities aside. A British author is less sanguine. (Maybe with better cuisine or less self-awareness...)

Race relations in the Wizarding world are at once simple and hard. They are simple because they naturally reward tolerating the status quo and live-and-let-live secessionist attitude that in reality is reserved to indigenous peoples. But once you aspire to build any kind of a productive modern multicultural society, they create a hairy diplomatic problem that cannot be solved with a bit of Civil Rights, redistribution from haves to have-nots, taking the knee and pro-equity sloganeering. Magic «races» are not at all mere social constructs or identities, and their discordant preferences are inextricable from their descent! Does Rowling herself realize implications of such a society? I am not sure. But as @erwgv3g34 and @covfefeAnon remind us, The Woke Are More Correct Than The Mainstream. They can notice where it's coming from; they do not accept «it's in Minecraft bro» as an excuse; they are rationally attacking a philosophical underpinning that discredits their politics. Once they got Rowling tagged as an outgroup due to her TERF (frankly just TEF) beliefs, the scales of infantile infatuation have fallen off their eyes, and they're scrutinizing her work for other signs and mental patterns of heresy, And by God do they smell it.

/images/16756309445363336.webp

An excellent argument in favor of seeing biodeterminism in Harry Potter. However, I would argue that you're reading too much into why she's getting attacked now by progressives.

The answer, as far as I can tell, really does have to do with the trans question. People called out the supposed Jewishness of the goblins years before, but it fizzled because people didn't care. Now, they hate Rowling for not being trans-positive by their standards, so they just throw all possible arguments out there. Standard arguments-as-soldiers by people doing some culture-warring.

Nobody started worrying "ZOMG, the goblins are Jewish!" until Rowling got into trouble for her views on trans matters. And it really is a peculiarly American obsession over racial and ethnic categories, which has been imported over here by the local trend followers who parrot word-for-word American scripts.

I'm going to say that if someone goes "A photo of a gorilla? That's referring to BLACK PEOPLE, YOU RACIST!" then that's a you problem. Same way with "GOBLIN BANKERS? OBVIOUSLY JEWS!" That's a you problem, not the author secretly inserting racist stereotypes when there's a long-established pre-existing joke about Swiss bankers.

Kids these days don't know no history, and it shows.

I'm going to say that if someone goes "A photo of a gorilla? That's referring to BLACK PEOPLE, YOU RACIST!" then that's a you problem. Same way with "GOBLIN BANKERS? OBVIOUSLY JEWS!" That's a you problem, not the author secretly inserting racist stereotypes when there's a long-established pre-existing joke about Swiss bankers.

It's like Alan Partridge trying to be nice to the Irish:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=72BrqGNvaT0&t=124

Do not "rewrite" what someone else says into your own uncharitable projections, and don't lazily pattern-match an argument into something you want to attack just because you have a hammer and you're looking for nails.

There's nothing of substance to dispute, you've missed the point.

Dude, do you have some beef with me? Why the misrepresentation? Is this about me thinking that a typical «weed bro» lifestyle is degenerate? Last I've seen you responding, you've been intent on strawmanning what I wrote as a haughty screed of an «Internet goblin» (weird, given the current context; does the word mean something to you?). Now you're in effect calling me a blank slatist. That's... so wrong it's funny.

I can rephrase the quoted passage (plus more) in simpler words. Like so:

Rowling is a modern liberal, thus she's avoiding thoughts about intra-species biodeterminism and innate human race differences, even fictional. Also she didn't feel the need to turn her book into a bully pulpit to preach about racial justice, like some current year writers do. But heritable traits and race/species differences are enshrined in the tradition of genre fiction, feel intuitively cool to her, and make for easy subplots. So she invented non-human species as «Magical Beings» (plus some smarter beasts like trolls) and endowed them with innate characteristics, displacing the intergroup variability from humans onto this category. In this manner she can have White and Black and Jewish and Asian and Slavic wizards who are basically the same group (Houses, too, don't seem to map to real-world demographic groupings), but there are also populations of non-human sapients that robustly differ from humans, each in their special ways.

Fantasy racialism is, psychologically, either a derivative of or a surrogate for real-world racial and demographic stereotypes, and Wokes, who are hyper-sensitive to group-stereotypical thought and have been triggered by her trans comments, began sniffing around. Therefore they suspect that goblins = dogwhistle for Jews. They're probably wrong with regard to her intention (although goblins absolutely do pattern-match to medieval Jews in many ways); but they are right in that she has created a demi-human race with a homogenous «goblin character». It doesn't matter much that she doesn't mean real-world Jews: goblins are an entire biologically distinct, insular race of highly intelligent, greedy, untrusting finesmiths and financiers – a race which at least in theory can be correctly stereotyped. That's halfway to real-world HBD.

Of course the same is true for most fantasy settings. But as you perhaps know, there's a crusade to rectify stats of Orcs and such too. It's true she got in trouble for trans stuff. But my point is, by Woke standards her world absolutely reeks of heretical thought – they just never noticed before, because she was in such a good standing on the Left, with a generation having grown up loving her books.

Personally I strongly believe in HBD, but that has little to no bearing on my argument here.

P.S. There are ways to insert innate differences into fiction while (kinda) successfully dodging the race realism detector. @Meriadoc suggests phenotypic mixing, but I think a cleverer way is to make a whole different foundation. One example that jumps to mind is the webcomic Unsounded (that I have dropped several years ago, but at least the first few arcs are great). It's Le Guin-esque with its intricate feminine touch on systems very different from ours (I particularly like the exploration of mature power structures in a world with magic but that has reasonable economies of scale).

Two major powers on the continent of Kasslyne are Cresce and Alderode. Native Crescians are simply black, live under a matriarchal monarchy, ferociously support a militant polytheistic religion with human sacrifices, and use a weird economic system that's normatively egalitarian and superficially communalist, while also being planned, centralized and controlled via the issuance of trackable magical NFTs that are the only legal form of currency (the inability to buy anything in Cresce with gold and anything real interesting with Labor Tokens is a point of complaint, and an existential problem for certain low-performing communities).

Alds, however, are truly weird. Their society, generally backwards, warlike and totalitarian but also lawful and democratic (only men of decent standing are enfranchised, though) and religiously more tolerant than the Crescian one, is biologically regimented. The cool thing is, their differences are artificial (except for a small minority of a bona fide separate ethnicity). Aldish embryos are developmentally biased in utero, with the magitech equivalent of Huxley's Brave New World approach; the resultant castes are strongly encouraged to intermarry but it seems this is just to maintain social harmony and not somehow transfer the alteration to DNA (indeed, humans of Kasslyne are woefully ignorant of biology and all natural sciences). Castes have political competition and differ in maximal lifespan (400 to 30 years), magic aptitude, typical characters and appearance. Man, I should catch up.

P.P.S. Some time after this post it has occurred to me that the Aldish system is just magical CRT. Alds seem to be born with immutable psychological and physiological traits, that they apparently inherit from their parents, and distributions of those traits differ between endogamous population groups... but! Actually it's just the invisible omnipresent magically acting systemic bias imposed by the elites, and without it the groups would be impossible to distinguish!

Sigh. Way to hide it in plain sight.

We usually let it pass when someone decides to get snippy with mods, but belligerently declaring that you are going to disregard a request to post in accordance with the rules tells us that you aren't clear on how things work here. You are required to post in accordance with the rules. If you think a mod warning is wrong or you have been misunderstood, you can argue that. If you don't understand why your post was not compliant with our rules of discourse, you can ask for clarification.

"Disregarded, you aren't the boss of me" is both childish and signals bad intent.

Take a 1-day timeout and decide what you wish to do with this attempt to broaden your understanding.

One thing the Stormlight Archive does, which I quite like, is create fantasy races. By this I mean that the existing human races in the series don't correspond to our Earth ethnicities but rather take some racial features from some races and others from others. The kingdom most directly coded as "war-hungry imperialist americans" are fairly dark-skinned and have epicanthal folds, while the kingdom most coded as Chinese is more similar to white people. Maybe some other fantasy series do this too, but I'm not aware of any. I think it is one of many steps which can be taken to partially mitigate these sorts of objections to the work.

while the kingdom most coded as Chinese is more similar to white people

Which kingdom are you thinking of? My guess is Shinovar but I'm not sure

That's what I was thinking yeah.

World building is part of it - like the world of the stormlight archives is based on a rock pool he saw at the beach iirc, so the parshendi have crustacean features (although I always got more insect vibes from them) and the humans are transplants from another universe or something, so they settled like refugees and developed different cultures. Wait does this make Sanderson a hbd guy?

I always find those attempts very annoying. Not just due to the fact that it intentionally distorts basic intuitive assumptions that a fantasy desperately relies on to create a believable world. But that it's an obvious admission of the reality of those intuitive assumptions. It's only pretending they're not there because they obviously are there.

It's the equivalent of taking a Rubik's cube, recognizing that it does look satisfying when there is obvious order to the colors, jumbling it up until it's an incoherent mess and then presenting it saying 'There. Isn't this satisfying?' No. It's not. It's a jumbled incoherent mess and the only reason you jumbled it up is because you recognize order and the inherent reality congruent intuition everyone has about these things. But for reasons that are purely derived from modern political norms authors predictably and performatively distort them without acknowledging that without the intuition and order they would have nothing to write about in the first place.

But for reasons that are purely derived from modern political norms authors predictably and performatively distort them without acknowledging that without the intuition and order they would have nothing to write about in the first place.

I think this is true of plenty of other, more important things besides race. Things like gender differences, age differences, and sheer institutional inertia are often ignored to give heroes slightly better stories, even though ignoring them often defeats the purpose entirely if you think about it for too long.

Evil institutions are threatening because they're enormous and oppressive, so if the hero and a few sidekicks can take them apart in an afternoon, they shouldn't have been threatening to begin with. Female soldiers are incredibly exceptional because the average woman is so much weaker than the average man, so if your armies are full of women, this should no longer be a big deal because clearly in your fantasy world there are no strength differences. Age is similar--we give elves a lot of respect as people who have lived 100s or 1000s of years, but if an elf who has been 25 for 10,000 years is still a poor swordsman, elves should no longer earn such respect. If anything they should be denigrated for wasting so much time.

I'm trying to gesture here towards the general rule of "make exceptional thing normal, but continue to rely on our intuition of it as exceptional."

In other words, I agree that what you're describing can be an issue, but only when the narrative actually relies on it to any extent. Many other stories already rely on this sort of thing to much greater extents.

When it's done like this, I don't think it's anything all that bad, just a defense mechanism.

Wheel of Time did that, to an extent. The psuedo-Asian Borderlanders did have vaguely Asian appearances, but the Japanese and American Indian inspired Aiel are all blonde and redheaded white people and the Sea Folk are black.

Yeah, I read that series a long time ago but somehow didn't pick up on that. That's probably where Sanderson got that idea from.

The Wheel of Time (books) also does this. A lot of readers like to try and pattern match the various nations to various real-world nationalities, but it's pretty clear that Robert Jordan intentionally designed a lot of them to not match any we know in particular.

For sure, I think in WoT it's more cultural though. They're still supposed to be Earth ethnicities, just in a vastly different context.

I think that some people saw greedy bankers im a fantasy world and immediately went "Wow! Those are jews! How dare she!" Says more about them than anything else. There is just so little connection that it doesn't deserve a counterargument.

Similarly, I've seen people claim the name Cho Chang is her riffing on "Ching Chong". It's a not uncommon Chinese name (my search for it in the Pinyin form of Zhuo Zhang gave me 1,500+ results on linkedin). If your mind immediately jumps to a slur you're so obviously just looking to be offended

In fact, I was just reading a book on WW2, it detailed General Chang Ching-Chong, a Soviet sleeper agent who wanted to lure Japan away from its border with the Soviet Union. Chang had some of his soldiers shoot some Japanese in Shanghai airfield to escalate the war down South.

What's the book? I can't find any evidence of this general's existence.

We might as well not forget about "Chong Ching" (as spoken), China though, a city of 32 million people. I guess the PRC needs to tone down its anti-Chinese racism?

Beevor, The Second World War, page 70. I tried to post a photo but the website won't let me for some reason.

Maybe it's a transliteration of this person's name?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Zhizhong

Or this one?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Zizhong

I've heard this from quite a few people now on this topic and I have to say I find it a little disingenuous to be surprised that people would draw the parallels between fictional characters and established real world stereotypes/historical tropes.

It would be fair to be surprised if they were trying to draw parallels between something in fiction and between real world groups when the two just don't align at all (I've seen this a lot with people of varying shades of political alignment trying to draw parallels between orcs/orks and black people, which I've always found quite unconvincing).

I find it a little disingenuous to be surprised

Yes, I suppose I should not be surprised at any idiocy spouted by the Persons Of Hair Dye, and yet I keep having some faint hope that facts and reality will penetrate their skulls.

So you think the goblins = Jews is a real alignment, hence why I should not be surprised people believe it? Hmm, sounds like a you problem: have you always had these anti-Semitic tendencies to think Jewish people are underground-dwelling non-humans?

I'm not surprised race obsessed americans draw spurious connections on racial grounds, but like I said, it says more about them than Rowling.

It reminds me of this recent incident-

https://nypost.com/2022/11/25/lamar-odom-thinks-phoenix-suns-having-a-gorilla-mascot-is-racist/

Most people don't see a gorilla mascot and immediately leap to "That's a racist caricature!" Because that's just not normal. Likewise for banker goblins and jews.

It's exactly the same thing. Black people are stereotyped as large and violent, orcs are large and violent, so orcs are black people. This is nonsense when it comes to Tolkien or D&D, but Netflix's "Dark" clearly played on it (despite having actual black people in it too). For the same reason, not every depiction of a greedy banker is intended to represent Jews, though some are.

Do you mean Bright with Will Smith?

Oh, right, "Bright", not "Dark". Got it backwards. ("Dark" is a bizarro German time-travel series)

It's exactly the same thing. Black people are stereotyped as large and violent, orcs are large and violent, so orcs are black people

Tolkeins orcs aren't particularly large and their capacity for violence is either at the behest of masters who herd them into battle with the crack of the whip, or a kind of petty and mean vindictiveness that doesn't really seem to align with stereotypes. Similarly, Warhammer orcs/orks are football hooligans and don't come across as particularly "black". Warcraft orcs are just a "noble savage" mish-mash, although they are the closest, what with the history of slavery, but it's weakened by the half a dozen other inspirations.

Maybe it's a US thing, but the assosciation between black stereotypes and orcs still seems pretty weak.

For the same reason, not every depiction of a greedy banker is intended to represent Jews, though some are.

Of course, I don't think Rowling intended any coded message about jews in her work, as I say in another post, I think she was just drawing from the cultural well in general for her book and it just so happens that a lot of stereotypes in Britain about bankers/money men have crossovers with those about jews.

The only orcs that match Black stereotypes are Shadowrun orcs.

Most fantasy orcs (including D&D/Forgotten Realms orcs) are more of an "evil savage" stereotype: primitive, aggressive, stupid, fecund, living apart from the civilized races and raiding them.

The Orcs of The Elder Scrolls are closer to a direct reference than Warcraft Orcs. However, the coded references to African-American stereotypes are also spread across a few other playable races:

  • The Redguard are black humans who have a samurai-inspired martial culture and martial aesthetic

  • The cat-people, the Khajiit, have historically been slaves in the dark elves’ province, and have a reputation as casual thieves

  • The lizard-people, the Argonians, have also historically been enslaved and oppressed by the dark elves, played as somewhat shamanist, somewhat tribal noble savages

before Skyrim the Redguard were pretty directly analogous to African-Americans (look at the names in Oblivion for example), but then they were changed later to be a quasi-Moorish analogue

The orcs of TES used to be elves didn't they? I might be thinking of Gothic, but iirc they were given monstrous features as punishment for worshipping one of the daedra - similar to the curse of Ham (actually Canaan) and another parallel.

Yep, they were high elves whose patron god was eaten by another and shat out. Their effete and noble appearance was changed to ugliness and raw strength when their digested god became a demon. (This is inaccurate but shortened for those who’ve not played.)

Orcs just are mer (elves) in Elder Scrolls - their race are called "orsimer." I believe their changed appearance is because the Elven god they followed was swallowed by a daedric prince, and after being "digested" he came out as an ugly daedra himself, with those who remained loyal to him changing in appearance as well.

You might be mixing the curse of Ham analogy up with the dark elves, who got punished when the Tribunal found the heart of Lorkhan, ascended to godhood, and moved the dark elves away from worshipping the daedric princes they had before. The tribunal reframed their new appearance as a blessing that set them appart though.

For me it seems pretty apparent that Rowling was drawing off of a cultural stereotype about bankers/money-lenders that itself either draws from/is linked to stereotypes about Jews.

I'm also confident enough to say that there are enough degrees of cultural seperation that it isn't anti-semitic to include said stereotypes in a work, because they've essentially been laundered of their initial meaning through centuries of use.

For me it seems pretty apparent

Yeah, please explain to me how it's apparent to you that Jewish people are to be represented by goblins. Like I said, that's a particular sort of automatic identification that makes me wonder about the mindset. I've had instances of seeing online "this is plainly a dog whistle about bad thing" and since I look at the image and go "that's just a thing", and I don't have any references to "in 1856 in Georgia the caterpillar was used as the symbol of a slave trading company" then I don't see "Aha, the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland is a code for supporting slavery!"

Cultural stereotypes about gnomes/goblins and bankers are the Swiss not the Jews for the period she and I were growing up.

Cultural stereotypes about gnomes/goblins and bankers are the Swiss not the Jews for the period she and I were growing up.

Well then it's quite impressive that these stereotypes about the swiss managed to completely disappear and be replaced by identical stereotypes about jews in the years between your youth and mine.

Yeah, please explain to me how it's apparent to you that Jewish people are to be represented by goblins.

Damned if I know, cultural influences are funny like that. But I can say that the connection is made, whereas with the swiss I have to say it's a much more puzzling one. The stereotypes I have about the swiss involve cow bells, yodelling and germanic autism dialled up to 11, not greedy, hook-nosed goblins.

The "greedy and unscrupulous Swiss bankers" stereotype was probably more prominent when people kept speculating about all the Nazi gold still hidden in secret Swiss bank accounts. That particular meme about Nazis has gradually lost importance as the years have passed.

I have seen "Goblins are greedy and treacherous and like gold in fairy tales, Rowling didn't make that up" responded to with "Actually, goblins have historically been used as anti-Semitic allegories."

Likewise, I've seen the Gnomes of Zurich and other Illuminati references asserted to be anti-Semitic tropes.

(Steve Jackson Games published this with their INWO card game in the 90s. Man, SJG has published so much stuff that they're lucky has not come to the attention of the woke mob since.)

I have yet to see any evidence that people in the middle ages referred to Jews as goblins, but it just goes to show that anything can be bent around a bad faith intersectional interpretation.

The "Elders of Zion" are obviously related to Jews, but that doesn't mean the "Gnomes of Zurich" are too. There were lots of different shadowy groups in the Illuminati games.

My reading is that SJGames specifically included the Gnomes of Zürich through a "well, we're trying to include all the possible conspiracy theories we can think of in this game, we should probably have an evil banker faction, but of course it can't be Jewish" and thus specifically name-coded them as Swiss - the other banker stereotype nation - to avoid this association.

Possibly, but the phrase "The Gnomes of Zürich" is older than "Illuminati" (and "Illuminatus" for that matter)

I'm not saying they are. I'm saying I have seen people claim that basically any reference to "Illuminati," but particularly the Gnomes and Bavarians, is coded anti-Semitic.

So the Gringotts goblins are supposed to the be an anti-Semitic caricature of Jews, because "hooked noses, love money, put it together yourself". While I wonder how it is that the brave defenders of minorities leaped to the conclusion "these beings love money and have certain features - THAT MEANS THEY'RE JEWS!!!!", I realise that the proponents of this don't care if it's true or not, because any stick will do to beat the dog.

I'm mostly on your side here and have argued it here in last week's thread but knowing about stereotypes and going off when they get to a sufficient concentration is not actually irrational. One doesn't need to hold these stereotypes are true to know they exist. The mapping of greedy -> Jew can be known to people who do not endorse it.

Sure, if you have a reasonable ground to suspect that "greedy = Jewish" is intended, which there isn't. It's only the trans rights lot (which are not all trans people) wanting to depict her as a literal proponent of genocide, because she said people with dicks should maybe not be let into women-only spaces where women who have suffered violence at the hands of people with dicks are staying, who are trying to smear her with being anti-Semitic and anti-black and pro-slavery and literal Nazi.

We all know that if she had been 100% in support of "guys in dresses are too real women", that none of this would have been used against her.

As long as we're on Hogwarts Legacy, this is pretty funny:

The character creator will allow players to choose one of two options: “witch” or “wizard,” which will put players in one of two dorms. This decision, however, has no bearing on what character is created — voice and body type are not tied to gender.

Presumably the 19th century Hogwarts dormitories will be sufficiently in line with modern perspectives on gender swapping that no one in-game will even mention that it's actually kind of weird that there's a huge guy with a deep voice that's hanging around the girl's dorm and calling himself a witch.

Some Vox hyperventilation on the topic is also eyerollingly amusing:

Like many fans, I’ve spent years critiquing the many problems embedded in J.K. Rowling’s stories: their arguable racism, queerbaiting, lack of multiculturalism, fat-shaming, and upholding of the patriarchal structures she established in her intricately detailed Wizarding World. (And if you think that the Harry Potter books are just children’s stories, not worthy of this kind of real-world framework or critique, consider that Harry Potter bred several generations of Democrats.)

On the flip side, it's amazing how these sorts of things create fans for political reasons. Quite a few people that would have greeted the above paragraph with "read another book" seem enthusiastic about getting Hogwarts Legacy, presumably because that'll really stick it to the woke or something.

And if you think that the Harry Potter books are just children’s stories, not worthy of this kind of real-world framework or critique, consider that Harry Potter bred several generations of Democrats

I didn't know that the Harry Potter books were so salacious.

Of course, that's not what they meant... But what did they mean?

Presumably the 19th century Hogwarts dormitories will be sufficiently in line with modern perspectives on gender swapping that no one in-game will even mention that it's actually kind of weird that there's a huge guy with a deep voice that's hanging around the girl's dorm and calling himself a witch.

Boys were prevented from going there in Harry's time so apparently they got more regressive in the meantime.

On the flip side, it's amazing how these sorts of things create fans for political reasons. Quite a few people that would have greeted the above paragraph with "read another book" seem enthusiastic about getting Hogwarts Legacy, presumably because that'll really stick it to the woke or something.

I'm not gonna lie: I've felt the urge to preorder, seeing all the drama.

It's actually unfortunate because I can't tell where my desire for a triple-A HP game (finally - I haven't played a HP game since like Chamber of Secrets on GBA I think, I was due one) and just pure spite on a topic that I already worry I get too worked up over.

Luckily, I have a separate and distinct moral objection to preordering video games so I didn't have to learn something uncomfortable about my priorities.

lack of multiculturalism

When there are Indian, Chinese and Black British characters, as well as Irish, Russian, French and others. But if it doesn't look like New York, it's racist. Except it seems New Yorkers are sort of racist themselves? If we're going to use the progressive yardstick as a measure, that is.

"Fat-shaming". Ah yes, Dudley Dursley. Getting ChatGPT to write these articles instead of humans can't come too soon, there might be some hope of a machine not being this dumb.

The problem is that this line of talk gets picked up and passed around uncritically. "Tolkien is racist because Orcs are dark-skinned", "Rowling is anti-Semitic because goblins are meant to be Jewish". Someone reads that, repeats it, and down the line it becomes true facts that all must accept because "everybody knows" it's true. It must be true because everybody says it, after all.

(And if you think that the Harry Potter books are just children’s stories, not worthy of this kind of real-world framework or critique, consider that Harry Potter bred several generations of Democrats.)

So... doesn't that mean racism, queerbaiting, lack of multiculturalism, fat-shaming, and upholding of the patriarchal structures results in people becoming Democrats?

presumably because that'll really stick it to the woke or something.

I'm happy to defend the position that it does. They wouldn't be crying about it so much if it didn't.

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I never got into the books. It seemed to me the people most into the books were democrats but that is probably confusing causality.

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How many people in your friend group have had kids? I’ve found the trans stuff and education to be a giant redpill for my friends who are parents (and for my wife). It isn’t of course just trans but also generally lgbt stuff. Most are comfortable with gay or lesbians (or even trans people) but hate how much it is being pushed culturally.

That and covid has pushed a lot of those people into being DeSantis Republicans (at least amongst my cohort).

My god, dude, Harry Potter did not breed Democrats, it's a book about wizards. If you became a Democrat I am willing to assert it wasn't Harry Potter that actually did it.

I'd agree with this, but the "read another book" thing is real. Harry Potter was referenced way too many times in law school than actually made any sense based on the quality of the material and its relatability to real life and the law (of which their system is nonsense stacked on nonsense).

I'm happy to defend the position that it does. They wouldn't be crying about it so much if it didn't.

Would you care to elaborate? People like nonbinary Vox writers frequently complain endlessly about things that don't actually impact them in any material way.

I mean, arguably the main difference between the classical left, and the woke left, is that they put less weight on material issues, and focus on culture more. If you buy media that they've decried, you're showing their blessing is not necessary to prosper as an artist, which increases the likelihood more artists will follow, which increases the likelihood of their grasp on culture slipping. That's why both sides are rallying the banners. It makes perfect sense, and I don't see how anyone can be so dismissive of it.

Your points are convincing, alas, it doesn't matter if they are. Rowling is a TERF, and as per intersectionality worldview, she has to be every other reprehensible thing you can think of: a Nazi anti-Semitic bigot, a pro-slavery racist, yada yada. I think it was the Dr Drew episode with Ben Shapiro, Segun Oduolowu and Zoey Tur, apparently Ben would've been against the civil rights movement if he was alive at the time and the evidence of this was his supposed hatred for transgender people. BLM has to be pro-LGBT too in order to "fight intolerance". Feminism has to be pro both for the same. All rally against the evil white man and the white adjacent man to fight oppression. The success of Hogwarts Legacy might rile up many, but it is a "you lose even when you win" situation. That so many people like this horrendous, bigoted IP whose main series revolved around a Wizarding War against Wizard Nazis and this game that allows you to play as a transgender hero and whose lead designer was pressured to quit for what he'd said on his personal YouTube channel, would be cited as evidence that we have a long way to go in our noble fight against intolerance and hatred. They're all compromised, including infamously politically incorrect IPs like GTA and Saints Row, but the woke crowd shall continue to pretend that they're still bigoted and sexist and racist as the companies let them have mile after mile.

Your points are convincing, alas, it doesn't matter if they are. Rowling is a TERF, and as per intersectionality worldview, she has to be every other reprehensible thing you can think of

There's a similar sentiment in the OP:

I realise that the proponents of this don't care if it's true or not, because any stick will do to beat the dog.

But both of these I think have the diagnosis backwards. It's not any characteristic or opinion of Rowling that causes the HP fanbase to hunt for phobia-epicycles. It's rather the zeitgeist and the neurotic characteristics of the HP fanbase that sends them down this route, and they'd be doing it even if Rowling was a (even more) scrupulous adherent of woke signalling on social media.

There's social credit to be made in purity spiralling regardless of whether Rowling has heterodox opinions or not. Do you really think Internet People wouldn't be trying to nitpick problematic parts of Harry Potter absent the TERF stuff? I don't.

They're not beating the dog with any stick they can find because the dog's been bad. They're beating the dog with any stick they can find because a track record of having a good Beating arm is how you get credibility amongst your fellow animal control enthusiasts.

I think it was the Dr Drew episode with Ben Shapiro, Segun Oduolowu and Zoey Tur, apparently Ben would've been against the civil rights movement if he was alive at the time and the evidence of this was his supposed hatred for transgender people.

I don't necessarily think his feelings on trans people are relevant, but I would certainly expect that Ben Shapiro would have been against federal civil rights legislation, regardless of his personal feelings on race relations and how people should be treated. I'm sure he now vehemently denies this because the Civil Rights Act has been branded as something that you could only oppose if you're a racist, Ben isn't a racist and doesn't want to be seen as one, ergo he has to say that he supports the Civil Rights Act and would have supported it if was around back then. Nonetheless, I would expect someone who favors limited federal government power and strong freedom of association rights to be highly suspicious of the more aggressive aspects of civil rights law.

Last week, I saw someone uncritically parrot the criticism

jk rowling has been for the past years racist

When pressed, another user jumped in with

Also among other examples I think her goblins have a lot of negative stereotypes as part of their behavior typically referred to as antisemitic

So yes. The meme is out there in the wild, and I'm glad you wrote up this counterargument. I think it disarms the allegation much better than merely pointing out the complete lack of substance in calling her antisemitic.

See also early Terry Pratchett, where Twoflower tries to explain the theory behind insurance and investment banking. Translated as "reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits" for most of the book, this theory is of course "echo-gnomics."

Possibly a graduate of the London School of Eco-Gnomics? 😀

Toward a principles-based approach to societal flourishing

The heterodox backlash to mainstream wokeness is inherently reactionary. Taibbi, Weiss, Peterson, Loury, Yarvin; even to some extent Dreher and Alexander all bemoan the current system and wish we could turn the clock back to ... 2008, or 1965, or 2015, or 1600.

There have been few real attempts to change the situation. Weiss is a small exception: she has helped contribute to the University of Austin, which, while I'm very skeptical of its success, is at least doing something. Desantis has perhaps the most success at a political level, though he is often criticized by many in the heterodox blogosphere.

Yet all these fights against wokeness whether merely verbal or actual do not propose a positive trajectory for our society; they merely reject the negative wokeness trajectory.

I want to help create a non-reactionary yet conservative vision for flourishing society. I want this vision to have the following elements:

  • Compelling and inspirational. I want people to be energized by the vision.

  • A call to action. This cannot be a passive "keep everything the same as it is right now" conservatism.

  • A call to a better self. I want this vision to have individual impacts even if society as a whole does not adopt this vision (yes, I know I'm channeling Peterson here).

I have articulated one such vision here: https://pyotrverkhovensky.substack.com/p/how-to-build-a-flourishing-society. I wrote it to at least provide one such vision of a flourishing society to demonstrate that I am not merely complaining but am willing to put some thought into this. I would love to have others (possibly y'all!) take the baton and make something more compelling and actionable.

Let’s see. I’m going to break down what conservative users may agree on first:

  • There exists vanity and distraction that captures the time and care of a lot of people in the West, and which has downstream consequences

  • There is a way to live morally, which involves attending to what is good, thinking rationally, and sacrificing bad habits

  • There are truths agreed upon by both science and major religions: the importance of close social contact, the importance of a healthy family, lowering unnecessary social stress by participating in communal experiences and rituals, living in alignment with the evolutionary grain (“what God intended”)

  • While historically, art worked toward a moralizing purpose to promote guideline behaviors for a community in the form of music-dramas (operas, before that “moral plays”, after that television and lyrical albums), art (especially painting and architecture), stories (myths and sermons, then literature, now shitposts on your favorite forum and empowered female authors), today art has been severed from any moralizing purpose. Similarly, communal organizations as a whole have been severed from a moralizing purpose.

  • Society is in desperate need of moral structures, which are not necessarily religious, but which entail many things found in religion (Freemasonry was excellent at inspiring men and yet lacked much of what is identifiable in modern religion)

  • The wealthy who waste their money on vanity should be shamed and ostracized so as to incentivize them to spend wisely (fine, maybe this one is just me)…

  • Mating games control much of human behavior, and have decreased in their ability to promote prosocial and healthy behaviors in men and women, and thus ought to be revised

  • Men largely devote themselves to either what is evolutionarily satisfying or what is socially reinforced. Thus, society should go back to making what is good both evolutionarily enjoyable and socially reinforced.

  • The idea of God, as an object that one attends to in mind and body, which represents the highest quality of all of our experiences which are placed as his attributes, who is understood socially and mythically which is most evolutionarily efficient, is vastly underrated. If we are intent on beating a dead god, we need to find a viable alternative lest He resurrect Himself.

  • Society is in need of something similar to a priest class, whose interest is in finding the truth about everything from health to political policy to morality, but who (significantly) do not have faulty incentives, and actually are incentivized to tell the truth, and don’t just do because its their job but because of a sincere emotionally-felt obligation

If we have a rough draft of “things we ought to come together to secure and then promote”, then all that is left is doing that, then determining the correct way to promote it (everyone uses propaganda today, even YouTubers). The “individual vision” is simply the media created which narrativizes the ethos to the individual level.

wish we could turn the clock back to ... 2008, or 1965, or 2015, or 1600.

Personally, I'd be happy for any time between 1270-1300.

You can't wag the finger about wanting to turn the clock back, then issue a manifesto that... turns the clock back.

We believe that families are strong when there is a husband, a wife, and multiple children. Families are strong when only one parent has to work to provide for the family.

That horse has bolted. One working parent in a family is for those who are wealthy enough to have the wife at home (or single-parent families where it's the mother working, or unemployed and on benefits). Expectations are built around couples where both are working and earning, if you want a mortgage or any kind of expense in living in today's society, there needs to be two wage-earners.

I'd like to go back to 1960 (everyone usually goes "oh the 50s is what you mean" for this view of the family, but it was something possible up to the 70s) but the economy has moved on since, and everyone is terrified to meddle with the economy because we have constructed such a house of cards around it and 'too big to fail' and the stock market and tech companies and all the rest of it, that pulling on one thread will unravel it all.

Tech layoffs right now because companies need to trim the fat and get back to profitability? Unless you have a guaranteed job to walk into as a replacement, you better hope your significant other is working and covering the bills while you try and get another job.

Also, parts of your manifesto are contradictory:

Mandatory work or wealth for those under 65: proof of employment or assets will be required (which can be automated). If no proof is given, the individual will be drafted into performing public service (planting trees, cleaning trash, driving trucks).

versus

Department of Health and Finance. An immediate focus on automation.

So you're going to get rid of all the cleaners, porters, kitchen staff, nurse's aides, nurses, and maybe even doctors via 'automation' in order to have a more lean and efficient health service. So now what do all the unemployed health workers do? How many nurses for planting trees?

You can't say "everyone must have a job" on the one hand, while planning to do away with jobs on the other. And again, see here:

Mandatory nursing for females 18-20 years. This will teach discipline, care, and technical work.

So let me get this straight. We need automation in healthcare because it is way too expensive. Automation does away with jobs. But we will make all women do two years' nursing service. Uhhhh - how you gonna pay for that, if healthcare costs have to be trimmed? And if there is a constant rota of untrained staff who then leave after two years, how do you expect your hospitals to work? I feel you have not thought this through (or you imagine that nursing just means bedpans and changing sheets).

If the mandatory armed forces/nursing service get paid via some kind of allowance, you still have not reduced your costs. You're just doing an accountancy shuffle where "we take the money for wages out of the healthcare budget and claim we've saved it, then we pay it out under a different heading".

You can't wag the finger about wanting to turn the clock back, then issue a manifesto that... turns the clock back.

I'm fine with "turning the clock back" if there is a first-principles based approach for justifying it. What I don't want is nostalgic wishing for the "good old days". This is neither a compelling forward-looking vision nor epistemologically sound.

Also, parts of your manifesto are contradictory:

I'm not here to defend my article to a great degree :). I only weakly believe in it myself. That said, this statement is not a contradiction for two reasons.

First, there are roughly 3.7-4 million nurses in the US. There are 30 million aged 18-24. Making some rough assumptions, 10 million are thus between 18-20. Half of those are women, so we have 5 million 18-20 year old nurses, which is not out of alignment with the existing nursing population.

Second, my aim is not to reduce nursing staff; it is to reduce the inordinate bureaucratic bloat in finance and health. We spend an astronomical amount of our output on health care and finance. Health care and finance are both "intermediate" activities for the economy. One keeps the working population healthy enough to work, the other provides capital for businesses. Both industries should be enablers but they are a drag instead. Reducing the bloat can free us to focus on "final" goods and services.

One working parent in a family is for those who are wealthy enough to have the wife at home (or single-parent families where it's the mother working, or unemployed and on benefits). Expectations are built around couples where both are working and earning, if you want a mortgage or any kind of expense in living in today's society, there needs to be two wage-earners.

This is totally false in lots of places that aren't San Francisco. Prior to the COVID run-up in house prices, the average house price in Phoenix was about $275k. Residents of working age earn in the ballpark of $70k.

https://www.point2homes.com/US/Neighborhood/AZ/Maricopa-County-Demographics.html

https://www.redfin.com/city/14240/AZ/Phoenix/housing-market

Same is true in most of the fast growing cities.

I vaguely recall there was a much more detailed AAQC about this back on the subreddit.

Tech layoffs right now because companies need to trim the fat and get back to profitability? Unless you have a guaranteed job to walk into as a replacement, you better hope your significant other is working and covering the bills while you try and get another job.

Let me introduce you to the concept of saving money - something that was far more popular in the 1960's than today.

And if there is a constant rota of untrained staff who then leave after two years, how do you expect your hospitals to work? I feel you have not thought this through (or you imagine that nursing just means bedpans and changing sheets).

One plausible way that might work is a tiered system where the 2 year staff changes sheets/bedpans while the pros restrict their efforts to things that require skills that can't be quickly acquired.

I do not know what the breakdown of work is, but it seems quite plausible - thanks to the American guild system - that a lot of work currently requiring a registered nurse could be done by a far less skilled person. We have strong evidence that many such guild-based regulations are not medically necessary, as evidenced by the lack of deaths caused by state-to-state variation between them.

From your vision statement:

Only those who have attended a university will be eligible for office.

How do you expect to sustain a conservative society when your public officials will all be drawn from one of the most left-leaning classes of institution? There isn't really enough about how you'd fix the universities to makes this a safe bet.

Don't worry about left-leaning, worry about the creation of a hereditary mandarin class. We may or may not have that in practice already, but we're going back to the state examination system of mediaeval China, only less open and inclusive.

Remember what happened to progress and scientific knowledge in China when the bureaucracy was ossified in this way.

I think the opposite is true. The current anti-woke movement has strayed too far into pushing a "positive vision," and that's why it's starting to falter. Wokism itself started as a counterculture, and it only became insufferable once it gained real power in the mid 2010s. Most people are against wokeness because it is illiberal, and America is still a liberal society at its core. Americans don't like being controlled, and they felt controlled by wokeness in the mid 2010s, just like they felt controlled by fundamentalism in the previous era. And now conservatives are making the same error that the wokes made, they are mistaking opposition to wokism as support for traditionalism.

Most people are against wokeness

I'm not sure there isn't a plurality of woke (or at least, who benefit from wokeism).

I live in a very conservative state, and yet many if not most of my acquaintances are woke. Admittedly, most of my acquaintances are co-workers and I work for a large company. Large companies today ubiquitously have what I consider excessive and aggressive DEI campaigns. Companies thus self-select for those who can tolerate wokeism. Yet even my acquaintances who are not woke often find their identify in being anti-woke. They have an interest in keeping wokeism around as a foil.

And now conservatives are making the same error that the wokes made, they are mistaking opposition to wokism as support for traditionalism.

I feel this argument rests on two assumptions and one (implied) axiom.

The assumptions: one, that there is a large enough "middle" who just wants to be left alone; and two, that this "middle" defines "left alone" consistently. For example, one person in the "middle" might say, "What happens in someone's bedroom is not my problem, but Pride parades are silly (why not have a 'adultery' parade, or a 'cohabitation before marriage' parade?) and may have negative impacts on societal morality". Another person is the "middle" might say, "Let's have as many pride parades as draws crowds!". These two opinions are in conflict even though they are both middle "leave me alone" positions.

The axiom: traditionalism and conservatism are synonymous.

I believe your assumptions are incorrect. I think in reality (and I could be very wrong) that this middle basically no longer exists even as a large section of the population thinks they are this "middle". If lines are essentially already drawn, I'm not sure there is a false dichotomy between wokism and traditionalism.

I also don't believe traditionalism and conservatism are synonymous: indeed, I'm calling for a conservative break from "traditionalism" in a sense. Simply returning to 1600 isn't my objective. My essay certainly espoused traditional values, but that was one example of a conservative vision for the future. More broadly I'm interested in a compelling, action-oriented conservatism as opposed to simple traditionalism.

The actual long-term issue for the anti-woke is how long will the centrists deal with the excesses and weirdness of the right they're currently allied with. It's one thing to talk about you're uncomfortable with puberty blockers, girls' sports, or whatever, but are fine with adult transistion, use people's chosen pronouns and names, etc., how long are you going to put up with statements from right-wing evanglicals they want to ban even adult gender affirming care to get what you want to be done.

Now, yes, there will be a group of people who are radicalized enough on this issue they're fine, and even begin agreeing more with the Matt Walsh's of the world, on the overall issue, but the reality is, if you're in general, a center-left to centrist liberal, and unlike some people on Twitter and Substack who make money off it, you're spending your own time about this, how long until you just give up, especially if your kids are exiting high school and college themselves, and it you get tired of trying to explain why you're on the same side of people who talk about groomers, but who also want to double check menstrual cycles and the genitals of teens, because half a dozen trans kids in your state want to compete.

Same thing w/ other woke issues - because actually, even 'normal' conservatives don't care about the issue that much, as seen in post-midterm exit polling, so the people who do care are kind of weirdos about it. This is a general issue w/ the GOP at this point and part of the reason why they lost the midterms. They looked likee the weirdos obsessed with stuff you only know about if you're on Twitter and/or watch Fox News or OANN all the time. Your median voter is like, "litter boxes in schools? What - I'm worried about inflation and that you want to ban abortion. I think the Democrats are spending too much money, but at least I understand what the hell they want to spend money on."

This is also why I'm not that scared of DeSantis - he'll talk about Disney, AP College Board classes, and M&M's, an Biden will say, "OK, what I care about is what most American's care about - Social Security & Medicare, that while in Congress, Governor DeSantis voted for cut x times, while supporting massive tax cuts for the rich blah blah blah." If DeSantis is really dumb, he'll also pass a six-week abortion ban as well, as he's stayed he'd be open too.

because half a dozen trans kids in your state want to compete.

There's an easy solution to that. Six confused children out of five hundred thousand want to compete on the sports team of the opposite sex. That's not permissible, but there is plenty of counselling available to help these kids with their mental problems.

There you go - and not a menstrual cycle in the house checked!

Supposedly transgender is about 1-2% of the population. How about a compelling explanation why the entire structure should be turned upside down for someone who will probably give up sports as soon as they get to college? See Andraya Yearwood, who seems to have given up competing on the women's team after 2019:

Andraya Yearwood echoed that sentiment – she just wants equality between cis and trans women. The story of her high school career has been written about in many national publications, though she no longer runs – she’s now more of an advocate (though she hesitates to call herself one).

So after all the fuss about trans girls being permitted to compete, she - gave it all up. Maybe that's okay, but I think the cis girls who got beaten out of titles by her (and whose college applications then didn't have that "won state title" on it) may feel somewhat miffed. Maybe they wanted to continue to be athletes, but missed out on scholarships? Who knows?

Yearwood is now a freshman at North Carolina Central University. She wanted to stop competing when she got to college for a few reasons: she was tired of the criticism and scrutiny, she didn’t want to dedicate all of her time to track, and she wanted to try something new. EDIT: This has nothing to do with "Is she really a woman?", it's to do with "Is it fair to let trans girls compete against cis girls when they were running on the boys' team last summer and are taller, stronger and faster than the girls?" when it comes to high school sports.

Being cynical, winning easy girls' running titles got her where she wanted to be, then she dumped it as soon as it was no more benefit. To be fair to CeCé Telfer, the other transwoman in this article, she stuck with running and wants to be a professional athlete.

I agree - there is an easy solution, parents can't stop freaking out that 6 or 12 or 7 or whatever number of trans high school athletes there are is going to ruin their little Olivia or Sophia's chance at her first choice college.

The thing about high school athletics (which I'm old enough to remember when conservatives thought Title IX existing at all was "political correctness" taking money away from real sports, like football) and part of why it's a nothing burger in a national political campaign is, as we've seen truly elite female athletes don't care that much, because it doesn't really effect them so they can be woke, and the vast majority of other high school athletes are using the fact thy competed at all, as their bonus, and don't care if a trans kid means they finish 16th instead of 15th.

So, who this truly affects - basically, the strivers who think their kid doing well in swimming will mean they can get into a better college, are the only ones truly upset, outside of normal ideological conservatives, are the type of "center-left until it affects me" types that conservatives dislike because they still call themselves liberals and the rest of the center-left coalition gets kind of annoyed. I guarantee the type or parent upset their kid might not get to the college of their choosing has a lot of overlap with people who try to block apartments or even duplexes being built in their neighborhood.

I'm not saying the median voter is woke. I'm saying the median voter doesn't really care that much, and caring deeply about this makes people you're kind of weird. They get why a trans person would care, but just like people eventually found conservatives obsessed with gay people weird, it'll be the same thing. Heck, in North Carolina, in 2016, a Republican Governor lost re-election by focusing on the bathroom issue, all as Trump was winning his state.

as we've seen truly elite female athletes don't care that much, because it doesn't really effect them so they can be woke

Do you have examples of elite female athletes not caring because it doesn't affect them? Because that's not what I have seen.

The actual long-term issue for the anti-woke is how long will the centrists deal with the excesses and weirdness of the right they're currently allied with. It's one thing to talk about you're uncomfortable with puberty blockers, girls' sports, or whatever, but are fine with adult transistion, use people's chosen pronouns and names, etc., how long are you going to put up with statements from right-wing evanglicals they want to ban even adult gender affirming care to get what you want to be done.

How is that different from long term issues in any other political coalition? Why should the anti-woke liberals care about the way evangelicals talk about trans people any more than pro-woke liberals care about the way black people talk about trans people?

Same thing w/ other woke issues - because actually, even 'normal' conservatives don't care about the issue that much, as seen in post-midterm exit polling, so the people who do care are kind of weirdos about it.

How is that relevant? 10 years ago the pro-woke side of all these issues where considered such weirdos, that even bringing them up would get you accused of nut-picking. Now they're running the show. Various European countries are pushing through laws that would allow trans women go into women's prisons, do you think they're doing that because these policies got good numbers in exit polls?

1.) Because normie center-left liberals don't want to be in a political coalition with the Matt Walshes of the world. Again, I'm not talking about columnists or whatever, I'm talking about normal parents out there in suburbia in center-left areas, who if they try to bring up their qualms, have to deal with various right-wing media, politicians, and talking heads saying things they do heavily disagree with, but now they have to explain that's not what they mean. Now, some people push through, but the vast majority just give up because it's not worth everything else they believe in, and the vast majority of the small amount of people who continue to push on it, move to the right on everything else, just like a lot of Bush/McCain/Romney voters are solid liberals now, because of actions Trump did they dislike, and the higher valence of issues they were always more moderate on. It's just Trump being an ass in ways suburban voters in Wisconsin doesn't like is a lot bigger thing than random centrist/center-left liberals getting upset over puberty blockers, or whatever.

2.) Of course not - but smart poltiics is not talking about the things you're underwater on, then get in office, and doing them quietly. Hoping there's not too much backlash over it. Because despite how loud you think they are, most center-left politicians don't actually talk a lot about wokeness or trans issues or anything else. Go through the vast majorities of Congressional candidates or even Presidential candidates and there's not actually a whole lot of talk about that stuff in campaigning. Biden talked a lot about the soul of America, Build Back Better, and then OK'd a bunch of left-wing people in the federal government in jobs that were appointments.

Now, the GOP used to be smart about this - they'd talk a lot about jobs, America, the troops. and such, and then put some former oil lobbyists in charge of the EPA, a union-busting lawyer in charg of the NLRB, etc. and appoint 82 judges who all believe the New Deal was basically unconstitutional. Hyperbolic, slightly, but you get the point. Even on abortion, they'd talk about life in vague ways. They weren't talking about completely banning abortion, getting overly focused on stuff that's usually done by school boards, and so on.

Heck, based on post-mid-term polling, if instead of wasting tens of millions of dollars on anti-trans ads, all that money would've gone into anti-crime or anti-inflation ads, they might've pulled off a Senate win and had enough House sats not to worry about the Freedom caucus as much.

who if they try to bring up their qualms, have to deal with various right-wing media, politicians, and talking heads saying things they do heavily disagree with, but now they have to explain that's not what they mean. Now, some people push through

"Push through" sounds a lot more dramatic than it actually is. It's not exactly complicated to say "I just don't like the local school transing my kid behind my back", "why is everyone else pretending the 6ft tall bloke in the girl's football team is normal?", "how the fuck did puberty blockers ever get approved?", etc.

but the vast majority just give up because it's not worth everything else they believe in

Most people know they don't have to give up anything they believe in.

just like a lot of Bush/McCain/Romney voters are solid liberals now, because of actions Trump did they dislike

Politicians are a bad model for how common people act. Politicians have to find a demographic to pander to, and go with it. Since "anti-Trump conservatives" seem to be a rounding error among GOP voters, the politicians who are anti-Trump have to bite one bullet or another. Voters can just say "this issue is important to me, and these guys are the only ones talking about it. Promise to do something about it, and I'll vote for you instead".

Of course not - but smart politics is not talking about the things you're underwater on, then get in office, and doing them quietly.

Right... so if the pro-trans laws have to be done quietly, instead of being campaigned on, that would therefore mean this issue is where the left-wing parties are underwater on. Doesn't it therefore follow that talking about it will bring you supporters if you oppose them?

I think you may be a little overconfident on where the trans line will eventually fall in the mainstream. There is still a whole lot of trans discourse baggage to air out before things settle. There are perfectly cogent liberal arguments to make against the whole edifice.

Elevatorgate: Effective Altruism version?Effective Altruism Promises to Do Good Better. These Women Say It Has a Toxic Culture Of Sexual Harassment and Abuse

Does anyone remember Elevatorgate? Long story short: the atheist "movement" had gotten going, many books were published and cons were attended. At one a figure in the community "Skepchick"- Rebecca Watson- was propositioned by a man who'd attended her talk in an elevator and made a video stating - in understated tones given the conflagration it started tbh - that she didn't like it and it made her feel unsafe.

Because this was pre-#MeToo and the Great Awokening and atheists at the time kind of prided themselves on being assholes truth-tellers , figures like Dawkins jumped in, criticizing or mocking her for complaining about such an anodyne event. Dawkins wrote a notorious letter titled "Dear Muslima", mockingly comparing the suffering of a hypothetical circumcised Muslim woman with Watson in the sort of move that wouldn't even begin to fly today.

Well...that led to an absolute shitstorm that split the atheist community with some using it to create "Atheism+": basically atheism that was sufficiently woke, after insisting atheism had a racism/sexism/whatever problem. As foreshadowing for a now pervasive social tendency, it then ate itself with circular firing squads and purity spirals.

At the time, there was enough pushback that Watson and her defenders didn't outright win but she probably won the moral victory. Years down the line most of the leftover "100% atheist" communities were pretty woke, see the banning of RationalityRules for arguing against trans-identified males in women's sports.

Now...

But as Gopalakrishnan got further into the movement, she realized that “the advertised reality of EA is very different from the actual reality of EA,” she says. She noticed that EA members in the Bay Area seemed to work together, live together, and sleep together, often in polyamorous sexual relationships with complex professional dynamics. Three times in one year, she says, men at informal EA gatherings tried to convince her to join these so-called “polycules.” When Gopalakrishnan said she wasn’t interested, she recalls, they would “shame” her or try to pressure her, casting monogamy as a lifestyle governed by jealousy, and polyamory as a more enlightened and rational approach.

After a particularly troubling incident of sexual harassment, Gopalakrishnan wrote a post on an online forum for EAs in Nov. 2022. While she declined to publicly describe details of the incident, she argued that EA’s culture was hostile toward women. “It puts your safety at risk,” she wrote, adding that most of the access to funding and opportunities within the movement was controlled by men. Gopalakrishnan was alarmed at some of the responses. One commenter wrote that her post was “bigoted” against polyamorous people. Another said it would “pollute the epistemic environment,” and argued it was “net-negative for solving the problem.”

...

Gopalakrishnan is one of seven women connected to effective altruism who tell TIME they experienced misconduct ranging from harassment and coercion to sexual assault within the community. The women allege EA itself is partly to blame. They say that effective altruism’s overwhelming maleness, its professional incestuousness, its subculture of polyamory and its overlap with tech-bro dominated “rationalist” groups have combined to create an environment in which sexual misconduct can be tolerated, excused, or rationalized away. Several described EA as having a “cult-like” dynamic.

...

One recalled being “groomed” by a powerful man nearly twice her age who argued that “pedophilic relationships” were both perfectly natural and highly educational. Another told TIME a much older EA recruited her to join his polyamorous relationship while she was still in college. A third described an unsettling experience with an influential figure in EA whose role included picking out promising students and funneling them towards highly coveted jobs. After that leader arranged for her to be flown to the U.K. for a job interview, she recalls being surprised to discover that she was expected to stay in his home, not a hotel. When she arrived, she says, “he told me he needed to masturbate before seeing me.”

I'm torn.

On the one hand, I recognize the same tactics (and, tbh, it doesn't escape my notice that the first victim seems to have social competition with males for funding on her mind) that ripped the Atheist community apart. I also find most of the examples of harassment to be of the all-too-common nebulous and vague variety that allow people to claim victimhood. I honestly don't know if people are this fragile nowadays, or are exaggerating their fragility for points, but it is a bit absurd. If you're an adult, I don't want to hear about you being groomed. A "22f-44m" relationship is one where one party is twice as old but it'd be absurd to act like one party didn't have agency.

A lot of the complaints also seem to be that alleged rationalists and effective altruists - for some reason - don't just take people at their word.

On the other hand: some of these (e.g. the final one I quoted, the one about a male jumping into a woman's bed at night) are more egregious and the quokka point is well-applied here for those "good" EAs who still encouraged people not to go to the cops. It's exactly the sort of problematic math I can see some people doing. Hell, people did it all the time in churches, schools and so on. It's not a particular foible of EAs.

Also:

Several of the women who spoke to TIME said that the popularity of polyamory within EA fosters an environment in which men—often men who control career opportunities–feel empowered to recruit younger women into uncomfortable sexual relationships. Many EAs embrace nontraditional living arrangements and question established taboos, and plenty of people, including many women, enthusiastically consent to sharing partners with others.

I have to say I find this funny. People discovering that looser social and sexual norms allow bad actors - or merely "people with more status than me who don't want to treat me as I think I deserve" - to accrue sexual and social benefits and blur the lines. Quelle surprise.

Without doxxing myself too hard, my experience of EA has been a bit different to what's described above in relation to polyarmory at least. N=1, but my perspective might be of use for a few people who have not experienced the EA subculture themselves.

It's possibly due to the fact I was not in AI risk or anything Bay Area related/rationalist adjacent, but the majority of people I've interacted with in EA are not poly. In addition, while younger EA parties have fair amounts of poly people (which can be a bit jarring, you're discussing legal policy with someone and four people of various genders are making out in lingerie in the corner), the high ranking figures who control donations and jobs I've interacted with are either explictly monogamous or they show no sign of being poly. The higher ups tend to be older (poly tends to be a young persons' game), and those with standard academic careers, lots of papers and titles tend away from poly as well (one girl rising in the movement who I know fairly well made sure she was not seen to be poly when dating as it would undermine her respectability, and is now in a mono power couple with another senior EA).

However, it's certainly possible I've missed out on the pressure from polycules, being male, already established skill wise and not just out of college, not living in a EA house, and now married. I'm not sure if there are any published figures on how many EAs are poly, I would be very interested to see them, but my guess is its far less than people expect, and it tapers off as you go up the ranks/experience.

The feel of EA orgs and their culture also varies hugely, from things like assessing grants/admin, to interventions and direct giving today, planning for unlikely but still grounded scenarios, all the way to the very theoretical work on philosophy, AI and X risks, EA is far larger than the Bay Area and its culture. EA orgs tend to be pretty male (maybe 70:30 by my guess), but I think that's mostly due to the nature of what is being researched rather than hostility to women, and are pretty desperate to appeal to as diverse a group as possible.

There a few interesting dynamics however - one is that there is far more smart grads right out of college who want to be EAs than there is useful work for them to do, unless you have some rare skills, experience or papers under your belt it can be hard to get a position, and that can eat you up and generate unhealthy pressure. Secondly, the nature of the work can make it very seductive and high pressure - you're working on catastrophic scenarios and some potentially very interesting and serious things - and that has burnt out good people that I know. They felt that if the catastrophe happened tomorrow their guilt that they had not done more would consume them forever: they would literally have damned civilization. The pay is lower than for other equivalent positions and the work life balance can be odd, especially if you only live in EA houses.

younger EA parties have fair amounts of poly people (which can be a bit jarring, you're discussing legal policy with someone and four people of various genders are making out in lingerie in the corner)

I don't think that's a party, friend. I think there's a different word for that sort of occasion. But this is exactly the kind of 'blurring the lines' that the article complains of, so it's a good example.

It's true - that possibly needs a bit of context. Broadly:

It was an EA party in a big city hosted by an EA figure (who wasn't poly).

I went, talked to people and socialized. Some of that was interesting in the context of their work (that a solid part of the challenge of cultured meat is not the science, but the law, that was my legal policy comment, but it's not a work setting).

There were poly people at the party, making out in one corner of the room. They were maybe 5 out of 100 people. More were probably poly there but not so... in your face about it.

I can see how it's a bit offputting, it was to me, but it's more "those crazy kids" than pressure to be poly from my experience.

Have you considered that an attractive young woman in an environment that's 70% male is far more likely to experience any "pressure to be poly" than a man would be? Seems like a major confounding variable.

I'm not doubting your story that most EA figures are at least claiming to be monogamous.

I agree, it's a different point I'm trying to make. You may be asked if you want to be poly or join a polycule at an EA party, some may claim it's better, but not nothing will be gated from you if you say no in my experience, the seniors (other than Elizer? Who isn't a central EA example) aren't.

While I'm not broadly sympathetic to the whole organised atheist movement of that time, I can empathise with Watson, even though she did exaggerate somewhat; it was very late at night, they'd been drinking in the hotel bar and talking and she just wanted to go to bed. This guy goes up in the lift with her and propositions her. I do understand why she'd feel at risk in a confined space with a possibly drunk guy where she has no idea how he'll react (and her being possibly drunk and tired as well didn't help with how she reacted or felt).

Mainly what I took away from it was confusion; first when I heard about "do you want to come back to my place/come up to mine for coffee?" I was young and stupid and thought it just meant that: an offer of coffee. "Ha ha, don't be silly, it's an offer of sex and if you accept then you are consenting to sex" was the explanation I got when wondering about why women complained men were asking for sex on such occasions. Then came Elevatorgate, and suddenly "Do you want to come to my room for coffee?" simply meant an offer of coffee and how could anyone imagine it was an offer of sex? You see my confusion?

It's not exactly an invitation for sex. It's an invitation to move to an isolated place where sex might plausibly happen. It's the next step in escalating the flirting dance. By agreeing to go back to a man's room for coffee, a girl is not necessarily saying "I will have sex with you", but rather "I am open to the possibility of having sex with you if you play your cards right."

The coffee is just an excuse. It could just as easily be "do you want to come to my place to watch Netflix?" or "do you want to go back to my room to see my marble collection?" Conversely, nobody thinks that "do you want to grab a coffee at Starbucks?" is going to lead to public sex on the Starbucks bar. The move from a public space to a private space is the key.

It just has to be plausibly deniable so that the girl can tell herself (and her friends, and her family, and her boyfriend/husband...) that she really didn't mean to sleep with the guy, but it "just happened". It's a way to get past her anti-slut defense. Otherwise, there is too much common knowledge.

t just has to be plausibly deniable so that the girl can tell herself (and her friends, and her family, and her boyfriend/husband...) that she really didn't mean to sleep with the guy, but it "just happened". It's a way to get past her anti-slut defense.

It's not an anti-slut defense. It's a reasonable out "if I change my mind once we are alone" defense. Even with people I know well and have had sex with before (exes) I don't like the pressure of inviting someone over for sex explicitly. Because sometimes you change your mind, and you feel pressured by your earlier offer/commitment. Much less with a stranger. (I've never found myself in this situation with a stranger).

I'm on the side of "of course it's an offer for sex, phrased in a way that someone can offer and be accepted or turned down in a socially acceptable way". The thing is, this seems like a pretty reasonable offer given the whole drinking in a hotel bar at a conference thing. Maybe he should have said it before getting on an elevator, I can empathize with her not feeling great about the interaction, but this really isn't a particularly weird thing to do at a conference where people are drinking in the hotel lobby.

Well, it was very late - something like 2 in the morning, if I can go by shaky memory, and it had been a bunch of people including Watson who stayed chatting after the formal conference ended. So as far as she was concerned, he was just Random Stranger.

Had it been the pair of them alone chatting in the bar, I agree he would have had steadier grounds for assuming she might be open to an approach, but it wasn't.

The offer of coffee that late/early in the morning increases my prior that it wasn't just coffee being offered.

The way I remember the drama was that the guy asked her out, in pretty polite way IIRC, she said "no", the guy said "ok" and went on his merry way. Later on she brought that up as an example of "sexual objectification", and it was something the skeptic community was supposed to self-flagellate about.

If anything, comparing it to EA's low-key pressure to participate in drug fueled poly-orgies is unfair to the elevator guy. From today's perspective it's like watching a guy in the 19th century get slapped in the face for a misstep in obscure Victorian etiquette.

There's a timeline (from the anti-Atheism+ perspective) here. The two things that made it blow up was when Watson "called out" Stef McGraw and then when Dawkins responded to a blog post defending that calling out. The original negative responses to Watson's video were just some Youtube comments, Stef McGraw's blog post, and Rose St. Clair's video response. Stef was a student who posted a blog post disagreeing with the idea that the encounter was an example of sexism. Watson, giving a talk at the CFI Student Leadership Conference, mentioned Stef was in the audience, called out her "parroting of misogynistic thought", conflated fear of "sexual objectification and assault", and claimed people like her were scaring women away from atheist conferences:

Because there are people in this audience right now who believe this: that a woman's reasonable expectation to feel safe from sexual objectification and assault at skeptic and atheist events is outweighed by a man's right to sexually objectify her. That's basically what these people have been telling me, and it's not true.

Since starting Skepchick I've heard from a lot of women who don't attend events like this because of those who have this attitude. They're tired of being objectified, and some of them have actually been raped; quite a number of them have been raped, or otherwise sexually assaulted. And situations like the one I was in, in an elevator, would have triggered a panic attack. They're scared, because they know that you won't stand up for them. And if they stand up for themselves, you are going to laugh them back down. And that's why they're not coming out to these events.

The call-out provoked some criticism on Twitter, and Watson responded with a blog post defending her actions and calling out some other people like Rose St. Clair and CFI intern Trevor Boeckmann. More criticism followed, such as Abbie Smith's Bad Form, Rebecca Watson blog post and McGraw's own response. This in turn provoked a bunch of blog posts supporting Watson's actions, such as PZ Myers's "Always Name Names!". In the comments for "Always Name Names", Richard Dawkins made his famous "Dear Muslima" comment mocking the idea that being asked to have coffee together at a conference was an example of sexism. (It is sometimes characterized as being a "don't complain because things are worse elsewhere" argument, but his other comment specifically said that wasn't his point and explained his reasoning.) This got too many blog posts to count calling him a misogynist and so on and got Watson to say she would boycott his work.

Often when Elevatorgate is summarized from the pro-social-justice side it's described as if Watson just made the comparatively mild original video and the atheism/skepticism community blew up at her, but what really got it going was how she responded to those like McGraw who disagreed. As well as ramping up her condemnation of the original interaction. (Something many of her supporters took even further, such as Amanda Marcotte arguing that Elevator Guy's invitation amounted to a rape-threat.)

Richard Dawkins made his famous "Dear Muslima" comment mocking the idea that being asked to have coffee together at a conference was an example of sexism.

Yeah, but it wasn't just "fancy getting a coffee together?", it was that euphemistic way of "want to have sex with me?" of asking which makes it different. Plus, I may be being a bitch here because I don't like Dawkins, but he would be flattered by a young woman asking him for a coffee with the implication that she wants to knock boots with him. In today's environment, of course, accepting would be very stupid to do due to the risks of accusations of sexism and power imbalance, even if he didn't grab the chance to knock boots with her.

There's exaggeration on both sides and I agree it's hard to find a reasonable balance, but while I think Watson over-reacted, I also don't think she was totally unreasonable: there are risks for women alone at night in confined spaces with strange men. And of course "not all men", but we don't know all the background - if she was constantly being hit on by guys at conferences, in similar circumstances - just met her and were strangers to her - then she would see it as a problem of sexism. Men would not have that same experience so would feel she was over-reacting and exaggerating and creating a problem where none existed.

It's the curse of all organisations that get together to do good, especially in reaction to the current social environment. "We're supposed to be better than that, we're supposed to be past all the old shibboleths and taboos, we're supposed to all be clear thinkers acting on reason and not the same old sexism/racism/ -phobia/ -ists!" It's human nature, is what it is, and we'll never be free of it no matter how progressive we think we are.

there are risks for women alone at night in confined spaces with strange men

This argument always struck me as strange. An elevator literally opens its doors on its own and has more traffic than a normal room, it's halfway to being a hallway. Under what plausible circumstance does it pose more of a risk than a normal room? The timeframe that you can't leave it is a matter of seconds. Anything you could do in that timeframe (like groping/stabbing/purse-snatching someone) can be done elsewhere by attacking by surprise. The thing that stops someone from attacking you isn't that you can open the doors without waiting 10 seconds, it's the combination of most people not being violent criminals and the violent criminals getting arrested.

Removing the gender aspect, if you're in a fight with a substantially stronger person, your first order of business is going to be putting distance between you and him and hopefully buying a few seconds to scream for help or find something to defend yourself with. That's possible in a regular room or hallway; it's not possible in an elevator, where you may well be knocked out as soon as anything starts. Not too different from the risk of being in a narrow alley as opposed to a wide street.

That doesn't detract from the fact that it's social norms and laws that are doing most of the work here. But it's defense in depth; adding a layer of being in a physical space where you're not as disadvantaged is a reasonable approach to risk mitigation.

Well, if you're really "knocked out as soon as anything starts" in knockout-game fashion then the 10 seconds don't matter. It's just a matter of letting someone within arms reach, which you do all the time when inside buildings. Meanwhile realistically most unarmed struggles don't involve being knocked out at all and last longer than the time inside an elevator. The length of the fight needs to be in a very specific timing sweet-spot to be advantageous to the attacker. In exchange it's going to open doors to a floor that might have people waiting in a matter of seconds, plus anyone could subsequently press the elevator button and call it to them. Alleys are riskier because they're more isolated from other people, they're not narrower than how close people get inside a building and the only thing preventing you from running away from an alley is the attacker. This is particular relevant for the "rape threat" interpretation, since rape obviously wouldn't fit inside the timeframe.

early in the morning? i mean... it's very very reasonable for us to be uncomfortable if there's a guy (who is probably stronger than us) who is essentially propositioning, early in the morning, in an area with no escape.

the exact issue here is that an elevator is an isolated space. with a hallway there are potential ways to get help or escape, but in an elevator there is none of that.

if a guy i didn't know said something similar to me in that context, i'd be very weirded out too

Don't elevators often have cameras, too?

I also don't think she was totally unreasonable: there are risks for women alone at night in confined spaces with strange men

She wouldn't be unreasonable if that's what she said, but she couched in terms of "sexual objectification" and "unwanted sexual advances". Metooers, and even people in this thread argue about the evils of workplace relationships, Watson argued about the evils of propositioning someone at a hobby group meet-up, and the other day I heard something about how wrong it is to try to chat someone up at the gym. So where, pray tell, is a guy allowed to make a pass at someone without it becoming an international scandal?

I made fun of the Victorians in the other comment, but at least they had clear rules for this kind of stuff.

So where, pray tell, is a guy allowed to make a pass at someone without it becoming an international scandal?

Developing countries.

Scott had an old LiveJournal post about this, where he likened dating to Russian spies trying to identify each other while undercover in the US. On the one-hand, Scott is a pretty neurotic and anxious person who has stared too long into the CW; on the other, it's not exactly wrong. Anyone else remember this? I couldn't find it in the best archive of squid314 that I was able to unearth.

From "The Fourth Meditation On Creepiness" by Scott Alexander:

Imagine two Soviet spies in the Cold War US who have to get in contact with one another. The KGB forgot to give them a silly code phrase like "the wombat feeds at midnight" so they've got to figure it out on their own. The Americans know these two spies are trying to get in contact, so if one were to just ask random people "Are you a Soviet spy?" the Americans could quickly guess that the asker was a spy and arrest him.

You are one of the two spies, and you spot someone who you're about 50% sure is your colleague. How do you confirm they are also a spy with the lowest possible risk of getting arrested?

I bet there's some fancy cryptographic solution here, but my intuitive strategy would be as follows:

Me: Excuse me, sir, do you know any good borscht restaurants around here?

Other Spy: Ah, borscht. I love borscht!

Me: I hear Russian borscht is the best. Have you ever had any?

Other Spy: Yes, I was in Moscow once many years ago, before the war.

Me: Really? Have you ever been to [street the KGB headquarters is on?]

Other Spy: All the time! That's my favorite street! I used to talk to [name of KGB head] a lot.

Me: I am a Soviet spy. Are you one too?

Other Spy: Yes.

You would be immediately under suspicion if you asked patriotic Americans "Are you a Soviet spy?", since they would then know you were probably the other spy yourself. So instead you lead up with a question that seems innocuous to an American who's not thinking about spying, but to a Soviet who is specifically looking for another spy is sorta kinda suggestive of Russia. The other spy can't just say "Ah, I understand your code, I too am a spy" because then he might blow his cover to an American who was just looking for some good borscht. So he says something that slightly escalates the Russianness. You can't just blow your cover now, because you're still not sure he's not just an American who appreciates a good plate of borscht himself, so you escalate the Russianness slightly further. In other words, you start off with a conversation that could happen by coincidence, decrease the chance of coincidence a little bit at each exchange only once you get the signal from the other, and eventually the conversation becomes one that couldn't possibly happen by coincidence and you know he's the other spy.

When I was much younger and more terrified of women, this was exactly the route I would take. I didn't want to know if she was my fellow spy, I wanted to know if she liked me. I can't just ask, or I might end up as the next Julius Rosenberg. So instead - maybe we're sitting next to each other, so I move a little closer to her. If she moves a little closer to me, or does anything that could be interpreted in my feverishly optimistic brain as resembling this, then maybe I touch my leg against hers. If she touches her leg against me, maybe I rest my arm against her shoulder. If she rests her arm against my shoulder, I smile at her. If she smiles at me, then I ask for her hand in marriage.

One can also do this verbally. It would pain me to even type out the conversation, but I assure you it's still pretty awkward.

And when this doesn't work, sometimes if the other person just looks super Russian it's tempting to worry you've miscalibrated your subtlety ("Man, what if this guy just really hates borscht? Maybe I should call him Comrade and see what happens?) and try something else.

And okay, this is all super creepy, and I know that now, and I'm sorry for doing it, and I won't do it again.

(by the way, the one time this worked I was so flabbergasted and confused I completely forgot to ask for her hand in marriage. In case you haven't figured it out from this latest series of blog posts, I'm kind of an idiot.)

But let me try to explain (not justify, mind you) why this might seem like a thing someone should do.

I had a friend a few years ago, let's call her Alice. I asked Alice out on a date. She said she wanted to keep being friends. This went well. No, really. It actually went well.

Alice moved to another state, and a little while afterwards I went to visit her for a week. I worried if it might be creepy if I asked her to cuddle after she had said she wanted to be friends, but eventually I asked her anyway, and she said that was great and she loved cuddling and had been pretty desperate for someone to cuddle with.

We cuddled all week, but I was super super careful not to touch her breasts or any other par