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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 17, 2023

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CanadaBC is leaving Twitter due to its tweets carrying the label "government-funded Media". This is particularly suprising, as unlike BritishBC or NipponHK, which are given government monopolies, but don't get money directly from the fiscus, CBC does. The Canadian state budget has an explicit provision that appropriates money appropriated from Canadian taxpayers to CBC.

The CBC on its own website even admits this fact in what might be the most misleading graph I have ever seen. If one isn't careful to look closely at the Y axis, one might miss that numbers from $700m to $1700m are omitted, thus making the 71.2% of the 2018/2019 budget which was given to it by the state, appear more 40%.

Both of these facts (objecting to being labeled GFM and the deceptive graph) point to CBC apparently thinking getting funds from the fiscus isn't a "good luck", thus it seeks play down this fact, by hook or by crook.

But why? Why would it be more shameful for a newsources sources of money be decided representatively democratically, where each person rich or poor has approximatelly the same weight, than if it were owned by a billionaire like Bezos?

might be the most misleading graph I have ever seen

I urge folks to take a look at this graph. Peak comedy.

Masterpiece of a stacked bar chart.

Look at that subtle axis breakage, the tasteful placement of it. Oh my god, components are even split out into different columns.

The AI-art naysayers are right; there’s no way AI can generate art with this much soul and creativity.

This is one of the worst graphs I’ve ever seen.

Not only is it wildly misleading, it’s a perversion of the concept of a bar graph! The adjacent columns don’t compare data, they just break it out into components. I assume the creator chose this because he couldn’t make a pie chart that cheats so hard.

There are only five pieces of information on each chart. We’re approaching Pravda levels. Tufte must be spinning in his—wait, he’s still alive. He should be informed of this tragedy, but sending this graph might be considered harassment.

I assume the creator chose this because he couldn’t make a pie chart that cheats so hard.

I can't recall where I saw it, but I saw some newspaper clipping a while back that just straight-up had no correlation between the pie chart size and the percentage. With subtle manipulation, this would be hard to detect and could even be plausibly denied as intentional manipulation rather than carelessness, but this one, IIRC, had a sliver with a number greater than 50% over a slice whose arc was clearly under 180 degrees. It certainly made me more careful about paying close attention to every part of a chart and their correlation to the underlying data whenever I encountered a chart in some article. Which kind of defeats the purpose of charts, but what can you do.

Really gives the impression of an organization doing its level best to be transparent and honest. Can you imagine still questioning their integrity after looking at that?

I wonder if the government told them to hush up their involvement, or if it just seemed like the obvious choice.

The fixed version highlights the absurdity of the original: https://twitter.com/politicalmath/status/1648299180945801218

This is some Lib Dem Bar Charts level nonsense, wow. There's lying with statistics and then there's this.

Lib Dem Bar Charts

Wild. My go-to was always DefenseCharts, but that’s a much better example for actual numeric nonsense.

At this point, I think that the smarter Lib Dems use bar graphs simply to amuse and catch the attention of sad and overly political nerds, who are one of the groups who will still consider voting for them. It's self-parody that only the people who like proportional representation will understand, or at least I hope it's self-parody...

sad and overly political nerds

This comment is too boo outgroup and antagonistic.

As a long-term Liberal Democrat and statistics geek, I resent this aggressive moderation of a factually accurate. After three or more pints of Real Ale (20 oz pints - we're British) the finer points of the Single Transferable Vote and Site Value Rating are quite exquisitely interesting to sad and overly political nerds such as myself.

Wow yeah, that's good enough to be one of the example graphs in "How to Lie with Statistics".

But why?

Because NPR did it?

I know this comes across as uncharitable. I'll attempt to defend it regardless.

I honestly don't know if you can live here and not see how the phrase from a former Canadian leader that whenever America sneezes Canada gets a cold isn't true culturally as well as economically. Trump starts threatening DREAMers? Canadian outlets start talking about whether to take them. Some black guy dies in America? BLM is in Canada despite the death toll being much smaller miniscule. Kids shot in America? Gun control comes up again. Trump wins? Women's March.

There seems to be a class of Canadians who desperately want a bit of American political melodrama, either as eager auxiliaries or as smug signalers of how much better and how distinct Canada is.

IME the Canadian media class and intelligentsia is especially prone to this sort of signaling. I think it's because the entire industry is detached due to being next to the US and its overwhelming cultural might which lets the CBC be a failure with fewer consequences - everyone is already watching American TV and getting caught up in American political drama anyway.

Canada is basically in thrall culturally to the US (this is recognized by box office tallies that basically fold Canadian ticket buyers into the "Domestic" category). And this leads to them adopting ideas that are already dubious in the case of American politics (NPR's complaint in this case) but also just make no sense outside (e.g. Britons adopting The Knee in their protests against racism)

I was amused by South Park’s take on this dynamic, where electing Trump lead to Canada building a border wall.

The problem I think for Canada is that it's right next to the most productive soft power generator in history. It's just very difficult for it to carve out a separate identity and industry that can distinguish itself - in part because it's too late: lots of Canadians basically are Americans

I live in southern Ontario. My family lives in Maryland. When I was in college I would cross the border every semester and, honestly, the French on labels was the main tell.

Like...take some of Britain's most successful exports like Downton Abbey: it's popular precisely cause a lot of us don't have that sort of British fussiness about nobility. Same reason the royal family makes waves in the States.

To most of the world Canadians are Americans. And attempts to insist on a distinct Canadian identity (putting aside Quebec's...particularities) often end up looking boring and soulless like the CBC or what basically accounts to bland virtue signaling

It's much easier to basically be used as a stand-in by the US' much larger industry than to truly compete with it. Especially since there's no functional barrier to talented Canadians going down south and making a ton more money which is a constant drain on talent.

Acting is a global business, or at least an Anglosphere-wide business, and British, Canadian and American actors, directors and so on are repped by the same agencies that the CBC could contract.

Isn't that part of the problem? If you are in the industry and want to/can do well America is always calling with a potentially better deal.

Like...Denis Vileneuve might be my favorite Canadian director. He doesn't do Dune for a Canadian company. If he wants that, it's the US and Zendaya or nothing.

A lot of energy is also getting sucked up working on American productions within Canada. I remember Max Landis talking about how competitive Vancouver is for resources. A lot of people (especially below-the-line) are probably "wasting" their time working on shows that could be Canadian in that utterly unspecific way but are still wallpapered as American. Why not? Both markets will watch it.

Seems like things somewhere along the line got optimized for working for with the US industry rather than independence.

I think that for the longest time, from a European vantage point, the Canadian brand was essentially being nice + some sort of chill lack of pretense in an outdoorsy lumberjack way (like Australia with moose). I realise that in the Americas the second half is laid claim to by several parts of the US too, but I don't think this makes it across the ocean (as "US + outdoorsy lumberjack" immediately mutates into "alcoholic with a pickup truck, multiple shotguns and married to his cousin").

The only Canadian show I can name off the top of my head is the Trailer Park Boys and I’m not even sure if it’s a cbc production

Allow me to introduce you to Letterkenney.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=9rSBmOgpcDE

Well, aren't Canadian broadcasters obliged by law to piss away some fraction of their budget on French-language shows to appease the Quebecois? That seems like a pretty huge blow to their competitiveness.

I think the French arm actually makes shows that are pretty broadly popular in Quebec (ie. competitive with American network stuff) so I'm not sure "piss away" is the right term.

Honestly, you are probably being too charitable.

I'd be willing to bet that if you cut a similar proportion of the budget for UK productions the BBC would still put out better and more popular material than CBC is managing.

(Come to think of it: does the UK not have carveouts for regional media? Cause I'd assume otherwise)

The UK has strong carveouts for 'regional media', the BBC relocated much of its production staff to Manchester for example

To drive home the point that the British government says "jump" and the BBC says "how high?", iirc this move was a purely political one after the Tory government started getting flack that it's economic policy was rabidly London-centric while ignoring everywhere else in the country. So they compelled the BBC to move a bunch of shit to Manchester. The median cosmopolitan bourgie-urbanite BBC employee would consider "relocation to Manchester" the equivalent of being exiled to Siberia, and it caused a lot of whining and gnashing of teeth within the BBC. But their putative independence was as nothing compared to the Tories' determination to win themselves votes at the next election from Norf FC by "bringing them jobs".

Timing wise you are at least incorrect as the decision was taken in 2006 while Tony Blair was prime minister.

I don't remember us putting pressure on the Beeb, though the rumor was it was a gambit so that Blair would be more lenient in the Charter renegotiations.

I appreciate the correction. It does not, however, detract from the central thesis that the government points and the BBC goes.

Don't forget the CBC is a crown corporation. Wholly owned by the Government of Canada.

CanadaBC BritishBC NipponHK

These are non-standard ways to refer to these entities, at first I thought you were referring to some kind of official Twitter account of British Columbia.

I assumed it was done for some purpose, but I can't imagine what.

I can, but AmericanBC would kinda ruin the pattern.

Hey, hands off: British Columbia is ours (or maybe the First Nations people's—though that's a culture war for another day) ;-)

Why would it be more shameful for a newsources sources of money be decided representatively democratically, where each person rich or poor has approximatelly the same weight, than if it were owned by a billionaire like Bezos?

These aren't the only options. Government funding isn't necessarily "decided representatively democratically", regardless of whether a country has democratically elected leaders. It seems to me that many people intuit that government funding and affiliation will tend to create news networks that tend to present stories with a given valence and that the people that work for these networks are deeply offended by anyone suggesting that it is so. If they thought there was nothing wrong with being government funded and affiliated, they would make that argument clearly and forcefully rather than taking their ball and going home when they are correctly identified as such.

elon is getting revenge on everyone in the media who shat on him in 2018-2020 or so, like regarding the cave rescue story and so on. this will continue

I think that the term 'government funded media' clearly takes on a negative implication that extends beyond the strict meaning of the words. If I owned twitter and slapped 'Murdoch owned media' on Fox twitter accounts, it would be indisputable but it clearly implies something about what I think about Fox and its biases. Similarly, Musk/twitter surely thinks that the fact that a particular outlet is government funded in some way impinges negatively upon its content because otherwise there would be no point putting it there.

I agree that there's nothing wrong with wrong with being government funded, but the label still carries unfortunate implications. After all, there are plenty of twitter users who will not be attuned to the difference between the Russian or Syrian regime shills labelled 'government affiliated media' and the state broadcasters labelled 'government funded media', and if not putting them in exactly the same bucket twitter does seem to be putting them in the same region, or at least that is the impression some people will take.

I file that under "their own damn fault". For decades they've been demonizing foreign government media funding while responding with a dismissive "totally different" to anyone who points out they get a lot of government funding. The CBC is big enough and powerful enough that it's employees can isolate themselves from criticism they don't want to hear.

There's two ways to handle it - one is to prove not all government funded media is the same (one may start by not using deceptive tricks like the graph described above) and another is to scream "how dare you publish true information about us" and ragequit. CBC chose the latter, because the former is probably too hard for them.

Perhaps this is a mistake with our current economic regime? I’d argue that due to economic complexity the average citizen should be more aware of who owns the product or service they’re consuming, rather than less.

Hell, I’d vote for a law that forced companies to display their owner if they do get acquired.

I feel much the same. The issue at hand is who’s paying for the news. The tag isn’t defamatory — the media in question are government funded. Fox is owned by Murdoch. The biases to the extent they exist are created in the minds of the reader. On the other hand, without telling people who’s paying that group to produce the news, no intelligent decisions can be made about the trustworthiness of any given source. More light will eventually lead to truth, as people learn to be better news consumers.

I suspect that a lot of the drama over these media outlets not wanting to be on Twitter because they’re being labeled is that they don’t like the smears that have been done using the idea of government funding (in regimes we don’t like) as a stand in for regime mouthpiece.

I think that the term 'government funded media' clearly takes on a negative implication that extends beyond the strict meaning of the words.

This is of course the point. The American establishment uses terms like this as epithets to characterize their opponents, and simply avoids using these terms - even when literally true - for it's own mouthpieces. Now twitter is simply using these terms literally and in an unbiased manner and the establishment is losing their minds.

When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

(By "unbiased", I simply mean twitter seems to be applying a standard of "does their website say they get X% of their money from the government", at least based on Musk's tweets.)

Getting a tag isn't inherently negative. A bluecheck is technically also a tag that some people think negatively about, but on average it's still mainly a positive. I wouldn't be surprised if a certain kind of person would actually trust publications with a "government owned" tag more than one without, and the position that argues for this is mostly rather consistent and plausible, even if I may disagree with it (or more precisely, I think the funding matters for the direction, but not the degree of the bias).

On the other hand, I does seem to be rather petty from Musk, and I would actually prefer if everything gets a tag for its funding, not just public institutions. But I'm also in general someone who likes having lots of categories for everything.

I agree that this is twitter's intention. Nevertheless, unlike "hate speech" or similar tags that also may be technically correct according to some strenuously interpreted definition, most of the media currently up in arms are a) rather unambiguously government funded according to any sensible definition and b) "government funded" itself is not really a negative word in most context, even if the tag-givers in this specific context think it is, so it's easy to simply use it as a more informative tag anyway.

I would understand it if twitter chose "government propaganda" or similar labels that are much more contentious and clearly negative. To me this is just a really bad look; Twitter may think this is something negative on-net, but still deliberately uses a rather neutral & unambiguous word and people try to wriggle out of the label anyway with what looks like the platonic ideal of "lying with stats and figures". I'm not a fan that Twitter applies this labeling in a somewhat one-sided way, but it's still miles better than how other media has started using scary words for everything they don't like.

Sure, but now we're talking about something else. If the CBC wasn't trying to fool us this witlessly and simply tweeted something along the lines "yes, we're government funded, no, that's not a bad thing" and/or followed up with another "due to recent events, we do not have the impression that staying on twitter is beneficial for us, so we are leaving", our discussion would look quite different.

I think a moderate amount of hostility between different platforms/institutions/powerful actors is very good for society in a similar way to the idea of the separation of power in the government. Hence, I think that Twitter being run by a controversial person like Musk is positive for the world, and I think it's a pity if everyone starts migrating to services that are again a little to friendly with the hegemonic media/academia/political consensus position. But it's not really something I'd fault anyone in particular for. It's only natural that you move to where you feel most comfortable & welcome.

Perhaps there could be a "This user has been convicted for committing securities fraud on Twitter" tag. Or even a "This Twitter user has declared under oath that reasonable people do not treat his tweets as factually accurate" tag.

where each person rich or poor has approximatelly the same weight

I completely disagree with that. Is there really a meaningful difference between how much influence the average person has over Bezos and a government? I would argue both rounds down to zero. With Bezos, people can at least boycott his companies and refuse to fund him directly. They don't have that option with governments.

A rich person, on the other hand can have a lot of influence over a government, but very little over Bezos.

people can at least boycott his companies and refuse to fund him directly.

In theory, at least, much in the same way you disagree with the power of plebian voting.

I think other rich people also have at least a little more than "very little" influence on Bezos. Scott, meanwhile, thinks that rich people have surprisingly less influence over government, but I don't know that this has ever been measured then or now.

The thing about the plebian vote is that it doesn't matter all that much right up to the point that it is arguably the only thing that matters. And where that point exactly is is often obfuscated both by the inherent difficulties of gathering and collating information across a large population/geographic area, and by the machinations of smarter plebians who recognize that any ambiguity tends to work in their favor.

After all, if your opponent knows exactly how far they can push beforehand, all they're going to do is push until they reach that point. As such it's better to leave them guessing about where exactly the line in the sand lies.

Someone poihnted out on Hacker News that that graph is only for one year and other years are not misleading.

ABC Australia and the SBS have also been labelled, but they have given signs that they don't plan to throw a fit about it.

I wonder what the difference is.

It might be that the abc and sbs have a better relationship with the public - even though they often push progressive propaganda, they still have an affectionate place in a lot of Australians' hearts, because even in the 21st century there were a lot of places in Australia where they were the only television channels you could access. There have been some big pushes by some of the conservative media in Australia to get the government to reduce their funding, but they get a lot of push back from more rural areas.

The CBC used to be this at least through the 90s -- I used to have the radio on in the background essentially all through my waking hours.

Now I basically only listen at all in the truck, and play a kind of social justice bingo where I switch the station after hearing two egregious CW statements by hosts or 'expert guests'.

I can usually get through the hourly news, but that's about it -- there's roughly four half-hour segments per week that I don't mind listening to, plus a bunch of Toronto bubble stuff that's not that interesting but fairly unoffensive. (mainly unfunny comedians that can't survive on their own merits)

This is actually pretty sad for me -- to the extent that "government funded" is not a sin in and of itself, I appreciated the radio as a way of tying the country together -- Peter Gzowski, or political comedy shows that lampooned all the silly politicians equally I would argue had value inasmuch as they could espose the nation to quirky stories that they wouldn't otherwise hear about. It's a big country after all. This activity probably wouldn't be commercially successful, but did create a cohesive national identity -- so as government functions go, there are worse ones.

Now that it's all white-guilt all the time, might as well burn it with fire I guess -- but the dream would be to fire virtually everyone and send offer letters to the people still slogging it out in small-town newspapers across the country, with a mandate to inform instead of indoctrinate. (burn it with fire it is, then)

From Quillette, an MIT professor describes the outraged reaction from fellow philosophers when he argued that a woman is an adult human female.

Back in 2019 Alex Byrne wrote one of my favorite essays on the incoherence of gender identity and as far as I can tell no one has managed to offer a solid refutation. Byrne follows up by discussing the difficulties he's had in getting a chapter and a book published on the topic, and his travails are equal parts infuriating and hilarious. For example, consider how a fellow colleague was treated once the crowd got wind that her book might be a bit too critical:

The imminent publication of Holly Lawford-Smith's Gender-Critical Feminism was announced that same month, and almost immediately no less than two petitions of complaint appeared, one from the OUP USA Guild (the union representing the New York staff of OUP), and the other from "members of the international scholarly community" with some connection to OUP. The latter petition expressed the scholars' "profound disappointment" at OUP's forthcoming publication of Lawford-Smith's book, and suggested various "measures the press could undertake to offset the harm done by the publication of this work." OUP needed to confess to a mortal sin and repent. None of the scholars had read the book that they so confidently denounced (since no copy of the book was available for them to read), but this is a mere detail.

This trend of protesting a book before anyone even reads it will never stop being funny to me. Byrne expected his book to go through several revisions and by his account he was happy to accomodate feedback. His reviewers, though, were not:

Publishers often commission reviews of a manuscript from (anonymous) experts in the relevant field, and I had to go through that time-consuming process yet again. It was also rather risky, since—as by now you are well aware—the experts in the philosophy of sex and gender tend to brook no dissent. Responding to the (hopeful) publisher’s question, “Will it make for an outstanding book in your view, or simply a work of average quality?”, one expert wrote: “Neither. It is of extremely poor quality.” Another question: “What would you highlight as the ONE feature about this book that might make you recommend it over other titles available?” “None. It shouldn’t be published.” Lastly: “Is there anything superfluous that could be left out?” “Everything—see above.”

Of course, there is nothing wrong with harsh criticism; I have doled out plenty of that myself. Maybe my book deserves it. But a reviewer is expected to give reasons for her verdict—that helps both the author and the publisher. If I had made, as the reviewer said, “sweeping claims” that are “often false,” or had “seriously misunderstood” arguments on the other side, it would be a simple matter to give examples. But the reviewer supplied none: not a single quotation, page number, or chapter reference. From my experience publishing in this particular area of philosophy, this lack of engagement was par for the course. In fact, I found the reviewer’s hyperbolic report reassuring: if I had made mistakes, at least they were not easy to identify.

"What is wrong with my argument?"

"Everything."

"Can you be more specific?"

"Just all of it, it's just bad."

This is the kind of sophistry one would expect from random online arguments, and I'm sure you can identity similar instances even in this very forum. The take-away I'm generally left with is that Byrne's interlocutors are an amalgamation of intellectually fragile individuals. Conclusory statements rather than specifics are a transparent indication that you are aware your arguments will crumble when exposed to a light breeze. Protesting rather than arguing are a transparent indication that you are unable to defend your ideas on their own merits.

All this seems painfully obvious to me as an outsider, and I'm baffled why anyone engages in this ablution pantomime. Who could it possibly convince?

Freddie DeBoer recently put out a banger of a post called "A Conversation About Crime" about the absolute intellectual void behind the "defund the police" movement. The whole thing is worth reading in full, but I'll include the parting shot here:

Look, I’m gonna level with you here. Like the vast majority of leftists who have been minted since Occupy Wall Street, my principles, values, and policy preferences don’t stem from a coherent set of moral values, developed into an ideology, which then suggests preferred policies. At all. That requires a lot of reading and I’m busy organizing black tie fundraisers at work and bringing Kayleigh and Dakota to fencing practice. I just don’t have the time. So my politics have been bolted together in a horribly awkward process of absorbing which opinions are least likely to get me screamed at by an online activist or mocked by a podcaster. My politics are therefore really a kind of self-defensive pastiche, an odd Frankensteining of traditional leftist rhetoric and vocabulary from Ivy League humanities departments I don’t understand. I quote Marx, but I got the quote from Tumblr. I cite Gloria Anzaldua, but only because someone on TikTok did it first. I support defunding the police because in 2020, when the social and professional consequences for appearing not to accept social justice norms were enormous, that was the safest place for me to hide. I maintain a vague attachment to police and prison abolition because that still appears to be the safest place for me to hide. I vote Democrat but/and call myself a socialist because that is the safest place for me to hide. I’m not a bad person; I want freedom and equality. I want good things for everyone. But politics scare and confuse me. I just can’t stand to lose face, so I have to present all of my terribly confused ideals with maximum superficial confidence. If you probe any of my specific beliefs with minimal force, they will collapse, as those “beliefs” are simply instruments of social manipulation. I can’t take my kid to the Prospect Park carousel and tell the other parents that I don’t support police abolition. It would damage my brand and I can’t have that. And that contradiction you detected, where I support maximum forgiveness for crime but no forgiveness at all for being offensive? For me, that’s no contradiction at all. Those beliefs are not part of a functioning and internally-consistent political system but a potpourri of deracinated slogans that protect me from headaches I don’t need. I never wanted to be a leftist. I just wanted to take my justifiable but inchoate feelings of dissatisfaction with the way things are and wrap them up into part of the narrative that I tell other people about myself, the narrative that I’m a kind good worthwhile enlightened person. And hey, in college that even got me popularity/a scholarship/pussy! Now I’m an adult and I have things to protect, and well-meaning but fundamentally unserious activists have created an incentive structure that mandates that I pretend to a) understand what “social justice” means and b) have the slightest interest in working to get it. I just want to chip away at my student loan debt and not get my company’s Slack turned against me. I need my job/I need my reputation/I need to not have potential Bumble dates see anything controversial when they Google me. Can you throw me a bone? Neither I nor 99% of the self-identified socialists in this country believe that there is any chance whatsoever that we’ll ever take power, and honestly, you’re harshing our vibe. So can you please fuck off and let us hide behind the BLM signs that have been yellowing in our windows for three years?

Is there anything superfluous that could be left out?” “Everything—see above."

This is what real power looks like, when you're totally unaccountable and see no reason to justify your beliefs. 'It's current_year' is another example. Or 'We hold these truths to be self-evident'.

If you don't provide an explanation for why you believe something is true and just imply questioning you is unacceptable, then you don't have a leg to stand on in terms of logic and reason. Instead, it shows that your basis in ideological, social power is very strong.

Extraordinary.

Oh please don't backpedal now. It's pretty obvious that you are simply expressing your own sentiment and deep-seated philosophy here: all the bad comes from the unwashed masses, all the good from sometimes mistaken but ultimately competent and well-intentioned elites, whose loathing for villeins is in itself a decent guiding principle. It takes some boldness to spin a paranoid, corrupt autocrat's war of conquest informed by 19th century realpolitik and "geopolitics" into some romantic sentimentality; it stretches the notion of sentimentality well past the breaking point.

Russia also had conducted a wildly unpopular and protested pension reform, if you don't know. Colossal immigration from Central Asia is likewise unpopular and ruthlessly maintained, as is the suppression of popular nationalism. Putin has many faults, but being too soft-hearted isn't one.

I agree populism is poison and submitting to the whims of public opinion can well destroy a nation, but there's, well, at least I don't find much jupiterian in saying «geez the demography is busted, the budget is overextended, I don't know how to fix this shit so how about you scum work more and get paid less»; it's just about the most ancient and primitive tool at any ruler's disposal, on par with "hire more police" and debasing currency. If we're doing the high standards thing when judging plebs, it stands to reason to expect more of the powerful.

I don't think this notion requires quite so much cynicism about Macron's attitude towards the average Frenchman; I would suggest that his view comes closer to Burke's famous saying that "his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. ... Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion."

In America, angry people who care a lot about politics are 30% of the population, maybe more.

I think it's way less than that. I doubt that it's even 10%, actually. I rarely meet anyone who cares a lot about politics.

Angry people who care a lot about politics seem more numerous than they are because many of them spend a lot of time and effort on being visible, talking about politics, and making political content.

I burst out laughing when I read this. We finally have AI that can make sense out of the longest and most incomprehensible Dasepost, so now you pivot to cryptic one-word replies that cannot be understood even in principle except by reference to the rest of your corpus. If not for your clarification to 2rafa below, I would have no idea what you actually meant by this comment.

It's not a reference to my own corpus. It's a typical response by Eigenrobot* (a pretty smart user 2rafa, like many dramanauts, most likely knows) on twitter. He usually writes it in response to… well, you be the judge. Oh, for convenience here they are.

*I'm not eigenrobot.

I read Eigenrobot's Twitter feed quite regularly and I didn't get it. The way he uses it you have to be familiar with his personal positions on issues to get that he's being sarcastic.

It's not just sarcasm. He says it sincerely, I think; and so do I. Some posts you disagree with really are extraordinary – extreme, audacious, wild, unusually unabashed. «A good leader hates his subjects» is in that category, for me.

Again, maybe there is a grain of truth to it – you need the ability to resist public pressure. But really, personal sentiment is orthogonal to the question of having the power to execute any vision you might have. I take it as a given that many leaders above vice-mayor level, certainly national leaders, are more or less non-human psychopathic reptiles who find notions like loving or even having contempt for the populace beneath their dignity; nevertheless, most opt for populism for pragmatic reasons.

And Biden is proving unexpectedly resistant to pressure; he 's ho senile grandpa. Case in point: Afghanistan.

I thought he was literally just saying that he found her comment to be extraordinarily good. Like a reddit-tier "This!" post.

Honestly, it would be good for everyone if nobody voted. The reason that neo-liberalism must be so careful to purge society of crimethink is because we vote. I don’t think that all efforts for propaganda would stop, but the volume and ubiquity of culture war propaganda would vastly decrease if it didn’t matter so much that I personally sign off on various issues. Ukraine could fade into the background and I could call their capitol whatever I wanted. I could believe whatever I wanted to about transgender issues without worry about the elites or their lackeys trying to thought-police me to death. There might well be limits to this, but at least the volume, the fear, would be turned down.

Why would anyone normal care about other people’s genitalia or a war in a country they can’t find on a map and only became independent in 1992? Why am I, a relative nobody, worried about policing? And my suspicion is that the average person, because of the vote, is often forced to pretend to care, is policed for the ways they pretend to care, when they’d much rather spend time on kids’ education and sports, their jobs, their family, and whatever hobbies they choose to enjoy. I think almost everyone would actually be happier to never worry about cultural affairs ever again.

Why would anyone normal care about other people’s genitalia

Because of laws about how you are required to treat other people (and how other people get to treat you or your children) based on their genitalia. And those laws won't go away if we abolish voting.

The reason that neo-liberalism must be so careful to purge society of crimethink is because we vote. I don’t think that all efforts for propaganda would stop, but the volume and ubiquity of culture war propaganda would vastly decrease if it didn’t matter so much that I personally sign off on various issues.

I’m not sure that the PRC has less propaganda than the Anglosphere…

Why would anyone normal care about other people’s genitalia or a war in a country they can’t find on a map and only became independent in 1992? Why am I, a relative nobody, worried about policing? And my suspicion is that the average person, because of the vote, is often forced to pretend to care, is policed for the ways they pretend to care, when they’d much rather spend time on kids’ education and sports, their jobs, their family, and whatever hobbies they choose to enjoy. I think almost everyone would actually be happier to never worry about cultural affairs ever again.

If this is true, why did the lack of representation for the working classes occasion such dissatisfaction in, say, nineteenth century Britain? The failure of what would become the First Reform Act in 1832 brought Britain if not actually to the brink of revolution then certainly to an acute crisis, over a bill that only expanded the franchise a little. The meeting of the BPU in that crisis supposedly brought out 200,000 people, an astonishing figure considering that it exceeded the entire population of Birmingham. These were people with far less time and energy to devote to political causes than most of today's people, yet they did so anyway, because they knew how important representation was.

True of course, but then the working classes still came out in support of it; they at least cared about something. And it's hardly like working class agitation for enfranchisement stopped in 1832; 1867, 1884 and 1918 didn't come from nowhere.

The reason that neo-liberalism must be so careful to purge society of crimethink is because we vote.

…perhaps. Notable non-democratic states of the last century were pretty famous for their wide ranging propaganda. Totalitarianism, of course, was not a system that involved voting.

Plenty of authoritarian leaders who don’t believe in any particular ideology have used mass propaganda: arguably all of Idi Amin, Chiang Kai-Shek, Mobutu, Trujillo, Videla; a lot of Nicaraguan leftists seem to think Ortega is a faker, etc.

But unless I’m reading the comment wrong, the OP doesn’t seem to be talking about the elites at all, but about how propaganda is used on normal people. If propagandizing is the same (or worse) even when the elites have completely different motivations and governing structures, this is much my point. It’s true there are big qualitative differences, but they move in the direction of more propaganda the farther we get from our own democratically elected, self-interested, incurious rulers. If the argumentative is that democracy is the root problem, that trendline has to be grappled with.

Now imagine that tomorrow, their parliaments abolish themselves and return to them perhaps not absolute power, but the significant degrees of power their ancestors had a few hundred years ago. Would life really get much worse for the average Brit, or Spaniard, or Dane?

Maybe not loads worse, but I find it hard to believe that it would be a good thing for governance. Did their 'ancestors a few hundred years ago' do much better? Not really, after all the last British monarch who in my estimation was truly active, George III, is best known in that regard for dismissing Pitt for having the temerity to support Catholic emancipation. Brilliant.

In any case, in Britain it was really Parliament that was master of the country at the latest from 1688 onwards. Was pre-1688 Britain notably better governed than after that time? No, surely the opposite is true.

Obviously true but also not necessarily relevant. Sure, members of the Commons were only seeking the votes of a very small section of the population, and many seats were not seriously contested, but nevertheless many were at least seeking the votes of an electorate, and an electorate that by modern standards was probably pretty ignorant in 1688, say. The few constituencies where the franchise was quite large and something approaching the ordinary person did get to vote even pre-1832, Westminster standing out as a notable example, hardly returned worse candidates than the average. Westminster yielded Hobhouse, Burdett and most famously of course Charles James Fox.

A question I’ve asked before: look at the monarchs of every modern European country that still has them. Now imagine that tomorrow, their parliaments abolish themselves and return to them perhaps not absolute power, but the significant degrees of power their ancestors had a few hundred years ago. Would life really get much worse for the average Brit, or Spaniard, or Dane?

I’m not sure it would, if only because the monarchs would inherit largely functional institutions built by their democratic successors. But to speak for the normie constituency: since the last time the nobility was in power their countries were quite a bit poorer and more war-prone, is there a reason you think they would do an equal/better job than moderns? I feel like an active case has to be made here.

Wrt democracy making people care about politics, most non-democratic countries still invest quite a bit into propagandizing their populations and demand even louder and more public affirmations of political views. Maybe this is because centuries of democratic examples have changed the way you have to govern citizens anywhere, maybe the information age just changes the way you have to keep control of a population, maybe increased urbanization just means rebellious commoners are a much more concentrated threat - either way that genie is likely not going back into the bottle.

This would be my suspicion as well. A good chunk of the reason that past monarchs could do so much to protect and advance their kingdoms is that they’d been raised and trained to handle statecraft on a level that just doesn’t happen today. Most democratic societies train their leadership to appeal to the masses, to become electable, and to raise funds for re-election. The entire job of a typical politician is not governing but winning the election.

This is the biggest advantage on a monarchy— in a true (I.e not tourist attraction) monarchy, a prince would be trained from youth to understand and wield power and the ins and outs of statecraft. Read the advice given to rulers in any society, and the goal is to create a stable and prosperous society and to use power effectively. Charles III wasn’t trained that way, because no one anticipates that he’ll do anything important. His role as monarch is limited to keeping the tourists coming to the pomp and circumstance, greeting world leaders, and waving from balconies at various personal and national events. If handed the power Richard III had to remake the country in his own image, he doesn’t have the ability to do that because he’s only ever had ceremonial power.

This would be my suspicion as well. A good chunk of the reason that past monarchs could do so much to protect and advance their kingdoms is that they’d been raised and trained to handle statecraft on a level that just doesn’t happen today. Most democratic societies train their leadership to appeal to the masses, to become electable, and to raise funds for re-election. The entire job of a typical politician is not governing but winning the election.

…maybe, idk. For all that specialized training in statecraft they seemed to always be getting in silly wars. How effective was their education in raising a stable and prosperous society when they never achieved a fraction of the stability and prosperity we’ve seen under our low budget, smile-for-the-camera leaders?

Silly wars that never reached the level of liberal democracies' wars.

Would a silly war between 2 slightly different kind of Slavs over who owns this or that grey bog risk escalating to nuclear apocalypse in a world without liberal democracies?

Traditional monarchies never developed the terrifying weapons (missiles, bombers, toxic gasses, nukes, drones) that the industrial revolution enabled liberal democracies to concoct.

Yup - weirdly, the dumb politicians who have to appeal to the morons have kept the world much less violent than the ones with divine right ever pulled off. Probably, because even worse, the most corrupt politicians in a democratic society, no matter their ideology so pick your poison, can't get close to the amount of wealth by percentage kings held.

Even Trump, whose been the most openly corrupt President in ways that an ideological President's I dislike intensely would've never dreamed of is still only, a possible billionaire in a world of many billionaires.

Strong monarchies exist today- if we exclude oil states, we get Morocco and probably Malaysia, neither of them war prone, Liechtenstein and Monaco- both of which have higher standards of living than their surroundings, although they’re tiny micro states- Tonga- which doesn’t seem notably worse off than democracies in Polynesia, despite the instability of its leaders on a personal level- Swaziland- which is a shithole and may not have had any way to avoid being a shithole- and Bhutan- which is simply strange.

Notably, these are all constitutional monarchies with full parliaments.

The Malaysian king doesn’t do a ton of day-to-day governance, parliament handles the actual show. Even his role in recent years of playing a part in selecting the Prime Minister (who actually leads the country) has been a historical anomaly they justified due to instability, and even his own position as monarch is semi-elected as a rotating representative from their different states.

Morocco’s king is a lot more powerful (even if parliament still plays a big part) but, idk, it’s still a mid tier country with a lot of poverty and dysfunction. None of these places, or even the old European monarchies, seem as nice and functional as your average liberal democracy.

The King of Morocco is pretty powerful, but I wouldn't consider him all that competent I guess? His powers are greatest in foreign policy and the judicial system, two areas where Morocco is notoriously bumbling. Notably, Morocco experiences pretty significant population outflows of Moroccans leaving each year to try and live under liberal democracies. The leaders of Bhutan and Oman are competent (or at least bin Said was, I don't know much about his successor) but their countries are also poor. Even adding in the rest of the oil states, most achieve pretty middling GDP per capita and HDI scores.

Liechtenstein and Monaco do have extremely high living standards, but neither are anywhere near absolutist. Liechtenstein is a literal direct democracy - the princely powers you describe of vetoing referendums were vested in the monarch by a public vote in 2003 (notably the monarchy did not have these powers when Liechtenstein achieved its own huge takeoff growth) and those powers can be taken away by the public at any time as well, as they considered doing and rejected in the 2012 referendum. They can even vote him fully out of power whenever they want, and he has no power to veto (that was part of the deal for increasing his powers in 2003). For what it counts, I have no personal objection to people voting in a powerful executive like this, or in France or wherever.

I don't know much about Monaco, but it's not really clear to me how powerful the Monacan Prince is beyond his veto power; they seem to have an elected parliament that makes all the laws, no? He can call for new elections, but so can Macron. He's described as "representing the country" in foreign affairs, but the Minister of Foreign Affairs seems to make all the actual calls. Should we even consider this a normal case? France literally handles their whole military defense.

By the same token, both Liechtenstein and Monaco are tax havens with populations under 40,000, both countries put together could easily fit on some college campuses. This feels a lot more objectionable to me than the petro-states. If I was arguing for the success of the liberal democratic model I don't think wildly successful Luxembourg would be a fair go-to example: it's circumstances are too unusual and probably don't scale to bigger countries.

This is part of why I thought the more useful comparison would be between the modern European nation state democracies and those same countries under their former monarchies, which tend to look quite a bit poorer and more likely to go to war.

Clearly this isn't about fragility, at least they certainly don't look at this primarily through the lens of expecting humiliation in a debate (though such people exist, and these ones specifically can conceive of their inevitable failure in a debate yet keep their faith, I think). They tend to understand this in the framework of «platforming» or «legitimizing» «noxious ideas». The illegitimacy is predecided, as is their authority as gatekeepers of discourse. Thus, irritation, condescension and flipping out when they are denied the rite of stomping out Evil and an apparently irrelevant issue of analyzing the argument is being forced on them. What does it matter which particular part is «bad» by the deliberately obtuse nitpicky standard that ignores the moral imperative to suppress such noxious ideologies!? Would you have them greenlight a Neo-Nazi pamphlet if it has no grammatical mistakes?

This kind of perception is normal for people who are accustomed to having authority or basking in its favor. Really very Sneerclubby, and it's no wonder many of top posters there are academics.

Back in 2019 Alex Byrne wrote one of my favorite essays on the incoherence of gender identity and as far as I can tell no one has managed to offer a solid refutation.

FWIW I think the main problem with his article, as with many other similar ones, is that he frames the issue as about determining the Truth about gender and gender identity when in fact for all practical purposes the problem is actually a policy one. The right question is not 'are transgender men really men' (or in the case of Byrne's essay 'do Transgender people have gender identities that do not match their sex'/'does a mismatch between gender identity and sex cause dysphoria', or more broadly 'what is gender identity'), but 'does treating transgender people as their transitioned gender in X circumstance make those people happier with little damage done to the rest of society?' Because if the answer to that question is yes, then who gives a damn what the Truth of their gender is. Obviously there would still be arguments to had over the costs and benefits in every specific circumstance.

Does treating transgender people as their transitioned gender in X circumstance make those people happier with little damage done to the rest of society? Because if the answer to that question is yes, then who gives a damn what the Truth of their gender is.

My favorite Scott essay ever covers this better than I can. Forcing people to believe false things is inherently destructive, even if the truth doesn't matter at all. Sometimes the repression is worth the squeeze, because the falsehood is load-bearing for the functioning of society. Reducing suicide rates for perhaps 1% of population doesn't qualify. Meanwhile, the truth regime required to force everyone else to believe a man is a woman — or at least pretend they do while never ever letting the mask slip — boggles the mind.

Could you get me down with "Transwomen are men, and we all know that, but for therapeutic purposes we will pretend they are not"? Maybe. But that's not what they're demanding.

Arguably the loadbearing structure was the gender roles and sex binary the gender movement is currently torpedoing.

I think the main problem with his article, as with many other similar ones, is that he frames the issue as about determining the Truth about gender and gender identity when in fact for all practical purposes the problem is actually a policy one.

Ultimately, the purpose of philosophy is to find the Truth, not to make policy recommendations. We want to know simply because we want to know; there doesn't have to be anything else to it. If a philosopher's own private blog is not the appropriate venue for disinterested truth-seeking, then where, exactly, should the disinterested truth-seekers go?

At any rate, the truth of a trans person's gender clearly does have policy implications, because I think a sizable number of people, rightly or wrongly, carry around an unarticulated intuitive notion that whether someone actually is a woman has an influence on whether we should treat them as a woman. If the underlying truth of the metaphysical questions had no policy implications, then trans activists would not become so apoplectic when people question their metaphysics.

Ultimately, the purpose of philosophy is to find the Truth, not to make policy recommendations.

But the truth is trivially easy in the trans case. No one on either side is really confused.

Ask any empirical question, and the pro- and anti-trans side can answer all these questions the same way:

  • Can transwomen give birth?

  • Can transmen produce sperm?

  • Do trans-women and -men typically have XX or XY chromosomes?

  • Etc.

The fight over the specific words "woman", "man" and "gender" are shallow side shows in my opinion. They're not really part of any deep philosophical discussion. It's a simple classification question - that's philosophy 101. People are just eager to pounce on a relatively uninteresting part of the debate, because they're so sure that they have the one True definition written on the Tablets of Reality, but unfortunately such tablets don't exist, and we can't consult them even if they did.

Can transwomen give birth?

But what is "birth"? A birth can be stillborn, yes? So what is the difference between expelling a dead clump of fetal cells, and expelling an unfertilized egg during menstruation? And if giving birth is just expelling some group of cells from your body, well, any human can do that...

Can transmen produce sperm?

But what is "sperm"? We already agreed to do away with the non-empirical categories of "man" and "woman" and just focus on what really matters, the genitalia, the organs, etc. So let's simply do away with the non-empirical concept of "cell" and focus on what really matters now, the DNA, the RNA, the ribosome and the other organelles, etc. You see where this is going.

Do trans-women and -men typically have XX or XY chromosomes?

But what is a "Y chromosome"? Suppose I have one mutation on my Y chromosome. And then another, and then another, until it is no longer recognizable as a Y chromosome. Or do we define it in terms of total number of base pairs? Suppose we add one base pair, and then another, and then another, until it's the same length as the X chromosome. At what single point does it stop being the Y chromosome?

This is what frustrates me about Scott's "The categories were made for man" post. It doesn't follow its own premises to their logical conclusion. It spends a lot of time discussing whether a whale is a fish, without acknowledging that the category of "whale" is vulnerable to the same attack that the category of "fish" is. It says that boundaries between categories should be drawn to help "people" fulfill their "goals", but what is a "person", and what is a "goal"? It concludes by making a distinction between "questions about category boundaries" and "questions of fact", but fails to notice that any "statement of fact" will necessarily make reference to categories which are themselves subject to boundary disputes. (Perhaps we might finally hit a rock bottom "natural" categorization when we get to fundamental particles? Even here it's not clear. If a particle is "nothing more" than a fluctuation in a field that pervades spacetime, then one could reasonably argue that they have no independent existence at all, the same way that we don't think of holes or ripples in a piece of fabric as independent objects apart from the fabric itself.)

There is no sharp dividing line between the mushy, subjective, philosophical questions and the hard-nosed, empirical, Just-The-Facts-Please questions. Once you accept the skeptical argument in the case of man vs woman, it runs through everything. Quickly you are lead to the view that there is only the primordial Oneness of reality, about which nothing further can be said; any attempt to speak of anything at all is an equally arbitrary attempt to impose categorical boundaries on the raw unstructured data. This isn't an implausible view, mind you. People should just be aware that this is where the skeptical arguments lead, instead of assuming that there is a natural empirical domain of cells and chromosomes where one can take refuge from philosophical analysis.

Scott's idea of categorization is a pragmatic one, so I'm not sure he would agree that it's all that vulnerable to the attack of "what is a whale?" or "what is birth?"

It might be philosophically unsatisfying, but humans do just tend to categorize things in their environment, and pragmatism is fairly happy to take large swaths of categorization for granted. Something like the category "dog" just naturally emerges from a human interacting with a lot of dogs. Likely for reasons of computational and memory efficiency, we're not the kind of animal that looks at one furry quadruped and treats it as a new and completely unique entity, and then encounters a similar furry quadruped and forgets everything we've learned as we try to learn all the new and unique rules that apply to this separate entity. We find patterns, and one of those patterns is something like what we label "dog."

The boundaries of these spontaneous categories are always fuzzy and ill-defined to start. Then, when humans engage in goal-directed behavior, we take all of these spontaneous categories and find the boundaries that are most important to have a consensus on with respect to that goal-directed behavior.

Why do we have words with well-defined boundaries like "cow", "heifer", "bull", "steer", "cattle", "calf", "milk", "beef", etc.? Because for the art of cattle ranching (which groups a number of goal-directed behaviors together), all of those distinctions are important. A steer can't have offspring, but might be suitable for pulling large equipment. A heifer doesn't produce milk, a cow does. And so on, and so forth.

Just by interacting in the world, humans are going to have a fuzzy version of the "woman" and "man" categories in their heads. Depending on our needs, we can change those fuzzy borders into well-defined ones by looking at what we're using the word for. We're perfectly happy to say that Shakespeare's Othello is a "man", even though he's just a fictional representation of a man. As a fictional character, Othello can't do any of the things usually characteristic of a man - he can't actually breathe, can't eat, can't sleep, and he certainly doesn't produce sperm that could impregnate a real flesh-and-blood woman. We're happy to omit the very important context that "Othello isn't real, and any sentence said about him is about the fictional story he belongs to", because most humans can understand the concept of fiction and don't really need reminding.

I think the distinction between a trans woman and a cis woman is going to emerge at some level of the discussion, because there are goal-directed reasons to make the distinction. If a cis man wants to have his own biological children, then he'll want to impregnate a cis woman and won't have much luck with a trans woman. But... the distinction exists. Even just "trans woman" and "cis woman" captures the distinction pretty well. I think the fight over the specific word "woman" is a distraction. We have "toy bears", which we're happy to call "bears" despite them just being paint and plastic. In a trivia game asking for "famous bears" most of the "bears" will actually be fictional representations of bears, and not flesh-and-blood bears. So, why can't a "trans woman" be a "famous woman" in a trivia game?

I think the distinction between a trans woman and a cis woman is going to emerge at some level of the discussion, because there are goal-directed reasons to make the distinction. If a cis man wants to have his own biological children, then he'll want to impregnate a cis woman and won't have much luck with a trans woman. But... the distinction exists. Even just "trans woman" and "cis woman" captures the distinction pretty well. I think the fight over the specific word "woman" is a distraction. We have "toy bears", which we're happy to call "bears" despite them just being paint and plastic. In a trivia game asking for "famous bears" most of the "bears" will actually be fictional representations of bears, and not flesh-and-blood bears. So, why can't a "trans woman" be a "famous woman" in a trivia game?

I think this starts to raise questions when there's...

I'm not sure how to put this. I think it has something to do with the noncentral fallacy, but thinking about it for a moment I think it's a bit more broad.

I think the audience would feel somewhat cheated if you:

  • Had a list of the "Greatest Admirals Ever", and put Kirk and Ackbar over Nelson and Yi Sun-Sin; or

  • Said you were researching "Oldest bears in the world and how they age" and in actuality you were researching wear-and-tear of bear statues that have lasted for well over a century; or

  • Asserted that the war between the GE vs FPA had "the highest body count ever", and it turns out that it's a fictional war between the fictional Galactic Empire vs the fictional Free Planets Alliance from the fictional Legends of the Galactic Heroes.

Something similar is in play when you celebrate "female achievement" when a trans woman is the first person to break into a field or hold some record, or if you find more trans women than cis women working in some certain company after affirmative action in favour of "women" as a category (I've heard someome mention something about this in tech, but it seems too ridiculous to be true from experiences of tech people I know in the Bay Area. Nevertheless, even as a theroetical example it stands)

It seems to me that these sorts of equivocations only work in very specific circumstances and contexts.

It seems to me that these sorts of equivocations only work in very specific circumstances and contexts.

I think it's largely a function of what is common in a particular social and material environment, and what expectations are common in a particular question-asking environment.

In a culture that's crazy about pigs, the trivia category "Famous Pigs" will probably be about non-fictional pigs. In our culture, where most people hardly interact with real pigs, the names are going to be "Babe", "Piglet", "Wilbur", etc. In both worlds, additional context can disambiguate (e.g. "Famous Literary Pigs" vs. "Famous Real-world Pigs")

I don’t think this works out as well as you suggest. Most people don’t know any pigs, but these same people know hundreds of women at least. The social and material context is simply too different for “most famous pigs” including fictional pigs vs “most famous women” including transwomen.

Like, I don’t have a deep-seated aversion to and am quite open to treating genuine trans people with their “adopted sex”, like I did before the whole trans craze blew up in the last decade, simply as a matter of convenience and kindness. I also think there’s likely a small number of people who are genuinely “trans” in the sense that something has gone wrong in their neurobiology. But I don’t think the reasoning you put out is a strong justification for why we should treat trans women as women.

The transgender being "apoplectic when people question their metaphysics" is purely the result of their requests to be treated as the "gender" they identify with. Society is not discussing whether cis-women are women, so the only way to treat trans-women equally would be to not discuss it either for them. It is a ridiculous expectation, obviously, but it explains why the truth question is so important.

FWIW I think the main problem with his article, as with many other similar ones, is that he frames the issue as about determining the Truth about gender and gender identity when in fact for all practical purposes the problem is actually a policy one.

This distinction is now unworkable, if it ever was

The right question is not 'are transgender men really men' (or in the case of Byrne's essay 'do Transgender people have gender identities that do not match their sex'/'does a mismatch between gender identity and sex cause dysphoria', or more broadly 'what is gender identity'),

If it doesn't matter, why are activists insisting on TWAW and responding so vigorously to anyone who would say otherwise?

This seems like twisting ourselves into a pretzel and frankly it seems like only the activists who want to alternate between running away from the incoherency of their position and insisting on leveraging its metaphysical claims benefit.

why are activists insisting on TWAW and responding so vigorously to anyone who would say otherwise?

Because "woman" isn't a single, unitary concept.. Sometimes it means physical characteristics, sometimes it means social performance, and sometimes it means social validation for meeting whatever definition of "woman" is in other people's heads. Each of these have different logic, and each of these use the same term, though at different times. So given that some of these are extremely important to people, the vehemence is explained. Insofar as some other uses of the term seem ridiculous to care so deeply about, the confusion at the vehemence is also explained.

If society has to live a lie, it certainly is at a higher cost than if it is telling the truth. You cannot train everyone to lie everyday and expect no consequences. (1984 is often presented as a book about mass surveillance, it is actually about truth and lies. "Freedom is the freedom to say that two and two make four, everything else follows".)

So it seems that both questions (the truth of the gender theory and the damages to society) are related.

Personaly, I would comply with anyone's desire to be treated as a woman, a man or anything else. I don't see the point in bothering these people about their personal choices. But if someone asks me out of context, what I think about gender theory, it seems to me it is my duty to say that I don't believe in it (or at least in some of its main points).

And I have no problem with society enforcing more kindness toward trans people, but at some point there must be spaces where we forget any kindness requirements and look coldly at the truth.

If society has to live a lie, it certainly is at a higher cost than if it is telling the truth. You cannot train everyone to lie everyday and expect no consequences.

I think this is a little overdramatic. There are plenty of "lies" that come at very little cost in a society.

Lies like "these people may not be biologically related, but as a legal fiction they are parents and children" or "this person wasn't originally from France and isn't of French ethnicity, but now they're declaring their allegiance to France now so they're French." There are even fairly strong social taboos against pointing out the differences between adoptive parents and naturalized immigrants in most cases.

I think viewing the trans "lie" as particularly pernicious or destructive to society is an isolated demand for rigor.

These are good examples of the 'we define social categories' argument so let's explore them.

Parent and national are multifaceted social categories, additionally with legal requisites based on observable characteristics. There is an element where people might disagree and a negotiation on the boundary decided politically, but there is a substantive requirement for belonging to the category, beyond just the desire to belong to it. You can't self-ID your desired nationality or declare yourself a parent because in both these cases the legal definition takes precedence. Both do have a social and self-ID component (I feel like a US citizen etc) but this does not guarantee membership as far as others are concerned.

The boundary of a legal category is a political negotiation but what we have in the current mileu is an attempt at top down enforcement without negotiation. While widening the definition of nationality does create potential conflicts, over resource allocation and who gets a say, it doesn't create a fundamental rights conflict. Existing nationals maintain all their rights. Widening the category of women does create a fundamental rights conflict because some rights are based on sex, and gender identity seeks to take primacy legally over sex.

There are philosophical distinctions as well, gender is actually parasitic definitionally on sex, whereas nationality is definitionally based on other characteristics.

Sure, but I wasn't proposing a self-ID regime.

I'm okay with legal hoops comparable to adoption or naturalization.

For people who haven't yet undergone the legal hoops, people can still treat them as honorary members of their identified group, the same way people might say, "You might not be my daughter, but I already feel like I'm your mother", or a close friend might say, "You still have some legal hoops to jump through, but you're just as French as anyone else in my book, and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise."

My point was that we already have many malleable socio-legal categories in society that amount to "lies" if taken absolutely literally. I fail to see how legal gender transition poses any notable risk to society's foundation.

I personally would accommodate trans people in their desire to live as the opposite sex if it were a thorough process - the self-ID laws, which my country already has, make accommodation much more difficult.

I would take issue with the lies implication. It's well understood what kind of categories those examples are and there's no issue with understanding, for example, that there are real and meaningful differences between different citizens.

A trans woman in my view is a kind of woman in the social category sense where we can accommodate them in the category- I am free to form my opinion as to what they can know of womanhood in comparison to a biological woman, just as an eighth generation American can contrast themselves to a recent immigrant.

But belonging to a country is a matter of allegiance more than of ethnicity. Would you argue that someone who has never lived in France, doesn't speak french and hates France is actually french just because his biological parents are? And anyway the person is french if society declares her french ( e g with an id or a passport), not if she self identifies as a french person. She can self identify as much as she wants, it won't change anything. The same is true for parenthood : your are the parent of a child if he declares you as his parent, not if you self identify as his parent. It means society expects you to take care of the child. When we think about parent, we think about that more than about the sexual act to make the child.

Transgender identity, on the other side, is meaningless because when we think about women, we think about people with a vagina, two tits, a menstrual cycle, who experienced that from their young age and can bear children. Men are free to wear make up if they want, a lot of men have, it won't make them women. Thinking you can become a woman is like thinking you can become King Charles: either you are born the first son of Elisabeth, or you're not. There is nothing we can do about it, even if you self identify as Charles.

All 3 of the "lies" share the common structure of defining two distinct ideas (gender/sex, legally related/biologically related, nationality/ethnicity) and then, when convenient, implying they are essentially the same thing.

But belonging to a country is a matter of allegiance more than of ethnicity. Would you argue that someone who has never lived in France, doesn't speak french and hates France is actually french just because his biological parents are?

They are ethnically French, but not French by nationality (In the same way a transsexual male is, following the progressive definitions, a "male woman")

But most people would not say either of these things. They would just say this man is French, and the transsexual is a woman. The race/sex is irrelevant, and if you want to know then you have revealed you are a racist who doesn't see immigrants as real French people / a transphobe who doesn't believe transgender women are women.

And anyway the person is french if society declares her french ( e g with an id or a passport), not if she self identifies as a french person. She can self identify as much as she wants, it won't change anything.

But the person never changes their race, just as the transsexual never changes their sex.

The point is that now this person is French by nationality, whilst no one would ever outright claim that she is actually racially French, it would be taboo to mention the fact she is not. The reasoning for this being that it hurts social cohesion.

When we think about parent, we think about that more than about the sexual act to make the child.

I certainly do think about the upbringing aspect, but in my mind (and I think most others') the idea of the child being the genetic offspring of the parent is also an important aspect.

Because of this, whilst I do see an adopted family as being something similar to a family (just as I do see a passing transsexual male as something close to the category of woman), in my mind I certainly perceive that family as "not a real family".

But just as in the case of transsexuality, I would not say this out loud, because of the social taboo, and because it would upset the person to hear this.

Transgender identity, on the other side, is meaningless because when we think about women, we think about people with a vagina, two tits, a menstrual cycle, who experienced that from their young age and can bear children.

Now you've selectively chosen characteristics that correlate to womanhood that cannot be achieved by a transsexual. Just as with the above, I do think of these things when you say the word woman.

But I also think of things like makeup, wearing a bra/panties, having longer hair, speaking in a feminine voice, having sex with men, crying in public, etc.

These are all things which can absolutely be achieved by a transsexual. Just as one could adopt a child that isn't biologically related to them and raise them to be a healthy, happy adult. Just as immigrant can love their new country, be a productive citizen and be elected to the highest ranks of government,

But the trans "woman" is still a male, the adoptive "parent" is still not biologically related to their "child", and the immigrant is still of a distinct race to the indigenous population.

Thinking you can become a woman is like thinking you can become King Charles: either you are born the first son of Elisabeth, or you're not. There is nothing we can do about it, even if you self identify as Charles

This is the rhetorical trick. In the modern framing of sex/gender as distinct concepts, you absolutely do become a woman if you sincerely identify as one. You just never become a female (however it would be transphobic to point out this fact)

But again this is the same thing as with immigrants and adoptive parents. No amount of patriotism will turn you into the native race, and no amount of love and affection to the child will overwrite its DNA.

But you do get to call yourself a citizen of country X and the parent of the child, and it would be forbidden for anyone to mention the way in which you differ from a native or a biological parent (unless they want to argue that the difference makes you superior or somehow more of a parent/citizen)

They are ethnically French, but not French by nationality (In the same way a transsexual male is, following the progressive definitions, a "male woman")

But most people would not say either of these things. They would just say this man is French, and the transsexual is a woman. The race/sex is irrelevant, and if you want to know then you have revealed you are a racist who doesn't see immigrants as real French people / a transphobe who doesn't believe transgender women are women.

I dunno, man. I mean, there's shit like this:

Trans women’s penises are biologically female


Similarly for the rest of your post, I imagine.

The article quotes a transgender actress Indya Moore. I've never heard of her before (despite watching quite a lot of US TV shows) and I imagine she is close to irrelevant.

This definitely doesn't feel reflective of the transgender movement. Indeed, reading the exact quote:

A biologically female penis is a non artificial penis (eg: dildo, vibrator,) that is part of a biological (human) woman’s body. https://t.co/Br8cvs9yfQ

Moore is contradicting the logic of gender ideology. The adjective "female" is supposed to refer to sex not gender, yet here she clearly equates the two, despite the most important principle of the ideology being that sex and gender are completely orthogonal concepts.

Hence I do not think this proves anything. It is just an example of someone misunderstanding, or being more realistic, someone trying to downplay the existence of sex.

I mean, we have less obviously-ridiculous examples that still fit the bill:

No, Trans Women Are NOT ‘Biologically Male’

The Myth of Biological Sex

Which try really really hard to downplay sex even as they don’t explicitly deny it as per Moore, and engage in an absolutely heroic motte and bailey to pretend that “Trans Women Aren’t Biologically Male”, which tells me that progressives aren’t very interested in keeping the “male” part of “male woman” (or “female” part of “female man”, for that matter).

Like:

Most people never have their chromosomes tested. They’re not tested at birth, and they’re not tested at regular check-ups. Unless your doctor suspects that something might be wrong with your chromosomes, you’ll probably never have them tested in your life, and you certainly can’t tell a person’s chromosomes by looking at them.

But you could certainly make an accurate guess!

First thing. I'm not arguing against the fact that you should be polite and kind with trans people. If someone wants to be treated as a woman, I would use "her" and "she" if this is this person's preference. At least when the person is there (but it's exactly the same thing as being polite with someone by calling him Caius Julius, because he thinks he is Caesar). The problem with the transgender activism is that it requires a lot more than that. It requires that I never say what I think to be the truth, even on the internet, and as a general comment (not to offend anyone, but just to state that I don't believe transwomen to be actual women if it's relevant to the conversation). It seems to me that if you transpose your sentence "in my mind I certainly perceive that family as not a real family." to trans people, you would get in trouble in some places (e g reddit). And that is what I call enforcing a lie, and that is what I think is an important issue. Would you comply with your own requirement that "it would be forbidden for anyone to mention the way in which you differ from a native or a biological parent", your entire post could not exist. You need to be able to mention the fact that both differ to build your argument.

By the way, I don't think nationality is a "social version" of ethnicity. It's not in the US, it's not in France, and it's not in most countries. Sure, some countries might decide that their nationality is about ethnicity, just like they can make it about religion. Would you say that someone is or is not "ethnically vaticanese"? Both parenthood and nationality are about law more than about identity. Your nationality gives you some rights, being recognized as a parent gives you some rights. From the political viewpoint, "nationality" and "parenthood" is just those set of rights (anyone who has them is a citizen or a parent). Being a woman gives you no special rights. The only special rights of women are actually rights of females, related to biology, like being accepted in a maternity hospital or competing with people with less testosterone in sports (female sports has never been about gender, but only about biological sex). All the rights that could relate to your gender (like the right to vote) have been extended to women, at least in the West, so being a "legal woman" is not a thing, because a "legal woman" is exactly the same thing as a legal man, as men and women have the same rights.

It seems to me that if you transpose your sentence "in my mind I certainly perceive that family as not a real family." to trans people, you would get in trouble in some places (e g reddit). And that is what I call enforcing a lie, and that is what I think is an important issue.

To be clear, I agree with you that transgender activism enforces a society-wide lie, so I agree that I would get in trouble.

My point is that you would also get in some trouble for saying that an adoptive family isn't a real family (But, thinking about this again, I must concede that you would get into significantly less trouble for it than for saying trans women aren't women)

Would you comply with your own requirement that "it would be forbidden for anyone to mention the way in which you differ from a native or a biological parent", your entire post could not exist. You need to be able to mention the fact that both differ to build your argument.

This feels like a straw man. Throughout the conversation we have implicitly been referring to saying these ideas in general society (in person, reddit, etc).

I can also say that trans women are not women here without facing any repercussions (as can you)

Being a woman gives you no special rights. The only special rights of women are actually rights of females, related to biology, like being accepted in a maternity hospital or competing with people with less testosterone in sports (female sports has never been about gender, but only about biological sex).

But in the advent of transgenderism, many of these "female rights" have now become "women's rights", in the modern conception of the word (a trans woman can compete with a cis woman in many competitive sports, use the women's restroom, go to an otherwise female school/university, etc

This is in direct analogue to how now someone of a non-native race can be a citizen of their new country, and enjoy all the same rights and privileges of any other citizen.

I think the only reason that these feel different to us is because the fact that a nation does not have to be racially homogenous is now well-established, and opposition to that idea is outside of the Overton window.

I believe that in less than 10 years time (if that sounds fast, remember that gay marriage was only legalised in the west about 10 years ago, and nowadays it would be considered unacceptable to even debate the issue) the same thing will happen to transgenderism.

Would you comply with your own requirement that "it would be forbidden for anyone to mention the way in which you differ from a native or a biological parent", your entire post could not exist. You need to be able to mention the fact that both differ to build your argument.

This feels like a straw man. Throughout the conversation we have implicitly been referring to saying these ideas in general society (in person, reddit, etc).

I can also say that trans women are not women here without facing any repercussions (as can you)

The issue is that you are advocating for some rule, such that enforcing the rule would weaken (or void) the case for the rule. And it wouldn't weaken it because it makes it less necessary, but because it forbids some arguments about it. It seems to me it is weird.

What I am trying to say, is that while there is a need for nationality even without ethnicity (even in a world where everyone has exactly the same DNA, there would still be different nations due to cultural and geographical differences), and there is a need for parenthood in a sexless world (assume children are fabricated, they still need people taking care of them), there is no need for genders in a world without biological sex. Genders are all about sex, and that is why transgenderism is a lie. You might say, look, genders are unrelated to sex, they have started to invent other genders than men and women (e.g. non-binary). You are right, but then this path leads absolutely nowhere, excepted in a place where everyone has his own gender because everyone has his own identity. And it is so because gender, outside of biological sex, is absolutely nothing.

Transgenderism is religious dogma taken to its logical extreme. The fundamental thesis of the religion is complete mind body dualism. They see humans as a blank slate sould that randomly attached to a body and thereby has had many constraints and suffering imposed on it. Their goal is to liberate the free soul from the constraints of the physical world. The view can't be understood outside their theology. HBD, genetic explanations for class our sex differences, are the ultimate heresy against their religion. They invalidate the core principle and understanding of their theology. The woke ideology is built on a worldview that free souls were created, they were bound to physical constraints through evil and the march of history is toward liberating the soul.

The more tech Silicon Valley take is that this will be done through genetic engineering/AI/fusion powered utopia. The more social science approach is through "justice".

Academia has fallen into a pit because academia consists of writing commentary to other peoples work. In the social sciences the commentary is to a large extent based on philosophers and thinkers that had ideas that are invalid. Rousseau doesn't live up to scientific scrutiny. Yet the ideas that stem from his thinking aren't tossed out. There needs to be a search algorithm that can search citations iteratively and redact those papers whose fundamental principles are false. Papers built on ideas such as "Existence precedes essence" are wrong since your DNA is at least as old as your existence, since you became you at the point of conception or later.

Wokeism in Academia is theologists arguing about the number of angels on a needle. They are taking religious ideas with weak scientific basis and arguing them to their logical conclusion. Transgender issues are so explosive even though they are marginal issues since they fundamentally are a clash of theology. Theologians could spend centuries arguing about the word "Filoque", we are seeing similar debates today centering around the new religion.

Transgenderism is secular, godless materialism taken to its logical extreme. Its logical conclusion is biological essentialism and determinism. They see humans as animals with an unchangeable "gender-drive" - such that a biological man who wants to be a female must be so out of a material fact of their biology, rather than spiritual confusion or sin. Their goal is to chain humans to their base biological impulses and confusions, rather than liberate the soul to pursue individuality and God's plan. That a young girl might wear male clothing, cut their hair, wrestle, or be uncomfortable with puberty can't be an individual's contingent, flawed exploration of their self, but must be a fact of their biology to be physically treated with medicine.

... of course that isn't true either, it sounds like something a radfem would say, but it seems about as plausible as your claims? The bad parts of trans are maybe in some way analogous to mind-body dualism, but a lot of things are analogous in some ways to a lot of other things, and that doesn't make it one cause. "Liberate the soul from the constraints of the physical world"? What does that have to do with wearing dresses or doing makeup? And no trans people that I know of explicitly claim mind-body dualism, or even hint at it. "My brain is the wrong sex" is claimed to be a physical condition of development causing specific desires to be different, not something about souls. Being very wrong about philosophy and science, and getting mad at those who disagree, doesn't make something a religion, by that standard everyone is religious.

The claim that gender dysphoria, and by extension transgenderism, is explicable by reference to a disorder in the physical substrate (e.g. exposure to unusually high levels of prenatal estrogen/testosterone) is widely seen in the trans community as a "truscum" stance to take. In these circles, arguing that only male people with neurologically "female" brains are truly trans women would likely result in accusations of gatekeeping and denying trans people's "lived experience". In my experience, it's far more common to encounter claims that everyone has a "gender identity" known and knowable only to themselves, completely independent of their underlying neurochemistry, unbeholden to social influences, and that being diagnosed with (or even experiencing) gender dysphoria is not a prerequisite to being authentically trans. Such a conception of what a "gender identity" is seems functionally indistinguishable to the traditional conception of an immaterial soul.

In my experience, the internet trans community is happy to use 'brain scans of trans people are more like desired gender than birth gender' in arguments, which is what I was referring to.

Such a conception of what a "gender identity" is seems functionally indistinguishable to the traditional conception of an immaterial soul

Other than the immateriality part (a gender identity, here, is a set of gender-related perceptions or desires rather than something supernatural), the soul part (no communication with supernatural entities, no life-after-death, no creator, etc), and everything else in the traditional conception? Yes, both gender identity and immaterial soul have big problems, and they are vaguely similar in some ways, but that's not 'functionally indistinguishable'.

In my experience, the internet trans community is happy to use 'brain scans of trans people are more like desired gender than birth gender' in arguments, which is what I was referring to.

Right, but have you ever heard a member of said community arguing that "until someone's divergent neurochemistry has been confirmed by MRI or CT scan, you are not obliged to address them by their preferred pronouns"? Even truscums don't go that far: a clinical diagnosis of gender dysphoria by a psychiatrist (without an expensive MRI or CT scan) is considered sufficient.

In the Internet trans community, the alleged similarities between the brains of trans people and the typical brains of people of their desired sex is treated as an interesting fact, not as a rule-in criteria for who is "really" trans and who isn't.

Right, they pick different arguments in different contexts because their beliefs about what trans is (specifically referring to the All Trans People Are Valid ones) aren't particularly coherent and partially come from a desire to validate other 'trans people'. Trans brain mean trans is real (good), denying hormones on brain scan means an individual trans isn't real (bad). This isn't either materialism or dualism, it's an entirely different thing.

In much the same way that non-consequentialists sometimes reflexively fall back on consequentialist arguments when trying to persuade consequentialists, dualists sometimes resort to monist arguments when trying to persuade monists, even though they themselves are not monists. In the past, I've argued with Christians who've claimed that when you perform brain scans on people in states of religious ecstasy (speaking in tongues etc.), these brain scans look completely different to people having seizures or any other comparable neurological state. I have no idea whether this is true, and in fact whether or not it's true is beside the point: even if this finding was decisively invalidated, it wouldn't impact on these Christians' belief in an immaterial soul or an afterlife one iota. Likewise, trans activists argue that brain scans prove that there's an anatomical basis for gender dysphoria and hence transgenderism, but even if this claim was decisively proven false, that wouldn't actually result in any of the people making the argument to change their minds. In their view, "gender identity" is something fundamental to a person's essence, knowable only to oneself and hence impossible for an outside person to invalidate. This belief doesn't depend on factual evidence from MRI or CT scans; at best, those are just a helpful bonus to bolster a belief which is essentially unfalsifiable.

Their view is that if you say you're trans, you are trans, because denying that would be incredibly mean to a trans person and being trans is cute and valid. There aren't any essences involved. Like, what identity-essences does a genderfluid person have, or someone who wants to be a boy sometimes and a girl at other times? It's just 'you are trans if you say you are and you get to do whatever you feel like', which doesn't seem particularly dualist, just dumb.

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Transgenderism is secular, godless materialism taken to its logical extreme. Its logical conclusion is biological essentialism and determinism. They see humans as animals with an unchangeable "gender-drive" - such that a biological man who wants to be a female must be so out of a material fact of their biology

They don't. They reject any attempt to materially verify whether or not someone actually suffers from dysphoria.

I agree it isn't true, I was inverting OP's argument for effect (see first sentence of second paragraph), but it, like OP's first paragraph, mixes in a bunch of plausible statements with false statements

My point is that OP's statement is more defensible because they are against the material verification of dysphoria. Whether or not their beliefs are true or not is irrelevant to the conversation.

I continue to be presented with 'transgender people are real because brain scan studies' every few weeks in internet arguments! They're against material verification of dysphoria because it bigotedly implies someone isn't trans, not because of a principled metaphysical stance. Material verification is fine when it's wholesome and trans-positive