A paper trail that’s never checked might as well not exist

Update and Action Item: Just since late this afternoon, the Jill Stein campaign has already raised more than $1 million toward requesting hand recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  Their target is $6-7 million.  I just donated what I could; if you agree with this post, then please do the same.  It doesn’t matter at this point if you disagree with Stein, or even (like me) think she shouldn’t have run: the goal is just to get a recount to happen before the deadline expires.

Another Update (11/24): In an amazing demonstration of the power of online fundraising, the Stein campaign has already, in less than 24 hours, raised the $2.5 million needed to fund a recount in Wisconsin.  Now they’re working on Pennsylvania and Michigan.  Amusing that Stein seems finally to have found a winning cause: Hillary!  (“Fighting for Hillary even when Hillary won’t fight for herself.”)  Again: please donate here.

Third Update (11/25):  The recount is on is Wisconsin!  The Stein campaign hasn’t yet filed in Pennsylvania or Michigan, but will do so next.  So, all the commenters who came here to explain to me that this was a scam, no judge would it allow it to go forward, etc.: please update your priors.  And next time, if you won’t listen to me, at least listen to Alex Halderman…

This will probably be my last election-related post.  After this (assuming, of course, that the effort I’m writing about fails…), I plan to encase myself in a bubble, stop reading news, and go back to thinking about quantum lower bounds, as if we still lived in a world where it made sense to do so.  But this is important.

As many of you have probably seen, several of the US’s top computer security experts, including my former MIT colleague Ron Rivest and my childhood friend Alex Halderman, have publicly urged that an audit of the US election take place.  But time is quickly running out.  If, for example, the Clinton campaign were to request a hand recount, the deadlines would be this Friday in Wisconsin, Monday in Pennsylvania, and next Wednesday in Michigan.  So far, alas, the Clinton campaign seems to have shown little interest, which would leave it to one of the third-party candidates to request a recount (they have the legal right too, if they can come up with the money for it).  In the meantime, I urge everyone to sign a petition demanding an audit.

For me, the key point is this: given the proven insecurity of electronic voting machines, an audit of paper ballots ought to be completely routine, even if there weren’t the slightest grounds for suspicion.  In this particular case, of course, we know for a fact (!!) that Russian intelligence was engaging in cyber-warfare to influence the US election.  We also know that Russia has both the will and the technological ability to tamper with foreign elections using vote-stealing malware—indeed, it nearly succeeded in doing so in Ukraine’s 2014 election.  Finally, we know that Trump, despite losing the popular vote, surprised just about everyone by outperforming his polls in three crucial swing states—and that within those states, Trump did systematically better in counties that relied on electronic voting machines than in counties that used scanners and paper ballots.

Nate Silver has tweeted that he sees no evidence of foul play, since the discrepancy disappears once you control for the education level of the counties (for more, see this FiveThirtyEight article).

But that’s the thing.  In a sane world, skeptics wouldn’t need to present statistical proof of foul play in order to trigger a hand count.  For if enemy actors know that, in practice, hand counts are never going to happen, then they’re free to be completely brazen in tampering with the childishly-insecure electronic voting machines themselves.  If no one ever looks at them, then the paper records might as well not exist.

Would anyone in the 1950s or 60s have believed that, a half-century hence, Russia actually would acquire the terrifying power over the US that the right-wing Cold Warriors once hyperventilated about—sometimes choosing to exercise that power, sometimes not—and that 2016’s conservatives would either shrug or welcome the development, while the only people who wanted to take reasonable precautions were a few rabble-rousing professors and activists?

Fate has decided that we should live in a branch of the wavefunction where the worst triumph by flaunting their terribleness and where nothing makes sense.  But however infinitesimal the chances anyone will listen, we should still insist that the sensible things be done—if nothing else, then simply as a way to maintain our own mental connection to the world of sense.

Happy Thanksgiving.

143 Responses to “A paper trail that’s never checked might as well not exist”

  1. Alan Aspuru-Guzik Says:

    Jill Stein is fundraising to ask for a recount.
    I donated to the effort. Cheers Scott!


  2. Sean Carroll Says:

    Completely agree. Recounts should be automatic, at least for every election within 5%. They should be paid for by the government. Every ballot should leave behind a physical artifact, not just an electronic memory.

    But I think/hope this won’t be the last election-related post. I suspect we’re going to need to keep raising a ruckus about all sorts of things for quite a while to come.

  3. dameprimus Says:

    Thanks for addressing this. Interestingly enough, Jill Stein has taken notice and wants a recount:


    It feels like watching TV series in which the secondary antagonist comes grudgingly comes back to help the hero defeat the final villain.

  4. Susannah Goodman Says:

    Lovely. . “The best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity.” (Yeats -The Second Coming.) Thank you for this clear eyed post.

  5. Scott Says:

    Thanks so much, everyone! I added an update about the Jill Stein fundraiser to the top of the post.

  6. Sara Robinson Says:

    Do we know that there are paper records of the electronic votes?

  7. Scott Says:

    Sara #6: Apparently there are in Michigan, Wisconsin, and some Pennsylvania counties but not others.

  8. quax Says:

    It is of course a cliche that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. But it also happens to be true. I understand and sympayhize with your urge to focus on research and ignore the news, and of course you have a responsibility to your students and the university, but I still implore you to remain vigilant.

    You have some pull in the nerdsphere, please continue to use it.

  9. David Karger Says:

    I don’t trust Stein and I doubt the recount will ever happen . She’s fundraising for the Green Party, I certainly don’t want to end up supporting her after her performance during/impact on the election season.

  10. Scott Says:

    Sean #2 and quax #8: Ok, I inserted the word “probably” into the sentence “This will be my last post about the election.” 🙂

    I vacillate between thinking that the goal is to save civilization, vs. thinking civilization is doomed and the goal is just to get the aliens picking through the rubble to nod with respect at how much math and physics we managed to figure out before the end.

  11. Sniffnoy Says:

    the goal is just to get the aliens picking through the rubble to nod with respect at how much math and physics we managed to figure out before the end.

    This is tangential, but: I’m wondering how much other people out there also think in terms of “alien archaeologists”. I totally do. And on the rare occasion I’ve mentioned it to other people they’ve said similar things or instantly gotten what I was saying. But it generally isn’t something you hear anyone talking about; I’m wondering if (like the common nerd idea that it’s morally wrong to make a good first impression) it’s one of those things that people reinvent a lot but don’t really talk about.

  12. amy Says:

    Donated. Came to see if you’d posted about this, glad you have. Keep posting about it, please, and if we can hear more about the discussion behind the call for the audit, that’d be very nice.

  13. amy Says:

    As a poke in the “keep posting” direction: in fact-checking a rhetorical point I was making in a facebook argument I don’t havae time for, I wound up reading about the fate of the Romanian Jews, 1941-1944. If you want sobering and purpose-reminding-of, you could do worse. Bring a very large drink.

  14. Me Says:

    Thanks Scott for your post.

    The onus of the proof should be on election officials to demonstrate, within reasonable doubts, that vote were tallied faithfully. It has always made an impression on me that the most virulent critics of electronic voting were computer scientists, not electoral board officials. It is also beyond my grasp why the deadline for recount falls so quickly after the election ? Late recounting should not call for more logistics – in terms of ballot storage – than early voting.

    As an intellectual exercise, I wonder if cryptographers could devise something like a voting blockchain ? I imagine a protocol so that every vote is handed a paper record that contains a cryptographic key. After the election, the voter could download the voting ledger, add his key and verify algorithmically that his vote was properly tallied.

  15. Boaz Barak Says:

    I agree that the security of voting machines leaves much to be desired, and routine audits would be very welcome, but this is true for elections in general and not just this particular one. Note that givem the pre election polls, any coordinated effort to sway the elections to Trump would have had to be absolutely massive and involving many different states.

    It is important that election results are correct but it is no less important that they are timely, final and that there is a peaceful transition of power. After all, when you have millions of angry people in a country, you’d rather them vent their anger in the ballot box. (Though I admit I wish a few less of them did so.)

  16. Richard Gaylord Says:

    “For me, the key point is this: given the proven insecurity of electronic voting machines, an audit of paper ballots ought to be completely routine, even if there weren’t the slightest grounds for suspicion.”. a bit more honesty here would be appropriate. you want a recount in the desperate hope that the election results can be changed. if Trump had lost and wanted a recount, i doubt very much that you would have been in favor of it. Hillary is simply accepting the results as did Nixon when he lost to Kennedy and Gore (eventually) when he lost to Bush. Changing the election results would be a disaster, possibly a catastrophe, when the matter eventually reached SCOTUS. it would politicize and delegitimize SCOTUS beyond repair. and ultimately, it is only the acceptance of the decisions of SCOTUS that keeps this unique form of government viable. btw -i’m glad this will be your last political post. i much prefer reading your technical comments than your whining about the election or the political leaning of the state where you have chosen to live.

  17. Scott Says:

    David Karger #9: It looks like they’ve already raised the money for the Wisconsin recount; now they’re working on Michigan and Pennsylvania.

    I don’t like having to place my hopes in (and open my wallet for) someone whose greatest contribution to saving human civilization would’ve been to drop out of the race, and throw her support behind Hillary. But the Stein campaign has been completely clear and explicit that this money is exclusively for funding recounts in as many states as possible, and funding other election integrity efforts with whatever is left over. If they used the money for other Green Party stuff, I believe it would be actionable. At this point, if Bozo the Clown has a plan to challenge the election results, my first questions are how much he needs and where to donate.

  18. Scott Says:

    Richard #16: Look, there are two possible outcomes from a recount of paper ballots.

    The first, likelier outcome is an explicit confirmation that Trump won “fair and square” (well, modulo the suppression of millions of student and minority votes, the intervention of Russian intelligence in hacking the DNC emails and of James Comey, and of course the shameful anachronism of the Electoral College itself). Would Trump supporters prefer not to have that confirmation?

    The second outcome is that we discover that Russia, or some other power, was indeed hacking the election. Again: conditioned on that being true, are you seriously claiming that it’s better not to find out? If that’s what we believe, then Russia has open season on all our future elections. (Indeed, even if Russia chose not to hack this particular election, beyond breaking into the DNC emails, they’ve obviously been watching it closely, and a timid, heads-in-the-sand response from us would embolden them to hack future ones.)

    And yes, of course I feel a moral obligation to support any peaceful and legal effort, however long its chances, to pull my country back from the brink of what I regard as national self-destruction. I’d feel the same way if the US were under attack by a hostile foreign power (as, in at least in a limited sense, and perhaps in a larger sense, we are).

    It’s certainly rich for Trump supporters, who all but pledged not to accept the results of the election if they lost, now to blame Hillary supporters for wanting to raise their own funds for a peaceful recount in accordance with state election law in the opposite case.

    But in any case, as an admirer of Alex Halderman since we were both 12 years old, I’ve been a strong supporter of election integrity, paper trails, and audits since long before the current catastrophe—search this blog’s archives if you don’t believe me! And if you don’t think I’d support a general law, or even a Constitutional amendment, to modernize the election process (with paper trails, mandated audits, all procedures open to inspection by computer security experts, uniform national standards for voter registration, number of polling places and early voting days, etc., and abolition of the Electoral College)—despite the possibility that any of those reforms could help Republicans as well as Democrats—then try me!

  19. Dan J. Says:

    Sean Carroll #2: In your blog post on November 7, 2016 you said, “He [Trump] has repeatedly cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election outcome, implying that he would refuse to accept the result if he lost.”. You characterized this position as “attacks on (small-“d”) democratic norms and values”.

    Assuming your comment #2 is not an attack on democratic norms and values, it appears to contradict what you claimed in your earlier blog post. Please clarify.

  20. Scott Says:

    Boaz #15:

      Note that given the pre election polls, any coordinated effort to sway the elections to Trump would have had to be absolutely massive and involving many different states.

    Have you looked into the research from Alex’s group? They, and others, have actually written code that silently copies itself between USB sticks and voting machines (the real deployed models), hides until Election Day (never showing up in pre-election tests), alters the totals in a way that arouses as little suspicion as possible, and then deletes itself without a trace. It’s no longer a hypothetical that such code could be written. And we now know an upper bound on the effort required, and with skilled coders, it’s not large.

      It is important that election results are correct but it is no less important that they are timely, final and that there is a peaceful transition of power. After all, when you have millions of angry people in a country, you’d rather them vent their anger in the ballot box. (Though I admit I wish a few less of them did so.)

    So, OK, imagine you knew for a fact that the election results were hacked. In such a case, would you argue that the information should be suppressed, since its getting out might have terrible consequences, and prevent a timely and peaceful transition of power?

    For me, it’s not that this worry is unfounded. Rather it’s that, if this is our attitude, then malicious actors have carte blanche to rig elections, backed by the threat of violence should the election results be challenged. (In other words, the usual situation in the world’s various dictator-run hellholes.)

  21. amy Says:

    Scott, I think the stakes are actually higher than national self-destruction.

    I’m looking at who Trump’s setting up as a Cabinet, and this is all Christian-supremacist stuff. The idea, it seems to me, is to denude what’s left of the vast middle of the country, make it as stupid as possible, and leave it with nothing but a Bible to read and the church or the military as a career, maybe with bonuses for large families. Parts of the country are quite resistant to evangelism, but the bible belt’s much larger than it used to be; I didn’t used to live in it, but I do now, in what used to be the progressive upper midwest. In that large swath, intensifying evangelism will go over just fine, I think. We have no culture of actual religious wars, here, but between the evangelized military and the supremacists, I can see them trying to start one. At which point the blue archipelago or parts of it stage a tax revolt, or try to leave, or do whatever they have to do to try to get the hell away from the disaster that keeps coming around to eat money; at which point there’s an actual war, including war with Canada or whoever’s an ally in the blue secession — assuming Canada’s Liberal government survives the influx of refugees and immigrants from nationalistic-drumbeat countries everywhere.

    And then it’s a global face-off, fascists v. liberals again, only this time the liberals are squeezed into some very tiny, wealthy territory in dots around the globe, and the alliances become very strange and unstable, and it all strikes me as a very bad idea.

    When you step back a million miles and look at it that way, it seems to me that story’s a function not of globalization but of the thing so many economists warned about: rapidly deepening and precipitous inequality. The money’s retreated to tiny patches of land and the brains followed, and what’s left between those patches is rural and rustbelt slums. Meaning that there is no actual way of maintaining liberal democracies in those little wealthy blue patches; they’re the equivalent of South American private-army enclaves, and they’ll have the insanities peculiar to those enclaves and be quite brutal. One thing they won’t do is start spreading the wealth around again and giving people a reason to think about something other than God.

    Okay, I have to get some sleep. Anyway, the audit campaign is funded, initial steps anyhow.

  22. amy Says:

    Oh. As for the “what could go wrong” in the audit scenario, my fear is this: the results say that yes, there probably was tampering, but Trump still won. At that point the only part that matters is “Trump still won”, the tampering is legitimized, and we carry it into the next election as nbd.

  23. Edan Maor Says:

    On the one hand, I absolutely think recounting the votes is a good thing to do – both practically, for all the reasons Scott wrote above, but also for the precedent, where we want to raise the cost of trying to tamper in elections (preferably prohibitively).

    On the other hand, this absolutely, 100% looks like a partisan effort to deny the election results, which is exactly what people were afraid that Donald Trump would do.

    So I’m left wondering – wouldn’t the “correct” approach be, instead of funding a specific effort now, to instead fund a foundation that will automatically pay for all vote recounts going forward? I mean, I’d expect the government itself to do this, but if it isn’t, this can be financed privately.

    The important thing isn’t just to check these results (although it is important!). The important thing is to make checking the results the automatic, accepted thing to do.

  24. Rafael Says:

    Scott, I learned a lot here regarding computation, philosophy, quantum physics and even agreed on the Signs movie, the sceptical position about conspiracy theories and enjoyed a lot the lectures shared as PDFs here. The impression I had almost every time that I’ve entered here was “wow, I have a phD, but this guy is a genius, I struggle to understand a lot of what I read”.

    But regarding Politics, even though I’m sorry for the overall results of American election, it’s funny how most of you are getting hysterical on thinking that the world is going to end or believing the low probable event of Russians hacking your machines (conspiracy theory, again?). You’re going to be fine. Do what you excel on doing and avoid the news. Again, you’re going to be fine.

  25. Scott Says:

    Edan Maor #23, and others: There seems to be a feeling, shared by many well-meaning people, that “when they go low, we have to go high.” I.e., even though Trump, for possibly the first time in American history, refused in advance to agree to accept the election outcome—without the slightest grounds for suspecting malfeasance—still, we need to show that we’re better than him, by not funding a recount that ought to be standard practice anyway, even though in our case, we actually know that Russian intelligence was interfering in the election to Trump’s favor, and merely don’t know the extent.

    (Incidentally, I’ve never been a big believer in Freudian projection, but it’s interesting how every single charge Trump levels at his opponents—that they call people nasty names, lack the temperament to be president, exploit their positions for personal gain, refuse to respect the election outcome, etc. etc.—has been ten billion times truer of himself.)

    I’d say the trouble is this: it only makes sense to hold back, for the sake of preserving a general norm, if the norm still exists at all. If someone is punching everyone in the face, then they’ve already destroyed the norm of nonviolence, and reporting that person to the police—i.e., doing whatever you legally can to stop him, even though it’s not “nice”—is an admirably restrained response.

    In this particular case, the idea that Democrats will “destroy their credibility” by pressing for a recount is particularly laughable. How much did it hurt Trump’s credibility when he promised rioting if he lost? How can anyone, after the staggering experience of this election, possibly defend the idea that the voters will reward you for being polite and restrained and respecting democratic norms? Exactly the opposite now seems to be true: voters will reward you if they think that you “fight bare-knuckled,” quite independently of whatever it is you’re fighting for.

    So yes, absolutely, let’s fund a foundation to make recounts automatic in future elections, at least in those states where individual voters are allowed to pay for recounts. But none of that will matter if the US doesn’t have future elections worthy of the name! So let’s also discharge our moral obligation to history right now: namely, to throw anything we legally and peacefully can into a last-ditch attempt to stop a takeover of the country by the exact thing our founding documents were designed to prevent.

  26. Émile Jetzer Says:

    Stein doesn’t have ground to demand a recount, and as such the fundraising campaign will not work. I suggest going through attorney Andrew Torres’ Twitter timeline, at http://twitter.com/patorreslaw. The topic will probably be addressed in the Opening Arguments (http://twitter.com/openargs) podcast as well.

  27. Scott Says:

    Émile #26: That’s one lawyer’s opinion of what the word “aggrieved” means. Personally, I would’ve thought that any US citizen would have standing to consider himself or herself an “aggrieved party”—aggrieved about Russian intelligence agencies likely changing the outcome of a US election, through the email releases if nothing else, and particularly about the failure to institute basic safeguards that computer security researchers have begged for against outright vote-stealing. (And of course, in a sane world, election audits would be completely automatic, or at the least, could be requested for any reason by any citizen willing to fund them.)

    Still, if the recount request were denied, I wonder if the Stein campaign could go to the Clinton campaign and say, “look, we’re putting up all of the money; we just need you to file for us”? If Clinton refused that, it would be to her eternal shame.

  28. murmur Says:

    I wonder, why not recount in Minnesota and New Hampshire even though the results there were pretty close. What can be their difference with Michigan/Wisconsin/Pennsylvania?

  29. jonas Says:

    @Scott, re #18: See V. T. Toth’s take on this at https://spinor.info/weblog/?p=8133 . Apparently he agrees with Richard Gaylord in that if the original results are that Hillary won, but tampering in the voting machines has made it seem like Trump has won, then at this late point it is better if people don’t find out about that. (This doesn’t apply in the case when someone has been tampering with the machines, but Trump has won anyway regardless of the tampering.)

  30. jonas Says:

    > encase myself in a bubble, stop reading news, and go back to thinking about quantum lower bounds

    That sounds great, and often I’m also trying to live in a bubble and not pay attention to the local politics. But I thought if you are raising a daughter, then there are some practical concerns that apply to you and that have to find out from outside the bubble, especially information relevant to education and healthcare for her.

    Also, I hope your bubble is large enough that mathematics other than quantum computing lower bounds is inside it.

  31. Scott Says:

    Jonas #29: So the argument is, if one side uses fraud to win power, then we need to prevent the fraud from ever being discovered, since it would interfere with a peaceful transition of power. Which means: all future elections should become voting machine hack-a-thons, and we might as well rename the country the Democratic People’s Republic of America. At some point decent people are going to have to decide: peace at what price? Is a takeover of American democracy by a hostile foreign power, if that were shown to be what we were dealing with, something to peacefully acquiesce to?

  32. JimV Says:

    Donated – thanks for the post and the donation link.

    This not about being a sore loser (although that’s exactly what I am). If it only discourages future efforts to hack votes (due to the possibility of being found out by audits) it seems worth doing to me.

  33. Scott Says:

    Jonas #30: Of course, eventually reality will pop the bubble, as it always does. But if I don’t create at least a temporary bubble, then I won’t be able to go on with life.

    And believe me: even before Trump, I had wondered about the morality of bringing kids into a world with so much horribleness, and which shows every sign of heading toward an environmental cataclysm. But then I thought about the game theory: if every decent person reasons that way, then only horrible people will have kids, and they’ll instill horrible values in them, and the horrible will inherit the earth. I hope to raise Lily, and whatever future kids I have, into people who can make a positive contribution, standing up for the values of reason, enlightenment, etc even if (as I expect) there are very dark times ahead.

  34. amy Says:

    DPRA doesn’t really sound fancy enough for that crowd.

    As for the projecting: it’s a standard abusive-guy technique, and as soon as I watched him going at HRC in the second debate, I thought, holy shit, pay attention to whatever he accuses her of, because that’s what he’s doing. So I started wondering about the election as soon as — from nowhere — he started talking about the election’s being rigged. It’s the kind of accusation that makes the other party crazy, because it sounds completely crazy, and then the focus is on proving that you’re innocent of this crazy thing. Of course you’re innocent of this crazy thing: it’s meant to be a distraction and an offensive move.

    And as the results came in I also started worrying that he had a guy like Thiel on his team, because some weeks earlier I’d thought, “You know, a guy like this doesn’t just drop some money and go home. This guy plays to win.” But all you heard about was dropping some money, cryptically defending the choice, and going home. And I thought, something’s not right there.

  35. Jr Says:

    Can foreigners donate to the recount effort?

  36. Scott Says:

    Jr #35: Good question. If not, then presumably the website will say something to prevent you from doing it.

  37. Boaz Barak Says:

    Scott, I believe that Alex’s research is important and should inform both voting technology and audit strategy in all elections.
    If evidence is found of fraud or hacking then it should be thoroughly investigated.
    But tying these issies to this election only makes the CS researchers seem partisan and makes it less likely to get bipartisan support for such efforts.

    Anyway, happy thanksgiving, and lets hope that Donald Trump turns out not as terrible as we both fear.

  38. Edan Maor Says:

    Scott #25: I think we basically agree on most points. Yes, recounts should happen automatically, and yes, even if they don’t, a recount should certainly happen in this election, and yes, I think the stakes are higher in this election than in others.

    The only thing I think we disagree about is whether “democrats” still need to preserve credibility, or whether Donald Trump’s actions have made that either unnecessary (because he’s so “bad”), or because his actions have proven that it doesn’t matter anyway.

    I think we shouldn’t mix up Trump the candidate, and *some* of the groups that were pro-Trump, with the majority of the population. I think plenty of people are “reasonable”, or at least persuadable. Lots of people really, honestly believed that Trump and Clinton were comparably bad. Trying to reach out to these people and proving “our” side is the right thing to do. And while I agree that President Trump raises the probability of “dark times ahead”, it’s not 100% – we do need to care about the case where Trump is more-than-averagely bad, but is not so terrible that he destroys American democracy itself, in which case replacing him in 4 years is the “easy” way to get rid of him. For that, you need credibility

    Note: I don’t live in the States, so I’m guessing about how “average people” feel, on both sides, mostly based on online conversations and reading.

  39. Scott Says:

    Boaz #37: I’ll give thanks for life, health, family and friends, the warm welcome we received from so many in Austin, and the millions of decent people who’ve stood up against autocrats now and in the past, who often lost but (incredibly) sometimes won. And I’ll express a hope: that as long as I live, I never be placed into any position where I “need to appear non-partisan,” or speak for any entity other than myself. Let that be left to those who are able! 🙂

  40. David Karger Says:

    Maybe now that *both* sides are calling the election “rigged”, we could, *after* the whole recount brouhaha blows over, finally get some concerted action to improve the reliability of the process? Any idea how to seed that now, while people are riled up, so that it doesn’t get forgotten when the urgency goes away?

  41. amy Says:

    Edan #38: that’s simply madness. Trump — even if you ignore his entire history before the race — spent nearly two years attacking immigrants, Mexicans, women, black people. Threatening people left and right with jail, attacking journalists. To great hurrahs. In public, broadcast to all, inescapable unless you were in a complete media blackout. Voting for Trump meant deciding that none of that really mattered, that a guy like that would make a fine president anyhow. There is no other way to put it.

  42. A Says:

    Obama lost taxs by 1.2 million votes while Clinton only lost by 800000 votes.

    Clinton had more margin in California than Obama.

    Inspite of these Trump had more votes in 48 states than Clinton.

    I think this is highly unlikley.

    Any statisticians here to calculate the likelihood?

  43. quax Says:

    Edan #38, have to fully concur with amy on this, I don’t think you have any idea what kind of “political culture” Trump unleashed on America.

    Go to a site like zerohedge.com that until recently was mostly hardcore libertarian, focused on market analytics. The comment sections there have been taken over by people who blatantly advocate Nazism. And I mean the hardcore variant. I.e. Poland provoked Hitler into the war, and it was all a Jewish conspiracy to begin with.

    I noted that this kind of thinking gained credence on some investment related sites even before Trump. But only now has the scope of this movement become apparent.

    If you aren’t frightened than you aren’t paying attention.

  44. Michael Says:

    @A- Trump had more votes in THIRTY states than Clinton.

  45. James Miller Says:

    Nate Silver Tweeted “Not saying this Jill Stein thing is a scam, but if it were a scam, it would probably look a lot like this.”

  46. Scott Says:

    James #45: My understanding is, they’re going to go to judges in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan within the next few days and request recounts. If the judges invent some ground to deny the requests, then they’ll donate the money to election integrity efforts. This is a pretty specific promise, testable within the next week. If it didn’t happen, I’d consider myself to have been defrauded, and would be glad to join a class-action suit against the Stein campaign.

  47. amy Says:

    quax #43 — I always thought zerohedge was just one corner of it, and I spent years yelling about the organizing platform sites like reddit and twitter and even fb were becoming for neo-Nazis, essentially. Always got shouted down by the free-speech-fundamentalist SV guys who had trouble imagining themselves vulnerable to anything. It’s why I thought it was so bizarre that the people calling for YC to disassociate itself from Thiel were upset by him: they were perfectly fine with the openly misogynist white-supremacy stuff on reddit, and tended to switch tracks in what I thought was a weird rhetorical move if you criticized its burgeoning white-supremacist mode: talking as though it was a therapeutic matter and that the victims had some sort of private feeling of being misunderstood. Very weird in an Esalen mode. You wonder where the hell their line was if Thiel suddenly set them off.

    I did at one point try to get SPLC engaged in it, but they had no idea how to go at the problem with lawyers, so they just left it alone.

  48. amy Says:

    Reporting once again from the formerly progressive upper midwest, where Christian rock and Christian manliness married to Babbittry are once again in vogue on campus: I think this article’s probably the clearest speech I’ve heard so far on the “try to understand” impulse. And, as someone who grew up with one foot in an Orthodox Jewish community, I can vouch for its accuracy about fundamentalisms more generally.


  49. A Says:


    Obama in 2012 led by 5 million votes overall. Since CA he led by 3 million and TX he lost by 1.25 million in remaining 48 states he led by 3.25 million.

    Clinton in 2016 leads by 2.1 million votes overall. Since CA she leads by 3.8 million and TX she lost by 0.8 million in remaining 48 states she is losing by 0.9 million votes.

    This is a swing of 4.15 million.

    Population that voted for the two parties in remaining 48 states in 2012 is 106 million while population that voted for the two parties in remaining 48 states in 2012 is same at 106 million.

    You are looking at a 4% shift when the incumbent party is sound economically. There was not this much pickup in white vote. This was my point. I may very well be very wrong.

  50. Mikko Kiviranta Says:

    Jr #35: Unfortunately not. Only after you’ve filled your personal details, the web form reveals the Contribution Rules, #1 of which is that you must be either a U.S. citizen or a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States.

  51. vzn Says:

    hey scott agree with you that this is a highly troublesome election both in the result and the possibility of “irregularities”. am frustrated that in our supposedly advanced/ leading democracy we are still left to wring our hands and be a bit paranoid over whether votes are getting counted accurately. it seems sometimes election boxes are also the ultimate in “black boxes”. am really wishing maybe there were some improvements that could be made with technology eg cryptographic systems in particular. and what do you think about all the so-called “fake news” circulating on facebook? is russia involved? decided to write it all up in a blog with lots of research/ links & hope concerned others will drop by.


  52. Scott Says:

    amy #47: If the problem is just that white supremacists can use Facebook and Twitter and Reddit to organize the same way anyone else can use them, then I don’t see any remedy for the problem that’s compatible with a free society. Yes, we could’ve pressured Facebook to do better with its news algorithm, and other voluntary interventions around the edges, but the main thing we need to do (or rather—needed to have done; now it’s probably too late) is to prevent these people from gaining political power. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see that hate speech laws in Europe have done much to arrest the growth of far-right nationalist parties there—on the contrary, such parties feed off censorship; it’s part of their ammunition.

    Maybe someday, someone will create an epistocracy that could serve as a better line of defense against takeovers by the know-nothings. Failing that, the only thing I see to do is fight for more and better democracy (no Electoral College, selective disenfranchisement of minorities, etc), which also would’ve kept Trump out of power in this election, and Bush out of power in 2000. And if democracy really does lead (as it can) to a clear majority deciding that the country should have no place for Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, etc—in that case, what becomes most important is that the targeted populations have some other country to flee to. If their leaving contributes to impoverishing the country that expelled them, so much the better.

  53. quax Says:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see that hate speech laws in Europe have done much to arrest the growth of far-right nationalist parties there.

    The problem is that much to the frustration of German politicians Facebook has pretty much ignored the German hate laws. Merkel even brought it up in person with Zuckerberg to no avail. And now he is sued over it:


  54. OiledGuruLyle Says:

    Scott#52/amy#47: I think there is a deeper problem than just the internet giving white supremacy an easy way to organize. Positive organization and positive contributions are difficult to achieve, even with the internet, but inherently destructive movements become far easier. Whoever the groups were that spent the past 2 years stirring up hatred and making the internet increasingly vitriolic, the web’s anonymity and relative lack of consequences make their job far easier than the job of groups that encourage civil discussion. Hate speech is just one particularly nasty face of this tendency for netizens to tear things down. Online shaming campaigns(*) are another aspect of this, as are a lot of “popular revolution” or “spring” movements across the world.

    With suggestions of foreign hacking thrown into the mix, it’s starting to seem like the internet is turning into an incredibly effective way to destabilize states and turn neighbors against each other. I do not know how to reverse this trend, and it seems like it will only get worse since there’s no way to stop the breakneck pace of technological progress. We need more of these silicon valley geniuses (and more of the SV middle-of-the-line folks too!) to think about about and work on mitigating this problem, but without a major economic incentive, I just don’t see it happening.

    (*) I’m a first time poster here, but Scott’s shy nerd blog post really hit home with me when I read it years ago. I’ve been in a great place in life for the past few years, but there was a time when I felt very very similar. The shaming campaign that followed seriously harmed my image of and willingness to join parts of the progressive movement. I’m glad to see Scott made it through okay.

  55. Elliott Says:

    I 100% agree to a recount, for the non-conspiracy reasons stated.
    I 100% agree that we should be checking to see to what extent Russia hacked whatever.
    I think that Electors have the right to be unfaithful.
    I think that Trump has the right to not promise anything before knowing what’s going to happen (RE: the election results).

    From all accounts, the previous 4 elections had obvious election rigging, and this election does not have obvious election rigging. If there was election rigging, it’s subtle. We know for a fact that Hillary’s team rigged the DNC primaries, so I was expecting a lot of obvious rigging in Hillary’s favor. Like, for example, on the first day of early voting in Texas, where the voting machines had to be replaced with paper ballots in some counties because they were clearly rigged in Hillary’s favor. After that event, I didn’t find any other instances of obvious rigging.

    I think this is the least-rigged election in 20+ years, and I think the reason this is the least rigged election in 20+ years is because: 1) Leftist media was f*ing stupid in their analysis of the polls, which made Hillary think she was going to win in a landslide; and 2) Trump called out the possibility of election rigging before the election, which made it more difficult to rig.

    I’m not going to donate to a recount because I think this case will cause the opposite of my desired result of a recount: to set the precedent of always doing a recount.
    I think this because the people trying to push for a recount this time are reactionary people who would have demonized Trump for pushing for a recount if the roles were reversed. Reactionary people set a negative precedent.

    Still, I agree with the concept of a recount, and I wish Jill Stein luck in getting a recount to happen.

  56. BPP = NEXP Says:

    Given that Democrats don’t have the power to amend the constitution to get rid of the anachronistic electoral college system, one non-hypothetical debate they’ll need to have before 2020 is whether to make their presidential primary a national popular vote among registered party members. The disadvantage would be tipping the scales in favor of contenders able to raise money for national advertising rather than grassroots support and town hall campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, but the advantage would be more democracy (no superdelegates or caucuses that disallow secret ballots).

  57. Paul Beame Says:

    For anyone who thinks recounts never change anything, there is the fun example of the 2004 Washington state governor’s race. See the Wikipedia article about the race.

    This was a difference of only a few hundred votes out of 2.7 million but it included a batch of a few hundred ballots discovered as uncounted during the original tally and a final manual count (on top of an electronic recount) that increased the total tallies for the candidates by over 4000 votes. That’s roughly .15% of the original vote total.

    The vote total was pretty close to the total this time in Wisconsin and it could give some estimate of the kinds of differences that we could expect when recounts happen and it is a lot less than the nearly 74000 vote swing needed to change the outcome there. (That would require many more uncounted ballots than the margin – the 2004 example of 4000 uncounted votes yielded only around a 400 vote swing.)

    That all being said, the process of counting carefully certainly gives impetus to “improve” processes even if they don’t change outcomes.

  58. amy Says:

    Scott #52, if men were debate-club angels, I’d shrug and say “of course” to radical free speech in societies. But they aren’t: they’re on the whole not particularly thoughtful, they’re frequently dishonest, they’re not good with numbers and abstractions, and they like to shout in mobs, and then they get tired of just shouting. So I think it is good societal housekeeping to do one’s best to reduce the frequency of angry little nucleating phrases by keeping them marginalized and sounding not-done, not-like-us, to most of society. Earnest argument will not keep them marginalized, but I think the law, abetted by the schools, actually did a nice job of it in Germany before online life began for most.

    We were like that 20 years ago, and then tens, hundreds of millions of us in the US went to live in an online cesspool, which started out shocking, and then wasn’t. And now we have Nazis congregating in a federal building and sieg-heiling their freshly elected leader.

    Even now, if the major social-networking sites had people at the top who had their backgrounds in government, political science, sociology, history, rhetoric — rather than tech, tech, tech and fealty to highly naive, even adolescent notions of how societies work and ought to work — they could fix the problem that’s just been noticed: the swamping of news by propaganda. The web was custom-built for propaganda (I’ll repost here something I wrote about this a year or so ago), but it’s something that can also be shut down algorithmically — if the site owners are willing to do it.

    And they’re not.

    Because revenue, and because historical and governmental illiteracy, and because of this naive and inflexible notion that the highest good is total speech freedom, even as society falls apart under the weight of propaganda and the voice of actual news and thought is smothered.

    Or, as TMBG put it: “I should be allowed to glue my poster, I should be allowed to think.”

    Meaning that the best reddit will do is see its CEO surreptitiously editing posts that attack him personally.

    I would be very grateful if the grownup schoolmaster returned to the island now to bring the boys back to school.

  59. Michael Says:

    @Amy- the problem with censorship is that it depends on whose ox is being gored. Take those European “hate speech” laws that you’re defending- many of those countries with such laws didn’t have any laws against excusing or denying Communist crimes. In the Ake Green case, a pastor was tried for preaching more or less standard Pentecostal doctrine about homosexuality in Denmark and embarrassingly it turned out that there was no ban in Denmark on excusing Stalinist or Maoist crimes. Yes, he won on appeal but the fact that many left-wingers in Denmark thought that Pentecostalism is worse than Stalinism or Maoism speaks for itself.
    In the United States, people like the Hollywood Ten are often thought of as martyrs to free speech but the fact of the matter is that they did often deny or excuse Stalin’s crimes. And they did demonize the victims. DuBois, for example, referred to the kulaks as “bloodsuckers”.
    What you’re conveniently forgetting about the world 20 years ago before the internet is that the marginalization of misogynistic, racist, etc. views came at a price. There might have been no misogynist websites blaming women for men’s dating problems, for example, but adult male virgins were also left to feel like they were the only ones-that they were freaks.
    Think about your initial conversation with Scott- the lesson was that society’s unwillingness to discuss difficult problems because the conversation becomes “creepy” often hurts the innocent.

  60. Scott Says:

    amy #58: If there were ever a legitimate reason to restrict freedom of political speech, preventing racist demagogues from taking control of a country (and then, among other things, curtailing freedom of speech) would surely be it. But I’m still not convinced. For me, the fundamental problem is that I don’t trust the people who would get to decide what’s hate speech and what isn’t. A case in point: you mentioned the SPLC in one of your previous comments. To me, the SPLC is a perfect example of an organization that accumulated enormous goodwill and credibility, then squandered it all by choosing to designate as “hate speech” things that probably the majority of reasonable people wouldn’t classify as anything close to that: e.g. they condemned Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who I consider a human rights heroine, as well as guys publishing “how to get laid” guides and silly stuff like that. It seems to me that this creeping expansion in what counts as “hate speech” is precisely the sort of thing that provokes a militant overreaction from the other side—yet in the sort of regime you’re talking about, I would have no idea how to prevent such an expansion.

  61. amy Says:

    Scott #58: Broadly, first: There is always a slippery slope. Always. Because polities are about accommodations and compromises, not logically coherent anythings. Which is why cleaving to any absolutism, includent speech freedoms, will land you in serious trouble. The same is true when looking at ghastly beliefs: going to the logical endpoint is a mistake. I don’t, for instance, believe that my near neighbors think I’d make a nice lampshade. They’d be appalled by the idea and hurt that I’d think such a thing of them. But I do believe that there’s enough baked-in and rather old antisemitism, and nativism, that they’d be readily convinced that everyone would probably be better off if I was sent to live among my own kind, and that this would allow them to sit by while people who did like the lampshade idea came and collected me. The goal then is to prevent things from aligning such that this scenario becomes a realistic possibility: primarily by making it unlikely that they’d listen to a word the Nazis said, or that the Nazis would be on the stage in the first place.

    In other words: everything is ad hoc. There’s just long and short ad hoc.

    Narrowly: I actually told SPLC to go to hell, once upon a time, because it has the same blind spot so many liberal-white-college-guy-hero outfits do: white middle-class women. Their moms and sisters, in other words. There’s no exoticism to make things heroic with us, no brotherhood of man, no right-side-of-gay-politics, etc. I think it’s their own sexism at work (and that the same sexism colors their coverage of immigrant women of color and white-supremacy girlfriends). Which is why they were so weird and clumsy when they finally got around to surveying the “manosphere” back in 2012, iirc. And why they backed away from such stories again until they were being scooped by the likes of Inc. on Gamergate. But they are the undisputed champs of hate-crime tracking, and as we all know, if it ain’t documented, it didn’t happen. (See under NASA, earth science.) So I am very happy to tell people to report incidents to them.

    I was quite happy to see them call out PUA culture, however clumsily — you may see no harm in what they do, but there was a very popular guy roaming around advocating sexual assault as part of trying to get laid, and the entire culture of it advocates for treating women as objects. Semi-enemy objects, at that. I regret to say that my daughter’s already running into it, with boys running the numbers, and that nothing’s changed: a refusal to behave like an object for the boy’s benefit meets with immediate attacks and nastiness, and then it shuts off as the boy moves on to maltreat other girls. Meanwhile, the girl, trained to be nice and value friendship, tries to repair a friendship that doesn’t exist.

  62. amy Says:

    Michael #59 – again, if you were looking at this from the perspective of how societies work, rather than “this, so logically should be that”, you’d understand why the hate speech laws covered what they did, and ignored other things.

    It’s not going to be easy for Christian fundamentalists here to start a religious war, because we have no national history of religious wars. The tropes are not already in us. Few of us have families that knew the religious wars of Europe. It’s a naive country in that sense. But if they do manage to make one — a real one, with killing — we will know, and for generations it will be much easier to make another religious war here. We will already know how it goes, already know the things to say, already know whom to hate, already have vendettas and grievances.

    Stalinism didn’t happen in Western Europe. Neither did Maoism. If they had, a whiff of it would be enough to alarm, and there would have been hate laws directed at their suppression. Fascism, though, they understand. And religious wars. And the racisms that adhere to colonialism. Those are what the hate laws are about.

  63. amy Says:

    “includent”? Sorry. I have no explanation.

  64. amy Says:

    Also, that’s Scott #60, not Scott #58….

  65. Michael Says:

    @Amy#59- okay but the problem with that reasoning is that it ignores future threats . In Czechoslovakia after the war, there were bans on the fascist parties but not the Stalinist parties. Guess how well that worked out.
    More to the point, how do you think that a moderate Pentecostal feels knowing that Denmark took more action against his church than a Stalinist or a Maoist? It just radicalizes him further.
    Similarly, how do you think a Pole feels when the Hollywood Ten are lionized as free speech heroes? And then the same liberals that do that claim that free speech cannot be used as an excuse for hate.
    Left-wingers are just as bad as right-wingers when it comes to understanding the outgroup:

  66. Michael Says:

    @Scott#60- you yourself have criticized the PUAs in the past. How is what the SPLC doing anything different. And some of them are definitely hateful, like Roosh:

  67. Jr Says:

    Any consistent laws on hate speech would see the New Testament, The Quran and the Torah made illegal. That this is not advocated, while criticism of religion often gets labeled as hate speech, shows how subjective and malleable the entire concept is.

    Of course, if the US had hate speech laws that would be great for Trump. All the leftists who denounce western culture, and use “white male” as practically an insult, could be locked up.

  68. quax Says:

    Scott #60, I think if you go down the road of censorship, the way to keep it in check is to restrict it to broadcast/media amplified speech (i.e. no infringement on private speech whatsoever).

    Also it should only be concerned with the denial of facts (i.e. as usually understood in the scientific sense). E.g. the denial of clearly established historical events such as the Holocaust.

  69. Scott Says:

    amy #61: The trouble is that, at least as the world is going to interpret it, condemnation by the SPLC is way too blunt of an instrument. It has only one mode: “this is utterly beyond the pale of civilization.” There’s no room to say: “yes, this woman has said a few things she should probably walk back, but she’s also risked her life to help women oppressed by FGM and Islamic fundamentalism, so on balance, she’s a huge net benefit to the world.” Or: “yes, these advice guides have a certain degree of misogyny in them, but alas, there’s nothing out there today that could actually help these guys that’s 100% free of misogyny—whether because no one has cared enough to write it, or simply because it’s a hard problem that no one has yet solved. And if guys go through life never learning how to form relationships, that could really make them misogynists. So, OK guys, go ahead and read anything that might help you—but read critically and alertly, and never, ever compromise your principles.”

    This is also my answer to Michael #66, about the difference between me criticizing the PUAs and the SPLC criticizing them: if I do it, it’s just me; it doesn’t have the thermonuclear implications of coming from an institution set up to fight cross-burnings and things of that kind.

    As Jr #67 aptly points out, any consistent laws on hate speech would also ban the Bible (and, we could add, Plato, Shakespeare…) But once we have tools at our disposal beyond blanket condemnation, the problem is solved: we can criticize the bad parts of Plato, Shakespeare, and the Bible, just as we criticize the bad parts of everything else, without leaving the implication that the offending works shouldn’t be read or have no legitimate value to anyone.

  70. amy Says:

    Michael #65, governments react to what has happened, not to what will happen. That’s why thinly-populated states have so little law in comparison with, say, Massachussets or New Jersey. It’s also why pilots say that every FAA reg has behind it a pilot who bought the farm.

    It works that way because it’s very difficult to persuade a populace of a potential future harm if they haven’t seen it before in a highly literal, one-to-one correspondence way. Consider the lunacy and the religious war brewing now: the starting gun for Islamic militancy was the collapse of the Soviet empire and the end of that stalemate, the end of east-west as the dominant tension. But nobody gave a rat’s ass here about any of that, including the question of where Russia’s nukes had gone, until 9/11. And then hundreds of millions of people cared very much, and the library boys at PNAC could pull out their maps and campaign plans, and off we went. And now here we are talking about a registry for Muslims and watching CNN ask a neo-Nazi’s question about whether Jews are people.

    I’d say the terrists won, wouldn’t you? But the point is that without video of the WTC with black smoke billowing out of it, nothing. No imagination of what might happen. The exception, I’d say, is any oft-told story from the Bible. That people can imagine because they’ve been imagining it since childhood. But anything else, no.

    Jr #67, of course hate laws are not consistent. No laws are consistent. They’re people laws, not theorems. And that’s just the legislation writing and passage. It’s a sitcom once you get to the courthouse, what with the lawyers who don’t actually know the laws and the judges who’ve seen it all before.

  71. amy Says:

    Michael #65, I should amend that: governments react to what has happened *to people powerful or loud enough to bestir the legislators and prod them all the way into passing a law*.

    As a single mother, I’ve stopped finding it remarkable when it turns out that laws are not written with my circumstances in mind.

  72. amy Says:

    Scott #69 – the propaganda cannonballs SPLC sends out are by a long chalk the thing I find most offensive about them. I keep on supporting them, though, because I understand that the sort of smart thing you’re suggesting above does not create a donor base.

    In the week after the election I wrote something about how, for as long as anyone’s known me, I’ve pissed on efforts to tag me as an ally of this or that and indeed on the whole language of allies in culture wars. You know all that. But I also said that I thought we were approaching one of those seasons in which simply coming in as yourself becomes an unobtainable luxury: you’ll be lucky if you can declare for yourself rather than having someone louder than you declare for you. And then it’s remarkably difficult to get away from propaganda.

    One of the reasons that poets and artists become so important in a time like this is that it’s extremely difficult to turn their work into propaganda. It’s much too complex for that, and not nearly literal or argumentative enough. So the best a regime can do is to call it and its maker degenerate.

  73. Scott Says:

    amy #70: The fact that no human laws are completely consistent, seems to me like a convincing response to someone who claims that they need to be consistent or else. But it doesn’t seem like a convincing response to any particular inconsistency that someone points out.

    And amy #72: I suppose the tradeoff (not at all unique to SPLC) is that the stuff that creates a donor base, might also create new enemies, turn away thoughtful observers, and undermine the organization’s long-term effectiveness.

  74. amy Says:

    Scott #73: If you ask about a given inconsistency (“Why does it cover this but not that?”) the answer is likely to be “Nobody thought of it.” Which is another way of saying that it wasn’t important to anyone while the bill was being written and amended. It could also be that that particular thing had an enemy in the chamber and the bill as a whole had a greater chance of succeeding without it. Or it could be that there’s a real answer, a real reason why it wasn’t felt that it was necessary to include this thing. Or maybe it was traded away. Or maybe a big donor came in at the last minute and said “You have my support but I don’t like that, take it out.” Whatever the inconsistency, you could probably get the story, but the particular story would belong to the particular inconsistency.

    As for the fundraising and the longterm harm — you know, again, this is about ad-hoccery. Strategic and hypothetical considerations like that seldom get a look-in; they aren’t as immediate as other things.

    The whole ivory-tower thing is tired and overstated, but one thing I notice that academia takes for granted is that it will continue to exist. You assume your university will continue to exist, and your department, and your grant, and you can decide that two months isn’t enough to get something running and you’ll do it next year, and you can actually think about things that will happen five years ahead. I’ve never known any other environment like that. Companies come and go, jobs come and go, and who knows if your job will exist in six months, let alone five years. My college roommate worked for a law firm 110 years old; one day they come in and find out the business is gone, they’re shutting down in a few weeks, get your stuff and go, we’ll let you know about vacation pay.

    So I don’t think SPLC worries very much that they might be upsetting some potential donors. As for enemy creation, hey, that’s their main business.

  75. Scott Says:

    amy #74: If we’re asked to defend why this or that law is good or just, I’m not sure we get to respond by simply telling a historical story about how the law came to be. After all, every law, no matter how disgusting in hindsight, has some story involving some group of people finding it a good idea (or maybe the least bad option) at the time!

    Also, talking about “inconsistency” makes it sound like the only people harmed by inconsistencies in the law are a few hairsplitting mathematical logicians! To put it in more amy-friendly language, I think what we’re really talking about here is injustice. E.g., consider the case of a hypothetical university that will censure you as a bigot for accidentally misgendering someone, but not for saying that Jews are death-deserving parasites. If Jews are afraid to enter the university, is it a defense to say that the people who wrote the rules simply weren’t thinking about the two issues in the same context?

  76. quax Says:

    Scott, what is inconsistent about hate speech laws that are restricted to counterfactual speech? I.e. as long as any idea has any merits as to make it worthy of debate if will automatically fall outside the scope of such a free speech restriction.

  77. Scott Says:

    quax #76: Nothing is necessarily inconsistent about it, but it does require setting up a court to decide which historical atrocities it’s illegal to deny—and indeed, which ones were atrocities at all. Experience suggests that whichever group happens to be in power at a given moment (including white nationalists, Islamic fundamentalists, you name it…) will be tempted to redefine any loss of power it ever experienced in its past as a “genocide,” which everyone else then needs to respect on pain of imprisonment. This is why, on reflection, I side with the Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt in opposing even the European laws against Holocaust denial, even though if any such restrictions in human history were ever morally justified, it would be those.

  78. amy Says:

    Scott, I’m not saying that the laws — any laws — are good or just. Nor frankly do I think that this is the primary motive for making laws. (And in the hypothetical case you mention, that’s probably exactly what would happen — and unless there had actually been a faculty member telling a Jewish student that he was a death-deserving parasite, and there were university Jews and Abe Foxman thronging the president’s office, my guess is that the prevailing sentiment would be that there’s no reason to make an endless censure list for problems that don’t appear to exist or have no influential champion. There would probably then be some conversation about whether to make a general “do not say under pain of censure” rule, and then you’d have the usual arguments about the line between broad and meaningless.)

    I’ll preface this for benefit of others with IANAL, but have worked for national-level legislators and helped write state legislation, also helped block state legislation.

    Laws are either administrative — you have to have schools, roads, dental clinics, etc., and there have to be rules for how these things operate — or they’re about something bad that happened, when the absence of a law to handle it made things worse. (Or they’re about reshaping rules to your own advantage, as lobbyists do, but that’s a different class of laws and not what I’m talking about here.) In general if nothing bad has happened nobody has a reason to make a law. Sometimes the administrative laws are also because of bad things but often it’s just that common agreement on the rules is necessary and maybe they’re simply lifted from elsewhere after some study and a decision that yeah, that should work, and we’ll change it if it doesn’t.

    It seems to me that when legislators make a law, assuming they’re serious about it, the main concern is whether the law will work. Not whether it’s good and complete and just, but whether it’s good enough, complete enough, and just enough to work, meaning that it settles the kinds of arguments that arise often and doesn’t sow confusion in the courts and does not make a proliferation of new cases. Or constitutional challenges. And in the end the arbiters of these things will usually be judges who interpret them with the aid of custom. Not justice, not goodness, but custom, because if they cut very much against the grain of what the society views as acceptable, if they’re a reasonable novelty, you get an uproar. The society has to be ready for that uproar before you get the ruling. (I believe all three state supreme-court justices in Iowa who ruled for the legality of gay marriage and were up for reelection in the following cycle lost their jobs.)

    Sometimes the politics land you with laws that fail spectacularly to work, like the three-strikes laws. But I think this is the exception and that usually the failures are slow-burn failures of imagination or come from simple ignorance on the part of the lawmakers. I’ll give you a boring example:

    My state is fairly progressive on the garnishing of wages for child support; it doesn’t matter whether the parent is a statutory employee or a contractor, if you pay the parent regularly, you can be told to garnish the wages. If the parent owns a company, the parent him or herself can receive the court order to garnish: pay yourself a salary, pay the support. There’s a hole in the law, though, where single-member limited liability corporations come in. The IRS treats them as legal fictions, which they are. It’s basically a sole proprietorship. LLC owners don’t have to pay themselves a salary; they can just treat revenues as their own personal income, so there’s no step at which to garnish a wage, even though the money is there. But the state treats them as corporations, expecting them to keep normal corporate books, pay salaries, etc. And yes, people do try to use LLCs to evade support obligations.

    I ran into this about a year ago, when my ex stopped paying support for a while and formed an LLC. So I got in touch with my state rep and said hey, there’s a problem with the code, even your assistant AG doesn’t know what to do with it, and the code needs amending to cover the issue. And she was quite helpful about it, got herself up to speed on the issue, was ready to write language when I solved the problem another way, at which point it became hypothetical. That rep and I had worked on related problems several years ago, when the state issued debit cards to receive state payments including child support; the bank handling the transactions took the opportunity to profiteer by attaching all sorts of fees and nickel-and-diming the poor, single parents, the disabled, etc. And I believe that problem got fixed.

    Even a hate-speech law is a response to a pressing, existing problem, written in the knowledge that amendment or overturn will someday likely happen. A similar thing: extremely severe punishment for knowingly transmitting AIDS. A lot of states have these laws, and they were written in the 80s and early 90s not only out of homophobia but because AIDS meant you’d die. These days AIDS probably doesn’t mean you’ll die, but the cases are rare anyway. As they come to court, though, the issue arises, there’s an activist outcry, and maybe the law changes or is rescinded altogether.

    It’s also important to recognize that most of the people writing the laws — assuming it’s legislators and not some sharpie — aren’t terrifically bright, and they’re trying to solve existing problems by fashioning a new blunt instrument in the law. And the question is whether the problem is bad enough that you’ll take a blunt instrument over nothing at all.

    When I see large numbers of neo-nazis aggregating, organizing, ginning each other up, and making new myth for themselves on large social-media platforms, and see their language and baloney stories leaking out into more general conversations, I say yeah, let’s have that blunt instrument. Push that stuff back into the corners. And if we’re lucky, we fix what there is to fix in the law later.

  79. amy Says:

    It looks as though the Stein fundraising campaing has ground to a halt (after covering a lot of ground). I’d credit media raspberries with that, with everyone from Nate Silver to Salon to the Post saying it’s stupid and/or probably a scam.

    I’d actually categorize it as a failure of science communication. I think few people read, let alone understood, what Alex was saying in his Medium piece, and that the overwhelming fundraising message people heard was “Overturn the election result!” Even though everyone involved in this thing was quite careful to say that this is *not* what it’s about.

    I think what it comes down to is that people don’t much care whether or not the election is hacked unless it results in election theft. They don’t perceive threats to future elections, don’t see a reason to be concerned. I think that story wasn’t told plainly and vividly enough, the “why to care” story. Which is not a trivial problem: it took most of a decade for someone to come up with and deliver a resonant “why to care story” for polar ice melting.

  80. quax Says:

    Scott, conveniently we already have a world court in Den Haag set-up to deal with current and future atrocities. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to extend its mandate to define all 20th century atrocities (which it should be pragmatically be restricted to), that clearly can be established as historical fact.

    There are several that come to mind, that while not on the scope of the industrialized Holocaust, seem to clearly quality: Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, the Khmer Rouge genocide, the Armenian death marches, Stalin’s extermination campaigns against the Kulaks, and Crimea Tatars.

    I think everything of that magnitude that happened during the last century is well enough documented, and to me it seems self-evident that no lasting peace can be achieved, before the truth of these atrocities and grievances is acknowledged. IMHO there is a clear mandate for governments to now allow extremists to use media amplification to spread counterfactual myths that undermine our very social fabric. Admittedly, I am probably hyper-sensitive to this, since we’ve seen this movie before in Germany.

  81. amy Says:

    quax, re media amplification: I wrote this about a year ago, after having been away from social media for a month. About why online conversation skews so quickly to shouting and propaganda.

    Just had a brief dip back into twitter and Jezebel and was reacquainted with the world of horrible things. Rapes, murders, you name it. Oh, and a lot of showing off about prizes and whatnot.

    I think I see what happened, though, why the online social world turned into that. The medium’s actually being used as it was meant to be used: it’s a freely available press. The problem is that most people have nothing much to say. The people who do have something to say are generally either propagandists or eyeball-seekers — they’ve got a cause, or they’re promoting something, or they’re trying to package and sell an audience. So of course they overwhelmed the place almost as soon as it opened up, and things get worse and worse, because they have to outshout each other, and recruit other people to shout on their behalf, preferably for free. And now and then a volunteer shouter can’t handle the shouting anymore and gets so mad that he actually leaves his house and tries to attack the other-side people for real.

    That’s why it’s almost impossible not to get into polemical arguments as soon as you show up there, and why you have this ridiculous situation where polite, friendly conversation’s squeezed in and among a lot of yelling about blood and sales. It’s not a conversational medium anymore and hasn’t been for a long time. Back in USENET days, yes, it was conversational — polemical, sure, but because it was mostly academics talking, they were already bound by codes of collegiality and fear of professional repercussions. No such things exist in online argument now….

    I don’t know whether it’s possible to have ordinary conversation again online.

  82. quax Says:

    amy, astute observation. The fact that monetization rewards clicks is not helping either. But the fact that academics manage to have more civil online chats lends me to believe that teaching how to use this media may make a difference. Maybe if this was started early on it could lead to a generation that is less emotionally crippled when it comes to online speech.

    As it is, I find that these days only platforms that are moderated in some form facilitate meaningful online conversations (occasional exception non-withstanding).

    That is why I’ve came around with regards to European style hate speech laws (which for a while I considered relics), since it would make such moderation mandatory.

  83. echo Says:

    I’m enjoying watching you fund the green party 🙂

  84. Jr Says:

    On American colleges today we already see the creep that people warn about hate speech laws. Even though hate speech is not illegal, it is against speech codes or moral norms on many campuses and we can see how the definitions gets attenuated. We have already seen wearing a sombrero can be labelled as racist hate speech, as can just chalking the name Trump on a sidewalk.

    We also see that the pro-censorship side has an emotional, fact-free style of argumentation that is hard to counter. Not wanting to be ban hate speech makes people feel “unsafe” and start crying. Against that style of argumentation it is difficult to say that some particular type of speech, while hurtful, is not hurtful enough to warrant a ban, since that will get you labelled as evil, bigoted and not understanding. Arguing from a general principle is the only way that can be effective in public debate.

  85. amy Says:

    Except it generally is bigoted and not understanding.

    I don’t know where you are, Jr, or how hypothetical these things might be for you. I’ve actually come under fire on a university campus for such things. For real. In a way that affected my job and my income. I was accused of writing something sexist about a faculty member in an official publication. The faculty member herself had no problem with it, and every higher-up agreed that it was totally fine and innocuous.

    And yet. You know what? The people who accused me were right. I’m old enough to have plenty of casually sexist tropes floating around in my head, they still seem normal to me, and there we go: I used one.

    Had the accusers or some official university rep come to me and said, “Hey, this won’t do,” I’d probably have spent a few minutes arguing against and then realized that — oh yeah. Yeah, that’s actually quite embarrassingly sexist, and thoughtless, too; it’s not like this is some period piece in which absolutely some character would’ve said or thought that.

    I don’t love how they went about it. But then how often do they encounter my reaction v. yours when they’re fighting sexism? Why would they expect mine?

    I’ve never understood an attitude that says, “I should have the right to be as horrible as I like to other people,” or its mate, “Damn it, people should expect horribleness and toughen up.” Reminds me of the smoking wars of the 90s, when you had people insisting on their right to make the people around them ill while poisoning themselves legally.

    It also seems to be impossible to show such people that in fact you can teach people not to be so horrible. I confess to being a little shocked mysef, but we live in a school district here that actually has quite a strong anti-bullying/conflict-resolution program that they start in kindergarten, and the kids are remarkably nice to each other. It’s seen as somewhat pathological to wander around being mean, and kids seek to resolve differences because…it’s what you do. I keep waiting for Horrible Childhood Social Dramas to erupt, but the only time one did was when my daughter was in second grade. Girl triangle. I got in touch with the guidance counselor, expecting to get blown off, but she handled it with deftness I didn’t even know existed, and within a couple of months everyone was friends again, no one had been hung out to dry, various social skills had been learned, parents were cooperative, etc.

    As for the slippery-slope arguments — I hear in them people arguing that the road to gulags is paved with socialized-medicine doctor visits and free school lunches. As it turns out, arguing general-principle-to-logical-endpoint is not a brilliant way of making social policy. The proximal (proximate?) world is too complex for that, if you want to put it in biological terms.

  86. Gil Kalai Says:

    There is a thoughtful post by Nate Silver.


    (I don’t have any guess on what the discrepancy between electronic voting and paper trail would look like. This is quite interesting! When are the outcomes expected?)

  87. Gerald Says:

    In Germany anti hate speach laws (namely §130 StGB “Volksverhetzung”) were in effect since 1871. Didn’t help much, did it? In contrast, USA is one of the most liberal countries in granting freedom of speech. It is also the oldest democracy in the world. This is no coincidence. So, don’t repeat Germany’s mistakes.

    The first two amendments to the US constitution are the strongest antidote to totalitarianism one can imagine: Unrestricted flow of ideas and a high amount of civilian firepower. Unfortunately, most of us Europeans don’t get this.

    A few comments on Trump from the perspective of a foreigner: While I agree that DT has demonstrated disturbing personality traits, I don’t think he will be anywhere as bad as you fear. He doesn’t seem to be driven by ideology like authoritarian rulers typically are.

    Also, I don’t understand the why he should be a threat to jews. He has a jewish daughter. And isn’t the protection of Israel of prime importance? And wouldn’t a nuclear armed Iran be a bad thing? Trump adopted an unambiguous position here while Obama and Clinton did not. Netanjahu perfers Trump.

    Here in Germany anti-Semitism is now skyrocketing due to arab mass immigration caused by Angela Merkels policy. The Central Council of Jews in Germany recently even advised against wearing a kippah in certain parts of Berlin.

    Consider this: What you seem to fear in the US from a Trump presidency is already a reality in Germany, but caused by short sighted left wing immigration politics. Trump understands these things. In my opinion, in the long run as a jew you are probably safer with Trump than you would have been with a left wing politician like Merkel or Clinton (who openly admires Merkel).

  88. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. amy #85:

    Except it is abusable. The impulse to censor, I mean. This is probably what Jr referred to. Stuff like–

    There was an incident with the wife of a dean writing an open letter to students to not be up in arms about Halloween costumes; the dean himself came in support of his wife. This was followed by several calls for said dean to apologize (example coverage).

    There was an incident with an article on the BBC about women in gaming. This was followed by a reaction/argument from a CS:GO personality (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkcRy0F3xyE). Said reaction was censored from one subreddit because a mod considers it “hate speech”.

    Somewhat related, a Lyft driver found himself at the receiving end of some retribution for his having a hawaiian bobblehead on his dashboard (example coverage here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdVUOBNfwkI). I especially like the triumphant later tweets from his “enlightener” about how he got fired.

    This is the sort of thing that people think about when citing “slippery slope” arguments against speech policing. Yes, there’s a huge difference between what any of the guys above (and they’re all white guys, so unimportant, eh) were doing and inciting racial or xenophobic or mysoginistic violence. But very clearly you don’t need a fictional slippery slope to believe that an instinct to censorship will spill. It has spilled already.

    And again, none of the above transgressions is that bad. One is a polemic that’s fairly balanced and is an argument worth hearing by whoever’s interested in esports, rather than nuking with a hate speech label. And the other two are instances of “cultural appropriation”, which looks to me like a sin intended to test the virtuous. If even a video that purports to explain what’s wrong with cultural appropriation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1KJRRSB_XA) ultimately results in the conclusion “what would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture”, dare I say the problem isn’t CA but the institutional racism in places such as the police and others?

    So in an attempt at a bottom line here, I come from Europe. We have hate speech laws here, and ya know what, I don’t feel oppressed. None of the examples I gave above would fall under the incidence of said laws either. I used to be against the idea of hate speech laws, is what I’m saying, but I’m getting more ambivalent towards them.

    OTOH, I can see where the slippery slope arguments come from. I can see why some people are afraid of the censorious impulse, not just for the classical political arguments (those who wield censorship today may be the censored tomorrow), but also for the social/cultural arguments relating to just what it means to be considerate and understanding, and the retribution you can expect for failing the latest standard. The owner of this very blog has personal experience with that.

  89. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    Lol, forgot to paste in the link to the Halloween costume debacle. Here’s one http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/11/the-new-intolerance-of-student-activism-at-yale/414810/


  90. amy Says:

    Gil, the recount effort’s looking messy at best. PA, which is a tangle of townships and counties designed to foil state control, is saying she’s missed the deadline (and in fact missed it before she started raising money); WI doesn’t want to order a hand count; not expecting MI to be friendlier. Several other election-machine notables have joined the argument in WI, but…well, we’ll see. I hope this doesn’t become another Supreme Court case, especially with eight justices….

  91. quax Says:

    Gerald, it’s absurd and intellectually dishonest (or just lazy?) to compare the effect of hate speech laws prior and post the Holocaust. Obviously, the experience of the latter now very much informs the enforcement of these laws.

  92. quax Says:

    BLANDCorporatio, I grew up in a country that has hate speech laws in effect and enforced them actively against Holocaust deniers. I can not recall any PC nonsense of the kind that you are referring to. I think a case can be made that the seriousness of suppressing actual Nazi propaganda would rather deflate childish PC overreach. So not only do I believe that your claimed spill-over effects do not exist, but I think they would be net negative.

  93. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt quax #92:

    Did you read what I wrote? Such as this part:

    “So in an attempt at a bottom line here, I come from Europe. We have hate speech laws here, and ya know what, I don’t feel oppressed. None of the examples I gave above would fall under the incidence of said laws either. I used to be against the idea of hate speech laws, is what I’m saying, but I’m getting more ambivalent towards them.

    OTOH, I can see where the slippery slope arguments come from. [More blah]”

    But I’ll clarify. I’m not convinced that hate-speech laws necessarily result in “SJWs!!1123 PC madness” or whatever internet bugbear. Empirically, this hasn’t happened.

    What I’m saying is meant as examples of Jr’s previous post (#84) and as a nuance to amy’s (#85). What you cite as childish PC overreach does happen and the victims might not be deserving of that level of backlash.

    Are people wrong in citing PC overreach as a counter argument to hate-speech laws? Yes. Are people wrong to suspect PC overreach does happen and is disproportionate? No, they are not wrong to suspect that.

  94. Gerald Says:

    #93: “Are people wrong in citing PC overreach as a counter argument to hate-speech laws? Yes. Are people wrong to suspect PC overreach does happen and is disproportionate? No, they are not wrong to suspect that.”

    I agree with this. But putting PC aside, look at actual cases of European hate-speech trials, for example the trial against Dutch politician Geert Wilders for wanting to limit Moroccan immigration. This kind of thing is what you get, a very thin line between legal opposition to immigration and being charged of racial “hatred”.

    While some say “I don’t feel oppressed” many Europeans actually fear stating their real opinion in public: About half of the respondents in a German poll said it would be dangerous to do so.

  95. quax Says:

    Gerald, wrote “About half of the respondents in a German poll said it would be dangerous to do so.

    Would be nice to have a link for that, because what you are doing here is paramount to defaming the country.

  96. amy Says:

    quax #95: Indeed.

    Reading the Times’ story on Facebook’s run-in with the German hate-speech laws, I’m reminded of a seldom-considered benefit of the laws: peace. Why did an Israeli restauranteur need to be greeted on the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht with anti-semitism delivered by Facebook? Why did he need the day to be turned so grim and to feel that maybe his adopted home could not be home? He didn’t. Let the neo-nazis fester in their own dark corner and leave the rest of us in peace.

    Does that work, shutting them out? Sure. It must be…oh…eight years? Seven years? since I stopped allowing my ex-husband to come into my house and stand there glowering at me while he waited for our daughter. It had taken years for me to recognize that he was looking at me that way because he still hated me, and that things were not getting better. So I said, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait outside for her,” and ever since then, peace in my house. What a difference! If he still spends time like that, I don’t know about it — I hope not, it’s been a long time — but either way, it’s not part of my daily life and not darkening the atmosphere in my home. I am free from that.

    I think, frankly, that this is a large part of what people get angry about when they talk about “political correctness”. People who really would like to be freely, openly hateful – and they want to do harm with it. They want to make people frightened, miserable, even despairing. And it makes them crazy if they’re not allowed. I think maybe they’re the ones who really get crazy at the idea that the very people they want to hurt are protected by their own laws and social codes, and then do the snarly things trying to ridicule the idea of protection to death.

    And then you get a whole lot of other people who use the language and the sentiments carelessly, and they really don’t believe it can do harm. Really don’t believe what those words are freighted with. They’ll say, “But *I* don’t mean it that way” — as though the language came from an egg, and as though they exist alone in societies. Don’t see or care to see that they’re part of much larger conversations and battles, that they and their speech have a context. And don’t really want to have to think about the harm it does.

    In any case, the thing that troubles me most is the…flaccidness of the response from facebook and twitter and the like. It’s always very slow and socially tone-deaf, as though not only don’t they understand what the problem is about, but they’re quite blind to the existence of any problem, and very very hard of hearing when it comes to anything people outside their own circles say. There’s this blankness, and then, slowly, an incredibly bland and muffled response about “oh well of course we don’t want to promote hatred.” I think the industry people involved have genuinely not found the thread of the conversation. Whether that’s on purpose or not I really don’t know.

  97. Jr Says:

    amy #85,

    I don’t think anyone is really expecting to be allowed to be as horrible as they want without pushback. What frightens and angers people is that people are accused of being horrible for things that may be may be at most thoughtless or not actually insulting at all. A lot of the time the SJW basically invent their own meaning to what their victims said and then judge them based on that.

    The witch hunt against Scott is a perfect example of that. Or the Harvard fraternity president who made the totally reasonable point that forcing an all-male fraternity to start accepting women at their events was not going to decrease sexual assaults against women, but was accused of saying that it was women’s fault if they were assaulted. Or the whole cultural appropriation nonsense, which is largely based on inventing some disparaging meaning to wearing a sombrero or otherwise using any cultural symbol of a culture that is not considered your own. (The sombrero incident I am thinking of occurred at Bowdoin college.)

    And finally, sometimes things can be hurtful but still worth hearing. Scott’s warning about Trump is presumably hurtful to Trump himself, and also to his supporters, but they should still listen to him. And importantly, Scott is not being gratuitously insulting, he is making an important argument that can’t help being insulting to some people. Much of what the SJW is insulting to someone, yet I think they expect to be treated with great deal more civility than they treat others.

  98. amy Says:

    Jr #97 – reread my second-last paragraph and then read what you’ve written, and maybe you’ll see what the problem is. *You* may think that the things said or written were not (or should not have been) hurtful at all, and *you*, personally, may not have meant to be hurtful. (Much.)

    But you do not exist in isolation, and when you sling around words and ideas that are actually part of a serious fight, then whether or not you meant to use them in that serious manner, that’s how they fall.

    Six-year-olds playing outside the Israeli’s Berlin restaurant will have no idea that their Hitler game has meaning. Nor are they aware that their game came from something that’s still very much alive and isn’t a game at all. Does that mean it has no effect on the Israeli and the local Jewish community? No. Not at all. Because they know that these games, these words, these ideas are so well-accepted in the society around them that they’re taught to children, and made into children’s games.

    That is why, in Berlin, children aren’t allowed to play such games. And if they do, the children aren’t charged with violating hate speech laws, but whoever taught them might be.

    You’re not a child. Presumably you’re capable of recognizing and understanding the kind of damage the comments you mention above can cause, coming from positions of authority.

    We distinguish among degrees of vulnerability, in a society. If you want to make the crudest kind of drawing about it, you might point out the grotesquerie of a band of slaveowners complaining bitterly about how downright rude and disrespectful their slaves are, and how it just makes their hearts sore, and don’t those darkies recognize that they’re just biting the hand that feeds them, and how much better they deserve from their slaves, how if slaves want to be treated well they might begin by treating their masters well. So? How much truth is in that caricature?

    White Christian men’s interests are still paramount in this society. You’ll work hard to find a governing body of any significance that is not dominated strongly by white Christian men here. Women and people of color are still expected to work, even threatened and punished into working, for free or for far less than a white man would be paid. The vast majority of caregiving work in this country is unpaid and performed by women: often not by choice, but because no one else will do it. There’s a cudgel: if they don’t do it, they’re likely to be reviled socially, and depending on circumstance they can be arrested for neglect. In state after state, poor women who have little ability to fend off aggressive men, including husbands, also find that getting an abortion, or even getting birth control, is prohibitively difficult, and are forced to do the work of bearing and having and raising children they didn’t want. I know women like that in this town, in fact.

    Work termed “support work”, often essential to team projects, is routinely devalued and paid at rates far lower than the “important work”, usually performed by men. When women try to break into the important work, they find barriers galore, and if they succeed in any significant numbers, generally the “important work” becomes something else and the previously important work is devalued and paid less.

    We still have formally institutional slavery in this country, and it’s called prison labor. Our laws are written expressly to allow enslaving people who are in prison — Colorado voters recently rejected a referendum to remove that language from their own code. Vastly disproportionately, of course, those laws enslave people of color, and in the last few decades we have committed to growing that labor force tremendously. The notion of the black man as criminal, and propaganda along those lines, is also well-studied.

    Women and POC both face significant hiring and promotion bias v. white men. I will leave you to look for the studies.

    Back on that thread of yesteryear, I spent a good bit of time on this theme when I asked Scott to imagine himself as someone less institutionally privileged, and laid out an ordinary scenario, but he declined. But the point remains: if you come in as the beneficiary of others’ coerced labor, and then — from your relatively influential position — you say things damaging to those people’s efforts to improve their positions, then even if you’re as innocent as the six-year-old goose-stepping on the sidewalk, you’d best expect an outrage as a reaction, so long as those people have any voice at all. And your getting together with others like yourself to nurse your sore hearts, and equate the importance of feeling good about yourself with the importance of the ability to survive and get by, makes a picture not unlike the one I started with.

    I find that this often outrages online-arguing men who feel hard done by, because in the end (a) they don’t want to look at themselves in relation to anyone but other white men; (b) generally they get by just fine and don’t regard this as a serious problem for anyone; and (c) they’ve been taught along the way that dependence on others is the deepest humiliation possible, and the intimation that not only haven’t they made it on their own, but their success has come at others’ expense, makes them seriously angry. Because again, the story is about themselves in isolation, or only in competition with other men like themselves, and you’ve essentially taken away points. But I think it really has more to do with the necessity of believing that there’s social equivalence: that the master and the slave are on equal terms when it comes to apportioning credit and demanding civility, if not in any other arena. It’s more than a little self-serving.

    I think it comes out, too, in the way that people who argue against such a thing as “social justice warriors”, as though justice — some first-principles-derived abstraction involving philosophical goodness and rightness — is what’s at issue. The issue is the outraging of a common sense of what it is to be a human being with other human beings in a society. It’s about the ability to look at someone else on the subway and recognize another human being, and to understand that in some manner you are responsible for that person’s welfare, as he in some manner is responsible for the welfare of others. We hold the doors for each other, in other words. We recognize that to leave the other person on the sidewalk is to be a bad human, a bad citizen.

    And it means that throughout your life you learn to listen to the people around you and come to understand that even though this one looks fine, she’s sitting on the sidewalk, and even though you think that one lives like you do and is happy, he hasn’t had a moment to himself or slept through the night in six years because his wife and his mother are both ill and nobody can afford nurses except for the time he has to be at work. It means being aware that this law is screwing these people out of the ability to find a place to live closer than two hours from a job, that this institution isn’t going to do shit when this student comes in saying she’d love to get an education and a decent job, but she made the mistake of reporting a rape, and now every time she walks into the lab one of the guys asks her if she got raped last night, and the other guys either snigger or look away, and the PI says she should just ignore it, and she can’t take walking into that lab anymore. And you recognize that as a citizen, a human, living with other humans, you have some responsibility to help.

    It’s as simple as that. If you can stop seeing yourself as the center of the goddamned universe.

    About sombreros: FFS, a bunch of people told you that given the contexts, the sombrero on the gringo is cause for nausea, dull anger, etc. Find another hat instead of standing there telling them how wrong they are *when actually they’re not wrong*. Be a polite and thoughtful human being.

  99. Jr Says:

    amy #98,

    The comments I mentioned are not in any way damaging or hurtful, but it is political useful for certain people to treat them as if they were, to energize their own supports and dissuade people from disagreeing with them. Fair play to them, you might say, to have hit upon such an effective tactic, but it does not fit with the society I want to see.

    Much of the rest of your post has no direct relation to anything I said. Maybe you think that everyone who is not a SJW will make jokes about rape to a rape victim, but if so it suggests you have a rather inaccurate conception of other people, which you might call bigoted. I assure you that I have average levels of concern for my fellow human beings. And if there have been some incidents of universities not taking sexual assault seriously, that does not justify getting rid of due process or the federal government dictating the policies of each university in America.

    The discussion of discrimination and so on the labor market is interesting but not relevant to our present discussion. But it will hardly surprise you that I disagree with you.

    Returning to the sombrero, the point is that what is “polite” is contested. Most people, both in the US and Latin America, would not in any way consider wearing a sombrero at a tequila party impolite. Some political activists have decided that it is, but there is no reason that their views should be considered to give the definitive answer, any more than what some right-wing conservative finds offensive should be considered the correct answer. And if we don’t accept that wearing a sombrero is offensive, then it is having opinions of what other people wear at private parties that starts looking impolite. And certainly the SJW mobs and their leaders often have much more power than the people they aim to destroy, and trying to ignore that by labeling people as members of some dominant group just does not fit with my moral axioms.

  100. JASA Says:

    @ amy #98 (this thread):

    “Be a polite and thoughtful human being”

    “It’s about the ability to look at someone else on the subway and recognize another human being…”


    amy #204, July 4:

    “I do actually think that men have a hell of a lot of work to do with themselves, as a group. And that probably the most helpful thing that men who don’t make a fulltime career of variously screwing over and using other people could do would be to stop playing the rankings game and refuse to offer it any sort of legitimacy. Because that, if you ask me, is the source of a great deal of the world’s misery: men fighting to be on top, men determined not to suffer humiliation in the eyes of other men. But the only reason it’s a thing is that guys actually do pay attention to whatever some bonehead has designated as importantly scorable.”


    If you don’t think that’s hateful, replace “men/guys” with “women”, “blacks”, “Jewish people”, etc. and think about how prejudiced it sounds.

    @amy: I wish you’d take your own preaching to heart.

    @ Jr., Gerald, BLANDcorporatio, and whoever else: in case you hadn’t seen it before, this is the kind of sexism and hypocrisy you’re up against.


  101. quax Says:

    “Be a polite and thoughtful human being.”

    A couple “alt-right” trolls were banned form Twitter today (about time).

    My first thought, when I heard about it, was that if their parents just could have managed to instill some common decency in these bottom dwellers they’d still have their accounts.

    As to amy’s July 4 quote that JASA dug up, I suggest another substitution. Replace “men” with “humans”.

    I pity anybody who recognizes himself or herself in this behaviour. That it is more prevalently expressed by males is obvious given the workplace demographics, but of course it is not the sole domain of the male workforce. A charming person with female parts like Carly Fiorina for instance knows how to play this game as well (although not quite well enough to get very far in a modern Republican primary contest).

    IMHO one has to be quite obtuse to misread amy’s quote as hateful. It simply points out a toxic behavioural pattern. To the extend that it is engaged in by men it will take other men to try to change it, because obviously these men will not listen to anybody who they don’t accept as at least of equal standing.

  102. amy Says:

    JS #99:

    You write, “The comments I mentioned are not in any way damaging or hurtful.”

    Yeah. We’re back to that second-last paragraph I pointed out in the last comment.

    You have decided that they’re not damaging and hurtful. But you’ve done that only by ignoring the people who are (a) being hurt, and (b) pointing out the damage. I find this quite bizarre, though I guess I do see it in those miserable parents who reply to “Mom, x is hurting me!” with an offhand and increasingly irritable “No it’s not.” (The same moms often evince mild surprise when they find later on that the kid is bleeding.)

    I find it quite easy to see why a sombrero on the white fraternity guy would be offensive. Example: I had a student last semester whose father was a Mexican immigrant. Skilled guy, but skills meant nothing here, so he worked himself up by allowing white guys to practically enslave him for a while, then scraping together enough to make his own business, then fighting to get business while the white guys stuck together and tried to cut him out. He did it, of course, by undercutting them, meaning he worked a lot harder and longer. Through all this he didn’t see much of his family, of course, and didn’t do much but work. It cost him decades of his life just to make what people here take for granted, and at the top of it was always some white guy in a button-down shirt treating him like visiting shit and stealing his labor.

    Now the kid goes to a party and there’s the pink-faced frat kid with a sombrero. A fucking sombrero. Like his dad not only punched the Mexican kid’s dad in the face every day, he took his hat for a prize.

    Does the happy drunk frat boy know about any of this? No. Should he? Yes. Kind of a buzzkill? Yes. But maybe not as much of a buzzkill as having to work like a slave for years, at sub-minimum wage, allowing people to rob you of time, health, and dignity on account of racism and xenophobia and greed, so that your kids can have a chance. And the minute you understand that kid’s dad’s story, if you’re not a wholly selfcentered person, you’re ashamed and you take off the hat and see how stupid you’ve been.

    I hear the “but I’m not the one who did it! I’m not guilty!” cry. Except you are. And so am I. Who put the roof on your house? I can tell you who put the roof on my house because I watched them. Dirt-poor Mexican immigrants working like the devil was whipping them, and I’ll be damned if they collected even minimum for risking their lives running around up there. I can tell you that right now my daughter is sitting on school furniture that, if it’s new the last five years, came from prison industries. More slave labor. You’re guilty when you acquiesce and accept the fruits of slavery.

    The frat kid’s dad probably has nothing at all to do with the building trades, but it doesn’t matter. If he’s a smart and even partially human frat boy, and they do occur, he knows that his dad’s friends are the contractors, not the roofers and painters, and that they hand the favors around to each other and squeeze the little guys and call that smart, and now here’s the son of the little guy standing in front of him with that look on his face. And if he’s really smart, he senses that that kid can tell him more about his own dad than he really cares to know.

    Now the sombrero has meaning, and now the frat boy, if he’s any kind of a human at all, finds a way to lose the fucking hat.

    Anyway. The rest of what I said in the last comment is directly related to the uses of speech, though if you are intent on ignoring the meaning and history of hate speech and its effects on its targets, you’ll have missed the connections. As for the talk about labor, there isn’t much to discuss; it’s well-documented, and not a matter of opinion. Unless, of course, you’d like to start discussing tax receipts from all the income caregivers receive. You know, mothers, adult children caring for parents and siblings, etc.

  103. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. amy #98:

    “you do not exist in isolation, and when you sling around words and ideas that are actually part of a serious fight, then whether or not you meant to use them in that serious manner, that’s how they fall.”

    Then it seems the great struggle of our age is against taxi-drivers with bobble-heads on their dashboards.

    In case it’s not clear, the previous statement is meant as sarcasm. There is, as your post says, systemic discrimination. However it’s very hard to see how some poor guy (as in, literally poor so he drives a taxi for Lyft) and his dasboard decoration aids and abets those institutions, or how his dashboard contributes to the oppression of some group. At this point, I suspect a lot of this analysis of details, trying to fit them into some larger conflict, is at best magical thinking. At worst, I’m inclined to call it offensive. Such pretense, to think that anger at such trivialities actually contributes something meaningful to solving problems in the real world.

    Whatever SJW used to mean, now it means something else. People aren’t lashing back at justice, but at the hysteric parody of it. A parody that invents ever new crimes to distract itself with. How come that, despite all this shaming of cultural appropriation and whatever else, society (by your description) is as racist and mysoginist as ever? It’s almost as if many of those who claim to care about these things only care enough to gang up on some lone guy, rather than caring enough to make a difference.

  104. JASA Says:

    @ quax #101

    “As to amy’s July 4 quote that JASA dug up, I suggest another substitution. Replace “men” with “humans”.”


    Nope. The first sentence is specifically about men as a group:

    “I do actually think that men have a hell of a lot of work to do with themselves, as a group.”

    If amy wants to clarify that she really meant “men and women”, then I’d like to hear it. Until then, this is blatant sexism and provides useful background on where amy is coming from.


    Also, quax #95

    “Would be nice to have a link for that, because what you are doing here is paramount to defaming the country.”

    Quick to object when a country is defamed, but not when half the population is. Especially, when it’s amy doing the defaming, right?


  105. amy Says:

    Totally back to topic: I’m seeing attacks on the recount all over, and in watching/reading them, it’s really clear that Alex failed to explain this in any way that most people can understand, so everyone thinks the recount is stupid and a fraud, a failure-from-go attempt at overturning the results.

    He and the other CS guys are going to have to do a much better job at this. I’m willing to help, but it’d be useful to have an animator also willing to help.

  106. quax Says:

    JASA , as a fellow white, hetero male, I am trully sorry for you, if you feel insulted by what amy wrote, and equally glad that I don’t feel insulted by it in the least.

  107. Liz Says:

    At quax in comment 76…wow. The perils of your approach are obvious to anyone who wasn’t sleeping through their high school history classes.

    This is the kind of sophomoric argument made by some guy who imagines himself and other like-minded people as the only ones deciding what’s “worthy of debate”.

  108. quax Says:

    Liz, you must have missed that the final determination is left to a court, and that these kind of laws are already on the book in many European countries.

    I am not aware of any other Western country that fetishizes free speech as an absolute right as much as the US (well that, and gun rights). It sometimes leads to absurdly comical results, when for instance corporate political campaigns are deemed to be “speech”.

  109. Scott Says:

    Amy #105:

      it’s really clear that Alex failed to explain this in any way that most people can understand, so everyone thinks the recount is stupid and a fraud … He and the other CS guys are going to have to do a much better job at this

    I think Alex could be given slightly more credit than that. If not for his efforts, it’s not clear that the recount would be happening in Wisconsin at all. And his Medium piece is about as crystal-clear as anyone could ask for. A likelier explanation, it seems to me, is just that getting people to do the right thing is incredibly hard—even when the right thing is really freaking obvious, like “don’t give a con man and carnival barker control over the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.” And “audit the paper ballots, even if there’s no direct evidence of fraud, because the expected utility is positive and it will deter hacking in the future” is orders of magnitude less obvious (even though correct). As someone who’s been explaining, over and over for more than a decade, that quantum computers are expected to provide only limited advantages for NP-complete problems, I have direct experience of the fact that explaining things to people who don’t want to understand them is an extremely hard problem.

  110. amy Says:

    Scott, the Medium piece is crystal clear to people like you and me and many with slightly less education and interest.

    That’s about it. Few of my facebook friends understand it, and most of them are advanced-degree-holding people in nonsciences. If they understand it, it’s usually because they can related to hanging-chadism. But not a one has ever looked at a paper in LaTeX and the presumptions underlying Alex’s discussion are not ones they walk around with in their heads.

    I’m not trying to take credit away from him at all for getting the recount going. That was marvelous. But it’s plain that almost no one in the country understands what it’s about. The news stories — and keep in mind that reporters are better-educated and more literate than the public at large — nearly universally take the “Jill Stein is trying to overturn the election results and that’s insane” angle.

    If you watch Stein trying to explain to the ladies of The View what’s going on, you’ll see how difficult a time she’s having, and how essentially uninterested they are in the finer points of election integrity. So with a thing like this, you have to start from zero. You have to tell the story of corrupted elections and what they mean — very simply — and how the cheats happen. And how the cheats have changed and proliferated, and where we are now. You can do this in about two minutes of well-made animation. *Then* you can tell the story of Alex and his friends noticing something weird, so that people can understand that it’s weird and get an uh-oh feeling about it. And then you can show — not just tell, but show — how you check it out. And you use the earlier “why stolen elections are bad” thing to remind people why it’s important to do this.

    Simple, simple, simple. The newer and more complex the idea to be communicated, the more simply you must do it. Alex started much too far ahead, and was talking to an audience of advanced undergraduates at a minimum. For a thing like this, you want the audience to be the journalists.

  111. amy Says:

    My typing is apparently going phonetic. “can related to hanging chadism” = “can relate it to hanging chadism”. Sorry.

  112. JASA Says:

    quax #101 and #106

    “IMHO one has to be quite obtuse to misread amy’s quote as hateful.”

    “as a fellow white, hetero male, I am truly sorry for you, if you feel insulted by what amy wrote, and equally glad that I don’t feel insulted by it in the least.”


    amy #102, #98, #96

    “You have decided that they’re not damaging and hurtful. But you’ve done that only by ignoring the people who are (a) being hurt, and (b) pointing out the damage.”

    “*You* may think that the things said or written were not (or should not have been) hurtful at all, and *you*, personally, may not have meant to be hurtful. (Much.)”

    “And then you get a whole lot of other people who use the language and the sentiments carelessly, and they really don’t believe it can do harm.”


    I’m confused, when is it okay to claim such language is hurtful/hateful?

    According to amy, men are “frequently dishonest” and “not particularly thoughtful”. Also, we’re “just not good with numbers and abstractions” (incidentally, that one hurts the most). Our full-time career is “screwing over and using other people” and we’re responsible for “a great deal of the world’s misery”.

    LOL, my days are full! Gotta run off to mob practice, we’re rehearsing our shouting tonight. Toodles.


  113. amy Says:

    BLANDCorp #103: (prefacing by gently pointing out that although I take fewer cabs than I once did, I can’t remember ever riding with a bobblehead-adorably-racist figurine…ever…


    I remember my grandpa was partial to those hula-girl lamps and minstrel figurines of the 1950s. Kind of thing you’d see Archie Bunker with, maybe. Gave him a laugh. Not an educated guy, my grandpa. But if someone in his house was upset by it, someone who knew — if he had a black guy over, say, and this guy said “hey that’s offensive” — I bet he’d have done a line in “oh yeah? Sez who?” and then listened, and nodded, and gotten rid of the thing. Because he was a decent human being who knew how to listen to other human beings.)


    Yes, I saw about the sarcasm. But I think if you look around at the uproar pages, it’s not generally people yelling about just anybody. It’s people yelling about bigotries professed by people in some sort of position of power or esteem, because their position amplifies and validates the bigotry. Which is precisely why people are so worried about the effects that Trump’s presidency will have, and, apparently, is already having.

    As for trivialities and non-trivialities: sure, there are always people wandering around wasting their time on the trivial. But the label “trivial” is also applied quite generally to work that actually is not in an effort to shoo people away from doing it, and to stop others from paying it any mind. It’s no trick to slap “trivial” on anything short of “starving oppressed person in chains is on point of being murdered very far away”, meaning “why are you wasting time on the relatively lovely domestic slavery of this woman over here who only gets slapped around sometimes and certainly eats regular”?

    I find that the people I’ve met who’ve grown up in cultures that do mind these non-immediately-lethal situations tend to be remarkably (to me) thoughtful about other people, because that’s how they’ve been taught. Casual racism, funny and TV-ready in some places, strikes them as sad and hurtful and troubling — and they notice it, and understand why it’s hurtful. Furthermore they don’t seem to experience the thinking-about-others part as a hardship.

    So no, I don’t think that people who’re pointing out these cultural issues, the everyday bigotries, are doing trivial work at all. They’ve made me much more aware, over the last several years, though that hasn’t come without some losses. I really love movies, for instance, and thanks to the hulu/Criterion partnership, I can watch hundreds of really terrific movies. Except that it’s impossible for me not to see, now, how terribly narrow the story selection is. It’s almost all men’s stories — young men’s, at that — and women seldom achieve personhood in these stories. So of course we’re ignorant about women: where are their stories? It’s very rare to watch an old person’s story in movies, told by an old director, an old writer. Someone who knows, who actually has a story. So, again, of course we’re ignorant — and it turns out to be important, it has a real effect on what we think old people are when we make policy and build nursing homes and design bus routes and hire people. We’re missing art, and thus understanding, about a great deal of human experience, and why? Well, ask who’s been in charge, and what’s been interesting to them, and why it’s been so hard for anyone else to break in.

    So I hear about this new movie, something Manchester, and people are saying it’s wonderful, and I’m sure it’s a very good movie. But frankly I don’t want another story about travails of these men, and I don’t want another story in which the woman may as well be named The Girl, because I see now the view of women that generates characters like that, and it’s depressing. I’m up to my eyeballs in such stories, it’s almost all I’ve heard and read and seen ever since I was a kid. I would like to hear someone else, another kind of story, someone else’s experience, and something that treats all its characters with respect.

    Which means that maybe instead of watching a movie I say fine, the stories I want to see aren’t there, I’ll write one instead. Or I write to the Criterion guy and say so where are they and don’t say Jane Campion, and even though I know he can’t just pull a century’s nonexistent movies out of his ass, he knows people are saying, “this won’t do, we need something else here.” So it’s on his mind.

    As for the “I am not an instance of my group” thing: I’m failing to see how it’s impossible to see both “I am not an instance” and “this thing is generally true of this group I belong to” simultaneously. If someone wants to come shout at me about being a rich Jew, they came to the wrong address, but are there hella rich Jews? Yeah. Yes, there are, and I’d be perfectly happy to see every last one of them shamed out of throwing $25K bar mitzvah parties and thinking some more about who’s got money for housing and daycare and all the rest. (I have a story about that, but it’s long.) So am I going to stand there outraged and despondent because they’re anti-semites yelling at the wrong Jew? Because they’re ignorant anti-semites, maybe, but the other part, no. And depending on what kind of time I had, and how hard I felt like banging my head on the wall, I might talk with them.

  114. amy Says:

    Oh, and Scott, re the sci comm thing — I had a talk this afternoon with one of the affidavit-writers on the CS side for the recounts, and that was pretty much his view, too: people don’t understand what this is about, it’s not been communicated well enough. I tried it out on another friend, a PhD in religious studies, who’d understood the recount effort as “last chance to overturn the result!” and dismissed it; when I explained to her what this really was, and it took maybe 45 seconds, she said something like, “Oh! That was not at all my idea of what this was. I can give money for that.”

    It’s a painfully common problem. A few weeks ago I found that none of our incoming grad students had ever heard of Jonas Salk. Not one. Certainly no idea there was any such thing as a Salk Institute. So I got spam from Salk a few days later, and I wrote the guy and said “hey, you’re falling off the map, you’d better crank the publicity,” and he responded by telling me how many facebook/blog posts about their work he’d written. Which of course is not the point.

  115. amy Says:

    Almost forgot — affidavit friend told me about this:


    which is an organization that has apparently been conducting verification hand-counts in Dane County for years. Successfully and with cooperation. Apparently their deal is that they recount *after* results are certified/finalized. Would’ve been good to’ve known about them a week ago. No idea whether there are similar organizations in MI or PA or anywhere else, though it looks like the PA statewide effort is over, anyway.

  116. quax Says:

    JASA, again not rocket science. I belong to the same demographic group that on a whole you seem to think should be insulted by what amy wrote. While I cannot claim to have this mean tested, I am pretty confident that I am not the only white hetero dude who feels that way, because it obviously depends on how you read what she wrote.

    Actually, I have the distinct impression that you know this very well, and are just engaging in sophistry.

  117. A Says:

    So in some democracies parties can form coalition.

    So why cannot Clinton and other minority parties for a coalition and may be win the presidency?

  118. amy Says:

    A #117 – those are usually parliamentary democracies in which there’s no direct vote for head of state; if there’s no clear majority in the parliamentary elections a majority coalition forms and usually the head of the larger faction’s party becomes head of state. We elect members of Congress and the President separately, and there’s no opportunity at that level for that sort of compromise; we’ve also got two enormously dominant parties and a collection of very tiny ones. It’s not like in Europe or Canada where there’s a collection of visible parties.

    Once in a long while an independent candidate will do very well — the only ones in my lifetime have been John Anderson in 1980 and Ross Perot in 1992. In general though the tiny-party candidates don’t get more than a few percent of the vote, and they’re ignored. If the vote’s very close, then it can matter.

    In 2000, I believed that Nader voters really did cost Gore the election. This time around, though, I’m less convinced that Stein voters cost Hillary the election. Most of them seem to have been disaffected Bernie voters, and I think it’s probably true that they’d have stayed home or just not voted for president if Stein hadn’t been on the ballot. I don’t think most of them would have voted for Hillary.

    A young friend of mine had a more compelling reason for the loss among millennials: they’d only voted for Obama, and these votes were an act of love and positive support. This time there was no one they felt strongly about, and rather than looking at voting as a strategic thing to do, they didn’t vote at all. Only afterwards did they understand why people hold their noses and vote.

  119. gms Says:

    quax #116

    Have been lurking here for a few years. I too am a white hetero dude and I am NOT insulted by what amy wrote. In fact, I find amy’s posts interesting and thought provoking.

  120. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. amy #113:

    Ok, but even now you shift away from “racist” figurine transgressions and towards domestic abuse, or institutionalized mysoginy in, say, the film industry. (There’s now some well-deserved uproar about how Maria Schneider was treated while filming Last Tango in Paris; and does anyone remember the plethora of signatures– from people including Whoopi Goldberg (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHflBPU-DtA)– in defense of Roman Polanski against rape accusations? What passes for Left/Liberal in Hollywood did itself no favors in how they handled that)

    You know, stuff that actually matters.

    As to the rage about trivialities making us more aware of others and their plight, and therefore better people– well, there’s this concept of microagression. Maybe it has merit (I’d disagree), but if these microagressions legitimize macroresponses then they are not about raising awareness. They’re about bullying, pure and simple, and indulging the instinct to punish. Not worth.

    Certainly not worth the image damage they do. There’s some noise around the internet that most women do not consider themselves feminists. Here’s some examples: http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/04/09/82-percent-of-americans-dont-consider-themselves-feminists-poll-shows/ ;; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/only-7-per-cent-of-britons-consider-themselves-feminists/ (last one’s on the Torygraph so it may be utter bollocks but whatever)

    (Counter-example https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/feminism-project/poll/ according to which identification as feminist happens often.)

    I don’t for a second believe women want to be victims, or don’t enjoy the benefits of the labor of feminists before them. May I believe, instead, that when a woman hears “feminist” she has something in mind more like raging at bobbleheads on dashboards, than about fighting mysoginy?

  121. JASA Says:

    @ amy #113

    “As for the `I am not an instance of my group’ thing: I’m failing to see how it’s impossible to see both `I am not an instance’ and `this thing is generally true of this group I belong to’ simultaneously.”


    Well, I see at least two problems:

    (1) It’s bad to make negative statements about a large group of people and assume the appropriate subset will understand you as saying “but you’re not an instance of what I meant”.

    Why is it bad?

    – It’s still discriminatory. Often racist/sexist sentiments leak out in the form “blacks are X”, “asians are Y”, “women are Z”, etc. only to be hastily followed with “well, I didn’t mean YOU” when they realize they’ve offended someone right in front of them.

    – It’s an inflammatory way to make a point, even if you have evidence that it’s “generally true” (which you don’t). Consider the controversy surrounding Larry Summer’s comments about the IQ distribution of women and the implications for STEM. Clearly, he didn’t mean all women were ill-equipped for careers in STEM, but did that matter to his critics?

    – This behavior is often used to signal a racist/sexist view to the other group. The subsequent caveats and backpedaling are there as camouflage only, and the target audience knows what you meant. Some have accused Trump of doing this via his comments on Mexicans. In short, if you truly want discussion instead of demagoguery, don’t do this.

    (2) You now seem to be claiming you didn’t mean all men. This begs the question: exactly how many 100s of millions to low billions of people are your damning statements meant to apply to?

    You’re still passing judgement on a huge, diverse group. I don’t see how you can qualify your statement to be anything less than sexist.


  122. JASA Says:

    @ quax #116

    “I belong to the same demographic group that on a whole you seem to think should be insulted by what amy wrote.”


    If you allege sophistry, please provide reasons why. I’m quoting you and asking questions.

    So the rule is: if I can find someone in the same “demographic group” who is not offended, then the statements in question are not offensive.

    Is that right? I’m trying to understand your personal process for determining whether a statement is hateful or not. I think we’re getting close!


  123. A Says:

    Amy #117

    Is coalition really incompatible with presidential form of democracy and also is it unconstitutional?

    If it is not unconstitutional then why do not Jill and Hill join hands? Is there no mechanism for that in US democracy?

    Coalition could be one way minority parties have a say giving rise to a more robust democracy.

  124. quax Says:

    Thanks, gms for chiming in.

    Probably much would be gained if people would just give each other more of the benefit of the doubt, and generally tried to act decently (and this goes for overzealous SJW as well, couldn’t believe what Scott had to deal with, back in the day, when I finally caught up with it).

  125. amy Says:

    A #123 – this is a subject of chronic debate among political scientists, the stabilizing effect of coalition governments. But there’s not a mechanism for that in the Constitution post-election. In practice, if a constituency like a Green Party or even an informal group like the Tea Party becomes important, it forms or becomes part of a caucus in Congress, and has to be paid some attention politically both in the legislature and by the President.

    There really is debate about whether it’s stabilizing or destabilizing, though. One of the main “destabilizing” argument cases is Israel, where Shas has been able to be the tail wagging the dog: if the largest party can’t rule without you, and it’s clearly going to be a marriage of convenience rather than genuine alignment, you have quite a bit of power, no matter how small and unrepresentative you are.

    Much more destabilizing is the influence of giant money in US politics and deepening inequality generally. It’s distanced representatives at all levels tremendously from the electorate, and the cost of the elections means they can’t take their eyes off the wealthy for a minute. It’s also locked up federal and often state legislation, which is written increasingly by lobbyists and championed by party whips who’re keeping their eyes on the money.

    Anyway — partly because we don’t have a history of coalition-governance like many other countries do, people here really don’t go for it. Jill’s supporters, for the most part, want nothing to do with a centrist candidate, even if it means some sort of influence over policy. They’re Greens precisely because they’ve turned their backs on practical politics and are holding out for idealism. If their party leader tried to strike a deal with Hillary, they’d abandon her. It’s not like, say, NDP voters warily but sensibly reaching out a hand to the Liberals.

  126. quax Says:

    JASA wrote “I’m quoting you and asking questions.”

    So I stand corrected, rather than sophistry you play IMHO a rather tiresome game of Socratic Questions.

    To cut through the chase and hopefully put this to bed, I will tell you how I determine whether I think a statement is hateful: By trying to infer if it was either driven by this emotion or willfully designed to elicit it.

    To get back to your example with regards to statements about minorities. One can for instance say that the risk of a black teen in Chicago to experience violence at the hand of another black teenager is higher than in that age bracket overall. To the extend that this is just a valid statistical statement it is free of any emotional judgment.

    Now, you can look at these statistics and either come at them with a helpful mindset, trying to uncover what is driving this crisis in violence, so as to find ways to mitigate the root causes. Or you can abuse them to feed into racist stereotypes.

    To tie this back to Amy’s statement: Obviously, human language is a very imprecise thing, but when listing to someone you create a mental image as to their motivation, and Amy did not strike me as somebody with a blanket hatred for all men. So I read her statement as pointing to a problematic behavior that is mostly exhibited by men, and an appeal to do something about it.

    It is my sincere hope that by now we have killed this horse, then flogged it some more, before dissecting it, and are now at a point where we can agree that there is nothing left of the horse to beat on.

  127. amy Says:

    BLANDCorp #120 – yeah, I agree that the microaggression talk can get absolutely silly. But I think the concept itself has merit. It’s just a way of making visible chronic, low-level belittling, blocking, harassment, and bias that’s part of the machinery of caste-making. Except of course in the US particularly we don’t officially believe in castes, so we go around pretending or imagining equality. Anyone who’s here from another country, especially if it’s a small one, and is not in one of a very few places here knows about it: you get steamrolled by the dominant culture, nobody knows about where you’re from, nobody knows your language, you’re ignored in conversation, you’re often treated like you’re stupid and from someplace primitive, and you sort of go underground as a person. You have your American persona, and then with other expats who understand you you’re yourself. It’s very exhausting, and it’s a burden, it wears on people.

    That’s part of why I greet the rapid diversification of the US population with great cheer: these things change only when people become more cosmopolitan. 25 years ago my campus was blindingly and, to me, unnervingly white; a black student would be stared at openly as a curiosity. Now a walk across campus is radically different: Asian students everywhere, many students of color. Many more grownup students, too, including students who are parents. It’s the faculty now that stands out as very, very white. And as the population changes, various groups find their voices and say, “X isn’t here for us” and “that thing you’re doing, you know you have this default-white-American bias.” I’m guilty of it too; you can hear it even in my comments here, because even though I work all day with international students and haven’t always lived in the US, the world in my head is an intensely American world, my default people are still white and straight, and when I hear “a [high-ranking professional]”, the person I imagine is still usually a man.

    I think too that receiving these things, the microaggression talk, with some flexibility is a good idea. When a young Asian-American student who’s in the middle of identity-seeking tells me heatedly about some microaggression someone’s committted — you know, I’m aware not every Asian-American student, let alone person generally, would react to it that way. I’m aware that in four years it may even have vanished altogether as a thing to talk about. But it has some meaning and it tells me something about…well, the simplest way I can put it is that it tells me something about what hurts. What hurts enough people enough, and is important enough, to have a name. It’s like learning any other cultural anything: it’s one piece, one bit of understanding. It’s not an axiom.

    Anyway, I find the growing diversity and the rising level of “hey, you have to pay attention over here too” a considerable relief. With much more resistance, the same thing is happening in the larger community outside the university.

    As for whether any hypersensitivity or overzealousness is a terrible thing for feminism or any other ism itself…I really very seldom find it a persuasive argument. You’re talking about people intent on making a revolution. I cannot recall ever having heard of a polite revolution. Some very rude people who alienated women left and right, though mostly right, are responsible for the fact that I can stand here talking about these things today in a house I own and out of a life that would have been unthinkable for my mother. So I cannot be altogether indignant about revolutionaries and their willingness to alienate. I owe them too much.

  128. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. amy #127:

    I like the statement about revolutions not being polite. But shouldn’t revolutions make sense to their own constituencies?

    Whatever the accuracy of the claims in the links I gave above, their implication is that many contemporary women don’t want to associate themselves with the notion of feminist. If true, that seems significant.

    Maybe it was always the case that most women didn’t care to be associated with the suffragettes, or with second wave feminists pushing for equal pay. One does wonder though, if that were true, just where did the oomph that gave the women the right to vote, or the right to terminate pregnancies, come from. Was it really just a few women capturing the ear of a few powerful men? (And speaking of reproductive rights, that fight may be kindled anew with what some of Trump’s cabinet are after.)

    But even admitting that throughout history most women did not want to see themselves associated with those “noisy rabble-rousing angry” feminists, it still seems like they– most women– would have appreciated what the feminists were fighting for as valuable. Same goes for the men and women championing justice for minorities; maybe some appeared too rocking-the-boat to their own people, but in the end everyone agreed that something had to be done, and what the general direction should be, even if not agreeing on the methods. Maybe that agreement is weaker when today a lot of effort is misspent on vendettas against individuals for things that really harm no one.

    And that was the bit about who thinks what of revolutions. What men think about the feminist revolution is as relevant as what industrial tycoons think of workers’ uprising.

    As to the usefulness of the notion of microagression to create a more aware society– and here what men think is important, they’re part of that society and some of the targets of the waking up effort– well, I doubt the usefulness of it because of how it has turned out in practice.

    Your grandfather, when asked to remove a “racist” figurine, would have listened and complied. I’d do the same. But forgive me, I’m human, and if hectored I will get more defensive and less compassionate. And if a guy can get attacked for wearing dreadlocks (here’s a commentary/replay of that https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2C1S8dWANU), I might get the impression that the whole cultural sensitivity issue is a sham. I don’t believe cultural sensitivity is a sham, and I’m not sure I believe that particular dreadlock attack incident is real either, btw– but it looks like something that could happen, and it looks like something that would undermine a worthy cause. Somehow police have a habit of shooting young African-Americans and we worry about who’s wearing dreadlocks or cornrows.

    There’s also something to be said for being offensive as bonding; a polite society is a disconnected society. Though I must agree, the casual insensitivity between strangers is not earned offensiveness and more consideration to others wouldn’t hurt. But the offensiveness of microagressions, on itself, is of mixed moral value; that is, not totally evil. There’s a guy out there who is fond of telling anecdotes where the pinnacle, the moment that he and someone else finally cement their friendship, they celebrate it by hurling ethnic slurs at each other. And though there’s a certain mutability to the anecdotes that suggests they may be embellished, they feel real. It’s one thing to have an acquaintance you can invite for polite tea, and another to have a friend with which you argue, in raised voices, about politics or whatever, because there’s already a level of trust and connection built.

  129. amy Says:

    BLANDCorp #128 – you might enjoy Susan Brownmiller’s _In Our Time_, a very readable and, I thought, well-written memoir of the second-wave revolution. Lot of stuff in there about the question of how far is too far, and, as I recall, also about how some of those landmark victories came about.

    I was a girl, then, and no women I knew called themselves feminists. I even — and I know this’ll make some regulars laugh — went to charm school, complete with walking with a book on my head, and learned to keep house in expectation that that’s what I’d be doing (when I wasn’t being a doctor — the same grandpa who had the hula-girl lamp was pushing me to go to medical school). In fact the feminists reliably made my mother and her friends quite angry, and they weren’t sorry at all to see Phyllis Schlafly come along and say that women were happiest as housewives. It always has been a weakness of feminism, dealing with the question of motherhood, and my mother’s friends felt under assault. But the debate was still very much in the air, and on the air — if it wasn’t on the news, it was on Mary Tyler Moore or All in the Family or one of the other 47 shows Norman Lear had on at the time. And while my mother couldn’t stand Gloria Steinem, she never missed Maude. And, oh, seven or eight years later, she divorced my father, and most of her friends divorced their husbands, something they’d never have dreamt of when they married. They were all, as it turned out, quite desperately unhappy as suburban housewives with their children and vacuum cleaners and book clubs, and I remember reading The Feminine Mystique for the first time in my 20s, and thinking, my god, this is my mother’s life. It was right there on the page. Even though she couldn’t stand Betty Friedan, either.

    So maybe it’s a case of “no such thing as bad publicity”. Or maybe it’s that as the message seeps into the culture it’s divorced to some extent from the tone, or from the original messengers, and others pick it up and fashion it into things that others can stand to listen to.

    I wonder sometimes about how people are learning to listen to hectoring and other sorts of yelling now, since there’s so much of it. My impulse — and I don’t know why — is to recoil and be affronted and then to listen, because what strikes me first is the tone and emotion rather than the words, and I don’t know why the person is yelling. And (often) I want to know what it’s about, if it’s particularly intense or novel — does this person know something? If so, I want to hear. But that’s been how it’s been for a long time. I remember traveling around Britain on my own when I was a teenager, during Reagan’s presidency, when crackpots of all kinds would decide I was a convenient proxy to hector about the terribleness of my government. So I let them give me tea and listened, didn’t understand but listened, and eventually learned some context for what they were saying. What they were saying, the pamphlets they had ready to go, was in many ways less important than the push, the emotion and sensibility, behind it, the faded cushions and the essentially civil outrage that shaped the rhetoric, the entitlement to insolence in loserdom, the leftist-bookshop-bred recitation of crimes as documented, the stubble, also the windmill-tilting. You can hear the same things in Mike Leigh’s movies and James Kelman’s short stories. In Lessing, too. The descendants of those voices are still very much alive.

    I’m wandering and should go grade papers. One other thing, though — while the chaffing back and forth is a friendly thing between friends, that’s a relationship of more-or-less equals, and it becomes less friendly as soon as things are less equal than that. I don’t think “microaggression” (infelicitious word anyhow) is meant to mean that sort of play-wrestling. Instead it really is about a program of keeping people in their places, consciously or no.

    An interesting thing: I find in middle age that the women I know don’t much do that with each other, the friendly insults, even if we did as girls. Maybe it’s because the insults actually hurt, even if a friend says them as a joke, or because we get these things too much from the outside world as it is. And because we all just have too much to carry — life’s too hard and exhausting for insulting friends. Praise, support, sympathy, etc., yes. Bitch, slut — you know, nobody wants it.

  130. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt amy #129:

    Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll make it the next thing I read.

    I’ve been looking for something, but to no avail. There was some pop book about negotiation or some related skill, and it had an anecdote about someone being a mediator in some dispute between two fishing companies. The lesson the anecdote was supposed to give was, “it’s not about the fish”. If only I could find it, seems like it would fit with what you said about getting to what’s behind the rage.

    That much I get; maybe not the actual reasons for rage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3j2Pb0YwVH8), but that sometimes what’s said as a reason isn’t the reason, it’s just some proverbial straw or that one piece of dust that lets the bubbles in an already overheated water form. But it’s still anger misexpressed, wasted on unworthy targets (in the cases I’ve linked to as examples of “PC overreach”).

  131. A Says:

    “Anyway — partly because we don’t have a history of coalition-governance like many other countries do, people here really don’t go for it. Jill’s supporters, for the most part, want nothing to do with a centrist candidate, even if it means some sort of influence over policy. They’re Greens precisely because they’ve turned their backs on practical politics and are holding out for idealism. If their party leader tried to strike a deal with Hillary, they’d abandon her. It’s not like, say, NDP voters warily but sensibly reaching out a hand to the Liberals.”

    So you think Jill and Hill not getting along would make more sense to Jill’s supporters than someone like Trump being leader of the free world?

  132. JASA Says:

    @ quax #126

    “So I stand corrected, rather than sophistry you play IMHO a rather tiresome game of Socratic Questions.”

    You stated “one has to be quite obtuse to misread amy’s quote as hateful” and “I am truly sorry for you, if you feel insulted by what amy wrote”. So I’ve asked how you arrive at such a different perspective. It’s not intended as sophistry or as a game.

    “I will tell you how I determine whether I think a statement is hateful: By trying to infer if it was either driven by this emotion or willfully designed to elicit it.”

    Elegantly phrased, but problematic because your rule supports my claim as much as it supports yours.

    Let’s start with “willfully designed to elicit”. To refresh, men are “frequently dishonest”, “not particularly thoughtful”, and have a “full-time career of variously screwing over and using other people”. This is exactly the type of stereotyping –prevalent on sites like Salon and Jezebel — that’s becoming increasingly popular in the media, and it’s designed to shame and dehumanize men and boys.

    “I regret to say that my daughter’s already running into it, with boys running the numbers, and that nothing’s changed: a refusal to behave like an object for the boy’s benefit meets with immediate attacks and nastiness, and then it shuts off as the boy moves on to maltreat other girls.” — amy, #61

    Regulars on this board will have witnessed many other statements biased against males. Indeed, they’re offensive to enough readers that amy has been urged by Scott to refrain from “derailing intellectual discussion with stereotypes about the other side”. Ultimately, yes, I do believe amy’s comments are meant to support an increasingly hateful view of males.

    The “driven by” portion is more delicate since I have to guess at a motive – something I dislike about your rule, since I’d rather judge the content of her statements. I’ll say this: amy has repeatedly mentioned personal details that suggest very negative experiences with men. From this, I can reasonably infer that her comments are driven in large part by these experiences.

    I claim to have satisfied your rule. Sure, we can argue the subjective issue of whether I meet the threshold for either portion (one is sufficient), but I think it passes without needing much charity. So I don’t see how your rule allows you to easily dismiss my claims in favor of yours. In other words, it seems if I’m “obtuse”, then so are you.

  133. amy Says:

    A #131 – I didn’t spend nearly as much time talking to the Jill supporters as I did talking to Naderites in 2000, but they seemed to be cut from the same cloth. From their point of view, as far as I can make out, there’s no substantial difference between Hillary and Trump. I’m not claiming that they’re well-informed. (If you look at the US Greens statement on why they’re distancing themselves from the recount, it’s plain that they don’t understand what the recount is for, either.)

    Hillary was a deeply, deeply disappointing candidate for anyone who wanted a lefty revolution with a charismatic leader. Or even just a charismatic leader. If you ask me, the real problem her candidacy exposed is that there’s no real Gen X leadership on the left. The closest you get is Warren, who doesn’t strike me as a good national candidate. Beyond that…maybe some mayors? Who’re also unlikely as national candidates? We had Hillary because there wasn’t anyone else, really. If there had been, I don’t think Bernie even would’ve run. But there’s considerable depth of field on the far right.

  134. A Says:

    “But there’s considerable depth of field on the far right”.

    I am not sure what you are talking?

    Trump devoured each of them.

  135. amy Says:

    A #134 – I mean that they have a good number of middle-aged politicians ready to compete at a national level. Not a thing I’m seeing on any part of the left-of-center spectrum. Something obviously went wrong there.

  136. quax Says:

    JASA, if it was easy to find simple rules that objectively judge non-scientific statements without context (i.e. a model of the world and the other speaker), then the rule based approach to AI in the early eighties would have been a thunderous success.

    So yes, of course you can come to the conclusion that I am the obtuse one, and we’d just leave it at having irrevocably different impressions of what kind of person Amy is.

    But rather than focusing on the wording or the person, maybe it would be better to step back and seek some common ground i.e. let’s focus on the problematic behavior in question. Irrespective of gender, wouldn’t you for instance agree that objectifying any person as a mere means to sexual gratification is in most circumstances rather unethical? Or that somebody who tricks others into intimacy by fostering a pretense of romantic love acts with bad intentions?

  137. amy Says:

    BLANDCorp #130 — rage nucleation, yeah. A couple of things occur to me there: one, the fact that life really is tremendously uncertain for most people in the US now in ways that would’ve been inconceivable 35 years ago; and two, things here have changed really fast, and the adaptation rate’s pretty cruel.

    After the 2008 crash I thought we’d oscillate a while, running from one party to the other and blaming them both for what’s just an accident of history: the 20th-c American moment in the sun is over. (And while the ultrawealthy, having picked ordinary people clean, concentrated on preying on the merely wealthy.) And that after maybe 20-30 years of this we’d wind up with the electorate abandoning both parties and choosing a strongman, believing (erroneously, of course) that this guy would be able to fix things. I never would’ve guessed it’d happen this fast, though.

    Something else that’s perfectly human that’s never made sense to me is the feeling that in a terrible situation one must do *something*, even if it’s obvious that any action will probably make things worse. The whole “at least I feel like I’m doing something” impulse. I bet we’ll see a lot of that.

  138. A Says:


    Can citizens demand a revote from supreme court like other democracies?

  139. Dan J. Says:

    A #138: Presumably only if there is evidence of vote system hacking, which there isn’t.

  140. JASA Says:

    @quax, #136

    So yes, of course you can come to the conclusion that I am the obtuse one…

    Okay, so do you realize how unhelpful it is to say “one has to be quite obtuse to misread amy’s quote as hateful”, “I am truly sorry for you, if you feel insulted by what amy wrote”?

    You’re not providing any useful info about how you reach your judgements or why differing ones are faulty. Worse, when pressed to explain your reasoning, you eventually admit that “of course” I can come to my conclusion about amy. More below on why this behavior is bad.

    “But rather than focusing on the wording or the person, maybe it would be better to step back and seek some common ground i.e. let’s focus on the problematic behavior in question. Irrespective of gender, wouldn’t you for instance agree that objectifying any person as a mere means to sexual gratification is in most circumstances rather unethical? Or that somebody who tricks others into intimacy by fostering a pretense of romantic love acts with bad intentions?”

    Oh, sure. And why not ask me if I think “1+1=2”? I’m guessing we share that common ground also.

    Look, this is just a motte-and-bailey tactic. Amy makes sexist comments. You attempt to defend them, but when pressed, realize there is perhaps merit in concluding that amy is indeed sexist. So now you’re falling back to your motte, issuing truisms, hoping to recast amy’s comments in a manner that no reasonable person should rebut.

    But your phrasing is a sanitized and misleading abstraction of amy’s comment. You’ve removed all uncertainty from the situation — the motives of the actors, the interpretation of their actions by a biased observer — so there’s only one side to the story. I’m going to decline your invitation to find “common ground” since I think you’re only paying lip service to the concept.

    “…as long as any idea has any merits as to make it worthy of debate if will automatically fall outside the scope of such a free speech restriction.” quax, #76

    “When I see large numbers of neo-nazis aggregating, organizing, ginning each other up, and making new myth for themselves on large social-media platforms, and see their language and baloney stories leaking out into more general conversations, I say yeah, let’s have that blunt instrument. Push that stuff back into the corners. And if we’re lucky, we fix what there is to fix in the law later.” -amy, #78

    For me, the main point of our conversation has been to illustrate that it’s not easy to decide what qualifies as hate speech. After this, I wouldn’t trust you to decide, and I’m hoping the feeling is mutual. So when I see you and amy arguing upthread for degrading freedom of speech, my most charitable interpretation is that you’re just too fearful to be thoughtful.

    If the price for a robust democracy is a relatively small number of neo-nazis, then I’m glad to pay it. But when you advocate restricting free speech, you’re weakening the best defense against a slide into autocracy.

    I think we’ve already seen the effects, with people too afraid to voice their grievances outside the voting booth. And what are the answers? Make new laws that can be used to further force people to hide their discontent. Or blame it on Hillary being a “deeply, deeply disappointing candidate” (ignoring the fact that Trump trounced his Republican competitors). Or quote Burke (ignoring that Trump overcame incredible opposition by arguably good people to win the presidency). Anything except acknowledging that intimidating people into silence isn’t the same as convincing them; to do the latter, you need wide latitude in what you’re allowed to say and what ideas you’re allowed to explore.

    “Something else that’s perfectly human that’s never made sense to me is the feeling that in a terrible situation one must do *something*, even if it’s obvious that any action will probably make things worse. The whole “at least I feel like I’m doing something” impulse. I bet we’ll see a lot of that.” – amy, #137


  141. quax Says:

    JASA, unfortunately you apparently did not understand the point about simple rule based parsing of statements to establish “truth”.

    If you cannot understand why people can form strong different opinions on statements based on their individual experience there is really not much basis to continue this conversation. And in light of your comparison with Amy’s statements to neo-nazis I can only conclude that you have some major issues i.e. your model of the world (your priors so to speak) are far off from what I would regard as normal and sensible.

  142. JASA Says:

    @ quax, #141

    “And in light of your comparison with Amy’s statements to neo-nazis I can only conclude that you have some major issues…”

    LOL, nice straw man.

    “…there is really not much basis to continue this conversation.”

    That’s fine. I wanted to show that when you criticize a person’s position, they’ll likely ask for your reasoning. I gave mine in comments #121, #104, and #100. In contrast, your response has been:

    (1) to deflect with “it’s not rocket science”, accusations of sophistry or playing a game of “Socratic Questions”, and having major issues.

    (2) an inconsistent rule for making judgements about hate speech (comment #132), motte-and-bailey and straw man arguments, and a few more patronizing comments to boot (which look bad no matter how many IMHOs you insert).

    Why bother? I doubt it helps very much, but it can’t hurt to have more examples of why your style of argument is flawed. For instance, Milo Yiannopoulos gets too much mileage out of rebutting such arguments because he can articulate slightly more than ad-hominems and deflection. Here’s 2-minute example:


    We’d be better served if the BBC reporter asked Milo to elaborate on his distinction between “culture” and “race”. Yes, they really are different things, so implications of “racism” are off-target and you lose a lot of people with that.

    But who decides which cultures get banned? Whose culture is next? Chinese culture? Indian culture? If not, what criteria are you using exactly? Is culture contained by borders? Can we ban immigration from Germany, France, or Canada because of their diverse populations? What effects will banning have on the US economy, education, scientific edge in certain areas?

    Get him to discuss these issues and have non-Muslims start thinking about their family, friends, and even themselves as possibly next on this list of banned cultures. And, yup, this may lead to some uncomfortable discussion of Islam.

    Alternatively, keep shaming your opponents, and feverishly calling for restrictions on free speech (no need for deflection then!), and see if things get better in four years.

  143. quax Says:

    JASA, (2) just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t make it inconsistent.

    By bringing up Milo you affirm the impression that I formed of you, much appreciated.