Missing the Trees for the Forest

post by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2009-07-22T03:23:33.171Z · score: 69 (73 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 159 comments

Politics is the mind-killer. A while back, I gave an example: the government's request that Kelloggs  [EDIT: General Mills, thanks CronoDAS] top making false claims about Cheerios. By the time the right-wing and left-wing blogospheres had finished with it, this became everything from part of the deliberate strangulation of the American entrepreneurial spirit by a conspiracy of bureaucrats, to a symbol of the radicalization of the political right into a fringe group obsessed with Communism, to a prelude to Obama's plan to commit genocide against all citizens who disagree with him. All because of Cheerios!

Why? What drives someone to hear about a reasonable change in cereal advertising policy and immediately think of a second Holocaust?

This reminds me of something I used to notice when reading about politics. Sometimes there would be a seemingly good idea to deregulate something that clearly needed deregulation. The idea's proponents would go on TV and say that, hey, this was obviously a good idea. Whoever by the vagary of politics had to oppose the idea would go on TV and talk about industry's plot to emasculate government safeguards. Predatory corporations! Class solidarity! Consumer safety!

Then the next day, there would be seemingly good idea to regulate something that clearly needed regulating. The idea's proponents would go on TV and say that, hey, this was obviously a good idea. Its opponents would go on TV and say that all government regulation was inherently bad. Small government! Freedom! Capitalism!

I have found a pattern: when people consider an idea in isolation, they tend to make good decisions. When they consider an idea a symbol of a vast overarching narrative, they tend to make very bad decisions.

Let me offer another example.

A white man is accused of a violent attack on a black woman. In isolation, well, either he did it or he didn't, and without any more facts there's no use discussing it.

But what if this accusation is viewed as a symbol? What if you have been saying for years that racism and sexism are endemic in this country, and that whites and males are constantly abusing blacks and females, and they're always getting away with it because the police are part of a good ole' boys network who protect their fellow privileged whites?

Well, right now, you'll probably still ask for the evidence. But if I gave you some evidence, and it was complicated, you'd probably interpret it in favor of the white man's guilt. The heart has its reasons that reasons know not of, and most of them suck. We make unconsciously make decisions based on our own self-interest and what makes us angry or happy, and then later we find reasons why the evidence supports them. If I have a strong interest in a narrative of racism, then I will interpret the evidence to support accusations of racism.

Lest I sound like I'm picking on the politically correct, I've seen scores of people with the opposite narrative. You know, political correctness has grown rampant in our society, women and minorities have been elevated to a status where they can do no wrong, the liberal intelligentsia always tries to pin everything on the white male. When the person with this narrative hears the evidence in this case, they may be more likely to believe the white man - especially if they'd just listened to their aforementioned counterpart give their speech about how this proves the racist and sexist tendencies of white men.

Yes, I'm thinking of the Duke lacrosse case.

The problem here is that there are two different questions here: whether this particular white male attacked this particular black woman, and whether our society is racist or "reverse racist". The first question definitely has one correct answer which while difficult to ascertain is philosophically simple, whereas the second question is meaningless, in the same technical sense that "Islam is a religion of peace" is meaningless. People are conflating these two questions, and acting as if the answer to the second determines the answer to the first.

Which is all nice and well unless you're one of the people involved in the case, in which case you really don't care about which races are or are not privileged in our society as much as you care about not being thrown in jail for a crime you didn't commit, or about having your attacker brought to justice.

I think this is the driving force behind a lot of politics. Let's say we are considering a law mandating businesses to lower their pollution levels. So far as I understand economics, the best decision-making strategy is to estimate how much pollution is costing the population, how much cutting pollution would cost business, and if there's a net profit, pass the law. Of course it's more complicated, but this seems like a reasonable start.

What actually happens? One side hears the word "pollution" and starts thinking of hundreds of times when beautiful pristine forests were cut down in the name of corporate greed. This links into other narratives about corporate greed, like how corporations are oppressing their workers in sweatshops in third world countries, and since corporate executives are usually white and third world workers usually not, let's add racism into the mix. So this turns into one particular battle in the war between All That Is Right And Good and Corporate Greed That Destroys Rainforests And Oppresses Workers And Is Probably Racist.

The other side hears the words "law mandating businesses" and starts thinking of a long history of governments choking off profitable industry to satisfy the needs of the moment and their re-election campaign. The demonization of private industry and subsequent attempt to turn to the government for relief is a hallmark of communism, which despite the liberal intelligentsia's love of it killed sixty million people. Now this is a battle in the war between All That Is Right And Good and an unholy combination of Naive Populism and Soviet Russia. This, I think, is part of what happened to the poor Cheerios.

Now, if the economists do their calculations and report that actually the law would cause more harm than good, do you think the warriors against Corporate Greed That Destroys Rainforests And Oppresses Workers And Is Probably Racist are going to say "Oh, okay then" and stand down? In the face of Corporate Greed That Destroys Rainforests And Oppresses Workers And Is Probably Racist?!?1

One more completely hypothetical example. Let's say someone uses language that objectifies women on a blog. Not out of malice or anything, it was just a post on evolutionary psychology, it's easy to write evolutionary psychology in a way that sounds like it's objectifying women, and since obviously no one would objectify women on purpose to insult them it will be clear to everyone that it was just a harmless turn of phrase. Right?

And let's say some feminist comes along and reads this completely innocent phrase about women. Let's say the context is the entire history of gender relations for the past ten thousand years, in which men have usually oppressed women and usually been pretty okay with doing so. And a society that's moving towards not oppressing women and towards treating them as full and equal human beings, but it's still not entirely clear that everyone's on board with this.

This poorly-worded phrase is now a symbol of All Those Chauvinists Who Think Of Women As Ornaments Or Toys Only Good For Sex And Making Babies2. The feminist is unhappy. He or she asks for the phrase to be removed.

Let's say some person who is emphatically not a feminist notices this request for removal. Let's say the context is a society where men are generally portrayed in popular culture as violent bumbling apes who cause all world problems. A culture where women can go on for hours about what boors men are, but any man who says a word about women is immediately branded a sexist pig. A culture where a popular feminist once said that all sex was rape [EDIT: Or not. Apologies for misquote], and many people believed her, one with affirmative action laws mandating that women be hired over equally qualified men, one where you can't say "chairman of the board" without someone calling you sexist and accusing you of taking advantage of your male privilege to ignore male privilege if you disagree.

This request to remove a potentially offensive phrase is now a symbol of All Those Feminists Who Hate Men And Want Them To Feel Guilty All The Time For Vague Reasons. He or she gets angry, and certainly won't remove the offending phrase.

I'm not sure that's what's happening in this case, but I don't think a few poorly worded phrases followed by a polite request to change those poorly worded phrases would have reached five hundred fifty comments divided over four top-level posts if people were just taking it as a request to use slightly different language. In our completely hypothetical example, of course.

I call this mistake "missing the trees for the forest". If you have a specific case you need to judge, judge it separately on its own merits, not the merits of what agendas it promotes or how it fits with emotionally charged narratives3.

 

Footnotes

1: This gets worse once it gets formally organized into political parties. You get people saying something like "How can you, as an atheist, support the war in Iraq?" and thinking it makes perfect sense, because, after all, the war in Iraq is a Republican initiative, and the Republicans are the party of religious conservatives, therefore... Oh, yes, people think like this.

2: Oh, and this answers a question I sometimes hear asked half-seriously on message boards: how come derogatory jokes are okay in some settings but not in others? For example, how come Polish jokes are generally considered okay, but black jokes definitely aren't? Or how come it's considered okay for a black person to make a racist-sounding joke about black people or use the n-word, whereas it's not okay for a white person?

I think the answer is that if I were to make a Polish joke, it would be interpreted as what it is - a joke that needed somebody to play the part of a stupid person to be funny, and Polish people have traditionally served that role. There is no active well-known ongoing context of persecution of Polish people for the joke to symbolize, so it symbolizes nothing but itself and is inert. If I were to tell a joke about black people, even if it was clear that I wasn't actually racist and just thought the joke was funny, then since most people have a very active concept of persecution of black people, my joke would be a symbol of that persecution, and all right-thinking people who oppose that persecution would also probably oppose my joke. 

This leads to the odd conclusion that in a society known to be without racism, no one would mind racist jokes or slurs. In fact, this is confirmed by evidence. Black people are, society generally assumes, above suspicion when it comes to anti-black racism, and therefore black people can use the "n-word" without most people objecting.

This is what led to me developing some of these thoughts. I told a joke which I considered to be making fun of racism. Someone who heard it misinterpreted it and thought it was racist, accused me of racism, spread rumors that I was racist, and generally started a large and complicated campaign to discredit me. After that, I noticed that I was always coming to the defense of people who were accused of racism, and was willing to dismiss practically the entire concept of racism in society as a self-serving attempt at personal gain by minorities, a one hundred eighty degree turn from my previous attitude. Eventually I realized that I was just re-fighting the battle I had to fight after this one joke, and fitting everything to my "sometimes false accusations of racism unfairly harm majority group members and we need to protect against this" narrative. So I stopped. I think.

This also could explain why, contrary to Robin Hanson's hopes, people will never stop using disclaimers. They're ways of saying "I did this action for reasons that do not relate to your narrative; please exclude me from it", and this is not people's default position.

3: One objection could be that the specific case could start a slippery slope, or create a climate in which other things become viewed as more acceptable. In my experience, neither of these matter nearly as much as they would have to to justify the number of times people invoke them.

159 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Peter_Twieg · 2009-07-22T15:33:10.557Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

One person's "overarching narrative" is another person's set of Bayesian priors.

Take, for example, your pollution discussion. An economics textbook will tell you that there is an ideal level of taxation, yes. However, it won't tell you about regulatory capture, mission creep, the Hayekian knowledge problem, etc. There is always a correct set of contextual data to be used to interpret and resolve problems in isolation, yes - but determining what this set is and how we should interpret the probabilities of various events occurring is pretty much always going to invoke an overarching narrative unless you really, really think that this screws everything up.

But as an economist - a Masonomics student, no less - I'm inclined to see a greater harm in "markets fail, so assume a benevolent social planner and imagine what policies she could implement" approach to solving economic questions than the harms of dirtying one's self in the morass of historical context. This is why social science is hard - and why it should be hard. It's not that we should be indifferent to the injection of ideology into these debates, but that it's liable to create greater harm if we try to avoid all questions which cannot yield precise analytical answers which are self-apparent to reasonable minds.

Hopefully I'm not strawmanning your point here - maybe you're primarily trying to explain how ideology mucks things up, but I also get the impression that you think it's reasonably feasible to avoid questions that lend themselves to ideological answers... I definitely would disagree with such an assertion.

comment by nazgulnarsil · 2009-07-22T04:20:12.830Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

"What drives someone to hear about a reasonable change in cereal advertising policy and immediately think of a second Holocaust?"

you have to one up everyone else commenting on a subject in order to get attention. attention = potential higher status.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-22T04:18:51.746Z · score: 10 (20 votes) · LW · GW

A culture where a popular feminist once said that all sex was rape

Misquote.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2009-07-23T01:37:57.709Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Corrected with apology, although for the sake of the argument it's only necessary that people think this was said.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T01:48:12.868Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

And in fairness, someone did say something like that.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T05:03:12.723Z · score: 6 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain could have been referring to Dworkin, who, in the link, says

When asked to explain her views on the topic, Dworkin replied: "Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent. ..."

ETA: Her next sentence is to self-servingly disavow the "all sex is rape" attribution, and my initial post left this out. Considering the part that I did quote, and its context, it should be clear why such a disavowal carries no credibility. Because I didn't make this all clear the first time around, the discussion turned to the topic of why I cut off the quote, and I present my reasons in the comments that follows. My case is best summarized by an analogy in this comment.

Yeah, it sure sucks when people slightly misquote your actual beliefs, doesn't it? It's like with Ronald Reagan. What he REALLY said was

"I mean, if you've looked at a hundred thousand acres or so of trees — you know, a tree is a tree, how many more do you need to look at?"

But ignorant liars always quote him as saying

"If you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all."

What an undeserved smear on Reagan's reputation to have such a quote attributed to him.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T14:13:15.414Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

When asked to explain her views on the topic, Dworkin replied: "Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent. ..."

Yeah, it sure sucks when people slightly misquote your actual beliefs, doesn't it?

The ellipsis conceals "I'm not saying that sex must be rape". You seriously don't think "All sex is rape" would therefore be a misinterpretation of what Dworkin said?

ETA: Note that I'm primarily responding to academic bad form.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T15:24:56.681Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Dworkin spent her life espousing an ideology that saw guilt in everything men did. Normal, well-adjusted people who actually read her works could not make any sense of them except to mean that men automatically do lots of oppressive, evil things, and got the impression -- right or wrong -- she believed all sex is rape, which probably spiraled into a rumor that she said exaclty that.

When finally held to account for her views, she's forced to realize how absurd her views actually are, and what they imply. So, she does what everyone would do -- she backpedals: "Oh, no, I didnt' actually believe that."

But note that even when she has to disavow the minimal amount necessary to maintain street cred, she still groups all sexual intercourse in the same category as "violence".

Yes, Dworkin was misrepresented -- just not by very much, and certainly not enough to warrant all the handwringing.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T15:32:17.318Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think there was all that much 'handwringing'. Most references to "all heterosexual sex is rape" are misattributed to MacKinnon, and if Dworkin did any favors for feminist discourse, it was to speed up the loss of credibility for radical feminism.

I was primarily pointing out that it is disingenuous at least to interpret a quote out of context where the context contained the negation of your interpretation.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T15:42:50.202Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW · GW

The issue is whether Dworkin's views imply "All sex is rape", and her personal disavowal of that position when under the spotlight counts for nothing, which is why I don't think it's necessary for context. The critical part is what she still clings to, not what she can sheepishly disclaim.

Look, Thom, most anyone can voice a coherent sentence. So the fact that they say something, even about themselves, does not make it true. (It is weak Bayesian evidence of its truth if the statement is self-serving.)

I'm going to show you a trick:

I, Silas Barta, have the utmost respect for both men and women, and I never use language that is in any way objectifying to either.

See? I made a claim about my statements and character. And that doesn't make it true! In fact, it's going to utterly fail to convince Alicorn.

Can you start to see how the part I didn't quote is less important than what I did quote? Can you start to see why "Oh, no, I totally don't believe that stuff about all sex being rape" doesn't carry much weight?

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-22T16:15:18.486Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I, Silas Barta, have the utmost respect for both men and women, and I never use language that is in any way objectifying to either.

This is a statement about your prior actions.

"I'm not saying that sex must be rape"

This is a statement about her prior statement.

I don't think these two are analogous.

I don't know anything about Dworkin, but when you're telling someone what they really think (in spite of their explicit statement to the contrary), you're on pretty shaky ground. It's much better to just call their statements inconsistent than to insist they really mean X.

EDIT: The fact that you find someone's views weirdly and obviously inconsistent implies one of two things: their internal state is muddled (or they are rationalizing/confabulating), or you don't actually understand their view. I've been on both sides of both cases in my life, it's hard to tell the difference. It's extremely frustrating when people who don't understand my view on something try to tell me what I really think.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T18:09:13.897Z · score: 1 (23 votes) · LW · GW

This is a statement about her prior statement.

I don't think these two are analogous.

They're both statements about the speaker's position, and I explained the parallels, which you need to address. It's elaborated here.

I don't know anything about Dworkin, but when you're telling someone what they really think (in spite of their explicit statement to the contrary), you're on pretty shaky ground. It's much better to just call their statements inconsistent than to insist they really mean X.

You know what's even better than that? Quoting them. You know what's even better than that? Quoting their reaction to criticism of the view in question. You know what's even better than that? Quoting the part that shows how close the accusation is to being correct, because of what they'll admit to when "defending" themselves.

Look back: which one did I do?

The fact that you find someone's views weirdly and obviously inconsistent implies one of two things: their internal state is muddled (or they are rationalizing/confabulating), or you don't actually understand their view. I've been on both sides of both cases in my life, it's hard to tell the difference. It's extremely frustrating when people who don't understand my view on something try to tell me what I really think.

You know what's also frustrating?

-When someone's writing is so vague that most people read it as "all sex is rape".

-When I'm told all my life that I'm an oppressor, and have to watch out for the invisible acts of oppression that I'm committing, which can only be revealed by consultation with a special class of offical censors, all the while men who ignore these rules attract all the women.

Where's my pity party? It seems that patience is reserved for those who say inflammatory things, propogate myths for decades, and then manage to say with a straight face, "no, no, I didn't mean -- what was the unpopular part again? -- yeah, that. That I didn't mean. But yeah, sex is violence. You can keep feeling guilty."

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-22T18:52:43.866Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

They're both statements about the speaker's position, and I explained the parallels, which you need to address. It's elaborated here.

I think you changed the example a little bit there (http://lesswrong.com/lw/13k/missing_the_trees_for_the_forest/yrh). What you wrote there I don't have any problem with. Whether it's a charitable reading of Dworkin or a straw(wo)man, I have no knowledge. Since I don't feel like reading up on her, I am inclined to grant you that interpretation for the sake of conversation.

You know what's even better than that? Quoting them. You know what's even better than that? Quoting their reaction to criticism of the view in question. You know what's even better than that? Quoting the part that shows how close the accusation is to being correct, because of what they'll admit to when "defending" themselves.

That's fine, but packing that whole line of thinking into the act of omitting half of a quotation is bound to give people the wrong impression. If you think "all sex is rape" is consistent, on the whole, with someone's work, you can just say that's what you think. Hell, I don't know anything about her in particular and personally find radical feminist thought to be weird and wrong, so I wouldn't even argue with you.

But don't do half a job quoting someone; if in your original comment on the subject contained the words "and I know immediately afterwards she disclaims the obvious interpretation of this sentence, but that is clearly an out-of-character statement for her and probably does not reflect her true view, given all the other things she's said," then we would not be having this conversation.

When I'm told all my life that I'm an oppressor, and have to watch out for the invisible acts of oppression that I'm committing, which can only be revealed by consultation with a special class of offical censors, all the while men who ignore these rules attract all the women.

I certainly don't support what you're reacting to. If it's not already clear, I find radical feminism quite hypocritical, assuming I understand it. I suppose my few comments on this have given the impression that I'm on Alicorn's "side", whatever that means, but I'm actually pretty neutral on the whole thing, I can understand both positions. My comments have admittedly been on the "moderate feminist" side, but only because it's been less well represented (quantity, not quality, my subjective opinion) and I thought I could contribute something positive.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T19:11:57.731Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

But don't do half a job quoting someone; if in your original comment on the subject contained the words "and I know immediately afterwards she disclaims the obvious interpretation of this sentence, but that is clearly an out-of-character statement for her and probably does not reflect her true view, given all the other things she's said," then we would not be having this conversation.

Okay, fair point. I thought it was obvious why the next sentence should carry so little weight, but even so, I should have explained that that was the reason for the exclusion.

ETA: I've added a clarifier to the initial comment.

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-23T01:34:04.015Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you; I have to admit I'm pleasantly surprised. There aren't many blogs you can see a comment like this on.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-23T02:01:24.250Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

We're generally fairly reasonable folks around here, even while having a ridiculous multiple-day politically-charged feud.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T19:08:14.322Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I find radical feminism quite hypocritical, assuming I understand it.

Brief intro:

Radical feminism, simply put, is isomorphic to radical marxism. Where the marxist would interpret virtually anything as an instance of "class warfare", the radical feminist would interpret virtually anything as an instance of "oppression by the patriarchy". The "patriarchy", in this sense, is that complex web of behaviors and assumptions that, on the whole, radical feminists believe was constructed by men to keep women down.

There is a charitable interpretation of the "patriarchy" that suggests that it was not created specifically by men, and it is not intended to keep women down, but then "patriarchy" is a bad name. Radical feminist works usually make more internal sense if you just read it as though "patriarchy" referred to an illuminati-like organization with immense power hell-bent on subjugating women using insidious methods like making the Washington Monument look phallic.

While there are still quite a few radical feminists alive and kicking, their views are largely discredited and a serious thinker should be embarrassed to use their arguments.

The Wikipedia article does a decent job of summarizing different movements in feminism. (For reference, when I put on my "feminist" hat, I'm a "liberal feminist". Note that "Liberal" here is used in the same sense as in "Classical Liberal" or "Liberty")

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-22T18:55:06.958Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Replying to this separately so it can be voted up/down separatly.

Where's my pity party? It seems that patience is reserved for those who say inflammatory things, propogate myths for decades, and then manage to say with a straight face, "no, no, I didn't mean -- what was the unpopular part again? -- yeah, that. That I didn't mean. But yeah, sex is violence. You can keep feeling guilty."

Do you have a bias against feminism that goes beyond disagreement? This sounds to me to be the statement of someone who feels personally injured.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T19:27:39.293Z · score: 1 (21 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I do feel personally injured. I'm told all my life what is proper behavior around women and what is not, while, right in front of my face, men flout these rules (as best I understand them) and are, for lack of a better term, rewarded by those women.

I cannot interpret advice, of the type Alicorn has given, any more charitably than "I'm trying to clean the gene pool of any man submissive and stupid enough to actually follow this advice in the real world." To the extent that Alicorn is sincere and honest, she is an extreme outlier, and is asking for special treatment that cannot be justified by preferences of women in general.

To see why it would be special treatment, please refer to my previous comment, which may have the side effect of demonstrating my humanity. It details how I, like Alicorn, experience a negative physical reaction from PUA threads, but, unlike Alicorn, see this as a failing I need to overcome, rather than a reason to demand suppression of a topic.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T20:35:24.815Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I cannot interpret advice, of the type Alicorn has given, any more charitably than "I'm trying to clean the gene pool of any man submissive and stupid enough to actually follow this advice in the real world."

Then you have impaired translation skills. Alicorn has actually given advice here in the past that -- when properly translated -- is actually quite in accordance with many PUA teachings. She just didn't use PUA buzzwords like "social proof" or "direct game" to describe them. (Granted, she tended to also use very blunt and judgmental language... but no more blunt or judgmental than I'd have expected from a male of her age.)

To the extent that Alicorn is sincere and honest, she is an extreme outlier

Outlier, yes. Extreme, no. She may or may not be correct about what "works" for her, but either way, it's none of our business or concern. She has clearly separated her statements about the way she believes things should be from discussion of how they actually are, so I don't think that disagreements with her regarding the "should", should be conflated with her misrepresenting the "are".

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T02:36:43.359Z · score: -3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Then you have impaired translation skills. Alicorn has actually given advice here in the past that -- when properly translated -- is actually quite in accordance with many PUA teachings. She just didn't use PUA buzzwords like "social proof" or "direct game" to describe them.

I'm not familiar with those discussions, so my previous statements don't refer to them. All the advice I'm aware of from Alicorn is:

1) Her suggestion that presupposes your problem getting dates is already 99% solved, and that fundamental changes in your life, like getting an entire new set of friends with numerous female contacts receptive to you is easy

2) The infamous "Why can't you whiners just meet women off the internet?" (gently brought back to reality by HughRistik).

3) Her current advice, that men should navigate the world with extreme caution that they might say something on the forbidden list.

With respect to the other Alicorn posts you refer to, she may be right. But, if I were going for a minimum-message-length optimized description of the above Alicorn posts, a great hypothesis would be indeed "She's trying to clean the gene pool of any man submissive and stupid enough to actually follow this advice in the real world."

Outlier, yes. Extreme, no.

I meant that she was an outlier in being offended by the "get a woman" usages, not that she's an outlier in general honesty or sincerity.

I don't think that disagreements with her regarding the "should", should be conflated with her misrepresenting the "are".

Just the same, she should distinguish her own idiosyncratic preferences from fundamentally unethical treatment of others, and in this area, she's failed. The world simply does not agree with her claim about the atrociousness of talking about "getting a man" or "getting a woman" "because I have a lot of money/looks".

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-22T20:16:59.436Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I really do not know how to feel about this comment. While I appreciate the honesty, I really have problems with things like this:

I cannot interpret advice, of the type Alicorn has given, any more charitably than "I'm trying to clean the gene pool of any man submissive and stupid enough to actually follow this advice in the real world."

I think it is strange that you have essentially acknowledged a pack of inconsistencies in your experiences and teachings but are unable to show charitably to one particular side. Why that side? Why does the fault automatically lie in this direction? I assume there is a long history filled with reasons and this probably isn't the place to hash everything out. But if you are unable to see Alicorn's side charitably it is likely there is something wrong with your perspective.

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-23T01:26:40.654Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I cannot interpret advice, of the type Alicorn has given, any more charitably than "I'm trying to clean the gene pool of any man submissive and stupid enough to actually follow this advice in the real world." To the extent that Alicorn is sincere and honest, she is an extreme outlier, and is asking for special treatment that cannot be justified by preferences of women in general.

Is it not equally likely that you are the outlier? That you have had an unusual experience combination of inaccurate advice from women? Or that you interpret such advice differently than normal?

I think that most people couldn't express consciously what would attract them (as they don't know until they see it-- and everyone on this website is probably an exception to this rule to some extent), so I'm loath to accept your conclusion that they're trying to remove you from the gene pool.

Yes, I do feel personally injured. I'm told all my life what is proper behavior around women and what is not, while, right in front of my face, men flout these rules (as best I understand them) and are, for lack of a better term, rewarded by those women.

People teaching you "proper behavior around women" are generally not trying to help you in the way you seem to expect. (In my experience, anyway)

Anyway, my only point was that you are not very neutral on this subject (which you admit), and you don't seem to be taking that fact into account.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-23T06:42:46.262Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Silas definitely is not neutral on this topic, and perhaps could do with lowering the snark. That being said, he is not alone.

The kind of experiences Silas mentions seem common for men with certain types of personalities and social experiences (or lack thereof). They are common in the seduction community, which is massive (there is a pickup club called a "lair" in almost every major city in the world). It's not at all uncommon for the following drama to unfold:

  • Male interprets prescribed behavior from women, or from various cultural authorities (e.g. religion, feminists, the media)
  • Male attempts to manifest those behaviors, yet encounters rejection due to some of those prescriptions being wrong, or incomplete
  • Male watches other men being successful who aren't playing by the rules he was taught, or even engaging in diametrically opposite behaviors
  • Male becomes bitter

I've done several posts on this subject on my blog: When You Have Feminist Guilt, You Don't Need Catholic Guilt and Why Respecting Women as Human Beings is not Enough

I don't think that female misstatement of their preferences is an attempt, conscious or subconsciously evolved, to eliminate men from the gene pool, however things may look. I summarize some research comparing female preferences and behaviors here.

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-23T16:53:34.397Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can't really argue with this. I fit your described demographic quite well, but I don't have a very similar experience. If it weren't for the internet I'd probably still be single (and by now, bitter, too, perhaps...)

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-23T15:45:05.222Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Very interesting - thank you for the links.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T02:23:09.256Z · score: -4 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Is it not equally likely that you are the outlier? That you have had an unusual experience combination of inaccurate advice from women? Or that you interpret such advice differently than normal?

No, it not equally likely that I'm the outlier. Keep in mind, PUA instructors consistently, universally have the problem of "unlearning" their students of their previous conception of how to treat women. My shackling to this unhelpful carefulness about "respecting women" is typical. So typical, in fact, that simple misogyny often results in improvement in generating attraction.

I think that most people couldn't express consciously what would attract them (as they don't know until they see it-- and everyone on this website is probably an exception to this rule to some extent), so I'm loath to accept your conclusion that they're trying to remove you from the gene pool.

The cause of an adaptation, the shape of an adaptation, and the consequence of an adaptation, are all separate things. It's not necessary that women be trying to remove me from the gene pool, but certain adaptations give them certain rules for handling certain kinds of men. The useful advice that PUAs give, diverges sharply from any advice any woman will openly give you. So why is female advice so consistently divergent from working advice?

See how the mechanism might work? Women want male children that can "get the job done". One way to filter out men who can't given them those genes, is to feed bad advice to men. The only one who will listen to it are the ones who would let women walk all over them. And so they're more likely to encounter men with good genes.

I'm not proposing this as a theory; I'm just showing how my proposal (women give bad advice to feed out the dumb and submissive) doesn't require any ill will or conscious deception on the part of women; it can just be something they naturally gravitate toward without understanding why.

People teaching you "proper behavior around women" are generally not trying to help you in the way you seem to expect. (In my experience, anyway)

If what I expect is something that will actually lead to a relationship with mutual desire, that is correct.

Anyway, my only point was that you are not very neutral on this subject (which you admit), and you don't seem to be taking that fact into account.

I'm not neutral on the topic, but that doesn't matter. I'm the living evidence of what it's like to walk on eggshells around women in the possibility that I might accidentally oppress them. That biases me in favor of telling others not to fall into the trap of buying into feminist standards while you get crowded out of the dating pool.

comment by Jack · 2009-07-22T19:44:49.911Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You make the mistake of thinking that women prefer alpha males/assholes consciously and intentionally while lying to you. This is almost certainly not the case. This is strange since the whole reason for PUA stuff coming up is that it represents an incidence of often unconscious bias.

In any case I firmly reject the view that "game" requires you to be a misogynist. My bet is that line of thinking is a useful error that some men find helpful for overcoming their previous tendencies to place women on pedestals and worship them. If you have general self-confidence treating people as your equal will end up resembling some versions of PUA style game.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T20:00:43.536Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Good points, but I object to these:

You make the mistake of thinking that women prefer alpha males/assholes consciously and intentionally while lying to you.

I don't think it's that. I see two scenarios that are more likely to generate what I observe:

1) When women give advice, the question they are answering is, "Which attributes would I like to add to a guy, while changing nothing else?" rather than "What would make me actually attracted to a guy?" and the difference is enormous. Frequently, when I get advice from women, what I'm thinking in my mind is, "No, you're telling me what you would like. I'm asking for what would work."

2) Women have a hard time articulating what generates attraction in them, and, once they put it through the filter of "social acceptability" and "hurting feelings", it just reverts to a repetition of what they think they're supposed to like.

In any case I firmly reject the view that "game" requires you to be a misogynist.

I don't think it's an issue of misogynist/not misogynist. It's an issue of "doing/not doing what I have been taught is 'respectful'". That is, the autistic-spectrum male "learning algorithm" may mistakenly infer certain behaviors as being "not respectful" and therefore "don't do", while this was not actually entailed by any teaching received from a female (at least, given the female's implicit assumptions).

comment by Jack · 2009-07-22T20:18:07.763Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it's an issue of misogynist/not misogynist. It's an issue of "doing/not doing what I have been taught is 'respectful'". That is, the autistic-spectrum male "learning algorithm" may mistakenly infer certain behaviors as being "not respectful" and therefore "don't do", while this was not actually entailed by any teaching received from a female (at least, given the female's implicit assumptions).

Part of the problem might be boys learning to respect women by respecting their mother or some other female authority figure. But boys don't treat their mothers as equals, they treat them as superiors. I wonder if there is a correlation between men who are popular with women and those with little sisters. In any case, the solution surely isn't to get pissed at feminists but to recalibrate your understanding of what it means to respect women.

Respect=/=defer.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T20:37:24.825Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if there is a correlation between men who are popular with women and those with little sisters

The author of the "Double Your Dating" products actually explicitly teaches men to treat a woman they're interested in as if she were "your bratty kid sister", so clearly at least one PUG has noticed this connection.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T20:08:55.556Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

When women give advice, the question they are answering is, "Which attributes would I like to add to a guy, while changing nothing else?" rather than "What would make me actually attracted to a guy?" and the difference is enormous. Frequently, when I get advice from women, what I'm thinking in my mind is, "No, you're telling me what you would like. I'm asking for what would work."

Off the cuff, my advice would be to find someone for whom you don't need to worry about what behavior "would work" and instead find someone who genuinely shares your interests and is a joy to be with, and pursue a relationship with them.

But then, having been in a love-at-first-sight sort of situation, my advice is probably as helpful as "let them eat cake."

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-22T20:37:37.790Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad you acknowledge this is a "let them eat cake response." Not worrying whether one's behavior is "working" is a privilege of those with behavior that works.

Of course, it sounds mechanical, perhaps even objectifying to be talking about whether one's behavior "works" "on" others, as if they were a machine being fed input. Yet this pragmatic mode of thinking is forced on some of us by being the only viable way to solve deficits in social and dating experience and knowledge, deficits that were also forced on us due to negligent socialization.

comment by conchis · 2009-07-22T21:56:51.278Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW, to me, the big difference between a particular mode of thought being objectifying or not has less to do with how one models people's reactions than what one's goal is. If what "works" just means what gets you laid or makes you happy, regardless of its effect on others, then you're treating the other person as just a tool to your own satisfaction. That, to me, is "objectifying" and, well, makes you a shitty, bad person as far as I'm concerned.

If, on the other hand, you actually care about the prospective other person's feelings as well, and what "works" is what makes both of you happy, then I can't really see a problem.

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-22T20:58:47.230Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Btw, it's mechanical on the side of the man as well - being forced to output behavior which you normally would not, and might even object to doing.

comment by conchis · 2009-07-22T21:43:26.004Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is one of the things that puzzles me about the whole PUA thing. Is the point of a guy changing his behaviour in such ways:

  1. to get his foot in the door, and then, once that's done go back to being "himself";
  2. to have to keep up the charade forever; or
  3. to change "himself" for good (i.e. keep up the behaviour, but in such a way that it ceases to be an unnatural charade)?

1, I can sort of understand. 2 seems like a great way to ruin your life. 3 seems like a disaster as well if it involves becoming someone who routinely does things that one now thinks are objectionable; but could be rather more positive if it instead involves, say, becoming someone who is more fun to be around and better able to enrich the life of a significant other.

Or is all of this missing the point, which is just to get laid in the short term, and not be around for the long term anyway?

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-22T21:53:15.198Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You need to do 1 and 2 (keep the charade for as long as you need) as a temporary solution, since changing yourself permanently (acquiring the necessary social skills, building confidence, body language, etc) can't be done quickly and easily.

What is more, having an interim solution can be helpful and gives a boost to the process of improving yourself as well, e.g. even a modest success with women can increase your confidence and give you necessary social practice. It's sort of a multiplier on your efforts of improvement.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T21:56:41.070Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The answers to those questions are as diverse as the individuals themselves. Different teachers certainly advocate different things, but the more ethical ones advocate, as you say...

becoming someone who is more fun to be around and better able to enrich the life of a significant other.

And grasping some of the ideas involved in that has certainly been helpful in my marriage.

comment by Jack · 2009-07-23T03:24:55.272Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Think of #3 the same way you think of any kind of self-improvement work (or if you like, a bootstrapping AI). There is no reason for it to be at all objectionable. People change things about themselves all the time and no one objects.

This "self" business is probably nonsense anyway.

comment by conchis · 2009-07-23T10:36:28.656Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I certainly never meant to suggest that change is objectionable per se. But saying "just think of it as self-improvement" begs the question of whether it's actually improvement. If you find yourself trying to become someone who regularly does stuff you now find objectionable (as per the comment I was responding to) then there's a decent chance you're actually engaged in an act of self-debasement instead.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T16:23:15.981Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

begs the question

Just a reminder that "begging the question" and its variants are jargon in logic, and so it seems the colloquial meaning should be avoided here.

comment by conchis · 2009-07-26T16:19:36.129Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW, I didn't intend the colloquial meaning ("raises the question"): I meant that the response "think of it as self-improvement" assumes precisely what is at issue (i.e. that the change is for the better).

comment by bogus · 2009-07-22T19:47:04.879Z · score: -4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I do feel personally injured. I'm told all my life what is proper behavior around women and what is not,

It seems that you have bought into anti-feminist propaganda - color me unsurprised. The so-called "proper behavior" you're talking about has consistently been codified and endorsed by the existing power structure, as a means of perpetuating its self-serving mindsets and systemic biases.

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-22T19:54:41.217Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This sounds to me to be the statement of someone who feels personally injured.

Btw, how is that different from Alicorn feeling 'personally injured' (or offended) by us having PUA discussions on LW? Can't SilasBerta feel offended by any attempts to censor the topic?

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-23T01:26:52.867Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I wasn't trying to say he shouldn't be offended. My implication was that because he's offended, SilasBarta is having trouble dealing with the issue rationally. If Alicorn has a similar bias, she hides it better. (Disclaimer: I haven't read all the comments on all the posts this has come up)

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-22T20:03:18.389Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Can't SilasBerta feel offended by any attempts to censor the topic?

Well, he can, but I wouldn't put "being offended by [topic]" and "being offended by being offended by [topic]" in the same categories.

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-22T20:27:40.880Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Alicorn is offended by a certain problem she perceives (objectification of women).

SilasBerta is also offended by a problem - silencing of discussions on a problem unrelated to Alicorn's problem, but discussions on which happen to possibly include objectifications of some sort.

I don't see why both shouldn't be on an equal standing.

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-22T20:34:30.595Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think there may be a typo in there somewhere.

I am not trying to downplay SilasBerta's feeling offended, and it is very possible that SilasBerta's offense and Alicorn's offense are about the same topic from different sides. If that is the case than my comment is probably out of place.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T20:17:44.386Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I wouldn't put "being offended by [topic]" and "being offended by being offended by [topic]" in the same categories.

Why not?

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-22T20:27:36.852Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In my opinion, getting offended by [topic] reflects a potential issue with [topic] that may be worth addressing. Ideally, the offense as a result of the [topic] should disappear due to either (a) [topic] becoming less offensive or (b) the offended becoming unaffected by [topic].

Being offended by being offended by [topic] can be resolved by resolving the first layer of offenses. If there is a problem with the initial offense, getting offended doesn't actually help since the initial offense is not likely to be resolved with the secondary offense.

In addition, a terrible cycle can appear if the initial offended takes offense to the offensive of the initial offense. Granted, you do not always get to choose what offends you, but when dealing with multiple layers of offense I think it is best to deal with the initial offense.

So, perhaps "categories" can be replaced by "priorities."

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-22T20:30:48.995Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Being offended by being offended by [topic] can be resolved by resolving the first layer of offenses.

Not if resolving the first layer depends on resolving the second layer first. I.e. he can't resolve his problem because he's being silenced when he attempts to discuss it.

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-22T20:41:38.408Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not if resolving the first layer depends on resolving the second layer first. I.e. he can't resolve his problem because he's being silenced when he attempts to discuss it.

The first layer problem existed before the second layer problem did. Why would the second layer have to be solved first?

Also, silencing someone is not really the same thing as being offended.

Unless you are talking about a scenario where silencing someone is the solution to the original problem? In that case the second layer really has nothing to do with offense to offense.

I feel there may be a huge misunderstanding here. I wouldn't be surprised if it was my initial comment's assumption that the second offense was an offense to an offense.

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-22T21:13:58.976Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The first layer problem existed before the second layer problem did. Why would the second layer have to be solved first?

Because they've become interconnected.

I'm viewing PUA discussions as part of the solution to SilasBerta's problem. Imposing a ban on such discussions hinders SilasBerta, which is why he's offended. Basically, a ban on PUA discussions is effectively a ban on part of the solution to SilasBerta's problem.

Now, I'm not saying that Alicorn and SilasBerta are equally justified in their requests. But both need to be evaluated as valid concerns.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T21:45:15.703Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Basically, a ban on PUA discussions is effectively a ban on part of the solution to SilasBerta's problem.

Hardly. It's not like there aren't plenty of other places on the 'net to get information, free or paid, and if he lives in or near a major metropolitan area there's probably a "lair" he can join and the occasional professionally taught workshop or bootcamp.

Unless you're looking for specifically rationalist-friendly information, this isn't really the place to get it. It's only on-topic here to the extent it's relevant to various sorts of bias and akrasia issues. For example, the PUAs' "3 Seconds Rule" is relevant to akrasia, and I almost brought it up in reply to the "It's all in your head land" article, except that I'm really NOT wanting to start new PUA-related threads.

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-22T22:05:53.771Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hardly. It's not like there aren't plenty of other places on the 'net to get information, free or paid

Well, a ban is a hindrance to the extent that a rationalist community could develop more rigorous and testable theories, and incidentally, they will probably weed out all of the misogynist and objectificationist (is there such a word?) stuff.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T22:38:11.662Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, a ban is a hindrance to the extent that a rationalist community could develop more rigorous and testable theories,

You must be new here. ;-)

All kidding aside, this community could develop plenty of rigorous and testable theories. It's just incredibly doubtful that any of them would actually work in practice, for almost any definition of "work", unless they were developed by people who already had practical experience.

In particular, this community is inflicted with massive "should" bias -- i.e. confusing "ought" and "is", while vehemently insisting that things that do work, shouldn't, don't work, should, and coming up with ludicrous explanations for both sets of falsehoods.

See, for example, the recent complaints about "marketing"; e.g. deriding breaking cryonics cost down to $1/day. There's a reason marketers do that... and it's because marketers have forgotten more than most people posting on this site have ever known about overcoming akrasia.

Because, if a marketer can't overcome somebody's akrasia enough to get them to shell out actual money, the marketer doesn't get paid.

That's why I group PUA and marketing under the same heading, of Arts That Work. When they're too far wrong, the marketers don't get paid and the PUAs don't get laid, so there's an inherent control over how far they can stray from the truth. This control does not apply so well to general works of self-help, or to armchair ev-psych theorizing. I actually learned far more about akrasia and motivation from marketers and PUAs than I ever did from self-help books or science papers.

(Btw, the scientific principle behind using per diem breakdown is incredibly relevant to any sort of personal change project, and it involves a statistical rule discovered by Prochaska, Norcross et al regarding the precise number of standard deviations in a person's change of evaluation regarding the pros and cons of a decision that will make them shift from "contemplating" to "acting"... a rule that holds constant across a dozen different kinds of changes, such as quitting smoking, starting an exercise program, etc. Per diem breakdowns are just one of several tools that the adept marketer uses to prompt an individual to make this evaluation shift, though I don't know of any marketers who've made the connection between this statistical rule and the relevant practices. They do know, however, that persuasion must occur in the same sequence that the Prochaska rule says it does.)

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-22T21:37:55.381Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Imposing a ban on such discussions hinders SilasBerta, which is why he's offended.

If this is the case, than he is not offended by Alicorn's offense. He is offended by a ban on such discussions. Which makes sense and has nothing to do with the layers I was talking about.

Like I said, I think there is misunderstanding of my original comment. To reword this:

Well, he can, but I wouldn't put "being offended by [topic]" and "being offended by being offended by [topic]" in the same categories.

As this:

I don't put "being offended by [topic]" and "being offended by being offended by [topic]" in the same categories, so hopefully that is not what he is doing. If he is offended by the proposed solution to the offense of [topic], that makes a little more sense.

Might help.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-22T19:57:12.890Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Have I claimed to be "personally injured" anywhere? I don't think I have, but if I said something that sounds like that, I'd like to know.

comment by Lightwave · 2009-07-22T20:02:34.730Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What I'm implying is that both you and SilasBerta are having a negative emotional reaction. Can you say your reaction is justified while his is not?

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-22T20:03:45.074Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think I can answer that question unbiasedly, because SilasBarta routinely makes me very frustrated.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T18:56:03.173Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Said much more diplomatically than mine. Good job.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T18:21:09.306Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

When I'm told all my life that I'm an oppressor, and have to watch out for the invisible acts of oppression that I'm committing, which can only be revealed by consultation with a special class of offical censors, all the while men who ignore these rules attract all the women.

Were your parents killed by angry feminists when you were a child?

This has been happening all your life? I've actively studied radical feminism and I don't feel like I've been exposed to such a dire situation. And radical feminism lost credibility and practically died over decade ago now (I believe most scholars of feminism place it around when Carlin Romano penned his now-famous "Suppose I raped Catherine MacKinnon" review). Really, give it up man, war's over, Dworkin's been dead for many years and nobody important takes her work seriously.

EDIT: removed undiplomatic remark.

comment by bogus · 2009-07-22T19:28:05.382Z · score: -9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

-When I'm told all my life that I'm an oppressor, and have to watch out for the invisible acts of oppression that I'm committing, which can only be revealed by consultation with a special class of offical censors, all the while men who ignore these rules attract all the women.

You do realize that your beef is essentially with Gandhian non-violent resistance? Whether you care to admit it or not, you are on the controlling side of an unequal power relationship. It is grossly unethical - not to mention clearly unfeasible - to demand that people who are consistently victimized and dehumanized by the current power structure should accept it without question or complaint.

ETA: Why does this comment bother so many of you? I realize that political arguments are generally unwelcome here, but this should not be used to excuse comments as misguided as Silas's.

comment by pjeby · 2009-07-22T20:23:39.214Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

to demand that people who are consistently victimized and dehumanized by the current power structure should accept it without question or complaint.

I think that equating hurt feelings to victimization and dehumanization is to trivialize actual violence... and in addition, it rewards playing "more victimized than thou" games.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T19:34:46.293Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Wha?

I most certainly do not believe that "people who are consistently victimized and dehumanized by the current power structure should accept it without question or complaint".

What I believe is that the feminist ideology I referred to is:

1) Misdirected. To the extent that there is oppression, it is by very high status men, not men as such. As Scott Adams put it, the Vice President doesn't ask for my advise when deciding who to bomb.

2) Wrong. As revealed by their actions, women in general do not want men to act per (most of) the dictates of feminism, even if, as is unlikely, feminists do.

I'm not going to bring this topic in the justification for these positions, but suffice to say, my beliefs are nothing remotely like what you have attributed to me, and I have said nothing that gives you such a basis for believing so.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T19:43:16.618Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I have said nothing that gives you such a basis for believing so.

I think bogus's comment is evidence to the contrary. The proper response when you're misunderstood is not to be incredulous that you were misunderstood and leave it at that.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T02:45:37.213Z · score: -6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Your position is basically that kitten torture is a good idea because of your religious beliefs. I find that offensive.

The proper response when you're misunderstood is not to be incredulous that you were misunderstood and leave it at that.

... Yeah, wanna rethink that one?

The rule you gave is a heuristic, or a prior, not inviolate physical law. And when the person stating their interpretation can't even say what post gave him that idea, and given the numerous posts I gave before that clarified my position in directions nowhere near what bogus attributed to me, incredulity is justified.

And I did not "leave it at that", I stated what my position was and left it to bogus to show the counterevidence.

And once again, Silas's conclusion turns out to be correct. Here we see bogus shortly thereafter drift off into the land of "unfalsifiable all-encompassing conspiracy theories".

I think I've done my rationalist due diligence here :-)

comment by bogus · 2009-07-23T09:15:57.259Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And I did not "leave it at that", I stated what my position was and left it to bogus to show the counterevidence.

What counterevidence is needed? I realize that this most likely doesn't apply to you, but when someone complains about being "told that they are an oppressor", this is prima facie evidence that they were in fact behaving oppressively in some way - such as by taking part in a potentially oppressive power structure. If they were completely uninvolved, they would probably dismiss the original complaints as absurd. Sticks and stones will break my bones, and all that.

And once again, Silas's conclusion turns out to be correct. Here we see bogus shortly thereafter drift off into the la-la land of "unfalsifiable all-encompassing conspiracy theories".

That's not an "unfalsifiable all-encompassing conspiracy theory", it's simple historical and sociological fact. Rules of "proper behavior" when relating to women are hundreds of years old, and their overall character has consistently been paternalistic and mildly depersonalizing. The worst aspects of them have since been corrected, but we still face a lot of cultural inertia.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T02:50:25.566Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Your position is basically that kitten torture is a good idea because of your religious beliefs. I find that offensive.

Was this a response to me? If so, I'm not sure where you're getting this. For the most part, I don't have "religious beliefs", and I certainly haven't advocated kitten torture. Do you have a citation?

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T02:56:36.511Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

WHOOSH

I was trying to show you what it's like to have a position attributed to you with no substantiation that looks like it comes right out of the blue. You know, like what happened to me here

This is the part where you're supposed to realize the absurdity of your original response to my reaction, which you gave here.

Is it all starting to fall into place now?

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T02:59:20.168Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You made a claim that seemed unsubstantiated; you seemed confused about my position, and so I responded by asking for clarification and a citation, as is appropriate for rational discourse. I'm not sure what was supposed to "fall into place". My response does not seem absurd.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T03:03:46.704Z · score: -6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You were supposed to see that response as a satire of your response to my reaction to bogus. At least, after I specifically explained the satire, you were supposed to see it. Want to give it another go, and check out the links this time?

Is that too much to ask of you these days?

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T03:14:23.172Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I had checked out the links in the first place. I even read those comments in the first place, as they were posted. You responded to bogus as though he could not possibly have any reason for thinking the way he did (explicitly saying that you'd said nothing that gives him a basis for believing what he does).

I pointed out that it's likely that you did say something that gave him a basis for his beliefs.

I think my main issue with your comments here is that you seem to not be interested in being considerate of where the people disagreeing with you are coming from. Rather than asking for or offering clarification, you're rude and dismissive.

I don't think there's much to be gained from attempting to discuss this further.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T03:20:31.369Z · score: -6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You responded to me as though I could not possibly have any reason for thinking the way I did about your kitten torture (explicitly saying that you'd said nothing that gives me a basis for believing what I do).

I could, just the same, point out that my very post attributing that position to you, was evidence that you said something that gave me that idea.

I think my main issue with your comments here is that you seem to not be interested in being considerate of where the people disagreeing with you are coming from. Rather than asking for or offering clarification, you're rude and dismissive.

I don't think there's much to be gained from attempting to discuss this further.


Tu quoque: Exposing inconsistency, since before the fall of Rome! (tm)

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T03:28:29.713Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

N.B. Tu quoque, while perhaps a useful rhetorical technique, is a logical fallacy.

You responded to me as though I could not possibly have any reason for thinking the way I did about your kitten torture (explicitly saying that you'd said nothing that gives me a basis for believing what I do).

What I said was:

Was this a response to me? If so, I'm not sure where you're getting this. For the most part, I don't have "religious beliefs", and I certainly haven't advocated kitten torture. Do you have a citation?

I did not suggest that you didn't have any reason to think that. Rather, I noted that I don't know what your reasons are ("I'm not sure where you're getting this"), I asked where you got that idea ("Do you have a citation"), and I did not explicitly say that I'd said nothing that would give you that idea, or at least those words don't seem to appear in the comment you cited. (or were you using a different meaning of "explicit"?)

I could, just the same, point out that my very post attributing that position to you, was evidence that you said something that gave me that idea.

Yes, you could. Did you think I'd disagree with that? But I'm not sure why anyone would need such evidence - I'd already accepted that you might have a reason to think so and asked precisely what that might have been.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T03:38:04.597Z · score: -6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

NB: Tu quoque, while perhaps a useful rhetorical technique, is a logical fallacy.

No, it's the name of an argument that can be a logical fallacy. Pointing out how one's own arguments invalidate one's own position when consistently applied -- which is what I was doing -- is not a fallacy. But same diff, right?

I did not suggest that you didn't have any reason to think that.

Right, because clearly it would have been unfair to think I had no reason to believe you like torturing kittens. The fact that I made it up whole cloth doesn't matter. No, I said it with a straight face, and so I'm entitled to serious examination of my claims, regardless of the complete lack of mention of kittens or religious devotion in any of your posts.

If you want, I can generate a bunch more of these accusations from my random slander generator, and you can spend all night poring over my serious concerns that you might ... how's this, like to flash schoolchildren? Hey, I said it with a straight face, it must be strong enough evidence to warrant your undivided attention.

I'd already accepted that you might have a reason to think so and asked precisely what that might have been.

There is no hope for this one.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T03:49:10.155Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Your snarky comments are unappreciated.

Basically, you have a choice here. You can engage in rational discourse where you take the other person's arguments charitably and respond reasonably and as politely as possible. I will continue to attempt this. So far, I haven't encountered anyone making baseless accusations about me all night, and if I did, I'd probably just downvote and ignore. Neither have you, and I'd hope you'd do the same, as a responsible member of this community.

I'd hoped to convince you that being just a little considerate was worth the almost no time it takes, so that the level of discourse on this community would not suffer.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T04:03:30.483Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You can engage in rational discourse where you take the other person's arguments charitably and respond reasonably and as politely as possible. I will continue to do attempt this,

I'm sorry, but I have never seen you do this; I've repeatedly had to correct extremely uncharitable interpretations of my position from you.

So far, I haven't encountered anyone making baseless accusations about me all night,

...Except the time I accused you of kitten torture. Oh right, that wasn't baseless, because the existence of an accusation proves a basis (???)

and if I did, I'd probably just downvote and ignore. Neither have you, and I'd hope you'd do the same, as a responsible member of this community.

Yes, you've shown a general pattern of "Bad commenter! No karma for you!" as an alternative to actual articulation of where others' claims are in error.

(That's not something to be proud of.)

By your own standard, you suggest I should have just downvote comments like bogus's rather than even telling him what my position actually is. This is fruitful for discussion, why?

Sadly, my ethics prevent me from modding comments in exchanges I'm directly involved in. It's probably a vestige of listening to advice like Alicorn's, and it puts me at a disadvantage against people who view the downmod as equivalent to an argument.

Know anyone like that?

comment by Bo102010 · 2009-07-23T04:18:44.071Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Let's give it a rest, please.

comment by Z_M_Davis · 2009-07-23T05:00:26.653Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sadly, my ethics prevent me from modding comments in exchanges I'm directly involved in.

Honestly, this notion never occurred to me. I interpret downvotes (upvotes) as a "I would like to see fewer (more) comments like this," and feel free to vote on exchanges I'm involved in, trying to base my votes on quality of discussion and argument, rather than strictly whether I agree or not. Do you think your standard should be a community norm (even if it can't be enforced)?

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T13:44:13.906Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You're kidding. It never occurred to you that you might not be neutral enough to accurately moderate during an argument you're personally involved in?

What's your "working theory" for why the site prevents upvoting your own comment, "even though" you could just register with a different name and upvote as a sockpuppet?

I ... feel free to vote on exchanges I'm involved in, trying to base my votes on quality of discussion and argument, rather than strictly whether I agree or not.

Great, but why don't you think your involvement compromises your ability to do so neutrally, especially when it's a heated discussion? (Btw, on Slashdot, you're prevented from moderating on any discussion where you've posted anywhere, which is probably where I got that ethic, plus previous EY rationality writings about when one's neutrality is compromised.)

Do you think your standard should be a community norm (even if it can't be enforced)?

Yes. I assumed people already had my level of restraint. But, like with following feminist advice, "no good deed goes unpunished". I have a much lower karma level, and others a higher karma level, because I followed obvious rules about watching one's own bias.

I humbly recommend you cancel any votes for or against me in exchanges you've been involved in.

comment by Z_M_Davis · 2009-07-23T17:32:20.031Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It never occurred to you that you might not be neutral enough to accurately moderate during an argument you're personally involved in?

I guess I'm just retarded???

I humbly recommend you cancel any votes for or against me in exchanges you've been involved in.

Done.

I have a much lower karma level [...]

I agree that drive-by mass downvoting out of personal animosity is bad, and it is of course unjust that you have apparently been subjected to it. But again, you should also consider that a nontrivial proportion of your recent karma loss has been because people legitimately find many of your recent comments to be of low-quality. For example, your tone is oftentimes rather hostile and condescending ("Can you do it? No? Then you don't have a point," "Like any bad lie, your position has forced you into defending ever-more-absurd positions," "Know anyone like that?", "There is no hope for this one," "Is that too much to ask of you these days?" &c.), and maybe you can see why some people might think this worthy of a downvote?

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T18:02:38.659Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I guess I'm just retarded???

No, you're not retarded, but you could provide a better explanation for why it never occurred to you that you have a bias during a flamewar.

I humbly recommend you cancel any votes for or against me in exchanges you've been involved in.

Done.

Holy ----! Since I last came here an hour or so ago, my karma shot up about a hundred points.

I don't know how much of that was you, but I very much appreciate that you are taking my suggestion.

I agree that drive-by mass downvoting out of personal animosity is bad, and it is of course unjust that you have apparently been subjected to it. But again, you should also consider that a nontrivial proportion of your recent karma loss has been because people legitimately find many of your recent comments to be of low-quality.

I accounted for this already. There were severe downmods for recent comments, accumulating over the past 18 hours. Then, in a much shorter period, I lost ~30 more, mainly on much older comments.

For example, your tone is oftentimes rather hostile and condescending ("Can you do it? No? Then you don't have a point,"

I accept that my tone has gotten worse recently. But please, take a second look at that exchange. You refuted one analogy with another one which revealed you didn't understand the topic. To untangle your misunderstanding required me to restate the context of the conversation, and then spell out the mapping in your proposed analogy, basically, doing all the intellectual heavy lifting for you.

I derived what your analogy needed to contain for it to be relevant to my point. But, if you could present such evidence, or even realize its applicability, you would have already done so.

And so I had to spend far disproportionate time responding to you, compared to your investment in the discussion. Yes, I could have said something instead, like, "Is there a quote from a men's magazine that meets the criteria? I don't think there is, which is what you need to make your point applicable." But please understand my frustration there.

comment by HughRistik · 2009-07-23T18:11:37.762Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

To untangle your misunderstanding required me to restate the context of the conversation, and then spell out the mapping in your proposed analogy, basically, doing all the intellectual heavy lifting for you.

"Do all the intellectual heavy lifting for you" could potentially sound antagonistic. Someone can be wrong (and you can explain why you think so) without you need to bring in meta-discussion about their intellectual skills.

Since I agree with you more often than not, I often find myself wishing that your substantive points were made in a different tone.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T22:45:28.095Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for your advice. I didn't mean it that way, but I see how it can be read as a direct attack on someone's intelligence. I'll avoid such usages in the future.

comment by Z_M_Davis · 2009-07-23T20:08:09.140Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

but you could provide a better explanation for why it never occurred to you that you have a bias during a flamewar.

There's no further explanation! It really didn't occur to me that that was a reason to not vote! And it's still not obvious to me that not-voting is unambiguously the right ethical standard. Of course I agree that it's unethical to downvote a comment solely because you don't like the conclusion or you don't like the commenter---but that remains true whether or not you're personally involved in the conversation. So as long as we're going to talk about unenforceable personal standards of ethics, maybe the standard (which had been my policy) of "always and everywhere try to vote solely based on quality of discussion" is better than "don't vote when I'm part of the discussion."

I don't know how much of that was you

Not very much. During the recent madness, I had downvoted you I think maybe three or four times, and upvoted you I think once, all of which have now been cancelled.

I accounted for this already.

Sure. Notice that I wrote that a "a nontrivial proportion of your recent karma loss" (emphasis added) could be legitimate; I didn't mean to suggest that all of it was.

And so I had to spend far disproportionate time responding to you, compared to your investment in the discussion.

If you don't think it's worth your time to correct (what seems to you to be) someone's egregious misapprehension, then don't bother to do so. If you think a comment is poorly argued---maybe just downvote it?

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T22:41:00.584Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

So as long as we're going to talk about unenforceable personal standards of ethics, maybe the standard (which had been my policy) of "always and everywhere try to vote solely based on quality of discussion" is better than "don't vote when I'm part of the discussion."

The problem with your alternative is that being in an argument alters your judgment of what counts as a good quality post. In additional to the usual "Politics is the mind-killer" truism, remember that we run on corrupted hardware.

You may think that it's better to go by: "Don't do X unless, all things considered, it would work for the greater good." But even if you want to follow that rule, you actually do a better job following it if you just go by "Don't do X", as long as X is easily abused and self-serving. That's the point of the post in the link.

And that's why I think it just doesn't work to say, "Oh, I'm modding down this comment because it's an obectively bad comment, not because I'm in a heated flamewar with them."

If you don't think it's worth your time to correct (what seems to you to be) someone's egregious misapprehension, then don't bother to do so. If you think a comment is poorly argued---maybe just downvote it?

See above for why I don't downvote in arguments I'm currently involved in.

But even setting that policy aside for a minute, you got several upmods, which gave the false impression your post was high quality, when it wasn't, and used a deceptively simple comparison that you didn't understand how to use correctly. Changing you from 3 to 2 wouldn't have done anything; people would still think you had a good point, since they probably didn't know the entire context that led up to the point about Cosmo.

And since the point about Cosmo was strong, and used to highlight a critical hole in Alicorn's point, I couldn't ignore it either.

Now, as long as we're suggesting ways it could have gone better, how about this: why don't you make sure you know what you're talking about before you get involved? In this case, that would mean presenting the evidence your comparison requires: a case of a male-oriented magazine that uses language that the men here consider beyond the pale in its offensiveness.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you still don't have an example in mind.

comment by Z_M_Davis · 2009-07-24T07:39:37.167Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have replied in the other thread.

Please correct me if I’m misreading you here. You don't trust yourself to assess whether a comment deserves a downvote, because humans are subject to an array of egocentric biases, and yet somehow you do trust yourself to assess that the other person has no idea of what she's talking about, even though humans are subject to an array of egocentric biases?

You might want to consider doing this the other way, extending interpretive charity but not karmic charity. In fact, I hereby urge you to vote however you want to on whatever comments you want to. After all, a few undeserved downvotes are of little importance, whereas, say, continuous swipes at other people's intellectual competence and integrity (e.g., "Yeah, wanna rethink that one?" "This is the part where you're supposed to realize the absurdity of your original response to my reaction," "I heard you make an all-too-convenient claim about what you were, like, totally about to do," "Now for the hard part!" "You're kidding. It never occured to you [...]?" "a deceptively simple comparison that you didn't understand how to use correctly," "doing all the intellectual heavy lifting for you," "if you could present such evidence, or even realize its applicability, you would have already done so," "why don't you make sure you know what you're talking about [...]?" "I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you still don't have an example," &c.) have a tendency to drag the quality of discourse down. It's worth keeping in mind that the karma system is supposed to be a mechanism that exists in the service promoting good discussion; discussion does not exist in the service of amassing karma points. I would much rather someone abuse her voting power than constantly taunt and belittle people.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-24T10:49:43.952Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I would much rather someone abuse her voting power than constantly taunt and belittle people.

If only because the former is much easier to correct. I frequently upvote comments (including ones I disagree with) with negative scores that seem to have no obvious, objective flaws, on the assumption that they were downvoted for disagreement.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-24T17:04:03.174Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The danger here is that someone else might later upvote because they think it's a good comment, and thus your 'corrective' upvote is misplaced (as if you'd come along later you'd never have made it)

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-24T20:12:41.672Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've actually removed upvotes for precisely that reason, when I've noticed it happen.

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-23T23:10:00.468Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

For what it's worth, I vote in threads in which I am active. Namely, I downvote and explain my downvote or upvote and add what I hope is a useful insight.

If I feel like I am getting emotional about anything or the topic is tilting personal I usually wait until the whole thing is finished and then go back through the thread and vote on which comments I thought were best/worst. Sometimes a later clarification makes an earlier comment worth more.

I humbly recommend you cancel any votes for or against me in exchanges you've been involved in.

I would not have honored such a request. My opinion still matters, even if you talking to me.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2009-07-23T13:58:44.532Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're kidding. It never occurred to you that you might not be neutral enough to accurately moderate during an argument you're personally involved in?

What's your "working theory" for why the site prevents upvoting your own comment, "even though" you could just register with a different name and upvote as a sockpuppet?

Note that one can both upvote and downvote comments in an exchange they're involved in. I don't have an explicit ethic of not voting in exchanges where I'm involved, but I've frequently upvoted comments that have disagreed with me and (IIRC) rarely downvoted them. I would suspect many people to be the same, and see little trouble with the practice. If you want to avoid a bias, "in exchanges where you've participated, only upvote comments that disagree with you (or are neutral), and only downvote comments that agree with you (or are neutral)" would sound like a better policy than an explicit ban on any voting.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-07-23T13:59:21.598Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

While you do expect to be more biased than usual in the discussions you are involved in, in some cases the judgment is certain enough to not need this injunction.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T14:03:26.553Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If it's that certain, then it will probably get enough downvotes from people not involved in the discussion.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T14:52:54.270Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, in a short time span I just dropped by about 15 karma, distributed between ongoing and past discussions.

Real mature, that.

ETA: Okay, I went from 264 to 236 in under two hours, virtually all from downmods on old comments. This is ridiculous.

comment by Jack · 2009-07-23T23:47:56.721Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't touch the old threads but last night I did vote down an entire thread of argument between you and thomblake (voting down each of your posts). This might have been part of your conspicuous drop. Nothing against either of you but when the argument is just about what you said or didn't say it is of little interest to anyone else here and should be taken to private messages if you want to continue. I don't know how else to kill bad, useless arguments that clog the recent comments section except to vote every comment in them down. If people feel this is inappropriate please let me know and I won't do it in the future.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T23:53:27.488Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that this is an appropriate use of voting, and that the conversation was of little interest to anyone else so probably should not have been made into theater. Good job.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2009-07-24T09:24:25.075Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As a rule of thumb, I usually don't pay much attention to comment threads that consist of two people going hammer and tongs, and the nesting depth driving the subthread off the top page for the post.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-24T00:14:59.064Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You mean this one? Yes, it was quite a waste of time trying to explain to someone why not every accusation needs to be taken seriously, and I apologize for dignifying the opposing positions.

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-23T16:30:24.258Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It would be nice if the people downvoting you would state who they were and why (It's not me). I can think of two hypotheses:

A) There's a cabal of feminists trying to suppress your view and you in particular

B) People in general have judged your comments in these threads of less quality

A) sounds unlikely (due to the sort of people who seem to frequent this site) but I will grant that it's possible, and B) agrees with my own subjective judgment.

If you've lost karma on really old posts in unrelated topics then it would seem to be reasonable to conclude that one or two people are irrationally voting you down, however...

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T16:36:27.187Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This recent 30+ point drop is almost all from the old threads, not the recent ones. I was up to ~300, then these recent -5s on recent threads took it down to ~265. After that, I took the 30 point hit on old threads over a short period.

comment by lavalamp · 2009-07-23T16:42:58.157Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's weird. Perhaps the system could be improved; there's currently nothing to disincentivize this behavior.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2009-07-23T17:09:55.994Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

there's currently nothing to disincentivize this behavior.

One might hope the fact that it is clearly wrong to be enough. But I suppose one might hope for a pony as well.

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-23T16:08:53.036Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How old? If it's less than a week, it might just be somebody catching up on old comments. (If it's more than a week, that would be suspicious, of course.)

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-23T16:28:44.296Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, more than a week. I remember a thread where I had 8 and 4 and it went to 7 and 3.

Btw, 231 now. That's over a 30 drop, probably due mostly to one person. Quite some "catching up"!

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-23T23:50:37.927Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I had that happen to me a while back to the tune of 80 karma lost in under half an hour. It's not an appropriate use of the voting system and I hope whoever is/was doing it to you stops.

I may disagree with what you say, but I'll recite the famous Voltaire quote until I'm blue in the face in your defense.

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-23T23:52:22.301Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Please. Voltaire misquote!

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-23T23:56:21.450Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Only somewhat, I thought. The sentiment is identical but the misquote is catchier.

ETA: Wikiquote seems to think even that quote is apocryphal, so nevermind, I guess.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-24T00:06:48.696Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I hear tell it's from Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who was explicitly trying to say something Voltaire would agree with.

comment by RobinZ · 2009-07-24T00:02:01.896Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Pfft - I'm just being silly. Besides, I only know about that one because of webcomics.

comment by Alicorn · 2009-07-23T16:35:59.453Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have been driven-by several times. It sucks. Although I disagree with your stated habit of not voting and participating in the same thread, I have voted on your comments only as they've come up and only when I think there is a genuine issue of quality, not indiscriminately and on old comments. (I mention this because I'm probably an obvious suspect in some people's minds.)

comment by eirenicon · 2009-07-23T16:40:40.881Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe down-voting old comments shouldn't affect karma. After all, the more comments you make, the more potential karma you can lose from one person going through your history. I could probably lose all of my karma just by offending the wrong person. Besides, someone changing the points of an old comment no one may ever read again from 8 to 7 is hardly improving the quality of discourse.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T16:44:28.614Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Besides, someone changing the points of an old comment no one may ever read again from 8 to 7 is hardly improving the quality of discourse.

I disagree. The idea is that people will read the old comments again, and the score of comments gives an impression to a random passerby what the community is about.

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-23T16:47:37.817Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Of note, I certainly read old comments and vote on them all the time and consider all posts open discussion.

comment by eirenicon · 2009-07-23T18:05:31.465Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, so long as it doesn't give the impression that that is what the community was about at that time. This community is a moving target, and ideas and opinions change. If we decide to update old comments with new votes, do we risk losing something of archival interest? If we vote up a comment that says 'A is B', and a year later vote up a comment that says 'A is not B', going back and voting down the 'A is B' comment gives the false impression that this community is remarkably consistent. I think I'm blowing this out of proportion, though.

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-23T16:51:00.512Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would presume that the number of people willing to systematically downvote all of a particular person's comments is rather low. Is this a rather common problem? Or does it just show up once a few months?

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-23T23:53:09.559Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it's happened before at least a few times.

comment by Fetterkey · 2009-07-23T18:00:19.652Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've had drops of 5 or 6 karma at a time as someone goes through and downvotes all my comments in a particular thread, but I think that's the price we have to pay; by and large, the karma system here seems to work very well, and provides a very useful method of gauging posts.

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-23T18:45:51.591Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not to be a punk, but were all of those posts deserving of being downvoted? I have no qualms with downvoting posts in batches as long as those posts would have been downvoted anyway. Periodically I read older articles or read the recent posts of certain people. If I find a thread of comments I think should be up or downvoted I do so. This may hit one person with 5 or 6 votes all at once.

I don't think that getting 30 downvotes after a particularly volatile thread is necessarily misuse of the karma system. I can see how it would happen through legitimate use. As long as each vote was made within the full context of the comment, a drop of 30 is very plausible.

It is, however, much more convenient to say that someone is picking on you than to consider that no one bothered to read your comments until now.

This being said, SilasBarta's notes about his recent hits do not appear to follow a legitimate pattern. I am not trying to point at anyone here, least of all SilasBarta; I am just noting that cries of, "Unfair!" don't always point to someone abusing the system.

[B]y and large, the karma system here seems to work very well, and provides a very useful method of gauging posts.

I completely agree. I find the karma system very helpful.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-23T18:58:08.761Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As another data point here, someone seems to be doing the same thing to me, only in reverse - I just gained 20 or so karma in a short time period, and none of it apparently on recent comments. I don't see how this could be someone trying to abuse the system, unless I have some insane stalker fan or something.

ETA: or a Tyler Durden sockpuppet.

ETA2: SoullessAutomaton's comment seems the most plausible.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-24T00:13:39.623Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe someone who knows your voting habits and and wants to annoy you by searching through your history for your worst comments, in order to put upvotes on mediocre comments that you'll never be able to downvote?

(Tongue in cheek, obviously)

comment by Fetterkey · 2009-07-24T20:30:55.943Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say the initial comment probably was worthy of the downvote, but the rest weren't.

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-24T20:54:10.022Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair enough.

comment by eirenicon · 2009-07-23T17:58:17.524Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Never underestimate the number of people on the internet with too much free time and too little sense. I don't think this is a problem right now, though. Of course, if it does become a problem, it's the kind that would be hard to identify.

comment by MrHen · 2009-07-23T18:48:14.063Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

From a database point, it may actually be very easy to find the culprits. I do not know if there is a timestamp on voting, but a sudden influx of downvotes from a particular person should be relatively obvious.

Not that I think any sort of data police needs to exist right now. Even if someone did start messing with the karma system I would rather the developers keep the features coming than worry about a troll.

comment by SoullessAutomaton · 2009-07-23T23:54:11.475Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Eliezer has mentioned trying to get such a monitoring feature built if it becomes apparent that it is becoming a frequent problem. It's not to that point yet, apparently.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T15:49:14.172Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The issue is whether Dworkin's views imply "All sex is rape", and her personal disavowal of that position when under the spotlight counts for nothing, which is why I don't think it's necessary for context.

If you're going to interpret her charitably, then her clarification that she doesn't mean to say that all sex is rape is relevant to understanding what she did mean. Leaving out her clarification is deceptive.

If you're not going to interpret her charitably, then it doesn't matter what she said, as you can twist her words into meaning whatever you'd like.

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T15:53:47.295Z · score: -3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Very well. Any future comment you make about my beliefs on this topic must now include the quote, "I, Silas Barta, have the utmost respect for both men and women, and I never use language that is in any way objectifying to either."

After all, wouldn't it be deceptive to leave out my clarification that I have respect for women and never use obectifying language? I mean, I said it with a straight face, and everything! Don't people deserve to hear the full story?

"It's not the speeches you can deliver, it's whether you can deliver on the speeches." -- paraphrase of a cheesy Hillary Clinton quote

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T15:57:55.673Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You're being ridiculous. Her clarification was in the very next sentence of what you quoted, and it directly contradicted what you said. It's nearly as bad as if you said "I'm not saying that blacks are inferior to whites" and I quoted you out of context as saying "blacks are inferior to whites".

comment by SilasBarta · 2009-07-22T16:06:05.351Z · score: -1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Her clarification was in the very next sentence of what you quoted, and it directly contradicted what you said.

And my point is that her disavowal (did I use too obscure of a word?) of that belief counts for nothing, when the rest of her actions say the opposite. That was the whole point of my comment about how people can say whatever they way, but that doesn't make it true. And truth was the issue, not what someone can assert in a sheepish backpedal.

It's nearly as bad as if you said "I'm not saying that blacks are inferior to whites" and I quoted you out of context as saying "blacks are inferior to whites".

No, it's like if I wrote book saying, "It would be much better if America didn't have any blacks. Lynchings of blacks are, in a philosophical sense, an act of liberation."

And then rumors went around saying that I think blanks should be lynched, and I responded to them by saying,

"Certainly, tossing a rope around a black person's neck is a great idea. Of couse, I wouldn't advocate lynching blacks. But we have to remember the need for racial purity."

And then someone posting on Less Wrong, that hey, SB's views weren't really misrepresented, because look at what he said even when defending himself, "Certainly, tossing a rope around a black person's neck is a great idea ..."

And then you vigorously protesting that, "But look at the next sentence! Doesn't that void everything else he's ever written?"

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T16:15:22.959Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

And then you vigorously protesting that, "But look at the next sentence! Doesn't that void everything else he's ever written?"

You're misreading me as well. I'm no fan of Dworkin, and it's very clear that "all sex is rape" certainly sounds like the sort of thing she'd say (I'd make the same case for MacKinnon). I pointed out that leaving out her clarification was deceptive. It was a paradigmatic example of taking a quote out of context. Perhaps my wording was a bit strong in this comment when I said:

You seriously don't think "All sex is rape" would therefore be a misinterpretation of what Dworkin said?

But it is very clear that you were not even attempting to read her charitably, nor give other people the chance to do so, by leaving out relevant context.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T04:25:04.511Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's not much of a stretch though. MacKinnon did claim that talking about rape is equivalent to committing rape, and having read a good deal of her work, it certainly seems like "all sex is rape" is the sort of thing she'd say. Of course, people really should find something crazy that she's actually said if they want to criticize her.

comment by MendelSchmiedekamp · 2009-07-22T04:23:24.645Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I have found a pattern: when people consider an idea in isolation, they tend to make good decisions. When they consider an idea a symbol of a vast overarching narrative, they tend to make very bad decisions.

If I recall correctly, these are generally called Grand Narratives. And it is one of the agendas of post-modern philosophy to try to undermine and eliminate them in favor of more nuanced ways of thinking about things.

Admittedly, most "po-mo" folks aren't as selective as we'd like, since they, often, consider rationality one example of a Grand Narrative.

comment by teageegeepea · 2009-07-22T04:06:16.615Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I came to the wrong conclusion in the Duke Lacrosse case, even though I didn't think our society is all that racist. I messed up because I just assumed the authorities wouldn't do what they did unless they had good reason. I have since changed my assumptions.

comment by HalFinney · 2009-07-22T18:01:28.079Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with the logic of this analysis, but I have a problem with one of the implicit premises: that "we" should care about political issues at all, and that "we" make governmental decisions. I think this is wrong, and its wrongness explains the seemingly puzzling phenomenon of jumping from tree to forest.

There was no need for anyone beyond the jury to have an opinion on the Duke lacrosse case. We weren't making any decisions there. I certainly wasn't, anyway. So of course when people do express an interest, it is for entertainment and showing off only. They may think it is for other reasons, but it is essentially a form of social interaction, part of the status game that we are all playing. And this game is played better with big issues than with small ones.

Likewise with poor Cheerios. (It's funny - I wrote a semi joking rant last night defending Cheerios, and as a result I now find myself quite favorably disposed to the little yellow box; an effect we have often discussed and warned against.) I don't need to have an opinion on what the FDA should be doing. They aren't asking me. Nobody's asking me. At best I can vote for a President who can appoint an FDA commissioner and perhaps set policy, but my influence on this process is infinitesimal.

So once again, if I do take an interest it will be as part of a social game, not because it's something I can do anything about.

This effect is the fundamental reason why ideology rules in politics. It's because our beliefs don't matter, so we adopt them just for fun and for a competitive edge. We don't seem to recognize this, perhaps because believing ideologies are important helps us win the game. But it explains why people are quick to see little things in the context of big issues.

comment by HalFinney · 2009-07-22T06:40:42.057Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I'm afraid I have to take issue with your Cheerios story in the linked comment. You say of the 4% cholesterol lowering claim, "This is false. It is based on a 'study' sponsored by General Mills where subjects took more than half their daily calories from Cheerios (apparently they ate nothing but Cheerios for two of their three daily meals)." You link to http://www.askdeb.com/blog/health/will-cheerios-really-help-lower-your-cholesterol/ but that says nothing about how much Cheerios subjects ate.

I found this article that describes the 1998 Cheerios research that is the foundation for the claim: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0813/is_8_32/ai_n15691320/ . It says that participants ate 3 cups of Cheerios per day, while control subjects ate 3 cups of corn flakes. 1 cup of Cheerios is about 100 calories, so 3 cups would be 300, far less than "more than half their daily calories" for any reasonable adult. Further, this article goes on to report that LDL (bad cholesterol) in the Cheerios group fell from 160 to 153, which looks to me like 4%.

Furthermore, my understanding is that the FDA's complaint is not with the accuracy of Cheerios' claim; it is that it is making such a claim at all, even if truthful. The FDA has a lot of rules about what kinds of health benefits products are allowed to make. It is not enough that a claim appears to be correct; the question is the depth and strength of the evidence behind it. For specific health claims, the FDA basically requires full blown clinical trials, as with drugs. According to the LA Times, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/shopping_blog/2009/05/fda-warns-general-mills-over-cheerios-cholesterol-claims.html , "The FDA allows some health benefits of foods to be advertised but within strict limits. For instance, a company can say that a diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains may reduce the risk of heart disease."

There are reasonable questions to be raised about what policy we want to have for regulating health claims. But demonizing Cheerios and General Mills does not facilitate rational discussion of the issues. Saying that their claim is false, and exaggerating the amount of Cheerios which was eaten in their study, only serves to put Cheerios in an unjustifiably bad light.

And BTW I typically eat 600-1000 calories for breakfast, often cold cereal. Sometimes I eat Cheerios but usually I mix two or three different cereals. 300 calories of cold cereal is not difficult for me. The hard part is holding myself back to only eat that much.

comment by mps · 2009-07-22T14:30:13.620Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think the author's point was not to claim one side was right and the other wrong, but to say one's determination of who is right/wrong in a situation like this should probably be more independent of one's political party affiliation than it actually is. I take that no one actually studied the correlation among people's opinion on this matter and their party affiliation; my impression was the author was speculating that such a correlation would exist.

comment by HalFinney · 2009-07-22T17:44:32.368Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A typical comment from an anti-Cheerios advocate. Is this what LW is coming to? Cheerios lovers unite!

Anyway it was probably not clear but I was a little tongue in cheek with my Cheerios rant. I think what I wrote is correct but mostly I was having fun pretending that there could be a big political battle over even the narrow issue of the Cheerios study and what it means.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2009-07-23T01:53:54.947Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hm, I had an article from which I got my numbers, but now I can't find it anymore. I do see several that say three cups of cheerios per day and 450 calories of Cheerios out of a 1900 calorie diet, but I have no idea where I got that "half your total calories" phrase. Possibly I made a mistake and multiplied 4503, when the 450 is already 3150, or possibly copied from an article that did so.

comment by cousin_it · 2009-07-22T06:36:50.900Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This is... impressively level-headed, like orthonormal's post was. The net result might be to shame me into shutting up on those hot-button topics, which would be a good thing. We really had better stop and move on. Although the last couple days have been an obscene karma mint for many commenters including me.

comment by elharo · 2013-02-16T22:33:00.050Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This post exhibits a common fallacy in both economics and politics. I'm not sure what, if anything it's traditionally called, but for the moment I propose the "We are all on the same side" fallacy. Let me explain.

"Let's say we are considering a law mandating businesses to lower their pollution levels. So far as I understand economics, the best decision-making strategy is to estimate how much pollution is costing the population, how much cutting pollution would cost business, and if there's a net profit, pass the law. Of course it's more complicated, but this seems like a reasonable start."

Actually, no. Non-owners of a polluting business will rationally prefer that the business is to be made to stop polluting, even if that costs that business more dollars than they are willing to pay for clean air/water/etc. Classical economics suggests that in this case the business owner should pay the populace for the right to pollute, but that's never been practical or seriously considered.

In reverse, owners of polluting businesses prefer to pollute even if the benefit to them of polluting is far less than the cost to everyone who suffers their pollution. This is the classic example of an externality in economics.

Politics, especially democratic politics, is the process by which people with differing and opposed interests compete to try to put their interests first. There is no one rational best choice for everyone. Different people have different wants and desires that cannot always be mutually satisfied.

None of this negates your discussion of how people use broader narratives to understand (or misunderstand) specific stories. Sometimes, as in the Duke Lacrosse case, it's simply a matter of fact. And other times, though rarer than most people think, there is one obviously better solution for everyone; and we should all just rationally choose it.

But most of the time you need to distinguish the rhetoric and propaganda from the genuine interests of different parties. Take your example of "there would be seemingly good idea to regulate something that clearly needed regulating". Maybe for the good of society something, call it a "boonlicket" to avoid triggering patterns on real products, needs regulating because fly-by-night producers are highly incented to produce dangerous boonlickets instead of spending ten cents more per unit. Or maybe retailers are incented to sell expired or damaged boonlickets instead of new ones. And let's suppose that everyone who uses a bad boonlicket loses their little toe; and that this is a real problem and it's really happening in the marketplace. Lots of folks are now walking around without little toes. (I'm being deliberately extreme here to make it really obvious that regulation is called for.)

Nonetheless retailers and manufacturers of good boonlickets may still not accept regulation because following the regulations will cost them a lot of money, even if it saves millions of little toes. (Then again, in some cases good manufacturers may actually request regulation if it puts the bad competitors out of business, and restores consumer confidence in boonlickets as a class; but for the moment let's assume the costs of regulation are really, really high; or maybe the bad boonlickets only sometimes cut off a little toe.)

Either way, the manufacturers and retailers of the bad boonlickets are going to strongly oppose the regulations because they'll lose everything they make on the bad boonlickets. Now of course they can't go around saying they want to sell boonlickets that cut off peoples' toes to save $0.10 a unit, so instead they try to obscure and obfuscate the problem. They talk about "Small government! Freedom! Capitalism!" though they don't actually care about any of that stuff. They just want to continue selling the toe-cutting boonlickets.

To understand what's really going on in these debates and disputes, you need to look beyond what people say. Ask yourself who benefits? Who pays for that benefit? How much do payers pay? How much do beneficiaries receive? A classical economist would identify this as a transfer of wealth from one group to another, though I think wealth isn't a full description of what's happening here. But it is a transfer of utilons from one party to another; and politics is one way of distributing a society's gross utilons. It is by no means obvious or accepted that we should simply accept any policy that results in a net increase of utilons across the population, or reject any any policy that results in a net decrease of utilons across the population. The real question for politics is "Who gets what?", not "How much is there?" Politics is about distribution, not maximization.

comment by christopherj · 2013-10-13T04:11:30.166Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And then, all the totally unrelated industries that are at risk of losing money from regulation, and all the people pushing for regulation in any industry, will add their voices to the argument -- a precedent will advance their goal, after all.

comment by colinmarshall · 2009-07-22T05:10:51.169Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The more time I spend thinking about it, the more I come to realize that Narrative Is the Enemy, at least where attempts to see and reason clearly are concerned. One heuristic has proven surprisingly useful time and time again, in efforts of rationality as well as creativity: don't try to deliberately tell a story.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T14:37:18.261Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But narrative is our primary means for understanding; it's where we get the context for situating our ideas. Even the 'self' is a story we tell ourselves, to give narrative unity to the disparate actions we take.

While many philosophers have written about this in recent years, I shall point to the one most likely to be respected here. Dan Dennett: The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity

comment by colinmarshall · 2009-07-22T14:59:38.005Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You're absolutely right; it's the overuse of narrative we need to be concerned about. Humanity can't get by without it, but one inch too much and we're in self-delusion territory.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T15:01:52.354Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. At least postmodernism got something right.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2009-07-22T16:54:47.825Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I like the concept of narratives (make it "affective narratives"). Every problem looks like a nail. This bias doesn't necessarily determine what gets decided, as the factions can fight over the outcome, but it results in discarding all the relevant considerations, leaving only the sufficiently polarized ones. The perception of facts gets distorted without an agreed-upon affective bias for a specific cause. A cult-anticult field that doesn't necessarily consist of a pair of organized cults. When the cults are organized around the poles, it gets worse, but the first stage is like spontaneous fluctuations from sanity to both sides along the given direction.

This possibly creates an approach to the question posed in Do Fandoms Need Awfulness?. If there is a controversy, it creates factions, which start to argue in an adversarial mode, creating an affective narrative that draws attention to a few simple properties of the object of fandom, raising them to absolute, which appeals to the people who value these properties.

comment by CronoDAS · 2009-07-22T16:04:54.983Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I gave an example: the government's request that Kelloggs stop making false claims about Cheerios

Cheerios is made by General Mills, not Kellogs.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T16:39:56.823Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ha... I was wondering if this was a mistake, or if I'd missed something in that controversy.

comment by FrankAdamek · 2009-07-22T06:53:23.105Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I get the feeling sometime that people tend to be "blunt objects", that there is a tendency to see one issue that does have some importance, or a few, and then go slamming against that issue and things that resemble it. Then your slamming becomes an issue and other people start hammering against your whole position and related views. If this system works at all, it hopefully works by this pounding back and forth settling somewhere close to where we think things ought to be, based on the relative 'objective' merits that give a bit more fuel to one side or the other. Being built to be successful packhunters and foragers on the savannah and not the perfect disputants, I think people are applying what limited resources they have or think they have in attempting to settle fine points with large unwieldy views, the sort of broad conceptions that did the job in the savannah. Hopefully by policing ourselves and/or increasing our own ability to handle lots of nuanced information at once we can apply more precision to things. Then instead of flinging the issue around like a tetherball, we could carefully place it in a measured and thoughtful position to best satisfy our collective desires. Anyway just some thoughts and an analogy I find viscerally enjoyable.

comment by orthonormal · 2009-07-22T18:20:29.448Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

IAWYC, but I want to caution against too much arguing by analogy. I can always find a neat-sounding analogy for any problem (especially facets of human psychology), but that as persuasive as such analogies often are to sympathetic audiences, they tend to have very little predictive power.

That being said, they can be very pithy and memorable, so they're a good tool when they're justified.

comment by FrankAdamek · 2009-07-22T20:53:51.102Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Good point and agreed. Here I sought just to share a descriptive analogy I found interesting, in agreement with Yvain, but any description could even unintentionally be used later for argument (by myself too of course), so that's something for me to watch out for, thanks.

comment by mps · 2009-07-22T14:19:47.621Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree.

In fact, I think the "vast overarching narrative" is often something very basic. In many cases, I think a given policy is seen simply as "punishing" a group, and is resisted by people who think that group deserves more respect.

For instance, why are so many people against increasing taxes on the wealthy to cut deficits? Are they really worried that these people will lose incentive to work hard, and the economy will suffer? Or that markets for luxury goods will crumble? I suspect what many really feel is that successful people deserve praise and admiration, while increasing their taxes puts them down -- the tax increase is seen to say that their wages were not fairly won. And perhaps many on the other side feel so strongly about it because they think wealthy people are overpaid and otherwise get too much admiration, and thus should be taken down a notch.

The "vast overarching narrative" is simply "wealthy people get too little / too much respect."

Same with govt regulation. Do you think society gives large corporations too much or too little respect? (That is, do you think they have too much power and wealth, or do you think people tend not to appreciate how important they are toward empowering and creating wealth in our society?) Perhaps differences in the answer to that simple question explain why many take a set of certain positions on a wide range of questions of regulation, the practical implications of which are actually very diverse.

comment by matt · 2009-07-26T06:46:18.240Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There are many who would love to achieve the assumed goals of government regulation, but have noticed a law of unintended consequences or have studied public choice theory, and believe that advocating sensible regulation isn't the same as getting it.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T14:40:25.971Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Are they really worried that these people will lose incentive to work hard, and the economy will suffer? Or that markets for luxury goods will crumble? I suspect what many really feel is that successful people deserve praise and admiration, while increasing their taxes puts them down

I doubt the economists on that side of the issue have fallen into this trap. It seems at least more charitable to assume they mean it when they say it will disincentivize creating wealth.

comment by G Gordon Worley III (gworley) · 2009-07-22T11:01:14.537Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Even though I don't think there was anything really new in this post, I like it anyway because it finds additional evidence and helps build the body of evidence to support the idea that politics is the mind killer.

comment by thomblake · 2009-07-22T04:20:11.842Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

As far as actually talking about bias in general, I don't think this post adds anything that hasn't already been said, for instance in "Politics is the mind-killer". In terms of the current discussion, I thought the idea was to drop it and move on.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2009-07-22T06:35:23.303Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it was well-repeated.