Are we failing the ideological Turing test in the case of ISIS? (a crazy ideas thread)

post by Val · 2016-01-09T16:42:59.906Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 108 comments

It is easy to think of the ISIS as just a bunch of lunatics who kill people because they believe God told them to do it, but if we take a closer look at how they are organized and how successful they are, (and especially how successful they were at the beginning), this seems to be an oversimplification. Sure, most of their lowest level fighters are probably belonging to the "brainwashed and crazy" group, but I guess the leadership is almost certainly not. They know and use modern media very well, they are effective at recruitment, advertising, organization, and secrecy. Their successes are aided by the fact that they know how we think much better than how we know how they think.

Most of what they do seem to be very rational from a utilitarian point of view: they destroy pre-islamic historical monuments (which previous Islamic theocratic governments left intact) to show their supporters that they are in control and that they are serious, they try to trick NATO and the Russians to commit ground troops, so they can recruit the less radical Muslims to defend their homes against "foreign conquerors", and they cater for both the religious fanatics, and for the opportunists. They have many mercenaries on their side, simply because they can pay them better than others in the region. They also gain recruits by promising them wealth and power, so not all their rhetoric is strictly religiously motivated.

With the most repeated assumptions about their true goals and motivations being "they just want power", "they are just crazy", and "they just enjoy being evil", it seems that we are failing the ideological Turing test.

Therefore, I suggest a thread similar to the "Crazy Ideas Threads": let us assume, that the top leadership of ISIS is composed of completely rational and very intelligent individuals, and let's try to guess what their true goals and motivations are. I have a number of ideas, but I can find many arguments both for and against them. I encourage you to criticize the ideas I came up with, and suggest your own theories.

 

1. The premise of this article is wrong. The ISIS are really just a bunch of idiots, and their apparent successes are only caused by the powers in the region being much more incompetent than ISIS

 

2. They want to create a sovereign nation and become its ruling elite.

The problem with this is that their current economic model is unsustainable in the long term. When conquering and looting new territory makes up most of your income, once you exhausted an area, you need to find new places to conquer. When you can no longer do it, your economy collapses. Until now, looting the towns they conquered, selling artifacts and robbing the banks found in the town made up a large part of their income. They have no real industry to speak of, except for selling the oil extracted by already existing infrastructure. If you think this is the real answer, please indicate a realistic economic model for the geographical area which is mostly defined by the power vacuum they managed to exploit, and which as of today seems to be mostly filled by them, making them unlikely to continue to gain significant new territories.

 

3. They just want to amass as much wealth as possible, and then comfortably retire to some secluded place.

The problem with this is that they made some of the greatest powers on the planet their enemies, who will have a high probability of finding and hunting them down if they, for example, just retire to a sunny beach of a tropical island.

 

4. Trying to make their ideology more dominant (aka spreading Islam in general)

I find this the least likely as the main goal. Also, if this was the case, they are counterproductive. So far Islam was very successful in the last few decades to gain a bigger and bigger foothold in the Western world, helped both by demographics and by the predominantly left-leaning political elite in Europe encouraging the acceptance of and submission to Islamic culture in Europe instead of encouraging the immigrants to abandon their culture for the culture of the host nations. However, the recent terrorist attacks, and the many atrocities committed by the recently arrived asylum seekers, while hurting European economy, will probably lead to Europe being more skeptical regarding Islam, which might reduce the chances of Islam peacefully and silently spreading. So these events, if indeed orchestrated by ISIS, might have been successful in harming the economy of their enemies, but I don't know what an effect they had on the spreading of Islam. I'm tending on believing in a negative effect, but I just don't know enough factors to know it for sure. I believe the violent attacks in the Western world are done mostly to show their own followers at home how powerful they are and how weak their enemies are.

Other, not necessarily rational motivations:

- they just saw an opportunity and exploited it, they have no long term contingency plans.

- they really believe that what they do will, in the long therm, benefit the people in the region.

 

Note: by presenting the above theories, my goal was not to claim them to be true or false. My goal is to listen to interesting ideas and theories which maybe didn't occur to me before.

108 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by James_Miller · 2016-01-09T19:40:01.072Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

We should take the outside view and look at other governments that had "crazy" ideologies and ask if the leaders of these governments really believed these ideologies. The Nazi leaders were mostly sincere in their beliefs, as were many but not all of the communist leaders (Lenin and Trotsky certainly were true believers in what they professed, while Mao and Stalin were probably cynical opportunists.) My guess is that most of the Christian European monarchs who claimed a divine right to rule really did believe that they were God's instruments.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2016-01-09T20:31:33.482Z · score: 12 (18 votes) · LW · GW

let us assume, that the top leadership of ISIS is composed of completely rational and very intelligent individuals

Of the sort that casebash assures us cannot exist? The imaginary competence of fictional rational heroes? Top human genius level?

No. These all amount to assuming a falsehood.

  1. The premise of this article is wrong. The ISIS are really just a bunch of idiots, and their apparent successes are only caused by the powers in the region being much more incompetent than ISIS

Another straw falsehood to set beside the first one. All of this rules out from the start any consideration of ISIS as they actually are. They are real people with a mission, no more and no less intelligent than anyone else who succeeds in doing what they have done so far.

There is no mystery about what ISIS wants. They tell the world in their glossy magazine), available in many languages, including English (see the link at the foot of that page). They tell the world in every announcement and proclamation.

"Rationalist", however, seem incapable of believing that anyone ever means what they say. Nothing is what it is, but a signal of something else.

I have not seen any reason to suppose that they do not intend exactly what they say, just as Hitler did in "Mein Kampf". They are fighting to establish a new Caliphate which will spread Islam by the sword to the whole world, Allahu akbar. All else is strategy and tactics. If their current funding model is unsustainable, they will change it as circumstances require. If their recruitment methods falter, they will search for other ways.

More useful questions would be: given their supreme goal (to establish a new Caliphate which will spread Islam by the sword to the whole world), what should they do to accomplish that? And how should we (by which I mean, everyone who wants Islamic universalism to fail) act to prevent them?

I recommend a reading of Max Frisch's play "The Fire Raisers").

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T20:59:10.488Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Another straw falsehood to set beside the first one

Of course it is! That's the main point. Did it really not come across what I meant when I wrote that my goal was not to defend or attack the elements of the list? These are the most common theories about what isis wants, this is why they are in the list in the first place. I only listed #1 to counteract the others which were assuming more intelligence and rationalism from them most people would give credit.

I'm open to suggestions how this topic could be improved to better serve its intended purpose: to gather weird and unusual theories about what the true agenda of isis was, were they much more rational and more intelligent than most people give credit to them.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2016-01-09T21:25:49.555Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

These are the most common theories about what isis wants

The theory that they want what they say they want is missing, but I don't know what population you've been looking at to say what is most common.

to gather weird and unusual theories about what the true agenda of isis was

Your first three paragraphs suggested to me that you were interested in discussing the reality of ISIS. All weird and unusual theories are rendered false off the bat by their frankness about their aims and their actions in pursuing them. This is hearing hoofbeats and inviting people to consider what sort of weird and unusual creatures could possibly be causing them.

were they much more rational and more intelligent than most people give credit to them.

The whole post looks like a determination to fail the ideological Turing test.

comment by DanArmak · 2016-01-09T21:30:02.998Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

what the true agenda of isis was, were they much more rational and more intelligent than most people give credit to them.

Ultimate goals are orthogonal to instrumental rationality and intelligence. Why does assuming they are rational and intelligent make you distrustful of their stated goals?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-10T00:38:12.879Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

They are fighting to establish a new Caliphate which will spread Islam by the sword to the whole world, Allahu akbar. All else is strategy and tactics.

I don't think that's an accurate description. Fighting Western troops in Dadiq is important to ISIS because the Koran says that it's supposed to happen. The Koran does constrain the range of possible strategies.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2016-01-11T17:56:09.339Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fighting Western troops in Dadiq is important to ISIS because the Koran says that it's supposed to happen. The Koran does constrain the range of possible strategies.

The Koran inspires ISIS in their supreme goal. If something in it can be matched to current events and opportunities, ISIS will milk that to the full, but I doubt that the Koran constrains them from any direction they may choose to prosecute their struggle.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-11T18:19:21.569Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The Koran inspires ISIS in their supreme goal.

No. It also requires ISIS to do things like providing free housing and free healthcare to people in it's territory and a host of other choices.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2016-01-11T21:02:18.672Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The Koran requires ISIS to do whatever ISIS decide that the Koran requires them to do. Thus it is with all religions. It is impossible to apply a document more than a thousand years old and not interpret it, however much the religion itself may literally cling to the exact letter of the text.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-11T21:26:35.594Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The Koran requires ISIS to do whatever ISIS decide that the Koran requires them to do

Not really since the legitimicy of ISIS relies on them being perceived as a legimite caliphate and their own followers think they have a duty to dispose of an ISIS leader who wouldn't run according to the Koran.

Their followers consider the Koran to be pretty clear about the fact that a caliph has to provide free housing and free healthcare to the citzens of the caliphate.

It's also prevents high level ISIS personally to voice that they doubt that the prophecies are true.

ISIS declared the caliphate when an internal faction argued that that if the precursor organisation doesn't declare a caliphate they don't fulfill their Islamic duty.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2016-01-09T22:43:34.687Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not quite as bitter as you are about rationalists, but it's certainly true that people get a lot wrong, and in particular, they're generally bad at checking on whether their means are a good match for their purposes. The planning fallacy is a good though unflamboyant example of people getting things wrong even when they have years of evidence that they underestimate how long it takes to get things done.

My guess about ISIS is a mixture of a desire for personal power and drama, combined with some hope that Allah will help make the Caliphate work.

Thanks for the pointer to "The Fire Raisers". Have an anti-Communism/anti-decadence story by Kipling on a similar theme: the Mother Hive.

comment by Val · 2016-01-10T01:39:43.548Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, that seems to be the most anvilicious support for conservatism I've ever seen! Still, I enjoyed reading it, thank you for linking to it. Just getting to know this story was worth writing the article.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2016-01-09T21:22:50.203Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

let us assume, that the top leadership of ISIS is composed of completely rational and very intelligent individuals

I think that Val wants us to imagine that the elite of ISIS are smart guys who are well aware of the chances and risks of their plans, can place themselves in the shoes of their enemies and play them against each other (including usage of ideology) and likely look for the long time effect of their actions. And to think what their most likely motivations and goals are given the known facts.

comment by DanArmak · 2016-01-09T21:28:04.236Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Under those assumptions, it seems to be likely that their stated motivations and goals are the true ones. Especially if they are smart enough to realize they are likely to fail, the likely reason for them trying anyway is religious (moral, etc).

comment by buybuydandavis · 2016-01-10T00:55:33.321Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Especially if they are smart enough to realize they are likely to fail"

Allah doesn't put his thumb on the scales?

If they think Allah is going to a lend a hand, they would feel certain of near term victory. If not, they likely would still feel certain of a long term victory.

And even if you do end me before I end you,
Another will take my place, and another

comment by RichardKennaway · 2016-01-09T21:40:54.309Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Especially if they are smart enough to realize they are likely to fail

Are they likely to fail? They are not going to fail unless the people who want them to fail (most of the world) make them fail. Being able to defeat them is not enough. They must actually be defeated. Is this going to happen?

Compare with startup founders. Most startups fail, yes? Therefore if every would-be startup founder is smart enough etc., then we don't get Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, ...

No-one ever won a war by wishing their enemies would recognise they can't win. ISIS have a cause for which they are not merely striving to become stronger or making an extraordinary effort, they are shutting up and doing the impossible.

comment by thakil · 2016-01-11T09:14:21.100Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

"More useful questions would be: given their supreme goal (to establish a new Caliphate which will spread Islam by the sword to the whole world), what should they do to accomplish that? And how should we (by which I mean, everyone who wants Islamic universalism to fail) act to prevent them?"

I think this is an interesting question. If you want to create a new islamic state you could do worse than siezing on the chaos caused by a civil war in Syria, and a weak state in Iraq. You will be opposed by

1)local interests, i.e. the governments of Iraq and Syria 2)The allies of local interests. In the case of Syria, Iran and Russia, Iraq the US and Britain.

I think 2 is quite interesting because the amount other nations intervene will be due in part to how much their population cares. I would argue that the attacks on Russia and France represent a strategic mistake because in both cases it encouraged those nations to be more active in their assault on ISIS.

Arguably the best way to discourage international interests from getting involved is increasing local costs. Make sure that any attacks on you will kill civillians, try to appear as legitimate and as boring as possible.

Essentially, if I wanted to run an evil fundamentalist oppressive state I would look as cuddly as possible at first. In fact, I would probably pretend to be on the side of the less religiously motivated rebels, so I can get guns and arms. Then, when Assad is toppled, make sure that any oil I have is available. My model here will be to look as much as Saudia Arabia as possible, as they can do horrifying things to their own citizens provided they remain a key strategic ally in the region. Real politik will trumph over morality provided you can keep western eyes off of you.

The goal, always, would be to be as non threatening as possible to squeeze as much arms as you can out of western allies (and Russian allies too, if you can work it, but if you topple Assad you probably can't), which puts you in a position to expand your interests. Then you need to provoke other nations to invade you, so you can plausibly claim to be the wronged party in any conflict where the US feels obliged to pick sides.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-11T14:14:50.388Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Essentially, if I wanted to run an evil fundamentalist oppressive state I would look as cuddly as possible at first.

Nobody set's out to run an evil fundamentalist oppressive state but certain people set out to run a evil fundamentalist oppressive state.

Apart from that you ignore the fact of what it means to claim to be a caliphate. ISIS got a lot of power through the act of founding a self-proclaimed caliphate.

comment by thakil · 2016-01-11T16:06:23.975Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a little confused by your first point (I guess you're pointing out a grammar/spelling error, but the only one I note is that you've used "a" instead of "an", and evil starts with a vowel so, no I don't understand that point).

You're second point is correct, I meant to mention that as a cost. By appearing more moderate I cost myself support. I've sort of hand waved the idea that I can just convince everyone to fight for me in the first place, which is obviously a difficult problem! That said I think you could be a little less obviously evil initially and still attract people to your fundamentalist regime.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-11T16:13:17.898Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Right I wanted to say:

Nobody set's out to run an evil fundamentalist oppressive state but certain people set out to run a good fundamentalist oppressive state.

By appearing more moderate I cost myself support.

The question whether or not to declare a caliphate is binary. Either you do or you don't. Then there's a host of obligations with declaring a caliphate.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-10T00:24:26.391Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You don't win ideological Turing tests by speculated about possible theories which you can came up with in the ivory tower. You instead need to read about the actual reasoning of the other side.

With ISIS the best article is likely Graeme Wood's What ISIS Really Wants. If you generally want to understand radical Islam Sayyid Qutb's Milestones is an insightful book as it lays out the general doctrine of modern Salafi jihadism.

ISIS does have intelligent leaders but those leaders also happen to be very religious. If you don't understand that religious framework I don't think you will succeed at winning any ideological turing test.

comment by torekp · 2016-01-10T13:34:44.214Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Good stuff in that article:

Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement

comment by Viliam · 2016-01-11T12:54:10.402Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You don't win ideological Turing tests by speculated about possible theories which you can came up with in the ivory tower. You instead need to read about the actual reasoning of the other side.

Also related: Hold Off On Proposing Solutions. In this specific situation, hold off on proposing explanations for ISIS, before you have even gathered enough information.

For example:

they destroy pre-islamic historical monuments (...) to show their supporters that they are in control and that they are serious

As far as I know, they "destroy" the monuments mostly to gain money. A small fraction of the monuments is destroyed publicly, most of them are simply stolen and sold on black market.

This doesn't make them evil masterminds, merely clever thiefs.

they cater for both the religious fanatics, and for the opportunists

Because there are not enough fanatics. Also, my connotation for "opportunist" is someone unrelated to the conflict, who sees an opportunity to make money, so they volunteer for the army. But in reality the more typical ISIS soldier is a person living on their territory, whose previous way of living was destroyed by the war, and joining ISIS is their most realistic way to avoid starvation.

Starting with misinformation and trying to invent a theory of clever masterminds, that is not the same thing as the ideological Turing test. It's more like inventing conspiracy theories for fun.

"A bunch of lunatics who kill people because they believe God told them to do it" also happens to be a short description of Old Testament. Are we going to suppose some modern-thinking evil masterminds behind that, too? Because to me it seems more like a description of humanity at its historical usual.

comment by DanArmak · 2016-01-09T18:52:50.241Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

It is easy to think of the ISIS as just a bunch of lunatics who kill people because they believe God told them to do it,

That is an odd use of the word 'lunatics'. The great majority of the people who ever lived did things, and often killed people, because they believed God(s) told them (through intermediaries) to do it. The particular acts of ISIS are not very unusual in the broader span of history. Different but comparable acts of mostly- or partially-religiously-motivated mass genocide and other evils have happened multiple times in the 20th century alone. Slavery, sex slavery, torture and execution of infidels, etc. were accepted in very many times and places; were all who committed them "lunatics"?

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T18:59:38.674Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

My intention with writing this post was not to discuss religious extremism itself. If you just want to talk about religious extremism there are a lot of places to do it, including other topics on this very site. This topic is only about assuming the top leadership of isis to be rational people (who just abuse religious extremism for their own goals), what could their main objective be?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-10T00:50:46.721Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My intention with writing this post was not to discuss religious extremism itself.

How do you think an ideological turing test works without discussing ideology?

top leadership of isis to be rational people

The standard usage of rational in these quarters happens to be about maximizing an utility function. There no reason why you can't be religious and be effective at maximizing the utility function dictated by your religion.

comment by DanArmak · 2016-01-09T20:39:29.664Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

What I'm commenting on is your use of "rational people" as if being genuine religious extremists is irrational, or in your words "lunatic".

Why would you assume they are lying about their stated goals and are using religion only instrumentally? Or, more precisely: do you think this is more likely to be true for ISIS, than for the many other groups who in the present or past justified such violence by religion, and if so why?

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T21:04:15.146Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh come on, I'm not assuming anything at this point... how often should I repeat that my point was not to present and defend my theories about them, but to gather weird and unusual theories about them? If you think that the listed goals are contradictory, then you are right. But that's the point, they are examples, not the statement of my beliefs. Imagine it more like an open-ended poll: which one is more likely, and if none, than what do you consider more likely.

comment by DanArmak · 2016-01-09T21:24:41.088Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not saying anything about the listed theories. I'm talking about your motivation for listing theories at all, and not accepting things at face value. Why do you think ISIS needs to be explained at all and not taken at their word, more so than any other group of people? Why do you think (apparently) that if ISIS are sincere in everything they've said, that makes them "lunatics" and not "rational"?

comment by Jiro · 2016-01-09T22:43:37.865Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Memes are subject to evolution. I would expect that fanatics are selected, to a certain extent, for fanaticism that happens to work in a way conducive to spreading the fanaticism. So it's not really inconsistent to point out that they have standard goals such as religious fanaticism and lust for power, yet to note that they do "rational things". After all, any group of fanatics who want power, but act in ways that are sufficiently irrational as to be ineffective, never would have become known except as a historical footnote.

(Note that this doesn't mean that every single thing they do is "rational", just a couple of the top ones. It is consistent that ISIS makes people skeptical of Islam and prevents Islam from spreading to Europe, because other groups are also ineffective at spreading Islam to Europe and not being very good at it either doesn't put ISIS at much of a competitive disadvantage.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2016-01-10T15:47:25.009Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm going to underline that what you're trying to do isn't an ideological Turing Test. An ideological Turing Test is expressing your opponents point of view in such a way that they agree you've done a good job of expressing it.

This isn't a matter of speculating on motives, or even getting the motives right. It's a matter of becoming able to set aside your own point of view to express another point of view, accurately and non-ironically, .It's at least plausible that being able to pass the Turing Test will help with being able to communicate with and understand people you don't agree with.

comment by Val · 2016-01-12T18:22:48.853Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not trying to do an ideological Turing Test here. I know what it is, I've seen quite a number of them here. As there are probably zero ISIS supporters (openly commenting as such) on this forum, such a test would not be feasible to do. The idea of a general theist/atheist ideological Turing Test was abandoned some time ago because it happens that this site is frequented by much more atheists than theists.

What I meant with the title is not that "hence with this article I shall conduct an ideological Turing Test", but that we, as in Western society in general might be failing it because we don't know enough about how they think.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2016-01-09T19:46:16.566Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

"left-leaning political elite in Europe encouraging the acceptance of and submission to Islamic culture in Europe "

I can't recall any politicians encouraging my submission to Islam.

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T19:57:33.637Z · score: 2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I'll try to answer only very briefly, to avoid this from distracting from the main topic. Of course no politician encouraged you to convert to Islam. What I was writing about is the acceptance of and submission to Islamic culture, the rhetoric is that if the immigrants don't like something in our society, we should change it, instead of telling them that if they want to stay here, they should adapt, not us. I know this is a hotly debated topic, this is why I don't really want to dig too deep into it.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2016-01-09T20:12:26.912Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

There are any number of better ways of expressing that. "Submission to Islam", is, literally, "conversion to Islam".

Even if what you are talking about is some kind of compromise, I'm not seeing a lot of evidence. Muslims of my acquaintance object to the consumption of alcohol, scantilly clad women and jews in the media. I haven't noticed the political left doing anything about those.

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T20:25:46.760Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

As I said, I don't wish to dig too deep into this topic, but just for the sake of you understanding what I meant, a few examples: removing a statue from a town square because Muslims objected to it, courses at the workplace about how to behave to not offend Muslims (instead of courses for them how to behave not to offend locals), forbidding cultural events (like Christmas celebrations in kindergarten), and even the scantly clad women issue was addressed in a German town where the mayor asked women to dress more modestly to not offend the immigrants. And, the general tendency to call everything what Europeans might not like in Muslim values as "phobia" or "racism", but not doing the same thing in the other direction.

comment by gjm · 2016-01-10T20:19:40.908Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You're right that this is hotly debated, because some people are very confident that there is a systematic process of kowtowing to Islamic immigrants (because of some sort of left-leaning ideology) and some other people are very confident that there isn't (and that the first lot are claiming there is because of some sort of right-leaning ideology).

It seems to me that the sensible thing to do, if you're aware of this hot debate and want to avoid a firefight, is not

  • to make a post that casually asserts one side's preferred position, and then when questioned say you don't want to argue about it,

but

  • to refrain from making unnecessary hot-button statements in the first place.
comment by Val · 2016-01-12T14:55:38.442Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was making the claim with full confidence because I see it confirmed by both sides. I've seen many cases of pro-multiculturalism speakers not denying that this thing happens, but actually being proud of it and claiming that it's a good thing, and it would be wrong to "force" our way of life onto them.

I'm not shying away from discussion, and I'm happy to listen to and reply to comments, I just wanted to accentuate to not go too far off-topic.

comment by gjm · 2016-01-12T15:48:41.833Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I see it confirmed by both sides [...] actually being proud of it and claiming that it's a good thing

I don't believe you.

More precisely, let me remind you of your original wording: "and by the predominantly left-leaning political elite in Europe encouraging the acceptance of and submission to Islamic culture in Europe instead of encouraging the immigrants to abandon their culture for the culture of the host nations".

I can readily believe that you find people on the side you characterize as "left-leaning political elite"[1] encouraging acceptance of Muslims and encouraging others not to try to make them abandon their culture.

What I don't believe is that anyone in that group[2] proudly endorsing submission to Islamic culture in Europe.

Note that this stronger claim, or at least something like it, is actually needed by the argument you were making. You were considering the possibility that ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh are doing what they do to "make their ideology more dominant", and saying that's probably wrong because that's happening already without the war and murder and whatnot, thanks to the "left-leaning political elite". But Muslims merely moving from one place to another and not being made to abandon their culture won't do much to make Islamic ideology (still less ISIS's ideology, which is by no means the same thing) dominant; what that would require is precisely for other nations to, as you put it, submit.

I'm aware that outright disbelief is kinda rude, so let me emphasize that I'm very willing to be corrected. Show me some "left-leaning political elites" saying that we should submit to Islamic culture, that we should do things that would help make ISIS's ideology more dominant in the world, and I'll retract and recant and apologize.

[1] Not that that's actually a good description. The people saying such things are by no means consistently part of any sort of elite.

[2] Well ... generally you can find some people who will say almost anything. So make it "more than a tiny fraction of people in that group".

comment by Val · 2016-01-12T18:17:58.085Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

that we should do things that would help make ISIS's ideology more dominant in the world

I think this is where you misunderstood me. I never claimed, nor do I believe that European politicians / European media promote that "we should help make ISIS's ideology more dominant". I was only talking about general mainstream Muslim culture which is promoted. And of course, the ideology of ISIS is very different from the mainstream Muslim culture, but I would guess that from a utilitarian point of view it might benefit ISIS if Europe had a mainstream Muslim culture rather than a non-Muslim culture.

comment by gjm · 2016-01-12T18:33:34.105Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was only talking about general mainstream Muslim culture which is promoted.

Well, again, if you are saying that "left-leaning political elites" are promoting Muslim culture or openly encouraging it to be promoted, then I still simply don't believe you.

I dare say it's true that ISIS would prefer a mainstream Muslim Europe to a mostly Christian and secular Europe, and that it would generally prefer a more-Muslim Europe to a less-Muslim Europe. (Though ... I wonder how true that is; they might actually prefer an aggressively anti-Muslim Europe with which they could have a glorious fight ending in the domination of ISIS-style Islam.) But a process whose best-case-for-ISIS outcome is a mainstream Muslim Europe in several decades (personally I think even that is a ludicrously paranoid scenario, but I hope we can at least agree that it's the most ISIS could reasonably hope for from those "left-leaning political elites") cannot possibly make it unnecessary for ISIS to act more drastically to spread their ideology.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2016-01-12T18:36:13.037Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

ISIS would prefer a mainstream Muslim Europe

No, the recruitment strategy of ISIS depends on Muslims not having a peaceful space in European culture.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-01-12T18:54:21.461Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

they might actually prefer an aggressively anti-Muslim Europe with which they could have a glorious fight ending in the domination of ISIS-style Islam.

If you treat ISIS as a millennial cult, they expect an apocalyptic scenario where Europe/West are the bad guys with which they need to have an end-of-the-world battle. If the bad guys don't show up, ISIS will be very disappointed :-/

comment by RichardKennaway · 2016-01-12T12:59:28.804Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that the sensible thing to do, if you're aware of this hot debate and want to avoid a firefight, is not

to make a post that casually asserts one side's preferred position, and then when questioned say you don't want to argue about it,

but

to refrain from making unnecessary hot-button statements in the first place.

Each side's preferred position already is a hot-button statement to the other.

comment by gjm · 2016-01-12T13:07:31.002Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Right. Which is why I am suggesting that if Val genuinely wanted to avoid distraction and dispute, s/he would have done better simply not to throw in that remark about "the predominantly left-leaning political elite in Europe encouraging the acceptance of and submission to Islamic culture in Europe". It's not like it was essential to the actual point Val was making.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2016-01-09T21:02:18.307Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

if you can show similar concessions not being made to other groups, you'd be onto something.

From my home town:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2065752/Anger-rollercoaster-shares-poison-gas-Zyklon-used-Holocaust-concentration-camps.html

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2016-01-09T20:00:34.278Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's an rather popular opinion in certain spheres of the internet (not sure how it carries itself into the real world).

Intuitively one could categorize it as Xenophobia, but it would like to see both sides of issue. OP, what is your reasons for believing such?

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2016-01-09T20:06:22.960Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know whether you are talking about "I should submit to islam" or "the Elites think I should submit to Islam".

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2016-01-09T20:11:24.517Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The question was pointed at OP specifically, but the quote mentions "left-leaning political elite', so it's the latter.

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T21:22:23.083Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that my choice of words was poor. Please understand it as "submit to their cultural norms".

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2016-01-09T21:35:39.167Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That's not a lot better, because of the lack of evidence that this isn't a multi-way process.

comment by see · 2016-01-14T03:49:09.851Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I expect you're failing, yes. It is going to be futile to try to understand the Islamic State without understanding the philosophy of Al-Ghazali, the most influential Muslim scholar since Mohamed, the man accorded the honorific Hujjat al-Islam (Proof of Islam), and his doctrine of occasionalism.

This is going to be particularly hard on this site because the local "rationality" is rooted in the Aristotle-Averroes-Aquinas tradition, where we believe in things like natural laws that can be deduced by observation. And Averroes (Ibn Rushd) was a critic of Al-Ghazali who was exiled to live among Jews for heresy.

Al-Ghazali, in his The Incoherence of the Philosophers, says that there is no such thing a a material efficient cause; the efficient cause of all things is the will of God. When you apply an open flame to cotton, the cotton is burned by God, not by the fire. If God decided in a particular instance to instead have to cotton metamorphose into a VW minibus on the application of flame, that would be no more and no less a miracle than the occasions on which God had the cotton burn. "Allah's hand is not chained"; God might usually work in ways humans can understand, but He is transcendent, and is not required to obey reason.

Internalize this principle of causation, and it becomes clear that one must align one's will with God as best you can and try to please God. All other tactics are futile, because God decides the results of all things. So first and foremost, you align your actions with those of Muhammad and his closest followers, as recorded in the Koran and Hadiths. Since God is usually logical, you then try to be logical in how you do things after aligning yourself with God's will, but never let logic override faith and fidelity to the example of Mohamed.

comment by gjm · 2016-01-11T01:35:33.678Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Or you could, you know, look at the evidence each side presents.

I am 100% in favour of looking at the evidence. But that isn't a thing Val could have done to avoid arguments breaking out in the comments, because how carefully Val has looked at the evidence has essentially no bearing on whether others choose to argue about the issue. And it certainly isn't a thing Val could have done to avoid arguments while also expressing an unwillingness to get involved in those arguments because the only way Val's expertise thus acquired could influence the arguments would be through Val getting involved.

comment by James_Miller · 2016-01-09T21:14:06.820Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The Great Leap Forward increased Mao's power in the sense that it gave him much more control over of the lives of Chinese citizens, although it did cause him to lose favor among the Chinese elites.

comment by gjm · 2016-01-12T09:42:20.472Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Every strategy has drawbacks. If you prioritize avoiding arguments then indeed you have to accept having less influence than people willing to have those arguments.

So it could be that, given Val's actual preferences, avoiding arguments wasn't a good priority to have. But given Val's stated goals (avoiding distraction from the main point of the discussion), leaving the topic alone would have met then better than bringing up an inflammatory and distracting topic and then declining to discuss it.

It seems to me as if "don't bring up the distractingly inflammatory topic, but if someone else does and gets things very wrong then be ready with convincing evidence and arguments" is a strictly better strategy than "bring up the distractingly inflammatory topic, but then declare yourself unsettling to talk about it" both for avoiding conceding control to the crazy and for avoiding distractions.

comment by DanArmak · 2016-01-10T09:36:15.726Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or is his failure to foresee the outcome merely evidence he was a bad planner? Did his ideology say anything he tried would succeed as long as his goals were correct? After he achieved a bad outcome, did he therefore modify his ideology to account for it?

comment by DanArmak · 2016-01-09T21:21:59.891Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Surely Mao didn't intend that outcome, and would have tried to avoid it if he had foreseen it.

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T19:27:51.249Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why couldn't they be both rational and honest religious extremists?

I never said they couldn't be.

However, I still struggle to understand you. Do you feel this article shouldn't have been written? Or do you disagree with what you believe to be my ideological views? I was never meant to state, defend or attack any ideology at all. Just to listen to interesting ideas and theories which maybe didn't occur to me before.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-10T01:00:31.418Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you feel this article shouldn't have been written? Or do you disagree with what you believe to be my ideological views? I

The problem is that you attempt to write an article about an ideological turing test without investing any effort into trying to understand the ideology in question by reading engaging with relevant sources.

You could have found those by reading previous discussion of ISIS on LW.

I was never meant to state, defend or attack any ideology at all.

That like a fish not knowing that he swims in water. If you equate being driven by religion with not being rational you are stating an ideological position.

comment by Val · 2016-01-10T01:34:10.249Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you equate being driven by religion with not being rational you are stating an ideological position.

That's not my position. On the contrary, I believe that (non-radical) religion can be fully compatible with science and with being rational. It seems that somewhere we misunderstood each other.

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T19:23:16.422Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No, it wasn't.

It seems however, that the main point of this article was misunderstood. Maybe I didn't express it cleanly enough, and some of the remarks in it contributed to it being misunderstood?

With the list and my comments about the list my intention was not to state that "this is what they really want" or that "this cannot be what they really want". All I wanted was to start a discussion thread about possibly weird or unconventional ideas about what the true long-term goals of their leadership could be, assuming them to be very intelligent and rational. My examples (including my doubts about them) were just meant to be a starting point. Do you think they distract from the main purpose? If so, I'm happy to remove or revise them.

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T19:02:48.195Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My point is that instead of just declaring what I believe their goals and objectives are, I also presented my own doubts about them. Maybe I only should have listed those 4 possibilities without commenting, or maybe even left them completely out? I'm not arguing for or against nr. 2 being their true goal, I just presented them as possible choices.

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T18:54:53.870Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Please elaborate. Where did I write about anyone that they "secretly agree with me"?

Also stop equating "doesn't agree with your worldview" with "being just crazy".

Why do you feel I did this? Actually I wrote the opposite: that a lot of people dismiss the isis, for example, as just being crazy. This whole article is about them not being crazy.

If you have a good model about them, please describe it.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2016-01-28T23:57:51.903Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Dude, you don't own this forum. So you don't get to decide what is or isn't abuse of moderating power. And threatening the moderators is certainly not going to help your case.

comment by bogus · 2016-01-29T00:29:37.978Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Dude, you don't own this forum. So you don't get to decide what is or isn't abuse of moderating power.

It's not clear that your latter statement follows from the former: many forums are badly moderated by their rightful owners. Of course it's hard to say whether this applies here.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-12T06:39:14.748Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Care to cite the relevant verse?

I don't think that passing around verses of the Koran is the way to have a conversation like this. I hold my opinion based on the analysis of the Atlantic article.

In this case we are talking about the scenario where an ISIS leader would say: "In the past we thought the Koran prospribed free healthcare about know we don't think so anymore."

comment by Lumifer · 2016-01-12T06:41:05.612Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that passing around verses of the Koran is the way to have a conversation like this.

It certainly is, because the primary sources are better. It's just that you can't do that. That's fine, but don't claim that arguing on the basis of a single article in popular media is the correct way.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-12T10:50:46.935Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It certainly is, because the primary sources are better. It's just that you can't do that.

I don't consider Western discussion of the Koran by reading the Koran in the absence from reading how people read the Koran to be fruitful in general. The original text also isn't in English.

It's just that you can't do that.

I could easily put a request for the passage someone on stackexchange and likely get an answer within a day if I would think that piece of information would matter for my reasoning.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-01-12T15:54:50.224Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't consider Western discussion of the Koran by reading the Koran in the absence from reading how people read the Koran to be fruitful in general.

Why do you consider yourself to have enough expertise to pass judgment on such matters? Provided by "Western discussion of the Koran" you don't mean pub rants along the lines of "the bloody Muslims want to kill all infidels because Koran tells them to".

The original text also isn't in English.

You don't say...

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-12T22:19:15.036Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you consider yourself to have enough expertise to pass judgment on such matters?

In the past I did had a bit of contact with Berlin politics surrounding how our city deals with Islam. I think there's a case where I influenced the words used to talk about an issue in our newspapers.

Over the years I also read various different sources. Among them Sayyib Qutb's Milestones gave me a good perspective.

There are area's where I have more expertise than talking about Islam but I have decent priors that I know something about the issue.

comment by Brillyant · 2016-01-11T14:40:46.800Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps there are a blend of motivations. There are some true diehard believers. Some relatively lukewarm Pascal's Wager types. Some purely opportunistic charlatans.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2016-01-10T01:03:15.203Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Even with the current dramatic events the German government is still refusing to take any action and doing its best to downplay the incident.

It is darkly amusing that the govt that stood idly by while the sexual assault mobs were running wild, and then did their best to cover up the attacks, got busy cracking down today, turning the water canons on the people opposing their immigration policy.

comment by spriteless · 2016-02-09T15:44:38.055Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW
  1. Trying to make their ideology more dominant (aka spreading Islam in general)

I find this the least likely as the main goal. Also, if this was the case, they are counterproductive. So far Islam was very successful in the last few decades to gain a bigger and bigger foothold in the Western world, helped both by demographics and by the predominantly left-leaning political elite in Europe encouraging the acceptance of and submission to Islamic culture in Europe instead of encouraging the immigrants to abandon their culture for the culture of the host nations. However, the recent terrorist attacks, and the many atrocities committed by the recently arrived asylum seekers, while hurting European economy, will probably lead to Europe being more skeptical regarding Islam, which might reduce the chances of Islam peacefully and silently spreading. So these events, if indeed orchestrated by ISIS, might have been successful in harming the economy of their enemies, but I don't know what an effect they had on the spreading of Islam. I'm tending on believing in a negative effect, but I just don't know enough factors to know it for sure. I believe the violent attacks in the Western world are done mostly to show their own followers at home how powerful they are and how weak their enemies are.

In fact, these results make it hard on the Islamic people who wouldn't join ISIS. This makes ISIS more attractive to these people. If a government oppresses a group than every anti-government group seems less oppressive to that group, both because oppression is relative and because of in-group vs. out-group dynamics.

comment by wizard · 2016-01-09T21:46:55.483Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

ISIS is led by a cabal of wizards. The destruction they caused feeds into a spell designed by smart, rational magicians to create the Philosopher's Stone.

comment by passive_fist · 2016-01-09T20:40:53.268Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that a pre-requisite of talking about ISIS' motivations would be actually visiting the region and being involved with them first-hand, or else basing your opinion on information gathered from direct, reputable sources.

Right now most of the discussion on the internet - especially including this post - fail to meet this criterion. They are simply opinions based on opinions repeated by other uninformed persons which also repeat opinions from other uninformed persons. If I am wrong, then provide links to your sources.

In fact you could argue that the major factor in the West's seeming inability to deal with ISIS is the failure of intelligence gathering. The CIA and other agencies have admitted they have a hard time gathering intelligence about them (this may be misdirection on part of the CIA, however).

comment by Val · 2016-01-09T20:51:11.603Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed, this is why I named it a crazy ideas suggestion thread. I agree with you completely and was never even trying to hide the fact that I invited only guessing and speculation, just like a lot of topics in the other "crazy ideas" threads are.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-01-10T00:35:27.430Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

. I agree with you completely and was never even trying to hide the fact that I invited only guessing and speculation

So you didn't invite informed opinions?

comment by Val · 2016-01-10T00:46:41.566Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I you have some, feel free to state them :)

comment by passive_fist · 2016-01-09T20:53:54.548Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well then if there is no information relevant to ISIS, then why make it a discussion about ISIS?

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2016-01-09T17:25:52.867Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

ISIS are Fremen (in terms of appeal to men).

comment by Lumifer · 2016-01-09T23:10:44.476Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know about that. The Fremen are the Bedouin. That's not ISIS at all.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2016-01-10T18:10:17.331Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think what I am trying to say is what makes ISIS cool to people who go join ISIS is quite similar to what makes Fremen cool. People run off to join for what they think the lifestyle is.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-01-10T22:25:56.658Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

what makes ISIS cool to people who go join ISIS is quite similar to what makes Fremen cool

I still don't think so, though I say this subject to the huge caveat that I don't understand what make ISIS "cool". There is some commonality to ISIS and Fremen because both provide a well-defined meaning and a purpose to your life plus a band of brothers and sisters to be part of, but the same is true for pretty much any revolutionary/rebel movement.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2016-01-10T22:42:42.874Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not just that, it's the severity of lifestyle. What's cool about this type of Islam to people that join is self-denial in pursuit of a "higher goal." There is definitely a decadence/severity dichotomy in Islam (but people interpret it differently, of course).

Fremen live on a planet that has almost no water, that has enormous mindless animals that will kill them instantly, they are constantly hounded by off-world powers meddling due to "hydraulic empire" stuff. Fremen are a very severe, self-denying culture. There is something to this that appeals to a particular type of person (generally a male person).


Of course I wonder how many folks from the West really understand what they are getting into when they run off to join, and what their "higher goals" really entail.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-01-11T01:45:26.191Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

enormous mindless animals that will kill them instantly

Yeah, except later it turns out that the Fremen ride these animals as steeds and can control them pretty well...

There is something to this that appeals to a particular type of person (generally a male person).

This is a whole classic trope: tough, wild, free people who live in harsh open spaces. Another example is Aiel from The Wheel of Time. I guess some highly romanticised descriptions of American Indians qualify as well.

I wonder how many folks from the West really understand what they are getting into

I have a pretty large prior that they have no fucking clue.

comment by Jiro · 2016-01-09T22:48:51.628Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Dune was modelled after the Arabs and the life of Mohammed anyway.