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ThrustVectoring comments on [LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist - Less Wrong

21 Post author: Apprentice 06 January 2014 12:16AM

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Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 02:33:46AM 42 points [-]

Feminism in particular has a bad history of leaning on a community to make changes - to the point where the target becomes a feminist institution that no longer functions in its original capacity. I may be overreacting, but I don't even want to hear or discuss anything from that direction. It's textbook derailing. "But what you're doing is anti-woman" has been played out by feminists, over and over again, to get their demands met from community after community. From Atheism+ to Occupy Wall Street, the result is never pretty.

And honestly, attacking open discourse as anti-woman and anti-minority is very, uhh, squicky. I don't have a better way of putting my thoughts down on the matter - it's just very, very concerning to me. It feels like a Stalinist complaining that we aren't putting enough bullets in the heads of dissenters - except it's a feminist complaining that we aren't torpedoing the reputation of enough people who express "anti-woman" ideas. Just... ew. No. It doesn't help that this idea is getting obfuscated with layers and layers of complicated English and parenthetical thoughts breaking up the sentence structure.

Some choice quotes:

I thus require adherence to these ideas or at least a lack of explicit challenges to them on the part of anyone speaking to me before I can entertain their arguments in good faith.

Big warning flag right here. It's threatening to ignore, ostracize, or attack those who disagree with their sacred cows. That's an unconscionably bad habit to allow oneself.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 06 January 2014 03:05:42AM 8 points [-]

Are Atheism+ and Occupy Wall Street examples "where the target becomes a feminist institution that no longer functions in its original capacity"? Could you spell out what you mean or point to discussion of their changes?

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 03:40:10AM *  26 points [-]

The Occupy Wall Street example in particular was talking about their use of what they call "the Progressive Stack" to organize meetings. The general idea was this - people want to speak up, but not everyone can talk at the same time, so we need some sort of system for choosing who gets to speak when. First in first out isn't fair enough when you factor in things like minorities or women feeling more inhibited about speaking, so let's let them jump the queue and speak before people who are white and/or male.

It's an idea that sounds just fair enough to be considered, and has the benefit of both having passionate supporters on the left and of having an obvious path to paint opponents as sexist racists that want to silence women and minorities. The left won on this point at the cost of driving off much of their popular support, and the movement has been marginalized since.

The above is my understanding of what happened with this, synthesized over a fair amount of reading and research. It may well be wrong, and the situation may well be more complicated than I described. As far as I understand it, though, it's the major mistake that the movement made - it let itself be co-opted into caring about social justice at the cost of their other goals.

As far as Atheism+ goes, it's an organized group spearheaded by people like Rebecca Watson who are outraged -- outraged -- at the behavior of atheists being insufficiently pro-woman and pro-social justice. Rebecca Watson in particular has a laser-like focus on sexism within the atheist and skeptic community, at the expense of the larger groups' nominal goals. She's responsible for the whole "elevatorgate" debacle, and responded to Richard Dawkins' claim that she was overreacting by going after Dawkins personally with this piece of loveliness. It says it's not a call for a boycott, but it's a call for a boycott ("Nope, I didn’t call for a boycott. I’m relaying the fact that I have no interest in giving this person any more of my money or attention." I read that as "I want to hurt Dawkins personally but realize that I don't have the social capital to carry off leading a boycott, so I'm going to encourage people to boycott Dawkins while saying that I'm not doing so)

I actually haven't done all that much analysis of Atheism+. I pretty much have discarded it as a group of people who have been successfully derailed by people like Rebecca Watson talking about sexism constantly within the atheist and skeptical community, and want to do the same. Just look at the first sentence of their FAQ

Atheism Plus is a term used to designate spaces, persons, and groups dedicated to promoting social justice and countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry inside and outside of the atheist community.

They are essentially policing the atheist community for compliance with social justice ideas. Their own website is saying the same things I am about them with different wording and connotations.

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 03:50:39AM *  18 points [-]

[Occupy Wall Street] let itself be co-opted into caring about social justice at the cost of their other goals.

When discussing OWS and similar political movements, the term "social justice" gets quite ambiguous. OWS has always been about social justice, by any reasonable meaning of the term. To be clear, you obviously mean identity politics, the notion that self-styled "minority" groups are more equal than everyone else.

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 03:54:34AM 9 points [-]

Yeah, I'm talking about the more narrow definition that gets made fun of in /r/tumblrinaction. As opposed to what I think of as "economic justice", which involves things like banking reform, fairness in income distribution, taking care of the poor and homeless, etc.

Comment author: pgbh 08 January 2014 05:26:36AM -2 points [-]

Using words like this to describe ideas you don't like seems distasteful, and in fact similar to what the blogger was originally complaining about.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2014 07:28:14AM *  4 points [-]

The above is my understanding of what happened with this, synthesized over a fair amount of reading and research. It may well be wrong, and the situation may well be more complicated than I described.

I would be very interested in any references or notes on this you might be willing to share! Also on the history of any other such movements, because it seems very much directly relevant to the research I'm doing for my blog.

Comment author: V_V 06 January 2014 06:42:28PM *  18 points [-]

As far as Atheism+ goes, it's an organized group spearheaded by people like Rebecca Watson who are outraged -- outraged -- at the behavior of atheists being insufficiently pro-woman and pro-social justice. Rebecca Watson in particular has a laser-like focus on sexism within the atheist and skeptic community, at the expense of the larger groups' nominal goals. She's responsible for the whole "elevatorgate" debacle, and responded to Richard Dawkins' claim that she was overreacting by going after Dawkins personally with this piece of loveliness.

It got worse.

Jen McCreight and PZ Myers have been circulating unverifiable accusations of rape, allegedly relied from anonymous sources, against big-name activists in the Skeptics movement, including Lawrence Krauss and Michael Shermer, who didn't happen to have jumped on the Atheism+ bandwagon.

Link

Comment author: jkaufman 15 January 2014 01:18:25PM -1 points [-]

Knowing nothing about this, "who didn't happen to have" looks unfair. Membership in Atheism+ wasn't distributed randomly, so it's possible people who chose not to join have different views on women.

Comment author: falenas108 06 January 2014 06:14:13AM *  3 points [-]

As far as Atheism+ goes, it's an organized group spearheaded by people like Rebecca Watson who are outraged -- outraged -- at the behavior of atheists being insufficiently pro-woman and pro-social justice.

When women in the atheist movement still get sexually harassed by public figures, get rape and death threats, and when having a "no sexual harassment" policy creates a firestorm, all from other people within the atheist movement, the movement does need to be more pro-women and more pro-social justice.

(Link to a blog that has a source for all the incidents I'm talking about, plus a few more http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/08/30/atheism-plus-and-some-thoughts-on-divisiveness/)

Watson's response to Dawkins comes after he gave a response to her ridiculing her for feeling uncomfortable about getting asked out on an elevator.

And as for the mission statement, I don't think there's a problem with countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, or ableism. That sounds like a good thing. You may disagree with what they label as x-phobia, but the discussion should be about what is x-phobic, not whether we should care about x-phobia.

Comment author: [deleted] 06 January 2014 01:14:53PM 4 points [-]

asked out

Asked into someone's hotel room, actually.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 January 2014 11:13:34AM *  12 points [-]

When women in the atheist movement still get sexually harassed by public figures, get rape and death threats, and when having a "no sexual harassment" policy creates a firestorm, all from other people within the atheist movement, the movement does need to be more pro-women and more pro-social justice.

False dilemma.

Social justice warriors are not the only kind of people on this planet who care about safety and well-being of other people. Also, feminists sometimes send death threats, too.

The sexual harassment by public figures certainly has to stop, the perpetrators have to be punished: legally when possible, and removed from positions of power within the community.

Giving more power to feminists and social justice warriors is not the only way to do this. It is one of the possible solutions, but not the only possible solution.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 January 2014 02:29:29PM 2 points [-]

The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a strong movement for Maintaining Decent Treatment for All People.

I'm concerned that it's really hard to get people to do political things unless there's some excessive opposition to a defined group.

Comment author: bogus 08 January 2014 08:04:47PM *  4 points [-]

The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a strong movement for Maintaining Decent Treatment for All People.

Well, usually that doesn't fall under the rubric of a political movement at all. We just call it civility - a core moral value of any physical community where people seek to be protected from bodily harm and thrive in a nurturing environment.

If there is any political question here, it's who or what should be included under "people". Folks who are similar enough to you in e.g. culture that you can intuitively trust them? Any Homosapien's? Any Hominidae (i.e. including other Great Apes)? Other animal species on a case-by-case basis, such as dolphins and whales? Robots and other man-made intelligences? Corporations?

But it's quite unclear how deferring to the so-called "social justice movement" would be helpful in approaching these hard questions. It seems that their "politics" is much too simplistic, so they just ignore them.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 January 2014 10:39:22PM 4 points [-]

You've underestimated what a Maintaining Decent Treatment for All People Movement would cover.

It might be pacifist. It would certainly be very cautious about war. It would be pro-refugee.

And push for a rational justice system. civil behavior by police, and good prison conditions.

Oppose domestic violence, and be emphatic that this applies to men, women, and children.

Oppose bullying, both in schools and workplaces.

I'm not sure I've included all the major categories.

A lot of this isn't being done reliably, and some of it faces a lot of opposition

I'm not going to say that the social justice movement is the only source of valuable information, but it's done some good work in pointing out that there's violence which isn't taken seriously-- for example, violence against trans people.

For another source (overlapping SJ, I think), check out work being done by whores for them to be treated as normal parts of civil society.

There's a lot of work to be done even if you aren't worried about apes and dolphins.

Comment author: bogus 09 January 2014 12:50:26AM *  4 points [-]

Sure, and political/social movements exist which pursue all of these goals. But the underlying moral principle is very much not a matter of ideology or any political "plank", even though 'left-wing'- or 'progressive'- leaning folks are perhaps more likely to care about it in a political sense. Jonathan Haidt is of course very clear on this, and the general idea is older than Haidt's work - check out George Lakoff's Moral Politics or Jane Jacobs's Systems of Survival.

This is probably one reason why the so-called "SJ movement" went so clearly astray in trying to piggyback on any and all of these quite diverse causes, and somehow join them all in some kind of 'big tent' movement. It doesn't work like that - 'big tent' organizations are always a result of coalition-forming within existing civic institutions and processes. Movements need more flexibility, as well as a stronger commitment from their participants.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 January 2014 02:43:10AM 3 points [-]

I don't know whether anyone noticed my list is basically libertarian. It's a very challenging agenda, but it just covers allowing freedom and protection from violence. It doesn't cover ongoing help for people who can't fully take care of themselves.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 January 2014 04:43:29PM *  0 points [-]

A meta solution would be to start this movement. Which would be extremely difficult on a scale of society, but perhaps easier within a community.

As an outsider, I have no idea how large the "people who frequently go to atheist meetups and already mostly know each other" group is. Perhaps five or ten of them could start this kind of a movement inside that community.

Comment author: falenas108 08 January 2014 02:45:24PM -1 points [-]

As Nancy said, what other movement that you could see becoming active in the atheist movement that supports this?

And yes, they send death threats too. But at a ridiculously lower rate than is currently done, considering many popular female bloggers say they get death/rape threats every time they say something controversial.

Comment author: Creutzer 06 January 2014 07:22:39PM 7 points [-]

and when having a "no sexual harassment" policy creates a firestorm

Wasn't it rather the adoption of this as an explicit policy that created trouble? And that's not surprising, because it suggests that the problem is prevalent in the group to an extent that makes the explicit policy needed, which insinuation will naturally offend some members of the group.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 07 January 2014 04:57:14AM 8 points [-]

I don't think there's a problem with countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, or ableism. That sounds like a good thing. You may disagree with what they label as x-phobia, but the discussion should be about what is x-phobic, not whether we should care about x-phobia.

The problem is that this derails the discussion into arguing whether Y is x-phobic rather than whether Y is bad.

Comment author: falenas108 07 January 2014 05:45:06AM -1 points [-]

That's true, let me add to my statements:

I think the mission statement is a good thing. But, I agree how the policy is carried out (e.g. crying "That's racist!" and nothing more) is ineffective.

Alternative: If somebody says something x-phobic, the response should be something along the lines of "Saying X is harmful to group Y because...."

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 06:48:12AM *  0 points [-]

[Retracted] You're citing a blogpost from August 2012 for the claim that these bad things "still occur today"? I'm no fan of the atheist movement, and I agree that its proponents can be occasionally lacking in basic kindness and social graces (as do many others, who refuse to self-identify as 'atheists' for this very reason). But still, you're not providing much evidence for your claim here. [/Retracted]

Edited to add: Apparently you only meant to refer to the time 'Atheism+' was actually getting off the ground - the "elevatorgate" controversy and whatnot. If so, I misinterpreted your comment, for which I apologize - but that would make your point rather trivial, since ThrustVectoring was clearly objecting to "Atheism+"'s continued [assumed to be detrimental] influence on the atheist movement.

Comment author: falenas108 06 January 2014 07:32:27AM 0 points [-]

That was an article justifying the creation of atheism+. This was a discussion of why there was a problem in the atheist movement that lead to its creation.

Comment author: gjm 06 January 2014 08:08:51AM -1 points [-]

Is the quoted "still occur today" in bogus's comment a fabricated quotation, a quotation of something you've since edited away, or a quotation of something I'm being too blind to see?

(If it's the second of those, you probably ought to indicate the fact somehow.)

Comment author: falenas108 06 January 2014 08:50:32AM *  -1 points [-]

I definitely think it still does, but I haven't said anything about that in this thread so far.

I guess you could interpret my use of the present tense in the first post I made as still happening today? But that was supposed to be talking about when Atheism+ was created.

EDIT: Having a sexual harassment policy is standard now. The other two I mentioned...still a problem.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 06 January 2014 07:44:40AM 5 points [-]

I've nothing to say about OWS, but as an ex-member of Freethought Blogs and I've written a bit about the problems with that clique, for example here. (PZ Myers is the most popular blogger on the FTB network, and not all bloggers do the kind of shit he does but quite a few do.)

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 02:48:01AM 22 points [-]

This is harsh, but I think it's basically right. A useful rule of thumb: any time you see the words "safe space" used in the context of deliberation or political discussion (as opposed to, y'know, providing actual, safe, spaces to people threatened with actual bodily harm) you can substitute "echo chamber" and see whether their argument still makes sense. Yes, sometimes echo chambers generate worthwhile political arguments, but that's kind of the exception, not the rule. And these arguments still need to be evaluated openly, if only because this is the only way of acquiring durable credibility in a political or deliberative context.

Comment author: Manfred 06 January 2014 06:09:04AM *  6 points [-]

I agree about political discussion. But LessWrong isn't about political discussion. Far more important to a typical LessWronger would be something like community building, which correct me if I'm wrong but that's pretty much a textbook example of what "safe space" is good for. This criticism was not directed at us per se, but we can extract useful information from it.

Comment author: Randy_M 06 January 2014 03:29:20PM 5 points [-]

It is about honest discussion of issues with political implications, I believe, without unnecessarily belaboring those implications.

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 06:35:28AM *  11 points [-]

But LessWrong isn't about political discussion ...

Fair point. It is about deliberation, though. And make no mistake, these folks use "safe space" in the political/echo-chamber sense all the time. To me, this makes their overall argument extremely problematic - they're showing no appreciation at all for the benefits of open discussion.

Also, yes, real-world communities, meetups etc. are quite different and some important concerns do come into play. But LW folks have been quite aware of this, and we've seen plenty of useful discussion about related issues, with very little controversy.

Comment author: falenas108 06 January 2014 06:57:39AM 0 points [-]

They're showing no appreciation at all for the benefits of open discussion.

Yes, creating a safe space does prevent an entirely open discussion. So downvoting to oblivion people to talk about the merits of killing everyone in Asia, or the validity of Christianity. As a community, we have decided that there are certain discussions we don't want to have, and certain topics we don't want to discuss.

Not all safe spaces are equal. A safe space for a support group for trans folk would have a different meaning for a safe space for African Americans. I think Less Wrong could have its own version of a safe space, with the spirit behind the rules being something like "don't say/advocate for violence against others, don't be needlessly rude, don't use personal attacks."

Comment author: bbleeker 06 January 2014 12:42:09PM 12 points [-]

don't say/advocate for violence against others, don't be needlessly rude, don't use personal attacks.

But those already are the rules on LW......aren't they?

Comment author: falenas108 06 January 2014 03:43:30PM -2 points [-]

Yeah, in theory. This leads to two things:

1) We already do have a kind of safe space in theory, it's mostly the name "safe space" that turns people off more than the actual idea.

2) We're doing part of that wrong, because it was people advocating ideas that would be dangerous to the OP that turned her off from LW in the first place.

Comment author: Randy_M 06 January 2014 03:54:19PM *  11 points [-]

I think you are covering a lot of distance by stretching "don't advocate violence" into "don't say anything that someone feels the widespread adoption of could be potentially dangerous."

Comment author: falenas108 06 January 2014 04:33:50PM -1 points [-]

Actually, this is something I've been a bit confused about the whole time. What posts is she talking about? The OP says Yvain's posts, but from the substance of the article the article it sounds like she's talking about reactionaries.

Considering the much higher than average rate of homocide towards trans people based on todays standards, a reinforcement of gender roles would almost certainly increase that rate.

Comment author: Manfred 06 January 2014 06:28:12AM *  25 points [-]

I may be overreacting, but I don't even want to hear or discuss anything from that direction.

[later]

It's threatening to ignore, ostracize, or attack those who disagree with their sacred cows. That's an unconscionably bad habit to allow oneself.

throws hand in air

You'd think if we were such hot stuff at dispassionately debating things, we could handle outgroup criticism like this without either ignoring opposing views or devolving into tribal politics. But as Tarski would say, "if we can't, I want to believe we can't," and I admit I'd rather not discuss this sort of thing than always discuss this sort of thing.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 January 2014 03:05:38AM 18 points [-]

To maximize open discourse, you have to close down discourse against open discourse.

It's just Marcuse's paradox (which I'm pretty sure I'm coining here): to maximize tolerance, you have to be intolerant toward intolerance. Or in the legal arena: "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

There are two arguments in that post: "certain elements within the rationality thing signal more than is necessary", the correction of which would aid the goal of generating high-quality open discourse, and "certain conclusions should not even be considered, certain arguments should not be made, no matter their strength, because certain people have memetic immune reactions to them that drive them away from participating at all", the correction of which would mean an end to open discourse. Given that ThrustVectoring (presumably) values open discourse, the response of "I don't even want to discuss anything from that direction" is exactly correct.

That doesn't mean that it can't be discussed, of course; it just means that a community that values open discourse can't discuss it. If apophemi wants there to be a community based around limited rationality -- that is, rationality-minus-discourse-about-certain-things -- well, one can always be started. Secession is always an option, and online, you don't even have to figure out how to build a seastead to secede.

Comment author: CronoDAS 08 January 2014 04:41:09AM 7 points [-]

"the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Humorous, off-topic response: But the Declaration of Independence is!

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Comment author: Vulture 07 January 2014 03:33:43AM 0 points [-]

Or in the legal arena: "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Completely tangentially, what does this mean?

Comment author: Lumifer 07 January 2014 04:09:02AM 9 points [-]

what does this mean?

In theory it means that it's better to NOT follow the (established / agreed-to) rules when it clearly leads to major negative consequences.

In practice it usually means "We really want to do this and we're not going to have mere laws stand in our way".

Comment author: Vulture 07 January 2014 04:47:50AM 0 points [-]

Got it, thanks. It's a nice pithy way of phrasing it.