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shminux comments on Politics is hard mode - Less Wrong

28 Post author: RobbBB 21 July 2014 10:14PM

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Comment author: shminux 21 July 2014 10:54:57PM *  19 points [-]

I don't think "Politics is hard mode" conveys the point.

Any mention of politics is a minefield of unintended triggers. In the "politics is the mind-killer" post Eliezer refers to the mind-killing properties politically charged examples have on any discussion, precisely because of these triggers. That's the reason that

political examples should not be used in a non-political discussion.

Just like any trigger-heavy example should not be used unless explicitly intended to trigger people. (I used it in one my posts for that purpose.)

TL;DR: the original meaning of "politics is the mind killer" is "avoid unintended triggers in your arguments".

Unfortunately, this slogan became a catch-all "boo! politics" attitude. Maybe what is needed is a post "How to discuss politics (race/gender/...) rationally". Unless one has been written already, though I came up empty after a cursory look.

Comment author: roryokane 23 July 2014 07:25:03PM 4 points [-]

A better slogan for that purpose might simply be "Politics makes for bad examples". Straight to the point. It needs explanation, just like the "mind-killer" slogan, but after the explanation it is easy to remember the reasoning behind it.

Comment author: shminux 23 July 2014 08:29:46PM 0 points [-]

I am not sure this conveys the point, but it is certainly an improvement on "politics is a/the mind-killer". The issue is making clear that one should avoid unnecessary/unintended polarization in an argument, and, especially in the US context, political arguments and examples are especially prone to this failure mode.

Comment author: RobbBB 21 July 2014 11:27:38PM *  2 points [-]

That's true. 'Politics is the mind-killer' has been used in lots of different ways, and I'd be happy to see it replaced with several more specific catchphrases or arguments. 'Politics is hard mode' mainly works for cases where 'politics is the mind-killer' is intended to squelch a discussion about politics, which seems to be most common. I don't see people use it as often in Eliezer's original sense, and I'm not sure how best to encapsulate (or begin-a-persuasive-conversation asserting) 'confine politics to politics discussions'.

Comment author: shminux 21 July 2014 11:52:57PM 2 points [-]

I'm not sure how best to encapsulate (or begin-a-persuasive-conversation asserting) 'confine politics to politics discussions'.

It should probably be an instance of "avoid trigger-inducing examples". The Godwin's law points to one of the limit points of neglecting this.

Comment author: Vulture 23 July 2014 04:54:55PM 2 points [-]

For reasons relating to politics being - ahem - hard mode, however, it would probably be unwise to actually use the word "trigger"

Comment author: shminux 23 July 2014 08:23:05PM *  -1 points [-]

Why? is the word trigger itself a trigger?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 24 July 2014 09:10:25AM *  5 points [-]


Because its typical internet usage is an exaggeration.

It is wrong to call every form of sadness a "depression", every form of aversion a "trigger", every lack of social skills an "autism", etc.

is the word trigger itself a trigger?

No, unless there is some weird form of torture when the prisoners are shown a word "trigger" written on screen, immediately followed by pain. So that even months or years after their torture ended, when they see the word "trigger", their hearts automatically starts beating fast, and they crouch and scream incontrollably.

Mere "I am so annoyed when I see someone speaking about triggers" is not a trigger.

Comment author: gwillen 24 July 2014 12:18:51AM *  0 points [-]

The word trigger is itself the subject of significant political dispute. There are at least three sides:

  • The side that thinks "trigger" means specifically something which brings back traumatic memories in a person who has the psychological disorder of PTSD, and other usage is overbroad;
  • The side that thinks "trigger" means anything that causes someone to recall past trauma, or more broadly anything that upsets someone due to some association with past trauma;
  • The side that thinks a good part of side #2 is a bunch of oversensitive whiners; some members of which claim to be in side #1, arguably as a sort of concern trolling, whereas others purport to disbelieve in the whole concept.

It would be hard to use the word 'trigger' with any meaning at all, without taking some side here.

Comment author: Vulture 25 July 2014 10:29:33PM 1 point [-]

Side #3 there looks more like a strawman/weakman of side #1 - surely there isn't much of a movement to eschew the word "trigger" or the concept of triggers in the context of medical discussion of PTSD? Or to disbelieve in one of the principal symptoms of one of the most normalized and well-publicised mental disorders in modern America?

Comment author: Lexico 26 July 2014 03:36:33AM -2 points [-]

I think it's more that there seems to be a cluster that will vocally declare anything that is short of the clinical definition of PTSD trigger, to be completely invalid morally. IE there is no moral value or obligation to markup our language with these warnings and it is completely the responsibility of others to toughen up and handle it.

This is in opposition to the viewpoint of side two who argue that we should invest effort to create more pleasant and safer environments.

Hence side 2 and 3 argue different moral claims while side 1 associates the term without considering moral obligations in the use of language.

Comment author: shminux 24 July 2014 01:00:14AM -1 points [-]

I would call it a definition, not a side. I agree that definitions of ambiguous/loaded terms must be explicated before use. I disagree that this is taking sides.

Comment author: evand 24 July 2014 02:38:43PM 1 point [-]

Definitions and word choice are a form of framing. Framing and other meta-discussion is a powerful tool for shaping the object-level discussion.

I am fairly suspicious of claims that framing attempts are neutral and apolitical.

Of course, this is complicated by the fact that good definitions that reflect underlying reality are useful. But both modifying those definitions to be overly broad or overly narrow, and trying to prevent that modification, can be a subtle form of taking sides.

Comment author: David_Gerard 22 July 2014 10:43:04AM *  0 points [-]

political examples should not be used in a non-political discussion.

And yet LW is full of political discussions. (e.g. I'm trying to think how someone could think of advocacy of race realism as "not political". I suspect this is a problem that changing the saying to "politics is hard mode" won't remedy, however.)

Comment author: ChristianKl 23 July 2014 09:46:33AM 3 points [-]

Yes, and Eliezer's post about politics is the mind-killer doesn't argue that there should be no political discussions on LW. Just don't use political examples when you are not wanting to make a political point.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 22 July 2014 06:15:38AM *  0 points [-]

The book Nonviolent Communication might be a good starting answer to the question "How to discuss politics (race/gender/...) rationally". I can also recommend Leadership and Self-Deception. If you really want something that's been posted to LW, may I submit a couple of my posts? And Scott Alexander has good social justice stuff on his blogs, e.g. this (though he might make too many object-level statements for his to be good material for canonicalization).