ITT: Social Justice #15


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

I try to always be polite, and more to the point, to always express myself in a way that implies I respect the person I’m talking to. I don’t always succeed in this, but it’s my goal. Why? Because I think being kind is better. And because I function better when people aren’t treating me with contempt, and so it seems best for me to try to avoid treating others with contempt.

But I don’t think everyone else should follow my norms. Some people would feel that they can’t communicate if they have to do it in a civil fashion. It’s better to have a variety of communities with a variety of norms, so that more people are able to find a community they can function in well.

2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

I believe in kindness. I believe that the best society is that which provides as many people as possible with a happy and satisfying life.

I can’t think of any evidence that would cause me to change that belief – it’s a prior, really, and thus not subject to evidence. But I can certainly think of things that would cause me to change my policy preferences.

So if – for example – it were shown, with really excellent evidence that is then replicated by equally excellent peer-reviewed published research a dozen times over, that being lesbian or gay or bi makes people sad even in an accepting society, and that conversion therapy has been empirically shown over and over to make LGB people happier and more satisfied, then that would cause me to change my mind about a lot of my policy preferences.

3. Explain Gamergate.

The instigating event was a bitter ex-boyfriend’s public attack on his game designer ex- girlfriend. But the underlying explanation was that there’s a fuck load of misogynistic men in gaming who resent feminism and are furious that “SJWs” keep on critiquing video games and in some cases are having an impact.

ITT: Social Justice #14


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

A lot of the talk about discourse norms doesn’t sufficiently challenge the assumption that SJ doesn’t care about truthseeking. In fact, SJ concerns are vitally important to truthseeking, because people’s perspectives are shaped by their experiences, and SJ pushes for greater inclusion of those that would’ve otherwise been overlooked. While being told that one has privilege is interpreted as hostile by many on the anti-SJ side, it only means that one’s claim of epistemic authority is unwarranted given their level of knowledge, and also that their lack of knowledge is an unknown unknown to them. Of course, some people take it poorly when their lack of knowledge is revealed, but I think that given anti-SJ’s claim of the mantle of STEM, they can make an effort to be more welcome to accepting information, once they understand that this is what’s happening. Given the inferential distances, it’s understandable that this gap has been hard to bridge.

It’s also important to keep in mind the demographic effects imposed by rationalists’ favored discourse norms. Imagine that being athletic were a prerequisite for participating in conversations about whether wheelchair ramps should be built. While there are many athletic physically disabled people, this requirement would still select against people with disabilities in general and reduce their ability to advocate for their interests. Something similar applies to these discourse norms – growing up poor, being kicked out of the house because you’re gay and/or trans, and countless other life circumstances make it more difficult for less privileged groups to have learned these norms, and as a result, the conversations are tilted in favor of middle-class (or above) cisgender straight white men. That’s why we should take into account the voices of those who, for various reasons, can’t or don’t participate in these norms. So while some people in the rationalist community (and elsewhere) are made uncomfortable by what they consider to be emotional displays, they come from a certain perspective that we may lack, and shouldn’t be ignored when we build our models of the world.

Finally, and more particularly to rationalists, there’s a tendency to overestimate the good faith of many on the anti-SJ side. While I know some anti-SJ people who take us seriously and engage with us honestly, there are many more who mimic them, whose facade falls apart when challenged. The pattern is familiar – the conversation starts out promisingly, but then they turn to belittling their interlocutor, dismissing their words or insulting them outright. Then they go to their co-ideologists and talk about how they’re truthseekers beset by dishonest and/or emotional “SJWs”. While we’d prefer to have honest conversations, when that isn’t possible, we have to turn to other means of protecting ourselves. If we can’t open minds, we can at least show that we won’t take it sitting down when we’re wronged. If we’re not respected for our humanity, we can at least make ourselves respected for what we can do to some of those who do us harm. I emphasize that this is not our first choice, but sometimes it can be necessary.

2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

Anti-SJ people often say that racism/sexism are no longer major concerns because relatively few people seriously say that whites are superior to blacks or that women belong in the kitchen, and that everyone supports a universal right to vote, own property, and so on. Unfortunately, while it’s true that it’s uncommon to express those kinds of beliefs so explicitly, that kind of hardcore bigotry still exists. But even that aside, more pervasive problems are caused by people not generally considered bigoted. Many of us have seen or heard of a guy getting mad at his girlfriend because she did something he considers unfeminine or held her to a double standard about her sexual past. Many people claim that they believe that blacks are equal to whites, but still treat blacks as somewhat suspect. And so on – police, the media, social expectations… While some individual cases are relatively low-impact on their own, together even they add up to a system of oppression because there’s no reliable escape. It’s also hard to persuade people that this system is a problem, because describing any particular instance of it doesn’t get the point across – and many of them can be dismissed relatively easily by motivated reasoners.

There are also more blatant and severe manifestations of bigotry, such as against LGBT people, especially the T, or against minorities by the police.

I think most people, whatever they believe, would find it difficult to imagine what would change their minds, and I’m no exception. I guess that if there were some vast body of evidence that groups I consider oppressed are basically treated fairly, and that I’ve been unlucky to only see the exceptions, I’d change my mind, but this kind of evidence would be extremely unlikely. More absurdly, if I were persuaded that oppression isn’t bad, I’d stop advocating SJ, but this is as likely as me being convinced that up is down.

3. Explain Gamergate.

Sexism has long been prevalent in gaming communities. Go to any message board and you’ll see them treating women like an alien species, strategizing about how to trick women into sleeping with them, complaining about how they’ve been treated “unfairly”, or just making sexist jokes. So it’s no surprise that many of them are upset at the gaming market and norms within communities shifting to be more welcoming to women. It’s further aggravated by criticism of existing gaming media – people generally don’t like being told that things they like contain morally problematic themes, because they feel that it’s next door to being accused of holding those attitudes themselves. Some of them rose in opposition to SJ in gaming, and started harassing and doxing its advocates.

ITT: Social Justice #13


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

The fundamental principle of any sort of rational discourse should be free speech. However, some speech can suppress other speech, which means that it is impossible to have complete freedom of speech. If someone says credibly that anyone who insults them will be murdered, then it is impossible to freely speak about them. The choice, then, is which speech can be suppressed. Death threats, for example, are obviously outside of the bounds of freedom of speech. Similar harassment is I believe that everyone should follow these norms, because not doing so is a threat to any discourse whatsoever.

I think that no idea should be dismissed without being given due consideration; however, some ideas are sufficiently absurd that “due consideration” is very little. Furthermore, once an idea has been considered enough, there is no obligation to continue to treat it with any seriousness. This holds especially true in the case of ideas which can be actually harmful – for example, questioning whether or not someone has the right to exist can harm that person. I don’t think that everyone should have to follow these norms – if people want to create a space for discussing completely refuted ideas, then they can, although I don’t expect much good will come out of it. Nobody should have to interact with that space, for obvious reasons, but if they choose to then that is their choice.

What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

There are a few different components of my ideology. It’s partially based on factual beliefs, and partially on values. For example, my views on racism are mostly rooted in factual beliefs (that race is not a real category, that people are discriminated against because of race, etc.). Most of my views on gender, on the other hand (e. g. acceptance of transgender people) are based on values – I’m strongly in favor of complete morphological freedom, including freedom to have whatever mental state one wishes. There are exceptions in both cases – for example, I believe that racism is bad because unjust discrimination is wrong, and I support the abolition of gender because I think it’s an artificial category which will eventually go away if we stop violently enforcing it. In terms of factual beliefs, studies (or other reliable evidence) showing that the facts as I understand them are incorrect would suffice. I would only change my views on things which are motivated by values if it turned out that they ended up significantly violating other values, like if it turned out that acceptance of transgender people actually caused significant harm.

Explain Gamergate.

For a long time, video games were considered to be the province of children and not seriously engaged with by anyone. There were the occasional fundamentalists ranting about how they were tools of the devil, of course, but for the most part they were simply played, rather than analyzed. Eventually, however, this started to change. Some critics began analyzing games as art, rather than as toys, and not all of this criticism was positive. A lot of the negative criticism (especially that of Anita Sarkeesian) focused on the sexism and other such qualities – as a result, it fed into a growing backlash against feminism and social justice in wider nerd spaces (Elevatorgate, etc.). Similarly, “art games” began to grow in popularity, and faced a backlash which was partially but not entirely based on the above.

In events that were pretty much entirely unrelated until Gamergate happened, the general gaming press is shit. Since mainstream reviewers depend on publishers to get advance copies of games so they can review games ahead of time and get pageviews, it is difficult for them to review games critically. The result is that mainstream games journalism is overly positive, meaning that critical reviews (except of games that are so bad that nobody could review them well in good conscience) are mostly limited to independent people, like Anita Sarkeesian, who is (to put it lightly) not universally well-liked.

One day, a guy wrote an essay in which he claimed to have been abused and cheated on by his (ex-)girlfriend Zoe Quinn, who happened to be a developer of such art games. It was deleted from a few outlets where he initially posted it, until it got to 4chan. 4chan immediately seized on to the bits about how she cheated on him with a reviewer at Kotaku, and from there the whole thing blew up. Attacks on Zoe Quinn expanded into false claims that she had received positive reviews in exchange for sex which spiraled into attacks on games journalism in general which exploded into attacks on SJ-affiliated figures (like Anita Sarkeesian) in the gaming world. This resulted in harassment and threats sent to SJ figures, campaigns against games sites which were perceived to be especially bad about reviews (this is not actually bad, but it happened so I’m putting it here), and some of the most tediously bad discourse the world has ever seen. There may be more, but the whole discourse just so boring that I have no clue what actually happened beyond this point.

ITT: Social Justice #12


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

ETA: Sorry, guys, I suck at polls. Both anti-SJ answers are now just “this person is anti-SJ”; feel free to vote for either.

What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

I don’t have any particular formal “discourse norms”. Generally I try to favor voices that typically don’t get heard. I signal boost important issues that would otherwise get buried. I watch out for fallacies like tone arguments and such.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “neutrality” which just ends up favoring the status quo and the loudest/most privileged voices. As much as I can, I try to shut down harassment that tries to silence disprivileged voices. Of course I think everybody should behave similarly, no good can come out harassment or only allowing certain privileged groups to be heard.

What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

Even literal Nazis will not deny that extreme oppression existed in the past. I simply don’t believe oppression magically disappeared the moment the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Power structures are pervasive and long-lasting. They take the form of economic inequality, cultural predispotions, unconscious racist attitudes, etc. The results are visible to all: minorities don’t get the same educational/career/life opportunities that white men do. They live in dangerous places, they live in fear of the police and under the constant stress of poverty. These factors make it impossible for them to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. Even if a white person has never personally done anything to oppress a black person, they still live in a society whose institutions and culture carry on the injustices of the past. And it’s important that we correct these injustices.

I don’t think there is anything that could convince me that some people deserve to be oppressed, deserve to be discriminated against, deserve to live in fear and poverty. It is not a question of evidence.

Explain Gamergate.

Video games were a traditionally (white) male space, with all the cultural implications that follow from that. As games became more mainstream, a clash between the old culture and a more accepting, diverse culture that does away with the traditional hostility against women and POC was inevitable (it’s no coincidence that the vast majority of people that GG targeted fro harassment are women). GG is the result of trying desperately to preserve the old boy’s club.

ITT: Social Justice #11


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

I don’t do as much discourse as I used to (I’ve become rather conflict-averse in general, partly because I have a temper and when in a fight I sometimes say things I regret later on), but when I do, I take the “Go With What Works” approach.

Well, I mean, first I ask myself, why am I even trying to change the mind of [specific person I’m arguing with]? What do I think it will accomplish? (The answer to that question doesn’t have to be something huge or Earth-shaking or revolutionary, it can be small-scale, but it does have to be something, there has to be someone who will be helped). Then I default to courtesy, and err on the side of it, though I admit some lapses.

But no, I don’t think everyone should follow the same norms I do, partly because the world would be pretty boring if everyone acted the same way, but mainly because my judgment isn’t flawless, and any concrete set of discourse norms will inevitably get gamed and rules-lawyered anyway (usually in such a way as to prevent already-vulnerable people from speaking up at all). And even though I personally try to default to niceness, I understand the anger that drives more hair-triggery radicalness, even if I think it’s overall less productive.

The one exception to that tolerance (at least for me) is this: involuntary characteristics are not up for ridicule, even when directed at horrible people. I do not engage in thinly veiled fat-shaming/ableism/classism/&c. in the guise of “calling out bigots,” even if the target is really bad, and if I could force the internet to follow one norm this would be it.

A couple scattered thoughts that I try to keep in mind:

Callouts can be a tool of abuse and they can be a last-ditch weapon to combat abuse. If someone denies either of those possibilities, that’s a pretty good sign that they have an agenda and I should be wary of them. I don’t participate in callouts myself, but I don’t deny their occasional necessity.

Civility is a red herring for the reasons you outlined in one post a while back: it’s too easy to hold the outgroup to a ridiculous standard of civility while letting the ingroup get away with anything. Remember how I said that any concrete set of rules gets rules-lawyered? Civility is a perfect example.

One of the uncomfortable truths of the internet is that the popular platitude “Yelling never changed anyone’s mind” is not actually true; people are different from one another and have different motivators, and yes, some people… not all, but some… do respond better to harshness than to niceness (I do reiterate my caveats about asking myself why I’m trying to get my conversation partner to respond in this way, and about how I personally try to err on the side of niceness).

2.2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

I’m not sure I can even accept the premise of this question, really. I mean, yeah, it’s a topic I’ve worried about at times; I was raised in a pretty center-left household and got most of my further political awakenings on the internet, so yeah, I’ve worried about filter bubbles and such (though complaints of “The internet creates filter bubbles” usually just mean “The internet has made me aware of filter bubbles that exist outside my own”), but Yudkowsky’s claim that “political disputes fire brain centers that evolved during times when being on the losing side of a political debate could often mean you’d get killed” kind of glosses over the fact that people are still getting killed over these disputes today. Also, y’know, we live in a world where Donald Trump was actually ahead in the polls for a while there…

As for what evidence or line of reasoning could change my mind? Honestly despite my reflexive contrarianness I often feel my opinions on various topics switching back and forth when I read pretty much any actual good argument that doesn’t consist of jumbled-together buzzwords and platitudes (I mean, a good argument on a topic that is actually a matter of opinion, not stuff like “the Earth is round,” “we landed on the moon” and “Shakespeare wrote the plays”), but in the spirit of your post “The Parable Of The Amateur Physicists,” I think it’s only healthy to be suspicious of mapping a hard-science framework onto a soft-science field.

3. Explain Gamergate.

I think Gamergate can be explained with two stories:

First, the epic trainwreck that was Jordan Owen’s and Davis Aurini’s “The Sarkeesian Effect.” In which a cynical, manipulative charlatan saw a chance to bilk money and clicks out of the people who actually belived the nonsense that comes out of his mouth, and hoodwinked a sincere and well-meaning but incredibly misguided sap into going along with it (then proceeded to blatantly abuse said sap whilst keeping the Patreon donations incoming for as long as possible, because of course he did).

And second, I saw a screencapped post in which someone bragged about having created literally hundreds of fake e-mail accounts to wield during that segment of the campaign when they were spamming advertisers trying to get them to blacklist various sites GG didn’t like (that was a while ago, so I can’t quite remember where the post came from… probably 8chan). What struck me about that post wasn’t just that the guy had created hundreds of fake accounts, but the way he described his elation at doing so. I practically saw the tears of joy as he said how good it felt to support this cause and to be a part of something alongside all the people he’d met there.

And that made me think. This could just be a case of someone being so bored and ennui-addled that he was desperate to feel like he was part of something important, but there might be more to it. See, the sort of people who do most of their socializing in places like reddit, the ‘chans, &c., don’t really have a socially-acceptable outlet for emotions. A cloud of derisive sarcasm hangs over those places, sincerity is the ultimate sin, and any moment of vulnerability or weakness is pounced upon and mocked mercilessly until the victim toughens up. But nothing brings people together like hating the same person, so when Gamergate came along, well, having a sufficiently hateable target as THAT was a catalyst for such bonding that they could actually get away with displaying emotional vulnerability. And if you don’t have a safe outlet for emotional vulnerability, well, you’ll have some really good feelings associated with anything that gives you one (this is also my theory as to why My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic became such a cross-cultural phenomenon).

That’s Gamergate in a nutshell. People who are ennui-addled and/or desperate for human connection, corralled by con men looking for easy money, with a sprinkling of outright nutcases thrown in.

ITT: Social Justice, #10


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

This is sort of an odd question, since ‘norms’ implies community standards rather than individual standards. Like, at the moment I’m in a rationalist-adjacent space, so those are the norms that are operating, right? So I’ll answer it both ways:

In terms of personal preferences, I guess I’m mostly just shy? Less so offline than on. Not ‘highly conscientious’ in the way that phrase is deployed around here, but I don’t naturally express myself very well, and when I do it’s pretty deliberate. (Thanks for actually asking for philosophical essays about social justice, by the way! If you hadn’t asked I probably never would have written out such an essay, let alone for public consumption.)

As far as the sort of community norms that I prefer, I’m pretty enchanted with the whole ‘competing access’ conversation that’s happening right now, and I hope that spreads. It’s sort of a meta-norm, of course, but it seems like an absolutely fabulous way to head off many of the most harmful collisions before they become a problem at all. I think the original example was between a religious and an atheist community- where doctrine can be a source of support and community for one person, but another (perhaps one who has a history of suffering spiritual abuse) would be harmed by that same community, and needs a space where they can make irreverent jokes and post that one cartoon about Wrfhf naq gur Ohqqun having gay sex.

That might also be a sort of answer to the second question of part one, which is a somewhat nuanced yes. Object-level norms can and should vary depending on the needs of the community, but it’s very interesting to think about a kind of ‘universal syntax’ that respects our differences and nurtures our self-expression while still allowing us to hear one another and seek one another out. In fact, I’d say that such a thing is necessary within any future that isn’t basically colonial in nature. If you can’t understand people on their own terms, you have no place else to go- either you stay trapped on your own small island of experience, or (if you have power) you expand your own borders by contorting the people around you into comprehensible shapes. Both leave you stuck. So a lot of what we mean by ‘progress’ is a matter of developing an increasingly flexible and useful language for expanding our circle of real empathy. Not for nothing is it called ‘The Discourse’.

2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

There are no good masters.

Most obviously true back when ‘master’ was used without pretense, of course. The legal mastery of men over women (‘mister’), the mastery of slaveowners over slaves. These institutions created (and still create) unimaginable volumes of suffering. But an important question is, why are these practices synonymous with the worst degrees of injustice? What about these practices makes it so easy to see the moral depravity?

And I think the answer comes down to the fact that in these situations, one person becomes the tool of another in a totally explicit way. They have a sharply reduced voice in their own futures, because their actions are externally mandated. But in the same way that you can only ever see half a sphere unless you’re inside it, ‘mastery’ must necessarily be limited by an outside perspective. Even when a master thinks of themselves as looking out for their property and doing what’s best for them, the choices they make about our future are less well informed than the choices we make ourselves.

This is true of any method of control. Street harassers sometimes say that they honestly think that they’re paying women a compliment, and maybe they genuinely think they’re acting for some specific or common good. So do the religious conservatives who tell gay people that they can’t get married, the employers who give employees a choice between paternity leave and access to healthcare, the psychiatrists who construct arbitrary barriers between trans people and hormone therapy, the ‘true fans’ who give themselves the right to decide who’s really a geek, the autocrats who build a wall across the southern border of Hungary or Texas, the professors who compliment a female student by saying she’s just ‘one of the boys’, the cop who points his gun at a child, the congresswoman who votes for a bill that denies bankruptcy for student loan debt, the doctor who denies reproductive care to women.

But there are no good masters.

3. Explain Gamergate.

Boy, I don’t even know at this point. A couple years ago I was more confident, basically working on the assumption that social media and Twitter are making previously hidden methods of gendered gatekeeping in geek spaces more obvious, allowing reactionary male gamers to coordinate more effective attacks while simultaneously making it easier for women/gnc gamers and their allies to publicize these attacks and get media attention. But that was before the whole thing started to ooze together with red pills and corporate feudalism into a persistent befrogged alt-right manosphere.

I mean, I think the general diagnosis is still true, but it’s clear that the whole thing is driving and driven by a sort of emerging language, one that shifts unpredictably between irony and honest fascism to preserve violent systems of power with plausible deniability in any given moment.

As for the original conflict, the emergence of women in previously male-dominated gaming spaces, I think a lot of the issue is that gamers weren’t playing the game they said (or maybe thought) they were. I have a few friends that used to play DOTA, for example, and in this game one element of the competition was the use of outrageous or uncomfortable names. A lot of the extremely violent and sexualized competitive trash talking has the same general structure. And so gamers often try to ‘win’ at DOTA not by having superior DOTA skills, but by creating an environment that is untenable (or at least a lot less fun) for people that have experienced, e.g., a history of sexual abuse. And sure enough, this narrows the competition and makes it easier to win. But this isn’t the game that most people want to play- they want to play DOTA. And enforcing community standards of decency around gaming can align the competition more closely around the actual game, which subjectively feels like changing the rules and making the previous ‘champions’ struggle to win.

ITT: Social Justice #9


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

I am extremely accepting to other viewpoints. I try to ignore my own emotional responses for the comfort of the other person and for the sake of open, but I accept that I often fail. I respond respectfully, though perhaps condescendingly; the condescension is not on purpose. If I am upset, I will tend to simply not respond to the other person’s arguments or statements.

This is because I have had painful experiences with angry people and find that such discourse styles limit free thought and don’t allow for changing one’s mind.

I believe that everyone should attempt to obey this discourse norm so that others feel safe, though if they cannot I am willing to forgive them. I want to be able to change my mind or not change my mind without emotional pressure or social stakes, so I consequently would appreciate if others were unaggressive and polite. I accept that some people might have emotional responses due to personal connections of lived experiences, but that is no excuse for treating others disrespectfully, although ignoring or shunning others is of course acceptable on an individual level.

2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?


Women’s Rights, Intra-societal Racial Issues
It’s wrong that people are treated unfairly, and it’s wrong that people’s autonomy is violated. I would be sad if I were a woman or a person of color or a female person of color who had been treated unfairly or abused due to my gender and/or race, so I must oppose patriarchy and white supremacy and support women’s rights and the rights of racial minorities. It is easy to imagine a likeable person of color and/or a likeable woman, and their needs are no less important than mine on a logical consequentialist level, so clearly it is important that they are treated well.

If women and people of color were shown to not be people with feelings (e.g. they were conclusively shown to be p-zombies), then I would change my opinion to place less priority on their “rights”. If women were shown to make suboptimal decisions that they later regretted, and paternal support altered their outcomes significantly in a way that made women happier, I would stop supporting women’s rights. If people of color were shown to a net bad effect – e.g., immigrants destroyed the economy, black people were all criminals – even without white supremacy in place, then I would alter my opinion thus.

Queer Rights
Almost all of my friends are sexuality-queer. I am bisexual. I would be upset if their love, and I suppose mine, were opposed or shamed or delegitimized due to gender.

I am bi-gender. I care deeply for my trans friends and I would defend them to the last drop of blood. I am saddened to see that they (and I suppose I’m included in this) would be disbelieved, hurt or discriminated against due to their genders. Cissexism and cisnormativity are both illogical and make no sense.

If there was clear evidence that the acceptance of non-straight sexuality resulted in unhappiness, inevitable painful dysfunction in life in general and in relationships even without homophobia and biphobia, or some kind of bizarre existential risk, like the invasion of aliens, and there was no plausible way to mitigate these results, then I would accept that my views were wrong.

If there were some evidence that transgenderism caused unhappiness, inevitable painful dysfunction in life in general and in relationships even without transphobia, or some kind of bizarre existential risk, and there were no plausible way to mitigate these risks, then I would accept that my views were wrong.

Imperialism and Colonialism
Imperialism is clearly wrong. It’s just plain mean, and it involves violating people’s autonomy and telling them what to do. Colonialism means stealing people’s land and destroying their culture. That’s not a good thing. I’m not really sure how else to articulate this, but it just seems like a mean thing to do and I would be emotionally upset if I saw something like this happening. In the present day, it’s important to make sure that imperial and colonial structures aren’t replicated or utilized because of the disastrous results in history.

If imperialism was shown to actually have better results, measured in happiness and unbiased opinion polls, than a lack of imperialism, then I would change my historical opinion. If taking people’s land arbitrarily was shown to have good effects in the long run, or was shown necessary to prevent atrocities such as the Holocaust, I would alter my historical opinion. If taking people’s land and exploiting them was shown to not only have a net positive result, but also to be better than all other options, then I would change my opinion of the present day.

We should be nice to people who aren’t hurting anyone and who seem to be doing what works for them.

If it were shown that being otherkin had deletorious effects, even with, say, a universal basic income or a solid community, then I would change my opinion.

Disabled people are people, and if I were disabled I would want accommodations and validation and autonomy.

If it were shown that disabled people weren’t able to make good decisions and in fact did not benefit from accommodations on average, then I would change my opinion on this.

3. Explain Gamergate.

Anita Sarkeesian wanted to open up shop to criticize video games for sexism through Internet donations. She appeared to be criticizing video games from an outsider’s perspective, and so some noxious portions of the gamer community attacked her in a frankly misogynist fashion. She eventually went into hiding due to this sexism.

ITT: Social Justice #8


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

By popular demand, polls now include an option to indicate your pro-SJ or anti-SJ alignment. Those who do not consider themselves pro-SJ or anti-SJ should either vote with the one they’re closest to or alternate. (Sorry, guys, I’ve dealt with the LW survey results, I know you abuse the right to be special snowflakes.)

1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

The discourse norms I aim to follow balance several different forms of respect – respect for other people as individuals, respect for other opinions, respect for underprivileged groups, and respect for the truth. All of these are important, and none of them override the others in every circumstance.

Respect for other people as individuals means treating them with courtesy, regardless of disagreements. This is important for maintaining a polite, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Spaces which lack this norm tend to become dominated by the loudest, most aggressive voices and drive people away. However, when this norm is raised above all others, it can be used to silence those experiencing genuine anger and injustice – women and minorities are often dismissed for being insufficiently polite.

Respect for other opinions is often referred to as freedom of speech. It means not silencing people simply because they hold an opinion you disagree with. This norm is important for maintaining an open dialogue and openness to criticism. Spaces which fail to follow this norm tend to become stifled by consensus and group-think. However, not all opinions need be permitted in all spaces. Subaltern groups – who are constantly subject to mainstream opinions which question their value or existence – should be able to create spaces where they do not have to be exposed to opinions they find distressing, and use those spaces to rest, retreat, and develop strategies and ideas without constantly refighting the same battles. In addition, some opinions are sufficiently abhorrent that they should be denied legitimacy. Institutions such as universities and media outlets should not be obligated to provide a platform for racist, homophobic, misogynist or transphobic views, and the people that support those institutions (students and customers) should be able to protest and boycott them.

Respect for the truth means arguing in good faith, avoiding lies, and supporting positions with evidence. This is important because misinformation and deliberate lies undermine the trust necessary for effective communication, and unwillingness to ground positions in evidence makes rational argument or decision making impossible. However, when this norm is overvalued and certain kinds of evidence privileged over others, it can be used to silence opponents while retaining the appearance of objectivity. For example, dismissing the lived experiences of subaltern groups while demanding excessive or inappropriate standards of empirical evidence for opposing arguments.

Respect for underprivileged groups means recognising that some groups are subject to systematic discrimination and silencing. For example, men tend to talk more than women but believe women are dominating the conversation when they have equal time. Consequently, male feminists have an obligation to support women when they speak and avoid monopolising the conversation – an obligation which does not need to be reciprocated. People from privileged groups should yield the floor to those less privileged where possible. When speaking on a specific topic – trans rights for instance, or racism – those directly effected should be given priority. When this norm is not followed, underprivileged or minority groups tend to be suppressed by the prioritisation of other speech norms – demands for politeness, balance, free speech or particular forms of evidence can all be used to erase their perspective.

Because all of these norms are important and they sometimes conflict with one another, it is necessary to use good judgement to understand what to say in a given situation. The appropriate balance between these norms varies depending on the nature of the space they are being applied to and the nature of the entity which enforces them. I will briefly lay out some possible spheres and what I consider the appropriate norms within them.

State Sphere: The state supplies the overarching rules for debate in society because it holds a monopoly on force and can silence speech through legislation and active censorship. As a consequence, the state should prioritise respect for a diversity of opinions. However, it is appropriate to use the power of the state to silence certain kinds of speech – slander (which falls under respect for the truth), incitement to violence, and harassment or abuse.

Public Sphere: The public sphere is where members of a society engage in political and social discussions about the nature and future of their shared world. In this arena it is important to balance all norms as evenly as possible so as to maximise the ability of every person to participate. This sphere is also the least subject to any form of control, so it is most incumbent on those who speak to consider whether their speech conforms to the principles.

Institutional Sphere: This is the domain of corporate (not necessarily private) entities such as schools and universities, government bureaucracies, and actual corporations. These institutions can have more restrictive rules governing allowable speech, and their first priority is usually the harmonious cooperation of their students or employees, and public relations. This means respect for individuals takes priority over respect for differing opinions. However, it is important that these organisations be aware of power dynamics which can be harmful to women or minorities within their organisation, so heightened respect for subaltern groups is appropriate.

Social Sphere: This is the space of non-political social interaction. In the social sphere, which involves frequent interaction with strangers, respect for others as individuals is paramount. However, attention must be paid to intentional and unintentional microaggressions which are often inflicted on members of subaltern groups in the process of routine social interaction – for example misgendering transgender people, asking women to smile, or asking visible minorities where they are from.

Counterpublic: Counterpublics are places for subaltern groups gather, retreat and organise. They are often referred to as safe spaces. In a counterpublic, the overriding priority should be the subaltern group which the space serves. Anger and generalisations about the dominant group are more acceptable here than elsewhere, and it is unnecessary to give a fair hearing to opinions which undermine the basic assumptions of the safe space. Counterpublics are necessary, but it is important not to let free expressions of anger degenerate into toxicity and domination by a clique.

2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

The underlying basis of my ideology is the recognition of entrenched, unjust power structures and the desire to dismantle them. The interlinked systems of race, class, gender, heteronormativity and ableism create hierarchies everywhere we turn and create a society characterised by domination and violence. It is our duty to dismantle these systems, to liberate ourselves and our fellow human beings (and ultimately animals as well).

Since the enlightenment progress has been made in recognising and dismantling these power structures and achieving formal legal equality, but they are too entrenched to be eliminated simply getting rid of explicitly discriminatory laws and hoping for the best. The myth of the level playing field only serves to disguise the reality of privilege. Hierarchies of domination and exploitation permeate our culture, our language and our social organisation. In order to dismantle them we must be critical of the state, but also of the way we speak, the media we consume, and the way we conduct ourselves. This, to me, is the essence of ‘social justice’.

If I could be convinced that these systematic injustices didn’t exist, or that they were changing on their own without the need for active criticism, or that attempts to change them were doing more harm than good, I would stop fighting for social justice.

3. Explain Gamergate.

Gamergate is a reactionary social movement opposed to the increasing visibility of subaltern groups in geek culture. Ostensibly focused on collusion between game developers and journalists, the rhetoric and targets of the movement betray it’s true nature.

Although the term was coined by Adam Baldwin to refer to the ‘Quinnspiracy’ surrounding Zoe Quinn and her alleged trading of sexual favours for favourable reviews, the movement really began in the opposition to Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes Against Women’ kickstarter., which aimed to apply cultural criticism to videogames in the same way it has been applied to other forms of media. Many of the same people who opposed Sarkeesian are at the center of Gamergate, and the movement finds it almost impossible not to target her.

There are three general groups within Gamergate as it exists now: Unreflective reactionaries and the alt-right. Unreflective reactionaries are the largest group. Mostly white men, they sense that their identity as gamers is somehow threatened but they do not have a detailed ideology to explain why. They sense that they are being scolded and looked down on by feminist critics and game journalists and are uncomfortable that games in styles they dislike (artsy indies, twine games and walking simulators for example) are being praised by those critics while games they do like are criticised for thing that seem unimportant or illusionary. In order to rationalise this discomfort they frame their distaste as a principled ethical opposition to collusion between games developers and games journalists, but when pressed or within the gamergate bubble on reddit or 8chan they reveal that the real target of their ire is feminism – this is also apparent in their choice of targets (Zoey Quin, Randi Harper, Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian and Leigh Alexander). They are not necessarily malicious or particularly right-wing and they might identify as left leaning or even feminist (although their favourite feminist is usually Christina Hoff Summers)

The second group, the alt-right, are only interested in games and gaming incidentally. Their aim is to use Gamergaters as footsoldiers in a culture war. They are fond of elaborate theories linking games developers and critics to the Frankfurt School and the conspiracy of international Jewry to undermine western civilisation. Their leaders include Milo Yiannopoulis and Weev (Andrew Auernheimer) and they like to hang around /pol on 4chan.

ITT: Social Justice #7


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

Discourse isn’t that hard.  Open your eyes and don’t be an asshole.  Does anybody disagree with that in theory?  Probably not, but in practice, some people need more, well, practice to see past their limitation.

Being open-eyed not-assholes shows up a couple ways in discourse.  First, you need to listen and care about people who are suffering.  Should someone who grew up under the weight of poverty, racism, or other discrimination be taunted with “well, if you just worked harder, everything would be OK for you?”  Of course not, because that’s both factually wrong and assholishly mean.  So don’t say it until you take spend some time listening to people who have been through that shit.

Second, you need to be aware of and challenge the system that creates suffering.  It’s easy to say “I worked for everything I got, and fuck everybody else” when you haven’t taken the time to realize how easy you had it.   And taking credit for something you didn’t earn?  That’s being an asshole.  Rubbing it in the face of someone the system keeps down for your benefit?  Asshole^2.  Instead, learn about the system and use that knowledge to confront the system and to open people’s minds.

So educate yourself before you talk, then use that knowledge to help people crushed by the system and to challenge the system itself.   And should everyone do it?  Duh, and yes.

What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

I believe what I believe because I’ve lived it, and because I know other people who have.  Sure, there’s plenty of science – I could point you to dozens of studies showing that women get interrupted or that people of color don’t get hired, or that asshole parents cause suicides, and that’s all fine, but at the end of the day, I’ve lived it, and my friends have lived it.

I don’t need a study because watched my friends collapse in agony telling how how they got talked over in class, I’ve seen my loved ones not get jobs or get stopped by the cops, and I’ve taken the ten minutes it takes to listen to people’s experiences. Sadly, as a white cismale, I’ve also lived the other side – I’ve heard dudes telling gay bashing jokes in the locker room, seen teachers call on me instead of on brilliant women of color sitting near me, and I’ve been able to walk through a store or down a sidewalk without getting harassed or catcalled.

What would it take to convince me that I’m wrong?  I guess the opposite of every fucking thing I’ve seen in my whole life.  Some more science to show that all those studies were wrong would be a bonus, but let’s start with repeated testimony from people of color, LGBTQ friends, etc. that everything is going great.  That would go a long way.

Explain Gamergate.

Gamergate is actually a great demonstration that white men just don’t know what it’s like not to be white men, and that they don’t know that they don’t know it.  They get hard ons from pretending to kill things on their computer, and when they think someone threatens their precious boners, they move on to pretending to be tough guys on 4chan, without taking the time to give a yoctoshit about somebody else.

Basically, Gamergate’s seeds were planted when a Youtuber started a popular series of video game criticism, pointing out some pretty obvious stuff like Super Mario makes Mario a hero with agency and Peach a prize to be won.  Instead of saying “duh, that’s something we should fix so everyone can enjoy videogames just like we do,” a group of 4chan white boys began to simmer with outrage that someone had a different opinion about their precious, especially an attractive woman with her own opinions.  Similarly, they were frustrated that some journalists writing about games were perceived as have a pro-SJ (in other words reality-based) position.

This outrage that someone dared to hurt white feelings boiled over when a feminist game designer’s boyfriend posted a tell-all piece that included an allegation that the designer slept with a gaming journalist.  (Not a journalist who then reviewed or reported on her games, mind you, just a gaming journalist).   Given the chance to slut-shame a feminist target, the dregs of the internet screamed and leapt, with personal attacks, doxxing, nude photos, death threats, and whatever else they could come up with.

This is probably the part that shows the privilege blindness most clearly.  Each time people tried to respond to Gamergate and point out that people were being harassed beyond all reason, Gamergaters punched back with thinnest of pretexts:

This journalist donated some money to a development project.  That journalist had a friend who developed games.  That other journalist over there wrote something mean about nerds.  The Gamergate advocates were being portrayed as exclusively white male when they were only mostly white male.

For all I know, each of these points might have had some merit in a normal civil discussion, but each “reasonable” Gamergater was accompanied by a bunch more engaged in the same vile harassment – outing trans people; doxxing; threatening, catcalling, gaslighting and the like.

I’d like to think that if the Gamergaters actually knew a few of the victims attacked by their fellow travellers, then they would have decided that that wasn’t the time to raise their debaters’ points – if anything, it was good time to let the “ethics in gaming journalism” debate rest for a few months and focus on, you know, not destroying people’s lives – by calling out the worst of the harassers, by expressing support for people who were being harassed, and whatever else they could do.  But instead, the Gamergaters just ignored the bodies piling up around them while they allegedly tried to discuss “ethics in gaming journalism.”

In the best case, carrying on the debate under those circumstances reflected white male privilege, where people being forced to flee from their homes and contemplate suicide weren’t perceived as real concerns because the primarily white men involved couldn’t imagine what it was like to be that injured by harassment, and in the worst case, it was a defensive reaction by a bunch of boys who felt threatened by feminism and were titillated by a chance to take an attractive woman down a peg by outing her sex life.  Eventually, everyone got tired and gave up.  The end, hopefully.

ITT: Social Justice #6


Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!

1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?

I believe that discourse can only be productive when the parties share a certain baseline knowledge and certain terminal values.  If the parties disagree on basic points of fact or on basic points of right and wrong, further discussion is pointless until they get on the same page.  Often, someone looking for a debate will treat a rant as an invitation to have one.  This is a mistake, and in arguments that get heated, it’s the responsibility of the less emotionally-invested party to shrug and leave – they are sacrificing less by giving up the last word than the more emotionally-invested party would.  It is unreasonable to start a debate with someone who doesn’t want to have one, and it is on the same tack unreasonable to start a debate with someone you have no reason to believe wants to have one.  I think everyone would benefit from these discourse norms, but nobody is obligated to have them.  Disagreements over discourse norms simply bring about suffering.

2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?

I do not like to see the strong taking advantage of the weak.  I do not like to be taken advantage of by those stronger than me.  And frankly?  I do like to take advantage of those weaker than me, at least in my id.  But I don’t like to take advantage nearly as much as I hate being taken advantage of, and I don’t think anyone does.  Oppression is, in my experience, a negative-sum enterprise.  Everyone is strong in some ways and weak in others.  Some people may effectively be more strong or more weak overall, but at least the vast majority of people fall somewhere in the middle.  No one is physically safe from being hurt by others, and no one is morally safe from hurting others.  I have been hurt many times, and have some idea of how awful it is, and I have hurt others, and deeply regret doing so and making the world a worse place.  I’m fairly certain that everyone else has had the same experience as me, and if they come out of it without apparently sharing my basic moral framework, I can’t help but assume on some level that they’ve faced a moral choice analogous to the one I’ve made and made a worse choice.  I only think I would change my object-level ideology if I became convinced that I was wrong about which side represented the strong and which side represented the weak.  I only think I would change my meta-level ideology if I discovered a positive-sum oppression, where a strong group takes advantage of a weak group and gains more than the weak group loses – but I find that very unlikely, as surely the strong group could return some portion of the good they gain to the people they took advantage of to gain it; such a scenario would be moral perpetual motion.

3. Explain Gamergate.

I’m not particularly familiar with Gamergate, so take this with a grain of salt, but my impression is that it was a dying gasp of an antisocial demographic that was increasingly finding that they were not tolerated.  Women were increasingly accepted in gaming circles, and male gamers who considered masculinity an important part of their identity took this as a threat to their local importance.  They attempted to establish their continued relevance and power by opportunistically seizing on the manifesto of feminist indie dev Zoe Quinn’s jilted ex-boyfriend, which alleged that Zoe Quinn had had sex with multiple men  (even if the allegations are true, the obsession with a woman’s sexual purity speaks volumes about the regressive ideology of those involved, and it is disgusting that Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend would share things he was told in confidence).  Zoe Quinn, it should be noted, is disabled (indeed, her most noted game, Depression Quest, is entirely inspired by her disability) in a way that made harassment even more awful for her than it would be for a neurotypical person; indeed, though the harassment aimed at feminist game analyst Anita Sarkeesian is certainly unacceptable, it is probably much harder for Zoe Quinn to bear her harassment.  Very quickly, though, it was blatantly obvious to any reasonable onlookers that Zoe was the victim and that the Gamergate movement had nothing to offer but misogyny.  Unfortunately, the media backlash against Gamergate was coordinated in such a way that the movement gained the opportunity to reframe it as being about corruption within the media.  Anyone who examines the issue in the slightest, however, will see that this framing is false.  Coordination between media figures is only an issue of professional honesty if they are colluding to hide something true or proclaim something false, and that’s inapplicable.  The anti-Gamergate columnists and writers only stated the very true and obvious thing that Gamergate was fundamentally about punishing a woman for fabricated accounts of what she might have done in her private sex life, and that it was most likely motivated by a desire to keep women out of gaming communities in general.  They didn’t “collude” to generate a false narrative to spread, and it would take an insane amount of conspiracy theory mentality to suppose that they did.  They merely collaborated to ensure that they all were aware of the issue and understood how serious it was.  Now, Gamergate is mostly forgotten by the public, and is mostly associated with particularly disgusting figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, the token gay alt-right troll who was finally kicked off of Twitter when he helped to spread leaked nude photographs of a moderately successful black actress who had become the latest victim of the reactionary online lynch mob.  That’s because we basically won – and we won because we were right and it was clear that we were right.