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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.