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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.