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What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?
Reflexively, I aspire to a kind of polite skepticism, but it can depend on context. I get more number-heavy (citing statistics, and keeping the conversation focused on empirical questions) in potentially inflammatory conversations, especially those involving race or gender, and especially if it’s in writing that’s attached to my real name. That’s motivated by a few different things. I like the rationalist community, and they do that a lot. It’s a defensive measure, since annoying math is less quotable and therefore less likely to spread outside its original context. It’s also an expression of honest doubt, since my monkey-brain is inherently going to be a lot less reliable when the topic involves sex or Scary Other Monkey; better to make smaller leaps from more solid ground, just in case. And perhaps most fundamentally, it makes it easier to avoid the more degenerate cases of partisanship.
I like people who use these same norms of discourse, and prefer conversations with them, but I certainly wouldn’t say that everyone else should follow them. I’d prefer otherwise, in fact. I enjoy knowing that there are lots of different ways for people to relate to one another, so long as I personally have the chance to opt out (which is one of the many problems with social justice- opting out is getting harder and harder). A marketplace of social norms shares a lot of advantages with a marketplace of ideas, plus I find it quite beautiful for its own sake. It’s an opportunity to be surprised by goodness, so to speak.
It is customary to carve out an exception for ‘harmful’ community norms, but I’m deeply uncomfortable with that exception (direct attacks on the meat excepted, including doxxing and incitement to violence). This is especially but not only true for small communities where opting out is relatively easy. Yes, many ideas have powerful and long-reaching consequences for my happiness and health. That’s why an open discourse is so important in the first place. Control comes at a cost, and in the realm of ideas, the cost of control can be large, invisible, and unpredictable. When, for example, a trans person worries that people are debating their ‘right to exist’, they may be correct; at least, if that’s shorthand for ‘people are spreading ideas that will ultimately reinforce a society in which they are alien, unwelcome, unsupported, and unprotected.’ But a society where the orthodoxy of gender is not debatable (except perhaps by a small minority) is blinded to correction in important ways, and that also is harm.
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?
This is a tricky question to answer from the ‘anti’ side, since it’s defined by the rejection of an idea rather than the adoption of one. I’m not a social-justice-person for the same basic reason that I’m not a Martian or a rocking chair; I’m something else. But over the last five years or so, social justice has started ringing a number of alarm bells. Some of these are pretty abstract and probably not fundamental (like: Fuck Hegel And All His Descendants Unto The Seventh Generation, Yea, Even Unto Marx). Some of it has been the extraordinary efficiency of social reform it has accomplished, with gay marriage in the US being the obvious example (I myself am gay and very glad to be able to get married, but even when directed towards benevolent ends, a display of power is not always reassuring). Doubly worrying, given that this power is often decoupled from the factual realities of the problem at hand- see Scott’s analysis of racist violence by police officers, versus the rhetoric of BLM. Or the several times I have encountered conversations on the internet wherein trans people consciously and explicitly coordinate the lies they plan to tell to cis people in order to bolster social acceptance. So what guides it towards real human flourishing, even for the people making demands, if there’s no fundamental connection to truth?
A decent chunk of my ‘anti’ stance is also, emotionally speaking, coming from a sense of rejection by the basic principles of modern social justice- it’s hard to say how much of my opposition comes from that subjective place, but it sure isn’t none. This does include inanities like the ‘how to be an ally’ articles, the common use of ‘male’ and its synonyms in the derogative, and various other petty cruelties and status games, but I like to think there’s a bit more depth to it. In the last year, random people on the street have threatened me with violence twice (neither carried through). Once it was for holding hands with my date on the sidewalk, the kind of potential gay bashing that is a core evil of modern metropolitan ethics. Once it was as a white guy- someone rushed me out of the blue, shouting racial epithets. (I genuinely don’t know what triggered this, and it seems reasonable to think that whiteness was just an ‘insult of opportunity’ available to a troubled individual.) I found myself willing to talk about the latter with my friends, but still haven’t told them about the anti-gay threats. There’s a specific dehumanization and isolation in knowing that they would receive the two so differently, even though both left me feeling scared and hurt, and both had equal risks in the moment. But only one of them was consistent with the narrative of institutional oppression, and so only one counts.
I think the short version would be something along the lines of: Like so many revolutions before it, social justice has a way of turning the desire to prevent suffering into a list of acceptable targets.
Can’t help you much here. I think I actually learned about it from this blog, when Ozy was talking about Zoe Quin as an abuser? It is clearly some kind of rank tribalism, in an environment supersaturated with potential for tribalism. Some small perturbation caused it all to fall out of solution at once, but whatever that was, it was only the proximate cause for the tale-as-old-as-time culture war that we keep seeing pop up everywhere in different hats. That’s why all the GG arguments are so dominated by denouncements of each others’ tactics. It’s an odd little paradox. The teams must have existed before being accused of misconduct by their opposite number, but the issue rallying each side is the accusation of misconduct. Who was it that defined ‘evil’ as ‘the desire to destroy evil’?