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What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?
I tend to follow the norms of calm, reasoned discussion, since that’s more effective at finding truth than the alternative. On the SJ side, it’s said that being able to discuss certain issues calmly is a sign of privilege. Maybe, but that’s no reason to abandon these norms. Commonsensically, we caution ourselves against rash decisions, acknowledge that we don’t think as clearly in moments of passion, etc, and we should apply the same standards here. Otherwise, the winner would be whoever shouts loudest or claims the most pain, which isn’t conducive to the pursuit of truth. Understandably, this is difficult for people for whom these issues are close to their hearts, but we don’t want to intellectually capitulate to those who claim that their experiences give them overriding moral authority.
While intellectual detachment is a good, it’s only one among many, and not necessarily the right one for everyone to pursue given the tradeoffs. The idea is not that everyone is obligated to be calm all the time, but that venting and intellectual discussion should be as separated from each other as possible, and the former shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for, participation in, or an appropriate response to the latter.
Another part of my favored discourse norms is a presumption in favor of participants’ ability to reason. This sounds abstract, but it cashes out to letting people draw their own conclusions from the evidence, and discussing what should be done based on it. In contrast, SJ tends to not only presume that privileged people don’t know what kinds of bigotry/discrimination oppressed people face (not that objectionable of a norm on its own), but also that privilege strongly inhibits one’s ability to even reason about those kinds of experiences. Oppressed people are held not only to have special evidence, but also special authority to judge what should be done about the issue in general. As above, accepting it would be intellectual capitulation.
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 don’t think there’s one true reason I reject SJ, it’s more of a combination of various objections to the ideology and the movement. But here are two of them that seem relatively central, though they don’t apply to all SJers.
First, SJ wants to highlight and preserve the salience of certain kinds of difference. I’ll list some examples. I saw an article recently about whether Peter Thiel could really be gay given his political views – not doubting his attraction to men, but suggesting that being gay was about more than that, that it’s a political and cultural identity. Some SJers focus on race instead, taking the position that a world in which race is no more salient than eye color would erase many people’s identities. Amazingly, colorblindness is seen as something to be opposed: the standard position is that it denies currently existing racial dynamics, but SJ also objects to it as a goal. The same applies to culture – “dissolving” culture into clusters of associated individual practices to be examined, adopted, rejected, or criticized is seen as imperialism, cultural appropriation (supposedly bad), or assimilation (also bad). In general, SJ seems to want to preserve the groups of the status quo, and only to change their relative status and inter-group relations.
This separation inhibits the individuality of people in currently marginalized groups. If SJ succeeds, they wouldn’t be discriminated against for whatever traits put them in those groups, but they’d still be expected to be Members of a Group, with all the pressure and limitation that entails. Instead, I want to include “them” in our concept of “us” – to let oppressed people enjoy the freedom of choice that SJ currently ascribes to straight white men, and eventually for the traits that currently mark them for oppression to be on people’s minds as little as possible.
Second, SJ subscribes to a zero-sum view of inter-group relations. While some SJers profess that men are hurt by patriarchy too, relatively few act like they believe it. The standard line is that men benefit from sexism, whites benefit from racism, and so on, and SJ is coming to destroy their privilege. When people hear it, they think that SJ is trying to make them worse off, and they oppose it more than they would’ve otherwise. But it’s not just a strategic concern – many SJers really seem to think that whites/men/etc are getting a considerable benefit from current structures. Even if the success of the SJ ideology wouldn’t actually make privileged people worse off, SJers think it should, so they see bringing down the privileged as getting closer to a state of justice, which creates actual conflict. But to some degree it also seems to be inherent to the ideology, maybe an inheritance from Marxism.
This contributes to a number of other problems. For example, SJ discourse – someone who’s trying to keep their portion of a fixed pie isn’t going to engage in good faith. Instead of engaging men by demonstrating how current social norms hurt them, SJ portrays the defense of patriarchy to be in men’s interest, and is biased towards interpreting men’s behavior as motivated by that incentive. It incentivizes loyalty to the oppressed ingroup (because they share your interests) instead of cooperating with privileged outgroup members. And so on.
What would change my mind? First, what wouldn’t change my mind: appeals to the badness of oppression. Doubts about how poorly oppressed people are treated isn’t one of my central objections. SJers could be completely right about it and I’d still be anti-SJ. One thing that could actually change my mind is being persuaded that SJ mainly wants to achieve the same goals I do, and that they’re right about the means, e.g. that inter-group equality must come before the dissolution of groups. The second problem is harder – if I were convinced that SJ isn’t mainly committed to a zero-sum view, I’d view it more positively, but on the other hand, if I were persuaded that SJ is right about inter-group relations being zero-sum, then I’d become more anti-SJ, because then they’d really be my enemies.
I haven’t been watching the controversy too closely, but there are a couple of points of interest.
First, the defense of Zoe Quinn by anti-Gamergate. While I’d expect a movement to protect its own members by default, SJ claims to be strongly opposed to abuse, so their failure here is more disappointing. Part of the problem is that it was abuse of a man by a woman, which isn’t taken as seriously. This is because of patriarchal social norms (men are supposed to be powerful and women weak, so what can a woman do to a man?), but SJ seems to have mentally substituted “anti-patriarchal” with “pro-woman”, and this is one case in which the two diverge.
Second, the conflation of sexist gamers and traditional gaming. To be fair to anti-Gamergate, there really are a lot of openly sexist gamers. But it’s become a rallying standard for changing the culture of gaming in general, not only to expel the sexists from it, but the nerds in general, to clean it up to be acceptable to the mainstream and in line with SJ cultural standards. You don’t have to be a sexist to be against that.
As for the controversy itself, I’ll just say that if you want to find something negative about either side in the culture war, you don’t have to look too hard.