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

My discourse norms: (1) Do your best to tell the truth (or if telling the truth won’t do any good, it is nearly always acceptable to say nothing) ; (2) don’t offend people unnecessarily, and be civil wherever possible; (3) try not to take offense, and take a break when you’re mad; and (4) try to challenge your own preconceptions wherever you can. I’m also a huge fan of Wikipedia’s “Assume Good Faith” norm, in which the exercise of at least appearing to treat your correspondents as if they are acting in good faith leads to a lot more positive resolutions than trying to figure out who are bad people and can therefore be excluded.

There are definitely SJ folks who follow these norms, so I identify as ASJ in this regard only because there are some strains of SJ discourse, such as call-outs, specific rules for discourse based on race, gender etc., shouting down viewpoints perceived as offensive, anti-”tone policing,” that I think are contrary to my preferred norms. I tend to oppose norms that limit discussion apart from encouraging civility/preventing shout-downs, or that argue that civility is itself a tool of oppression.

Should everyone conform to my preferred discourse norms? I’m inclined to say yes. I think they are utilitarian, in that I believe it’s more likely to lead to each of us reaching beliefs that more closely approach true facts, which in turn leads to overall utility.

I’ll grant the possibility that there are individuals who are upset by hearing people disagree with them, and where we can help by listening or increasing inclusiveness, I’m all for expanding the conversation. On the other hand, I think reducing discourse to the point where people can avoid confronting contrary opinions, or where because it’s upsetting is net harmful.

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?

What a good question! I think I have some basic theses about human nature that arise from some combination of my observations and some a priori reasoning. There are historical examples and science that support many of my views, but I suspect that there’s enough history and science on both sides that I could probably support moderate SJ views nearly as easily if I started with SJ priors.

The best way to convince me I’m wrong is for me to get a prediction badly wrong enough that I have to update. Particularly for slippery slope arguments – “will gay marriage accelerate the coarsening of society/will open carry legalization increase or decrease crime”, more observation helps. I’m sceptical of individual studies both for and against my position, but if I see experts reach a conclusion through dialogue, that tends to sway me over time. That’s a lot more true in physical science than social science, though.

As to individual policy reforms that might appeal to both SJ and ASJ people, I think I’m pretty open to solutions if I’m convinced they are strongly likely to lead to positive results, although I’d rather move slowly and experiment in many cases. I like the idea of police body cameras, and I’m more sensitive to trans issues because I know more about what might offend people. I also find the anecdotes about gay and trans kids who grew up in oppressive homes pretty convincing that gay and trans kids shouldn’t be shamed or forced to live a life they can’t. Those are all pretty universal solutions though – knowing more about what happened in police encounters helps white people, POC, and unjustly accused police, and not being forced to express a sexuality or gender that’s untenable helps everyone too.

I think it’s a harder road to convince me of non-universal values – that we can productively make judgments about people based on their race, gender, disability status, etc., and then have different rules for who can have insights into problems, or who gets to use an angry tone in discussions, whether to believe any particular individual about police misconduct based on the victim’s race, etc.

On an individual level, if consistent studies showed that disadvantaged groups perform better objectively (higher IQ, better informed about verifiable facts, more productive job performance, lower behavioral health expenses, etc.) when educated or employed in a SJ environment, that would force me to look closely at all my beliefs around SJ, especially if Scott Alexander and similar science-oriented sceptics told me they found the studies convincing.

On a community level, I’d look for evidence that free speech and discussion aren’t as valuable as I think they are, and that the more extreme SJ values aren’t as destructive as I think they often are and/or that the moderate SJ values can dominate without creating space for the extreme values. It’s a tough evidentiary problem, though – if you show me San Francisco or Oberlin and say “Look! Here’s an SJ-oriented community that’s thriving”, then I’ll pick out examples of left-on-left or left-on-right injustices and tell myself that it’s not thriving in the way I want, even though I know I’m probably cherry picking. Maybe there is some way to show that SJ leads to better communities, but I’m currently pretty skeptical.

Explain Gamergate.

It’s an internet flame war. Two communities got super defensive and yelled at each other for two years. Neither side took much time to listen to the other, and both just yelled increasingly loudly that the other side wasn’t listening, encouraged by trolls on both sides. Eventually, everyone got tired of yelling and went home. Numerous people on both sides got mean emails, doxxed, or just generally made miserable.

When our story begins, there were a few people who cared a lot about the future of game, specifically whether games and gamers were sexist and had to change or whether SJWs were trying to remake gaming’s existing norms for the worse. There were some “gaming journalists” who thought something or other, and some 4-chan kids who thought everyone was taking themselves too seriously and should be teased. Probably everybody had a point.

Then Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend wrote a long piece about all the ways she allegedly wronged him, which included an accusation that she had slept with somebody at Kotaku. In addition to the standard Gawker-style “Hey, look – someone got embarrassed by sex” interest, there was a chain reaction of people offending other people by expressing their opinion on the Internet. Everybody claimed to be doxxed, everybody claimed to be harassed, and everybody claimed that the other side was exaggerating or faking. A lot of people seemed to take sides based on their existing feelings pro or con about modern feminism or the gamer community, and any serious discussion of either sexism in gaming or ethics in gaming journalism seemed impossible with all the finger pointing.

If anything, the whole mess showed the futility of using internet mob justice as a weapon against the relatively powerless. It might work against someone if they have a job and you can threaten to get them fired, but a gang of largely anonymous and potentially questionably employed gamers, SJWs, and pranksters responded to call outs and sarcastic Facebook postings by just feeling angrier and more victimized, so nobody ever lost on either side, and the fight went on and on. Worse, sooner or later, both sides end up using all the weapons the other side is using, so you have the internet version of total war. It was like being in a videogame version of the Battle of the Somme – vicious, unrelenting, and unproductive, and because it was rare that anyone hurt much more than each others’ feelings, it didn’t end until people got bored.