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What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?
I think my core value in discourse is intellectual humility: I try not to forget that I could always be wrong.
For one thing it is simply *true* that I’m almost certainly wrong about a lot of stuff, because most people are. But also this approach has useful consequences. It incentivizes me not to dismiss other people’s opinions out of hand if they seem silly to me – I learn more when I assume others have good or at least interesting reasons for believing what they believe, and that even if they are wrong, there is at least something useful I could learn from them and it is likely that I should update my opinions at least a bit in *some* direction as a result of listening to someone I disagree with. It also means it’s a really bad idea to yell at people I disagree with, because they could be right.
(To be honest that’s not really my true rejection of yelling at people. I just don’t like it when people yell. But I admit it gets a little harder not to yell when I feel extremely certain that someone is wrong, like when they repeatedly assert something that I know to be false. So remembering that people have useful things to say is useful in making me less tempted to yell.)
I also think it’s important to present my ideas in a way that isn’t unnecessarily inflammatory. I want people to actually hear, understand, and consider my ideas, and it’s gonna be really hard for them to do that if I make it sound like I’m attacking them. (This is kind of a “tone argument” I guess – I respect the idea that people *should* be willing to hear truth no matter how it’s presented, but in practice that’s pretty unlikely to happen because that’s just not how human psychology naturally works. Making truth feel like an attack makes people want to defend themselves, and then you get a battle instead of a discussion. Plus it’s just better not to inflict unpleasant emotions on people when you can avoid it.)
Should others follow these norms: well, broadly, yes, because this is the strategy that has the best chance of arriving at the truth, and because it makes the world a nicer place to be. I do understand that this can be hard for people; sometimes people lash out out of pain, and I do have sympathy for that, and I will try to interpret the lashing out charitably anyway. But I do want people to adopt these goals and aspire to them, even if they don’t always live up to them.
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 actually pretty strongly value some of the same things that social justice as a whole tends to value: equality, autonomy, making it easier for people to live their life as their true selves, trying to weaken stereotypes. I was sort of in social justice for a while. Unfortunately, I have come to believe that the actual social justice movement we have is not a good way to uphold these values, both because it is sometimes actually counterproductive and because it sometimes goes against other things I value.
One of those other things, as I mentioned above, is intellectual humility. There are certainly exceptions to this generalization, but as a whole, modern social justice is not good at this. Social science is complicated! If we want to figure out the best ways to advance equality and justice, we need to be able to discuss, at length and with actual disagreements and including people with other worldviews, what the current state of the world is and what interventions are actually helpful. In most social justice spaces I’ve seen, it’s difficult to disagree about a point of fact (or about goals or priorities, for that matter) without being treated with extreme suspicion and sometimes actually shouted down and sort of shunned henceforth.
(I think being shouted at is probably more likely on Tumblr than in real life, but (a) for one, Tumblr is a pretty big part of social justice culture, so I don’t think we should entirely dismiss it, and (b) I’ve been to a community meeting about housing in the Mission in San Francisco, where the anti-new-market-rate-housing contingent is pretty social-justice-y in their language and ideals, and many members of that contingent actually did shout down people who disagreed with them, which is an even worse experience than being yelled at on the Internet )
(Related gripe: social justice language is often used in the service of economically terrible ideas, and economic consequences disagreement is dismayingly often treated as values disagreement, which also facilitates dissenters being ignored.)
Also relatedly, social justice rhetoric tends to lack nuance to the point where it becomes inaccurate even when trying to make a good point. Groups are often essentialized and – ironically – almost treated as monoliths (“every woman has experienced this”, “if you’re a man you don’t know how this feels”), which erases lots of diversity of experience. I’m a person who has had a somewhat unusual life experience for my gender (I think), so this sometimes feels personally grating, too.
This also means that in trying to highlight what may be an actual difference in rates of victimization by demographic (different rates of rape by gender, different rates of police brutality by race), social justice advocates end up exaggerating the risks faced by members of these groups, which basically causes people to unnecessarily live in fear.
The social justice movement as a whole seems to not be very good at updating its beliefs about power with new evidence. This is most important when it comes to the movement’s own power: social justice seems to often consider itself the underdog even when it’s actually not, and this is dangerous. But also, like, I think it’s quite debatable at this point whether men can really be said to be “privileged” over women in the modern United States as a whole – and even if social justice is currently right about this, I don’t have faith that it will update accordingly if this changes.
I think there’s also too much emphasis on pretty superficial things like the definitional debate of what exactly words like “racism” mean and who can have what hairstyles and what the best words are to refer to one or another demographic group. It’s not that I think all conversations need to be about The Most Important Thing, it’s just that these superficial conversations get far, far more heated than necessary. I mean, I’d rather not have yelling matches over anything, but if we have to have some, I’d rather they at least be about something important!
So to sum up: I think the social justice movement starts from some of the right principles, but it implements them really poorly, mostly by having bad epistemic norms (which come with bad discourse norms).
What would convince me differently: primarily, if you could convince me that most pro-social-justice people do value intellectual humility, nuance, and kindness, and mostly avoid the failure modes I’ve described.
(Or perhaps if you could convince me that, actually, the experiences of different demographic groups are more sharply different than I realize, that would probably lead me to accept a lot more strong social justice claims as true, which would probably lead me to re-identify with social justice as well.)
I’m sure there were earnest and well-meaning people involved in Gamergate, but at least from the outside it mostly seemed to be kind of a shitfest of toxoplasma which looked reeeally unappealing to me. Luckily as a non-gamer I didn’t have any reason to participate or even spend any time learning about it. (A bit uncharitably – one of the reasons I’m not in social justice anymore is precisely because I don’t like yelling at people on the Internet!) So I don’t really have a coherent picture of it, just some isolated impressions.
I think it started with the Zoepost? In which one Eron Gjoni posted chatlogs between him and his ex, Zoe Quinn, who had apparently cheated on him a lot and also emotionally abused him. I do not think anybody deserves to have their sex life made public, but on the other hand it is vitally important that abuse victims be able to speak out about their abuse, so this is sort of an icky situation all around.
“Ethics in video game journalism” became a punchline but I have to assume it was some people’s actual concern. Again, as a non-gamer, I had no reason to investigate this. (Okay I do sometimes have a temptation to breathlessly follow Internet drama, but in this case the drama was just soooo much that it was not even tempting.)
There seemed to be quite a lot of harassment of everyone by everyone. Harassment is bad. Agh. Why.
That’s all I have, I think.