Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Picking Sides

A while ago I wrote about a funny story in the Chinese classical novel, the Water Margin, where the “heroes” want to poach a strong general, Qin Ming from their enemy. What they did is force the guy to defect, by telling his boss he already had. His boss being an evil asshole didn’t bother confirming the news, and vowed to kill him (and beheaded his whole family beforehand). Thus poor Qin Ming had no choice but to fall in the trap and defect. The same tactic was used with another hero-general, Lu Junyi.

In fact the tactic is even older. As far as I can recall, it was already used by Liu Bang, the founder of the Han Dynasty during the civil war before he founded the empire, 200 BC. The enemy, Xiang Yu, was an asshole, but he had a very capable general under his command, Ying Bu. Liu Bang sent an envoy to his camp and said to everybody who could hear it “Ying Bu has surrendered to us!”. Old boss, being an asshole, vowed to kill him, so the poor guy had to defect now even if he didn’t want to. Never fails.

All this was an introduction to paste a recent piece of writing by Scott Alexander. Now, the case isn’t exactly equivalent. For starters, there’s no need to frame him with a false accusation. He has accused himself. He said this:

People naturally divide into ingroups and outgroups. Although the traditional way of doing this is by race or religion (leading to racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, etc), in modern America this is gradually being replaced by a more complicated division based on social class and political affiliation. Rural working-class people have become a very different tribe (“Red Tribe”) than college-educated urban people in gated professions (“Blue Tribe”), with different food preferences, sport preferences, entertainment preferences, dialects, religions, mores, and politics. These two groups are vehemently opposed.

(if you only read one link in this piece, read that vehemently opposed one. The rest are just citations; that one contains an important piece of the story that’s hard to summarize).

While politics is about equally split between them, the media and academia are almost entirely Blue Tribe.

To make the point about the media: a 2008 study found that 88% of contributions by people in the media went to Democrats; a 2004 study with slightly different methodology that limited itself to journalists found an even larger bias. Here’s a survey that finds that if journalists were their own congressional district, they would be the most liberal district in the country, much further left even than Berkeley, California.

To make the point about academia: a recent analysis found that 91% of Harvard professors who donated to a presidential campaign donated to Hillary (with the remainder divided between Sanders and all eight GOP candidates). Jon Haidt’s does a lot of work on this atheterodoxacademy and finds that there’s a 14:1 ration of liberals to conservatives in the non-economics social sciences. Meta-analyses in psychology, psychiatry, and economics all find that the personal views of experimenters affect what results they get; the psychology study, which quantifies the results, finds a very large effect size – larger than most effect sizes actually discovered in social science, meaning we have no idea how much of what we know is real effect and how much is experimenter political bias. On a related note, only 30% to 50% of experiments in psychology persist after replication attempts (other academic disciplines are as bad or worse). On a related note, meta-analyses observe clear evidence of publication bias in politically charged domains – for example, this meta-analysis finds that papers are more likely to be published as opposed to file-drawered if they support the liberal position rather than the conservative one. Also, lots and lots of people in academia, even the very liberal people, will admit this is true if you ask them directly. Haidt, Tetlock, et al (see previously cited paper) have found lots of horrifying things like journal editors saying explicitly and proudly they’d refuse to publish articles that support conservative ideas, or professors saying that other academics whose research implies conservative ideas shouldn’t be hired or given tenture.

So given the fact that our knowledge of the world is coming from a 90-percent-plus liberal group that’s working hard to enforce orthodoxy, and then being filtered and broadcast to us by another 90-percent-plus liberal group that’s working hard to enforce orthodoxy, our knowledge of the world is … about as skewed as you would expect from this process. To give just one example, every number and line of evidence we have suggests that the police do not disproportionately target or kill black people compared to the encounter rate (see Part D here and this study) but the conventional wisdom is absolutely 100% certain they do and anybody who questions it is likely to sound like some kind of lunatic.

Once again, I think of these political differences as secondary to (and proxy for) more complicated tribal/class differences, and these tribes/classes really really hate each other and are trying to destroy each other (remember, multiple experiements – 1, 2, 3 – find that people’s party/class/tribe prejudices are stronger than their racial/religious prejudices). So imagine an institution that’s 90% Klansmen, with all its findings interpreted by and transmitted through a second institution that’s 90% Klansmen, and consider how useful (or not) the information about black people that eventually reaches you through the conjunction of those two institutions will be.

Because the Blue Tribe’s base is in education and the opinion-setting parts of the media, their class interest is to increase the power of these areas. I don’t want to sound too conspiratorial by making it sound like this is organized (it’s not), but classes tend to evolve distributed ways to pursue their class interests without organization. In this case, that means to enforce credentialism (ie a system where the officialness of your education matters more than your ability) and orthodoxy (whether you hold the right opinions is more important than ability). We see the credentialism in for example the metastatic spread of degree requirements. You need a college degree to have the same opportunities as you’d have gotten from a high school degree in 1960. This isn’t because jobs require more knowledge today; there are thousands of jobs that will take you if you’ve got an Art History degree, not because Art History is relevant to the job, but because they insist on candidates having some, any, college degree. The Blue Tribe protects its own and wants to impoverish anyone who doesn’t kowtow to their institutions. For the same reason, we get bizarre occupational licensing restrictions like needing two years of training to braid people’s hair, which have been proven time and time again not to work or improve quality, but which effectively lock poor people (and people who just don’t do well with structure) out of getting liveable jobs.

The opposite of credentialism is meritocracy – the belief that the best person should get the job whether or not they’ve given $200,000 to Yale. In my crazy conspiracy theory, social justice is the attack arm of the educated/urban/sophisticated/academic Blue Tribe, which works by constantly insisting all competing tribes are racist and sexist and therefore need to be dismantled/taken over/put under Blue Tribe supervision for their own good. So we get told that meritocracy is racist and sexist. Colleges have pronounced talking about meritocracy to be a microaggression, and the media has declared that supporting meritocracy is inherently racist. Likewise, we are all told that standardized tests and especially IQ are racist and hurt minorities, even though in reality this testing helps advance minorities better than the current system. For the same reason, colleges are moving away from the SATs (an actual measure of student intelligence), to how well students do in interviews, how well they write essays, and other things which are obvious proxies for social class and tribal affiliation.

STEM culture and nerd culture is (was?) this weird alternative domain that had Blue Tribe advantages like education and wealth, but also wasn’t drinking their Kool-Aid – they took pride in being meritocratic, they didn’t care what college you went to as long as you were smart, and they were okay enjoying their own weird culture instead of following sophisticated trend-setters. The Blue Tribe was spooked, so they called in their attack arm, and soon enough we started hearing these constant calls in Blue-affiliated media and circles to destroy nerd culture (2, 3, etc, etc) because it is inherently misogynistic, racist, etc. It’s why we’re told that Silicon Valley is full of “brogrammers” and “techbros” (compare “Berniebro”, which everyone now agrees was a Hillarysphere attempt to smear Sanders supporters). It’s why we’re told that tech is “incredibly white and male” and “needs to get less white” and just generally has this huge and unique diversity problem – even though in reality it’s possibly the most racially diverse industry in the country, at a full 60% non-white. It’s why we’re told that there is terrible bias against women in science academia, when in fact anyone can read the studies showing that controlling for all other factors, women are twice as likely to be hired for tenure-track STEM positions as men [bad link] and academic science is not sexist at all. It’s why we’re told women fear for their lives in Silicon Valley because of endemic sexual harassment, even though nobody’s ever formally investigated if it’s worse than anywhere else, and the only informal survey I’ve ever seen shows harrassment in STEM to be well-below the average harrassment rate.

What’s happening at GitHub itself right now is actually a pretty good example. The old CEO was fired because of various accusations (later investigated and found to be false; the firing was not revoked). The new CEO has banned the term “meritocracy”, replaced workers managing their own affairs with a system of no-doubt-well-credentialled middle managers, and given lots of power to a “diversity team” that declares all remnants of the old company culture racist and sexist. According to Business Insider, there’s now a “culture of fear” and a lot of the most talented employees are leaving. People are saying GitHub made some kind of mistake, but I suspect all is going according to plan, the talented employees will be replaced with better-credentialled ones, the media will call everybody who left “techbros” who were suffering from “aggrieved entitlement”, GitHub will join the general Silicon Valley 2.0 landscape of open-plan offices and Pointy Haired Bosses, lather, rinse, repeat, and ten years from now bright-but-lower-class unsophisticated people without college degrees won’t be able to find a job in Silicon Valley any more than they can on Wall Street or anywhere else.

I am pretty darned Blue Tribe myself – I’m pro-choice, pro-fighting-climate-change, pro-gay, pro-transgender, non-religious, pro-higher-taxes-on-rich, pro-single-payer, anti-gun, ready-for-Hillary, etc – and after having watched the Republican debate tonight I can honestly say I’m terrified at anyone other than the Blue Tribe having power. But just as I can be proud of my Jewish heritage but also upset about the occupation of Palestine, so I can be proud of the Blue Tribe and not too happy about their project of crushing everybody else with an iron fist regardless of the collateral damage. Doing anything about this is a dauntingly large project, but my own comparative advantage is in picking apart some of the sillier studies they use to put a fig-leaf over what they’re doing.

I don’t know who is boss is, but his metaphorical superior in the Blue Tribe, in the Cathedral, the Polygon, the Left or whatever you want to call it, well by definition the Left is an evil asshole too. So be very aware, this guy is not one of yours. I am not one of yours, and I can’t find anything to disagree with this piece of writing. Except the last paragraph, of course, which is retarded.

Not that I want him in my side. The dude has way too much baggage. But there’s always something to gain by denying the enemy from a good general. And the guy is smart, and he is the object of admiration of many. Look at his damn blog, he gets hundreds of comments of starry-eyed fans who go there just to share a micro-slice of his fame. I got a link from him a while ago and my referrer stats got flooded with accesses from MIT addresses. Which is very impressive. Surely beats the bunch of nazis I’ve been getting lately.

But still, if there is some SJW command out there, note that you are more than justified for (metaphorically) killing off this guy’s (metaphorical) family, and proscribe him away from your side, into the arms of your enemy. He’s not one of yours. He’s against everything you stand for. He has openly called for the removal of the racket that sustains your livelihood. He wants to deprive you of your bread! How can you tolerate this guy?

And hey, I do think we could use a psychiatrist. A bitter and resentful genius psychiatrist studying the intricacies of the Leftist Mind, ignoring all established procedure in order to find out what is inside the brains of his enemies, of the people who have tortured him since childhood. Now that sounds interesting.


29 responses to “Picking Sides

  1. Pingback: Picking Sides | Neoreactive

  2. Steve Johnson February 16, 2016 at 21:13

    “And hey, I do think we could use a psychiatrist. A bitter and resentful genius psychiatrist studying the intricacies of the Leftist Mind, ignoring all established procedure in order to find out what is inside the brains of his enemies, of the people who have tortured him since childhood. Now that sounds interesting.”

    Not that we couldn’t use him but that’s about the last role for which he’s suited. The guy has a self shaped hole in his perceptiveness that doesn’t allow him to see how he’s screwing up his own life with leftist delusion. At this point it’s so bound up with his identity that he can’t let it go. It’s why he has to purge everyone from his comment section who makes the same points he just stated that he agrees with – those beliefs almost always come along with a bunch of other beliefs that he can never let himself consider (being actively gay is degenerate, being “poly” is a coping mechanism for loser men and loser women, being “trans” is a severe form of mental illness where the victim will do anything for the attention and status they so desperately crave (except do things to earn that status), etc.).

    I tend to think that his problem is more personal than political – when he sees his comment section get intellectually dominated by you, then Jim, then me and most recently theDividualist it causes him to panic because we believe that at core Scott has chosen to be a degenerate loser who has spent massive effort wrapping himself in a bubble where he’ll never have to be confronted with reality instead of making himself into not a degenerate loser. theDividualist gets banned for agreeing with one of the criticisms that Scott had just posted that he was actually sensitive to (presumably he posted them as examples of how absurd his enemies are and salted them with critiques that he’s actually worried are true so he could inoculate himself). Jim gets banned for being, well, Jim. Jim suggests the existence of patterns in an intentionally incomplete way such that an intelligent reader is forced to fill in the gaps and come to the same conclusions. Your ban goes back to asking for pictures on the polyamory thread.

    My guess is that the SJW machine doesn’t scare him professionally – the demons in his own head scare him personally.

    Further incidental proof – when discussing how to find a public rationalist meet up he mentioned “… look for the group of people who look the way you would expect rationalists to look. It’s not subtle.” He knows.

    The only way he’s coming over is if he has a personal revelation that he no longer wants to live like that.

    • spandrell February 17, 2016 at 07:13

      In the polyamory thread he was quite civil. My ban goes back to saying his “girlfriend” was a psycho, and not really his girlfriend. Again I shouldn’t blame a man for trying to defend his woman’s honor, but he started it by publishing that raving piece of lunacy she addressed to me in his blog. If your woman is crazy you might as well hide her and not give her a megaphone.

      • Max February 17, 2016 at 08:31

        He banned dividualist for … For “wanting to ban him for long time”. Scott is smart and writes well, but his blog might go the way of lesswrong. Due to the same thing – being afraid to look reality in the eye and preferring to cultivate “safe space” of sycophants instead

      • Steve Johnson February 17, 2016 at 08:44

        I know when your ban actually got handed down.

        Reading between the lines on the responses there it was cooking up since your demolition of their self-image in the polyamory thread.

        Scott is so sensitive about that that I once misspelled it “polyarmory” and he jumps in and asks if it’s a sneak insult. Nope, word just isn’t in my spellchecker.

        Sure maybe I’m “typical mind fallacy”-ing here (to borrow their term) but what he takes offense over really gives lie to his stated values and shows that he’s highly sensitive about them and he’s holding grudges and keeping score (some of those insults he saved were from 2013).

        • spandrell February 17, 2016 at 09:46

          He’s also openly spoken how he resents that leftists threw him under the bus when he was insufficiently leftist writing in his high-school newspaper or something.

          The guy interacts with leftists more often, by sheer chance he’ll get slighted by leftists more than anyone else. Smart and moderate people should be taught the lesson that being a nice leftist man isn’t an option. Gotta pick sides.

  3. Cichlimbar February 16, 2016 at 22:18

    “I got a link from him a while ago and my referrer stats got flooded with accesses from MIT addresses.”

    It never ceases to surprise me how many fools without proper internet hygiene habits there are. Maybe I’m insanely paranoid but, always cover your trail before you visit funny places dammit. Even if you have the cover of plausible deniability by doing your funny reading from public spaces.

  4. B February 16, 2016 at 22:24

    You guys had your psych:

    As for Scott Alexander, the last paragraph may be smokescreen (similarly, Moldbug had some gay rights throwaway line,) but I get the creeps from the dude.

  5. Toddy Cat February 16, 2016 at 23:07

    IMHO, Alexander is the classic example of Orwell’s doublethink. He recognizes that most leftist “science” is tendentious crap, but tomorrow, he’ll be citing this very same tendentious crap to support his pro-trans, pro-gay, anti-gun, etc., etc. agenda, because it fits in with his feelz.

    As was perceptively noted above, intellectually, the guy knows better, but the left tells him that his dysfunction is OK, so he’s torn. But writing stuff like the above, his decision might just get made for him…

  6. Johnny Bits February 17, 2016 at 00:42

    Being a weirdo rationalist was the only thing that ever got Scott a taste of gender ambiguous pussy. Who cares if he had to share it with a dozen other guys, he’s not gonna leave his people and go incel again.

    Someone should take the most rightist excerpts of his writing, delete all the disclaimers and leftie signaling, and post it to a fake alt right blog.

    • spandrell February 17, 2016 at 07:10

      Dude killed his own libido by overdosing with anti-depressants. He’s officially asexual. Whatever motivates him it’s not pussy. And if he wants a nice lady who gives him affection but not sex, there’s plenty of nice Christian ladies willing to do so if he converts. They might even cook for him.

  7. beortheold February 17, 2016 at 01:11

    Regarding Scott’s last paragraph, I wonder if he has already defected and is employing the normal Samizdat practice of affixing the party line to make his subversive writing permissible. (See the Robert Putnam example)

    I don’t find this too likely, but he does have a long track record of tolerating reactionary commenters and then purging them, only to allow a replacement to repeat the pattern.

    Has anyone in the reactosphere gotten reactionary ideas broadcast to such a wide audience as Scott’s?

    • grey elightenment February 17, 2016 at 01:25

      Scott’s audience is by far the biggest , although Noah Smith is another widley-read liberal who once dabbled with NRx

    • spandrell February 17, 2016 at 07:08

      Let’s assume that. His no-prisoners-taken attitude towards us means he wants to start his own reactionary faction, led by him and the ex-liberals he’s managed to convert.

      Well he’s very mistaken if he thinks we’re gonna tolerate a rival faction without any kind of amicable compromise. Should have sent some gifts asking for a truce.

      • beortheold February 17, 2016 at 13:01

        I wouldn’t worry about that faction too much. If Scott has any reactionary allies, their relationship relies on secrecy. If exposed, Scott has already laid enough rope for his prog friends to hang his whole group.

        Anyway, if Scott has defected, which is far distant in likelihood to his just being a lunatic, he probably belongs to a faction of 1, whose purpose is to offer random nuggets of wisdom and drag random blue-tribe readers into the reactosphere’s orbit. His ostentatious attitude toward actual neoreactionaries is probably just enough of a firewall to maintain plausible deniability for his readers, and if he wanted to seek a truce, it would need the utmost secrecy.

        Wild theory.

  8. Pingback: Picking Sides | Reaction Times

  9. Laguna Beach Fogey February 17, 2016 at 16:29

    Those so-called ‘nazis’ definitely improve the site, let me tell you.

    • spandrell February 17, 2016 at 16:37

      Nazis got plenty of places to hang out, and no good reason to buy what I’m selling.

      • Azn February 20, 2016 at 06:41

        U r a jewish American democrat? No f***king way lol. I thought you were, I dunno, Spanish or smthg.

        So why do you not rule out the possibility that there might be a bunch of jews somewhere thinking up stuff to screw the West?

        Hey so do you support for Prez anyways?

  10. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2016/02/21) - Social Matter

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