So my disastrous (and short-lived) tenure at SSC wasn’t ALL their fault– I charged in there brimming with enthusiasm for my attempt to replicate Arlie Hoschild’s experiment in empathy. I really should have studied the rationalist community first, I had terrible sampling error and bias.
But my biggest fail is that I wasn’t honest with them. Consider this exchange.
At this point I was trying to reform my comment style to conform to community standards, so I tried to steelman the argument that O’Keefe was not a trusted source or a journo, but a propagandist. What I really should have said is, “yes, James O’Keefe IS icky”. And Donald Trump is icky, Ann Coulter is icky, Charles Murray is icky, Richard Spencer is icky, Heather MacDonald is icky, Milo Yianoppoulis is icky, Kid Rock is icky and Steve Sailor is icky. These guys are all icky.
What I mean by icky is I have a visceral reaction of revulsion, based on the combined e-history and visuals of these individuals. I think there has to be a biological component to cause such a strong emotional reaction. I wonder, do the right rationalists have a comparable visceral reaction to feminists, LGBT, antifa, Obama, Katy Perry, Hillary Clinton, SJWs? Why are Red Tribe standard bearers so physically unattactive (old, creepy, gross, slimy)? Does their lack of physical appeal sort incels and channers into the Red Tribe? Why are all the valorized standard-bearers of the Red Tribe so physically and ideologically unappealing?
I learned a lot at SSC, and I understand myself a lot better. I get that rationalism, BURGT (Bayesian Utility Rationalist Game Theory) and pure utility theory allow the construction of defenses of any possible human ideology/actions. But I now think that rationalism is useless without moral theory. I think philosophy is useless without the public sphere (Arendt). The perfect exemplar of this would be Donald Trump’s behavior over Charlottesville. It is rational, given the make-up of his base, but it is amoral, given the make-up of the country.
Nazis are icky. White supremacists are icky. And given the amount of SSC comments mirroring Trump’s “both sides do it equally–antifa is even worse” eumeme, there is a lot of support in the rationalist community for Trump’s position. So this is what Scott Alexander has built– a coven for rational witches. I heard a lot of argument about the Blue Tribe having equal representation at SSC, but its not equal in volume– liberal tendency commenters pretty much get shouted down– this is what we should expect given conservative tendency traits.
This is a really perceptive article, The Eternal Struggle. It is one of the two things I read that made me excited about commenting at SSC, the other being UNSONG. In Struggle Alexander speaks to the cultural evolution that has stranded the Red Tribe outside of traditional institutions and normative standards, and the formation of alternative media bubbles and the burgeoning Red Tribe hatred of academic communities.
“Look. I read Twitter. I know the sorts of complaints people have about this blog. I’m some kind of crypto-conservative, I’m a traitor to liberalism, I’m too quick to sell out under the guise of “compromise”. And I understand the sentiment. I write a lot about how we shouldn’t get our enemies fired lest they try to fire us, how we shouldn’t get our enemies’ campus speakers disinvited lest they try to disinvite ours, how we shouldn’t use deceit and hyperbole to push our policies lest our enemies try to push theirs the same way. And people very reasonably ask – hey, I notice my side kind of controls all of this stuff, the situation is actually asymmetrical, they have no way of retaliating, maybe we should just grind our enemies beneath our boots this one time.”
But what Scott Alexander has done with SSC is just to form another coven. Its pandering, and I hate pandering. Its disrespectful. The answer to the disequilibriation of the conservative/liberal Cooperation/Competition Paradigm isn’t to pretend it isnt happening– it is to acknowledge WHY and seek solutions. Liberals aren’t grinding conservatives beneath our boots– cultural evolution and technological progress are. When one tribe is gaining reps (replications) and the other isn’t the eventual outcome is pretty certain.
I get the intent of SSC– a place for rational discussion between the two tribes. But the tribes are no longer persuadable. SSC has just devolved into rationalizing non-competitive Red Tribe ideology and giving cover to Trump. The two tribes are diverging– and one side, the demographically and culturally endangered tribe, is moving farther and faster right. Is the Blue Tribe supposed to move right now? Because I doubt that will happen.
I tried to talk about asymmetrical polarization at SSC and was pretty much mocked. I tried to talk about social physics and complexity science and was unsuccessful. I think Cthulu swims left because of the Second Law. But SSC commenters would rather not engage with those ideas. Not sure that plugging your ears with rationalism is an adaptive evolutionary strategy, but watevs.
I wonder if Scott Alexander will say anything about Trump now… not holding my breath.