I disagree that the essential element to blackmail is it must be done only to make me suffer. To this end I offer a scenario. (I've made it a little more like a story just for giggles).

You've just won the lottery, and the TV people interviewed you and your wife. Hurray! Shortly after, Angela your mistress calls you up.
"Congratulations. I saw on TV that you won the lottery... I also saw you had a wife. Things are over between us!"
"Angela. I'm sorry for lying baby, but you've got a husband."
"Irrelevant. But, you know, you're rich now. How about you give me $4,000 a week for the next ten years, and I don't tell your wife."
"Oh come on, you've got a husband!"
"Yeah, and you're rich. I expect the money in a week." click
Well that's what you get for cheating. Suddenly, Julia, your other mistress calls you up.
"Congratulations. I saw on TV that you won the lottery... I also saw you had a wife. Things are over between us!"
"Julia. I'm sorry for lying baby."
"Fuck you. I should tell her right now. But, you know, you're rich now. How about you give me $4,000 a week for the next ten years, and I don't tell your wife."
"Oh come on, not again"
"What's that mean? Besides, you're rich. I expect the money in a week." click
Way to go, two timer. However, unfortunately for you, the TV show calls you up and lets you know that there was a printing error and you did NOT in fact win the lottery. You quickly call your mistresses back.
"Angela, baby, turns out I didn't win the lottery. I can't possibly pay you."
"Don't baby me. Well, I guess I won't tell your wife then as long as you don't tell my husband. I don't want anyone to know this."
"Thanks Angela, you're the best."
Hurray, bullet dodged!
"Julia, baby, turns out I didn't win the lottery. I can't possibly pay you."
"Don't baby me. Well, I guess I'll tell your wife then asshole. Since you won't pay me I'm gonna go post on facebook now!"
"But, I can't pay you because the money never belonged to me."
"Irrelevant. Sucks to be you!"

I argue that both of them were attempting to blackmail and Julia's desire to follow through with it anyways doesn't change anything. The actions would both feel like blackmail to me if I were on the receiving end, and the police would treat both of them as blackmail as well. Blackmail is just an attempt to get money in exchange for not releasing information; the mindset of the blackmailer does not affect it. This is why I agree with Vladimir Nesov, that blackmail exists in a blurry spot on the continuum of trade.

If you don't classify Julia's actions as blackmail, I would be curious what you do call it.

I classify Julia's actions as inconsistent, mostly.

At time T1, Julia prefers to date me rather than end our relationship and tell my wife.
At time T2, Julia prefers to end our relationship and tell my wife.
The transition between T1 and T2 evidently has something to do with the transient belief that her silence was worth $4k/week, but what exactly it has to do with that belief is unclear, since by Julia's own account the truth or falsehood of that belief is irrelevant.

If I take her account as definitive, I'm pretty clear that what Julia is doing is not bla... (read more)

2Emile8yIf we avoid the overloaded term "blackmail" and talk of threats vs. trade, Angela is threatening you whereas Julia is offering a trade. I agree that this example shows that "makes you suffer" is not the distinguishing element. It's also interesting that you may not now if the situation is threat or trade (you may not know whether the mistress wants to tell your wife anyway).

Stupid Questions Open Thread Round 3

by OpenThreadGuy 1 min read7th Jul 2012209 comments

8


From the last thread:

From Costanza's original thread (entire text):

"This is for anyone in the LessWrong community who has made at least some effort to read the sequences and follow along, but is still confused on some point, and is perhaps feeling a bit embarrassed. Here, newbies and not-so-newbies are free to ask very basic but still relevant questions with the understanding that the answers are probably somewhere in the sequences. Similarly, LessWrong tends to presume a rather high threshold for understanding science and technology. Relevant questions in those areas are welcome as well.  Anyone who chooses to respond should respectfully guide the questioner to a helpful resource, and questioners should be appropriately grateful. Good faith should be presumed on both sides, unless and until it is shown to be absent.  If a questioner is not sure whether a question is relevant, ask it, and also ask if it's relevant."

Meta:

  • How often should these be made? I think one every three months is the correct frequency.
  • Costanza made the original thread, but I am OpenThreadGuy. I am therefore not only entitled but required to post this in his stead. But I got his permission anyway.

Meta:

 

  • I still haven't figured out a satisfactory answer to the previous meta question, how often these should be made. It was requested that I make a new one, so I did.
  • I promise I won't quote the entire previous threads from now on. Blockquoting in articles only goes one level deep, anyway.