The lead article on on March 25:

3 Reasons It’s Irrational to Demand ‘Rationalism’ in Social Justice Activism

The scenario is always the same: I say we should  abolish prisonspolice, and the  American settler state— someone tells me I’m irrational. I say we need  decolonization of the land — someone tells me I’m not being realistic.... When those who are the loudest, the most disruptive — the ones who want to destroy America and all of the oppression it has brought into the world — are being silenced even by others in social justice groups, that is unacceptable.

(The link from "decolonization" is to "Decolonization is not a metaphor", to make it clear s/he means actually giving the land back to the Native Americans.)

I regularly see people who describe how social justice activists act accused of setting up a straw man.  This article show that the bias of some SJWs against reason is impossible to strawman.  The author argues at length that rationality is bad, and that justice arguments shouldn't be rational or be defended rationally.  Ze is, or was, confused about what "rationality" means, but clearly now means it to include reason-based argumentation.

This isn't just some wacko's blog; it was chosen as the headline article for the website.  I had to click around to a few other articles to make sure it wasn't a parody site.

But it isn't just a sign of how irrational the social justice movement is—it has clues to how it got that way.

The author came to hate "rationality" because s/he thought "rationality" meant "conventionality".

In fact, by American standards, my very existence is irrational. For many, I simply do not exist as a queer, Vietnamese femme who is neither a man or a woman. Living in my body, wading through my truths, is not a rational act. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Based on my experiences as a marginalized person, being rational just means going easy on my oppressors.

The narrow bit of room that rationalism gave me wasn’t enough for me to envision new possibilities for my gender, to escape the confines of impending manhood. It wasn’t enough for me to understand my personhood as infinitely more complicated than the models of personhood fed to me by white cis people.

S/he didn't realize that white cis people don't use rationality either to understand their gender and social role.  These are cultural values that parents deliberately program in before a child can become rational and come up with their own version.

Making my own inferences, I'd guess that

1.  The author has had many unpleasant social experiences because of zis refusal to adopt a gender, and

2.  The author is not a good reasoner, and while arguing over these experiences, often makes bad arguments, and gets told ze is irrational, and

3.  The author is unable to distinguish discomfort with zis gender non-choice, from resistance to zis bad ideas, as having separate causes.


The 3 reasons are:

1. Being Rational Has No Inherent Value

2. Rationalism Is a Tool Made to Hurt Us

3. We Are Enough Without Rationalism


Also see the same site's recent article "4 Reasons Demanding ‘Objectivity’ in Social Justice Debates Can Be Oppressive".

ADDED, since I'm 50 karma in the hole anyway:

Ironically, today's "social justice" program demands a radical rationalism.

Social justice used to be a rationalist program on its surface, pointing out the irrationality of prejudice and the illogic in narratives used to justify oppression.  But as society adjusted its pre-judgements closer to targets that were rational but still unequal, e.g., from "Women can't do engineering" to "Most women don't want to do engineering", the emphasis switched from being rational about our beliefs to irrationally assuming equality of everyone and everything, not just as a default starting point, but as a mandated endpoint.  (Historically, this was tied to an influx of reality-denying continental philosophy into social activism in the 1960s.)

De-emphasizing rationality on its surface requires a more radical rationalism for its practical implementation.  Changing social conventions has a cost.  When we extend social justice beyond respect for difference that people have no choice over, such as race or sex, to roles that they choose, such as religion or gender, the justification for allowing everyone to defy any particular social convention must be a rational cost-benefit assessment.  Many people enjoy the ritual interactions specified by social roles; they are part of their identities and one of their terminal values.  A demand to give up these values must fall back onto consequentialist arguments.

(Is constant social pressure on the person doing the defying more important than thousands of irritations to the people who don't know how to deal with zim, and who feel their own identities inhibited in zis presence?  I don't know.  It's torture vs. dust specks.)

The new social justice program is ultimately to strip from human consciousness all shortcuts, biases, prejudices, pre-computations, and priors.  This requires making each individual a rational consequentialist capable of reasoning zer way from every situation to a rational behavior.  To know how to use social roles, people require either social heuristics (which will inevitably oppress somebody), or radical ends-based rationality. This is particularly true when people are allowed to unilaterally opt in or out of social roles, so that every situation has a mix of people demanding to be treated differently.

(It isn't clear whether priors are permissible in this rationality.)

Even the oppressed classes must be ideal rationalists (Homo economicus).  If women are still allowed to prefer not to be computer programmers, or men are allowed to prefer not to raise children, a free market will make mandated equality cause, rather than alleviate, injustice.

Alternately, we could possibly say that social justice doesn't require radical rationality, provided that we allow no social roles (a commitment to radical individuality).  This also imposes a cost in so far as social roles serve to increase social utility.

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Yeah, it's nice when your opponents volunteer to remove from you the burden of proof whether they are irrational.

But seriously, I don't even know where to start. Perhaps here: Articles written on most popular websites are clickbait. It means that their primary purpose is to make you read the article after seeing the headline, and then share it either because you love it or because you hate it. And that's what you did. Mission accomplished.

Another article on the same website explains why animal rights movements are oppresive. (I am not going to link it, but here are the arguments for the curious readers: because it's wrong to care about animals while there are more important causes on this planet such as people being oppressed; because vegans and vegetarians don't acknowledge that vegan or vegetarian food can be expensive; because describing animals as male and female marginalizes trans people; and because protecting animals is colonialistic against native people who hunt animals as part of their tradition.) Obviously, the whole article is an exercise in making the reader scream and share the article to show other readers how crazy it is. This is exactly what the authors and editors... (read more)

I simply assume that almost everything they say is a metaphor for something (usually for their feelings).

It has taken me many years to realize that, but the more I look for it the more I notice it. I have a friend on Facebook who's a Syrian living in NYC, she keeps posting things like "Here's the proof Assad is actually a spy planted by the Israeli Mossad to cause genocide in Syria". I kept asking her how she could possibly believe it and got very confusing responses that didn't really address the question. And then it hit me: for her and for many Arabs "X is a Mossad spy" is simply an eloquent way of saying "I hate X", it has literally nothing to do with the Mossad at all. My friend was confused why I even bring facts about the Mossad into a discussion of whether Assad is a Mossad spy.

Viliam gave enough SJ examples, so I'll give one from the other side: there was a campaign by some famous PUA to boycott Mad Max: Fury Road because it's feminist propaganda. Hold on, isn't that the movie where the attractive women in skimpy clothes are called "breeders" whose job is to make babies? And then I realized:

  • For PUAs "X is feminist propagan
... (read more)

Viliam gave enough SJ examples, so I'll give one from the other side: there was a campaign by some famous PUA to boycott Mad Max: Fury Road because it's feminist propaganda. Hold on, isn't that the movie where the attractive women in skimpy clothes are called "breeders" whose job is to make babies?

A lot of feminists agreed with the PUAs' assessment of the movie as being pro-feminist. The guy who treated women as breeding stock was the antagonist. You aren't supposed to sympathize with Immortan Joe.

famous PUA to boycott Mad Max: Fury Road because it's feminist propaganda.

I've seen PUA stuff and I've seen the movie. Whilst it's true that the protagonists are mostly female and the bad guy is male, I wouldn't say it's pushing a feminist message. I don't think that the film vilifies men as a whole. I'm much more annoyed about ghostbusters actually.

Don't forget to notice that this works both ways. Your friend could easily segue into posting things like "Israeli government ordered the genocide in Syria" because hey! Assad is a Mossad agent, everyone know that. I am not arguing that such statements should be taken literally. I'm arguing that they establish linkages in the minds of the speaker and the listeners and these linkages may well have real-world consequences.

Well, this is exactly the problem. First step is that people say random things just because they reflect the emotions they have at the moment. Second step is that later they sometimes derive logical consequences of what they previously said. Then bad things happen as a result.

Usually there is a boundary; people often have crazy beliefs in far mode, while having quite sensible beliefs in near mode. They can keep talking bullshit as long as it does not concern them directly, but when it becomes personal they can either conveniently forget to apply the bullshit, or have some general excuse such as "but this specific case is different". This can work surprisingly well as long as there is a social norm of not requiring people to actually act on their abstract beliefs.

Nerds usually lack the social skills to follow this strategy (because no one tells them about it explicitly; because applying this strategy to itself means never talking explicitly about it), usually harming themselves as the result, by following the norms that everyone applauds but no one except a few nerds actually follows. Sometimes they harm the others as the result, for example when they take the norm of kill... (read more)

Yep, that's a problem and an additional problem is that this mechanism is often exploited by agitprop and, generally, dark arts at the social scale. I don't think it has anything to do with nerds or social skills. If I had to come up with an expression for what prevents people from applying their abstract beliefs in practice, it would be the trite "common sense" (which, yes, I know, isn't exactly common). Essentially it's the matter of being able to recognize consequences when they appear in front of your eyes. Most people, thankfully, require a large amount of pushing and shoving to make the transition from "Ethnicity X is bad" to "We will go and set fire to our neighbour's house and throw stones at his children". It's not that avoiding that transition is a social skill, it's more that watching a house burn and children cry has direct emotional impact that you need very high levels of ideological belief to override.
Harsh but mostly true, I think. Many social movements base their popularity on texts that are basically free-form poems. Eliezer, Moldbug, Ayn Rand, even the Sermon on the Mount :-)
cousin_it, if you're still paying attention- I'm curious why you think this about Eliezer.
Why Massimo Pigliucci thinks something like that
Got it. Thanks.
...or like women's suffrage or abolition!
...or like women's suffrage or abolition! Not all poetry is equally valid or has equally defensible aims.
What does it mean for poetry to be "valid"?
In fact, one is inclined to suspect that he adopted his lifestyle largely to spite his father.
Welcome back, old friend.

I think there is another reason SJWs (and others) may dislike “rationality” that is getting buried here:

  1. The author is not a good reasoner, and while arguing over these experiences, often says stupid things, and gets told ze is irrational

There is a difference between an argument not being phrased in a reasonable way and the argument itself being stupid. When my husband and I were first married I would win must of the arguments NOT because I was necessarily right (as later came to realize) but because I was a better rhetorician. I could lay out my case in an orderly fashion. I could work commonly agreed statements into my arguments. I could anticipate counter arguments and set-up to counter them. I could model possible external circumstances and present those that supported my view. This lead to a situation where my husband constantly felt steam rolled. He might not be able to articulate logical fallacies but he could feel the effects of his preferences constantly being overruled by mine. I needed to learn to back off and respect his views even if they weren’t phrased as elegantly as mine. Even though I could use a rationality is winning approach to maneuver the situation so th... (read more)

To the extent that some SJWs seem to want to say “I really, really want X,” and leave their argument at that, then rationality is irrelevant to them.

The problem is that some SJWs say "I really, really want you/everyone to do X" but the rest of the world is not married to them and is not particularly interested in their hedonic preferences. This means that they need to negotiate for what they want and at this point rationality jumps right back in.

"I really want X and don't care about anything else" is the attitude of a small child.

You are right that there is commonly an implicate argument for action on someone else’s part that is irrational. There was originally an argument from Mainline Protestantism* that somewhat bridged the gap from. But most SJWs don’t want the rest of the baggage from Christianity and so don’t want to examine that foundation. But SJWs do commonly carry forward as assumptions ideas like “true” desires aren’t going to be contradictory and therefor don’t need to be put in a hierarchy: In the meantime, the main audience that SJWs are talking to has the cultural value (inherited from Christianity) that we want to increase people’s happiness. So saying you want something, and therefore it would make you happy, is at least some small amount of weight in favor of that thing. *(God loves all humans greatly and as imitators of Christ we should love all humans too. Also Christ has redeemed people from their sins and therefore they are going to be (and already are in some non-manifest way) made perfect. Since they are made perfect, their deepest and truest desires will partake of the Good. The Good is non-self-contradictory and innately desirable. Therefore these “true” desires, which are in the process of being brought out in them by the grace of God, should be catered to.)
Interesting. Do you think it was a sort of convergent evolution or there's actually a traceable line of descent from this bit of Protestant theology to SJWs? Yes, but I read it as, basically, refusal to consider the consequences. It's like you make a list of what you want and pay no attention to the costs or likelihood or even whether things you like are compatible with each other. SJWs certainly do have utopian tendencies and utopias rarely tolerate close scrutiny. I think this value is deeper and more ancient that Christianity -- it's a consequence of being social animals. If I scratch your back, I make it more probable that you'll scratch mine when I need it. As long at the cost is not high, sure, whatever makes you happy. But I don't think that's what SJWs are all about.
Yes, they weren't the only influence but they were an influential and founding one. All the seven sisters have on going involvement with Social Justice today. There is certainly a lot of that, especially among the more extreme radicals, which Pham's article is certainly part of. But the reason this can flourish in the discourse community is that it is being buttressed from the side by a sort of 'men of good will can always come to a reasonable agreement' article of faith. Even though Pham themself would reject this believe the fact that others in this community hold it enables Pham's disregard of feasibility. This is one big contribution that Mainline Christianity has been making to Social Justice, providing cohesion with this sort of ballast. I would agree that this is an ancient value with regards to my family/my friends/my tribe , predicated on their continued acceptable behavior as members of the in group. But I'm doubtful about how far beyond that it would extend. In fact for those defiantly identified as out-group I would think it would be more "As long as the cost is not too high, whatever makes you miserable." Christianity, as part of its universalizing, had a founding goal of drawing all peoples, languages, and tribes into one family group. Treating everyone as brothers and sisters meant having a care for their happiness. I agree that SJWs don't seem very interested in making people happy (in fact I think this is one of those Moloch situations and everyone is actually producing unhappiness because of their incentives inside the situation) But SJWs do rely on general happiness goals in their audience. I do also think a lot of Social Justice thinking started out as a genuine desire to help people and make them happier, regardless of how that goal turned back on itself do to inconsistencies in other places in the philosophy.

'men of good will can always come to a reasonable agreement' article of faith

That's an interesting observation given that SJWs are very... forceful about separating everyone into sheep and goats. They have come to heavily depend upon the existence of "the enemy" fighting which constitutes most of their raison d'etre. There are, of course, parallels with the devil, but the machinations of Satan figure much more prominently in Catholicism and are (almost?) completely absent in the UU doctrine.

this is an ancient value with regards to my family/my friends/my tribe... But I'm doubtful about how far beyond that it would extend.

For low-cost help I think pretty far. Imagine yourself travelling in some non-Christian country where you are clearly not a native (say, China for most people here). You had a minor accident and you are standing at the side of the road over, say, a broken bike and bleeding from a minor gash. You think random strangers won't stop and help you?

I do also think a lot of Social Justice thinking started out as a genuine desire to help people and make them happier

I've come to realize that my view of SJ is insufficiently steely. Do you happen to know o... (read more)

Not sure if this guy is sufficiently SJW, but once in a while I notice him writing something smart. Here are some quotes: -- the sublime narcissism of getting offended on other people’s behalf -- I wonder why people are so angry -- in the simple foundation -- if you’re not careful who’s in and who’s out becomes the only question
The guy is criticizing them. Lots of liberals are uncomfortable with SJWs. I'm looking for a steelmanning, for someone to explain why they are doing the right thing (bonus points for linking it to Christianity or UU specifically).
In case you're still looking, I think you might find Chris Brecheen's "Social Justice Bard" blog edifying, though he doesn't connect social justice ideas to Christianity that I've seen. For that, some of the blogs on the Progressive Christian Channel at might help (Slacktivist is particularly social-justice-oriented), as well as some of the ones on the Atheist Channel whose authors are ex-Christians and still draw inspiration from what they see as Christianity's good points (e.g. Love Joy Feminism, Roll to Disbelieve and An Atheist in Dixie).
On a quick glance he seems enthusiastic and voluble (smartness TBD) and I don't really want to dig through his piles of content in the hope of finding a pearl or two. I'm looking not for a blog, but for a piece of text, a thoughtful write-up of reasonable size. An single essay, if you wish.
Looking at this blog I'm having trouble not coming to the conclusion that he's an idiot. Could you cite some of his posts you found particularly edifying? Original thread here.
Of course people of good will come to agree with them, isn't it self evident that if any normal person realizes here is someone who as had a life accident and is doing the emotional equivalent of bleeding, of course they would stop and help, giving what ever validation and encouragement that want. It's hard to imagine how anyone could think so callously. They must be down right evil and we don't want them around. Of course it's only a few people who are like that, most people just haven't realized there is really someone hurting in their feelings here, they will gather round to help and kick the few bad people out of decent society. Seriously, even though are plenty of instances of SJWs doing the normal human thing and lashing out with hurtful words and people they are angry at, I also think a lot of them would expect most people to agree with them, if only they understood. They see the specific small group they are targeting at the moment and think of that as the problem and don't step back and view the SJM as a whole and realize how many people are targets or potential targets. In a non-Christian country I would not expect the majority of people to stop and help me after an accident, though I would expect some. But I would expect more of the people who stopped to help to be think that I looked like a rich westerner at that either my high-status would boost theirs through even a brief association or that I was a good opportunity for a hustle. As for the reference req request, I don't know of any. This is possibly because I am not part of the SJM and don't know as much as an insider. But I can think of a couple of reasons such a reference might not exist. One is that generally the people in the movement don't want to examine their assumptions and open them up to criticism. Second is that, while from the outside the SJM is identifiable as a distinct thing, from within I think SJM just looks like the right way to act on liberalism writ large or the natural progress
The SJ movements tends to target what they see as large oppressive systems. Cis white men is not a particularly small group, for example. Or take the commonly expressed sentiment that everyone has a racist inside so we have to be constantly on guard and fight it (a very Christian notion, by the way). That's curious. I would encourage a bit of self-reflection about how you came to believe that :-/ To remove the "rich westerner" part, let's replace China with Japan, for example. That might be so, but given that I lack the inside view, I don't know. However the militant left-wing streak is just too strong to be compatible with straight XIX century liberalism...
To clarify I wouldn't expect most people in a Christian country to help without an alterative motive either. ( this study comes to mind though I think my option was formed more from general experience.) I have met a few people how genuinely like to help for helping's sake but I think a larger percentage need some additional motivation like an expectation of a likelihood of reciprocation or perceiving the person to be helped as in-group like. Also, I apologize but my dyslexia kicked in and I mis-read 19th canter as 21st century. If you're willing to settle for 21st century liberalism that is the intellectual foundation of social justice activism I have heard interesting things about "The Givingness of Things: Essay" though I haven't read it.
Why? Is there something special about non-Christians in this regard which makes them less likely to help you after an accident?
Well, Christianity, according to many traditional interpretations, involves an omniscient, omnipotent Observer who keeps tally of such good Samaritan-esque acts and provides a reward in a paradisaical life after death. This same Observer might also deny you entry into said paradise if you show a consistent disregard for the welfare of others. Seems to me this is a pretty rational reason why Christians, among others with similar metaphysical beliefs about the universe, might be more likely to help.
I see it as a set of originally well-meant goals that later spiralled into virtue-signalling competition. Now they run on the classical cultish behavioral patterns.
There is a simpler and stronger argument to that end from evolution.

To the extent that some SJWs seem to want to say “I really, really want X,” and leave their argument at that, then rationality is irrelevant to them.

Rationality is also irrelevant to my daughter, and for the same reason, as for example in this exchange:

Daughter: I want TV. Me: No more TV now. Daughter: But I want it!

This is rather a common 'argument' of hers; from the outside it looks like she models me as not having understood her preference, and tries to clarify the preference. To be sure, she has the excuse of being four.

I’m not saying that a little more rationality wouldn’t be helpful. I’m saying the pointing to this and saying it’s irrational and maybe stupid is not the most interesting thing that can be said about it. It is more fascinating to look for what is incentivizing the irrationality. There’s a very rational (in the sence of effective for getting what you want) negotiating tactic I heard about in one of Eric Flint’s books. The negotiator points at Crazy Joe muttering to himself in the corner and says ‘He and his friends are saying that if you don’t double their salaries they are not only going to strike, they’re going to be throwing rotten eggs at you come into the office and showing up at your house at midnight with bullhorns. But I know these people and can talk their language. I can get them to calm down. But you have to give me something in exchange. A ten percent raise doesn’t sound so crazy compared to double the salaries, does it? And besides, if you don’t make a deal with me, you’ll end up having to negotiate with Crazy Joe.’ And the business manager is so aghast by Crazy Joe’s demands that he ends up agreeing that ten percent is not as extreme as he first thought. The fact that there is a crazy extreme getting a lot of attention, can make the only rationally extreme seem moderate. This sort of tactic doesn’t have to be disingenuous, or even conscious. In fact, If you eject (or steam roll into moderation) too many people for being more extreme than you are, not only do you weaken your negotiating position, you can get evaporative cooling in the direction of agreeing with your opponent. Of course the people of the extreme extreme don’t need to know, and certainly can’t admit in public, that they are just being used to make other positions look good. When you combine that with the fact the SJWs have trouble coming to terms with the fact you can’t make everyone happy all of the time, the extreme extreme can spiral out of control in a way that is very hard to stop.
This is the difference between simple epistemic rationality (having good arguments) and the virtue of actuzlly being a good negotiator (and 'good' encompasses both a narrowly instrumental and an ethical viewpoint, as you've learned. Norms of all sorts and at all scales tend to align incentives - who would've thought!). But to the extent that good negotiation skills lead to good consequences for oneself, being a good negotiator is rational in an instrumental sense. Politics is really just the real-world art of negotiation writ large, so this sort of instrumental rationality (what some people would perhaps call 'the art of the deal') is nearly as important there.

Phil, I think you're falling into the trap you accuse Pham of: getting confused about words and how people use them. Like you've noticed, Pham doesn't use "rationality" to mean the same thing we do. From the article:

What if those imperialism-driven Europeans, all passionate and roused about Manifest Destiny, were encouraged to stop and reconsider whether their violent plans were rational? We might possibly have a world that isn’t filled to the brim with oppression.

In the article Pham vacillates between using "rational" to mean "reasonably likely to be achieved" and to mean "culturally acceptable". The point of their article is that being told that decolonization is "irrational" (i.e. unlikely to be achieved and/or unpopular) doesn't mean that people shouldn't pursue it as a goal. Let's call these definitions Pham.rationality. They, especially the second one, have very little to do with "representing an accurate picture of reality" or however you want to define LW.rationality.

But it isn't just a sign of how insane the social justice movement is—it has clues to how it got that way. The author came to hate "rationa

... (read more)
I think that you are being extremely generous to the author of the article, which would be a good thing, except that you are being extremely ungenerous to Phil. The most ungenerous part of this comment is when you say that this post does his reputation a disservice. Even if Phil has misunderstood the author, a great deal of the blame has to lie with the author who has written an article that could very easily be understood to be rejecting both kinds of rationality.
Criticizing the positions in the article would not be relevant to LessWrong. I posted this here for 2 reasons, and I pointed them both out: 1. It is of interest to LW as an indicator of the status of, and the level of, "rationality" in the social justice movement. I am always accused of straw-manning SJWs when I recount how they've actually behaved. This is a useful example to point to when accused of straw-manning. The author doesn't understand clearly what "rationality" means, but ze has learned to included under the umbrella of "rationality" everything I would call rationality. Ze is advocating irrational goals such as abolishing prisons and giving the land back to the Indians, and is saying the ze shouldn't defend these goals via rational argument. At this point, ze knows what ze's doing. 2. It suggests how Pham got zis prejudice against rationality, which I tried to explain, and which you noticed I tried to explain. So I don't see the problem. But thanks for commenting. Getting five downvotes on this immediately after posting is bizarre, and I'd appreciate explanations from other people, except most likely they're just part of an anti-PhilGoetz contingent. Without explanation, your downvotes do nothing except further convince me of the LessWrong community's irrationality and/or Machiavellan standards of behavior.

Getting five downvotes on this immediately after posting is bizarre, and I'd appreciate explanations from other people, except most likely they're just part of an anti-PhilGoetz contingent.

Having successfully asked for similar explanations before, I feel obligated to answer this. I downvoted this post because 1. the topic is known to be heavily mindkilling, 2. the post is devoid of the sort of context that might make it interesting, and 3. the motivation behind the post appeared to stem from a "My political enemies are Wrong on the Internet" mentality. I come here to get away from that sort of thing, not invite it.

Posting in Main did not help, although I think I would have downvoted it anyway.

For context, I don't attach any particular good or bad affect to you as PhilGoetz. I've seen both good and bad posts from you, although perhaps higher variance in that respect than most. This one seemed sufficiently trolly that I considered asking if someone had hijacked your account. It was only after checking your recent post history and noting this that I concluded it was probably legit. That suggests my opinion of you as a poster is considerably higher than my opinion of this ... (read more)

Getting five downvotes on this immediately after posting is bizarre

What's your prior probability for "at least five readers didn't like this article or didn't want to see a political discussion on LW"?

Without explanation, your downvotes do nothing except further convince me of the LessWrong community's irrationality and/or Machiavellan standards of behavior.

Nice try.

Getting five downvotes on this immediately after posting is bizarre, and I'd appreciate explanations from other people, except most likely they're just part of an anti-PhilGoetz contingent.

I didn't vote, but I considered downvoting because this article was somewhat short, about a touchy subject in a way that seemed unlikely to change minds, and had strange formatting (copied from the original article, probably).

I started to write a rebuttal and explanation of why I don't care to see this on LW, but then gave up and just downvoted. I try not to do so very often, but honestly it's happening more that it used to; I see something useless or irrelevant, and rather than taking the time to say why, I just downvote. Sorry. Now that I'm actually writing this, I guess I'll expand on my "useless or irrelevant" claim. I don't think LW is a reasonable community for the discussion of politics or specific in/out group behaviors. It's a fine place to talk about them in the abstract, and using SJ as examples would be fine, but that's not what this is. This is just "here's a group I disagree with, and here's an example of them being dumb".
When people arguing with VoiceOfRa got several downvotes in a row, the conclusion drawn was sockpuppets. So to be fair, lets assume there's an SJW with a sockpuppet army too. Now both sides can claim its just tit-for-tat.
There was substantially more evidence that VoiceOfRa was downvoting in a retributive fashion, including database evidence.
You are surprised? LW automatically downvotes polarizing/uncomfortable content and that goes double for anything that mentions SJWs. Or, to be a bit more precise, you are allowed here to make people uncomfortable with the scenario of a giant paperclip chasing them. But you are not allowed to make people uncomfortable about their tribal allegiances.

You are absolutely allowed to make me uncomfortable about my tribal allegiances. But you must do so by making a point and explaining what conclusions you are drawing from your examples.

8Jacob Falkovich8y
I would love to hear the evidence you have to back that very broadstatement. It sounds like you're against doing this yourself, and so am I, and so is Phil. That's 0/3 so far here. I upvoted Phil's post about word per person and rigor because it was an interesting and novel idea backed by actual research and analysis (whether I agree with it or not). I downvoted this post because it's a trite idea backed by no analysis other than taking word definitions out of context. If you really feel that LW is now entirely populated by people who wage petty wars over tribal grievances (like 90% of the rest of the internet), then what are you still doing here?
Except for the post itself being -6/+1 at the moment... That's not what I said and adding straw to the discussion does not make it better.
Presenting proof that denouncing reason is acceptable within the social justice community isn't an "idea". It's data. That in itself is worth a post.
No, that was a single post/article and so an anecdote or an example. In any case, your conclusion seems obvious and self-evident to me, but we probably have different expectations with respect to SJWs...
I don't think LW is a hotbed of SJW activity. I could be wrong.
Mentioning SJWs is a microaggression and tends to trigger some individuals :-P
I hope someone will use "trigger warning: Clippy" in one of those articles.
I want an avatar of a smiling paperclip with bloody ends, like it just stabbed someone.

I would just like to note / point out that "SJW" is not a particularly neutral way to refer to the group of people in question -- it smuggles in (at least for some readers, and I suspect for most) a distinctly negative connotation about the group described.

Obviously if that's your intention, then by all means use the language you prefer; but if some of the commenters didn't mean it that way, and are just trying neutrally discuss a movement, I'd encourage picking a different term for it. (I normally say "the social justice movement".)

I will borrow from Error's very apt disclaimer in another comment, and note that my feelings toward the movement in question are more or less neutral -- "an affect borne of opinions that cancel out rather than a simple lack of same."

Perhaps that connotation is because of the group in question? I dislike playing word games, the words we use should be interchangeable if they refer to the exact same thing. It's kind of like how we went from Negroes to Black to African Americans in an attempt to combat racism, but the racism was the problem, not bad words, and it only gets confusing when you word police. I was talking to some social justice types before the term was used in a derogatory way online and they described themselves that way, and the first place I saw it online was as a self-description of those groups. Words get loaded with bad affect because people have negative thoughts about the thing being referred to. I think any decision to use a new word that predates changing the thing to which we are referring is premature.

Or, y'know, because people who call themselves these words do bad things.
I was trying not to kick the bees nest too hard, but I agree with you, doing bad things does tend to make people think bad things about you.
Someone told me yesterday that airline stewards don't want to be called stewards anymore; they want to be called, I think, flight attendants. The funny thing is that "steward" used to mean a very high-ranking individual, the person who ran a great lord's estate. The airline industry used it for their stewardesses to artificially inflate their status. Over time, the role, at least in the opinion of flight attendants, degraded the word, until they didn't want it anymore.
The thing is, there used to be very few airline stewards but a lot of stewardesses. Back in those ancient days when jet travel was an upper-class thing the airline stewardesses were supposed to be pretty girls. And no, I don't think the word "stewardess" implied any high status. Great lord's estate or no, a steward is still a servant (Gondor notwithstanding). The change to "flight attendant", IMHO, was done to eliminate the gender reference.
Wow, I find that really surprising; I am hardly in tune with the "proper" terms one should use these days, but the flight attendant thing has been second nature to me for at least 10 years, and thought it was for everybody. I'd be really curious as to why you only became aware of it recently; do you not fly very often? I want to stress that I am not criticizing you or anything, my curiosity is just piqued.
Yeah, I've noticed that when the word used for something is intentionally changed, oftentimes it is because the thing being referred to is viewed negatively by many. In addition, once the new word has widespread adoption, use of the old word is a signal that you indeed do view what it refers to negatively. A recent example is some politician who talked about what the NAACP should do if they wanted to help "colored" people; it was widely derided as a racist statement, even though he was simply expanding part of the acronym of the organization he was referring to. Similarly, afaik the word "retarded" was not considered pejorative back when it was in common use (nor was "idiot" a long time before that). The fact that "black" is still perfectly acceptable even after the introduction of "African American" gives me hope that there is a recognition that race relations are markedly improved.
Really? I thought it was a self-identified term trying to smuggle in positive connotations, at least among the ingroup. I mean, justice is good, right, and who doesn't want to be a warrior... I don't really know any of those people so I defer, but I tend to prefer the overlapping (but not identical) term "Bigoteer" to strip "SJW"'s -positive- connotation, though the fact I have never wanted to keep a positive connotation exposes my bias.
I'm not sure about its origins, but in the MSM I've only seen the term described as something members of the "alt-right" use to describe the group in question (obviously in a pejorative way), so generally when I use the term I enclose it in scare quotes (as I evidently do with "alt-right" for some reason), as I do not want to improperly signal that I hold certain beliefs.
Hmm, I'd previously thought it was always a pejorative term; now (after checking out Wikipedia) I have the impression that it was originally a positive self-identification, now primarily pejorative in modern usage. So I don't really know what to think about it it anymore.
They've done a really good job of making it a pejorative. Anything's a slur if you hate them enough.
How about SJM? I want a noun, not a long noun phrase. Why did the description change from "civil rights" to "social justice"?
Social justice is about culture, not just legal rights.
It's the change from second wave feminism to third wave feminism.

I think it is worth pointing out that the article selected for 'review' is not entirely typical of the site (most articles seem to discuss lived experience, activism activities and how to get by in unfriendly circumstances rather than philosophy or logic per se).

Additionally, the Facebook thread for the article has a lot of discussion, dominated (in my view) by self-described "SJW"s who had big problems with the anti-rationality stance of the article and made strong arguments in favour of logic and reason.

This article show that the bias of some

... (read more)

Here is an interesting personal account of a someone who was a Social Justice Warrior but then escaped (while still remaining a leftist social democrat). Sample:

This particular brand of politics begins with good intentions and noble causes, but metastasizes into a nightmare. In general, the activists involved are the nicest, most conscientious people you could hope to know. But at some point, they took a wrong turn, and their devotion to social justice led them down a dark path. Having been on both sides of the glass, I think I can bring some painful bu

... (read more)
Are they still purported to be the "nicest, most conscientious people you could hope to know" after "they took a wrong turn"? Does it? What evidence do we have for that?
The link is to an account by an "escapee" from SJ. As such, it's a personal account, it does not claim to be an "objective" or an outside view.
Could you be more explicit about what's funny here? (I'm pretty sure "Absolutely nothing wrong since 1911" is meant to be funny and is not at all a serious claim to have committed no mistakes or misdeeds in a century.)
Oh dear, explaining jokes... What I find funny is the juxtaposition of two elements. One element is clearly a playful light-natured wink-wink claim of "Oh, no, we certainly haven't been up to no good, how could you possibly think that". It implies both some misdeeds and not taking oneself very seriously. The other element is dead serious, expresses guilt and wish for atonement, and would probably find humour on the topic to be inappropriate and in bad taste. I like how these two elements stand together.
Yeah, I know. Sorry! Aha, gotcha. My guess at what you had in mind was some way off base. Thanks. (I happen not to find it so funny, but if there's one thing less fun than explaining a joke it's explaining why a joke doesn't work for you so I'll leave it there :-).)

I've heard mentioned before, and I think its meant to be a more mainstream feminist site - thus the name.

(The link from "decolonization" is to "Decolonization is not a metaphor", to make it clear s/he means actually giving the land back to the Native Americans.)

And they are arguing for ethnic cleansing.

I think it is interesting that what we call the far-right and the mainstream(ish) left are using almost isomorphic (meaning structurally identical) arguments. I've met people openly advocating for Maoist revoluti... (read more)

There is probably some clever "ethnic cleansing = ethnic cleansing plus privilege" argument that makes it okay. :( This is called "horseshoe theory". I suspect the reason behind this observation is that there are some psychological traits that make people enjoy extreme versions of political opinions, regardless of the political direction, so all extremes will be inhabited by people who are psychologically similar to each other; and then they will converge on similar ideas about what should be done. Alternatively, this is simply our corrupted hardware which is programmed by evolution to manifest in situations where we have sufficient political power. But because the society today is much larger than in our ancestral environment, this behavior may appear prematurely -- when we are surrounded by a group of fellow believers sufficiently large than in the ancient tribe of 150 members they would be a knockdown force. Then we suddenly realize that the best course of action would be to kill our opponents and threaten all neutrals into submission.
The horseshoe theory (also known by a variety of other names) can be explained simpler by pointing out that some people are really interested in power and both extreme left and extreme right share that interest. If you arrange political movements by their degree of statism, for example, you'll find anarcho-libertarians on one end and both communists and nazis bunched up on the other end.
Yeah, I like horseshoe theory too. Like most good ideas, it isn't new. It's a rediscovery of Voegelin's "political religions", Eric Hoffer's "mass movements", etc. You can probably find it in Plato if you dig hard enough.
X-0 Out of morbid curiosity, any links to SJ sites which do not strive to be mainstream and where SJWs can say what they really think? The world needs a final solution to cleanse it of the parasitic plague of white cis het men!

First, "Social justice" is a broad and very diverse movement of people wanting to reduce the amount of (real or perceived) injustice people face for a variety of reasons (skin color, gender, sexual orientation, place of birth, economical position, disability, ...). Like in any such broad political movement, subparts of the movement are less rational than others.

Overall, "social justice" is still mostly a force of reason and rationality against the most frequent and pervasive forms of irrationality in society, which are mostly religion-b... (read more)

Overall, "social justice" is still mostly a force of reason and rationality against the most frequent and pervasive forms of irrationality in society

Citation needed.

it might be very rational to make irrational demands

This is true. But then are you claiming that the irrational demands we are discussing in this thread are the result of such gaming of negotiations or dark-arting of the memesphere?

Are you living in the same universe as me or have the LW admins enabled some kind of cross-branch commenting capability and you're here from an alternate reality?
True, inasmuch as almost all modern worldviews may be called 'a byproduct of the Enlightenment'. It certainly applies to Marxism, which SJ is a fairly direct successor of.

Hi. LessWrong purports to be about decision theory, cognitive psychology, behavioral economics, and a whole hell of a lot of Bayesian statistics. It also purports to have a policy that "Politics is the Mind-Killer".

Since this post does not belong to any of the normal LW topics, and appears very very angry in a distinctly mind-killy way, I'm downvoting it.

It would perhaps be considered appropriate content on Rationalist Tumblr or /r/slatestarcodex. Enjoy your flame-war -- somewhere else.

Changing social conventions has a cost. When we extend social justice beyond respect for difference that people have no choice over, such as race or sex, to roles that they choose, such as religion or gender, the justification for allowing everyone to defy any particular social convention must be a rational cost-benefit assessment. Many people enjoy the ritual interactions specified by social roles; they are part of their identities and one of their terminal values.

Not to mention that many social conventions serve a purpose beyond people enjoying them.

should abolish prisons, police, and the American settler state

Maybe they should just create an SJW state somewhere, with no prisons, police, cishet males or white cis females? I'm all for empiricism on this one! I'm sure it'd be a world renowned centre of excellence for postmodernism and gender studies, as well as being economically vibrant and politically stable.

No gay men either, they are insufficiently oppressed.
oops sorry I should have checked my privilege, yes homosexual cis males will be cast out of SJWtopia too.

Meta-comment here. Fighting about Social Justice is just about the least Less Wrong thing I can think of. But on the other hand this post has a billion comments at a time when Less Wrong is kind of dying.

Any port in a storm?

he's an idiot

The juxtaposition between that and your username made me smile.

(I still haven't read that blog so it's quite possible I would agree, anyway.)

Cultural Revolution = SJWs + "Lord of the Flies"

Imagine the current student protests, except that they would happen during a revolution, so instead of getting teachers fired you could simply hang them and no one outside the school would really care. The accounts of Cultural Revolution that I have read were pretty much this.

Cultural revolutionaries had the options that SJWs currently don't have. (Similarly how current neo-Nazis don't put people into gas chambers, because they don't live in an environment where they would be allowed to build the gas chambers. That doesn't make them mentally different.)


I don't usually upvote top-level discussion posts but I'll lend you one upvote until you break even.

This is an important topic of discussion. I reckon your downvotes are because of your subpar formatting.

Based on my experiences as a marginalized person, being rational just means going easy on my oppressors.


How else would you format it?
Have less big font quotes. Unless, like I sometimes do, you're intentionally trying to filter out people from your audience without the patience to search for meaning in discordant font sizes in order to maximise the quality of your responses.
I don't see any big font quotes. You must have different fonts. I really wish the LW editor would strip font specifications out of the HTML when I do a paste into its editor. It's a huge pain in the ass to remove them from the HTML by hand. I used vim to remove the remaining font specifications just now.

Until someone demonstrates the utility of engaging in criticism of particular political groups, I will continue to treat it as noise.

We already know out groups don't use the word rationality the way we do. We also know that assuming others share our information and frame of reference is an error. There is no new information here.

a "good Trojan" is one who exhibits heroic virtues, of course, that makes it especially heroic for a Greek to kill him.

That's just a way of saying that Trojans are full player characters in the Iliad (and that is the key reason why their heroism matters and why killing a 'good Trojan' is seen as a true achievement), whereas Germans - good or bad - are just NPCs.

In that case, you appear to have no idea how most people behave.

I'll take your opinion under consideration.

Well, not really.

the Illiad


Arabian knights

Ain't no such thing.

the bahavior of modern gangs

And what percentage of modern society is a gang member?

I believe you meant

Your belief is mistaken.

Your usernames are getting lamer and lamer, Eugene.

Really, which bias are you referring to.

The bias of believing (to various degrees) that your in-group is children of the light and your out-group is the spawn of darkness.

Well, a lot of atheists are amoral.

A lot of people are amoral. So what?

Whose ingroup around here do you think is Christians?

Ok, define "bigotry",

Negative beliefs about a group of people based on weak evidence, and actions that derive from such beliefs, particularly when the group is defined by a characteristic that is difficult or impossible to change.

also explain why "bigotry" as you just defined it is a bad thing.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Claims that are similar to ones that have been proven false in the past and have led to lots of human misery count as extraordinary for these purposes.

And then you use this as an excuse to ignore any negative evidence.
And then you use this as an excuse to ignore any negative evidence.

during the period in question

During which period? SJ is a recent phenomenon, post-civil-rights movement for certain. And to believe the glorious Chinese utopia you had to make a real effort to not notice things.

Hey, I'm trying to explain my understanding of why leftists do what they do.

Well, there is enough evidence to conclude that at least some Maoists were, in fact, driven by the desire for power. Do you have any pointers to writings by UU luminaries where they express the idea that the intensity of emotion is a good way to distinguish whether it... (read more)

ADDED, since I'm 50 karma in the hole anyway:

In for a dime, in for a dollar!

Yes, and look at the implicit morals that the fiction assumes.

Yes, and..?

You didn't have to go that far back. Pretty much most WW2 fiction books assume the peak of morality is to kill as many Germans as possible. So?

If you restrict to the ghetto classes.

Do rednecks qualify? What about white trash? X-) Or let's go global. Do you think Chinese peasants are particularly sophisticated people? India's slum dwellers?

And why would they do that?


By implication, m most compelling argument is violence.

The usual problem with violence is that when you start using it, others may reciprocate. And then suddenly things stop being so funny.
* The usual problem with communication is that when you start using it, others may reciprocate. And then suddenly things stop being so funny. * The usual problem with satire is that when you start using it, others may reciprocate. And then suddenly things stop being so funny. * The usual problem with identifying usual problems is that when you start using it, others may reciprocate. And then suddenly things stop being so funny.
Yeah, the point was that most people really dislike the idea of violence used against them. Especially those who write long texts complaining about "microaggressions". Yet, it's as if they somehow fail to realize that the easiest way to invite violence on themselves is to promote social norms that encourage violence (of course only against the other side, but this is the part that can easily get out of control).
It's no coincidence that, according to the forerunner of 'social justice' activists, 'power flows from the barrel of a gun'. But then we don't like guns these days; they've become uncool, I guess.

tries to include at least one "good German".

And do you believe that in Iliad all Trojans are fully bad guys and gals..?

since they don't have an a priori reason to distrust them

Um, they don't..? As in, entirely unfamiliar with Chairman Mao and his ways?

such passion means the Maoist-types are expressing their "true desires"

That assertion strongly smells of straw.

What does social justice even stand for these days? It sounds like a noble cause but it's also somewhat unrefined.

I like to think of it as the newest incarnation of Mao Zedong Thought. Complete with grandiose claims about 'bourgeois privilege'; demands for an actively enforced 'Great Cultural Revolution' sweeping away all that's old and encrusted with so much bias and oppression; and a deeply puzzling attitude of almost complete fascination with the 'movement' by some portions of Western academia. (Remember, Pol Pot actually studied in freakin' Paris!)
Maybe except that there is less emphasis on economical privilege, because... surprise, surprise... it costs a lot of money to get education in "oppression studies" at an expensive university, and also people with connections are more welcome in media. This is why using a wrong pronoun is a supreme evil, but someone starving to death is just "meh". Okay, that's a bit exaggerated, but the idea is that only the bad things that can also happen to rich people are considered real problems. For example, a rich black person can still be a target of racism, which is why there is an emphasis on racism; but a rich person is unlikely to starve, which is why there is no emphasis on starvation.
This does not seem to me like an accurate description of the thinking of the people I know who are "social justice" types. They tend to make a big deal of economic privilege and oppression. Contra bogus, though, although they certainly tend to be leftist there's nothing particularly Maoist about them. There may of course be a substantial difference between people writing about "social justice" in the media, and random individuals who consider themselves part of the social justice movement.
Imagine a poor cishet white man. In Marxism, he would be among the archetypal examples of the oppressed. In Maoism... well, I am not very familiar with Maoism. But in SJW-ism, he would be considered a privileged oppressor. When I see SJWs mentioning poverty, as far as I remember, the poverty is always framed as something that happens to women or black people or trans people etc. Like it is just another injustice that happens to people who are already disadvantaged along some of the recognized axes. Instead of being a standalone axis, a cause of disadvantage. (In other words, it is never "poor people have it bad", but it could be "women have it bad, especially poor women" etc.) You are allowed to complain that there are too many male CEOs. You are allowed to complain that women only make cents for each dollar men make. But you should never compare a poor man with a rich woman (unless your point is that the poor man is still more privileged).
I also know about Maoism only what I find on the internet. And what I find on the internet doesn't indicate to me that Maoists were dramatically less concerned about economic (in)justice than other Marxists, and certainly doesn't suggest any particular similarity between "social justice" and Maoism. The most distinctive social preference of the Maoists seems to have been for rural agrarians over urban intellectuals, which really doesn't seem to line up with anything in present-day "social justice". It's true that Mao said that women should be treated equally with men, but that's hardly unique to Maoism. I just had a look back at posts from the two SJWiest people I'm friends with on Facebook, and it looks to me as if their look-at-these-oppressed-people comments cover (e.g.) women, gay people, trans people, poor people, people in poor countries, people whose religion others around them don't like. So no, they aren't cookie-cutter Marxists, but I don't see that they're any more Maoists than they are Marxists. (And honestly, this whole discussion seems rather odd to me. "Social justice is just warmed-over Maoism!" "Really? Show me how it's Maoist." "Well, look, here's a way in which it isn't typical of Marxism." Huh?)
Look, not only are there basic similarities (For instance, Maoism was the first variety of Marxism to really put cultural concerns at the forefront. People dispute whether 'cultural Marxism' is actually a thing and I think you can argue this either way, but there's no disputing that the 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution' really was called that and that Mao argued for it on Marxist grounds) but there is in fact a clear cultural lineage from Maoism to student movements in Western Europe starting from the late 1960s and extending into the 1970s and 1980s, to modern 'Social Justice'-ish theorizing as that generation gradually rose up the academic totem pole. It's not something that there's serious controversy about.
The example you give is that Maoism made a big deal of "cultural concerns". I find this less than convincing. Not least because Maoism's cultural concerns do not seem to have been at all the same as those of "social justice". E.g., the avowed aim of that "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" appears to have been to purge China of capitalism and to put Mao loyalists in charge. Its famous Sixteen Points don't say anything about any of the themes that dominate "social justice" discourse -- sexism, racism, etc. You started off with "I like to think of it as ...". Now apparently it's the expert consensus. Can you tell me where to find evidence of this consensus? I'd have thought, e.g., that if it were uncontroversial that present-day "social justice" is basically a variety of Maoism then something like Wikipedia's article on social justice would at least mention Mao somewhere. It doesn't. (It does mention Marx, but only in the specific context of "liberation theology".)
Wikipedia has a neutrality policy, so they're not going to say "SJ is just warmed-over Maoism" or anything like that. But, again, it's simply not controversial that student protest movements starting in the late 1960s looked up to Maoism as a sort of utopia and were heavily influenced by it. And it's not even under dispute that, in many ways, current "social justice" theorizing and practices are rooted in the attitudes of these same social movements. These assertions may not be mentioned in Wiki, but they're common knowledge among people who are reasonably informed about such things; and sources to this effect could be found quite easily, e.g. by perusing these movements' printed or otherwise preserved output.
No, but they might reasonably be expected to say something like "It is widely agreed that the history of the social justice movement can be traced back to a Maoist movement among students in the United States in the late 1960s" or something of the kind. If that's true, that is. If you mean that some student protest movements did, I bet you're right. If you mean that most or all did, I bet you're wrong. If you mean that some, including in particular ones that are responsible for the present state of the social justice movement did, then I'm afraid I'm going to repeat my request for some actual evidence that it isn't controversial. (For the avoidance of doubt: I am not saying you're wrong. I am saying I don't know enough about the relevant history to know whether you're right or not, and that merely telling me repeatedly that what you're saying is uncontroversial doesn't convince me.) Let's just be clear about what claim it is you originally made: So far, what you've offered in support of this is: * Pol Pot studied in Paris. * Maoism was concerned with culture, and "social justice" is about culture. * Maoism and "social justice" both complain about "bourgeois privilege". * Maoism and "social justice" both want to sweep away things that are old and encrusted with bias and oppression. * (Some?) student protest movements in the late 1960s admired Maoist China. * There is some as-yet-unspecified link between these movements and present-day "social justice". This seems to me to fall outrageously short of saying that present-day "social justice" is an incarnation of Maoism. And many of these claims seem very doubtful in themselves. E.g., "bourgeois privilege": so far as I can tell, the Maoists weren't much interested in the sort of "privilege" social justice folks complain about, and the social justice folks aren't much concerned with bourgeoisie versus proletariat (or versus any other particular group). There just isn't much actual similarity there.
Eh, it's not likely that you would find overt Maoism among radical U.S. students. Such attitudes were common in Western Europe however, and by all evidence they filtered over in a derivative form. Even in a possible world where your wording was correct, however, it would simply be too controversial and 'non-NPOV' for Wikipedia to include. Wikipedia is not faultless; it's a product of writing-by-commitee and this shows in any politically contentious article. This is not that surprising to me. It often happens that acquiring high-quality, reliable evidence is just too expensive to bother, and thus one must stop short of fully-assured knowledge. However, in this case, a simple application of Occam's Razor would tell you that if Maoist-influenced attitudes were nearly ubiquitous among Marxist student protesters from the 1960s onwards, and these Marxist protesters are responsible for much of the popularization of Marxism in Western countries since then (especially in academic environments, as opposed to e.g. labor unions!), and modern SJ theorizing is heavily reliant on Marxist theory and was gradually developed in the relevant time period, maybe this makes my earlier claim at least plausible if not overly likely. If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck, we generally assume it's a duck, not a zebra.
Just to be clear, that was intended as an example of the sort of thing one might expect to find, not a claim about what specific thing ought to be there. Very true indeed, which is why thought you might like to suggest some better sources. (Which so far you have not done, preferring to rely on repeated assertions that what you say is uncontroversial.) Wikipedia is usually not so faulty as to completely omit any mention of what is in fact the expert consensus about the topic of a given article. Still, it can happen, usually as a result of a big fight on the article's talk page. So let's have a look there. ... No mention of Mao or Maoism. A few mentions of Marx, none of them asserting that the SJ movement is Marxist (either in origin or in present content). So now what you're asking me to believe is that important assertion X about topic Y is uncontroversial, but is not even mentioned anywhere in the Wikipedia article on Y or on its talk page. Again, I wholeheartedly agree that Wikipedia is far from perfect; but it usually does a decent job of reflecting expert consensus and when it doesn't it usually attracts a whole lot of controversy on that point. (I have looked elsewhere too, though I admit entirely on the internet -- the only really relevant books on my own shelves are too old to tell us much about contemporary "social justice". I have not yet found anything agreeing with your claim that SJ is the newest incarnation of Mao Zedong Thought.) You keep throwing out these long chains of poorly-supported guilt by association and apparently hoping they will be convincing. But so far you haven't said anything about Maoism and "social justice" that looks any stronger than obvious parallel arguments linking, say, Roman Catholicism to present-day "social justice". Is your notion of "incarnation" broad enough for the same movement to be an incarnation of both Maoism and Catholicism?
It certainly is. Whether it's Marxist/Maoist doctrine or Catholic social doctrine (or perhaps both, for that matter) that is of significant influence in present-day SJ circles/communities is an empirical question, and one which (in my view) has a clear answer. Edited to add: As it happens, I was seriously bored so I actually went looking for sources which could corroborate the extent of Maoist influence in radical-leftist student activism from the 1960s onwards. Man, this stuff makes for dry reading: The Rise and Fall of Maoism: The English Experience: [And it keeps going for page after page after page] (This article too includes extensive commentary. Note that both of these articles are in fact quite critical about the widespread Maoist turn, viewing it as a distraction from their preferred orthodoxy of either Marxism-Leninism or Trotskyism. Thus, they would not be biased to exaggerate its importance)
Ah. Then I think I must be misunderstanding what you mean by "incarnation". I mean, Maoism and Catholicism have rather little in common, and at least some of what they do -- e.g., a certain taste for centralized authority -- is not exactly prominently found in SJ thought. So what can I actually infer about present-day "social justice" advocates or their opinions from the fact (assuming it to be one) that present-day "social justice" is an incarnation of Maoism? Thanks for digging up some sources. But I'm afraid they don't seem to me to bear much on the point actually at issue, and so far as they do they provide as much evidence against as for your position. * The first document is a history of Maoism among English communists. It makes, so far as I can see, no claim that Maoism was ever dominant within English communism, nor that it was ever dominant among English communist student movements. (Still less that it was dominant among English student movements per se, which is the claim you made.) * You'll also notice that in one of the bits you quoted it says that all of those radical student groups of 1968 "withered or perished within a year or two as the idea of a central role for student radicalism itself faded". That doesn't sound to me like a description of something with the strength of social influence you're claiming. * Later on (p.48) here is what the author says about Hardial Bains's "Internationalists", the subject of two of the paragraphs you quoted: "They operated on the fringes of the radical student movement." p.49: "The lack of critiques of the Internationalists trend among the British Marxist-Leninists is partly because they were never taken seriously as part of the 'movement'". * The document is very long, very boring, and poorly organized, so I may well have missed something important. But it reads to me like a history of a fringe movement within a fringe movement, and I don't see anything in it supporting the idea that Maoism was near
Well, you could have a movement that mixed both attitudes, and in theory SJ could be like that. It doesn't seem to be, though. Whether (1) student protesters are actively self-identifying as Maoists, and/or (2) student protesters are viewed as having a central role in radicalism are very different questions than (3) are Maoist ideas (such as the broad view of the Cultural Revolution) actually important in student radicalism. When the articles talk about Maoism 'declining', it's quite clear that they mean some combination of (1) and (2). They're not actively interested in (3). Student radicalism is a fairly complicated thing, but let's just say that there's no clear evidence that Maoist ideas declined in sense (3). To some extent, this distinction also explains why the first article tends to treat Maoism as a 'fringe of a fringe'; it too cares a lot more about (e.g. political) self-identification than ideas, and even then it can't help making it clear that Maoist ideas became really popular, comparatively.
I think this is true to the exact same extent as when they talk about Maoism being a big deal in student activism in the late 1960s they mean some combination of (1) and (2) and are not interested in (3). It didn't make that clear to me. (I guess it depends on what you mean by "comparatively".) Do you intend to (1) explain just what you mean by saying that present-day "social justice" is an incarnation of Maoism and/or (2) offer some actual evidence that it is, that bears on that question more directly than observing that 40 years ago some student protesters were Maoists, or that Pol Pot studied in ("freaking") Paris? If so, I'm all ears. If not, I'm tapping out now.
Really? Why would the first document then go to the trouble of saying that "[t]he lack of an industrial base for the majority of Marxist Leninists throughout the 60s and 70s i[s n]ot surprising ... ", i.e. that most Marxist-Leninists at the time did not think that the working-class base as it existed then was important, and then go on to talk about students and the Little Red Book? That's hardly what the article would say if its only point was, uh, "some student protesters were Maoists" - the authors care about Maoism precisely because it was popular and indeed influential. You're seriously underestimating its importance there - and, e.g. the United Kingdom section of Wikipedia's article on student activism makes it clear that the movements discussed in that document were of general importance. But again, very similar things were going on in other Western European countries, particularly France - Marx, Mao, Marcuse! is described as a common slogan in the May 1968 events there. I've answered these concerns in a previous comment. The SJW movement shares with Maoism both a broad, general worldview, which is actually fairly well-reflected in the first document (e.g. the ideas of "great cultural revolution" and ideologically-driven "self-criticism" as preeminent, and as an antidote to the perceived vacuousness, oppression and degradation of both petty-bourgeois "consumer life" and "egocentric", "privileged student life" - a means of truly "serving the people" by revolutionizing not just a single political movement but society as a whole) and actual historical heritage since, as it happens, the movement itself gradually developed as a direct result of left-wing student radicalism starting from the late 1960s.
I'm not sure I understand your question. Taking it bit by bit: * "i.e., that most Marxist-Leninists at the time did not think that the working-class base as it existed then was important" * You introduce this with "i.e.", but it doesn't seem to me like it means the same thing as the author means by "the lack of an industrial base for the majority of Marxist Leninists". I think his claim isn't that they didn't think the working-class base was important, but that although they proclaimed its importance they were out of touch with actual working-class people and didn't have a good model of their real needs and wants. * "and then go on to talk about students and the Little Red Book" * He doesn't. This section is not about students, and I see no reason to think the people he's talking about waving the Little Red Book were students. * That's hardly what the article would say if its only point was, uh, "some student protesters were Maoists" * I am not claiming that the only point of this document is "some student protesters were Maoists". In particular, most of the document is not about student protesters, and the bit you're quoting from is not about student protesters and tells us nothing about how many student protesters were Maoists or how heartfelt their Maoism was. * "the authors care about Maoism precisely because it was popular and indeed influential" * The author cares about Maoism because he was a leading Maoist during the period the article describes. * "the United Kingdom section of Wikipedia's article on student activism" * ... doesn't in fact say anything about Maoism being important. It says that from the 1930s on lots of socialist societies (of all kinds) were formed at universities. It names two particular groups formed in 1966, neither of which appears to have been Maoist. And it talks about some particular protests (e.g., the tearing down of the LSE gates, about which our document says "the Left was not actually strong enough to shape
This is a good description of any social movement. As the newest blogpost from SSC rightly states, 'The Ideology Is Not The Movement', and most movements are largely "about" socialization and tribal attitudes as opposed to their ideological focal points. Nevertheless, when discussing what is distinctive about a social movement, particularly in the goals it pursues, ideology starts mattering quite a bit. And in the absence of further evidence, this would be a good default guess. Now, scientists tend to be a pretty diverse mix when it comes to religious attitudes, so we can conclude that modern physics does not have much to do with religion either way, even though historically it did originate in a religious milieu. But current SJW activism seems to be a lot less like modern physics, and a lot more like, um, Bible study or sermon writing. Are they? Sure, the modern SJWs have their own laundry-list of concerns - mostly derived from the Frankfurt School (which ironically was fairly conservative in its own social outlook - this is why the conspiracy theorists who want to implicate it are quite wrong) and the Marcuse-influenced 'New Left'. Their basic attitude is pretty much the same however - get rid of everything that's 'old' and 'traditional' ("the old ideas, culture, customs, and habits" - the Four Olds) as something per-se linked to "the exploiting classes" (or, more generally, "oppression!") which has "poisoned the minds of the people for thousands of years" - and "transform education, literature and art, and all other parts of the superstructure that do not correspond" to the desired system and worldview. This is not something that conspiracy-theorists wrote about "SJWs", "Cultural Marxism!" or "the Frankfurt School", even though it certainly sounds like it. It's how people actually thought at the time. This is obviously true, and I'm not suggesting that these movements have steadfastly subscribed to the totality of Maoism. But the influence was nonetheless sign
Which is why I said it's "more or less what you'd expect" :-). In some important respects, yes. But, more specifically, I don't see current SJ activists studying the Little Red Book or preaching sermons about the superiority of rural farmers over urban brain-workers. I don't, that is, see a whole lot of actual Maoism. Which would seem to me to be a relevant thing to look for, when deciding whether present-day "social justice" is just "the newest incarnation of Mao Zedong Thought". But it seems that what you mean by "the newest incarnation of" is just "shares a few features with, and has some very indirect historical connections with". In which case: meh, whatever, call it that if you like, but your terminology seems odd to me. That was an explicit cry of the Maoists; it does not appear to me to be an explicit cry of the SJ activists. And in actual fact both movements had/have particular old things they want to get rid of, and they are not the same particular old things. Suppose we made a list of old traditional things in middle-class American culture (the environment where SJ mostly exists). The list might indeed include ideas about race and gender and sexuality that the SJ movement wants to overturn. It would also, I think, include a whole lot of things it doesn't. For instance, perhaps the biggest traditional shibboleths in US political culture are "democracy" and "freedom"; SJ activists are generally strongly for democracy, and while they aren't so enthusiastic about freedom -- there are all kinds of things they would like to be banned -- my impression is that that's not because of any (overt or covert) dislike of freedom as such; there are just other conflicting things they care about more. Traditional middle-class American culture (hereafter TMCAC) is big on "family", meaning an opposite-sex couple with 2.5 children and a dog, living in a detached house in the suburbs. SJ activists will complain bitterly about the idea that that's a norm everyone should b
I agree about this, but what matters in this case is not whether this is an explicit cry of them, but whether it's a good description of their activities, balancing parsimony with the possibility of error. In this case, SJWs have "called out" and railed about things as diverse and seemingly unconnected as Ovid's Metamorphoses, Halloween festivities and a host of "microaggressions" and other sins supposedly committed by professors, invited speakers, and fellow students. Surely there must be a point at which we have to conclude that this movement is not simply 'trying to influence culture' in its preferred direction, but is leaning all-the-more towards a largely futile quest to remake it from the ground up. Of course even the cultural revolutionnaires were somewhat limited in their effects; they did not after all dismantle the family as an institution or destroy the ancient Terracotta Army. But most people would nonetheless consider theirs a very distinctive "sociopolitical movement". It makes some sense to ponder why, and to what extent that 'distinctiveness' may indeed be shared.
Sure. (Actually, I think there is an important difference between a movement that says, in so many words, "throw away everything old and traditional" and one that isn't willing to be explicit about that. But I'm happy to leave that aside.) And the way it looks to me is not that the SJ movement wants to be rid of classical literature and traditional festivities, but that it wants classical literature taught, and traditional festivities celebrated, in ways that don't upset certain groups in certain ways. Maybe that's a great idea, maybe it's a terrible one. But it's a long way from saying "out with everything that's old". The sort of "cultural appropriation" some university groups were complaining about at Halloween are actually a relatively new thing. Actual traditional Halloween has ghosts and skeletons and witches and the like, not people dressing up as Mexicans or putting on blackface. And slapping "trigger warnings" on the rapes in Ovid's Metamorphoses might be a waste of time, or might be overindulging people you would prefer not to indulge (though, for my part, I incline towards being generous with accommodations for rape victims) but it doesn't erase Ovid from the canon or stop anyone reading his poetry. Surely. But I don't see anything suggesting that we've reached that point, or that we're going to. They were, but they got a damn sight further than the SJ movement has. I don't know how far that's because they were genuinely more extreme, and how far it's because they had the might of a totalitarian state backing them up -- but it's because they did so much damage that the Cultural Revolution has the deservedly terrible reputation it has. Just by way of reminder, here are a few examples (taken, because I am lazy, from Wikipedia): So I'll tell you what. When the SJ movement has destroyed one major historical site and murdered one person, get back to me and I'll willingly agree that the SJ movement, having done only three orders of magnitude less damage tha
The kismet of a cishet...
Do you have evidence showing an actual line of descent from Maoism to "social justice", or is this just conjecture? According to Wikipedia (which is always right, except when it's wrong) the term was first used (with something resembling its modern meaning) by a Jesuit priest and its history continues with the likes of Louis Brandeis and John Rawls. And that history -- which is clearly not Maoist in any useful sense -- seems to me like a more obvious antecedent to today's social justice movement than Maoism does. Even if Pol Pot studied in Paris. (Perhaps I'm taking you too literally and "is the newest incarnation of Mao Zedong Thought" just means "is kinda leftist and boooo, I hate it"?)
There seem to be similarities in behavior to the "Cultural Revolution", such as rebelling at universities, and requiring teachers and classmates to toe the line or publicly apologize and/or get fired, etc. (I don't know if the similarities are sufficient, or if this is more or less a standard pattern for every political movement.)
I don't know about every political movement, but it's certainly a thing that happens a lot; see e.g. the list at the end of Wikipedia's article on student protests. You'll notice that there's quite a variety of causes there, enough so that from "Maoism and X both had rebellions at universities" I don't think you can infer any interesting similarities between X and Maoism.
SJ had multiple influences of course, the existence of one line of descent (e.g. Rawls) does not invalidate other ancestors.
For sure. Which is why, having observed one obvious non-Maoist line of descent, I'm asking "any evidence for the Maoism thing?" rather than saying "you're obviously wrong about the Maoism thing".
Keeping in mind that I'm not part of the group and might even be cynical about them, here is my definition of Social Justice Activism: The idea that everyone should be equal in the social sphere, That everyone should have equal access to being cool, to being popular, to being the center of attention, to feeling liked, to feeling part of any group they want to belong to, to being liked by anyone else, to feeling comfortable and at ease in any situation. That everyone should be welcomed and accepted into any group they encounter, regardless of their race, gender, or any permeate aspect or demographic characteristic. Imagine a nice middle class kindergarten class were if a child comes to the teacher and says “I am sad, no one will play with me,” the teacher takes that child to a group and instructs them to include the lonely child. If someone’s feelings are hurt the teacher will go to the other student and explain that stupid, ugly, or scardy-cat are “just not words we use” and extract an apology. This is a sort of Social Justice Utopia were everyone is included, everyone is required to be nice, and no-one is allowed to hurt anyone else’s feelings. I can see how this would seem like a nice, safe society you would want to be part of, especially if you think that other people get to experience this sort of world as adults and you are being unfairly excluded because of the color of your skin or something else you can't help. There is awareness that just going up to someone and demanding that they like you and/or your friend doesn’t work. But so many things from networking to find a job to getting peer awards can depend on social standing and whether people you meet like you and whether you feel comfortable and relaxed with them. So there is a feeling that anyone with any sort of authority or influences in a business, organization or semi-formal group (or even just officially sanctioned membership) needs to at least act like they like everyone ( at least individuals that

The idea that everyone should be equal in the social sphere

Only eventually. In the meantime, right now, because there are terrible oppressive structures in place, SJ wants explicitly to take power away from some social groups and give it to other social groups. The goal is not NOT equality now, the goal is to create inequality which will compensate for the oppression and, to some extent, balance it.

Look at the lists of demands made by SJ students at colleges (Missouri, Yale, etc.). They don't want to be race-blind, for example. They want to be very very race-conscious to, um, hand-correct for oppression. They want racially segregated housing, FFS.

And, of course, everyone is to be equal except for the enemy which must be cast out and stoned.

It's most evident in the Unitarian Universalists

Very interesting. I had them pegged as The Mild Ones, those who got so wishy-washy and all-embracing about religion that the only thing left afterwards was the "Thou shall be nice" commandment. The SJWs look to have more of Maoist DNA...

Is it me or neither the article nor the comments actually address the elephant in the room?

The social justice movement, as aptly said at the end of the article, is a profoundly rational, radically rational movement. Overcoming bias is a strong goal in SJ.

But the SJM faces a huge, cohrent mass of unconsciously biased people and most people in the SJM aren't prepared as LWer could be to address the question of bias on an intellectual level. Which means that the mass of morons they face usually feel free to ridicule their vision of bias, labelling as either n... (read more)

Overcoming bias is a strong goal in SJ.

Except that what they mean by "bias" is much closer to what LW means by "priors" than what we mean by "bias".

That's a great point. (Also, by "overcoming" they often mean "replacing with our priors", which are full of zeroes and ones.)
Well, they're rhetoric argues we should completely eliminate priors. Since that's impossible (in fact incoherent) in practice they wind up making an exception for priors that look as little like priors as possible.
Not every attempt to overcome irrationality is necessarily rational. People love to "revert stupidity". It is easier than doing their own research. Even for a good cause, people are likely to exaggerate, because it signals their loyalty to the group. So if the society, for whatever reasons, believes that two plus two equals five, and someone says "actually, it's four" and they become popular for saying so, immediately someone else with cry "actually, it's three" and a lot of people will join them because they only see the pattern that the smaller number is considered more cool. Soon, someone will say "it's zero", and someone else will say "minus infinity", and then perhaps the popular opinion will conclude that the minus infinity is too extreme, but the zero is probably just right. Also there is this "motte and bailey" strategy, where among the more critically thinking people the defended version is "two plus two is less than five" -- which mathematicians will admit is true, -- but among their own the battle cry is "zero! zero! zero!". Backpedalling to "less then five" whenever necessary. (Something like people saying "feminism is simply the belief that woman are also people", and then posting "#killallmen" on Twitter.) Maybe you have experience with other people, but the SJ*s I have seen or read about, usually: * demand the disagreeing information to be suppressed; * believe they are "on the right side of history", so even when they are technically wrong, they are still "right" in larger context and that's all that matters; * have no sense of proportion and react disproportionally on every microaggression (however their own aggressions are perfectly okay; for example using a wrong pronoun or refusing to have sex with a trans person is a horrible bigotry, but having a person fired from their job because of something they said on twitter is fun); * require their members to toe the line and call out any deviance from the group norms; * insists that their vari
For which value of the word "rational"? Nope. Reallocating power between social groups is a strong goal in SJ. Egalitarianism is not the same thing as overcoming bias. Besides, by "bias" LW means things like bugs in mental processing and SJ means things like harmful stereotypes. They are not at all the same. That's the same mass of morons that everyone faces, right? Ah, good old doublethink. "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength".
For a Bayesian rationality which doesn't allow you to use previously computed priors. This is equivalent to ordinary Bayesianism, as long as you have unlimited memory and computational power.
Whaaaat? Does not compute.
Where do you think priors come from? Okay, some come from your evolutionary heritage. But most come from experience. If you save all your experiences, you can always recompute all your priors from scratch, given enough time. Clearly in social justice theory, you're not allowed to use priors, because priors are prejudice. But nothing says you're not allowed to examine all your past experience during each encounter, and reconstruct those same priors.
Technically, the priors are the sum of the previously available information relevant to the topic. No, I can't. I'm human. What you are saying is theoretically possible in the sense that a full AIXI machine is theoretically possible, but I fail to see any relevance to real life. On the contrary, you are expected to use very strong priors, it's just that they have to be particular priors and derive not necessarily from previous information but rather from what you ought to believe. I haven't noticed SJ being particularly interested in evidence.
That wouldn't statisfy them, since the recomputed priors would be the same as the "racist" priors they want to get rid off.