Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

Followup toWhy Support the Underdog?
Serendipitously related to: Whining-Based Communities

Pity whatever U.N. official has to keep track of all the persecution going on. With two hundred plus countries in the world, there's just so much of it.

Some places persecute Christians. Here's a Christian writer from a nation we'll call Country A:

Global reports indicate that over 150,000 Christians were martyred last year, chiefly in foreign countries. However, statistics are changing: persecution of Christians is on the increase at home. What's happening to bring about this change? According to some experts a pattern is emerging reminiscent of Jewish persecution in post war Germany. "Isolation of, and discrimination against Christians is growing almost geometrically" says Don McAlvany in The Midnight Herald. "This is the way it started in Germany against the Jews. As they became more isolated and marginalized by the Nazi propaganda machine, as popular hatred and prejudice against the Jews increased among the German people, wholesale persecution followed.  Could this be where the growing anti-Christian consensus in this country is taking us?"

And some countries persecute atheists. Here's an atheist activist describing what we'll call Country B.

Godless atheists are the most despised and distrusted minority in our country. The growing attention to atheism and atheists has given rise to increased anti-atheist bigotry in the media. Circumstances for them can be difficult enough that they have to stay in the closet and hide their atheism from friends and family. Atheists have to fear discrimination on the job, in the community, and even in their own families if their atheism is made known. Some even have to contend with harassment and vandalism. Distrust and hatred of atheists is widespread enough through our society that they have plenty of reasons to be concerned.

Some countries persecute Muslims. A Muslim youth in Country C:

The government has continuously persecuted Arabs and Muslims with extremist and unpopular views, charging them with terrorism and criminal acts related to terrorism. I am proud of [Muslims] who stand up to this system of injustice and to our country's gulag. They may beat them, but they will continues to suffer because in this country, Arabs are never innocent, they are merely guilty of lesser crimes. Even if they are proven innocent, after years of suffering and being defamed, the gulag and the political persecution will continue.

And some countries persecute everyone except Muslims. A politician in Country D writes:

The gathering storm I have been warning of for years has now formed over us. Yet instead of fighting the gradual incursion of Sharia and the demands of an intolerant, even militant Islam, we are cowering and fatalistic.

Since countries A, B, C, and D are all America1, what's up with all these people claiming persecution?

I don't doubt that there are examples of Christians, atheists, Muslims, and non-Muslims all getting persecuted in the US. There's no rule that says only one group can be persecuted at a time, especially in a society as pluralistic as our own. But compare the claim "There are a few incidents of people persecuting Christians" with the claim "Christians are a persecuted group in our society." The first reduces to an objectively true statement. The second is a sorta-meaningless "dangling variable" that can be declared either true or false depending on what connotation you want to send.

And people tend to take the liberty to call the is_persecuted variable "true" for their own group and "false" for groups they don't like. Why does everyone want to be persecuted so badly? Here are some reasons I can think of:

1. The tendency to support the underdog. Being persecuted is about as underdog as you can get, and underdog supporters everywhere are quick to leap to the support of persecuted groups.

2. To create an incentive for fair-minded people to "level the playing field" by raising their status. I read about a tribe in India involved in a media campaign to inform everyone just how persecuted they really were. Why? They wanted to be added to India's affirmative action program, which would give them a better chance at government jobs. Likewise, when Christians talk about persecution, they usually point out that one great way to stop this persecution would be to put up the Ten Commandments in all public places.

3. To self-handicap. If I'm unsuccessful, it's not because I'm lazy or unqualified, it's beacuse they were persecuting me! Likewise, if I'm successful, then I managed to triumph in the face of adversity. I'm practically Martin Luther King or someone.

4. To build in-group cohesiveness. People come together in the face of a common enemy.

5. To explain away a lack of success. Let's say you're a fundamentalist Christian and you notice most of the rest of America dislikes you and thinks you're crazy. You might say "Well, by Aumann's Agreement Theorem, they probably know something I don't, and I should moderate my religious views." But if your Revolutionary is AWOL, your Apologist could conclude that there is a sinister campaign going on to discredit Christianity, and everyone has fallen for this campaign but you and your friends.

I think these all play a role, with 1 and 2 the most important.

But one common thread in psychology is that the mind very frequently wants to have its cake and eat it too. Last week, we agreed that people like supporting the underdog, but we also agreed that there's a benefit to being on top; that when push comes to shove a lot of people are going to side with Zug instead of Urk. What would be really useful in winning converts would be to be a persecuted underdog who was also very powerful and certain to win out. But how would you do that?

Some Republicans have found a way. Whether they're in control of the government or not, the right-wing blogosphere invariably presents them as under siege, a rapidly dwindling holdout of Real American Values in a country utterly in the grip of liberalism.

But they don't say anything like "Everyone's liberal, things are hopeless, might as well stay home." They believe in a silent majority. Liberals control all sorts of nefarious institutions that are currently exercising a stranglehold on power and hiding the truth, but most Americans, once you pull the wool off their eyes, are conservatives at heart and just as angry about this whole thing as they are. Any day now, they're going to throw off the yoke of liberal tyranny and take back their own country.

This is a great system. Think about it. Not only should you support the Republicans for support-the-underdog and level-the-playing-field reasons, you should also support them for majoritarian reasons and because their side has the best chance of winning. It's the best possible world short of coming out and saying "Insofar as it makes you want to vote for us, we are in total control of the country, but insofar as that makes you not want to vote for us, we are a tiny persecuted minority who need your help".

We're coming dangerously close to talking politics here, but this isn't just a Republican phenomenon. It underlies a lot of the uses of the word "elite" - this sense that there's a small minority of wrong-headed people who disagree with you in control of everything, even though the vast majority of people are secretly on your side. Whether it's the "neoliberal capitalist elite", the "east coast intellectual elite" or whatever, it's a one word Pavlovian trigger that activates this concept of your favorite group simultaneously being dominant and being persecuted by those darned elites.

There are branches of social science that consciously devote themselves solely to officially identifying the Powerful and the Powerless in every issue and conflict. They have their uses. But as rationalists, we need to devote ourselves to the separate task of disentangling the question at hand from the question of who is more powerful. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of the underdog bias, the support-the-winning-team bias, and any mutant combinations of them that may arise2.

As is often the case, reduction of statements with objective truth-values can save your hide here. If every time Chris the Christian says "Christians are persecuted," you hear "Christians aren't allowed to stick the Ten Commandments up in schools," then you're no longer vulnerable to his appeal to pity.

What other defenses are there against the human tendency to obsess over which side is more powerful, instead of which side is right?

Footnotes:

1: The first comment comes from Worthy News, the second from About Atheism, the third from Mideast Youth, and the fourth is Senator Rick Santorum

2: Has anyone else ever watched two people in an argument completely abandon discussion over who is right, and instead turn to which person's side is persecuted worse, as if they were more or less the same question anyway? It's not a pretty sight.

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To introduce a (hopefully) less political data point, I find the way Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads skirt the underdog issue to be fascinating.

Hodgman's PC is strongly cast as the underdog. It is, of course, the point of the ads that PC comes out the worse in every encounter, but what interests me is that we are clearly supposed to pity him, even to love him. Hodgman, bespectacled, round-faced, slightly pudgy, fits the part perfectly. We basically want to give him a big hug. Long's Mac seems reluctant to make himself appear too superior to PC, constantly afraid that he'll hurt his fragile feelings somehow. The ads give the appearance of trying to be as kind to PC as possible.

And yet, when we go to buy a computer, however much we may have sympathized with PC, we choose to ally ourselves with Long over Hodgman (or at least, so Apple hopes, and I assume they would not have paid to run the ads for three years had the effects been otherwise)

"Polemic—persuasive writing—only works when it doesn't feel like propaganda.
The audience must feel that you're being absolutely fair to people on the other side."

--Orson Scott Card, "Characters and Viewpoint"

EDIT: yes, I realize the irony of quoting Card on this, given his own utter failure to respect this principle in his own polemical writings on things like homosexuality. But it's still true.

Are you sure that this is true in general?

My impression is that polemic has been a lot more raw in other times and places.

My impression is that polemic has been a lot more raw in other times and places.

This is true (American political discourse has been astonishingly crude in in the past).

But was it more effective? That is the issue. To use a Revolutionary War example, it was not one of the crude blood-libelous circulars that sold 500,000 copies, but Paine's Common Sense.*

* It struck me as pretty well argued and reasoned when I read it in middle school, but that was a long time ago.

Viewing the PC with pity would seem to be incompatible with viewing it as an effective employee.

Jewish Humor:

"Rabbi Altmann and his secretary were sitting in a coffeehouse in Berlin in 1935. "Herr Altmann", said his secretary. "I notice you're reading Der Strmer! I can't understand why. A Nazi libel sheet! Are you some kind of masochist, or, God forbid, a self-hating Jew?" "On the contrary, Frau Epstein. When I used to read the Jewish papers, all I learned about were pogroms, riots in Palestine, and assimilation in America. But now that I read Der Strmer, I see so much more: that the Jews control all the banks, that we dominate in the arts, and that we're on the verge of taking over the entire world. You know--it makes me feel a whole lot better!""

I resemble that remark...

A while ago the American Family Association was encouraging people to go to their website and write e-mails shaming some corporation that had been too kind to gay people. I went to their website and tweaked the canned message slightly to praise the company instead, thinking it would be a nice break from all the hate mail. I had to give my e-mail address in the process, and now I get the AFA newsletter (though usually directly in my junk mail folder).

And it's a wonderful read -- always telling me how powerful the secularists are and how the gay agenda's taking over the country, and how God's going to be eliminated from schools. I can always rely on the AFA to cheer me up in the morning.

There's a Soviet joke just like that about a Soviet Jew finally succeeding in moving to Israel, then ordering Pravda from abroad for the next 10 years and giving the same response when asked about his motive for reading it: the Israeli press all says how miserable and doomed the country is, the Pravda claims that it's a superpower with an invincible army on the verge of taking over the world. (Pravda having been covertly anti-semitic in general but openly and ravingly Anti-Zionist.)

"Everyone's liberal, things are hopeless, might as well stay home."

These are called Paleoconservatives.

The social class on which [Will Herberg] and I both once pinned our hope of national regeneration, those whom we jokingly referred to as "the Archie Bunkers," has gone the way of the dinosaur. It has been replaced by a multitude of vastly more radicalized versions of Meathead, Archie's fashionably liberal son-in-law who by now could be an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal.

-- Encounters, by Paul E. Gottfried

Peoples of European descent are not only in a relative but a real decline. They are aging, dying, disappearing. This is the existential crisis of the West.

-- Suicide of a Superpower, by Pat Buchanan

Liberals control all sorts of nefarious institutions that are currently exercising a stranglehold on power and hiding the truth, but most Americans, once you pull the wool off their eyes, are conservatives at heart and just as angry about this whole thing as they are. Any day now, they're going to throw off the yoke of liberal tyranny and take back their own country.

The left has it's own equivalent, it is supposedly the weaker force, made up of those speaking truth to power in the name of the little man. Yet it has more or less generally won for the past 200 years and consistently won for the last 70 years on all social issues it has picked up. This is interestingly also true when it has very little support of the people or when the people are divided and it takes a generation or two for the education system and media to change things.

What do you call a weaker side that consistently wins? The stronger side.

There are branches of social science that consciously devote themselves solely to officially identifying the Powerful and the Powerless in every issue and conflict.

This in itself is a quite potent source of power.

Actually now that I think of it a few non-paeloconservatives have taken such a stance. John Derbyshire's (one of the writers at secular right) 2009 book was all about this:

To his fellow conservatives, John Derbyshire makes a plea: Don't be seduced by this nonsense about "the politics of hope." Skepticism, pessimism, and suspicion of happy talk are the true characteristics of an authentically conservative temperament. And from Hobbes and Burke through Lord Salisbury and Calvin Coolidge, up to Pat Buchanan and Mark Steyn in our own time, these beliefs have kept the human race from blindly chasing its utopian dreams right off a cliff.

Recently, though, various comforting yet fundamentally idiotic notions of political correctness and wishful thinking have taken root beyond the "Kumbaya"-singing, we're-all-one crowd. These ideas have now infected conservatives, the very people who really should know better. The Republican Party has been derailed by legions of fools and poseurs wearing smiley-face masks.

Think rescuing the economy by condemning our descendents to lives of spirit-crushing debt. Think nation-building abroad while we slowly disintegrate at home. Think education and No Child Left Behind. . . . But don't think about it too much, because if you do, you'll quickly come to the logical conclusion: We are doomed.

I so need to read this book.

Paul E. Gottfried

I'm a fan of this guy since I learned of him about a year ago. While I don't care for the show or the host, this audio interview is some classic enjoyable Gottried.

Actually now that I think of it, this might be a better or rather shorter one video.

I'm actually familiar with that interview series. It is a pretty decent overlook of altright/HBD/new right thinking on their relation to the mainstream conservatives and the left.

Participants in the 2010 HL Mencken Club conference sat down with Craig Bodeker to discuss the menace of political correctness.

I liked the John Derbyshire and Henry Harpending ones especially.

Okay, so, here's an off-topic hypothetical.

In real life, I'm bisexual and am in an open relationship with a guy. Suppose that me and my boyfriend live in America and really, really want to get married, receive the same amount respect as a straight couple from the public institutions, and eventually adopt a child - those are some of the things that matter most to us in life. Suppose that we're also vaguely interested in Gottfried's brand of conservatism. (We aren't in the least.)

Wouldn't us publicly saying that he's a cool thinker not on some particular issue but "in general" be just the tiniest bit self-sabotaging?

(see http://takimag.com/article/the_creeping_pink_cloud)

(please note how I did make my will save vs. mind-killing this time; it might be just a dc10 roll, but still)

Wouldn't us publicly saying that he's a cool thinker not on some particular issue but "in general" be just the tiniest bit self-sabotaging?

How many LessWrong readers oppose gay marriage or adopting children? In any case it is possible to respect a thinker while disagreeing with him, though obviously people usually only see "yay!" and "boo!" signs that spill over to everything a person does.

How many LessWrong readers oppose gay marriage or adopting children?

Oh, I mean saying that in daily life or at a political website.

In any case it is possible to respect a thinker while disagreeing with him

Well that's a given.

people usually only see "yay!" and "boo!" signs that spill over to everything a person does

People always, always see only "yay" and "boo" signs that spill over (in everyday, relatable contexts at least), unless we do the thing Traditional Rationality tells us to: exclude all names from discussion and don't look at the thingspace cluster. Which doesn't leave us well equipped to make a transition from political discussion to political action.

Which doesn't leave us well equipped to make a transition from political discussion to political action.

These kinds of ideas and intellectual traditions don't interest me because I want to engage in political action. ;)

But if you want a purely pragmatic appraisal in this sense:

Wouldn't us publicly saying that he's a cool thinker not on some particular issue but "in general" be just the tiniest bit self-sabotaging?

If his values are sufficiently different from mainstream conservatism, he will attract dissatisfied conservatives but repulse some of the "moderates". If the current is in your favour, and on the pro-gay issues it certainly is I think, this can be strategically pretty successful. The Paleoconservatives themselves have a sort of "enemy of my enemy is my friend" approach to the far lefts criticism of Neoconservative foreign policy (nation building and spreading democracy via war ect..).

Oh. Might I ask if the chief reason is general curiosity, their supposed explanative power over the modern world (as you've mentioned before) or a desire to use them in non-political action of some sort? Because I don't see what the latter might consist of.

If the current is in your favour, and on the pro-gay issues it certainly is I think, this can be strategically pretty successful.

Can't parse this, sorry. Do you mean that he could amass enough push to affect the issues I want him affecting, but gay rights would remain out of his league so we'd be safe? Or that his most viable method of gathering followers (creating a broad split on his political flank) would force him to change his stance on gay marriage?

Can't parse this, sorry. Do you mean that he could amass enough push to affect the issues I want him affecting, but gay rights would remain out of his league so we'd be safe? Or that his most viable method of gathering followers (creating a broad split on his political flank) would force him to change his stance on gay marriage?

I meant that public opinion has generally been consistently moving towards acceptance of gay rights despite all the sheer numbers of religious people and not negligible funds regular conservatives have been unable to do anything about this. And it is happening pretty rapidly if you look at the numbers.

How could anyone like Paul Gottfried have a measurable effect on such a strong trend of all things?

I give up; what you're saying feels quite obvious to me, so it's now evident that this wasn't my true rejection. :) My true rejection is that I do indeed lump all the facts about people together and would feel sick and wrong supporting a bigote-

OH FUCK NO I DON'T WANT ANOTHER -20 TO KARMA HELP ME SHUT MY FACE (- wow, looks like someone's already willing to provide that -20 all by themselves. And now someone voted me back to where I was. Sigh, my revealed preferences seem to indicate that I'm just here to play a MMO, not to learn any "rationality" mumbo-jumbo.)

No problem DIRTY COMMIE SCU -- oh sorry.

My true rejection is that I do indeed lump all the facts about people together and would feel sick and wrong supporting a bigote-

But seriously dude its not a crime to just dislike certain people. As long as you know you real reasons even sometimes demanding rationalists can't object to that. :)

Oh.

Don't get me wrong I do agree with some of their positions, even on some social issues (from your reactions it seems like you might too). It is just that I'm profoundly apolitical.

Might I ask if the chief reason is general curiosity, their supposed explanative power over the modern world

Don't mind you asking at all, I just hope I'm not mind-killing any readers by divulging such information! For me it is a mix of these two. They often have excellent explanatory power and even predictive power precisely because of the value dissonance with most of the rest of our intellectual elites, be they "left" or "right" politically. As well as just reading enjoyable well-written books and articles, but this might just be linked to my curiosity.

or a desire to use them in non-political action of some sort?

They are hard to use in non-political action since they have very little influence, so there isn't much opportunity for anything like career building or lobbying if that's what you meant to imply by this. :)

It is just that I'm profoundly apolitical.

I saw you arguing with someone here about the possibility of being "apolitical". Suffice to say, I agreed with them and not you; already forgot how their line went, though, d'oh!

if that's what you meant to imply by this. :)

I didn't know anything I could be pointing at by saying that. Turns out that neither do you :)

I saw you arguing with someone here about the possibility of being "apolitical". Suffice to say, I agreed with them and not you; already forgot how their line went, though, d'oh! :D

It's probably impossible to be apolitical in the sense of being innocent of political influences, and it's definitely impossible to be apolitical in the sense of avoiding action with political implications. But it's probably not impossible to be apolitical in the sense of rejecting political identity (though it is a lot harder than that makes it sound), and even that helps eliminate a lot of important biases.

even that helps eliminate a lot of important biases.

How would we know if this were true or not? Isn't there motivated cognition to support all social norms, not simply the explicitly political moral posturing?

How would we know if this were true or not? Isn't there motivated cognition to support all social norms, not simply the explicitly political moral posturing?

By checking the domain-specific predictions of politically motivated people against future results, and by comparing them to the predictions of less politically motivated people. Self-assessment is probably good enough to establish political motivation, although you could probably do better with enough cleverness. If I'm not mistaken this has been done a couple of times, although I unfortunately can't find the links right now.

And yes, motivated cognition does exist to support all social norms (or at least all those incorporated into people's identities), but I'm not sure how this bears on the original point. Politics (or explicit politics, if you prefer) is a special case of that more general principle, but it's an especially salient one thanks to how intensely people cling to their political identities.

My impression is that people cling to their identities equally strongly whether or not the identities can be described as explicitly political.

Sexist (or feminist) people have just as little sense of how mindkilled they are in their own domain as Democrats or Republicans have in their domain.

I don't disagree. Politics doesn't need to be a uniquely strong source of bias to be worth looking at, it just needs to be a strong one.

The personal is political.

It's a fairly mainstream thought - for not-very-mainstream feminists.
And I concede to Konkvistador that the definition of "political" in the saying is not the mainstream definition that references only participation in political parties and the electioneering process.

It's a fairly mainstream thought - for not-very-mainstream feminists.

Yeah, half the people in my LJ friends feed probably think so, though; I feel at home with a crowd like that for some reasons :)

I saw you arguing with someone here about the possibility of being "apolitical".

Well apolitical as in not seeing my personal actions through a political lens first but rather primarily guided by my virtue ethics approach (regardless of political strategizing). Not ignoring political consequences, but not letting politics affect my identity.

And naturally in the conventional sense of abstaining from conscious political acts like voting, supporting candidates or talking about politics in everyday life. I also avoid consuming information about current political events, since it is just brain candy, delicious but rots your teeth.

talking about politics in everyday life

Heh, it's simply hard to visualize that; here in Russia everyone has been talking very loudly about politics to everyone else 24/7, since around 1987. I'm into that too; at least I abstain from vodka :)

Don't get me wrong I do agree with some of their positions, even on some social issues (from your reactions it seems like you might too).

Maybe, maybe; relegating all the nice non-profit stuff to hyper-wealthy hyper-efficient private charities and freedom to discriminate (including discimination against discriminators you don't like) for all non-vital jobs sound kind of weirdtopian. I'm writing up a brief sketch of a weirdtopia I could stand, in fact, and maybe I'll include the latter in it.

On the other hand, I'm shocked by how many of the "alt-right" (both the respectable old white men like Gottfried and the Internet ones: Steve Sailer*, the folks I followed home from Moldbug's comments, etc) fail the gender/sexuality issues test; I can't imagine how hard one must squint one's brain to be so contrarian and still have their instrumental (or maybe sometimes even terminal, it's hard to tell) values so screwed up. I believe that in many cases it's not genuine homophobia/transphobia/whatever, they're simply exhibiting a knee-jerk rejection of the mainstream, with which I can kinda sympathize, but still, shit's fucked up.

*I can hardly resist using the "closeted/intimacy issues" card on Sailer; what the fuck, dude, I just get a bad vibe from both my reaction and his provocations.

Alicorn would probably produce a much better and more insightful rant on this topic than me, maybe I'll ask her.

Could you, by chance, link to Sailer expressing his opinions on the topic of homosexuality? I am having difficulty finding anything conclusive.

Damn right he's got nothing conclusive. Here's some bullshit that's awful hard to interpret charitably, though:

http://www.isteve.com/Decline_of_the_Metrosexual.htm

"Straight flight", my ass.

Also:

But if gay men become some of the most flamboyant participants in weddings, will more of the vast majority of straight men who aren't metrosexuals just decide to skip the whole punishing process and stay single? If this drives up the illegitimacy rate, society as a whole will suffer.

"Punishing." I find it impossible to believe that he performed even a crude survey upon a fair and meaningful sample of "straight men" instead of just projecting his personal tastes and prejudgices upon them.

See Sailer's discussion of homosexual stereotypes, and his interview with a researcher of homosexuality.

All in all, Sailer strikes me as a fair observer of homosexuality. He's sometimes rude, and willing to accept stereotypes as evidence, but he wouldn't be in the field he's in if he weren't interested in the truth.

he wouldn't be in the field he's in if he weren't interested in the truth.

That's by far THE most... optimistic view of human psychology I've ever seen expressed on LW/OB. Like most of us poor sinful bastards, when he's talking about "disclosing the truth They want to stay undisclosed", he's interested in making himself feel comfortable in his hypocrisy through a self-perpetuating cycle of external and internal signaling. Also, he's awfully whiny for a Straight Old-School Manly Guy.

From your second link:

Some on the far right believe that people become gay because they were "recruited" by other gay people. If true (and it is not true), this idea would have negative political implications....

...Personally, I am very pro-gay

This doesn't add up on a very fundamental level. WHY on earth would homosexual "recruitment" would be a bad thing at all, if homosexuality is a legitimate and respectable trait of a person? Because of homophobic prejudices? Is setting up comprehensive re-education measures against instinctive and cultural homophobia Evil Orwellian Social Engineering according to him, so gays should just mind their own business and Keep It In The Bedroom?

Overall, I'm 95% confident that none of his caveats and asides about him being such an ardent defender of fairness and respect to gays would have surfaced if he were to investigate the same class of issues and come upon the same conclusions (for example) in 1950s US. He'd be just a usual old-fashioned inquisitor and Moral Guardian, enlightening the public about the misguided, irresponsible, deceitful perverts undermining Western institutions.

That's by far THE most... optimistic view of human psychology I've ever seen expressed on LW/OB.

I contest both the factual assertion and the implications. The number of times I've seen 'save the world' sentiments expressed seriously on this site should make any cynic grumpy. As for the implications, I admit I could be giving Sailer too much credit. Do you think you could be giving him too little?

Also, he's awfully whiny for a Straight Old-School Manly Guy.

...what? Where are you going with this?

From your second link:

Notice that the pro-gay comment is Michael Bailey's line, not Sailer's.

WHY on earth would homosexual "recruitment" would be a bad thing at all, if homosexuality is a legitimate and respectable trait of a person?

To me, 'pro-gay' implies "I want homosexuals to live fulfilled lives" not "I want there to be more homosexuals," though 'anti-gay' does imply "I want there to be less homosexuals." Suppose homosexuality is worse then heterosexuality, in a manner similar to how, say, deafness is worse than hearing. If deafness were contagious, there would be strong arguments for quarantining the deaf, whereas if deafness were not contagious, there would be strong arguments for accommodating and including the deaf.

That is, the questions "homosexuals are here, what do we do with them?" and "how many homosexuals should we have?" are very different questions.

Evil Orwellian Social Engineering according to him

Where is this coming from?

if he were to investigate the same class of issues and come upon the same conclusions (for example) in 1950s US. He'd be just a usual old-fashioned inquisitor and Moral Guardian, enlightening the public about the misguided, irresponsible, deceitful perverts undermining Western institutions.

It doesn't look like that's the case for race, though, so I'm not clear on why you believe this.

As for the implications, I admit I could be giving Sailer too much credit. Do you think you could be giving him too little?

A relevant data point should perhaps be that Steve Sailer actually seems to genuinely not dislike African Americans. This is very impressive for someone who discusses what he does. I don't think he's faking it either. Perhaps his fascination with sport statistics lets him pump enough warm fuzzies to maintain a balance.

Indeed. (I linked to a number of articles pointing towards that in my last line, but thanks for the independent summary.)

'anti-gay' does imply "I want there to be less homosexuals."

I suspect that it is difficult to make progress from that point without first clarifying whether what is meant is "I want fewer people to have same-sex sex," "I want fewer people to want same-sex sex," "I want fewer people to endorse same-sex sex," something else, or some combination.

Agreed, but it's not clear to me progress needs to be made from that point. To my knowledge, no one who is participating in or a topic of the conversation is anti-gay in any of those senses, if we measure wants by expended effort to achieve those wants.

...what? Where are you going with this?

Nowhere much, just pointing out another reason for why his writing is so unappealing to me.

Suppose homosexuality is worse then heterosexuality, in a manner similar to how, say, deafness is worse than hearing.

I can't visualize that in any way at all, if the "Society will never be tolerant enough" card is dropped.

Where is this coming from?

Well, he can't write an article without mentioning the authoritarian, utterly clueless feminists who are trying to reshape the poor unwilling America into their image.

It doesn't look like that's the case for race, though, so I'm not clear on why you believe this.

Never said or implied or insinuated that he was racist; hell, in practice he might well have less prejudices on the race front that you or me. Don't you consider that a person's bigotry might be restricted to one issue, neither propagating outward nor fading away but supported by fairly elaborate rationalization, some examples of which I'm sensing here?

Hey, in the Discussion thread I made Nornagest is, right now, telling me that I might be exhibiting quasi-intellectual bigotry of a similar sort regarding race, hiding behind a few lofty sentiments - so how unlikely is it that Sailer might have this towards sexuality?

Nowhere much, just pointing out another reason for why his writing is so unappealing to me.

I agree that it's more pleasant to read the writing of satisfied people than unsatisfied people.

I can't visualize that in any way at all, if the "Society will never be tolerant enough" card is dropped.

I'm having trouble parsing this. Do you mean "homosexuality cannot be a detriment in a society where homosexuals are respected equally with heterosexuals"? Off the top of my head, I can think of three significant detriments in such a society, and could come up with more if I needed to. If you can't come up with three, I don't think you're thinking about this issue clearly enough.

Well, he can't write an article without mentioning the authoritarian, utterly clueless feminists who are trying to reshape the poor unwilling America into their image.

But... he can and does?

Off the top of my head, I can think of three significant detriments in such a society, and could come up with more if I needed to.

Can you elaborate please?

Yes, though I regret the loss of an opportunity for Multiheaded (and others) to test their imagination. Try to give this a full five minutes of thought before reading on.

My first three:

  1. Smaller dating pool, by a factor of ~20: presuming the rate of gays is still ~3% of men, your dating pool goes from about 98% of women to about 5% of men. (Lesbians are less common than gay men by about a factor of 2, and so things are worse for them, though I believe bisexual women are more common than bisexual men.)

  2. Inability to naturally conceive children.

  3. Anal sex is much harder on the receiving partner than vaginal sex, particularly when it comes to the spread of blood-borne diseases like AIDS. (Two men can have sex without one of them bottoming, and pegging is a thing for heterosexual men, but it should be obvious that rates of bottoming with a potentially infectious partner are much higher among homosexuals, and while the situation is worsened by prejudice it is fundamentally an engineering issue.)

I'd say that 1 is compensated by the fundamentally different approach to dating between two men and a men and a woman, no matter what you might call their sexuality. I am speaking from personal experience!

Why the hell is 2 a net harm? Two partners who are confident they're both clean can do anything without birth control and have absolutely no worries of unintended pregnancy.

3... well, I'll be blunt, it's only an issue for sexually unimaginative men who don't stop to think and assume that they must have penetration in this way, otherwise they're losing out on some amazing satisfaction. Me, I've never had it in either role and I'm not planning on it. My BF, if I remember correctly, doesn't care for trying the passive role either, although he's done active and found it to be nothing special compared to some other sexual activities.

I am speaking from personal experience!

As am I.

Why the hell is 2 a net harm?

If both men have a desire to have all their children be biologically related to them, they have to compromise or play around with gametes in a way that I believe is not commercially available.

well, I'll be blunt, it's only an issue

Well, I'm glad we agree it's an issue.

for sexually unimaginative men who don't stop to think

Ah. I'm glad I took the time to write out neutral qualifications to make clear that while this would not be an issue for every homosexual, it would be an issue for enough to be significant. I had the viewpoint of the receiving partner in mind, as it appears to give significantly better prostate stimulation than the next best option (though is about the same for the penetrating partner).

Overall, I must say, I'm disappointed. Policy debates should not appear one-sided.

Overall, I must say, I'm disappointed. Policy debates should not appear one-sided.

Sometimes you just feel cornered (please take my incidents of pathologically low self-confidence into account); I don't wish to come to believe that my or my significant other's sexuality is a net harm even if the arguments in favor of that look convincing on the surface, because I have no idea of how to handle something like that in my life. Relinquishment is all fun and games until someone loses a body part.

Sometimes you just feel cornered; I don't wish to come to believe that my or my significant other's sexuality is a net harm even if the arguments in favor of that look convincing on the surface, because I have no idea of how to handle something like that in my life. Relinquishment is all fun and games until someone loses a body part.

Eh. Like I said, the question of what to do with existing people is very different from the question of what people we want to exist. We're already gay, and that's not going to change.

I am willing and able to separate the question of the best life for me-as-I-am from the question of the best life for a hypothetical me-as-I-am-not. I'm not sure I can offer emotional guidance on how to be able to make that separation, though, as I find it natural, and that's likely to be the sticking point.

Why the hell is 2 a net harm?

While not everyone wants to have children of their own, it's better to have a choice in the matter than not.

In 20 years having biological children would be much less of a problem for the average middle-class 1st world homosexual, and it's already far from impossible if a huge investment (a quick Google search suggests that the total expenses for the surrogate motherhood option begin at around the 100 grand figure in America), -

-but today the process filters for commitment, at least, to the idea of having children and enforces some time to think about the decision. And there's an incentive to adopt kids, too!

Also homosexual couples, because they are already using technology to reproduce, are much more likley to practice eugenics.

I'm surprised to realize that I probably have to say that, yes this would be a good thing.

and it's already far from impossible if a huge investment

It's not impossible for one partner. What if both want to be the biological parent?

I understand there's some research looking into that. I don't have any links handy (and searching for them on my workstation seems like a bad idea), but if I recall correctly, inducing egg/egg fertilization has near-term potential. Sperm/sperm fertilization is a little further off, since sperm are essentially expendable delivery systems for genetic material; it's the egg that has all the cellular machinery needed to bootstrap replication. By Multiheaded's twenty years from now I wouldn't be surprised to see either.

They scrounge up double the money and have two kids?

Allow me to rephrase. What if they want to make a child together?

Seconded! Seconded! Also, I'm talking about bisexuality here as well, which he might simply be rolling into his concept of modern American homosexuality due to how underreported it is and how there's no strong incentive to always put bisexuals into their own proper category.

(Note: I'm not downvoting you.)

I agree that it's more pleasant to read the writing of satisfied people than unsatisfied people

Eliezer Yudkowsky is probably among the most unsatisfied humans alive right now; I think that the beauty and persuasiveness of his writing would suffer if he repressed his dissatisfaction with the current state of us more in his articles and such.

I can't visualize that in any way at all, if the "Society will never be tolerant enough" card is dropped.

Heterosexuality as a norm (In the sense of being the majority preference) may in the long term be the only thing keeping the sexes from splitting off into different species and civilizations with diverging values. Note that as with encountering an alien civilization there is no guarantee whatsoever that peaceful coexistence would be viable in the long term. Bisexuality could also work, depends on how different the extrapolated desires of the genders really are.

Before you say "I don't think gender will remain a viable concept in transhuman space", consider the starting point. In the first approximation each half of mankind have been wired for millions of years in a systematically slightly different fashion. So what if civilization A happens to have 10% of "in pre-singularity times self-identified as female" people on the census, instead of 0%, this dosen't change the fact that most former male or female brains might eventually find a future tailored more to their tastes than to those of the other group (if civilization A or B wins).

Some of the psychological differences between males and females do have roots that go back millions of years.

splitting off into different species and civilizations with diverging values

Well, don't you think something this would be more or less a clear win for both sexes?

Generally actually I would. Honestly as much as I love sexual and romantic entanglement with women, I can't help but feel giddy about the awesomeness (according to my values) of an all male civilization on Mars. And I've already spoken about how I would probably take a pill that would make me asexual. Sexbots or homosexuality inducing pills seem an inferior solution but not that much. As long as the pill that would make me homosexual would change just my sexual preference and nothing else (I suspect the typical male homosexual brains actually differ in other subtle systematic ways from typical heterosexual male brains).

The problem comes here:

Note that as with encountering an alien civilization there is no guarantee whatsoever that peaceful coexistence would be viable in the long term.

Most LessWrongers have given very little though to the idea that human values might differ significantly enough to be incompatible. Even fewer have thought of finding a way to have them coexist rather than just making sure their own value set gobbles up as much matter.

Even fewer have thought of finding a way to have them coexist rather than just making sure their own value set gobbles up as much matter.

That's because it seems more likely that there's only one FAI to rule them all, and whatever values it has will dominate the light-cone.

A FAI is more likley to actually be a FAI if people don't engage in a last desperate war for ownership of all the universe for eternity at the time of its construction.

The current proposed solution to avoid such negative sum arms race (where aggressive action and recklessness reduce the likelihood of a friendly AI for nearly all other human value sets, but increases the likelihood of one for your particular value set) has been to hope that our values aren't really different, we're just (for now) too dumb to see this.

It's a bit worse than that. The "hope" seems to be more along the lines of:

"The existence of sufficient coherence is not certain; if it is not present, the system implementing CEV should execute a "controlled shutdown" rather than behaving unpredictably." -- Nick Tarleton, "Coherent Extrapolated Volition: A Meta-Level Approach to Machine Ethics"

Nevermind how a nascent valueless AI is supposed to convince itself to go back into the box.

The idea there that LGBT identification being out in the open has led to more pronounced heteronormativity signaling looks kinda interesting, actually.

On a sort-of-related subject, there are really are some unfortunate consequences for heterosexual men to being stuck in a society at the halfway point between intolerance of gays and actual equality.

In a lot of places in the developing world that are still at or close to the we-kill-people-for-being-gay stage, the (ridiculous) common wisdom is that since homosexuality is abnormal, there are no homosexuals (I have actually heard immigrants from parts of Africa claim that there are no homosexuals where they are from).

As a consequence of "nobody here is gay", straight men can hug, hold hands, share a bed (literally -- not a sex euphemism here), etc. without having their masculinity or sexual orientation challenged.

I think Western society would be better off if we could do that here too. I'm not willing to sacrifice the utility of gay people's lives for it, however, so I see it as a reason to push faster for full LGBT acceptance.

I strongly suspect that one of the other consequences of the "there are no homosexuals" social norm in such cultures is that under certain circumstances same-sex pairs can also have sex with one another without having their sexual orientation "challenged." (Similar things were true of opposite-sex pairs in cultures with the "there is no extramarital sex" cultural norm... e.g., bundling.)

But I agree with you that as long as queer visibility is noticeably higher than queer acceptability, there's a class of previously acceptable behaviors that become less acceptable (e.g., certain expressions of affection), and I agree with you that that's unfortunate, and I endorse closing that gap.

Further benefit of full queer acceptance: people of different genders could also hug, hold hands and share beds without summoning a chorus of "He liiiiikes her".

Not necessarily. I went to college in a very queer-accepting social context, and the general assumption was that any couple, or group, that shared a bed was having sex (for some unspecified value of "sex") regardless of their stated preferences. And rather a lot of good-natured teasing took place in consequence.

I'm really much more concerned with assault and murder than I am with teasing, though.

Why would that follow? I don't think it would.

But certainly one couldn't rationally argue from a humane position that the damage from something like that could add up to the point where it outweighs the cost of outlawing gay marriage, right?

Well, one could certainly argue it.

For example, one could argue that refusing to recognize any marriages and therefore, implicitly, refusing to recognize (aka "outlawing") same-sex marriages was a net benefit.

Or one could argue that common forms of heteronormativity signalling include anti-queer violence, bullying, discrimination in employment and residential selection and etc., and various other more substantial issues, and that those things are worse than discrimination in the recognition of marriage, so if official recognition of queer marriages results in more heteronormativity signaling and thus more violence, bullying, discrimination, etc. it causes more harm than good.

In fact, people do argue these positions in the real world.

As always on this issue, I feel a certain compulsion to reference my husband. He's actually completely irrelevant here, but I generally expect people to be so primed to pattern-match on heteronormative privilege when I talk abstractly about queer equality that they don't actually read what I say unless I do something to break that pattern.

Oh. Well, I admit that my bottom line is "Steve Sailer betrays his attitude of disgust and holding straight men above queers in many separate and unconnected phrases (like the "punishing" gaffe above) while taking care not to leave larger handholds to his critics."

(nods) I haven't read Sailer, but it's not unlikely: lots of people do that.

Some years ago, I ran into someone at a party who was arguing essentially this position (that increased queer visibility/equality leads to increased straight anxiety which leads to increased violence and discrimination against queers, and therefore that working towards increased queer visibility/equality is a bad idea on the grounds that it makes things worse for queer people, and don't we care about queer people?) and clearly getting off on the yummy contrarian goodness.

As I recall, I pointed out (calmly but loudly) that he was missing an opportunity to tailor his message to the group he was talking to, as this group was sufficiently accepting of trans folk that he could cause far more trouble more efficiently if he argued specifically that trans folk, as a more visible and vulnerable subset of the queer community, would receive the majority of the negative consequences of straight anxiety, and therefore queer equality was really just another way for gay folk to abuse and take advantage of trans folk. He could use the same strategy to divide gay men and lesbians and more generally to fragment the queer community to the point where we didn't stand a chance of achieving our political goals.

It was kind of a funny moment, as I wasn't following his script and he had to scramble a little to change tack.

I should have added, but didn't, that it was important to get everyone upset enough in the process that nobody thought to ask why, if the only problem with queer equality was the threat posed by anxious straight folk, we shouldn't deal with that by acting to minimize the power of anxious straight folk to hurt us.

What do you call a weaker side that consistently wins? The stronger side.

Two people sitting in a canoe in a river, paddling in opposite directions. The person who is paddling in the direction the canoe moves on average isn't necessarily paddling faster.

True, but why consider him the underdog? Clearly the guy trying desperately to work against both the current and the crazy guy is the underdog. ;)

Perhaps some people feel that moving at the exact speed of the river's current,* instead of staying in place or going really slowly, is 1) best for everyone or 2) God's plan/the "natural and lawful" course of history.

*(which they can't measure, as in every known canoe people have been rowing with varying strength at various points in the river, and people can't stop rowing any more than they can stop breathing... damn, stretching a metaphor is an unpleasant feeling)

Its important to remember that Paleoconservatives and Paleolibertarians don't want to stand still, they just have a different course in mind.

With the inspiration of the death of the Soviet Union before us, we now know that it can be done. With Pat Buchanan as our leader, we shall break the clock of social democracy. We shall break the clock of the Great Society. We shall break the clock of the welfare state.

We shall break the clock of the New Deal. We shall break the clock of Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom and perpetual war. We shall repeal the twentieth century.

--Murray Rothbard

Sure one might call that reactionary, but its hard to deny this is a very different vision of the future, of what is possible.

They obviously failed and they know it. But honestly I have much more respect for reactionaries than regular milquetoast conservatives who can't really rely on any kind of strong philosophical or coherent framework (beyond the generic argument against all change) since their very premises and value systems are basically an obsolete superseded version of the "liberalism" or "leftism" they sometimes rail against.

a very different vision of the future

Beyond common negative statements, every one of them seems to have a very different vision of the future from the others. At least the practical differences between the theists and the non-theists would create an enormous gap if they all suddenly started to have some effect on big politics. Just look at all that happened to the Left since the last quarter of the 19th century.

Murray Rothbard

This dude sounds more socially permissive than ME, lol (and I often find myself the most permissive one in a RL conversation). I'd say that the potential gap in the American right whom you collectively label as the underdog (we'd need to disassemble&examine all our definitions of power and influence before we could say that for sure) might be larger than with the Left, (as long as you don't count extremes as outlying as Pol Pot)

Oh I fully agree. They are a patchwork of different value systems that feel (and indeed are) crushed under the weight of general movements of society.

But don't underestimate on how much they could actually cooperate on when it came to actual policies. The left as fragmented and sectarian as it was and still is in some parts of Europe, has been very successful in influencing the intellectual and social norms not only laws in directions that when looking at history seems favourable to most involved in the wider political groups.

The actual result of economic inequality may seem as worse in the past by many, but had they not been active it would probably be much worse (as judged by their value systems).

Or look at the mainstream right. Christian fundamentalists, token libertarians and hawkish Neoconservatives... would any of these had it in itself given lots of power create a society compatible with any built by the other ones?

Thanks for posting that! The right really is more diverse philosophically and outlook wise than people often imagine.

The left has it's own equivalent, it is supposedly the weaker force, made up of those speaking truth to power in the name of the little man.

Neither a moderate liberal* nor a socialist/communist would likely welcome being lumped together with the other guy.

*(I'm using the European definition of liberalism, and I think that LW would do well to switch to using European political divisions in general)

I'm using the European definition of liberalism

I wasn't aware that there is a consistent European definition of liberalism.

I live in Slovakia. When people around me use the word "liberalism", and I ask them for definition, they all agree that it is something "about freedom". But when I ask what kind of freedom exactly... then some of them say it is a freedom to start your own business and do whatever you like as long as you don't harm anyone... and others say something that I interpret as the state should regulate everything, so everyone has a freedom to act without bad consequences. And both are convinced that their definition is the correct one, and sometimes they are surprised that someone could use the other definition.

Perhaps the first definition is the "classical liberalism" and the second one is the American usage (I guess in America word "socialist" was unpopular during the cold war, so socialists called themselves liberals), but the confusion is already here, too.

(This is part of the reason why politics is a mindkiller. People have strong opinions about things they don't even know what it means.)

Perhaps I shouldn't have talked about "definitions" at all then; maybe there's some word which can encapsulate that political labels are used mostly in contrast with other labeled concepts like them and are permeated with primal Green vs Blue, just like people belonging to a nation base their membership in it on the contrast with their non-membership in other nation-entities.

political labels are used mostly in contrast with other labeled concepts like them

Yes.

When I think about how people around me, who don't identify with label "liberal", define the word "liberal", it usually means "not one of us". And when people who identify with label "liberal", define the word "liberal", it usually means "one of us".

So the outside definition really depends on what other political labels are frequent in given environment. For example in Slovakia many people identify as "conservative" which approximately means: Catholic, or someone who is not really Catholic, but accepts that Catholic church / culture / tradition is very important part of society. So their definition of "liberal" is simply someone who opposes the Catholic church and traditions; no more details are really necessary, because one label for all enemies is emotionally enough. Then there are many socialists who either use the word "liberal" for themselves to avoid some bad connotations of the word "socialist"; or they are proud to call themselves "socialists" or "communists", and then they use the label "liberal" for someone who supposedly opposes all equality, solidarity and generally any human feelings (some exaggerating here). Sometimes they even say "neo-liberal" which describes even stronger feelings of revulsion; it probably means: even worse than an ordinary liberal.

On the other hand, people who use label "liberal" for themselves, they simply mean: a cool person who has the same opinions as me. And then they are surprised to find out that other people using the same label have different opinions. But of course the explanation is that the other ones' use of the label is incorrect.

There is some nonzero correlation between political labels and their meanings, but it is far from a clear definition.

(I'm using the European definition of liberalism, and I think that LW would do well to switch to using European political divisions in general)

Could you elaborate on your reasons?

Just one reason I've cared to think of: intellectual discourse in literally the whole world outside of the U.S. uses European definitions. To us the Americans are the ones with weird counterintuitive definitions, and there's a lot more of us.

While this sounds plausible to me (and speaking as an American, I don't like American politics), I'd like to doublecheck: are you European, and if so how do you know that the world outside of Europe uses European definitions?

In Slovenia Liberalism is basically means a sort of light Libertarianism, or the closest we have to it.

I'm Russian (whether my nation can and should identify as European has been an unrelenting argument for the last 300 years), and I like reading syndication-based websites like russ.ru and liberty.ru, which quite commonly refer to non-Western thought or have articles by non-Western authors.

(I'm using the European definition of liberalism, and I think that LW would do well to switch to using European political divisions in general)

Really? In Portugal, 'liberals' are similar to what Americans call 'libertarians'.

Modern Classical Liberals are basically on the right in my country.

From Politics is the Mind-Killer:

If your point is inherently about politics, then talk about Louis XVI during the French Revolution.

Or how about Marxism at least? Exact same dynamic as the one you speak of (the claim that they speak for a silent oppressed majority that's certain to win out in the end), but far less likely to explode in your face on this blog.

I did think about Marxism, but why would it be less likely to explode in my face? It's also a modern political position. I decided to go with the Republican case because it was where I originally noticed it and as far as I can tell the most archetypal example. I considered it acceptable because I'm not actually saying the Republicans are wrong about any particular policy issue.

Would you prefer that next time I include two examples, one attacking either "side" of the political "spectrum" next time? Or can you think of some historical example that would be as immediately recognizable to everyone here as the Republican one?

I'm also getting a little sick of always using groups disliked by the entire Less Wrong community as examples (eg Christians). Yes, it makes it easier to read without getting angry, but it seems too potentially dangerous to come here and see something else accusing Christians every night. I don't know what to do about it.

It's always going to be dangerous to point out the hypocrisy of a powerful ideology, but doing so puts you in the position of the underdog, the spunky inquisitor who puts himself in harm's way by displeasing the powerful force.

If you point out the warts of less-powerful ideologies, you not only risk displeasing them but make yourself vulnerable to being viewed as bigoted or a bully. Unless the group is one which greater society has labeled as "Leper! Outcast! Unclean!", that will also tend to draw the disapproval of others, and without the benefits of underdogging.

The safest route, for your reputation though not your honor, is to attack a group that society wishes you to attack for conformity's sake. No one wishes to speak well of such a group, no matter how limitedly, for fear of being associated with them, and everyone wishes to demonstrate to the rest that they loathe the despised ones.

That means, of course, that when you die you'll go to the special Hell. The one reserved for rhetoricians, and people who didn't like Firefly.

It might also be useful to point out hypocrisy and incoherence in a range of political points of view., instead just choosing one.

General question: LW has been poking at the question of whether we can discuss politics rationally for at least a couple of years now. Have we made any progress in our ability to do so?

I did think about Marxism, but why would it be less likely to explode in my face? It's also a modern political position.

The probability of a staunch Marxist commenting on this blog seems to be vastly less than the probability of a staunch (non-religious) Republican doing so. We don't want to drive away many potential readers on account of their surface positions before they have a chance to reconsider things. Also, we really don't want an accidental political flamewar to start in a comment thread, so political examples should be chosen to tread on fewer current toes if at all possible.

Would you prefer that next time I include two examples, one attacking either "side" of the political "spectrum" next time?

No! This would make it even more likely to cause one of the bad outcomes above! This isn't about "fairness", it's about prudence.

Or can you think of some historical example that would be as immediately recognizable to everyone here as the Republican one?

Again, I think people here generally have the basic political literacy to recognize the Marxist example.

I spend most of my time abroad, and come across more (or at least louder) Marxist sympathizers than conservative Republican sympathizers. This is probably not representative of people on this blog, and I will take it into account next time I post something.

I'm also getting a little sick of always using groups disliked by the entire Less Wrong community as examples (eg Christians)

So am I, but I'm not sure choosing Republicans is a better alternative - to me it feels a bit too much like taking a dig at the Hated Enemy, like flagging Less Wrong as belonging on a particular place on the political spectrum.

(Not that I have any better examples to propose)

I strongly second this. Reading this post (especially the bit about Republicans) tends to make me think about how I feel about contemporary american politics, and I don't want to use that part of my brain, it's bug-ridden and unreliable.

Still, it's a great post. I've often got annoyed at how discussions turned into debating who deserved the most pity, and at the tacit assumption that it is in any way related to who is right. I wish there was a good way of pointing that out that didn't make me sound like one of Them, the Evil Oppressors.

Reading this post tends to make me think about how I feel about contemporary american politics, and I don't want to use that part of my brain, it's bug-ridden and unreliable.

I understand the sentiment, but if we're trying to overcome our biases/be less wrong, perhaps this is exactly the sort of practice we need?

Obviously, this this may not be the main point of any post where this issue arises, but are there things posters might do to encourage people not to think about things in damaging or counterproductive ways? Would a

Warning: vaguely political topic ahead; please exercise extreme caution in forming opinions

notice serve any purpose?

This reminds me of an American student wanting to improve their French who travels to France and learns math, science, history, etc. etc. in the French language. You greatly improve your French ability, but at the expense of greatly increasing the difficulty with which you learn everything else. Still, many people make the tradeoff and find the experience extremely rewarding. However, they generally do this after a few years of studying French in an American classroom. You would not want to do it if you were not already highly confident in your mastery of French.

So, are we confident enough in our ability to overcome political bias to consider studying abroad?

The point that there are tradeoffs involved here is well-made; but it's not like anyone's actually suggesting immersion in political topics (well, at least I'm not).

I'm suggesting that maybe it might not be such a bad thing to throw some French phrases into our general curriculum every now and then, particularly if the ideas happen to be more naturally expressed in French than in English. I'm also wondering whether, if we were going to do that, there are things we can do to minimize the damage that speaking French does to the learning experience.

(That sound you hear in the background is a strained metaphor snapping. Sorry.)

(That sound you hear in the background is a strained metaphor snapping. Sorry.)

Actually I think you were doing quite well with it. Sadly, I'm about to break it on purpose. The trouble is that talking politics is worse than speaking French. If I speak a sentence in French which you do not understand, your verbal subroutines usually do not return bad data, they return "error" (In fact you may well commit a mind-projection fallacy and think that I am speaking gibberish. This is an interesting case of "how the algorithm feels from the inside" on which I may write later.) If I start talking about whether the Palestinians deserve their land, and you become politically involved, you do not return "error," you return a somatic marker which feels from the inside like a fact about the world. Thus, unless we are extremely confident of our development as rationalists, talking about politics seems risky precisely because we may underestimate its effects on our understanding.

Agreed. And maybe it's not worth the risk.

But this leaves rather open the question of how we are supposed to develop as rationalists in this regard. Is practice always too dangerous? Or is it just practicing in a public forum like a community blog? What if it were only a minimally controversial political topic? What if it were pitched explicitly as an "overcome politics as the mind killer" training exercise? Could that help?

I understand the sentiment, but if we're trying to overcome our biases/be less wrong, perhaps this is exactly the sort of practice we need?

Maybe, but it doesn't take a lot of effort to find political opinion (it takes more effort to avoid being exposed to it!).

On the other hand, talking too much about politics on Less Wrong is a serious risk for the community. I don't want this to be a place where people can come comfortable in the opinion that most people will share your political views, where people congratulate each other for how rational they are for having the same opinions. So the less signaling about political affiliation of members, the better.

Isn't the safest option to always discuss the bad points from your own side?- possibly prefaced by a note explaining this. If I write something critical of the UK Conservative Party, or Hayek, you can be sure it's because I genuinely think they have something wrong, and sufficiently wrong to over-come my in-group feelings, rather than simply being another attack on The Evil Enemy.

I recall one occasion where I was tempted to post about a conversation I had with one of the Ocupy Wallstreet crowd, but with all of the factual statements stripped away and only the logical structure of the conversation left (the point being to illustrate an observation that I made about dialogues between people with incompatible worldviews, and not about the Occupy Movement itself), but I ultimately abandoned the post half written as too unwieldy.

Hey, this is awesome! I bet I personally adhere to a have-cake+eat-cake position on some political issue. Let me think... Yeah, I've got it: Copyright reform.

What would be really useful in winning converts would be to be a persecuted underdog who was also very powerful and certain to win out.

Exactly. We copyright reformists are a persecuted underdog but also ultimately unstoppable and with the tide of history at our back.

They believe in a silent majority. Liberals control all sorts of nefarious institutions that are currently exercising a stranglehold on power and hiding the truth, but most Americans, once you pull the wool off their eyes, are conservatives at heart.

This fits me so well! I believe in a silent majority too. Copyright maximalists control all sorts of nefarious institutions that are currently exercising a stranglehold on power but most people don't at heart believe in the copyright regime. They sure don't act like they do.

I had been wondering why I can get so emotional about this political issue while I'm generally able to calmly discuss the merits and dismerits of any political idea or system. I suppose this "unstoppable underdog" thing has a strong psychological appeal.