I don't think "condescending" touches accurately upon what is going on here. This seems to be politics being the mindkiller pretty heavily (ironically one of the things they apparently think is stupid or hypocritical). They've apparently taken some of the lack of a better term "right-wing" posts and used that as a general portrayal of LW. Heck, I'm in many ways on the same political/tribal group as this author and think most of what they said is junk.. Examples include:

Members of Lesswrong are adept at rationalising away any threats to their privilege with a few quick "Bayesian Judo" chops. The sufferings caused by today's elites — the billions of people who are forced to endure lives of slavery, misery, poverty, famine, fear, abuse and disease for their benefit — are treated at best as an abstract problem, of slightly lesser importance than nailing down the priors of a Bayesian formula. While the theories of right-wing economists are accepted without argument, the theories of socialists, feminists, anti-racists, environmentalists, conservationists or anyone who might upset the Bayesian worldview are subjected to extended empty "rationalist" bloviating. On the subject of feminism, Muehlhauser adopts the tactics of an MRA concern troll, claiming to be a feminist but demanding a "rational" account of why objectification is a problem. Frankly, the Lesswrong brand of "rationality" is bigotry in disguise.

A variety of interesting links are included in that paragraph. Most noteworthy, every word in `extended empty "rationalist" bloviating' links to a different essay, with "rationalist" linking to this, which criticizes rhetorical arguments made throughout the standard political spectrum.

A number of essays are quoted in ways that look like they are either being quoted in an out of context fashion or in a way that is consistent with maximally uncharitable interpretations. The section about race and LW easily falls into this category (and is as far as I can tell, particularly ironic given that as far as I can tell, there has been more explicit racism on LW before).

Similarly, while I stand fairly strongly as one of the people here who really don't like PUA, it is clear that calling it a "de facto rape methodology" is simply inaccurate.

At least a few points bordered on almost satire of a certain sort of argument. One obvious paragraph in that regard is:

Yudkowsky believes that "the world is stratified by genuine competence" and that today's elites have found their deserved place in the hierarchy. This is a comforting message for a cult that draws its membership from a social base of Web entrepreneurs, startup CEOs, STEM PhDs, Ivy leaguers, and assorted computer-savvy rich kids. Yudkowsky so thoroughly identifies himself with this milieu of one-percenters that even when discussing Bayesianism, he slips into the language of a heartless rentier. A belief should "pay the rent", he says, or be made to suffer: "If it turns deadbeat, evict it."

I'll let others who want to spend the time analyze everything that's off about that paragraph.

Another fun bit:

The main reason to pay attention to the Lesswrong cult is that it has a lot of rich and powerful backers. The Singularity Institute is primarily bankrolled by Yudkowsky's billionaire friend Peter Thiel, the hedge fund operator and co-founder of PayPal, who has donated over a million dollars to the Institute throughout its existence [4]. Thiel, who was one of the principal backers of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign, is a staunch libertarian and lifelong activist for right-wing causes. Back in his undergrad days, he co-founded Stanford University's pro-Reagan rag The Stanford Review, which became notorious for its anti-PC stance and its defences of hate speech. The Stanford experience seems to have marked Thiel with a lasting dislike of PC types and feminists and minorities and other people who tend to remind him what a shit he is. In 1995, he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth: 'Multiculturalism' and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford, which was too breathtakingly right-wing even for Condi Rice; one of his projects today is the Thiel's Little Achievers Fellowship, which encourages students to drop out of university and start their own businesses, free from the corrupting influence of left-wing academics and activists.

Apparently Thiel is to certain groups the same sort of boogeyman that the Koch brothers are to much of the left and George Soros is to some on the right. I find it interesting to see one of the rare examples of someone actually using "PC" as a positive term, and actually made me briefly wonder if this was satire.

There are handful of marginally valid points here but they get completely lost in the noise, and they aren't by and large original points. I do think however, that some aspects of the essay might raise interesting thought exercises, such as explaining everything that's wrong with footnote 2.

0Emile7yMy English teacher used "Political Correctness" as a positive term, which surprised me too, though I guess in the context of a teacher who's supposed to avoid discussing politics in class it does make sense to use it as an explicit norm.
2Douglas_Knight7yPerhaps by "which became notorious for its anti-PC stance and its defences of hate speech" he means "notorious for being so anti-PC that it defended hate speech"? I think that's pretty accurate. (Bond's weak tea 2011 link doesn't defend hate speech, but argues that it is often a false label.)

Open thread, August 12-18, 2013

by David_Gerard 1 min read12th Aug 2013125 comments


If it's worth saying, but not worth its own post (even in Discussion), then it goes here.