I have another lesswrong account too, but this one is for when I don't want to use my real name.

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I know nothing about this topic. In particular, I haven’t heard of Michael Bailey and Kevin Hsu before.

But I do know that there are terrible arguments on both sides of every issue—even issues where there is also healthy discourse and very good arguments.

Are Michael Bailey and Kevin Hsu the least-bad arguers for their position? Or are they especially well-known / famous / widely-respected figure-heads of that side of the debate? If so, you should say that somewhere.

Otherwise it sounds (to non-knowledgeable ears like mine) like you were just searching for an idiot on that side of the aisle, and hey you found one, and now you can call them out for their idiocy and spread guilt-by-association to everyone else who has wound up reaching similar conclusions.

Hmm, my two-sentence summary attempt for this post would be: "In recent drama-related posts, the comment section discussion seems very soldier-mindset instead of scout-mindset, including things like up- and down-voting comments based on which "team" they support rather than soundness of reasoning, and not conceding / correcting errors when pointed out, etc. This is a failure of the LW community and we should brainstorm how to fix it."

If that's a bad summary, it might not be Duncan's fault, I kinda skimmed.

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

There's certainly something to that. But in the other direction, there's the Claudette Colvin vs Rosa Parks anecdote, where (as I understand it) civil rights campaigners declined to signal-boost and take a stand on a case that they thought the general public would be unsympathetic to (an unmarried pregnant teen defender), and instead waited for a more PR-friendly test case to come along. We can't know the counterfactual, but I see that as a plausibly reasonable and successful strategic decision.

The toxoplasma of rage dynamic is to go out of your way to seek the least PR-friendly test cases, because that's optimal for in-group signaling. I view that as a failure mode to be kept in mind (while acknowledging that sometimes defending scoundrels is exactly the right thing to do).

I want to say loud and clear that I don't think the only two options are (1) "saying X in a way that will predictably and deeply hurt lots of people and/or piss them off" and (2) "not saying X at all". There's also the option of (3) "saying X in a way that will bring anti-X-ers to change their mind and join your side". And also sometimes there's (4) "saying X in a kinda low-key way where anti-X-ers won't really care or take notice, or at least won't try to take revenge on things that we care about".

My sense is that there's safety-in-numbers in saying "obviously Tiananmen Square is a thing that happened", in a way that there is not safety-in-numbers in saying "obviously TBC is a perfectly lovely normal book full of interesting insights written in good faith by a smart and reasonable person who is not racist in the slightest".

But still, if lots and lots of people in China believe Z, and I were writing a post that says "Here's why Z is false", I would try to write it in a way that might be persuasive to initially-skeptical Chinese readers. And if I were writing a post that says "Z is false, and this has interesting implications on A,B,C", I would try to open it with "Side note: I'm taking it for granted that Z is false for the purpose of this post. Not everyone agrees with me that Z is false. But I really think I'm right about this, and here's a link to a different article that makes that argument in great detail."

we are talking about the book’s provenance / authorship / otherwise “metadata”—and certainly not about the book’s impact

A belief that "TBC was written by a racist for the express purpose of justifying racism" would seem to qualify as "worth mentioning prominently at the top" under that standard, right?

And it would be quite unreasonable to suggest that a post titled “Book Review: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is somehow inherently “provocative”, “insulting”, “offensive”, etc., etc.

I imagine that very few people would find the title by itself insulting; it's really "the title in conjunction with the first paragraph or two" (i.e. far enough to see that the author is not going to talk up-front about the elephant in the room).

Hmm, maybe another better way to say it is: The title plus the genre is what might insult people. The genre of this OP is "a book review that treats the book as a serious good-faith work of nonfiction, which might have some errors, just like any nonfiction book, but also presumably has some interesting facts etc." You don't need to read far or carefully to know that the OP belongs to this genre. It's a very different genre from a (reasonable) book review of "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", or a (reasonable) book review of "Mein Kampf", or a (reasonable) book review of "Harry Potter".

Hmm, I think you didn't get what I was saying. A book review of "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is great, I'm all for it. A book review of "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" which treats it as a perfectly lovely normal book and doesn't say anything about the book being a forgery until you get 28 paragraphs into the review and even then it's barely mentioned is the thing that I would find extremely problematic. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't that seem like kind of a glaring omission? Wouldn't that raise some questions about the author's beliefs and motives in writing the review?

Do you view those facts as evidence that I’m an unreasonable person?


Do you ever, in your life, think that things are true without checking? Do you think that the radius of earth is 6380 km? (Did you check? Did you look for skeptical sources?) Do you think that lobsters are more closely related to shrimp than to silverfish? (Did you check? Did you look for skeptical sources?) Do you think that it's dangerous to eat an entire bottle of medicine at once? (Did you check? Did you look for skeptical sources?)

I think you're holding people up to an unreasonable standard here. You can't do anything in life without having sources that you generally trust as being probably correct about certain things. In my life, I have at time trusted sources that in retrospect did not deserve my trust. I imagine that this is true of everyone.

Suppose we want to solve that problem. (We do, right?) I feel like you're proposing a solution of "form a community of people who have never trusted anyone about anything". But such community would be empty! A better solution is: have a bunch of Scott Alexanders, who accept that people currently have beliefs that are wrong, but charitably assume that maybe those people are nevertheless open to reason, and try to meet them where they are and gently persuade them that they might be mistaken. Gradually, in this way, the people (like former-me) who were trusting the wrong sources can escape of their bubble and find better sources, including sources who preach the virtues of rationality.

We're not born with an epistemology instruction manual. We all have to find our way, and we probably won't get it right the first time. Splitting the world into "people who already agree with me" and "people who are forever beyond reason", that's the wrong approach. Well, maybe it works for powerful interest groups that can bully people around. We here at lesswrong are not such a group. But we do have the superpower of ability and willingness to bring people to our side via patience and charity and good careful arguments. We should use it! :)

I don't think my suggestions are getting pushback; I think that my suggestions are being pattern-matched to "let's all self-censor / cower before the woke mob" and everyone loves having that debate at the slightest pretense. For example, I maintain that my suggestion of "post at another site and linkpost from here, in certain special situations" is next-to-zero-cost, for significant benefit. Indeed, some people routinely post-elsewhere-and-linkpost, for no reason in particular. (The OP author already has a self-hosted blog, so there's no inconvenience.) This seems to me like a prudent, win-win move, and if people aren't jumping on it, I'm tempted to speculate that people are here for the fun signaling not the boring problem-solving / world-optimizing.

Imposing restrictions on our prolific writers

That's not a useful framing. The mods have indicated that they won't impose restrictions. Instead, I am trying to persuade people.

Sorry, what? A book which you (the hypothetical Person A) have never read (and in fact have only the vaguest notion of the contents of) has personally caused you to suffer? And by successfully (!!) “advocating for racism”, at that? This is… well, “quite a leap” seems like an understatement; perhaps the appropriate metaphor would have to involve some sort of Olympic pole-vaulting event. This entire (supposed) perspective is absurd from any sane person’s perspective.

I have a sincere belief that The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion directly contributed to the torture and death of some of my ancestors. I hold this belief despite having never read this book, and having only the vaguest notion of the contents of this book, and having never sought out sources that describe this book from a "neutral" point of view.

Do you view those facts as evidence that I'm an unreasonable person?

Further, if I saw a post about The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion that conspicuously failed to mention anything about people being oppressed as a result of the book, or a post that buried said discussion until after 28 paragraphs of calm open-minded analysis, well, I think I wouldn't read through the whole piece, and I would also jump to some conclusions about the author. I stand by this being a reasonable thing to do, given that I don't have unlimited time.

By contrast, if I saw a post about The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion that opened with "I get it, I know what you've heard about this book, but hear me out, I'm going to explain why we should give this book a chance with an open mind, notwithstanding its reputation…", then I would certainly consider reading the piece.

My comment here argues that a reasonable person could find this post insulting.

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