Cartoon: The Brave Truth-Teller

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I’ve met this guy dozens of times – the (typically) white (typically) male guy who seems to be constantly patting himself on the back for his own bravitude in stating forbidden views that, somehow, despite being forbidden and despite the iron grip that “political correctness” has on our national dialog, people are in fact saying all the time.

Some of these folks – Jordon Peterson comes to mind – have really built a brand on this silliness. Arguably, Donald Trump was elected president on this silliness.

Speaking of which, this comic originally had a different kicker, which I had actually drawn before trading it for the one I used.

As my mom pointed out to me, the Trump comparison is so obvious that it pretty much goes without saying, so why even say it? (Also, looking at it now, “massive” might be taken as a fat joke, which certainly wasn’t my intent.)

This one took FOREVER to draw! In my original layout, panel 3 pretty much looked like panel 2, except with a crowd gathered in front of the main character. But repeating the layout like that just seemed so boring… So I decided to use this bird’s eye perspective instead.

It was an interesting challenge, I had fun drawing it, and in the end there were 36 (I think) people visible in that panel. See above re: Taking forever. I hope y’all enjoyed looking at it!

In panel 2, if you look in the far background on the right, you can see a tiny figure way in the distance, also waving his arms and yelling. That was my little (literally) nod to how these folks, despite their worship of their own individuality, are really a common type one runs into again and again.

For the final panel, I tried to make it look just a bit more “real”; more detailed coloring and shading, and populating his room with some details (an open book, sneakers kicked off on the floor, etc), to contrast with the character’s daydream.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

PANEL 1
A white man with an exaggerated “fashy” haircut – shaved close on the sides, longer and neatly combed on top – stands on top of a hill, one hand raised, declaiming. He’s wearing a blue polo shirt. Cumulus clouds cross the sky behind him. He is speaking loudly with a stern expression.

BTT: I am the Brave Truth-Teller!
BTT: I speak the truths that ordinary people are too cowed to say!
BTT: Come hear my incredible courage!

PANEL 2
The same scene, but the “camera” has backed up a bit, and in the foreground a couple more white people – a man and a woman – are looking at the Brave Truth-Teller in delighted surprise. Waaay in the background, we can see a tiny figure on a distant hill, who also seems to be declaiming.

BTT: I’m the only one who dares to say:
BTT: I will not used your “preferred pronoun!”
BTT: Men are the real victims of sexism!
BTT: Whites are the real victims of racism!
BTT: Fat people are objectively gross!
MAN: Gasp! That man! He’s speaking the truth!
WOMAN: Is that allowed? He is so BRAVE!

PANEL 3
The “camera” is now straight above the Brave Truth-Teller, pointing down at him as he goes on. He is now surrounded by a big crowd of smiling admirers. They seem to be almost all white people.

BTT: Hitler was a lefty!
BTT: Liberals are totalitarians!
SOMEONE IN CROWD: Brave Truth-Teller! May I put you on TV?
SOMEONE IN CROWD: May I give you a million dollars?
SOMEONE IN CROWD: May I give you a book contract?
SOMEONE IN CROWD: May I have sex with you?
SOMEONE IN CROWD: Me too!
SOMEONE IN CROWD: You should run for office!

Instead of having a bottom panel border, panel 3 turns into a thought balloon at the bottom. The thought balloon leads to…

PANEL 4
The Brave Truth-Teller is sitting in an ordinary looking home. He’s in a plaid armchair, with a laptop on his lap. There’s a non-matching ottoman in front of the chair. Next to the chair is a little round table holding a lamp, a coffee mug, a pencil, and an open copy of “12 Rules For Life” by Jordan Peterson. His sneakers lie on the floor nearby. There’s a window, through which we can see a bush and a tree outside, and a dresser with some books on top and a half-open drawer. The colors in this panel are a bit more naturalistic than in the previous panels.

The previous panel’s art is in a thought balloon, leading to the BTT’s head.

BTT (thought): Someday…

SMALL KICKER PANEL UNDER THE CARTOON
The BTT, smiling, is speaking with Barry the Cartoonist, who isn’t smiling.

BTT: Until then, I’ve got my own youtube channel.
BARRY: Of course you do.

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115 Responses to Cartoon: The Brave Truth-Teller

  1. 1
    Chris says:

    The birds’ eye view portion is outstanding, as is the way it fades into the man’s daydream. This is definitely one of your best, artistically speaking.

  2. 2
    Kate says:

    I also like the way the speech bubbles draw you from the second panel into the third.

  3. 3
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    You’ve got foreshortening skills!

  4. 4
    desipis says:

    I like the art in this comic too. Although I didn’t notice the colours until after I read your comment on them.

    The message in this one seems to be applicable to keyboard warriors from across the political spectrum. As for both Trump and Peterson, neither of them are sitting along typing on keyboards hoping for attention, so I’m not sure how this applies to them. I also don’t see how you could possibly see the two as comparable.

    On that point, I’ve never quite understood the disdain that many people have for Peterson. He’s largely a political moderate who opposes extremes on both sides of politics. His controversial stance on gender pronouns might have gave his brand a bit of a kick, but he’s popularity stems from the positive contents of his message and his integrity in standing up for what he believes in.

  5. 5
    Jake Squid says:

    He’s largely a political moderate who opposes extremes on both sides of politics.

    /

    I don’t know about everybody else, but I find Peterson to be quite an extremist.

    That said, the art in this comic is really wonderful.

  6. 6
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I don’t know about everybody else, but I find Peterson to be quite an extremist.

    This is a weird take. Peterson’s favorite talking point goes something like this:

    “We know when the right has gone too far right, we draw the line at racial/religious superiority. These anti-bodies against radicalism are good. Why don’t we have a similar line for left wing ideology?”

    Have you read or listened to him much? I often disagree with the man, but he’s no extremist. He voices some bizarre philosophical justifications, but his stances on most issues are well within the mainstream (including his usage of “enforced monogamy,” )

    I’d like to hear what actual right wing extremists think of the man.

  7. 7
    desipis says:

    I don’t know about everybody else, but I find Peterson to be quite an extremist.

    Extremist in what way? I’ll grant that he certainly uses hyperbolic language occasionally, but the point he’s making is usually rather nuanced.

  8. 8
    Jake Squid says:

    He argued in a recent video that American universities are the home to “ideologues who claim that all truth is subjective, that all sex differences are socially constructed, and that Western imperialism is the sole source of all Third World problems.”

    That seems pretty extreme to me, but what do I know?

  9. 9
    Sebastian H says:

    That’s a pretty truncated quote, but it doesn’t sound that extreme. The truth is subjective claim is the key claim of literary “Criticism” (with a capital C) which was the dominant intellectual ideology in literature and many other humanities related disciplines from the late 60s through at least the late 2000s. I’d mark it as not losing hold until it was realized how bad that kind of rhetoric plays created intellectual space for global warming deniers to look serious.

    “All sex differences are socially constructed” is a classic case of specialist language being used sloppily in public discourse. It turns on which academic meaning of constructed you use, and how tightly is linked to deconstructionism. See also how “racism” or “sexism” or “cis gendered” get used very differently in popular discourse outside of their specific academic jargon uses, and how that slippage gets leveraged.

    “Western imperialism is the sole source of all Third World problems” is indeed hyperbole. But change it to “main source” and you can find many dubious historians who are willing to go there. This combines with the above in yucky ways when it’s in popular culture.

    It’s interesting how we code hyperbole depending on in group out group status.

  10. Sebastian:

    You wrote:

    The truth is subjective claim is the key claim of literary “Criticism” (with a capital C) which was the dominant intellectual ideology in literature and many other humanities related disciplines from the late 60s through at least the late 2000s. I’d mark it as not losing hold until it was realized how bad that kind of rhetoric plays created intellectual space for global warming deniers to look serious.

    I just want to point out, as someone who went to graduate school and studied literary criticism with literary critics (with a Capital C) that this is an example of what you describe as “a classic case of specialist language being used sloppily in public discourse.”

  11. 11
    Petar says:

    Hold a second!

    Does using hyperbole to describe your opponents’ beliefs counts as extremism now?

    Wow.

  12. 12
    Jake Squid says:

    Does using hyperbole to describe your opponents’ beliefs counts as extremism now?

    Seems like he was describing his beliefs about others to me.

    If I say that Islam is a violent religion that encourages its adherents to acts of murder and destruction, am I an extremist or merely using hyperbole to describe my opponents’ beliefs?

    Opinions may differ!

  13. 13
    Mandolin says:

    He’s the “enforce monogamy” guy, right? That seems fairly extreme.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some quotes I could pull, but the idea of reading a bunch of Petersen quotes does not stir my soul, and I think I could probably put my time to better use, alas.

    I don’t know if his claim to eat a diet entirely of beef is extreme. I would probably characterize it as silly. (I haven’t looked into this beyond reading someone else’s blog post saying he claims that; the situation may be different than their interpretation suggests; I would go read about it, but again, my soul remains unstirred.)

  14. 14
    Jake Squid says:

    He’s the “enforce monogamy” guy, right?

    Yep. And if I remember it right, he says that violence perpetrated against women would be greatly reduced if only women would marry (or at least screw) all these men who our feminized society says are undesirable.

    Oh, he also says that, “… chaos is represented by ‘the feminine’ and order is masculine.”

    But he is in no way an extremist and my suggesting such is clearly evidence of my own extremism or hysteria. Because, of course, extreme androcentrism and misogyny is the well accepted norm and nothing you could call extremist.

    Plus he hardly every calls people derogatory slurs, so…. Centrist with a capital “C”.

  15. 15
    Sebastian H says:

    Richard is there some part of that sentence you specifically think is wrong? Would you date it’s dominance to the 70s for example? Do you think it hasn’t lost its power even still? Do you think textual and moral subjectivity is not a major part of Criticsm?

  16. 16
    Harlequin says:

    Here’s my favorite example of Jordan Peterson being extremely conservative: a tweet that says, “Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?”

    Let me count the many things I enjoy about this tweet!
    – Thinking that young women today are unusually outraged
    – Thinking that there is nothing obvious about society that could explain young women being outraged
    – Thinking that the child nurturing instinct (and specifically baby nurturing instinct) is so universal, fundamental, and important that its lack of exercise causes young women as a class to be deranged
    – Being, apparently, unaware how many young women are employed (full or part time) as babysitters, nannies, or day care staff. Being a reliable, white, middle class girl who would bring a book along instead of watching TV meant I had way MORE infant contact as a teen than I actually wanted. (This could be more geography- and class-linked than I realize, I acknowledge, though I did try to think through conversations I’ve had with people outside of my class, race, and geographic origin.)

    So–and it’s always possible I’m reading things wrong–that tweet to me both portrays an unusually strong belief in the biological origin of traditional gender roles, and a notable lack of interest in learning anything about women’s actual lives. He’s not, like, a 1% outlier, but it’s still firmly outside the mainstream to me.

    I really like the cartoon, although I will note that the crowd’s reaction happens in reality more often than I wish it did!!

  17. 17
    Kate says:

    He’s the “enforce monogamy” guy, right?

    Right Unfortunately the actual interview is behind a paywall at the New York Times.

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    Here’s an alternate link to the Peterson interview.

  19. 19
    desipis says:

    The “enforced monogamy” thing was blown way out of proportion. This is Peterson’s response:

    So, let’s summarize. Men get frustrated when they are not competitive in the sexual marketplace (note: the fact that they DO get frustrated does not mean that they SHOULD get frustrated. Pointing out the existence of something is not the same as justifying its existence). Frustrated men tend to become dangerous, particularly if they are young. The dangerousness of frustrated young men (even if that frustration stems from their own incompetence) has to be regulated socially. The manifold social conventions tilting most societies toward monogamy constitute such regulation.

    That’s all.

    No recommendation of police-state assignation of woman to man (or, for that matter, man to woman).

    No arbitrary dealing out of damsels to incels.

    Nothing scandalous (all innuendo and suggestive editing to the contrary)

    Just the plain, bare, common-sense facts: socially-enforced monogamous conventions decrease male violence. In addition (and not trivially) they also help provide mothers with comparatively reliable male partners, and increase the probability that stable, father-intact homes will exist for children.

  20. 20
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks to everyone for the compliments about the drawing, btw! I am proud of how the art in this one came out. :#)

  21. 21
    Ampersand says:

    Peterson also does things like doxing students who protest him – posting links to their facebook pages to his 850,000 twitter followers.

    I don’t care if that’s technically “doxing” or not. Peterson’s not nearly as smart as his followers think, but he’s also not a complete idiot; he knows when he does that, the result is going to be a ton of harassment and threats. It’s gratuitous, vindictive, and irresponsible.

  22. 22
    Jake Squid says:

    So Peterson walked back his enforced monogamy comment when confronted on it. That doesn’t make what he originally said not what he said. Nor does walking back one’s statement in the face of criticism make one not an extremist. Especially when one holds many other extreme positions.

    If Peterson isn’t an extremist, neither are MGTOW’s or MRA’s. And if those folks don’t qualify as extremists in your view, our definitions are so far apart that there’s no meaningful discussion to be had.

  23. 23
    desipis says:

    He didn’t walk back anything. He was straight up misinterpreted and misrepresented.

  24. 24
    desipis says:

    Harlequin:

    Here’s my favorite example of Jordan Peterson being extremely conservative: a tweet that says, “Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?”

    Is it extremist to ask a question? Is it the question that’s extreme or is it the conclusions and implications you’re projecting on to it extreme?

  25. 25
    Jake Squid says:

    This is extreme:

    In Mr. Peterson’s world, order is masculine. Chaos is feminine. And if an overdose of femininity is our new poison, Mr. Peterson knows the cure. Hence his new book’s subtitle: “An Antidote to Chaos.”

    This is extreme:

    It’s been represented like that forever. And there are reasons for it. You can’t change it. It’s not possible. This is underneath everything. If you change those basic categories, people wouldn’t be human anymore.

    This is ridiculous and reflects and extremist opinion of what Marxism is:

    “Marxism is resurgent,” Mr. Peterson says, looking ashen and stricken.

    This is him saying he’s an extremist:

    So he was radicalized, he says…

    This is ridiculous and extremist:

    But witches don’t exist, and they don’t live in swamps, I say.
    “Yeah, they do. They do exist. They just don’t exist the way you think they exist. They certainly exist.

    This is his extremist quote about enforced monogamy in response to the subject of the guy in Toronto who drove his van into and over people, killing 10:

    “He was angry at God because women were rejecting him,” Mr. Peterson says of the Toronto killer. “The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”

    This is extreme misogyny and extremist, too:

    Mr. Peterson does not pause when he says this. Enforced monogamy is, to him, simply a rational solution. Otherwise women will all only go for the most high-status men, he explains, and that couldn’t make either gender happy in the end.

    “Half the men fail,” he says, meaning that they don’t procreate. “And no one cares about the men who fail.”

    I laugh, because it is absurd.

    “You’re laughing about them,” he says, giving me a disappointed look. “That’s because you’re female.”

    These are not the statements of a mainstream, centrist person.

    If you think they are, you, too, may be an extremist.

  26. 26
    Petar says:

    Disclaimer: I consider him a glib philosopher, a successful mountebank with verbal diarrhea.

    But I think that it is disingenuous to say that this is an example of an extremist statement: “Yeah, they [witches] do. They do exist. They just don’t exist the way you think they exist. They certainly exist.

    He is a bloody Jungian, speaking about categories! In the same breath (same interview, same subject) he is speaking about dragons existing. He may be nuts, he may be an extremist, in a definition that would rope in Haredi scholars, but he does not believe that witches (spell-casting, children-eating, mortar-flying, etc.) exist.

    Mostly, his drivel is an attempt to find easy answers to a complex problem. And please don’t tell me that his brand of crazy is the only one guilty of that.

  27. Sebastian:

    The idea that subjectivity and truth are both constructed, which was the insight at the core of the literary criticism you’re talking about, is not the same thing as saying that truth is subjective. My point is that this insight got twisted into “truth is subjective” through the same kind of sloppy public discourse–sometimes, admittedly, practiced by people in the academy–that you rightly point out is at work when people are not careful about what the mean when they say “all sex differences are socially constructed.”

    This is, however, a tangent to the current discussion and so I think we ought not to pursue it further here.

  28. 28
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I have an idea. Let’s all name intellectuals we like that aren’t extremist, such that no one here could mine quotes and build a case against them.

    I’ll start: Cass Sunstein.

    Now ask yourself honestly, how many names did you have to pass over to get to the first person you’d feel comfortable naming?

  29. 29
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    The idea that subjectivity and truth are both constructed, which was the insight at the core of the literary criticism you’re talking about is not the same thing as saying that truth is subjective.

    Yeah, but “Truth is constructed,” is, in the words of Daniel Dennet, a deepity. One interpretation is trivially true and boring, while the other would be deeply meaningful if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s untrue.

  30. Jeffrey,

    One interpretation of what, precisely? Actually, let me change my question: what two interpretations do you see? Also, let’s please take this to an open thread, since it really is tangential to this discussion, I think.

  31. 31
    Ampersand says:

    Harlequin:

    Here’s my favorite example of Jordan Peterson being extremely conservative: a tweet that says, “Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?”

    Is it extremist to ask a question? Is it the question that’s extreme or is it the conclusions and implications you’re projecting on to it extreme?

    It’s pretty common, in English, for people to state what they mean as a question, which is what he was doing in this case. It’s as if I said “Is it possible that Republican anti-voting measures are racist?”; anyone with the slightest knowledge of me realizes that I am implying the answer is “yes.”

    This is hardly the only time Peterson uses this technique; for instance, he asked “do feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance?,” but later on, I think on Joe Rogen’s show, just outright said feminists support the rights of Muslims because of their “unconscious wish for brutal male domination.”

  32. 32
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    “Truth is a construct”

    Well, yeah. Everything I, you, or anyone will ever experience is a construct. No one experiences photons hitting their retinas, we all experience what our brains construct as a result. The language we use to describe the image our brain’s create is constructed, and to the degree with which we think in language, the construction of this language and the boundaries we place on categories will color the way we think about the things our mind constructs. We are social creatures who often work as a collective to build accurate maps of reality (truth), so our maps are social constructions and depend of the histories of the people we exist with, and the ideas passed from one generation to the next. This is all trivially true and obvious.

    The deepity depends on an alternative interpretation of social construction, where the value of the output of these processes is arbitrary because our understanding isn’t a direct reflection of the natural world. It’s why you can find people who will argue that narratives passed from one generation to the next are just as valuable for creating accurate maps of the world as more scientific approaches. These people exist, and they use “truth is a construct” as cover for their wacky approach to epistemology.

    This second interpretation is garbage. An AI that’s only ever played against itself at chess can kick my ass. It’s model of chess is more true than mine, despite the fact that my model of chess is a social construction, and the AI’s model is not- in fact it may be the case that no human alive even understands the AI’s model of chess. The accuracy of it’s model depends on predicative validity. It’s not 100% accurate in that it hasn’t “solved” chess (though one day it may) but it’s more predictive than mine, and thus more true.

    The whole “the truth is socially constructed” serves as a smokescreen to conceal what truth actually means. If my life depends on winning a game of chess, predictive validity is what defines “truth” with regard to chess. It may be the case that my understanding of chess is limited by the means with which I can construct it (social construction), but the value of my understanding of chess is solely dependent on predictive validity- it’s not arbitrary. Some ways at getting at that truth will be way better than others.

  33. 33
    Ampersand says:

    I’m not sure I’d call Peterson an “extremist”; in the age of President Trump, what I consider “extreme” has been recalibrated.

    I do think he’s glib and sexist (in ways that are bad for women and men) and frequently wrong.

    In the context of this cartoon, what I had in mind is how he first became famous; posing as some brave, brave man fighting against the trans language police, screaming that the legislature was about to pass a law which could throw him in jail for saying “she” instead of “he.” It was all nonsense, and most people who listened to him came away knowing less than they knew before. He made the discourse a lot worse by convincing people the legislation was something it wasn’t.

    But it allowed him to pretend to be courageous, and it set him on the path to his current wealth and success.

  34. 34
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Also, let’s please take this to an open thread, since it really is tangential to this discussion, I think.

    Good idea, but too late, you edited in this request while I typed my response. If you want me to copy/paste my reply elsewhere, I’d be happy to.

  35. 35
    Harlequin says:

    Edit: I took too long typing this out and editing it and crossposted with Amp, above, who manages to say in like 2 sentences what it took me 3 paragraphs to write…:)

    desipis:

    Is it extremist to ask a question?

    It isn’t necessarily, but it certainly can be. In this case I would say: it doesn’t appear to have been a misstatement, since he hasn’t taken it down despite a year of mockery; he is not known for making joking statements; and the idea that a large number of women might literally need infant contact to avoid emotional disturbance is weird enough that even seriously considering it puts him outside the mainstream. I would also consider the multiple reasons people may phrase things as questions: genuine curiosity, rhetorical questions, leading questions, proposals one is unsure about but thinks may be correct, etc.

    And when you say,

    Is it the question that’s extreme or is it the conclusions and implications you’re projecting on to it extreme?

    I mean–he’s a professional communicator at this point (books, speaking tours, YouTube), with a beat that by his own choice includes a lot of gender role stuff, and that’s at least tangentially related to his professional expertise in his other field. So I will give you the benefit of the doubt here that you give to Peterson, and interpret this question as genuine curiosity, in which case: If he doesn’t know that this statement will be interpreted by some as supporting very extreme versions of biologically-determined gender roles, then he is bad at his job. And if he does know it, and simply doesn’t care, then I think I can tell by his choice of audience if not his choice of topics that he is outside the mainstream.

    I mean, I’m happy to accept “Jordan Peterson is, quite simply, completely incompetent” instead of “Jordan Peterson holds extreme views”, if you’d prefer that. (And I guess I should specify here that “Jordan Peterson” means JP’s public persona–if he holds different private views, but does not express them, I have no access to that information. But that’s a general statement about anyone we judge by their public communication.)

    Jeffrey Gandee:

    Let’s all name intellectuals we like that aren’t extremist, such that no one here could mine quotes and build a case against them.

    This request seemed really weird to me, and I finally realized: because most of the intellectuals I like are extreme. I mean–I’d probably call them radical because they’re extreme and I agree with them, and I call Peterson extremist because he’s radical and I don’t. But I generally like the intellectuals I like because they challenge me to think about things in new ways, and it’s much harder to do that from the center than from the left. (Zeynep Tufekci might be the only example I can think of–but even there, she can be challenging from the mainstream because she’s in a new field with little established wisdom of any kind.)

  36. 36
    Jake Squid says:

    …because most of the intellectuals I like are extreme.

    Yeah. I was going to write earlier that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with being an extremist. Where it gets bad is where that extremism (or fantacism) hurts others. And Peterson’s extremism hurts tremendous numbers of human beings. Some of whom even post on this very blog.

  37. 37
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    This request seemed really weird to me, and I finally realized: because most of the intellectuals I like are extreme.

    That’s why I made the request :). I realized something similar- most intellectuals I like will have voiced extreme sounding opinions because being an interesting intellectual probably involves something like bravery- you have to feel like you have the freedom to explore crazy ideas. It may be a good idea to keep as wide an overton window as possible, and avoid labeling thinkers as extremists, if we want to create a fertile environment for good ideas.

  38. 38
    Erin says:

    Ampersand sez:

    “… screaming that the legislature was about to pass a law which could throw him in jail for saying ‘she’ instead of ‘he.’ ”

    Although your characterization is not the most charitable to Peterson – it’s close enough to recognize what you mean. The Canadian did pass that law (it was bill C-16):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Act_to_amend_the_Canadian_Human_Rights_Act_and_the_Criminal_Code

    “In November 2017, Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University who showed a video of Peterson’s critique of Bill C-16 in her ‘Canadian Communication in Context’ class, was reprimanded by faculty members, who said that she had created a ‘toxic climate’ for students by showing parts of Peterson’s argument, compared it to ‘neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos’, and claimed that she had violated Bill C-16.[16][17]”

    The neutral interested party can take a look in the Internet to see what others think of the repercussions of this bill on both sides. Repeated uses of the “wrong pronoun” with intent could well land you in legal hot water. I’m not sure a person who has concerns about this has to necessarily have an extremist position.

    —————————————————————-

    Side note, somewhat different issue: Why the great effort to put Peterson into the “extremist” category? Why not just discuss his individual views? It’s the same as a certain group of people in society constantly trying to put Trump into the “racist” or whatever category. I guess the idea is that if Peterson is successfully categorized as an extremist, he will just disappear. Same with Trump, if he is categorized as a racist, Hillary wins the election hands down.

  39. 39
    desipis says:

    And Peterson’s extremism hurts tremendous numbers of human beings.

    I’ve seen evidence that plenty of people are helped (or at least report being helped) by Peterson’s words. Who exactly is being hurt by them, and how?

  40. 40
    desipis says:

    Harlequinn:

    If he doesn’t know that this statement will be interpreted by some as supporting very extreme versions of biologically-determined gender roles, then he is bad at his job.

    There are plenty of feminist terms that are likely to be interpreted in negative ways too, for example toxic masculinity, male privilege or rape culture. Would you agree that all the feminists who use these terms to communicate about gender issues are “bad at their job”?

    And if he does know it, and simply doesn’t care, then I think I can tell by his choice of audience if not his choice of topics that he is outside the mainstream.

    He does have a peculiar way of using language that differs from the way many others use terms. Given his success in communicating with quite a sizeable audience, I don’t think that’s a problem with him. This is starting to get at the issue that helped him rise to prominence. Why does he have an obligation to adopt language the way you use it; why don’t you have an obligation adopt language in the way he uses it?

    I mean, I’m happy to accept “Jordan Peterson is, quite simply, completely incompetent” instead of “Jordan Peterson holds extreme views”, if you’d prefer that.

    I think it’s “Jordan Peterson adopts a peculiar use of language in an attempt to communicate about complex and nuanced ideas which makes it easy those with an axe to grind to cherry pick quotes out of context.” I’d definitely agree with the criticism that his use of language the best in order to achieve clear communication. It’s a criticism I’ve often made of feminists. But that doesn’t justify mis-characterising his views based on lazy interpretations.

  41. Jeffrey and Sebastian H:

    I have responded to Jeffrey’s last comment about “truth” on this open thread. If you want to continue this conversation, let’s do so over there.

  42. 42
    Ampersand says:

    Erin:

    So the teaching assistant you described was not, in fact, arrested or fined by this law (in typical fashion, she seems to have gained tens of thousands of fans from the controversy) – and the professor you quote apologized to Shepherd publicly. (Shepherd didn’t accept the apology, instead suing the professor and the university for millions of dollars.)

    Even if we agree that the faculty acted badly (and I think they did, although I also think Shepherd acted badly – but professors should be held to higher standards, of course), that isn’t even remotely an example showing that what Peterson claimed was true.

    Peterson claimed that the law would cause professors (or anyone, really) to be punished just for using “he” instead of “she.” (He brought in the specter of being thrown in jail by saying, in effect, “I would refuse to pay any fine, and not paying the fine would cause me to be thrown in jail.”) Expert after expert said he was wrong.

    So here’s the question: Since the law was passed, have there been any cases of someone being fined or arrested or put in jail for breaking this law just for saying “he” instead of “she” or vice versa? Misgenderings happen every single day, after all. Surely there are, by now, dozens or hundreds of people who have been fined simply for saying “he” instead of “she” or vice versa. Right?

    Let’s see the links showing that the outcome Peterson predicted, came to pass.

    We both know you can’t, because there is no such case. The experts were right. Peterson misled about what the law would do, and he kept doing so even after experts pointed out he was wrong. And he profited handsomely from it.

    Regarding the “extremist” thing, the comment of mine you’re quoting from explicitly said that I’m not calling Peterson an extremist.

  43. 43
    Elusis says:

    Who exactly is being hurt by them, and how?

    I just want to say that I find this question really upsetting, and an example of why (though I’m engaging much less in Internet discussion generally in the past few years) I find myself disinclined to engage much here, as much as I generally enjoy “Alas.” It’s like a punch in the gut to have a regular commenter either so unaware of the fact that women and trans people (among others) exist and are valuable as human beings, or so unconcerned about how they are harmed by Peterson and his followers’ rhetoric and actions, that they would ask this in good faith. Or, if they’re asking in bad faith, the fact that this is OK.

  44. 44
    Grace Annam says:

    …and an example of why (though I’m engaging much less in Internet discussion generally in the past few years) I find myself disinclined to engage much here, as much as I generally enjoy “Alas.” It’s like a punch in the gut to have a regular commenter either so unaware of the fact that women and trans people (among others) exist and are valuable as human beings, or so unconcerned about how they are harmed by Peterson and his followers’ rhetoric and actions, that they would ask this in good faith. Or, if they’re asking in bad faith, the fact that this is OK.

    Thank you, Elusis.

    Grace

  45. 45
    Jake Squid says:

    It’s like a punch in the gut to have a regular commenter either so unaware of the fact that women and trans people (among others) exist and are valuable as human beings…

    Yes, it is. And it’s why I didn’t answer (although I started and then gave it up as a hopeless task). I’m glad you did, though.

  46. 46
    Chris says:

    desipis:

    As for both Trump and Peterson, neither of them are sitting along typing on keyboards hoping for attention,

    I have some terrible news for you.

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump

  47. 47
    Mandolin says:

    Elusis — yeah. I don’t really know how to fix it. But yeah.

  48. 48
    Kate says:

    I am with Elusis, Grace and Jake Squid in my despair. But, I am going to give it another go.

    This article sums up why I find Peterson threatening.

    Peterson goes yet further by pinpointing the source of all political correctness in a deep state “cultural Marxism” that stems all the way back to the “murderous ideologies” of Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao.
    In other words, following in the steps of these dictators, George Orwell-inspired “groupthink” and political correctness are simply stages toward an inevitable violent revolution to create some sort of left-wing totalitarian society, just as Karl Marx would have wanted.

    Now, one might argue that the left often calls Peterson supporters and Trump supporters Nazis, Klan members and the like (in short, white supremacists), so turnabout is fair play. Except:
    1.) Many people who actually do self-identify as white supremacists support Trump and his Republican Party. We do not see people who identify as Stalinists and/or Maoists, or even Communists supporting the Democratic Party.
    2.) Trump and much of his party refused to distance themselves from white supremacists (eg. repeated praise from David Duke, Charlston protesters).
    3.) Whipping up furor over imaginary communists, and specifically using the term “Cultural Marxism” is a tactic the Nazis actually used.
    3.) Under Trump, ICE is slowly moving towards ethnic cleansing:

    First they came for the non-citizen troops and veterans promised citizenship. Then they came for military enlistees promised naturalization. Then they came for citizens suspected of falsifying their citizenship applications. Then they came for hundreds of U.S. citizens that look to ICE agents like noncitizens. Now, they’re coming for Americans who were infants delivered by midwives the government suspects (but cannot prove) may have falsified their birth documents many decades ago.

    Let me repeat that, for emphaisis “Now, they’re coming for Americans who were infants delivered by midwives the government suspects (but cannot prove) may have falsified their birth documents many decades ago.” If we allow this, no one is safe.

    But, some antifa protesters shut down a couple of talks at Berkeley, so its pretty much the same? Obama had eight years to come after your guns. He didn’t. He never wanted to. The Democratic Party never wanted to. Right wing rhetoric about the left is pure projection.

  49. 49
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I just want to say that I find this question really upsetting, and an example of why (though I’m engaging much less in Internet discussion generally in the past few years) I find myself disinclined to engage much here, as much as I generally enjoy “Alas.” It’s like a punch in the gut to have a regular commenter either so unaware of the fact that women and trans people (among others) exist and are valuable as human beings, or so unconcerned about how they are harmed by Peterson and his followers’ rhetoric and actions, that they would ask this in good faith. Or, if they’re asking in bad faith, the fact that this is OK.

    But this comment was written in good faith?

    It’s not hard at all for me to imagine ways in which Peterson hurts people, especially because what many ask of him requires so little effort on his part, and he still refuses. Those slights always sting the most.

    It’s also not hard for me to imagine totally reasonable justifications for asking how it is that Peterson has hurt people.

  50. 50
    Kate says:

    But this comment was written in good faith?

    Elusis was posting in good faith, as were Grace, Jake Squid, Mandolin and I in supporting her. Moreover, I know you know that. You are not asking that question in good faith. Your response was meant to cause more pain.

  51. 51
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Moreover, I know you know that. You are not asking that question in good faith. Your response was meant to cause more pain.

    Really?

  52. 52
    Jake Squid says:

    I’ll just sit and wait until the sun ceases to exist for desipis to admit he was wrong about Petersons’ enforced monogamy statement because I know desipis is arguing in good faith, shall I?

  53. 53
    desipis says:

    Since we’ve apparently descended into questing whether people are acting in good faith, this conversation probably isn’t going to go anywhere constructive. I’ll just note that I find Kate’s Peterson-is-responsible-for-Trump-policies and anyone-who-criticises-Marxism-is-a-Nazi arguments to be utterly absurd.

  54. 54
    Kate says:

    What Depsis says I said:

    “anyone-who-criticises-Marxism-is-a-Nazi “

    What I, in fact, said:

    Whipping up furor over imaginary communists, and specifically using the term “Cultural Marxism” is a tactic the Nazis actually used.

    When I say, it is extremist to believe the story that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring out of a pizza place in DC, I am not saying that one should not criticize pedophiles. I am saying that Hillary Clinton is not a pedophile, and buying into that bizarre story is a sure sign that one is an extremist.
    Similarly, it is not extremist to criticize Marxism. I’m all for criticizing Marxism and Marxists, especially of the Stalinist/Maoist variety. It is extremist to accuse people who are manifestly not Marxists of being Marxists to whip up controversy and make garden variety left-of-center positions seem more extreme than they are.
    It is not extremist for me to call Trump a white supremacist, because there is copious evidence that he is, in fact, a white supremacist. It would be extremist for me to say the same thing about Mitt Romney, John McCain, Susan Collins and other moderate Republicans, because, that would be a lie.
    Whether an accusation is true or false matters in determining whether or not it is a sign of extremism.

  55. 55
    Michael says:

    @Kate#54-I agree that the term “Cultural Marxism” is extremist- it’s a way to demonize mainstream Democratic positions by pretending that they’re part of some Stalinist plot.
    But Kate is being disingenuous when she says “Similarly, it is not extremist to criticize Marxism. I’m all for criticizing Marxism and Marxists, especially of the Stalinist/Maoist variety. It is extremist to accuse people who are manifestly not Marxists of being Marxists to whip up controversy and make garden variety left-of-center positions seem more extreme than they are.”
    Let’s look at her reaction a year ago:
    http://amptoons.com/blog/?p=23459
    I compared WEB DuBois to Richard Spencer for, among other things, calling the kulaks bloodsuckers and praising Stalin for driving them out. Now let’s see Kate’s reaction:
    “I just didn’t have it in me. To equate the founder of the NAACP with Richard Spencer. If W.E.B. Debois is the worst figure you can think of on the American left, that seems like an admission of defeat of “both sides do it” theory to me.”
    In actual fact, many on the Left will treat any criticism of people who actually cheered on Communist human rights violations as extremist. There’s a big difference between saying “Native Americans opposed to Columbus Day are cultural Marxists” and criticizing actual people who cheered on Communist dictatorships.

  56. 56
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I still want to know why Kate thinks my intention here is to cause pain. I’m surprised that kind of drive by insult/accusation is tolerated here. I’d expected to be banned from a thread or the blog entirely if I did the same to her.

  57. 57
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t think your intention was to cause pain. (Nor do I think there’s any reason to think Elusis wasn’t posting in good faith.)

    At the same time, Kate thought that about your intent, and I think it’s clear that this discussion is causing Elusis (and maybe Kate too) to feel bad. Rather than calling for Kate to be banned, maybe it would be more helpful to ask what made Kate think that. (Which I guess you did, sort of, but pairing that with a call for her to be threadbanned made it seem sort of belligerent.)

  58. 58
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I didn’t call for her to be banned, but I’m surprised no one requested that she refrain from posting like that. Amp, you’ve demanded more civility in similar situations before, including at least one situation where I was on the receiving end of personal attacks.

    I do think if I made a similar accusation I’d be banned from the thread by someone, though maybe not you. Partially because I’m contrarian, and partly because I don’t have nearly so long a history of posting here. This thread also shouldn’t really be about me (or any individual really, let’s do better).

    I don’t want Kate banned, but I’m going to point out the asymmetry of the situation as I see it.

  59. 59
    Elusis says:

    See, I don’t necessarily agree that despis’ intent was to cause pain, but that certainly is the effect, an effect that doesn’t seem to be of much concern. And when Amp says to you, Jeffrey G, “Rather than calling for Kate to be banned, maybe it would be more helpful to ask what made Kate think that,” and your follow-up comment is to just punch your straw man about “I’d be banned” some more, that adds to my hunch that the effect of belligerent faux-questions like “Who exactly is being hurt by them, and how?” isn’t of concern to many of the most prolific posters here.

    Which is a major contributor to why I’m really not enjoying the comments section here nearly to the degree I used to be.

  60. 60
    Kate says:

    How do you get from not equating W.E.B DeBois with Richard Spencer to not criticizing Marxism? W.E.B. Debois was dead wrong about Stalin, but creating the NAACP was a great accomplishment. Richard Spencer, to the best of my knowledge has no similarly redeeming record. Also DeBois died in 1963. If you have to dig that far back to find a parallel to Spencer, I stand by my assertion that you’ve lost the “both sides do it” argument.

  61. 61
    Kate says:

    I’ll admit that I posted in anger about Jeffrey. But, responding to Elusis’ comment by accusing her of bad faith (essentially lying about her feelings) was really cold. If you weren’t trying to hurt her or silence her, or get her to give up on this debate, what were you trying to accomplish, exactly?

  62. 62
    desipis says:

    Elusis:

    See, I don’t necessarily agree that despis’ intent was to cause pain, but that certainly is the effect, an effect that doesn’t seem to be of much concern.

    This is Ampersand’s place, and he’s free to set the rules where he wants between free discussion and ideological safe space.

    That said from my perspective if merely listening to (or reading) discussion of philosophical or political ideas results in pain then I don’t see the cause as being the ideas or the discussion thereof. I see the cause as coming from some attribute of the listener, whether that be issues of psychological health, toxic ideology or something else. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to any suffering, it’s that I reject the notion that I (or Peterson) are in any way morally responsible for it.

  63. 63
    Ampersand says:

    Jeffrey, the modding here is arbitrary. It’s based mainly on how much attention I’m paying and how much emotional energy I happen to be feeling at the moment. I also have biases, obviously, although there are actually countless times I’ve asked people I agree with to tone things down.

    And sometimes I just read what’s going on and throw up my hands and walk away because I can’t deal.

    Basically, it is what it is. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there will always be people, on every side, who feel the moderation is unfairly stacked against them. My only real advice to you is to realize that the moderation here is not going to change; if you dislike the environment here, then – and I really don’t mean this unkindly – the best solution is probably for you to leave. If on the whole you enjoy the environment here but also find aspects of it unpleasant, then maybe it makes sense for you to stick around. In either case, no hard feelings.

  64. 64
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I really wish I’d said nothing about the modding, I don’t think you do a bad job or anything. What really bothers me is the way personal attacks make constructive dialogue hard, especially because most people are like me and feel a need to defend themselves, and next thing you know the conversation becomes a competition to discredit opponents and everyone gets defensive and awful. I’m not here to argue whether or not I’m evil. I doubt Kate wants to argue whether or not she’s evil. For some reason I can’t really explain, I wanted Kate to know that I don’t feel like I can come at her the same way she came at me. I want Elusis to know that arguments of the form “you’re either arguing in bad faith, or inexcusably unaware” are terrible because it presents a false dichotomy where either option is an insult, and fails to explore other more likely possibilities where desipis is intelligent and honest.

    “Why not ask Kate/Elusis what they mean or how they came to their feelings?” Is really good advice and the best way to keep the discussion productive, but no one demanded that of Kate or Elusis when they got personal first. When I point that out, it’s not as a “gotcha,” but rather, I’m pointing out the bias built into the discussion norms, norms that desipis also criticized toward the end of this thread when he denies moral responsibility for hurt feelings resulting from philosophical discussion.

    There should be places where people feel safe to engage with others without feeling hurt. I’ll avoid talking about mod policy again, because it may be the case that you want this to be such a space, at least to some degree, or maybe it’s a thing you just wish to enforce arbitrarily when you feel like it. I think we have to be honest though,and admit that some ideas and place in the discourse cannot be discussed fairly in such a place.

    Sorry. I should have taken a little more time to allow my ideas to crystalize, rather than be so reactive.

  65. 65
    Jake Squid says:

    That said from my perspective if merely listening to (or reading) discussion of philosophical or political ideas results in pain then I don’t see the cause as being the ideas or the discussion thereof. I see the cause as coming from some attribute of the listener, whether that be issues of psychological health, toxic ideology or something else. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to any suffering, it’s that I reject the notion that I (or Peterson) are in any way morally responsible for it.

    And if I have a philosophical or political discussion in which I tout the merits of The Bell Curve I (or Murray) am in no way morally responsible for the hurt that comes from it? That’s a terrible argument and, by it’s very definition, amoral.

  66. 66
    desipis says:

    And if I have a philosophical or political discussion in which I tout the merits of The Bell Curve I (or Murray) am in no way morally responsible for the hurt that comes from it?

    Are Muslims responsible for the harm to non-muslims by professing their beliefs? Are atheists responsible for the harm to the strongly religious by denying the existence of god? Are feminists responsible for the harm to traditional men caused by discussing toxic masculinity? Are Marxists responsible for the harm they cause survivors of the Soviet Union by advocating for Marxist ideals?

  67. 67
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    And if I have a philosophical or political discussion in which I tout the merits of The Bell Curve I (or Murray) am in no way morally responsible for the hurt that comes from it? That’s a terrible argument and, by it’s very definition, amoral.

    This looks like a trap, but I’m going to walk into it anyway.

    There’s merit in The Bell Curve, though not all of it. The actual thesis of the book is interesting (do you know what it is? it has nothing to do with race, though race is discussed in a chapter), even if you find the majority of the evidence unconvincing. The book explores the increasing value society places on skills associated with a high IQ, and how this is creating a “cognitive elite” class increasingly segregated from everyone else. The idea of something like “IQ privilege,” is valuable, and almost certainly true to some degree, and to the degree that it is true, any unearned privilege due to hereditary intelligence could be described as an injustice and used to critique meritocracy and justify redistribution. None of us earned the genetic portion of our intelligence.

    FYI, this idea has shaped my thinking, and pushed me leftward. Something like it is embraced by other IQ researchers who would consider themselves opponents of Murray, like Kathryn Paige Harden writing here in the NYT:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/opinion/dna-nature-genetics-education.html

    Might what I just wrote hurt people? Maybe, I guess? The topic is a tragic one if the upper estimates on the gene’s role in determining intelligence is true. Do I think it’s wrong to discuss this stuff? No, I think that outside of certain safe-spaces, it’s wrong to impose norms that punish those who do.

    I know desipis already gave some example of topics that cause pain that should be discussed anyway, but I’d like to offer a more powerful example. Criticizing US involvement in questionable wars can be really hurtful to grieving friends and family of people who died fighting those wars. No one wants to hear that their son or daughter died fighting for nothing, or even worse, fighting for an evil cause. No one wants to know their child died commiting war crimes.
    Parents will sometimes prefer to believe that their child died so the rest of us could be safe, and the collapse of that narrative is very painful. I still think opinion writers should churn out the anti-war op-ed’s.

    If we want to make a moral calculus, we first need to have a better idea of what is and isn’t true, but truth-seeking itself will cause pain at times. We can’t let this pain keep us in the dark.

  68. 68
    Harlequin says:

    (I can’t tell if this comment needs a content warning or not, so I’ll just say that later on, as part of a thought experiment, I bring up one of Andrea Dworkin’s most controversial comments.)

    Jeffrey, I wanted to address this comment of yours.

    It’s not hard at all for me to imagine ways in which Peterson hurts people, especially because what many ask of him requires so little effort on his part, and he still refuses. Those slights always sting the most.

    and then your later comment:

    There should be places where people feel safe to engage with others without feeling hurt. I’ll avoid talking about mod policy again, because it may be the case that you want this to be such a space, at least to some degree, or maybe it’s a thing you just wish to enforce arbitrarily when you feel like it. I think we have to be honest though,and admit that some ideas and place in the discourse cannot be discussed fairly in such a place.

    Okay. So there are three issues here. One, are the ideas in a conversation causing harm to some people. Two, is the manner in which the ideas are being discussed causing harm, separately from the ideas themselves. And three, what (if any) are the proper steps to take once we know that the conversation is causing harm.

    One: it’s not Peterson’s manner of speaking that’s the source of the hurt, some little thing he could change but doesn’t. It’s the core content of what he’s saying, the view of the world he encourages people to have.

    I think it’s obvious that “people saying untrue negative things about me” is a(n emotional) harm. Not a big harm, necessarily–it depends on who they are, what they’re saying, how big the platform is, how directly the statement is aimed at me–but not a nonzero harm, either. So, for example, it’s not super fun for me to have to hear about a popular intellectual who thinks women are “hypergamous” and need to be controlled through enforced monogamy, among Peterson’s other gender-related beliefs. (As a side note, notice how rarely anyone discusses “hypergamy” as if it’s an intrinsic problem with men that they don’t turn down these women, even though they would be equally responsible if this problem actually existed.)

    It’s a harm if people believe him and change how they treat me. It’s a harm when I’m trying to find a romantic partner, but the pool of available partners has shifted to be more hostile to me. It’s a harm when people I work with think I’m less competent, or give me less opportunities, because of what they believe about women’s capabilities and women’s proper roles. It would be a harm to me if Peterson got his way and supposed “Neo-Marxist” departments had enrollments that dropped, resulting in a reduction of the number of feminist thinkers and writers who enrich my intellectual life. (These are not all equal harms, of course. And, again, this is all a separate question from what we should do when somebody experiences harm.)

    Two, how the ideas are discussed. It might help to remember that women and men, broadly speaking, are encouraged to feel and express emotions differently. So if you’ve ever heard somebody speak about a group you’re part of and you felt angry or outraged or offended or any kind of negative emotion, recognize that that is likely the same stimulus that gives rise to what Elusis is describing as hurt. As an example, imagine somebody brought up Dworkin’s “Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men’s contempt for women” comment. Imagine how it would feel if you said that that comment had negative implications about men, and a bunch of your regular conversation partners treated you like you were saying something confusing and irrelevant, and even accused you of bad faith for not treating this comment with perfect lack of emotion, and finally told you that it was your own false ideas about men that were the problem. Would that be a place you wanted to continue to comment? Would it feel like they were having productive discussions? Would it affect your view of their intelligence that they couldn’t see the obvious bias–would you feel that they almost had to be deliberately ignoring it, since you’d had intelligent conversations with them before? Would their subsequent responses make you feel like they were, for some reason, doubling down on making you feel bad, by turning the conversation from the original ideas to an interrogation of your response?

    Three, what we should do about it. Note that Elusis made no comments whatsoever on whether or how the conversation should change; she was just being honest about how she saw the conversation and the impact it had on her. The proper response to this kind of claim should and does vary, based on a bunch of things (the balance of benefits vs harms, in lots of areas). Clearly, here, nothing is changing, partially by selection of who’s willing to comment: for example, I’ve been writing comments and then deleting them before posting. In other situations, we might change how we were talking about things, or talk about different ideas, or split into multiple fora, or even double down on the original conversation. After all, if a KKK member said, “This conversation makes me angry,” I would probably get even louder!

    And on a final note, re how rules of conversation mean that some topics cannot be discussed: Of course. Virtually all spaces have rules like this. You already know this space has them, because Amp has a comments policy. So it wouldn’t have been out of bounds for Elusis to question if this is the kind of conversation that fits within those policies–if she had done that. But, again, she didn’t. She requested not a single change. She just told you how she felt.

  69. I think it’s important to point out that Desipis–whose supposedly innocent question about whom Peterson’s rhetoric harms and how is where this part of the discussion started–has a history of commenting on this blog in ways that (purposely, willfully) deny or trivialize harms suffered by people who are oppressed/discriminated against, etc. He also has a history of creating false equivalencies that are intended to obscure that oppression/discrimination, as in his questions about whether Muslims who express their beliefs are responsible for the harm done to non-Muslims, etc.

    So, when Elusis expressed her despair at the state of the discussion on this blog–and she has been commenting here for a long time, maybe as long or longer than I have–that despair exists in the context of that history. As does Grace’s (who voiced her agreement with Elusis), and Mandolin’s and Jake’s and so on. To move the conversation away from the critique of Desipis’ comments and commenting history into a discussion of the merits of The Bell Curve is both to deny that history and to enable further, to perpetuate, the problematic nature of Desipis’ comments.

    One aspect of this problematic nature is the conflation of actual harm and hurt feelings. Another is the assumption that all rhetoric exists on a level playing field, i.e., that there is fundamentally no difference between, for example, a woman’s social/cultural/political positioning vis-a-vis misogynist rhetoric and man’s positioning vis-a-vis the rhetoric of feminism. Or, more immediately to where this conversation started, a trans person’s social/cultural/political positioning vis-a-vis rhetoric that asserts misgendering is okay, or that trans identity doesn’t really exist, and the positioning of someone like Peterson (white, male, cis) vis-a-vis laws that are meant to protect trans people from the harm that is enabled by transphobic rhetoric.

    Then, of course, there is Desipis’ deeply problematic and easily contestable claim that one is not morally (I would say ethically) responsible or accountable for the consequences that follow from the things one says.

    ***

    All of which is preface to this: Desipis knew perfectly well, when he asked his question–if only because he is a reader of this blog–who was claiming harm, and what harm was being claimed, as a result of the things Peterson has been saying. He may believe that harm is non-existent, but instead of saying that, instead of saying “I do not believe that women or trans people are harmed by what Peterson is saying and here, specifically, is why”–a statement that can be contested, discussed, debated–he chose to phrase his question in a way that erased the presence of those people, erased the claims he knows they are making, and to pretend a kind of innocence regarding the issue as a whole. That is not merely insulting; it replicates precisely the kinds of harm women and trans people are claiming. And where is that harm in the context of a “philosophical discussion” on a blog post? It forces those people to have to fight (again and again) for a visibility, for a context of understanding, for a seat at the table–to use an old expression–that they have already fought for and won in society at large. (Though in the case of trans people, that victory is still far more tenuous than it is settled.)

    So, Desipis, why not ask your question about the harm caused by Peterson’s rhetoric more specifically? What is your stake in it? Who are you saying is not harmed? Why, specifically, in concrete terms, do you think that the claims of harm made by women and trans people are not valid? Put your ideas and claims out there plainly, without obfuscation, and then let’s have at the discussion.

  70. 70
    Harlequin says:

    Thanks, RJN.

  71. 71
    Jake Squid says:

    #69 certainly summarized everything I’ve been unable to write here due to my anger and despair at the tactics and dismissiveness of desipis and Jeffrey Gandee.

    These people are putting their opinions above and before any kind of hurt they inflict. Even when they’re told that they are inflicting pain on their audience, their fellow members of this community. They are telling us, in no uncertain terms, what they think of us and what kind of people they are. And I believe them 100%. And I will no longer think of them as members of this community, just as they don’t think of us as having value or worth in this community.

    I will no longer expect (not that I ever really did) an apology or an admission of error on the part of either of them since they have clearly stated that I am less than they are. I will no longer bother to read their comments since they’re much more likely to be hurtful, thoughtless and cruel than to add knowledge or value to any interactions I might have with them. I will give the exactly the same respect they give to long time members of this community.

    But I will not let them drive me away. That’s just not going to happen. So they can have their fun without me and, I hope, everybody else with roots here.

  72. 72
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN says:

    To move the conversation away from the critique of Desipis’ comments and commenting history into a discussion of the merits of The Bell Curve is both to deny that history and to enable further, to perpetuate, the problematic nature of Desipis’ comments

    Wait what? Jake Squid brought up TBC. I actually think it was a pretty excellent edge-case, the kind of edge-case that is useful for testing moral arguments. I also suspected that a willingness to engage the argument as Jake presented it might be used as evidence of… my being problematic, which is why I opened my response to Jake with “This looks like a trap.”

    I actually agree that there is probably something wrong with desipis’s argument- I think there are times when people should be held responsible for the hurt that results from the arguments they make. That said, I think it still may be necessary to advance hurtful arguments and stand by my claim that it’s hard to make this moral calculus when the calculus itself depends on the validity of the hurtful arguments being advanced, and that validity is best worked out through open discourse. I thought my example involving the pain felt by the friends and family of deceased soldiers was a good one and worth exploring. I think this is a hard question, and I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t have a good answer to it. But why bother exploring moral dilemmas when we can attack each other’s motives?

  73. 73
    Jake Squid says:

    Last response to either of you. It wasn’t a trap, it was an honest question. You answered in one of the ways possible.

  74. 74
    Erin says:

    I came to this board because I read about and comment on mostly libertarian / conservative / right-wing issues, and I wanted to get out of my “echo chamber”.

    Having said that, I almost didn’t believe what Elusis, Kate and Mandolin were saying was real – that they were being hurt by a (for me) relatively mild conversation on a message board, but Harlequin, Jake Squid, Richard Jeffrey Newman etc. all seem to back that up.

    I am sincere about wanting to learn about how left-wing people think. I also sincerely think there is some value in some of the left-wing ideas, so it is worth learning how they think.

    Are certain types of content forbidden here in actuality? Are there any kind of unwritten rules that are really followed, or is banning completely capricious? I don’t particularly want to put thought and effort into a post just to have it deleted. Any available insight into the real rules for posting here?

  75. 75
    Mookie says:

    Erin, since you have disclosed a pre-existing familiarity with echo chambers, would you be surprised or particularly dismayed if there were “forbidden,” regulated, or highly-moderated content here? I understand the fear of working at something you want to be viewable to everyone, believing you are following the general rules, and then being thwarted, of course.

    Re sometimes feeling hurt (overlooked, marginalized, erased, et al) by fellow members of a blog’s resident community: is this something right-wing, conservative, and libertarian people are immune to? I can’t really imagine a place, echo chambers included, where everyone agrees upon the mildness or extremism of each and every remark, particularly because humans are more than just our conscious and rational (or not) political identities and our responses to outside stimuli are not always the product of careful analysis, reasoning, and a consultation with our ethical compass. Plus, there are times when people of any political stripe are just tired of treading the same ground on a subject that is perilously near to us or tired that our existence is fodder for armchair warriors.

    To cut to the proverbial, though, I’m an outsider here and a long-time reader. This is a small community of highly active members, waxing and waning in number, and with time and a good of lurking one becomes familiar with the current cast of characters and their general outlook on life, their more particularly outlook on politics, as both relate here. Are you asking if guests and residents alike ought to to consider all other Alas! commenters as individuals, engage with them productively and in good faith (or not at all), and take care, where possible, not to hurt them? It’s an honest question, I’m sure, but if your presence here hinges on not doing that because you find it stifling, I must confess, in turn, that I almost can’t believe that, purely because this is generally how organized human interaction works successfully. I guess your mileage varies.

  76. 76
    desipis says:

    RJN:

    Desipis knew perfectly well, when he asked his question–if only because he is a reader of this blog–who was claiming harm, and what harm was being claimed, as a result of the things Peterson has been saying.

    You’re totally wrong in this. The primary reason I asked the question was because while I was skeptical, I did not understand the nature of the harm well enough to be able to make a well structured response to the claim. I’ve only really noticed Harlequin attempt to actually communicate meaningfully about the nature of the harm.

    So, Desipis, why not ask your question about the harm caused by Peterson’s rhetoric more specifically?

    I asked more more details because up until that point there had only been vague allusions to harm.

    Who are you saying is not harmed?

    I’m don’t think anything is harmed in a way that Peterson is morally responsible for. I asked the question so that the conversation could get more specific.

    Why, specifically, in concrete terms, do you think that the claims of harm made by women and trans people are not valid?

    I’m not rejecting claims of pain or discomfort. I’m not rejecting claims that in response to Peterson’s words some people have changed their behaviour along the lines that Harlequin describes (even though I don’t believe Peterson would approve of the changed behaviour). I’m rejecting the moral connection.

    In my view the freedom to discuss and explore ideas (and to discussion discuss and explore emotions) outweighs any potential harm those ideas can have. The ability to freely discuss issues is absolutely vital to the goal of having a rational, prosperous and just society. The amount of potential harm from reducing the freedom to discuss any ideas absolutely dwarfs any potential harm that comes from the discussion of those ideas.

    Let me pose a couple of counter questions using the same sort of rhetoric that has been directed at me (and Peterson). A lot of men claim to be harmed by feminism. Do you consider the claims of men about harm caused from discussions of feminism to be valid? Do you consider people who discuss feminism to be morally responsible for that harm; should people not discuss feminist ideas in public because of the harm it causes? Or are you going to “trivialise” or “deny” the suffering of these men, and in doing so “deny their humanity”?

    I’m not sure such language lends itself to constructive discussion.

  77. 77
    Erin says:

    Mookie,

    Thanks for the response. If it helps, I’m not trying to be a troll to get a reaction, I want to sincerely understand a world that is kind of foreign to me.

    I guess you are saying that I should read along for a bit to get a feel for what is allowed and not allowed here, and that is probably a good answer.

    Re sometimes feeling hurt (overlooked, marginalized, erased, et al) by fellow members of a blog’s resident community: is this something right-wing, conservative, and libertarian people are immune to?

    I have never – not once – seen someone say that they are frightened or hurt by a world view on a right-wing forum. I have seen people say that they are *angry* at a particular world view (one example is the perceived world view of the left that ever increasing stuff has to be taken away from people who work to be given to able-bodied people who don’t want to work at all — that kind of thing). My general impression is that right-wing sites will usually debate anyone, although I have occasionally seen the types of bannings recently for content that — at least from my point of view – are more common on left-wing sites.

    I just can’t imagine feeling hurt to that extent by a fairly moderate discussion on a forum. And I could check off the boxes on a couple of victim statuses if I wanted to.

    One thing that I really want to find out about the left is why Trump drives them so wild. There was lots of hatred on the left for Reagan and Bush Senior and a ton of hate for Bush Junior, but nothing like what is going on with Trump.

    Anyway, I guess I will try to follow the advice of listening more and posting less for a while to get the drift and the rhythm of this board. I have already seen patterns of thought that I didn’t even know existed, so I really was in an echo chamber.

  78. 78
    desipis says:

    Harlequinn:

    Thanks for actually attempting to describe the harm.

    So, for example, it’s not super fun for me to have to hear about a popular intellectual who thinks women are “hypergamous” and need to be controlled through enforced monogamy, among Peterson’s other gender-related beliefs.

    Peterson wasn’t making a normative claim. He was making an observation (about data) that men who remain single are more likely to become radicalised and violent compared to those who are married with families. It might have only been tangentially relevant to the incident but he wasn’t making any claim that women “need to be controlled”. Your ascribing harm to your misinterpretation of his point.

    It’s a harm when people I work with think I’m less competent, or give me less opportunities, because of what they believe about women’s capabilities and women’s proper roles.

    Peterson hasn’t said anything about considering women less competent or that women should be restricted to particular roles. That’s another misinterpretation. His consistent message has been about treating people as individuals. All he’s done is make observations about gendered psychological drivers of differential outcomes at the population level.

    It would be a harm to me if Peterson got his way and supposed “Neo-Marxist” departments had enrollments that dropped, resulting in a reduction of the number of feminist thinkers and writers who enrich my intellectual life.

    This is about the only claim of harm that makes sense to me. That said I’m about concerned about this form of harm as I am about the harm to feminist professors from making them subject to sexual harassment processes under Title IX.

    Two, how the ideas are discussed.

    Using the language of “harm” in the way you have is part of the problem in how these ideas are discussed. Any political idea can be subject to the same form of claims about causing harm. Any imperfect idea will result in people causing more harm than they would with a perfect idea. And any idea which we disagree with will be seen as imperfect. Thus any political idea that we disagree with will be seen as causing harm. Claiming political ideas cause harm isn’t any more meaningful than simply stating you disagree with them. My incredulity was because I had assumed people were using “harm” to mean something more than that.

    It’s the nature of political ideas to have consequences. It’s why people spend so much time and energy discussing them. That the ideas matter and have emotional consequences is implicit. So why discuss the ideas in terms of emotive and distracting language such describing his ideas as “harmful” rather than plainly stating you disagree with them?

  79. 79
    Grace Annam says:

    Recently, in the grocery store, I saw a former coworker whom I always got along with. I happened to see her from behind and to the side, and I stepped into a line which was not in her view, checked out, and left. I have nothing against her. In fact, I rather like her. I was just aware that a conversation with her would probably involve helping her process my transition. Because, in my lived experience, that’s a thing which apparently has to happen with people I haven’t seen in a few years.

    I don’t go to reunions. It’s going to involve a lot of people processing the present fact of my transition, the public portion of which happened in 2012-2013. For me, that’s old news. For them, they haven’t bothered to do much of the work necessary to process my transition, and they won’t until I’m standing in front of them, because they have other priorities in their lives. (As one resident of our town said to Lioness, three years after my transition, “You have to give us time!” …okay. Whatever.) It’s fine that they have other priorities. But one of the effects of their prioritization is that social interaction with me will go through certain inevitable steps. This will happen once, for each of them. For me, it will happen once for each of them, too, which eventually adds up to dozens and then hundreds of times. It gets old.

    Everyone I’m interested in keeping up with has already gotten in touch. With everyone else, well, my time is limited, and I choose to spend it with the people who kept up, who made an effort, and the wonderful friends I have made in the meantime. I have nothing against the people who prioritized other things higher than my transition. I also have no obligation to them. Let ’em drift. I’m only one woman, and my time is limited. I can prioritize, too; I make an effort for the people who make an effort for me.

    I used to post and comment here a lot, and I put a lot of effort into it. Sometimes it was several hours a day. It was worth the time, to me, in the same way that I think running Alas is worth the time, to Ampersand; it helped me figure some things out, it helped me hone my writing, and it enabled me to engage with other people in ways which made me more knowledgeable and thoughtful, broadening my horizons.

    And now I’ve had many conversations, some of them many times. Their benefit decreases with each instance, and the costs remains the same or rise. Gradually, conversations I’ve spent a lot of time on get assigned a lower priority.

    Now desipis wonders,

    Who exactly is being hurt by them, and how?

    This strikes me as, at best, rather twee, rather precious. It is certainly exactly disingenuous; desipis is pretending to know less than he does. Desipis is not an idiot, and he has participated on this blog for years. He has participated in the Mint Garden discussion thread (and his participation there is illuminating, if you want to review his approach to what constitutes “harm”). Though he did not reply after this point in that thread, since he read the thread up to that point, I could suppose that he continued to read after that point, too. In that comment, I laid out in some detail many of the negative effects we’re alluding to, here, and which Richard ably discussed in comment #69 in this thread. Back in the Mint Garden, nobody.really reflected part of my meaning with an allusion to a movie scene, which analogy I thought was pretty good. So clearly my meaning came through to some.

    And now desipis wonders,

    Who exactly is being hurt by them, and how?

    Feh. Why should I bother?

    I answer my question by writing the above and noting two things:

    1. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but only words can make me believe that I deserve it.

    2. Trans people kill ourselves at a higher rate than any other population I’ve seen research on, including combat veterans. It’s not because we’re trans, because trans people who have family and friend support do as well as other minority populations; it’s because of how we’re treated, every day, by people who hate and/or fear us, and/or believe that they have something to gain by cutting us down.

    But desipis wonders,

    Who exactly is being hurt by them, and how?

    To quote Hannah Gadsby in Nanette: “Stop wasting my time.”

    Grace

  80. 80
    Grace Annam says:

    Erin:

    I want to sincerely understand a world that is kind of foreign to me.

    Erin, welcome to Alas. I hope you find your participation here interesting and illuminating.

    I have never – not once – seen someone say that they are frightened or hurt by a world view on a right-wing forum.

    I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen it in this thread, either. If you think you have, I suggest that you re-read.

    …although I have occasionally seen the types of bannings recently for content that — at least from my point of view – are more common on left-wing sites.

    You may not be aware that Ampersand, Richard, Mandolin, and I are all moderators here. We have all participated in this thread. With the exception of Richard’s gentle redirection in comment #41, not one of us has brought up moderation or banning, though Ampersand (and now I) have responded to others who did.

    Given that you and Jeffrey Gandee have brought moderation up, it seems worth noting. However some commenters feel about desipis’ contributions, or Jeffrey’s, none of the moderators have warned them, banned them, or even brought moderation up.

    One thing that I really want to find out about the left is why Trump drives them so wild. There was lots of hatred on the left for Reagan and Bush Senior and a ton of hate for Bush Junior, but nothing like what is going on with Trump.

    That is probably off-topic for this thread, but you are welcome to ask about it on an open thread.

    Anyway, I guess I will try to follow the advice of listening more and posting less for a while to get the drift and the rhythm of this board. I have already seen patterns of thought that I didn’t even know existed, so I really was in an echo chamber.

    In my own experience, this has been a good method for entering into online spaces. I generally read quite a bit in a new community before I post much. Often, I find that my questions are already asked and answered. This saves people I’m seeking to learn from a lot of time and effort deciding whether and how to educate me. And, sometimes, I learn something new and it’s nice that I didn’t publicly display my ignorance before putting in some effort to learn the new thing.

    That said, you’re welcome to post here whenever you feel like it, as long as you follow Ampersand’s moderation guidelines. Sometimes moderators set specific rules for specific threads or specific people, in an effort to enable a particular conversation, and when we do, we are explicit about it.

    Happy reading and self-education!

    Grace

  81. (I have made small edits to this comment for clarity.)

    Jeffrey,

    Grace has already–and, thank you, Grace–amply explained the disingenuousness of the question desipis asked and to which Elusis’ response here has framed this part of the conversation. (Which is why, desipis, I am not bothering to respond to your comment here, or at least not to the first part of it.)

    Elusis’ comment, as Harlequin explained at the end of this comment, was about how she felt in response to desipis’ disingenuousness in the long context of his history of posting here and how, in her experience (and clearly in the experience of others), that history has had a deleterious effect on the discourse community this blogs’ comment threads have been for us. Furthermore, that history, as much as anything else, was what Jake Squid was responding to with his rhetorical question about The Bell Curve, which I think was probably obvious to those of us who have been commenting here a long time–and I’m pretty sure Jake has been here longer than I have–and is why your treating his implicit characterization of that book more or less purely as a matter of intellectual inquiry was in fact a derailment of the conversation. Not because the issues surrounding The Bell Curve, and what it says or doesn’t say, might not be a worthwhile thing to discuss, but because that discussion, at that particular moment, in this particular community, was not what was really at stake.

    You did the same thing (treated as an abstract intellectual issue something that should have been treated differently) when you responded to Elusis’ complaint about desipis’ question with this:

    But this comment was written in good faith?

    It’s not hard at all for me to imagine ways in which Peterson hurts people, especially because what many ask of him requires so little effort on his part, and he still refuses. Those slights always sting the most.

    It’s also not hard for me to imagine totally reasonable justifications for asking how it is that Peterson has hurt people.

    First, to ask whether a long-time community member’s expression of her feelings about her community was in good faith was a breathtakingly arrogant thing to do. Equally importantly, though, the fact that you treated desipis’ question purely as a matter of abstract intellectual inquiry–“it’s also not hard for me to imagine…”–completely (and I am going to assume unintentionally) denied what Elusis was saying about desipis’ commenting history and its impact on this community.

    All of that is why I responded to your comment about The Bell Curve in the way that I did. In another context, it might indeed have been, to some, an interesting and worthwhile discussion. In this context, it was, intentionally or not, at best, tone deaf.

    Desipis,

    It’s the nature of political ideas to have consequences. It’s why people spend so much time and energy discussing them. That the ideas matter and have emotional consequences is implicit. So why discuss the ideas in terms of emotive and distracting language such describing his ideas as “harmful” rather than plainly stating you disagree with them?

    Political ideas shape policies that have real, concrete consequences in people’s lives; those ideas shape the way people enforce (or not) those policies; those ideas, as a result of those policies, shape the way the people who are subject to those policies–and, therefore, those ideas–get treated in society at large; and those ideas also shape the way the people who perform that treatment (good, bad, or indifferent) are, in turn, seen by society.

    Instead of retreating to the what-about-ism and false equivalency of, “How would you respond to the men who claim harm from feminist rhetoric,” why not discuss the policies and treatment, etc. that devolve from, are enshrined within, etc. the kinds of things Peterson says (since, obviously, he is not the only person who thinks this way; and there, in fact, people who agree with him who have the power to pass laws, make and enforce policy, etc.) and how women and trans people’s lives are harmed (or not, which is what you seem to believe). If, after you respectfully and meaningfully engage in that conversation, you want to have a similar conversation about feminist rhetoric and men, sure, let’s have at it.

  82. 82
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    This thread is a dumpster fire, and it’s because we’re talking about Peterson.

    Jordan Peterson has put out so much content- certainly over 100 hours, maybe even several hundred hours. I don’t expect anyone here to have heard or read all of it, and I’d be surprised if a single commenter here had. Before we all jump to conclusions about who is pretending to know less than they actually do, maybe it’s worth considering the possibility that there is no consensus position here on what Peterson has said and/or thinks. What’s worse is that he’s not always a careful speaker and sometimes I think he contradicts himself so two people can have two conflicting Petersons in their head, and both are sure that their Peterson is the one true Peterson. I would also bet that some of Peterson’s views will be misrepresented entirely due to the distorting power of social media and the internet.

    If desipis’s goal is to force people to confront the possibility that Peterson’s hurtful statements also actually true, and thus justifiable, it’s entirely reasonable to ask what those hurtful statements actual are before making an assumption, and I think this is more true with Peterson than other thinkers who express themselves more clearly.

  83. Jeffrey,

    You are, yet again, missing the point. And, with that, I am done, at least for the day. I have classes to prep.

  84. 84
    Ampersand says:

    Erin wrote:

    Are certain types of content forbidden here in actuality? Are there any kind of unwritten rules that are really followed, or is banning completely capricious? I don’t particularly want to put thought and effort into a post just to have it deleted. Any available insight into the real rules for posting here?

    First of all, have you read the moderation policy? I’m sorry if that seems like a stupid question, but you might be surprised by how many people don’t notice it. (To be fair, the link is in the top menu, and many of us are conditioned to ignore top menus unless we’re specifically looking for a search function or contact info).

    I mainly want people to try and be civil to each other. Long-time posters and my personal friends tend to get a little more slack – or, if I moderate them, to get an email rather than a public rebuke.

    I don’t think I’m completely capricious in banning people, especially site bannings. Completely needless personal attacks (“Amp, you fat asshole coward…” etc) are the most likely to result in a quick ban. But apart from that, I try to be slow to ban people. And most banned people are really just placed on permanent moderation (see the moderation policy for more about this).

    I specifically forbid the use of the term “illegals” or “illegal aliens” to refer to undocumented immigrants on this blog. (“Illegal immigrants” is accepted, although it might make me inwardly wince.) I also don’t allow people to advocate for “race realism,” because I feel that it would be wrong to provide a forum where that is advocated for and not rebutted, but rebutting it can take hours of research and writing that I can’t commit to having. Certain questions about sex and gender are not forbidden, but may be diverted to a thread Grace has set up to address such questions, at Grace’s discretion.

    In addition to this, and to what it says in the moderation policy, any thread-starter can set up their own rules for any or all of their threads.

  85. 85
    Ampersand says:

    I have never – not once – seen someone say that they are frightened or hurt by a world view on a right-wing forum.

    I have certainly seen MRAs and anti-feminists say that they’ve been hurt by world views expressed by feminists.

  86. 86
    Ampersand says:

    The bit about giving my personal friends more slack, or rebuking them privately, may seem like an unfair bias – and it is. But I have actually had long-term friendships imperiled or (in one case) lost because of tensions begun with me moderating their comments here. So for me, this is less a matter of fairness than it is a matter of my prioritizing my friendships over my desire to be the best moderator I can be.

  87. 87
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    RJN,

    Furthermore, that history, as much as anything else, was what Jake Squid was responding to with his rhetorical question about The Bell Curve, which I think was probably obvious to those of us who have been commenting here a long time–and I’m pretty sure Jake has been here longer than I have–and is why your treating his implicit characterization of that book more or less purely as a matter of intellectual inquiry was in fact a derailment of the conversation. Not because the issues surrounding The Bell Curve, and what it says or doesn’t say, might not be a worthwhile thing to discuss, but because that discussion, at that particular moment, in this particular community, was not what was really at stake.

    I’m forced to take you at your word for all this. Maybe I’m just weird, but none of this is/was obvious to me.

    You see this thread as Elusis, taking an opportunity to air some long-standing grievances with the way desipis (and maybe others) comments, and then he and I kept derailing that discussion by keeping it abstract and intellectual in a way that perpetuated the pain experienced? Is that right? If so, I definitely didn’t see it like that which explains my “tone-deaf,” as you put it, response.

    I think a major problem here is that I would have summarized this whole thread as an intellectual one derailed with a personal attack on desipis, me saying “what the hell?,” and tossing her accusation right back at Elusis, and then I get attacked personally. Despair can be expressed without the attacks, and had that happened, I would have been happy to continue exploring the issues of Peterson as he relates to the cartoon with others who wanted to. You do see how it kinda looks like the discussion was going fine and got derailed after #43, right?

    One time I was frustrated trying and failing to communicate with Amp. I think he was frustrated too, and typed, “just write what you mean!” I still think about that, and wish more people had done that in this thread.

  88. 88
    Ampersand says:

    One thing that I really want to find out about the left is why Trump drives them so wild. There was lots of hatred on the left for Reagan and Bush Senior and a ton of hate for Bush Junior, but nothing like what is going on with Trump.

    Erin, I commented about this on the open thread.

    And btw, welcome. And I hope you don’t feel like you can’t contribute until you’ve lurked some more. Speaking just for myself, I prefer for people to just jump in, and for people who have been here a while to make allowances for newbies who don’t understand the full context. Just try not to make personal attacks and you’ll be fine. And welcome to “Alas.”

    UPDATE: Link to open thread fixed.

  89. 89
    Mandolin says:

    We love you, Grace.

  90. Jeffrey,

    Not that Elusis needs me to speak for her, but I do not want to let stand unanswered the rhetorical sleight of hand in which you make her the one who somehow derailed this thread:

    You see this thread as Elusis, taking an opportunity to air some long-standing grievances with the way desipis (and maybe others) comments, and then he and I kept derailing that discussion by keeping it abstract and intellectual in a way that perpetuated the pain experienced? Is that right? If so, I definitely didn’t see it like that which explains my “tone-deaf,” as you put it, response.

    I think a major problem here is that I would have summarized this whole thread as an intellectual one derailed with a personal attack on desipis, me saying “what the hell?,” and tossing her accusation right back at Elusis, and then I get attacked personally. Despair can be expressed without the attacks, and had that happened, I would have been happy to continue exploring the issues of Peterson as he relates to the cartoon with others who wanted to. You do see how it kinda looks like the discussion was going fine and got derailed after #43, right? (emphasis added)

    I wonder if you realize how the part I’ve put in boldface makes you and your perceptions and concerns the center of everything here, conveniently (again) ignoring what I have said about Desipis’ history of commenting here as the context in which Elusis responded to his question @39–which is where the tone of the discussion changed. To suggest that she used this as “an opportunity to air longstanding grievances,” which is not at all how I characterized her comment, is to make her sound like an opportunist, not someone expressing serious concern about the state of a community to which she belongs and has contributed very meaningfully over the years.

    And I do not think this is merely an uncharitable reading of your word-choice on my part. You are very skilled, Jeffrey, at summarizing in a way that tilts in your favor the opinions/statements/whatever of people who disagree with or in some other way oppose you, and that is what you have done here. You’ve done it throughout the discussion here and you did it throughout our discussion about “truth is a construct.” It’s a fine debating technique, and I have actually enjoyed watching you use it in discussion, but you have used it here to portray Elusis in a very unfair light, using my words to do so, and that is something I am not going to allow to go unremarked.

    I’m not going to debate this with you any further, because I see no point. So you can respond if you want, but I will not be engaging you on this subject any further.

  91. 91
    Kate says:

    Thank-you Grace, Jeffrey & Amp for you responses. I’m traveling & only have my phone to comment.

  92. 92
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#88- “Erin, I commented about this on the open thread.”
    Ironically, the link to the OPEN thread asked me to login.

  93. 93
    Kate says:

    Jeffrey, asserting that this thread went off the rails @43 is basically saying that you still think you and Desipis are the ones in the right. I suggest you reread the thread with a new focus. Try to read it, not as an intellectual debate that you are trying win, but as a set of true accounts of different perspectives that you are trying to understand.

  94. 94
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Kate, I see what you mean, but have you considered what this thread looks like from a perspective outside that of AlasABlog?

    So there’s this thing, where rationalist types accuse social justice adjacent types of employing “silencing tactics” in conversation. “Silencing tactics” is often mocked by SJ folks, especially in an environment where anything that resembles an attempt to silence a public speaker often backfires. I think “silencing tactics,” is also mocked because there are literally zero people scrubbing their hands like villains, whispering under their breath, “oh, this guy’s about to make a killer point, let’s silence him.” I love Scott Alexander’s SSC blog, but my main beef with him is the way he describes SJ folks as villains looking to shame guys like him into silence, when there’s likely a more charitable explaination, and supposedly Scott is a huge fan of charity.

    I do think there is a tendency among SJ folk to prioritize the minimization of hurt feelings when conversations start to veer toward difficult topics, and this has the effect of silencing intellectual discussion even if silence is not the intent, in much the same way that discussing these topics dispationately has the effect of hurting people when pain is not the intent. Both sides will feel that the other is acting unfairly and press ahead with their agendas, becoming ever more villainous in the eyes of their opponents.

    Who is in the wrong depends on the priorities of those doing the judging, and will determine the amount of charity these judges are willing to extend. On some forums, this very thread could be used to confirm some vicious stereotypes about the ways in which progressives use “I’m feeling pain” to silence opposing views. Meanwhile, progressive could read this and say, “oh look, yet another rationalist dude doesn’t actually give a shit about hurting people. because showing he cares might get in the way of winning his intellectual debate.” Eventually we will all convince ourselves that our opposition is ruining the discussion on purpose (hi, RJN). This is easy to do because it feeds right into our pre-existing biases.

    I think this dynamic is real, and it’s lowering the quality of the discourse everywhere. Im not sure what to do about it.

  95. 95
    Ampersand says:

    Ironically, the link to the OPEN thread asked me to login.

    Whoops! Thanks for pointing that out, here’s the correct link.

  96. 96
    Harlequin says:

    On some forums, this very thread could be used to confirm some vicious stereotypes about the ways in which progressives use “I’m feeling pain” to silence opposing views.

    Since (and including) Elusis’s comment @43, you, desipis, and Erin have posted 3,245 words that were roughly on-topic (so, avoiding the stuff where Erin was asking general modding questions) and weren’t quotations of other commenters, and Amp, Elusis, Grace, Jake Squid, Kate, Mandolin, Mookie, RJN, and I have posted 5,113 words with the same restrictions. Nobody has been banned or thread-banned. I don’t see how anything about this conversation could be construed as an example of silencing.

  97. 97
    Harlequin says:

    (Or, I should say, how it is an example of SJWs silencing anybody. There have been multiple accounts of people on the roughly-SJW side saying they are speaking here less because of the tenor of the comments.)

  98. 98
    desipis says:

    why not discuss the policies and treatment, etc. that devolve from, are enshrined within, etc. the kinds of things Peterson says

    Peterson’s style of commentary largely focuses on observations in scientific literature or builds on Jungian theory. I’ve seen him comment critically on policies that fail to consider evidence in the scientific literature but he tends not to make normative statements on what policy should be. I’m not even sure you can directly go Peterson’s comments to any particular policy without making all sorts of sweeping assumptions.

    The only significant exception to this are his comments on legally enforcing the use of gendered pronouns and defunding parts of universities. Are those what you want to discuss? Are they what is central to why you (or others) dislike Peterson?

  99. 99
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Jeffrey Gandee,

    I think that silencing is a spectrum, not a binary. Imagine a country where publishing X gets you thrown in jail, while the opposite of X can be published freely. I think that it is fair to say that people who want to say X are being silenced.

    Now imagine that you can publish X, but only in a paper with 1 subscriber. Any more than that and the government will throw the writer in jail. Technically that writer is not silenced, but in practice she clearly is almost totally silenced. We can of course extend that to larger, but forcefully limited subscriber counts.

    This kind of silencing is quite common in autocratic nations, which ensure that opposition voices get heard by few enough people to prevent the opposition from gaining critical mass, while they can still point to opposition newspapers to argue that they are not dictators. There are other silencing techniques, like:
    – now and then harshly punishing a critic, to create a culture of fear
    – making the real-life repercussions so large, that the only viable options are to become a full-time critic or to shut up altogether
    – allowing the loyalists to use tactics that the critics are not allowed to use, like slander
    – cutting off finances, so that one side can pay their writers and the other can’t

    So think that we need to recognize that many cases of (partial) silencing involve strong double standards, where things are made much more difficult for one side of the debate.

    Now, I think that most complaints about silencing by SJ people are about behaviors that are on this silencing spectrum & involves speaking out being made much easier and risk-free for one side than the other.

  100. 100
    Ampersand says:

    At some point on that spectrum, though, the claims of being silenced become ridiculous.

    Elusis is not silencing anyone. At all.

    This very thread could be used to confirm some vicious stereotypes about the ways in which progressives use “I’m feeling pain” to silence opposing views.

    Honestly, I think this very thread could be used to confirm the stereotype that conservatives/anti-SJWs say “I’m being silenced! Look at them silencing me!” at the drop of a hat.

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