When will I sign up for Twitter?

My main reason for not signing up at this point is I don’t want a Twitterer’s brain. A secondary reason is a funny purity thing, where I like being able to think of myself as a person without a Twitter account. (I’m no longer concerned about Twitter collecting data on me, the way I am with Facebook or Google.) I’m already confident there are conversations on Twitter I’d like to be a part of, but that’s not enough.

If I have a reasonable expectation that I or something I said becomes the topic of those conversations, then I’ll seriously consider signing up.

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Where to go with hatefacts?

Hatefacts are true things (typically unflattering statistics about minority/nonwhite/non-straight/etc. groups) that you’re not allowed to believe are true, lest you be branded some kind of hateful hate-filled person and shut out of polite society.

There is a temptation to utter hatefacts just to show how absurd political correctness can be and therefore how clever and brave you are for uttering them. Some people (e.g. Steve Sailer) make a living doing essentially this.

I am not impressed with this schtick. For one thing, hatefact-utterers usually don’t have either the brains or the nerve to suggest what society should do with the information they’ve so cleverly and bravely provided. (With Sailer it’s nerve.) For another thing, in the rare case where they do make such a suggestion, it is always something that almost nobody would want, sometimes not even something they themselves would want. Or just something immoral, impractical, unthinkable, or some combination of these.

In some ways hatefacts are very much like those facts I wrote about before, whose purpose is to make you feel small and insignificant. Yes, all of human history is but the final blip on the timeline of the universe.

But so what?

Teachers, tantrums, and telephone games

This is exactly the kind of nothing-burger journalism I disavow, but I poked a few links on a Twitter feed and wound up reading on out of curiosity so now I have these thoughts in my head I need to get out, not least because I haven’t seen any adult-sounding commentary on this episode, at least not in the chain of commentary I followed.

First, the story is about an 11 year-old black kid in Florida who didn’t want to say the Pledge of Allegiance because he thinks America is racist. (Whoopee!) The Cuban immigrant substitute teacher there at the time got in a dumb argument with him, which escalated until the kid was storming out of the classroom declaring the school to also be racist (c’mon, he’s only 11; when I was 11 I thought I was going to grow up to be a tiger), and somehow it ended with a “resource” at the school — not an administrator — (not sure what a “resource” is, but it’s the term used in the article) recommending the police be called and the kid arrested, which he was. Then later his mom complained, and the ACLU got involved. Here’s the original trash fire some call “the news”, to which I will refer for the rest of this stupid ol’ blog post.

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Claims of being the outgroup

There are different flavors of how people think of themselves as the cultural outgroup. The two examples I’m thinking of are (1) the type often claimed by racial minorities, where there’s systemic racism against them even if it’s not explicit in the law, and (2) the type often claimed by devout Christians, where there’s a sort of quiet effort to make life harder for them or even snuff them out by outlawing and erasing their symbols and enacting laws exactly counter to their beliefs.

I think my mind went to these two examples because they might be exact inverses of each other. In the first case, it’s difficult to define exactly where systemic racism occurs, but because the heritages of racial minorities don’t permeate or provide the foundation of Western society the same way, say, classical Greek thought, Shakespeare, and Christianity do, they feel a sense of being forever outsiders anyway, which provokes the feeling of being systemically discriminated against.

In the second case, there’s little question that Christianity is deeply embedded in Western society, and it’s still not hard to find Christians basically anywhere you might go, or see Christian values and symbols reflected all over our culture — even granting claims that there is an effort to erase them. But this alleged effort is still something many Christians perceive, and they can point to dozens of specific examples.

Another way to illustrate the difference might be this: lots of white people want a black person on their team at work, or in their neighborhood, or in their friendship circle, or whatever, because that means “diversity” and diversity makes them feel great — and blacks in these situations are typically treated very well (barring offensive misunderstandings, etc.) but when blacks become the local majority then whites start to get anxious and leave.

Inversely, Western non-Christians are accustomed to living in a Christian-dominated world and were basically tolerant and even supportive of it (how many non-Christians, or at least non-believers, still celebrate Christmas and Easter?), but once they start to sense that Christians are becoming the local minority, non-Christians become emboldened to do things like take down nativity scenes, ban the ten commandments, take the word “God” off the currency, etc.

So on the one hand you have a sense of not being let in and on the other hand you have a sense of being pushed out.

This is still a little fuzzy and I’m not sure it makes sense. It might not. Or it might and I’m just not explaining it well at all.

Is real

One thing I didn’t write about in my ideology check post is Israel. That’s because I forgot, which is probably because it’s not something I think about a whole lot. But I do have an opinion I figure I might as well write down. If I had to summarize it briefly: I’m not a Zionist, but on a -1 to 1 scale where -1 is full-blown pro-Palestinian and 1 is full-blown pro-Israel, I’m something like 0.3. But that hides a lot of nuance, which I’ve literally hidden behind a “read more” tag. The rest is explained below.

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Answering Tabachnick: speculating on the penalty for illegal abortion

David Tabachnick is a professor of political science in Nipissing, Ontario. He has an impressive list of publications and has written at least one book I consider extremely important. These days I pop in and read his Twitter feed from time to time, because I enjoy the way he criticizes several of the public figures who I otherwise like and tend to agree with.

Recently he responded to Ben Shapiro, asking what the penalty should be for an abortion. (Presumably Shapiro must have said abortion should be illegal, as I’m pretty sure he believes.) Tabachnick didn’t get an answer from Shapiro, or a straight answer from anyone else in the peanut gallery. So I thought I’d take a stab at it.

My position on abortion, as I’ve stated before, is that because we don’t know when human life begins we might as well err on the side of caution and say it begins at conception, and so logically abortion ought to be illegal. But as Tabachnick implies, this hard stance deserves to be fleshed out with an examination of what the penalty for an abortion ought to be in that case. Such an examination won’t fit in a Twitter comment, so I think Tabachnick is asking in the wrong place, but hopefully he and others asking the same question might find their way here instead.

We can begin by identifying two extremes:

On one end, abortion is basically premeditated murder, with the mother and the abortionist (if applicable) treated as co-conspirators. Whatever the punishment would be for a woman killing her 2 year-old, and for another person helping her do it (or vice versa), that should be the punishment for abortion. Let’s call this type of punishment P10.

On the other end, abortion is illegal on paper only: a symbolic proscription that expresses our collective unwillingness to officially sanction what very well might be murder but what we effectively allow in practice for pragmatic reasons; in almost all cases there are no charges pursued. Let’s call this type of punishment P0.

I don’t think I need to speculate in detail on every point on the P0-10 scale, I’ve just sketched out the extremes. Now I can discuss the issues that come into play as we move from one end of the scale to the other.

At the P10 end, the problem is that doctors and mothers clearly are not dangerous criminals (not to anyone aside from the aborted fetus, that is), and I don’t think there’s typically the same need to get them off the street for public safety reasons as there is for, say, a serial killer or unrepentant gangbanger. On the other hand, this end of the punishment scale is philosophically consistent: if we are going to say abortion is murder, at least in legal terms, then we ought to treat it as such.

The farther we move toward P10, the more our justice system is going to have to deal with what are in practical terms nonviolent offenders (about half of them highly trained professionals who have taken a hippocratic oath!) being prosecuted for murder. But this might result in a drastic reduction in abortion (hard to see how it wouldn’t), and possibly even generate other second-order effects such as a decrease in sex outside marriage, or an increase in use of contraceptives, as people take greater precautions to ensure they don’t wind up in a situation where the only two ways out are an unwanted child or serious jail time for murder.

The farther we move toward P0, the more the situation resembles one in which abortion is legal, with all the attendant problems and (to those predisposed to think so) benefits. This also means a scenario in which everyone sees an ostensibly serious law going unenforced, which could undermine respect for that law in particular or even for the law in general.

Personally, I think an optimal outcome would be something in the P6-8 range. Abortion, treated as the taking of a human life, should carry a serious consequence for anyone involved in carrying one out. This consequence should be serious enough to carry both a justice and deterrent component. But I also don’t think we can in good conscience treat mothers and doctors involved in abortion exactly the way we would our society’s most bloodthirsty killers.

I know that still isn’t a highly detailed answer, but hopefully it is thoughtful and specific enough for those wondering how the law should actually treat people involved in abortion, in a society where abortion is illegal.

We might also look at how this was done in the past when abortion actually was illegal. We might find either lessons there to emulate or pitfalls to avoid.

Undershare

The rock I live under got pretty cold this weekend so I built a fire in the fireplace. Not because that’s an efficient way to heat a home (I used the furnace for that; it worked well), but because it’s nice to have a fire in the fireplace. Building it, watching it. And then I listened to Steely Dan with my wife while the kids played on the circular shag carpet and we all ate grapes and Triscuit crackers. It was nice.

None of that will ever be on Instagram. In fact aside from this very non-detailed description of it, none of it will ever be on the internet period, because we’re old fashioned and we like it that way.  I hope when my kids are my age they can choose not to put things on the internet.

Now drink your big black cow and get out of here.

What does “Don’t be Nazis” really mean?

Surely if we are to learn anything from the 20th century, it is to not repeat its biggest atrocities, chief among those the rise of Nazi Germany and the unspeakable deeds committed therein. This is such a commonly held view — one so unlikely to have serious dissenters of any significant number outside the internet — it’s banal and I’m a bit surprised otherwise intelligent people keep saying it, though maybe it’s not a bad thing to repeat it every so often anyway.

Still, I have to wonder what it actually means. Are we being Nazis if we…

  • Erect physical barriers along our borders to keep out illegal immigrants?
  • Erect programmatic barriers within our immigration system to keep out criminals, people without a legitimate claim of asylum, etc.?
  • Identify and attack those who attempt to harm us?
  • Detain and interrogate prisoners of war?
  • Teach our kids to celebrate and uphold our country?

To my eye, none of these things put us remotely close to Nazi territory, and all are actually reasonable things for any country to do. Yet the sight of border fences, military action, and even slightly nationalistic communication drives some people into fits of “Nazis! Nazis! Nazis!” If pressed for specifics, I wonder what exactly they would say is necessary/sufficient for a Nazi comparison.

Sokal Squared

I recently learned about the Grievance Studies hoax, nicknamed “Sokal Squared”, in which a trio of academics wrote something like 20 ridiculous, bogus papers and submitted them to a bunch of journals in disciplines like gender studies, queer studies, etc. Some of the papers were accepted and even published.

The point was supposed to be that these academic disciplines lack scholarly rigor because even after editorial and peer review these preposterous writings still made it into their journals. Many people have praised the hoaxers for shining a light on these issues, although there’s been some criticism of the hoax as well.

The strongest criticism, as I see it, is that the hoaxers didn’t have a control on their experiment, which they could have by sending equally ludicrious papers to journals in more established disciplines. It turns out journals in some of those disciplines (math, computer science, physics, etc.) have been similarly hoaxed already, bringing into question whether the Sokal Squared hoax was actually revelatory.

On the other hand, many of the hoaxes in the list I just linked to seem to have been perpetrated against open-access journals, which are already known to have little-to-no gatekeeping stringency.

Nevertheless, it’s a funny and entertaining prank at any rate. Here’s Joe Rogan’s 2.5 hour conversation with two of the hoaxers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZZNvT1vaJg

The fetishism of human diminution

I like what I know about the Long Now Foundation (because I read Neal Stephenson’s novel “Anathem” and then read about its background and thought all of that was really cool) and I definitely consider the sense of time imparted by the study of cosmology or geology or evolutionary biology to be wondrous and even potentially useful — if applied in certain ways.

But stripped of their context, as they so often are in tweets like this and in countless other places I’ve seen them, these reminders (about how recent, puny, insignificant, etc., we are) just seem like some kind of masochistic fetish. After all, you can’t live day to day with your insignificance actually sitting there in the forefront of your mind, and there’s also something messed up about how this comes off as an attack on the (also very real) grandeur of human accomplishment and potential.

I could be wrong but I think there’s also a correlation between the types of people who post this kind of stuff and left-wing political ideology. If that’s true, a few explanatory theories suggest themselves, but I’ll hold off for now on pondering them out loud here.