Callout Bullshit Vs Callout Treachery

I feel like previous generations had a "callout bullshit" culture. They had a sensitivity to being fooled. And when someone tried to fool them, they'd say, "get that bullshit out of here. you can't fool me." It's not so much that there was more of an attitude of skepticism. I'm not sure if people were more or less skeptical than they are today if you control for what kinds of things to expect them not to be skeptical toward. But there was an attitude that conveying skepticism was okay.

I Am Scott Alexander

At least I wish I were. He's a much better writer than I am. If you're reading this, I suggest you go to his blog at and read him instead. Here are a few of my favorite posts:

Meditations On Moloch
Beware The Man Of One Study
Nobody Is Perfect, Everything Is Commensurable
I Can Tolerate Anything Except For the Outgroup
Against Lie Inflation
Toxoplasma of Rage
The Categories Were Made For Man, not Man for the Categories

And so many others!

Oh wait...

SlateStarCodex is dead. Here's what happened.

Systemic Racism proves too much

Systemic Racism:
"Refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for Whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as People of Color."
In other words, systemic racism is anything that creates or exasperated racial disparities. If you believe in this definition of racism, you likely see racism pervading society. But when you think about it, systemic racism is not only common across almost every policy we do have, but every policy we could have.

A short memory

I hear a lot of complaining about how Trump gets misinterpreted and taken out of context by the media.
The thing is, they're right. I can't tell you how often over the last 4 years I've thought, "I don't like Trump, but what you're saying is completely asinine."

When I hear right-wing people point out this media inanity in a plea for others to leave the left and embrace the right, where diverse and serious conversations are being had, I have to laugh. How short are their memories?!!

It wasn't so long ago that right-wingers quoted Barack Obama's book out of context, "I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction." Another time, Obama's line, "you didn't build that" was mistaken to mean, "you didn't build (any of) that" when he clearly meant, "You didn't build that (by yourself)." One ad quoted Obama as saying the troops in Afghanastan are, "just air-raiding villages and killing civilians," again, a quote that was completely taken out of context.

This kind of thing was nonstop throughout Obama's presidency. Obama is a Muslim. Obama is a foreigner. Obama starts a war on Christmas. Obama kowtows to enemy leaders. Obama thinks he's a dictator. Obama is going try to stay in power past 2 terms. Now we're seeing the flipped version of the same thing and I'm supposed to join team Trump?

4 years ago I didn't think CNN was capable of simulating Fox News, but now that it has it doesn't make me any more of a right-winger. If anything I'm just more cynical now. When the left and right see their leaders through rose-colored glasses, and always thinks the enemy tribe leader is satan, the best thing to do is avoid them both and join the majority of Americans who embrace centrism.

Steelmen Vs. Everymen

There are two way to spend IQ points. You can spend them fighting dumb ideas that are wrong or you can spend them fighting smart ideas that are wrong. I don't know what the proper allocation of IQ points should be to battling dumb vs. smart ideas

The term Steelman refers to the best possible argument for your opponent's position, but if that's not what most people actually believe, does it do any good? Wouldn't it be more persuasive to battle the actual objections that average IQ people make? Instead of Steelmen, shouldn't we fight everymen?

Rewire your Brain to be Skeptical

When I'm told that something is rewiring our brains, I'm skeptical. The bad version of the story usually pertains to things that accidentally rewire your brain like smartphones, pornography, social media, or wifi. The good version usually pertains to things we can do to deliberately rewire our own brains, like brain training or meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy.

The Price of Tactical Exaggeration

Last year I wrote a post in favor of trivialization. The accusation that one is trivializing shouldn't be an argument-ender. The relevant question isn't whether one is trivializing something bad, but whether someone is trivializing something being exaggerated.

"Hitler ate babies" is a statement that deserves to be trivialized. Hitler didn't eat babies. Yet, to say so trivializes how terrible Hitler was.

Some people defend this kind of exaggeration by claiming it's tactical. If we're honest in our representations, people don't care enough. So we have to exaggerate the problem to motivate a more urgent response. It's kind of like archery where you have to aim above the target because if you aim at the target you're going to fall short.

I am confident that on the margin some people are encouraged by exaggeration into more appropriate responses. This is the benefit of tactical exaggeration. I'm not going to say that this benefit doesn't exist (although doing so is an amusing contradiction). Rather, in my further defense of trivialization, I want to point out the price of tactical exaggeration.

When to Believe all Women

Should you believe a woman who says she's been raped? Yes, but I have an important qualifier.

The Messages we don't Intend to Send

Consider two examples and ask yourself what they have in common:

1. Dan Crenshaw is a conservative politician who went on the Joe Rogan podcast. When the discussion came to marijuana legalization, Mr. Crenshaw said this,
"There's a normalization that occurs when you legalize something. Let's say you've made the age 21... what you've done is you've normalized it for teenagers. You said, "yeah, it's 21, but it's legal so there's no issues with it." I think that's what you're telling people.
2. A paper posted in the Progressive Economy Forum says that UBI would create social cohesion and prevent stigma because everyone would receive it. In regard to means testing, it says,
Applying for such benefits is shaming, undignified, often costly, time-consuming and an implicit admission of personal inadequacy. It is potentially and often stigmatising, to yourself, your family, your friends, neighbours and potential future employers.