There’s no shortage of notes in Jordan B Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life but that doesn’t mean every assertion related to facts is referenced. Also, when references are used they aren’t always tightly associated with the argument. Take this for example from chapter 2:
“This is perhaps because the primary hierarchical structure of human society is masculine, as it is among most animals, including the chimpanzees who are our closest genetic and, arguably, behavioural match. It is because men are and throughout history have been the builders of towns and cities, the engineers, stonemasons, bricklayers, and lumberjacks, the operators of heavy machinery.” – Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (p. 40). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
Now there is a lot wrong with that statement factually but the right reference here, if this was an academic essay, would be to a source discussing historical patterns of employment. Peterson instead links to some modern labour statistics here https://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/occ_gender_share_em_1020_txt.htm The tables do use the term ‘traditional occupations’ and ‘non-traditional’ based on proportions of women involves but this is ‘traditional’ in a very loose sense and includes “Meeting, convention, and event planners”. My point here isn’t that the table is wrong of even questioning gendered-roles in employment – just that a lot of references are weak in this fashion. It is vaguely related but not neatly tied to Peterson’s argument.
(This is quite long – so more after the fold)
So my Sunday morning was taken up with behaviour that neatly mirrored my last blog post title. I’m not going to name names because there is literally an innocent party involved.
Certain parties on the internet decided that I’d been too outspoken or what not and decided that I needed doxxing. Now, personally, I think doxxing is something that can be easily classified as moral bad except in certain circumstances. Put another way you need a very good reason that outweighs the ethical wrong when revealing somebody else’s identity or personal information. The ethics of doxxing known harassers, bullies or people who make threats is where the question would lie. Doxxing because somebody has challenged your party line is straightforwardly wrong.
Put that aside for a moment. Imagine if you had convinced yourself that revealing somebody’s identity online is the right thing to do. Well, you still have a deep responsibility to GET IT RIGHT.
So, some ethically challenged idiot decided to announce to assorted others that they knew for a fact that I’m some person and got it completely wrong. OK, they got the continent right. Aside from that – nope. They targetted some poor soul who I don’t know and who I have never met and who (as far as I know) I’ve never interacted with.
Honestly, it would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that some other person is now likely to be the target of Sad Puppy harassment. Should we be surprised that supposed champions of free-speech try to silence people in this way? Nope, but I’ll try to be disappointed.
Oh, wayyyy back before the bicycle chain of reality slipt off the cogs of history, I posted some stuff about voter fraud Oh what innocent times they were!
Oh, how I scoffed about actual cases of individual voting fraud! One of the main reasons I scoffed was because it is such a daft and counter-productive idea that requires a lack of ethics, poor planning, bad foresight and a high chance of getting caught. Who would do such a thing!
Ah! My error was that ‘lack of ethics, poor planning, bad foresight’ does describe a group of politically motivated people. We might call them “GOP supporters/officials”
“Curtis, who since his political career has hosted a talk show on the conservative Aurora radio station KLZ-AM 560, remained stoic behind a set of sunglasses as his ex-wife, the prosecution’s first witness, took the stand. She and Curtis were married for only nine months, she said, during 2015. During that time, she lived with him at his house in Firestone, and she registered to vote at that address.
However, she said, she and Curtis separated in December 2015, and she later moved to Charleston, S.C., where she tried to register to vote for the 2016 election. She missed the deadline, though, and was told to call Colorado.
By the time she spoke to employees of the Weld County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, she said, Steve Curtis had already cast her vote.
“(The clerk and recorder’s office employee) proceeded to tell me I had already voted and the ballot and the envelope was sitting right there and had already been counted,” Kelly Curtis said.”
Ironically, the story still helps demonstrate that this kind of voter fraud (as opposed to wide scale voter supression) has little impact on US elections.
This post is a conclusion but because the book itself is so dull I’m forced to borrow a funnier example from Mr Day’s blog.
As I’ve discussed previously, Day takes the term rather silly term “SJW” and proceeds to suck out of it nearly all meaning. While still resting on visual stereotypes of the ‘Social Justice Warrior” as strident, rainbow-haired feminists, his main targets for the accusation of “SJW” are just ordinary everyday people in neutral to right-leaning settings. Because he needs his minions to be paranoid and in a constant struggle with “SJWs” then SJWs need to be everywhere. So as a kind of re-incarnated witchfinder general, Vox proceeds to find not only reds-under-the-beds but SJWs in evangelical churches or rightwing publications or anywhere and everywhere his target audience might engage in human contact.
How absurd can he make this? Well, to my surprise, there are limits and poor Vox actually had a bit of a backlash from his comment section the other day.
Now note, this is a topic around which I have zero (possibly negative) interest – the hiring of a coach for a college football team.
The said post is here (archive version but close to current) https://web.archive.org/web/20171128211816/http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/11/sjw-veto-at-ut.html
Observant readers will spot that the blog post title is “Social Media Veto at UT”, whereas the URL title is “sjw-veto-at-ut”. Use of Google cache reveals the former version:
The “SJWs” were “shrieking” over “Greg Schiano” because:
“Schiano has a controversial reputation, in part due to his time as Penn State’s defensive backs coach in the early ’90s under former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexually abusing young boys.”
Even Vox concedes that:
“I’m not a particular fan of Schiano, as I wasn’t impressed with his performance in Tampa Bay”
So a lacklustre coach with a tarnished reputation receives an unwelcome reaction from fans of a sports team. Where among that does a rant about “Social Justice Warriors” come into it?
I’m reminded of Dr Ben Goldacre’s description of UK Tabloid the Daily Mail:
“The Daily Mail, as you know, is engaged in a philosophical project of mythic proportions: for many years now it has diligently been sifting through all the inanimate objects in the world, soberly dividing them into the ones which either cause – or cure – cancer.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/dec/08/cancer.dailymail
Vox is engaged in a similar exercise in extreme ontology to divide each and every fuss about something into either an example of
- whiny SJWs being whiny and destroying civilisation because they are so evil and lefty…or….
- a valiant struggle of brave souls against the forces of SJWs even if it doesn’t seem much to do with them.
Unhappy with how Marvel is directing it’s comic books? Well, the great fascist sorting hat says that is an anti-SJW crusade regardless of what your opinion is or that you are objecting to how a major corporation is acting.
Unhappy with the choice of coach for a college football team because of his past association with a convicted child abuser? Well, the great fascist sorting hat says that is lunacy and you must be one of them evil SJWs.
You can retrospectively sort of work out why one and not the other but it is hard to spot in advance.
As it happens, this particular example finally managed to fall within the margins even for Vox’s comment section – with several of his minions befuddled about the taxonomic status of this particular kerfuffle. Vox eventually changed the first paragraph.
One commenter trying to unravel which is which:
“The thing we need to watch for is that this wasn’t an SJW mob. This was a #GG-style consumer/fan revolt, which the Sports Media is trying to run a narrative that it was a SJW mob. This might be either a strange blip or a watershed moment, but this is something we need to watch closely. Is this a cover tactic to appease the Left? Is this tactic to hide the #GG approach? Is it just Sports Media trying to cover that the UT fans weren’t happy for quite legitimate reasons?”
Or, you know, it could have just been people objecting to something they didn’t like rather than part of some grand scheme.
And thus we end with a moral: Anti-SJWs Always Live in a State of Intellectual Anxiety and Ontological Angst. Hmm could be snappier.
The transition from actual science to pseudoscience can be interesting to watch and there is nothing the alt-right likes to mangle quite so much as biology. This post is doing double duty – it covers some of Chapter 7 of my ongoing efforts to read Vox Day so you don’t have to but I’m framing this as a wider discussion of a piece of far-right nonsense.
You’ll hear mention of r/K selection theory from the likes of Stefan Molyneaux and Vox Day but their source seems to be a blogger who calls themselves “The Anonymous Conservative” https://www.anonymousconservative.com/blog/the-theory/rk-selection-theory/
But let us take a couple of steps back before stepping into the rabbit hole. There is a legitimate (if somewhat dated and heavily critiqued) model for evolutionary ecology called r/K selection theory. It relates to a more general mathematical model of population dynamics:
dN/dt = rN(1- N/K)
Here N is the population, dN/dt is the rate of change of the population, r is the maximum growth rate and K is the carrying capacity of the local environment. Note that equation is not itself the r/K theory but is more generally applicable.
The theory comes from naming two evolutionary ‘strategies’ based on the two terms in the equations.
r-selection: is when a species has an emphasis on high growth rates – have lots of offspring many of which won’t survive BUT if times are good the population can expand quickly.
K-selection: is when a species stays at close to the carrying capacity with less emphasis on growth rates. This involves having fewer offspring but with a greater chance of survival and also greater longevity.
Even a moments thought should be enough to see that this is not a simple dichotomy. Sea turtles follow both strategies in different ways for example: lots of young with little investment in upbringing but adults have long longevity. Mammals in general all have elements of K-selection by definition (providing milk for their younger is a greater investment in the upbringing of young i.e. more K than r) but some mammals are more r than K than others.
You can read about it here at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R/K_selection_theory
That wasn’t nuts enough, lets make it more nuts
You can’t get from a legitimate (although imperfect) ecological hypothesis to the likes of Stefan Molyneaux in one step. Things don’t get that nutty that quickly. The missing link is one of those rightwing academics who managed to straddle the space between respectability and obnoxious racial theory. Ideally that space should be unstraddlable but sadly it isn’t. Enter J Phillipe Rushton – Rushton was one of several ‘usual suspects’ who followed an academic career which provided cover for a range of dangerously racist theories. In later life (he died in 2012) he was head of the Pioneer Fund – a group that the Southern Law Poverty Center describes as “White Nationalist” and:
‘Started in 1937 by textile magnate Wickliffe Draper, the Pioneer Fund’s original mandate was to pursue “race betterment” by promoting the genetic stock of those “deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.”‘
The Pioneer Fund is basically what funds a lot of IQ wingnuttery that I’ve discussed before. That nonsensical global IQ stuff? That is primarily from one researcher, Richard Lynn, who is funded by…The Pioneer Fund.
Rushton (SLPC profile here https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/jean-philippe-rushton ) had all sorts of theories – one that doesn’t seem to be popular with the current mens-right/krypto-fascsist axis of shitbags is that IQ is inversely related to size of genitals. The thrust of these theories was usually around pushing eugenics, segregation and to provide cover and legitimacy for more crude and overt White Nationalism.
In 1984 Rushton latched onto r/K theory as a new way of creating an intellectual cover for racial theories. Rushton claimed that East Asians were not only, on average, smarter than other ‘races’ but also showed more sexual restraint and slower maturation than Europeans and even more so than Africans. From this he claimed that r/K theory could explain the difference.
This is obvious nonsense and a misapplication of the theory but never mind that for the moment. The point here was not so much to create a scientific hypothesis that could be used to model differences in IQ across large groupings of people but rather to create pseudo-intellectual cover. A post-hoc rationalisation of more crude racism. This way “r/K theory” enters into the discourse of the far right.
Biologists pointed out that Rushton was wrong on multiple levels. In particular that communities of people have lots of reproductive strategies available to them and the ones people adopt are determined by economic and environmental conditions, technology (e.g. birth control), social support and changing social attitudes. It isn’t a case of biologically determined groups of r-people and K-people. Humans are already very much at one end of the r/K spectrum (long life spans compared to other mammals and heavy investment in child rearing) – individual variations in family size can occur in a couple of generations, far, far, far too short a time to acts as some kind of sorting-hat for humanity.
Now with extra nuts
So from legitimate biology we go to pseudo-academia and then from there to the modern alt-right. The difference is that while Rushton was trying to craft a specific piece of plausible nonsense to provide cover for white nationalists, the modern Alt-Right will apply biological determinism to ANYTHING even when it makes ZERO sense.
Here is that Anonymous Conservative explaining his r/K theory but this time about Liberals:
“Here in the r-strategy, we see the origins of the Liberal’s tendencies towards conflict avoidance, from oppositions to free-market capitalism, to pacifism, to demands that all citizens disarm so as to avoid any chance of conflict and competition. Even the newer tendencies to support the ”everyone gets a trophy” movement are outgrowths of this competition-averse urge, and desire for free resource availability. Similarly, Liberals are supportive of promiscuity, supportive of efforts to expose children to ever earlier sexual education, and, as the debate over Murphy Brown showed, Liberals are supportive of low-investment, single parenting. “
I mean, in many ways that is a bigger affront to science and reasoning than Rushton’s but yet somehow less offensive. At this point he is seeing r/K as not just a (false) distinction between broad historical/geographical groupings of humanity but as a way of sub-dividing intermixed groups of people. They are literally trying to use an ecological, species-based biological model to explain differences in individual psychology.
Vox Day is more circumspect (Chapter 7 of his latest over priced pamphlet). For starters, while he often quotes and promotes Anonymous Conservatives post-Rushton r/K theory, it isn’t Vox’s own theory of either human psychology (i.e. his even more nonsensical Alpha/Beta/Gamma schtick) or his racial theory. However, he keeps returning to it as a kind of intellectual cover. In his pose as a great thinker he needs to show that he is informed by many ideas – including ones he is not convinced by but which are part of the mix. To this end r/K provides that kind of extra pseudo-intellectual bullshit.
But why this piece of bullshit? Well it all comes down to the rabbits.
Wabbits, Wolves and Wingnuts
Sooner or later, when explaining the biology background of r/K, Vox or Molyneaux or whoever will need to give an example. One re-occurring example explains a lot of the attraction of r/K to the right. Rabbits and wolves. Not actual rabbits or actual wolves but rather a mental picture these guys have of rabbits and wolves.
Now in case you haven’t spotted it yet, the rabbits are meant to be the r-selected (because rabbits do breed quickly) and wolves the K-selected (because they don’t). That both species have elements of both is ignored. That rabbits are complex social creatures is ignored. That wolves are cute and fluffy is ignored. This NOT about the complex nature of either wolves or rabbits.
This about imaginary wolves being scary bad-ass predators and imaginary rabbits being cowardly prey. For these alt-right commentators THEY are the noble and fierce wolves – apex predators, completely bad-ass etc etc etc, you get the picture. Yet, they keep finding themselves outnumbered by people they JUST KNOW are inferior in every way. AHA! Well this three-or-four time mangled biological concept explains it all for them. Of course they, the noble and scary wolves, are outnumbered by the contemptible rabbits! There always more rabbits than wolves. In the their view of the proper scheme of things the wolves should be lording it over the rabbits (they may be getting confused with The Lion King or something at this point) but things are out of whack and the rabbits are busy organizing diversity workshops on the prairie and making the wolves acknowledge their inherit privilege.
I’ll grant that there is no neat way of separating a metaphor from an analogy from a model from a functional scientific theory (I mean, aside from logic and evidence) but we’ve gone from one end to the other and maybe sailed past metaphor, past the pathetic fallacy and landed in fable.
But what a wonderful fable it is! Who are the chief fears of the Alt-Right? Immigrants, racial-minorities, the poor, feminists and the left/liberals. Each one can then be compared to rabbits. Obviously not consistently. Liberals as a grouping don’t particularly have high birth rates, immigrant communities tend to highly value education as a means of social advancement and so on and so on. To be honest debunking this in detail would give it more legitimacy than it can carry. Nor do they apply the converse – the Christian right and also White Nationalists (I’ll let others quibble over the difference there) promote high birth rates and are skeptical about education. But, as I mentioned earlier, we are really in the world of fable at this point rather than a place in which logical consistency is prized. The best you might get is thematic consistency.
Yes, this is all nonsense
So we have an out-of-favour (but legitimate) scientific model, which was hijacked by a pseudo-academic white nationalist to legitimise racial theories, which was picked up as a biologically determinist theory of everything by part of the alt-right and which is then used as a kind ‘here is a theory you might like kids’ by the likes of Vox Day.
No, wolves aren’t like that, it doesn’t give an insight into psychology, humans don’t work that way, and even a basic examination of how birth rates have changed over the past two hundred years in Western societies would show that we don’t split in r and K groups. Compare wealthy British aristocrats in 19th century with their descendants in the late 20th/early 21st century if you want a dangerously homogeneous gene pool to examine.
Best antidote? Read Watership Down – it isn’t anymore scientific than the alt-right nonsense above but it is better written and knows what it is and the rabbits are bad-ass.
Still doing this for my sins.
I think I forgot to mention that Chapter 6 also involves a weird proxy argument with Mary Robinette Kowal. The pretext is to demonstrate some of the fallacies he mentions in action but he fails to describe them adequately. The general point is that there is ambiguity in what she said (some of which was from Twitter – not a great medium for ambiguity free communication) and therefore he was really right all along. Suffice to say the section works its way back to SFWA expelling Vox etc etc.
After the Aristotlean fallacies, Chapter 6 takes us to list of “SJW Tactics”. This bit is kind of fun because it is classic Vox projection. He divides them up into individual tactics and then organizational tactics. However, I’m going to do them in a different order – organizational first and then a game for everybody with “individual”.
These are the terrible things SJWs are supposed to do to organizations. Vox lists seven and he manages to set up a deeply insightful analysis of how an organization can be destroyed by political extremists. The only problem is that as an analysis it fit bests how the right have wrecked the Republican party. Again, I’ve changed the order to show the sequence of events better.
“The Code of Conduct: Modifying the organization’s rules and rendering them more nebulous in order to allow the prosecution or defense of any member, according to their perceived support for social justice.”
Lobbying organizations on the right like the NRA or “Americans for Tax Reform” have systematically created an extension of the GOP’s actual rules and accountabilities for their politicians. For example the ATR has been pressurizing Republican candidates (at state and federal level) to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”:
ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and
TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.
(the exact wording varies between position)
These kinds of ideological tests backed up with threats against the candidates nomination act as a complex code of conduct for GOP representative. Note there is little here that pertains to the ethics of their behaviour but only their ideological purity
“The Pharisee Gambit: The SJWs inside the organization load an organization’s rules and operating procedures with conflicting requirements and procedural logjams. This makes it highly difficult or impossible to get anything done. They attribute the resulting inability to accomplish anything on those within the organization they want to discredit.”
OK, I don’t know enough about the Republican Party’s organizational rules to point out a in-party example but never mind that because this reads like a near perfect description on Congressional Republican behavior dating back to at least Newt Gingrich. The only upside to their habitual procedural log jamming, is that they now find themselves so out of practice that they are struggling to push their own agenda – despite controlling both houses and the Presidency.
“Unlocking the Door: Relaxing the organization’s standards enough to permit unqualified entryists to enter the organization.”
It’s not just Sarah Palin, it is a long history of temperamentally unsuitable candidates now occupying positions of power. At a higher level we’ve seen an unwillingness to adequately vet Trump’s appointees and the normalization of white supremacists and krypto-fascists within the Republican Party.
“The Conspiracy: If you put two SJWs in the same room, they will find each other and organize a secret mailing list designed to coordinate attacks on people and ultimately converge converge the institution by sundown.”
I guess arguably the conspiracies have been quite open and hence only a partial match here.
“Break the Norms: Constantly violate the social rules that dictate the avoidance of political and religious matters in order to stir up conflict inside the organization.”
Again the GOP and the Fox News approach of make EVERYTHING partisan and force everything into a narrative about somehow Christianity being persecuted.
“The Skin Carcass: Identify a respected institution. Kill it. Gut it. Wear its carcass as a skin suit, demanding respect.”
Voila, I give you the Grand Old Republican Party currently shuffling around with not a single shred left of the principles that it might have had in 1950.
“Blame History Game: Infiltrate, capture, and converge an organization, then blame all the resulting failures on the organization’s non-SJW positions prior to the changes you have made.”
Enough said really. The only remaining question is whether the same approach will continue with the United States.
For a happier note, observe how the last five also largely describes the Sad and Rabid tactics for Worldcon and the Hugos: entryism, breaking the norms, blame the past and the final objective turn the result into a mockery. Castalia still tries to use “Hugo Finalist” in this manner. Have no doubt that they would have attempted the first two if they had had more numbers, better organization and had faced less determined opposition.
OK here is where everyone can play!
Vox lists thirty odd terrible crimes of so called “SJWs”. Now I think I can safely say I recognize each of these from encounters from Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Gamergaters, or the wider world of Scrappy Doos. I started listing the examples but they became too numerous and overlapping. I’ve numbered and abbreviated each one and replaced “SJW” with […] so you can imagine the appropriate context. All you have to do is think of a Sad or Rabid Puppy example of them doing exactly that (or Gamergater example but that’s even easier as this is like a laundry list of Gamergate’s behaviors). Some overlap, like that time the Mad Genius crew decided Spacefaring Kitten was really Brianna Wu, others some up the whole movement (e.g. ‘The Predicted Demise’).
Extra points if the example is Vox himself 🙂 Answers either in your own head or if you want to share put them in the comments 🙂
- The Tag Team: If you take down an […]s argument with dialectic and successfully explain why his position makes absolutely no sense under any circumstances, he’ll disappear, but another […] will promptly show up to attack your position from a different direction.
- The Brave Sir Robin: When overmatched, the […] will run away and declare victory.
- The Dog Pile: If triggered by a rhetorical response to his own attack, the […] will broadcast it as far and wide as he can in order to summon reinforcements. This tactic is also known as the Swarm, and is the desired result of the Point-and-Shriek.
- The Bait and Ban: The […] attempts to draw you into a discussion, often by asking seemingly innocent questions or pretending to be seeking information about something that he’s just heard about. His questions will increasingly turn prosecutorial, then devolve into outright attacks. [To force a ban of some kind or as a pretext of a ban]
- DARVO: This stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.
- Crying Wolf: When an […] is feeling overmatched, or is responded to rhetorically in kind, he will often make false claims of abuse, harassment, and stalking.
- The Move On: When the […] helpfully tries to get you to just admit you made a mistake so everyone can move on.
- The Custom Dictionary: This is the same as Aristotle’s Ambiguity, or the Humpty Dumpty Dictionary, in which the […] selects, or utilizes, whatever definition he finds most useful to his cause at the moment, regardless of what you actually meant.
- The Gatling Gun: The […] spams you with insults until they find one they believe triggers you or makes you look sufficiently bad to others. This doesn’t necessarily mean one that actually serves either purpose, which can be confusing.
- The Woodstock 1969: The […] claims you were at a place, did something, or had a conversation that could have never taken place. The more outlandish the claim, the more effective this tactic is, because it tends to confuse the target and it can be difficult to convincingly disprove a negative, especially when the accusation is coming from a stranger on the Internet.
- The Planted Seed: This is when the […] intentionally plants a false claim with the aim of getting enough of their allies in the media or high visibility sites to repeat it. [This one is mainly Vox complaining that people call him a white supremacist because of all the white supremacist shit he says.]
- The Worst Person in the World: The […] claims you are “worse than Hitler” due to your violation of the Narrative.
- The False Ally: One […] pretends to take your side while the other […] presents the […] case. The first […] then pretends to be convinced and demands to know how you could fail to be similarly convinced. He acts betrayed when you fail to go along with his sudden conversion.
- Attack the Family: […]s will always go after your wife and children. [or spouse of any gender presumably]
- The Promotion: […]s always attempt to elevate a leader of the opposition in order to freeze, isolate, and marginalize him, thereby weakening the opposition. .
- The Fight Promoter: There is nothing […]s like better than “let’s you and him fight”.
- The Challenging Assertion:This is when the […] makes a statement of opinion presented as fact, daring you to contradict it and thereby reveal yourself as a Narrative-denier and legitimate target for the […].
- It’s Just This One Brick: […]s always defend the next tactical step towards their long-term objective as being totally unrelated to all their past and future efforts.
- The False Fallacy: When confronted, they will often claim the opponent has made a logical fallacy, although when asked which specific fallacy was made, they are not only unable to identify it, but even point out where in the argument it happened. [Vox then gives an example in which he had an argument but the guy does actually point out one of Vox’s common fallacies – false equivalence]
- The Straw Man’s Advocate: The […] assumes a position for his opponent, then pontificates on how this assumed position is contrary to something that the opponent has said, creating a hitherto nonexistent dichotomy between the opponent’s two positions. Any failure to rectify the real position with the imaginary one is proof that the opponent is wrong and a hypocrite.
- The Straw Man’s Mask: This is when the […] incorrectly summarizes the opponent’s position in order to better attack it.
- The Failed Flounce: When feeling pressed, […]s frequently declare that they are too busy to continue the discussion or have to leave for one reason or another. More often than not, this does not prevent them from continuing the argument for another hour or two.
- The Forgetful Fade: Upon being confronted with an opponent who outmatches them, an […] will often vanish, only to return again later with precisely the same arguments, facts, and figures that were previously refuted.
- Attack the Source: […]s frequently request a source for even the most obviously true statement in order to attack it rather than argue the point directly or admit they are wrong.
- The Sock Puppet: This is when an […] creates multiple accounts in order to pretend to be different individuals and create the false impression that more people support his position than actually do.
- The Amused Spectator: […]s love to claim that everyone is laughing at their opponent… They like to pose as being amused, world-weary sophisticates, but they can never maintain the pose for long once people start mocking them and it often collapses in an entertaining, rage-filled meltdown.
- The Brushfire: If an […] feels he is losing the upper hand, he will not infrequently attempt to burn down the discussion with distractions, inanities, vulgarities and obscenities in order to avoid taking a kill shot, or at least to prevent third parties from noticing his defeat.
- The Crowd Inflation: […]s always, always, always exaggerate their numbers and posture as if their position is the standard, accepted, mainstream one, no matter how obviously untrue that is.
- The Predicted Demise: An […] will frequently affect sadness over the inevitable downfall of his opponent, who is fated for certain failure due to his crimethink and ineptitude. Example: “It’s a little sad, actually. You’re really overestimating how much people care.”
- The Worst Possible Assumption: An […] will consistently assign the worst possible meaning to every statement and preemptively take offense at it without making any attempt to determine whether any offense was intended or not.
- The Concerned Supporter: This shows up every election cycle, when obvious Democrats claim to have voted for every Republican candidate for President except the current one, because he has gone too far.
I am not doing a chapter-by-chapter review of the latest altrightploitation book by Vox Day but I am going to spend some time in Chapter 6 (two posts) and then maybe one more post to sum up (tldr – it is rancid, don’t bother).
Chapter 6: Standard SJW Tactics begins with a complaint about him having his account partially suspended by Twitter. This is intended to exemplify what he calls the SJW tactic of “bait and report” i.e. Vox gets in an argument with somebody, loses his cool and posts something that leads to him being suspended.
Which apparently leads us to Aristotle:
“It is one of more than a dozen such tactics that I have observed SJWs utilizing over the past few year, and what is fascinating is how many of these tactics were first observed more than 2,400 years ago by one of Man’s greatest thinkers, Aristotle.”
Having said that, we don’t get an illustration of social media bait and report re-imagined for ancient Athens (which might have been interesting). I’d imagine the advice would be simple from Aristotle – if somebody is trying to bait you then don’t let them wind you up. There is an excellent example from Jesus in the New Testament dodging a “bait and report” when he is quizzed about paying taxes. Mind you I don’t think Vox reads the New Testament much, particularly not a section where his God implies that you should pay your taxes.
Anyway, put my side trip to Jesus aside, Vox is back with our friend Aristotle. This time rather than Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Vox wants us to look at The Organon and in particular the section called On Sophistical Refutations. “Sophistical” here referring to sophists – the quasi-professional arguers of stuff and/or Plato’s contemporary philosophers not in tune with the Socratic wing of thinking.
Aristotle lists 13 fallacies and Vox goes through them all to some extent. I’m going to look at them from a different direction
Fallacies in the language
The first set of fallacies Aristotle describes as “Fallacies in the language”.
Equivocation (sometimes listed, as Vox does, as Ambiguity) – using two concepts with the same name interchangeably. For example when Vox uses “SJW” to mean both a leftwing radical and a nice lady who helps at church. This works as part of this first four set of fallacies and when you consider each of them you can see how they run through most of Vox’s arguments.
In addition it is a ripe source of definitional games – such games are common in all forms or argument. They can be legitimate in so far they help refine or generalise concepts but it is absolutely necessary to be clear that this is occurring.
Amphibology – an exploitation of an ambiguity in sentence/phrase/word structure. A very Vox related example is that in English we can say “X are Y” to mean “some X are Y” or we can combine nouns to both qualify a group or describe a quality of a group. For example “dishonest politicians” describes a subset of politicians but can also be a description of politicians. This particular case amphibology works in tandem with the next fallacy.
It is important to note that ambiguity is baked into our natural language. The fallacy is not the use of ambiguous language in general because it is nigh on impossible to avoid using it and even trying to avoid it makes you sound like a Vulcan that other Vulcans find too pedantic. A statement like “white supremacists protested” can be read as “the people who protested were white supremacists” or as “there where protestors who were white supremacists”. The reasoning fallacy arises from exploiting the ambiguity – if Black Lives Matter say “police are shooting innocent African Americans” in context they clearly mean “there are specific cases of specific police officers shooting specific African Americans who were innocent of the crime that they were suspected of.” Normal speech does not (and to be useful cannot) unpack all the assumed understanding. This makes the fallacy quite powerful though – somebody like Vox can exploit a statement like “police are shooting innocent African Americans” and treat it as a semantically and logically quite different claim that police in GENERAL are shooting African Americans and the that the people they might shoot are all innocent. This much broader claim can then be not only debunked (despite it not being what BLM actually claimed).
The same ambiguity of language that requires cooperation from the listener to understand what is general and what is specific can then be exploited with the Alt-Right’s own claims (as discussed throughout). Now with a level playing field such games become tiresome quickly but when there is an inequity around media access, and an inequity with access to power what you end up with is a kind of communication tax on the more marginalized party. The Alt-Right get to be as ambiguous as they like because they can avoid taking responsibility for their claims and have no moral qualms about being inconsistent. A group like BLM, however, end up having to carefully watch for any ambiguity in what they might say because it will be exploited.
You will note that this applies even at the level of Republican versus Democrat. Hillary Clinton is forced to speak more carefully so as to avoid ambiguity. Male Republicans can rely on the benefit of the doubt when it comes to ambiguity. The communication tax advantages the powerful because more natural, more comprehensible and more accessible speech tends (surprisingly) to be more prone to ambiguity.
Combination – using a part to generalise about the whole. For example when Vox says “the media did X” when he in fact he is referring to a few media sources. This is the over-arching fallacy in much of Vox’s thinking in tandem with the kind of amphibology listed above. Muslims, immigrants, black people, women, “SJWs”, liberals, “globalists” – Vox’s claims are replete with attempts to make people see particular cases are collective properties. For example he may find a case of a woman somewhere retracting a sexual harassment allegation or a sexual assault allegation to imply/suggest that women IN GENERAL make false allegations. That such retractions are rare is ignored. You can see a similar approach with his use of scare stories about immigrants particularly involving sexual violence (for which he abandons his normal scepticism around such allegations) to suggest that this is a more general feature of immigrants.
Division – attributing a property of a whole thing to part of the thing. The flip-side of combination and as a pair they make for some very poisonous fallacious reasoning. A common one we see on the right is ascribing a property of a religion to members of that religion (favourably or unfavourably). For example confusing a claim about Islam in general with Muslims (usually negatively) or Christianity with Christians (usually positively).
You can see how these build up into toxic syllogisms. A particular X is a Y, from which by amphibology and combination Vox re-express this as the idea that X’s in general are Y’s. By division he then reapplies that to some different particular X to conclude that this other X is a Y. This won’t be spelled out quite so starkly in his writing but that is the whole point of this kind of sophistry. The reason Aristotle was trying to name fallacies was not to identify every logically incorrect claim (of which there are infinite) but to spot the ones that effectively HIDE the bad reasoning.
In each case Vox can retreat on a specific element of his position because he expects his readers to make the fallacious leap. He rarely outlines the steps from, say a specific case of an immigrant in France committing a crime to the generalisation of immigrants being criminals, but instead asserts these as individual truths as if they had already been established. If challenged on any, he can exploit the inherent ambiguity to demand that his accuser proves SOME OTHER claim to be false.
Underlying both are deeper structural fallacies described below (Accident and Secundum quid).
Accent – an ambiguity created by the use of stress of a sentence. Aristotle’s version depends on aspects of how ancient Greek was spoken. In English the equivalent is how stress can change meaning: e.g. “I didn’t eat that cake.” (a simple denial) versus “I didn’t eat THAT cake.” (a denial that has been qualified to limit what is being denied.) Vox definitely doesn’t get this one saying:
“Accent is not much used by SJWs or anyone else who speaks English, because it is defined as “the ambiguity that emerges when a word can be mistaken for another by changing suprasegmental phonemes, which in Ancient Greek correspond to diacritics.” Also known as prosody, it is almost entirely irrelevant today, even in its expanded form that is based on the stress one lays on an individual word. You can safely ignore this one.”
Which is an equivalent mistake as looking at the original definitions of poetic meter from Greek and declaring that poetic meter does not apply to English.
Form of expression – a tricky one that Vox uses to mean any kind of category error. Ironically this one really does have issues with translation from Greek to English. Aristotle’s examples involve misuse of grammatical forms of words to create ambiguity around real categories – in his example using a grammatically masculine form for something feminine to essential mis-categorise a male thing as female. English has minimal grammatical genders and hence the closest example to Aristotle’s would be misgendering somebody in English. Obviously that isn’t an example that Vox is going to use. The fallacy might apply in English with tense, where grammatical agreement could be exploited with word games.
This paper takes the concept further and not a million miles from Vox’s use. Whether it is what Aristotle was driving at is another question but one way of seeing this as a deep and important fallacy is to regard it as saying that the grammatical expression of a sentence and its logical structure are distinct to the extent that two grammatically similar sentences can be quite logically different. For example “The current President of the USA has tiny hands.” is quite a different from “The current President of the UK has tiny hands.”
Fallacies not in the language
The second set of fallacies Aristotle describes as “Fallacies not in the language” i.e. more logically structurally.
Accident – ignoring obvious exceptions to general rules or generalisations. Readily exploited in nerd humour. Vox makes particular use of this when discussing emigration. Technically the term can be sensibly used to describe the kinds of population movements seen in world history from Germanic tribes in classical times to various central Asian peoples at multiple times in history. In those cases the movements were associated with war but those examples clearly have other features and qualities that are quite different from modern immigration. Consequently it does not follow that a feature of, say, the Mongol invasions is also a feature of modern asylum seekers.
Secundum quid – this forms a pair with accident, which together are both fallacies of generalisation. Also called ‘converse accident’ this involves over generalising from an exception.
Rather like the fallacies of Combination and Division we have a one-two punch throughout Vox’s work: a fallacy of over-generalisation (often exploiting linguistic ambiguities to hid the trick) followed by a fallacy of ignoring the exceptions and limitations of the general rule.
I think we can call them the bigoted sophist’s six: equivocation and amphibology are the specific means by which combination and accident generalise from specific cases to whole groups (often with FALSE evidence regarding the specific case) which are then re-applied using division and secundum quid to ascribe that fallacious claim about the group to a specific individual. Teasing the specific named fallacies apart is almost impossible.
And while I’ve used “exception”, more generally we are looking at fallacious generalisation to form general descriptions that are then held to hold at every level. For a more laughable example here is Vox drawing a very histrionic conclusion in a recent blog post:
“Do you remember hearing how Disney loved the song “Let It Go” so much that they created an entire movie to go around it? Did you ever ask yourself what it was they loved so much about it?
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know!
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
Disney is run by literal satanists preaching Alastair Crowley’s “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” to children. They are one of the primary engine’s of the West’s degeneracy and decline. It is not an accident that everything they touch, in every industry, turns into morally radioactive slime.” http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/10/the-devil-that-is-disney.html
I think there may be something wrong with me because sometimes I see arguments so perfectly bad that I feel like applauding.
Look at how the very, very, very particular becomes the sweepingly general. You can watch the fallacies above in action but they often crash and merge into each other. It is a ballet of bad reasoning. To wit:
We have PART of the lyrics of ONE song by ONE character at a PARTICULAR moment of that character’s development which, as fans of Frozen will explain to you (maybe this will go over Vox’s head as it is has more character depth than the usual Castalia House output) is when that character is intended to be ethically dubious (literally and literary a nicer version of Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen). That lyric, in one movie from a studio which puts out many movies and which has many scriptwriters, lyricists, directors etc working on many projects is THEN taken by Vox as indicating the GENERAL belief of the organisation.
That belief is then equated with (and I mean “equated” i.e. treated as being equivalent in all aspects except form) one statement by infamous occultist Alastair Crowley . Now fair enough, as the statement was asserted as a general law by Crowley, it is probably legit for Vox to then ignore the broader complexities of Crowley and his beliefs.
We then get a sort of hidden mangled Affirming the Consequent (see below) that presumably is supposed to work like this:
Crowley was a Satanist
Crowley said X
Therefore Satanists say X
“Disney” said X
Therefore Disney are “literal satanists”
Seriously, if I had to manufacture an example of fallacious reasoning I couldn’t produce anything quite as appallingly demonstrative as proving that Elsa’s showstopper proves that Disney are literal satanists and one of the primary causes of the destruction of Western Civilization.
The next step (which doesn’t appear in the post) would be citing a particular person associated with Disney and on the basis of the argument above EVEN IF THEY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH FROZEN suggest that they are satanist. I’ll let you know when I see it happen :).
Irrelevant conclusion – essentially asserting a conclusion that is not supported by the (possibly valid) argument. Vox seems to think that the issue here is just irrelevance but is missing the point. Aristotle didn’t highlight this as an example of a fallacy just on the basis of irrelevance. Obviously asserting a conclusion not supported by your argument is a fallacy but Aristotle is pointing out how an apparently related conclusion that follows an apparently valid argument can be persuasive because the audience feels like they have been rationally led to a conclusion.
Take this argument Vox uses a bit earlier in the chapter when he mangles “forms of expression”:
“That being said, some form-of-expression fallacies are clearly intentional. It is almost certainly an intentional category error when objections to mass Islamic immigration into the European Union are described by SJWs as being racist, for the obvious reason that Islam is a religion, not a race or an ethnicity, and even the most maleducated SJW is likely to know that.”
Vox presents an argument: Islam is a religion and not a race or ethnicity. He then concludes that therefore opposition to “Islamic immigration” cannot be racist. You can spot some of the other fallacies in play there e.g. “Islamic immigration” is not how immigration policies work, immigrants don’t emigrate from Islam, and also *Islam* isn’t the thing doing the emigrating but rather Muslims – and of course, Muslims immigrants will have ethnicity. However, more generally Vox’s conclusion doesn’t follow from his argument. The premise of the argument is basically correct: Islam is not a race or ethnicity but the question is about the motives for opposition to kinds of immigration and hence is about the beliefs of those doing the opposing NOT what Islam is or might be – it pertains to what they (the opponents) think and racism and racists have never shown any particular requirement to stick to facts or reason about the targets of racism.
Begging the question – assuming what you are setting out to prove. Enough said really.
False cause – any of a variety of fallacies where it is asserted that one thing is a cause of another without sufficient reason. Examples are legion but the modern right indulges in a new fallacy that we might call “denial of cause” i.e. fallaciously claiming that an actual cause is a false cause because they really don’t want to deal with the actual cause.
Affirming the consequent – this a classic logical or syllogistic style fallacy.
Usually described in terms of implications and if p then q style sentences you can get a similar effect from an invalid syllogism. All A are B, C is a B, therefore C is an A affirms the consequent fallaciously.
If a dog is healthy then it has a cold wet nose
When I get out of the pool my nose is cold and wet
Therefore when I get out of the pool I am a healthy dog.
Vox’s description is a bit odd but not wrong.
“Affirming the consequent is a formal fallacy that is considerably less often encountered, although a crude and unsophisticated version of it that I call That Just Proves is utilized as a form of rhetoric by some SJWs. Another, more useful description is the confusion of necessity and sufficiency, which occurs when one infers the opposite from the original statement. To put it more simply, if X implies Y, that does not mean that Not-X necessarily is Not-Y. It might be, but it also might not be, so to say that it is would be wrong. Since it’s very unlikely that you will encounter this form of argument from an SJW or be able to coherently explain to him what is false about it, let’s just move on.”
Vox is correct: if X then Y does imply if Not-Y then Not-X but not vice-versa. However, the fallacy applies without getting into negation. I’m really not sure why he thinks this is uncommon.
Complex question – posing a question that forces some additional assumption. There are a whole bunch of these in Foreword e.g. We are told that the book will answer many questions about SJWs:
“What causes their inherent blindness to objective, observable evidence that their conduct dooms and destroys everything it touches?”
I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to find the many other examples.
Standard SJW Tactics
The second half of the chapter is devoted to “Standard SJW Tactics” and it is worth its own post because you’ll recognise each of them from Sad and Rabid Puppy behaviours during the Puppy Kerfuffle.