Jan 252017

The primary thing I personally want to say is that there is almost no such thing as malicious evil. All evil is done by people who think they are doing good. Even the Nazi thinks that he is safe-guarding his society from exploitative forces that wish to drain it and abandon the hollowed-out ruin. The fact that doing evil ALWAYS FEELS LIKE DOING GOOD is exactly why we can’t count on arguments of “it’s for the good in this case” special-exceptions. We spent a lot of time and social capital on arriving at “Extra-judicial violence is never acceptable.” The fact that it feels so right and good to break an established rule against violence should give us pause. Twice.

Here’s some other things said on Facebook, which means it’ll disappear in just a few days, and that I wish to preserve for posterity.


L: One of the reasons we support liberal civilization is because it keeps us safer than an authoritarian regime would, even one that we thought was “on our side”.

The prohibition against private political violence is the absolute cornerstone of civilization. It is prior to free speech. It is prior to democracy. It is prior to egalitarianism. It is the very first step towards freedom and liberalism. It is the Schelling fence that must be defended above all others.

What’s terrifying isn’t that an idiot nazi blogger got punched. An occupational hazard of being an asshole is that people are more likely to punch you. What’s terrifying is that I’m arguing with people who think they are liberals on Facebook about whether or not to condone it.

I’m upset that so many people claiming to be liberals endorse punching people for the explicit purpose of political intimidation. That’s a big deal. That scares the shit out of me.

  7 Responses to “Follow-ups to Vigilante Justice”

  1. I was 95% convinced by the Metafilter denizens’ argument that if Spencer has promoted genocide, even vague calls for violence have already crossed the line into violence.

    Then the discussion went on, and it turned out that anyone who disagrees with the above argument must be “sympathetic towards Nazis”, and wanting to repeal the ACA is “political violence” and perhaps “pummeling [Paul Ryan] to death would not be uncivil”.

    The pro-violent-censorship side was all in clear agreement that there is no slippery slope here, but they weren’t clear at all about exactly where the line of demarcation is supposed to be. It reminded me of creationist classifications of fossil skulls, where there is no agreement about which were apes and which were men but somehow there is still supposedly absolute certainty that none could be a transition between the one and the other.

    I’m also now starting to notice just how much work the “if” is doing in the pro-violent-vigilante-censorship argument. If I’m going to excuse assault and battery because the victim had it coming, it’s not safe to just take the perpetrator’s word for it, right? And with no due process and no jury there’s nobody to whom we can safely delegate the question. But at that point, our only moral choices are “oppose violent vigilante censorship” or “everybody read through a bunch of neo-Nazi literature every time one of the authors gets targeted”, which I’m pretty sure is exactly the opposite of what the censorship was supposed to accomplish.

  2. I found this interview where I think I completely agree with the interviewed writer:


  3. I agree that private political violence is not helpful. I feel that the specifics of the situation make this a reasonably acceptable case.

    While I am not sure the point can generalize. The fact that we are having a public dialog about pratice ethics is a nice benefit of this situation.

  4. I’ve never been able to understand what a ‘liberal’ is. If conservatives are the right and communists are the left then liberals are the middle but everyone thinks they are the left?

    To me liberals just seem like rights who don’t want to be too closely associated with some of the obviously distasteful rhetoric of the right while still being pretty right leaning in a lot of ways.

    So if you don’t mind explaining briefly, what do you think a liberal is ?

    • I guess it depends on where you are. You probably see the Republicans as right and the Democrats as left, because you live in the US and because relative to each other that might be true for the parties.
      From a german point of view, I’d say both your parties are further right than our conservative party.

      I’m not sure this onedimensional view applies to everything though. I might be wrong but this is what I think these words mean:
      Conservative: Holds traditional values (for example might be against gay marriage, abortion …)
      Liberal: I had to look this up, according to the first google hit it means someone open to change and who values freedom, basically the opposite of the conservative.
      Communist: Someone who wants things to be shared, in favor of unconditional basic income and against privatisation of public services.

      For some reason the US seem to be really strongly against communism, probably one of the results of the cold war. With robots and AI taking over 80% of the current jobs in the relatively near future I hope they change their mind on this somewhat.

      • I don’t live in the U.S. and I would agree that both of their parties are fairly right. That is kind of what I already said.

        • Sorry, I assume the majority of people here are US-Americans, so I simply assumed you were. Yeah, yeah, what do I know and how do I know it… I guess the people that sent in their voices for HPMOR characters should have been a clue that this is fairly international here.

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