Jul 242018

The most annoying minor thing about the Social Justice movement now that it’s gone fully rabid is that I can never take my SJ friends at their word.

You know that friend of yours that’s going through a break-up? How every day they tell you how awful their ex is, and all the horrible things they’ve done, and why you should shun them forever? Like, really heinous things, that should get one kicked out of any civil society? Of course you nod along, and you comfort your friend, and you say “Damn… that is really awful.” But when you see that ex again, you don’t shun them. You don’t treat them any differently than you would have last month, because they are still the same person you always knew. And all those stories that their ex has been telling you, you realize that they are the worst possible spin (and potentially mis-remembered) by a very hurt person who is grieving the loss of their best friend. If at all possible you stay friends with them.

(This is assuming you knew the ex well, of course, and have an independent opinion of their character)

I’ve seen people who jumped into full hate mode at the ex, with shunning and calls for others to do the same, etc. And they get burned by it when the couple inevitably makes up, and now they have two enemies. Whoops.

I basically feel like everyone deep into Social Justice is running that same dynamic. I can’t trust their judgment, by default, because they have such a strong emotional bias towards seeing things in an aggrieved, victimized-vs-victimizer way, that none of their perceptions are trustworthy. When an even-keel friend tells me “I don’t know what that person’s problem is, but I always see them being a dick to minorities,” I update to thinking it’s more likely the person has got some level of racism going. When an SJ friend tells me “I saw that guy cat-calling someone,” I instead think “Did he though? Or did you see two friends interacting in a joking way they’ve had going for years?” But since the SJ friends are still friends, I have to nod and pretend like I’m updating. Just like when I’m in a Friend Going Through A Breakup scenario.

Except it goes on forever.

I really dislike not being able to take some of my friends at their word, it’s emotionally stressful. Yet another little way the culture wars ruin everything.

And yes, I’m sure that this exact same phenomenon also plays out for people who have alt-right friends and have to question/discount all of their opinions as well. But I’m left of center and I don’t have any alt-right friends, so my complaints are about those friends I do have. Sorry.

  4 Responses to “Your Friend Going Through A Break-Up”

  1. And yes, I’m sure that this exact same phenomenon also plays out for people who have alt-right friends and have to question/discount all of their opinions as well. But I’m left of center and I don’t have any alt-right friends, so my complaints are about those friends I do have. Sorry.

    Thanks for adding that. Being a leftist with only right-wing friends is a lot like you describe, yes. “Are your neighbours really benefits-scrounging scum who could work but are too lazy, or is that just your inability to parse the situation in any of the other possible ways?” etc. It’s not so hard to mentally store it as something they’re telling you something about their personal experience, but it’s a bit hard to have a conversation that way.

  2. I don’t see how anyone, be they left right or centre could be taken at their word.

    You are displaying your own bias fairly openly here. An even-keeled friend can only be decided as evenly keeled by you unless you are actually outsourcing this judgement. I don’t know what your criteria for ‘even keeled’ even is. It is hard to imagine a defintion of evenly keeled which doesn’t broadly translate to ‘someone who does things the way I imagine they should be done’ or ‘someone I tend to agree with the thoughts or thought process of’. So you could perhaps translate it as ‘if someone I mostly agree with and find agreeable tells me something I tend to take it as highly likely’.

    I don’t specifically mean to put words into your mouth but I don’t know if you understand the extent to which you are using highly abstract language and personal labels which we the reader can only make assumptions about. (and it is almost certain that when you do this that most of us will have at least a somewhat biased view of what it is that you are actually trying to communicate).

    I don’t think someone being even-keeled even means. I read it as ‘presenting as emotionally stable’. Why would you have bias in favour of believing people who present as emotionally stable though. If that is what is happening. Plenty of brilliant and insightful people have been anything but emotionally stable. Plenty of violently irrational people are quite emotionally stable. Someone has to ignore a LOT of things going on in the world to be emotionally stable all of the time. There are no two ways about that. We have hardware which helps us to ignore things (broadly speaking, I know I have a literal physical defect in this area) but I don’t see how this could makes us more rational. I rather thought that we had to fight against our inclination to ignore things to be more rational.

    You shouldn’t be outsourcing judgement to people who aren’t more rational than you are on all topics (and its not likely that you will find many/any people like that). You cannot trust people to accurately report what goes on around them.

    Use Eliezer Yudkowsky as an example. Is he pretty good at thinking rationally about a lot of things and smarter than I am broadly speaking? Yes to both counts. Emotionally stable ? Doesn’t seem that way. Will I surrender my own judgements in favour of his or my own observations in favour of his ? Only when I am certain enough to bet a finger that he knows a topic more thoroughly than I do and even then I probably wont most of the time. Would I listen to what he has to say about any given topic if he around to comment and take it into consideration? Always.

    You just cannot go around taking what people say at face value seriously without taking on board the errors other people make.

    • That’s… a good point. I tend to take people at face value a lot. Perhaps that isn’t the best idea. /sigh

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