Friday, December 20, 2019

On Defenses Against Charges of Crimethink

I was recently sent the following article by a friend of mine. He thought it would make my head explode.
Judge rules against researcher who lost job over transgender tweets
Maya Forstater’s view of sex ‘not worthy of respect in democratic society’, employment judge finds
My head, as it turns out, is intact. I have long stopped expecting sanity out of Current Year thinking. That something is insane does not mean it is surprising.

It is increasingly apparent that the holiness spiral of cultural Marxist thought is not only increasing, but accelerating. It took probably 80 years between the start of feminism and refusing to support it being a fireable offense. For gay rights, it took maybe 30. For trans rights, it’s less than 5. Whatever the next shoe to drop will be (I’ve long guessed citizenship), expect it to become a condition of mainstream employment within a few years, maybe less. The best guess as to why is from Moldbug’s recent writings – social media increased not only visible social signaling, but also became the metric for media success, thereby shaping topic choice by increasingly low-paid journalists. Anything with traction for generating social justice mob outrage suddenly got large signal boosts in short spaces of time, leading to more signaling, leading to more articles, leading to rapid changes in leftist norms.

But there is another aspect to this rapid acceleration that is more noteworthy. We are now at the point where previously acceptable ideas that are now essentially forbidden (opposing gay marriage, thinking there are only two immutable sexes) were mainstream within the period of permanent electronic storage of online writing. Which means that anybody who happened to share the wrong article or write some moderate-at-the-time facebook post back in 2013 is at risk of being crowbarred out of employment and polite society, should someone care enough to dig through all of their old writings and posts.

In other words, it is no longer a reliable guarantee of being left alone, like Havel’s greengrocer, to hold fairly mainstream opinions on social justice matters. One must, in addition, be willing to change one’s ideas at an increasingly rapid rate. In other words, you have to be mainstream at every point in time. It used to be prudent advice to not post extreme opinions online, and that this would be sufficient. But the faster moral fashions change, the less this is going to work. The only solution is going to be full passivism – don’t post anything political, at all, in any publicly searchable forum that can be linked to you. You never really know which ideas that are normal today will become crimethink tomorrow.

To make matters worse, the fact that these are moral fashions, rather than dress fashions, prevents a lot of honest discourse or understanding about the underlying process if you want to come across as sincere. When hemlines go up or down, you can just change from a long skirt to a miniskirt without having to explain why, as it’s well understood that keeping with the times is just a pastime and a sport. You don’t have to denounce last season’s miniskirts as the work of the devil. On the other hand, people that are sincerely concerned about trans rights (or indeed gay marriage) have an almost complete inability to explain, even to themselves, when exactly they began to view this as a crucial moral issue and why. A mere five or six years ago, they almost certainly found cross-dressing (as it was known then, but which probably will become a hate-term in a year or two) and its associated subcultures as largely ridiculous, curious, or comical. At some point, it become the world’s most important moral issue to them. What changed their mind? If it is such an obvious human right now, why was it not an obvious human right in 2012? They were fully functioning adults. Did they just not care? Surely it can’t just be that the New York Times started publishing articles about it. Are they really so sheep-like on the supposedly great moral questions of our age?

The people who are apt to get themselves in the most trouble are those who don’t understand the process, want to discuss and take seriously these ideas at each point in time, but change their tune at an insufficiently rapid pace.

But there is another aspect worth noting. Steve Sailer had a wonderful expression for the process of crimethink hunting – the Eye of Soros. Like the Eye of Sauron in Lord of the Rings, it is very powerful, and you don’t want it to fall on you, as it will destroy you. But thankfully, it can’t be looking in all places at once. Most people who shared some article back in 2016 saying there were only two sexes won’t actually be fired. It needs someone malicious to go to the effort of hunting through all your previous postings, finding the most incriminating thing that can be taken out of context, and starting a big publicity campaign against your employer, your friends and your family. Most people aren’t nasty or sociopathic enough to do this on a regular basis. It’s usually journalists, or some particularly vindictive person you know.

Which means that increasingly, there will only be one reliable precaution against both current and future crimethink charges. It is the same one as during the Soviet Union.

You need to be able to judge the character of the people you’re talking to, and whether you can trust them. The worse things get, the more all of us will live and die on this ability.

In real life, I crimethink quite freely. Many aspects of modernity are so comical and ridiculous that bonding over them is sometimes entertaining, in a clownworld sense. I do so at a level that strikes some people as imprudent. If I think someone is likely to be receptive, I’ll often lead with a mild joke to gauge their reactions. If I’ve judged them incorrectly, which happens sometimes, and they look uncomfortable, I moderate down or stop. If they appear to genuinely enjoy them, I push it a little further.

Once such people become my friends, they sometimes are reluctant to bring me to some context where crimethink would be badly received (a dinner party with a number of lefty guests, for instance). But on such occasions, they’re usually surprised that I won’t talk about controversial things much at all. They’d formed the opinion that I simply couldn’t turn it off.

As I point out, in such cases – do you think that I could have survived as long as I have, with the opinions I have, if I didn’t know the rules of the game? If I speak freely in front of you, that’s a mark of esteem, that I view you as a friend whom I can trust.

Trustworthiness in terms of crimethink is less correlated than you might think with simple partisan voting patterns. There are republican friends I have that I can only say certain things to, and democrats to whom I can say almost anything.

If I had to summarize the two strongest indicators that someone is trustworthy enough to be spoken to freely, I’d say they are the following.

First, do they have a sense of humor, both in general, and about political matters specifically? This is probably the largest one. Anybody who treats everything going on in the Current Year as deathly serious is heavily invested in the partisan aspects of the game, which sooner or later includes joining outrage mobs against bad thoughts.

Second, are they able to have an argument about questions of abstract principle without taking it personally and getting angry? People who can listen to strange arguments and consider them without an immediate need to lash out at you are much less likely to then badmouth you to everyone around  you. Actually getting you in trouble generally requires active work, and mostly only those with a grudge are willing to do it.

In my experience, people who pass both tests have a very high likelihood of being trustworthy in terms of talking about forbidden political and social thoughts.

There have only been perhaps two or three instances where I’ve gotten things badly wrong. In all of them, with the benefit of hindsight, the failure mode was me enjoying the contrarianism and humor of argument too much, and persisting with a line of discussion when warning signs were there that they were starting to get angry or upset, even though they kept engaging. If they’d stopped, I would have stopped. When they didn’t, I lacked the discipline and presence of mind to disengage and refuse to discuss it further.

I don’t hold myself up as a particular expert at this process. The nature of the game is that everyone thinks they’re doing well and things are just fine, right up until they get zogged. All of this may yet prove an epitaph to eventual unemployment.

All of us crimethinkers, however, do have one significant advantage over most normies. We’ve been thinking about this question for a lot longer, namely how to survive when you think things outside the Overton Window.

This of course leaves the last question. Why do it? Isn’t it just safer to shut your mouth?

Of course it is. It always is. The only justification is the one Solzhenitsyn gave, which is as true now as it was then.

Live not by lies.

He walked the walk, in a way that few others do. But he makes a strong moral case for the position. Every day, we choose some point on the spectrum between prudent silence and ill-advised honesty. If Solzhenitsyn’s work has a running theme, it’s that when you do the right and truthful thing, you probably won’t be rewarded for it, and will likely be punished.

But you should do it anyway.
If we are too frightened, then we should stop complaining that someone is suffocating us.
We ourselves are doing it. Let us then bow down even more, let us wail, and out brothers the biologists will help to bring nearer the day when they are able to read our thoughts are worthless and hopeless.
And if we get cold feet, even taking this step, then we are worthless and hopeless, and the scorn of Pushkin should be directed to us:
Why should cattle have the gifts of freedom? Their heritage from generation to generation is the belled yoke and the lash

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