Can’t Stop Lecturing

Imagine a not-beloved grade school teacher who seemed emotionally weak to his students, and was fastidious about where exactly everything was on his desk and in his classroom. If the students moved things around when the teacher wasn’t looking, this teacher would seem disrupted and give long boring lectures against such behavior. This sort of reaction might well encourage students to move things, just to get a rise out of the teacher.

Imagine a daughter who felt overly controlled and under considered by clueless parents, and who was attracted to and tempted to get involved with a particular “bad boy.” Imagine that these parents seemed visibly disturbed by this, and went out of their way to lecture her often about why bad boys are a bad idea, though never actually telling her anything she didn’t think she already knew. In such a case, this daughter might well be more tempted to date this bad boy, just to bother her parents.

Today a big chunk of the U.S. electorate feels neglected by a political establishment that they don’t especially respect, and is tempted to favor political bad boy Donald Trump. The main response of our many establishments, especially over the last few weeks, has been to constantly lecture everyone about how bad an idea this would be. Most of this lecturing, however, doesn’t seem to tell Trump supporters anything they don’t think they already know, and little of it acknowledges reasonable complaints regarding establishment neglect and incompetence.

By analogy with these other cases, the obvious conclusion is that all this tone-deaf sanctimonious lecturing will not actually help reduce interest in Trump, and may instead increase it. But surely an awful lot of our establishments must be smart enough to have figured this out. Yet the tsunami of lectures continues. Why?

A simple interpretation in all of these cases is that people typically care more about making sure they are seen to take a particular moral stance than they care about the net effect of their lectures on behavior. The teacher with misbehaving students cares more about showing everyone he has a valid complaint than he does about reducing misbehavior. The parents of a daughter dating a bad boy care more about showing they took the correct moral stance than they do about whether she actually dates him. And members of the political establishment today care more about making it clear that they oppose Trump than they do about actually preventing him from becoming president.

GD Star Rating
loading...
Tagged as: ,
Trackback URL:
  • DavidRHenderson

    Robin, Good point. I’ve been thinking the same thing. In your second paragraph, 3rd line from the bottom, you mean “they”, not “she”, right?

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      The text seems right to me as it is.

    • truth_machine

      Your version makes sense; Hanson’s doesn’t.

  • Patrick

    I think this is kind of unfair. The teacher and the parents may well actually care about reducing the bad behavior and may also realize to some extent that their method is not entirely effective. However, they may not know a more effective way to prevent the undesirable behavior (especially since actually reducing this kind of behavior can require a lot of thought and energy). I think it might be the same for Trump and the establishment. It is possible that many people dislike Trump and know that lecturing about Trump might not be that helpful, but they also feel that they don’t know of any other effective strategy and that they ought to do something (it is very hard for people to not take action to address their concerns even if they know that the action they take is likely to be either neutral or detrimental).

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Is that why faith healers take people’s money to pray over their illness, because hey its the best they can do?

      • Nicholas

        It’s why some people take sick people to faith healers.
        Most faith healers I’ve spoken to were either explicitly con artists, con artists too good for me to catch, or genuinely convinced their prayers could magically heal people, and why shouldn’t they make money using their skill.

      • https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQqe7I26UPnsVGJuXHSXlZA/videos Nate Herrell

        Isn’t this comparing apples and oranges? What would a long-term effective strategy of stopping your daughter from dating a badboy actually be? I’m not that clever and I don’t think others are either. I do, however, think that ‘lecturing’ has some effect, particularly depending on the strength of the argument, even though it may only be weak and gradual. Things never change overnight but that doesn’t mean we should just be fatalistic, nor that we should just assume anyone who is trying to change someone’s mind actually knows they aren’t going to and is cynically just making a declaration of what they believe for some reason.

        Going around screaming about how Trump is an immoral dick is one thing, but one can also clearly and concisely show the falsehoods and fallacies he promulgates. I’m not so cynical that I believe this has *no* effect on *anyone*.

      • kalimancer

        I think all 3 analogies are off.

        This is not like a teacher lecturing his students, like a dad lecturing his daughter, or like a faith healer praying over his patient.

        It’s more like an unwanted male suitor, telling the girl that she should get back to bed with him, and not go off with the new guy. Her lack of interest in him is not “rebellion” against him as a teacher or father, but self-respecting disgust with a pathetic suitor who is beneath her. Also, the unwanted suitor is leaving his messages on her answering machine, which she generally isn’t listening to (come on, who actually reads David Brooks).

        I don’t think that this is just about signaling opposition to Trump to other neocohens. I also think it’s about the simple pleasure of writing their silly rants, same as any blogger enjoys it. The obnoxious suitor has a high opinion of these nasal-voiced, wheedling screeds he leaves on the answering machine, and honestly thinks that his NYT blog is “biting” and “brilliant”. These guys aren’t strategic geniuses, they’re just blog narcissists with (they imagine) a captive audience. The NYT is just a high-end Tumblr blog for them to shout their inane opinions at the world, not a surgical tool.

      • truth_machine

        “neocohens”

        anti-semitic much?

      • Patrick

        I think this analogy is misleading. Faith healers don’t find themselves unintentionally in a situation in which they want to heal a sick person and don’t know how to do so. In fact, such situations did occur for millennia and people did do pretty much as you describe: they prayed because even though it often didn’t work they had no idea how to do better. When better methods were discovered, they were eventually widely adopted.

        The teacher in your example may well find himself in a situation in which he wants to stop misbehavior but doesn’t know how. Unlike the faith healer he probably doesn’t go looking for misbehavior with the expectation of profit (perhaps some teachers do this, but many don’t).

        I think your own biases towards seeing everything as signalling has clouded your judgement here. The establishment truly doesn’t like Trump and also didn’t predict his current success. At the moment I think that it’s quite plausible that they are uncertain what to do and so they are doing what comes naturally to them.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        If the establishment cared much about Trump, it wouldn’t have sat on its hands. Take Romney. He advises a pure anti-Trump voting strategy that no one will follow (the anti-Trump candidates hate each other – and their followers … follow). But, he fails to throw his support or his donor network to any one opposing candidate. He doesn’t care enough about stopping Trump to endanger his own (remaining) presidential ambitions, but acts for appearances (and I think out of some genuine guilt about having – and continuing not to do – anything).

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        To be fair to Romney, at this point many think that no single candidate will be able to outpace Trump before the convention, and the best hope is for multiple candidates to deny him enough delegates for a majority on the first floor count.

      • truth_machine

        “many think”? Well of course no single candidate can “outpace” Trump … anyone who thinks otherwise is paying no attention or is completely deluded. The question at this point is whether Trump can be stopped from taking a majority of delegates, avoiding a brokered convention. At the moment, the delegate count is Trump: 458, others: 564, so he may well be stoppable. The problem, of course, is that the Republican alternatives aren’t much better than Trump.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The call for a brokered convention isn’t directed in any way toward winning Trump supporters. In fact, it mobilizes Trump’s supporters. It may be the elite’s smartest strategy, but expressly calling for it is seriously self-defeating.

        [Cruz understands this, but then, I’d take Trump over Cruz.]

      • truth_machine

        “The call for a brokered convention isn’t effectively directed toward winning Trump’s supporters. ”

        Eh? No, of course not.

        “expressly calling for it is seriously self-defeating.”

        Um, only if they were talking to Trump supporters, which they aren’t, or if Trump supporters happening to stumble onto these conversations changed anything, which it doesn’t.

      • Asher Jacobson

        It could be that the GOP establishment is trying to set of Clinton for the victory should Trump gain the nomination. Going hard anti-trump prior to the official nomination could help Clinton while giving the GOPe plausible deniability.

      • Asher Jacobson

        Which is pure signalling. Coming out strongly anti-Trump without supporting any likely loser keeps Romney politically relevant. That’s all this is about for Romney

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    What would be an effective response in these sorts of situations?

    • http://don.geddis.org/ Don Geddis

      For classroom management, children behave as if negative attention is better than no attention. Effective punishment is social isolation (e.g. timeouts), not direct interaction (yelling, lecturing). Effective communication is generally by calling out positive behavior. Socially promote those who act in the way you prefer. Use status in the social hierarchy as your behavior modification tool.

      For the dating daughter, you can adopt techniques from the PUA community on dealing with AMOGs. You want to emphasize the aspects of the “bad boy”‘s qualities that she would be much less attracted to. Present him as desperate, or that she’s way out of his league (and her friends would laugh at her for letting the guy have a chance), etc. Or find values that you and she share and value, but he doesn’t, and highlight those (racial, ethnic, cultural, etc.). In particular: there’s a difference between trying to convince the daughter “never date any bad boys”, vs. trying to convince her “this particular bad boy isn’t a good choice.” The latter is an easier task.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        AMOG?

      • http://don.geddis.org/ Don Geddis

        PUA = Pick Up Artist. AMOG = Alpha Male Of the Group. Seduction artists have directly addressed the practical challenge of being in a group with a male of high social status, and inventing techniques and behaviors that lower the group’s evaluation of the target alpha male’s social status.

    • Sieben

      Trump is cool because people are visibly bothered by him. So control your heart rate and don’t let him be the center of attention.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      What would be an effective response in these sorts of situations?

      The consensus is that they should have attacked Trump earlier, before voter loyalties could form. [But their attacks, which should have focused on his hypocrisy (e.g., secret comments to the NYT regarding his real position on immigration), would have been subject to tu quoque arguments that would have harmed these politicians as they were harming Trump.]

      I wonder if the same logic applies to the bad boy. Perhaps excellent parents have to know their kids enough that they can foresee their missteps before their kids’ becoming committed.

      • truth_machine

        So the effective response is … hindsight? The fact is that people did what they *thought* was effective, including promoting Rubio with the hope of keeping Trump from having a majority of delegates … if he does, there can’t be a brokered convention.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Not hindsight, foresight. Romney, recall, had once thanked and praised Trump, the birther racist, for his campaign contributions. Cruz and Rubio would, until recently, say how much they liked “Donald.” They lacked the instinctive revulsion toward a demagogue that would mark serious opposition.

        Now, they are compelled to speak out, for fear of being associated with Trump’s low-status white-lumpen base.

      • truth_machine

        You’re saying they should be a different sort of person. Well, of course they should, but they aren’t. But the question is, given who they are, and what they already did, what they can effectively do. That’s what Hanson’s post is about … or rather, what the rebuttal is about, since his post suggests that anyone who isn’t being effective must be signaling their superiority, and you seem to be saying the same. But I’ve followed the issue rather closely, and I think you’re quite off the mark. See, for instance http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/02/29/trump-tests-republicans-max-boot/81123934/ , and there’s a lot more from Max Boot along those lines. He seems genuinely concerned about the consequences of a Trump Presidency and has been trying to rally conservative security mavens, with one result being http://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The “sort of persons” they are is what determines their response to Trump. They’re politicians of the shallowest kind, for whom signaling is more important than substance. It isn’t that they’re simply ineffective; they’re ineffective in a way associated with signaling. I’ve seen this often observing parents: futilely lecturing their kids makes them feel good – superior and righteous; and these parents are more likely to lecture when others are watching.

        There are complications. One thing they are genuinely concerned with is “security.” The problem is that the Max Boot neocon line has been thoroughly discredited by W’s maladventures and lies.

      • truth_machine

        You’re not addressing what I wrote, just airing your beliefs … whatever. Over and out.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        You’re not addressing what I wrote, just airing your beliefs … whatever

        Then I’ll spell it out for you. You say Hanson intended to address the question of what should the anti-Trump forces do now that they’ve already screwed up. That was your idea, not his. I showed you why Hanson’s conlusion that the Romney-led response was mere signaling does not depend on there being an effective way to stop Trump now.

      • Asher Jacobson

        !!! The first serious comment I’ve seen from you

      • truth_machine

        “You say Hanson intended to address the question of what should the anti-Trump forces do now that they’ve already screwed up. That was your idea, not his. ”

        What are you smoking? TGGP wrote “What would be an effective response in these sorts of situations?” … you quoted that and said something about it, and I responded to what you wrote.

        “I showed you why Hanson’s conlusion that the Romney-led response was mere signaling does not depend on there being an effective way to stop Trump now.”

        Irrelevant.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        What are you smoking?

        You’ll have to email.

        TGGP wrote “What would be an effective response in
        these sorts of situations?” … you quoted that and said something
        about it, and I responded to what you wrote.

        My response to TGGP, for the record, wasn’t intended to endorse the assumption that there had to be an effective response to diagnose signaling.

      • Asher Jacobson

        The problem with Palin was that she probably has an IQ in the 100~110 range, way too low for this level of political office. This was pointed out within hours of her selection by McCain.

      • Asher Jacobson

        Earlier you denied the possibility of incompetence and now you’re suddenly attributing incompetence. It would be nice were you to keep your explanations straight.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        I attribute incompetence to the parents, but not to the politicians, whose strategic decisions don’t depend so much on their individual competence.

        But you are clinging to the maxim that you mistakenly claim derives from agent-principal theory. To the contrary, incompetent parents signal their virtue to conceal their low-status traits. (This is exactly what happens with authoritarian personalities.) Incompetence isn’t always evidence against malice; sometimes it increases the likelihood of malice, and where the “malice” involved is signaling, I’d expect a positive correlation.

        [How on earth did you think this clever but often misleading maxim derives from agent-principal theory?]

      • Asher Jacobson

        You’re going to have to be more specific about the relationship between incompetence and an authoritarian personality. Which is prior to the other? Further, I dispute that concealing low value traits is evidence of incompetence. In fact, it is evidence of competence, provided you accept that traits are largely heritable (which recent evidence clearly suggests).

  • Lord

    We shouldn’t assume that is their audience though and while it may reinforce some bad behavior, it may also deter it among others, and establish their bona fides among those similar to themselves. I don’t think the establishment will be seeking a high turnout this fall.

  • Matthew Graves

    A classic and relevant Calvin and Hobbes:

    http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1992/03/18

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      Yes, the attack on hypocrisy is the correct approach to Trump too.

      • Matthew Graves

        I think it fails, actually–Trump is clearly not in this for the money or for brand promotion. (Rich Democrats have stopped going to his hotels, in enough numbers to hurt the bottom line.)

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Trump is clearly not in this for the money or for brand promotion.

        Then why is he spending so little money on the campaign. (One reason he’s losing ground.) Why won’t he release his tax returns? (His own answer: doing so would conflict with his pecuniary interests.)

  • Matthew Graves

    “But surely an awful lot of our establishments must be smart enough to have figured this out.”

    I’m… actually not sure about this one.

    That is, I buy your story with some modifications. I think that Romney gave the lecture he did because he’s acting in a way that optimizes for emotional satisfaction, and the reason that path optimizes for emotional satisfaction is because of the signalling involved.

    But I don’t think Romney explicitly realized that he would help Trump and elected to do this against his interests for signalling reasons. I think he thought that this time, things would be different.

    (One thing that I’m thinking about here are some LGBT organizations that reach out to parents who are being hard on / kicking out their kids, trying to convince them that the hardball approach won’t change the kid’s behavior, and the main thing the parent has control over is how accepting they decide to be. This is apparently effective at getting parents to reconcile with their kids, which I *would not* expect if the “no, we’re consciously doing this for the signalling” story was true.)

  • Nicholas

    Alternative explanation is that the people doing the lecturing have no other effective tools to affect Donald Trump. If you have no way to stop the media from reporting on Trump, and have already risen to the emotional bait to “do something”, then you might settle for having the media say bad things about him instead of good things. Supposing you don’t trust the media to say bad things about him on their own, the same way you don’t trust them to be silent.

  • David

    I think the argument made in this article apples to almost every political cause there is, where people cannot resist their emotional desire to lecture or feel superior, even when it is counter productive to their own cause.

    IMO the perfect example of this is the endless use of the term “white privilege”. I believe it exists, but there is also no term more likely to turn off those who might be sympathetic to the cause. But if you’re liberal (or a libertarian concerned with racial equality) and try to explain that to liberals who love to use the word, you’re in for a world of condescension.

    • Aaron1960

      Does white priviledge exist to the lower class kid who’s 1st job is being a busboy or a dishwasher? The premise of being privileged by race is false on its face. There are more white failures sucking up resources and the able’s time than minorities. The able just do. The failures who don’t keep trying buy into garbage like white priviledge.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The premise of being privileged by race is false on its face.

        Those most vociferous on this point also claim that the average white is a standard deviation higher in native intelligence than blacks. If that’s not privilege I don’t know what is.

      • Aaron1960

        THAT’S an assumption. Human activity & history do not bear that out.

      • Asher Jacobson

        Every type of life creates its own type of privilege. *A* privilege is simply something that comes easier to one than to another.

        There is no such thing as *general privilege*, only *particular privilege*. The way that the term is used by the left is almost always metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.

  • zarzuelazen

    The market is now showing a big move away from Turmp and towards Cruz. The recent attacks are having an effect. When Romney attacked, Trump’s odds of winning took a huge hit. They’ve now plunged from a high of 80% to below 60%. Cruz on the other hand has seen a big surge in support, odds of winning now up to 18%!
    Trump’s opponent’s seem to have finally found an effective narrative: ‘Trump is a conman’; they’ve definitely had some success pushing this narrative.

  • Chris Said

    I think this is way too cynical. Gonna go out on a limb and say that those parents are genuinely concerned about their daughter dating the bad boy, and just don’t have any other recourse. Same goes for the many people genuinely concerned about a Trump presidency.

  • mdf60

    Cruz seems to be picking up some of Rubio’s and Carson’s support. That explains his surge, not the lecturing against Trump.

  • free_agent

    Well, lecturing is universally annoying. (In the old days it was called preaching.) So if the target is only marginally motivated to do the disliked thing, it probably works.

    In Trump’s case, though, I don’t think that applies. In my opinion, there is a real policy split, a big one being “Will we admit cheap imports from China?” If you work in manufacturing, the answer is No, and if you don’t, the answer is Yes. So the sociological problem is drawing the battle lines. And, after all, we determined which side has more power back around 2000 when China joined the WTO. The establishment still has the winning coalition and will win this round as well; the problem is to pull the coalition together to get the job done. The preaching works for that, since the actual targets agree with the goal, the preaching notifies them that adhering strictly to doctrine is important at this juncture.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      The real issue behind U.S. foreign policy disputes is how to compete with China. The establishment: import tons of cheap labor; the dissidents: trade war with China.

  • Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Chaos Patch (#104)

  • Pingback: Muh Faith, 2 | Bloody shovel

  • Dave Lindbergh

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

    If the Republicans *really* want to stop Trump, what do you propose they should do, Robin?

    • eyes_in_the_sky

      I think South Park’s approach was pretty good. Step 1: do an episode about how stupid political correctness is. Step 2: do an episode about how stupid Trump is. Similarly if most Trump supporters are for Trump because they hate the media & political establishment, then first you want to explain how much you hate the media & political establishment, then explain that even given this, Trump is a bad candidate. Or else address the causes of that hate for the media & political establishment and explain why it’s actually not worth hating. In other words, meet people where they actually are instead of pretending that Trump supporters are all white supremacists.

      • Dave Lindbergh

        I bow to your wisdom.

        South Park is rarely wrong.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

      What’s the provenance of this quote? (Sounds Yudkowskian.)

      Anyway, the point here is that incompetence doesn’t explain it! These are professional politicians with expert advisors and focus groups at their beck and call.

      • istvan
      • Asher Jacobson

        It’s a classic agent-principle problem. You should easily grasp this if you are a serious OB reader – given your earlier comments I am skeptical.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Agent-principal.

      • oldoddjobs

        “A serious OB reader”!?

        Yes, Stephen is one of those. Oh wait, what you meant to say was you DISAGREE with Stephen. Easy mistake to make, I guess.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      If the Republicans *really* want to stop Trump, what do you propose they should do?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arnold-steinberg/trump-brokered-convention_b_9410936.html

      Tries to answer that question, with a critique of the anti-Trumpers like Hanson’s.

  • mgoodfel

    The teacher, the parents and the political establishment all have the same problem — they think they are high status and the target of the lecture should do what they say. When that doesn’t work, they can either admit their status isn’t as high as they think, or try again with a stronger lecture. Admitting loss of status is very painful, so they lecture again.

  • lump1

    When pressure comes from a non-peer (one’s parent or dopey professor), it often seems like lecturing, and doesn’t work too well.

    When pressure comes from peers, it’s much more effective, because resisting that pressure pushes you toward the periphery of your peer group. The quality of the arguments matters less than the threat of being seen as flawed by people whose judgment you value.

    The same expression can be a “lecture” to me and peer pressure to you, simply because its source is someone you consider to be in your peer group. I’d be wrong to say that this person is being ineffective, just because I don’t care about his esteem as a peer. If others do, his expression really might move some people.

  • Anonymous

    You’re supposed to tell people how to behave and back it up with an (implied) threat of physical violence. It rarely needs to come to actual violence; the credible threat is enough. But because we don’t do that anymore, neither side can prove dominance and we get stuck in a loop of lecturing and defiance. We can’t follow up on our threats, so we make more threats instead. (Lecturing is just another perversion of terrorism.)

  • efalken

    Last weekend’s Saturday Night Live had a piece where they implied Trump supporters were all White supremacists. That kind of insinuation will clearly not work because most know they aren’t racists. Unfortunately, they then stop listening to the rational criticisms of Trump.

    • truth_machine

      Actually, most Trump supporters *are* racists.

      • djw

        Are they? Do you have some research to cite that backs this claim?

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Prototypically, they are authoritarian personalities (as is Trump). I mean, what character type idolizes someone in power whom they would detest next door? So, at least theoretically, it’s likely that they’re predisposed to racism and ethnocentrism.

      • djw

        I know Vox published an article that included the words authoritarian, Trump, and Hitler many times, often in the same paragraph, but as far as I could tell they did not actually bother to connect the dots with real data.

        Its all just opinions (stated as facts) about people they don’t like.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Authoritarian_Personality

        If you buy the theory, the application is obvious.

      • Asher Jacobson

        It’s not a theory in the manner that intellectually serious people understand. It’s just circular, metaphysical reasoning. The entire notion of the “authoritarian personality” is pure horseshit.

      • truth_machine

        Talk about horseshit … you have no idea what metaphysics is, you ignorant cretin.

      • Asher Jacobson

        Originally, metaphysics was simply what was beyond physics. Unless, the goal is to reduce an argument to physical cause and effect then it is metaphysics.

        Pretty simple. I’m guessing we just disagree on what metaphysics means. For example, I regard Keynesian economics as metaphysics. Amusingly, I have explicitly called Keynesian economics a cargo cult on numerous occasions.

      • truth_machine

        Originally, metaphysics referred to the books Aristotle wrote after he wrote about physics, you ignorant dolt.

      • oldoddjobs

        Oh let’s stop sniping at each other for God’s sake. Or for goodness sake, whatever. Gentlemen, let’s agree to disagree?

        WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

      • truth_machine

        That’s an instance of the fallacy fallacy. Just because it would be wrong to infer from Trump and his supporters being authoritarian that they are Nazis or Nazi-like is not a valid argument that Trump doesn’t have some Nazis among his supporters (he does) or that there aren’t some at least superficial similarities between Trump and Hitler — while the level of intimidation and violence is not nearly at the level of the brownshirts, the mere mention of them is not hyperbole. (But a far closer comparison can be made to George Wallace.) But if you want to see some extraordinary hyperbole and hypocrisy, this gem is the first thing that came up when I googled brownshirts + trump: “http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/03/brownshirts_invade_trump_rally.html” … First there’s “Needless to say, such misguided attempts at castigating Trump sickeningly diminish the real atrocities committed by the real Hitler.” and then, in regard to nonviolent protesters, “the Brownshirts disrupted meetings of opposing parties, employing force and violence to make their mark and discourage dissent. This is precisely what these thugs did last night, abandoning the law and civil discourse to perversely embrace the tactics of a man and a party they witlessly accuse Trump and the Republican party of embodying.” … par for the course at AmericanThinker..

      • Asher Jacobson

        You’re going to have to be more specific about what was wrong from that passage at American Thinker. Seems spot-on to me. The people protesting Trump are certainly not non-violent. If I physically block you from walking down a street because I don’t like you that is a violent act.

        No, the anti-Trump protesters are very much violent.

      • Asher Jacobson

        “Authoritarian personality” is about as intellectually serious as the Myer-Brigg Personality Type – in other words, completely fucking worthless. Outside of its logical correlates it has no empirical predictive value that I’ve ever seen. If you’re aware of empirical testing of the model across a broad array of situations then I’m perfectly willing to reassess.

      • brendan_r

        If racism = racial bias.

        And bias = an easily correctable belief error.

        Then the worst racists, by far, are found on the politically correct Left. Especially if we restrict the folks we care about to smart and well-educated and powerful ones.

        If racism = not having a circle of friends statistically distributed like America, then we’re all guilty.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        A more politically useful definition of racism: privileging the interests of members of one’s own race over the interests of other races. (Nobody should interject dating habits into a discussion of racist politics.) Nationalism shades into racism, and both admit of degrees, but both inherently conflict with universalism.

      • Asher Jacobson

        By that definition, “racism” is pretty much standard operating procedures for our species, at all times and places throughout history. In other words, it’s a completely useless definition because it doesn’t distinguish between differences and draw comparisons between similars.

        Try again.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        “racism” is pretty much standard operating procedures for our species, at all times and places throughout history

        What’s so unthinkable about racism coming in degrees. I have actually drawn comparisons and distinguished similars: nationalism is a dilute form of racism.

      • Asher Jacobson

        For starters, you’re going to have to deal with the reality that 99 percent of the time the term “racism” is used in a purely rhetorical manner – conveying absolutely no useful information about how the world works. My stock response to the word “racism” is to challenge the user to provide a definition of the term that is unitary, coherent, non-tautological and fewer than thirty words. Since this never happens I switch to purely rhetorical mode and start screaming the word “liar” at them repeatedly until half the room is calling the other half liars and, conversely, the latter calling the former racists.

        Verbal civil wars. Good times. Maybe someday I’ll get to start an actual civil war.

        But let’s say I take your comment seriously, for argument’s sake, and stipulate that you are the first person I’ve encountered to use the term “racism” in a fashion other than a purely rhetorical one. In such a case, “racism” is a trait, no different from height, skin color, intelligence, aggressiveness, etc. Want to do away with “racism”? Fine, but guess what, you just advocated genocide, because if “racism” is a trait then doing away with “racism” would be no different than doing away with short people, or stupid people, or black people, all of which are trait based descriptions.

        My suggestion is that if you want to be taken as an intellectually serious person you should eliminate the term “racism” from your vocabulary. It’s got far too much rhetorical baggage to reconstruct a descriptive and content-rich usage for it.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        In such a case, “racism” is a trait, no different from height, skin color, intelligence, aggressiveness, etc. Want to do away with “racism”? Fine, but guess what, you just advocated genocide, because if “racism” is a trait then doing away with “racism” would be no different than doing away with short people, or stupid people, or black people, all of which are trait based descriptions.

        So, educating folks in the hope of decreasing the amount stupidity in a society is genocidal. Or, to take another example of some trait we might hope to do away with, treating depression psychiatrically (tendency to depression being a trait) is genocidal? Don’t lecture me about intellectual respectability when you make arguments reducing antiracism to genocide.

        The rational kernel behind condemnation of racism is universalism. It’s important to be clear about that because only then can the antiracist red herrings be exposed or avoided. To say someone acts from racist motives (like to say they act from signaling motives) is not to make a necessarily uncontentious statement. It’s an error to assume, for example, that a segregationist is necessarily a racist. (‘Separate but equal’ may be sincere.)

      • Asher Jacobson

        The ethical kernel behind having an aversion to racism is universalism

        Are you aware of all the philosophical problems with ethical universalism? I reject ethical universalism because rigorous application produces utter gibberish. Universally applicable ethos requires absolute homogeneity, there is no other option if you want a universal ethos.

        Most of what Marx wrote is meandering drivel, however, he had one moment of absolutely brilliant insight: that material conditions create structures of ideas. For Marx, material conditions was constrained to economic analysis but there’s no logical reason to stop there. The logical stopping point for Marx’s notion of material conditions is the ability of a type of life to reproduce itself.

        Hence, life creates ethos and different types of life *invariably* create different ethos. So, the only route to a universal ethos is one type of life that rules them all – yes, that’s a Sauron allusion.

      • Asher Jacobson

        While I suppose I have to tip my hat to your attempt to provide an actual substantive usage of the term “racist” I gotta say I think it’s pointless. That term has been so thoroughly trashed by rampant abuse that it’s beyond salvage. That’s what you invariably get when a word gets weighed down by too much rhetorical baggage.

        That word belongs in the trashbin of history.

      • Asher Jacobson

        http://www.xenosystems.net/against-universalism/

        There is a fantastic argument against universalism of all types. Even if you disagree with his conclusions the reasoning he uses is exquisite.

      • Peter David Jones

        I don’t see much going on there. His argument is that you basic can’t please all the people all the time. But that’s only true at fairly fine grained level.So it isn’t an argument against all forms of universalism.

      • Asher Jacobson

        The first response to anti-universalism, almost invariably, is that it is univfersalist. The post in question takes away that rhetorical barb.

      • Peter David Jones

        That wasn’t *my* point.

      • truth_machine

        It’s certainly a fact that the average IQ of blacks is lower than the average IQ of whites, but two common inferences from that are racist: 1) whites are smarter than blacks 2) the difference is due to genetics

        BTW, “blacks are on average intellectually inferior to whites” is poorly expressed, misleading, and virtually incoherent; it isn’t quite as bad as (1) but it’s close, and lends support to (1). There is no such thing as average people, or average inferiority, and it’s notable that two groups are mentioned but the word “average” only occurs once, leading individual white people to conclude (or rather, reaffirm their bias) that “average” blacks are dumber than themselves.

        There are *averages*, which are single numbers derived from a set of numbers. We’ve got all of the IQs of blacks, the average of those numbers, all of the IQs of whites, and the average of those numbers. The first of those averages is a smaller number than the second of those numbers. *That* is the fact. Almost every other statement that people make about this is *not* a fact.

      • truth_machine

        “My stock response to the word “racism” is to challenge the user to provide a definition of the term that is unitary, coherent, non-tautological and fewer than thirty words. ”

        Which Stephen did in his first comment.

        “guess what, you just advocated genocide, because if “racism” is a trait then doing away with “racism” would be no different than doing away with short people, or stupid people, or black people, all of which are trait based descriptions.”

        That’s the most idiotic fallacy of affirmation of the consequent that I have ever seen. Your “rhetorical” mode, which is clearly the only one you have, is to make up completely inane shit with no logical of factual basis. You are possibly not a moron, but you’re the functional equivalent, and any sensible person can write you off forever as tl;dr … ta ta.

      • Asher Jacobson

        “Which Stephen did in his first comment.”

        And I pointed out that his definition pretty much included everyone. Good use of language is that which contrasts between differences and compares between similarities. A term which encompasses everything is useless because it does not meet that criterion for meaningful language.

        ” Your “rhetorical” mode, which is clearly the only one you have”

        In a limited sense that is correct. I regard anyone using the term “racist” as a poo-flinging monkey. One does not respond to a poo-flinging monkey with reason but my flinging poo back at them harder and faster.

        One responds to pure rhetoric with pure rhetoric so anyone using the term “racist” does not deserve a reasoned response. I respond in a similar manner to anyone using the term “nigger” – it is a term of pure rhetoric and does not deserve a reasoned response. Yes, I am directly equating the terms “racist” and “nigger”.

  • jhertzli

    What does this imply about lecturing about lecturing?

  • istvan

    Once again, everything is reduced to signaling. Hammer and stuff looking like nails and all that.

    Not everything has twists and turns like that. Most of the stuff is what it seems. Parents are often genuinely worried about their children being involved in bad groups or people. Or in signaling lingo, they see through the bad boy’s bluff signals that woo the teenage girl and recognize it better for what it is.

    Our natural response to stuff we don’t like is to complain. This is not a twist. The twist is when someone consciously represses this instinctive response and goes on the more sly path of pretending they aren’t bothered, to eliminate these motivations. The article assumes the reverse, that we are calculating and optimizing by default and then we divert from that for the sake of the outside observers.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      I’m trying to understand the origins of our “natural” responses; I’m not saying people are consciously signaling.

      • istvan

        Okay. I guess, these texts sometimes make it seem as if there were “ulterior” or hidden motives in some unconscious agent in our brains.

        Also, one can take this too far and turn even the most straightforward thing to a mysterious signaling game.

        You could say, for example, that animals and people eat food as a way of signaling how good they are at acquiring the food and not really for eating’s sake itself.

        Yeah, sure we do all sorts of signaling with food, but it’s still grounded in the fact that food gives us energy to do things. That’s the basis and foundational level, over which all the signaling things are built, as smaller patterns.

        Similarly with the parent thing.

    • l’Bains

      All signaling is a direct result of stupidity, or a ‘natural response’ as your put it. The whole reason that signaling is contemptible is not because it is consciously malicious, but because it is lazy and ineffective, representing the lowest kind of blind self-interest.
      The sly move is almost as contemptible, but only because it is equally ineffective. The only course of action that is not contemptible it to either get over it or actually stop it.

  • truth_machine

    Another foolish and intellectually dishonest post. What, exactly, are people who are flabbergasted and frustrated at the support for Donald Trump *supposed* to do? It’s funny that you are so willing to step into the shoes of Trump supporters but show no inclination to step into the shoes of people who aren’t. And “making it clear that they oppose Trump than they do about actually preventing him from becoming president” is argumentum ad ignorantiam, to the degree that it isn’t just flat-out dishonest.

    • brendan_r

      One of the reasons I like reading people like Robin and David Friedman is that they’ve got this nice habit of not judging everything.

      They’re happy to explain things – and stop there.

      I don’t do that naturally in politically tinged things. And my moral judgements make me a worse explainer – make me forget what I know about a thing. Make me do the opposite of what someone like George Polya recommends in problem solving scenarios, i.e. slowdown, focus on the puzzle, recollect all similar and analogous things you know, etc., and then start working on the problem.

      If you did that you might see that you’re flipping out over an explanation, not a judgement, and that’s silly.

      That said: Trump 2016!!!!!

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        That said: Trump 2016!!!!!

        I had thought you were among the “open borders” crowd.

      • brendan_r

        Nah not since I stumbled on Steve Sailer 5-6 years ago.

    • Guncriminal .

      You’re exhibiting the sort of silly behaviour he’s talking about.

      If doing something harms your cause more than not doing something, stop doing it. “What am I supposed to do?” is an irrelevant question.

    • l’Bains

      Anyone who is so ‘flabbergasted’ should have focused their efforts on effectively stopping Trump, or otherwise accepting that there was no alternative. Signaling is not conscious and deliberate, it’s what happens when you focus more on saying something than doing something. Activists love to complain but hate doing anything, but that comes more from their flawed personalities than a deliberate effort to amorally signal.
      TL;DR: if your actions don’t work, you are signaling by definition.

      • zarzuelazen27

        Americans, meet your new president in this video!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgUAQ4ZGtgk

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Really? I’ll go with Sam Wang – >.99 for Clinton. The Rs lost when they nominated Trump. All the rest is hoopla. [Disclaimer: This is based entirely on impressions; I’ve made no attempt to understand Wang’s methodology.]

      • https://entirelyuseless.wordpress.com/ entirelyuseless

        I will be happy to agree to send you $10 if Clinton wins, if you agree to send me $1,000 if Trump wins.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        To quote Sam Wang (when someone made the same offer): “Silly, that’s my break even point.”

      • https://entirelyuseless.wordpress.com/ entirelyuseless

        I will be happy to send you $10 if Clinton wins, if you agree to send me $500 if Trump wins.

        (Also, you said >.99, which would mean that you should profit in expectation even on the first bet.)

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Too late! Sam Wang has revised to .91 – .93.

  • Pingback: Quiet Word From the Dark Side, 3/10/16 | SovietMen

  • IMASBA

    “Today a big chunk of the U.S. electorate feels neglected by a political establishment that they don’t especially respect, and is tempted to favor political bad boy Donald Trump. The main response of our many establishments, especially over the last few weeks, has been to constantly lecture everyone about how bad an idea this would be. Most of this lecturing, however, doesn’t seem to tell Trump supporters anything they don’t think they already know, and little of it acknowledges reasonable complaints regarding establishment neglect and incompetence.”

    This can be a valid point with some candidates/parties and in some countries but Trump is just so far out there that it would be very hard to respond any “reasonable” complaints without saying the opposite of what Trump says (or would you propose only barring 50% of Muslims from ever entering the US as a compromise?). Truth is Trump might very well get a plurality of republican primary votes and then crash and burn in the national election (even against Bernie Sanders). Trump’s current supporters are pretty much all the supporters he has, period, and they like his extreme, vague, unrealistic and contradictory promises. So you’re right that lecturing his supporters is pointless, but you’re wrong to believe they can be reasoned with: this isn’t Sweden where a far-right party could in theory easily be stopped dead in its electoral tracks if the other parties would just legislate modest immigration reforms and acknowledge some economic issues. Other republicans vilifying Trump may however keep some republican primary voters from voting for Trump and even make them vote democrat in the national election.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      Trump is just so far out there that it would be very hard to respond any “reasonable” complaints without saying the opposite of what Trump says (or would you propose only barring 50% of Muslims from ever entering the US as a compromise?).

      You ignore Trump’s vaunted “flexibility.” Trump’s supporters seem completely unreasonable precisely because they don’t really believe their own demands. Trump asks his supporters to support him based on shared values and his competence to get the best possible deal. I think anyone who would repose such confidence in one person (and Trump in particular) is very foolish, but his supporters (and surely Trump himself) aren’t unwilling to accept compromises. Trump and his followers aren’t reactionary idealogues. Entirely the opposite!

      • truth_machine

        “Trump and his followers”

        These two things are not alike.

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    I agree with Hanson that the anti-Trump Rs are signaling, but I’ve expressed a specific theory about what they’re signaling: that they are not associated/affiliated with the low-status folks who support Trump.

    This theory is supported by the latest development: the unlikely support by these Republicans for the identitarians who stopped Trump’s rally. There was a class divide: the students and professionals protesting and the uneducated poor attending.

    • truth_machine

      Nice circular reasoning. But their support for people who stopped Trump’s rally isn’t unlikely if their goal is genuinely to stop Trump.

      I think all you guys with your signaling theories are signaling that you are lofty and brilliant and above it all. My support for that is what utter bullcrap your theories are and how out of touch you are with people’s actual motivations … motivations that can be discerned by reading their intra-group communications.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        I think all you guys with your signaling theories are signaling that you are lofty and brilliant and above it all.My support for that is what utter bullcrap your theories are and how out of touch you are with people’s actual motivations … motivations that can be discerned by reading their intra-group communications.

        So, you’re still convinced that the Republican establishment is strongly committed to stopping Trump? You’re convinced, based an Republican intra-group communication that the Republican elites want to stop Trump (rather than signal their disaffection to avoid association with low-status violence and save the Republicans from electoral disaster)?

        I actually don’t have great confidence in my reading behavior as signaling – except when I’m more knowledgeable about the context than I am about mainstream politics. Part of the reason I don’t think their opposition is deep has to do with their lack of sensitivity to the issues they would be reacting to were that opposition deep. (The analysis Hanson provides is for me supportive rather than definitive.) For instance, why did Cruz get endorsements right after he did worse (politec occupation of Muslim communities) than agree with Trump on U.S. Muslims? I think the motivation to save the ramshackle Republican Party is almost bound to be of a signaling variety. You haven’t commented on what you take the establishment motivation to be. I’d be interested.]

  • Pingback: The Smart People Need to get Smarter | Joyous and Swift

  • Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Sentences (#47)

  • Pingback: Sentences (#47) | Neoreactive

  • zarzuelazen

    What happened to Trump? His market odds have suffered a spectacular collapse! Just a couple of weeks ago he was looking good, having a 74% chance of winning the nomination in prediction markets.

    His odds have collapsed, down to 56% chance of winning nomination and plunging.

    Election Betting Odds

    Almost feel sorry for the guy now, everyone is piling in to attack at once, it seems like all the people he previously insulted are ganging up on him.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      What happened to Trump?

      1. He took a week off from campaigning, unheard of in a contested presidential primary season. (He calls himself a “patriot,” but he’s not going to endure any sacrifices for his country, whether comfort or finances.)

      2. His campaign manager was arrested for doing something very stupid, belying Trump’s claim that he always hires “the best people.”

      3. His illogical position on abortion – murder on the doctor’s part but innocent on the mother’s – has alienated part of his base because it panders to feminism (while, less importantly, the opposite position, which he first asserted, alienated the conventional anti-abortionists).

  • Pingback: TheMoneyIllusion » Trump is not very popular

  • Pingback: How To (And How Not To) Defeat a Demagogue | Joyous and Swift