David Deutsch Megathread


More about how victims are viewed and treated.

Someone tried to post to the old BoI google group to promote some CR-related stuff. I didn’t approve the message and replied:

Hi I’m the BoI group owner. I think maybe you don’t know the situation, so:

I make CR related stuff like https://criticalfallibilism.com

I helped with writing BoI for 7 years but Deutsch, my former mentor who I had ~5000 hours of interaction with, is now having his fans harass me. You are associating with and promoting people currently actively involved in harassing me. Laws have been broken and they have been fully unwilling to discuss stopping or give reasons for what they’re doing. You have to either stop associating with them and promoting them or, in the alternative, try to do problem solving about the conflict or at least leave me alone.

I have asked over and over for anyone involved with that group to discuss terms for ending the conflict, to say anything I could do or change so they would stop, etc. and I have been completely refused. They’ve expressed no interest in peace. I have written down my understanding of the situation, tried to explain and analyze, tried to do problem solving and common preference finding, but no one in the other group has been willing to do any of that. I have no idea what I could do to make them happy and they have refused to make changes like stopping spreading hatred and lies about me or stopping using sock puppets and VPNs to harass my blog comments and stop stalking me to other websites/forums to disrupt my discussions. I am currently relying on a paywalled forum to keep them out (and have still had to ban two of them who came there and harassed me anyway).

If you would be reasonable enough to discuss the matter with me – or if you have no problem with me, then to ask them to explain and (depending on what they say) reconsider your opinion of them – that would be extremely appreciated.

See https://beginningofinfinity.com and Curiosity – Harassment Summary

Keep in mind that I only said negative things publicly, like those, after years of severe problems and extensive attempts to resolve the matter privately first.

Btw, one of the main results of the harassment campaign is preventing my CR-related ideas from being considered, spread, debated or engaged with. I developed a major improvement on CR and have been largely prevented from sharing it with people interested in CR, so this is hurting philosophical progress.

Responding to Justin:

I vaguely remembered some CritRats (who tend to plagiarize me) being involved with a note taking type app (tho i think it might have been Roam Research). So after a couple quick searches I found this:

I recognized the name of one of the founders because he’s the same CritRat who recently tried to promote CritRat stuff on my BoI google group, then didn’t speak to me at all when I told him there was a problem. He makes stuff like DD fan websites and Substacks but mislabels them as being about Critical Rationalism in general not about DD’s ideas even though they have stuff like TCS ideas and it’s really bad to communicate to people that TCS is part of Popper’s philosophy.

There’s something really screwy about a person who makes a DD fansite but is unwilling to speak to an enemy of DD who wants peace and negotiation, but also has a bunch of material online that attacks DD like https://beginningofinfinity.com If you were trying to grow a DD-based movement, wouldn’t you want to talk to someone about removing that hate site that is harming DD’s reputation and turning people away from your community? Why would you just entirely refuse to speak to them and not even try when they are making themselves look good, and you look bad, by emphasizing that they want to talk and problem solve while your side absolutely refuses?

I try to imagine myself being a HUGE fan of some guy, Joe, and then I’m trying to make a fan community and movement and stuff, and then I find out Joe has enemies. So I’d want to debate them or something, not refuse to ever speak to them (especially if i’m doing a rationality movement…). Then imagine I found out the enemies accuse Joe of some very bad stuff. I’d want to investigate to see if it’s true. And even if I didn’t care about that, I’d at least want them to stfu b/c them saying that is a problem for my goals. So if they were saying “we want peace and to talk” I’d at least give that a shot. I struggle to put myself in the shoes of someone who wouldn’t do that. It just seems fully unreasonable.

Anyway, a bunch of CritRats read me without admitting it and others read me while openly admitting it but still hating me. The RemNote founder guy is a very active CritRat who is involved with people who definitely read and hate me. So it’s likely that the RemNote founder read some of my stuff related to what his company does or at least some of his buddies read it and talked about in places he’d hear it. The RemNote founder currently has a webpage advising people to follow (via blog and social media) my biggest plagiarist.

While some similar ideas do exist elsewhere, plagiarism seems pretty likely here given the high chance that the founder or his buddies specifically read me talking about this stuff, the repeated history of plagiarism of me from that specific community that the RemNote founder is part of, and how the way it’s said is overly similar to some stuff I’ve said enough that Justin noticed. Another sign it’s related to me is there are multiple different ideas brought up, each of which you could find somewhere else by itself, but which aren’t usually brought up together as I do.

It appears likely that RemNote people are trying to monetize stuff involving my ideas while giving me zero credit and also appealing to the authority of basing things on recent neuroscience research. (“RemNote combines recent research in neuroscience and psychology with cutting-edge web technology to build the #1 knowledge management platform.” from RemNote)

Although I don’t really know anything about the software, I’d advise against using RemNote for two reasons. First, they have a bad person for a founder. Second, even bigger companies often have terrible internal privacy controls. You should assume the CritRat founder could access anything you put in their cloud, especially if he sees a name like mine or @JustinCEO’s that he recognizes and might want to spy on. He also might hire other CritRats who could then probably also access your private data.

LW sounds pretty bad. Very poor/disrespectful administrator behaviour.

From the admin notes in the article:

Those three things in combination, a propensity for long unproductive discussions, a history of threats against people who engage with him, and being the historically most downvoted account in LessWrong history, make me overall think it’s better for curi to find other places as potential discussion venues.

Long? Not surprised, you are persistent, I don’t know why it’s a problem. Unproductive? I guess I’d have to look into that a lot on LW to know what they consider unproductive. Threats? No, that’s inaccurate. Karma?

Karma is a very bad way of judging how good a user someone is. Based on what I’ve seen of your writing, I’d guess that negatives came from disagreeing with people and posting unconventional ideas. The fact the admins mention it implies they think that the user base should vote on what are acceptable opinions to express, even when there is no explicit complaint or rules breaking involved. The fact that the negatives are mostly in the pretty distant past makes this argument seem spurious and they’re making up equally spurious reasons to dismiss what they freely admit as recent improvement. Not to mention that, as someone with a known stalker/harasser, it’s reasonable to think that could be a cause of negative karma as part of the sustained harassment.

Guessing at a reason they’re not stating (because it’s really really morally bad and consciously or not they wouldn’t want to admit it - though this might be a pretty uncharitable interpretation), they don’t want someone who’s got a harasser because they might expect the harassment will continue and will result in more problems. They also seem to be avoiding taking a position on who’s the wrongdoer (referring to him someone you have “been in conflict with”) which contributes to this guess.

I’m sorry about the harassment. It mega sucks and the perpetrator is a vile person.

Yes that’s what I’m doing. I’m not planning to jump into multiple new forums in a very short time, I’ll get overwhelmed.

I guess if I were to look at LW I’d look at some of your threads to think about the “unproductive” criticism and see what I think of them and look for patterns in the downvoting to see if I can work out what the user base think is bad about them to inform whether to leave or, if not leaving, how to engage.

EA seems less bad than LW. I’d broadly agree with your assessment of their subjects. But I might find it interesting to read about their ideas (such as AI alignment) to understand the current ideas on the subject better. My interest in AGI is currently somewhat casual but I expect it to reach the top of my que some time this year.

The main pattern is simple: they downvote Popper stuff and criticism of Bayesian induction viewpoints.

Also most of my negative karma was actually from just two posts. Back then upvotes or downvotes on posts (rather than comments) counted 10x. So you get a few dozen downvotes, multiply by two posts, multiply by ten, and apparently you’re the least conformist person ever at LW lol.

I doubt that was it. I put the odds around 50% that one of Deutsch’s minions contacted an LW staff member behind the scenes and told them to ban me. Otherwise I think they just didn’t like me and didn’t want to deal with criticism. They mentioned:

LessWrong has seen a pretty significant growth of new users in the past few months

Which seems to indicate either they wanted to pander to those users and make sure LW is like they expect and want so they aren’t challenged. Or else it means they are like “we have pageviews and you don’t and and we want it to be our soapbox to preach from, not yours – we’re not going to just gift you free access to our traffic just because we pretend this is an open public forum. our pageviews are meant for people who preach our religion, not yours.”

I’ll probably never know whether they were basically just banning dissent or this was another thing Deutsch is responsible for. I do know that one of Deutsch’s close associates – who hates me – has connections with LW and knows a bunch of them in person and has done paid work there. And some others might have some connections too. So they could have been involved in the moderation decision, or not, who knows. That uncertainty is bad and is another thing Deutsch and associates are guilty of whether they did this particular thing or not. If they were acting in a civilized manner it would have avoided this uncertainty. And it does kinda matter to what the world is like whether LW hates dissent that much as a general policy or it was more like one person doing a favor for one other person or one person being lied to by one other person (I know that sometimes they gossip about me behind the scenes and lie about me while not publicly admitting to having done anything; they’ve been caught doing this multiple times and they must do it much more than the amount they’ve been caught).

I’m sorry about the harassment. It mega sucks

Thanks. I appreciate that. If like 50 people would form that opinion, I think the situation would improve. Like if 50 or even 10 fans at once would actively question and challenge the CritRats about their behavior, I think that would get some answers or changes from the awful status quo.

and the perpetrator is a vile person.

I don’t think we’re on the same page here because I consider it a harassment campaign by a group led by Deutsch, not an issue about one person.

Oh - I should have said “main perpetrator” (i.e. Andy B, who seems to be the main pro-active part of it). I did not mean to deny others are involved, or to say they’re not bad, rather that Andy B seems especially bad from putting so much energy into something so intentionally destructive and malicious.

I guess I don’t fully understand this bit. I’d definitely agree with his actions being tacit endorsement (i.e. being publicly silent on the matter) and instigation (e.g. the lie about no contact requests). But I don’t understand him to have an ongoing active involvement which I infer from “led”. Is there a part that I missed?

I wrote a new article to try to answer this better and more succinctly:

I also did a harassment update:

Okay thanks that helped clarify the situation.

I had been thinking about his more as well, trying to work out what would qualify as “leading”.

I think the most generous interpretation I can give DD that is based on public information and no guesswork about private things is that he is an unwitting leader. But even that requires making a bunch of assumptions (which in themselves are pretty negative - as they are about a lack of responsibility, competence, honesty), as:

  • He is at least aware the harassment is happening even if he doesn’t know the full depth (and it’s such a serious issue that he should inform himself about it even if he didn’t intentionally call for it)
  • He is aware that he is connected to the main perpetrator (or at least that if he’s unsure (owing to Andy B changing account names), he has to be wilfully avoiding looking into it because again: far too serious to ignore)
  • He is aware that the harassment is being carried out in his name and that it’s reasonable to think he could stop it by speaking out. He is possibly the only person who could stop it like that.
  • He continues doing things that (without a public position against the harassment) could reasonably be considered by fans as continued agreement with the harassment.

In other words I think his only defence against being the leader is that he’s a careless and irresponsible unwitting leader. But that’s still saying he is the leader of the harassment campaign in either case, and I don’t consider either position morally tenable.

I don’t see how it can be just unwitting, careless, or irresponsible on DD’s part. It’s just too easy to Tweet out “please don’t bother Elliot Temple” or put that on a website or just say repeatedly it to his inner circle. It would be such a small effort and it could help his reputation if he tried even a little. And at this point whatever ignorance DD might still have would be the result of a concerted effort at evasion, including evading finding his own name online.

DD is much more strongly and intentionally connected to another main perpetrator.

The guy (Dennis Hackethal) who wrote a book plagiarizing me, and who lied that I had threatened violence, and who is connected to the DDOSing … is the same person DD chose as a business partner who translated BoI into German. (I don’t know the exact timeline but my guess is the business partnership hadn’t even started when the plagiarism book came out.)

BTW, when he was caught lying about me threatening violence, he claimed it was a misunderstanding due to his poor English. He was lying, but it’s funny/ironic that he would then be chosen as a translator for BoI who would need great skills in both English and German for that job.

Me threatening people with violence is one of the lies severe enough that it could cause people to ghost me and refuse to even attempt to discuss the harassment campaign conflict and engage in any problem solving.

Oh and guess who the two moderators of the BoI subreddit were? Andy B and Hackethal. They were (are?) friends or something.

Did DD reward harassing me with the privilege of a business partnership? It looks like he may have, considering that Hackethal is a bad writer and thinker (his book is awful – despite plagiarizing me and DD so much he still screwed most of the ideas up).

DD is obviously legitimizing and implicitly endorsing Hackethal’s actions.

OK cool. It’s much easier to write explanations that work for people when I get some kinda feedback, e.g. about what to explain. (I have gotten little past feedback on these issues.)

I think it is a big assumption to say it is just that (for the reasons I mentioned before). I just don’t want to rule out the possibility.

As DD is silent, I’m wary of assumptions and I’m always wary of attributing bad behaviour to malice rather than negligence if there’s no clear record of it (this of course does not apply to the harassers who have made their malice well known). I think in general people are more incompetent or misguided than malicious when they do things wrong.

It’s been shown that DD is very bad at managing emotional conflicts.

From this article. [EDIT: said by DD]

You’re entirely mistaken. I’m terrified, and will be unable to work for at least a day now. And who knows how long after that. Receiving an e-mail from you is sheer fear and revulsion before I even look at it.

This was a sudden revelation out of the blue. It’s a very severe state to reach and I think it’s reasonable to assume it took a long time to build up. This sort of thing doesn’t happen with people who are good at managing their emotions.

That’s why I consider it possible that DD’s actions are those of someone who is irresponsible and unwitting. It may also be a mix of bad emotional management and irresponsibility combined with moments of actual malice (I think it’s a reasonable interpretation that someone with such emotional misconceptions about Elliot could choose to lash out).

To be clear, I do not any way think this reduces his culpability if it is the case. I do not think emotional problems are an excuse for anything. DD is responsible for his actions either way.

I think the amount of content about the harassment and DD is intimidating. It’s a difficult subject that requires coming to serious moral judgements about a lot of people. I think a lot of people avoid doing that unless it’s legitimised by some authority (such as a mob, the media or the authorities). I expect this contributes to why not many people discuss the subject.

Full disclosure:
I was aware of the issues with harassment and DD from curi.us for a long time before I became a member here. I did not dig into it or try to come to a conclusion. I was one of the people evading it. I was being a moral coward. This is something I want to improve about myself.

There are reasons and excuses like I was only a casual, that there are tons of people who suffer bad things and I don’t get involved in all of them, that I was overwhelmed and busy with life. But I don’t think any of them are good enough.

If I cared enough and thought positively enough about you to read your articles regularly, I should have cared enough to look into the issue and make a moral choice.

I’m sorry I didn’t do this earlier. You’ve been through some really terrible things. I can’t imagine how hard it’s been.

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An example showing significant intentionality is DD’s email to Justin. (That also btw seems to show he’s reactive to ~5 complaints. If 5 more people complained maybe he’d respond again.)

As I have told Elliot several times, I don’t want to hear from him. That includes indirectly via you and many others. I don’t know this Andy B he speaks of. I’m not aware of anyone I know sending DDoS attacks or anything else covertly to Elliot. I’m not the chief of anything. I’m not the leader of any group. Please go away.

This is an attempt at careful wording. You can tell that, in most of it, he’s trying to use precise wordings to be misleading without lying. He put work into writing this. And he’s reframing the issue and denying the wrong things. Like he doesn’t actually deny that I’m being harassed by his fans – he just denies that anyone he counts himself as “knowing” (not most of his fans) DDOSing me or doing other covert sending actions to me while also telling DD that they’re doing it. So he’s just saying essentially “no one I know well is sharing specific details of their covert attacks on ET with me” which, yeah, I can believe that’s true, but that was not the issue, that’s so overly specific on purpose. He didn’t even deny that the people he knows well were overtly attacking me, nor did he deny any of the attacks from whoever he doesn’t count himself as knowing well. And also his concept of who he knows, or not, is false, as I have literal documentation of and wrote about elsewhere.

Was the lie about the no contact requests intentional? In some sense, I don’t think so. Why carefully word everything else then put in one blatant lie that I have documentation is false? I assume he didn’t realize it was a lie and was too irresponsible and emotionally unstable to go review emails to see the facts.

How could he not realize it’s a lie? He’s been rationalizing events to himself and others for many years. During that time, would he keep all the facts straight in his head, or regularly review documentation? Of course not. That’d make him feel worse. The facts make him look bad. In the years of rationalizing he lost touch with some facts.

So I think DD has responsibility here but not direct intentionality regarding that lie. But he does have direct intentionality about writing a carefully and defensively worded email that was meant to be misleading without lying and which was intentionally meant to basically come off as “Elliot is in the wrong; screw that guy”. He also has pretty direct and intentional responsibility for not double checking the facts – that’s a really irresponsible choice he made before saying that.

Also, is what DD told Justin – someone he was suspicious of and defensive around – the worst stuff he’s been saying about me? Of course not. Not even close.

It wasn’t at first but I didn’t get much feedback then either.

I wrote more over time when things didn’t improve… I do see how having a ton of stuff has downsides but I don’t really see a better option for what I should have done instead besides try to explain more, repeatedly, when the problem was not solved and even some of my fans didn’t seem to understand well.

I’ve tried short summaries but I find people are skeptical, so then I give more detail but then they’re still skeptical so I give even more detail but then it’s too long. I think that’s just bias and I can’t win with those people. (That same pattern happens with many other topics, and I don’t know a good solution. I think maybe it’s about them, not me, and is out of my hands and not something I can solve on my end.)

And of course DD’s decision not to retract his defamatory, illegal lie is intentional. If he was just an irresponsible and an emotional mess, who didn’t want to defame me, he could undo that harassing action that he personally did. But he won’t.

And it’s a really nasty lie to say that I repeatedly violated his no contact requests. Like the lie that I threatened violence, it’s capable of getting people to ghost me, ignore all my arguments, and refuse to engage in any sort of problem solving with me. One of DD’s narratives is that I’m doing all this as a tactic to try to get his attention, and that if anyone responds to me and engages with the problem at all then they’re helping me win.

The violence thing was such bad faith. From memory, I said roughly “I don’t want to destroy your social status”.

And he’s like “in german ‘destroy’ sounds like violence, so I felt unsafe, thought you were threatening me with IRL harm, said nothing to you, never asked any other English speakers about it, and then months later told ~50 people some of whom dislike you, including Andy B, that you threatened me with violence without giving them the quote to judge for themselves”. Then he did a minimal retraction (and that thread was used to attack me more, and he as a moderator or civilized person did nothing to push back on that) and he refused to apologize. I think he only retracted it at all because he knew what he did was illegal.

BTW I have much worse information I could post about DD. I just don’t know that doing that will help anything…

Yes. I think, like moral condemnation, people want an authority (often their emotions) to tell them who they should care about. They want to see a well known victim group being targeted by a well known perpetrator type to validate them getting involved.

I do not like that I’m saying that seriously.

I’m reminded of Gail Wynand.

From The Fountainhead:

The first campaign of the Banner was an appeal for money for a charitable cause. Displayed side by side, with an equal amount of space, the Banner ran two stories: one about a struggling young scientist, starving in a garret, working on a great invention; the other about a chambermaid, the sweetheart of an executed murderer, awaiting the birth of her illegitimate child. One story was illustrated with scientific diagrams; the other–with the picture of a loose-mouthed girl wearing a tragic expression and disarranged clothes. The Banner asked its readers to help both these unfortunates. It received nine dollars and forty-five cents for the young scientist; it received one thousand and seventy-seven dollars for the unwed mother. Gail Wynand called a meeting of his staff. He put down on the table the paper carrying both stories and the money collected for both funds.
“Is there anyone here who doesn’t understand?” he asked. No one answered. He said:
"Now you all know the kind of paper the Banner is to be.

There’s a way of getting the crowd to be sympathetic on a larger scale. But it’s not a good one.