Non-Tribalist Politics Megathread

In the past, that churn wasn’t a problem for Amazon — it was even desirable at some points. Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos saw his warehouse workforce as necessary but replaceable, and feared that workers who remained at the company too long would turn complacent or, worse, disgruntled

They did some of it on purpose!

I think all those libertarian types who praise Bezos, defend Amazon, etc (and do similar for various other big companies) should spend some time on Reddit reading the workers talking about their jobs, how they’re treated, how dumb management is, etc.

Example thread (there are many more on the same subreddit):

Schools often blame victims of sexual exploitation:

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libertarian arguments against Red Flag gun control laws. i haven’t been following the debate or news about this in general.

So I read the Twitter thread and I was like “that’s really awful but also seems believable”.

And I checked the thing about Amazon selling stuff used for suicide and that’s a real, ongoing complaint against them.

So I started reading her book:

And I read a few chapters and the book was pretty decent – it was similar to the tweet thread but with more detail.

It has a specific writing style I associate with best sellers and possible ghost writing. I don’t like it but it’s alright. The style is a bit bland although there is profanity mixed in which doesn’t really substantively change the style. In general there’s a lack of adequate depth which is not fixed by having a bunch of endnotes, but that’s just how tons of books are, not anything particularly bad about this one.

I thought the book had some problems with tribalism and that I should do some fact checking. I did a quick google search and read the negative amazon reviews and I didn’t find anything saying the stories in the book are fabricated or anything worrying. I think they’re just exaggerated a bit here and there but mostly accurate.

She portrays herself as a fighter on the side of justice but never really considers the motives of her opponents and what they think is good about what they’re doing. She just kinda portrays them as pointlessly nasty without even e.g. pointing out incentives in the system, made by more powerful people higher in the hierarchy, that are causing some of the bad behaviors from lower level people she encountered.

So I had a lot of sympathy with her complaints about cops and school administrators and how they deal with harassers and dangerous ex boyfriends.

And then I got to chapter 7 (of 9) and she started talking about gamer gate.

And it was really, really bad.

In 2013, web game developer Zoë Quinn became the target in a highly public online mob assault known as Gamergate after her ex-boyfriend wrote a ten-thousand-word blog post accusing Zoë of sleeping with a journalist in a quid pro quo arrangement for a favorable review for her latest game. The review in question didn’t even exist, yet Zoë became a lightning rod—a symbol in the minds of misogynist bro-trolls of what the gaming industry might become if women had their way. Or something. Who knows what got these mouth-breathers all worked up. None of them offered a reason for attacking Zoë. Their rage seemed to be fueled by nothing but bitterness and hate.

This is flat out lying. And it’s not an accident. She’s talking about bitterness and hate while having no self-awareness about how it’s what she’s writing.

I didn’t pay close attention to gamer gate stuff and don’t recall the details well offhand. But one thing I do know is that the other side gave lengthy reasons. “None of them offered a reason for attacking Zoë.”? No way. I’ve seen some long videos with a bunch of arguments and reasoning in them.

The author is not only completely refusing to engage with any of the arguments the other side has made, she’s trying to erase them out of the narrative.

The harassment and death threats Quinn got were nasty. I do believe that happened and was bad. But there were in fact reasons people disliked her.

Another writer, my friend and inspiration Anita Sarkeesian

I don’t approve of the death threats against Sarkeesian either but she’s a bad person.

The book author is a social climber who joined and allied with a particular group. She has no sympathy for the people she sees as the out-group, insults as “mouth-breathers”, and denies have reasons for what they think or do (even when those reasons are explained at length in public).

The author doesn’t direct any critical scrutiny towards her own side and her allies.

On 8chan, an online message board notorious for attracting users who advocate violence against women, Thompson posted Francesca’s photo and home and work addresses and urged 8chan users to harass her. He claimed Francesca was best friends with Zoë Quinn, the woman at the center of Gamergate and a favorite target of 8chan trolls. I call this tactic “harassment by proxy.” With a few clicks on his keyboard, Thompson recruited hundreds of foot soldiers to join in his attack.

Later in the same chapter she cheers on one of her enemies being harassed in basically the same way – doxxed by Gawker, fired from his job, and then no doubt threatened and harassed by hundreds of foot soldiers recruited to join the attack. Even if he’d committed a crime, that kind of vigilante justice would be very problematic. But he hadn’t even committed a crime. He was just an asshole from a rival political group.

She seems to have no awareness of double standards. She simply failed to mention the harassment and death threats her enemy would also have gotten in a similar way to Quinn getting them.

In 2012, journalist Adrian Chen, reporting for Gawker, a now-defunct celebrity gossip and news site, uncovered the true identity of Violentacrez, one of the most notorious trolls on Reddit. Violentacrez was responsible for creating and moderating four hundred subreddits, many of them staggeringly offensive, including /r/chokeabitch, /r/niggerjail bait, /r/picsofdeadkids, and /r/jewmerica. He was also the mastermind behind /r/jailbait, which was basically a photo-share for pedophiles. For a time, “jailbait” was the second most frequently used search term, after “Reddit,” bringing traffic to the site. In addition to his moderating duties, Violentacrez was also notorious for posting racist, violent, and dehumanizing images, as he did when he posted a photograph of a woman who’d been brutally beaten on the subreddit /r/beatingwomen. Offline, Chen discovered, Violentacrez led a very different existence.

It’s really fucked up that Reddit got so much traffic for jailbait material. But, in my understanding, the reason it was available for years at Reddit is that Violentacrez and others removed the illegal stuff. This paragraph does not actually accuse him of breaking a law.

What happened next?

Violentacrez’s real name is Michael Brutsch. He’s a husband, father, and cat lover from Arlington, Texas. When Chen contacted Brutsch, who at the time worked as a programmer for a financial firm, Brutsch defended his actions with little more than a shrug: “I do my job, go home, watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time.” But when Chen told Brutsch he intended to reveal his identity on Gawker, Brutsch pleaded with the reporter to reconsider. “My wife is disabled,” he implored. “I got a home and a mortgage, and if this hits the fan, I believe this will affect negatively on my employment.” Brutsch was right. Less than twenty-four hours after the story went live, he was fired. Offline, being a world-class dick has consequences.

The book anonymizes lots of people but purposefully gives this man’s name, even though he was already a doxxing victim, because he’s an enemy.

More importantly, there’s just no sympathy at all for the harassment this man suffered, the vigilante mob “justice”. The death threats and other nasty “harassment by proxy” things that would have happened next are simply erased from this narrative to instead end with celebrating what happened. This is the kind of passage that, itself, can trigger severe harassment by proxy.

This is a book which talks about a bunch of rapists and physical abusers (and the people in power who enable them), and then it lumps the opposing faction in the gamer gate debate in with them, acting like they’re just as bad as rapists and should be bullied and harassed for it. This from an anti-harassment book and a lawyer who’s all about standing up for victims!?

Everyone sucks.

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The government and elites make it so hard to start a business and comply with laws.

One of the results is you get a lot of people as small business owners who are willing to just not comply with the laws. All the red tape discourages people with more rule-following attitudes, so you get higher proportions of rule breakers.

Also, once you’re breaking a dozen laws, you might as well break some more? It may not add much risk of being punished. I think a lot of people think that way at least. Even knowingly breaking one law means you’ve crossed a line and may care less about breaking others. And getting in the habit of breaking a bunch of laws, even dumb ones that you know are dumb, can lead to being more careless with laws and breaking some good laws.

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  1. this is so bad
  2. that person shouldn’t be a judge both because she’s racist and also b/c she thinks she can and should look at people and judge who is a criminal at heart, or something, instead of judging whether they broke the law
  3. i’d never heard of this (despite having seen some LA riots stuff that this helps provide context for)
  4. a state appeals court upheld this ruling (no jail time for an egregious murder), in a 3-0 vote, a week before the LA riots

more information including some quotes from the judge: Killing of Latasha Harlins - Wikipedia

Uber’s chief lobbyist went whistleblower and leaked thousands of documents which provide insight into what lobbying is like.

Charles Hancock: Do you see Elon Musk backing out of his contract to buy Twitter and the likely upcoming legal battles as just an interesting business story or as another indication of erosion in American Rule of Law?

It’s not “the rule of law” exactly, but I do think there is a deep normative foundation of American capitalism that’s been eroding over the past several generations.

The normative foundation is the idea that there is something to being a good businessman other than purely making a lot of money. Something we learned about Donald Trump is that back when he was doing actual property development, he would frequently refuse to pay contractors what he’d agreed to pay. Then after falling badly into arrears, he would offer people who complained a choice: pursue costly litigation against him and his team of lawyers in which he would publicly impugn the quality of their work or accept less than full payment right now. This turned out to work pretty well. The American legal system gives rich people the ability to bully middle-class business owners. Historically, rich people haven’t fully taken advantage of that opportunity in part because they worry about concrete reputational damage and in part because it’s the wrong thing to do.

But the more a “greed is good” mentality takes over, not only is the “I won’t do that, that would be wrong” motive eroded but the amount of reputational damage is eroded, too. And it means we’re transforming into more of a low-trust society where you have to ask yourself questions like, “it’s true that we made this business agreement, but what practical recourse do I have to enforce it if the other party breaches?” And even in a country with a strong rule of law, practical recourse can be hard to come by.

What Musk is doing seems like an example of this. He made a deal to buy Twitter, and then by coincidence the macroeconomic situation changed very quickly soon after he made the deal. Higher interest rates pushed down the price of tech stocks in a way that made Musk personally quite a bit poorer and meant that his agreed-upon acquisition price was a much higher premium over the market rate than he’d initially intended. So he’s pulling stunts in order to try to secure a better deal rather than saying “damn, I hit some bad luck but a deal’s a deal.”

Over time, that kind of savvy norm-erosion is going to make the United States a poorer country like we see here in Italy and elsewhere in southern Europe where people insist on personal relationships rather than arm’s length contracting in a way that makes it harder for companies to grow and scale and undermines competition.

Also, I can’t imagine any Ayn Rand hero backing out of a signed deal like Musk (or even one where they’d verbally given their word) or using the courts as an offensive weapon.


Companies profit (at least in a narrow, current-context or short term way) off our weak legal system and ignoring/facilitating fraud. Example:

Etsy has no reasonable customer service processes to deal with egregious fraud (identity theft) by their users which harms others.

Big businesses get away with ridiculous stuff despite us living in a society with huge, expensive compliance departments and red tape for some stuff.

(A tiny example: Today I disputed a copyright claim on a YouTube video with 25k views which I’d ignored previously. It’s fair use. The company which filed a false copyright claim could have made like $100 off of that misdeed. They will not get in any trouble if they’re wrong about the copyright claim, even if they acted in bad faith.)

Small businesses are biased towards people who don’t mind the risk of breaking laws.

When risk-averse people want the benefits of risky small businesses, they become investors with someone else as the front man. A bunch of silicon valley people invest in e.g. crypto frauds and then say “we didn’t do it; we’re not responsible; we lost money” if it collapses but they profit if the founders/patsies get away with it.

John Oliver played a clip of Wendover’s Carbon Offsets video in his latest ep:

Really bad stuff going on in Iran still.

Besides the bloodshed in Iran, the bloodshed in Ukraine also continues.