Undermining (was: Curiosity – Caffeine Is Bad)

There may be a major disagreement here.

I think patterns of ambiguously negative statements are typical ways to attack, and even a single one is often a way to attack someone which is taken that way by the victim and audience members.

Unambiguous negative statements are considered super aggressive in our culture. Ambiguous negative statements are the more standard way to attack people in most contexts.

When people are being nice, they avoid ambiguous negativity.

Are you familiar with negging from Mystery Method? Negs are ambiguously negative comments used in flirting. They are used very sparingly.


Of course this is balanced, as mystery says, with their attractiveNess where a 9-10 may need three negs/indicators of disinterest, a 7-8 maybe 1, and 6-7 none.

In other words, standard rules of thumb say a single ambiguously negative comment might be too much to handle for a girl with 7/10 or lower attractiveness, and three negs is the maximum to ever use even on someone with extremely high self-esteem.

But you seem to think that if you negged curi 5+ times in one discussion that wouldn’t be negative.

When you’re being more respectful towards someone, you avoid that ambiguous negativity.

Attacks in our culture are normally kept more ambiguous than this skit: Family Guy Muscular Legs - YouTube (which, if you think about the literal words being said, is actually quite ambiguous, even though people watching interpret it as strongly negative). When not attacking, people avoid saying things that could be an insult, social slight, social challenge, etc. If you don’t do that, it’s strongly disrespectful.

I have surface level / passing familiarity. Read some articles online but never investigated in depth, never read any books, never made a serious attempt to understand or apply its concepts. So anything I say or imply about it below could very easily be wrong and I wouldn’t be surprised.

I don’t know but assume the context of Mystery Method (MM) negs you quoted includes intentionality. I think the high level point of negs is approximately: you like/want the girl, but if you seem too interested / over-eager that will repel her. So saying some things to seem like you’re less interested in her than you are will improve your chances of getting her to be interested in you. But if they’re too strong / too many it’ll backfire & also repel her. So you have to intentionally choose the right type & amount of negs for the girl to get her to be attracted to you rather than repelled. [Again, I could easily be wrong and if I am feel free to correct - but seems like a reasonable approximation.]

So, if someone read MM material on negs, wanted to neg effectively but disagreed with the information you quoted about using them very sparingly and then intentionally negged someone 5 times, that’d be a major disagreement with MM about negging.

But if someone unintentionally said 5 things that were also negs in the MM material, that would not be a disagreement with MM about negging. It’d be something else - maybe still bad, like a social blunder, but not a disagreement with MM.

I didn’t intend to take a position on how many negs (intentionally ambiguous negative statements) I could write to curi in this thread without actually being negative. My best guess now is that I shouldn’t have written any negs, and I don’t think we have a major disagreement about that.

The position I was talking about is how I would interpret any ambiguously negative statements I found after the fact, knowing they were unintentional.

I think these also include intent unless one is unaware / making a social blunder rather than an attack.

I know I’m quite capable of making social blunders. It’s one reason I don’t like / have avoided sales and other customer facing roles in my career. So in addition to it being plausible to me that I’m subconsciously seeking to undermine curi, it’s also plausible to me that I’m routinely making social blunders in my posts.

[I see the following as a tangent, but important enough to mention:]

I think that’s an example of something different than what we’ve been discussing here. I think it’s an example of backhanded compliments. Explanation and more examples: 25 Backhanded Compliments You Might be Handing Out!

I don’t know if negs and backhanded compliments are the same thing in MM. In ordinary life, I think of backhanded compliments differently from ambiguously negative statements.

I don’t think I gave curi any backhanded compliments. If I did, it was also unintentional.

Yeah that’s the gist. Unintentional negs matter too and for flirting it’s important to get your social signals and behaviors under control. Recipients generally can’t tell whether negs are intentional or not, which is part of the design. And if a neg is unintentional, that doesn’t make it better. Being disrespected by someone’s autopilot is kinda worse than being disrespected on purpose – it’s more condescending if you didn’t even have the conscious attention of the person negging you.

There are two different types of unintentional. One is a total accident. Both your conscious and subconscious missed a particular ambiguity. The other type is you didn’t consciously intend something but your subconscious did it on purpose. Your subconscious is over half of your mind, of what you are mentally. It’s you. Whatever opinions it holds are your opinions. So you’re responsible for it. If your subconscious attacks someone, then you attacked them.

I think you do a lot of things that way – it wasn’t a total accident, there was knowledge in you that caused it, but it wasn’t your conscious intent either. So going back and saying you didn’t consciously intend things as negs doesn’t really matter. It’s not the point. If some things were just a total accidental blunder that would matter, and maybe a couple were accidents, but I don’t think most were. One doesn’t get patterns of behavior by random accident.

Make sense? If so maybe the next thing to do is examine a few things you said.

Yes, I agree.

I don’t have an adequate mental model for subconscious opinions and responsibility.

I know some things I consider subconscious opinions are very hard to change, and I think at least part of responsibility is having effective control. One example is sexual orientation. I think that whether you’re sexually attracted to men, or women, or both, neither, etc. is a subconscious opinion. In theory, fully changeable. But I don’t know how responsible people actually are for their sexual orientation, since they can’t effectively control it.

OTOH for example I don’t think I agree with the distinction between first and second degree murder: if someone catches their partner in bed with a rival and immediately shoots the rival because of subconscious ideas about jealosy and anger, I don’t think they’re any less responsible or deserving of less punishment for the killing than someone who thinks about it consciously then plots and executes an elaborate plan to shoot the rival from a secret hiding place next year. But as I understand it, the law does make such a distinction which is a red flag to me that there’s more going on than I am aware of or considering.

It’s not simply a matter of thoughts vs. actions, or respecting vs. violating rights, either. For example, I think people are responsible for their religious beliefs even though I know such beliefs are mostly a product of subconscious opinions that are hard to change rather than conscious thoughts. But I don’t think people are normally responsible for pulling under and drowning someone who was just trying to rescue them from drowning (Why Rescuers Die While Drowning Victims Survive).

Anyway, because I haven’t worked out a consistent model for subconscious opinions and responsibility, I currently neither agree nor disagree with the second quote above.

Given what I said about the second quote I’m not sure it’ll be productive. But I don’t know a better way to proceed than to examine a few things I said.

Are there any things you said which you intuitively (or consciously) think

  • might be negative or undermining
  • are things I might think are negative or undermining
  • are things other readers might think are negative or undermining


Any candidates?

The only candidates I find[1] are:

[1] I only looked in this thread at my posts above your comment:

The reason I limited my search that way is presumably you’d seen enough in this particular thread by that comment to reach a conclusion.

Let’s look at this text in isolation.

This is negative (did not convince), ambiguous (it sounds like you dismissed Elliot’s reasoning, but you might not have), and undermining.

Undermining basically involves negativity plus indirectness. Undermining can also involve attacking something’s foundations and doing gradual damage over time.

How is it indirect? You didn’t give arguments for Elliot to respond to. You didn’t engage in debate. You didn’t directly, openly say what the issues/criticisms are, which would let readers judge for themselves about each point. You suggested his arguments aren’t good enough without being specific. It’s indirect because, instead of (directly) stating your criticisms, you talked about them without sharing what they were. There’s no good way to defend against or counter that kind of negativity.

Negativity that is expressed directly can be responded to directly. Indirect negativity is problematic because if you respond in an indirect way it’s not a good defense. E.g. if you say “you didn’t give arguments, so you should be presumed wrong and ignored” that doesn’t counter the unstated criticisms and actually gives the person more attention. And it’s often messy because the person did give some arguments about something, just not direct responses to the article text. And people often will respond to a direct defense by denying they were even attacking the article (while continuing to hint that they are).

I agree my statement was indirect with regard to Elliot’s article in the way that you say.

Here’s my guess as to why I didn’t see it before: I did not want to debate Elliot about caffeine. That’s one reason why I said I was undecided, rather than in disagreement. Instead, what I wanted to contradict and debate was anonymous57’s summary of my position, to which my statement was a direct reply:

I didn’t (and don’t) know how to concisely contradict anonymous57’s summary without being indirect with regard to Elliot’s article. I could have simply said the summary is incorrect because I’m undecided about whether caffeine is bad in general or for me specifically, omitting any mention of Elliot’s article. I don’t think that would have actually been better WRT Elliot’s article though. The context of this thread implies I read and was unconvinced by the article but my revised statement doesn’t say that outright (maybe I just didn’t read the article yet, but maybe I did and was unconvinced). So it’s just more indirect, not better.

Any ideas about what I could have said to debate anonymous57’s summary of my position without being indirect WRT Elliot’s article?

Maybe it seems like that’s what I’m doing here. From my (conscious) perspective, I was getting drawn into a debate I didn’t seek and didn’t want to have. Maybe my subconscious wanted to have it, but if so I don’t know why. I really am undecided about caffeine and don’t want to take the pro-caffeine side in a debate.

I don’t object to that claim.

It seems like you got some of my point. Let’s try some other examples. I’ll start with one from a couple years ago because I think it makes a good example.

Summarizing: You said you considered whether Elliot was cult leader. You determined that he wasn’t. And a reason you gave is that he’s not charismatic like cult leaders.

Do you remember this and does the summary seem not wrong? (I know I left things out and changed the emphasis.) And do you see some negatives and undermining?

I remember what you’re talking about generally. I recall thinking and possibly writing something to the effect that Elliot doesn’t try to be charismatic. He doesn’t do things like post pictures or videos of himself, never mind the photoshopping & other enhancements people who are trying to be charismatic commonly do to their baseline appearance. He doesn’t polish the voice in his videos & podcasts for sounding smooth and authoritative. That sort of thing.

Possibly incorrectly, I assumed that he didn’t want to be charismatic and didn’t think he was charismatic because he wasn’t trying. I would have (and still would) find it very surprising if he was unaware, or was actually trying to be charismatic and failed, or if he thought he was already / naturally charismatic and was wrong. I kind of lumped it in with the social stuff / PUA: Elliot knows about it, and could be good at it if he wanted to try, but doesn’t because he thinks it’s bad and doesn’t want to.

FWIW I don’t think I’m charismatic, and I don’t try to be, because I think it’s bad. So it’s possible I was projecting my own beliefs onto Elliot.

I can see how if Elliot actually did want to be charismatic my comments would be a backhanded compliment & negative. Without specific quotes I don’t know how indirect (and hence undermining) it would have been. I deliberately tried to be direct in my statements above, but don’t know how direct I was originally and it’s plausible I wasn’t very / at all. I’d guess I was mainly focused on refuting the “cult leader” charge.

But this leads me to wonder: Why the particular (charismatic) instance? Elliot was quite clear with the title of this thread (“Caffeine is Bad”) what his position on caffeine is so I can see how it appeared I wanted to debate that even though I didn’t actually want to. OTOH while I could be wrong about Elliot not trying / wanting / thinking he is charismatic, I can’t think of anywhere he’s stated or implied a pro-charismatic position. So I don’t see how it could appear I wanted to debate that, indirectly or otherwise.

My guess is you have something in mind for “undermining” in this case other than an indirect debate about Elliot’s charisma, but I don’t know what it is.

You’re undermining ET in multiple ways in your response. This isn’t your first time doing that since you started talking with me.

Trying to take one thing at a time:

You’re somehow missing the larger undermining aspect from the example: you considering that ET might be a cult leader. That is not a thing one normally considers about somehow. So the consideration itself sends an (indirect) negative message.

This is troubling to me because:

  • I don’t consciously want to
  • I am actively trying not to
  • I don’t know what to do about it other than stop talking altogether, which I don’t think is the right answer

I didn’t recognize that as a negative message because I explicitly said he wasn’t a cult leader.

I can now see how it would be negative if it was said in a normal situation. In a normal context you’re right, being a cult leader is not something one normally considers about someone. So saying I considered it would definitely be negative.

However, unless I’m grossly misremembering the context I don’t think this was a normal situation. I remember Elliot being accused of being a cult leader multiple times by other people before I made my comment. I remember making the comment in response to someone accusing it again. I remember wanting to refute the accusation. I don’t think that’s a normal situation, and given that specific abnormal situation I think it is a normal thing to consider.

Do you disagree that it’s a normal thing to consider in the context of repeated accusations?

That’s why I thought this would be a good example. Undermining is often contrary to some more primary explicit message.

Giving attention to the cult accusation is much more undermining than determining “not a cult” is anti-undermining.

It’d take a lot more of a vigorous, pro-FI/ET post for it to have not been undermining. And that’s hard to do successfully because if you come off even a little like a sycophant or cult follower (or abuse victim with stockholme syndrome) then it doesn’t work and is undermining. It’s hard to really strongly take a side without people dismissing you as biased or worse. One of the standard ways to do it socially effectively is to focus more on attacking the critics (outgroup) rather than praising the ingroup, which is problematic.

What accusations? You didn’t frame your post that way. You didn’t quote and date any accusations or say that you considered the matter because of accusations. You were responding to a pseudonym who had recently joined the forum and was posting in obvious bad faith. You ignored the bad parts of his post and treated it like a legitimate post, asked him questions which implies he might say something worthwhile, and reinforced the cult thing that he’d just briefly mentioned with no arguments. Him saying it was ignorable since he made his bad faith so obvious. And you implied you’d already thought about the cult thing carefully before his indirect cult accusation made in passing while flaming someone else (which is actually better than considering it because of some obvious flaming).

BTW it’s easy to find the email and I’m not sure why you didn’t already. You seem to have multiple small memory errors about it which indicate bias due because they favor certain interpretations instead of random interpretations. They fit a pattern instead of being random errors. (Similarly, when you get the meanings of words wrong, like (lacking) charisma, the errors favor your positions instead of being random.)

2020-01-05: [FI] Is FI a Cult? Culture? (was: Evasion charge)

I don’t fully understand and agree with this. But I can recognize it as plausible and don’t want to argue against it.

Assuming it’s true, I think that given my level of knowledge & awareness I should have just avoided the topic altogether. Let me know if you disagree.

BTW there were other things in your message that prompted thoughts & questions. I didn’t write about them in the interest of keeping the post short and less complicated but I’ll list them below. If you want to talk about any of these instead or in addition to what I wrote about above I’m OK doing that:

  • Other accusations I remember (possibly incorrectly)
  • Recognizing the pseudonym was posting in obvious bad faith
  • Treating the post I was responding to as legitimate
  • Why I didn’t already find the email you were referring to
  • Looking at the email you were referring to, what memory errors did I make
  • What interpretations do those memory errors favor
  • How did I get the meanings of words like lacking and charisma wrong
  • What position do those word meaning errors favor
    And a couple of bigger picture items:
  • Ignoring social stuff vs. being intentional about avoiding it or having conscious goals with it
  • Is posting on CF as a hobby itself a form of undermining

I’d like to talk about this one if you actually didn’t recognize the bad faith. My current guess is instead that you did recognize it and ignored it on purpose (maybe to avoid meta discussion?).

Similarly, with the others, if you have some kind of significant disagreement or difference in perspective I think that’d be good to say something about.

It seems like some discussion progress is being made. Do you have more to say or do you want to move on to a quote from this thread?

I didn’t recognize it as bad faith. I think of bad faith as saying something you know is false. I didn’t (and don’t) see any indicators in the pseudonym’s message indicating he knew it was false. It was definitely mean and malicious/hostile, but I think of that as different from bad faith.

Maybe I don’t understand the concept of bad faith, or maybe I do understand the concept but don’t know what to look for to see it.

Good faith on a rationality-oriented forum involves truth seeking. He posted insults without arguments or reasoning. He wasn’t trying to engage in rational or good-faith debate. He was trying to flame people.

It’s possible to try to post good arguments but mistakenly post bad arguments including ad hominem arguments. That would be good faith because they were trying to make good arguments. Failure isn’t bad faith. However, he didn’t try to make good arguments but fail due to lack of skill. He tried to attack people.

I think I have a significant disagreement or difference in perspective (or lack knowlege about) all of them. I’ll start with the first one:

I wasn’t only or even primarily thinking about the list, I was also thinking about accusations I’d heard elsewhere. I recently searched curi’s blog and found the following:

Curiosity – Ann Coulter's Worst Article - Comment from October 2015

Hating people that challenge your ideas, and immediately thinking you’re superior to them, is a common symptom of a cult.

https://curi.us/files/ebooks/fi-kant.pdf - Indirect so possibly irrelevant (or not, as we have been discussing), from June 2017

if something cultish seems to be going on and certain views are not valued, I head quickly for the door.

Curiosity – Andy B Harassment and Four Strands - Comment referencing Discord from September 2019, which I was on (so saw there first, not on the blog).

This isn’t Philosophy, this is a cult!

There was also a non-public accusation of FI being a cult by someone I suggested FI to that I knew from another context (Libertarian Party). AFAIK they lurked only and never posted, and weren’t ever in contact with the harassers. They made the accusation to me privately and said they didn’t want to hear any more about FI.

These were all accusations I’d heard prior to the email you referenced. In hindsight at least 1 and probably more of these accusations were puppeteering from ET’s main criminal harasser. I didn’t know that when I wrote the email.

You haven’t actually expressed a disagreement with something that I said. It seems like maybe you don’t remember what I said. In addition to not stating a disagreement with me, you also didn’t quote any text that you were trying to disagree with.

I (at least) have a different perspective regarding:

My list of quotes was intended to specifically answer “What accusations?”.

Regarding framing, prior to my question you’d said:

In the list post you referenced, I quoted the most recent accusation, explained why I thought it was an accusation, and offered to retract if I misunderstood.

It’s true that I didn’t quote any other accusations or say that I’d considered it because of those other accusations. And it’s plausible that someone reading only that post who was unaware of the other accusations could get a negative rather than positive impression of FI / ET because I said I’d considered it.

But I don’t think that’s relevant to my question (“Do you disagree that it’s a normal thing to consider in the context of repeated accusations?”).

The context of repeated accusations existed, and most of it was public. So my question is, was having already considered it normal given that context?

The reason I think that’s important is because big picture I think we’re still talking about the issue of:

What’s important about the post you referenced regarding that issue is what I was thinking / designing when writing the post, not necessarily the impression someone reading the post would actually take from it. I consider what people take from my posts to also be an important issue - just not the one we’re primarily talking about right now.

Suppose, given my context, FI being a cult was a normal thing to have previously considered. In that case, I think mentioning that I’d considered it may have been socially ham-handed, but unlikely to have been part of a design to undermine curi.

On the other hand, if FI being a cult was an abnormal thing to have previously considered given my context, I think both having considered it and mentioning that I’d considered it are likely to have been due to some subconscious anti-curi ideas and designs.