Undermining (was: Curiosity – Caffeine Is Bad)

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.

This makes sense now, but I didn’t notice it. I noticed the hostility, but not presence or lack of argument. And I didn’t connect lack of argument to bad faith. And even if I had identified bad faith I don’t think I’d know the difference in how to respond to a hostile poster.

I probably have an overly narrow set of responses to illegitimacy. Like if a post is spam or off-topic or something like that I either ignore or at most ask for it to be deleted. I don’t know how to give a substantive reply to a post I consider illegitimate.

I’m struggling to figure out how to continue productively. We’re already deeply nested in the discussion and you’re branching it heavily by having many objections and disagreements. That’s problematic enough. It’s hard to talk when one can’t use sub-examples and sub-arguments without a bunch of controversy and a new big debate.

But then after the list of disagreements, what happened next? Your discussion of the first one was long, contained many errors (another potential source of branching) and, worse, was framed too badly to engage with. So I wrote a short attempt to clarify the framing. You responded at length, introducing many new errors, while still not adequately clarifying the framing.

There is an ongoing issue where, at many different nesting levels of the conversation, you introduce many new errors (or more neutrally we can call it lots of additional complexity). Consequently, it’s very hard to ever get back to earlier topics even while ignoring most of the problems as I have been.

Your viewpoint and all its many disagreements and ignorances would be hard to engage with on its own. Adding in frequent derailing due to skill errors (some of which may actually be due to bias etc.) makes it really hard to talk about anything. And you have for years not wanted to try to improve your skills.

Multiple times in this discussion I’ve tried to keep things simpler and focused on narrower issues. You have been uncooperative and kept introducing complexity into the discussion that you don’t have the skill to handle, partly because you lack the skill to even recognize complexity and manage how much you add to the discussion, let alone deal with it once it’s added.

I am also. I have considered that it may be too complicated for me to reach a conclusion about whether my subconscious is trying to undermine curi.

Do you have an alternative proposal?

I have some ideas but I don’t think any of them are good.

I have for years not wanted to develop and follow a coherent plan to improve my skills. It doesn’t sound like a fun or rewarding set of activities.

Suggesting that becoming rational and skilled is unfun and (even more ridiculously) unrewarding is absurd. It’s more fun and rewarding to go through life so irrational and incompetent that you can’t hold a productive discussion? Readers are going to come away thinking you don’t mean what you said.

What could you mean? Perhaps that you don’t really regard yourself as unable to have a productive conversation due to lack of skills, and don’t regard our conversation as an example of that. Or the clearest thing you seem to be hinting at is that CF’s learning materials and philosophical ideas are unfun and unrewarding. But instead of saying that and giving reasons or examples which could lead to progress, you hint at it with no details, and with deniability that you said it, so it’s an undermining attack rather than feedback suitable for engaging with.

I tried to end the discussion (unless there was a productive response or I had a new idea) and you tried to bait additional responses (from me, ET, or any CF fan) by saying something especially nasty, which is an especially bad, misleading comment for the discussion to end on. That is a pretty typical action in our society – it’s part of the personality type I was trying to explain in this topic that you have. It fits a standard pattern of how people behave. You were losing my attention so you lashed out and behaved extra badly to try to get more attention. That’s a way of trying to pressure and control people, (you want me to behave differently than I want to behave) and the chance it happens later is a downside of speaking to you at all in the first place. There’s ambiguity (as usual) because perhaps you’d actually rather you didn’t receive a reply, and your goal was more about ending in a way that raises your social status while lowering the status of your opponents.

I was trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to take responsibility for the situation. Developing and following a coherent plan is something I’d need to do myself, not something that CF provides, at least not without hiring someone to give me specific help/tutoring.

That was not my conscious intent; I don’t want to pressure or control people. But I concede it’s plausible I have a subconscious process with that intent.

At least consciously what I think I’d prefer is people (including me) doing their best to ignore social status stuff.

A post was merged into an existing topic: Doubtingthomas Topic