The counter argument to “women don’t have penises” can be summarized with this contemporaneous example from Newsweek:
“Well, since gender identity is not determined by what kind of genitals someone has, a person with a female gender identity might well have a penis. In other words, yes, some women do have penises.”
This is true – if you use the same definition for “person with a female gender identity” and “woman.” And, therefore, it is boringly trivial.
Since the question under consideration is whether women can have penises, simply substituting the word “women” in your conclusion for the phrase “people with a female gender identity” in your premises dishonestly enlists tautology as a defense.
Assuming your conclusion through poorly executed semantic trickery – ‘gender identity’ is exactly the same as ‘sex’ – does not advance your cause. Just because you think (“feel” in the parlance) that your wife is a hat doesn’t mean you can wear her on your head.
Let me clarify Newsweek‘s defense of calling penises female genitalia (changes emphasized): “Well, since gender identity is not determined by what kind of genitals someone has, a person with a female gender identity might well have a penis. In other words, yes, some people with a female gender identity do have penises.”
There are women who are objecting to this conflation of ‘gender identity’ with ‘sex.’ I welcome them to the club of those who’ve been objecting since the ’60s, to the idea that sex roles are totally socially constructed. I celebrate the fact we’re all now subject to deplorableness.
I don’t expect the editors at Newsweek to understand logical thinking most of us learned in grade school, but it’s worse than that. That meaningless syllogism emanates from the Ivory Towers of the University of Nottingham, where its author is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. It’s likely, therefore, she is familiar with the logical requirements of a syllogism. It’s equally likely she rejects logic itself as patriarchal, heteronormative, colonialist, and misogynist; or some combination of all of those.
How did universities worldwide come to be hotbeds of this delusion? I’m working on a post to explain that, which will be published in a day or three.
*With credit to President Merkin Muffley who said, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”
**How long before the word transgression is banned?
This is the most important article I’ve read in 2019. Kudos to Allen Farrington.
I have struggled to make these points to others for a long time, and am generally viewed as a curmudgeon (charitably), or a paranoid fanatic (more typical) for my efforts. There is a bias toward the fallacious “I’ve got nothing to hide,” response, because the harm is unseen. People don’t yet grasp that they are not the ones to decide if they have something to hide*.
Farrington delineates the harm brilliantly.
Given that our rulers feel compelled to ‘do something’ about social media’s disdain for its peons, among whom they number, we can be sure government will make it worse and further entrench the incumbents.
Farrington’s comments on blockchains, free speech, Gab (of which I’m a long time member), Ethereum (which George Gilder referenced in a recent, related interview), and anti-trust are enlightening. The economic analysis is thought provoking. The political implications are consequential. A slice:
“It is not actually free,” [Facebook co-founder Chris] Hughes tells us, “and it certainly isn’t harmless.” But both [Hughes and Senator Elizabeth Warren] seem to believe that Facebook, Google and others succumb to the temptation to inflict such harm solely because they are big. Hence, the solution is to make them smaller. It doesn’t appear to have occurred to either of them that they are big because they inflict such harm.
Facebook and Google are not Standard Oil and AT&T. They operate business models whose network effects tend towards monopoly, due to continuous redeployment of increasing returns to scale. Users pay not with money but with data, which Facebook and Google then turn into productive capital that creates products for another group entirely. The quality of the service to the users—the unknowing and hence unrewarded capital providers—scales quadratically with the size of the network and, since they are free in monetary terms, any serious attempt to compete would require monumentally more capital than could ever generate a worthwhile return. The proper regulatory approach is not to cut off the heads of these hydras one at a time, but to acknowledge that these are fundamentally new economic entities.
Artificial intelligence makes this all the more imperative. By AI, I mean the honing of proprietary algorithms on enormous complexes of unwittingly generated data to identify patterns no human could—identifications that will be re-applied to dynamic pricing decisions and content filtering in order to make what will surely be called efficiency gains and improvements to the user experience. This would all be fine and dandy—as opposed to highly ethically suspect—if the contributors of the data had any idea of their own involvement, either in the contribution itself or in the eventual gain in efficiency. What is really happening here is that information that previously only existed transiently and socially will soon be turned into a kind of productive capital that will only have value in massive aggregations. This is why those who generate the data are happy to do so for free, for it is of no monetary value to them, and it is why the only people who will derive any productive value from it will be the already very well capitalized.
This is an unflattering, but perfectly accurate, description of the business models of Facebook and Google, who stalk you wherever you go on the web, wherever you bring your smartphone, and wherever you interact in any way with one of their trusted partners, all in an effort to manipulate your sensory environment and slip in as many ads as possible. This is so effective that they buy data from outside their platforms to supplement the potency of their manipulations…
[I]f something is free, it is difficult if not impossible to discern the kind of meaningful information that one might from a price in a market. The willingness to pay a price indicates a sincere belief and an honest commitment. There are costs to insincere or dishonest behaviour that will simply be dispersed throughout the network, rather than borne by the perpetrator.
It is not about the value of an individual’s data, “it is of no monetary value to them.”
You are not just the product Google and Facebook sell; you are the enabling capital in a vast pyramid scheme.
How can we preserve our identity capital? How can we price our data? By making identity data scarce:
“Participants in the [redesigned] network are discouraged from being dishonest or insincere by the price and permanence of their scarce identity…
Several clearly desirable features immediately present themselves. For example, the issue of gatekeepers who exist for technical reasons assigning themselves political authority would evaporate…
So here’s my plea: stop using big tech and venture into the wild.”
Yes. The network effect can only be blunted if individuals stop enhancing it. Call it utopian, but boycotting Google and Facebook is something you control, and doesn’t depend on Senator Warren’s tender, collectivist mercies. Or, Facebook’s Social Justice agenda of the day.
“If a critical mass of users switches away from Google or Facebook, their collapse will be surprisingly quick. This is a very dramatic potential outcome, and I suspect it is more likely that, at a certain rate of user emigration, these companies, and others, will adapt their policies to be more free and open, so as to better compete in this new environment.”
The article is not a long read, but if you want to know what I’m talking about when I mention George Gilder, you’ll want to watch this 45 minute interview regarding Gilder’s book Life After Google. I wished for more Gilder and less interviewer at times, and more depth on some ideas, but for a general audience it’s not a bad look at Google, AI, blockchain, and other things related to Farrington’s post. A few gems from Gilder.
“The old cliché is often mocked though basically true: there’s no reason to worry about surveillance if you have nothing to hide. That mindset creates the incentive to be as compliant and inconspicuous as possible: those who think that way decide it’s in their best interests to provide authorities with as little reason as possible to care about them. That’s accomplished by never stepping out of line. Those willing to live their lives that way will be indifferent to the loss of privacy because they feel that they lose nothing from it. Above all else, that’s what a Surveillance State does: it breeds fear of doing anything out of the ordinary by creating a class of meek citizens who know they are being constantly watched.”
Part of his reply was, “It is interesting that this topic is consuming so much energy – and the unintended consequences of the efforts of those seeking change.” The assumption that the results are unintended is charitable. And self-disarming.
There is a VERY tiny number of people for whom the trans-absolutist contention that a man who says he’s a woman is a woman even matters.
Nonetheless, they are driving the debate over whether the fundamental concepts “male” and “female” have any biological or cultural meaning. That is intentional. In fact, it’s the core intent.
I want to believe that individuals like “Jessica” Yaniv are simply profoundly disturbed. Eventually to be dismissed. Yet, they have a following and are supported by large corporations, government, academics, and frothing at the mouth Twitter warriors. They are distorting the public perception of victimhood and oppression, while redefining “violence” to include pronouns.
In this article the author refers to Yaniv as a woman because he would otherwise be courting legal jeopardy in Canada. Yaniv is a sick man, being indulged by government (behind which indulgence is a gun) out of fear of the fraction of a fraction of (by one estimate involving 19 US states) .52% of the population attesting gender dysphoria.
I reluctantly include a link to social media threads between Yaniv and ~14 year old girls wherein, among other vile conversations, he is asking for advice about how to talk to the girls’ peers about tampons and pads when he is in a female locker room/bathroom. Until recently the records had been sealed by Canadian courts.
This link is supplied for documentary purposes. The content is disturbing, though the site is safe.
This man is heinously twisted. He is a sexual predator. A person possessing a penis and testicles who insists on a Brazilian wax job from 16 different economically marginal, immigrant women.
Using the word “man,” to describe him may be verboten in Canada. It is already verboten on Twitter. Meghan Murphy and Lindsay Shepherd were banned from Twitter for suggesting Yaniv is not a woman.
The charitable explanation fails to account for this:
“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.””
― Theodore Dalrymple
Maybe Yaniv is simply a useful idiot taking advantage of an inflamed social zeitgeist to indulge his sexual deviancy while making a few bucks, but the purpose of those who originate such ideas is not to protect the marginalized, it is to marginalize and undermine Judeo-Christian mores, the idea of the nuclear family, freedom of conscience, and ultimately Western Civilization.
And even useful idiots are not innocent. They are culpable for their practiced, willful ignorance.
Look at where we’ve come. Children as young as 6 are being mutilated and poisoned to change their sex. Martina Navratilova, formerly a respected lesbian spokeswoman, is defenestrated for disagreement with the ‘men can literally be women’ trope. Men are winning women’s sports competitions. Female Brazilian waxers are being sued for refusing to manipulate a penis and testicles. Churches are being riven. Language is being radically distorted. College dorms are being resegregated according to identity-group fractures. Quotas based on sex, and sexual identity, are in place or being contemplated. Males are routinely vilified for their chromosomes. The Army pays for sex-change surgery. Libraries sponsor drag-queens reading to toddlers. Legislators cheer themselves for approving abortions at any time if the mother’s health is at risk (without defining ‘health’). Speech is being compelled. See also.
This is not an exhaustive list. It’s just about sex, and even then incomplete. If you take ‘intersectionality’ (the SJW claim that all ‘victimhood’ is related) into account, the list grows much longer.
It does explain why so much energy is being expended: Those consequences were foreseen and desired. Assuming otherwise is dangerous.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) exhorts Netroots Nation on Saturday:
“[W]e don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice. If you’re worried about being marginalized and stereotyped, please don’t even show up because we need you to represent that voice.”
In a phrase, “Stay where your ‘voice’ came from. Don’t bother those of us who are anointed.”
So, what is that stereotyped brown/black/Muslim/queer ‘voice’ of which she’s so proud?
It certainly isn’t Ted Cruz, Thomas Sowell, Ayan Hirsi Ali, or Milo Yiannopoulos. And she left out yellow people (just like Harvard does), and red people (like Elizabeth Warren me – at 25%). Which is exclusionary racism. Right?
Pressley is the black spokesdrone for the “The Squad” (Herself, Ilhan Omar, AOC and Rashida Tlaib). When her definitions of your opinions do not match her estimate of the intrinsic value of your melanin content/religion/sexual preference you aren’t allowed a ‘voice’.
She and her fellow Squadders insist any criticism of their opinions can only be based on ideas so deplorable as to justify erasing your right to freedom of conscience.
Explaining cognitive dissonance to these people would be an interesting exercise.
Well, it isn’t possible to caricature the Left any more. It’s downhill from the headline.
The article itself is a Progressive apologist’s semantic-quibble, word-salad fantasy. The comments are worth some attention. At 5PM there are 156. So it’s not short if you want the good stuff.
Quillette is an enterprise worthy of support. Which I have not yet done because it’s through Patreon – which JBP felt compelled to leave. He is creating a competitor. Stay tuned to Quillette. I don’t think their long term future is with Patreon.
From one of my comments:
“[W]e can’t simply assume that the IDW is politically diverse because many of its members hold policy positions that have traditionally put them on the left. If they generally hold positions that place them on the right with respect to the culture war (i.e., regarding issues such as identity, structural oppression, and privilege), then they could very well lack political and ideological diversity on questions that are becoming more and more central to cultural and political discourse.”
IDK, maybe we can assume “the IDW is politically diverse” when defending ideological diversity is the whole point; while the core tenet of today’s Progressives is that ideological diversity must be stamped out.
The substance of disagreements internal to Progressivism is characterized by debating micro-aggressions based on identity-victim-group creds. The substance of internal disagreements for the IDW is, shall we say, more diverse than that.
The IDW is (more nearly) ideologically neutral in allowing other ideologies to be professed. Requiring the IDW to profess no opinion on anything, is a joke, right? Apparently not:
“…Emmons is claiming that members of the IDW are classical liberals with a distinct set of beliefs (individual liberty, personal responsibility, free speech, rationalism, logic, critical thought), but also that they are essentially ideology-free (not in service to any ideology, not driven by any ideology, not proponents of any ideology, questioning the basis of all ideologies).”
One might say, instead, that the IDW is open to the possibility that other ideologies may have some points. The Progressives deny this possibility. One might also observe that ideology-free means allowing other ideologies, even if you disagree with them. I.e., not “driven” to impose your ideology via politics.
“[T]his ideological shift carries over to activism, leading to a greater desire to regulate speech, to ensure more diversity, and to prioritise structural changes. These accompany a shift away from classical liberalism as a model of human society and behaviour.”
The “ideological shift” left is not a shift to any new ideology, it’s just the ancient totalitarian impulse being applied to First World problems. Problems created in part by Progressive ideological rigidity applied to moving the Overton window.
I read “activism” as suppression of any mode of thinking other than Progressive, “regulate speech” as just what it says, “more diversity” as something desirable only so long as it excludes diversity of thought, and “structural change” as totalitarian.
The central point Mr. Harris is making is a diversion, for all its false concern about IDW diversity. Any time some naif tries to build a bridge to the professionally aggrieved, they’ll find the bridge (and their careers) blown up before it extends half way – by people with thumbs in their ears, and with middle fingers extended toward the bridge builders.
See also: Not the ‘fairest’ sex, if the powerful logical and emotional arguments against men competing, at their whim, with women in sports does not galvanize resistance to the SJW idea of “equity,” then nothing will.
Here’s just one implication, Free Speech: People are being kicked off social media for “misgendering” men who think they are women. Let them think it, but don’t put them in the 100 yard dash with chromosomal women.
Governments are beginning to compel use of made up pronouns on University Campuses. If the transgenderists are allowed to destroy sports, they’ll force that on the rest of us.
I asked some questions in my post of February 17th about a suggestion that conservative political philosophy needs emotional appeals rather than rational arguments:
The writer [Gorka] makes a vital point that most people who support capitalism miss: we will never win the argument about capitalism being superior to socialism because many voters are only interested in emotions, not arguments. Accordingly they feel that capitalists are mean and socialists are compassionate, concerned about people. The only way to be compassionate is to take from the capitalists and give to them since capitalists got rich by making them poor. Unless and until conservatives can make a compassion appeal they will lose politically more and more. Forget trying to reason with people for whom reason is never a part of their feelings. So far Democrats have won the compassion battle. Republicans have always been out-compassioned. A completely different approach is needed. I think it can be done. Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments. They don’t win with apolitical voters who vote based on feelings.
I said, “[So,] We should take the Ocasio-Cortez Green New Dealas she suggests… “aspirational”; and respond with our own surreal proposals because we can’t win otherwise? What would that argument look like?”
I was facetious (unicorns and fairy wings were featured) in answer to my own question, but the suggestion we should go full compassion mode is still knocking about in my head, so I will attempt to provide some more serious answers.
Let’s start with defining “emotional argument.”
Politically, propaganda is the first definition that pops into my head. But let me suggest a more neutral definition: Emotional ‘argument’ appeals to deeply held moral intuitions. What those intuitions are matters.
For example, the Left often succeeds by touching instinctive feelings about fairness versus cheating and exploitation. They are successful with this in part by inflaming class envy. “Tax cuts for the rich must be stopped!”
Take the current MSM attack on the Republican tax cuts, “REFUNDS ARE DOWN!”. Well, yes. And that’s to be expected isn’t it?
If you make $30,000 at a tax rate of 10%, your annual taxes would project to be $3,000. Since there are many vagaries in the tax code and life circumstances, you decide to withhold an extra 10% per month, or $25.
If your tax rate is cut to 9%, your taxes would be $2,700, and your contingency 10% extra withholding becomes $22.50 per month.
At the end of the year everything works out perfectly and all your extra withholding – the money you loaned the government – is refunded. In the first case your refund is $300. In the second case it’s $270. Your refund is lower. But you paid $300 less in taxes.
Some people are disappointed that the government let them keep an extra $300 because their refund (money they gave the government they didn’t have to, and irrelevant to the concept of ‘tax cut’) is $30 lower. They could have just given the government an extra $100 a month if the higher refund was so important.
What ‘compassionate’ explanation can be given to people who use payroll taxes as a savings account on which no interest is paid? What ‘conservative’ emotional appeal could possibly apply? Only a rational argument will do.
One compassionate meme we would need is an appeal to individual responsibility – which the Left overwhelmingly ignores because it would blunt their class envy rhetoric. Leftists see fairness as equality of outcome. Anything else is prima facie evidence of oppression.
The Left continually insists the ‘rights’ of this or that victim group are being violated by a dominant group of ‘oppressors,’ and they never talk about their own responsibilities. They’re too busy telling you what your responsibility is to ‘victims.’
I contend the root problem isn’t a perception that conservatives lack compassion. It’s education.
The Millennials can’t remember very much – and they don’t learn very much either. It’s easy being hot for socialism or communism when you actually have a very little idea of what it is and what it did throughout the 20th century. And the Ys have that ignorance in spades; one third of them think that George W Bush killed more people than Stalin and 42 per cent have never heard of Mao – but over 70 per cent agree with Bernie Sanders. Some research suggests that only 15 per cent actually have a correct understanding of socialism… To be fair, that’s not strictly their fault; that attaches itself again to their Boomer grandparents who have been in charge of our failing education systems during this time. Combine the modern indoctrination-cum-dumbification taking place in schools and universities with the attention span-killing impact of information technology and social media, and you have a barely literate cohort, which is simply not equipped with the necessary mental tools to learn about the real world even if they wanted to.
Any surprises that socialism is now nearly synonymous with Gen Y?…
Millennials… are said to be unrealistic and have both the inflated expectations of life and the inflated perceptions of selves. They think the world owes them a living – a good one too – though without necessary too much effort. Things came very easily to them when they were growing up; when that suddenly stops – when the reality finally intrudes – they get angry, frustrated, lost: the world is deeply unfair and is conspiring against them… Having been told their whole lives how special they are, they tend to be over-sensitive and find it difficult to cope with criticism or obstacles…
Socialism is the response of a spoiled child when faced with the world that does not genuflect to its every wish the way their parents did – the world as it is must therefore be evil and has to be changed to something radically different. Gen Y, of course, did not just magically became [sic] the way they are – they were brought up like that…
For a rational approach, I’m going to turn to an educator whose message is attractive to many angry, frustrated, and lost millennials: Professor Jordan Peterson. If Peterson has a single main point, it might be that personal responsibility is the root of meaning in life, lack of which I think is the millennials’ angst.
We’ll take a brief look at his common sense (at least it used to be) insight into the benefits of individual responsibility and a peek at the biological basis for moral intuitions of fairness.
This clip starts at 32:25. Be sure to watch until at least 35:06, but just after that there a Q&A which starts with a question about rights.
“Now, you’ve got something to sell to young people. You can sell them freedom of speech, and you can sell them responsibility.” We could try. We could start in our educational system by eliminating participation trophies in Kindergarten, and ‘Identity Studies’ and safe spaces in Universities.
I do not know how these ideas can be turned into 30 second ‘branding messages,’ but you could start with (from the Q&A at about 40:39) “Your capacity for speech is divine. It’s the thing that generates order from chaos… Nothing brings a better world into being than the stated truth.” It’s worth it to just keep watching after that.
That isn’t an empirical defense of free speech. It might even be called an emotional appeal, but here is Peterson’s rational defense of free speech:
Interviewer (Cathy Newman, hostile): Why should your right to freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?
Peterson: Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable. […] You’re doing what you should do, which is digging a bit to see what the hell is going on. And that is what you should do. But you’re exercising your freedom of speech to certainly risk offending me, and that’s fine. More power to you, as far as I’m concerned.
… a few seconds pass…
Peterson: (chuckling kindly): Ha. Gotcha.
Interviewer: You have got me. You have got me. I’m trying to work that through my head. It took awhile. It took awhile. It took awhile.
It will take awhile to fix academia. It took a long time to break it.
That excerpt is from a highly recommended interview which ran on Britain’s Channel 4, which I will describe as a half hour tour de force of rational argumentation demolishing Leftwing knee-jerk compassion. If you haven’t seen it, go here. Fourteen million people already have. I think the vast majority of those were interested in the rational points about fairness.
Now, what can the origins of the moral intuition of fairness tell us? The clip below starts with Peterson describing experiments observing rats at play. Watch at least up to about 20:20, where he begins to talk about chimpanzees and then postmodernism. (That is well worth a listen, too, and it relates to this post, but the rats segment is sufficient to the question of human moral intuition about fair play.)
“Rules across the set of all games,” is a vital observation. People who know children will have observed how a 2 or 3 year old reacts to losing a game, or even a roll of dice; anger, tears, withdrawal. If a child hasn’t internalized the concept of “the set of games” by the time they’re 4, it’s likely they never will. Other children will not want to play with them, because they are poor sports. And adults will find them unpleasant to be around, because such children have never abandoned the idea of zero-sum interactions. I suspect this is at least a partial explanation for the existence of SJW’s, because their brand includes participation trophies, safe spaces, and unearned self esteem.
It is, therefore, a yuge problem for Donald Trump that he brands things as zero-sum: He wins; “They” lose. His trade policy is perhaps the best example, but hardly the only one. This doesn’t excuse his opponents’ excesses, but it makes it far easier for them to portray him as an ‘evil’ conservative. And to portray conservatism as compassionless. (One could argue the emotional appeal we really need is that “compassionless” is what we should want from government, but that’s another post.) Trump’s default emotional appeal is to something other than fairness, and his past business conduct simply cements the meme.
For social animals, success is more about being invited to play than winning every game. This deeply held moral intuition starts with biology and spreads to culturally enforced norms. It is not, as postmodernists would have it, solely about dominance and submission carving us into identity groups. The idea that power is everything informs much of the Left’s claims that they’re compassionate, even though when put into practice their ideas inevitably result in misery. They have seized the high ground on “good intentions.” Compassion and good intentions are not at all the same thing.
Jordan Peterson’s ideas are very popular among millions of young people immersed in the nihilist orthodoxy spewing from our institutions of higher education. They have excellent attention spans for solutions to their angst. They like Peterson precisely because his dozens of academic online lectures each offer a couple of hours of rational arguments about pursuing meaning in life, in spite of the suffering inherent in being alive. The Left cannot compete.
Maybe it isn’t overtly emotional appeals we need to enable rational discussion, maybe it’s rational discussion we need to rouse appropriate emotion. There is an audience.
Peterson’s rational ideas are emotionally compelling for those seeking meaningful lives. You only have to read a few of the letters he’s received to understand the desperate need for substance, not branding. This is not to say he’s convincing the committed Leftists (far from it, they despise him), or that he’s reached universal pop-cultural awareness, but people are bringing their own need for meaning to him. In droves. Maybe a way to combat the fantasies of Ocasio-Cortez is to support Peterson.
To close, another source for an appeal to moral intuition comes from a man considered of the left while he lived. How much times have changed will be clear if you read Kurt Vonnegut’s quite short story Harrison Bergeron.
This story examines what happens when everyone is MADE to be equal in the cause of ‘fairness’. Maybe the Koch brothers can be persuaded to finance re-releasing the 1995 movie based on the story. Some of our budding socialists might get a clue that good intentions have to be aligned with good results.
The Other Club has had a lot to say about free speech, so here are some selections on that topic from the past: Rotted links, mysterious artifacts from the Blogger editor constraints, and interesting HTML from converting to WordPress included: