Getting along

Tolerance, ghettoisation, xenophobic panic; Causes, pathologies and consequences of and suggestions for

Noisy chaos of notes about the cultivation of tolerance and cooperation between people in the presence of cultural, ethnic, sexual (etc) difference. An inverse to neofeudalism, and a twin perhaps to cooperation.


Have you noticed this is a loaded word now? Empathy, as in experiencing some approximation of someone’s emotions (which is what I was taught to call sympathy in school) is contentious as a basis of moral action, as a biassed and anecdotal way of allocating social goods. Paul Bloom champions this framing. See also Putanumonit Jacob. If we are acting based on sympathy, the thought goes, we are vulnerable to ethnic biases and resistent to evidence-based interventions that might actually make all people better off. Apparently, etymology notwithstanding, compassion is what, in this taxonomy, we call the understanding that other people have different an legitimate experiences that we can hope to improve without waiting to feel like them. I'm going to sidestep that particular question here, because I think that question is much more complicated than the headline empathy bad. But pity unexamined I will concede is a crap way of deciding what is good, sure.

The difficulty of inclusion

Simonovits, Kézdi, and Kardos (2017):

We report the results of an intervention that targeted anti-Roma sentiment in Hungary using an online perspective-taking game. We evaluated the impact of this intervention using a randomized experiment in which a sample of young adults played this perspective-taking game, or an unrelated online game. Participation in the perspective-taking game markedly reduced prejudice, with an effect-size equivalent to half the difference between voters of the far-right and the center-right party. The effects persisted for at least a month, and, as a byproduct, the intervention also reduced antipathy toward refugees, another stigmatized group in Hungary, and decreased vote intentions for Hungary’s overtly racist, far-right party by 10%. Our study offers a proof-of-concept for a general class of interventions that could be adapted to different settings and implemented at low costs.

I wonder how reproducing that one has gone?

There is evidence, I am told, that narrative can also improve your empathy for other people. (Johnson, Huffman, and Jasper 2014; Bormann and Greitemeyer 2015; Oatley 2016; Kidd and Castano 2013)

Diversity skills are not necessarily easy, though. I would like to know more about that.

Robin Hanson argues against irony for being outgroup-exclusionary. I don’t think blanket discouraging irony is plausible or desirable, but… the insight is useful. It is important to remember that indicators of in-group membership, such as irony, are shibboleths, not indicators of quality.

Musa al-Gharbi asks Who gets to define what is racist? and has some ideas. There is an interesting wedge there about the preferences of progressive activists supporting multiculturalism and the frequently-conservative People-of-Colour they speak for and how the dynamics of this representation plays out.

Law and fairness

Racial bias US police shootings controversy continues. Note to self to revisit SPRS and see how this plays out.

Online radicalisation

🏗: Read Paul Gill’s meta-meta-review of how terrorism recruits. I suspect that this might reveal interesting perspectives on how non-violent extremism recruits also, and polarisation happens etc.

Deep canvassing

Has a fascinating history as science, what with the famous LaCour study, which was fake, and the Broockman and Kalla study, which was real. There is a convenient Dave McRaney podcast on this theme.

For real this time: Talking to people about gay and transgender issues can change their prejudices.

Benefits of diversity

See diversity dividends.

The feelings of the relatively underprivileged previously-privileged

A keystone in the edifice of contemporary feudalism.

Keyphrase: The klansman calling the snowflake white.

  • Gamergate as future of the culture wars Turned out prescient.

  • 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

    I’m curious to see the demographics behind the Trump vote after this piece, which has some good lines, and a rather different and more interesting take on the dangers of video games than I am used to. But I want more data.

    In particular, this one’s not about disgruntled white baby boomer males, but about disgruntled disenfranchised youngish white males, and their proactive, rather sophisticated and techno-savvy mobilisation as a factor in the Bannonisation of politics.

    Gamergate: Anon Defends his Safe Space […]

    gamergaters believed that online sleuthing would uncover a tangible conspiracy about how game creators colluded to further a “Social Justice Warrior” agenda. Among many others, they hacked the Skype account of the indie game developer I was working for at the time, presumably reading our conversations about the game we were making looking for the moment when we uttered “now to further the secret SJW agenda”. What they found instead was my boss patiently explaining to me the best ways to make a video game. […]

    All that work cracking Skype accounts with wordlists did not yield the tangible reward of evidence of a cabal. The real world behaves differently than a video game. There were shades of grey. It disappointed. What you did and what you got for your efforts were muddled. It was more challenging than the safe spaces of a video game, carefully crafted to accommodate gamers and make them feel — well, the exact opposite of how they felt interacting in the real world — effective. In the fantasy world of the game, actions achieved ends.

    It was almost as if all these disaffected young men were waiting for a figure to come along who, having achieved nothing in his life, pretended as though he had achieved everything, who by using the tools of fantasy, could transmute their loserdom (in 4chan parlance, their “fail”), into “win”.

This thing about who the geeks are and whether they are in fact disadvantaged is a touch-point.

For a cultural-studies take which regards geekdom as a problem by trying to acquire the rights of other minorities, see Postmodern geekdom as simulated ethnicity.

For Scott Alexander eloquently arguing that lumping all geeks in together and disregarding their grievances is a problem, see Untitled:

There is a growing trend in Internet feminism that works exactly by conflating the ideas of nerd, misogynist, virgin, person who disagrees with feminist tactics or politics , and unlovable freak.

One argument of his is that the counterpoint to sensitive men arguing #notallmen, is that there is a strand of internet discourse that argues #yesallgeeks. There is also one about the danger of arguing that oppression and toxicity is a zero sum game. For a softer version, try Jon Ronson’s So you’ve been publicly shamed.

An archetypical example of actual male toxicity, was the aforementioned “gamergate”, where some males were pissed that merely most, rather than all, video games, are for them. These ’gaters ran around being shrill online and managed to legitimate a movement that had amongst them angry males who like righteously making rape threats at a putative conspiracy of women influencing video game coverage using their naughty vaginas.

A lot of this is about the spiraling unintended consequences of angry people attempting to have real discourse online, e.g. toxoplasma of rage effects.

  • Arthur Chu’s Of Gamers, Gates, and Disco Demolition: The Roots of Reactionary Rage has one particular bit of reportage on which concerns are legitimate and the battle over whose pain is real and legitimate.

    Underdogs, make no mistake, can be vicious and cruel and evil, all the more so because they have a grievance to justify their viciousness. But to be an underdog is to lack power. It means, by definition, that you’re weak, where the overdog is strong.

    I didn’t think how “legitimate criticisms” — like the legitimate criticisms of the materialism in the “disco lifestyle,” like legitimate criticisms of the cliquishness of the tiny indie video game scene — get used as fuel by reactionary hate mobs.

I’m not presuming angry reactionaries are people without legitimate grievances, although I really want to think about the reactionary and disproportionate and possibly long-term self-destructive responses here; esp scapegoating of that another party on the basis of being visible, other and/or involved, rather than plausibly to blame or malevolent, or free from oppression themselves. Just because the response is disproportionate, or ill-considered, or is harnessed for reactionary ends, should not be taken to mean something bad did not happen to the aggrieved people. Although if the thing (people) they are blaming is not the root cause and their strategy is not a real remedy it is of course an interesting question how this can be manipulated for even more nefarious ends.

For a lefty version of this problem, see The Soft Target:

Even more modest reformist goals sound increasingly forlorn at this end of modernity. […] All the institutions and systems involved in what seem to be the most awful, oppressive or unjust dimensions of everyday life in the 21st Century seem to be vulnerable to nothing but their own frailties and contradictions. The powerful are mostly behind walls, inside fortresses. They have the money and the influence to outlast or overwhelm most legal challenges. They don’t particularly fear mass protest, not that there seems to be much danger of protests being genuinely massive in the United States as they have been in many other countries. The political process is drowning in oligarchic money, and even if reformers get elected, they often find it nearly impossible to challenge entrenched interests or do much beyond tinker with the status quo.

Most targets are hard, both in the sense of “difficult” and “protected”. So what has happened in a lot of what passes for democratic politics in the 21st Century, particularly in the United States, is a preference for soft targets: institutions that have to remain ‘open’ in some sense to protest and dissent, or individuals and groups who are compelled for some reason or another to remain accessible and responsive to public criticism.

Directable generalised rage is a fungible coin in modern politics. See: “I don’t have a job because black people/asians/latinxs/women took it”. There is no reason that this cannot be true; the question is how society regards fairness around such things.

Calling out/calling in

AP News. 2016. “Google Searches Itself to Build More Productive Teams.” AP News, 2016.

Bernhard, Helen, Urs Fischbacher, and Ernst Fehr. 2006. “Parochial Altruism in Humans.” Nature 442 (7105): 912–15.

Bohannon, John. 2016. “For Real This Time: Talking to People About Gay and Transgender Issues Can Change Their Prejudices.” Science, April.

Bormann, Daniel, and Tobias Greitemeyer. 2015. “Immersed in Virtual Worlds and Minds: Effects of in-Game Storytelling on Immersion, Need Satisfaction, and Affective Theory of Mind.” Social Psychological and Personality Science 6 (6): 646–52.

Bowles, Samuel, and Herbert Gintis. 2004. “The Evolution of Strong Reciprocity: Cooperation in Heterogeneous Populations.” Theoretical Population Biology 65 (1): 17–28.

Broockman, David, and Joshua Kalla. 2016. “Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-to-Door Canvassing.” Science 352 (6282): 220–24.

Cesario, Joseph, David J. Johnson, and William Terrill. 2018. “Is There Evidence of Racial Disparity in Police Use of Deadly Force? Analyses of Officer-Involved Fatal Shootings in 2015–2016:” Social Psychological and Personality Science, June.

Dinesen, Peter Thisted, and Kim Mannemar Sønderskov. 2013. “Ethnic Diversity and Social Trust: The Role of Exposure in the Micro-Context.” Ethnic Diversity and Social Capital.

Duhigg, Charles. 2016. “What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team.” The New York Times: Magazine, February 25, 2016.

Horwitz, Sujin K., and Irwin B. Horwitz. 2007. “The Effects of Team Diversity on Team Outcomes: A Meta-Analytic Review of Team Demography.” Journal of Management 33 (6): 987–1015.

Hunt, Vivian, Dennis Layton, and Sara Prince. 2015. “Why Diversity Matters.” McKinsey & Company.

Jackson, Matthew O. 2009. “Social Structure, Segregation, and Economic Behavior.” Presented as the Nancy Schwartz Memorial Lecture, February.

Johnson, Dan R., Brandie L. Huffman, and Danny M. Jasper. 2014. “Changing Race Boundary Perception by Reading Narrative Fiction.” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 36 (1): 83–90.

Johnsrud, Linda K., and Kathleen C. Sadao. 1998. “The Common Experience of "Otherness": Ethnic and Racial Minority Faculty.” The Review of Higher Education 21 (4): 315–42.

Kidd, David Comer, and Emanuele Castano. 2013. “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind.” Science 342 (6156): 377–80.

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Lublin, Joann S. 2015. “New Report Finds a ‘Diversity Dividend’ at Work.” WSJ. January 20, 2015.

Magazine, Contexts. n.d. “Who Gets to Define What’s ‘Racist?’ - Contexts.” Accessed May 23, 2020.

Mohdin, Aamna. 2016. “After Years of Intensive Analysis, Google Discovers the Key to Good Teamwork Is Being Nice.” Quartz. February 26, 2016.

Nannestad, Peter, Gert Tinggaard Svendsen, Peter Thisted Dinesen, and Kim Mannemar Sønderskov. 2014. “Do Institutions or Culture Determine the Level of Social Trust? The Natural Experiment of Migration from Non-Western to Western Countries.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 40 (4): 544–65.

Oatley, Keith. 2016. “Fiction: Simulation of Social Worlds.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 20 (8): 618–28.

Peter Skerry. 2002. “Beyond Sushiology: Does Diversity Work?” Brookings Institution. December 1, 2002.

Richerson, Peter J., and Robert Boyd. 2001. “The Evolution of Subjective Commitment to Groups: A Tribal Instincts Hypothesis.” Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment 3: 186–220.

Ross, Cody T., Bruce Winterhalder, and Richard McElreath. 2020. “Racial Disparities in Police Use of Deadly Force Against Unarmed Individuals Persist After Appropriately Benchmarking Shooting Data on Violent Crime Rates.” Social Psychological and Personality Science, June, 194855062091607.

Rutherford, Alex, Dion Harmon, Justin Werfel, Alexander S. Gard-Murray, Shlomiya Bar-Yam, Andreas Gros, Ramon Xulvi-Brunet, and Yaneer Bar-Yam. 2014. “Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence.” PLoS ONE 9 (5): e95660.

Simonovits, Gábor, Gábor Kézdi, and Péter Kardos. 2017. “Seeing the World Through the Other’s Eye: An Online Intervention Reducing Ethnic Prejudice.” American Political Science Review, November, 1–8.

Sunstein, Cass R. 2018. “Growing Outrage.” SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3097224. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.

Syrett, Stephen, and Leandro Sepulveda. 2011. “Realising the Diversity Dividend: Population Diversity and Urban Economic Development.” Environment and Planning A 43 (2): 487–504.

“Why Diversity Initiatives Fail.” 2019. The Chronicle of Higher Education. November 6, 2019.