The Battle for the Soul of the Left: The IDW Debates (ideas of @safeortrue vs @EricRWeinstein) Thread with Links (to really *understand* the ideas here, you probably need to read the links, if you haven’t already). 1/n ending in END
Part of what has inspired the rise of the Intellectual Dark Web has been the rise of an intolerant, authoritarian, anti-democratic radical social justice left. For an intro see my essay: The Reality of the Rise of an Intolerant and Radical Left on Campus
In this video, @EricRWeinstein, who coined “IDW,” refers to transformation of originally reasonable ideas, such as privilege, intersectionality&social constructivism into a batshit crazy modern authoritarian political movement. He calls it the “upgrade.”
BUT, @safeortrue, who has a long history of superb critiques of the radical left, steps in with a trilogy of critiques of the IDW. You should read them all, here are the first two: Caricaturing the Left Doesn’t Benefit the Intellectual Dark Web
Uri argued (among other things) that IDW doesn’t engage ideas of the new “upgrade” left. I pushed back, arguing he got it mostly backwards: lots of folks, IDW¬, have TRIED to engage the ‘upgrade’ left and have been largely ignored.
Open Tweet (short thread) to @safeortrue (others welcome, but pls stay civil), In your last 2 @Quillette pieces, you argued there is an emerging partial alliance between IDW “classical liberals” & the moderate right, and pt’d out that classic liberalism is not NOT ideological. 1/n
So far so good. Here is your conclusion to your 2nd essay: I have some questions. These are genuine questions.
An emerging feature of the pro(re?)gressive left is refusal to accept evidence as bearing on controversial social issues EXCEPT when that issue supports its views. This is built into much of the rhetoric, which is variations on “disagree and it proves you are an ‘ist'”.
You see this in academia all the time, where mathematicians and physicsts (see Strumia controversies) have brought Grievance intersectionality whole hog, and promote studies showing bias and almost never acknowledge the existence of counter-evidence.
It is almost as if the main purpose of presenting evidence is to give on a veneer of scientificiness, so one can claim, “Hey, its science!”
The idea is plausibly interpretable as: “Exploit evid to advance one’s political goals. We are not here to even-handedly take the full scope of the evidence and 1st reach a conclusion about what it says before advancing political ends.”
A response to^ among many on the modern pro(re?)gressive left is some variant of “anyone who makes that sort of argument is simply reifying privilege and power.”
The problem here does not seem to be the IDW-types. The pro(re)gressive left, when it acts as described above — and I do think that is a lot — is saying, in effect, “I do not want to hear your bullshit.”
For an anecdotal variation, see my Q piece DEFENDING BLM protestors: Stigmatizing Legitimate Dissent: A Response to J. Oliver Conroy
About halfway through, after a speaker provided evidence, statistical evidence that, NOT focusing on racism, but eliminating victimless crimes would empty prisons of black people, the response? “We don’t need no statistics!”
You ask the IDW: Do you want to have a conversation with your ideological opponents? It seems like a reasonable question, UNLESS you reach the conclusion that your ideological opponents actually have no interest in having a convo EXCEPT on their terms.
“Now,” you might say, “Lee, you just flipped the requirement. Why should the pro(re)gressive left accept IDW or classical liberal terms? Isn’t that just a mirror image of suggesting the game be played on IDW/classical liberal terms?”
And I say, “no.” The rules are the same. If the assumptions of logic, evidence, reason need to be “examined” — sounds good. So do the assumptions of critical theory, intersectionality, etc.
I have seen no evidence that the pro(re)gressive left has much willingness to examine its own presumptions, whereas I have seen the logical/evidence/science-based left do exactly that: Science Reformers Reduce Political Bias in Psychology
When is the last time you saw Judith Butler or Kimberly Crenshaw, or any such person, even attempt to rebut** Pinker’s The Blank Slate? ** not dismiss, rebuke, but rebut?
That strikes me as tantamount to the core problem not being that the IDW does not want a conversation. It seems tantamount to the core problem being that the pro(re)gressive academic left (in general, w/rare exceptions) has no interest in listening.
I’d bet that most IDWers would be thrilled to have prominent members of pro(re)gressive left attempt to rebut their claims.
So here is my question do you: Do you think your q put to the IDW targets the wrong group? If the main group showing no interest in having a discussion is the pro(re)gressive left, why put the “discussion?” q to the IDW? END
Prime example is Pinker’s The Blank Slate, published 17 years ago, *debunking* the environmental determinism that drives ideas of the modern pro(re)gressive left. PoMo has not even bothered to attempt to refute his arguments. Just kept marching along as if nothing had happened.
This article is amazing. Take 20 min, not bc it will take that long to read, but to stop, digest, and think: Yes, The Intellectual Dark Web Is Politically Diverse
Here are two section titles from^: “Some reasonable progressives rationalize taking their ideas to unreasonable lengths” and “Reasonable Progressives Who Don’t Take Their Ideas to Unreasonable Lengths Seem Unwilling to Vocally Differentiate Themselves from Those Who Do.”
BUT, Uri comes back with another GREAT* essay pushing back HARD on @EricRWeinstein‘s ‘upgrade’ analysis : *I can & do think all of his essays are great, even when I disagree with them in whole or part: On the IDW: A Response to Eric Weinstein
Here is how I understand 3 of Uri’s main pts: 1. Eric is right, the ‘upgrade’ has a dangerous, authoritarian component. BUT:
2. Eric missed a second development on the left. There is another group. It has wholeheartedly accepted the radical ‘upgrade’ notions of privilege, pervasive structural oppression, etc. but is NOT authoritarian, and remains evidence & logic-based.
3.Uri acknowledges that one can’t have a sane discussion of anything with the batshit crazy (my term) authoritarian PoMo intersectional radical left. BUT, he argues that the IDW CAN AND SHOULD engage the NOT batshit crazy/authoritarian, still-logic/evidence-based ‘upgrade’ left.
Uri and Eric have a short twitter-debate convo here, where Eric pushes back hard (but civilly) on Uri’s claims. My take on Eric’s pushback is some version of “it is too late, they have already gone way toxically too far.”
MY TAKE: Uri is more literally right, but Eric has the bigger picture more right. First, why Uri is literally right:
Uri is Literally Right: The social sciences are FILLED with quantitative, empirically oriented social scientists, who follow the forms of science & evidence, and probably “believe” their conclusions/claims but whose work is demonstrably polluted by SJ agendas.
The “bias” charge is tough. How do you know the person *levelling* the charge is not biased? Bias is not just “I disagree w/finding.” Something has to be DEMONSTRABLY *wrong* somewhere. Here are some imperfect but, imho, damn good heuristics for bias (thread):
Here IS SJ bias that anyone can see for themselves. This blog exposes a social psych review pubbed in an elite outlet concluding that “gender stereotypes are mostly inaccurate” W/O CITING A SINGLE 1 OF THE 11 PAPERS ASSESSING GENDER STEREOTYPE ACCURACY: “Gender Stereotypes are Inaccurate” if You Ignore the Data
That blog references all 11 papers (reporting 16 separate empirical studies, most finding…guess?…moderate to high gender stereotype accuracy). All pubbed in “peer reviewed journals.” COMPLETELY IGNORED!!!! This not my “opinion.” The bias is a FACT you can see for yourselves.
This thread wins Deconstructing Bad Social Science for the Month: It shows how seemingly evidence-based SJ conclusions in empirical, quantitative articles often hinge on 1 plausible but fallacious sentence that only an expert could detect as flawed.
There are millions of more examples like this, I have written 1 whole book and edited another on this ridiculousness in my home field of social psychology. The 1st won a best book in psych award the year it came out:
Uri highlighted this NYTimes op ed as a great example of this 2nd group, the logic & evidence-based left that accepts privilege, standpoint, etc.: Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys
I am not going to deconstruct the entire article, that would take an epic thread itself. ONE of its arguments rests of feet of clay. Here is the paper underlying the Op Ed: Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States:
An Intergenerational Perspective∗ Here is a key claim:
This takes for granted the measurement and validity of “implicit bias.” Implicit bias is one of the most wildly oversold claims in all of the social sciences, and mired in deep controversies. I threaded about that here:
Greenwald, founder of the most famous/widely used measure of “implicit bias,” the Implicit Association Test, presented this as the working definition of “implicit bias” for the last 20yrs at a special NSF conference. The IAT does not measure “implicit bias” by his own definition:
I have two points. IDK who is/not IDW, but MANY OF US HAVE DIRECTLY ENGAGED WITH POMO/GRIEVANCE STUDIES ideas. We are losing, not because our claims are being *refuted* but because they are being literally ignored.
Scholars who simply ignore contrary scholarship DESERVE TO BE DELEGITIMIZED AS SCHOLARS. Ok, we all make mistakes. Once, maybe twice. But when it is OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER it no longer matters if it is a “mistake.” It is vast incompetence.
The second point is more important. Most of the leftist Grievance ‘upgrade’ — whether the authoritarian or ‘reasonable’ type — has its intellectual source, roots, and “evidence” from academia.
BUT the social sciences & humanities skew so massively left, that the # willing and able to engage w/such biased/bad/distorted scholarship are few and far between. (Ironically, that title is from 1 of @safeortrue‘s Quillette articles)
Throw in the intimidation factor by the authoritarian radical academic left (see the recent ostracisim of Noah Carl), and even many on the reasonable academic left in academia will likely shrink from engaging critically with the ‘reasonable’ upgrade.
There are some of us. I am not the only one willing to do this battle. But many of us willing to do it feel embattled, not because we are losing debates *on the merits* but because the ‘upgrade’ numerically dominates the social sciences and does not engage.
If it is really about evidence, logic, and getting at truth, they should WANT to engage, to better get at truths. But few do. That tells me that even among the “evidence and reasonable” ‘upgrade’ left, it is not about truth. It is about power.
And they are winning. If its about power, not truth, and they are winning, why should they change tactics and engage? They shouldn’t.
And that is why, even though Uri is literally right in (at least almost maybe) every one of his arguments, in the bigger picture, Eric is right. It is not about evidence, logic, and truth — even among the ‘upgrade’ left.
Uri is still right — the ideas of the ‘reasonable upgrade’ left do need to be engaged. But who is going to do it? There are not enough of us willing and able to do it critically. It’s like fighting an armada with a single understaffed ship.