Bex June 10, at 8: What would of been the harm in that? Several posters seem to have over-reacted to an excellent, thoughtful piece.
Posted on December 17, by Scott Alexander I. Some old news I only just heard about: PETA is offering to pay the water bills for needy Detroit families if and only if those families agree to stop eating meat.
Predictably, the move caused a backlash. Of course, this is par for the course for PETA, who have previously engaged in campaigns like throwing red paint on fashion models who wear fur, juxtaposing pictures of animals with Holocaust victims, juxtaposing pictures of animals with African-American slaves, and ads featuring naked people that cross the line into pornography.
Vegan Outreach is an extremely responsible charity doing excellent and unimpeachable work in the same area PETA is. Nobody has heard of them. PETA creates attention, but at a cost.
Vegan Outreach can get everyone to agree in principle that factory-farming is bad, but no one will pay any attention to it. The University of Virginia rape case profiled in Rolling Stone has fallen apart. In doing so, it joins a long and distinguished line of highly-publicized rape cases that have fallen apart.
Studies sometimes claim that only 2 to 8 percent of rape allegations are false. Yet the rate for allegations that go Gaming habits among genders essay in the media must be an order of magnitude higher than this.
As the old saying goes, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. So why are the most publicized cases so much more likely to be false than the almost-always-true average case? Several people have remarked that false accusers have more leeway to make their stories as outrageous and spectacular as possible.
But I want to focus on two less frequently mentioned concerns. The Consequentialism FAQ explains signaling in moral decisions like so: When signaling, the more expensive and useless the item is, the more effective it is as a signal.
On the other hand, a large diamond is an excellent signal; no one needs a large diamond, so anybody who gets one anyway must have money to burn.
Certain answers to moral dilemmas can also send signals. For example, a Catholic man who opposes the use of condoms demonstrates to others and to himself!
Like the diamond example, this signaling is more effective if it centers upon something otherwise useless. If the Catholic had merely chosen not to murder, then even though this is in accord with Catholic doctrine, it would make a poor signal because he might be doing it for other good reasons besides being Catholic — just as he might buy eyeglasses for reasons beside being rich.
It is precisely because opposing condoms is such a horrendous decision that it makes such a good signal. But in the more general case, people can use moral decisions to signal how moral they are.
In this case, they choose a disastrous decision based on some moral principle. The more suffering and destruction they support, and the more obscure a principle it is, the more obviously it shows their commitment to following their moral principles absolutely.
For example, Immanuel Kant claims that if an axe murderer asks you where your best friend is, obviously intending to murder her when he finds her, you should tell the axe murderer the full truth, because lying is wrong.
In the same way, publicizing how strongly you believe an accusation that is obviously true signals nothing. Even hard-core anti-feminists would believe a rape accusation that was caught on video. A moral action that can be taken just as well by an outgroup member as an ingroup member is crappy signaling and crappy identity politics.
If you want to signal how strongly you believe in taking victims seriously, you talk about it in the context of the least credible case you can find.
A rape that obviously happened? On the other hand, the controversy over dubious rape allegations is exactly that — a controversy. At each step, more and more people get triggered and upset. Some of those triggered people do emergency ego defense by reblogging articles about how the group that triggered them are terrible, triggering further people in a snowball effect that spreads the issue further with every iteration.
An obviously true rape allegation will only be spread if the response is controversial enough to split people in half along lines corresponding to identity politics — which is why so much coverage focuses on the proposal that all accused rapists should be treated as guilty until proven innocent.
Everybody hates rape just like everybody hates factory farming. That means feminists face the same double-bind that PETA does. First, they can respond to rape in a restrained and responsible way, in which case everyone will be against it and nobody will talk about it.
Second, they can respond to rape in an outrageous and highly controversial way, in which case everybody will talk about it but it will autocatalyze an opposition of people who hate feminists and obsessively try to prove that as many rape allegations as possible are false.
Like PETA, their incentive gradient dooms them to shoot themselves in the foot again and again. And man, it is some contrast.
Media opinion follows much the same pattern.We saw you at Balticon (high five!) and thought you were rocking the uniform like a champ. I have no idea who these nay-saying jerks are, but I think I represent the silent majority in saying you brought a nice bit of flare to the con.
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