Female Reporter To Richard Spencer: ‘How Do You Look At Me Being Hispanic And Puerto Rican?’

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Tabletmag: Digital Fascism: Anti-PC Idol-Smashing Isn’t Just a Joke – Internet trolls, ritualized social-media cruelty, online cesspools, and their real-world political effects

Jacob Siegel wrote the thoughtful profile of Paul Gottfried a few months ago.

Jacob Siegel and Angela Nagle write for Tabletmag:

After Charlottesville, the mask of irony that wrong-footed so many commentators was ripped from the U.S. alt-right. And more recently, an email leak reported by Buzzfeed has stripped the irony defense from Breitbart’s former star provocateur Milo Yiannopolous, who, leaked internal records show, was the celebrity nexus connecting Nazi-saluting race warriors, powerful Republican funders, and members of the liberal media and entertainment class who fed him tips and dirt. The transformation of internet platforms into havens for the far right is crucial to understanding our current political crisis and what may lie ahead.

It’s easy to forget—especially when the most famous Twitter troll in the world is the president of the United States—but only a few years ago, social media and unregulated online spaces were heralded by many political progressives as Utopian forces ushering humanity to a new age of equality and democratization. By 2011, Silicon Valley boosters were agreed that the digital revolution had finally arrived. That was the early, hopeful moment when Twitter was supposedly driving the Arab Spring, and the hackers of Anonymous—the main political product of 4chan before the alt-right—became symbols of the Occupy movement.

At the same time, however, uglier emanations from digital society were being hidden by euphemisms like “trolling.” Trolls were often seen as sinister, yes, but also as an exciting new counterculture from the internet’s underground. Just as Silicon Valley rhetoric about an optimized, low-cost future concealed the consolidation of unprecedented levels of money and influence by the tech oligopoly, so, on a cultural level, the idea of “trolling” gave a romantic cover to antisocial exercises of power and resentment. As bombastic parody became the lingua franca of the internet and the line between irony and sincerity blurred, people lost their footing, which made them easier to manipulate. Debate on the internet vacillated between the claim that everything is ironic or that nothing is, and the political corollary: that everyone is Hitler or no one is, possibly not even Hitler.

To understand how we got here and why so many people were bamboozled by the alt-right’s playful insincerity we have to revisit an earlier period when the groundwork was laid in conceptual failures around 4chan, trolling and ‘lulz’. A decade ago, The New York Times ran a prescient story by Mattathias Schwartz called “The Trolls Among Us.” The article follows a group of hackers and internet mischief makers who fill their days defacing memorials for suicide victims, posting flashing images to epilepsy websites and theorizing about their role as an elite, transgressive vanguard. Trolling, Schwartz wrote in 2008, “has evolved from ironic solo skit to vicious group hunt.” The story depicts one Andrew Aurenheimer, better known by his hacker sobriquet Weev, who, even then, “displayed a misanthropy far harsher” than the article’s other subjects:

“Trolling is basically internet eugenics,” he said, his voice pitching up like a jet engine on the runway. “I want everyone off the internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed. Blogging gives the illusion of participation to a bunch of retards. … We need to put these people in the oven! I listened for a few more minutes as Weev held forth on the Federal Reserve and about Jews.”

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, Weev popped back into the public eye when an image circulated of his post on Daily Stormer, named after the Nazi publication Der Stürmer. Accompanying a picture of Heather Heyer, the protester tragically killed at the Charlottesville counter-demonstration, Weev had added the caption: “What’s the location of this fat skank’s funeral? …i want to get people on the ground there.”

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Steve Sailer: Two Modes of Intellectual Discourse: Taking Everything Personally v. Debate as Sport

Steve Sailer writes in 2012:

Much of the intellectual progress the world has made over the millennia is due to men managing to turn argument into sport rather than either a test of popularity or of physical strength.

…the superiority of debate in the British House of Commons to what we’re used to in American politics can be startling to an American observer. This is a social construct of the highest order. The British have crafted a society over many hundreds of years that emphasizes sport as a nonlethal, even potentially friendly form of male combat, and parliamentary debate as the highest form of sport. Today, most countries have legislatures modeled upon the British parliament and play British sports such as soccer…

Similar attitudes were reflected in the written spheres. A century ago, G.K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw, say, could go at it hammer and tongs like the intellectual sportsmen they were.

It’s not surprising that Americans have never quite attained this level of intellectual sportsmanship. Nor is it surprising that the British masculine model is fading, both here and in Britain.

“In observing the interaction between Pastor Wilson and his critics in the recent debate, I believe that we were witnessing a collision of two radically contrasting modes of discourse. The first mode of discourse, represented by Pastor Wilson’s critics, was one in which sensitivity, inclusivity, and inoffensiveness are key values, and in which persons and positions are ordinarily closely related. The second mode of discourse, displayed by Pastor Wilson and his daughters, is one characterized and enabled by personal detachment from the issues under discussion, involving highly disputational and oppositional forms of rhetoric, scathing satire, and ideological combativeness.”

To provide a scorecard: you can think of Roberts’ “first mode of discourse” as the one dominant in the 21st Century, while the second mode represents an idealized 19th Century British view of discourse as sport. First = New, Second = Old.

“When these two forms of discourse collide they are frequently unable to understand each other and tend to bring out the worst in each other. The first [new, sensitive] form of discourse seems lacking in rationality and ideological challenge to the second; the second [old, sporting] can appear cruel and devoid of sensitivity to the first. To those accustomed to the second mode of discourse, the cries of protest at supposedly offensive statements may appear to be little more than a dirty and underhand ploy intentionally adopted to derail the discussion by those whose ideological position can’t sustain critical challenge. However, these protests are probably less a ploy than the normal functioning of the particular mode of discourse characteristic of that community, often the only mode of discourse that those involved are proficient in.

To those accustomed to the first mode of discourse, the scathing satire and sharp criticism of the second appears to be a vicious and personal attack, driven by a hateful animus, when those who adopt such modes of discourse are typically neither personally hurt nor aiming to cause such hurt. Rather, as this second form of discourse demands personal detachment from issues under discussion, ridicule does not aim to cause hurt, but to up the ante of the debate, exposing the weakness of the response to challenge, pushing opponents to come back with more substantial arguments or betray their lack of convincing support for their position. Within the first form of discourse, if you take offence, you can close down the discourse in your favour; in the second form of discourse, if all you can do is to take offence, you have conceded the argument to your opponent, as offence is not meaningful currency within such discourse.”

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Andrew Gelman: Beyond “power pose”: Using replication failures and a better understanding of data collection and analysis to do better science

Andrew Gelman writes:

A bunch of people pointed me to a New York Times article by Susan Dominus about Amy Cuddy, the psychology researcher and Ted-talk star famous for the following claim (made in a paper written with Dana Carney and Andy Yap and published in 2010):

That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.

Awkwardly enough, no support for that particular high-stakes claim was ever presented in the journal article where it appeared. And, even more awkwardly, key specific claims for which the paper did offer some empirical evidence for, failed to show up in a series of external replication studies, first by Ranehill et al. in 2015 and then more recently various other research teams (see, for example, here). Following up on the Ranehill et al. paper was an analysis by Joe Simmons and Uri Simonsohn explaining how Carney, Cuddy, and Yap could’ve gotten it wrong in the first place. Also awkward was a full retraction by first author Dana Carney, who detailed many ways in which the data were handled in order to pull out apparently statistically significant findings.

Anyway, that’s all background. I think Dominus’s article is fair, given the inevitable space limitations. I wouldn’t’ve chosen to have written an article about Amy Cuddy—I think Eva Ranehill or Uri Simonsohn would be much more interesting subjects. But, conditional on the article being written largely from Cuddy’s perspective, I think it portrays the rest of us in a reasonable way. As I said to Dominus when she interviewed me, I don’t have any personal animosity toward Cuddy. I just think it’s too bad that the Carney/Cuddy/Yap paper got all that publicity and that Cuddy got herself tangled up in defending it. It’s admirable that Carney just walked away from it all. And it’s probably a good call of Yap to pretty much have avoided any further involvement in the matter.

The only thing that really bugged me about the NYT article is when Cuddy is quoted as saying, “Why not help social psychologists instead of attacking them on your blog?” and there is no quoted response from me. I remember this came up when Dominus interviewed me for the story, and I responded right away that I have helped social psychologists! A lot. I’ve given many talks during the past few years to psychology departments and at professional meetings, and I’ve published several papers in psychology and related fields on how to do better applied research, for example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I even wrote an article, with Hilda Geurts, for The Clinical Neuropsychologist! So, yeah, I do spend some time helping social psychologists.

Dominus also writes, “Gelman considers himself someone who is doing others the favor of pointing out their errors, a service for which he would be grateful, he says.” This too is accurate, and let me also emphasize that this is a service for which I not only would be grateful. I actually am grateful when people point out my errors. It’s happened several times; see for example here. When we do science, we can make mistakes. That’s fine. What’s important is to learn from our mistakes.

In summary, I think Dominus’s article was fair, but I do wish she hadn’t let that particular false implication by Cuddy, the claim that I didn’t help social psychologists, go unchallenged. Then again, I also don’t like it that Cuddy baselessly attacked the work of Simmons and Simonsohn and to my knowledge never has apologized for that. (I’m thinking of Cuddy’s statement, quoted here, that Simmons and Simonsohn “are flat-out wrong. Their analyses are riddled with mistakes . . .” I never saw Cuddy present any evidence for these claims.)


* Steve Sailer: Why has social psychology been the central front in the Replication Crisis?

I think this is partly because social psychology, as social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has documented, is extremely politicized. On the other hand, it is also because social psychologists are scientific enough to care. Other fields are at least as distorted, but they don’t feel as bad about it as the psychologists do. (At the extreme, cultural anthropologists have turned against science in general: at Stanford, for example, the Anthropology Department broke up for a number of years into Cultural Anthropology and Anthropological Sciences.)

Is the social psychology glass therefore half empty or half full? I’d say it’s to the credit of social psychologists that they feel guilty enough to host these debates rather than to just ignore them.

* Andrew Gelman: – Psychology is a relatively open and uncompetitive field (compared for example to biology). Many researchers will share their data.

– Psychology is low budget (compared to biomedicine). So, again, not so much incentive to hoard data or lab procedures. There’s no “Robert Gallo” in psychology who would steal someone’s virus sample in order to get a Nobel Prize.

– The financial rewards are lower within psychology, hence the incentive is not to set up your own company using secret technology but rather to get your idea known far and wide so you can get speaking tours, book contracts, etc. Sure, most research psychologists don’t attempt this, but to the extent there are financial rewards, that’s where they are.

– In psychology, data are generally not proprietary (as in business) or protected (as in medicine). So there’s a norm of sharing. In bio, if you want someone’s data, you have to beg. In psychology, they have to give you a reason not to share.

– In psychology, experiments are easy to replicate (unlike econ or poli sci, where you can’t just run a bunch more recessions or elections) and cheap to replicate (unlike medicine which involves doctors and patients). So replication is a live option, indeed it gets people suggesting that preregistered replication be a requirement in some cases.

– Finally, hypotheses in psychology, especially social psychology, are often vague, and data are noisy. Indeed, there often seems to be a tradition of casual measurement, the idea perhaps being that it doesn’t matter exactly what you measure because if you get statistical significance, you’ve discovered something. This is different from econ where it seems there’s more of a tradition of large datasets, careful measurements, and theory-based hypotheses. Anyway, psychology studies often (not always, but often) feature weak theory + weak measurement, which is a recipe for unreplicable findings.

To put it another way, p-hacking is not the cause of the problem; p-hacking is a symptom. Researchers don’t want to p-hack; they’d prefer to confirm their original hypotheses. They p-hack only because they have to…

Regarding the issue of why I never contacted Cuddy directly: On the occasions that I have contacted people directly when there have been big problems with their work, I typically have not found such interactions to be useful. Sometimes people don’t respond, other times they seem to miss the point. I do agree that there’s the potential to learn from such a conversation—but there’s also the potential to learn by posting on the blog and getting comments from anyone in the world who might have interest or expertise in the problem.

What it comes down to, I think, is that there are different styles of interaction. Given that I’ve been blogging daily for over ten years, it’s no surprise that I find blogging to be a useful way of learning from and interacting with people. One reason I started blogging is that it seemed more useful to converse with thousands of people at once, rather than exchanging with people one on one. For some purposes, though, email can be better, and in retrospect maybe this would’ve been one such case. I’m not so sure that Cuddy thinks so, though, given that she never emailed me either.

Regarding “the idea of trying to persuade her, in person”: Given that she hadn’t been persuaded by the direct evidence of Ranehill et al., and she hadn’t been persuaded by the very clear arguments of Simmons and Simonsohn, I didn’t (and don’t) see any reason she’d be persuaded by me! After all, I wasn’t really offering any new arguments; my contribution, such as it was, in my blog posts and Slate article (coauthored with Kaiser Fung) was to report the Ranehill et al. and Simmons and Simonsohn articles and add some perspective. So I’m not really sure how the conversation would’ve gone, given that Cuddy had already seen those things and was unpersuaded.

Just in general I find it easier, and maybe more productive, to present my perspective, address arguments that come in, and consider how I can learn. Direct persuasion rarely works and is stressful, which I guess is what I mean when I said I don’t like interpersonal conflict. Anyway, each of us has our own style of interaction. Here I am responding to blog comments at 5 in the morning, something I don’t usually do!

* I was also bothered by an implicit claim in Dominus’ article that one has the right to demand their favorite channel of communication.

* I think that the NYT article made several insinuations that were unjustified, namely that Cuddy facing brutal criticism is driving women out of the field etc. The NYT writer seems to somehow downplay how much Cuddy has benefited from a poorly written piece of science, nor does she point out that Cuddy’s protestations are very much in her own self interest.

But what’s worse about the article is how it ignores how Cuddy’s actions affect other people in the social sciences. Someone like Cuddy beat out many people–including many women–to receive her tenured job at a top school. That position comes with responsibility, and Cuddy would apparently like to have all the benefits without all of the ensuing challenges. She eagerly took on a public role–no one forced her to do a TED talk–and then became dismayed when she also faced public criticism over it. But it’s all the more appalling considering how people like Cuddy have used shoddy research practices to advance their own careers at the expense of science: that makes it more difficult for those without inside connections to be able to do research and have others pay attention.

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Steve Sailer: ‘How Andrew Gelman Hurt the Feelings of the Power Posing Lady’

Steve Sailer writes:

I’ve written a lot over the years about the Replication Crisis in the social sciences as academics attempt to emulate Malcolm Gladwell’s success on the corporate conference circuit. The New York Times Magazine offers a long sympathetic article about the Power Posing lady at Harvard Business School who has made a lot of money off her claim to have scientifically proven that certain powerful postures will help you get jobs and sales:

When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy

As a young social psychologist, she played by the rules and won big: an influential study, a viral TED talk, a prestigious job at Harvard. Then, suddenly, the rules changed.


Blogger Andrew Gelman gets cast in the article as the unsympathetic hardass who hurts the feelings of Dr. Cuddy. (Here’s Gelman responding.)

Dr. Cuddy looks rather like Phoebe on Friends. Granted, that’s not quite the same as looking like Rachel or Monica on Friends, but it’s not bad by academic standards. She probably was not used to being treated in an unladylike manner. She was likely more used to being treated as a cute blonde than as a scientist.

At the end of the article, Dr. Cuddy is getting out of the social science racket and more into writing motivational books and speaking. That’s kind of like how Malcolm Gladwell responded to the barrage of criticism that built up from 2005 onward. That seems reasonable. Some people have a real gift for telling people what they want to hear and they deserve to get paid for it.


* One of the subtexts of the article is that all the nasty, bullying, rigid, statistical types were men, and the greatest proportion of their poor, heart-of-gold, victim types were women.

If it weren’t for the Patriarchy and its disgusting mansplaining, power posing would be a real thing, and Cuddy would still be riding high, sharing the stage perhaps with Elizabeth Holmes.

* I haven’t read or heard anything from these TEDTalk social-psych Ph.D.’s that is not covered in the works of charlatan Dale Carnegie or con-man Napoleon Hill.

* One of women’s core competencies is playing by the rules with the goal of getting a trophy at the end without having to actually accomplish something of importance. That is why female students flourish in the educational system, academia in non STEM fields, and highly bureaucratic but non productive fields like HR. It is also why women tend not to flourish in startup companies in complex and rapidly changing fields like tech.

One of the more unintentionally humorous articles in the NYT in recent years was a look at why woman don’t flourish in tech startups. The two feminists found that women are more comfortable with bureaucracy rather than the free flowing, less structured cultures of startups. The proposed solution was for startups to be more bureaucratic to help the ladies. Yeah, that will work.

* If you want to get something done, call a man.

If you want to get someone kicked out, call a woman.

* To nearly all women in present Academia, who have been treated like hothouse flowers all their lives, any criticism constitutes “bullying.” That’s how far we have sunk….

I would add that statistics is based on an incredibly simple concept..Is what we are investigating likely to be real, or is it just an accident due to small data samples? What is the probability of either?

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