AS241: Social Justice Commentary 2

Back by popular demand! I had almost universally positive answers when I asked listeners if I could get away with doing some more commentary on this. So I did! This time I’m getting more into the issues that I wasn’t able to last Thursday. I have a few links I said I’d post as well:

Boghossian Safe Space Tweet

Shirtstorm Explanation

SAE racist chant

Pro Trigger Warning List of Trigger Warnings

12 thoughts on “AS241: Social Justice Commentary 2”

  1. First of all I think referring to someone as “anti-social justice” is FAR more insulting than the term “social justice warrior”. The implication is that I’m opposed to social justice, which is essentially saying I’m a racist, sexist homophobe, what other reason would one oppose social justice? So if you’re concerned with using terminology that insults people, as you claim, think about that.

    Also I hadn’t listen to all of your Tommentary when I made the other comment you referenced, but the end of it was still relevant.

    Finally I still find it unlikely to be very common that people are “hurt” by comments people like Milo make, particularly college age people. I suspect it’s more a part of the whole victim culture. What better way. in the current climate, is there to silence people who say things you disagree with than to claim the person is hurting your feelings.

    1. I wanted to add again that I feel I have a very well developed sense of empathy, I cry at the drop of a hat when I see suffering, but I still can’t imagine why some asshole talking shit bothers people. If you are secure in your opinion why would it. I’ve always felt the same way about people who get pissed off when someone insults their mother, It’s just meaningless babble coming from someones mouth. Maybe I’m wrong, and significant numbers of people are hurt, but even if that’s true, I see that as a character flaw, and something we shouldn’t encourage.

      1. One last point. You said when someone says something shitty you’re mad. I assume that’s only true when what they say is true. If you’re overweight, and someone calls you fat for example, but why would you be angry, or hurt by someone saying something you know isn’t true. Presumably transgender people know what Milo says is BS, so again why wouldn’t it hurt or anger them? In the same way that it doesn’t hurt me when a Christian says I’m going to hell.

  2. Since you called me out for not calling what Milo said shitty I’ll make another comment. I don’t know Milo beyond hearing he believes being trans is an illness. I disagree with that 100%, but if that’s his reasoned opinion why is it shitty for him to express it? It’s characterizing opinions like that as shitty that leads to silencing, and no-platforming. That being said if he’s insulted trans people in a way similar to calling a gay person a faggot, or buttmuncher then yeah that’s shitty. I think we need to make a distinction between statements we simply disagree with, and might find offensive, and those that are actually insults. And I’ve never suggested people should be stoics in the sense that they shouldn’t get riled up, or protest, but if they get so emotional that they want people to be silenced or no-platformed because of their opinion, that’s a problem.

  3. I just want to add a quick comment about some of the examples of “absurd” trigger warnings that were mentioned in the show. You seemed to pause on eating disorders and shaming language. In my comment on the previous episode, I asked about potential uses of trigger warnings beyond just responding to clinically significant ptsd symptoms (I won’t belabor the point), but I think it’s worth noting that even if we’re focussing solely on adverse psychological outcomes, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and shame-proneness has been demonstrated to be significantly correlated with increased risk of suicidal ideation, development of ptsd symptoms, likelihood and frequency of self-injury, and suicide attempts in combination with comorbid diagnoses.

    I understand that it’s different to say a trigger might immediately cause an acute response (e.g. ptsd related flashback), than it is to say a trigger may add to a list of experiences which increase the risk of negative outcomes (e.g. suicidal ideation), and I appreciate that there are different needs being addressed by trigger warnings for different individuals (e.g., is it about mitigating negative health outcomes for students, mitigating against only immediate mental health outcomes, maintaining students’ ability to participate in class, validating larger social justice themes, etc.?).

    I don’t mean to suggest trigger warnings are the best response to any potential distressing stimuli, but more to note that drawing a line at medical necessity may be less clear than it’s been presented.

    I also just wanted to say I really appreciated that you called out the tendency we have to put the onus on people not to respond to distressing things. Being emotionally disengaged and hyper-rational is not an inherently superior or more capable way of interacting with thoughts and people. I think this is a worthwhile point to make, especially in the atheist community.

    1. Sorry for posting twice, but I forgot that I wanted to address a comment that was made about the backlash about that engineer’s shirt.

      If the engineer crying in response to the internet’s reaction to his shirt is evidence that that reaction had a significant and powerful impact, why is it that students having a strong emotional response to “triggering” material is presented as evidence that they are too sensitive, and not that they are legitimately affected by those issues?

      I want to be clear that, from my perspective, elements of the reaction (e.g., public shaming) seemed totally excessive, disrespectful, and damaging. I just thought it was worth noting that there seems to be a contradiction when strong emotions are used to both legitimize and delegitimize people’s responses.

  4. Thanks for calling out Boghossian’s inconsistancy regarding his stochasic openness. I find his street epistimology inspiring, but his attitudes to feminisim frustrating and dispiriting.

    As far as Shirtstorm, it never would have been such a storm if the misogynist tweeters hadn’t had such an escalated counter response to the one critical tweet that started the whole thing. It doesn’t matter if a woman made the shirt. The fact that the SPOKESMAN (not some rando) chose to wear it to make a momentous announcement sent a message to women that we are not being taken seriously. It was a big deal, supported by his leadership, or else they would have sent him home to change.
    The feminists started the response, but were not the only ones escalating. Otherwise, why would Richard Dawkins insert himself to tweet disparagingly about the original tweet, only to back down when Carolyn Porco (Planetary Scientist, leader of the Cassini team) challenged him?
    Dont just criticize feminists for Shirtstorm. The “no-big-dealers” (people who call themselves feminists, but didn’t see a problem) and straight up misogynists proved it was a big deal by escalating and stoking the fires as much or more than the originial criticism and subsequent justification of the criticism. If it was really no big deal, there would have been few counters, and certainly little or no escalation. Have you heard of Lewis’ Law? “Comments on every feminist article justify feminism.” Seems that responses to feminist tweets justify feminism as well.
    Happily, the final outcome is a good one. You can bet that no spokesman will repeat such a boneheaded move unintentially. I’m not sorry that the guy cried. A few days of unhappiness for him, that’s all. His career has not been sidelined, he has not lost his job. He was not treated as a bimbo or an inconsequential person. His capacity and bona fides to be spokesman were not questioned. No, his actions and message were taken seriously, and he learned a lesson with very little personal lasting negative impact. Without Shirtsorm, would he, his colleagues and his leadership have learned a lesson?

    1. I think I agree with almost everything you said. The original question, which I think you’d agree with me on, is- was Eli right to shrug off shirtgate as something driven by a crazy minority of feminists? I think he was wrong to do so. It was a huge deal. The people behind the outrage were successful and caused a huge scene and forced an apology.

  5. I have learned quite a bit from this series of episodes. I find myself sympathizing with both sides of these kinds of arguments. But I’m pretty similar to Eli in that I only see the victim culture that people are concerned about as a problem with a small amount of extremist. As a current college student I don’t see too many people being closed off from conversation. Most do try to be careful about sensitive topics though.

    Shirtgate was definitely a big deal and I think the whole thing was silly. People just escalate to outrage too quickly it seems. I think it was a goofy thing to do to wear that shirt, but I don’t get the criticism made by a lot of Feminist that the shirt alienates women who would like to be involved in STEM. That’s an over exaggeration. I think the shirt could make certain kinds of people uncomfortable but lots of women like myself aren’t at all bothered by it. I wouldn’t characterize that conflict as an example of a minority viewpoint but just people having different views on Feminism than myself.

    I’m glad you talked about safe zones because I had been wondering about that. I went to a workshop for that in my Freshman year of college. I didn’t know details about safe spaces until hearing Eli talk about it though. Safe space seems like a group therapy kind of thing while safe zones is more educational and encourages allyship.

  6. To me, supporting Trump because of his anti-PC stance is hilariously absurd.

    Political correctness can be occasionally bad because of (1) censorship and (2) the disproportionate response of an angry mob. The thin orange skinned creature known as Trump is far worse than any of his opponents on both of those issues.

  7. I think the trans-gender issue is way too loaded and people don’t rationally examine whatever is being said or claimed.

    First of all, and just in case I really have to say it, I have absolutely nothing against trans-people and I support their choices when it comes to how they decide to express their gender identity and I’ve never (knowingly) disrespected a person’s wishes when it comes to gender-self-determination.

    Second, ‘mental illness’ has an unnecessarily negative stigma. Most mental illnesses just signify the organism(the person) experiencing distress/dysphoria with different aspects of their mental state/brain. It doesn’t necessarily entail insanity, it doesn’t entail mental deficiency. All it says is “this person is suffering”, because of this or that factor.

    With that said, according to APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(5), some significant portion of trans-gender people do suffer from a certain type of disorder called gender dysphoria. For a person to be diagnosed with this disorder they have to cover at least two of a set of criteria.

    Anyways, here we come to the relevant point about Milo and his proposition.

    People suffering with gender dysphoria have two options for treatment – either help their mind adjust to their biological sex(psychological treatment – this is what Milo proposes) or make their body conform to their state of mind(sex-reassignment therapy(this includes surgery, hormonal therapy)).

    The proposed solution by Milo is NOT some extreme fringe proposition. It used to be mainstream until the 70s and it is still given as a treatment option to patients with gender dysphoria. That’s all good and dandy, but here comes the biggest problem with it – it’s largely ineffective. At the same time sex-reassignment therapy option gives great results with high satisfaction being reported by the patients (especially when accompanied with psychological treatment – psychologically helping the person with the process).

    This is where Milo’s position should be attacked. Not on the basis of hurt feelings, but on the basis of patients potentially being hurt by ineffective treatments when other better options are available.

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