Sunday, July 13, 2008

Stef Post-Mortem

A followup.

This is actually a collection of brief, but related essays. I don't think I'll integrate them, because I'm lazy and it adds too little to clarity.
One of them is what Universally Preferable Behaviour, Stef's self-chosen magnum opus, is really about. (Hint: obfuscation.)

The first is that I've been banned from Stef's board. (Alan's third comment was the kicker.) Now, this was with no warning and with no chance of appeal. (Not that I'd appeal.) Because, you know, Stef isn't running a cult. (Note for people who read the post thoroughly; I really do want to know if any of that would be helpful to Kevin. I could accuse Stef of banning me for curiosity. If you have some thoughts, kindly share them.)

I found out when I went to share something with them, noting that when I shared something else, I got a very positive response.

It was not, however, unexpected. So, I sent an email.
Subject: "If I'm going to be banned..."
"I would like to know exactly why. I promise not to respond, since I know it's probably because you see me as being abusive. In fact I promise I won't contact you again, ever, so that I have no possibility of creating that sensation again."

He's very wise. He didn't respond. (He usually analyzes why he bans people, but I bet it's in the premium section, if he has the guts to do it at all in my case.) Why he didn't simply use this gambit in the first place I do not know. When I was first testing the waters I sent him five emails. He answered the first, with derision as I described before, and one other. I sent it as a deliberate test - it was a mere thank-you note. It's not like he's uncomfortable with not answering me.

The other thing I find so baffling is why his attention was, like his logic, inconsistent in the manner of a loose connection. (I respond to confusion with greed, by the way.) When he did answer me, it was immediate. (Do you know David Chalmers? He behaves exactly the same way toward me. I am detecting a pattern.) As you can see in the thread that got me banned, the first answer was a whopping 15 minutes after my initial post. I then posted honestly and waited over an hour, with nothing. Finally, I posted a mildly jerkish trap, being careful to include gaping holes in case he wanted to refute me instantaneously. All he had to do is answer my question with some throw-away line and he'd have plausible deniability and slather my face with egg. Instead? Banhammer.

Incidentally, my theory of why I got banned was that I outclassed Stef, and then responded with dismissal toward him. (Actually, honesty, but that's Stef for you.)

He tried to ignore the former by using the latter as an excuse for summary banishment.

Naturally, there's still that niggling doubt - planted by Stef himself, deliberately (feed 3, podcast 651) - that I'm actually in the wrong. But I'll never be able to directly test it, now, will I?

A lot of people talk a lot about Stef. Some of them are exactly what he says - obsessed because they want to believe but are abusive. I have to at least consider the possibility that that's the reason I also spend so much time on him. My alternative is that it is because he is actually effective at gaining converts, but wrong. In other words, dangerous and worthy of a full rebuttal. (It's not like I don't already do this regularly.) Same reason people are obsessed with Ayn Rand, a non-coincidence that is the subject of a different sub-section. My further alternative is that I'm using Stef's techniques against him, as has been my habit ever since I read the Theseus myth. (He killed the minotaur with its own horn.) I love Theseus. And hate cows. Theseus techniques are supreme for finding out if your favorite thinker is consistent.

(Come to think, I should do something extremely cynical, for the lulz and for the curiosity gods. Stef lives a little over an hour away from me. I could visit. His wife runs a therapy business out of his home, which I could use to infiltrate. Would he know it's me? I doubt it, as long as I stay away from my hobbyhorses. I almost want to try it just to see if I can wing an infiltration, and to have him threaten to call the cops, which I would find simply hilarious, and ask to have in writing.)

My computer ate a little bit about credibility. I liked it, too. But anyway, the point is that I can get attention if I want. I can play to the crowd, like I did with my determinism post, (1400 views!) and I have some posts on Reddit that I can pull up too. However, this isn't what I actually want. I just want to be honest.

Also, I prefer to actually have my arguments evaluated case-by-case, because I am wrong sometimes. On Stef's board, you can buy a spiffy graphic to go next to your posts. I could have bought the designation 'philosopher king' if I were so inclined. (Credibility, $100! $100 for some big-time credibility!) Wanna bet if I'd had one of those, I wouldn't now be banned?

But this is shite. Ad hominem is still a fallacy when it argued for the argument.

So I found something out, from the great Nathanial Branden himself. Stef is the unholy bastard of anarcho-capitalism and Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand was clearly and nearly openly running a cult, as the Branden link thoroughly discusses. Despite the fact that Stef distances himself from Rand, his philosophy shares every hazard that Rand's did. Exactly. In fact, it's how I put a check on my moralizing now - I see if I'm doing something Stef would do, and if so, I stop. There exists a quote, "“evil,” another word she loved to use with extraordinary frequency." I'm sorry, it says 'she,' not 'he.' Bit of a typo there.

On the upside, he made me consider the issue very very seriously. What is evil, exactly? How does it work? Does calling it 'evil' help? With Mencius' guidance, I've been able to work out what actually needs to be done.

Similarly, "The follow-up response was itself condescending in a uniquely ancap way, which is why I was able to call him out as an ancap without him having to say anything." Yes, he's talking about me, and yes, he's dead on. I got this condescension from Stef. However, ayrnieu shares this attitude, ("You're just a bunch of thoughtless, immoral, uneconomic ninnies.") and has not, apparently, had any real contact with Stef. It's a property of ancapistan, not Stef, as I first thought it was.

In other words, Stef has exactly no original ideas whatsoever, despite 'working on this stuff for 20 years.' He's pretty good at...something...though. Again, he scores 40 on a scale where Mencius is 90 and the newspaper is 2. (I'm 26 years old. I'm a better philosopher than Stef, even if for no other reason than that I stole all his good parts; I score at least 41. Poor bastard.) Incidentally, yes I did bring up Mencius to Stef, to see if he'd be interested. Wasn't.

More incidentally, I would like to gather Stef, Mencius, Steve Pavlina, and Ze Frank in a room and watch them duke it out. That would be awesome. I think Mencius would win, but Pavlina and Frank would form an alliance and get much more out of the experience. I think I want to throw my brother in there for good measure.

(Has a link to first principles and a priori. Want to mention how Stef also hates people who stand by their beliefs if they don't match his about 60:00

I eventually decided to just post a quick note saying that I wasn't impressed and therefore not coming back. Considering I now feel the world is suddenly real it's richer and more interesting and there are more ways to do it right and less ways to fuck it up...

More eventually, I posted the post that got me banned. Now, my plan has for quite a while been to get banned by being honest. You can see that here and here, I was fishing for a rebuke. "Now, class, what conclusions can we safely draw from the kind of honesty that got banned, and the kind that didn't?" In short; Stef believes in defending his turf, not in being honest.

However, there's more. I have not shared my Stef polemic with Stef, as I clearly intended to when I was writing it. When I got banned, I found I was relieved. As a result of holding this back, I have a much stronger case. I got banned for pointing out that he wasn't communicating. I didn't get banned for something that is, in any way, an opinion. It is a bedrock, immutable fact.

His only wiggle room to himself is to say, "Well, it was forming a pattern of opposition." A last straw sort of scenario. I can show how useless this excuse is by showing how...'patient'...he is with people who are clearly his intellectual inferior. He doesn't answer if and only if he cannot.

Now, I posted my leaving statement in a place it's unlikely to be read, as if it were, my original probing question™ would have generated some kind of response. Both these tactics - the brevity/lack of content and inconspicuousness - uphold my new ideal to stay the fuck away from Molyneux's little corner of hell and to make sure they stay the fuck away from me.

That didn't quite work out. As I mention in my last thread, I have a compulsion to let people prove me wrong. I post insults and psychoanalysis because I want people to rebut me. They...don't. I mean yes, I think you and everyone else should stay the fuck away from Molyneux. But, I have to prove it.

As it turns out, he did read my question. He just didn't deign to answer. And then banned me for complaining that he wasn't communicating. I think that's proof.

Part of the problem is that I know Molyneux would not accept any of this. Now, I have the goal of changing minds. The holy grail is to open a closed mind, a mind that acts like Molyneux's. Are these related? I hope so, but I don't know so. Could be a coincidence; this is part of the reason Molyneux is probably dangerous. He infects you with doubt, on purpose. Specifically, he uses the Freudian/Randian tactic of claiming that people who disagree with him disagree because they're "evil."

Still, now I have an additionally motivator to become famous on the net. I want these diatribes to come to Molyneux's attention, so as to watch him squirm. Because I'm not a hypocrite, I welcome any and all diatribes from the opposing side.

Regarding Molyneux's effective techniques. His arguments sing very sweetly to my desire to prove myself superior. In fact, if you have the urge to be superior, I've found just the place for you. Freedomain Radio is elegantly designed to appeal to the arrogant. (Quotes are not direct, but close enough.) You get to feel smarter, ("Libertarian brain cells divided once more than regular people's) emotionally healthier, ("People don't agree with my arguments because of their false selves.") and more moral, ("put down the gun, statists, and then we'll talk") than everyone else, just for not giving up in disgust. If you actually accept Molyneux's messiahism, then well, aren't you in for a treat. You're helping people! (By hammering them with arguments they cannot accept.) Aww, aren't you special! As a bonus, the actual sacrifices you have to make (intellectual integrity and family members you hated anyway) are quite low. The only reason the club is exclusive is that so many people intuit out the scam right away. Plus maybe the 'required' therapy. Because you know that people who go into psychology, (and apparently "ripping the scars off is incredibly painful," so, cause significant additional trauma) are just beacons of human awesome.

On the other hand, Molyneux still scores 40. Government is indisputably corrupt. Religion appears to be an organized mind-control organization. The family shares many traits with both of these.

So we've found that three of the largest, most widespread human institutions share properties. If you're Molyneux, you do a podcast disparaging the very concept of 'human nature' and blame everything on your parents. Admittedly, with his parents, and indeed many parents described on his board, I can see why. I thought teachers were the epitome of human depravity, but his parents were definitely worse.

Regardless, there's clearly a connection here, between these three organizations. It's probably interesting, too, not just "Oh, that's just what people are like." Nevertheless, we don't know what it is - the field is ripe for further investigation. Unless you're Molyneux or his coterie.

It was indisputably foolish for me to ever go onto the boards at all, from a practical standpoint. I knew this, but did it anyway, because sometimes I am wrong. I did learn things. My sub-goals were all achieved. Nevertheless, as we can see from these posts, ultimately my ideas about Molyneux were only intensified by experiencing their effects directly, to my detriment.

He doesn't write the following theory down or otherwise spell it out, and seeing how hard it is, I can kind of see why. One of his other broken theories is the idea that evil people are consistent. That if someone abuses you, they are making statements they find to be logically consistent. Now, one of the good things about this theory is that it shows you how all abusive statements are indeed not logically consistent. However, if actions come from beliefs, and beliefs are constant, you would see constant behavior.

My parents were pretty evil, or corrupt if you prefer. However, they were far from evil all the time. While I was almost never happy as a child, I was safe, during the first half of my time with them. I did not get arbitrary punishments. My parents kept abuses of power to a minimum. I was never punished or put down just for being myself.

This all changed in the latter half of my time with them, of course, because they were evil. I was constantly put down for being myself, and abuses of power became rampant. But they weren't even consistent about being evil.

My abstract description of the theory doesn't give anything like a sense of what it means, so here's an example. My mother was very fond of claiming that she loved me. However, like my father, ("He's a very nice man in a lot of ways, but..." Never did find out even one of those 'lots' of ways.) I would be hard pressed to name even a single thing she liked about me. In fact, I went through this exercise when I was 15 or 16. I discovered, that if my mother wasn't my mother and/or didn't constantly claim to love me, there would be no evidence at all that she felt anything but the deepest hatred for me. She was certainly fond of enumerating my faults and claiming absolute superiority, though honestly I can't remember any of them because they were so rarely actual faults. ("If you ever treat your girlfriend like this..." Uhhh, mom? You're not my girlfriend. Gross. Second, if I have to treat my girlfriend like that, I'd rather be single, bitch. My sister is her mother's daughter - she said the exact same thing to me, which is one reason I don't talk to her anymore.) This is the kind of thing Molyneux successfully points out - if her actions are those of someone who hated me, it's because she hated me, and I should react accordingly. The actual arguments can get much more detailed, finding out whole reams of a person's inner world. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that my mother actually thought she hated me, which means hatred wasn't the reason she said the things she said. What were the actual reasons? I don't know, and neither does Molyneux. Still, it does seem likely that whatever those convoluted reasons are, they can be summarized by, "She might as well have hated you."

The rest of this theory describes how children absorb the logical statements of their abusive parents, and inflict the logical statements on their own children in turn. Unfortunately, since evil people aren't consistent, this part falls down, no matter how attractive and plausible it is.

I think this theory might be rescuable, as it does successfully match quite a few real-world facts, but that would require criticizing Molyneux, something he does not stand for.

You'll notice that I was clearly writing the post thinking I was going to post it on Molyneux's board. Then I realized that since it's a total echo-chamber, and I'll accomplish nothing, except make them uncomfortable. They'll attempt to pass this discomfort onto me, bad things will happen, and nothing will be resolved. Still, it's not inconceivable that one of them will find this blog, so I'm not going to go back and edit it. Also, it is good to see how I think, so you know where my other ideas are coming from.

Now I've vented my spleen, I just feel pity for Molyneux. I see now the small, scared boy that just desperately wants some positive attention, and doesn't know how else to get it.

Still, won't stop me from slaughtering UPB's premises.

UPB is a system for evaluating moral claims. It's a stick you pick up, and when a moral claim comes by, you anoint it with the stick. If it's a good moral claim, the stick lights up and showers the claim in sparkly things. If not, the claim explodes, leaving a black stain on the ground.

But, logically speaking, is it really so impressive?

Morals are defined as universal statements of normative behavior. UPB is simply the recognition of the fact that if a statement can't be universally applied, then it cannot be moral.

Seems a lot faster than his entire book (pdf, FDR #2) on the subject. Perhaps I'm missing something, but then I'd have to ask more questions, and we already saw how that would turn out. (I haven't read the book either. Since I listened to the podcasts, there's not much point.)

Ultimately, the argument from morality is nothing more than the argument from first principles as applied to moral arguments. Ultimately, the only justification for the argument from morality is the argument from effect.

("If you use the argument from effect, the thief will just say that their personal effects are good." Guess what, that's an argument from effect to use the argument from morality.)

The actual reason for UPB is that it sounds impressive. It fulfills the function of impressing the suitably credulous, and of course of being basically right, so that these people become vulnerable to Stef's other techniques.

No, the only genius of UPB is not about reason, but about emotion.

It's the fact that humans are rule-creating machines, that extract principles from their environment. However, we call some of these principles 'moral rules' and get very upset about them. This seems to be an inbuilt system, part of human nature.

I think this system depends on the underlying love-seeking system. Without this desire to be accepted and enjoyed, morals would hold no particular power for us. Instead of getting outraged if someone steals from us, we would simply defend ourselves.

We say to children, "Hitting is wrong. Only bad people hit. If you're bad, no one will love you." If instead we said, "Hitting is wrong. If you hit someone, they can defend themselves," it wouldn't be nearly such a huge issue.

But, of course, we don't. I don't think we can say that. My point is simply that it's good to know why we care about morals, so we can use them for their actual purpose; so we can avoid abusing them. We're upset about hurting other people. We're upset about the fear of being rejected by your community. We're upset about having no one to love.

I don't think people actually care about morals per se. They seem transcendent, yes, they seem to exist for everyone even if no one is following them, yes. That's the power of the argument from first principles. It cannot be wrong by definition.


I also found a quote or two in podcast 537. It's called 'board etiquette.'

"Aren't you going to give me more?" "No, you're being too aggressive." Notice that I ask that, but I get an entirely different response. (In this case, yes they were being aggressive...but over the exact problems I have with Molyneux.)

Molyneux is not a good speaker so I don't transcribe these accurately. (If I do, he calls me 'catty.' Because he's a good human being.)

"So I banned him. And he came back. This is what's so tortuous to these kinds of people. He didn't want people to think I'd gotten the last word etc..." Except you'll note that aside from my email...which I hope is perfectly reasonable...I'm not coming back. Molyneux would respond that this post is my 'last word.' Yeah, well, Molyneux is free to comment on my blog, even though I can't comment on his board. (Not that I'm going to let he know it exists on purpose.) So is his coterie. Does that answer this objection completely? (If he's a jerk I'm just gonna delete it, so whatever.)

"This is the modus operandi of these sorts of personalities. They're going to come in, create hostility and conflict, and of all the evils of the world, I am the one that people choose to attack. And no substantiation."

"If you can base my pathologies in some sort of theory, that would be great!"

"I have no problem being corrected. I have no problem with people being angry with me."

"I don't consider it an absolute requirement, but respect is preferred..."

"So I'm inviting people who have those kinds of tendencies...if you have a disagreement, and you think they have something to offer...if you're debating with someone, you have to believe they have something to offer." (His point is to try to be polite when asking for clarification instead of being a jerk.)

"Apologies are a wonderful social lubricant. Apologies are a great way of admitting fault. The important and mature thing to do is to apologize."

"Most people who have these tendencies will have...long ago...have this argument rolling around in their head." He goes long, so I'll condense; argument goes, "Stef, you're a hypocrite. You've attacked all sorts of people."

"That's to conflate three things...violence has two flavours, attack and defense...they ignore your arguments...if this is going on, if the attacks continue, there's a principle of self-defense." Okay he goes too long even for me. Starts at about 14:40.

(Contrast my behavior in my comment section.)

The rules, so you can check to see if I've broken them egregiously;
"Don't initiate abusive language. If you're angry, don't post."
"If you do engage, and it escalates, you have to redraw."
"If you don't understand, ask for clarification."
"If they're making unwarranted statements, if you want to help them, give resources, don't try to teach the university course in one paragraph."

"If...X or X or X, you've labelled me don't get to call me evil using my property."

"Calling someone evil is not a rhetorical device."

"Calling me messianistic...I'll correct you once..."

"If you're on the board calling people messianistic, it doesn't put your mental health in a good light."

I mean, do I really need to be here? The guy digs his own hole. The mind-fuck is good, though. One of the best. The mixture between veracity and mendacity is sublime. I do admire craftsmanship, even if I think the craftsman should probably be silenced.

The sad, sad thing is that aside from these quotes, this podcast is actually really good. It really doesn't have to be this way. Attacking someone for being unclear really isn't good. Calling people insane is kind of counter-productive.

Note that his posters follow none of these rules. I would be fairly happy if they did.

"If you feel the need to be abusive, there's no point in talking to them anymore." This is a special case. I get all sorts of benefits just from having my words in print, even though they won't listen to me. It would have been great if I'd spotted the error immediately, which is why I don't listen to Stef's podcasts anymore.

Actually, that's the reason I'm so obsessed with Stef. I want to listen to him, because he has good ideas...sometimes. But I can't. It's too dangerous to relax, and the stress of constant vigilance is simply not worth it.

I really, really wish that he wasn't lying when he said he wanted to be corrected.

But I've been banned. And honestly? I have no idea why. I intuitively knew it was inevitable, but I honestly, honestly don't really know why.

I just think it's a good thing.

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