Which kind of libertarian movement would you rather be a part of?

Rad Geek asks, regarding Kerry Howley's and Megan McArdle's bloggingheads discussion about libertarianism and feminism, and the subsequent responses to it in the Hit and Run comment thread:

When you try to have an intellectual discussion about the finer points of libertarianism on your blog, how often do you have a crowd of commenters come by to run off at the mouth and make little funnies about your dick, or about your dress and appearance, or to publicly fantasize about your sexual proclivities? With no mention whatsoever of anything that you had to say in your post? And this constituting easily the majority of the comments on your discussion?

Ever tried to give a serious public speech at a movement rally where someone interrupted to shout at you to "Take it off!"? Had a contentious conversation on the Internet result in your head photoshopped onto hardcore pornography as a little funny?

You may not realize how disruptive this can be, or how insulting, if it has not happened to you much. But this is something that happens all the time to young women who try to speak about intellectual topics in mostly-male spaces, and it’s especially consistent for young women who try to say something about feminism in particular. I have no idea, and don’t much care, what the personal motivations behind this style of response may be for the individual posters on this thread, or on any of scores of other threads in "reply" to Kerry Howley’s posts (as one commenter says, "Seems that any thread featuring Kerry’s picture/byline/hint that she may have been in the area while it was being posted results in this sort of thread"), or on posts by any number of other women throughout the Internet. But I do know what function it serves, and I prefer movements where people are capable of discussing things intelligently to movements in which a group of self-intoxicated blowhards are constantly evading discussion, in favor of trying to one-up each other in how obnoxious, crude, and irrelevant they can be.

My concern actually has very little to do with the content of the jokes, except insofar as they completely fail to be funny. My concern is with the consistent pattern in the people targeted to be the butt of the joke.

Given my recent spirited defenses of trolling and 4chan /b/ - self-intoxicated blowhards constantly evading discussion is an accurate description of the activity and the forum - it might seem inconsistent for me to see value in both Rad Geek's criticism and my apologia. But forums like /b/ are not intended to be places of serious discussion; by design, anonymity and lack of concrete institutional memory foster a trolling environment.

Relegating trolls to their own Internet cesspool makes it less likely that they will hang out and pollute more pristine waters, and helps avoid the unwanted exposure criticism of trolling. But I do sometimes worry that by fostering such a community, the habits and personality types will tend to leak out over time.

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Movements are dumb

"You may not realize how disruptive this can be, or how insulting, if it has not happened to you much."

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but net flames (even with photo-shopped porn) will never hurt me.

"I prefer movements where people are capable of discussing things intelligently to movements in which a group of self-intoxicated blowhards are constantly evading discussion, in favor of trying to one-up each other in how obnoxious, crude, and irrelevant they can be."

I prefer dealing with people who can handle whatever the net throws at them, but I take what's out there. I fail to see a problem here, except the idea of participating in libertarian movements.

Sticks and stones will break

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but net flames (even with photo-shopped porn) will never hurt me.

That's not an argument. Words can and do hurt. True, we do have some control over how much we let them hurt us. But as social creatures, we are deeply effected by the way other people view us. A healthy psyche can deal with occasional criticism and insult, but it is very rare (if even possible) to find someone completely immune to repetitive, systemic flaming.

And that's just the self-esteem issue. There is also the problem that time is scarce, and having to sift through crap makes it much more difficult to maintain a fruitful conversation. Think of spammers. Comment threads and forums become useless when infested with spam. So too with trolls. That is not to say there is no value to trolls - or spam. But it's ludicrous to think we can become immune to their accumulated effects through sheer force of will.

I prefer dealing with people who can handle whatever the net throws at them

That wasn't the question. Rather, the question was: Do you prefer dealing with people who purposely throw crap at you (and others) on the net? Do you prefer to deal with people whose initial response to a female speaker is to admire/criticize her sexual characteristics while ignoring what she has to say?

That's not an argument.

That's not an argument. Words can and do hurt.

Try me.

But as social creatures, we are deeply effected by the way other people view us. A healthy psyche can deal with occasional criticism and insult, but it is very rare (if even possible) to find someone completely immune to repetitive, systemic flaming.

Nonsense, it just takes a little clear thinking and some practice. I assure you I am not deeply affected by the way most people view me, I'm only affected by the way those I respect view me. And I have a very strong opinion of myself that is independent of what even they think.

Think of spammers.

I don't read much spam and I'm all in favor of ignoring posts I think are likely to be stupid or tedious, anywhere. I don't find spam to be much of a problem, though I certainly get plenty.

That wasn't the question. Rather, the question was: Do you prefer dealing with people who purposely throw crap at you (and others) on the net? Do you prefer to deal with people whose initial response to a female speaker is to admire/criticize her sexual characteristics while ignoring what she has to say?

It's the content I look for. If they flame *and* address the issue that's fine with me. This combination was omitted from consideration, but it certainly exists.

And I have no problem ignoring pointless flames while reading more interesting posts and comments that are mixed in. So it does not bother me at all to read a thread where some participants are doing nothing but flinging virtual feces. It doesn't stick.

I assure you I am not deeply

I assure you I am not deeply affected by the way most people view me,

I don't know you that well, but I'm willing to accept that what you say about yourself is true. But that does nothing to negate my claim. Perhaps you are an exception to the general rule of humans as social creatures. The point is that people are different, and just because you react or don't react to certain stimuli in certain ways doesn't mean we should expect everyone else to do the same. Personal anecdote is not evidence (nor counter evidence) of widespread human psychological tendencies.

And I have no problem ignoring pointless flames while reading more interesting posts and comments that are mixed in. So it does not bother me at all to read a thread where some participants are doing nothing but flinging virtual feces. It doesn't stick.

It doesn't bother you at all? Given a choice between reading through two sources, identical in all respects except that one requires sifting through useless content while the other does not, you would be entirely indifferent between the two? Someone should let Ronald Coase know that you have discovered a world with zero transaction costs.

The point is that people are

The point is that people are different, and just because you react or don't react to certain stimuli in certain ways doesn't mean we should expect everyone else to do the same. Personal anecdote is not evidence (nor counter evidence) of widespread human psychological tendencies.

Your claim was:

But as social creatures, we are deeply effected by the way other people view us.

One counter-example refutes a general claim.

It doesn't bother you at all? Given a choice between reading through two sources, identical in all respects except that one requires sifting through useless content while the other does not, you would be entirely indifferent between the two? Someone should let Ronald Coase know that you have discovered a world with zero transaction costs.

This was about getting one's delicate sensibilities offended.

Just as spam is a fact of life if you're going to use email, chaff is a fact of life if you're going to range widely in your reading on the net. I waste much energy resenting either.

You can of course restrict yourself to sanitized moderated forums, but you'd miss a lot. Do you wish all forums you read were so sanitized that there was no chaff?

I'm also saying

don't know you that well, but I'm willing to accept that what you say about yourself is true. But that does nothing to negate my claim. Perhaps you are an exception to the general rule of humans as social creatures.

I'm also saying that just about anyone can learn to be flameproof an that it's a good thing to learn.

Do you think that as a general rule people cannot?

Movements

What do you mean by "movements are dumb"? I take "movement" to mean a group of people organized around a common purpose. And under that definition, I agree that some movements are dumb - electoral movements, for example. But aren't businesses a form of movement? Aren't group weblogs (No Treason, for example) movements? Mailing lists, book clubs, bowling leagues?

"What do you mean by

"What do you mean by "movements are dumb"? I take "movement" to mean a group of people organized around a common purpose."

...pursuing a public good.

Businesses pursue private goods which is why they work so much better.

NT is a hobby, but it is not intended as a means of pursuing any public good.

Let me clarify that a

Let me clarify that a little. Movements operate by means of donations of effort in the hope of producing public goods. A business operates by means of producing and trading private goods.

You characterize businesses as movements but there is little support for that use of the word "movement". Nobody talks about McDonald's or Microsoft movements. But people easily recognize libertarianism, feminism, environmentalism and groups like PETA as movements and not as businesses.

I say movements are dumb because their production of public goods tends to be spectacularly inefficient.

Businesses pursue private

Businesses pursue private goods which is why they work so much better.

What about businesses like Whole Foods that seem to do a better job than their competitors at pursuing private goods, not by focusing on them directly, but with a focus on pursuing public goods?

NT may be a hobby for you, but isn't part of the pleasure of the hobby the knowledge that you may be influencing other people's views and changing their minds? And why do you assume other people aren't participating in movements for the same reasons you contribute to NT? They get to meet likeminded people, exchange ideas, and possibly increase their numbers.

Further, even businesses advertise. And in order to advertise a product with little brand differentiation, often the only way to do so is to increase consumer demand for that product in general, even if doing so helps one's competitors as well. So, for example, if I am a cattle rancher and want to advertise my product, it may be more efficient for me to advertise in favor of increased beef consumption in general rather than only advertise my stock of beef in particular, even if doing so helps other cattle ranchers. Which is one reason why business lobbies form; to pool their resources for advertising campaigns.

Isn't this a movement? And do you see the similarity between this and political coalitions? I may not have the same priorities as other people who call themselves libertarians, but our ideologies share enough in common to warrant coordinated efforts. And often the only way for me to pursue my own private agenda is to work in tandem with other people pursuing their agenda; I scratch their back and they scratch mine. Is this not a case of pursuing the public good?

Further still, businesses run into all sorts of collective action problems of their own; see: the principal-agent problem.

movements vs. business

Micha,

. So, for example, if I am a cattle rancher and want to advertise my product, it may be more efficient for me to advertise in favor of increased beef consumption in general rather than only advertise my stock of beef in particular, even if doing so helps other cattle ranchers. Which is one reason why business lobbies form; to pool their resources for advertising campaigns.

Isn't this a movement?

No.

Won't you stop investing in such advertising if it fails to produce private goods for you? But you'll invest efforts in a libertarian movement whether it produces private goods or not.

Further still, businesses run into all sorts of collective action problems of their own; see: the principal-agent problem.

This is laughable. Whatever it's problems, business is the engine of the world. Try this experiment: Take a year off from doing movements and see if you're any worse off. Then try to take a month off from doing business...

There is far more to 4chan than /b/

But forums like /b/ are not intended to be places of serious discussion; by design, anonymity and lack of concrete institutional memory foster a trolling environment.

It should be strongly noted that there is FAR MORE to 4chan than /b/, and the rest of us generally find them to be annoying. Although trolling exists and "serious discussion" is hard to maintain without it lapsing into silliness, (but then again, this is true of many non-anonymous message boards) 4chan is not a cesspool. It is a place where people discuss various issues and share pornography and other forms of entertainment. The fact that other boards have a modest amount of moderation helps of course, but I do think that the evidence shows that anonymity and lack of concrete institutional memory do not necessarily foster a trolling environment.

I suspect that there's a nonlinear effect here. At low levels of anonymity, anonymity has the impact of causing people to act more like douchebags because the consequences go away, but as anonymity grows even higher, the effect reverses itself because whatever point there is to trolling to begin with goes away. Trolling only has value if you get the infantile satisfaction of people being pissed off by you, but if you're just another nameless post that will quickly be pushed off to page 10, it's hard to get satisfaction from that. (Additionally, people on 4chan have comparatively thick skins and know damned well when they're being trolled, which makes it even less satisfying.)

True, and I tried to

True, and I tried to communicate that I was speaking about /b/ specifically. On the other hand, there is a lot of cross-pollination of memes and personalities on chan boards in general. The serious discussions tend to be request threads; someone asking for reading or movie suggestions, or how to deal with some personal conflict. Any sort of debate or controversy quickly devolves into just what you would expect it to. And since there are other Internet forums out there with better moderation, better institutional memory, and less anonymity, I don't see much value in the non /b/ boards for seriously serious discussion.

/r9k/, which is essentially as random as /b/ but with more moderation, lacks much of what makes /b/ so great. There is much less meme production, because people are so worried about getting censored for copypasta. But copypasta is essential for meme production, especially in an environment with no other mechanism for memory.

My point was merely that

My point was merely that "anonymity and lack of concrete institutional memory" on their own DON'T foster a trolling environment. Perhaps they provide a little bit more chaos, (although there are so many non-anonymous message boards that are worse than 4chan that it's hard to say) but to get at the level of /b/, you have to actively try to troll. /b/ is the way it is because there is an institutional memory, and that memory says "be a douchebag."

If you keep trolling

If you keep trolling confined to /b/ (and places like it), it really isn't going to go after any scared cows in a meaninful fashion. It's going to be trolls trolling trolls for the sake of trolling, an interesting masterbatory art form, but with no real impact, unlike when a bunch of /b/tards get the comments at Feministing closed down for a day or two. Who cares about an internet hate machine if it isn't turned on those people who hold certain beliefs dear?

On the other hand, I do remember a blog post from somewhere a couple years back talking about people trolling Wikipedia, and suggested that, for the benefit of everyone, all trolls should only target the entry on rabbits (or something of the sort), which I got a good laugh out of, especially because that entry was locked down by the time I read that blog entry.

Leave the frightened cows alone

If you keep trolling confined to /b/ (and places like it), it really isn't going to go after any scared cows in a meaninful fashion.

Wow, you're mean.

Hahaha - oops.

Hahaha - oops.

Get over it

When you try to have an intellectual discussion about the finer points of libertarianism on your blog, how often do you have a crowd of commenters come by to run off at the mouth and make little funnies about your dick, or about your dress and appearance, or to publicly fantasize about your sexual proclivities?

Uh... pretty often. Are you familiar with Usenet? The reason I mostly stopped posting to Usenet isn't that what I posted was often trolled with comments directed at me - such as bizarre fantasies about my sexuality. Who gives a shit about that? It's vaguely amusing, if anything. It's that there wasn't very much non-stupid conversation left. The trolls are just noise. And I say that as someone who has been trolled plenty, much as described here. So, no, don't give me that, "it didn't happen to you so you're in no position to comment." And anyway, screw that too. I hate that attitude - that people are in no position to comment if they didn't undergo such-and-such experience. That's a fantastic way to disregard the thoughts of large segments of the population, based on their group membership no less. Very left wing.

In the trolls' defense,

In the trolls' defense, Constant does have a great dick.

You've been scarce lately

But my dick got you to come pretty quickly.

Oh noes!

[Punches wall in jealous rage.]

Usenet

I recommend that anyone who intends to partake in wide ranging discussion on the net ought to spend a couple of years on Usenet or the web equivalent, which may be 4chan for all I know. After that you're never bothered by flames again, if you even notice them. It's a very valuable experience.

In the NY Times article about trolling, one of the trolls made an excellent point. Most people aren't bothered when you tell them they have green hair because they know they don't. Through usenet I developed a sense of self and reality such that all flames became about as potent as "You have green hair".

There's no substitute for being flameproof.

Yeah, I remember

JTK, I remember you from Usenet, of course. Good times. It's not what it used to be - with quality contributors like you mostly gone.

Constant

I'm afraid I don't remember you from Usenet. Did you go by another name/nym?

Huh. Well, maybe a mixup

On usenet I've posted as Constantinople or constantinopoli since somewhere about 1999. Hmm... all this time I thought you were somebody I knew from usenet. Well, maybe I'm confusing you with somebody else. At any rate, I know Tim Starr pretty well from Usenet, and he did contribute to your website...right? By the way, while I was trying to figure out why the heck I think I know you, I tried to visit your site (oh, please tell me that's your site, or I'll really think I'm going crazy) and I'm getting warnings from Google Safebrowsing (which, by the way, I didn't realize I had - I'm hoping for no more surprises).

well fuck

as Constantinople I invited you to join NT. But I never made the connection between the names Constantinople and Constant.

because I'm a dumbass

because I'm a dumbass

NT's google problem

Thanks for the heads-up, I didn't know about it. My guess is that I have some spam comment with an evil link, but I can't find it so far.

re: USENET

I totally agree with these benefits of growing up on USENET. The thing that bothers me most about many blogs is that the comments aren't threaded. It was so easy to ignore certain posters or entire threads on USENET with a decent news reader. The software made following a discussion just plain easier. And I agree, all those years I played on H.P.O. re-shaped my thinking in a number of ways, but it was unquestionably a skin-thickening experience.

So, no, don't give me that,

So, no, don't give me that, "it didn't happen to you so you're in no position to comment."

I take it as a call to humility. To me, it's not so much a prerequisite for participating in a discussion as much as a reminder that people are different and react differently to stimuli; that there isn't necessarily a right or wrong reaction to that stimuli; and that we should try to understand where other people are coming from. If that's very left wing, so much the better.

Hum, it doesn't say, you're

Hum, it doesn't say, you're in a different position to comment, it says you are in no position to comment... how is that promoting understanding and different viewpoints exactly ? Your take is quite a stretch.

Just to clarify

Just to clarify, "you're in no position to comment" was my take. He (Rad Geek) didn't say that in those words. I put the words in quotes to distinguish it from what I was saying. I stand by my take, but I apologize if I created confusion with the quotes.

movements are the opiate of the people

Which movement in the last 50 years has slowed the movement of net assets from the workers to our owners?