Categories
Uncategorized

In the fight against Reddit bigotry, don’t forget about misogyny

He’s not the only problem

By David Futrelle

Reddit is in the midst of a peculiar three-sided civil war. On one side there are tens of thousands of Reddit users who want the site to cleanse itself of racism and hate speech; opposing them are seemingly similar numbers of Redditors who want the site’s shittiest users to be allowed to spew their hatreds unmolested. Hovering over these two armies of users are the site’s administrators, who claim to be on the side of the angels but who have a long history of doing fuck-all about the hatred that permeates their site.

The current battle in this long-running war was triggered by a tone-deaf statement in early June from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman offering symbolic support for Black Lives Matter and declaring that Reddit staff “do not tolerate hate, racism, and violence.”

Bullshit, a chorus of Reddit users declared in unison: Reddit “tolerates” and has tolerated various forms of bigotry and hate speech with no trouble since the site’s very inception.

Huffman’s statement inspired an open letter from one of the moderators of r/AgainstHateSubreddits demanding that Hoffman put his policy where his mouth is and actually do something about the hatred he claims to be against. So far the letter has gotten more then 25,000 upvotes and support from the moderators of some 800 subreddits. The document puts forth a list of eminently reasonable demands, from banning hate subreddits and hateful users to diversifying Reddit’s staff. There’s no good reason for Reddit not to do all of the things the open letter suggests.

The Open Letter is a tremendously positive step — as is the media coverage it has gotten. (Reddit only seems to act to fix its problems when the media starts to pay attention to them.) But there’s one important word missing from the Open Letter: misogyny.

As I’ve documented on this blog over many years, Reddit is home to some of the vilest misogyny this side of Incels.co; there are misogynistic screeds in the Men Going Their Own Way subreddit that are as hateful and vicious as any racist screed in the long-ago-banned r/Coontown.

Of course r/MGTOW is also suffused with racism and antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, as I have also tried to show in numerous posts. These things tend to go together, as someone who is a bigot about one thing will also tend to be a bigot about other things.(See my various quizzes here for innumerable examples of this.)

You can’t fight bigotry without fighting all of its forms — racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, ableism and all the other hatreds that have found such a hospitable home on Reddit over the years. But too often, misogyny is treated as a lesser form of hatred than, say, straight-up race hate or antisemitism; it’s somehow seen as more innocent or excusable.

It’s not, and can’t be left out of any broad campaign for progressive change, on Reddit or elsewhere. Certainly it makes sense for more focused activist movements like Black Lives Matter to center their activism around a single form of bigotry (just as this blog does with misogyny). But movements directed against hate speech online have to take into consideration all the different kinds of hate speech out there. Misogyny counts.

For more on the current Reddit civil war and some further background on it, check out Kaitlyn Tiffany’s coverage in The Atlantic and this article in Fortune.

Send tips to dfutrelle at gmail dot com.

We Hunted the Mammoth relies entirely on readers like you for its survival. If you appreciate our work, please send a few bucks our way! Thanks!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

72 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Shadowplay
2 months ago

Impossible? No. But, like, the human body is a kludge. It’s more tightly integrated than one of those Dell minitowers from the early 2000s.

Yep. That’s one of the reasons I say human based/approaching AI will not happen any time soon – though it will eventually happen because one of the odd things about people is if something can be done, someone will do it, the wisdom or need for it nonwithstanding. I’d insert the relevant Dr. Malcolm quote gif, but my “mighty dood techbrain” has trouble with that.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 months ago

@Shadowplay
This one?
comment image

Shadowplay
2 months ago

😀

That’s the one!

Dalillama
Dalillama
2 months ago

@Shadowplay
We’re still not at the point of being certain that it can be done. It’s entirely possible that silicon chips can’t be made to do what meat does, because they can’t emulate all the necessary processes. We’ll have a better idea of the plausibility of that once we have some clue what the necessary processes even are.

An Impish Pepper
An Impish Pepper
2 months ago

It might be worth noting that even the math ends up with the conclusion that certain systems will simply never be predictable past a small threshold. Surplus brought up weather forecasting, which is actually a perfect example of this. Weather is the kind of system where a slightly different starting point will yield wildly different results. This is part of why the distinction between weather and climate is so important.

I think all the talk about what free will means if everything is deterministic doesn’t really matter when it’s literally impossible to actually “determine” everything. All quantum physics really does to this question is to set the lower limits on measurement errors. What is an illusion if “the real thing” is inaccessible?

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 months ago

@ Impish pepper

This is part of why the distinction between weather and climate is so important.

Years ago someone said to me “Climate is what we expect; weather is what we get.”

That’s probably not accurate, but I like it as a phrase.

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
2 months ago

@An Impish Pepper

TBH at this point I see the entire concept of Free Will, and the question of whether it exists, as some pompous Christian bullshit. Nihilist bros are always like “If it is proven that there is no free will, we are doomed! Humans cannot function that way!” but all they’re proving is that they haven’t broken free of the Christian worldview – now that they’ve thrown out God and Free Will, they jump to the “logical” Christian conclusion that humanity can never be saved. Much novel, so imagination, very enlightenment, wow.

Shadowplay
2 months ago

@Dali

Like I said – it’s going to be a long time. I do think decades or centuries are more likely than years for the timeframe.

But it will happen, we’ll keep plodding on until we know how we work, which is something we’d be doing anyways. After that, it’s just a problem of moving it across. Probably not efficiently – I doubt a “human AI” is going to be as neatly packaged into as small a space as meat brains are – but it’ll be done.

And if it can’t be and there is something fundamentally different about meat? Well, we’ve found that souls or vital sparks exist. (couldn’t resist, sorry! 😛 )

Complete side note that I’ve sort of wanted to ask you before but kept forgetting to:

Do you have any idea where Natalie Reed ended up writing? Her writing helped me out rather a lot back in 2011, 2012. She were one of my go to “staying human” resources at the time. I do recall seeing you in the comments there back then – you’re avi/name combo is pretty distinctive!)

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 months ago

@An Impish Pepper

It might be worth noting that even the math ends up with the conclusion that certain systems will simply never be predictable past a small threshold.

On some level I think techbros might recognize this, but their opportunism and savior complexes override it. Part of why I find people like Ray Kurzweil and his disciples so annoying is because they manage to sound like visionaries to idle listeners while actually just gambling with imaginary promises. They’re LessWrong toned down a bit for a broader audience.

@Cyborgette

Nihilist bros are always like “If it is proven that there is no free will, we are doomed! Humans cannot function that way!” but all they’re proving is that they haven’t broken free of the Christian worldview – now that they’ve thrown out God and Free Will, they jump to the “logical” Christian conclusion that humanity can never be saved.

To me, arguing about free will doesn’t seem very fruitful, I’m not sure how such a thing could be proven or disproved and the whole debate is human created with no real implications one way or the other. Life goes on either way.

Even the idea of humans being “saved” is verbatim Christianity.

Re: nihilists
As a metal fan I encounter a fair number of nihilists and satanists who claim to be the opposite of dominant Christian culture. Most seem to be doing it to be edgy rather than out of any sincere belief, but it all seems to be within the same Christian cultural status quo frame, as most of their ideas seem very similar to Christianity. I see it as, Satanism (often closely intertwined with nihilism) is Christianity but rooting for the other team. If you hate your local football team and root for their opponents, you’re still watching football.

Reactionaries far too often think that they’re revolutionaries.

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
2 months ago

@Naglfar

Oh they never use the word “saved”, they’re not that naive. But the Christian grounding of their worldview is still super visible.

I’m thinking less of edgelord type nihilists than more cerebral ones like Peter Watts and R. Scott Bakker, who see themselves as radical iconoclasts, but often act as useful idiots for the far right. If you want an example who’s actually a practicing philosopher, Peter Singer might do.

(And with all due disrespect to Watts, he’s a hell of a writer; Blindsight was fucking impressive. But having read the guy’s blog, I wouldn’t feel safe sharing a room with him.)

Edit: see also Western anti-natalist philosophers, who are (surprise!) almost all men.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 months ago

@Cyborgette
I’m not familiar with the people you mentioned, but I have seen a general trend for status quo supporters to think they are iconoclastic rebels. This may be a defense mechanism, as they don’t want to accept that they are the ones upholding a corrupt and awful system so they instead want to claim to be some sort of revolution. For example, Ben Shapiro getting lauded by conservative media outlets as “the cool kid philosopher” or various figures that claim “conservatism is the new punk rock” despite both statements being risibly false.

Re: anti natalists
Are they the ones who keep arguing that it’s unethical to have children and lashing out at anyone who expresses a desire to have children? I’m totally fine with people choosing not to have children, but I am not fine with judging other’s personal decisions. Somehow most anti natalists also strike me as the types of people who especially want minorities to stop reproducing.

Sort of relevant: now that massive numbers of twitter conservatives and assorted bigots (including the recently banned Graham Linehan) are flocking to a new social media app called Parler, the CEO is trying to pretend his platform is not just for fascists by literally offering bribes for liberal or leftist pundits to join. Somehow I doubt many will.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 months ago
Catalpa
Catalpa
2 months ago

I’d consider myself to be an anti-natalist. I really do believe that, with the world being in the state that it currently is, it is unethical to bring additional innocent lives onto the planet. Mass suffering as a result of climate change, late-stage capitalism, etc, is essentially unavoidable by now.

Do I judge others for choosing to have children? I suppose that I do in my own head. I think that it is wrong and will only lead to further suffering to the people dragged onto this planet.

That said, I’m well aware that my philosophy when it comes to this is far outside the norm and that being aggressive to people about it is both a shitty thing to do, as well as ultimately pointless. Sneering at people for being “breeders” or some other bullshit like that isn’t going to change people’s minds. (And being specifically derisive of people in developing countries for having children is spectacularly racist and pointless- I don’t know why anyone would expect for people with limited access to education and birth control to magically be able to stop having children. Not to mention that the environmental impact of children in first-world nations are orders of magnitude more damaging than those of children in developing nations.)

The people who want to have kids are going to be having kids, regardless of what I have to say about it. So I’ve just committed to never bringing any children of my own into this mess, and to try to do what I can to limit the suffering that happens to those of us already here.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 months ago

@Catalpa
To be clear, I am not attacking any particular antinatalist or the choice to not reproduce. I’m not trying to implicate that you are a racist or otherwise assume about your motivation. My issue with others who profess antinatalism is that they seem to have a racist bend and occasionally harass people who do want children. I’ve known from a young age that I wanted children, and it makes me very sad that I cannot give birth, so that kind of harassment hits me hard. Sorry if I overreacted or overgeneralized in my statements, I did not mean to attack you or your beliefs.

Catalpa
Catalpa
2 months ago

Yeah, there’s certainly no lack of racist assholes who profess antinatalist values too, I won’t deny that. Sorry if I touched a nerve.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 months ago

@Catalpa

Sorry if I touched a nerve.

Nah, you’re good. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t coming off as attacking anyone. It’s the racists I have a problem with.

cubist
2 months ago

AI: It’s worth noting that the Turing test has already been passed by mindless technology. I refer to ELIZA, the simplistic program written by Weizenbaum back in the 1960s which looked for certain character-strings, and applied a few different text-transformation routines to the human-typed input to generate its replies.

Some of the people who have “conversed” with ELIZA have actually believed there was a real human being on the other end of the connection. That’s about as good a Turing-test-pass as you could hope for… which suggests that maybe the Turing test isn’t as good an indicator of “humanity” (whatever that is?) as one might hope.

Whether genuine AI will ever be achieved… [shrug] Beats the heck outta me. I don’t know of any reason to think that sentience must necessarily reside on a substrate made of living protoplasm, so my gut feeling says it’ll prolly happen some time or other, assuming human civilization doesn’t self-destruct first. Not gonna even pretend to guess when it’ll happen, tho.

Free will: If free will doesn’t exist, we’re all just stimulus/response engines. When a stimulus/response engine exhibits behavior you don’t like, how do you change its behavior? By changing the stimuli it’s responding to. Hence, punishments (negative stimuli) still make sense, even if we are nothing but stimulus/response engines.

Dalillama
Dalillama
2 months ago

@cubist

Some of the people who have “conversed” with ELIZA have actually believed there was a real human being on the other end of the connection.

I have serious trouble believing that, having ‘conversed’ extensively with ELIZA in my day. Anyone who is fooled by one of those must have had an extremely short conversation on extremely limited topics. The ELIZA program cannot meaningfully pass a Turing test. That said, it’s certainly possible to write a pseudointelligence programme that can fool a human in limited circumstances, but that doesn’t say anything about the difficulty of making a machine that can reliably process natural language.

@Shadowplay

And if it can’t be and there is something fundamentally different about meat? Well, we’ve found that souls or vital sparks exist. (couldn’t resist, sorry! 😛 )

Nope. Meat is really, really complicated, and quite probably involves the same kinda of maths as weather systems. That doesn’t make it magic, just something you can’t hit with a math stick enough to understand it.

Also, last I heard of Natalie she’d gone to Twitter, where I do not go, so I got nothing.

Naglfar
Naglfar
2 months ago

Is this the Natalie Reed you are referring to?
https://twitter.com/nataliereed84
Natalie Reed sounds like a fairly common first name/surname combination, so this could be the wrong person.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
2 months ago

I concede that chaos will limit how exact such a simulation can be. But I will argue that it doesn’t need to be exact, just “close enough”.

Starting with the weather analogy: if you take our current best models for, say, Chicago, and run them forward, you’ll get the next few days of Chicago’s weather, after which you’ll get weather that’s no longer what Chicago will actually experience … but it will still be “Chicago weather”. It will plausibly be weather Chicago could have had.

And if you were to duplicate the Earth itself, the two Chicagos would experience divergent weather after the first few days as well.

I expect that if you upload a human being, let’s call her Jane Doe, with some not-yet-developed technology, the same thing will happen. You won’t get the same future behavior of “the one and only” Jane Doe. You will get someone who has her personality traits and tendencies and likes and dislikes. And if you had two copies of the flesh and blood Jane Doe they would begin to diverge after a while as well. Even exact copies running on the same exact underlying rules will encounter differences in their environments, fold in outside entropy into themselves, and even perhaps be influenced by internal quantum uncertainty that gets amplified by feedback loops. There is no “one and only” Jane Doe. There are people-who-can-be-Jane-Doe-continuations and people who cannot be, and there’s no principled reason for excluding the upload from the former set while admitting the other copies.

Indeed, Jane Doe is splitting into diverging copies all the time due to quantum decoherence. “All The Myriad Ways”, etc.

I expect that if the upload emulates the physical processes in Doe’s brain closely enough, then the subjective experiences of qualia and consciousness will occur for her as much as for the original(s) as well.

Frankly, I don’t see uploading not working unless materialism itself is false, and materialism has a very long track record at this point of being right and supernaturalistic alternatives have an equally long track record of being solutions in need of a problem. Every single red line proposed by proponents of the latter as “here, this is where materialism will fail, this is the boundary between the mundane and the spiritual!” has fallen up to this point. Lightning and other sky phenomena. (Electricity.) The movements of the celestial bodies. (There are now human footprints on one of them.) Biological matter. (The heart? It’s a pump.) The cell and reproduction. (AGTC, double helix, etc. — just like Von Neumann’s thought experiment involving a machine floating on a lake, except nano-sized.) The brain. (We can now “upload” nematodes and cockroaches.) The last redoubt of anti-materialists is subjective conscious experience, and when there’s an AI on CNN saying it’s had such an experience, their only recourse will be to accuse it of being a bald-faced liar. (Well, there will be a fanatical fringe willing to go much farther, to mass murder of such AIs in fact, to destroy that which proves them wrong. Just as always with the right wing.)

I also have philosophical problems with the idea that you could replace materialism with anything else. What else would you replace it with? Everything we can examine and interact with has two components, information-wise: signal and noise. The signal is everything about it that can be modeled and predicted. The noise is whatever is left over: thermal, quantum, or whatever. The signal part can by definition be modeled to any desired fidelity, up to the limits the noise imposes. The noise part can be modeled as a pure random source with some suitable distribution function. (If it can’t be, then there must be some systematic deviation between it and any random function, but that systematic deviation should be modelable, and represents part of the signal that we had missed.)

But once we have this signal-noise model, we can in principle have a model that’s as good as the original. It will not do exactly the same thing but neither will a true, physical duplicate, because the noise will be different in all three instances. What we have is as good a copy as a copy can be, and this relationship is symmetrical, the original is as good a copy of our model as a copy can be as well. And our model is … the elucidated laws of physics, as applied to the particular assemblage of atoms being observed. It’s a materialistic model. Any nonmaterialistic thing necessarily is in the noise, and is, or might as well be, perfectly random.

To the extent that something has pattern or structure to it — is nonrandom — at all, it is materialistically modellable. As for the rest, it’s about as spiritually significant as TV static. You can replace the rest with TV static and not get a meaningful difference. Jane Doe with her thermal noise and quantum uncertainty and other internal jitters replaced with TV static is still as much Jane Doe as Jane Doe with different exact thermal noise and quantum fluctuations is, one Everett branch over from ours. (Jane Doe with a poor quality PRNG in place of those might no longer be, but that’s because a PRNG is signal instead of noise, so you’ve actually added something “meaningful” that wasn’t in the original, with unknown consequences.)

Another reason for expecting that “yes, you can duplicate people” would be a more pragmatic one: people are robust, as life forms in general have been selected to be. They are resilient to small-enough errors. You can lose atoms and even whole cells and still “work”, and still be you. You can gradually replace almost your whole mass with new atoms over time and still be you. You are not overly dependent on what exact bits of mass physically constitute you or how exactly alike those replacements are, because if you were your ancestors would not have survived long in a rough and tumble wild environment. Information-theoretically, you are so full of error correcting codes and negative feedback attractor cycles that you can be taken apart and put back together again somewhat cack-handedly and still function as yourself, as long as none of the errors is too large (puncture in a major artery, or major rearrangement of the connectome). Indeed, the gradual loss of those negative feedback loops has been implicated in the process of aging, in which fragility increases until you stop functioning (die) or stop being you anymore (senility).

Basically, the upload should succeed if the maximum error in the simulation is of a similar order of magnitude to the noise the body of the real you has to put up with internally and in its constant buffeting by its environment. Given that humans are hot, wet, messy systems that accuracy should be reached well short of lattice-QCD levels of precision, and probably well short of atomic, though probably somewhat higher detail than just whole neurons in a network. A good simulation of the electrochemical behavior of the membranes, plus a cruder one of the cell innards and of the extraneuronal environment (including its glial cells), ought to do, and indeed one of the failure modes I expect to exist is having too much fidelity and suppressing too much of the noisiness the real biological version inherently possesses. Biological systems tend to find uses for noise, folding entropy into themselves for various purposes, and a deficiency disorder is likely to occur if a simulated one has too little of it.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
2 months ago

@ dali

The ELIZA program cannot meaningfully pass a Turing test

If I recall correctly few people were fooled by ELIZA (or it could have been one of the other ones) until they altered the programme so the output contained typos.

So perhaps it was less substance and more form that people were taking their cues from?

Threp (formerly Shadowplay)

@Dali

Thanks. I’ll have a look out for her once I’ve got the energy to go back onto twitter. That place is a hell of an energy drain! And time sink.

@Naglfar

Thank you for looking. I’ll check her out as and when. 🙂