Friday, October 25, 2019

7 reasons why identity politics warriors are toxic

A prolific science writer at Forbes has argued that everyone should become a fanatical feminist, reverse racist, and passionate multi-genderist in fields with a majority of white straight cis-sexual men:
6 Steps Everyone Can Take To Become An Ally In White, Male-Dominated Workplaces
The claims are breathtakingly dishonest and radical in their desire to ruin the last traces of meritocracy and the basic glue that holds the human society together. His 6 basic rules are actually 7 – as an URM (that's a new great acronym for underrepresented minorities that he probably wants us to use! So I will use this slur, be my guest), he probably doesn't know the small integers too well.

Using my words, these 7 steps say:
  • 0: Always place attention to PC above the work in your field
  • 1: Always prefer a discussion about the PC ideology over the discussion about your work
  • 2: Respect double standards, always treat URMs as both superior people and victims, and don't ever dare to compare URM with regular mortals such as you
  • 3: To be fair, be unfair because if you were fair, it would be unfair (this is a real beauty)
  • 4: Train yourself to feel guilty all the time
  • 5: Hysterically scream at everyone who says something non-PC
  • 6: Always do more affirmative action and distort the system more than others expect
Pretty disturbing, indeed. Without the context and experience, I would think that this article is a parody trying to point out how insanely dishonest and destructive the champions of PC are. But I know enough to be nearly certain that this text at Forbes was meant seriously.

Before the author discusses Step 0, we are bombarded by lies about the discrimination against URMs. But those who haven't lived in a different universe know that for some 50 years, and especially in several very recent years, the systematic harassment was one overwhelmingly against the white men – and, much more importantly, against white men (and sometimes people from different groups) who realize that the PC movement is a dishonest fanatical enterprise that threatens the destruction of our civilization.

In the broader society, roughly 50% agree with this assertion. But in the workplaces where these PC steps are even considered, everyone who belongs to this 50% – everyone who is aware about the basic facts concerning which groups of people are actually harassing which other groups of people in the real world around us – is being treated as a criminal.

As we will see, the rules he would love to enforce assign the straight white men who still have common sense with pretty much the same societal status as the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Before the author repeats all his lies and blackmail many times in the individual steps, we "learn" that the differences in the groups' achievements cannot be explained by innate differences – they overwhelmingly can and are. And we are also told that URMs are being discriminated against and discouraged. Some of the claims contain hyperlinks to bizarre sources.

To illustrate "casual sexism", an "educational" page with cartoons talks about the word "girl". A cartoon man dares to talk about "a talk by a girl". What a blasphemy! A girl is just a casual word – used by Anglo-Saxon speakers of most classes (and it's similar in other languages) – for a female who is young enough or who looks young enough. "Young enough" may be up to 18 or up to 30 but in a broader interpretation of the word, it is "any female whose age isn't significantly higher than the speaker's".

Why do we (at least we in Czechia) use the word "girl" in this way? Because females of the same age were girls in the kindergarten where we were the boys. Because the process of aging is gradual (like the frog that ultimately boils), they will always be girls. There isn't any good tipping point at which we would have to stop calling our classmates from the elementary school "girls". There is nothing malicious about it – it's just the female counterpart of boys, chaps, and dudes. "Girl" sounds young and pretty which is in many cases just an expression of Gentlemanship: a "girl" simply sounds more flattering than a shrew, virago, bonershrinker, or a witch. That's why the Gentlemen are more likely to use "girls" even in situations in which one of the four alternatives could be more descriptive.

Why would you try to demonize someone for using a common word – among all other regular people – for a sufficiently young lady? Aside from her being a girl, she is also a researcher. Hotter girls make it more likely to be called girls, deeper professionals make it more likely to be called professionally because they impress others with the work etc. But there's really no conflict here.

The "girl is evil" page also features another cartoon – maybe the exchange hasn't even happened in this precise way. A senior male researcher comes to a conference along with three junior female collaborators and another male researcher asks whether he came with his harem – and whether he only hires girls. Clearly, the Forbes piece would like to ban such questions and comments as well.

However, in most cases, people ask similar questions because they're damn reasonable and sometimes they're rather important, too. If the percentage of women in a field is 10%, then the probability is about 1 in 1,000 that three junior collaborators are all female. If it's up to chance, it happens rarely – it's more than a 3-sigma effect. So there's more than 3-sigma evidence that something non-random is going on. So the other male simply feels that there's a deliberate agenda of the first guy to hire women. How he could not? Of course the suspicion will keep on living because it has damn good reasons. Because the percentage of such teams is much higher than 1/1,000 in fields with 10% of women, it makes it almost certain that in a majority of such 1+3 teams, the composition was "helped" by something that isn't just chance.

Also, there are some examples of men who really prefer to hire women and a much higher percentage than among the average male researchers, these selectively pro-female male researchers have slept and/or married several such junior collaborators. Everyone in the field knows the examples. Even if you don't know any examples, it's a matter of common sense to understand why some of these men would like to have this pro-female policy. It's something that the people know and many of them are sort of interested in it. One may hide these questions at some stages where they don't really belong but one can't eliminate these questions from all places because they're totally reasonable questions based on some evidence that a person with a good pattern recognition simply cannot and mustn't overlook.

In Step 0, the Forbes piece says that you have to be obsessed with identity politics in the first place. No, you shouldn't be. You just shouldn't care about the color or sex of the people because those aren't the purpose of the workplace.
When... are not well-represented in your field, it's often assumed that you don't belong.
At the level of superficial traits, it's assumed for a very good reason. It's because they are not well-represented. So a random member of an URM "doesn't belong" as much as the "majorities" – and this statement is really a tautology that only an idiot may disagree with. For example, the percentage of drivers on the roads who are rats (the actual rodents) is rather low so people assume that a rat behind the steering wheel "doesn't belong to the road". The assumption may be false and most drivers may be rats within a decade or two, as experiments with rats and cars with three buttons have showed (the rats were rewarded by Fruit Loops, like Howard Wolowitz), but it's just common sense that people have some expectations based on their rough knowledge of the current statistics.

So here, much like in every single effort of the Forbes writer to "ban" some reasoning or questions or statements, what they want to ban is nothing else than the very basics of rational thinking and/or the people simply speaking the truth. Everyone who has a brain that works is doing these "forbidden" things while everyone who behaves as Forbes prescribes is effectively brain-dead or totally dishonest.

Members of URMs represent a small percentage of the professional fields; but they usually also represent a small minority in their actual "minority" who have become scientists in the atypical field. These two "minorities" aren't given by the same percentage but it's generally true that both of them are low or high simultaneously. (You can compute the ratio of these two ratios as the ratio of some populations, please complete this homework.) You can't "negate" these mathematical facts.

Being a member of a minority automatically involves some common issues (which e.g. conservatives in the Academia know much better than everyone else) – like the people's expectations that you don't belong. People must learn something about you in person – something about your differences from generic members of the same group with the same superficial traits – before they decide that you actually belong somewhere. But before they learn such personal details, and without secure enough knowledge that participants of some conference or whatever were chosen meritocratically etc., it is rational to assume that a random member of the group is "out of place".

In another "forbidden" cartoon at the end of Step 0, we see a boy (look, I really used "a boy" in an analogous situation with "a girl") asking whether a woman got to the cover of Nature because there were many female editors in Nature. Well, in this precise form, that's a silly question because the affirmative action is being done even by most men today – and the Forbes piece explicitly and repeatedly urges scientists to do so. So of course it's natural to think that women on the cover of Nature were being helped by affirmative action – given the fact that affirmative action is omnipresent and Forbes wants to make it even more widespread. But yes, I understood: he wants to make it much more widespread and much more forbidden to talk about!

In Step 1, people are being urged to listen to the whining of URMs that they feel inadequate. Maybe once or twice but sorry, when this talk becomes frequent enough, it's a problem. The most likely reason why someone may frequently think or talk about her or his being inadequate is that she or he is inadequate, indeed. One almost necessary condition for being adequate is to focus on the field – instead of the whining! That's also what every good adviser or senior collaborator should lead his or her students or junior collaborators to do. Like other steps, Step 1 is absolutely counterproductive.

In Step 2, we're told not to compare our experience with other people's experience. This is just a flabbergasting invitation to apply double standards. People must always be compared to each other when there's an alleged problem. When someone is whining about something, it must always be placed in the context and compared with the difficulties that others, including you personally, have faced. Or with the problems that various white men have faced in the communities of other white men when no one else was present yet.

The failure to look at the obstacles and problems relatively – fairly and in comparison with the obstacles and problems experienced by others – means to have double standards, to be unfair! It's just downright shocking to see that someone openly invites the readers to have double standards.

But indeed, the very point of the whole piece is to have double standards. As a bonus, you're also told that the words "Well, actually" are also forbidden at the beginning of sentences. Wow, really? Why? If I understand well, it's a ban on any disagreement, at least with an URM. Is it really what the writer wants to overtly promote? I just find it utterly stunning.

In a footnote of our linear algebra textbook co-authored with my undergraduate adviser in Prague, we wrote about a fun story from a university in the Soviet Union that had an Anglo-Saxon guest. He said that he was never afraid of admitting in front of students that he was a moron. The interpreter translated it as "he was never afraid of admitting that students were morons". We – you know, people from the heart of Europe where the extremes are canceled – added that "the authors of this textbook aren't afraid of admitting the stupidity of either instructors or the students whenever it emerges". And that's exactly how it should be.

It becomes even worse and more explicit in Step 3: treating people the same amplifies the inequalities. So to make everyone equal, you have to treat them unequal! It's just incredible that someone writes something so utterly immoral so explicitly. The author says that he wanted to be called by the first name – and used it for the female colleagues – but they have to be called "Dr XY" instead. Wow. And with all these unhinged speech codes that turn regular men into criminals without human rights, he still has the chutzpah to say that "women are being discriminated against".

In Step 4, you should look at your action after you see "inequality" experienced by the URMs. He repeats some draconian rules about Dr and Ms. This garbage is way too repetitive. You know, at the end, an overwhelming majority of the usage of Ms for female doctors is either due to some general social etiquette that is totally harmless because everyone knows that it's basically a "rule of grammar"; or due to some evaluation of the people's professional authority – Ms XY may be used for a female doctor whom the speaker doesn't really consider on par with the full-blown doctors. The second reason isn't inherently sexist in any way, it's been used exactly equally against professionally subpar men as well. If it's used more often for Ms XY today, it's because the percentage of women who aren't full-blown deserving doctors is higher than the percentage of men – which is the case due to the very affirmative action that the Forbes piece explicitly demands.

Again, what he demands is both to ignore the rules of etiquette that sometimes dictate how people should be called, usually according to sex-neutral or Gentlemenly rules; and for people to suppress all their opinions about anyone who is an URM. So URMs just become selectively uncriticizable, even by "microcriticisms". Whoever doesn't understand that this is a road to hell is a loon.

In Step 5, we're told that you're obliged to hysterically scream at everyone who says anything non-PC, e.g. the question "Do you think race and IQ are correlated?" (and 5 other examples of heresies). Sorry but the freedom to ask these questions in the Academia is known as the Academic freedom and the answer to this rudimentary question is undoubtedly Yes, by the way. Everyone who doesn't know that lacks basic education and common sense.

Screaming at people who dare to say obvious things or ask obvious questions is clearly wrong, wrong, wrong. The number of similar hysterical outbursts and universally imposed restrictions on the free speech is already existentially high today. The Forbes piece apparently wants to increase this hysteria, censorship, and chronic lying in the Academia further.

In the final Step 6, you should always be more hysterical than what is expected or what other people do. Hire even more incompetent URMs than everyone else, harass everyone because of even more ludicrous complaints about the negligence of new hexidecimal genders than the harassment that is already common in your environment. Holy cow. A recipe for the insanity to keep on growing exponentially.

It's great that he wrote it this explicitly. Whoever doesn't understand how extremely poisonous and lethally dangerous this PC insanity is, is the enemy of the civilization.

And that's the memo.

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