To advance the goal of viewpoint diversity within the EA movement, I requested that a friend of mine, "Henry", respond to HaydnBelfield's recent post President Trump as a Global Catastrophic Risk. I'm grateful that Henry wrote an extended reply. Henry took a while on his response, and as a result, not many people saw it. So I decided to make it into a top-level post.
I am going to bring a counter-argument from outside the Overton bubble. If I am going to do this, then it’s going to have to be comprehensive counter-narrative, so this is going to be long and full of links.
Judging the totality of Trump vs Clinton’s effect on global catastrophic risk is difficult, but there are several reasons to believe that the election of Trump is good for this category of risk. Trump mitigates several trends that are very bad for geopolitical stability.
First, let’s address Trump’s character.
It’s difficult to judge Trump’s character coming out of one of the most rancorous elections ever, when the entire mainstream media was focused on demonizing him. This was part of Clinton’s campaign strategy.
Scott Adams’ analysis of the election portrays Trump as much more sane. The fact that he kept changing his strategy and eventually won is evidence in favor of his competence and sanity.
A claim from HaydnBelfield's article that I agree with:
I would not place much weight on his statements either for or against nuclear weapon use. We can’t read Trump’s mind. I base my assessment of increased risk on his character, rather than on his policy statements.
I think it’s correct to avoid jumping on the bandwagon of trying to read so much into Trump’s past statements. I think we should also consider that the public picture of Trump’s character in the mainstream media is heavily distorted.
Steve Bannon has been referred to by the media as a white nationalist, because he is a nationalist who is outside the Overton Window. For example, he takes a counterjihad position. His does not identify as a white nationalist:
He absolutely — mockingly — rejects the idea that this is a racial line. "I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist. I'm an economic nationalist," he tells me. "The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver" — by "we" he means the Trump White House — "we'll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we'll govern for 50 years. That's what the Democrats missed. They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It's not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about."
“White nationalist” is frequently used as a term of abuse. Unless someone explicitly identifies as a white nationalist, or they explicitly call for a white ethnostate, I think it’s a stretch to call them a white nationalist.
Being an immigration restrictionist and being counterjihad doesn’t necessarily mean being a white nationalist. For instance, you could have someone who believes that all 3rd world immigration should be banned, but Asian immigration is fine. Such a person would not be a white nationalist because they are not trying to create a white ethnostate.
Tabooing charged terms like “white nationalist” would be useful if the goal is to understand his and Trump’s ideology. Lumping in everyone who disagrees with the press as “white nationalists” or “racists” is exactly the attitude that helped cause Trump and Brexit.
Now we can proceed to approaching geopolitics.
Trump and Nuclear Risk
Arguments about Trump’s nuclear risk overly focus on an incredibly biased portrait of his character, and reading into statements he has made in the past.
The character arguments are addressed above. As for his statements in the past, these were made prior to him getting nuclear briefings and access to top military and intelligence personnel. Other world leaders know that he didn’t have access to this perspective on the campaign trail.
Imagining Trump having an itchy trigger finger in some abstract nuclear crisis is the wrong way to approach his risk profile (though it was an excellent argument from Hillary’s campaign).
It's not enough to just consider the conditional probability of p(Trump causes nuclear war | Trump administration faces nuclear war) vs. p(Clinton causes nuclear war | Clinton administration faces nuclear war). You also have to consider p(nuclear war | Trump administration) vs p(nuclear war | Clinton administration). Who is the US most likely to have nuclear war with? Russia. Who is most hostile to Russia? Clinton, by far.
And yet, somehow, many highly intelligent people are convinced that Trump is a nuclear risk, despite him advocating rapprochement with the power that the US is most likely to have a nuclear war with, and despite Clinton taking an extremely hawkish attitude towards Russia and receiving $860 million from defense companies. Meanwhile, in Russia, people are trying to name streets after Trump.
Now, this scenario covers bilateral nuclear crises. What about unilateral nuclear strikes, or “limited” use? The US has enough conventional weapons to defeat non-nuclear foes. And if the other party isn’t nuclear enabled, then there is less pressure on Trump to authorize nuclear strikes and exhibit the itchy trigger finger that some people think he has.
The Missile Shield
There are additional dimensions of US-Russia relations that need to be considered to evaluate Trump. Currently the US and Russia are in a very bad situation for nuclear risk.
The short version is that the US is putting anti-ballistic missile systems in Romania called “Aegis Ashore”, but the Russians are very unhappy about this, and claim that those missile systems could be used to launch cruise missiles from within striking range of Russia, which would violate a treaty. China is unhappy, too. The US claims that their missile deployments are to defend against Iran, but Russia, of course, doesn’t believe these assurances.
Putin’s response is to say “how do we know what missile is in there?” Russia is working on a new generation of weapons to defeat the US missile shields. It’s almost as if we are in the middle of a Cold War arms race.
Clinton would have poured gasoline on this tense situation. Trump is much more likely to de-escalate it.
The Migrant Crisis
The next factor we need to consider to evaluate Trump is actually not even in the US, it’s in Europe. The migrant crisis is an extremely destabilizing factor to Europe.
The best way to evaluate the migrant crisis is to look at what’s happening on the ground. It’s such a disaster that I think even the most diehard utilitarians and open borders advocates have to admit that it has failed.
Europe is a morass of ethnic conflict, terrorism, sexual violence, rising nationalist militias, and jihadism. There is a growing risk that European countries will fall into civil war. Civil war in Europe would be a catastrophic risk that could go global. To justify this claim, I’m going to have to go into detail and paint a picture where we are in a very different world than how it looks inside the media filter bubble.
There are numerous recent statements about civil war and unrest in Europe by European security chiefs and heads of state: France intelligence chief, UK former MI6 chief, Norway security chief, Polish counter-terrorism expert, Hungarian Prime Minister.
Law and order in Europe is breaking down. In Rotherham, UK, 1400 girls were molested by Muslim immigrants, and the city and police tried to cover it up out of racial sensitivities (all documented in mainstream press). On New Year’s Eve 2015, thousands of German women were groped by Muslim immigrants and subjected to taharrush.
And then of course, there have been the recent jihadist attacks. Vanity Fair comments:
The great fear that swept through the Continent focused on the threat from within, from suburbs such as Molenbeek, in Brussels, and St. Denis, just outside Paris’s Périphérique, and urgent questions were asked. How come the jihadists of November 13 were allowed to move so freely across the Schengen area to carry out their atrocities? How had the intelligence agencies failed to spot them? The silence that meets these questions says one thing: Europe cannot protect its citizens, let alone defend its borders.
If you want to see some data, this article has section compiling official government statistics to demonstrate the scale of the crime (it also has a large amount of data on Muslim opinion polls). I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand the situation.
In reaction to the crime, some Europeans are forming militia groups, like the Soldiers of Odin in Finland. In Norway, Islamists announced that they would form the Soldiers of Allah in response. Muslim morality patrols have popped up in many European countries, harassing women and gays on the streets (see 60 minutes report).
Migrant jihadists and organized crime have been funneling large shipments of weapons into the EU from the former Yugoslavia. Italian police seized a truck with 800 shotguns en route from Turkey to Belgium. You have to wonder how many other such shipments got through. Such an arms cache would allow Islamic militant groups to launch multi-site attacks even bigger than Paris.
Europe is a powder keg. The evidence of crime and elevated ethnic conflict cannot be explained away, though the mainstream media does try. You can look at footage and see for yourself what Europe has become (content warning: sexual violence). The mainstream media claims that Muslim no-go zones don’t exist, but you can watch the experience of this film crew and judge for yourself whether you would want to go to this zone. These scenes will be a shock to anyone who hasn’t been following the migrant crisis already. But once you put these sights together with the crime stats, the Rotherham / Cologne sexual assaults, and the terrorist attacks, it’s extremely obvious what is going on, and that the mainstream media isn’t accurately representing it.
I suspect that this is not the world that open borders advocates had in mind.
EU governments have failed to address the problems of the migrant crisis. EU elites have a perverse incentive to encourage mass migration, because the immigrants, once granted citizenship, will vote for the leftist parties who give them entry and welfare. Consider this like a sort of “global gerrymandering.” The mainstream media covers up the problems, and university professors concoct elaborate humanitarian rationalizations. The establishment’s callous attitudes to their own populations fuels nationalist, restrictionist groups like UKIP, the National Front, and the alt right. Eastern European countries like Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic have built fences.
This situation is getting out of hand and it cannot be swept under the carpet anymore. I understand the humanitarian arguments in favor of accepting refugees, but the current scale and policies are not working. The sensible policy to help refugees would have been to build refugee settlements in Middle-Eastern countries, where refugees could be supported at a fraction of the cost.
There are conceivable scenarios where a civil war breaks out in a European country. Here is just one example:
Mass sexual violence or small-scale jihadist attacks provoke native militia retaliation, resulting in 3-way war between security forces, militia, and jihadists. The jihadists would be armed with AK-47s, grenades, IEDs, and sniper rifles. Emergency services immediately get overwhelmed. See the school siege in Beslan and the 2008 Mumbai attacks for precedent of how dirty it would get.
Jihadists from neighboring European countries stream in and bring trucks of weapons, or start attacks in their own countries and proclaim open jihad across Europe. In this circumstance, nearby countries would be forced to get involved, such as Russia.
Such a scenario could escalate into WWIII, representing a global catastrophic risk. This scenario is speculative, but if you merely make a linear extrapolation of the current crime and sex attacks in Europe, and the current size of jihadist groups and native militias, then at least a local civil war is quite plausible. Even is this scenario is low probability, the expected value is highly negative. And note that the migrants themselves will also suffer in the event of sectarian conflict. What’s the point of “humanitarian” migration if it elevates the possibility of ethnic cleansing in the future? Human tribes have their own histories, religions, and cultures that they are attached to, and you can’t just shift them around the world according to the whims of elites and expect it to work out well.
Now that we are all up to speed on Europe, it’s a lot easier to understand Brexit. What does this European destabilization have to do with Trump?
First, the migrant crisis is a much greater global catastrophic risk than Trump could possibly be. Second, Trump opposes mass migration and increases the chance that nationalist movements will sweep the open-borders, globalist EU governments from power. The original post points out that nationalist powers taking over in Europe would fundamentally change it, which is true. However, the current trajectory of Europe is much worse. It’s better to change those governments now and deal with it, rather than continue on current trends and risk civil wars or religious wars breaking out. Think of European nationalist governments as a safety valve.
Third, Hillary Clinton wanted to greatly increase Syrian refugees and admires Angela Merkel, the architect of Germany’s open door policy. Clinton would have brought the current European situation of ethnic and religious strife to America. The difference is that the US is full of fanatical gun-owners. Mass Muslim immigration to the US would not have ended well. The US dodged a bullet by electing Trump.
Authoritarianism and democracy
If you look at the post-WWII peace and you credit it to democracy and “liberal values”, then you have mistaken correlation for causation.
Historically, it turned out that democracy spread over Europe in the 19th century. In the 20th century, nuclear weapons were developed, enabling MADD. In WWII, the US conquered Europe and covered it with military bases. Worldwide, the US pushes democracy, using its media domination and soft power to install pro-US puppet leaders and acquire client states.
Being a democracy is heavily confounded with being a US client state. The rise of democracies is also confounded by the rise of MADD. These factors make Western democracies look much more stable than they actually are.
What about “kleptocracy”? Again, there are confounds. Non-democratic states are also non-Western states, and have very different cultures. Some cultures are just more nepotistic and have more organized crime than others, and they are going to have corrupt governments regardless of whether they are democratic or not.
If we are going to compare systems of government without context, then I could bring up African democracies. It only makes sense to compare the performance of a system of government within regions.
As a counterfactual, imagine if Britain or France was still a powerful monarchy in the world of MADD. Would a modern Western European monarchy be a mad dog on the world stage? Of course not. It would still been under most of the same incentives as actual Britain and France. Actually, it would probably be a lot saner, because a modern Western European monarchy wouldn’t have any incentive to use mass immigration to pack its electorate in its favor.
With all of these confounds, it’s extremely simplistic to operate under such simplistic associations as “democracy good, authoritarianism bad.” This association is only supported by looking at the post-WWII order and failing to account for US military, nukes, and cultural differences. Statements like “authoritarian countries are dangerous” is absurd propaganda. Is Singapore dangerous? Is Orban’s Hungary dangerous? How about FDR’s dictatorship of America?
Here is a good article to help attain a better understanding of democracies and non-democracies and cut out the propaganda.
If you look over a longer period of time, the rise of democracy encourages ideologically-motivated total war. The French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars revived total warfare from its slumber. Total warfare encourages weapons development and full population mobilization. Now we have the 20th century: WWI and WWII, which took total war to a new level. If you only look at the post-WWII world order, you will miss the relationship between democracy, tribal total war, and weapons development, which could be used to portray democracy as a highly risky system of government. This article takes the opposite position from the original post: that it is democracy, not "authoritarianism," that has been driving dangerous weapons development all along.
While the modern establishment claims that democracy is the best thing since sliced bread, and responsible for all the peace and goodness in the world, many of the great thinkers of the past had severe reservations about democracy, and any form of popular government. Henry Maine in Popular Government, 1885:
I state the facts, as matter neither for congratulation nor for lamentation, but simply as materials for opinion. It is manifest that, so far as they go, they do little to support the assumption that popular government has an indefinitely long future before it. Experience rather tends to show that it is characterised by great fragility, and that, since its appearance, all forms of government have become more insecure than they were before.
The convinced partisans of democracy care little for instances which show democratic governments to be unstable. These are merely isolated triumphs of the principle of evil. But the conclusion of the sober student of history will not be of this kind. He will rather note it as a fact, to be considered in the most serious spirit, that since the century during which the Roman Emperors were at the mercy of the Praetorian soldiery, there has been no such insecurity of government as the world has seen since rulers became delegates of the community.
Another quote, attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.
And this is the system of government that we should bet the stability of our countries on?
Regardless of whether the readers here find these skeptical theories of democracy persuasive, it should be clear that the virtues of democracy are much more controversial than most New York Times readers believe it to be. Even if I haven’t fully convinced you, you have to admit that currently, most of the people reading this do not have sufficient knowledge to rebut the historical sources I have provided.
If democracy’s benefits are exaggerated, then this error would have serious consequences for catastrophic risk. If the goal is to maximize prestige under the current government, then our policy towards democracy should be to “see no evil,” but if the goal is to actually understand how to run human civilizations in a stable way, we should be more skeptical.
The very election of Trump is evidence that democracy is unstable. If democracy is already overrated and not antifragile, then Trump changing the nature of the US regime doesn’t look so bad, assuming he even succeeds in changing anything. Maybe it’s just what we need. And even if your values disagree with Trump, then you should still be skeptical of democracy, because he was elected.
Trump looks most risky if you think that the status quo was sustainable, but it isn’t. Establishment elites in the West having been waging unnecessary wars abroad, and destroying Western countries by waging economic, cultural, and demographic war against their own middle classes and white working poor in order to reshape the electorate for their needs, while calling anyone who protested a racist or xenophobe. Inside the filter bubble, many intelligent, well-intentioned people—such as EAs—jumped on the bandwagon, believing in the humanitarian and utilitarian rationalizations for these cynical political moves.
Trump is the backlash to this divisive and unsustainable strategy of foreign wars, mass immigration, and domestic culture wars. Clinton would have doubled-down on this policy.
My advice to EAs would be to attain a better understanding of history and geopolitics before flushing money down the drain of partisan politics. Reading the New York Times and the Economist inside the Overton bubble is insufficient due diligence.
The analysis in the original post is based on a Democrat-leaning media, a Democrat-leaning academy, and unsurprisingly comes to the conclusion that EAs should be financially supporting the Democratic Party. Prior to the election, I’ve seen EAs creating a pseudo-quantitative analysis that found that donating to the Clinton campaign had an expected value of $20k per $1 dollar spent, representing the highest impact cause in EA. This is what happens if you accept a political party’s agenda as your priors: you get mugged.
There are many ways a Trump presidency could go wrong, and he definitely isn’t perfect. But despite his flaws, despite his risks, Trump counterbalances some of the biggest global catastrophic risks right now: cold war with Russia, and European civil wars due to the migrant crisis.
The old establishment wasn’t working, and it was never as stable as it was cracked up to be. Continuing those trends would have led to countries falling apart, and even worse leaders than Trump growing out of the ashes. Trump is the kick-in-the-pants for all of us—on every side of the political spectrum—to figure out what’s next.
This is why I've argued that for EA to make political judgements about broad partisan issues and elections, it should come together with a formal or semi-formal structure to aggregate and compare evidence from both sides. If we can't make reliable political judgements or can't make a meaningful political effort, then we shouldn't pretend that it counts as effective activism. The justifications of who to vote for and how much each vote is worth have so far been methodologically lacking, as they leave many basic counterpoints (like the ones here) unanswered. In particular, the points raised here about nuclear war and democracy underscore the fact that EAs commenting on Trump have been generally uneducated, and occasionally clueless, about international relations. If we do politics, then we'll have to do it systematically better. In the spirit of this main idea, I'll resist the urge to comment on the object-level of this essay.
However, everybody complaining about sources needs to take a step back and remember how many people write official-sounding essays here sourced entirely with inline links to LessWrong and rationalist bloggers. Strange how nobody complained about sources until now.
Thanks for providing one of the several sensible responses in this thread.
I realize that some of the evidence I have been providing is shocking and uncomfortable to think about, and that the people here may not agree with my theories about why these events are happening (e.g. they might not agree with my hypothesis is that mass immigration is a case of Hansonian hypocrisy, where it's really about getting leftist votes, and the moral and economic Koolaid is cooked up afterwards). But I think I provided enough novel information to deserve further investigation.
Your suggestion of some kind of more formal approach to evaluate political arguments is a good one. Or else you will have a situation where important topics are left up to a "gotcha" debate with an outsider.
What I would say is that the audience here shouldn't let an imperfect messenger like me get in the way of learning something. Maybe I'm over-stating the problem. Maybe I'm under-stating it. I don't have infinite knowledge about what's going on in Europe or infinite patience to explain what I think is going on.
Despite all the skepticism towards my claims about law and order breaking down in Europe, today, a Pakistani refugee killed 8 people in Berlin (and wounded 48 others) with a truck. Perhaps this event will inspire some people to update and realize that what I'm talking about is real. Perhaps the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey will teach some utilitarians that terrorism has consequences beyond the numerical quantity of lives lost.
But if you are going to update, do it soon, because in a few weeks, it will lose significance (like the Nice attack, Paris attack, or the San Bernadino attack) and everyone will be lulled by the press into becoming accustomed to regular terrors attacks in Europe. It's the new normal.
It's good that you're providing this point of view, although I really think it's worth looking into the long term history of terror and violence in Europe which is quite different to America. There is also much larger media focus on terror attacks than there used to be in the past.
I'm not sure it'd be a new normal, especially for people in the UK.
I agree with you Europe does have more of a recent history dealing with terrorism, like the IRA in the UK, while the US had a large "gap" in Muslim terrorism after 9/11. The economic damage by the IRA is also an example of why utilitarians are wrong to dismiss terror attacks.
My exhortations about updating are addressed not to the average Mail reader, who has already updated and voted for Brexit. Instead I am addressing policymakers and intellectuals. It is they who are still living in a fantasy world.
Basically, at any time, any of these Muslim terrorist attacks could have become a reason to change policy. Politicians could have switched a more restrictionist policy towards countries with high rates of terrorism or crime. Economists could have jumped in and explained how migrant crime, welfare use, and loss of social trust was damaging the economy. Progressives could have argued that continued mass immigration would cause a humanitarian crisis. Feminists could have argued that bringing in large amounts low-skill male immigrants from countries with very different attitudes towards women would result in elevated sexual violence.
But instead, this is not what happens. Instead, the politicians continue with open borders. Women are told to keep migrants at arm's length. Feminists in the press are worried about mass sexual violence causing an excuse for Islamophobia, rather than actually worrying about rape.
For a further example, the Berlin truck attacker already had a criminal history and was on a watch list due to participation in another terror plot. And yet, Germany "couldn't" deport him because he didn't have papers and Tunisia wouldn't accept him. Let's get this straight: migrant criminals can enter Europe, destroy their own papers, and then they "can't" be deported under current policies. These are some perverse incentives.
This whole situation is simply insane, and the attempts by politicians and the media to rationalize it are ringing increasingly hollow. Our intellectuals don't fully realize how insane it is because the media and politicians keep saying that mass immigration and multiculturalism are still good, and all we need is a few minor policy bandaids, and for the "xenophobes" and "Islamophobes" to shut up. This is why they are prevented from updating.
So why is something so insane going on? Why is the government and media not changing course? Obviously, they don't want to change course. Either they like the course we are currently on, or they are stuck with it because they are already committed.
This is where we need to start asking who benefits from these policies, rather than listening to the absurd humanitarian and economic logic that tries to justify them. These immigrants and their children will be voting for the political parties and establishment that bring them in, and their social dysfunction and welfare use will expand big government bureaucracy. Corporations enjoy cheap labor, but the economic benefits never trickle down to middle-class natives, who have declining fertility and live with their parents.
I suspect the elite politicians knew quite well that bringing in large numbers of low-skill Muslim males would cause an epidemic of sexual violence and crime, it's just that the politicians don't care because this is their voting base. Meanwhile, progressive intellectuals are completely duped by the humanitarian and economic rationalizations that the politicians have created, which is why it's important to confront them with the actual catastrophes that result from these policies, during the week or two afterwards before the media lulls them back into complacency.
It seems like all of the responses are about the Europe section, from people who live in Europe.
I agree that there has been a partisan response to the US election and that there seems to be quite a few people looking to solve the issues that have been highlighted by the media rather than taking a step back and looking at things in a larger context.
The concerns about US/Russian relations appear particularly important, and it's something that most people seem to overlook. It's plausible to me that a Trump administration has lower risk of causing an extinction-level event than a Clinton administration, and I've never heard a compelling argument for why other concerns matter more.
The cumulative chance of nuclear war in the next 4-8 years is much lower than the cumulative chance of nuclear war between 8 and ~50 years from now, and changes to various economic, political and social structures can affect the probabilities of full nuclear war as well as other x-risks in the long run.
FWIW, I saw plenty of people on Facebook arguing that Clinton was more likely to cause a nuclear war, even from within my liberal bubble. Significantly more than I saw arguing the reverse in fact.
On the object level point, I basically agree with kbog. Even if I think Trump is unlikely to cause a nuclear war on account of being chummy with Russia, it's easy to imagine him damaging the structures that restrict the president and then the next populist won't be so chummy with Russia (AFAIK it's hardly a popular position within the US to be nice to Russia, though low confidence in that).
Reminder: as you can see by hovering over the upvote and downvote buttons, they are for posts that you do or don't find "useful", in the sense of advancing the discussion, not for agreement or disagreement. Consider:
I hope this response is not discouraging for xccf and Henry. Hugs! And thanks for reminding me of the concept of the Overton bubble!
I upvoted mostly to see how many votes the post has gotten because it was at 0 when I found it. It went from 50% to 52% positive. Wow.
So ignoring for the moment all the half of us readers who upvoted it, I wonder whether the reasons for downvotes are really just split between (1) “this is not a good argument” and (2) “I disagree,” or whether there is also (3) “I’m deluged in arguments like this from most of my friends because they’re just Gray Tribe openness signaling.” I’m not implying that I endorse or reject the first or the last of these reasons; I’m more curious on meta level because I want to signal meta-ness because I’d be confused about what exactly my bubble is if there were few of the last type.
(I don’t feel like I know enough about this to have a strong opinion on the topic, but it’s probably the most detailed article I’ve seen. Thanks!)
I didn't vote either way as although I think the first part about Trump is actually quite good, the second part doesn't seem to match long term trends or the experience of the Europeans who have commented and has it's own filter bubble when picking examples.
If this had been two posts I suspect it would have got a very positive reaction the first, and negative to the second.
The first part about Trump makes sense, he is more interested in having good ratings and pleasing people than carrying out any specific policy agenda, and I'm not sure he'd want to put the 12 hour days in to achieve it, so his presidency might just be generic republican.
I think the part about Europe doesn't match what I see where I live in one of the 'muslim no-go' areas. Overall crime is roughly similar and much lower when you look at the long term trends. It seems like the majority of people are concerned with just living their lives and only a few pay that much attention to news/politics.
A lot of the things highlighted seem to have always existed in Europe, far right militias, gun smuggling, crime, more dangerous areas.
Only a third of people who voted for Brexit put migration as their top concern, for half it was sovereignty and some people who will just treat it as a vote against the current government.
It also seems like Brexit and Trump have raised EU support in most EU countries. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/eu-approval-european-union-brexit-popularity-uk-bertelsmann-foundation-a7430266.html
I think it's important to look at long term trends rather than the soundbites that hit the news from both left and right as they will always look for the strange and scary rather than give a good overview of how the world is changing.
My impression is that the evidence provided by this article is poor. It quotes clearly unreliable sources such as Daily Express, Breitbart, and Sputnik News. To take just one example, the headline of the link quoting Polish experts above says:
That is patently untrue.
The bulk of the links in this article are either well cited Wikipedia articles, or mainstream news outlets reporting on ordinary news events. 2 out of the 3 Brietbart links, and the only Sputnik link, are merely used to provide direct quotes from European heads of intelligence; it's not clear how their being "clearly unreliable sources" matters in that case.
It is well known that editors choose headlines, not writers, and often the headlines are distorted and sensationalized despite representing real content.
If EA is going to engage in politics, and remain a "broad tent" that includes people with varied political views, then we will need to face the problem that people with different political views typically consider different sources reliable.
For that article in particular, I see a link to a Polish news report. Jacek Wrona appears to be pretty well credentialed (this was the first result on Google, but I am translating it from Polish to make this judgement). So is your contention that Breitbart lied, and that Jacek Wrona never said this? Or is your contention that Breitbart accurately reported on Jacek Wrona's statement, but because he is obviously wrong regarding his assessment of the situation Europe faces, his statement is unreasonable as the basis of a report? If the second one, is it ever possible for you to continue considering a source reliable if it publishes a statement by an expert that contradicts your worldview?
I'd also be curious to know what sources you consider credible yourself. When I read Wikipedia's article related to New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, I see this statement:
These sources are apparently reliable enough for Wikipedia, and they call the credibility of mainstream outlets into question.
I cited Breitbart, Daily Express, and Sputnik for quotes from intelligence chiefs. Is there any reason to believe that they would fabricate quotes from public figures?
My article quotes a variety of sources, including perfectly mainstream sources like Reuters, CBS, local Swedish news, and Vanity Fair. I included a link with a large amount of stats on Muslim integration, including Pew Opinion polls and official government reports of crime rates and sexual violence. I also included video footage from 60 Minutes.
Are these sources "unreliable" too? They paint exactly the same picture of Europe as the links from the mainstream sources. For example, I cited a Breitbart article on an attempt to sneak grenades and automatic weapons into Sweden. How do we evaluate this claim? We can look at one of the other links I provided: a Reuters article about Italian police catching a van with 800 shotguns coming from Turkey.
If we are in a world with 800 shotgun shipments was caught (Reuters claim), then this sounds like the same world where a shipment of grenades and automatic weapons was caught (Breitbart claim).
Rather than being unreliable, the general thrust of the alternative media's reporting on the migrant crisis is consistent with mainstream sources. However, these events mostly do not get amplified by the most prestigious blue tribe bubble: NYT, Atlantic, etc... And the ethnic strife, crime, and terrorism in Europe isn't accurately reflected in the opinion pages within the bubble.
To drive this point home, I will bring up a couple examples where the ethnic strife in Europe got so bad that the prestige media was forced to report on it.
Here is a headline from the New York Times on the Rotherham scandal: 1,400 Children in Rotherham, England, Were Sexually Abused, Report Says.
Some quotes from the article:
Here is the report the NYT is talking about, which was commissioned by the city of Rotherham (due to allegations that the city had known about the child sexual abuse and was covering it up). This report has some startling revelations:
So, in addition to large weapons shipments into Europe, we now have poor girls getting doused with gasoline and gang-raped. Let me pause for a second and note how insane this would have sounded 5-10 years ago. And yet, here it is in the New York Times. This only scratches the surface of the ethnic tensions that currently exist in Europe.
Rotherham is not an isolated incident. The Cologne gropings were also so big (estimated 1,200 victims and 2,000 perpetrators) that the media had to report on it.
The establishment media admits that mass sexual assault towards women by Muslim immigrants is happening, and admits that terrorist attacks happen like Charlie Hebdo, Paris, but then drops the ball, and no sensible policy fixes are allowed to happen. Mass migration continues because politicians want it, and the media is in bed with them (consider which political parties the media supports, and which political parties the migrants will vote for).
The alternative media is at the forefront of accurate reporting on the migrant crisis, which can be verified through video footage, government crime statistics, and mainstream media agreeing with them on some of the most egregious events (when the event cannot be covered up).
If we are in a world where mass sexual assault is happening, and coverups are happening, and the mainstream admits it, then all of the other claims of alternative media and right-wing media (e.g. Muslim no-go zones, Muslim morality patrols, Sharia Law) suddenly seem much more credible, even if mainstream media denies those claims.
A world where thousands of girls are getting sexually assaulted by Muslim immigrants (admitted by mainstream media), and a world where Muslim no-go zones exist (denied by most mainstream media but verified by video), sound like the same sort of world: they both involve a violent clash of cultures with very different values. Rotherham and Cologne are sufficient to "crack" the multiculturalist narrative that such highly different cultures can integrate safely, and that anyone who disagrees is some sort of racist, right-wing xenophobe. Once that narrative is broken, then other examples of ethnic conflict gain credibility, and it is irresponsible to attempt to baldly dismiss them.
Establishment media—the "reliable sources" who claimed a 90% chance of Hillary winning—faces a crisis of trust. When the mainstream media refuse to honestly discuss reality, when it instead demonizes dissenters, then it's no surprise that people turn towards alternative media, fueling events like Brexit and Trump's election.
I agree with Michael that I'm sorry you're getting downvoted; this is pretty detailed stuff that is very helpful for understanding your views.
However, I strongly disagree with your description of Europe at the object level. I'm going to focus on the UK because I have the most local knowledge there and it's specifically mentioned in some of your points (Rotherham, Brexit). So to be specific:
(1) As you appear to acknowledge, concerns about immigration in the UK have skyrocketed over the past 20 or so years. However, this immigration has mostly not been from Muslim countries, rather it's been from EU countries, see link and link. These immigrants from EU countries are overwhelmingly White and Christian. A particularly large number came from Poland. By contrast, most of the Muslims in the UK are ethnically from Pakistan or Bangladesh, where there have been small decreases in migration. That doesn't sound like a world where people are mostly concerned about immigration because of a clash of cultures and specifically a culture clash with Muslims. The fact that many people voted for Brexit on grounds of immigration further supports a different interpretation; blocking EU migration will mostly block White Christian workers from Eastern Europe and do next to nothing to block further immigration from Pakistan and Bangladesh, it's a very odd policy to vote for if you were concerned specifically about Muslim immigration.
And we can also see evidence of this more directly, this survey shows that people feel very similarly about migrants from Eastern Europe and migrants from 'Muslim countries like Pakistan' (I grant they feel slightly worse, as in a few percentage points worse, about the latter), namely they feel positively if they have work and negatively if they don't. Again, this seems highly inconsistent with a massive culture clash along religious grounds; there should be sharp disparities in how people feel about the two groups.
In short, I think the view that UK concern about immigration and voting for Brexit is primarily driven by worries about the inability of Muslim immigrants to integrate is thoroughly contradicted by the available data and by people's own statements on who and what they are concerned about.
That might be true in the US, but the mainstream media in the UK, especially the newspapers, are generally pro-Conservative-party (i.e. right wing) and anti-immigration. See chart, and be aware that the Mail and Sun have by far the largest readerships.
(3) You talk about 'law and order breaking down' and elevated crime rates which aren't being talked about. In fact, survey data suggests violent crime is at historically low levels search for "Trends in Crime Survey for England and Wales violence, year ending December 1981 to year ending June 2016.
I happen to live in one of the areas you would probably describe as a Muslim 'no-go' area in Tower Hamlets, which is a part of London with a population of around 300,000, 45% Muslim (highest percentage in London). So as a random aside I checked the crime rate for my area, focusing on the homicide rate since that's where I'd expect the official figures to be best. There's been one in the last two years. If it was the average American homicide rate of 4 per 100,000 per year, I'd expect 24. Apparently you should move.
That's a very tongue-in-cheek comment of course, but quite a decent chunk of the London EA community is based in Tower Hamlets and hopefully that helps you see why the 'country is falling apart' suggestions ring somewhat absurd to them; while British Muslims might be more violent than your average Briton (though controlling for income seems important here), they still appear to be safer than your average American.
(4) Finally, you refer to the 'migrant crisis' in a few places in your writing. This phrase is usually deployed to refer to the crisis resulting a huge wave of immigrants starting in about 2015, but presumably you appreciate that there is this can't be linked to Rotherham; the dates don't line up (Rotherham being 1997 - 2013). So I'm left wondering what you are referring to and would appreciate further clarification on this point.
Mass immigration is the general policy that I am criticizing. The migrant crisis is the latest manifestation of these bad policies.
Let's address your points in turn:
Your claim is that Brexit wasn't about a culture clash with Muslims because most immigrants to the UK are non-Muslim EU, and Brexit may not stop Muslim immigration from outside the EU.
First, if other EU countries naturalize Muslim refugees and give them EU passports, then those Muslims would be able to enter the UK.
Second, those details are not how voters think. I am seeing Brexit as a protest vote against the establishment, and one of the reasons for this protest vote is mass Muslim immigration (among other things). Here is my basis for this claim:
The Leave campaign used the possibility of Turkey entering the EU to bolster their case. If Turkey entered the EU, then EU immigrants would be Muslim.
Farage heavily criticized Muslim immigration. He argued that remaining in the EU would put British women at risk of sex attacks like those on New Year's Eve in Cologne, and many other European cities. He described the Cologne attacks as a "nuclear bomb."
Farage used signs like this, which definitely put Muslim immigration at the forefront.
Muslim populations have a very different culture and crime rates, so priors for a culture clash are high.
Even if concerns about cultural clashes with Muslims did not motivate a large percent of Leave voters, it could still be the case that those concerns did motivate many of the influencers behind Leave. I say this because mass immigration in Europe—with Rotherham and Cologne in particular—are motivating the alt right in the US, which influenced the election of Trump due to having an outsized reach. If the failures of multiculturalism in the UK are affecting US politics, then they are definitely affecting UK politics.
Of course, if you ask people in polls, they are going to under-report their concerns about mass low-skilled Muslim immigration because they don't want to be seen as racist. We know from the Shy Tory Factor and Shy Trump Voter effect that people will under-report politically incorrect opinions. Since many Western countries are totalitarian states full of thought policing, and critics of Muslim immigration can result in visits by police, then it's no surprise that opinion polls are failing to capture how populations actually feel.
On media in the UK, it's interesting to hear that they are mostly anti-immigration. Of course, the Mail and Sun are lower in prestige than the Guardian, which is leftist.
Law-and-order breaking down
Thanks for describing your experience in Tower Hamlets. Obviously, it would be better for my case if you were more worried, or if official crime rates there were increasing. However, I still plenty of evidence that law-and-order in European countries, including the UK, is decreasing.
Let's start with Tower Hamlets itself. I did some searching, and I am seeing articles like these:
Tower Hamlets Taliban: Death threats to women who don't wear veils. Gays attacked in the streets.. Excerpt:
'No porn or prostitution': Islamic extremists set up Sharia law controlled zones in British cities. Islamic radicals were putting up signs proclaiming Sharia zones in Tower Hamlets, among other places:
Now let’s look at clashes with Muslims elsewhere in the UK:
This video from Luton shows Muslims with Sharia signs, and telling the reporter that she is going to go to hell (full documentary. Here is a another video from Luton where Britain first walks through the town holding a cross, and they get attacked by Muslims. Note that this kind of civil unrest would not show up in homicide statistics, which suggests that it’s the wrong metric.
Clearly cultural conflicts are emerging. The homicide rate may not reflect this. In general, I would expect under-reporting of all Muslim crime. Additionally, note that one of the criticisms of the lack of integration is that entire neighborhoods become parallel societies, or even “no go zones”, which enforce their own Sharia Law. If natives don’t report Muslim crime because they don’t want to seem racist, or the cops brush it off, and if Muslims themselves don’t engage with the police and report on crime in their own neighborhoods, then this will distort the crime reports. The Mail claims that 20% of inmates in maximum security prisons are Muslim, while 5% of the population is.
The rise of Sharia Law in Europe is also an example of degrading rule-of-law: the law of the land is being replaced. While I am glad to hear that you don’t feel in danger in Tower Hamlets, the environment in the UK looks pretty bad. Sharia parades, Rotherham, Muslim patrols, and scuffles with EDL and Britain First: it’s too much dirt to explain away. If you had tried to predict this reality just a few decades ago, people would have called you a right-wing lunatic.
Finally I will address your comparison to American crime rates:
Comparison to American crime rates is confounded because America is a highly multiethnic society of groups with very different rates of criminality. Highly violent urban populations skew US crime statistics (which is rarely taken into account in the debates about gun control). If your reference point for a peaceful society is US crime rates, then your standards are too low.
European countries are undergoing an unprecedented experiment of social engineering, enforced by threatening the reputation of dissenters. If it goes wrong, the entire EU could break up, experience local civil wars, or even wider conflicts. The level of ethnic strife and cultural strife that is considered acceptable, the rise of Muslim mayors with foreign values ruling over Europeans in their own countries (e.g. Lutfur Rahman) in Tower Hamlets, and Sadiq Khan in London), and mass rape by imported voters would have been considered unthinkable in the past, yet all these things are now firmly within the Overton Window as acceptable costs of multiculturalism to get those precious, precious leftist votes. An external perspective might see this as a disaster.
I certainly grant that this influence-via-influencers argument seems like a more-plausible causal mechanism, though also seems difficult to falsify so I'm not sure how much weight to put on it.
Under-report? Sure. But the 'shy Tory/shy Trump' effects are generally only on the order of a few percentage points while for the world to really look the way you say it looks, they'd have to be under-reporting by huge margins. What reason do you have for thinking that? Is it a falsifiable one? I ask because it seems kinda unreasonable for you to say 'people are highly concerned about Muslim immigration in particular', I say 'no they aren't, see survey'. and you say 'ah well obviously huge numbers of people are really concerned, just don't want to admit it'. If direct survey data doesn't convince you otherwise, what would?
You just gave many examples of high-profile politicians criticising Muslim immigration. Many newspaper columnists criticise it daily (remember, the mainstream newspapers are right-wring/anti-immigration here). Those people don't get arrested. So I don't know exactly what that man did to merit a police visit, but it seems clear that either (a) it was more serious/threatening than that or (b) that particular police force is particularly over-zealous. Without more details it's hard to judge. But either way it's not something the general population has to worry about or would worry about.
Incidentally, the article you link to here is a great example of why I don't consider Breitbart a reliable source. It states* that 1,000 refugees were being relocated to a tiny island of 6,500 people, but if you check its source for that number then you discover that actually the refugees are actually being spread across the whole of West Central Scotland.
*"The tiny Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde, which had a total population of just 6,498 in 2011, is expected to take in around 1,000 Syrian migrants"
"More families are set to arrive on Bute over the next few weeks, which will bring the total to 28 adults and 31 children, topping up the small 6,300-strong population. They are among the first of about 1,000 refugees who are to be re-located around the west central area of Scotland after the British Government agreed to take a total of 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020."
All agreed, I would be horrified if Europe reached American levels of violent crime. But that makes it sound very strange to European ears when Americans talk about 'Law and Order breaking down'. If that's true for us, it's definitely true for you.
But I did also point out (and give sources) that violent crime is at historically low levels within Britain itself, so I can also use the reference point of 'Britain 20 years ago' and get much the same conclusion, which indeed seems a lot more reasonable.
Agreed. I only used it because I expected you to complain about massive under-reporting if I used anything else; it's hard to massively under-report murders. What metric would you suggest?
Not really, it's quite easy to explain away. I'm going to mirror your 'mainstream media' argument back at you I'm afraid; the mainstream media is right-wring, wants to eliminate those 'precious, precious leftist votes' and bolster support for nationalist politics, and does this by a mixture of making things up, ignoring examples to the contrary, and blowing fairly minor events out of all proportion. There are plenty of examples where the general public's beliefs about the number of immigrants, their rates of criminality, their rates of worklessness, etc. are completely disjoint from reality, and always in the direction that makes the immigrants look worse (I can give many examples to this effect if required, but I'm in a bit of a rush so I won't do it right now). That's what a concerted brainwashing campaign over many years can achieve.
The people most immune to such a campaign are the people actually living on the ground since they can confirm or deny the reports directly, and they indeed tend to be much less concerned than the general population.
I think your objections are fair, unlike many of the other skeptics in this thread. But what I am not seeing is you, or the other skeptics, fully updating on the implications of Rotherham (and Cologne, Sharia demonstrations, violence between nationalists and Muslims, etc…).
If events like Rotherham are able to happen, and it’s not an isolated incident, then this hints at the shape of the probability distribution of Muslim immigrant criminality. Additionally, it indicates that the shape of the distribution of police efficacy, and the probability of cities covering up Muslim crime. If you imagine these distributions as bell curves, then Rotherham is at the right tail, but this means that lesser crimes (and police failures) are likely occurring in high Muslim areas across the UK. And in fact, this is occurring: the Wikipedia Rotherham article lists sex gangs in 10 other cities.
I think it’s a mistake to overly focus on particular flawed crime statistics without trying to actually understand what is going between these two cultures. This is why I am emphasizing qualitative measures like video.
I will also advance another argument: my case about European destabilization does not hinge on a national increase in crime rates. I believe that local conflicts are sufficient enough to be a problem. I am basing this view on studying the breakup of Yugoslavia and the wars in Kosovo and Bosnia, a history that I don’t think anyone else here has studied.
One of the catalyzing events of the Bosnian war was a wedding attack on Serbs by Muslims:
The conflict started with small-scale violent events, which turned into a genocidal war that killed over 100k people. The EU is much bigger than Yugoslavia, it contains nukes, and it is much more strategically relevant between the US and Russia.
Utilitarians don’t understand rule-of-law, because they are focused on blunt measures of the number of people affected, without taking into account the second-order effects of reprisals, feuds, and tribal tensions reaching a boiling point.
So it’s not just the crime rate across the country that matters, it’s also local intensity of crime. Could this lead to large-scale sectarian conflict or civil war? I think it’s less likely in the UK, but more likely in other European countries like Germany, France, or Sweden.
But back to crime stats. You are right that crime rates in general have been falling in the UK, but you agreed that statistics of crime reports have flaws. So let’s try to find some other data to resolve this, since it’s data you want.
Rather than looking just at homicide, or at all crime, this article claims that sexual offense were up 36% and violent crime was up 27% in 2015.
However, this is still crime reports, and these are sensitive to police recording methodology, size of police force, and policing effort. Furthermore, Muslim immigrations are still a minority of the UK population, so trends among non-Muslim groups might mask Muslim crime.
A better approach would be to try to find crime by ethnicity, crime by religion, or crime by immigrant nationality. Unfortunately, I can’t find those exact stats (probably because they would be incendiary), but we do have some proxies.
Muslims are 20% of the inmates in maximum security prisons in the UK, but 5% of the population, overrepresented at a factor of 4. In France, Muslims are 70% of the prison population and 8% of the general population, overrepresented nearly by factor of 8.
We have stats from some countries for crime by immigrant nationality. Muslim countries top these charts.
This article takes data from Scandinavian government reports and finds that foreign-born individuals, particularly from Africa and West Asia, committed several times more crime. For example, here is Sweden:
This article which I linked to took official Denmark statistics and constructed this chart, where Somalians were found to commit rate at 16x the rate of the native population.
Let’s take stock:
Initial priors were towards integration problems for Muslim immigrants due to Western/Muslim history of conflict (e.g. Barbary Slave Trade), cultural differences, and ethnic cleansing during breakup of Yugoslavia. Many people in this thread have no sense of the history of Western and Muslim relations.
High profile criminal events and clashes (Rotherham, Cologne, Sharia demonstrations, no-go zones, terrorist attacks) reinforce these priors. We both agree that these events are happening, though we’ve quibbled over the details of no-go zones.
Your experience in Tower Hamlets and falling UK crime rates was weak evidence against my hypothesis.
Muslim overrepresentation in prisons in Europe, and disproportionate offense rates elsewhere in Europe show that indeed Muslims immigrants are committing higher levels of crime, and nearly an order of magnitude higher than native for some subgroups. This makes the UK crime trends look confounded.
So there the overall direction of this evidence is in favor of the priors of Western-Muslim conflict. And I’ve only summarized a small amount of the evidence.
My arguments about elevated Muslim immigrant crime rates fueling destabilization in the UK are still in play, though I will concede that Germany, France, and Sweden are likely at much higher risk. The best argument against my case would be that European governments are strong enough, and European nationalism is weak enough, that a cycle of reprisals and civil unrest can never get started (unlike Yugoslavia): native European just learn to live with high rates of crime, eventually becoming persecuted minorities in their own countries.
What would falsify my argument? Since my argument is drawn from a wide variety of evidence, it would take a wide variety of evidence to contradict it, ideally evidence that isn’t tainted by the state trying to hide the egg on its face. Examples: Farage recants, or some of the videos I’ve linked to were shown to be staged.
When you are in a society with rape gangs attacking thousands of young girls, you have an uphill battle to rescue its image. I think a lot of people in this thread, would benefit from reflecting more on what it means when this can happen in a society. It took me more than a year to process this information, so I totally understand why lots of people in this thread are having trouble grappling with it.
Anyway, I hope this long comment will convince serious readers that this is a nontrivial subject that deserves further investigation. I would highly encourage people to do their own research. If indeed governments engage in risky large-scale social engineering, and then cover it up when it goes wrong, then that has pretty serious consequences for EA.
I just wanted to reply to deal with one factual claim:
Um, no? Here's from the link above:
Not a lot of Muslim countries there, in particular Pakistan and Bangladesh are notably absent. Yet here's the top 10 countries for overall population of foreign nationals in London from Wikipedia.
Sri Lanka: 84,542
And in another entertaining example of MSM bias against immigrants, note how the Mail describes one in four London crimes being committed by foreign nationals as an 'immigrant crimewave', even though over 35% of London's population is foreign-born. Also, even that claim was originally exaggerated; see the correction at the bottom.
That's likely the true reason you were struggling to find these stats by the way; incendiary stats about immigrants are easy to find, the more prosaic ones highlighting that they are less likely to commit crime than native-born people tend to be buried in government reports (until an outlet like the Mail decides to report them and just deliberately mislead people about their relevance).
Somalia is up there in the criminal ranking you provided, and it's Muslim. I would be interested to see how this data defines "foreign born." Sometimes different generations of immigrants behave differently. In general when talking about immigrant crime, "immigrant" refers to 2nd, 3rd, or even nth-generation immigrants if they are not assimilated.
I agree that at least superficially this analysis clashes with my hypothesis, but we still have many pieces of data in my favor (see previous response for links):
Additionally, Guardian says that child sexual abuse is up 60% in the past 4 years. Someone is doing the abusing.
On finding stats: What I am talking about with the difficulty finding crime stats is that race and religion aren't broken out clearly. For instance, Muslims are often rolled into "Asian." And Muslim North Africans are rolled into "black."
We could go back and forth for ages dredging up crime stats and the poking holes in the methodology. Crime stats are known to have methodological problems. When British police are allowing Muslim sex gangs to abuse thousands of children in multiple towns out of racial "sensitivites", then you will have to forgive me for not letting police statistics end the debate. At some point, we should consider what our priors should be.
I would also like to reiterate that I am much more worried about France, Germany, and Sweden than I am about the UK, despite most of this debate being about the UK.
I'm sorry you're getting downvoted--I'm glad that you're providing a different perspective from the usual political opinions we see on the EA Forum.
Since most of the discussion here has focused on Europe, and I'm based in the US, I will address my comment to the US-specific aspects of your response. I am a little tight on time so I apologize in advance for my brevity.
Re: Trump's character I think your rebuttal of Haydn's point here is quite weak. The only source you cite for Trump's character actually being okay is the Collected Work of Scott Adams, a cartoonist who as far as I know has never actually met or spent time with Donald Trump. Adams makes a big deal in his posts about how he has studied persuasion and hypnosis, make claims like "facts don't matter," and appears to me upon reading some of his recent work to be a sophist of the first order. (E.g., in one post he strongly implies that Clinton supporters are silly to think that half the country is having a mass hallucination that Trump is a sane/effective leader; in another post he strongly implies that experts are having a mass hallucination about climate change.) I would not consider his opinion about Trump's character to be any more valuable than those of the thousands of others who have opined on it and come to a different conclusion. As to your point about the media distorting Trump's character, there are significant ways in which our view of Trump is unobstructed by third parties -- e.g., we are able to see exactly what he says in his Twitter feed, including his bullying of private citizens and spreading of unfounded rumors.
Re: Bannon While I agree that descriptions of Bannon as "literally a Nazi" and the like are inaccurate, I do not think it's unfair to hold him accountable for views expressed in articles published by a website of which he was CEO. Similarly to critiques of Trump's candidacy in general, the problem is not that Bannon has expressed overtly bigoted views himself, the problem is that he had no problem helping to foster an environment in which bigotry was condoned, which in turn perpetuates systemic racism. This also relates to your point about policing the term "white nationalism." In general, the pattern that I see among conservative/liberatrian commenters is one in which racism is defined as bigotry; racism is an essential characteristic of a human being, and is an individual flaw rather than a systemic reality; and if one holds a single non-racist view that disproves any claims of racism (e.g., Trump is not racist because he picked Ben Carson for a cabinet post). By contrast, the sense in which people in the social justice movement use racism is as follows: racism is defined as prejudice + power (so in that sense it is specific to white people so long as white privilege is the norm, and distinct from bigotry which can be exhibited by people of any race); racism is characteristic of systems, institutional structures, and specific actions rather than people; people (progressives included) can be complicit in racism even if they do not have a prejudiced bone in their body. These are really important distinctions that affect the way in which language is used and understood, and I would advise against advocating for policing language unless you are willing to grapple with this more complex view of race relations.
Re: authoritarianism This seems addressed largely to a straw man. I don't think many people seriously believe that democracy equals utopia. The quote I most often hear from my liberal friends about democracy is that it's "the worst system of government, except for all the others." I also would agree with the idea that in some circumstances an authoritarian government could be more stable and better for collective wellbeing in the short term than a democracy, especially a compromised and/or divided one. The problem with authoritarian governments is that the downside risk from bad leaders is strongly magnified compared to the downside risk from democracies. The nightmare scenario here is not a Singapore but a North Korea. Furthermore, there's a big difference in risk between some tiny state being taken over by a dictator and the world's richest and most militarily powerful country moving in an authoritarian direction. I take your point that the risks to nuclear war may be overstated in the very short term, but still this does not bode well for a world in which minority rights are protected and truth-telling is valued and incentivized. I don't know about you, but I would not want to live in a regime like China where not only my speech but my very access to ideas and facts is strongly limited (and please don't come back with the absurd false equivalency that political correctness is akin to mass-scale state censorship).
Trump's character: The press was in bed with the Clinton campaign, so I discount their claims about Trump very heavily. I am not citing Scott Adam's as a "source" on Trump's character, I am citing him for providing skepticism against the media and the Clinton campaign's portrayal of Trump.
As for Trump spreading unfounded rumors, like which ones? The press recently attacked him for claiming that illegal immigrants voted in the election.
However, illegal immigrants do vote in elections. Here's the abstract:
So it's not all at unreasonable for Trump to speculate that voter fraud gave Hillary the popular vote. The media discussion is highly distorted.
Bannon: I don’t agree with your section on Bannon because I don’t believe in social justice and I don’t believe in the concept of “racism.” Racism is merely a leftist term of abuse with an ever expanding definition. Tribalism and prejudice are real, but in many cases they are justified: human tribes really are different from each other, and every group has their own grievances. The concept of “racism” is that red tribe’s tribalism is evil, but blue tribe’s tribalism is good; attacking members of the red coalition based on ethnic attitudes is good, but attacking members of the the blue coalition on ethnic grounds is evil. Privileged white progressives use minorities as a shield. When the older concept of racism as prejudice wasn’t enough, progressives had to expand it to the ludicrous “privilege + power” definition, which bakes in a double standard that it’s impossible to be racist against certain groups. The word “racism” has been stretched so much that it should be abandoned; there is no “true” definition of racism to salvage.
It’s a mistake to engage in moral reasoning that takes such shifting and politicized moral weapons for granted, without inspecting them, and then reasons from these premises.
Authoritarianism: The original post I was responding to held democracy in such high-esteem that it advocated donating to a political party to “protect” it. However, why is democracy considered so great? Most smart people nowadays weren’t reasoned into this belief. They believe it because they were educated with a few propagandistic platitudes.They cannot justify democracy without the concept of “rights,” a meaningless concept that is inseparable from democracy. They are not familiar with any of the criticisms of democracy before 20th century propagandists defined it as the best thing since sliced bread (like Maine’s criticisms cited in my original post). They are not familiar with the history of democracy. They are not familiar with the history of monarchy, the most typical non-democratic form of human government, and they believe that any non-democratic government is like a dice roll for Hitler, Stalin, and Kim Jong-Il.
The downside risk is not greater for non-democratic government. It only looks that way if you take all your data-points from the 20th century.
Kim Jong-Il and Stalin were selected through communism. Of course you are going to get a bad leader that way. Hitler was selected through democracy, but the conditions of post-WWI Weimar Germany were unprecedented. Hitler was an expansionist populist, but Trump is an isolationist populist.
Angela Merkel and other EU leaders demonstrate the downside risk of democracy, by destroying their own countries by depressing their own people’s fertility in favor of foreign voters who commit elevated levels of crime and sexual violence. Virtually no historical autocrats did anything so crazy. The goal of historical rulers was to prevent their countries from getting overrun by hostile foreigners and their women raped en masse. It is only because of propaganda that we do not recognize what is obviously going on.
If the US recognized Kim Jong-Il as Emperor of North Korea, he would relax and become less oppressive over time. If the US stopped trying to undermine Putin, then he would be a lot nicer, because he would no longer have to fear the US trying to rig elections and using democracy to install their own puppet, like they’ve done in so many other “democratic” countries. It is not authority that inherently makes rulers evil, it is insecure authority. Being in a democracy, being under communism, or being at war tend to make rulers insecure. In the case of democracy or communism, they can be replaced as “the people’s” chosen; in the case of war, they can be unseated by a foreign power.
So what does this mean for Trump? Well, he is a populist and he was selected through democracy, which are both bad. Luckily, Trump is not a communist or socialist, and the US is not threatened by a bigger foreign power. Trump may not be the president America wants, but he is the president America deserves: red tribe deserves him because they voted for him, and blue tribe deserves him because they tried to push globalist socialism too fast from inside their self-congratulatory media bubble.
There’s a small difference: in China, they are using a more technological approach, while in the West, they use a more ideological and social approach. In China, the state suppresses free speech explicitly. In the US, the state suppresses free speech by punishing employers of thought criminals to make them unhireable if they step too far outside the Overton Window.
Free speech causes a problem in democracies, because it means that any new coalition can develop to challenge the current coalition. This makes the reigning coalition insecure, so it lashes out with social pressure and tries to crush individuals who join a challenger coalition. This is our current situation of culture wars: culture wars are inherent in democracy.
I don’t expect this response to convince you, and in fact you probably shouldn’t be convinced by something this short that clashes with your current worldview, but my goal is to show that alternative perspectives are possible. Those who want a more sophisticated understanding of democracy and its alternatives can start with this essay, or ask me for recommendations.
I think I have one more response left in me and then I'm going to call it quits.
Regarding Trump's character: you are still not fully engaging here. You didn't respond at all to my point that we can see him bullying private citizens on Twitter knowing full well that his supporters will rain down harassment on anyone he calls out there. As far as unfounded rumors go, the voting thing is just one of many, many examples, but let's talk about that. I appreciate that you provided evidence for your case, but you failed to mention that that evidence is disputed in what I find to be a convincing rebuttal by Harvard researchers. Sure, the claim that zero undocumented immigrants vote in elections is probably untrue, and I would not be surprised to learn that it happens once in a while. But millions of votes? The backup for that claim is pure speculation and hearsay. I stand by the characterization of that rumor as unfounded.
More to the point, I have counted two instances now in this thread where you have provided sources to back up factual claims you've made that have later turned out to be misleading or downright false. (The other example being the story about settling 1000 refugees on a small island when it turned out that there were just a couple dozen). Say what you want about outlets like the New York Times, but they issue corrections when they get facts wrong, and even employ a public editor to call them out when they screw up. When has Breitbart ever issued a correction for anything? I think that should be a red flag for you to reconsider the relative reliability of the mainstream media vs. your preferred sources. Perhaps you don't know anyone who works in mainstream media. I do, and they are honest people who believe strongly in journalistic ethics and integrity. I understand you have a worldview that is not well represented in those spaces and I support a reasonable degree of skepticism about any source, but when you find your views challenged there you should apply some of that skepticism to yourself as well. That's what we all do.
Regarding authoritarianism, if the best example you can come up with for a worst-case scenario in a democracy is seriously Angela Merkel, I think that speaks for itself. (Agreed that Hitler came to power in a democracy, but it was an extremely compromised democracy and the fact that he immediately moved Germany toward dictatorship supports rather than undermines my point.) The idea of Merkel "destroying her own country" seems, uh, inconsistent with a nation that is the 16th-happiest in the world.
Regarding social ostracization of "thought criminals," that is going to happen in any society, democratic or not. If it's going to happen, I'd prefer that the people who are ostracized are those who cause the most harm to others by their words and actions. It seems from your response that you don't believe in white privilege. I hope you can see that if one accepts white privilege as a reality, than the progressive double standard on racism makes sense and is justified. So it then becomes an empirical question of whether white privilege exists, for which I think there is ample evidence that it does.
So you are correct, I'm not convinced. I do appreciate you being realistic about that, and the time you've put in to explain your views. It seems we will continue to disagree.
Happy holidays (or, if you prefer, Merry Christmas) to you.
I'm afraid this debate has gotten overly partisan.
On Trump: I didn't engage your accusation about Trump bullying private citizens, because "bullying" is a subjective and partisan term, and you didn't provide any specific examples. My perception is that Trump plays tit-for-tat and attacks those who attack him.
As for the reliability of the sources I provided, you are not operating in good faith.
Illegal immigrants voting: You point out the Harvard study rebutting the study about illegal immigrants voting, despite the fact that my link mentioned that rebuttal. Well, the authors have their own response to that rebuttal (short version in Washington Post, long version). They defend against the charge that their results were just due to measurement error and they provide reasons to believe that their measures were valid. Since neither of our comments captured this larger debate, I object to your characterization of my comment as "misleading," because I could just as easily say the same thing about yours.
The larger point was about about whether Trump spreads unfounded rumors. I showed that one of the supposed unfounded rumors spread by Trump (illegal immigrants voting) was in fact supported by research. Yes, that research is under ongoing debate, but Trump was painted as a madman for holding a similar to position to some scholars in that debate.
On Breitbart: I provided a Breitbart article about British police arresting a man for criticizing Syrian migrants. AGP and you are picking on a totally tangential part of the article, where it mistakenly said that migrants were getting put on the island instead of in a larger area of Scotland. This seems like a deflection from the key point of the article. I agree that Breitbart isn't perfect, but it reports on politically inconvenient events which the mainstream media is trying to sweep under the rug for political reasons; it's a good source because its biases are anticorrelated with mainstream biases. We could have a larger discussion about the credibility of Breitbart vs. the New York Times and their errors and retractions, but I think we are going to have to disagree because you believe that people in the mainstream media have journalistic ethics and integrity.
Merkel and Germany:This 16-year-old German girl. A 31.6% increase in crime doesn't sound happy (article in German but readable with Google Translate).
White privilege: Yes, I reject the concept of "white privilege" and all such social justice concepts. The concept of white privilege is that whites and non-whites are fundamentally similar and would have the same outcomes if it wasn't for the evil oppressiveness of white people. I believe that human tribes are sufficiently different that underperformance of one cannot be blamed on another. There are also plenty of bad historical things that non-white people did that are erased by the concept of white privilege (e.g. the Barbary Slave Trade). Social justice and anti-racism are purely a recent political invention for elite white people to dispossess poor and middle-class white people, using non-white people as the excuse.
I recognize that you are putting in effort to engage me in detail, but I'm happy with leaving this here because we are clearly operating in two completely different realities.
We should not explicitly debate politics or endorse one side or another in an official-ish EA venue like this.
I'd be happy if this was made an official policy going forwards.
However, I don't see how this post differs meaningfully from Haydn's post. Both posts present evidence for various political beliefs without endorsing a candidate. It's hard to argue that either makes even an implicit endorsement, given that the election has finished.
I worry about a norm against debating politics which in practice means "liberal political positions are not up for debate". The EA movement sometimes feels this way, and it definitely decreases my enthusiasm for engaging with EA. It's also epistemically dangerous.
I wouldn't take a contributor post by a single contributor (either Haydn or Henry) as an endorsement of politics.
The main problem with this post, in my view, is that it's still in some places trying trying to re-run the election debate. The relevant question is no longer about who is a bigger risk or who will cause more net suffering out of Trump or Clinton, but about how bad Trump is on his own and what we can do to reduce the risks that arise from his Presidency.
I agree that Trump's views on Russia reduce global catastrophic risk (although his recent appointments seem to be fairly hawkish towards Russia.) However, he'll likely increase tensions in Asia, and his views on climate change seem to me to be a major risk.
In terms of values and opinion polls, immigrants to Western nations have better attitudes than people from their native countries. Furthermore, immigrants when they return to their native countries often take back the values and norms of their host countries. I'm not saying this to make a judgement on whether immigration on this scale is good or bad, just to make the point that our aim is to make the world a better place, not to decrease crime rates in Europe.
That said, far-right extremists are on the rise in both the United States and in Europe (thanks in part to irrational overreactions and hyperbolic statements like law and order is breaking down, which is just patently false as others have said, and thanks in part due to a number of false beliefs about immigration and immigrants themselves, Muslim or not) and I think that one way to stop them from taking power in elections and from attacking immigrants, refugees and others is to give them the sense that they have control over 'their' borders; in other words, tactically retreating on the issue of immigration may well be a good thing. Did we need to elect Trump, with all of the risks that come with his Presidency, in order to do that?
I don't know, but I do know that Trump has been elected now, and that many of his stated policies are terrible, and if individual EAs think that trying to change the policies of the Trump administration from the inside would be an effective thing to do (as Peter Singer has suggested) then I'd say that's plausibly true for a small number of EAs.
I think, in general, it's true that a small number of EAs going into party politics would be an effective thing to do, over and above the policy-change focus which already exists in the EA community and some of its organisations, but that this should be done on an individual basis: EA-affiliated groups and organisations should not get involved in party-politics.
Is it that the far right is on the rise, or that the views they held have been dropped by the centre right, and so now they have their own parties that seem larger than they used to be, but the positions they hold don't have as much public support as they did in the past.
The claims about Europe in this article are completely absurd, but that's hardly surprising given the incredibly low standard of the sources cited. I'm in favour of engagement with diverse viewpoints and believe this should be viewed as a serious task. I think the best way to do this is to engage with the primary literature and with the output of well-regarded think tanks - see for example the Global Go To Think Tank Index Report - http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=think_tanks
Increasingly, MOOCs are also a great way of getting up to speed on the essentials of a discipline - https://www.class-central.com FutureLearn's course on Crime, Justice and Society, for example, was a complete revelation to me, particularly the section on miscarriages of justice -https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/crime-justice-society
Note that many of the claims in Haydn's post had no source at all.
I took a quick look at this report. The methodology section indicates that it ranks think tanks on the basis of impact. Choosing to trust a think tank based on how much influence it has seems a bit like choosing to trust a person based on how loudly they're speaking.
So, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I for one am quite glad that these discussions are being down-voted.
When we consider entertaining these discussions, we can take a consequentialist viewpoint and run a simple cost/benefit analysis to determine if entertaining the discussions is a good idea, such as the following: Benefits = (tractability: chance entertaining discussion will lead to changes in EA thinking) (impact: amount of marginal good that will occur if change in EA thinking occurs) (maybe an uncertainty discount, depending on your preference) + (improved reach: benefits of bringing in new EAs who are amicable to these arguments) + (value externalities: benefits that arise from fomenting a culture of openness to new ideas among EAs) Costs = (decreased reach: harms of causing EAs not amicable to these arguments to become disenchanted with EA) + (reputational risk: harms that would arise if people started saying "EAs seem to be amenable to alt-right discussions", which in turn would further scuttle our already struggling efforts to diversity the EA movement and repaint ourselves in a better light)
People pushing the above arguments clearly think that the potential impacts of integrating these thoughts into EA are very very high (e.g., a lot more conservative people could join EA, we'd avert WWIII or something, etc.), even if they admit that the tractabillity is quite low, hence why they are pushing so strongly.
However, I, and many other EAs, believe very strongly that the costs (reputation risk + harming our ability to reach more potential EAs) are higher than the potential benefits. I'd also say that, for many of us, the estimated sign on "amount of marginal good that will occur if change in EA thinking occurs" associated with the above arguments is actually negative, for a variety of reasons.
Now, the people arguing for these arguments will most likely say "but what about intellectual diversity and freedom of speech!" To which I retort A) freedom of speech and the ideals of liberty do not mean that I have to spend my time entertaining your thoughts or that I need to write 10 pages explaining why, exactly, I think you are mistaken, and B) as a consequentialist, I am a fan of pushing and supporting equal intellectual diversity as a vehicle for good, and in this case I very strongly think that entertaining this particular form of intellectual diversity will cause much more harm than good. I do think that we need to push for more intellectual diversity in the EA movement, but there are much better ways to do this than entertain this sort of discussion.
I don't believe people should vote on posts based on whether they believe the posts do net benefit or net harm. That's what a naive utilitarian approach would suggest, but I don't think we should take a naive utilitarian approach. Instead we should vote based on how meaningfully the post contributes, even if we believe the conclusion is wrong.
I disagree with your claim that we should censor "bad" opinions and I believe this sort of behavior damages healthy discourse in the long run. I'm not downvoting your comment because that would go against my beliefs about how people ought to vote on things. Actually I'm upvoting it because you're saying something relatively novel and it made me think about things in a way I hadn't before.
I'd be interested in knowing what ways you think would be better.
Thank you, to be frankly honest I'm not too sure how sold I am on my argument either - naive utilitarianism is definitely a fun way to explore new models, but I definitely agree that it shouldn't be taken too seriously! For intellectual diversity, I don't have a concrete plan as of yet, but in general one of my main hang-up is my perception that EAs don't give enough credence to the thoughts of practicioners who have been trying to improve the effectiveness of NGO and Government work for decades. I work in a large NGO, and my job focuses on improving the uptake of impact research evidence, and I originally approached my job from a very naive perspective, believing that EA-style thinking (even though I didn't know about EA at the time) would easily improve the effectiveness of the organization. A lot of people were pushing back against the initiative, which I originally thought was just a matter of them 'not getting it', or 'supporting the status quo' - until I started talking to them, and realized that I was being the ridiculous one. That being said, I still had some things to add - which is why overall I think that similar engagements between EAs and non-EAs who are working on the effectiveness of a given topic should talk more (and the EAs should listen as much as they talk!). Learning more about how programs and aid and NGOs and such actually 'work' in reality and talking to experts on these topics may nuance a lot of people's positions - it did for me at least. I think engaging more with 'traditional social movements', like feminism, Black Lives Matters, labor unions, etc. could lead to similar benefits as well, especially as EAs consider how to grow and increase the power of the EA 'movement' - although, I understand that this is a touchier topic, so I don't really push for it often.
Thanks for the feedback, Rick.
I'm only mildly confident that making this post was a good idea. I probably wouldn't have made it if Haydn's post had better anticipated objections like Henry's. Haydn's post made me worry that most EAs, including policy associates at the main EA think tank, are simply unaware of arguments that the right is making.
Happy to hear more thoughts on this, including sent as a personal message.
Thanks Xccf, it's definitely good to explore these questions. I just personally worry that this specific anti-immigration part of the right has 1) become particularly dangerous in their rhetoric, and 2) has become too good at co-opting language used by EAs. For 1, I'd probably defer to everyone else's points on this. I won't put out an argument, but just to give some background for where I am coming from - I grew up with Muslim and Immigrant friends, and after the rhetoric after 9/11 started getting heated my parents made sure that I listened to Bush's (as well as everyone else's) calls for tolerance, including by forcing me to read the wonderful book "Who speaks for Islam". I just have never bought the 'clash of civilizations'-type arguments as a result, and can find no evidence that behooves me to change my view. I now directly work for an organization that (among other things) pushes for refugee (including Syrian) rights. If I had any doubt that this work was dangerous, I'd quit. For 2, it's a little fuzzier, and a little less developed - so you'll have to bear with me (I wish I had a good source writing this up - perhaps when I have time I'll make one). I see a lot of cases of young white men (like myself, mind you) pushing pseudo-scientific screeds against various forms of equality (Milo Yiannopoulos is the king of this). Many people in this cohort portray themselves online (note: portrayal is everything in this case!) as the 'logical' ones, and say 'I'll change my mind if you can prove me wrong with facts in a reasonable argument', and then complain that the real problem is 'political correctness', which is stifling their 'freedom of speech'. On the surface, this looks like a sane line of argument, and seems like one that we should support (who doesn't like freedom of speech, amiright?). And so this becomes a situation where they force the rest of us who believe in freedom of speech and intellectual diversity to either A) yell at them, thus making them look like the ones with the high ground, or B) try to reason with them, which accidentally normalizes their speech, and puts it into the mainstream. God forbid you actually manage to kick the legs out from under their argument, like I've managed to do on forums a few times, because then their buddies tend to try to cyberbully you, or worse if god forbid they dox you and people get your real address.
I really don't want to make this come off as ad hominen or a judgement on your character, so please forgive me if I'm coming on a little too strong (and without enough evidence! which I do apologize for as well). I do not believe that you are one of these people that I mentioned - I've seen your posts, and you are very reasonable, but I strongly worry that Henry is one of these people based on the way he writes and the thoughts being pushed. Once again, I can't prove this, but I just want to flag it just in case.
I agree: if EA wants to climb the ladder of prestige in the current climate, then best to avoid any crimethink. I only wrote my comments due to a request. EA is trying to have a high positive impact, but it is hamstrung by an establishment media that is disconnected from reality. There is very little that EA can do about this that wouldn't confront that establishment. However, there are a couple things that EAs can do: stop publicly pushing for leftist partisan causes like open borders, and stop donating to Democrat political campaigns.
Also, it's worth noting that what I just suggested is a fairly dangerous idea for a variety of reasons. So, by my logic, if the general consensus among everyone is that what I suggested will clearly lead to more harm than good, then I would very strongly suggest down-voting my comment into oblivion and never talking about it again ;)