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Jan 18, 2023·edited Jan 18, 2023

Reading this piece, I think of the Kavanaugh hearings where Blasey-Ford accused a powerful man of a crime with no evidence, faulty recollection, and no corroboration other than her emotional telling of an event that may or may not have happened decades ago. Ugly as it was to watch, it was likely a good event in that the weaponized accusation failed, as it should have, and that the 'believe all women' mantra was seen as a tool for partisan gain and no longer a pure cry for justice.

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I think Ford/Kavanaugh accusation is a difficult one. If the accusation is true, I wouldn't expect there to be evidence thirty years later, nor for recollection to be faultless. I wouldn't expect corroboration in the sense of, e.g., a witness, because I wouldn't expect attempted rapes to occur in front of witnesses. I would expect there'd possibly be corroboration in the sense of there being other accusers, and there were, though as Caplan notes, there's a significant chance of that anyway. I'd expect there'd probably be corroboration in the sense that there'd be *some* record of her having mentioned it to someone before, which there was. As described on Wikipedia:

> Ford said she later attended couples counseling with her husband where she first talked about the incident in 2012. The therapist's notes from the time, parts of which were released on September 16, 2018, said that she had stated that she was assaulted by students "from an elitist boys' school", who eventually became "highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington", although the notes do not name Kavanaugh. Notes from another session a year later say that Ford had previously described a "rape attempt" while in high school.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Kavanaugh_Supreme_Court_nomination#Sexual_assault_allegations

It's awful and uncomfortable, but sometimes it's sensible to end up with mid-range probability estimate for certain things, especially accusations of crimes committed decades ago. This is awful for both the accuser and the accused.

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Other matters that have a bearing on the credibility of Ford's accusation:

Ford testified that aside from herself and Kavanaugh three other boys -- Mark Judge, PJ Smyth, and another whose name she couldn't recall -- and one other girl were present in the house where the sexual assault allegedly occurred. (Judge and Smyth were, in fact, close friends of Kavanaugh's when they were in high school, but Ford could have learned that from Mark Judge's published memoirs in "Wasted," still available in Amazon.com.) Ford named Leyland Keyser, a close longtime friend of hers, as the other girl. Judge, Smyth, and Keyser all denied having any recollection of any such social gathering, and Keyser also said for the record that she had never met Kavanaugh.

Ford said that in 2012 she told her husband that as a result of having been sexually assaulted as a teenager she was fearful of being trapped in their home by an assailant and wanted a second front door installed to relieve that fear, to which her husband consented. Real estate records show, however, that the Fords had their home altered in 2012 to create an independent rental unit with a separate front entrance, which they subsequently rented to students attending a local college.

Ford initially confided her accusation against Kavanaugh in a letter to a member of Congress and then in an interview by a Washington Post reporter. Shortly after the Post's publication of the accusation the chairman of the Senate Committee conducting the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing invited Ford to appear before it to testify. She replied that she was reluctant to come to Washington DC for that purpose because lingering PTSD from the alleged sexual assault made her afraid of air travel. She eventually did travel by air from California to Washington to appear at the hearing, however, and later admitted under cross examination that she had previously travelled by air for surfing vacations in such far-flung locales as Hawaii, Costa Rica, and French Polynesia. And in a sworn written statement to the Committee a longtime (1992-98) former boyfriend of Ford's averred that she had accompanied him on a sightseeing flight in Hawaii in a small propeller-driven airplane without expressing any fear of flying.

The former boyfriend also averred that he had discovered about a year after they broke up that Ford had charged some $600 to his credit account for merchandise purchased after the break-up and that when confronted about this she had initially denied having done so but then admitted it after he "threatened to involve fraud prevention." https://twitter.com/ShannonBream/status/1047293294567456770/photo/1

Re other accusers: https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-kavanaugh-accuser-recants-1541371466

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I don't think it was a difficult one. Without evidence, there's not much to do with 30 year old accusations, especially when there is obvious motivation for them and the accuser is not reliable. If she didn't lie so casually and there weren't an obvious motive (particularly the financial one), it might be a little disconcerting to give the benefit of the doubt just because the accusation was so old, but there's no real other way to treat it.

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What was the financial motive?

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She collected more than $800k from GoFundMe.

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Although, as indicated in my previous comment, I think Ford is a liar, I don't think she was initially motivated by any hope of reaping a windfall from GoFundMe. That could only occur if she attained celebrity, and it's apparent from her course of conduct that she initially hoped to spike Kavanaugh's chance of confirmation without being publicly revealed as the accuser.

She first communicated the accusation in a letter to the member of Congress from her district, requesting that her identity be kept confidential. On July 30, 2018 the Congresswoman who'd received it forwarded the letter to Sen. Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was conducting the nomination hearing. Ford also raised the accusation in a phone conversation with a Washington Post reporter at about that time, but refused to go on record as an identified source. Some six weeks later, on Sept. 12, Feinstein discussed the accusation with other Democrats on the Committee, and later the same day The Intercept reported that Feinstein had received a letter from a California resident concerning "an incident involving a woman and Kavanaugh while they were in high school" that had a bearing on the confirmation hearing but that Feinstein had refused to show the letter to anyone else in deference to the author's request for confidentiality. The following day Feinstein issued a public statement confirming that she had received such a letter but said that the author had "strongly requested confidentiality [and] declined to come forward or press the matter further" and that she, Feinstein, had referred the matter to Federal investigative authorities. Specifically, she sent a copy of the letter to the Justice Department. One day later, Sept. 14, Politico reported that Committee members had been "blindsided" by "an anonymous allegation that Kavanaugh forced himself on a woman in a locked room at a high school party decades ago." Ford finally revealed herself as the accuser in an interview published in the Washington Post on Sept. 16 after having been contacted by several reporters who'd apparently learned from leakers that she was the author of the letter.

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I think initially she was just a hard core partisan looking to help derail the nomination from the shadows. I suspect there was an oh shit moment at some point when she realized things might be getting out of her control, and then when the offers of free legal representation and other help she realized it would be a net positive to go public. But I'm also attributing more or less rational thought to her, and that's probably not the right approach.

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Wow, I didn't know that, and that's an update for me. I'd thought that, though one might have a political motivation for a false accusation, it seemed like an enormous amount of work and misery, with not much personal reward. This provides a plausible explanation for why someone might choose to endure all of that.

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"So even if false accusations are 1-in-100,000 events, we should expect five false accusations against every innocent person known by 500,000 people."

Empirically, do we see this? I am not sure how to measure "known by 500,000 people." Does this mean that those 500,000 people just know your name? Follow news about you? Have met you in person?

Off the top of my head, I would guess that most moderately-famous people don't have five accusations against them, although it could be that there are accusations I don't know about. Weaker accusations may well not have gotten far in the news in the pre-MeToo era.

If we don't see the five false accusations against such people, it could be that false accusations are rarer than hypothesized. Or it could be that false accusations are proportional to other metrics more than "fame" and "success" broadly defined.

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Caplan doesn't purport to say how many false accusations are typically made against widely-known people for every 100,000 people who are acquainted with them or know something about them. He merely assumes for the sake of argument that it's one per hundred thousand in order to drive home his point that famous people are more likely to be falsely accused, which is not hard to believe.

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Not only are famous people more likely to know other people, they're also more likely to have a lot to lose from an accusation, which makes them more tempting targets.

Of course this doesn't mean that any one accusation is true or false, but we should generally be more skeptical of accusations made against famous people than we would be of accusations made against others.

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Famous men have more opportunities. Does anyone remember Bob Crane?

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Most of these apply to accusations of racism+pretty much all discrimination. Especially the hypersensitive one. That’s why “standpoint epistemology” is baked into the woke ideology, if you’re part of one of the oppressed classes, you have a unique knowledge of racism and thus should not be questioned on your experience. It by default gives the most power to the most insane people, both the extremely neurotic and extremely narcissistic. Then even if the transgression wasn’t intentional, it was the result of your unconscious bias and deep seeded racism. Denying that you’re subconsciously racist is then even further proof that you are in fact extremely racist.

It’s the most obvious power grab ever, and relies 100% on intimidation to get people on board with it.

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This is really shoddy reasoning. There are obvious counter-balances to these points.

First, fame doesn't equal interactions. Lots of people might want to claim that they were abused by famous people, but to do so in a way anyone would report they at least have to have had interactions with that person of the sort that would make the accusation worth hearing. Famous people don't have 100,000 times more private interactions with people who might accuse them of something.

Second, power causes intimidation. Accusing anyone of anything publicly risks retaliation from the accused. The more powerful someone is, the more likely they are to be able to use that power to effectively harm you. Similarly, people who are famous typically have a fan base, and have a reputation to support that gives them a large incentive to use that power to discourage accusations.

Third, power gets abused. People who have power use it to do bad things. That's kind of like the whole basis for the libertarian complaint against government. Being powerful makes people both feel like they're entitled to do bad things and like they can get away with doing bad things. So, people with power are more likely to engage in abusive behaviors.

Fourth, people constantly downplay their own guilt. They will regularly tell themselves the best possible version of any story where they might feel any guilt. They diminish their responsibility and their immorality in their own minds, and certainly seek to do so in the minds of others. The tendency to refuse to think you've done anything wrong is at least as prolific as the tendency to read bad intentions into the actions of others. The tendency to adopt forgiving interpretations of people who we either like or who might have the power to harm us also makes less likely to accept accusations against them. It might have just been a joke, but it's more likely that the person was being a jerk and said it was a joke to avoid the social costs of bad behavior.

Fifth, while people may have more sympathy for harms done to women this appears to lead to a tendency to downplay those harms. If you feel morally obligated to do something about certain types of harms, it is in your self-interest to ignore or downplay actual harms of that type, since you might otherwise have to actually do something about them. A general refusal to pay attention to suffering is the standard human reaction to most intolerable suffering. That's why people get mad at commercials reminding them of starving kids and hurt animals. They don't want to acknowledge it. Now, once they have, they are likely to be unwilling to give up their mantle of Good Person by going back on it if they were wrong, but the fact that basically every woman had a Me, Too story suggests that prior to Me, Too, the refusal to acknowledge harms was the norm, and the far larger problem in society.

I guess I've only got five obvious observations, but since they came to mind immediately, I could probably come up with more if the numbers really matter. I will point out, though, that this last point might help explain the uncharacteristically poor reasoning on display here. You've taken on a public mantle of defending a group of benighted, ignored victims. It gets lots of comments from people who like you for it. Going back on it would be psychologically unpleasant. It would take the nice feeling away. It would also mean your words were probably helping a lot of bad people feel better about themselves, and safer in their further efforts to do bad things.

I would suggest that your failure to think of these obvious counterpoints is good reason to think your judgments here aren't trustworthy, even for yourself. Since they also could help perpetrate widespread harms, I think it's irresponsible of you to continue to post on these topics. Please stop. You're looking bad here not because everyone's out to get you, but because for whatever reason, this topic is one you can't think about objectively.

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Your first contention is undermined by a notorious case in point. Christine Blasey Ford became a hero to millions of MeToo feminists and progressive partisans and reaped an $800,000 GoFundMe windfall (though she received legal representation free of charge), yet no one has corroborated any aspect of her account of an alleged gathering in a house at some unspecified location where she was allegedly assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. She said four others were present in the house besides herself and Kavanaugh: Mark Judge, PJ Smyth, Leyland Keyser, and someone else whose name she said she did not recall. Kavanaugh denied the accusation and said he'd never met her. Mark Judge, who according to Ford had been present in the bedroom where the alleged assault occurred, denied having seen any such encounter, and he, Smyth, and Keyser said they had no recollection of any such gathering. Smyth and Judge had been high-school friends of Kavanaugh (which Ford could have learned from reading Judge's published memoirs in "Wasted," still available on amazon.com), but Keyser, a close longtime friend of Ford's, said she had never met him. Even assuming for the sake of argument Ford's accusation is true, its reception by a largely credulous media and public and the consequent adulation of the accuser suffice to demonstrate that it can be feasible to besmirch a celebrity's reputation with a false accusation with relative impunity.

Re your second point: how, if at all, has Kavanaugh used his considerable authority to retaliate against Christine Blasey Ford?

Re your fourth point: the tendency to give the benefit of the doubt to people one likes or approves of can cut either way -- as divergent reaction to the Ford/Kavanaugh controversy amply demonstrates.

Re your fifth point: rape has always and universally been regarded as a serious offence and hence was outlawed by statutes prescribing punishment by lengthy imprisonment (or worse) long before the MeToo movement, or any other feminist movement, came into being. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution require, however, that due process be accorded to people accused of criminal acts before criminal sanctions are imposed -- which means, among other things, that unless they confess guilt they have a right to trial by jury in which the prosecutor bears the burden of proof. Do you think that is unjust? I.e., do you think that the MeToo mantra "believe women" should be given legal effect by requiring that men accused of raping women be convicted and imprisoned in every case unless the alleged victim retracts the accusation? Should men who are accused by women of sexual harassment likewise be presumed guilty and punished in all cases unless the alleged victim(s) retract their accusation(s)?

I won't go so far as to say that your evident "failure to think of these obvious counterpoints" proves that you are incapable or unworthy of participating in rational discussion on this topic, but it didn't leave you in a strong position to cast such aspersions on others.

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Seriously? One anecdote of a very atypical public accusation vs. thousands upon thousands of stories shared over social media of cases where people were intimidated into silence or dismissed? Paranoia about implausible and unconstitutional legal changes as a reason not to trust seemingly honest people in everyday life? Why did you think anything you said provided good evidence against anything I said? Single anecdotes and idle speculation are about the worst forms of evidence out there. Again, there appears to be a paranoid irrationality pervading this issue when otherwise intelligent men speak about it.

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You've waved off the Ford/Kavanaugh counter-example as "atypical" and "anecdotal" but its pertinence is obvious.

You've ducked the pointed questions I put to you in rebuttal to your fifth point.

Nor have you addressed what I said in response to your fourth point, so I'll put it in the form of another question for you to duck: why assume that the natural tendency to give the benefit of the doubt to people one finds simpatico works to the benefit of those accused of misconduct but not to the benefit of accusers?

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This all seems reasonable. What depresses me is that it seems like a brave thing to post. It should be commonplace to make these observations without worrying about severe consequences that are unrelated to whether or not the observations are reasonably likely to be true.

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Which is why substack is so important. If BC were to try to publish this in a MSM outlet, he would be pilloried or blocked from doing so. Spread the news about substack!

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I really like Substack's policies. But I think what I'm talking about is more a testament to his not caring about what people think of him, unless they have good arguments, and the benefit of having tenure.

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Perhaps feminism, BLM, MAGA, etc. could be thought of as forms of "ideological rent seeking", which I discuss in greater detail (in the context of domestic violence laws) here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=915929

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Thanks for the link. The paper was thoughtful and though provoking.

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I think points 2, 4 and 9 are all very important insights (and I'm especially glad you included 4 because it's something people on all sides of the debate are prone to forgetting).

I'm afraid I don't think I'm with you on 10, though. One can easily think of counter-examples (19th century and later refusal to help women with labour pains; general underinvestment in research for female-specific medical conditions; FGM; pre-modern view of rape as a crime against a woman's father or husband; modern refusal to allow pregnant women almost any medication in case it does some unspecified harm to their baby). I agree most of these are historical or non-western, and I agree that your examples are also cases of the reverse, but I don't think humans in general prioritise addressing female suffering.

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When MeToo took off, I read dozens of intimidation stories from various sources. These were all stories where the culprit indeed was a nobody. Often literally - they typically did not name the man or men involved. There are reasons to believe most of those were true. Not only were they against nobodies, I also imagine it must be difficult to share a humiliating life event on a public forum. I don't think you have to be a Feminist to be concerned that several women in your life have experienced at least one scary situation with sexual aggression from males.

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Good post.

I think #METOO has burnt out. Men and women have to live together, it's hard to sustain antagonism.

I think the delay and breakdown and marriage probably has a lot to do with things like #METOO, SLUTWALKS, and the rest of it. Women are spending their 20s and even 30s single and/or in unsatisfying go nowhere relationships. They lash out. It's not defensible, but it's predictable.

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It might also have something to do with feminism's success in turning marriage into a form of slavery for the breadwinner (more likely - especially originally - to be the man). No-one wants to be turned into a breadwinner under family law - and the only way to avoid that is to not marry. Meanwhile, if you're the supported spouse of someone who volunteered to be - or who has been maneuvered into being - a breadwinner, you can cash out via marital breakdown. Incentives matter.

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Feminism is the nihilist hatred of free will and of men.

"Gender Tribalism"-Peter Schwartz

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Big yawn. No actual empirical data or anything on this.

Are we supposed to look at *Bryan's* truisms and conclude "oh wow, Harvey Weinstein must have been falsely accused! he must be released from prison immediately".

Also, re "Success motivates false accusations", I have yet to see many famous people of being falsely accused of sexual misconduct. Maybe I don't follow celebrities that much but usually accusations cluster on a few individuals - doesn't mean the accusations are true.

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You won’t ever see it. You’ve never considered the evidence. You’re neither on the jury, nor are you the prosecutor, or the defense. And yet you’re not concerned at all about assuming accusations are true, you’re only concerned that someone prove accusations false. It’s very telling.

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He even presented these ten points as truisms, meaning they're self-evident. The truth of the arguments in this post is not conditional on empirical data.

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What are you talking about? He explicitly cites empirical data. I've never heard it claimed that a "truism" must be "self-evident".

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Really? You've never heard that claimed? When I click on the words for a definition, "truism" means "obviously true" and "self-evident" means "obvious."

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I'm guessing you never spent much time studying the details of the Harvey Weinstein case beyond "the news" to determine he was "obviously" guilty. Me too. Then I listened to this podcast where a defense attorney interviews other defense attorneys about their famous cases. Here he interviews Donna Rotunno, Weinstein's attorney. It was after sentencing and she was talking with a professional colleague. Nothing wrong with her saying, "he was guilty of course but he deserved my best efforts and this is what I did." But in fact she said that while Weinstein was obviously boorish and disgusting, she was convinced after looking at all the evidence that he committed no legal offense. So maybe Bryan is on to something when he notes that the MeToo movement leads people to jump to unsupportable conclusions.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/donna-rotunno-for-harvey-weinstein/id1536699806?i=1000495484499

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Bryan referenced empirical data on personality differences and the decline in mentoring & co-authorship. Rather than an absence of data, there is you ignoring the data Bryan cites.

No, why bring up such a conclusion about Weinstein at all? He said "some of the accused may ultimately turn out to be guilty of serious wrong-doing", so Weinstein can still be guilty and merit punishment.

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Perhaps then you might wish to look into the cases of Leon Brittan, Harvey Proctor, Neil Hamilton, Lord Janner, Ted Heath, and Lord Bramall, all of whom were targeted by known false allegations.

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I was going to say "nobody is defending Weinstein, he was both obviously guilty and the accusations against him are very grave, and of course it was right for him to be imprisoned." But then I read the other comments, and my heart sank...

Nevertheless, I think it's possible to be somewhat moderate on this; in fact Caplan himself makes this distinction. In cases where the evidence is less clear, or when the accusation is less serious, then it would be wrong assume that every new accusation is another Weinstein case.

The reason that I believe that the Weinstein actions specifically were true is because the accusations were made before MeToo got going, indeed they are what caused MeToo to get going, so it would not have been obvious to the accusers that they would get such a status boost from the ordeal. This point in particular does not apply to many subsequent allegations, where it had become clear that this was a moment that people had to be on the right side, and the longer the moment went on, the more people were scraping the bottom of the barrel to try and get a favourable headline or two (in the case of celebrities), or to sell their story to journalists (in the case of ordinary people). This also meant relatively trivial incidents became reinterpreted as sexual assault - I was reminded recently of the woman who accused actor & comedian Aziz Ansari of sexual assault when what had actually happened was a consensual one-night stand that she regretted the next morning. (And yes, our culture sometimes pressures women into reluctantly giving consent, but that's not Ansari's fault, and it would be absurd for men to assume the opposite, that "yes" means "no".)

So there is a clear fallout from the whole affair. While it was ultimately a good thing and we are better off for living in a world where would-be predators may be more hesitant to predate, and where women feel safer to go about their daily lives, there have been some unintended consequences. Revolutions are sometimes necessary but they are never clean, and someone somewhere has to be able to address the collateral damage without being unpersoned as a counterrevolutionary.

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Interesting that your heart sank rather than your mind opened.

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So I guess you never got past the first paragraph of what I wrote?

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>So while some of the accused may ultimately turn out to be guilty of serious wrong-doing, we know that accusers who ignore my truisms are guilty of serious wrong-doing already.

Yes, of course. Ignoring Omnipotent Bryan is the same as what Cosby and Weinstein did.

It must be so hard to be perfect when the rest of us are so irrational as to want basic human rights.

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“Ducks and ostriches are both birds.”

“Look at this idiot saying ducks and ostriches are exactly the same!”

Come on, friend, you can do better.

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It's really impressive how you manage to ignore 95% of what Bryan wrote and then come up with an utterly ridiculous straw man. Why don't you explain an actual point of disagreement for a change?

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Lol what? These ten truisms are all true, so anyone ignoring these truisms are in fact guilty of wrong-doing. Especially since wrongly accusing people of things is seriously immoral.

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Bryan made no claims to perfection. He made a set of claims which he claims to be true, and asserts that it is wrong for people to ignore. And if people want to be better, they can stop doing that.

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Rational perfection is when you know what you are talking about. Its not mysticism.

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Lol good catch. You can ignore other truisms but if you ignore *Bryan's* truisms, then you are a bad-faith loser who should get a life.

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Aside from the obvious mischaracterization, what does omnipotence have to do with this? Did you mean "Omniscient"?

You seem to disagree with him, yet you have not made an actual argument. Declaring that you want something is not a reason for anyone to agree that what you're advocating is a good way to get it.

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Beyond your hidden Marxist mysticism, out here in the concrete, material universe, all members of the same economic "class" don't necessarily act identically.

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One thing I'd like to hear you discuss, is that men are bigger and stronger than women and abuse and kill women more that women abuse and kill men, how does this work into feminism.

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While it's literally true that men kill women more than women kill men, the difference is startling - in that it's not as big as you'd think. While men are FAR more likely to kill someone, their victims are overwhelmingly men. And, while women are FAR less likely to kill someone, their victims are... overwhelmingly men. So, men are the killers, say, 90% of the time, but the victims are women only 10% of the time, so in roughly 9% of all killings, it is a man killing a woman. Women are the killers perhaps only 10% of the time, but they kill men roughly 90% of the time, so in roughly 9% of all killings, it is a woman killing a man. Before the Obama administration changed the definitions (during the College Rape moral panic), the Justice Department data for decades showed that men were injured in intimate violence episodes almost as often as women - at all levels of severity including death. The split was around 44-55 to perhaps 40-60. Now, that still leaves up to a 50% difference (i.e., 60/40 = 1.5), which isn't small, but to listen to the rhetoric about intimate partner violence - or to look at the resources devoted to it and who they help - you'd think women never hurt a soul. And you'd be wrong. Our society simply cares more about women's problems.

By the way, because I realize that the Justice Department's findings are so contrary to everything you've heard, I offer a slogan one domestic violence worker used to explain why women are so good at causing injury: "Angry men use their fists; angry women use weapons." You can do a lot of damage with kitchen equipment.

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So, in short: Men kill much more than women, and this shows society hates men. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

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Matt Ball, perhaps you’d understand his point if you’d been falsely accused.

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I with you did not mention MBTI. Its criticisms of being reliant on Barnum effect could well be dismissed here (even if MBTI just tells you what you hint at in the questions, it could be telling if women themselves say they are "more feeling than thinking"), but AFAIK it also has low reliability, so with a properly hacked sample you could obtain MBTI statistics that show you whatever the hell you want.

> If an activist makes a habit of ignoring my ten truisms, they’re aren’t just error-prone. They’re accusing others negligently. So while some of the accused may ultimately turn out to be guilty of serious wrong-doing, we know that accusers who ignore my truisms are guilty of serious wrong-doing already.

IMO this is an unwarrantedly strong statement. I understand the people you're criticising have no qualms about completely disregarding epistemic humility, but this is no reason to do the same - otherwise, IMO, you're just participating in the culture war on the opposing side.

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