Oct 1Liked by Sam Atis

The explanation Henderson gives is incorrect (if another ideology was to cause the deaths of even more people in the near future, would that really result in communism being seen as less acceptable?), but to state the obvious, historically communists were not morally superior to fascists, so it is a bit of a puzzle why a teenage identification with communism is seen (at least in Western countries) as morally better than the equivalent with fascism.

I think it's mostly just a result of the ideologies being viewed differently - because fascism is coded as evil in a way communism isn't, it's more attractive to people who are keen on evil. "When I was 18 I wanted to be seen as evil" requires explanation in a way that "when I was 18 I was ignorant" doesn't. There are some opinions that become fairly reliable indicators that someone expressing them is a wrong un even if the opinions themselves are correct and could without the cultural context surrounding them be uncontroversial. A form of trapped prior/canalisation, perhaps.

And how has fascism become canalised in that way, when communism hasn't? I think the main cause is fairly clear - almost none of the countless victims of communist atrocities were from Western countries.

Every now and then the (Western) internet rediscovers the fact that Hitler isn't viewed with the same level of revulsion in India as he is in the West, and is shocked/amused by it. But really it's no more surprising than a gentle Oxford professor having a bust of Lenin in their downstairs toilet.

On that, I'd be interested to know how Indian views on Hitler have changed in recent years - it might give one indication of the extent to which they are being subsumed into global American culture.

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I like these posts for the strange mix of EA/rationalism and rsp: two worlds that I never thought would collide.

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On (2), I think the politicians' approach is actually more reasonable / less 'thick' than it might seem. One among many issues with polls is that they don't capture salience: if 60% of the public is in favour of some measure, that tells you nothing about the degree to which they actually think about it when not being explicitly asked. Backing popular but unsalient measures is, essentially, useless for the purpose of getting re-elected.

But if someone bothers to attend their MP's surgery and starts talking about how much they care about X and how essential it is that the MP votes for / against it – that gives you at least one data point on salience! And usually, for issues that are salient for more than a small handful of people, you'll get more than one person. So relying on individual members of the public (for all that it's not very epistemically virtuous) does give politicians at least a weak practical advantage over polls for the purposes of re-election. And there's a case to be made that it offers some *epistemic* advantages: to be sure, this approach will almost certainly mislead politicians about the headline yes/no ratio, but it will give them a better sense of the texture of salience, which is just as important for understanding public opinion.

This is one part of the explanation for why (to give an example) assisted dying is such a split issue in parliament when essentially every poll for the last three decades has shown stupid levels – higher-than-supermajority levels – of support. Most supporters are, like, instinctively in favour but never think about it (unless they have a personal story with a relative or something); those who oppose see it as the first crack in the door towards state-sanctioned killing of undesirables and care, on average, a *lot* more. Even though it's like an 80/20 issue among the population, it's much closer to 50/50 among the subpopulation who actually care about the issue. And there is a genuine case to be made that in relying on contact with individual members of the public, a politician will better understand public opinion than if they just relied on polls, because they'd see this dimension that polls miss.

(Obviously, though, the politicians here open themselves up to getting Goodhart-ed.)

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The whole series of Re:Brand is amazing. Did you see the one with the BNP guy? Alas, YouTube rewards daily political polarisation rather than actual journalism. (I ignore the recent videos but do still enjoy the football podcast though).

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Imo you completely missed the point of henderson’s tweet, inadvertently confirming what he said - that a lefty youth isn’t something anyone - like yourself - feels compelled to apologize for. “ I flirted with far-left politics in my teens, and don’t really think I have much to apologise for”

If you had been a Brownshirt enthusiast I bet you’d feel a little more pressure - internally or otherwise - to repudiate your youthful enthusiasm. Now to the actual point: this makes little sense based on the track record of communism vs fascism. Both ended up murdering millions, but somehow communism gets a pass. Power of “good intentions” I guess, our culture’s moral get out of jail free card.

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Would you have much to apologise for if you had flirted with far-right politics in your teens?

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