Difficult Dialog Case Study #2



The year: 2012. A game called Guild Wars 2 releases. I’m on the front lines, building content for the game. As an MMO, it requires constant work to keep it running and updated with new stuff. It’s like if Disneyland had to add a new ride or themed section every couple months. The first stuff we put out was Halloween content. Several new areas to explore, fight in, and climb up. I love jumping on stuff, both in real life and games, so naturally I tend to make jumping challenges. (Having worked on Guild Wars 1 for many years was frustrating because it had no jumping!) This Halloween event had so much stuff in it, I thought making one little part of it dedicated to a horror themed jumping challenge would be great. Some players disagreed. I ended up conversing with one of them on a YouTube video comment section.  While the player started out incredibly hostile, by the end of the exchange they had cooled down and apologized. They didn’t really change their mind about my design decisions, but it was clear they stopped seeing me as some disembodied evil entity, and instead as a fellow human who makes some good choices and some bad choices and who’s just doing his best to make more good ones. 



Since then I’ve had a few similar encounters where I try to truly engage with an aggressively hostile interlocutor and connect with them as a human. (I failed to record them for posterity.) My goal is twofold. First, it’s a fun puzzle to me. Since my goal in life is to make the world more loving, communication is central to that. So this kind of experience with broken communication, and attempting to build it in difficult situations helps me learn the limits. There are general limits, and there are MY limits. I enjoy a good post-mortem, where I can see how their bait either worked or didn’t work to engage my limbic system and pull me into various cognitive biases. And because I’m approaching the experiences in as scientific a way as I can manage, that minimizes the pain of being called names and having my motives, intelligence, and basic humanity called into question. 



The second part of my goal, besides the fun of having a crack at a puzzle, is applying my theories in case studies. That way I can gather data and tweak (or at some point maybe abandon) my theory. At this point, I’m using a basic model of relationship that sees a spectrum of disagreement. At the surface level, people interact with those who disagree with them as abstract, usually bad, entities. In this state: MY slogans disagree with YOUR slogans. Therefore you are a bad entity making bad things happen. This is the state of 99% of relationships the internet. It’s slogans fighting with slogans. Bumper stickers, memes and tweets that trigger the outrage centers of the brain, causing us to reply in kind.



On the other end of that spectrum you have people who understand each other and respect that even disagreements on political/cultural/social/sports team issues come from a difference in strategy, rather than a difference in foundational moral principles. One of my sub-goals in life is to learn better techniques for finding ways to travel down that spectrum with people. I need to learn to tell who can, and can’t be persuaded to make the journey with me. (Because my time in life is short and valuable.) But I’m not going to learn these things without practice, and the inevitable failure that comes with it. In that spirit, below is my latest failure at connecting with another human. I suspected the chances were very low. This guy has been following me on Twitter for a while and any time I post anything vaguely related to social justice issues (something I do fairly frequently) he hops on to tell me how deluded and stupid I’m being. The guy is clearly very frustrated with me because he likes my work and would respect me if not for my insane and evil desire for a more just world. (100% non-biased description. ;) After several months of this I flirted with a more in depth dialog with him, even though I had told myself the guy needed more time to consider my previous words about not wanting to interact until I had been convinced that he was coming to me in good faith. So I totally jumped the gun on this one.  I omitted his name because he disappeared (probably blocked me) so I didn’t ask for permission to publish his identity.  The first tweet below is an awesome YouTuber/culture critic you should check out. My interlocutor is the first comment under that tweet, indicated with an “I”.  I’m highlighted in light yellow. You have been warned.


Let me be blunt. I don’t care about Star Wars lore. I know a lot about it. Way too much in fact. I just don’t care. Sorry. I’m much more interested in what a piece of media has to say about our world and about human relationships.

I: The Star Wars movies aren't supposed to say anything about our world. It's called escapism for a reason. Not everything has to be political or have anything to do with real life.
The surprise twist is that EVERYTHING says something about real life since that's where it came from.
I: Why do you feel the need to twist things? You know damn well what I'm saying, yet you have this need to drive the agenda. Why?
At some point you'll put down your knives and ask a real question from one human to another. I'm patient enough to wait for that moment before we begin a real conversation.
I: At some point you will wise up and put down the bullshit. I can't have a real conversation with someone when the other person is trying to push an agenda. You agree with the guy who thinks sjw politics needs to be in everything and I'm saying it doesn't.
Tell ya what. I'ma ignore your angry words and see if this approach will work. If not, no harm, no foul. Please tell me, why do YOU think I'm trying to push an agenda? Also, is there a way to untag radicalbytes so we aren't spamming up his feed? I don't know Twitter well enough.
I: Why do I think you are trying to push an agenda? Because that's what sjws do. Everything has to further their agenda. The next questions is "why do I think you are an sjw?"
Ok. Here's an interesting point to take a step back. I find that abstracting a statement can sometimes help communication of complex ideas. In this case, replace SJW with X. X could be anything. You said in essence "X always push their agenda." So then, I have two propositions... You could replace X with almost any ideology, including anti-X, and the statement remains true. In fact, your persistent tweets against SJW tendencies I display are a clear example of this fact. It is simply true that people who have strong convictions about things share them. If you agree that people who are convinced of a thing are likely to evangelize that thing and that there's nothing inherently wrong with that, then we can proceed to the next challenge: defining what SJW means to you and what it means to me, and how those may differ.
I: Except that's not how sjws behave. They don't just evangelize their opinions, they force others to follow along. They demonize anyone who doesn't think like them. They deplatform, they dox, they attack, they get people fired all because their victims don't think like they do.
So it sounds like you are offended by the amount and/or style of evangelizing. Would it be fair to say that according to your perspective, X evangelizes 9/10, (Let's reserve 10/10 for gulags and Spanish Inquisitions) whereas anti-X evangelizes at a more acceptable 5/10?
I: No. There is no evangelizing. There is only "think and act like us or we will punish you." In your example here, anti sjws are 0/10. We don't force our beliefs on people.
OK. Please define "force". Both in the context of what you believe SJWs do and what anti-SJWs do.
I: Dm me please.

Did you want to continue our discussion in more than 240 characters at a time?
I: Yes.

I: Force = being made to do something you don't want to do.

Have you been made to do something you don't want to do?
I need something more specific to make sure we aren't talking past each other. I have no problem being in disagreement. But I've found that often people assume they disagree when they actually don't

I: So very many things

I would like to hear your experience.
I: This isnt just me, this is what sjws for people all over the world to do. 1) being forced to act as if mental delusions are reality. 2) being forced to call an man a woman and a woman a man. 3) they force their children to follow their mental illnesses instead of letting the kids make up their own minds. 4) they force us to us made up pronouns instead of the correct ones. 5) they force us to accept their feelings and opinions as fact. 6) if we don't think the way they do they dox us, platform us, censor us, make death threats, etc. 7) they destroy everything they touch when they aren't even fans of those things. 8) they force people to be hired because of a quota instead of their merit. 9) they lie about reality and twist the truth to fit their narrative. 10) they are never satisfied when their demands are given into, they always move the goal.
Those are just the highlights of the problems with sjws.

I'm not asking for the bullet points from a Stefan Molyneux or Sargon video. (I used to preach all that stuff myself.) I'm asking what you personally have experienced. I don't often find people using the kind of hyperbole you do without some personal pain regarding the issue.
I mean, unless you're just an asshole who likes to argue. But I'm spending my valuable time communicating with you because I think there's more depth to you.

I: The personal experiences I have had with sjws fall into one of those points. Every single experience.

Ok. I believe you. I'd like to hear about it.
The reason I'm asking for specifics is because I'm trying to gauge how closely your rhetoric equals your experience. That will help me decide if my time is worth it.

I: I've either been yelled at because I don't believe their lies, that I call a man a man or a woman a woman, that I disprove their claims, that I speak the truth, that I believe in reality.
I have hundreds of screenshots of arguments I've had with sjws on instagram.

By "yelling" you mean online arguments?
(That's not a criticism, btw, I accept "yelling" as a valid interpretation of online arguments.

I: Yes. Often in all caps. They've tried to get me kicked off instagram and Twitter several times.
As they have done others like me.

Ok. Now can I ask you this? If you found a person who believes the same premises of your definition of SJW, but does not act in those censorious ways, would you still consider that person an SJW?

I: Yes. A sjw doesn't have to censor people to be a sjw. They just have to believe what a sjw believes.

Ok. So you see the ideas that an SJW holds to be separate from aggressive tactics at shaming/punishing those who disagree?
You haven't happened to have read a book called The Righteous Mind, have you?

I: Nope

If not, I highly recommend you read this blog where I summarize it. Don't worry, it's not about how SJW is true. It's about how different people form their moral foundations. Any coherent discussion about the differences in cultural/political thought could benefit a great deal from this basic framework.
http://joshuaforeman.blogspot.com/2016/01/book-musings-righteous-mind-why-good.html

I: Except one foundation is actually immoral.

One of the main premises is that his team has defined six basic foundations, three of which liberals reject. I'm sure you can find people who would reject any number of any of them.

I: In each of the 6 points it reads moral/immoral or conservative/liberal.
The basic difference between sjws and anti is sjws believe in a systemized victimhood where no one can do things for themselves while the antis believe that you can. Equality of outcome vs equality of opportunity.
One says, "you're a victim, and here's how."
The other says, "you can do anything if you work for it."

Listen. I've heard all the talking points. I've PREACHED all the talking points. You're not going to convince me of anything by repeating talking points. It sounds like you skimmed the blog, looked at a few images and are now preaching at me. This makes me wonder what you're hoping to get out of this conversation.

I: Im not hoping to get anything out of this except for a conversation where I can explain myself. If you know all the talking points then you should know that being a sjw is a horrible thing to be.
Which is why I don't understand how a seemingly smart person like you would ever take the side of a sjw.

I knew it was a long shot, but I thought if you read my blog you'd be a LOT closer to understanding that riddle.

I: I plan to, I just didn't want to slow the convo. I wanted to see what points you were talking about in it. That's why I skimmed to them.
In the end it comes down to which side is majoritively moral and which side is majoritively immoral. Objectively.
When you can objectively see which side tears down and which side builds up, there is no longer any question which side you should be on.

Well I'll tell you what my goals and motives are, as I perceive them. What I would call "my heart". After that, depending on how curious you are, you can read the blog or not. But until you do I just don't have the time to reiterate the whole thing to every person I have a conversation of this nature with. I agree with you in principle that everyone should be on the side that does right and good and oppose the side that does wrong and evil. However, I don't think we live in a binary world where there are two sides like that. Where there's one clear answer that works in every context, and where anyone can just read stuff and then Know what that side is. I used to believe that. Life experiences, a lot of painful study and listening to the best arguments from those I disagree with, and self reflection lead me to where I am now. That's not a process I can reproduce in anyone else. So I don't try. All I can do I try my best to articulate why I'm convinced of what I am. I'm happy to do so as long as both parties are operating in good faith. (Not trying to trap the other into saying something they have a great zinger against, or trying to convert. )

I: That's the problem right there, you don't believe that something is either good or evil. There can be shades of grey on both sides, but boiled down, everything fits into one side or the other. As I said, when one side is about tearing things down, victimhood, and violence, it's obvious that they are evil. I know that you have seen how evil the left is. The problem is I have never met a sjw who operates in good faith. I have met hundreds and seen thousands of examples. There is nothing good about sjws, and I know that you know that. Just look at how they behave and the things they say. There is no defense for them. Is the right perfect? No. But it's called the Right for a reason.

"The problem is I have never met a sjw who operates in good faith"  Yes. That is the problem.  Here's a couple reasons that could be the case: 1. You don't know enough [SJWs]. At least not in real life. 2. You are aggressive to the ones you know so they are always on the defensive or aggressive back. 3. All liberals are evil and mean.
Let's use Occam's Razor.

I: 1) I have a near genius I.Q. 2) I am not aggressive unless attacked. 3) not all liberals are evil and mean. This isn't about liberals, this is about sjws.

Excellent. You should have no problem understanding my blog!

I: Lol. I never had a doubt that I would understand it. Agreeing with it is another matter.

It's not really an agree/disagree thing. Just a framing device for having a more constructive discussion that can occur on a lower level. (as opposed to surface slogans and rhetoric slinging, which I grew tired of years ago.)

I: If neither you nor I will change our minds, then how is it constructive?

I'm always open to changing my mind. There is nothing sacred in there. Only that of which I am currently most convinced. On your part, the most I hope is that you can begin to imagine why a sane and non-evil person would promote social justice.

I: Sorry, I can't see why a good person would promote something evil like social justice. At it's very core it is evil, immoral, divisive, hateful, racist, and sexist. If you don't believe me I can give you objective examples.

It's entirely possible that we have different definitions. It's also possible we conflate a social ideal with the mechanisms by which they are being instantiated in the political/cultural sphere.

I: In all honesty, it seems that you use the romanticized definition and I use the real world one. If you look at it objectively, social justice is evil. Social justice IS the mechanics used. There is no form of social justice that is good. When you break it down to its base level, it is as I described it in my last message. Give me an example of what you consider social justice. Give me several.

Eh. I felt like there might have been a spark of hope for dialog. But you keep signaling to me that you just want to fight. I've got better things to do. If you ever get to a point in your life where your epistemology has relaxed, let me know and we can try again.

I: I don't want to fight. I want to prove my point. I want to use objective facts to show that what you think of sjws is wrong. You say that you used to argue against sjws, but somehow you bought into their bullshit. There is no reason to relax my epistemology because my beliefs are based on facts, not opinions.

If your epistemology is predicated on the idea that you are expert enough in all the necessary fields to be able to adjudicate ultimate Truth and Facts in these incredibly complex issues I have zero faith that you have the capacity to understand anything I have to say. That's what changed in me before I was able to grasp anything outside of my worldview. It wasn't a matter of discovering that the facts I thought I knew were wrong. It was a matter of recognizing that I'm not in a position, -nor do I have the capacity- to adjudicate matters that involve literally hundreds if not thousands of separate fields of study and inquiry. You seem to think that you are in such a position. That's fine. It simply means we can't communicate on certain topics meaningfully.

I: I never once said that I am an expert. It isn't that complex. People have made it convoluted, but it really isn't. Just based on your message, you are convoluting it. There is nothing about sj to study. If you actually look at it without your feelings driving you, then you see how bad it is. Right now you sound like every other sjw who is too afraid to be shown that their way of seeing the world is wrong. Sjws' beliefs are based on feelings, mine is based on facts. Facts trump feelings. You think your eyes were opened to the truth of the world when in reality they were just filled with bullshit so you can't see the real world. You dismiss me because I think differently than you do. Just like all sjws do. You can call it whatever you want, but that's what is happening. I thought you were better than that.


Well here's a thing you might want to consider for future conversations. Tell a person that they are 1. being emotional, 2. afraid 3. blinded by bullshit, 4. worse than you expected, and usually, you'll just piss them off and they'll never listen to you again. I'm fairly confident if I tried those tactics on you you'd call me an asshole and block me. However, you can't rattle me emotionally because I've spent years rattling myself. What I'm not going to do is tit-for-tat name calling or insinuations. I'm also not going to try to convince you that I'm not emotional, scared, etc. I've spent a lot of time that is very valuable to me experimenting with you to see if there's a way to have a productive dialog where we both come away with a little more depth. I enjoy it to an extent. It's kinda like a sodoku or crossword puzzle. But it's becoming more and more clear that your motive for this exchange is some kind of catharsis. You like to hear yourself win. And I'm more than happy to let you do that.



Postscript: And then he disappeared.  I wonder what about this particular moment breached his threshold?  Anyway…  If you’re a liberal this conversation probably confirms your biases that all right wingers are dumb and mean.  May I temper that by telling you have had even more acrimonious exchanges with liberals?  As another aside, if you’re a liberal you probably found it incredibly frustrating that I didn’t challenge any of his assumptions.  I share that frustration.  But the reason I didn’t address them goes back to my theory of communication. It’s absolutely pointless to debate on the surface when there’s not foundation of relating to another human deeper down. I had all sorts of zingers I could have launched at him.  I could have “owned” or “destroyed” him. (in the eyes of liberals) But that would have run counter to my experiment. The internet is already choking full of people owning and destroying each other to the applause of their culture bubble. I want to find a better way to live. 

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