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The Outline - February 2019

"For men, especially insecure and socially dislocated men, the idea of “rationality” can be a kind of comfort blanket. Raised from birth with the stereotype that they are more “analytically intelligent” (in contrast to women, who are “emotionally intelligent”), and with pop culture that venerates “logical” characters (on a just barely related note, please enjoythisnovelty Leonard Nimoy song), it’s no wonder that many young men see “logic” as a sort of personality trait to achieve — one which automatically imbues all one’s opinions with correctness — rather than a system that one may or may not be following at any one time. "

... A good illustration of this phenomenon recently appeared in a piece for MEL magazine about an increasingly disturbing trend — women whose once-promising romantic relationships implode after their boyfriends become “redpilled.” For the benefit of the blissfully uninitiated: to be “redpilled” means to internalize a set of misogynistic far-right beliefs popular with certain corners of the internet; the product of a noxious blend of junk science, conspiracy theory, and a pathological fear of social progress.

The men interviewed in the piece, once sweet and caring, started changing after going down a rabbit hole of extremist political content on YouTube and involving themselves in radical right-wing online communities. Convinced of their absolute correctness, these men became at first frustrated, then verbally abusive once they realized their female partners did not always agree with their new views. Any dialogue attempted by these men was not made — at least as far as their partners could tell — with the goal of exchanging views and opening themselves to being challenged. Their goal was to assert their beliefs as fact; to teach their partner the truth, as a Christian missionary might put it. Every woman interviewed in the article — including those who were more formally educated than their boyfriends — makes reference to their former partners belittling their intelligence and rationality. These men were certain that they were the smart ones, that they had correctly assessed the “facts” with “logic,” and that if their womenfolk did not accept this without question, they were simply too dumb to understand.

This might not seem surprising at first — when it comes to contentious beliefs, it’s not uncommon for people to act as though their view is the inherently superior one. But what’s remarkable is how ridiculously confident these men became, in a relatively short time, in their unique philosopher-king-like possession of objective truth and superior analysis… all while copying their arguments from an echo-chamber of poorly cited webcam videos and anonymous internet comments.

These magic words do have actual definitions, as it happens, and they’re quite complicated. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a commonly used go-to site for academic summaries of philosophical topics, and it doesn’t even have a single unified article for “logic,” “reason” or “rationality”; instead they have a plethora of articles about all the myriad subtypes and debates around the topic, most of which I suspect would mystify the average self-identified logic fan (although in fairness, they would mystify most of us).

The “redpill” metaphor here is telling, because it implies that obtaining knowledge and arguing well is not a skill that is slowly and indefinitely improved upon, but an achievement to be unlocked in a single moment: once you’ve swallowed the pill, you turn into a smart person, and from then on, all your opinions are correct. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of figures popular in the “redpill” community also hawk nootropic supplements.) ...
Read full article at The Outline