Re: Pain Isn't Pretty (was: hot babes, etc.)

Robin Hanson (
Wed, 12 Aug 1998 10:56:06 -0700

Sarah writes:
>>I didn't mean "we" as in "every one of us", but in a more majoritarian
>>or average sense.
>I can't help but feel that such usage may enable a rather insidious form of
>'meme propogation' and authoritarianism to take place: those who disagree
>but do not wish to distinguish themselves are likely to be led towards a
>belief that they alone hold their views, against society as a whole and, if
>the 'we' is spoken by one in authority, against the leaders of the
>established order. They may adopt beliefs simply to become one of the 'we',
>rather than remain one of the 'them'. 'We' thus becomes prescriptive,
>rather than merely descriptive.

I agree with your description of the process, but resist calling it "insidious." When one individual makes a claim about "we", with the rest of "we" listening, that offers a challenge to the rest of the group. If other members disagree with this assessment, they should speak up and contest the claim. If still others then support this rebuttal, the original claim will be suspect.

Knowing all this, those who see that no one challenged the claim may then infer that either no one expected to be supported in challenging this claim, or that some retribution would be given for disagreeing with the initial speaker. If retribution seems unlikely, one might infer that no one disagreed with the initial "we" claim.

My claim that "we" treasure women was exactly such a call for challenges, in the expectation that a lack of such would suggest to listeners that other listeners agree with me. I hope it is obvious that I would enact no retribution for disagreeing with me on this.

There is the more complex issue, however, of whether people expect some sort of broader retribution against those who say they don't value women in an open email list.

Robin Hanson RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884 140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627