People who Mysteriously don’t seem to Know the Field they are Researching

First we have Silver Screen Sorting: Social identity and selective exposure in popular film viewing (h/t Degen Rolf):

“In relation to the research suggesting that popular films might impact viewers’ political attitudes, the increasing importance of selective exposure raises the question: are Americans engaging in political sorting in terms of which films they see?

We did find considerable evidence of sorting on popular films. Republicans were more likely to have seen American Sniper, Passion of the Christ, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldier of Benghazi, God’s Not Dead, and Lone Survivor. Surprisingly, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have seen War Dogs,

A movie that sounds exactly like it was intended for the Republican audience, how is this surprising? Even if the movie isn’t actually one Republicans would like, it has effectively been marketed to them.

a dark comedic take on weapons dealers in the War on Terror.

Dude, they’re Republicans, not humor-impaired. They can still laugh at human foibles in a setting they enjoy watching movies about. BTW, here’s the summary for War Dogs from IMDb:

Two friends in their early 20s (Hill and Teller) living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War exploit a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts. Starting small, they begin raking in big money and are living the high life. But the pair gets in over their heads when they land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan Military – a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. Government. Based on true events.”

Nothing here jumps out at me as “Libs are going to love this total pwnage of the government’s contract-awarding system.”

Anyway, back to the study:

In most cases, we found there was less sorting into movies with liberal themes than expected.

This sort of behavior might explain why conservatives (currently) understand the liberal point of view better than liberals understand conservatives’.

However, Democrats were more likely to have seen Precious, a movie that explores themes of poverty in a predominantly African American community, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I am amused that they felt compelled to explain the plot/appeal of Precious, which was released recently, promoted by Oprah, was nominated for or won tons of awards, and is famous enough that even I know the plot, but felt no need to explain The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was released back in 1975. (By the way, it’s about transvestites and sexual debauchery.)

Interestingly, we also saw evidence of sorting on two movies where we did not expect it. Democrats were more likely to have seen both Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them.

How… how do you live in society and study whether people’s movie taste sorts by political affiliation for a living and NOT NOTICE THAT LIBS LOVE HARRY POTTER?

EG, J.K. Rowling slams Donald Trump with Voldemort Diss:

J.K. Rowling took on Donald Trump with her latest tweet heard ’round the world.

After the Republican presidential candidate frontrunner said that all Muslims should be banned from entering America, Harry Potter fans began comparing Trump to Lorde Voldemort, a.k.a. he who must not be named, a.k.a. the most draconian, dastardly villain in all of literature — well at least in Harry Potter’s wizarding world.

But Rowling didn’t agree with the comparison. “How horrible,” Rowling wrote. “Voldemort was nowhere near as bad.”

J. K. Rowling herself hates Trump. Harry Potter fans hate Trump.

From The Guardian we have He who must not be named: how Harry Potter helps make sense of Trump’s world:

At the worldwide Women’s Marches in January, there were plenty of homemade signs that showed Princess Leia as the face of a new resistance, but there were as many Potter ones, such as “Dumbledore’s army”, inspirational quotes from the series and references to Hermione’s role in Harry’s survival. Perhaps these placards had been inspired by an outpouring of affection for the books following the US election in November, as people began to post quotes on Twitter. “Order of the Phoenix, mount up,” wrote Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. There is even a Chrome extension that changes any mention of Donald Trump or his cabinet to the name of a notable Death Eater. Install it, and your browser will instantly refer to Betsy DeVos as Dolores Umbridge, Jeff Sessions as Antonin Dolohov or Rex Tillerson as Draco Malfoy.

I’m going to stop quoting here before I go off on a rant about how Harry Potter isn’t actually about diversity, you idiots, it’s about a genetic elite arguing within itself about whether it should completely wipe out the genetically inferior or merely avoid them at all costs. At no point does anyone suggest that “muggles” is an offensive slur and that the magically different should be allowed into Hogwarts, the magic curriculum should be eliminated because it discriminates against people born without a magical genetic advantage, and that the non-magical need to be fully integrated into Wizarding society.

Oops, there’s the rant.

The question isn’t “Do liberals love Harry Potter?” (Yes, they do, very loudly,) but “Why do liberals think Harry Potter promotes “liberal values” when the books are clearly reactionary meditations on noblesse oblige?”

I’ll let you answer that.

The authors speculate that Fundamentalist Christians don’t like Harry Potter, which is sometimes true but not the biggest factor in HP fandom.

Evidence for sorting was weak on documentaries, even political ones (eg, I own a copy of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth,) but that portion of the study suffered from low N because documentaries aren’t very popular.

In related mysteriously not knowing the field you are studying, Slate Star Codex published the results of their survey on Sexual Harassment Levels by Field, which found that sexual harassment appears to be lower in STEM than in fields like health care or finance.

I’ve been saying this for YEARS, based on my own experiences in heavily male-dominated STEM fields. This is why I stand up and defend the men in my fields: they are among the best.

The why might be due to different cultures in different fields, but cultures are built by people, so the origin is ultimately in the kinds of people who go into STEM vs the kinds of people who go into retail, art, business, or law:

  1. Retail, business, law, etc., all attract aggressive people, and aggressive people are more likely to loudly and aggressively signal sexual interests in others (whether appropriately or inappropriately.)
  2. STEM is full of shy, polite people who worry endlessly about whether they are sexually harassing women just by thinking about them like Scott Aaronson (not to be confused with Scott Alexander,) who was so afraid he might accidentally harass a woman he actually tried to castrate himself.
  3. Hate to say it, but many of the women in STEM just don’t attract as much sexual attention as women in professions where looks are an important factor in getting hired.
  4. Normies have stronger sex drives and higher time preferences than nerds, which leads them to have sex younger, get pregnant more often, catch more STDS, and get into more ill-thought-out sexually aggressive situations

I don’t want to play into the “nerds are asexual” stereotype, because they definitely aren’t, but many normies are sex-crazed maniacs.

Ultimately, is it really any surprise to people that mathematicians don’t sexually harass each other very often?

To be fair to Alexander, I think, deep down inside, he must know that guys like himself aren’t doing a lot of sexual harassment. But he still claims that the results were “surprising.” I guess if you’ve never dealt with humans from outside your own field, but psychology kind of forces you to deal with different kinds of people. Back in Radicalizing the Romanceless, Alexander wrote about a details-slightly-changed-to-protect-the-innocent patient dubbed Henry:

– I had a patient, let’s call him ‘Henry’ for reasons that are to become clear, who came to hospital after being picked up for police for beating up his fifth wife.

So I asked the obvious question: “What happened to your first four wives?”

“Oh,” said the patient, “Domestic violence issues. Two of them left me. One of them I got put in jail, and she’d moved on once I got out. One I just grew tired of.”

“You’ve beaten up all five of your wives?” I asked in disbelief.

“Yeah,” he said, without sounding very apologetic.

“And why, exactly, were you beating your wife this time?” I asked.

“She was yelling at me, because I was cheating on her with one of my exes.”

“With your ex-wife? One of the ones you beat up?”


“So you beat up your wife, she left you, you married someone else, and then she came back and had an affair on the side with you?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” said Henry.

I wish, I wish I wish, that Henry was an isolated case. But he’s interesting more for his anomalously high number of victims than for the particular pattern.

Surprising, perhaps, to people who benefit from promoting the narrative that Stem is some uniquely terrible field.

15 thoughts on “People who Mysteriously don’t seem to Know the Field they are Researching

  1. Harry Potter fandom vs what I read/saw, along with several other books/movies/series kind of primed me for the “two movies on one screen” idea at least a decade before I had a word for the concept…


    • That could be. I am myself extremely fond of my own alma mater, and so hypothesized the opposite: people whose real life school is kind of meh latch onto the Hogwarts fantasy instead. But it remains a mystery to me.


      • I went to a very meh school and it had the opposite effect: kept me wondering why do people think schools are a big deal? We mostly went to the bar on the corner, not the lectures, photocopied the notes from the girls who had pretty handwriting, crammed two days for an exam, happily forgot all the business admin crap a week after, and even cheated on exams so that we get a piece of paper that allows us to take an office job. So I never really figured out why would people love their job or what exactly Moldbug means saying Harvard is very influential and powerful.

        My biggest surprise was that I did not even associate intellectualism with schools! I associated it with people writing and reading on their own. So I yes I knew a Chomsky type intellectual wields a lot of political influence but I figured he is just a dude writing and just a lot of people decide to read his stuff. It did not really occur to me that he may be actually teaching it, or others may teach his books. I was quite surprised when I learned intellectualism actually correlates fairly strongly with academia.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Most Americans don’t seem to care that much about their highschool (or elementary), but many of them are SUPER attached to their colleges. It is not unusual for grown adults who’ve been out of college for decades to regularly wear college-themed shirts or watch the college football team on TV. Some colleges have intense, long-standing rivalries, eg, Harvard vs. Yale, MIT vs. Harvard, Stanford vs. Cal, A&M vs UT, etc. It’s a lot like professional sports fandom.

        In my case, since college selects for people-who-are-interested-in-this-college, my peers at college were people much more like myself than the random assortment of people I’d gone to school with in elementary and highschool. I rather liked being around people like myself.

        Oddly, Chomsky is best known for his political writings, but in academia he is a linguist and doesn’t really teach anything on politics. So in essence, Chomsky is an independent intellectual, he just happens to also be employed a a linguist.


      • MIT vs. Harvard isn’t a sports rivalry, as they pretty much never play each other. And it’s pretty one-sided on the non-sports side (MIT pranking Harvard, not the reverse.). A more two-sided non-sports rivalry is MIT vs CalTech.


  2. The unspoken fact on this is….. how dumbed down the term conservative.

    I did see 13 hours. I have no idea how those events played out in real life, its done the best job of any movie I have seen in capturing fire fights and common personality traits

    Liked by 1 person

    • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldier of Benghazi was a good movie. I have a copy on my computer and I’ve watched it a couple of times. The guys who were there said in an interview it was fairly accurate and had no beefs about it.

      I think the Ambassador, if portrayed correctly, deserves at least some of the blame for the disaster. He should have known, after Iraq, what happens when you take out a strong Man based society and let it run amuck. If they would have had a better plan in the first place it might not have come out so bad. He also should have worked with the CIA better to demand some sort of assurance of fast response in case of danger. Maybe the CIA would have said no but he could then tell the State department he was leaving and gotten them to back off or at least not get himself barbecued.


  3. When I first became more observant, I was quite stricken with the gap between the pain text of the Torah in its likely context and the interpretation of the Sages in many instances. Context can be critical, and is guaranteed to shift over the generations. That said, I suspect that most humans in the first world are very far removed from the sorts of lives that their ancestors lived up until ~3 generations ago, and are thrust into contexts quite alien to their natures. Without meaningful intellectual and spiritual anchors, all knowledge is parsed from the perspective of the ego alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I spend so much time reading/thinking about the past that I am frequently jolted back into the present by the existence of things like cars. “Oh, right, massive international trade. That’s a thing, now.” The modern world is such an amazing aberration against the scale of time that I feel like I can’t let myself get comfortable. “You can’t base your theories about how the world works based on a few outlier data points,” says my subconscious.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s