Private conversations

What’s the right thing to do when someone has, in private conversation, admitted that he doesn’t believe in his public position?

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115 Responses to Private conversations

  1. dlr says:

    It’s a priviledged communication. The only ethical thing to do is to keep his confidence.

  2. Jerome says:

    Insufficient information for a meaningful response.

    • Zimriel says:

      I’d first ask if it – he, in this case – is a social-justice warrior. If he has ever shown sympathy for outing ‘racists’ and/or for ‘no-platforming’ speech, he has earned no ethical restraint on our part. Such would do the same to any of us.

      • Hwite says:

        Yep. But if he’s otherwise a decent person, I’d say keep the secret, for both ethical and strategic reasons. The purity stuff is really a turnoff. Take Scott Alexander for instance. The feminists have gone after his job, they’ve tried to ruin his relationships, and yet he’s often thanked by being called a mangina or a shill or a hypocrite because he refuses to openly describe himself as an anti-feminist. People seeing that will figure if they given a choice between two unreasonable tribes, they might as well choose the stronger one.

  3. Michel Rouzic says:

    Admonish the two-faced person in private.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      I don’t have any problem with people being two faced when honesty would hurt them in their career. People do it all the time. Not many people can afford to be honest at work, they have to play conformist games and they have to play them very well, or else.

      The corporate, and academic worlds will spit you out very fast if you don’t toe the line on multiple issues. I valued honesty too much to go those career routes but I don’t look down on people who were two faced because it was a requirement of their job.

      I have great respect for people like Greg Cochran who can articulately make a stand against popular bullshit, we need more people like him. But most of us are just working schmucks doing the best we can. Being honest to the point of hurting one’s career, what good does that do.

      It isn’t the two faced people who are at least honest to themselves that bother me. It’s the people who lie to themselves when they should know better.

  4. Ziel says:

    Don’t out them – at least they’re recognizing reality privately. If they start getting outed, they won’t even admit it privately anymore and may start believing the lies, just making things even worse.

  5. protokol2020 says:

    He should update his public position ASAP.

  6. reinertor says:

    Depends. Is he an important propagandist? Did he zealously advocate for punishment of traitors who doubted Chairman Mao Zedong Thought? Or is he a nobody?

  7. Jerome says:

    There is no ethical obligation unless you agreed not to reveal what was told you. But there may be prudential considerations.

  8. I reckon probably more than 50% of politicians are like that. I know an Australian Senator who is a socialist in public but lives a very capitalist personal life. I pointed this out to him and he just changed the subject.

  9. Richard says:

    Do you have any evidence you can present for this, or do you just have the memory of the conversation? If the latter, outing that person is pretty much pointless.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Some people can be embarrassed. Others cannot But anyhow your comment does suggest useful future actions

      • Frau Katze says:

        I might well out someone who was engaged in something illegal. I’d go the police or phone the tip line. If he was in an criminal gang I’d be very careful. But, I wouldn’t turn in someone who was just using illegal drugs. Somehow I don’t think this is your problem.

        I wouldn’t out someone having an affair or being gay. That might make things worse for everyone involved. There might be exceptions, say if your daughter is planning to marry a man who was gay. I don’t think this your scenario either.

        There’s gray areas. I’m a Pinterest fan. But this requires using other people’s photos. Of course a few post their stuff. (I have a large number of photos, all of them on film.) I have a balance problem and combined with my age, would make it hard to take my own photos now. Mind you, 99.9% of pinners use others’ photos. It turns that most photographers don’t care. Some on Flickr permit downloading hi res copies. This is like posting music on YouTube. Even if you’re performing yourself, the music might be under copyright. I wouldn’t out anyone engaged in these gray areas. The companies know all about this and only the owner can get a takedown.

        But I doubt this is your problem. You’re thinking of someone holding politically incorrect views but not making that public, or even trying to throw people off track by being vocal on the side he doesn’t believe. I don’t know. It would depend on what your relationship with him was. Would you, for example, turn in a family member or a good friend? Is he nice guy, employed and supporting a family? I’d have trouble out him in that case.

        • Nearly every illegal drug user is a also its promoter a-la MLM. As long as he/she doesn’t want to quit, persuading more people to join raises availability (which esp. important for drugs with abstinent syndrome), lowers prices etc. etc.

          Similar thing also happens with software, LOL

          • Frau Katze says:

            I don’t know much about illegal drugs. Despite being a boomer, I’ve never even tried them.

            Years later, a friend persuaded me to try marijuana. It was ghastly. Not only was I inhaling smoke (would you breath in the smoke from a campfire?) but it’s effect was to lose my short-term memory. I couldn’t follow a conversation. I started to panic. How was I going to drive home? Fortunately it wore off eventually.

            So I’m prepared to consider that I’m wrong.

  10. Ask him that, otherwise, you may find enemies, since the idea of morality is different for every person.

  11. Elliot says:

    My personal position would be that if the public position is just about saving his own skin, best to keep the confidence. But if the deception is materially involved in deceiving others to do or support things they wouldn’t otherwise, then most bets are off.

    I also recommend complimenting him on his fine crinkly hair.

  12. Henry Scrope says:

    Depends on where they live; its very dangerous to speak the truth in North Korea, deadly, in Britain, Canada or Germany, arrest, loss of livelihood. We don’t all have freedom of speech.

    • reinertor says:

      Even in the UK, you don’t have to spread falsehoods. You are also allowed to keep your mouth shut.

      • Henry Scrope says:

        Not if you’re an academic, one must mouth the shibboleths. I assume Dr Cochran is talking about an academic. But yes I see what you are driving at.

      • Jason says:

        You are also allowed to keep your mouth shut.
        “Silence is consent”. For instance, look at how the Guardian, NYT, Buzzfeed, et al. went after Taylor Swift because she hadn’t publically denounced Donald Trump.

  13. Anuseed says:

    Call the police.

  14. Polymath says:

    Shouldn’t that depend on whether you agree with his public or his private position?

    If you agree with his private position, and you yourself have gone public with it, tell him he ought to shut up about the topic until he is ready to come out as a heretic. If you haven’t, discuss if there is enough safety in numbers to justify your simultaneous dissents.

    If you agree with his public position, have a deep conversation to really understand why he doesn’t believe it, until either you persuade him, he persuades you, or you agree to disagree.

    • reinertor says:

      I think we can assume that much: xe (I guess it’s a guy identifying as a guy, so maybe we could refer to xer as “he,” but I’m keeping it safe) is publicly spreading falsehoods about how African Americans are being oppressed by the memories of slavery and Jim Crow, and will start producing Einsteins any moment now. Xer private position probably more or less agrees with Greg, namely, that African Americans actually, on average, are just born dumb as a rock, for genetic reasons.

      Its also possible that xer biggest fear is losing dinner invitations rather than loss of livelihood.

      • Jim says:

        I wouldn’t say that African-Americans are “dumb as a rock”. Their average IQ is about 85 versus a world average of about 90. Many populations in the Middle East and India are at about the same level and about 85 seems to be the average for much of Oceania. With a population of about 40 million there are millions of African-Americans close to or above
        the white average.

        It is however true that the “achievement gap” between whites and blacks in US schools is easily explained by the one standard deviation difference in average IQ. The problem here is whites being blamed and demonized for black’s lagging group averages. In contrast Northeast Asians are not blamed for the gap between their achievement level and that of whites.

  15. harpersnotes says:

    Suggest some Irony Guard(tm) pills to help relieve the pain of cognitive dissonance.

  16. pyrrhus says:

    Taleb very publicly outed Howard Raiffa for his course on decision theory (which unfortunately I was subjected to) when Raiffa asked friends for advice on switching schools because it was “serious.” But that wasn’t a he said–she said situation.
    If you are the only source, you should generally not make an issue of it…

  17. Jim says:

    I wonder what his/her motives are? Protecting one’s self and family from the consequences of losing one’s livelihood and career? Or is this deception based on an inherent desire to suppress the truth? I wouldn’t blame people in Stalin’s Soviet Russia for lying in public about their beliefs.

    It’s sad that our culture has become so dishonest and corrupt.

  18. Charles says:

    Hardly any point in arguing or correcting the person. They know they are a hypocrite and are apparently OK with that knowledge. Future conversations with that person should be avoided for your own self-respect.

  19. I have a blog. I don’t ever go looking to kick people whose ancestors were outside the Hajnal Line or NE Asia for the uncomfortable reality of what their test scores are, and what that implies about their cognitive abilities in general; nor the 8x violent crime rate of Africans and the 2-4x crime rate of various Latin Americans. However, in American society people go public blaming innocent teachers and police officers for these things instead. Teachers and police officers in America may have their limitations and many bad apples, but they are not the cause. Therefore I weigh one thing against another at every turn. Will innocent people be made to suffer by this (directly or indirectly)? That surely must weigh heavily, and frankly, weigh more than the individual career of an academic.

    I think both Steve Sailer and John Derbyshire have had the experience of someone either telling them privately, or that someone writing up about 30% of the truth for popular consumption immediately after they have written on the same subject, citing the same evidence. Uncanny, ain’t it? You might ask them what their experience is. They’d tell you. Privately.

  20. jb says:

    It depends on whether you are his friend or his enemy.

  21. Neocolonial says:

    Inherent in this question is that the private view is ‘correct’ and the the public view is ‘approved’.

    In which case, a bit of persuasion, a bit of exhortation:

    ‘Your private view is far more commonly held than you realise. There will come a time when expressing your private view publicly will make a difference.’

  22. biz says:

    Depends on the person, the positions, and the circumstances under which the incongruity was revealed. So nowhere near enough information was given here.

  23. Mobi says:

    An ongoing relationship, or a one-off incident?

  24. Boyd Silken says:

    Detail the hypocrisy. Disguise the hypocrite.

  25. RCB says:

    Don’t be a dick.

    • gcochran9 says:

      They should lie, and I shouldn’t ever call them on it. Got it.

      • tautology5628 says:

        Is this about the person with the fabulous hair? In this case I would advice you not to piss off a valuable ally that could promote your thought, at least indirectly. References you quite directly in book about violence, for example.

        • tictak says:

          No. If the person is writing best selling books about their public position that they do not actually believe it is 100% ok to nuke them from orbit.

      • tautology5628 says:

        But what you could do is a review of his new book of course.

      • I remember having a similar conversation with your very own self at HBES a few years back. I had just read your book with the chapter about “how the Ashkenazi Jews got their smarts” and I mentioned to you that most people who said that some groups were dumber than others got publicly pilloried.
        You gave me a look. Then I said that saying that some groups were smarter than others were logically equivalent to the former statement, how were you getting away with it?
        You just winked and siad “no-one seems to have noticed”.
        Maybe…and I don’t know the person in question…but maybe they are doing a similar version of “meeting the public where they are” knowing that the alternative is “banishment to the outer darkness”.
        It may be dishonest, or it may not. I well remember Jay Belskys comment when he read your book, “An iron fist in a velvet glove”

      • Ryan Baldini says:

        Actually my comment never actually forbade anything except being a dick. If you can reveal the truth, or some of the truth, without being a dick, go for it.

        My actual suggestion would be to keep talking to him about the topic. Get him comfortable with it. Encourage him to come out on his own. Perhaps tease him about being a coward.

        BTW surely we’re talking about race, genes, and IQ, right? The central elephant in the room underlying all of anthropology?

    • RCB says:

      Re continuing to talk to him about it in private:

      I’m no public intellectual, but I’ve publicly revealed my crimethink to former anthro grad student associates on facebook. In other words, I’m out, to those who care. It was kind of a big step, for me. I think reading your blog and chatting a few times via email, and having friends like Razib to talk to, slowly made me a lot more comfortable with it all. It’s easier to say certain sentences in public if you’ve already said them many times in private.

      Of course the consequences to a public intellectual are much greater than to me: Almost universal disapproval by the media that would otherwise publish his articles and offer interviews. Cheap letters co-signed by 100+ academics disavowing said person’s views. Canceled public speaking appointments. So what worked for me probably won’t work for him.

  26. j says:

    Gentlemen never tell.

  27. Anon says:

    Assuming you have “fuck you money”, there are other considerations. If you do and you call out this person, would it reach its intended audience? If it reaches its intended audience, would it actually change anything?

  28. Maciano says:

    Sometimes it might make sense to lie. At work or within my family, I have other goals than endless fights I can’t win anyway. And I’m not an educator, I have no interest in explaining how, say, genetics works to random people on the internet who are (often) ideologically motivated not to believe me. In the best case I convince them or neutralize them, in the worst case they claim victory; in both situation you lose time. Internet fights are not a strategy.

    However, when you cooperate with PC, you are collaborating with a leftist system of control. This is evil. It’s a choice you must make, long ago, I decided to not go along with this anymore. I speak my mind freely when questioned.

    On topic: Politicians, journalists, intellectuals and academics don’t have a right to lie/be PC because their whole status depends on them being a source of guidance, truth and wisdom — this observation is so far removed from the current situation it will make people laugh, yet it is true. These people should be called out for their lies precisely because their role in society depends on them adequately informing the public, not lying to them or telling them fairy tales. If they do lie, they deserve all the ridicule, venom and swearing coming their way.

  29. dearieme says:

    Suppose the public position was sincerely held for some time. Suppose the private position has resulted from a gradual dawning of truth or from new evidence. Suppose that he’s already considering how to report this new view to the world. Then why should Cochrane control the timing and nature of his news release?

    On the other hand, suppose ….

    So “it depends”, doesn’t it?

  30. Michael J says:

    It is hard to consider your problem without a lot more background — which you possibly cannot provide without betraying your correspondent.

    Is somebody suffering as a result of the false position? Would somebody be harmed (or possibly helped) by revealing? Are laws being broken? Are they just laws? Is your correspondent a close friend? Is he hiding to avoid unjust censure?

    In general, try to cause the minimum harm.

  31. What was it you said about being a public intellectual, “They let you keep the piece of your brain they take out”?

  32. kot says:

    Low effort drama post

  33. bob k. mando says:

    What’s the right thing to do when someone has, in private conversation, admitted that he doesn’t believe in his public position?

    amusing that you assume the private statement to have been the Truthful one.

    manipulative people lie, constantly.

    it is no more likely that he told you the ‘Truth’ in your private conversation than that BOTH statements are lies. you’re just a different audience than the general public, so you receive a different lie.

    regardless, as noted above, without independent documentation ( tape recording, etc ) any public outing you made of him would simply be “he said, she said” accusations. it might be possible to make the Dialectic case that he probably doesn’t actually believe his public statements … but if that’s True, you can likely also make the Dialectic case that his public position is just flat out factually wrong.

    Rhetorically, the accusation of being a Lying Liar can be quite effective.

  34. moscanarius says:

    Call them out, in private, for their hypocrisy, and then listen to what they say in their defense before deciding what to do next.

  35. Pau says:

    If you see a fraud, and don’t say it is a fraud, then you are a fraud

  36. Warren Notes says:

    Atheist, agnostic and believer – all just words. Humans can earnestly cycle through them several times before lunch. The same with other beliefs. And expressed “beliefs” are often nothing more than an attempt to ingratiate.

  37. anonymousfunk says:

    “The Hottest Places in Hell Are Reserved for Those Who in Times of Great Moral Crisis Maintain Their Neutrality” — Dante

    “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” MLK (jr)

  38. Rich Rostrom says:

    Is either position something you agree with or disagree with?

    Suppose he publicly praises some person or person’s deed or work, while privately admitting he or it is annoying. In some circles this is known as “politeness”, if the target is a child or other person of no power.

    What if you have said the same thing in public? (E.g. both of you think Mr. So-and-so is a fool, but neither says so publicly.)

  39. Janet says:

    Most people seem to be focusing on the other guy’s motivations; my question is, what are YOUR motivations? His behavior clearly irritates you, but what is your actual, ultimate goal here?

    Do you have a duty to either speak, or not speak, in this case? His moral uprightness isn’t any responsibility of yours– you’ve already noted you aren’t his priest, and I can’t believe he’s a member of your household, minor child, or some such– so I don’t see that as a justification to start a public pissing contest. If you think there’s a private issue– you think he owes you an apology, say– then your would be best pursuing that between the two of you, rather than making a public stink.

    If you’re concerned about him having some effect on innocent bystanders– say, he’s advocating public laws/policy that will have a negative effect on certain people, and he knows that– then there’s some plausible “duty” to stop him from doing so. But the question shifts to, what would be the most effective way to get him to change his behavior? Revealing a confidential discussion MAY be effective, but I think in most cases it’s actively counterproductive. People who have committed, in public, to a position very often feel “locked” into their position, out of fear that they will be mocked for their change of heart; mocking them in public for hypocrisy is usually more likely to stop them from changing, than to encourage them to change. Easier for them to just deny that they said what they told you in private, call you a liar.

    People generally don’t flip 180 degrees on touchy topics overnight. The path I usually see is, the initial position is staked out as a social signalling effort, with little to no thought given to the topic. But then they encounter the first substantive argument in the opposite direction, and an advocate who won’t just go away when yelled at. They, privately (and often unconsciously, at first) start thinking, and the discordance between their public position and their private thinking begins to gnaw at them. Their thinking becomes conscious, and they become receptive to hearing more evidence and arguments.

    The next step is usually to speak privately to one of the advocates for the socially-disparaged position and reveal their doubts. That would be you. (And he’s likely describing it to himself as doubting whether he should have been quite so categorical about X in the past, rather than “hypocrisy”.) My guess is, he has some level of trust in your integrity– and that you’re one of the few people he can actually talk to about X without being howled at. If I’m right, then howling at him in public is going to crush out those tiny green shoots of growth. So if your long-term goal is to get him to stop advocating policy X, because it’s harmful, then your short-term goal should probably be to make sure he keeps thinking rigorously about the topic. He’s talking to you, but he’s also talking to himself too; you’re hearing him talk himself out of a bad position. Also, introduce him to other not-X’ers who will have honest conversations with him.

    The next step for most people is to go quiet, in public, about topic X– no longer advocating X, but also not willing to say not-X and avoiding the topic as best they can. This is 80% of the victory to you, the not-X advocate; he’s no longer pushing something that you disagree with. Relatively few people have the courage and intellectual honesty to go whole-hog into actually retracting their previous position, or actually advocating not-X. Most people just leave it laying there, like poop on the sidewalk, and wander off pretending they don’t see it. In this world, that’s probably the best outcome you’ll get– again, you’re not his priest, and his moral development is not your job; and you did, in fact, win this one.

  40. Frau Katze says:

    Rant: I’m getting seriously fed up with this PC stuff.

    To try to help someone who knows my sister (online only), I put together instructions on how see a list of YouTube vids that are pending. She uses an iPad. My sister doesn’t have an iPad but I do.

    But the screen shot showed a sampling of who I’ve requested notification of new vids.

    My sister says the screenshot won’t do, it includes “notorious” people, like Sargon of Akkad, who is really a liberal.

    But if she’s an SJW, she might get my sister shunned from this online group. This is getting absurd.

    Damn the torpedos, out this guy!

    • Jim says:

      Sargon of Akkad was a liberal? I never would have guessed.

      • Frau Katze says:

        Sargon admits that inborn preferences may explain the “pay gap” between men and women, but has never spoken on the difference in the mean IQ (STEM). I believe the standard deviation is smaller too, further resulting in an excess of makes at the far right side of the curves.

        He has spoken several times about how there is no IQ difference between ethnicities. He notes that blacks in the UK are doing better than in USA. That might be explained by such blacks being elites in their own countries. Plus US black culture has become very toxic.

        This is pretty much how Jordan Peterson sees it too. SJWs are still trying to get him fired from his tenured position.

        This is the issue that must not be mentioned..

        You might be able to get male/female differences in IQ into general consideration. (Maybe I’m being too optimistic.)

        The race thing will never be reputable. For one thing, the groups at the low end won’t believe it. Why would they?

        • gcochran9 says:

          So when one of my kids outscores every black kid in the country on a standardized test, for that year and the previous five, he can then deduce the existence of our family elixir?

          20k per bottle. Such a bargain!

          • gcochran9 says:

            Or maybe it’s our unique, patented educational method, Indirect Instruction, where we put a voodoo doll of your kid in front of a screen, watching top lecturers, 24/7. You sleep, but you doll doesn’t.

          • Frau Katze says:

            Look, I don’t personally dispute you. But huge numbers of people do.

            Maybe listening to people like Sargon has made me realize that for some strange reason, a significant number of seemingly intelligent individuals do deny it.

            Or are you saying that these people really do believe in race differences but just don’t say so?
            Why did Stephen J Gould write an entire book on it? The book did not convince me, but I thought he was sincere.

            SJWs of course blame the differences on oppressive white people.

  41. ia says:

    Call Project Veritas. They’re pros at this kind of thing.

    • Frau Katze says:

      That’s actually a good idea. Cochran might be able to keep his name out of it.

      Still, I haven’t watched that many of their but they seem to rely on underlings who know certain things. The one’s I watched were mostly how businesses ran their businesses, so there would be a relatively large pool of people to try to “turn.”

      A university professor wouldn’t be as easy.

  42. “Artificially” bend conversations around the practical morality of lying, fraud, “cutting” dope etc when this person is in the company of others – possibly after discussing the topic in question – or while driving another participant home after “The Enron Talk” discuss TIQ.

  43. albatross says:

    One additional thing to consider: How does a strategy of outing people for acknowledging heretical thoughts in private affect whether people are willing to admit heretical thoughts in private to anyone? It seems like public denunciations for private heretical beliefs (real or imagined) are kind-of overproduced right now, and it’s making US society a worse place.

  44. TimToc1025 says:

    Probably too late to add to this discussion but with the popularity of Scott Adams’ posts on persuasion techniques of pacing, we should be aware that private agreement may be technical to establish rapport for later leading. Clearly, this doesn’t pertain to Greg’s situation.

  45. Steven C. says:

    In the 1993 Canadian federal election, I was working with the Reform Party in British Columbia which crushed the Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties in that province. A NDP candidate confided in me afterwards that “we deserved to lose.” I kept that confidence.

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