This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The aggressors are David Deutsch and his fan community. This post provides context about what type of person Deutsch is (a social climber), with quotes, which helps explain the harassment situation.
In the Introduction to Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote about the right and wrong ways to approach life and other people. The error of wanting to control too much about other people explains a lot about David Deutsch (DD). After the Rand quote, I’ll give quotes from DD showing how he has flaws that Rand was talking about. In the quotes, he talks about managing his reputation and controlling what other people think of him.
Her [Dagny Taggart’s] error—and the cause of her refusal to join the strike—is over-optimism and over-confidence (particularly this last). Over-optimism—in that she thinks men are better than they are, she doesn’t really understand them and is generous about it.
Over-confidence—in that she thinks she can do more than an individual actually can. She thinks she can run a railroad (or the world) single-handed, she can make people do what she wants or needs, what is right, by the sheer force of her own talent; not by forcing them, of course, not by enslaving them and giving orders—but by the sheer over-abundance of her own energy; she will show them how, she can teach them and persuade them, she is so able that they’ll catch it from her. (This is still faith in their rationality, in the omnipotence of reason. The mistake? Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.)
On these two points, Dagny is committing an important (but excusable and understandable) error in thinking, the kind of error individualists and creators often make. It is an error proceeding from the best in their nature and from a proper principle, but this principle is misapplied. . . .
The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specific men. First, it’s not necessary, the creator’s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it’s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being.
Therefore, while a creator does and must worship Man (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship Mankind (as a collective). These are two entirely different conceptions, with entirely—(immensely and diametrically opposed)—different consequences.
Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself. . . .Whether the creator is alone, or finds only a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importance or consequence whatever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him are mankind, in the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest possibility. (The rational being, who acts according to his nature.)
It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or all the men around him fall short of the ideal of Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the “optimism” about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize—and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately wants them to be better)—and to be tied to the world by that hope.
It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it’s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason . . .) [But] here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes—if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an immoral desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator’s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander.
Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatever to, by or through others. (He can’t—and he shouldn’t even wish to try it—and the mere attempt is improper.) He must not think that he can . . . somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his primary influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others. . . .
Now, in Dagny’s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; with herself, in effect, being the spark of initiative, the bearer of responsibility for a whole collective. This can’t be done. This is her crucial error.
This is where she fails.
David Deutsch (DD) wants to control his effect on the world and how the world sees him. He wants to have a large number of fans. He wants to do things to, by and through others. He doesn’t want to treat people as fully independent entities. He wants to tell people what to think. That’s too hard a task, which is one of the reasons it took him over a decade to write BoI.
DD has had ideas like teaching people to be better parents – but without them having to learn Critical Rationalism (CR) themselves. Taking Children Seriously (TCS) said parents could just learn DD’s conclusions, based on his understanding of CR, without having to learn much about philosophy themselves. TCS reassured parents that reading even one Popper book was optional. (I give sources for this at the end of this post.) This made DD the bearer of responsibility for the whole collective, since he was the one with knowledge about CR and how to apply CR. But DD and his TCS co-founder, Sarah Fitz-Claridge (SFC), have also denied having responsibility for what happened to those parents and their children, and basically abandoned them.
DD hides what kind of person he is, so I expect people to initially doubt my claims about him. Getting you to doubt he’s a social climber is part of his reputation management. But DD has admitted these things to me privately, e.g. he emailed me on 2010-07-25 (my italics):
I myself do not want the [Taking Children Seriously] archives to be widely read (yet!) because I am strongly of the opinion that it would run a coach and horses through my plans to manage my reputation into the future so that I can have a beneficial effect on the world other than physics etc. It would cause no end of trouble for me in that regard.
DD didn’t think there was anything wrong with his roughly 2000 posts about TCS. He wanted them read later (hence the “yet!” comment). He hadn’t changed his mind about the ideas. He wasn’t even saying they needed to be rewritten or edited. He just wanted to control what effect he had on the world and control his reputation (that is, control what opinions other people had in their minds about him). So he wanted to hide his ideas that he thought were wonderful and important. He wants to be a mastermind manipulating the world for its benefit, just as TCS says a parent should try to not do to his child, and Rand said not to do in the quote above. (DD claimed to be a fan of Ayn Rand and strongly recommended her books to me.)
Similarly, on 2010-09-26:
17:16:00 curidotus: can you explain your reputation management theories a bit more?
17:17:12 oxfordphysicist: One reason I agreed to be in this new Institute is that it will extend the area over which I am regarded as entitled to pontificate in public and to be listened to.
17:17:47 curidotus: rather unFeynmanesque of you
17:18:12 oxfordphysicist: I want to keep extending that area until it covers some aspects of politics and one day even education theory.
17:18:28 curidotus: and since you don't belong to any think tank dedicated to contradicting feynman, you're not allowed to argue with that!
17:18:34 oxfordphysicist: Similarly I want to avoid doing things that reduce the area.
Note that I disagreed with DD and was arguing with him by mentioning how his attitude contradicted Feynman’s.
On 2010-10-01 (my italics):
16:52:37 oxfordphysicist: Today I met the other senior members [including Nick Bostrom] of the proposed new Future Technology Institute.
16:55:35 oxfordphysicist: Mostly we were all trying to impress the sponsor with our cleverness and depth. So nothing has actually happened yet.
That’s social climbing.
And within a few days of 2010-08-20:
[That] Might harm me by diverting discussion away from BoI issues onto TCS and STWTR issues which I am not yet ready to present to the general public.
It’s amazing how DD wants to control his reputation. He wrote hundreds of STWTR posts on a public blog. Then he wants to somehow take it back. He’s not ready to present it to the public!? But he already did present it to the public.
Similarly, TCS was already presented to the public and probably thousands of parents started trying to use it. Many people made some changes to their parenting on DD’s and SFC’s advice. They relied on DD and SFC for the ongoing support and advice that DD and SFC communicated would be available. You can’t (reasonably) withdraw a parenting philosophy that is already in use in many people’s lives that you shared on the public internet, in a bunch of conference speeches, and in a paper journal.
You especially can’t withdraw your parenting philosophy when you tell people they’re basically like evil dictators if they don’t do TCS. They compare non-TCS parents to slave owners and to husbands when beating your wife was legal. They tell parents that TCS is something they can and must do right now, today, to avoid destroying their children’s minds. And tell them they don’t need to learn philosophy and Popper – that’s optional, advanced extra stuff. If they don’t learn Popper themselves, then they are dependent on experts like DD and SFC, so withdrawing that expertise screws people over really badly.
And neither DD nor SFC has publicly admitted to withdrawing anything or quitting the community. They don’t acknowledge anything changed. But behind the scenes they do things like pressure me not to repost archives that became unavailable due to technical/computer/software type problems. It’s dishonest to to hide what’s going on from the community you’re trying to take resources away from. They never even admitted that they stopped making new parenting resources, but they did worse than that by trying to take away existing resources like the original TCS website and recently the second TCS website (that was harder to navigate and incomplete, and they promised more stuff that never came). And when they quit, they never directed anyone to any alternatives to move on to.
It was basically implied that the parenting resources to move on to were me and my community, since DD and SFC left their discussion community to my leadership. But they never directly said that (they just left without explanation and without any clear moment in time when they left). And SFC disliked me and put some effort into preventing TCS parents from finding out that a TCS discussion forum still existed, run by me. And now they’re involved with harassment against me and my community, even though it was the only significant resource left for TCS parents. For many years, I’ve been the only person letting TCS parents come ask questions and providing expert answers, and they seem mad about that because they want to be the expert leaders. They abandoned TCS, but still want the social prestige of being a founder and leader, but without the responsibility or work involved.
SFC has been doing some podcasts and talks about TCS recently with zero acknowledgement or explanation about being gone for over 15 years. It’s confusing because they simultaneously in some ways want to hide and disown TCS, and in other ways want to claim to always have been the experts and leaders like nothing changed. It doesn’t make sense. And it leaves me with no idea what actions I could take to please them so that they would stop the harassment campaign.
As TCS leaders, they’ve (primarily SFC, who played much more of a community manager role than DD, while DD played the wise intellectual role) repeatedly said things like that new wonderful TCS stuff was coming soon. SFC was still selling TCS journal subscriptions long after the last journal was published. When they switched from the tcs.ac website to takingchildrenseriously.com (and unnecessarily got rid of the old domain instead of leaving it alone or redirecting it), they told everyone they’d repost all the articles from the old website, but then they never did. And currently takingchildrenseriously.com has all content deleted, and SFC claims the site will be even better soon. Why couldn’t she leave the existing articles available until the new stuff was ready? Why take them down instead of leaving things alone? She took stuff down on purpose, for a reason she won’t tell the TCS community (she says she disagrees with some old stuff, but doesn’t say what, and maybe just disagrees with the tone). And why delete things at all? Why not just add new additional stuff. And when is the new stuff coming? She took down the existing stuff months ago.
On 2010-08-27, DD wrote (typos in original):
I dodn't mean only FoR List discussion. I mean -- say a TV producer has joined the FoR list as part of sizing me up for a 12 part series. Then he sees that someone regards me as having written thousands of TCS posts so he reads them and decides I;m a crank.
DD wants to control what other people think and do. TV producers must see DD’s resume exactly as he wants it, with no other information. He thinks his TCS posts could cost him a TV series, and therefore wants to prevent any parents – who are in the middle of a TCS parenting – from continuing to use or discuss it.
Also, DD did write around two thousand TCS posts. That’s a fact, not something that some people regard him as having done.
But DD won’t say publicly that he wants to hide the information that TV producers might dislike (which, admittedly, would defeat his goal of tricking the public including the TV producers). He just sabotages parents behind the scenes after founding a parenting movement at around age 38 and putting his intellectual reputation (e.g. as a book author) behind it. I think a lot of TCS parents don’t know what went wrong and probably blame themselves, and don’t know what DD and SFC did that was unreasonable.
You can’t start something well into adulthood, connect it to your career, and then expect to withdraw it. That’s so unreasonable. People listened to DD because he relied on the reputation from his career and book – they thought he was putting his reputation and career on the line and that he would be a strong, lasting advocate of the movement he started. But now he won’t take responsibility for what he said or responsibility for the role of giving radical, life-changing advice to parents that raises new problems that they need ongoing support, articles and discussion to help with.
By the way, despite getting his way about hiding the TCS archives, DD still hasn’t gotten any 12 part TV series in the last 10+ years since he was so pushy with me about it. Not even a 1 part series. (And is he grateful that I did what he wanted regarding the TCS archives? No. He now initiates force against me without saying why.)
In his article Is TCS Revolutionary?, DD had warned other people not to try to manage their reputations like he secretly does:
One thing that one does not do is hesitate to argue against those ideas and in favour of ideas that seem better. Darwin hesitated for twenty years before publishing The Origin of Species, partly out of fear that it would undermine the fabric of society. His fear may have been justified, but his hesitation was not. The reason is the very consideration that I am discussing in this article. Yes, Darwin's theory contributed to the decline of religion and perhaps, thereby, created a vacuum that has been filled by such things as totalitarian ideologies. But on the other hand, it also contributed enormously to scientific and philosophical progress, which has saved countless lives and enriched many more. For Darwin to know which of these effects would be stronger — to know whether postponing publication of his theory of evolution would do net good or harm — would require a supernatural knowledge of all the ideas, explicit and inexplicit, that existed in other minds, followed by a superhuman analysis of the myriad interactions between them that publication would initiate. To imagine that he could make a meaningful judgement in this matter, and that it was his place to second-guess the intellectual development of the entire world on the basis of such a judgement, was not just silly, it was crass utopianism.
When we were still speaking a lot, I asked DD about this passage and how he isn’t following his own advice. His excuse was that he has more than one thing to say and he needs to say them in the right order. He should have thought of that before he said the TCS stuff. He spent nearly 20 years saying TCS stuff and then tried to pretend he didn’t. Except in a weird, ambiguous way. SFC gave a talk on TCS recently, identified DD as a co-founder of TCS, and claims she will soon publish a book on TCS (20 years ago, she also claimed the book would be done soon, so who knows if or when it’ll ever come out). She also recently went on some podcasts to promote TCS. Are they trying to hide TCS or not? What do they actually want? It doesn’t make sense. Some of DD’s fans are still finding TCS and thinking they should do it, and SFC is encouraging that. Some of DD’s fans tell people about TCS in his Twitter topics, too, and put that in DD’s mentions (notifications).
DD told me basically that he wasted many years of his life sharing TCS ideas and participating in discussions because people don’t listen, don’t learn it right, and hate TCS. He broadly thinks people are too dumb (compared to him) to reason with. I think he’s in an awkward position of thinking TCS is true, and having nothing to retract, while also wanting to stop telling it to anyone he doesn’t intellectually respect (so nearly every living person). He thinks people who read about TCS mostly respond by hating him because they’re stupid and irrational, and he doesn’t want to deal with that anymore, but he doesn’t want to retract TCS either. Partly he won’t retract TCS because that would draw more attention to it, and also he doesn’t want to admit to having been wrong about something.
But SFC is promoting TCS in 2021, so what’s going on? Maybe DD doesn’t want her to, but is unwilling to make clear, direct requests to her because she’s an extremely emotional, irrational person who will get really upset and angry over nothing, let alone over a significant request. (My main source on that claim about SFC is talking with her child a lot, though I’ve seen some of it myself too, both in person and online.) SFC might not even know what DD wants. Or maybe DD got old enough that he gave up on doing other stuff. He did promise me that he’d write a book on TCS before he died (but after he finished his physics work). But if he’s decided he’s again ready to be associated with the movement he co-founded and put his reputation behind and hasn’t retracted … he hasn’t said that either. And if SFC is allowed to talk about TCS, what is he so mad at me about that he has his community harassing me? He claimed that he was upset with me for wanting to keep the TCS email discussion archives available for people to read (but not doing it, at his request). (He wanted not just obedience but agreement … but also didn’t want to discuss and debate the matter to change my mind. Much like how conventional parents sometimes treat their children, which TCS objects to.)
DD himself is tweeting about TCS issues in a confusing way that’s bad for social climbing. He isn’t explaining it. It seems like he just doesn’t have a coherent plan. For example (2021):
All compulsory education, "tough" or not, "love" or not, in camps or not, and whether it "traumatises" or not, is a violation of human rights.
That tweet was paired with a link to Troubled US teens left traumatised by tough love camps. DD was downplaying how bad those camps are. He hates all compulsory education so much that he apparently can’t differentiate that some instances are worse than others. When you compare compulsory education to slavery or dictatorship, you don’t leave much room to admit that some things are less bad than others. It’s like saying all compulsory education is all bad, with no shades of gray, and therefore downplaying the evil of compulsory education that’s worse than public schools (like the camps). And there are abusive parents who are worse than regular parents – DD would reply that they’re all abusive parents, but some parents get drunk and beat their children and some don’t, so they aren’t all the same.
But DD isn’t explaining what he’s talking about, nor making available links to articles that explain it. His audience isn’t going to understand. Some people ask what he’s talking about and he mostly ignores them.
DD also tweeted (2021):
Compulsory education is bad.
Again he didn’t explain his position.
And he’s using force – compulsion – against me that pressures me to learn things I don’t want to learn, e.g. to become educated about the dumb tweets he writes. My self-defense has required learning a bunch of information I’d rather not about people like DD and Andy, as well as about things like website security and false identity detection.
And DD tweeted (2021):
A very bad law is about to be enacted. The very term 'junk food' is hate speech. The very term 'obesity' is a signal of scientism.
Defending children eating whatever they want, and saying all sorts of “junk food” are healthy, was a common DD/TCS claim. But why start tweeting it without explaining your position? He stopped admitting to believing this for years and now he wants to put it on his regular Twitter account, to his regular audience, without giving any reasoning? What’s the big reveal after years of silence? That’s his idea of reputation management? The only plan here is to be vague enough that most people won’t understand what he’s talking about and will hopefully ignore it, so he won’t get too much backlash. But where’s the upside? No one is going to learn something useful from tweets like this. If he was willing to alienate most people with strong, unpopular positions, without really even trying to explain it so reasonable people could see his point … then what was he doing for the last decade? What was he hiding this stuff for if he’s going to share it so recklessly?
DD is a reputation-managing social climber who tries to control what other people know and think about him. He screwed up by founding a movement people dislike, connecting it with his book and public intellectual career, using his author status to recruit and impress members, and writing thousands of posts about it over a period of many years. He also screwed up by writing hundreds of right-wing political blog posts, even though the intellectual elites he wants to socially climb with lean pretty strongly left-wing.
He wants to pretend he never said stuff, but he still thinks it’s true, and he has no coherent plan or policy for what to do about this situation. I think this results in frustration which sometimes builds up enough for DD to tweet a few vague things about his actual views (but they have to be vague because he doesn’t actually want to share his opinions clearly and face the public response, which he fears). He failed at his goals to manage his reputation and control the public’s opinions, and has no idea how to fix it, and his actions now don’t make sense.
And DD seems to blame me a significant amount, for no clear reason, but with concrete consequences: severe harassment for multiple years, and DD himself defamed me. Which is terrible strategy. If he would leave me alone, I wouldn’t be writing about his involvement with TCS, his social climbing, his mistreatment of me, and so on. But he absolutely refuses to discuss the matter privately, ask even once for his fans to stop harassing, or clean up his toxic community. The situation remains intolerable for me, and violates my rights, so I’m talking about it.
DD is second-handed. He cares what other people think and what ideas are in their heads – that’s what reputation is. He wants prestige and social status in the minds of others. He ought to reread Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, which addresses second-handedness as a main theme.
I think my negativity towards reputation management and social climbing is one of the major reasons that DD and I parted ways. Reputation management is also one of the reasons DD doesn’t publish very much writing. He wants to control things that are out of his control, and his writing can’t live up to that goal, so it’s never good enough.
TCS Says You Don’t Have to Read Popper
This section gives evidence for my earlier claim that TCS said reading Popper is optional, and explains how TCS was selling easy answers and shortcuts.
SFC wrote to TCS list on 2000-03-25 (my italics):
Popper, the man, had no connection with TCS. In fact, he did not discuss educational theory, and indeed, he wrote ghastly, non-TCS things about television. So don't worry if you don't want to read his books
Kevin Schoedel (a close associate of SFC) wrote from an official TCS email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), which SFC announced and posted from herself, on 1996-07-20, to TCS list:
Reading those books [by Popper and Bartley about Popperian epistemology] will not necessarily give you the slightest clue about non-coercive educational theory … On the TCS list, I try to write in such a way that it can be understood without familiarity with Popper, as do others. Furthermore, I am pretty sure there are several individuals on this list who have never read Popper and yet understand what this is all about.
It is not necessary to have read Popper to understand non-coercive educational theory! But if you really want to read Popper ... But I still say reading this list, and asking all the questions thereby raised in your mind, would be more useful [than reading Popper] if the aim is to understand non-coercive educational theory.
Note that this advice came before DD had published a book, so people weren’t going to learn CR by reading DD instead. And after DD published The Fabric of Reality, reading that was considered optional for TCS parents, too.
I’m the person who started telling parents that they had to learn CR and become rational philosophers themselves in order to have a realistic chance of being great, non-coercive parents. But most of them didn’t want to do that; they’d been looking for the easy answers TCS had been selling.
Speaking of easy answers, TCS also told parents that they could be and stay irrational, and still do TCS correctly, as long as they didn’t intentionally hurt their children. TCS talks about shielding your children from your own irrationalities, which you don’t solve, by not coercing your children based on your irrationalities. And TCS said all coercion is intentional, so just don’t coerce on purpose and your own irrationality and ignorance won’t matter much.
SFC wrote to TCS list on 1996-03-18 saying that coercion is “almost invariably” “intentional”:
Acting on one theory while a conflicting theory remains active in one’s mind [which TCS calls “coercion”] is not a state that happens by chance. It is almost invariably a result of intentional coercion on the part of another person, whether at the time, or earlier in the person’s life. That is why we call this state “acting under coercion” and not something less judgemental-sounding.
TCS got popular with the message that your children will grow up fully rational as long as you aren’t mean to them on purpose, and that you don’t have to learn philosophy or read books in order to accomplish this.
TCS also pushed privacy and avoided sharing information about the results for any actual children. But as a longstanding member of the community, who has met or talked with a lot of TCS people, I can confidently say that TCS never worked as advertised for a single parent. Some TCS people did pretty well as parents, and some poorly, but the plan to never be intentionally mean, and thus raise fully rational children, wasn’t even close to working for a single person. It was a bit like a “get rich quick” scheme – it makes big promises that only require low effort, but it doesn’t actually work. A lot of people want easy answers and shortcuts, and David Deutsch put his name and intellectual reputation on this one, and made it sound philosophical to people who’d never read a philosophy book (and were told that they didn’t need to). That (plus SFC’s community organizing) was enough to attract a few thousand followers.