This post was linked in Occupational Infohazards. I don’t know to what extent its claims are true or false, but it’s worth having a place on LessWrong to discuss the claims that doesn’t mix with all the other claims from jessicata’s post.
This post is almost entirely factually incorrect, but to go point-by-point1. For the parties I throw—I assume the person is referring to some of the parties in 2017, as those were the ones that had “a lot of sex”? I agree consent wasn’t very clearly set out, but I’m not sure I regret this. I’ve never had anybody express to me the concerns laid out in the post, this is the first time I’m becoming aware events I’ve thrown have had a negative impact on people. I do genuinely not want this to happen and am now thinking about what and how to change about my events in the future. But I haven’t thrown events with sex in them for years, so I’m guessing I need to be more careful if I decide to do this again? Happy to have feedback from people who’ve attended my events, here. 2. I’ve never played drug roulette or seen drug roulette played at one of my parties, this is a blatantly incorrect claim. I have joked about playing it numerous times, though; maybe someone heard me joking and misunderstood it as me saying I’d done it before? (edit: to be slightly more clear, I have speculated out loud about the specifics of how we could do this if we wanted to, for fun, but I’ve never claimed that I had actually done it before or made any actual plans for doing it)3. “you are never allowed to talk about it with anyone.”—also blatantly incorrect? Absolutely incorrect if it applies to drug roulette, cause I’ve never done it, but I also have never said this about any other activity to my recollection.
4. “Also, there is reason to believe that one of the things Aella enjoys doing is consensual non-consent torture, designed to break people.” This is mostly true, but misleading! I’d just say “consensual torture”—there’s no façade of nonconsent like you’d see in kink play. I just straightforwardly tie people up and hurt them, after very clearly explaining everything, and they’re able to stop any time. Usually it lasts around 20-30 minutes, and I’ve never done it twice on one person. I’ve also had it done to me! It’s mostly just a really interesting experience to be in a lot of pain and see what your mind does, and to meditate on the experience of coping with that intensity. The purpose is definitely not to ‘break’ people. I’m more than happy for all the people I’ve done this with to talk about their experiences. I’ve also been very upfront about doing this with everybody.5. The mention of attempting to cancel Joscha Bach was not an attempt to cancel, it was more talking about gut feelings, and fails to mention that I made a followup post about this saying “I officially retract my very public yelling about bad JUJU, say while i do have strong bad juju it seems like this isnt really matching onto other people’s experiences, and im considering it to be a false positive, and i want to make this public and say you should downgrade the extent to which you consider my juju guiding in this example and possibly others”(sorry Joscha I didn’t mean for you to see this, everybody said very nice things about you and I updated in that direction)6. Idk if I’ve tried to “cancel” MAPLE/OAK? You can read the facebook posts in question here https://www.facebook.com/caroline.f.hubert/posts/10222751244317191 and decide for yourself if this seems like a ‘cancellation’ attempt. This had nothing to do with the director stepping down, I wasn’t aware that happened.7. Trying to cancel Leverage? Probably the closest to the truth. I do think Leverage seemed to get pretty bad by the end and people should take that very seriously. 8. No, I was not mittenscautious. I did not gather the stories, set up the inbox, I did not make the medium account. The most I did was be the first one to share the post on my facebook page. I was roommates with Persephone at the time.9. “My intuitive read of this sequence of events, at the time as well as now, was: 1. Brent did something bad. 2. CFAR initiated an investigative process to determine what was to be done. That process reached a certain result. 3. Aella contested that result, and initiated an investigative process of dramatically lower fidelity, but higher memetic virulence. 4. Due to the strength of Aella’s frame, CFAR capitulated and ceded de facto control of the community to her.”Also untrue. I’d just moved to the bay at the time and barely knew anyone. I think the only substantial commentary I provided here was some comments on a facebook thread (edit: Duncan linked it here, you can find my comments by ctrl-f “Ok I am late to the party”) where there were hundreds of other comments. I would be absolutely shocked if I had any impact whatsoever on CFAR making any decision. I doubt they even knew who I was. I think I probably was more against Brent’s cancellation than the median here (edit: I was still for it, just the majority were ‘very’ for it; I was more tempered with the intensity of the boot); the author of this article and I had a conversation at the time where he asked me to donate money to Brent as iirc he had already done, and I seriously considered it (edit: but decided against, after talking to some people who knew Brent). Unfortunately I think the author blocked me on FB (or deleted it) so I can’t find those messages.10. ““Why is she doing this? This is undermining my frame. I’m trying to do something and she’s fucking it up.””I’m pretty sure I didn’t say this, I think I said something more like the Lesswrong comments I made on the post itself, which you can read. “She said: “yeah, I don’t really mind being the evil thing. Seems okay to me.”” I wouldn’t say this to most other people, because there’s an association with ‘being evil’ that I don’t mean, and I don’t want them to assume. This association is the thing implied here when taken out of context. I assumed the author understood, but now I suspect there was a misunderstanding.The thing I actually meant you can read in my blog post here, ctrl-f “evil”11. “And that’s all I have for you. I don’t know how else to end; if this were a cancellation, it might include a bit of “frame control” to try to tell you how to receive all of this and what to do about it. (The end of “Brent: A Warning””I think he might be implying that I’m doing frame control in that article, except I didn’t write the end of that article. edit: to clarify here in case it was unclear, I do support the banning of Brent from the community, given the level of harm I believe he did to young women. Also, this seems like a misunderstanding of what I meant by ‘frame control’, which might be my fault for being unclear.
Anyway; I’m not sure exactly why this post was written? If I have actually caused damage to people I do want to know, and if anyone feels comfortable telling me they were hurt by me I would value that information. But most of the claims here are concretely wrong, and I’m left mostly confused about what’s going on and why.
If the party in question happened in 2017 or later, I was probably also there. (Aella and I lived together for much but not all of 2017–2021, and I attended maybe 90% of the parties she threw in that time. We also used to date, but we broke up and don’t live together anymore.) It’s hard to pin down because I can’t think of a party that fits the description exactly. This is also the first that I’m aware of someone having a negative experience at the parties I’m thinking of, although I can understand how someone who had such an experience wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to the hosts about it. It’s hard to say more without knowing more, except maybe worth mentioning that some of the candidate parties I’m thinking of were not primarily organized by Aella (although she may have been there & helped out). I’m also interested in feedback about parties I’ve been a part of and genuinely do not want people to have experiences like the one described.
and 3. I’ve spent most of the last four years with/near Aella and have never heard of “drug roulette” happening. I also can’t imagine her telling people not to talk about it with anyone. Both those things seem deeply incongruous with my understanding of how Aella would behave toward people. Also for whatever it’s worth I’ve never even heard the word rohypnol before, and to my knowledge neither I nor Aella nor anyone I’ve lived with has had or allowed “roofies” in our home or to our parties.
Regarding the torture stuff — Aella “consensually tortured” me in 2018, and it was a positive experience for me. I felt cared for, and in fact Aella ended the session of her own accord because she wanted to make sure I was ok. I also know of two other people whom Aella “consensually tortured” who had a positive experiences, and I don’t know of anyone who had a negative experience. Also I think Aella has only done the “torture” thing a handful of times (5–6ish?) total. (I’ll also add a tiny correction and say that Aella has done it twice on a person—that person being me—but the second time was brief and if she either forgot about that or isn’t counting it, that seems fine.)
Can vouch for everything Aella says about the Joscha Bach stuff.
Can confirm that Aella is not mittenscautious.
The post of mine referenced above.
Thank you. I appreciate you for addressing the points.
Elsewhere, you wrote:
I was the first person to publish the accusations of harm against brent on behalf of my friend who was his ex
I was the first person to publish the accusations of harm against brent on behalf of my friend who was his ex
If the mittenscautious Tumblr or Medium account was not run by you, in what sense was this true?
I posted it to Facebook first. I was friends/roommates with Persephone, discussed the post beforehand, and offered (or she asked, maybe?) to post it publicly there to get readership so she could also preserve her anonymity. This was scary for me at the time, as afaik I’d seen no negative discussion about Brent like that, and I was new to the community and didn’t know the temperature/how people would react. Walking into a new community and being the conduit for a bomb dropping on one of its members is not a comfortable experience. I don’t regret it though!But I never had access to the mittenscautious accounts, and I never had contact with the other poster who had their accounts published. My participation organizing anything was limited almost entirely to making the initial facebook link post.If you scroll up I summarize it in a tweet just a bit above here
I believe it was Aella who first published links to the Medium posts on Twitter Facebook or other platforms, so that their existence became known.
I definitely see major falsehoods in this post, particularly with regards to cancellations (which happened online in places I read). Other parts of the post describe things I didn’t witness, but which seem dubious when placed in the context of a hit piece with known falsehoods in it.
Also, look at author’s comment below the article:
The post apparently made it over to LessWrong [...] and Aella responded. [...] Aella’s comment is a bunch of assertions that don’t demonstrate that i got facts wrong. most of it is frame control. if i’m not mistaken, the one thing i was wrong about was that i thought she was mittenscautious
Looking at Aella’s comment myself, here are things (other than the mittenscautious mistake) that seem to me like obvious factual disagreements:
never played “drug roulette”
never said “you are never allowed to talk about it with anyone”
the torture is consensual and can be stopped at any time
the drug roulette and house rules stuff was hearsay and i represented it as such.
And that makes it somehow wrong for Aella to object that it actually didn’t happen?
Oh, I get it now! When you put those objections together, it’s like: “I posted an article saying lots of bad things about Aella, but I was careful enough to put accusations of specific actions behind words ‘a friend told me anonymously’—therefore, everything she says is either an objection against a clearly labeled hearsay (which is not my fault) or a frame control.”
Took me a while to pinpoint what irritates me on the “it was just hearsay, and clearly labeled as such” excuse. It is about assigning probability to the thing said by an anonymous friend being true.
If the probability is low, then perhaps you shouldn’t be saying it at all. (Especially given the preachy disclaimer about Buddhist right speech, and how dangerous it is to talk negatively about Aella, because she has a response prepared and will likely retaliate against author’s family and friends.) Or you should somehow indicate that you believe the probability to be low, but for some reason it is worth being said anyway.
If the probability is high, then you should be surprised when it turns out to be false.
So the thing that irritates me is the implied high probability together with the utter lack of surprise.
Yeaaah the response was weird. One, I deliberately only kept it to facts; I didn’t address his tone or the leadup or his framing, I was pretty bare bones like “the concrete claims are wrong.” I have a little annoyed if he thinks that’s frame control he has no idea. I suspect he might be seriously misunderstanding my writings on frame control.But also like… for example this paragraph”Many of the substances one can imagine employing here — most saliently, rohypnol, the date rape drug; but also others — would put people into compromised states in which they could not consent to further sexual activity imposed on them by people who may not even have known that their sexual partner was thus compromised.”Afaik this isn’t information from the anonymous source, this is pure speculation on the author’s part where he independently brings up a date rape drug as a suggestion, and also speculates that “drug roulette” is used in conjunction with sexual activity, and where the context is such where there’s no consent involved and the participants would take advantage… And then to go and dismiss all this with “the drug roulette and house rules stuff was hearsay and i represented it as such” feels to me super inconsistent, apparently intentionally misleading, and confusing. I don’t know how to model the mind that would say both these things.
A Buddhist exercising his right speech.
“My faith prevents me from talking gossip and bullshit. But this evil sexy ninja, my former friend, has threatened my friends and family. Therefore I must speak, even if that puts my future reincarnations in peril:I have heard a rumor that Aella secretly tortures people and makes them take random drugs. I have not verified this rumor, nor do I have a particular reason to assume that it’s true, but it concerns me extremely, so I am sharing it online with my sangha. My imagination further suggests that when there are drugs, there is rape. If you never heard about people being raped in Aella’s dark lair, the most likely explanation is that this is a well-guarded secret. And that is criminal behavior that should be prosecuted.Another rumor says that she owns bitcoins, and uses them to pay people to edit the drafts of her stories. This cunning strategy allows her to manipulate the group of ignorant cowards that call themselves the Rationalist community.”When the bhikkhus heard this, they all cried: “Splendid, splendid, magnificient! That woman is truly demonic!”
“My faith prevents me from talking gossip and bullshit. But this evil sexy ninja, my former friend, has threatened my friends and family. Therefore I must speak, even if that puts my future reincarnations in peril:
I have heard a rumor that Aella secretly tortures people and makes them take random drugs. I have not verified this rumor, nor do I have a particular reason to assume that it’s true, but it concerns me extremely, so I am sharing it online with my sangha. My imagination further suggests that when there are drugs, there is rape. If you never heard about people being raped in Aella’s dark lair, the most likely explanation is that this is a well-guarded secret. And that is criminal behavior that should be prosecuted.
Another rumor says that she owns bitcoins, and uses them to pay people to edit the drafts of her stories. This cunning strategy allows her to manipulate the group of ignorant cowards that call themselves the Rationalist community.”
When the bhikkhus heard this, they all cried: “Splendid, splendid, magnificient! That woman is truly demonic!”
Gautama must be spinning in his nirvana.
(Sorry, not the usual LW content, but I couldn’t resist.)
Buddhism is a huge part of Joshin’s life (which seems fine to note), but if there’s an implied argument ‘Buddhism is causally responsible for this style of discourse’, ‘all Buddhists tend to be like this’, etc., you’ll have to spell that out more.
The explicit argument I would make here is, the post makes some reference to the author being Buddhist, and therefore less likely to say things they can’t verify. Or even things believed true that would cause drama. And then elaborates that the post will do both these things anyway, because there is a “conflict of interest” between speaking divisively against Aella, and speaking(?) divisively against those Jōshin seeks to warn away.
It is my understanding that whatever value one assigns to whisper networks, cancellations, and so on, “devout buddhist” is a social role that practically defines itself as foregoing that value in favor of inner peace, and that this contradiction is what Duncan found perhaps worthy of scorn. (The particular one-word comment has been correctly downvoted as having no place on LessWrong, at least according to a discourse norms pledge Duncan himself authored and various other of his posts.) In Jōshin’s shoes of having committed to X and finding ￢X to have profound importance to the safety of those around me, I would either try to fob off the publishing of the accusations onto someone else more comfortable with X to keep somewhat to the letter of the pledges, or lay out a stronger case for reneging on X in a separate post.
At minimum, any “so normally I avoid doing this even when it seems like a good idea, but” normnotes ought to go in something like a footnote, not up-front to emphasize that because something was a significant update for you it ought to be a more significant update to the reader. Certainly for audiences already not sharing your priors, such attempted emphasis as we see falls flat.
There is no such implied argument; the scare-quotes were an attempt to signal humor. Next time I’ll try something like:
″ ” Buddhists ” ”
… although hm, that might imply a criticism of the trueness/validity of Jōshin’s claim to Buddhism, which would also not be intended (since I lack any expertise whatsoever by which to judge).
(fyi I think this genre of humor isn’t very good, or at least requires a higher trust group of people for me to think it’s good)
I note that I’m pretty sure this is the exact same genre of humor as Villiam’s reply riffing off the same core concept (currently at +18 to my comment’s −6, and with no moderator commentary).
Which makes my primary hypothesis that people’s objection is not to the genre of joke, but to the amount of effort or the ambiguity or lack thereof or whatever. “You can tell this joke but only if you do it more skillfully.”
I wasn’t going to mention this but then your comment (which I upvoted) got a bunch of other upvotes, too, and I think there’s an inconsistency lurking somewhere around here.
On one hand, I was not scanning the rest of the thread for other stuff I might think is good or bad and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I had ended up unfairly signaling you out. I also think the karma in these threads gets particularly wacky and I don’t know what to do about it (I think agree/disagree helps a little but can only do so much), so I expect the karma scores here to be more intensified than is normal/reasonable.But also I’m not sure what you’re referring to in Villiam’s comment.? Villiam’s comment upthread is making an argument (as a bit of biting humor thrown in, which I think is probably also kinda bad, but the humor felt incidental to making a point), and the “Buddhist” comment wasn’t making an argument, and that seemed like a pretty important distinction.(I don’t think of this as a particularly important subthread, I had intended to just give your comment a weak downvote and move on with my day, and when you replied about it I had intended to just write up a quick one-liner explaining my thoughts but also didn’t mean to be making a big deal about it)
[removing my own self-upvote so that this doesn’t show up in recent discussion]
Yeah, some of this gets the facts wrong, or a bit off. I don’t think this was fact-checked very competently, and in this sort of context, that does matter.
(ex: I can confirm that mittenscautious was not Aella, although Aella was indeed a housemate to Persephone.)
...I hate dishing based on something this speculative, but I do think it’s a potentially relevant piece of context...
Aella and Geoff (Executive Director of Leverage) have a lot of enmity towards each other. This is just straightforwardly true.
If I am identifying the author of this Aella-attacking post, correctly? The author of this post was a special guest on one of Geoff Anders’ Twitch streams.
I’m normally a mistake theorist, but I find it really tempting to interpret this as the end result of talking to a really skewed sample of people.
(And I might be assigning better-than-even odds that Geoff was involved in that process, somehow.)
UPDATE: I’m updating a few steps in the direction of “I may have gotten some of the causality here, backwards.” Tension with Aella predates that. Disliked Aella’s MAPLE post, and this might have been some of why he and Geoff got in touch.
I’d love it if someone can confirm or deny this.
Geoff tweeted about it, I forwarded that to you.
But after thinking a bit more, including hearing a little more background context from Aella? I think the tension here predates that, and that this is predominantly a reaction to the MAPLE post. Please treat this mostly as a side-note.
There’s no recording anymore, but I actually appreciated him on the stream. My overall take on the author is “has a lot of compassion, but I don’t always trust his discernment.”
I can confirm this. There’s a transcript from the interview somewhere, I can dig it up if you want.
Is it known whether the author is the same person who commented on the “Frame Control” post under the name of “blueiris” (and, after that account was banned, “blueiris2”, and then “blueiris3″) complaining about how Aella was taking unfair advantage of her feminine wiles to get her stuff well received on Less Wrong?
I asked the author of this post whether they knew blueiris. He said he did not.
Thanks. I am not sure I would trust the author of the post (1) not to lie outright and (2) to kinda-not-exactly-lie by taking the view that one doesn’t know oneself, but your report is certainly some evidence that they are two different people (with, apparently, somewhat similar attitudes to Aella and to Leverage).
To contribute whatever information I can here:
I’ve been to three of Aella’s parties—without remembering exact dates, something like 2018, 2019, and 2021. While they were pretty wild, and while I might not have been paying close attention, I didn’t see personally see anything that seemed consent-violating or even a gray area, and I definitely didn’t hear anything about “drug roulette”.
I had originally been confused by the author’s claim that “Aella was mittenscautious”. Aella was definitely not either of the two women who blogged on that account describing abusive relationships with Brent. After rereading the post, it sounds like the author is saying Aella set up the Medium page for them, which I have no evidence on either way. If true, I would be grateful to her for that—there had been widespread rumors Brent was abusing people before that, but in the absence of common knowledge nothing was being done.
There was widespread discontent with CFAR’s original decision not to come down harder on Brent. I knew several people who were angry, none of whom were Aella or seemed especially connected to her. It’s possible Aella was manipulating all of them behind the scenes, but it seems more possible that a lot of rationalists were just naturally concerned that we seemed to be tolerating a person with multiple credible rape/abuse allegations.
Moving from evidence to vague thoughts: there’s a tough balance between not doing “cancel culture” in the bad sense, and also not being tolerant/complacent in the face of bad things. I’m pretty allergic to the bad kind of “cancel culture” but I’ve always felt like Aella strikes this balance correctly. If she in fact helped with mittenscautious I am even more impressed with this.
(I did worry Aella’s “Frame Control” post would make it too easy to try to cancel people for vague hard-to-describe infractions, but I didn’t get the sense Aella herself was trying to do that).
The accusations against Brent were not that he engaged in hardcore BDSM practices- many peple had known that for years. The new information was that he ignored safewords and pressured people into things they did not want to do, which transforms the acts from BDSM to assault.
ETA: I should say I appreciate all the specifics Joshin put in this post, because they make it so easy to determine cruxes.
I note that I was gently queried on whether or not I would be willing to crosspost this to LW, and demurred.
Which makes it seem a bit different from “Oh, here’s a post that isn’t on LW and maybe ought to be.”
(Like, it’s possible ChristianKl simply saw it and wanted to share; I am not speculating on the actual history of it showing up here today. Separate from whatever actually happened, it just seems worth noting that this is a post authored by someone who wanted it crossposted on LW but did not want (or was not able) to do so themselves.)
It’s hard to state a fact like that without accidentally seeming to push an agenda. I genuinely believe that there are both good and bad reasons for someone wanting something crossposted to LW but not wanting (or not being able) to do so themselves. I don’t know what to make of the fact that it was trying to be stealth crossposted. I just think that the fact itself is worth making known, especially since this linkpost does not itself mention anything like “posted on request” or “posted with permission” (possibly because ChristianKl posted it unilaterally, out of their own initiative).
Like, it’s possible ChristianKl simply saw it and wanted to share; I am not speculating on the actual history of it showing up here today. Which makes it seem a bit different from “Oh, here’s a post that isn’t on LW and maybe ought to be.”
Like, it’s possible ChristianKl simply saw it and wanted to share; I am not speculating on the actual history of it showing up here today.
Which makes it seem a bit different from “Oh, here’s a post that isn’t on LW and maybe ought to be.”
I posted it after seeing it in the linked threat of jessicata without having seen the post before. Given that it was a subpart of the other post, it effectively was on LessWrong by that time and going to be read by people.
Without posting it here, it could have been addressed in the comments of jessicata’s post and I considered it to be likely result in better information sharing to have it as a separate post here.
From my perspective, Aella responding point to point to the allegations and then other people verifying is a good outcome of having it posted like this.
I just think that the fact itself is worth making known, especially since this linkpost does not itself mention anything like “posted on request” or “posted with permission”
I have not communicated with the author about the post and I’m not certain who the author happens to be. I would write something like “posted on request” if that’s why I’m posting.
This seems like a great use case for the two-axis voting system that’s being experimented with right now. I think Aella’s response (to what is an anonymous accusation with no hard evidence) is perfectly satisfactory, and presumably others thought so too and downvoted this or removed their upvotes to signal that. But I agree that sharing the post was good (having Aella respond is valuable), so a better outcome would have been if the post had kept moderate karma and received strong downvotes on the second axis. As-is, there’s a genuine dilemma because we don’t want to promote something that unfairly reflects poorly on someone.
I don’t think the +2 karma (one-digit positive karma) is an issue.
While it’s valuable that the discussion itself happened, it’s not valuable for anyone who browsers through LessWrong without prior interest to click through into the thread to follow it.
It’s likely good that it’s there to be linked to, but that value is different than the value a reader who hasn’t seen anything related gets.