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David Deutsch and My “Talent”

This is part of a series of posts explaining the harassment against me which has been going on for years. The harassment is coming from David Deutsch and his fans and associates. This post provides historical context.

David Deutsch (DD) said I had a “talent” for annoying irrational people. He said I was good at offending them, bringing up key issues that people were sensitive about, and being pushy (rather than conflict-avoiding) about intellectual debates.

I didn’t fully agree with DD about the details of this, but I did and do agree about the broad outline. Something along those lines is a reasonable statement.

DD said several times that he had a talent for not being bothered by my talent. (I’m not certain, from memory, that he used the specific word “talent” to refer to his ability to deal with my “talent”. And comments below about what DD said are paraphrases from memory.)

So it was really unfair of DD to secretly build up resentments, for years, over my “talent”, after assuring me multiple times that he didn’t mind it and he was fine. Yes I offended some people when debating them, but DD repeatedly reassured me that I could speak freely with him and that he was safe. He said it was safe for me to be myself, speak openly, and be maximally critical and argumentative. He said I didn’t need to put effort into being tactful with him, as I often do with others (it’s sometimes inadequate, but I generally do make some effort to be tactful).

DD told me that he was rational enough that I could make all the arguments I wanted, say ten criticisms about a single issue, ask whatever questions I wanted, etc., and it would be fine and never alienate him. He convinced me that this was true. It wasn’t. Maybe it was fine at first, perhaps for the first five years. But at some point it stopped being fine and he was dishonest with me and hid that problem from me (while continuing to talk with me a ton – and during those conversations I’d occasionally say things he didn’t like without knowing it and with no direct, negative feedback).

DD put work into getting me not to follow normal social rules when talking with him. He told me repeatedly to talk to him as much as I wanted and that he would take responsibility for choosing how much to engage with me. He said I didn’t need to throttle or limit my communications or worry about wasting his time. He wanted more messages from me and to have full control, on his end, over how much attention he paid to me.

Context makes it worse. I met DD as a much younger person than him and an immature intellectual. He had a lot of influence on me, and he played the wise expert role. I trusted him a lot, including his statements about how to treat him. But now I’m being criminally harassed because I believed what DD told me about his unbounded ability to hear truth-seeking arguments, criticisms, opinions, questions, requests, analysis, etc. He actually got really upset about my attempts at unbounded truth-seeking, did not point out any errors I was making, hid the problem which prevented me from trying to problem solve about it, and then finally stopped associating with me. But abandoning me and breaking some promises (e.g. to write an introduction for my book) wasn’t enough for him. He held onto a major grudge which is still severe enough, a decade later, to libel me and encourage criminal harassment.

The grudge seems to be largely because he intellectually fears me. I’m one of the only people who can effectively criticize and refute his ideas – including both big picture issues and also poking holes in his logic or wording – and he doesn’t want to look bad in public. He never once requested that I don’t publicly criticize his ideas (in the past, I was extremely willing to go along with his requests, and gave him a ton of leeway and consideration). But, in his mind, I believe he blames fear of my criticism for years of him not blogging or otherwise being productive and sharing ideas with the world. It’s an ongoing issue today. Because if he did write blog posts, I might refute them like this.

(That linked post is about a 2016 email he sent to a stranger who then posted it on Reddit. DD’s email was roughly equivalent to a blog post instead of being tweet-sized – that’s one of most recent substantive things he’s written that is publicly available – and it was actually really bad and I explained in writing how incompetent, biased and error-filled it was. If DD blogged, I’d notice more bad posts, and criticize some of them, and he knows that and doesn’t want that to happen. It threatens his ability to convince people that he’s one of the greatest thinkers ever and that his word is gospel. And he doesn’t want to actually defend that desired reputation by debating, partly because that’s hard and stressful, and partly because he knows he might lose. So not only has he been avoiding saying things that could be criticized, but he’s also been trying to withdraw some things he said in the past like his approximately 2000 TCS emails.)

Anyway, DD assured me that stuff (arguments, analysis and unbounded truth-seeking) was fine, I listened to him, but then it turned out it wasn’t fine. He was vulnerable to my “talent” after all and needed boundaries on criticism. He hid the problem from me for yearsa, tried to deal with it himself, and failed. That’s his fault and responsibility. But now I’m being harassed and smeared by him and his community over his screw up.

Elliot Temple on July 1, 2021


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