8/08/2019

Taleb's Call to Duel

"Taleb can be a decent person with a valid criticism, and still rude—strategically so. Consider another extreme tactic in intellectual combat: hoax papers, such as those making fun of postmodernism and “grievance studies.” Hoax papers deceive, waste people’s time, cause embarrassment, and abuse a system of discourse—in that sense they, too, are rude. And yet, understanding normal academic discourse as conventional combat, the hoax paper is a kind of guerilla warfare, an effective tactic justified in rare circumstances. (Quillette has defended the tactic.) 

If a hoax paper is guerilla warfare, Taleb’s Twitter attack was a call to duel; the rude insult manifests the stakes of personal dignity. Lehmann understands this. In February, she quoted a passage about how in an honor culture insults are used to provoke a duel. She added: “Obviously @nntaleb’s Twitter feed is one of honor culture’s last holdouts.”"