Psy Ops: The Daughters of Valley Forge

When last we discussed my (completely hypothetical) group resisting #TheResistance, Anonymous White Male asked: “What about the women?”  At the time I said “don’t worry about it,” but Our Betters, the Liberals, have unwittingly provided us an answer, via the Starbucks Coffee Corporation.  Everyone’s favorite carbo-loaded caffeine pimps will no longer be moving along those undesirables who take up all the tables and dirty the bathrooms without paying for anything, because Social Justice.  It’s a golden opportunity for black knighting.

SJWs get most of their power from the “Game” concept of social proof.  The Left has tried long and hard — and obvtiously, with great success — to make Leftism the default position for apolitical people.  Thus college girls are the most reflexively liberal people on the planet.  And since they’re girls, and in college, they normally would never have to deal with liberalism’s consequences…. except that college girls are also Starbucks’ main customer base.  See where this is going?

The best part is, not only does Starbucks have to double down — it’s like a law or something — but now university people, who are always on the prowl for their next crusade, are going to get into the act.  Pretty soon you won’t be able to get within 50 feet of a Starbucks in any college town without getting sexually harassed by a schizophrenic, piss-stained bum.

If you haven’t been in a college town recently (or at all), you may not believe me.  Most Starbucks won’t have a bum problem, because they’re located in nice safe white suburbs.  College towns, though, go out of their way to create a homeless problem for themselves.  My (former) college town was typical:

I went to grad school (and, therefore, taught) at a citadel of learning I’ll call Flyover State.  They were respectable-verging-on-good… but always verging.  There were better public Us, and anyway the parents who care about “education” wouldn’t be sending their snowflakes to a school ending in “State.”  It had a decent rep as a party school, but though real party schools do end in “State,” they’re preceded by “Arizona” or “California.”  Even the football team was blah — good enough to end up on ESPN 5 in the middle of the week after Christmas, but not good enough that the word “underperforming” wasn’t always found in their press coverage.  It was, in short, a safety school for bright-but-directionless kids who didn’t want to move too far away from home.

There are lots of these, and this is where your Sons (and Daughters!) of Valley Forge will get off the ground.  For you see, what applies to the students is inverse, and double, for the professors.  The kind of folks who end up teaching at Flyover State are real, serious scholars, with (in many cases) national reps… but they’re not quite good enough, or maybe just too white, straight, etc., to end up at Harvard.  This makes them bitter — above and beyond normal SJW bitterness, I mean — and that, in turn, makes them the #Wokest of all.

Thus, in my time at Flyover State, the nice, safe, clean, white town of Potemkin Village when from being nice, safe, clean, and white to…. the exact opposite of that. The bitter SJW professorate decided — I was there, I heard them — to import from the nearest major metro every vicious ghetto banger they could catch (it didn’t hurt that some of them were good at football, though of course the profs wouldn’t admit this under torture).  Combined with the rampant homeless population that always infests a college town, this had predictable effects.  When I first got there, I didn’t think twice about walking home from a bar at 2am; now, I’d think twice about going out in broad daylight unescorted by SEAL Team 6.

But at least private businesses were safe… until now.  If I were the leader of an underground… let’s call it a “study circle”… I’d start posting flyers everywhere around every local Starbucks: “No purchase required to use bathroom!”  Then sit back and watch the fun.  In fact, I’d get out there with the professors, howling about the horrible horrible injustice of asking Dontarrious and his seventeen homies to move along, or at least please turn down the music and sit down.  Your nice white college girls will be terrified… and who will protect them then?

So thanks, Starbucks — not only will you Get Woke and Go Broke, but you’ve provided lots of aid and comfort to the enemy.  Hypothetically.

Little Lezbos and the Pointlessness of Modern Prose

One of the best, most vicious criticisms I’ve read of modern literature was B.R. Myers’s essay in the Atlantic: A Reader’s Manifesto (later expanded to a short book of the same title); the magazine piece is behind a paywall, but I’m sure you can find it.).  He identifies, with copious examples, the main failings of modern prose.  In a word, it’s style-over-substance.  Modern writing is chock full of weird images — “furious dabs of tulips stuttering in gardens” — that serve no purpose other than calling attention to themselves.  It’s “original,” all right — can dabs be furious, or stutter? — but it doesn’t add anything to the sentence, yet alone the story (here it is in context, if you don’t believe me).

That was 2001, alas, and most of Myers’s examples came from the late 80s and early 90s.  The rot is considerably more advanced now — witness this item, via the Ace of Spades book thread, that Little Women is getting a “graphic novel” makeover, in which  “the March family is blended, multiracial and LGBTQ inclusive, with updates making it resonant to an even wider swath of today’s young readers.”

The AoS crew makes the obvious comments: Leftists can’t create, they can only destroy; they can’t leave anything well enough alone, because the past is a different country and it’s chock full of badthinkers thinking wrongthoughts.  But nobody seems to mention the obvious reason Leftists can’t create anything: They’re not really people.

I’m not trying to dehumanize my enemies here (well, ok, not just that).  I mean it.  Fully-formed, self-actualized individuals — guys and gals on the top rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy, or at least gunning for it — are, you know, individuals.  With hobbies and interests and tastes and preferences and the ability, and willingness, to think for themselves.  Leftists have none of these things.  They live in footnotes — if they haven’t seen a Rachel Maddow special on it or read a Vox hot take on it, they don’t know what to think about an issue.  I could fail their entire lives for plagiarism.

I can give you an example from literature.  Well, actually, I can’t — I can give you an example from the absence of literature.  Most readers of serious littra-chuh, you’ll agree, are college-educated.  Now, college is such a weird, hermetic world that it should be easy pickings for the kind of tragically hip, shit-flinging little deconstructionist brats who write modern littra-chuh.  And yet, there are no “college novels.”  I can think of three: Moo, by Jane Smiley; The Handmaid of Desire, by John L’Heureux; I am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe.  None of whom, you’ll note, are wunderkinds (Jane Smiley is 68; the others are in their 80s), and none of whom is exactly hot stuff on the literary scene anymore (Wolfe is actually something of a conservative).  You’ll also note that none of these was written later than 2004, and that none of them are very good.

Again, the reason for this is that college people, being the left wing of the Left Wing, aren’t really people at all.  Let’s give these kids the benefit of the doubt, and stipulate that they have all the tools to be good novelists — sharp powers of observation, an ear for dialogue, wide experience, a knack for turning a phrase, etc. (I know, it’s a big stretch, but please bear with me).  Let’s then say they turn their good-novelist tools on academia.  What could they possibly write about?

Again, these are people whose lives should come with a bibliography.  Inside their weird little world, the feminist Marxists have longstanding beef with the Marxist feminists, but to anyone who isn’t going up for tenure, this stuff makes a tempest in a teapot look like the Red Spot on Jupiter.  They try to screw each other over, all the time and in every way (literally and metaphorically), but the stakes are microscopic — just as the losing candidate in one of our “elections” just goes on to a nice cushy lobbyist job, so the loser of any and all faculty battles still goes home to his gated community, his Mercedes, and his $99K-a-year lifetime guaranteed employment.  There’s more dramatic tension in a Punch-and-Judy show.

As with the ivory tower, so with the rest of Lefty-land.  They spend their entire lives making sure the real world never intrudes, so where could an author find a legitimate crisis to explore?  I could write you a hyperrealistic novel about the ivory tower, but nobody would believe the characters are real.

Thus, Jo, Meg, and the rest of the Little Women need to be made over into LGBTGIFWhatever.  Otherwise, our modern prose masters would have nothing to say.

Liberation from WHAT?

Guys like Luther and especially John Calvin had a problem: God’s omniscience implies predestination — if God knows everything that will happen (which is the definition of “omniscience”), then obviously He knows everything you’re going to do, which means He knows, and has always known, whether you’re going to Heaven or Hell.  But if that’s true, then what did Christ die for?  Dying for our sins is pointless — the slate is wiped clean for that second, and only that second, because we’re just going to go on sinning, as God Himself knows full well.  For Christ’s death to have done what it did, we must have free will… which means God doesn’t know what we’re going to do minute-to-minute, any more than we ourselves, His poor creatures, do.

There’s an answer for this, of course* (read it later), but it only applies to God.  For everyone else selling a Determinist philosophy — Marx, the Stoics, even my beloved Hobbes — the problem is insurmountable.  If the Revolution must happen, comrade, then what’s the point of all this “activism”?  Y’all are, as the man said, like a group of astronomers who know with mathematical certainty an eclipse is coming… but who immediately form a Party and start murdering people, to make sure it comes.  The very foundation of your philosophy has a crack, and all the ugly neologisms in the world can’t fill it.

The problem is: Nobody looks at the foundations anymore, so you get weird stuff like this (safe link to RS McCain)

Despite my fears, I remain open to parenting because of my friendships with trans, non-binary, and queer activists of color whose parenting is bound up in their quest for liberation. Their existence dares me to dream of parenting one day.

The author(ess?) is a self-described “Displaced Southern queer millennial womanist organizer/writer …They & she pronouns,” and the gist of her complaint — well, the chief among They’s many, many, many complaints — is that “sperm costs too damn much” for They and They’s lesbian partner to have a baby the old fashioned way.  But if one ignores all that — and ignores the blue lipstick, weird hairdo, bow tie, and all the other stuff (I should’ve warned you to bring eye bleach before clicking) — one finds theyself inevitably asking:

Liberation from what, exactly?

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Marx et al had an answer.  It was even a good answer — read up on conditions in turn of the century Tsarist Russia, and you too will want to hurl a bomb at a capitalist.  That the cure was much worse than the disease does not mean the disease wasn’t real.  For Russia’s serfs-in-all-but-name, “liberation” meant something real, obvious… and seemingly obtainable.

Nowadays, though?  Borrowing a phrase from Marx, the early 21st century West is the only place with the “objective conditions” that allow a “displaced Southern queer millennial womanist organizer/writer” to exist.  Everything about this… being… and They’s partner-being exist, and can only exist, thanks to the culmination of decades of unprecedented material prosperity and its consequent mental enstupidation.  In my time in a college town I met quite a few people who make up their own pronouns, and trust me, they should be required to talk in footnotes — everything they say or think is lifted wholesale from Jezebel, Feministing, or the Guardian.  If they were my students, I could fail their entire lives for plagiarism.

This has the interesting consequence of making the folks in Our Thing the real proletariat.  Just as the de facto serf in 1905 had an answer — a very detailed, specific answer, right down to a list of who to murder first — to the question “liberation from what?”, so do normies.  Not to put too fine a point on it, the answer is: “liberation from the tyranny of “displaced Southern queer millennial womanist organizer/writers.”  If I were the leader of a burgeoning Alt-Right…. “study circle,” let’s say, I’d make up big, full color posters of They and paste them all over campus, with the slogan / hashtag “this is your master.”  The usual suspects will shriek, of course… but they won’t be able to explain why, which sets up the second phase of the two-pronged attack: A poster of They, with two captions:  “This is your master” and “What’s wrong with that?”, the second question ideally linking to the syllabus from any given Wymyn’s or Queer Studies course at the local U.  Given that these types of classes quite openly preach the destruction of heterosexuality, patriarchy, etc., such statements will be easy to find.

Liberation from what?  MAKE THEM ANSWER.  Then sit back and watch the fun.  You’ll make more converts in a day at the protest rally than you could in a year on the Internet.

At least, that’s what I’d do if I were in charge of such a thing.  Which I am not, and I completely disavow it all.

 

 

*As I recall, the answer is: Predestination in Calvin’s sense implies that God exists within the stream of time — He is, in a way, bound to the forward progress of His own creation.  But that can’t be true, either, as it violates God’s omnipotence.  Therefore, God exists outside the stream of time — He knows, and has always known, every possible outcome of every possible choice we could ever possibly make.  It’s very sci-fi — we each exist, in a way, in our own personal universe, which veers off into another of infinitely many possible universes each time we make a moral choice.

Outlaw the Konami Code!

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I once made the mistake of asking a student where his attitude came from.  This kid had not done so well on the midterm, so when he came sauntering into my office, I figured I knew what was coming.  Hooooo boy was I wrong!

Kid: I didn’t pass the midterm.

Me: I know.  Let me call up my copy of your exam and let’s talk about it.

Kid: Can’t I just re-take it?

Me: [spitting my coffee all over a stack of blue books] Whaaaaaaat?

Kid: Can I re-take the midterm?

Me: Ummmm…. no.

Kid: Why not?

Me: [goes across the street to Starbucks, purchases a venti for $7.50, comes back, sits down, sprays it all over another stack of blue books].  Well…. lots of reasons.  For instance, we just went over the midterm in class, so, you know, I just gave you all the answers.  Plus that, life has very few do-overs.  Plus that, are you frickin’ kidding me?  Where in this world are you allowed to re-take an exam you failed?

Kid: High school!  We got to take exams over and over.  So long as we showed improvement, our grade went up.

Me: You must’ve gone to school in California.  What class was this, Saving the Rainforest?

Kid: No, history! And I went to high school in [local, seemingly sane school district].

I swear to you, this happened.  I’ve since heard a version of this from a lot of professors… and a lot more students.  Evidently, you are not allowed to fail in grade school anymore.  No children left behind!

I’ve long held that Little League should be mandatory — how else are kids going to learn that not everyone is good at everything?  But now I believe that video games should be outlawed, too – or, at least, video game manufacturers should be required to make them old-school.  No Konami Code!

The problem is the “save point.”  Modern games don’t have them.  Back in the days, of course, you often couldn’t save your game at all, which meant that if you wanted to try to beat, say, Ninja Gaiden, you’d better have cleared an entire afternoon or three.  But even when saving became common, technology (and game design!) were such that you could only save your game at a few select spots.  Who hasn’t spent a tense 45 minutes staggering around Raccoon City, 95% dead, with only three bullets left in the last clip, frantically searching for one of those goddamn typewriters?

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If you didn’t find one, of course, it was back to the beginning for you — all those hours lost!

It sounds trivial, I realize, but what better way to make kids realize that actions have consequences?  Failing a level was painful — when you’re 12, having to go back to the start of the level hurts.  Failure has consequences.  Moreover, knowing that the next save point was a long way away informed every decision — charging in, guns blazing, might get you through the fist part of level 1.1, but the save point is at the very end of level 1.4, and there’s no ammo between here and there….

The Standardized Test Generation, of course, has never had to make strategic decisions about anything.  You can save your game any time, so you can reload at any time… and, of course, within moments of any game’s release there’s a YouTube video of some tweenager in Singapore beating it flawlessly in record time, so you don’t even have to use trial and error to figure out a level.  Just Google it!

I’m almost to the point of assigning Super Nintendo in class.

 

Psy Ops: The Sons of Valley Forge

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The politics of failure have failed, as a wise man once said.  We need to make them work again.  If I were an aspiring Alt-Right revolutionary — which I am not, and I preemptively disavow all attempts to make me out to be one — here’s what I would NOT do:

  • put my faith in snake-oil salesman who just want to sell self-help or comic books;
  • rely on the kindness of tradthots / conservathots;
  • rely on the kindness of Canadian father figures;
  • vote for any candidate of any political party;
  • found a political party;
  • agitate for the foundation of a political party;
  • agitate for any other iteration of “create your own platform;” or
  • put anything resembling the above on the Internet, especially Facebook, Twitter, et al.

What, do you want the Feeb to come knocking on your door?  You might make some money short term, but here’s a free pro tip: Anyone who asks you for money is only in it for the money.  Read the history of successful revolutionary groups.  Is there a Chapter 3: The Great Fundraising Drive of 1926?  No?  There’s a reason for that, sport.  Real revolutionaries are to financiers as Hannibal, B.A., the Faceman, and Murdock were to their clients: If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.  Trust me: If you do it right, the money boys will come to you.

Speaking of doing your reading, that’s the first thing I would do: Read up on the life and times of successful modern revolutionaries.  Start with Lenin.  Again, if I were an aspiring Alt-Right revolutionary (and, again: NOT), I’d sign off on the creation of a “vanguard party.”  Lenin’s great insight — and it was great; that’s why it’s “Marxism-Leninism” to this day — was that the iron laws of History need a nudge.  Revolution is inevitable, comrades, but it needs a dedicated cadre of hard-core professional revolutionaries to download the proper “class consciousness” into the masses.  Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, Ho Chi Minh, even Kim Il Sung in his inimitable bumbling drunken-uncle way — all of these guys were revolutionaries, and nothing but revolutionaries, from an early age.  Even guys like Nicolae Ceaucescu, who didn’t have the intellectual candlepower to toast bread, had long underground experience, which made them savvy enough to cash in when the real brains of the operation needed a local strongman.

The best place to find your revolutionary vanguard is where the Bolsheviks found theirs: Among the disaffected intelligentsia and wannabe-intelligentsia, i.e. college students.  These guys have enough on the ball to be able to handle basic propaganda tasks, and they’re used to following orders and not asking too many questions.  Best of all, they’re pissed off — they have a burning sense that they’ve been cheated by their society, matched in intensity only by their monstrously huge sense of entitlement.  Look at Lenin himself: A son of the minor nobility whose Dad was a regional schools inspector, he concluded early on that there was no open position in the Russian Empire that would match his talents.  Had the Tsar wised up and made Vladimir Ulyanov chair of the Philosophy Department at some third-rate college, there would’ve been no Lenin.

Male college students today have the same burdens.  They’re expected to go out, get good jobs, form families, and pay taxes… all while the method by which one supposedly gets the tools to do it — college — systematically breaks them down, blaming them and those very aspirations for all the world’s ills.  I wouldn’t wish being an American college boy on my worst enemy — you can’t talk to girls for fear of a false rape accusation; you can’t hang out with the guys without being denounced; and campus is a 24/7 struggle session with you and your bros in the starring role.  Short of drinking yourself comatose and spanking it to pr0n, what else is there to do?

Give these guys a pep talk and a mission — let them feel like men again, and not everyone’s enemy — and they’re yours forever.

I’d start my own off-campus version of Fight Club, basically (if I were actually an aspiring revolutionary, and again, I’m NOT).  If you recall that fine film — which, prophetic as it seems now, was a comedy back in the 90s — male office worker drones felt untethered from their masculinity by Ikea, Martha Stewart, etc. (Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden spoke for an entire generation when he yelled “Fuck Martha Stewart!” over beers with his new buddy Ed Norton).  Soon enough, and solely by word of mouth, underground MMA clubs sprang up all over America… which, as you’ll also recall, Tyler Durden easily turned into a revolutionary terrorist movement.

Give them a catchy name and an easily identifiable symbol, both of which are — crucially — plausibly deniable.  I suggested “The Sons of Valley Forge” in the title, and while that’s probably a bit on the nose (too obviously patriarchal), something like that would work.  The kids you’re recruiting will never have heard of Valley Forge, but it’s a great story — the hardest of hard men, enduring unimaginable privations, for the sake of family, country, and freedom.  It also lets you piggyback on widely-available (thus, plausibly-deniable) symbols.  Make an all-white New England Patriots ball cap the SOVF official uniform, and, while the first rule of SOVF is “don’t talk about SOVF” (the second rule is, “don’t talk about SOVF!“), members can easily recognize each other by their headgear (and, later, by their close-cropped hair, close-trimmed fingernails, facial lacerations, etc.).

Keep no membership rosters, meet nowhere known to the university, and communicate only in code (it can be — indeed, should be — fairly obvious code), and you’ll have everything you ever need.  A TOR browser and a website, lightly disguised — say as a mild-mannered blog with multiple authors who only write about fluff — and you’re set.  Decentralization is key.

Once set up, all you have to do is…. pressure.  Nothing overt, and certainly nothing illegal.  There are no laws against boycotts, and while actually announcing a boycott would conflict with the First Rule of SOVF (“don’t talk about SOVF!”), there’s no law against groups of strapping young men in white Patriots hats cruising by the windows every half hour on the half hour, asking potential customers just why they’d choose to shop at that particular store.  Your History TA getting you down with her constant bagging on White Male Privilege?  An entire classroom full of those definitely-NOT-SOVF hats, staring silently at her, would probably do wonders for her attitude.  Keep it local, and for God’s sake keep it legal, but musing “gosh, this sure is a nice ___; wouldn’t it be a shame if something were to happen to it?” has been a staple of our friends in Their Thing for quite some time, for a reason.

The only reason SJWs get away with as much as they do is, they’ve got the whole place terrorized.  They don’t have to make overt threats, but they do — they form screaming mobs about anything and everything, all the time (have you noticed?). This is because they know nobody will push back against them.  Well… what if someone did?  Mere symbols can work wonders.  Ask Cornelius and Tyler Durden.

That’s what I’d do, anyway.  Or wouldn’t do, because again, I disavow all this.

The Right to Flip Off the President

In an Op-Ed in the Washington Post by about “her right to flip off president” by one Juli Briskman who was photographed doing just that and got fired by some company called “Akima”, she concludes thusly (sounds deep, but it’s not):

“Let’s call this “autocratic capture.” Autocratic capture is not new to the world, but it is new to this country, and it is up to all of us to keep it from taking root. Our democracy depends on it. As James Madison warned in the early days of the United States, the “value and efficacy” of free elections “depends” on Americans’ “equal freedom” to examine the “merits and demerits of the candidates.”But if Americans can keep their jobs only when they refrain from criticizing the president, then that freedom is lost. And once the freedom to speak is lost, then the rest of our constitutional rights will not be far behind.”

Wrong, lady. You already have a right to flip off the president. The president isn’t retaliating against you. The government isn’t retaliating against you. And your employer has a right to hold you to certain standards of behavior to remain in its employ (I know this is a opinion that’s increasingly frowned upon, but that’s the way it ought to be.)

Now, you weren’t fired for “criticizing” the president. Flipping someone off isn’t criticism. “Criticiizing” involves pointing out where you differ in opinion with someone and providing an argument supporting your position over theirs.

Flipping someone off is just rude, especially in public. You weren’t “examining the merits and demerits of a candidate”.

An employer has the right to look at that behavior and say, “hmmm, if people know she’s one of my employees and she’s this rude in public and millions of people find out, that reflects poorly on my company. I don’t hire rude people. I hire well-adjusted adults. I don’t need this.”  Which is why the company had the policy you violated in the first place.

Your right to free speech does not protect you from the social consequences of that speech. It just means *the government* can’t do anything about it. That is the extent of your constitutional(ly protected) right.

Now that right is increasingly put in danger, but not from the direction you think it is. “Hate Speech” laws, which people are attempting to morph into “Compelled Speech” laws — that’s where the real danger is. And regardless of what you think of the rest of his politics, that is not coming from the President.

Since you brought up James Madison, yes, he would agree you can’t be fined or put in jail for flipping the president off. But he would not agree your employer couldn’t terminate you over it. In fact, I suspect he himself would have terminated you over it.  People didn’t tolerate public rudeness very well back then, and that was not a bad thing, IMHO.

Here’s a thought question… flipping someone off is a sign of disrespect. Perhaps the ultimate sign of disrespect. And I, at least, think everyone (including you) has the right to show disrespect for people they don’t like. That being said .. isn’t that “hate speech”?

Friday Quick Take: Welcome to the Desert of the Real

Ace of Spades, trying very hard to claw himself back from the brink of irrelevance after turning his blog into the #1 Trump hate vanity site on the Right, chronicles the disillusionment of Lindsay Shepherd.  Shepherd, as you might’ve heard, was the Canadian grad student who got show-trialed for playing a Jordan Peterson clip in class.  She was actually critiquing Peterson, but whatevs — the snowflakes in the studentry complained, the snowflakes in the administration caved, and now Shepherd has publicly disavowed the Left.  Welcome to the desert of the real, Lindsay!

As the disillusioned tend to do, Shepherd is turning on her former comrades, exposing the rot.  For instance, this tweet (h/t David Thompson).  The tweet itself is unexceptional, as is the article it cites.  (When you’re in graduate school, “Tempo-rarily Fat: A Queer Exploration of Fat Time” probably won’t even crack the top 10 most ridiculous things you’ll read that week).  Rather, it’s the sad attempts at rebuttal that are worth noting.  For instance, this:

The humanity! Highly specialized academic in an article for a highly specialized journal read by similarly highly specialized academics uses highly specialized language. What has the world come to!

Followed by a quote from a technical article about nuclear reactor, and this snark:

Just look at this nonsense here. Does anybody know what that means? Can’t these people write clearly? What a disaster.

This, then, must be the hivemind’s newest defensive tactic: Pretending that ridiculous academese is actually the kind of highly technical specialist vocabulary scientists use.

We’ve been here before (see that post if you want to an attempt at translating a long slab of academese).  The important thing to note is that jargon has two legitimate functions, and one illegitimate one.  The legit ones are:

  1. communication; and
  2. to convey group membership.

The technical journal snark-boy quoted employs jargon because the jargon nuclear engineers use actually means something.  Its primary purpose is to convey information.  We laymen may not understand what “spectral rehomogenization” means, but the people who need to understand it certainly do.  And so it goes with any technical vocabulary — “transverse fracture of the third metacarpal” contains much more, and much more significant, information than a nontechnical sentence with the same word count that anyone can understand: “Dude, you broke your fuckin’ hand!”  The latter works fine for telling your bro at the bar why he shouldn’t have punched that wall; the former is necessary information for the specialist who’s trying to repair the damage.

The group membership function of jargon is often equally important.  Doctors could easily say “dude, you broke your fuckin’ hand!” when talking to patients, but they shouldn’t, because they’re doctors.  The status signal of “transverse fracture of the third metacarpal” is certainly as important, if not more important, to the patient in the ER writhing in pain (who doubtless already knows he broke his hand).  Group-signaling lingo helps maintain some boundaries that need to be maintained.

The illegitimate function of jargon — without which, the modern Ivory Tower would cease to exist — is to obfuscate.  When that article says that “fat bodies fail to ‘keep up’ with normative tempos,” the authors — and yes, it apparently took three people to come up with this — are saying “fat people are slow.”  Do we really need three people with PhDs to tell us this?  Most of us figured it out by second grade.

Here’s the article’s argument, as stated by the authors themselves:

the authors argue that subjects are only successful within heteronormative sequential temporal schemes of living if they are normatively sized and shaped

Pretty much every single word of that sentence is designed to disguise the fact that the authors’ “argument” is either a) obvious, or b) batshit insane, depending on how generous you’re feeling.  “Normative,” for example, means “establishing a baseline.”  “Heteronormative,” then, means either

  1. the blindingly obvious fact the vast majority of humanity is, and always has been, heterosexual; or
  2. the batshit insane assertion that “sequential temporal schemes” — what non-lunatics call “the passing of time” — actually makes heterosexuality the human default.

Take your pick.  Notice, too, that even the non-insane use of “normative” seems to shift over the course of a few sentences.  The second sentence of the abstract, for example, is:

Fat bodies, like normative bodies, are made meaningful in relation to normative notions of time.

Here, “normative” seems to be synonymous with “normal,” i.e. “not fat” and “sane people’s chronology,” respectively.  Even if the authors had wanted to call the word “normal” into question — to interrogate its multiple and shifting valences, if you will — they could’ve put it in quotes, like I just did.  So,

Fat bodies, like “normal” bodies, are made meaningful in relation to “normal” notions of time.

Alas, this is too clear.  By quote-bracketing “normal,” they make it too obvious that they’re trying to steal a base.  “Normal,” in quotation marks, precludes a sane(-ish) reading of that sentence (that fat people, despite being fat, perceive the passing of time more or less the same way thin people do).  And so they have to use “normative,” even though it looks like a syntax error and thus makes the reader even less inclined to take them seriously.

The authors’ argument, such as it is, could be cleanly and clearly restated, in normal English that can be understood by even the dubiously fluent:

Fat people don’t succeed unless they’re thin.

Which may or may not be true, but one thing’s for sure: “Queerness” has nothing to do with it, and “the passing of time” even less.  The sole point of all that jargon is to obfuscate — if we can’t really tell just what the hell the authors are talking about, we’re more inclined to just go with it when they start talking about “a queer exploration” of it.  It’s anti-communication.

 

In Defense of Art History

When I was young and easy under the apple boughs, there was a fad for “rap Shakespeare” and the like.  The idea being: the Bard’s brand of English is so inaccessible to modern audiences, it needs to be “updated,” so that students can at least get acquainted with the plots and characters.  At the time I dismissed it as mindless dumbing-down (in reality, it was probably an early form of “teaching to the test” — you can truthfully say, for certain funding-related values of truth, that your students have “read” Hamlet if they can recognize Polonius and Ophelia, yo).

These days, I’m almost ready to sign off on rap Shakespeare.  The point of education is still to give students an acquaintance with the best that has been thought and said, but because this is 180 degrees from the point of the Ed Biz, our modern youth lives in an endless, contextless now.  They’re told to be the change they want to see in the world, but since yesterday’s gospel is today’s thoughtcrime, it’s best to go through the SJW motions while doing your best to not do, say, or think anything at all.  They don’t, in their heart of hearts, believe that change is possible.  Everything is the same and nothing can ever be different, no, not ever, world without end amen.  We have always been at war with Eastasia.

That’s the value of the much-maligned discipline of art history.  Confront a student with this:

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or this

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or this

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and you’ve shown them a world that might as well be Mars.  What could those paintings possibly mean?

I’m not talking deep philosophy here.  Start with the basics.  What’s actually in the picture?  Describe it to me.  Start with the last one: “Well, there’s this half-naked guy, and he’s in… bed?  And there’s, like, a skull on a table.  And he’s writing something in a book.  There’s a candle, and is that a knife?”

Ok, good.  Go on….  Need a hint?  The painting is called St. Jerome Writing, and it’s by Caravaggio, painted around 1605.  Doesn’t help?  Well, who’s St. Jerome?  What did he write?  Hie thee to Wikipedia….

See what I mean?  This isn’t deep analysis, with technical notes on the composition.  This is the equivalent of rap Shakespeare.  It’s such a striking image that it can’t help but pull you up short.  What could he possibly be doing, there with a book and a skull at zero-dark-thirty?  What kind of man would keep a skull by his bed?  Did they really DO that back then?  If not, it’s a… whaddyacallit… symbol?

Just by establishing the basics — the few actual things that are actually in the picture — you open doors to an entirely new world.  There was once a world, kids, where everything in this picture made perfect sense.  Things were different once, and they can be again.  In that world lived a man called Caravaggio, and he was one of the great artistic masters of the late Renaissance.  What’s the Renaissance?  Glad you asked…

Competence, Not Mastery

Feminists argue (correctly, in my opinion) that laws against witchcraft were really about social control.  It was notoriously difficult to even define what a “witch” actually was.  Accusations were comparatively rare; successful prosecutions were by no means certain.  A witchcraft accusation, on this reading, was the community’s last-ditch effort to rein in a socially noxious woman when all other attempts at reform had failed.

Though less remarked (for obvious reasons), sodomy laws seemed to have had a similar function for men.  Unlike witchcraft, sodomy was precisely defined.  The penalties were harsher, too — witches might get off with penance; homosexuality was a death penalty offense in Britain until well into the 19th century.  But of course you’d search in vain to find someone actually executed for sodomy in modern Britain.  Here again, the point of the law seemed to be a last-ditch effort at reining in social deviants (with what everyone knew went on at English public schools, how could it be otherwise?).  Even the most famous sodomy trial, Oscar Wilde’s, wouldn’t have happened if Wilde himself hadn’t forced the issue — it wasn’t a “sodomy” suit; it was a libel suit, brought by Wilde himself.

The point of all this is that our forebears well understood a point we’ve forgotten: Black-letter laws are only to be invoked in extremis.  They were self-confident in their culture, so they were comfortable with the notions of illegal-but-tolerated (e.g. homosexuality) and legal-but-forbidden (prostitution).  We modern Americans, on the other hand, are nearly to mental North Korea — everything not forbidden is compulsory.  We can’t handle nuance.  We lack cultural self-confidence — indeed, refusal to make value judgments is just about the only principle of modern “morality.”  Our first reaction to anything we don’t like is to ban it, for everyone, everywhere (if we like something, we rush to social media to secure external validation of our preferences).

Worse, we’ve applied this to all areas of our life.  In education, for example, a high school diploma was — within living memory — regarded as a certificate of mere competence.  Having one meant you had the bare minimum of skills and training to be considered “educated” (and “educated” itself was never an unambiguous good).  Nowadays, of course, “passed” means “mastered.”  I have students saunter confidently into my upper-division university courses, certain they’re going to ace it because they got a C in “history” their sophomore year of high school.  When I point out that this is like assuming you’re going to ace vector calculus because you passed 9th grade geometry, it doesn’t compute…

….because, of course, they did pass 9th grade geometry, which means they know math.  All of it.  They were at grade level on their state-mandated NCLB exam, so “math” has been downloaded to their brains, Matrix-style.

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This is the explanation for Millennials’ insolent, invincible ignorance.  If they don’t already know it, it’s by definition not worth knowing, because they passed the test.  There is nothing more to human knowledge than what’s on the NAEP test.  Is it any wonder they can’t grok things like the Second Amendment?