Digital Infants

In The Politics of Cultural Despair (a book I recommend, with reservations), Fritz Stern called the writers of the 19th century “conservative revolution” in Germany “intellectual Luddites.” Just as the original Luddites wanted to stop “progress” by breaking machines, so the intellectual Luddites wanted to un-enlighten the Enlightenment, wiping out “Manchesterism” to return to a largely imaginary communitarian, agrarian past. The “machine” the intellectual Luddites sought to break, Stern argues, was reason… or, at least, rationalism, which by the later 19th century was basically the same thing in most people’s minds.

They had a point, those intellectual Luddites. If you haven’t read up on the later 19th century in a while, it’s almost impossible to convey their boundless optimism, their total faith that “science” could, would, and should solve every conceivable problem. The best I can do is this: Back when they were still allowed to be funny, The Onion published a book called Our Dumb Century, which purported to be a collection of their front pages from every year of the 20th century. The headline for 1903 was something like: “Wright Brothers’ Flyer Goes Airborne for 30 Seconds! Conquest of Heaven Planned for 1910.”

That’s the late 19th century, y’all.

It’s not that the Enlightened — the sharper ones among them, anyway — couldn’t see the obvious problems with rationalism. It’s just that they didn’t care. David Hume is justly famous for declaring that you can’t derive “ought” from “is” — that is, that reason can’t lay down moral dicta — but David Hume is also the guy who argued that what we call “cause and effect” are probably just coincidences. And Hume was a piker compared to guys like Charles Fourier, Saint-Simon, etc., who argued, in all apparent seriousness, that disease and old age and death itself would disappear if only we all carried on all our affairs rationally. Compared to the French “utopian socialists,” Jeremy Bentham was a sane, decent man…

And their views seemed to be winning. The “Manchesterism” the conservative revolutionaries were arguing against was what we’d call, for lack of a better term, “old school liberalism.” You know, free trade, expanded voting rights, press freedom, separation of church and state, the whole schmear — in short, the idea that society can, will, and should be organized rationally. Let everyone pursue his own Enlightened [sic] self-interest, and the greatest good for the greatest number will naturally follow.

Taking their cues from the factories of the Industrial Revolution, the Manchesterites believed that the human mind — the human soul, though they’d rarely be so gauche as to speak of the soul — can be compartmentalized. The most obvious example being “the separation of church and state.” Think about it: If you really believe — if you really live your faith — then church and state CAN’T be separate. Democracy is the people’s revealed preferences in action; those preferences are — must be — shot through with religion, if the voters really believe.

To this, the Manchesterites would reply that they don’t mean to interfere in anyone’s private conscience. They’re not arguing for the abolition of religion, nor its banishment to society’s attic, Jane Eyre-style. What they mean is that the institutional church, the Church of England, should be kept out of social policy, which must be rationally organized to advance the collective good… and does everyone see where this is going? They expressed it in very pretty prose — no one wrote political rhetoric like an English Liberal circa 1870 — but it was a question beg for all that. What’s the point of “voting your values,” as the late 20th century would’ve put it, if the institutional expression of those values is just a building that stands empty for all but a few hours on Sunday morning?

“Rationalism,” as it turns out, is a far more jealous god than Jehovah ever dreamed of being. That’s what the “conservative revolutionaries,” the “intellectual Luddites,” were fighting.

But then a funny thing happened: Though Manchesterism won, rationalism, indeed reason itself, split the scene shortly after the victory.

Stern’s “intellectual Luddites” wrote a whole lot of supercharged, Sturm und Drang hooey about “national souls” and “blood spirits” and whatnot, but even their most Romantic fantasies about the Aryan Ubermenschen of yore paled in comparison to stuff like “Critical Race Theory.” Heinrich Himmler may have been the spiritual heir of Stern’s “intellectual Luddites,” but even he, playing with his live-action Castle Wolfenstein playset while the world burned, was a paragon of reason compared to people like Robin DeAngelo. Himmler thought “Nordic” runes were spiritual conduits to the mythic past, but our modern Elites believe, quite literally, in magic.

Magic dirt: There’s something about the Rio Grande, or the Ellis Island ferry, such that crossing it transforms 70-IQ campesinos into bourgie app developers. Magic shapes: Mold plastic into something that looks like a Glock, and anyone who sees it will be compelled to start shooting people. And of course the granddaddy of them all, magic words: Race, sex, these are all “social constructions,” such that a persyn who says xzhey are a woman really IS a woman, physiology be damned. Within the space of a generation, the same people who were smugly slapping Darwin fish on the bumpers of their Subaru Outbacks have declared the very basics of biology rank heresy.

Everyone knows that Karl Marx called religion “the opium of the masses.” It’s a fun quote, but it wasn’t particularly effective rhetoric back in the 19th century, since drug addiction wasn’t really a thing back then.* Far more effective was David Hume’s description — “sick men’s dreams” — but even that paled in comparison to the 19th century’s go-to tactic: Implied infancy. If religious belief developed naturally, in a predictable pattern — and who could deny it, having read the formidable logic of E.B. Tylor? — then anyone who still clung to his belief in a Magic Sky Fairy must belong, despite his physical presence here in this best of all possible worlds, to Mankind’s intellectual infancy. Of course we’re not saying that the religion of Aquinas and Galileo, of Newton and Boyle, was all piffle…. but come now, old sock, you must admit that the Thirty Nine Articles can only be understood “in a non-natural sense,” as Cardinal Newman (of all people!) put it. Are we not, in the face of all-triumphing science, all Robert Elsmere? Surely no one as obviously intelligent as yourself could possibly still…

Marx had that other quote that fits this situation much better, the one about “second time as farce.” Our Postmodern Elite, the I-Fucking-Love-Science crowd, has gone way past intellectual Luddism. They’re digital infants, chanting their hosannas to magic dirt, watching the same cartoon play out over and over again in Minnesota, in Chicago, soon enough in a neighborhood near you (infants love repetition). Tantrums, nom noms, and whee! A shiny!!

Such are the fruits of rationalism.

 

 


*Despite the easy availability of all kinds of highly addictive shit like opium and cocaine. Ponder that in the dark watches of the night, if you ever feel like giving yourself insomnia.

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Ludicrous Speed: CNN Crew Chased Away by Mob

Again, I’ve got nothing much to add here (link to Ace of Spades), but I can’t let it slide. CNN is, of course, the mob’s best friend. Hood rats the Diversity which is Our Strength loooooove getting themselves on camera. Even as late as the Floyd riots — gosh, doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago? — you could count on them to briefly stop chimping out when the networks arrived, the better to carry on like extras in a rap video in front of the cameras. I would not be surprised in the slightest to learn that BLM organizers have CNN producers on speed dial, would you?

But now the mob has turned on “the news.” Which can only mean things are escalating. They know “the news” won’t do anything about — indeed, will actively celebrate — looting and other assorted mayhem, so if they don’t want the cameras on them, that can only mean…

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1994

If I had to pick an inflection point for The Great Inversion, I’d go with 1994, the 25th anniversary of Woodstock.

Oh, sure, there were forerunners, antecedents, canaries in coal mines. If the Weathermen had had a motto (other than that stupid Dylan lyric), it could’ve been “Everything that is, is wrong”… but they were a political cult, not a serious mass movement. Your average 2021 “conservative” would be far too radical for a Sixties hippie commune. “I mean, sure, you guys are growing your own hemp and sleeping around, but where’s your drag queen story hour? You even have separate bathrooms for Moonbeam and Wavy Gravy. Bummer.”

This is because the Sixties hippies grew up in Leave-It-to-Beaver-world. They all came from nice, solid, two-parent families in the ‘burbs. They had seemingly endless social capital to burn through, in other words, which is why the bra burners of 1974, who thanks to their husbands’ good jobs had the free time and money to play radical politics, were running the PTA bake sales in 1994.

Indeed, as we’ve remarked several times here, it’s not the actual hippies who did the damage. By the time 1994 rolled around, most of the people who were really at Woodstock were, if anything, slightly embarrassed by it — “umm, yeah, I guess that’s me, with flowers in my hair and a tie-dyed shirt and you know what? It was a long time ago and I was just a kid, so let’s close up the photo album and get started on our homework, ok?” No, it’s the guys — and especially the gals — who are convinced that they would’ve ended racism and the Vietnam war at Woodstock, if only they hadn’t been in junior high at the time.

Those people were also the ones responsible for those highly amusing polls coming out in 1994, the ones where historians did the math and figured out that if everyone who said they were at Woodstock really was at Woodstock, the crowd would’ve been something like five million people. Also the ones where, if everyone who claimed to have voted for Kennedy actually did, he would’ve won with 98% of the vote. No, Moonbeam, you didn’t vote for Kennedy, because the voting age back then was 21 and you were 6.

1994 was such a weird time, that I’m looking stuff up on the Internet about what happened, even though I was there… and unlike the Woodstock wannabes, I actually was old enough to have actively participated in it all. I could’ve voted for Bill Clinton, the avatar of everything that went wrong with Western Civ. Heck, I was too old for Woodstock ’99; pop culture had passed me by by then. I guess I can forgive myself for not seeing the signs — I was, after all, still more of a kid than not — but in retrospect they were all there.

Just to take one small example, The X-Files was hitting its stride in 1994, and I was smack dab in the target demo: Nerdy college dude. And yet, all the show’s basic assumptions rubbed me wrong. Mulder was obviously supposed to be cool, but as I saw it, the show went out of its way to make him look like a loser — no girlfriend, no family, not even a pet, spanks it to porn (an at least somewhat risqué thing to imply on network tv, even at that late date). More than that, though, was the show’s attitude towards the government. You’re asking me to believe that the government — Bill Clinton’s government — is competent enough to keep an alien conspiracy under wraps?

I wasn’t in any way political back then. If forced to pick a side, I’d have been reflexively liberal, like all college kids are. I didn’t know the first thing about what was going on out in the world, let alone in the corridors of power in Washington, but even I found that pretty farfetched.

More importantly, the zeitgeist I saw was rapidly changing. X Files creator Chris Carter was born in 1956 and grew up in sunny SoCal (his wiki entry makes sure to give us his favorite surfing stance), so he more than most probably wrestled with the dilemma of how to bring Flower Power into Ronald Reagan’s 1980s. Hence the weird disconnect of the early 1990s, when Bill Clinton got his groovy, greasy, chicken-fried hippie self into the White House: The same people who, in their own college days, had nothing but hatred for the CIA and their domestic Mini-Me, the FBI, were all of a sudden kinda sorta coming around on the idea that The Feds are our friends — since, you know, the Feds are now us. It’s probably not a coincidence that Agent Mulder, FBI, was the star of The X-Files.

Explains a lot about “Gen X,” don’t it? When every single authority figure in your life, from the President on down, tells you to  Fight the Power, the only way out of the clown show is to be, you know, like, whateverrr about everything — learned  helplessness, 1994 version.

But smoked-out, flannel-clad, and apathetic is no way to go through life, and so we turned into a generation of suck-ups and toadies. Oh, the lunatic Marxists in the Teachers’ Unions want to encourage kids to “transition” in elementary school. Dude… you know, like, whateverrr. The college kids of 1994 are the middle managers, the Deep Staters, the lever-pullers of 2021. It’s working out about as well as you might’ve expected. You don’t need Agent Mulder to solve this mystery.

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Ludicrous Speed Update: The NCAA

I don’t have much to add here, but I couldn’t let this slide:

“The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports, the board wrote in their statement.

“The NCAA has a long-standing policy that provides a more inclusive path for transgender participation in college sports.”

It is, or at least used to be, a truth universally acknowledged, that the Athletic Department was the only bastion of sanity left in higher “education.” I love watching Marxists squirm, so the start of football season was always my favorite time back in my professin’ days. Every year, the doofus Marxoid faculty would write their annual complaint about sportsball — “not germane to the purpose of a university;” “takes away too many resources from academics;” “toxic masculinity” and so forth — and every year, the President and Board of Trustees would tell the eggheads to go pound sand.

NOT, I hasten to add, because the Prez and the Trustees (hereafter: The Administration) were some kind of normal folks. Oh God no — quite the opposite, in fact. No open conservative has been hired to any position in academia for the past thirty, forty years; to make it into the ranks of The Administration, you have to be #woker than #woke. Rather, it was because The Administration were among the few mortals privy to the college’s balance sheet. Seriously, those things are more closely guarded than our nuclear launch codes… but The Administration sees them, and draws the only possible conclusion: Without sportsball, the whole university system is toast.

But alas for the bottom line, Intersectionality is a jealous god, and xzhey will have none before xzhem. The Administration knows — they must know, they can’t not know — that all the stuff that makes big league college football go comes from “boosters,” i.e. rich idiots with way more money than sense, and their corporations. But since The Administration is full of even dumber Marxists than the faculty — yeah yeah, I know, I didn’t think it was possible either — they’ve apparently decided to assume, in true Leftist style, that since the money has always just kinda, you know, been there, it will continue to, you know, somehow, someway, continue to be there.

I mean, what are those rich oilmen from Texas gonna do, not watch football?

I suppose that if there’s any element of rational calculation to this — and I really don’t think there is, but to give The Administration the benefit of all possible doubt — they’re probably figuring that since women’s sports are huge money sinks anyway, no one will care if the “Women’s” track-and-field tourney is full of “women” with five o’clock shadow and Adam’s apples you could play softball with. I mean, seriously, nobody watches women’s sports, especially collegiate sports, so what’s the diff?

But that’s the other problem with being a Marxist: for them, History begins anew each dawn, so they forget about the other great sports crusade of the past few decades: the Great Enhomoing. Anyone remember Michael Sam? The Administration obviously doesn’t, but if you paid any attention to sports at all in the 21st century, you surely do. This is the guy who parlayed “coming out” into an NFL draft pick. You couldn’t turn on the tv without hearing about this fucking guy, even though he had no obvious position to play on an NFL roster, came from a flash-in-the-pan program, and wasn’t even that good for them anyway.* He barely squeaked out a 7th round — that is to say, last round — selection, by the perennially brutal St. Louis Rams, but…. he got drafted, and while he obviously should’ve gotten cut in training camp, he managed to hang on until after the final preseason game (after which, Jerry Jones, trying for some grace on the cheap, signed him to the Cowboys’ practice squad for a few days).

Again, giving The Administration the benefit of all possible doubt, yeah, maybe I’d roll the dice on letting dudes run women’s track or something. But knowing what I know about the Michael Sam shit show — and again, it is impossible that they don’t know this — I’d wager some pretty long money on some not-quite-pro-material player on some also-ran squad somewhere publicly deciding to “transition” right before the draft…

Have fun with that, NCAA.

 


*Seriously, this guy played defensive end in college, a position where strength is even more of a priority than most. At the NFL combine, he benched 17 reps. Seventeen!!! There are fucking kickers who bench more than that, and at one point not long ago, I myself, a middle aged fat guy who never played a snap of football in his life, could knock out twelve. And at 6’2″, 261, he ran the 40 in 4.91. Most offensive linemen — guys that have to be 300+ lbs. to even get looked at — run something similar.

 

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Transaction Costs

George Orwell encouraged wannabe intellectuals to keep a diary, and to reread it frequently. It’s the only way to keep yourself intellectually honest, he said — we all want to believe of ourselves that we’re always on the side of the angels, but the proof that we’re not is right there on the page.

Fool that I was, back at the dawn of the Faceborg era, I thought social media would do the same thing. I used to joke about it with students. Back when I thought modern kids were educable (in case you were wondering just how long ago this was), I’d give them this whole spiel about the use of primary sources, and the need to account for change over time. I’d say something like “Man, I’m glad they didn’t have Facebook back in my day. I’d be trying to impress some girl with my sensitive, flannel-clad, indie-rock self, and I’d be doing great, but then she’d just check out my Facebook profile and see those pictures of me from the previous summer, rocking my Motley Crue t-shirt and truly excellent mullet, and that would be that.”

I didn’t think of it this way at the time, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d say something like “Social media, like Orwell’s diary, is a way of imposing transaction costs on yourself.” You can put up any kind of front you like, but the tradeoff is, you’re always in danger of being exposed. And when you are exposed — which always happens eventually — you’ve got to go through the pain of accounting for yourself. Yeah, man, I was really into the Crue back then, but, you know, I’m so much more mature and sophisticated now (six months later)…

It doesn’t work like that, of course, since the “transaction cost” I’m talking about is cognitive dissonance, and that’s no longer a thing in the social media era. In thinking Facebook etc. would keep people honest, I missed something important about the Internet — it’s not real. Even if that’s really you — meaning, your profile, your pictures, your friends that you really see in real life — it’s still somehow not real. Not emotionally anyway, and that makes all the difference.

To be fair to myself, I had a bit of experience with Internet 1.0, which, as any oldster can tell you, was legendarily nasty.* “Godwin’s Law” is a joke now — if anybody even really recognizes it anymore, which I doubt — but back then it described the very real phenomenon of nerds dropping nuclear rhetoric on each other at the slightest provocation. They did this because they were nerds, meaning they’d been picked on their entire lives. They had a zillion nasty zingers they’d thought up to lay on the starting quarterback after he’d shoved them into a locker. But of course they couldn’t use those zingers on the QB, because he’d beat them up. With the total anonymity of an Internet handle, there was zero transaction cost to dropping every one of those bombs, and so they did.

Facebook would change all that, I thought. It’s one thing to talk nuclear shit when “you” are just a string of random numbers and letters (as my first email address was, even at a big university); it’s quite another to talk nuclear shit under your real name, with your real picture right there, to people you actually know (or, at least, are friends of friends). There’s a lot of potential social cost there, I thought — a friend of a friend of the QB can see you shit-talking him, and you’ll end up stuffed in a locker again.

Along those same lines, I thought social media would impose transaction costs Orwell-style. That is, you might think you were always on the side of the angels, but no, look, there you are… oh, are we supposed to be for gay marriage today? I could swear we were supposed to be against it back in the days, and hey look, here are six hundred Facebook posts saying exactly that. Trust me, I’m cringing as I type this, but I wasn’t even thinking about the Twitter mob #cancelling people with badthink posts in their social media feeds — naive little pollyanna that I was, I thought people would, in effect, #cancel themselves. Oh gosh, looks like I’ve got some major cognitive dissonance here, maybe I’d better shut my cyber pie hole until I think a few things through…

Which shows you what my opinions on things are worth, I guess, but it also suggests a way out of our dilemma…. or, at least, something that should be a priority action item when the dust settles: Re-imposing transaction costs on social speech.

 


*Since I know I have lots of readers who are more online than I’ll ever be, I mean “the AOL and Compu-serve years” — late 80s at earliest, extending into the mid 1990s. I know there’s an entire internet “generation” before that — a misty, madcap time when nerds wore polyester leisure suits and built their own computers — but for most people in my age bracket, “surfing the net” meant logging onto a BBS with a phone modem, not discussing Star Trek over DARPAnet with other Defense Department contractors.

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Marketable Skills

In the comments below, Pickle Rick on the mindset of “pros” vs. SJWs:

As for the Fegeleins vs Goebbels, the pros knew they could parlay their particular expertise with the Allies after surrender….They had marketable skills. Guys like Goebbels knew there was no place for the ideologue after the ideology is laying in a shallow grave. That’s why we’re seeing Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republican worms come crawling to Dementia Joe. They don’t care what uniforms they wear, what slogans they have to shout, as long as they stay somewhere in power doing what they think they are uniquely qualified to do, along with the comfortable lifestyle that goes along with it.

Emphasis mine, and thereby hangs a tale.

Money talks, the old saying goes, and bullshit walks. Since real skills have real dollar values attached to them, serious expertise lets you literally get away with murder. Pickle Rick cites the case of Reinhard Gehlen, an SS general and military intelligence expert from the Eastern Front who was employed by the Allies after the war. No doubt that dude had a lot of blood on his hands. There was a similar case with a guy whose name I forget, a high-ranking SS man in the WHVA, who became one of the leading “management theory” guys in the 50s and 60s despite being a literal slave driver (the WHVA rented out concentration camp inmates to big industrial groups like IG Farben). Everyone knows about Werner von Braun, and I think everyone has the point by now,

The trick, of course, is knowing just how valuable your experience is. Hermann Goering wildly overrated the value of his technical expertise to the Allies, vs. the propaganda value of hanging him — a massive codeine habit will do that, I suppose — and that’s one of the reasons he killed himself in prison (while a real technical expert like Adolf Galland walked free; his memoir is still widely available, and a fun read). A guy like Fegelein was just a staff pogue, and Goebbels of course was totally useless (when you’ve got endless examples of his propaganda to reverse-engineer, you don’t need the man himself). Goebbels would’ve offed himself in any case — Jim Jones was only a so-so True Believer compared to Joey G. — but at the end he was totally clear-eyed about his lack of a future.

Turns out that “propaganda weasel” isn’t so unique a skill that you need to put up with a lunatic who believes his own BS. For one thing, the Allies already had their own propaganda weasel — one much slicker than The Dwarf, because he didn’t believe a word he’d ever written (note his later world-class work with United Fruit in Guatemala). For another, they had umpteen thousand yards of tape on Goebbels; they could easily reverse-engineer anything he did. He might’ve had a real knack for it, and loads of experience, but “propaganda” is just advertising, and if tv has taught us anything, you can Moneyball that shit — a boiler room (or computer) cranking out focus-grouped ads is a lot cheaper, and more efficient, than one eccentric, highly experienced Don Draper-style “creative genius.”

And right there you’ve hit on the reason the Academy — and, as Pickle Rick notes, politics — is wall-to-wall Leftist. They know, gang. Believe me, they know.

Yeah, even the STEM guys. If you haven’t worked at a college, you probably haven’t thought about it, but once you do start thinking about it, it’s obvious why even the RADs (that’s Right Answer Disciplines, consult the official Rotten Chestnuts lexicon) are chock-a-block with Leftists. It’s not money. Professors get paid like professors, and while that seems like a lot of scratch to those of us out in the real world (fully tenured profs make in the neighborhood of $100K on average), it’s peanuts compared to what they could be making in the private sector.

I know the medical ed field pretty well, so we’ll use that. I know an older gentleman, on the verge of retirement, who through a long and boring story became more or less my swami in grad school. From him I learned (among many other things) the basics economics of med school, namely: While a med school prof gets paid on the high end of the professorial scale, that’s still 2-4x less than what someone with that skillset could be making in the private sector (depending on specialty). Which means there are only two possible reasons for someone to stick around and teach medicine: Either education is your calling (as with my guru), such that you’re willing to forego a shitload of money to follow your passion; or you’re too much of a goober to handle it out in the real world.

Guess which one is WAY more common.*

Take it down a level, and you’ve got people who couldn’t function in any other environment. The med school and engineering profs I knew could probably, with sufficient study, learn to approximate hu-man behavior outside the ivory tower. The Humanities types, though, were utterly hopeless. Words like “nerdy” and “spastic” don’t begin to describe them — spend enough time in the English Department faculty lounge, and you wonder if that old joke about an ugly kid’s parents locking him in the basement and feeding him with a slingshot might not have some basis in fact.

And what’s worse, the higher up the totem pole you go, the less your hard-won “expertise” is worth in any other situation. You could argue, and maybe at one point it was true, that an undergrad degree in History meant that you had a knack for things like “basic pattern-recognition” and “drawing obvious inferences,” and the verbal skills to communicate those conclusions.** All an advanced degree means, by contrast, is that you are “expert” in some extremely narrow, highly politicized micro-segment of both time and place.

For example, some people have told me they assume I was a specialist in Russian history back in the days. I wasn’t, but even if I was, there’s no way I could use that “expertise” to get a job at, say, the State Department, let alone a gas company. I wouldn’t know anything valuable, because the entire academic incentive structure steered me away from it. If I’d been, say, an expert in the culture of the post-Khrushchev KGB, maybe that would be useful to people trying to deal with Putin et al… but I’d never get my PhD dissertation off the ground if that were my chosen topic. If I ever wanted to get out of grad school, I’d call my diss on something like “Lesbian Pygmies with Alopecia among National Minorities in the Soviet Union, 1922-1924: A Marxist Feminist Post-Structuralist Approach.”

See what I mean? Yeah, when you looked me up in the course catalog, you’d see that I teach classes called “Soviet History,” but you could read a few books by Robert Conquest and be as much of a “Sovietologist” as I am. The one thing I know, the thing I’m PhD-level expert in, are those bald lesbian national minorities… from the Twenties.

Is it any wonder these people are professional parasites?

And politicians are even worse. They don’t even pretend to know anything special. What they have, their “expertise,” is access. Mitch McConnell knows This Guy, and That Guy, and has had lunch with The Guy, and the Guy behind The Guy. That’s his unique set of qualifications. So when the Two Bobs from Office Space come around, asking what exactly would you say you do here?, a guy like McConnell is forced to say something like this:

It’s a bit wordy to fit on America’s tombstone, but there it is.

Take it down a further notch, and you’ve got our very own “National Minorities,” soon to be our national majority, the Diversity which is Our Strength. I note that riot season has started a bit early in Minneapolis. The cop already admitted to making a mistake, I’m told, reaching for his gun instead of his taser, so the only unpredictable thing about this whole mess is the specific charge they’re going to bring him up on. Extra double secret homicide? Dumbfuckery in the third degree? Lèse-majesté?

With these clowns, anything is possible, but that’s not the point. The point is, when you come right down to it, Diverse America’s problem really is a “social construction.” Or, more specifically, a social lack of construction. A country with a viable manufacturing base has something for low-IQ, low impulse control types to do with their lives, something that gives them meaning and purpose. There’s a reason Detroit went from “lily-white” to “darker than a moonless night in the Congo” in the space of a generation, and it has nothing to do with electing Democrats (the causal arrow is almost always reversed in these situations).

I know it’s hard to believe, but this is one point on which I have genuine sympathy for the Diversity — they’re fucked, and they know they’re fucked, and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. It must be hell, waking up every morning, knowing you’re pointless, that you’re surplus to requirements, that there’s no real reason for you to even bother waking up in the morning. For all this talk of “the Black Community,” anyone who has spent any time at all in or around the ghetto knows there’s no “community.” They express it differently, but Blacks are essentially Bugmen, no different from the soulless White drones of GloboHomoCorp, cowering in their masks while getting their food delivered, attending pointless Zoom meetings while doing their useless make-work “jobs” on their iPads.

To swing it all the way back to the top, is it any wonder these people get into radical politics? Or off themselves? Or both, by embracing the kind of radical politics that must obviously end in what amounts to gaudy suicide as the world burns? It’s the only thing they can do, that gives their lives some kind of “meaning.”

 


*We’re discounting what seems like an obvious third possibility, given all I’ve told y’all about the 24/7 nature of academia — that, since “work” in the ivory tower is 24 hours a week, 7 months a year, professors in STEM fields might’ve rationally calculated that they live much nicer lives, and probably even get paid more on an hourly basis, than docs (etc.) out in the private sector. The math of this makes sense, but it doesn’t fit psychologically — if you’re nerdy / Type A enough to go into STEM at the PhD level, mundane considerations like “free time” no longer apply to you. For instance, I knew an engineering prof who was also a powerlifter. That’s all he did — he taught mechanical engineering, and lifted weights — and he lifted weights, in large part, because the mechanics of weightlifting fascinated him. He was (still is, no doubt) an uber-nerd — a huge, hulking uber-nerd that could probably bench-press a Subaru, but a total dork nonetheless. Same thing with docs — to even make it through med school, you need to be the obsessive, over-focused type.

**It sure as hell ain’t true now, though, if it ever was. I used to tell History majors to their faces to switch to one of those frat boy majors like Marketing. It’s equally worthless, intellectually, but the job prospects are better. Unless you’re planning to become a History professor — and unless you’re willing to become a “transsexual,” good luck with that — you might as well start filling out that Starbucks application now.

 

 

 

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Downfall

Z Man’s column today about “wishcasting” got me thinking about that great old movie, Downfall.

If you’ve been on the Internet in the last 10 years, you’ve seen one of those “Hitler finds out about” video clips. Those are from Downfall. If you haven’t seen the rest of the movie, though, please do — it’s really something. Skip the flashback scenes, and pay attention to the ones depicting the last days — the last hours, really — in the bunker. Certain parallels to the Current Year will reveal themselves.

I don’t just mean the doddering lunatic gibbering over his maps, moving imaginary divisions around (that’s the “Hitler finds out about” scene — someone has to tell Der Fuhrer that the armies he’s moving around in his head no longer exist, and haven’t for a long time). Nor do I necessarily mean the remains of the once-proud Wehrmacht, which is really just a bunch of ragged tail-ends of individual units — filled, in one particularly heartbreaking case, with girls — doing their own thing while the high command plays dress-up in the bunker. And I’m not even really talking about the rest of the palace staff, who are busy throwing an end-of-the-world party while Berlin burns.* I mean, yeah, all that is…umm…suggestive of certain Current Year trends, here in this best of all possible worlds, under the benevolent guiding hand of our totally legitimate, not at all fraudulent President Biden. But that’s not what I’d like y’all to see.

Rather, focus on the behavior of Josef Goebbels. Bruno Ganz gets all the credit for making Downfall work — and he should, I have no idea what he’s like in anything else, but he’s amazing here — but for those in the know, Ulrich Matthes as Goebbels gives every bit as spectacular a performance. Goebbels was in many ways the Fanciest kitty of them all, so it would be tempting to play him as a one-note fanatic — especially since his scenes involve more than his preparations for suicide.

Matthes doesn’t do that, though. He obviously studied his character in depth. Which is a real chore, since Goebbels is easily the best-documented Nazi. This is thanks in large part to his massive diary, which still is only 98% published in German (according to wiki; and only available in a very abbreviated — though still huge — edition in English). I can’t believe Matthes read all 29 volumes, if only for the sheer amount of time that would’ve taken, but thanks to his work as Propaganda Minister there are probably thousands of yards of film of Goebbels, probably tens of thousands of yards of his voice on tape — in short, everything you need to bounce off the diary to get an at least somewhat complete picture of the man.**

And that’s the really interesting part, for our purposes. In Downfall, you see a Goebbels who, almost alone among the people in the bunker, has truly come to grips with the situation. Guys like Bormann are still trying desperately to come up with escape plans. Guys like Fegelein have their heads in the sand. Himmler is as delusional as his boss — as you’d expect — and his goons are still hauling shivering, starving civilians from the rubble, then hanging them from lampposts for the crime of “defeatism.” The SS doctor — and even I’m not nerdy enough to recognize Werner Haase — stays on in his post, treating the wounded, though he knows full well how meaningless that is.

It’s Goebbels alone who knows that he’ll never make it out alive. And he doesn’t want to make it out alive, declaring — in what should be the #1 highlight on Ulrich Matthes’s greatest hits — that a world without National Socialism isn’t worth living in…

…and a Germany who couldn’t make National Socialism work deserves to die with it.

In my darkest moments, y’all, I’m convinced that there are a lot of people here in the ruins of Western Civ who have reached the Goebbels-in-the-bunker stage. These people — in government of course, but in academia, and increasingly at the helms of large corporations — have concluded that a world without Social Justice isn’t worth living in, and a world that can’t make Social Justice work doesn’t deserve to go on living. As the Kitten-in-Chief himself said, better an end with horror than a horror without end….

And that’s what makes Matthes’s performance so riveting for those in the know. In his diaries, Goebbels comes off like Pollyanna right up to the very end. He still thinks some kind of negotiated peace is possible in 1944, for pete’s sake, and his faith in the Fuhrer’s genius, in the wonder weapons, in the ability of National Socialist discipline to overcome all obstacles is boundless. The key to his success as Propaganda Minister was as horrifying as it was simple — he believed it ALL.

That’s why it wasn’t enough for him to die. And for his wife to die. And his family. And his pets. Everyone had to die, because when it came right down to it, the world simply wasn’t good enough to go on living. He still believed, right down to the very end.

 

 


*Led by actor Thomas Kretschmann, who seems to have made a nice little career for himself playing Nazi officers — he’s Hermann Fegelein here (recognizing his name is a silver-star level of Cat Fancy trivia), and he was the lieutenant in the excellent Stalingrad. I don’t give a crap about celebrity culture, but I really would like to meet Kretschmann — I’m curious to know what it feels like, that minute you look in the mirror and realize you look like Heinrich Himmler’s wet dream of an officer….and that there’s a career in that. That must be a bit… disconcerting, especially to a guy born in 1962.

**Insofar as that’s possible with any historical figure, let alone one so complex as Josef Goebbels, who was a twisted weirdo even by Nazi standards.

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The Oldest Profession

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, and recommend a pop novel to y’all: Havana Bay, by Martin Cruz Smith. It features a homicide detective from the former USSR solving a mystery in still-communist Cuba. It’s a pretty good read in its own right, but I recommend it for the local color. Smith obviously did his research, and that’s the focus of this post.

Cuba is to students of socialism what the Galapagos Islands were to Charles Darwin — a perfect laboratory, in which species evolve in complete isolation. In the late 1990s, cut off from both the free world (thanks to the US embargo) and the Iron Curtain (thanks to the USSR’s collapse), Cubans were forced to carry on the struggle against the Imperialistos more or less on their own. As the new “Russian Federation” ambassador remarks to Renko, the protagonist, at one point, with the USSR no longer providing billions in aid, the Cuban army is down to hauling its spiffy Soviet-made antiaircraft missiles around with donkeys. Which pretty much sums it up.

The takeaway here is that even on an island, all but totally isolated from the rest of the world, totalitarian repression can only be taken so far. Everyone but Fidel himself knows communism is a joke, and nobody pays anything more than lip service to the system. “Capitalism” — meaning, the innate human desire to exchange stuff for other stuff, thus bettering the lives of both parties — will always find a way, and Cubans have become the world’s scroungers and improvisers par excellence.

There’s a fun throwaway bit in the novel about how the Russian embassy can’t keep their cars running, because the Cubans are forever stealing key components — since Soviet technology was approximately 1950s US standard, one piece of crap Russian auto could be cannibalized to keep an entire fleet of “civilian” cars (pre-1950s US models left over from before The Revolution) running. Indeed, the novel is full of those kinds of details. Disposable plastic cigarette lighters are constantly refilled; the Cuban record is said to be over 100 refills. A central plot point is the existence of an entire fleet of fishermen who fish Havana Bay from nets slung, hammock style, over inner tubes. And so forth. And, of course, the world’s oldest profession openly flourishes…

Life finds a way, comrades. Indeed, I’m starting to think that our modern techno-repression will fail much harder, and much faster, than repression done the old fashioned way — thanks, in no small part, to the fact that our modern techno repression is so obviously reliant on people who can’t handle modern technology. Cubans might be ace scroungers and kickass shade tree mechanics, but there’s a reason you don’t see too many of them running cyber crimes (unlike that other Galapagos of communism, North Korea). A lot of the repression can be automated…

….but a lot of it can’t be. Not only that, but even the parts that can be automated rely on an increasingly stressed, increasingly infrequently, increasingly incompetently maintained infrastructure. How’s this Chinese-style “social credit system” supposed to work, for instance, when the apps are constantly being “updated” and the “updates” routinely brick the phone?

I saw this firsthand, or nearly so, with the Great Kung Flu Freakout. I’d been retired for a while, but I still have lots of friends in the ivory tower, and they told me some highly amusing tales. Even back in my day, everyone knew that the first day of class each semester pretty much had to be nothing more than handing out the syllabus, since the IT Department used the semester breaks to “upgrade” the software. You’d turn your computer on, and there would be the most frustrating words in the English language: “Windows is preparing to download updates.” Turn the system on at nine in the morning, and you might be able to use your office computer — might — by about 3 pm.

Now imagine that same IT Department — about six persyns, even at a big uni, all of them gay disabled transsexual Latinx Of Color, because big uni — trying to get the entire school ready to do everything online. In a week.

That’s the future, gang. And that’s before you consider that most of us will realize, sooner than later, that we don’t really need this shit, and that we’re happier without it. Pretty much all the goods and services one really needs can be bartered. Will be bartered, if the alternative is participating in an increasingly ham-handed, increasingly absurd system of repression that can’t even repress efficiently, because some 75 IQ Mestizo is in charge of the IT Department.

 

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Mob Talk

If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that drug dealers and Mob guys never come right out and say what they’re up to in plain language — they need “plausible deniability” for legal reasons. Now of course their plausible deniability is often downright Clintonian in its silliness — you and I and all the Feds listening in know that “I need you to deliver nine sofas to Ray Ray at the corner of 4th and MLK” isn’t a call about furniture — but so long as you don’t come right out and say “Ray Ray needs nine more vials of crack, and I, So-and-So, hereby authorize you to deliver MY nine vials of crack to Ray Ray,” some shyster can probably spring you.

In the same vein, Mob guys don’t say “pay me $500 a month or I’ll burn your store down.” They say “Gosh, this sure is a nice place you’ve got here… It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to it,” etc. It’s not a threat; it’s just you and Vinnie having a little chat about fire insurance. And if you then happen to ask Vinnie, as a favor, to drop your $500 cash off at the nearest insurance agent for you, well, that’s between youse guys, right?

That’s how pretty much all Internet communication is going to have to go, now that the totally legitimate, not at all fraudulent Biden regime is feeling its oats and is busy calling out the security apparatus to persecute us help everyone stay loyal. You know, for our own good. It shouldn’t be too hard, especially as the Feebs are a) increasingly Diverse, and therefore b) increasingly reliant on tech.

Thus the simple substitution codes, like “deliver nine sofas to Ray Ray.” Since History is so full of fascinating lessons, it’ll be pretty easy to…. you know… teach history. I tried to do that a bit with the crossbow thing, yesterday, which seemed to succeed.

But the “nice place you have here” thing, the leaving-the-conclusion-unstated thing, is tougher to pull off. And it’s frustrating, to say the least, that we should even have to try. But we do, because of the Diversity problems noted above. For example, I want to say something like “It seems clear that Policy X, if pursued for any length of time, must lead to very bad result Y.” In context, it’s obvious that I’m a) a neutral observer, who b) considers Result Y to be bad, and c) is just pointing out a likely causal relationship between X and Y. But the computer, which is programmed to scan only for keywords, can only see the string of search terms “Result Y,” and then I’m hauled up in front of the People’s Tribunal for thoughtcrime.

Obviously that part didn’t work out so well, so let me try again: “Hey, this sure is a nice #cancel culture you’ve got here. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it”…

…is the kind of thing the Medieval equivalent of Vinnie might’ve said, fingering his crossbow suggestively, if Vinnie, like everybody else in the fiefdom, happened to notice that the kind of knight who most fervently participated in Ye Olde Cancel Culture helpfully identified himself to all and sundry by wearing a big blue checkmark on his surcoat, and now does everybody get it?

Obviously I don’t want that kind of….statement…made, and I sure as hell don’t want the obvious — but unstated!! — conclusion to manifest, because that kind of thing is the beginning of the end of the world. Nonetheless, it seems obvious that, given the increasing fervor of #cancel culture and the number of crossbows in the world, that eventually someone is going to come to a pretty fucking obvious — but unstated!!! — conclusion about what he should do to protect himself. Or avenge himself, as the case may be, and are y’all catching my drift?

That’s the kind of thing that collapses the entire feudal pyramid into a heap of rubble. Alas, we live under techno-feudalism, not the old-timey version, and so actually stating the obvious conclusion of the premises, syllogism style, gets you flagged by some fucking Feeb computer. Thus the need to practice.

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Banning the Crossbow

“We prohibit under anathema that murderous art of crossbowmen and archers, which is hateful to God, to be employed against Christians and Catholics from now on.” – Canon 29, Second Lateran Council

Thus spake Pope Innocent II, the only source I can find in a brief internet search for the stuff “everybody knows” about the Church banning the use of crossbows (and archery, apparently, though that doesn’t get much press, possibly for reasons we’ll discuss below).

I’m not a medievalist, so I don’t know the actual arguments behind this, but I know what “everybody knows” — crossbows can punch through the hardest armor, which meant that a unit of peasants with crossbows could defeat a bunch of noble knights. In an age when the Princes of the Church were literal princes, or at least noblemen — and thus often led troops into battle personally — this was a big deal. What was “the feudal system” for, if not to keep noblemen at the top of the hierarchy?

Strangely enough, though, pretty much everybody seemed to ignore the archery ban — see, for example, the Battle of Crecy— and there’s no comparable “halberd ban” (that I’m aware of) even after the Battle of Courtrai, in which a peasant militia armed with pikes slaughtered a whole bunch of French knights. Using the logic of what “everybody knows” about crossbows, an explanation suggests itself: Longbows and pikes are very demanding weapons. They require extensive training and a fair amount of physical strength — halberds are heavy, and longbows have draws in the 100lb range. They also require lots of skill to use effectively, and pikes, especially, demand giant, rock-like balls (go ahead and imagine what it’s like to face down a fully armored killer with a twelve foot lance, barreling at you at 20mph on the back of an 800 lb horse, which is also armored).

Crossbows, by contrast, require little physical strength and almost no training to use — just point and shoot.

Note that I didn’t write “to use effectively in battle,” since the professional crossbowmen who fought in medieval battles were professionals — that is, highly disciplined (in context) warriors who practiced constantly with their weapons. Innocent and the gang weren’t so worried about being killed in battle by units of professional crossbowmen. They didn’t fear dying in battle, but they were deathly afraid of being murdered, and that’s where all that “just point and shoot” stuff comes in. You need a fair amount of skill, and no little nerve, to be a professional arbalester…

…but pretty much anyone with a grudge could just pick one up, hide it under his cloak, saunter into killing range, and pull the trigger. Bad news for the nobility, eh?

Of course, crossbows were just too useful to the nobility for the ban to have any real effect — see for example, the Battle of Crecy, above, in which England’s (theoretically banned) longbowmen drove France’s (theoretically banned) crossbowmen from the field, before shooting down the French knights. Indeed, so widely ignored was the ban that throughout the Middle Ages, crossbows improved. They became smaller, more powerful, easier to use. The nobility apparently reckoned that the risk of assassination by a disgruntled, untutored peasant with a crossbow was outweighed by the punch trained crossbowmen gave them in battle…

Alas for the noblemen, Innocent II had been right all along. Give the peasantry access to small, easily concealed, powerful weapons that require no training to use, and boom, there’s the end of the feudal system. The crossbow really was the great equalizer…

…that’s the story, anyway, that “everybody knows” about why the Church banned crossbows. I have no idea if it’s actually true or not. And anyway it doesn’t matter. All of this is just a historical curiosity.

 

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