Intelligence and Uncertainty

“Intelligence” is a pretty good political and cultural litmus test nowadays.  I don’t mean possession of the thing; I mean your reaction to the word.

The Left, though they fucking love science, have declared the human brain off limits to scientific inquiry.  Intelligence is entirely cultural, they say, and you’re racist for even wondering if the obvious superficial differences between races go deeper.  (Some Lefties go even further, of course, and maintain that there are different kinds of intelligence — emotional intelligence, for example — but as these are obvious rationalizations let’s leave them alone in their sadness).  All humans have the same raw mental processing power, they insist.  Culture unlocks it, and not coincidentally SWPL culture is the very best at that.  Indeed you could be forgiven for thinking that Liberalism causes intelligence — they sure act as if it does, hence the Fundamental Paradox of Internet Liberalism.*

Vast swathes of the “Right,” on the other hand, insist that intelligence is nothing but biology.  Culture has nothing to do with IQ, and IQ is destiny — Whitey von Saxon with the 101 IQ will be a software engineer; Dindu Nuffin with the 99 IQ can be, at best, Whitey’s janitor (Schlomo Goldstein with the 120 IQ, of course, rules the world, but don’t worry — despite his double-digit IQ advantage we still see through his laughably transparent schemes.  Every. Single. Time).

I’m willing to concede that a lot of this is rhetoric.  Measurable, easily observed differences in IQ, and their near-certain correlation with certain kinds of behavior, drive Lefties nuts, and it’s always fun to get science’s BFFs frothing at the mouth about how this one particular science doesn’t count (see also: Global Warming, basic economics, anything else that falls under “math is hard”).  But a lot of it isn’t, and so we see “our” smart guys being just as dumb as theirs.

Whatever the differences in raw processing power may have been — or if there even were any — it’s obvious that folks in the past had vastly different functional intelligence, and that much of the difference was cultural.  Read anything from the Early Modern period and you’ll see it right away.  They can remember much better than we can, for example, holding long strings of complicated ratiocination in their heads without difficulty — by the time we’ve kinda sorta parsed out the first of Puritan’s propositions, his coreligionists have raised an army and beheaded the king.  This was true for a long, long time.  (One of the reasons the Gettysburg Address is so famous, for instance, is because it was short — orators back then went on for hours, and indeed the keynote speaker, Edward Everett, did go on for hours.  Lots of people didn’t even hear Lincoln; he’d finished before they even knew he got started).  This is not to say they were necessarily smarter back then — our blinky-light light-speed world would melt their brains, as surely as we’d die of brain-melting boredom in theirs.  It’s just different, and no amount of pontificating about “biology is destiny” can remove the cultural component.

That certainty is the other thing bedeviling us, our allies on the “Right” as much as our enemies on the Left.  Again, I’m willing to concede that a lot of this is rhetoric — acknowledging that lots of, say, Black misbehavior stems almost entirely from mental requirements in a technological society would go a long way towards crafting a useful social policy, and “IQ is destiny” is far from the worst slogan to ever rally troops.  But it’s alienating, and it results in what we can call the Fundamental Paradox of Internet Conservatism — “no no, I don’t hate Black people; in fact I wish them the best!  But if they’re destined to be nothing but hewers of wood and drawers of water, everywhere, forever, well…. I didn’t invent modern society, did I?  IQ is destiny!”  Dogmatic certainty is the Left’s game, and look where it has gotten them — they’re dogmatically certain about so many things, none of which is compatible with any other, that I’m continually surprised their heads don’t explode from the cognitive dissonance.  Let’s not fall into the same trap, gentlemen.

 

 

*You Reich-wingers are too stupid to understand how awesome liberalism is, and I can prove it — if you were smart enough to understand what I’m saying, you’d be Liberals.  And yet, here I am, arguing with you anyway.

The Basics

Theodore Dalrymple often says that his patients’ dysfunction stems from “not knowing how to live.”  What’s life for, anyway?  They don’t know, and wouldn’t even understand the question if you asked it of them.  And so they indulge in all the pathology he so eloquently describes.

Societies have a similar problem.  Morgan and I once had a discussion about the purpose of government,  as seen from the perspective of the ruling elite.  I still think my “buckets” metaphor holds up, but since it’s only from the elite’s perspective, it doesn’t address the broader social problem of government.  Taking it as read that “The State” is, at bottom, the formalized expression of society, the question becomes: What is The State for, and why submit to it?

“Mutual defense” was Thomas Hobbes’s answer.  Elaborations aside — and they are elaborate; Leviathan is worth reading just to see Hobbes’s method — “mutual defense” is pretty much all there is.  Hobbes’s Leviathan is the most absolute monarch that could ever be, and theoretically nothing is outside his purview, but you don’t have to end up with a Leviathan state from his initial premises.*  “The State is a covenant for mutual defense” allows the government a lot of latitude while preserving a great deal of liberty, and if you want a baseline definition that just about anyone, anywhere on the political spectrum can agree with, there you go.

Rolling with that, “politics” becomes a society-wide argument over how far the definitions of “mutual” and “defense” extend.  As it seems it’s my week to pick on Libertarians, I’ll use them as illustrations.  At Z Man’s you can see a Libertarian indulging in typical Libertarian hyperbole over the suggestion that it might be ok for the US government to take action against harmful Chinese imports.  Not “harmful” in the economic sense, mind you, but the “this can kill you” kind of harm (e.g. here).  Urging the US government to put in some kind of minimal regulation and inspection regime is, we’re told, voluntarily enslaving ourselves.

As I said, it’s hyperbole, but worth responding to nonetheless.  Surely the State has some legitimate interest in its citizens’ health?  If only so that we can field a citizen militia to fight off the rampaging Canadian hordes?  Right?  If not, we’d best disband the Centers for Disease Control — we may all die of bubonic plague, but at least we’ll die free!

On the other hand, hyperbole aside, one can easily go too far in the other direction.  It takes very little thought to construct a militia-type argument in favor of socialized medicine, which is why the Left never bothers (why think when you don’t have to?).  35.8% of World War II draftees, for instance, were rejected as physically or mentally unfit.  That’s 6,420,000 men, and since over 60% of US forces were drafted, it’s clear that our nation’s poor health significantly impacted our ability to fight.  Better access to healthcare builds a better army.

Same deal with the “mutual” part of “mutual defense.”  I’m sure I don’t have to walk the Seven Regular Readers through this, but for the benefit of passing Lefties, it’s a really bad idea to rely on the kindness of strangers in life-or-death situations.  Start rounding “undocumented Americans” up for military service overseas, and watch how fast Magic Dirt loses its magic.

You can play with this all day, and have some real fun with it, too.  “Mutual defense” was a major part of the anti-suffragist argument back in the 19th century, at least in Britain, and it’s hard to say they were wrong about that — if you can’t shoulder a rifle yourself, why should you be able to vote on the deployment of those who can?  Sci-fi nerds tell me that this was Heinlein’s premise in Battleship Troopers, and supposedly that’s fascism or something, which tells you they know as much about political theory as they do about the tender touch of the opposite sex, but whatever, point is, it’s hard to think of a live issue even today that doesn’t relate to “mutual defense” if you think about it for a few seconds.

But that’s just politics.  It doesn’t answer the fundamental question of meaning, which has been hopelessly entangled in political theory since the Enlightenment.  Hobbes was forced by the logic of his position to admit that the Leviathan could legislate on matters of belief and conscience, but really really shouldn’t, except in the direst emergency.**  But of course Hobbes, like everyone else in the 17th century, saw all earthly arrangements as a subset of Heavenly ones.  One might fight and die for the King, or Parliament, or farming the commons, or whatever, but even if you won, one’s true reward was not to be found in this world.

The Enlightened rejected all that in favor of “freedom,” which they never got around to actually defining.  Rousseau is always worth quoting here:

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.

That’s the Enlightenment dream.  It was Karl Marx’s dream.  Because Marxists talk about the “workers” all the time, we assume Marxism is an economic system.  It isn’t.  It’s a philosophy, and while a Marxist society is theoretically one in which everyone has every material thing he needs, the workers’ physical welfare isn’t the point.  Rather, the point of it all is to overcome alienation:

Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also when looking at the object I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses and hence a power beyond all doubt. 2) In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature. … Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature.

Even if you don’t speak Victorian, it’s obvious that this is a prayer, badly disguised as Hegelian philosophy.  But since there is no God, only the State can give this to you… and there you have Left-wing politics, right down to the present day.  Clinton’s speechwriter had no idea she was doing it when she had Hillary go off on “the politics of meaning” — as I’m sure you’ve noticed, Lefties don’t read much — but that stuff is pure Marx.  Salvation through politics.  We spent most of the later 20th century trying it, and in 2008 we finally achieved it:

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I’m sure I don’t need to remind y’all how that worked out.

Problem is, we’ve all embraced some version of this.  None of us, not even the most faithful, would stand up and say “we could fix all of America’s problems if we just got back to Jesus.”  Even if we believed this, we’d get laughed out of the room if we said it.  We’re all Enlightened in that sense, and so we must pretend that politics, social policy, can answer the fundamental question of life’s meaning.

Because of this, the so-called Right is as reductive as the Left.  Progtards pretend to believe that it’s only our prejudices about things like “biology” that hold us back — let 6’2″ linebackers in sundresses make wee-wee in the little girls’ room, and we shall finally have Utopia.  It’s absurd, but “our” side insists on a similar fantasy: That civilization is only a product of melanin deficiency and excess testosterone.  Progtards want to “spread the wealth around” to ensure “equality,” and if everyone ends up equally poor, shivering, miserable, and dead, well, what part of “equal” don’t you understand?  But, of course, “our” side also pretends that wealth is all there is — cf. Libertarians and their willingness to sell organs and children to the highest bidder, provided the contracts are signed and the weed is legal.

It’s one big category error.  The lower classes suffer because they don’t know how to live, as Dalrymple says, and wouldn’t know how to go about learning.  The middle classes suffer equally, though in a different way, because they aced the test with the wrong answers they spent K-thru-PhD learning.  Like the drunk looking for his keys beneath the lamppost because the light is better there, we’re looking for the Meaning of Life in the one place it’s guaranteed not to be.

 

 

*Though he of course thought you did.  Hobbes considered himself a mathematician, and Leviathan — seriously, read it! — is political theory as geometry proof.  If you agree to his definitions, Hobbes thinks, you can’t but conclude as he does.  He’s wrong about that (he wasn’t a very good mathematician), but the attempt is one of the most striking, original uses of English ever printed.

** E.g. when your country is getting overrun by Puritan fanatics.  Leviathan wasn’t just a suck-up to Charles II.  Hobbes was rightly horrified by the English Civil War and its WWI-proportional devastation; his book was an attempt to design a theory of government that would prevent something like that from ever happening again.

Libertarians, Atheists, Trekkies

It’s common to assert that there was no individualism, indeed hardly any individuality, in the Middle Ages.  I’m not a Medievalist, so I can’t comment on the sources and methodology behind this striking, counterintuitive claim.  But I have been around academics quite a bit, which I why I call bullshit here.  As with most ivory tower pronouncements on Humanity, this is wishcasting — they wish there were no individuals in the Middle Ages, or anywhere else for that matter.

“Individualism” means having a strong central identity, which is means expressing preferences.  I don’t think I have to work too hard to convince y’all that Leftists (as all academics are) hate and fear the concept of preference.  See, for example, the widely cited Paradox of Choicewhich pretends that having a bunch of different breakfast cereals to choose from at the grocery store causes crippling anxiety.  Wouldn’t life be so much better if some benevolent central authority made all those pesky decisions for you?  Academics certainly think so, which is why they never venture outside the ivory tower…. and why all ivory towers look exactly the same.  From Berkeley to Harvard, the only thing that changes about college towns is the weather.

Stripping away the concept of preference has, in fact, been eggheadery’s underlying goal since the Enlightenment.  From the salons of 18th century Paris to Salon.com, the Enlightened have assured us that freedom lies in abandoning anything that might make us prefer one thing over another — which they call “prejudice,” and of course, all prejudices are irrational.  Pick your Leftist discourse — its goal, when you get down to it, is to convince everyone that human beings are nothing but ____.  E.g.

  • Reason (Voltaire, Rousseau)
  • Economics (Marxism, Libertarianism)
  • Discourses (Postmodernism
  • Genitalia (Feminism)
  • Melanin (Critical Race Theory, Subaltern Studies)

All leading to the idea that men are, as the Z Man puts it, “moist robots.”  Karl Marx said that man’s social being determines his consciousness — take away the ability to express preferences by taking away choice, and you’re left with the New Soviet Man.

Sadly, the so-called Right is as afflicted with this mental virus as the Left.  See, for instance, the comment section to this Z Man post.  Libertarianism is as reductive a creed as Marxism, and indeed reduces Man to the same state: A cell on a spreadsheet.  You’re free to make your choices under Libertarianism, sure, and the State will enforce the contracts… but what about the State itself, making its choices?  Thomas Hobbes wrote a big important book exploring that exact idea, but alas, he didn’t conclude that the Leviathan should legalize weed, so they’ve never read it.

Ditto atheists and Trekkies.  I know, I know, there are as many Lefties who like those things (and in the case of atheism, probably way more), but since I’m already “insulting” the most obsessive group on the internet, I’m going for the triple axel — even the French judge will have to give me a 10 after this.

Same deal: The reduction of Man — or, in the case of atheism, the entire universe — to a set of basic processes.  I’ve never understood the fascination with Star Trek.  It’s a Model UN Club meeting — but in space! — with the intellectual rigor and personal hygiene to match.  I get it, yeah, the green-skinned babes are hot, but they’re not worth all the namby pamby preachy liberalism.  Or the smarmy smugness.  The whole thing makes my skin crawl.

We’ve covered atheism here before, many times, complete with the customary spergy neckbeardery in the comments.  Chesterton (or someone) said something about “the rational man will not marry and the rational soldier will not fight,” by which he meant that professing a devotion to Reason is generally just a good excuse to avoid living life.  There’s a reason atheist bloggers end up begging their readership for dates, and end up on one end or the other of (alleged) sexual harassment at their conferences.  A society of Vulcans (just to tie it all together) couldn’t exist — they couldn’t even hammer out the social contract, couldn’t enforce it if they did, and would all commit suicide from boredom before they finished signing the papers.

When Fringe Weirdos Start Running Things

The less stable the center of society, the weirder things get on the fringes.  But what happens when the fringes move to the center?

Puritanism is a good example.  Puritanism wasn’t the weirdest fringe movement to come out of the early Reformation — that’s probably Anabaptism — but it was one of the strongest.  We moderns find it incomprehensible, especially Predestination.  If we truly have no free will, and have been saved or damned from all eternity, why bother to do anything?  Why not retreat into quietism, or hedonism, or despair?

The question is a category error.  Those are logical consequences of the doctrine of predestination, and some, like the Quakers, did logically withdraw into quietism.  But since when has religious belief been about logic?* Puritanism’s strength wasn’t its theory, but its practice.

Everybody knows that Puritans wanted to purge the church — and, through it, all of society — of vice, and for once what “everybody knows” is correct.  You’ve probably heard the Book of Sports mentioned, and though it wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as it’s made out to be, that’s the basic idea.

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That’s the trick.  That’s how you avoid sinking into despair while thinking through predestination — obviously you’re not one of the damned, because you’re so blessedly enthusiastic about stamping out sin.  It’s the externals of the doctrine that matter — behavior, not belief.

Problem is, behavior and belief are reciprocal.  The more comprehensive the doctrine, the more behavior you must regulate; the more behavior you must regulate, the more comprehensive the doctrine must be to back it up.  For the Puritans, everything not explicitly permitted by the Bible was sinful.  That’s why they were against throwing dice, for instance. Dice is a game of “chance,” and since God preordains everything, there is no such thing as chance.  Tossing dice — behaving as if “chance” is real — is therefore blasphemy.  And that’s Puritanism’s fatal flaw.  When even wearing the wrong color clothes put you in Satan’s camp, nobody could rest assured he was always on the side of the angels.  Misbehaviors are seen as failures of doctrine, and what man has ever followed all the rules to the letter, or avoided hypocrisy?

None of that would matter if Puritanism remained a fringe movement.  As scholars of the period have amply demonstrated, even very weird weirdos would generally be left alone, provided they didn’t make themselves too obnoxious to the authorities.**  But Puritanism didn’t remain a fringe doctrine.  Thanks to the ineptitude of King Charles I and the genius of Oliver Cromwell, Puritanism was the law of the land in England for years.  And in Colonial New England, of course, it was the law of the land from the start.

The results are as instructive as they were inevitable.  The English voted to bring their king back rather than go another day under Puritan rule, not least because Oliver’s son “Tumbledown Dick” Cromwell wasn’t a very good Puritan (he wasn’t a very good anything).  A lot of other stuff factored in there as well, but in New England, the only real challenge to Puritanism was the Puritans themselves.  As their society grew healthier, safer, and more prosperous — and by 1690, it was arguably the best in the West on all those metrics — dour Puritan fanaticism started easing up… with the obvious implication that maybe God was at least sorta ok with health, safety, and prosperity.  Could it really be so bad to wear “ribbons or great boots…lace, points, etc., silk hoods, or scarves”?

Which brings us to the Salem Witch Trials.  No, really — feminists insist that the Salem girls were driven temporarily crazy by the strictures of patriarchal society, and for once they’ve got a point.  Far from being a triumph of Puritan fanaticism, the witch trials were Puritanism’s last gasp.  Those who couldn’t adjust to the passing of the old order tried to reassert their control by persecuting Satan’s minions.  They overreached, as fanatics always do, and in doing so they discredited their whole doctrine.  Cotton Mather may have sucked up to the old guard after the fact, but the “evidence” laid out in Wonders of the Invisible World was so dubious, and the trials themselves such an obvious farce, that nobody could take New England Puritanism seriously anymore (Cotton Mather spent the rest of his life carping at the otherwise unknown Robert Calef, who was the kind of skeptical gadfly ol’ Increase would’ve exiled to Rhode Island, and Cromwell would’ve burned at the stake).

Which brings us to now.  Our modern Puritans, the Social Justice Warriors, are well into the witch trial phase of their decline.  Cromwell to Cotton Mather was 50 years; it’s been 50 years since the Summer of Love, and the Cult has really only been in complete charge since the later 1970s.  And right on schedule, we have judges admitting spectral evidence of Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudice into trials, and hysterics in the NCAA are forcing states to let mentally ill men in sundresses make wee-wee in the little girls’ room.  “Social Justice” is as all-encompassing as Puritanism, and since there’s no behavior it can safely leave unregulated, it must necessarily devolve into Matherish insanity.  Elizabeth I didn’t burn her Puritan fanatics; she welcomed them back with open arms, and 100 years later they were destroying her heirs’ country.  We didn’t laugh our neo-Puritan fanatics out of public life when we had the chance; we let them run our media and education industries, and now they’re ripping the country apart.

That’s what happens when you let fringe weirdos start running things.  There’s a lesson here, but it’s a harsh one… too bad we’re going to have to relearn it very soon.

 

 

*n.b. to spergs, I said belief.  Lots of things about religion are perfectly logical.  Nobody is better at logic than Thomas Aquinas, for example.  But even Aquinas admitted that his logic, impeccable though it was, wouldn’t get you through to belief in the Christian God.  Only revelation does that.

**n.b. that particular weirdo ended up getting burned at the stake.  If you’re going to be a weirdo, don’t do it in the Pope’s backyard.

Piano Man

Ace of Spades links to an Atlantic Monthly piece wondering how Billy Joel, who hasn’t released a commercial album since 1993, can keep selling out Madison Square Garden.  Since it’s behind a paywall I can’t see what those geniuses actually came up with, but I’m willing to bet that the real answer is: Joel’s music is apolitical.

These days, of course, you will be made to care.  You can’t watch sports anymore without #BLM propaganda, and we all know about the video games trainwreck.  I doubt there’s been a movie released in the last ten years without an ass-kicking heroine and a heroic gay man, and as for pop music, it’s so converged that even Katy Perry supposedly released a “political” song.

imagesBecause yeah, that’s why Katy Perry is popular.

Billy Joel, by contrast, has a sad-sack everyman persona, and makes tinkly piano pop to match.  I have no idea what Mr. Joel’s personal politics are; given that he’s a New Yorker, a Jew, and a celebrity, I’m confident he’s a drooling progtard offstage.  His music, though, is apolitical, and doesn’t lend itself to the kind of in-concert sermonizing Bruce Springsteen’s similarly sad-sack everyman tunes do — you can make a whole big deal about how “Born to Run” is about working class life in Reagan’s America or whatever, but you can’t really break off the chorus of “Uptown Girl” for a pro-Hillary harangue.

The rest of the culture is an indistinguishable gray blur.  You can root for your favorite sportsball team, or play a video game where you’re a knight in shining armor, or go to the movies, or read a novel, or listen to Top 40 pop, but it’s all the same thing underneath — the Cult of Modern Liberalism serves a jealous god, and there’s no place to hide from Him.  I don’t particularly care for Mr. Joel’s music on its own, but next to Generic Top 40 Hit Model A-342 — currently blaring at halftime shows and in video game cutscenes everywhere — “Piano Man” sounds like the 1812 Overture, and for that reason alone, he’s the only currently touring act I’d actually pay to see.

Politico’s Stupid Professor Trick

Via Vox Day, Politico’s admission that there is, in fact, a media bubble.  It’s a nice illustration of one of my favorite Stupid Professor Tricks, question flipping.  Politico asks, re: the media’s complete failure to predict Trump’s presidential victory:

What went so wrong? What’s still wrong? To some conservatives, Trump’s surprise win on November 8 simply bore out what they had suspected, that the Democrat-infested press was knowingly in the tank for Clinton all along. The media, in this view, was guilty not just of confirmation bias but of complicity.  But the knowing-bias charge never added up: No news organization ignored the Clinton emails story, and everybody feasted on the damaging John Podesta email cache that WikiLeaks served up buffet-style. Practically speaking, you’re not pushing Clinton to victory if you’re pantsing her and her party to voters almost daily.

Free pro tip: When you’re dealing with self-proclaimed intellectuals, the part immediately preceding the “but” is always the truth.  In this case, as Vox points out, it’s not either/or, it’s both/and.  The media suffered from confirmation bias, yes, but they had plenty of the old fashioned kind of bias, too.  Nobody who watched five seconds of news coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign could help concluding that the media was hopelessly, recklessly in love with Hillary Clinton.  The so-called daily “pantsing” of the Podesta emails was, in reality, increasingly desperate attempts to deny, obfuscate, or explain away the relevance of those emails.  What?  National security?  No no, they were about yoga routines and play dates.  Nothing classified here!!!

But that’s not the most interesting part.  Instead, it’s Politico’s attempt to blame the whole thing on geography.  Media companies, they say, cluster in a few geographic areas — New York, LA — in the same way car companies do.

Car companies didn’t arise in remote regions that needed cars—they arose in Detroit, which already had heavy industry, was near natural resources, boasted a skilled workforce and was home to a network of suppliers that could help car companies thrive.

The question they fail to ask is: Why do media companies, who require few to no physical resources at all, cluster in the coastal enclaves?  As Ace of Spades points out in his take on the piece, by Politico’s own admission more people work online than in person in the news biz.  Online “journalism” can be done anywhere, and almost anywhere has a higher per-dollar quality of life than NY/LA.  Someone who chooses life in a fifth-floor walkup efficiency in Brooklyn over a three-bedroom house in Omaha is willing to pay a huge premium to be among members of his tribe.  Pauline Kael may not have known anyone who voted for Nixon, but the twitterati have never even heard of anyone who knows anyone who voted for Trump.

Media people cluster on the coasts because they’re desperate to be among other members of the cult.  And the purpose of pieces like this one is to assure Politico’s readers — i.e. the media class itself, the one that screwed up so badly — that though they live in an impermeable bubble where stuff like this guaranteed to happen, that’s ok, because they’re just such superior people that they can’t help it:

Is America trapped? Certainly, the media seems to be. It’s hard to imagine an industry willingly accommodating the places with less money, fewer people and less expertise, especially if they sense that niche has already been filled to capacity by Fox. Yet everyone acknowledges that Trump’s election really was a bad miss, and if the media doesn’t figure it out, it will miss the next one, too.

We’d love to get in touch with some of those “real Americans” — you know, if we drag them away from porking their cousins atop a Gadsden Flag at the NASCAR race for a few minutes — but darn it, Fox already has the hillbillies covered.  Ah well, I hear the next season of Girls is really great, and they just opened up a new Irish-Thai-Navajo fusion place down on 44th Street….

Is and Ought, Description and Prescription

Moralizers that they are, Lefties always confuse correlation with causation, description with prescription.  Because “capitalism” correlates with all kinds of bad stuff, they think it causes all that bad stuff.  Eliminating “capitalism,” they think, will eliminate racism, sexism, etc.

That’s the practical problem with Marxism.*  Marxist analyses of history can be very useful.  For instance, it’s now understood that enclosure started the market revolution in England.  By kicking peasants off waste land, the cities got a large, loose labor force that caused businesses to expand.  Meanwhile, back on the farm, the remaining tenants greatly improved their efficiency while producing for distant markets, injecting a whole bunch of cash into the old feudal system.  Combined with contemporary religious developments like Puritanism, with its emphasis on personal discipline, conditions were ideal for the development of industry, with all the social, political, and cultural changes that entailed.

That’s the standard line, and it’s as Marxist as it gets.  That whole “masterless men jump start business in the cities” bit is, in fact, exactly Marx’s “primitive accumulation of capital,” the precursor to real capitalism in the Industrial Age.  The problem is, Marxists don’t stop there.  Marxism is teleological — because all this stuff must produce Capitalism, which must produce Revolution, Marxists write as if the historical actors they describe are actively, consciously doing things like “the primitive accumulation of capital.”  As if there’s a Capitalist manual out there somewhere, which you get along with your secret decoder ring when you send in five box tops and a self-addressed envelope.

Take the Puritans.  They’re ideal Marxist villains — gross hypocrites who thunder from pulpits against luxury and wealth while piling up cash as fast as their grubby little hands can count.  As Puritanism is a bizarre, harsh creed that nobody could possibly live up to, we normies tend to nod along as the Marxists denounce Puritans as evil proto-Capitalists.  But the Puritans really did try to live by their values, for the most part, and they succeeded in a lot of ways — if you ever fall into a time machine and end up in the 17th century, pray that you encounter some Puritans.  They’ll take you in, where nobody else would.  They’re sharp traders, yes, and not much fun, but the same guys who hung witches at Salem also produced the healthiest, wealthiest, most prosperous society in the Western world at the same time.

And that’s where Marxism really goes off the rails.  Because Puritans are such great villains, and because the “Marxist” analysis of the period is the correct one, it’s very tempting to fall into a kind of historian’s fallacy about what’s really going on behind the scenes.  If colonial Massachusetts seemed to be more prosperous than everywhere else, it must be on the backs of some proletariat somewhere (they were, after all, primitively accumulating capital).  Hmmm…. Indians?  No… oh, wait — women!!!  And along come the Salem Witch Trials, which prove how horrible awful no good really bad their society really was.  And so on down the line, such that before long, history is nothing but the search for sticks to beat them with, regardless of how ahistorical.  E.g. Anne Hutchinson, pretty much a nobody in the grand scheme of things, vs. Cotton Mather — 12,800,000 hits to 520,000.  But Anne Hutchinson should matter, damn it, because feminism, so we’ll make her matter.

It takes discipline and a commitment to the historian’s craft to avoid this, which is why nobody bothers anymore.  Marxist critics of the Puritans — guys like Christopher Hill, who never abandoned their communist faith — could do great historical work on the period, because they could stay close to the sources and, as classically trained scholars, could separate description from prescription.  But that generation started dying off in the Sixties, not coincidentally as our Feelz Before Realz culture really got rolling.  The Sixties generation could dimly see the difference between “is” and “ought,” but were having too much fun to insist on it.  Their descendants — whom the Sixties generation taught to value transgression uber alles — consciously rejected it as politically limiting, and so the current Snowflake generation not only can’t tell the difference, but can’t even define the terms.  So, the Puritans?  CisHetPat gun nuts, eeeevil.  A+.

If you really want to save Western culture, start there.  “Is” is not “ought,” DEscription is not PREscription, and just as there’s no necessary relationship between correlation and causation, the recognition that something is not to your liking does not entail the world’s obligation to change it.

 

 

*The philosophical problem, of course, is that it’s muddleheaded Hegelian junk, with Spirit coming down Holy Ghost-style to move History towards the inevitable Revolution, and thence to Utopia.  Free pro tip to any college kids reading this: Any system that requires a whole bunch of Capital Letters to describe is wrong, and usually murderous too.

Flat Affects and Alice Games

Since I’ve spent a lot of time in and around the Ed Biz, people often ask me if professors really believe their own bullshit.  The things they say are so outlandish — and their private behavior is so opposed to their public sentiments — that they must be lying, right?

I don’t think so.  At its higher levels, academia is pretty much a cult, and college is a kind of low rent mind control.  I’m pretty sure the big boys — the college presidents who pull down a million per — know it’s a scam; except for the Diversity clowns, everyone else is a true believer.

The first thing any cult does with a new recruit is to flatten, or at least narrow, their affect.  Your affect — the characteristic way you express emotion — is socially conditioned.  Altering that breaks your social conditioning, and since we all strive to fit in with our society, the recruit will quickly rebuild his affect in the cult-approved manner.  Here’s a good, quick description of how Scientology does it.  TR (training routine)-0 strives for an absolutely flat affect — first, recruits have to stare at each other, unmoving, for up to two hours; next, they have to remain unresponsive to stimuli as their trainers yell at them and degrade them.

Mandatory “sensitivity” seminars are the obvious parallel here, and while those things work (any conditioning works, given time) the college environment itself is more efficient.  College kids aren’t robots.  They don’t have flat affects, but they do have extremely narrow ones.  From the moment they step on campus, they’re trained to be binary — either idling in neutral or revved up past eleven.  Everything in their world is designed to be all-or-nothing — football games and keggers, of course, but also term papers and exam crams.  In my experience, even the most responsible kids — the ones who are officers in a zillion clubs, who volunteer on weekends, the resident assistants in dorms — tend to put off all their work until the last minute, then Adderall up and pull a series of allnighters.  The irresponsible ones, meanwhile, are getting blackout drunk.  We’ve discussed this before; it’s incredible if you haven’t seen it firsthand.  They drift zombie-like through their classes (if they bother to go to class), then blow their brains out with Jaeger shots on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

Zero or eleven, all or nothing, all the time.  Is it any surprise, then, that when they get worked up, they have shrieking meltdowns?

Social media reinforces it.  The world only knows about Vodka Sam because she tweeted about it, and I can promise you that the universal reaction among her peer group was: “dude, you made the paper!  Cooooool!”  It’s not just drunken shenanigans, though.  It’s everything else.  Clickbait hot takes aside, of course Facebook is turning us into narcissists.  Narcissism is not grandiosity.  It’s creating a one-dimensional identity for yourself, then trying to force the rest of the world to conform to it:

Facebook is a neutral tool, it’s what you do with it that matters.  You think the “I’m better than everybody!” status updates are evidence of narcissism, and maybe they are, but the deeper pathology exists in those who derive their identities from that online presence while simultaneously retreating from the real world.  Show me a man or woman who posts pictures of themselves in bathing suits and I shrug my shoulders.  Show me a person who spends more than an hour a day on Facebook and it isn’t their job and I’ll show you a future divorce even if they’re not married yet.  Show me a middle aged person who spends >1 hr a day on facebook, and I’ll show you someone who has been to a psychiatrist.  It’s not an insult, it is a statement of fact.  Each person tries to find ways of affirming themselves; but when it is done through identity and not behavior, it always leads to misery.

Sure, you can convince 5000 people you’re anything.  Then what?

It is self-reinforcing.  The type of person who withdraws into facebook is already stunted in their potential for happiness; and if you’re spending all your energy on facebook then you’re not spending it in ways that might actually work.  The problem isn’t facebook, the problem is you.

Which leads to the obvious conclusion:

Narcissism has a fail-safe: since you know you tricked [your last girlfriend] to get them, you can’t believe them when they say they love you.  The fact that she loves you means she’s not smart enough to know  what love is.  That’s why you default to measurable quantities of love: how fast did she get into bed with the past guys?

Just because she thinks you’re awesome, doesn’t mean you can really feel her.

College kids have point-and-click personalities — post only things that get thumbs-ups, unfriend anyone who gives you a thumbs down, and pretty soon, you are exactly what you say you are…. on Facebook.  Real world be damned.  Alas, the real world is still out there, but thanks to the proliferation of identity clubs and their associated Studies classes, you can spend four to six years almost entirely isolated from it.  I’m really not joking about this: From the first class meeting — hell, from the minute they walk in the door in most cases — I can tell exactly what I’m going to get on half my students’ term papers.  The gay kid is going to give me a paper about gayness, the feminist is going to give me a feminist paper, the black kid’s paper will be “Black Black Blackity Black: A Case Study in Blackness,” &c.  The class’s actual subject doesn’t matter; it could be a seminar on Medieval Finnish Literature and I’d still get “Blackity Blackness in the Kalevala” and “lesbians were the real Vikings.”

Meanwhile, back in the dorms, they compete for status within their obsessive little micro-group, everyone getting weirder and weirder as they try to one-up each other.  This is why you will be made to care.  Without their causes to define them, these kids have nothing.  Zero or eleven, all the time, and since the real world resoundingly replies “zero”….

…. And that’s if the real world can even understand what these Snowflakes are going on about, which we can’t.  This is the second pillar of milieu control, as sociologists call it (and Lifton is still well worth reading) — impenetrable jargon.  Here again, Scientology is the trend-setter.  They’re notorious for their weird lingo, but they should be better known for the softening-up technique that prepares you to learn the lingo.  Called “Dear Alice” or “Alice Games,” in this TR

context-free snippets from Alice [in Wonderland], printed on a sheet of paper, are read by the student to the coach [and vice versa]… Here, canned script from a master storyteller conjures up some fantastic and nonsensical images, which the student must refuse to process [by reacting] or fail the exercise. The result is robotic repetition of nonsense phrases…Rather than conditioning you for the real world where nonsense is met with questions for clarification, [Scientology founder L.] Ron [Hubbard] is conditioning the mark to confront “Scieno-speak.”

Snark aside — and fair warning, the snark unfortunately makes that site nearly unreadable — the reporter nails it.  Don’t question; just repeat the mumbo-jumbo verbatim, or you fail.  Sound familiar?  This is the one and only reason professors get away with saying the stupid shit they do.  Repeat enough times, and the rote repetition of nonsense simply is communication.  I’ve sat through entire graduate seminars where all we did was agree with each other in increasingly elaborate ways, one-upping each other with ever-more-radical nerdspeak.  Pity the poor undergraduates who are taught by these people!

Put it together, and you get an entire group of people who say nothing, believe nothing, communicate nothing… but with a passionate, life-destroying intensity.  It doesn’t matter what Trigglypuff was all worked up about.  She herself didn’t know, and it wouldn’t do any good to ask her — she can’t explain it, any more than the frat bros and sorority sisters can explain why it’s a good idea to pickle their livers every weekend.  They couldn’t even comprehend the question….

…. and neither could their teachers.  And that, friends, is what’s wrong with education today, and it’s why profs believe their own bullshit: Flat affect and Alice games.

Know Your Leftist: Antonio Gramsci

Introducing a new series, “Know Your Leftist” — a brief intro to a major Left figure’s work.  Caveats: 1) This is not a comprehensive overview.  2) Unless absolutely necessary, we’ll avoid technical vocabulary.  3) We’ll avoid historiography, too — we’re not going into the weeds of A’s critique of B’s deviation of C’s revisionism, ivory tower-style, because a) it’s unnecessary and b) it’s boring and c) that’s how eggheads try to convince everyone they’re smart.

Look: You don’t actually need to read these guys.  I haven’t, for the most part, and have no intention to, because their actual words don’t matter much anymore.  The “conservative” parallel is the Bible:  Lefty spews some talking point about how Jesus was really a communist or whatever, citing some cherrypicked line of scripture.  You can cite chapter and verse at them, complete with exegesis on the whole of the Gospel in question, but… does that ever work?  It’s the impression that matters.  The chestnut.  The stuff “everybody knows.”  For a certain type of person, “everybody knows” Jesus was really a socialist, and they behave accordingly.*  Thus, so many of our Leninists don’t know they’re Leninists, have never read Lenin, and wouldn’t recognize him if he sent their whole family to die in a Siberian lumber camp.  So, too, with our modern Gramscians, which is where we’ll start.  Gramsci’s actual thought is different from what modern eggheads have made of it, but as they’re the ones who are destroying what’s left of society, they’re the ones that count.

Who was he?: An Italian Marxist who got crosswise with Mussolini and thus spent a lot of time in prison, where he wrote his most important works.

What he got right: “Hegemony;” civil society vs. political society; the role of intellectuals.

Gramsci set himself the task of explaining why the Revolution not only wasn’t happening, but seemed further away than ever.  Looking at the Western world in the wake of World War I, he couldn’t help noticing that people were much better off than they were before — happier, freer, longer-lived, healthier, all of which Marx said was impossible given the late stage of capitalism.  Of course Marx couldn’t be wrong, so Gramsci theorized that the state is actually two states — the political state and the civil state — and the latter (the bourgeoisie) compromise with the former (the capitalists) to improve their position relative to the proletariat.

Those compromises take place almost entirely in the realm of culture — bourgeois values (what we call “Western Civ”) becomes “normal,” which keeps the proletariat from forming their own culture of resistance, which keeps them down.  This dominance of bourgeois culture is known as “hegemony,” and it’s perpetuated through academia, the media, etc.  Thus, Gramsci argued, Left intellectuals needed to take those institutions over, thus beginning the long march through the institutions… with what results, it’s hardly necessary to say.

occupy girl2

He accurately described the role of intellectuals in the academy during this process.  Infogalactic says:

Such “organic” intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but instead articulate, through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. The need to create a working-class culture relates to Gramsci’s call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, whose task was not to introduce Marxist ideology from without the proletariat, but to renovate the existing intellectual activity of the masses and make it critical of the status quo.

In other words, the purpose of a Gramscian intellectual is to make more Gramscian intellectuals, who, as good proles, forever put feelz above realz.  Again, with what result, it’s hardly necessary to say.  But it explains academia’s fetish for the debased, vulgar, and deviant.  In the Fifties and Sixties, wannabe-intellectuals like Jack Kerouac sold other wannabe-intellectuals on the idea that the bad parts of prole culture are “authentic;” the worse, the better.  So “authenticity” isn’t just acting like a buffoon to make your daddy mad; it’s, like, critique of society, maaaan.  Fast forward 50 years, and academia is nothing but a celebration of deviance — “freaking out the squares” is, was, and always will be the whole point.  And now they have cultural hegemony.

What he got wrong:  Aside from the whole Communism thing, nothing.  Hegemony really works that way.  All modern “intellectuals” — that is, anyone who doesn’t use the word “intellectual” with a cynical snicker — simply IS a Gramscian organic intellectual.  Which is why we’re screwed.

Further reading: As I said, you don’t really need to read these guys, but reading about them sometimes helps.  Roger Kimball has two books on the university, Tenured Radicals and The Long March, that are quick fun reads.  If nothing else, you’ll know for sure what a scam “higher” “”””education”””” is.

 

 

*That they don’t follow this out and actually practice Christianity along with their socialism tells you that they understand neither Jesus nor Socialism, and also cognitive dissonance is bullshit, but whaddaya gonna do?  If they could do the whole “logic” thing, they wouldn’t be Leftists.

 

The Curse of the Participation Trophy

These days, I routinely hand out As to college kids for work that would’ve barely gotten me a C in junior high.  It’s not because I’m a softie — I’m forever on the verge of getting fired for failing half my classes, and my student evals are brutal.  It’s because the general educational level of high school graduates is so low that their “essays” read like Nintendo cut scenes from the mid-80s:

Aybabtu

I’ve been everywhere from the bush leagues to the Ivy League, and I’m only exaggerating a little when I say that all you need to ace any liberal arts class, at any university in America, is a semi-coherent stab at answering the question, with cited facts and no glaring typos.

That’s a problem, obviously, but an even bigger problem is a second order effect of all those easy As.  What happens to the best of the rest?

It’s never the worst off who start revolutions.  They’re too busy trying to keep body and soul together.  Your paradigmatic revolutionary is a guy with enough on the ball to feel entitled to a nice middle-class life, but without enough on the ball to go out and earn it.  Guys like Lenin, Mao, et al would’ve happily lived out their lives playing make-believe in the faculty lounge, had their societies enough middle-class sinecures to accommodate them.  Being reduced to a prole was intolerable to them, but they had no upward mobility, so the only thing to do was overturn society.

Since the Sixties, our university system has seemingly dedicated itself to turning out exactly this type of guy.

It’s still possible to get a world-class education at an American university.  You just have to study a Right Answer subject.  Students who pass Calc II will have no problem getting a middle class job.  Students who attempt, but fail, Calc II will learn a lesson almost as valuable: They may be smart, but they don’t have the kind of smarts that really matter in a knowledge economy.

It’s those folks who can’t pass Calc II — and never try — that end up being the problem.  Thanks to the administration’s obsession with collecting Diversity Pokemon, it’s impossible to fail anyone who actually turns in the work.  So if “all your base are belong to us” is a D — and trust me, compared to the efforts of the typical Diversity Pokemon, it’s practically a B — what could A+ work possibly look like?  Again, I’m kidding, but I’m not joking: Recognizable English*, no typos, somewhat relevant, not obviously plagiarized… that’s an A, in pretty much any Liberal Arts class on any campus in America.

As recently as the early Aughts, it didn’t matter.  We could absorb all the fake As with the same prosperity that let us absorb all the Diversity Pokemon and their degrees — after all, that’s what HR staffs and Studies departments are for.  But now that prosperity is gone, and the kid who got an A for writing #BlackLivesMatter a hundred times on his term paper is nail-spitting furious that his fancy degree from Stanford can’t get him a part-time barista gig.

So he goes out and riots in the streets.  It’s going to get a lot, lot worse.

 

 

*A huge problem in itself.  As lots of American parents are finally starting to see the futility of college, schools are going all-in on recruiting rich foreign students who pay full freight.  Their English is nonexistent.  It’s such a joy.