Author Archives: Nate Winchester

In and Out

Confession time: I’m what you might call a Trump agnostic. Some of what he’s done pleases me, some things about him I find frustrating, and almost everything he does I find entertaining. Someone once asked me who I would vote for and I answered at the time that whatever my disagreements with the man, I had no doubts in my mind that Trump loved America and wanted to do right by her – I still believe that and for me it’s not nothing in consideration for a president.

Still I do try to listen to both sides of the Trump issue on the right, and here I will admit that I find both sides – his fans and his haters – frequently obnoxious. Indeed my feelings towards the man himself are too often influenced by who I read last. If a super-fan, Trump is annoying. If a hater, Trump is the GOAT. Thus i try not to rely on my gut or feelings on the matter but ever seek out the truth. Thus listening to both sides.

Because the problem with humans is that our senses alone collect so much data that our brains can’t possibly store and process all of it. So we have to constantly shift through and analyse this data, our brains prioritizing some while ignoring the rest. But what is really important? The color, make and model of nearby cars? The color, style and make of the shoes everyone around you are wearing? Some data is objectively important (like who is shooting at you) but a lot of data out there is… debatable. That’s why we communicate with others – because the data I picked up and retained is going to be a bit different from what you picked up. By combining all our datasets we can craft a larger picture of the whole truth, like a jigsaw puzzle.

This then is the frustration when I listen to a Trump fan (like Andrew Klavan) vs a Trump skeptic (like Jonah Goldberg). Both sides often make relevant points about important data, and both sides seem to avoid what the other one is addressing leading to a frustration of everybody talking past each other. Yet I couldn’t help but notice that the fans seemed to make an effort to confront the counter arguments a bit more often – the skeptics rarely so. In fact the skeptics seemed to go out of their way to even acknowledge competing evidence. Things just weren’t adding up. Now I’m also a big believer in Occum’s Razor which should be summed up as “don’t add additional factors without evidence.” , so I prefer to take the folks at their word rather than inventing some kind of conspiracy theory.

Let’s then think about like in programming. At root we only have 3 factors: the input, the process, and the output. If the output is wrong, there’s only 2 other places to look. What can we tell about process? Fundamentally – nothing. We can’t read minds so there’s no way to really be sure what’s going on inside another’s. We’ll have to accept their claims about their own process at face value for right now. So let’s look at input.

In fact, let’s look at what happened this weekend.

In case you haven’t heard, there was a March for Life on Washington DC at which point a video & image of an original-American drummer and a boy in a MAGA cap went viral. Shortly after the viral spread, the other shoe dropped.

Turned out there was a lot more to the story and everyone was reacting to pretty much the opposite of what was the truth.

Let’s look at the National Review’s article on it.

Oh wait, that’s actually the SECOND article NRO published. There was a first article before that. It’s captured under “Update IV” at this link.

Now it all began to make sense. The trump-skeptic side was having faulty input. They are believing the media.

There’s actually a term for this: Gell-Mann Amnesia. Michael Crichton described it as:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

This somehow seems to make it all worse than a simple betrayal.

See, I’m old enough that for most of my political life, conservatives have been bitching about the media. That whenever an article was written about Reagan or Bush or Bush or whatever politician, so many of these figures would be there with an article pointing out all the facts overlooked and complicating factors ignored. Always and forever if the media reported on a congressman’s tie, the conservatives would double check it. Now? Now when they complain about Trump, you can quickly piece together that it’s because they’re accepting the media’s basic premises.

Never mind that nothing’s changed over those years save the republican targeted. Never mind that a few months ago the press did the exact same thing to Kavanaugh (with many of these figures rightly objected to). No this time a video and image go up about a kid in a red hat, and the people who should know better accept the media’s premises unquestioned. It’s a movement-wide Gell-Mann Amnesia.

If you’re a skeptic reading this: Imagine it’s a few years ago and you came across one of your conservative colleagues or heroes complaining about how misogynist Romney was being with his “binders full of women” line. Imagine that no matter how much you tried to correct that person, get them to see the fuller context, they objected. Said they saw all they needed to. Called you a cultist – a blind Romney follower. I remember how most of you fought against that little media deception back in the day. So imagine how you would feel in that situation.

That’s how we feel now.

You don’t have to like Trump. You don’t have to agree with Trump. You don’t have to excuse the worst excesses of his followers.

But MAYBE you could try reapplying your old skepticism, and stop buying what the media is selling. You above all people should know better. Stop and ask yourself why this time you think the habitual liar is being truthful.

As we say in programming.  Garbage in, garbage out.  So if leftism in…

…no self-awareness out.

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The Cold Civil War is Going to Get Worse

People say America is right now stuck in a cold civil war and so far it seems like a fair assessment of the nation.  Many who have noticed this are wondering what we can do to improve the situation.

 

The problem is: nothing.

 

Why?  2 factors.

 

Think a moment about actual, real war. One factor about it is that there is an objective, undeniable metric available to all sides: death.  The side with more deaths, tends to be the side that loses (unless there is a huge population difference but let’s keep things simple right now).  So if your side had several battles in a row where your deaths X > their deaths Y, you’re probably losing.  Conversely if X < Y, you’re on the way to victory.  This also means there is a very clear, well defined end point to the conflict: one side (or both) is entirely dead.

 

However cultural conflicts do not have such a neat, easy metric to them.  Without a clear metric, things get confusing.  For examples just go around on the web right now to both right-oriented and left-oriented sites.  You will be able to see both sides arguing that they’re losing the culture war.  Now just take a step back and think about it dispassionately (maybe pretend you’re Mr. Spock visiting earth) – how could you tell which side is correct?  Which side is wrong?  Or are both sides correct about losing?  Or wrong?  Which factors and considerations of society & culture matter, and which don’t?  It’s not an easy question to answer and with no obvious end state, it may be one that is not answerable.  Without a clear metric, and both sides convincing themselves they’re losing, it’s easy for both sides to conclude they have nothing to lose.  Desperation has never been much of a motivator in lessening conflicts nor in granting mercy.

 

The second factor can also be explained by thinking about real war.  How do two sides come to agreements about the “rules” of the conflict?  Why would two sides agree against using poison gas on each other? (for example)  Really think about it – how does that even work when two groups are trying to kill each other?  It works because if one side breaks the treaty, there is an understanding that the other side will do so as well.  If army X uses poison gas, army Y will do the same.  If the consequences are horrible enough there is incentive for both sides to follow the agreement.

 

But there’s a complication isn’t there?  Modern militaries are made up of thousands – millions of soldiers and support.  Just because the generals agree to not use poison gas, what keeps a random colonel or grunt from using it?  How can the ones in charge keep the rest of their group in line?  If a soldier disobeys the treaty, what usually happens is that the offender is captured by his own side and handed over to the enemy.  This signals to the opponent that the attack was not an official decision, but a rogue choice.  Handing him over is a signal that they want to maintain the treaty and lets him face justice as the enemy sees fit – an enemy that will probably not be as interested in mercy or due process as the offender’s countrymen would be.  (This is what is implied by the line “disavow any knowledge of your actions” in those movies & TV shows – “if you get caught, the enemy can do as they wish.”)  Thus there is incentive in the ranks on both sides to obey the rules and the treaty is maintained.

 

Where is the equivalent in the modern culture war?  For a culture to exist, there has to be agreed upon boundaries within it and ways of enforcing them.  Modern social networking, has made this impossible.

 

For a hypothetical example, let’s suppose there was an agreement in politics that the families of politicians should be off limits (especially their kids) unless that family member is also involved in politics.  Sounds fair, right?  Everybody left, right, and center should be able to agree on this, yes?  Of course it will be understood that this is all operating under the treaty example above: if one side goes after family, then it’s fair for the other side to do so, otherwise what’s the point of the agreement?  This should all work perfectly!

 

Except it won’t.  Why?  Because we have millions (if not billions) of people on social networks with capable search engines.  Name me any rule society wants to agree on and within an hour we can find an example of someone violating it.  Thus the aforementioned rule of decorum would last about one day (probably 30 minutes) until a random somebody would be found violating it.  Which side they belong to would quickly be determined (whether accurate or not is irrelevant) and then the opposite side will begin returning the sentiment in kind.  It won’t stop nor can it ever be stopped because there’s no “general” for one side that can “hand” the offender over to a “general” on the other side in order to maintain the treaty.

 

Then to top it all off, let’s add in the factor that there is low cost and effort needed to join and use social media.  If anybody can sign up within 5 minutes, then even if we assume that 100% of a side in the culture war behaved according to the decorum treaty with 100% fidelity, the opposing side can have an impostor perform a false flag at minimum cost and set off the cascade of rudeness.

 

Do you want a practical example?

 

Recently Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a video of her college days… I’ve seen some report this was “leaked” but it’s more accurate to say it was already posted to youtube and somebody linked it on twitter where it gained renewed attention.  Let’s look at some quotes from a few articles on this:

An attempt to humiliate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she was sworn in as the youngest ever US congresswoman has backfired impressively, prompting a huge outpouring of support for her.

There’s nothing remotely scandalous about the video, but that hasn’t stopped right-wing Twitter users from attempting to weaponize it against Ocasio-Cortez, who is a Democratic Socialist.

It’s amusing to think about the mindset of the weirdo conservatives who leaked this, thinking it would make people poke fun at her.

The latest example involved an old video of her in her late teens doing some goofy dances (including a Breakfast Club homage that ought to have been endearing to Gen X-ers).

So some “right-wingers” reacted badly to this video.  Who?  Is this story on instapundit?  Drudge report?  Twitchy?  Not at the time of this writing.  So who “on the right” is saying anything about this video?  Where are the links or examples?  The guardian seems to be the only one to put in that much effort and this is the sum total:

A 30-second video was posted by a Twitter user called AnonymousQ, showing Ocasio-Cortez dancing on the roof of a building while in college.
“Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is,” read the post, with the user, who has since deleted their account, claiming it was a “high school video of ‘Sandy’ Ocasio-Cortez”.
But instead of embarrassing Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to represent New York’s 14th congressional district in November, the video has bolstered her popularity, with many people on social media praising her for being joyful and having fun.
. . .
With the clip, she [AOC] wrote: “I hear the GOP [Republican party] thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too! Have a great weekend everyone :)”

“Conservatives” attempted to humiliate Representative Ocasio-Cortez – and by “conservatives” we mean a single recorded tweet from an account which is now deleted so nobody has any way to check whether that user was really conservative or not.  How old was the account?  What was its posting history?  How many followers did it have?  How many likes or retweets did that tweet get?  What were the general replies?

 

Hm.  We don’t have that information any more.   Instead we just have “conservatives” reported as reacting negatively.  From a single tweet.  By someone that could just as easily have been “liberal” playing the Wounded Gazelle Gambit.

 

That is why the cold civil war is not going to be getting better any time soon.

 

Further Reading:
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