LITERALLY a Metaphor

Kids these days can’t process figurative speech.  Literally can’t process it, which is why they say “literally” all the time.  If you’re under 30, it’s like… like…

I’m sure there are cog-sci studies on this, if anyone cares to plow through PubMed one rainy afternoon.  I’m going off my observations interacting with, and attempting to instruct, college kids.  So, yeah, it’s all anecdotal, but the sample size is decent.  I see the following types of communication:

Undigested Metaphors.  E.g “Donald Trump is literally Hitler.”  George Orwell nailed this back in 1946, and as this post is really just an attempt to update “Politics and the English Language,” you should probably skip this and go read that.  Should you choose to soldier on, this is the essay with the famous quote “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. ”  The rest of the paragraph is equally instructive:

The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

We don’t use Bolshevik jargon like “reactionary” or “bourgeois” much anymore, but the others are very much with us.  In Orwell’s day they at least still had vestigial meanings — even the commie trying to justify Stalin’s gulags would make a nod to Plato when asked “what is justice?”(1)  These days, we’re in the odd position of throwing around words and phrases that have never meant anything.  Whites being racist towards other whites in favor of blacks, as compensation for the supposed racism of other whites towards other blacks — all of whom have been dead for 100+ years in most cases — and calling anyone who notices the blatant self-contradiction “racist”… that’s the kind of thing I mean.  Kids who call Donald Trump “literally Hitler” don’t know any of Trump’s policies and couldn’t recognize a Nazi if he anschlussed their ass with his jackboot.  It’s just a metaphor that passes through their speech undigested, kinda like corn in… well, that’s another metaphor, so I won’t confuse any Millennial readers with it.  The point of Undigested Metaphors is to express disapproval, with an implied threat of legal action.

Voice-to-Text.  This is an expression of disapproval without the implied threat of legal action, as most VtT phrases could themselves be actionable.  E.g. “ur a fag,” the standard putdown of “noobs” (or whatever it is now) on the internet / video games / whatever.  It might as well be an emoji, and had voice-to-text technology progressed slower, it probably would’ve been, e.g. 8=>.  It doesn’t occur to users that words like “fag” actually mean something — it can’t, as the people who throw around homosexual slurs the most are Social Justice Warriors, who at every opportunity proclaim themselves the BFFs of every sexual orientation except straight.

Tweets. A cant(2) phrase intended to be retweeted / upvoted, i.e. virtue-signaling.  As any actual information content would almost always destroy the intended effect, Tweets are effectively anti-communication. E.g. “love trumps hate!,” followed immediately by “DIAF Republicans!”  In the dark ages before social media, this was called bumperstickerese — see, for example, any Subaru Outback in any college town in America, where “Coexist” bumper stickers nestle quite comfortably next to calls for the eradication of entire classes of people.

Tinfoil Hat Prose.  According to feminists, everything that’s wrong with a feminist’s life is the fault of The Patriarchy, even though nobody knows any patriarchs.  Same goes for White Skin Privilege, Heterosexuality, and all the other “social constructions” — if they were true, we’d never know about it, because all the chicks, gays, blacks, etc. would still be on the plantation(3).  Phrases like “social construction” give the veneer of academic respectability to what are essentially hare-brained conspiracy theories.  It’s easy enough to detect one — just ask, “who is society (a patriarch, etc.), comrade?  Point to a specific member of the set.”  As the whole point of Tinfoil Hat Prose is to keep everything in the passive voice — “women are oppressed by the patriarchal reification of capitalism” instead of “women are oppressed by Steve” — the same technique refudiates it.

KISSes.  New writers are commanded to “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” and this is the only type of prose modern kids can handle.  In my experience, you can’t make instructions simple enough.  Your sentences can’t be too short, too clear, too declarative.  If you leave any room for interpretation at all, you will be misinterpreted, in hilarious ways you couldn’t have forseen in a million years.  This is literally — literally!!! — the only way to communicate with Millennials.

More as the mood strikes me.


(1) n.b. to any Millennials reading this: “What is justice?” was the central question of Plato’s Republic, which used to be required reading in any college humanities class… often in the original Greek.  Here’s a summary.

(2) n.b. to Millennials, not a typo (though how would you know?).  “Clear your mind of cant” isn’t an uplifting slogan about being all you can be; it’s about thinking for yourself.  “Cant” is dogma, things “everyone knows,” the rote bullshit you had to memorize for every test you’ve ever taken in your entire lives.  Rosa Parks is the patron saint of cant.

(3) no, really, homosexuals used to be confined to lavender plantations, which were located in closets.  That was the point of the Stonewall Riots.  Pick up a history book, why dontcha?

New Improved Settled™ Science!

Stories have come out this week ahead of today’s expected new IPCC report that this one is it.  There’s no doubt at all.  The Science™ is now Sooper Dooper Settled™ and you can take that to the Carbon Credit Bank.

Of course, the report doesn’t really say that, which is why you have Mother Jones softening up the ground with “Five Climate Myths You Will Hear This Week”.  Yeah.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  Don’t read the report.  Just read the Summary For Policy Makers.  Which is written by … political people.   And whatever they say, that’s what 95% of Scientists™ say.

Recently, Severian made the observation that science is not a social construct.  This has a tendency to make your modern “educated” dyed-in-the-wool progressive’s collective head explode, since they’ve been taught that everything, including truth, is a social construct.

It’s a great battering ram, though, and I’ve made it a point and will continue to make it a point to use it on conversations about science that bring up concensus as their lynchpin.

Others are apparently picking it up, too … I mean … Zing!  From Michael Barone.

The religious analogy is appropriate because belief in global warming has  taken on the trappings of traditional religion.

Alarmists like to say the science is settled — which is nonsense, since  science is a series of theories that can be tested by observations. When  Einstein presented his theory of relativity, he showed how it could be tested  during astronomical events in the next decade. The theory passed.

Saying the science is settled is like demanding what religions demand — that  you have faith.

Religion has ritual. Global warming alarmism has recycling and Earth Day  celebrations.

I Made a New Word LXII

Not too pleased with the idea of creating potentially a third thread-that-won’t-die, when I already have two. But this thing needs naming, and it needs naming rather badly:

Anti-Science (n.)

Whereas real science is a disciplined accumulation of knowledge, toward a more useful and complete understanding of the world around us, this is the exact opposite. It starts at the opposite end and runs perfectly backwards. The conclusion comes first, and then as evidence arrives it is compared to this conclusion. If the evidence doesn’t support the desired conclusion, an elaborate anti-treatise will be prepared giving reasons why the evidence has to be discarded. There is an extremely low bar of adequacy for this anti-treatise. It can be entirely an appeal to emotion, or an appeal to authority, a bunch of ad hom attacks, or it can be a complaint that some paper making entirely legitimate points was not properly “vetted” or peer-reviewed, or that its author is “on the take” from the oil companies. Or, has never written up an article that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But the common and indispensable element to the anti-treatise is that the problematic information has to be discarded. It is like a lawyer arguing that evidence has been contaminated and is not to be allowed in court.

By way of these anti-treatises that remove information while pretending to add it, anti-science anti-learns about nature and the world around us, by pretending to learn it. It functions exactly the same way as a sculptor creating an image of a horse by starting with a block and removing everything that doesn’t look like a horse.

The “color wheel” is never too far from my mind when I get in these arguments with liberals. When you create colors by way of pigment, you subtract some colors from solid white, to leave a residual which is the antithesis of what you’ve removed. Do it some more, and you leave a smaller residual. When you create colors by way of light, you add some colors to form others. Pigment subtracts, color adds. This turns everything around: You overlay a blue film over a yellow film you get green, so green seems to be a composite color. What a simple experiment, and what a certain result you have. It’s right in front of you, how can you deny it? But in reality it’s the yellow that is a product of the green and the red. Green is not a product, it is a primary color. Things look entirely upside-down when you take things away, as opposed to putting them together.

Now it is certainly true that in real science, certain disciplines have to be followed. That’s where a lot of the effort goes. Entire experiments have to be started over again, with their data sets thrown out, after it’s discovered something wasn’t done quite right. Anyone who’s ever conducted a phone survey, is going to understand this. It can be truly exasperating. But only in anti-science is there this obligation to pretend something never happened, when it did, and even though there is arguably some kind of tainting that happened it still means something. Only in anti-science do things start to resemble a courtroom, in which the judge sternly lectures the jury to disregard the testimony.

The Zachriel objected to my noticing that science was being hijacked, and we had this exchange:

mkfreeberg: But when the theory says something, and practical experience says the opposite, and the science starts to “preach” much like a religious order would preach, that this observed practical experience should be invalidated, discarded, discredited, nudged aside, whatever is necessary to make the dogma come out right…that is an event that has the virtue of being testable.

Zachriel: …modern climate science does not meet your definition of “faux-science”. As we said, climate scientists collect observational evidence, often under difficult conditions, work across multiple disciplines, providing important cross-checks, subject their hypotheses to rigorous empirical testing, publish for their peers, and change their positions as new data becomes available. That’s contrary to your definition.

Line by line, I demonstrated the obvious: Not a single one of these glittering-generality statements about the noble work of the climate scientists, is mutually exclusive in any way from my testable complaint about this chisel-from-the-block-of-marble anti-science, that I called “faux science.” I’m sure counterfeiters do hard work across multiple disciplines in difficult conditions, too. And yet The Zachriel came back with a mixture of squid ink and “not sure what you mean by.”

Observation to be made here — and it is meaningful, for The Zachriel are not alone in doing this, by any means — in the course of denying there is any such thing as this counterfeit science, which “proves” things by taking knowledge away instead of by gathering it…they use this process to make their point. I point out the obvious and they come up with some kind of anti-treatise to “block” the information. Starting with the block, chiseling down to the horse. In exactly the same moment, in the same sentence, as insisting that is not what the climate scientists do.

It’s like yelling into a microphone to deny the existence of microphones.

What we’re seeing practiced with anti-science is not science at all, but modern liberalism. Information is treated as a contaminant, with the weird understanding in place that true wisdom is a vestigial remnant to be left standing, like the horse, after all the undesirable knowledge has been stripped away. Yes, our friends the liberals seem to think you are wiser when you know less. And learning, therefore, is a disciplined process of forgetting. Once one achieves wisdom in this way, by forgetting enough stuff, one is supposed to see the light and spread the knowledge around, by dissuading others from ever learning in the first place, what the original “learner” spent all that effort to forget. I know. Quite bizarre. But it explains quite a few of the things they do.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.