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How the World Works IIb: “Created Equal”

Some discussion in the previous post of the Enlightenment’s greatest fallacy, “all men are created equal.”  Folks in Our Thing have a better understanding of it, of course, but even we aren’t necessarily grasping the depth of the problem with “all men are created equal.”

For instance, we like to say, as Pickle Rick does here, that

“all men” was construed to mean free white men of good character, capable of bearing arms. Not slaves, not servants, not women or children. Men like themselves.

That gets much closer to the heart of it, but still not close enough.  Mostly Jefferson meant a kind of naïve legal positivism — that even the worst freeman should have the same assumption of innocence at law as the king’s son, and should either of them be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the sentence should be the same.  That’s maximal liberty, as the Founders would’ve understood the term: Neutrality before the bar.

The problem, of course, is that nobody will fight and die for “neutrality before the bar.”  All men are created equal, though… that’s a slogan that will rally troops, especially when you’re asking men to volunteer for the hundred-lashes horror of an 18th century army.

The idea that arms-bearing capacity should give you the right to vote was much older than Jefferson.  It came out of the Putney Debates during the English Civil War.  Back then, the issues that a man might be called upon to understand in order to responsibly exercise his franchise were small and local.  Recall that the only hard limit on a government’s power is communication speed — 17th century infrastructure being what it was, life in most places for most people wasn’t significantly different under the Protectorate than it was under King Charles.  Not that Cromwell and the boys didn’t give totalitarianism the old college try, but when it took three days for the fastest courier to make it to Edinburgh from London, they just didn’t have the juice to make it work.

America in 1776 was a rough frontier society.  Infrastructurally, it pretty much was England in 1648.  Jefferson can be forgiven for thinking that the same conditions applied.  But they didn’t, because present trends never continue and history never stops.  Thanks to increased communication speed, people started looking at what Jefferson said, not what he meant.

That’s half the problem.

The other half is that in some ways, Jefferson really did mean what he said.  We’ve already noted that social contract theory has a fatal flaw: Hobbes’s Leviathan ends with the most absolute possible monarch, but it starts with the premise that all men are roughly equal in the State of Nature.  Again, Hobbes was writing in the 1640s.  He can be forgiven for thinking that this is roughly true, since “the state of nature” he envisioned was an English village — a tight-knit, seemingly eternal world all to itself.

For us, the state of nature is much different.  For us, “all men” means “each individual,” which means “isolated free agents”… and the “state of nature” is, of course, the entire world, because there’s virtually no place on this globe of ours that you can’t reach within 24 hours.

Thus, we know just how glaringly false “equal” really is.

That being the case, we know that social contract theory — i.e. the basis of representative government, i.e. the foundation-stone of the Constitution — is wrong.  And not just a little bit wrong in the details.  It’s fundamentally wrong, and nothing built on an error can endure.

It was a necessary lie in its day.  But it was a lie for all that.

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How the World Works, Part II

Once again, I present these in the spirit of Martin Luther’s theses: As starting points for reasonable discussion among learned men.

Part I discussed those of our social assumptions that are so wrong they’re backwards.  This one discusses Things that are (Merely) Wrong.  As that’s a loooooong list, let’s start with:

Governments of laws, not men.  We’re told that this is what the “social contract” gives us.  It’s the goal, we learn, of Classical Liberalism.  But — as you might expect from a philosophy that rests on a glaring falsity (“all men are created equal”) — Classical Liberalism is wrong. All governments are governments of men.  The very best you can do is to arrange the laws and institutions such that they incentivize bad men to do good, or at least less harmful, things.

The Founders understood this.  Alas, they assumed a proposition at least as wrong as “all men are created equal.”  To wit: History stops.  It’s not their fault — it’s pointless to warn against teleology, or decry “Whig history,” because all history is Whig history. The realization that things were different in the past carries with it the implication that the present is inevitable.  Whether you see now as a product of degeneration from a golden age (all history up to the 18th century), or the past as nothing but darkness (the technical definition of “Whig history”), the notion that things could not have been different than they are right now rides with it, like a birth defect.  We should be able to see beyond this, but we can’t.  Therefore, the institutions that worked for a rough frontier society in 1783 were creaky by 1823, moribund by 1853, and dead by 1863 – a single human lifetime.

In truth, sovereignty is what Carl Schmitt says: “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”  This, in turn, rests on Hobbes’s insight that “the power of the mighty hath no foundation, but the belief and opinion of the people” (Schmitt was a profound Hobbes scholar).  Witness the exception-deciders of our own age: Hawaiian Judges and the Media.  The same people who say walls don’t work have massive walls of their own, plus armed guards, because they understand that they’re sovereign.  They also understand the “opinion and belief of the people” part….

… at least, they did.  But see above: That situation is not inevitable.  Present trends never continue.  Institutions change as men change.  The men who realize the changes first are the ones who find themselves in power.

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How the World Works, Part I

Like Luther with his famous theses, I present these propositions as items for reasonable discussion among learned men.

Things that are Backwards:

Modern life is built on certain propositions.  Most of them are wrong.  Some of them are so wrong, they’re actually backwards.  Such as:

Modern political theory assumes all men are rational, or at least capable of sustained rationality.  Which is true as far as it goes… but it doesn’t really go anywhere.  When it comes to concrete objectives, for instance, people can be quite rational about means, even when — especially when — the ends are batshit crazy.  See e.g. the drug addict who is fiendishly ingenious about getting his fix, even as fixing kills him.

Political theory stands even that on its head.  As David Stove says, the minute the generality of mankind attempt abstract thought, they invariably go mad.  We give the junkie a vote, assuming that somehow the guy who thinks killing himself with heroin is a good idea will square himself away enough to competently pass judgment on questions of war and peace.  The more we know about the human sciences, the clearer it is that “rationality” is intermittent at best, a cruel fiction at worst.

Similarly, social contract theory — at least, the degraded version of it that emerged in response to Marxism in the later 19th century — assumes that men want freedom, that we are free agents in search of maximal space for self-expression.  This too is backward.  Men are never free agents.  We carry a centuries-old burden of language and culture, custom and belief.  Even in America, the immigrant’s paradise, virtually no one came here alone.  Humans are apes; apes have the most elaborate society in nature.  We migrate as families.

In other words, we confuse liberty with freedom.  Freedom means “no external restraints.”  It’s synonymous with license.  It’s what barbarians have.  Liberty, by contrast, means “self-actualization within rules — specifically, that eons-old matrix of belief and custom.”

Put them together, and it’s clear that representative government isn’t just wrong, but inverted.  It assumes that the worst part of our game — rationality; enlightened self-interest; a preference for liberty, not license — is actually our best.  It has to fail, because it’s backwards.

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Does the State have Limits?

Karl Marx was right about a lot of things, actually — class conflict being the biggest.  He was even right about the “law of increasing immiseration,” for a certain value of “immiseration” — it’s spiritual, not material.  The Frankfurt School saw this (scroll down at the link); that’s one of the reasons they asserted that capitalism makes you crazy.  That was the Frankfurt Schoolers’ recurring nightmare, that the kind of “state capitalism” Lenin warned about would forestall the Revolution forever.

Which is hilarious if you think about it, because it’s the Left who are all in on State Capitalism these days, and the guys in Our Thing — the “Right,” for lack of a better term — who insist on the spiritual necessity of revolution.

Turns out Marx was right about that, too:  First time as tragedy, second as farce.

The problem with any all-encompassing social theory, though, is that it assumes present trends will continue.  Karl Marx was born in 1818 — just three years after Waterloo.  The Industrial Revolution was still in its infancy, so the “proletariat” really was being immiserated at an ever-increasing rate.  The great event of Marx’s early adulthood was the Year of Revolutions,1848.  It doesn’t wash the blood of millions off his hands, but it’s at least understandable that he thought world events really were breaking his way.  By the time of his death (1883) it was clear that a lot of his ideas were, if not fully wrong, then at least in need of serious modification… but by that time “Marxism” had very little to do with Karl Marx.

That’s where there’s room for hope, comrades.  And we need it, because present trends are looking very, very bad for us.

Starting from the top: All previous political commentary assumed that the State has some hard limits.  The least-contentious definition of “sovereignty,” for instance, is “monopoly on the legitimate use of force,” which implies that the ruled can always resort to illegitimate force against their rulers.  This seems to be the default assumption in Our Thing, too — the “molon labe, motherfuckers!” crowd clearly see themselves as the Wolverines from Red Dawn, taking the battle to Incitatus Ocasio-Cortez and the few lickspittles in the security forces that will follow her.  They point to the success of Afghani goatherds against our troops…

… but they never acknowledge that our troops are 10,000 miles away from home, fighting under rules of engagement that make Johnson’s Vietnam ROE look like a how-to guide for the Waffen-SS.  And they certainly never acknowledge the reason our ROE are so restrictive:

Communication speed.

That’s the fundamental limit on state power.  Had the British generals in Boston been able to get the word out in time and actually catch the rebels at Lexington and Concord, there’d have been no American Revolution.  If King Charles had been on Twitter and got the word about the London arsenals before Parliament did, the English Civil War would’ve been over before it started.  Pretty much every single Roman civil war can be traced back to some commander out in the boonies with too much time on his hands.  Put the Emperor on Skype, and we’d still be sacrificing to the Cult of Divine Augustus.

Our guys in Trashcanistan know that every single thing they do is potentially on the net, live, in real time.  See, for example, Obama watching the “get bin Laden” mission.  He had the technical capacity to call it off almost to the minute the choppers crashed.  How long does it take a scrambled electronic signal to reach Islamabad from DC?  That’s your window for independent action.

Now apply that to the United States.  If the government wanted to blast me for wrongthink, how much time would I have?  How long does it take for the computer to see I’ve hit “publish” on this little screed, identify a drone asset in the vicinity, and relay the order?  Five seconds?  Ten?  Then calculate the flight time of the cruise missile from wherever it was launched.  That’s my lifespan, should the State decree it so.  Maybe six, seven minutes, would you say?

How many dronings do you think it’ll take to cow the populace?  Molon labe indeed.  Remember, the government’s spin can go out in real time, too.  Sure, sure, they can convene a blue ribbon commission to “investigate” just why I was that I got droned.  They can even “punish” someone for icing a US citizen without due process.  In the meantime, though, the video of my house getting blown to smithereens is on every computer in the entire world, instantly.  How’s that going to work out, Wolverines?  “Gosh, it turns out it was all a great big misunderstanding.  I’m sure we can trust Space Command not to do it again.”

That’s if present trends continue, of course.  So long as nothing happens to the communications infrastructure, we’re pretty much screwed.

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Building the Vanguard Party

Someone recently pointed me to this excellent article: The Toxoplasma of Rage, at Slate Star Codex.

The tl;dr is that virtue signalling sets up a perverse incentive structure, which The Media then use to generate bullshit clickbait articles that further erode social trust.

The key part of “virtue signalling” is signalling.  That is, nobody’s going to commend you for being, say, anti-rape, because rape is obviously a bad thing, always and everywhere.  If you want to capitalize on being “anti-rape,” then, you have to find someone “pro-rape” to rage against… but since no such being actually exists, what you end up doing is staking out the most extreme position on the most marginal case you can find.

E.g. the Kavanaugh hearings.  Alexander’s piece was written in 2014, so that circus hadn’t happened yet, but it’s a great example of his basic idea.  Absolutely no one was arguing that it’s no big deal for a potential Supreme Court justice to be credibly accused of rape, so the focus immediately shifted from “accused” to “credibly.”  That’s when the whole thing went off the rails — by design.  There’s no virtue juice to be squeezed from the idea that we should evaluate the evidence on its merits, so virtue-signallers immediately started shouting that we must #BelieveAllWomen, no matter what.  And, of course, the crazier Blassey-Ford’s claims became, the more hysterical the #BelieveAllWomen chorus got — again, by design.

The point wasn’t to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation — that was going to happen regardless, since no Senator wanted to go home and tell her constituents that yes, I really believe this guy was the leader of a Satanic rape gang that Blassey-Ford kept hanging out with even after he ran a train on her (or whatever the final fantasy actually was).  Rather, the point was to keep the rage-heads all het up, because it was good for business, and if that meant that some women who actually were raped wouldn’t get the help they need because #BelieveAllWomen became #LieWhenIt’sConvenient, well, so be it.

Such is the “rage toxoplasma” theory of media motivation, anyway, and I think there’s a lot to it.  But I think it’s only partly right.  From that piece, and from brief reading about him, Alexander seems to be one of those “the facts have a liberal bias”-type Lefties that used to be so common in the pre-Twitter world.  You know the type: “If you just looked at the world rationally, comrade, you’d end up sounding like a Howard Dean campaign release just like me.”  See e.g. here, from the linked article:

A while back there was a minor scandal over JournoList, a private group where left-leaning journalists met and exchanged ideas. I think the conservative spin was “the secret conspiracy running the liberal media – revealed!” I wish they had been right. If there were a secret conspiracy running the liberal media, they could all decide they wanted to raise awareness of racist police brutality, pick the most clear-cut and sympathetic case, and make it non-stop news headlines for the next two months. Then everyone would agree it was indeed very brutal and racist, and something would get done.

Instead of “a secret conspiracy running the liberal media,” Alexander attributes all this to an entity he calls “Moloch.”  The JournoListers, you see, are all nice guys who just want the world to be a better place.  It’s just this “Moloch” character, gosh darn it, who keeps the focus off good old fashioned proselytizing and onto clickbait like Ferguson.

Because, you see, it’s The Media’s job to “raise awareness of racist police brutality.”  Because “Then everyone would agree it was indeed very brutal and racist, and something would get done.”

Here’s the obvious rebuttal:

In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

That’s why “gentle giant” Michael Brown, not obvious (according to Alexander) racial brutality victim Eric Garner, got all the headlines.  It’s why obvious fantasias like the UVa “rape” case and “Mattress Girl” got pushed, and why some significant percentage of the country still pretends to believe Brett Kavanaugh was the grand high poobah of a high school rape squad.  If The Media had played it straight — if they’d just reported the facts — the public might’ve made up their minds for themselves.  They — the public — might’ve concluded that the responsibility for an individual’s actions falls on the individual.

In other words: The cop that choked Eric Garner to death might or might not have done it on purpose.  Even IF we conclude that he did, and we conclude that he did it because he’s a racist, that only means that this one, named individual — Officer Daniel Pantaleo — is a racist guilty of homicide.  It would be obvious, in other words, that any editorializing about a “culture of systemic racism within the NYPD” is just that: Editorializing.  Similarly, the just-the-facts approach would make it far too clear that whatever Darren Wilson might’ve felt in his heart of hearts about African-Americans, he was clearly justified in fearing for his life when a guy twice his size who had just robbed a convenience store started grabbing for his gun. Maybe Wilson’s a racist; maybe he’s not; but either assertion is pure speculation, a fact which just-the-facts reportage would’ve made obvious.

And we can’t be having that.

“Rage toxoplasma” is just a means to an end in these types of articles.  The end is: The creation of True Believers.

Consider the example that leads off Alexander’s piece, a typical piece of PETA stupidity.  The details don’t matter; the point is Alexander’s claim that PETA is responding rationally to a perverse set of incentives.  They’re willing to risk pissing off one or two vegans, who swear to start eating meat just to “get back” at PETA, in order to “get a conversation going” about their pet issue.  This, he says, is the “rage toxoplasma” — memes (in this case, “you’re an idiot for eating / not eating meat”) propagate themselves by getting people pissed off at both sides of the issue.

But consider the aftereffects.  How long do you think that vegan is going to keep eating meat?  He’s primarily a virtue-signaller, too, since “telling the world what a superior person you are for being a vegan” is the only reason to be a vegan in the first place.  I’d bet kids’ college fund that soyboy didn’t actually eat any meat; he just said he was going to.  Once he’s fired off that tweet, there’s no more virtue-juice to be squeezed from the situation.  He knows PETA doesn’t care, so why would he risk alienating all his friends — who also surely know that PETA doesn’t care — just to “get back” at PETA by following through with his threat?

The whole thing is a category error.  PETA doesn’t lose anything by pulling a stunt like this, if by “lose” you mean “an additional animal gets eaten.”  In other words, anti-PETA people, even newly minted ones, aren’t going to start doing anything they weren’t doing already.  But if just one person sees the hullaballoo and comes over to PETA’s side….

See what I mean?  That was Lenin’s great insight: The masses will never achieve revolutionary consciousness on their own.  It takes a vanguard party of committed, professional revolutionaries to do it.  It doesn’t take very many, and most of the time, they’ll volunteer.  To get a rage spiral going — the “rage toxoplasma” bit — you need people who are already temperamentally inclined to becoming rage-heads.  They’re already radicals — all you have to do is radicalize them in your chosen direction.

Now consider Michael Brown, Jackie Coakley, Mattress Girl, Blassey-Ford, and all the rest.  Fair, just-the-facts reporting wouldn’t set off any incipient rage-heads, which is why the facts will never be reported in any fashion that would let the level-headed tie them together.  The level-headed aren’t the target audience.  The Media don’t want to “do something” about police brutality, or rape, or factory farming, or anything else.  They love those things, because by “reporting” on them, they get potential rage-heads to freak out and become actual rage-heads.

A vegan who decides to eat meat to “punish” PETA won’t do a goddamn thing.  Even if he actually snarfs down a burger (which everyone involved knows he won’t), big deal — that’s five minutes of his life gone, and afterwards he’ll go back to being the same Democrat-voting, Incitatus Ocasio-Cortez-loving, social justice-warrioring soyboy freak he always was.  He’s still one of the shock troops.  A person who concludes, by contrast, that Michael Brown really was a “gentle giant,” or that Kavanaugh really bossed a rape gang, or what have you, is now Trigglypuffed for life.  She’s in, she’s yours, and now you’ve got one more dedicated full-time Social Justice Warrior to unleash on normie society.

The Media aren’t themselves the vanguard party; they’re just its recruiting officers.  Understand that, and their coverage, including the “rage toxoplasma” stuff, makes a lot more sense.

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Random Thoughts

I got nothin’, so here’s a placeholder:

Ocasio-Cortez:  I could say a million things about this woman, starting with “I knew this day would come.”  The day, that is, when the smugly ignorant, gravity-distortingly solipsistic Millennials would finally take the reins.  AOC is every stupid, lazy, narcissistic college girl I’ve ever met, which is to say, every single American girl I’ve met under the age of 50.  And remember, I have met a LOT of college girls.  In many cases, I met them when they were in college, and ran into them again years or decades later.  They were exactly the same.  The real world just bounces off them.  That bitch armor’s too strong for blasters.

could say all that (for about the zillionth time), but what’s the point?  By now you either believe me or you don’t, that’s she’s the Left’s Donald Trump — a clown show that no one could possibly take seriously, a goofy vanity candidate that doesn’t have a chance in hell… until she’s sitting in the White House.  Instead, I’ll just lament our lack of Classical education.  She’s a goof with donkey chompers whose presence in the legislative chamber is an insult to the very concept of responsible government… and nobody has busted out an Incitatus allusion?  It even rolls off the tongue: Incitatus Ocasio-Cortez.  For shame.

Speaking of goofsTim Newman’s going off on the polyamorists again.  Always good for a chuckle.  Mostly it’s just a link to his blog, though, because it’s great, and if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor.

Overthinking.  Our Thing tends to over-intellectualize.  I know, I know, I sound like a Leftist, talking about how smart and wonderful we are and we’re science’s BFFs, but look: At this stage of our existence, we really do.  The Left really did, too, at one point — the Old Old Left, the Karl Kautsky / Edouard Bernstein / Georgi Plekhanov Left, was fearsomely intellectual.  (That the thing they were fearsomely intellectual about, Marxism, had zero truth-value doesn’t negate the fact that these guys were big-league intellectuals).  See here, for example.

The Z Man’s great, but this is much ado about nothing.  Maybe we don’t have free will.  Hell, maybe Camus was right, and the only problem in philosophy is the problem of suicide — as in, life’s pointless in the long run and there’s way more pain than pleasure in the short run, so why don’t we just off ourselves?  In fact, let’s go all-in: It’s very likely true that we’re the product of chance, a brief instant of time on a cloud of congealed dust at the unimportant edge of a random galaxy.  We won’t know until we’re dead… no, scratch that, if it’s true, we will never know, because there’s no “we” to know it, and even if there were — that is, if “we” somehow survive after death, because “we” were wrong about that atoms-in-void stuff, “we” will have no way of sharing that knowledge anyway.

The point is: Nobody can live as if that were true.  Nobody ever has, not for one single second, not in all of human existence, from the moment we dropped out of the trees until right this very instant.  It’s impossible, and because it’s impossible, even if we were to prove that all our actions are just gene expressions, we can’t act as if they are — we will assign guilt to the guy who pulls the trigger, no matter how certain it is that it’s just his programming, because that is our programming.

It’s fun to speculate about this stuff, especially as the human sciences in toto are now on the Index of Prohibited Books, but it’s ultimately pointless.

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Addendum: The Washington Generals of Politics Strike Again!

So not only does Coonman the Babykiller Northam have pics floating around of him in either blackface or a KKK robe, but his Lt. Gov. raped a chick and the Virginia Attorney General, the third in line to the governorship, also has a blackface photo floating around.  Oh, and it took a bunch of old-Left partisans desperately trying to clear the way for their idol Hillary to once again lemming their party off the Presidential cliff, to discover that Elizabeth “Little Rounding Error” Warren was calling herself a feather-not-dot Indian to advance her career as early as the mid 1980s.

Nobody in the state or national GOP, apparently, has the necessary smarts and tech savvy to run a google search on their opponents.

Yeah, right.

The fix is absolutely goddamn in.  Just as the Dems tried the novel experiment of building a cult of personality without an actual personality in 2016, so it is revealed that the Republicans have decided to try caesarism without bothering with Caesar.

I will never vote for another Republican.  I’ll vote for Trump IF AND ONLY IF he builds the fucking wall between now and 2020; I’m never voting for another GOP candidate.  What could possibly be the point?

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Oh, and By the Way….

In the wake of last night’s Super Bowl, lots of folks on our side linking to some lunatic at someplace like Salon, claiming that the Patriots are the team of “white supremacy” and “Donald Trump’s America.”

Remember when I wanted to do that thing with the white Patriots hat?  More than a year ago, I think it was.  Bet you wish you’d listened to me now!!!  We could’ve been the most fashion-forward 12 people in America, but now we’d just look like bandwagon-riding posers.

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Learned Helplessness

As fun as it is to watch Virginia’s baby-murdering governor “Coonman” Northam getting hoist by his own KKK robe,  the fallout is going to tell us a lot about where we’re headed.

Forget the gross hypocrisy for a sec.  That’s par for the course with Democrats.  Of course he won’t resign; Dems never do.  They just power through, knowing the Media will do everything in their power not to cover the story, and to hype to the stars whatever shiny they can find in the next day or two to take the public’s mind off it (for the conspirazoids: They’re no doubt auditioning “crisis actors” as we speak.  Stay away from gay nightclubs, Black churches, or the tonier parts of Chicago at 2am in subzero temperatures just to be safe).

Nor should we want him to.  But that’s the thing, isn’t it?  This affair confirms what we’ve long suspected:  The GOP really are the Washington Generals of politics.  Joining the amen chorus calling for Northam’s head would be stupid — since you know he won’t resign, every Republican politician in every race higher than dogcatcher can hammer the Democrats with the Kleagle in the Virginia Statehouse.  The Dems have already all but said their national slate will be 100% Diverse this year; replace “a thousand points of light” with “Northam didn’t resign,” then do the GHW Bush shuffle in every single debate.  They won’t do it, of course, but that’s just garden-variety stupidity.

The real kicker is: How did Ed Gillespie’s people not see this?

These are paid political consultants.  Gillespie’s campaign took in north of $29 million dollars. including $13 million from “ideological / single issue” donors.  They had all that money, and nobody decided to schlep on down to Podunk Medical School and pull his yearbook?  While nobody expects the nancy boys at the GOP to give a Democratic candidate the full Sarah Palin treatment, dispatching people to root around in the literal garbage cans outside his house, you’d think pulling paper from his college years would be a standard dirt-digging maneuver.  He was in med school, for pete’s sake, and if you’ve ever met a med student, as Tim Newman points out, you know they’re not exactly models of tact, dignity, and restraint (the “hooking yourself up to a saline drip after a bender” thing is standard operating procedure; a bag of saline and a few huffs of oxygen cure a hangover right up… I’ve heard).

It beggars belief.  Gillespie was himself a lobbyist before he ran for office; after losing to “Coonman,” he’s a lobbyist again.  Nobody’s that lazy, stupid, and incompetent, not even professional political parasites, not even Republican ones.  They knew.  Which means one of two things must be true:

  1. They didn’t tell their candidate about career-destroying dirt on his opponent, which is criminally-actionable malfeasance; or
  2. They told him, and he sat on it, because the fix was in.

I know which one I’m going with.  How about you?

It’s all Caesarism, baby.  The mandarins have to maintain at least a sham of “democracy” to keep the plebs from burning things.  They’re pretty bad at it now, but that’s because they’re stupid, out-of-touch, and old.  Kids these days are better at working the google machine than they are, so embarrassments like this, or supposed paragon-of-principled-conservatism Bill Kristol donating to Coonman the Babykiller over Gillespie (he of the $13 million in “single-issue” money), keep coming out.  Eventually it will dawn on the mandarins that they have to be a bit smarter about covering their tracks, airbrushing away old photos and the like.  Zuckerberg has already gotten a good start; they just have to capitalize.*

In fact, Caesarism might well be the best case scenario, in that it’s always possible that the plebs will see through the sham and riot.  The other possibility — the one I consider likeliest, natch — is that some of these seemingly ham-fisted ops are actually designed to get us into a state of learned helplessness.  Does anyone, anywhere, think Ed Gillespie would ever have been allowed to run for anything if the situation had been reversed?  These days, Twitter mobs form up over things college athletes tweeted when they were 14 years old; I wouldn’t be surprised if this kid ends up going undrafted — costing him millions of dollars — because teams don’t want to deal with the PR disaster of something he did when he was a freshman in high school.  If there were photos of Ed Gillespie in blackface out there, they would’ve been found within 24 hours of him declaring his candidacy.

In other words, the message is: No one could possibly be squeaky-clean enough to escape punishment, if We decide you must be punished.  Similarly, if We decide We like you, you can rise to a life of affluence beyond your wildest dreams, no matter what you did in the past.

Hey, it worked for Stalin, and he didn’t even have Facebook.


*What, you thought that “ten year challenge” thing was just for fun?  From Facebook, the closest thing to MiniTrue this side of Airstrip One?  That’s one of the obvious applications — mocking up a convincingly youthful-looking picture of guys like Northam, to insert into digital (and, soon enough, physical) copies of old records.
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Movies Made on Mars

In the comments on the previous piece, WOPR asked which movie I was watching that seemed to have been made on Mars.  It was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is a great example of the phenomenon.  I wasn’t an undergrad in 1982, but even in 1992 I could see myself in the Fast Times kids.  By 2002, though, it already seemed like a distant world, and I doubt kids in 2012 would understand more than a fraction of it.  It’s not the period-specific jokes, the kind that make, say, Gilbert and Sullivan difficult to even follow, let alone laugh at.  There are a few of these, of course — the kids sniffing fresh mimeograph pages to get high — but mostly it’s the zeitgeist.

Start with Judge Reinhold’s character (they have names, of course, but nobody remembers any character’s name but Spicoli).  He’s supposed to be a typical everyman high school senior, but to modern audiences he comes off like a grandfather, if not a great-grandfather.  He’s got a job, for pete’s sake, which he seems to take, you know, seriously — to the point of passing up social opportunities because he has to work.  He has a car, one that he obviously pays for himself… I was going to say it’s the typical student beater, except that doesn’t make sense either — today’s kids, if the ones who go off to college are at all representative, either drive very nice rides that their folks obviously went miles into debt to buy for them, or simply don’t drive at all.  Most importantly, he keeps buggering on with all that, despite some serious “is this all there is to life?”-type misgivings, because that’s simply what one does.  Or did, anyway.

About the only teenager-ish thing he does that modern kids would recognize is jerk off (a life-altering scene for any boy who saw it in his sexually formative years; I myself will always love Phoebe Cates a little).

Speaking of that, here’s Spicoli’s room (NSWF, needless to say):

The wine-bottle candle and the bongos are indigenous to Southern California, but everything else is Typical American Teenager.  He’s a bit more brazen about it — we didn’t leave bongs, cigarettes, and beer bottles right out there in the open — but when I was a young lad your typical American kid could be expected to know what all of those objects are, at the very least, and probably have sampled one or all of them.  It was not unknown, in fact, for parents to simply give their offspring their first taste of alcohol, on the theory that since you’re going to be surrounded by it at parties anyway, it’s better to learn about it now, under controlled conditions (I would say that my Dad drank my first beer with me when I was about fourteen, since nothing beats a cold one after a long afternoon’s yard work, but since that’s probably felony child abuse now I’ll say that I heard that happened once, to some other kid).  Along the same lines — stuff I heard happened to some other kid — who can forget Mom’s evil grin when she caught you lighting one up from the pack of Marlboros Grandpa forgot the last time he was over, and made you smoke all of them?

The point, if anyone from the younger generations has endured my crusty old man ramblings this far, is that one was expected to deal with the consequences of one’s actions.  Our parents did not assume — as parents seem to now — that having been kept religiously away from intoxicants their entire childhoods, children will somehow acquire the wisdom to enjoy them responsibly the very minute the clock chimes on their 21st birthday.  On the contrary, our parents seemed to expect a certain amount of youthful rebelliousness as necessary and healthy.  Moreover, they expected their kids to somewhat police themselves, to understand the distinction between “a little harmless youthful rebellion” and “a serious problem” — e.g. sneaking a beer at a tailgate vs. swiping a bottle of vodka, or taking a bong hit vs. raiding the medicine cabinet.

Which brings us to the most Mars-like feature of Spicoli’s room — the posters on the walls.  Holy rape culture, Batman!!  Again, since Fast Times is a comedy he’s a bit more brazen about it, but absolutely no one would’ve complained about bikini model posters on a boy’s wall in 1982.  Or 1992, for that matter, since swapping the pictures you cut out of the Swimsuit Edition for something more “serious” was one of the ways you reconciled yourself to growing up and getting ready to graduate.  The first thing every boy did when he went off to college was slap a cheesecake shot on the wall by his bed; you and your roommate bonded over your bikini model choice.  Unless you were a dedicated practitioner of the frat bro lifestyle, though — a serious choice in itself — by the time you hit junior year Cindy Crawford was replaced by Bob Marley, or Elvis Costello, or US out of Trashcanistan, or Save the Whales, or whatever.  [Girls did the same thing, of course, and despite the impossible, socially-imposed beauty standards of Stephanie Seymour and Johnny Depp we managed to get along with each other, even hook up from time to time… though not as often as some of us would’ve liked].

These days, I’m sure, the very suggestion of heterosexuality in your dorm room will get you shipped off to reeducation.

The point isn’t that things were better in my day — though they were, if by “things” you mean “boys and girls didn’t hate and fear each other” — but that Spicoli’s world, which was for all intents and purposes my world, not only doesn’t exist anymore, but seems impossible.  They live in bizarro world, those teens who, despite not once attending SAT prep classes or getting a single participation trophy, seem healthy and happy and… outgoing, I guess the word is, and when was the last time you heard someone described that way?  They seem to relate to each other as people, and when they don’t — e.g. Mike Damone — they’re rightly shunned as loathsome.

Tl;dr version — just think about what it would take to “reboot” Fast Times, and you’ll see what I mean.

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