What Comes Next

I got nothin’ today, but since I’m trying to post less erratically let’s knock out a no-brainer:

George Orwell said

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.

Hanlon’s razor says

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Put them together and you get the Twilight of the Gods, Western culture version.

Take the latter first.  Hanlon’s razor is in need of some serious modification, and since I’m a humble guy I’ll call it the Severian Corollary: Some stupidity is so mind-boggling, you actually pray that it’s malice.  We’ll be sifting through the fallout of the various Trump Administration non-scandals for a long, long time, but one horrifying conclusion is immediately obvious: Our leaders are seriously stupid.  Not the ordinary kind of rich-people-living-in-a-bubble stupid, but something much closer to real, actual, honest-to-god mental retardation.  For every cynic out there who knew that the “Russia collusion” stuff was an op from jump street, there are ten people with actual power and real influence who truly believed it.

I’ll repeat: When presented with the thesis that the President of the United States — a man with the keys to the world’s largest economy, and the firing codes for a nuclear arsenal that could vaporize the solar system — was a paid agent of a foreign power, taking orders direct from a hostile government: sitting Congressmen, media people with audiences in the millions, and every single member of our higher educational system (not to mention lots of people working serious jobs with actual responsibilities and bigtime salaries to match), said “Yeah, sounds right.”

See what I mean?  You fucking well pray that’s malice, because otherwise when you go to your doctor to get that lump checked out, you’re facing the real possibility that she thinks something along the lines of “Donald Trump pissed on a hooker in a Moscow hotel room, and that’s how Putin stole the election.”

Now consider the first quote.  Since I’m the opposite of a power worshiper (a power loather, I guess that would be), I know present trends never continue.  Presently, the trends are that all goodthinkers believe race is nothing but a social construction, we’re all blank slates, and oh yeah, the President pissed on a Russian hooker.  But since these are so obviously false — so brain-blisteringly stupid, in fact, that you search for something, anything, to rationalize people’s seeming belief in them — the present trends will not only stop, but reverse course.

Human affairs are a pendulum.  Pendulums always swing back, and the further it goes in one direction, the harder it swings back in the other.  Thus, the obvious conclusion is that what’s coming is a kind of biological determinism so absolute, it’ll give de Gobineau a stiffie in the afterlife.  Do you now, or have you ever, used the word “gender” to describe anything other than a Latin noun?  Do you now, or have you ever, known how to spell “intersectionality”?  Have you ever pierced anything other than your ears, or sported a hair color not found in nature?

The Handmaid’s Tale is coming, all right, but only because the college population, both undergrad and grad/professional, is overwhelmingly female.  If you’ve had all those years of very expensive training and you still think the President gets his marching orders from Moscow, then obviously The Patriarchy fumbled the fucking ball.  Time to give purdah a serious look, and as for Diversity being Our Strength…

Like I say, obvious.  But Orwell also said that in times like these, the first duty of intelligent men is simply to point out the obvious.

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12 thoughts on “What Comes Next

  1. WOPR

    From about 1985 until 2001, it was the Tom Clancy Era. People really believed the government was seriously competent. You saw it in films like Independence Day or shows like the X-Files. Good or bad, the government was competent at what it did. It only took some guys flying planes that they couldn’t land to shatter that mindset.

    Since then, it has become increasingly obvious that not only do the people in charge hate the people they rule over, they are not even competent at it. A president declares a religion peaceful after its adherents kill thousands of citizens. We cannot even invade Iraq for the base purpose of using their oil for out own ends. Instead it is some neocon democracy madness. A cipher, in Obama, somehow gets elected president. The Border. That’s all that needs to be said, The Border. A coup, attempt that if the press was not completely in the bag for the establishment, would be laughable. The fact that Trump actually shows some competence compared to these clowns. It is a cavalcade of incompetence.

  2. Joseph Moore

    Aside: I love your colorful turns of phrase, laugh out loud, even, but it means I can’t show your essays to my wife, who is a proper lady. I have to paraphrase it for her, and it thus loses so much! I guess we’ll just have to keep it between us two.

    Had an unpleasant run in with the Gender Warriors recently, and I find I can’t even say the phrase ‘Gender is a social construct’ without reverting to the style of the pot-addled hippies I grew up with, and adding ‘man’: “Gender is a social construct, man.” “Totally. Don’t bogart the weed, man.”

    Maybe it’s just a proximity effect, but the Stupid! It Burns!

  3. MBlanc46

    How does confirmation bias fit into your model? Do they see a lot of nonexistent things because those are the things that they expect to see or want to see? Even the quite intelligent are subject to confirmation bias.

    1. Pickle Rick

      I would call it less confirmation bias than ideological blinders- Everything has to be seen and reported through that prism, added to the cult of leftist bureaucracy. Historically, that’s why the Soviets were fantastic at gathering intelligence, but absolutely shit at correct evaluation of it, because everything had to be sanitized and fit into the “correct” political mindset. Eventually, the underlings only report the intelligence that the next higher nomenklatura required to step up the ladder. Andropov nearly initiated full nuclear war based on faulty analysis of Able Archer in 1983.

      Our Democratic masters in politics are the modern politburo, hidebound and unable to see the revolution brewing under their noses. They actually think Diversity is Our Strength and there’s 57 genders, and don’t believe that grinding our face in their lunacy is creating a real undercurrent of hatred.

    2. Severian Post author

      Pickle Rick nailed it. I’ve tried every explanation I can think of for our leaders’ behavior, other than stupidity. Confirmation bias? Sure, some of that. Groupthink? Absolutely, a bit. The echo chamber effect? I know from echo chambers from my life in academia, so yeah, there’s some of that too. Wishful thinking? Of course; we’re all prone to it, generally the more so the smarter we are.

      But even when you discount for all of that, there’s a huge body of evidence that only points to one thing: Stupidity. It’s what I’ve been trying to get at (evidently very poorly) with that “juju” stuff. It’s a special, throwback, utterly terrifying kind of stupidity.

      The Soviets were a good example of what we could call “functional stupidity.” Their ideological blinders messed them up, yes, but most of the time their misunderstanding of reality was systematic. If you knew The Scriptures, you could predict with ballpark-level accuracy what they’d do; if you had more specific information, you could dial it in further. That’s how guys like Robert Conquest got so much right about Soviet history without access to the relevant documents.

      Our leaders, by contrast, have terrifying dysfunctional stupidity. Someone like Nancy Pelosi is good at the nuts and bolts of politics — getting a bill passed and whatnot — but as for what she and the hive decide is important today, they might as well be sacrificing a goat and studying the entrails. They can’t prioritize, they can’t rank and sift information, they can’t see the noses in front of their faces, even as some Vibrant is smashing it in for them. E.g. the Muller thing — it’s actually much scarier to think that was planned, because if it were, it would require about sixteen zillion people to be on the exact same page at all times, a Rube Goldberg contraption of moving parts. But it wasn’t planned. It just…kinda….happened, because some dumbass had what he thought was a brilliant idea at the time and was too stupid to bother to think even half a step ahead.

  4. RRW

    And you said “I got nothin today’”. Forsooth!

    This is, of course, scary, scary shit, and I think I may have bumped up against it today when a lady I’ve been seeing for just a short time (I’m older than you, Sev) informed me that we’re in “different places” and that “things that are important parts of my personality and beliefs are very different than yours”. And she seemed so nice . . .

  5. MBlanc46

    Perhaps functional stupidity is not low IQ. I’d imagine that Nancy Pelosi’s IQ is at least one SD above the norm. And, as you point out, her judgment—the ability to apply abstract concepts to particular cases—is pretty good in the domain of short-term political gain. We think that her long-term political judgment is dreadful. Doesn’t she see what a catastrophe she’s creating for her grandchildren? Short-termism is perhaps a factor in functional stupidity. Then there’s the objective situation. The employer class that funds politics demand something for their largesse: an unending supply of cheap labor, wherever it is in the world. Whatever Nancy really thinks, she knows that she has to deliver what her paymasters want. (And note that Repubs for the most part know the same thing and do the same thing.) The corporate paymasters are in pretty much the same boat. They have to do what they have to do to keep that 6 or 7 or 8 figure income streaming in. Perhaps they sometimes catch a glimmer of the long-term consequences of their actions. Perhaps in order to reduce cognitive dissonance, they mostly manage to suppress any bad thoughts. I imagine it wasn’t all that different for the garden-variety Soviet apparatchik. The truly dim simply didn’t have the nous to get off the collective farm. Those who did had the wit to see that the only way to climb the ladder, and, with luck, avoid the camps, was to parrot whatever today’s instantiation of the Party line was. Whatever Ivan actually thought, life was easier if he convinced himself that they were at war with East Asia, they’d always been at war with East Asia, and that he loved Big Brother. It may actually be the case that first-rate functional stupidity requires a fair amount of analytical intelligence.

    1. Severian Post author

      I’d agree that functional stupidity (what Orwell called “crimestop;” protective stupidity) often takes quite a bit of shrewdness, and because it does, the discipline of “Sovietology” could score some successes.* But I argue that our leaders are NOT functionally stupid. They’re stupid-stupid, a primitive, juju-style stupidity. They think they’re pleasing their masters, yes, but their masters are stupid-stupid too…

      … that’s the only beef I have with Joseph Tainter’s theory in The Collapse of Complex Societies. IIRC,. he argues that societies evolve a series of adaptations that work for a given situation, but when the situation changes, the adaptation is such an integral part of the society that change is literally impossible — most people can’t even see it, and those that can are so invested in the current system that they’d be killed long before any serious reform got off the ground (see e.g. any of the brighter Roman emperors of the 3rd-5th centuries). I think he’s right, but doesn’t emphasize that “most people don’t even see it” stuff. They don’t even realize that things CAN change — that the forts on the Rhine that kept the barbarians at bay for 300 years don’t work anymore. Faced with the sight of Goths rampaging through the streets, they still somehow convince themselves that it’s a problem of not paying legionaries enough, or switching commanders, or something, anything, other than that the old way of looking at the world is busted. And hey, since it got them where they are — which is at the top of the social ladder, with a nice cushy life (when the Goths aren’t inside the gates) — it must be right….

      *(provided the “Sovietologists” weren’t themselves victims of their own kind of protective stupidity. Robert Conquest, for example, was a pariah in academia for decades, because he was right about Stalin’s terror purges and everyone knew it, even though the academic establishment did everything in their power to “disprove” it. Conquest had the last laugh, though — when his book The Great Terror was about to be reissued following the opening of ex-Soviet archives, one of his few supporters in public life suggested Conquest should “update” the title, as well — to I Told You So, You Fucking Fools.)

  6. MBlanc46

    This appears to be in the same ballpark as the idea, current when I was a student, that our conceptual scheme is a determinant of our experience. As Thomas Kuhn put it, our theories determine what can count as evidence for or against them. People can’t see a so-and-so as a so-and-so because their conceptual scheme doesn’t have a place for so-and-soes. As a current example (not being as knowledgeable about Roman history), white liberals simply can’t see black criminality as black criminality because their conceptual scheme doesn’t have a spot for black victimizers, but only black victims.

    1. Severian Post author

      I see what you mean, but I doubt it even rises to the level of “conceptual scheme.” I think they’re just plain dumb, an almost instinctive stupidity. For instance, one spring I saw a bird smashing itself repeatedly into a plate-glass window. I finally figured it out: Spring is mating season; the bird sees its own reflection in the glass; it’s attacking what it thinks is a rival male.

      This continued until the bird knocked itself senseless.

      I’m really coming to believe the Left is like that. They can’t see it. Literally can’t. Their brains are broken.

      [PS I haven’t read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, but I’ve read a lot about it. David Stove’s critique is a killer. Kuhn’s “paradigm shift” seems to suffer from what Stove calls “The Ishmael Effect” — some kind of special exemption seems to be built into it. Otherwise, how would Kuhn, alone of all men, be able to escape the limits of his “paradigm,” sufficient to tell us that no one can escape the limits of his paradigm?]

  7. Pickle Rick

    You can’t discount the visceral hatreds our putative masters have that warp any good sense or intelligence that influence their actions. Cat Fancy and the Bolsheviks had a whole bunch of highly educated (really, over educated) people that made fundamentally stupid decisions based on their all consuming desire to destroy everything in their path.

    1. MBlanc46

      Good point. Hatred—and other strong emotions—has a noticeable effect on perception. Hence, the old saying, “Love is blind “. Ideological blindness, confirmation bias, entrenched paradigm, overpowering emotion add up to behavior that appears stupid, even delusional (boys who say that they think that they are girls really are girls), but to the Leftist not only makes sense, but is the only thing that makes sense. Whatever their psychology is, it’s clear that there’s no point in debating them. We live in different worlds. There’s no common ground for debate. The question is, how do we fight them?

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