true, i'm in the wall street journal today, talking about 'linguistic constructivism' and campus speech repression.
true, i'm in the wall street journal today, talking about 'linguistic constructivism' and campus speech repression.
Interesting article about Britain, English folk music and tradition, and in a way, about us. Stick in the Wheel is a relatively new English Folk Group, and started to wonder about the roots of English traditional music. Nicola Keary and Ian Keary are two members of the band and recorded a series of field recordings of traditional British music with a wide variety of the musicians currently practicing the art. They wrote the piece for the Guardian and it's well worth it. The resulting album, From Here, is being released today and is available as MP3 and CD from Amazon and others.
The UK is at least as diverse a nation as we are, with many similar problems, and we share a surprising number of anal-retentive characteristics. The Brits voted for BREXIT with less than half the electorate showing up and a lot of votes in favor of it just because they were pissed off at the seeming inability of government to cope and rather than blame it on themselves for electing the Tory wankers, they decided to blame the EU as the representative of all their woes.
The message of protest is often intrinsic or hidden. It has to be quietly subversive because our enemies are among us: our rulers and bosses
We, of course, had less than half the electorate show up and of that, less than half voted for Donald Trump. Our food, beer and dental work is superior; they have better schools for the most part and a functioning national health service, except they've shown in it and the other aspects of community life that if you want to have nice things as a nation, you need to spend the necessary money. Trump shares little with Margaret Thatcher except greed and basic deep-seated meanness.
on splicetoday and on twitter i've been arguing that trump may well have a point that he's been under surveillance. perhaps he went for those accusations of wiretapping after the intel people let him see that they have his communications. on the other hand, i think you'd say that that campaign should have indeed been under investigation. but lord living in the surveillance state is complicated and really we've undergone an intelligence coup, more or less.
This was in the LATimes circa 2003, also did some kind of bit on it on NPR.
By Crispin Sartwell
The other day my fifteen-year-old son needed to complete a homework assignment at the very last minute for his Spanish class. From a list of topics he chose to write a biography of Tito Puente. I asked what he knew about Tito Puente, and he told me that he'd googled and found that Tito Puente was a musician and also the leader of a European nation. It came to me that he'd confounded the King of Mambo with the Chair for Life of Yugoslavia.
But the biography would be richer in detail and more coherent if it conflated these eminent lives and so I resolved not to disabuse him. Here, word for word, is his report, for which, with a faith that touched me deeply, he depended on me for the research.
Marshall Tito Puente was that rare combination: political strongman and mambo percussionist. He played the timbale and the vibes as perfectly as he played the political winds that blew through Eastern Europe in the wake of World War 2, riding them to an ecstatic synthesis of absolute power and worldwide pop superstardom.
Indeed, he anticipated the astonishing political/pop crossover acts of our own era, displaying simultaneously the political acumen of a Barbra Streisand and the irresistible pop hookcraft of a Richard Gephardt. He purged his political rivals with the same improvisational megalomania that he employed to dominate the luxurious New York ballrooms of the fifties He'd beat you to death, as it were, with the same sticks he used to make you slither drunkenly around the dance floor in your best outfit.
Marshall Tito Puente was born Josip Broz in 1892 in the tiny village of Kumrovec to a peasant family. He made his name as a salsa agitator in the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes between the wars, and was at first an enthusiastic ally of Stalin. Around the same time, he and his sister joined the "Stars of the Future" neighborhood arts organization, where young Tito was noted for his precocious cha-cha. Stalinism served as the model for Tito's "iron irritant of bureaucracy," as well as for his uproarious stage antics, imitated in turn by everyone from Desi Arnaz and Sheila E to Saddam Hussein.
But after leading the Puerto Rican resistance to Hitler - with his death camps and obsession with Patti Page - Tito Puente emerged as the primary figure in the newly constituted Leninist music fad. He served an apprenticeship in some of the finest Latin bands of the period, including those of Juan Peron and Fidel Castro, whom Tito always credited for teaching him the music business.
Finally, he led a fiercely independent Yugoslavia to its break with Charo, whose control of communism on the American airwaves was sagging even as her behavior became more erratic and Diva-esque. At the decisive moment, he issued the classic Dancemania, named in one critics' poll as one of the 25 most influential political manifestoes of the twentieth century.
A newspaper review of the period referred to Tito's "ability to literally drive a crowd crazy with his spicy heat from south of the border," a skill that served him well in international diplomacy, as well as in his efforts to confine political opponents to psychiatric facilities. Later he was to train that seductive beat squarely on Richard Nixon and a series of other American presidents, who invited him to perform at the White House even as they attacked his brand of Marxism. As Watergate broke over a shocked nation, Tito moonlighted as the eldest member of the Jackson 5.
He was declared President for Life in 1976, and in his career recorded about 120 albums, more than almost any other dictator in history. He won five Yugoslav Grammies. His influence is still felt today among members of the current generation of Latin music stars, such as Selena, Enrique Iglesias, and Pervez Musharraf.
So when someone tries to tell me I can't, I tell them right back about Marshall Tito Puente. Anything you can dream of being - tap-dancing firefighter, incredibly stupid professor of physics, white NBA star, or sweet and sour pork - you can be. Be it all and - like Tito - be so much more.
Crispin Sartwell's latest book is "Extreme Virtue: Truth and Leadership in Five Great American Lives"
i'm in splicetoday this week with my peace anarchist schtick. when you're at the point where the anarchists are demanding speech repression, you really have run out of liberatory options. it's been months since i've seen a human being with non-totalitarian politics. scroll down for a gallery of some peace anarchists. i have some political advice: aspire. but don't aspire to be an oppressor. seek to refute rather than silence your opponents. don't focus your resistance on the realm of signs, symbols, words, awards shows. which is worse and which is real: 10,000 new ice agents, or milo? try to get somewhere other than mere hatred for your opponents, and remember that the fact that an argument has a conclusion you like doesn't make it sound. try not to devote the next decade to relentlessly insulting your enemies, for example by pretending to diagnose their mental illnesses. try to say what's true. i'd rather you didn't start a red/blue civil war, but if that's your direction, start by considering whether your mouth is writing checks your guts can't cash. peace, yo.
The invocation to prayer in the new religion - or ancient superstition - goes like this: 'words have power.' What that means is that you ought to be silenced, or, you answer to us for what you say. I'd call it voodoo, but that's unfair to voodoo. It asserts that words are supernatural weapons that can be wielded to commit assault at a distance. It asserts that I can reach out and 'literally' commit violence against whole groups of people and the individuals in them (if we can indeed distinguish any individuals in them), by sitting here in York Springs typing. While I do appreciate the supernatural powers you are attributing to me, I am not actually a witch, and I can't actually harm you with incantations, spells, or writing a word of power on a piece of paper and folding it up just so. You think you can control reality as a whole by silencing people; and you're gearing up to impose your superstition by an authoritarian regime. You have already verbally cleansed America's colleges, which at this point are the merest re-education camps. Simulated unanimity and continual self-censorship, produced under massive social pressure and by policy, are incompatible with education in a free society, obviously. I don't think you are any more democratic, rational, or decent than Trump, and I'm beginning to wonder where I can go to escape you both. I don't think you're doing anything substantive for social justice, just trying to achieve the impression or illusion of it. I do think you should turn your attention to the math department and work on suppressing oppressive numbers.
It would be hard to deny that numbers have power, if abstract things like words can have power. It would be hard to argue that, if words are the sort of thing that could oppress people, numbers are not. Indeed, you are being oppressed by numbers right now, even as we reduce your ass to statistics and your personality to your membership in some demographic segment. You're oppressed by your SAT score, by the balance in your bank account, by the numbers on the bills in your mailbox. You might want to think about the historical role of numbers in racism, for example: all those ledgers and bills of sale. And what if i call you a 0, or put a minus sign before the name of your group? We are very oppressed by our divisions, which are multiplying. Delete these things from public space and your personal idiolect. Do it now. You're also being oppressed by fictional characters, mythological beings, sense impressions, logical entailments, Platonic Forms, and by the very concept of injustice, which should, along with the word 'injustice,' be ruthlessly suppressed. Anyway, of course, many actual numbers have been regarded as taboo or have been suppressed: that is, some numbers have been and are really offensive in the same sense as many words. So do to the number-line what you're trying to do to the language and delete delete delete!
To be fair, you also do want to ban, with regard to members of certain groups, particular hairstyles, hats, shoes, accents, musical styles, and so on (for example, because of 'cultural appropriation'). So it's not just words, but all kinds of signs and symbols and identities and expressions and arts. You want control of public space and people's self-presentations and expressions within that space. You demand control of my body in more or less every respect; you want to operate me like a marionette. You demand micro-control of my body to address possible micro-aggressions that could emerge from it. You want to rearrange my legs because i'm manspreading or whatever it may be. That's your cure for oppression, yes? That is the liberation you offer.
I have some news to break to you. We are not the stories we tell. This world is not a narrative. We did not construct this universe or ourselves or one another by weaving a tapestry of words. We do yap ceaselessly, but it usually amounts to next to nothing. We cannot make a new world by re-narrating or getting control of the signs; we can only make a collective delusion, and not even that, because the thing is too flimsy to delude. Words have power indeed in this account: the power to create worlds! a power not even Odin or Zeus could claim. Wait remind me how you reached this conclusion? because I never could quite figure that out even when I heard Richard Rorty do the schtick.
My view is that racism became unconscious when white people started thinking that racism was a matter of what words we use. We ditched all the bad words, and were innocent, and the structural racism of the country just went right on, or even intensified. You have got to learn from that, alright? Making people talk in some prescribed way just makes reality and representation, the real deal and the narrative, come apart completely. That is what you are demanding.
Remember when you were going to ban fake news? It was right-wing propaganda that was destroying our very concept of truth, blahblahblah. It took 30 seconds for 'fake news' to be appropriated by the right. Your enemy took your gun and pistol-whipped you with it. In general, all the mechanisms of social control, formal and informal, that you are instituting and want to institute can be reversed on you suddenly, and make you an enemy of the people, a traitor, etc. Your goals are different than your opponents'; your procedures the same. They will be visited upon you.
You might think that all this continues the beautiful legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr, of James Baldwin, of Malcolm X, of Ralph Ellison, of Zora Neale Hurston, of Richard Wright, of W.E.B. Dubois, of Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells. Now I have a challenge for you: show me where any of these people advocated speech repression as a way to address racism. This is new, y'all: a distortion, a falsification, a disaster in which the oppressed seek to become oppressors, imitate their oppressors. This is where these movements turned from the physical reality of oppression to the symbolic reality of symbolic oppression, which can be addressed only by oppression.
[by request of @LFBookReview, repost of an entry from 2011]
alright let me have a crack at the welfare state. before i start, let me say that if you accuse me of being a libertarian, i feel i will survive, as long as you don't conflate my position with that of ayn rand. i want to put this in the context of an overall reading of squishy totalitarianism: the basic left position is that you have two forces: government and capital or corporate power, and that the former must be employed to counter-balance the latter. i don't think this has by and large worked out, though that's not to deny that there have been some moments and that the terrain is complex. i think the powers are always merging, in marxist dictatorships where they are explicitly one, and in capitalist democracies where corporate interests constantly drive foreign and economic policy. basically, i think that state-style solutions - up to and including a world-state - to global capitalism are extremely naive, that you'll end up confronting a single hegemonic power.
my view is that every action of the state rests on coercion. i take that to be entirely obvious. on the other hand, on the ground the state - or let's take the u.s. gov and state and local govs here - does accomplish many good things. so it might take a rapist off the streets. or it might help feed a family that would otherwise starve, or provide healthcare to a sick person who couldn't otherwise obtain it.
in the long run it is doing this in the context of extreme structural inequalities that it itself has a role in creating. there has never been a mode of social organization that achieves inequalities of power comparable to that which the state constitutes by definition: some people have a monopoly of force. in my opinion, this overall in the long run leads to structural inequalities of resources which the state then sometimes to some minimal extent ameliorates: partly in its own self-interest, to prevent its own destruction. (though it is also infested with actual idealists who basically are trying to help people.)
now along with asking whether we are prepared to watch people starve or die of untreated illnesses, we also have to ask ourselves who, in the long run, we are becoming and who, in the long run, we want to be. welfare programs are also ways that the state creates abject, permanently dependent populations, and their pervasion through the whole society puts us all at the mercy of the state. this can be really nightmarish: here you might think of the gigantic housing projects that arose in every major american city in the 1960s. they were intended to ameliorate homelessness and sub-standard housing; i do not doubt that the people who designed them and funded them meant well. they destroyed hundreds of real, vital communities, converted millions into complete dependence and put them under constant surveillance, and became nightmare pseudo-communities that the people embedded in them wanted to and actually did destroy.
a real welfare state requires total state surveillance: you've got to know who has what in order to know who gets what. you've got to know who's not in school, whose income is too high to qualify, and also who has to pay how much. malcolm x, for example, thought that the surveillance and abjection of his mother by the welfare authorities is what literally drove her mad, and destroyed his family. such an account is not atypical: one might look at sistah souljah's autobiography no disrespect, for example: they'd come to her housing project apartment and try to show that there was a man around, or ask her mom where she got that tv set.
i think if we actually wanted to move toward a better life, we would try to create a world of maximum self-reliance and maximum actual reliance on one another: not by coercion practiced on a scale of hundreds of millions, but on a local scale in which people know one another. moving the help we give to one another toward gigantism, and funding it coercively, means that we are not expressing any virtue by giving this help, because we do not give it freely, and that we are, in receiving it, wholly dependent on gigantic coercive bureaucracies for our very lives: we ought to and i think really do feel ashamed both ways round. and there has got to be a moment where we not only ask: what will happen to people if we take away their food stamps? but, what are we becoming?
and every step toward state dependence - its ever-growing pervasiveness - in the long run makes us all vulnerable to this power. it creates a power that is beyond accountability and beyond redress and beyond control. right now, even right here, it can kill millions if it wants, and many states have mutated into killing machines directed at their own populations; ours can too. we are its beneficiaries, its dependents, and always also its potential victims. but on a more everyday level here, being dependent on the government is being dependent on the whim of actual people who wield irresistible force. they can take away anyone's livelihood, anyone's healthcare, anyone's education at any time. our situation is desperate because our need is total and only satisfied from one source. our dependence is a total asymmetry of power, even if we want to eat and get healthcare.
so i think we should ask ourselves at every juncture where this power increases - even obamacare or whatever - not only who will do better because of this, but who we are becoming. there has to be a moment where on this slope the big question is asked, too.
if you're ron paul, you frame the question in terms of going broke: the welfare state is unsustainable because you end up with too few resources flowing in to give everybody everything you're promising: guaranteed pensions, healthcare, education, income: and you really do see economies collapsing under the weight (greece, e.g.) and then people completely shocked and outraged that the gov can't give them everything they need or demand: months off from work and retirement at 52, or whatever. honestly, i don't know if the situation is sustainable or not; at least i do think that it's not indefinitely expandable. but that's not how i would primarily frame the issue, and you can see that the right is taking the opportunity to achieve all sorts of purposes, including increasing inequalities of wealth. in the context of squishy totalitarianism, a constant emphasis on free markets and capitalist solutions is nothing like a liberating ideology, and we're constantly on the horns of a dilemma between state and corporate power, democrats and republicans. but this disguises their symbiosis.
what i ask instead is whether we want to be entirely dependent on a gigantic bureaucratic power that we cannot control, and what this is doing to our sense of ourselves and each other, and how it interrupts or destroys the possibilities of real community or collective action.
i was quite a bit angrier by sunday (splicetoday). i've been quite inspired by the protests. it may take a bit to catch my politics, if you're fresh caught, i realize. it is coherent, though? or at least as coherent as most, anyway.
Right, I'm in the Wall Street Journal today. The schtick will be familiar to readers of this blog, or really my opinion stuff since I started: will you people please talk like human beings? It's the reason I had to struggle to prove the existence of Al Gore, and tragically failed. Now, I want to say that I wrote that before the immigration order, and I would have difficulty writing right now with quite that airy tone. I'll show that in splicetoday any minute.
@dammitspanky has been tweeting about my ancient line in nihilism (i was the presidential candidate of the nihilist party in 2004; we won). i was thinking some of these were lost forever (even though it was latimes and philly inquirer), but i found the one that will wilkinson liked (latimes 2004) in an ancient email. looking back on it, i can't believe these newspapers took these! speaks well for john timpane and ann brenoff, among others.
latimes from 2004:
Why Not Nihilism?
By Crispin Sartwell
I devoted five hours of my vacation to watching Monday evening's proceedings at the Democratic National Convention. And as I listened to the unassailable tautologies and flourishes of extreme redundancy, I asked myself a serious question: Who could these "people" be running against?
Then it hit me, like a Concorde hitting a hotel. They could be running against me. And right there and then I founded a new political movement, indeed a bold heroic frontier of human possibility: The American Nihilist Party.
The Nihilists are convening here at the Outer Banks this week without even benefit of C-SPAN coverage. We (or at any rate I) have come together in our great diversity to celebrate our blessed nation. And since there are no cameras, I present you with a verbatim transcript of my keynote address.
"As I have crossed this great land, visiting average Americans just like you, or just like Mabel Smith of Missoula Montana, a sexual entrepreneur whose insufferable children are slightly under-served by several government agencies, many people have asked me, Senator Sartwell, what does the American Nihilist Party stand for?
"First and foremost, we believe that a single child must be left behind. And we have a candidate: tousle-haired little Billy Cartwright of Cleveland, Ohio.
"We believe, quite frankly, in putting partisanship before progress.
"We unequivocally, courageously reject the idea of moving forward into a 21st century bright with promise. We're opposed to the new economy, to fresh, new ideas and technologies that will transform the lives of all Americans. Nor do we enjoin America to turn back to traditions and values and God, all of which and whom we also oppose. What are we, chumps?
"We reject hard work and initiative. And uniquely among today's major political parties, we oppose government that works for working families.
"We are unalterably opposed to a woman's right to choose anything at all. And lest Republicans find comfort in that, we sneer also at the rights of the unborn, those nasty little ingrates. Indeed, we abominate life in all its repulsive forms.
"We reject equal pay for equal work and, if elected, will attack such evil nonsense with all the strength and love and truth at our disposal.
"With regard to education, we reject standards, accountability, and excellence for all children, rich and poor, black and white, male and female. In fact, we reject education altogether. Learning hurts. And hurting people is just plain wrong.
"We despise the family, that blight on the social landscape. Think about your own family for a minute, think about its pathologies, its sheer vicious intolerable blankness.
"We set ourselves resolutely against any government that keeps its commitments and if elected we pledge our sacred honor that we will somehow squander the surplus. The future must not be secured for our children, and many more children must remain or become uninsured.
"We nihilists find the notions of clean air and water laughable, along with sensible gun laws. And we sneer with unfeigned contempt at enforcing the laws that are already on the books. We favor putting guns - big, loaded guns - in the hands of children and criminals. In fact, we intend to arm the unborn.
"In a Nihilist administration, we will put people last. People are stupid and annoying. But we will fight for the rights of clock radios, kitchen utensils, and concrete abutments.
"And finally, fellow Nihilists, fellow Americans, let me be clear. We are unalterably opposed on moral, religious, political, and even purely conceptual grounds to Fleetwood Mac in all its pernicious, pathological permutations. For God's sake stop thinking about tomorrow.
"Thank you and goodnight, America."
The New York Times's "Week in Hate" column has been singularly unimpressive, and is symbolic of the very ideological development of what was once a journalistic operation. It manages to suggest, without directly asserting, a classic post hoc: 'hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump.' In general, it is little more than 'The Week in Right-Wing Graffiti,' and I'm sorry but I am just not that impressed with graffiti as a hate crime, nor am I clear that there's been a big increase even in that, rather than an increase in reporting and coverage. It's supposed to make you think that America is falling apart because of insane Trump supporters, and it also tendentiously associates Trump with white supremacism, anti-semitism, and so on, wherever they may be found. Every swastika on the wall is something the New York Times can use.
Anyway, to my mind it backfires, just because it seems very sporadic and not that bad, etc: someone spray-painted a swastika on a high school; alright, that has never not happened. Maybe spray-painters have been 'emboldened' or 'authorized' by Trump's rhetoric, and so on. That is yet another very squirrely and vague set of associations. If you just think nothing could be more obvious, there's going to be no way to work you out of your ideology, so I'll give up on that. There is real bad shit going on: black sites, torture, walls. And yes, there are high school kids with spray paint.
Say that the Columbine mass shooting happened today rather than in 1999, and they did it on Hitler's birthday, and you found that they were playing around with white supremacism etc in their journals or online. If you were the New York Times, you'd manage to point out over and over that this was happening in the Trump era; your op-ed columnists would ask: "is it connected to Trump's hateful rhetoric?" Only an evil fool could doubt that for a second. Charles Blow's columns would go like this: 'I'm not saying he has the blood of those children on his hands, but he does.' You need better reporting, clearer connections, much much more honesty. Time for the editorial staff to take JOURN 101 again.
My column this week for splicetoday urges the amazing funky protest movement that just emerged not to get co-opted by the Democratic party. Help me spread it around? I think people who protested Saturday, among others, should think about this! My view is that getting annexed by establishment political powers ended the peace and civil rights movements in the early seventies. And yes, I am saying that the civil rights movement has been over for a long time, and has only re-emerged with Black Lives Matter. True, I knock John Lewis.
The real disaster was what happened to the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King was not a Democratic strategist. LBJ tried to control him: to cajole, blackmail, absorb and short-circuit his movement. King was not the sort of person you could do that to, but in the next generation the civil rights movement failed, petering out into people trying to rise in the American political hierarchy. Jesse Jackson ran for President. John Lewis… well, John Lewis sold his soul to the devil, and spent most of his life bashing Republicans and functioning as an emblem or mascot of the goodness of Democratic politicians as they did massive housing projects and mass incarceration, for example.
That’s how the civil rights movement died. It’s an important reason why the racial situation in the country has improved so little since King’s day. Various black politicians rose through the hierarchy, providing the superficial appearance of equality that permitted the racist power structure to engage in continual self-congratulation as it pursued directly repressive and destructive policies.
One thing I want to point out: when King's movement and more militant people drove the passage of the Civil Rights Act, etc, they were pressuring the political system from without. When they got co-opted, the movement died. We have made little progress on race since, I believe. With regard to civil rights, I argued this more elaborately in a series of blog posts last year:
I do think the only basis for Trump resistance has to be a realistic assessment of who he is and what he's doing at any given time. The anti-Trump media and social media has been, overall, really detached from reality. One thing is that we've reached the point where people really believe the point of communication is not to say the truth, but to manipulate people's minds. But even on that theory the thing has been ridiculous.
Really, on Twitter, and live, people routinely do things like 'sociopathic white suprematist.' People sincerely purport to be diagnosing him as insane. There is no reason to think that at all. And then the way people react makes a stray anti-Streep Tweet seem equivalent to building a wall or something. Really, just tweeting loosely is enough to convince David Brooks or Frank Bruni or Radley Balko or Stephen Pinker that you are literally insane. Nor is there any plausible reason for 'white supremacism,' alright? It's obvious to a whole demographic that he's a white supremacist, but then they go to something published in Breitbart 5 years ago, or constructing elisions around the term 'nationalism.' The idea is not to make the most hyperbolic charge on the theory that it will hype up the resistance. The point has to be to say something true, or else no one should listen to you at all.
Just one example: this shipload of hysterical abuse by nicholas bourbaki, tweeted by pinker and others. I'm all like: christ, ever heard of ad hominem? to which the reply all around was: no this is a sober assessment of the man's personality: "a corrupt, emotionally unstable demagogue and white nationalist fellow-traveler." (wait, fellow-traveller?: maybe they don't know that's a mcarthyite strategy for guilt by association).
I've been in a number of Twitter exchanges in which people are ragging on Trump's IQ and his taste, and then claiming to be engaged in a sober statement of the facts. Very amazingly self-deluded. Now, the audience for all the extreme abuse is people who already agree; obviously, it's not intended to reach out to or convince anyone who is not already convinced. It is not going to help. And people who were representing their politics as reality-based and reason-oriented last week really sound like completely irrational fanatics, all the time, and it comes in unanimous repetitive phrases: one repeats them as emblems of membership. It is as or more partisan, and just as rigidly and irrationally partisan, as the tea party, or Republicans in Congress with regard to Obama, etc.
Each in its own way, the Trump and anti-Trump rhetoric is focused extremely on exclusion, on separating the right sort of people from the wrong sort. Definitely is an elitism/anti-elitism flavor. But vilifying the 'white working class' or condemning all concerns as boiling down to racism: those things will just make this whole 'two nations' thing worse and worse.
That was an interesting speech. On the bigotry end: well, there was no sexism. One could interpret the inner city crime and violence stuff as deploying racial code words. On the other hand, what does Rahm or Barack say about violence in Chicago? Things are going great? Would they hesitate to use 'carnage'? And also, I think he himself thought he was making gestures of racial reconciliation. He went straight from 'carnage' to this:
We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams. And their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
And then there was this, which might be a quote from John Lewis:
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they will their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.
He used the word 'solidarity', and he was talking about race. What bothered me tremendously, however, was the the super-nationalism. It really does have a proto-fascist flavor. Nationalism is to be the basis of this new solidarity.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.
'Total allegiance,' eh? And of course this flava:
We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first.
It's not that I wouldn't worry about racism/sexism, although I am more directly concerned about the anti-immigrant thing (which he did not hit hard in the speech), which well comports with the extreme nationalism. But if he really brought Americans together in solidarity to reject the aliens, militarize further, require absolute loyalty, and so on, that might be disastrous. But there were also some gestures toward affirming American freedoms, open debate, etc.
Anyway, it was not quite the speech people are portraying it as being. But Lord there is plenty to worry about, and I am very glad that people are engaging in all sorts of expressive resistance. I think they are underestimating how many people will be on the mall today, e.g.
Billy Mays here! Like a lot of people who are all #notmypresident, Ta-Nehisi Coates has misplaced his personal president. Go online to mypresident.com/TV to order a replacement! We'll ship you your own personal pres, of your very own race/gender/proclivities! Someone in nice boring clothes to follow you around, affirm your identity, mutter quasi-inspiring cliches, and subordinate you completely! You'll feel so safe, or triple your money back! You pay only for the handling. And just put your personal president in the dishwasher to clean. Your personal president controls a sprawling system of internment facilities and the greatest military the world has ever known! But wait, there's more! It has the power to chop nuts.
Partisan Irrationality and the Credibility Index
By Crispin Sartwell
A true man thinks not what his listeners are feeling, but what he is saying. (Laws of Ethelred ["The Unready"], 10th century)
Some years ago, our team here at the National Institutes for Logic carried out a groundbreaking piece of research. We demonstrated beyond quibble that those who very frequently agree with the consensus of people on their own side of the political spectrum with regard to factual matters are as rational as sleep-deprived toddlers. One of the most remarkable features of this bold undertaking, which occupied some twenty-seven years and consumed tens of millions of dollars in grants and dozens of toddlers, is that we proved decisively what was completely obvious to begin with.
This is a particularly appropriate time to deploy our breakthrough, which we term the Credibility Index (CI). It is a useful tool which will enable you to assess objectively the extent to which anyone, including yourself, is connected to reality.
A few months ago, it was common for Trump supporters to question the legitimacy of the American electoral process, whereas his opponents were outraged by the very idea. In that innocent time, leftists decried and protested the terrible violence in some inner cities; now they celebrate these places as safe and fully functional communities. Then, conservatives seemed to regard it as unpatriotic to doubt our intelligence agencies; they have discovered the history of its lies and failures.
Obviously, you should doubt the sincerity or rationality of people who, in a mass, contradict their own apparently passionate beliefs for the purpose of vilifying their opponents. But there was no point in listening to anyone in the mainstream of either of these political factions - left or right, Democrat or Republican - to begin with. This can be proven.
Suppose we are conducting a poll about whether the intelligence report on the Russian electoral hack is plausible. And suppose that half the people expressing an opinion say it is, and half say it isn't. And suppose as well that the publicly available evidence on this is murky and split. The overall 50/50 split of opinion is more or less what we'd expect given the state of the evidence. So far, so rational.
However, as we pollsters dig down into the data, we discover something bizarre: all the tall people believe that the report is plausible, and all the short people believe it is not. This strikes us as unaccountable, because height has no bearing on access to the relevant information. We'd expect both groups to be split. We must conclude that at least half the people on both sides are forming their opinions irrationally, that their height, rather than the evidence, is correlated with or is determining their opinions.
Being on the left or right in this case is exactly like being over or under 5'8": evidentially irrelevant. What counts is specific sources and methods, or the real credibility of people who are in a position to know. That you celebrate free enterprise or revile inequality is neither here nor there. If all the political positions of the Democrats were true, this would tend neither to establish nor to demolish the truth of the intelligence report. Your place on the political spectrum is entirely irrelevant with regard to the evidence, on this and many other matters.
Every time tall people agree as a group on a controversial claim (that the American electoral system is illegitimate, for example), it becomes more obvious that they are not responding to the evidence and that they ought to have little credibility. That they believe it is not any sort of indication that it's true. It's just their height talking.
And that is obviously the situation with party spokespeople, political consultants on one side and the other, partisan pundits, and indeed with most Americans in this bubbly moment: every time they agree with the consensus of people on their own side, where the evidence is split and group membership irrelevant to it, their credibility is multiplied downward. If it's 50% after one such foray, their CI is .5 out of a possible 1. After two, it's .25, and so on. Let them agree with their group on seven such matters in a row, and their overall credibility is about .004. Science tells us that we'd be better off listening to untreated schizophrenics. And if you yourself agreed with your own side the last seven times out, we here at the National Institutes for Logic urge you to take some quiet time alone and reflect.
One's political position is entirely irrelevant to questions like the severity of climate change, whether gun control reduces violence, or the conditions in John Lewis's congressional district. But antecedent group affiliation largely determines people's opinions on these matters. If you're wondering whom to believe, find people whose affiliations do not at all predict their factual beliefs. Those are the only people in this situation with a decent CI, the only people with an objective claim to be regarded as credible. One wonders whether there are any such people.
Political polarization, in short, has turned Americans into idiots, with regard to the question of whom to believe, and with regard to what the world is actually like. Political partisans have replaced reality with one another, in an infinite round of epistemic backslapping in which they congratulate people who agree with them on their own sagacity. They're so busy bonding that they forget that there's an actual world.
Now that would merely be amusing or even sort of sweet if it were a matter of people coalescing like little raindrops into placid collective pools. Sadly, however, these groups are formed up as much by hatred and exclusion of the other as by their yearning for internal unity. Abandoning the world for your group turns out to be a good way to break a nation in two.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. Follow him on Twitter @crispinsartwell.
If you don't quite get what I'm doing here, (a) I'll keep trying, (b) this might help. Also may be of assistance if you are thinking of apparently obvious objections.
One thing is incredibly obvious if you have a political position outside the mainstream taxonomy: no one in basic left-right American politics takes any position on the basis of reasons. I mean no one, even and especially those who are continually congratulating themselves on their rationality and reality-orientation. Nothing could be more obvious. Everyone has a social commitment to a certain set of positions, and then rummages around in the world for evidence to affirm it and ways to discredit or ignore any difficulties and disagreements. Right and left or Dem and Rep or Trump and stop-Trump: these are fantastical as belief systems, just riddled with holes and contradictions. They are demographic identities strongly tied to other demographic features - region, race, gender, income, and so on. The only role of facts is finding confirmation - not of one's positions, but of one's social identity. That's why these little bubbles work so well. I'm telling you that the positions of a Barack Obama, a Frank Bruni, or an Ivy League professor are no less like this than Sarah Palin's. You've got to deal with people's power, or the fact that they're all over your TV or whatever. But pretending that they are giving reasons or making arguments is very silly.
A good example right now is what the left does with Trump: just global maximal hysteria. White supremacist coup! Any fact that backs that up is a good reason, any fact that throws it into question is ignorance or propaganda. This drifts people on both sides to accept anything uncritically from their own side and ignore everything else or attribute it to pure evil. In the course of things, it has to continually increase hyper-partisan tribalism of an incredibly irrational variety. Of course, I take myself literally to have proven this (not linking it all again).
It's great that we're social animals and all, and perhaps agreeing with whatever jive your tribe has fixated on is adaptive. Maybe cooperation in a group is a more important function than finding the truth in evolutionary terms. Here's why I doubt that. The unity of a group is largely achieved by exclusion, ostracization, war. Our solidarity is characteristically a function of our exclusions. We may kill everything down this road. Also, losing touch with reality on this level just cannot be adaptive. Your whole people will be destroyed by its fantastical prepossessions. You'll be denying there's a problem even as it kills you, etc. I think this is our formula for extinction, actually, the sort of adaptation that ends up killing your species, or which has killed most species that ever existed.
People do have bizarre notions about evolution. Some people think they have to push it along; that is, you show some feature is adaptive or whatever, that shows it's good and desirable. They make 'evolve!' into a moral imperative, which is insane. Evolution does not care whether we live or die. Obviously, it often produces very specialized or almost hyperbolic adaptations (say the huge size of some dinosaur species) which work for a bit, or in a specific niche, or until conditions change. When they do, that adaptation extinguishes the species. For example, if human consciousness is in fact an adaptation and not a side-effect of other adaptations, for example (like an 'accidental' result of more memory or calculating ability), it might take us to the stars or it might end us entirely. That we take it as a mark of our transcendence of animal life or something is just more self-congratulation.
Obviously, we could not persist without social cooperation. But just as obviously, the adaptations that make such cooperation possibly might end up being like the gigantic size of the megasaurs: fatal. But whether or not, they leave us presently in a condition where people are apparently, or even passionately, making assertions or claiming to speak truth, but in which that is quite evidently not the point of their activities at all. People are voluntarily making themselves extremely stupid and constructing fantastic pseudo-worlds. It is not going to end well, or it is not ending well.
a lesson i'd like to draw from obama last night, obama in general. it's something that you already know. sheer optimism and hope is empty, not useful, non-transformative. politicians like obama never lose hope; or, they sell a sheer generalized emotional condition, without any connection whatever to reality. it is empty. it is stupid. it is counter-productive. the point of life is not to have positive emotions no matter what; that's just psychosis. 'i leave this office more optimistic than when i came in.' dude are you serious? are you conscious?
i swear, we're still a dale carnegie society, and we think that expecting the best helps it happen. that is a supernatural belief system, some kind of half-assed religion. and if obama ever believed stuff like that, he surely has come face to face with reality. don't try to reinstitute a hope with no connection to reality: you can probably get that better from celexa(tm). people attacked trump for his sheer emotional tone, which according to ideologically deluded people amounted to fear and resentment. no, and this level of hyper-generalized emotional jive is completely empty.
we make the reality we expect! expect the best! if you, in your actual life and world, haven't learned that that is bullshit, you are unteachable, alright? we are the stories we tell, so tell a nice story! and as your eyes lose focus, you get thoroughly blackjacked. the amazing thing is that when you regain consciousness, you try again. you could have started instead by trying to be alert to your actual environment.
We have never seen a moment like this one. Not to gloat, but I've been thinking that this might be the result, or the beginning of the result. Scroll down or search me on splicetoday to see what I mean. Everyone has to be sceptical of the whole thing: this one did emerge from Clinton oppo research, and leaked from intel agencies, all of which is disreputable. If it is disinformation: well that is an amazing story too. But the whole damn thing eyeballs plausible to me, for reasons I won't completely enumerate. (Well, it explains a lot of the way Trump has expressed himself on Russia, e.g.) If so, it is the greatest and worst scandal in American political history. It's breathtakingly impeachable, goys and burls.
It also came to the intelligence agencies from McCain, who also may be leaking. This is so quickly going to turn out so badly for Trump; I think so. I think it's the end. Been wrong before, though!
These people going for recounts or an electoral college rebellion were futile people indeed. Now, do you want to bring down Donald Trump? If there was any collusion between his campaign and Russian intel, this is fatal: obviously impeachable. Hack and leak! It's liable even to come from wikileaks or a competitor. For one thing, a person or two might have Paul Manafort or Jared Kushner's emails, and if there was communication between the Trump campaign and the Russians, the Russians have it all, with no need to hack.
You might think a Republican Congress would never impeach Donald Trump. Oh really? Lindsey Graham and John McCain have already hopped off, on this very issue. All these Republicans will suddenly gaze upon the prospect of a Pence presidency with dawning hope. Ryan will equivocate, etc.
On the other hand, maybe there's nothing there! On the other hand, maybe there is.
One of the many gratuitous epistemic mistakes that the Democrats drove home with a sledgehammer all year was that, say, something someone once wrote in Breitbart is decisive evidence that Donald Trump is a white supremacist and that racism was the basis of his victory. Why hasn't he condemned Milo Yiannopoulos?! Condemning him twice isn't enough; it must be an incessant drumbeat of repudiation. It took him 72 hours or whatever to repudiate David Duke. They were using stuff like that as dispositive evidence. What could be more obvious? Now, the Chicago torturers oppose Trump, and so does Chuck Schumer. Coincidence? Man, Schumer has been slow to condemn it; it's like he's winking at his supporters. Everyone knows what he really means by his omissions, who he really is appealing to.
One slight difficulty with this is that it is impossible to know the whole history of everyone who may ever have agreed with you about something. But there is a solution. I personally have a policy of condemning in the strongest and most profane possible terms and, with a kind of physical loathing, repudiating utterly all who may have ever supported me for any reason or for no reason at all. There is no place for that in our society. Good enough? I will repeat incessantly, indefinitely.
The Senate Armed Services Committeee hearing, now in progress, is chilling. I am sticking with the dire predictions I made on November 28. Clapper basically just said this was an act of war. But is it a Pearl Harbor or a Gulf of Tonkin? Remember the Maine!
Now, I have grown ever-more confused about whom to believe as the thing has gone on, which might be intended by everyone. The fog machines are pumping. If you simply believe 'the US intelligence community," you are a fool. If you switched on that last week, I don't even...As to being deeply offended that anyone might take what Julian Assange says seriously, I note that he is in a position actually to know, which has got to have some bearing on his credibility, no? On the third hand, the trackback to Russian intelligence, perhaps originating in a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, has a certain plausibility, I feel. I am having trouble generating equally coherent accounts about who did the hacking and why the releases unfolded the way they did.
Anyway, I think things might be even worse than we think they are, and that we may soon feel the destruction. The Republican party is really going to be riven right here, if that's any comfort to you.
spending new year's in my hometown, dc, with the lovely jane irish. we took a tour of the capitol, because irish is working on baroque ceiling-type paintings and she wanted to see the dome. when i was a kid, you could just walk in and wander around (indeed, when i was 15 or so we cased the joint as thoroughly as we could; the plan was a thorough stinkbombing, making the place uninhabitable.) now it's most regimented and security-oriented experience you could imagine. i really am a knee-jerk anti-authoritarian, and walking with me around downtown dc, i'm afraid, is listening to me make nasty cracks, vicious historical observations, and hostile remarks about each organization/building as we pass.
all the classical temples and the pseudo-classical concrete agency monstrosities have an 'ideological' quality, harped on continuously in our capitol tour guide's tribute to the greatness of our republic and its amazing institutions. but, it's quite like imperial rome: republican decoration and the overwhelming reality of worldwide deathdealing empire.
the headquarters of the fbi, however, is a classic piece of brutalism, and not pseudo-classical at all. it is the most repulsive building near the mall. and it is the only honest one.
folks purport to be bewildered that some republicans seem to have switched around completely since the cold war and now appear pro-russian. it seems like they might notice that russia has transformed from a left-wing to a right-wing dictatorship. admittedly, a lot of the difference between the two is just that they yap differently. but don't you think that might be expected to make a difference to right-wing american politicians? accusing them of inconsistency is silly.
so, let's say that it has recently struck you, or struck you again, that the electoral college system is incompatible with one-person-one-vote, or that it is anti-democratic. that's why clinton lost. but for heaven's sake you cannot be assaying the solution you're proposing, where they vote clinton in anyway. then the electoral college is a deliberative body which selects the president of the united states. after the election in 2020, and thereafter, you will have no idea after the popular vote who the next president will be. in other words, because the electoral college is ridiculous, you want to empower it extremely. because it is anti-democratic, you want to abrogate the democracy utterly. please think for a moment?
I don’t know what to say here except there’s something for everyone, I supose. And that includes these hand-crafted Cthulhu sex toys by Necronomicox. How did these things come to be, you might ask? According to Necronomicox: “I saw a niche that needed to be filled, so to speak.”...Because in his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits
dreaming masturbating, amirite? --- Dangerous Minds, 11-5-2016
As a sort of pseudo-journalist, I am temporarily homeless. Veterans Today and Veterans News Service are reorganizing, and I'm temporarily without a home for my Wolf Country Dispatchs. I hate to take up a lot of Crispin's space, so I'm looking for a temporary home...since I've always wondered if I might be somewhat unloved there because I'm not friendly to various wingnut batshit conspiracy theorists but...hell, it looks like the Batshit Conspiracy Theorists got it half right...
Anyway, one country's useful idiot is another's...President Elect. So, my thought is simple. I think everybody who has a vestigial fondness for the Constitution and American myth, should immediately send one of these sweaters to your favorite Republican weasel. The more Christian they claim to be and the less they indicate it by their beliefs, the better.
Is it the Batshit Old Bag on the committee that overseas the NLRB who hates unions and doesn't understand why workers want them? Great, she wears a large. Is it Paul Ryan, the Eddie Munster Look Alike Ayn Rand worshipper who has no clue about economics, economic theory, Catholic doctrine and teaching, or basic concepts of justice? He's a tall skinny weasel by comparison to the COSTCO bargain sized old broad so I'd say a large also. Is it Mitch McConnell, the useful Idiot who sold out American interests and autonomy to Russia so that Trump would be president? See if they have one with a turtle neck and get an extra large so the Turtle can just turtle his way into your heart.
And, if sweaters aren't your thing, there's always the Cthulhu dildo, which is appropriate for either gender in the GOP anti-American crusade.
alright, i've done a much better version of herald of freedom: essays of nathaniel peabody rogers, american transcendentalist and american abolitionist.
this book was how i felt my way toward self-publishing, and i had a hell of a time with formatting and patience in the first two 'editions.' but i got it a lot righter this time. i added a number of essays by rogers, bringing the total to 33. (like previous versions it includes thoreau's essay on rogers, john pierpont's biographical essay, and other supplementay material.) i was both too-fast and incompetent in the first versions. rogers deserves better. if you bought a previous version, i would replace if you send me an address!