Randoms

October 26, 2013

– Gavin McInnes has some excellent thoughts on feminism here. It does strike me that demeaning motherhood is just about the most anti-feminist thing one could possible do.

Also, I always find it strange that these articles about whether or not feminism has been good for women focus on women with jobs in the top 1-5%. If the picture isn’t absurdly clear for these women, it should absurdly clear that the rest of the women are getting screwed. Put another way, if your job as a high-powered executive or official isn’t obviously better than taking care of your kids, it should be super fucking clear that working as a cashier or an editor or a mortgage broker isn’t better.

Some interesting and related thoughts here and here.

– On romantic love.

– On old books.

– Derb and Alfred Clark on the ghettoization of American culture (and religion).

Handle: “In the future, the Democrats will give us Jim Crow with a Progressive Face.” (HT)

– Without having read the full article, this statement strikes me as significant and totally correct: “What Do America’s College Students Want? They Want to Be Oppressed.”

– In totally unrelated news, World War T plods onwards.

– From a book review that may be of interest:

But however dark the view of human nature that inspired this mission, I fear it’s not dark enough. If Greene thinks that getting people to couch their moral arguments in a highly reasonable language will make them highly reasonable, I think he’s underestimating the cleverness and ruthlessness with which our inner animals pursue natural selection’s agenda.

– I don’t know whether you’re born gay or made that way, but I’m pretty that, at the extreme, it’s possible to be made that way.

Scharlach: “Democracy is rule by idiots who vote for things that sound good to them at the time.”

– Remember a while ago when everybody was mocking British “austerity?” Yeah, me neither.

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Topics of interest

October 26, 2013

Both Nydwracu and Nick Land provide a list of questions for the Dark Enlightenment to focus on.

I thought it might helpful to briefly discuss some of the items on their lists.

1) “America is a communist country” (AIACC)

Nydwracu is right that the key here is focusing on the connection between American and Russian believers in the same system. However, I’m skeptical that there’s really much more ground to be made on the question of whether or not AIACC.

Arnold Kling recently wrote:

Those of you who are under 55 may have a hard time appreciating how central the issues of socialism, Communism, and anti-Communism were in the middle of the twentieth century. In fact, if you don’t understand the role that the socialist ideal played in American intellectual life from 1930 until at least 1960, you cannot fully understand that period.

Oddly, my experience is the other way around. It’s generally those under 55 (or 35 for that matter) who seem to be more open to the idea that Communism was a hugely influential force in the US in the first half of the 20th Century – and, therefore, still is.

To argue that America at that time was not a Communist country would require you to argue that despite huge sections of the media, the bureaucracy and the academic establishment being made up of identified Communists, somehow these people in positions of power didn’t exercise that power in accordance with their beliefs.

As I previously wrote:

A nice way to illustrate the fact that the Communists controlled these organizations is to look at the career of any known Communist agent. Let’s take one of the best known, Alger Hiss. Hiss’s career (including after he was accused of being a spy and after being in jail) included stints at: the State Department, the United Nations, clerking for Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, the Justice Department, some Senate Committees, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and – naturally – Harvard Law.

If you don’t know what I mean by the term Cathedral, it’s basically that list. Really, the only way it could be better is if he’d worked at the New York Times.

2) The connection between the US and Moscow

I’ve covered similar ground in the War. For example, Harry Hopkins stood in for FDR at meetings with Churchill – if there could be a more obvious interaction between American communists and Russian ones, I would be surprised. FDR’s war aims were either brilliantly crafted to empower Russia or absolutely retarded. Evidence that Soviet spies were well-placed in government were completely ignored, etc.

I think Kling unintentionally highlights the area that needs additional analysis. He titles his post “they changed their minds.” Kling implies that they changed their views when they repudiated the communist label

I’m not sure that’s true. They broke with the Soviets, but many never changed their basic worldview or any of the specific policy positions (other than ceasing to oppose blindly supporting Russia).

3) What happened in the ’60s?

This is a great question. I’ve written a few book reviews on the topic, but it’s still totally baffling to me – as is the fact that many of the craziest people at the time are in positions of power now, and everybody thinks that’s totally cool.

4) What does the ‘neo-’ in ‘neoreaction’ signify?

The neo prefix signifies that the original reaction was utterly destroyed and it’s original positions (however admirable they were and still would be) have absolutely no chance of being resurrected.

In Democracy, the God that Failed, Hoppe described the First World War as a war to destroy the existing monarchical societies of Europe (the proponents of which were reactionaries). Their ideals of the restoration of traditional monarchies, the dis-aggregation of many European “nations”, religious institutions that function as bulwarks to (instead of components of) progressivism, and a general return to old-fashioned hierarchy aren’t coming back. What this new movement seeks to (re)create is some sort of modern approximation of those ideals – hence the need for some prefix.

(I also think that many consider “reactionary” to be an explicitly religious label, whereas the neoreaction is explicitly not religious (not anti-religious, just not explicitly religious). I think that is the essence of this discussion).


Review of “Exodus” by Paul Collier

October 23, 2013

“Migration has been politicized before it has been analyzed.” – Paul Collier

In writing this book, Collier seeks to do two things. First, he wants to continue his work analyzing the poorest societies in the world.

Second – and much more interesting – he wants to rescue the immigration debate from Caplanization (or Gmule-ization, if you prefer). Caplanization is the process by which the proponents of a particular policy (in this case unrestricted immigration) argue for it in such a manner than virtually all reasonable people are attracted to the opposite position.

In Collier’s words, the book is:

also a critique of the prevailing opinion among liberal thinkers, a group of which I am a member, that modern Western societies should embrace a postnational future. . . . In the countries in which I work—the multicultural societies of Africa—the adverse consequences of weak national identity are apparent.

Or put differently in another part of the book:

It is short of disastrous that in some European countries around a fifth of the indigenous electorate [that may be an understatement] is wasting its vote on pariah parties because the mainstream parties will not properly debate what these voters regard, rightly or wrongly, as the most important issue facing the country.

The book is an attempt to analyze immigration using economic methods. There are certain aspects of immigration that are beneficial (e.g. efficiency improvements) and there are others that are harmful (e.g. declines in societal trust). At some levels of immigration, the benefits outweigh the harm, whereas at other levels, the harm outweighs the benefit. In other words, the book attempts to subject the immigration debate to marginal analysis.

Collier is attempting to rescue the debate from current tone which is more reminiscent of religious fanaticism than economic analysis. Oddly in this case, it’s the “economists” who generally speak of the issue in religious terms. It’s nearly impossible to state how strange the typical economic view of immigration is.

For example, writing at Marginal(!!!!) Revolution, Professor Cowen notes:

Plunking 500 million or a billion poor individuals in the United States most likely would destroy the goose laying the golden eggs.

As Nick Land notes:

This sentence twists deeper into delirium with every reading. It has to be a candidate for the most insane splinter of sanity in history. (It makes me wonder whether an object the size of Jupiter, consisting of pure neutronium, colliding with Manhattan Island at 90% light speed, would most likely depress property values.)

Clearly, Collier has his work cut out for him.

Collier analyzes the costs and benefits of migration from the perspective of: 1) the migrants; 2) the indigenous population of the host country; and 3) the people left behind in the home country.

To very briefly summarize, he finds that most of the gains from migration go to the migrants themselves. Importantly, it would seem that a good chunk of the economic gain may be offset by psychological losses associated with living in a different “culture” (an incredibly powerful – and poorly defined – force, for Collier).

He finds that migration harms the poorest indigenous people, but benefits the rest. First, he finds that this economic effect is rather small. Second, he notes that this analysis applies only for moderate levels of migration. Theory would suggest that with mass migration, downward wage pressures would get much worse.

Migration harms many of those left behind particularly in the poorest countries. For example, Haiti has “around 130,000 fewer educated workers than it would have without emigration.” I’m far from as convinced as Collier is that Haiti can get much better, but it’s impossible to argue that it’ll ever get much better if all of its most talented citizens leave the country.

Along the way, Collier attempts to rescue the debate from religious language. He repeats that, “rights . . . should not be dissolved by . . . ‘global utility.’” He notes that nations have some basis in fact:

Astonishingly, around 70 percent of the current population of Britain are directly descended in this way from the people who inhabited Britain in the pre-Neolithic times: earlier than 4,000 B.C.

In other words, the idea that we’re all immigrants is retarded. In addition, he notes that “if Romer is correct, what migrants are escaping from, though they may not realize it, is the dysfunctional institutions that as settlers they appear to want to bring with them.” Of course, this admission makes immigrant voting patterns particularly relevant. Finally, “the windfall gains from migration are attributable ultimately to the public capital that has been built by the indigenous population.” This acknowledgement complicates (at a minimum) the idea that everyone deserves access to rich countries.

And his marginal analysis is actually quite compelling. For example, he notes that “the larger the diaspora is, the slower its rate of absorption will be.” A large diaspora also makes for faster rate of migration.

Here’s another totally reasonable statement: “The social consequences of migration depend on how immigrants relate to their host societies.”

For much of this analysis, Collier relies on Putnam. In essence he argues that high levels of immigration – particularly immigration from very diverse societies – will be corrosive to trust. This phenomenon then feeds on itself.

Interestingly, Collier tries to objectify “cultural distance” by measuring degrees of separation between languages of home and host countries. Again, in a totally unsurprising (and unmentionable) finding, cultural distance matters.

Some of his arguments get a bit more speculative. Obviously immigration increases house prices (he cites a figure of 10% in all of Britain, and notes that the number is much higher in the big cities). Does it also reduce company’s willingness to train workers? Does it encourage the indigenous to emigrate (especially from areas with high concentrations of immigrants)? He notes that London lost half its indigenous population since the 1950s.

How much has migration hollowed out the middle class? It’s very hard to say in any quantifiable way, but one has one’s suspicions (or here, if you prefer).

The gist of the marginal analysis is that, at some point, the effects of immigration become negative. Rich societies will, for a whole host of reasons, start fraying at the seams if immigration goes beyond a certain point. That point is not a theoretical point either. “In total, around 40 percent of the population of poor countries say that they would choose to migrate to rich ones if they could. Even this probably understates what would happen in the absence of financial and legal barriers.” To bolster that last point, Collier has an interesting analysis of the migration of Turkish Cypriots, where the ultimate exodus ended up well above that 40% mark.

Collier also provides some strong arguments against many of the comment arguments for increased immigration. For example:

Economics has developed an unambiguous analysis of how a temporary windfall should be handled: it should be saved. For example, the government could use a temporary increase in revenues from youthful immigration to reduce the public debt. What it should categorically not do is use them to incur new, ongoing obligations for spending, such as pensions. Yet that is what the argument “We need immigrants to counter an aging population” amounts to.

He notes that it will be difficult to compensate the losers from migration because evidence suggests that migration makes welfare less viable. In addition, in a world of unrestricted immigration, higher levels of welfare may attract less-skilled immigrants, thus exacerbating the problem.

To summarize his position, he believes that “the open door may be the short-sighted option [for some developed societies]: an unsustainable economic boom, followed by complex and prolonged social problems.”

He proposes moderate, controlled immigration. The controls would take the form of ceilings (i.e. limits on total immigration), selection (based on skills, culture, etc.), integration (proactive requirements that help immigrations be absorbed into the host society), and legalization (guest worker programs culminating in amnesty).

If you buy Collier’s underlying premises, this seems incredibly reasonable. Though this is not my ideal immigration policy, I think we could certainly have a reasonable debate about it without anyone sounding like they were arguing about angels on pins.

However, for every good thing that Collier says, he says a few weird things too.

Here’s a good one:

The track record of culturally diverse societies is not so encouraging. . . . In most societies for most of history high diversity has been a handicap. Even within modern Europe, the relatively modest cultural difference between Germans and Greeks has stretched to breaking the limited institutional harmonization achieved by the European Union. . . . If social models really are the fundamental determinants of prosperity, the rise of multiculturalism in one part of the world, coincident with its decline elsewhere, could have surprising implications.

In other words, Collier suggests that you should prepare to welcome our new Chinese overlords.

On the other hand:

Since race is correlated with other characteristics, such as poverty, religion, and culture, it remains possible that any limitation on migration based on these criteria is viewed as the Trojan horse for racism. If so, then it is still not possible to have an open debate on migration. I only decided to write this book once I judged that it is indeed now possible to distinguish between the concepts of race, poverty, and culture. Racialism is a belief in genetic differences between races: one for which there is no evidence. Poverty is about income, not genetics: the persistence of mass poverty alongside the technology that can make ordinary people prosperous is the great scandal and challenge of our age. Cultures are not genetically inherited; they are fluid clusters of norms and habits that have material consequences. A refusal to countenance racially based differences in behavior is a manifestation of human decency. A refusal to countenance culturally based differences in behavior would be a manifestation of blinkered denial of the obvious.

This sort of creationistic belief is worrisome. Note that not only does Collier refuse to consider genetics and evolution, he’s disgusted with you if you consider them.

The analysis that results from this (fundamentally religious) belief is a strange one. You’re torn as you read it. On one hand, it’s so obviously retarded. Collier says something like that “chance” is “the fundamental statistical reason” behind the dispersion of income. Really? Really? Is it also the fundamental reason behind distribution of Noble prizes in physics? If not, what happens in between?

On the other hand, one can’t but help admire how much work goes into a system that closes itself off from an obvious explanatory variable. Say what you will about the Ptolemaic system, but in some ways its most striking feature is that it was sometimes correct. You can’t but have a grudging admiration for the work necessary to hold something like that together.

Collier is also honest enough that it becomes apparent that the politically correct explanation isn’t really that politically correct. If evolution must be ignored, a lot of weight must be placed on “culture.” And then, you must soon conclude that a lot of cultures are pretty shitty.

You’re stuck with an explanation that is extremely hostile to cultural relativity: “The cultures—or norms and narratives—of poor societies, along with their institutions and organizations, stand suspected of being the primary cause of their poverty.” If you want to be politically correct, you’re screwed either way, better to just bury your head in the sand.

Collier also has to resurrect nationalism – it’s really the only force that can help with the absorption of migrants. After all, if there’s no nation, there’s nothing to be absorbed into. Put another way, the theory and practice of multiculturalism makes it all worse: “there is now mounting evidence that . . . the children of immigrants are more resistant to adopting the national culture than their parents.”

His view of nationalism is rather odd. He seems to think that every nation can be a “global village” type of nation. This suggestion seems obviously false to me. If every nation is the same, there’s nothing global about anything. Nevertheless, I find the reasoned discussion of nationalism without presumption that someone’s going to start killing the Jews to be appealing.

(I’m a nationalist for pretty much every nation at the smallest possible unit. A Courlandian nationalist, for example. The smaller the unit, the more interesting and easier it is to govern well.

I’ve always thought it telling that nationalistic-fascism took hold only in nations that were trying to cobble together a bunch of real nations into one big nation. That sort of unification is really hard, and unnatural, and in my opinion not really nationalistic – it’s unnatural nationalism, if you will.

By the way, this is why I find white nationalism so unappealing. There’s no nation of “white.” The idea that Italians and Swedes should share a nation is silly. This proposal in Switzerland seems totally reasonable to me, but it would be silly in any more diverse society, even one that was racially homogenous.)

I think Collier ultimately fails in his attempt to have a reasoned discussion on the issue. He’s so afraid that by not staking out the extreme pro-immigration position he’ll be considered a racist that he casts too much dispersion on those who might support his cause and he misses some of the most important arguments against immigration. The pro-unlimited-migration side are “progressives” while the anti-unlimited-immigration side are “xenophobes,” for example.

Another example will help. At one point Collier says:

Somewhere in England an elderly man reverts to the behavior of disaffected teenagers and daubs a slogan on the wall. He writes “England for the English.” The perpetrator is tracked down by the police and rightly prosecuted and convicted: the sentiment is clearly intended as racial abuse.

Note here that Collier is fine with criminalizing speech that is offensive to some unspecified (perhaps not even protected) group.

Yet in another part of the book, Collier notes that when the English tried to define Englishness in a non-racial way (at that point, I guess he forgot his DNA analysis that I quoted above) they relied on ideas like . . . wait for it . . . free speech.

So, if free speech is essentially English and also incompatible or intolerable in a society with significant immigration, something has to give. The entire multicultural viewpoint and associated criminalization of opinion is going to have to change for immigration to accelerate. If it doesn’t we’ll all be thought criminals.

Collier should be applauded for trying to re-frame this debate from the absurd state that it is in. There is indeed a more nuanced view than seeing the whole debate as one between the morally righteous (advocates of unfettered immigration) and the racist (advocates of anything other than unfettered immigration). The applause should be pretty half-hearted though.


An anti-reaction FAQ

October 22, 2013

I’ve previously defend Scott Alexander’s missives on reaction. However, his latest isn’t up to the level of his old stuff.

The crux of his argument is that, “It is a staple of Reactionary thought that everything is getting gradually worse.” He then goes on to show that not everything is getting worse.

In his previous writings on reaction, Mr Alexander has faithfully described the view of most reactionaries. The problem with his latest piece is that he doesn’t. It is not a staple of reactionary thought that everything is getting worse. To the contrary, I’ve never read that argument from any reactionary anywhere.

(As I’ve previously written I think most of us work in fields where advancement is quite obvious. Our frustration is that while we see progress in some areas virtually every day, nothing outside of these limited areas seems to be getting any better. Instead it all seems to be decaying – a process which itself is hardly a historical novelty).

Let’s correct his statement: It is a staple of Reactionary thought that massive improvements in technology have been very effective in masking massive declines in virtually all other aspects of society.

His first example is crime, and it’s a great one to illustrate my point.

Go look at his charts on crime. What you’ll generally see is a massive decline in crime (in civilized countries) that lasts for centuries and then reverses around 1950, increases for 50 years and then resumes decreasing in the 1990s or 2000s.

The non-Reactionary view of this is: “look how much better things have gotten in the last two decades,” or “our murder rate is now lower than it’s been since the 1950s.”

The Reactionary view is: “what the fsck was happening in ’50s,” or “is comparing homicide rates across these time periods really comparing apples to apples?”

Let’s say homicides were at their lowest sometime between 1920 and 1950. Quite a few things happened between now and then that should make homicides much lower. These factors include advances in medicine, advances in surveillance equipment, more people behind bars, advances in personal safety products, etc.

To compare the ’20s and the ’90s as if everything else was equal is a bit like comparing architecture pre and post the invention of concrete or steel and conclude by marveling at how superior the post era buildings are to the pre era buildings. The only thing you’ve revealed is your own bias.

The real thing to marvel at is not that we’ve somehow equalled the crime rate of the ’30s, but that with huge advances in technology and medicine we still can’t improve on the homicide rates that our grandparents achieved.

Other examples abound. What would previous generations of statesmen have done with the internet, modern communication technology, etc.? What have we done? Is there any reasonable argument that the governing process has improved at all in the last century? Is there any reasonable argument that the “statesmen” of today are superior to those of previous generations?

Certain technological advances make debts much easier to collect, track, and extend. Can that really be the only source of growth in economies? For how long?

The key insight is that things have improved in a lot of areas. These improvements are so massive that it’s really quite shocking that they haven’t spilled over into other areas (again, it’s just shocking that advances in medical technology haven’t by themselves massively lowered the homicide rate, or – as I suspect – if they have, it’s really shocking that today’s rate isn’t much lower than the rate from any previous era). In other words, given the technological advancements of the last 50 or 60 years, a lot of things should be a lot better. Why aren’t they? The only answer seems to be that a lot of other things have gotten much worse?

Far from arguing that everything is getting worse, the real question is how much longer advances in technology can mask declines in virtually all other areas of life?


The government “shutdown”

October 21, 2013

Now that it’s over (whatever “it” is), I guess I should say something about the government shutdown.

We should begin by establishing what the heck actually happened. The government employs roughly 4.5 million people.

(This figure has been broken down in lots of different ways, but I’ve never seen any argument against using the total number).

The shutdown began by sending 800,000 of them home, but after a few days, about 400,000 came back to work. A breakdown of those furloughed is here (note the number of furloughed employees looks huge here because huge parts of the government aren’t shown at all).

So, about 400,000 out of 4.5 million people didn’t come to work for a couple weeks. Let’s say that the “shutdown” of government means that about 9% of its workforce doesn’t come to work.

We’re coming out of a recession in which lots of business (that are still going concerns) laid-off a much larger fraction of their workforce. We never considered those places “shutdown.”

It’s also worth pointing out that these employees in many cases kept working, may get paid twice (indeed, even the Outer Party was eager to have it known that it wanted to pay employees to not work), and got paid to do a lot of fun stuff.

We’re left to conclude that nothing was really “shutdown” and no one really has much to complain about.

Besides the freak-out over the “shutdown,” I was also struck by the freak-out about the idea that government “isn’t supposed to work this way.” I find that surprising because – if the shutdown was an honest disagreement as opposed to political theater – it strikes me that if powers are really separated, the shutdown is exactly how government is supposed to work.

If power is really separated, everyone should be grasping eagerly for it. If it’s all a show, we should see one party constantly agreeing to the demands of the other (so much for separation of power – hey, it was a good idea in theory). It seems like we see the latter.

Yawn.


Randoms

October 21, 2013

My apologies for the lack of content lately. Hopefully you’ll pardon an extra long list of stuff worth reading.

Professor Mansfield on Machiavelli is worth your time. So is John Gray on Leopardi.

– 21st Century Progressivism in one sentence: “One bright, ambitious young philosopher I met at a party says it doesn’t matter if there was a warm consensual romantic relationship. He said the problem of sexual harassment is so rife in philosophy that it is good for someone to be strung up and example to be made.”

– There was some great stuff at More Right while I was away, particularly: Total Reaction, the neoreactionary glossary, and some empirical claims of neoreaction.

Fiat everything

– The thought police go after the comments at YouTube and Scientific American. Gavin McInnes sums up how this feels to me:

Without exception, the outrage was related to Tweets [perhaps the only thing more vapid than comments]. That’s right. Twitter. The place in cyberland where adolescents tell their 13 followers how tired they are and say, “Fuck you faggot” to their friend who refuses to root for Green Bay. You know you’re desperate to find a villain when you have to mine the flippant comments of 500 million users to locate examples. Wow, a teenager named Dallas thinks Indians are Arabs. Oh no, a fat kid named Colton thinks the Miss America contestant did “Egypt dancing.” You know what else teenagers say? “This apartment isn’t zombie-proof.”

America is a communist country. More here. Just for fun, who were the top American communists and was McCarthy right?

– I’m not sure I’m convinced by this argument, but it’s interesting: “The Rationalist Conspiracy suggests, however, that a new elite caste is emerging, in opposition to the rule of the Brahmins: Namely, the Silicon Valley elite are starting to engage in politics, and are forming their own prestige ladders and policy view.”

– Nick B. Steves on Bruce Charlton:

In case it was in doubt over these past couple years, Bruce Charlton is officially un-officially Mormon. (Explicit admission here.) Just as there never was such a thing as Mere, i.e., abstract, Christianity, Charlton is living proof that there is no such thing as Mere Traditionalism, no matter how hard and eloquently one wishes for it. Bruce Charlton, one of the original Orthosphere Players, has declared his loyalties to lie well outside the “Ortho-” part of the Christian religion.

I bear no animosity towards Mormons. Their religion is patently successful in the adaptive sense. (Perhaps even moreso during their “polygamy” phase.) But it is laughably outside the faith as promulgated in the first 1000 years of Christian history. . . .

The biggest irony to me is that Bruce Charlton, who consistently argues, contra Moldbug and the “Secular Right”, that the decay into leftism far predates the Protestant Reformation, that the truest and best expression of Christian society lies in Byzantium and the Eastern Orthodox faith, would fall for an evangelical über-low-church Protestant heresy invented from a whole cloth not 200 years ago.

More good stuff here:

But just because the Church cannot fail to live up to Her original founding principles by promoting no particular political constitution; She certainly can fail to do so by promoting an evil or disordered one. And it certainly looks that way today; what with her popes and bishops gleefully, even if rather awkwardly, tap-dancing in obeisance to the multi-culti, open-borders, Progressivist Zeitgeist. . . .

Progressivism is a memetic virus that evolved out of Protestant Christianity. No institution is immune from it. But clearly some identifiable pockets of resistance exist, and most of these lie within the visible confines of the Church (however plausibly defined). I have long believed that orthodox Christianity’s memetic nearness to Progressivism is a source of strength and resistance to it. At any rate, if there is hope at ridding the world of Progressivism, or hope that humanity will survive its inevitable self-immolation, it seems clear that unaffected (or reclaimed) Christians will be around to play a role in that future, somewhat saner, world.

Yet more here.

Taleb: “Amateurs in any discipline are the best, if you can connect with them. Unlike dilettantes, career professionals are to knowledge what prostitutes are to love.”

– Forney reviews “What is Neoreaction?”

– The civil war never ended.

– A map of Human Accomplishment. I really can’t get over how politically incorrect maps are.

– In case you missed it, alfin is back.

– A sort of book review from Spandrell.

– From feminist-speak to english.

– George Will is shocked to find politics at a powerful governmental organization – this is what passes for Conservative thought these days.

Diversity in Syria and Theden on the Rose Revolution.

– Vice continues it’s Conquestian-progression from actually-interesting organization to mouthpiece-of-the-Cathedral with this piece on “segregation” of the Greek system at the University of Alabama. Meanwhile, every college in the country has black-only fraternities and sororities. I hope no one at Vice was injured in the filming of this piece of hard hitting journalism.

– Wait, I thought there was a Constitutional amendment that prohibited people from eternally selling their labor?

– Legionnaire on the natural aristocracy.


Pseudohistory

October 21, 2013

In “Further conversation on regime change,” Moldbug defined propaganda as pseudohistory and pseudoscience.

Psuedoscience is (‘round these parts) generally considered this. However, I think that’s too narrow a view. It misses much of the most pernicious pseudoscience of our times, which involves the expansion of the term “science” to cover things that are in no way related to the scientific method.

Peer review is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Peer review isn’t part of the scientific process (unless the reviewers were to actually try to replicate the results of the paper they’re reviewing, which they never do). The process is really no different than the editorial process, which no fool would conflate with science.

The results are surprising to only those not paying attention.

The other obvious example is statistical analysis. Such analysis is mathematical, but that doesn’t make it scientific. Pardon the aside, because what I really want to chat about it pseudohistory.

A couple weeks ago, we got a great example of pseudohistory.

When I was young a lad, I was taught the terrible tale of Matthew Shepard. Mr Shepard was a nice, law-abiding gay man who was beat up and killed by a bunch of redneck, gay-hating thugs. As a young lad, this story made a big impression on me. The sort of people that would do this sort of thing were really out there – they were real.

Although your lying eyes would seem to tell you that most violence is not in fact committed by living and breathing admirers of Hitler, it seemed that – at least sometimes – some violence was.

Except that it wasn’t. Apparently, the Matthew Shepard story was totally bullshit: Chuck has a great summary, which I don’t think I can improve upon. Hopefully he won’t mind if I excerpt a lot his post, because I think a bunch of his points deserve some further analysis:

Jiminez [a dude that just wrote a book about Shepard] spent 10 years researching the book and found lots of evidence showing that Shepard was a low-level meth dealer. At least one of the men who admitted to killing and torturing Shepard was a bisexual lover and drug partner of Shepard’s.

At Breitbart, Lee Stranahan compares the myths surrounding Matthew Shepard, if this news turns out to be true, to that surrounding Trayvon Martin. . . .

The legacy of Matthew Shepard is too deeply entrenched in gay victimization culture for this new information to matter all that much. Society has been marinating in the fable for 15 years. Trayvon Martin was only a one-sided story for a couple of weeks, and there are a lot of people who will consider him the modern-day Emmett Till. Shepard’s story has fueled way too many rallies and has had too much impact on policy, just as Martin’s death will eventually shape gun laws. Hell, a musical was even made in honor of the gay icon. So even if Jiminez’s book is soundly researched and even if objective observers think the findings are true, the book will largely go ignored. It doesn’t matter anyway because none of the policies and energy generated by the initial outrage will be ceded back.

Ultimately, after the surprise at these new revelations wears off, and even if they are largely accepted as truth by the public and by many gays, it will still be a social sin to mention the truth surrounding Shepard’s death. We hear the response “well why do you need to even talk about it?” or “why do you care?” when discussing racial crime statistics or HIV rates among gay males or anything else that makes a celebrated group of people look bad. We care because we care, and we have to point out the truth so gullible progressives will stop being wrong and naive.

If you’re at all open-minded, this sort of shit has to make you wonder. What reporter in his right mind would question the narrative? Doing so is a fast-track to career ruination. The media has been taking sides in these sorts of issues since, well, since democracy was invented. You really can’t trust the historical narrative at all.

For example, I assumed the Emmett Till story was totally true. But I know that the Trayvon Martin narrative is bullshit (thanks exclusively to “reporters” that work entirely outside the mainstream – a recent possibility), and if Martin is exactly like Till – which all the mainstream accounts would have you believe – then is the Till story bullshit, or is it the other way around?

Indeed, it doesn’t take too much digging to turn up some evidence that some of the Civil Rights Era stories may have been a little more complicated than what we were taught in high school. For example, even Wikipedia says Rosa Parks was a plant.

The further I dig into these sorts of stories, the more I tend toward the conclusion that there’s at least as much bullshit as fact in the mainstream versions.

Let’s take a seemingly uncontroversial quote from a mouthpiece of the Cathedral:

Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, the so-called “right wing” was right about virtually everything on the economic front. Most of all communism, but also inflation, taxes, (most of) deregulation, labor unions, and much more, noting that a big chunk of the right wing blew it on race and some other social issues. The Friedmanite wing of the right nailed it on floating exchange rates.

Arguably the “rightness of the right” peaks around 1989, with the collapse of communism. After that, the right wing starts to lose its way.

Did the right, especially the post-Civil Rights Era right really blow it on race? They obviously did in the sense that they lost, and we know who writes history. But that’s a terrible standard of correctness. Both sides made predictions about the future – whose predictions were better?

If we could resurrect a rightist and a leftist from the time and take them to say Detroit, would the leftist turn to the rightist and say, “I told you so?” I’m not so sure. Would they look at maps of racial segregation in cities and conclude that the rightist was wrong? I think there just might be a bit more nuance to the discussion than that.

But, as Chuck notes, the truth doesn’t really matter.

What about other bits of history?

Radish recently did a post on suffrage (go there for all the links, which really does make it much better):

In any case, the point is: anti-suffragist women had a number of reasons to oppose suffrage, none of which involved women being too emotional to make sound decisions. How do those reasons strike you? Don’t worry, you don’t actually need to scroll up and re-read them and think about it and come to your own conclusions, as if this were some kind of homework assignment. That’s what teachers and journalists are for: to tell us which ideas it is socially acceptable to call “true,” sparing us the trouble (and likely embarrassment) of figuring it out on our own. So here’s how they should strike you:

“Some of them might seem silly to you, but they made a lot of sense to people at the time,” reads a 2002 textbook. “Anti-suffragette arguments relied heavily on emotional manipulation and downright hateful nastiness,” explains The Week (2013); “bizarre reasons,” according to The Atlantic (2012). Similarly, this 1988 textbook:

Well, these particular reasons appear to have been chosen to seem ludicrous to us (and it’s not clear that the third one was “taken seriously by a wide cross-section of women”). Are they ludicrous, though? How’s chivalry doing these days?

At least the species isn’t dying out. Ludicrous! Check the fertility rates for 2009. In Afghanistan, for instance, where “women are retreating into public silence to avoid being targeted by extremists:” a robust 7.07. In Guatemala, where “in 2011, some 700 women were murdered, many of whom were also sexually assaulted, their bodies then mutilated and left in public view:” a promising 4.15. In Burkina Faso, where “women and girls continue to be subjected to early marriages and female genital mutilation:” a solid 6.00. In Yemen, where “many young girls” are “pulled out of school to be married for a fee to an older man, often then forced to have sex and endure abuse, both physical and emotional:” an encouraging 5.50. In DR Congo, where “sexual atrocities… extend ‘far beyond rape’ and include sexual slavery, forced incest and cannibalism” (see Radish 2.2): a healthy 6.70.

To put Radish’s point more succinctly: “The antisuffragist activists argued that suffrage would destroy the American family and that suffrage was part of a larger effort of some women to destroy all sexual differences.”

The world is full of many reasonable conclusions. The conclusion that we’re not currently witnessing these very phenomenon is not one of them. Perhaps, it’s purely coincidental that the anti-suffragists seem to have been completely correct – perhaps it just so happened that the outcomes they predicted actually came to pass – but the idea that they were obviously wrong is ludicrous.

Progressives have certainly been wrong before, there’s really no reason to think it was an isolated incident.

The pseudohistory is out there, and it’s harder than ever to distinguish the good from the bad. Honestly, you’re probably better off not reading anything about current events, since it’s basically all pseudohistory. Heck, we don’t even have a good history of the ‘60s yet.