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.