Over the years, I’ve met several individuals of immense capacity for logical deduction, genuinely impressive education, and sky-high IQ (we’re talking well north of 160). Many of these people have an almost supernatural ability that seems, to the merely mortal, to allow them to discover the truth rapidly and definitively – and in such a manner as to prevent any seemingly-reasonable argument to the contrary.
If you are not one in a million and blessed with this combination, you might need a heuristic to filter out the bullshit that permeates the Internet – a place that contains almost the sum of all human knowledge mixed prodigiously with the sum of all human stupidity.
The Six Filters for Truth
Scott Adams, in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, has an effective heuristic he calls The Six Filters for Truth. They are as follows:
Experience of people you know.
Each one of these has glaring flaws when individually given precedence over the others. Personal experience can be iffy and unreliable. People you know could be stupid. Experts could be dishonest, incompetent, or saying whatever the bankroll wants them to. Scientific studies are great at answering very specific questions – but correlation is not causation. Common sense is a great way to be wrong with supreme confidence and, in any event, as the saying goes – it is not so common. Pattern recognition could incorporate personal bias or be coincidental.
However, if something is consistent in several of those bullet points, but one is completely different, it is reasonable to suspect the different one might be bullshit.
One of pop culture’s favorite examples of bullshit is the Tobacco Industry, which once denied cigarettes caused harm, and funded sympathetic or conflicting studies. Yet if someone had bothered to check the Six Filters for Truth, they probably would have seen through that right away. When you see people you know coughing, getting sick, etc., and they are chain smokers, you can check #2. If you smoked yourself and suffered these issues, you could also check #1. #5 is great because just thinking through breathing smoke into your lungs would have raised the thought “maybe this isn’t the most healthy thing to do.” #6 goes into noticing that old people who smoked a lot generally had various unpleasant problems.
So even if the Tobacco Industry funded experts and studies – and their opponents funded other studies and experts (effectively rendering #3 and #4 a tie), you could say reasonably “eh, the Tobacco Industry is probably full of shit.”
The Internet is Full of Shit
Google – and by extension, the Internet it searches – creates a number of conflicts for #3 and #4. One of the most famous examples of this the dispute over minimum wage. Scott Alexander at SSC touches on this briefly:
“At some point in their education, most smart people usually learn not to credit arguments from authority. If someone says “Believe me about the minimum wage because I seem like a trustworthy guy,” most of them will have at least one neuron in their head that says “I should ask for some evidence”. If they’re really smart, they’ll use the magic words “peer-reviewed experimental studies.
But I worry that most smart people have not learned that a list of dozens of studies, several meta-analyses, hundreds of experts, and expert surveys showing almost all academics support your thesis – can still be bullshit.
Which is too bad, because that’s exactly what people who want to bamboozle an educated audience are going to use.”
There is no definitive answer to this question that can be easily and casually proven. Many complex issues are like this. They are not monocausal. There are so many second-order effects of a decision that it’s almost impossible to work out beforehand just what will happen. The minimum wage is like that. But on a meta level, many issues are like this.
In other words, for many of the most intensely debated political issues, at least by midwits on social media, filters #3 and #4 are muddied so much as to be inconclusive. That was the purpose of the Tobacco Industry funding competitive research: to muddy the expert opinion waters. Falling back on the other filters provided a reasonable answer, however – it was probably harmful, just look at your cousin who has lung cancer or something. An answer that eventually turned out to be right once the Tobacco Industry gave up its war.
Cigarette smoking was, however, a relatively easy one. Issues like Minimum Wage, Global Warming, etc… are much more difficult to resolve and may never be conclusively answered the way cigarette smoking (eventually) was.
Google statistics, studies, and experts on almost any subject. You will get results sympathetic to your argument, ones against your position, and everything in between. If you’re a social media normie, you might get in a spat with your cousin’s friend about Global Warming and start a cycle of posting sympathetic sources, and in turn try to come up with ways to dismiss your opponent’s sources. Perhaps, your opponent suggests, your sources are funded by evil oil companies. You then point out that his studies come from government grants, and we all know the government wants more power.
You can go down that road forever. Nothing will come of it.
For your personal belief, you will have to employ other truth filters. For convincing your cousin’s friend, it’s hopeless, and it’s a waste of time to try.
Experts Are Not Equally Trustworthy
Tom Nichols – a man who loves to pontificate on why people should trust the experts (on everything) – frequently likes to compare to airline pilots. Generally speaking, airline pilots are very qualified, and we trust them to fly us safely all the time. So, in his thinking, we should ascribe similar levels of trust to, say, foreign policy experts.
This stems from a misconception: the notion that experts in one domain are equally honest and competent as experts in another.
If you employ the truth filtering, you’ll quickly realize how false that is.
Yes, we trust airline pilots a lot. There are common folk wisdoms about it, like “flying is safer than driving” – folk wisdoms that happen to be true – and they check box #5. You can check box #2 in that, in all probability, you do not know anyone who personally died in an airliner due to pilot error. Your personal experiences with flying were probably good too. Box #1.
If you were so inclined, you could research box #4 and find out that statistically, airliners don’t crash very often. In fact, airlines are great in that you can usually check all six boxes. Tom, of course, wants you to think that all experts can be treated so graciously.
Apply the same thinking to another field of experts: auto mechanics.
Dear reader, I bet you are already feeling a bit skeevy at that. Most of us have probably encountered dumb and/or dishonest auto mechanics. I bet you have stories from friends about folks getting screwed by a local wrench turner. Local media loves to do exposes on auto mechanic dishonesty, overcharging, and incompetence. Yes, auto mechanics probably know more than most of my readers about fixing cars, but only an idiot would trust them the same way as an airline pilot.
As bad as auto mechanics can be, however, politicians are probably worse. Sure, they are probably more knowledgeable about the inner workings of politics than you are. This does not mean it is advisable to trust them.
There is a bit of Motte & Bailey Fallacy in Tom Nichols’ arguments. When he says “trust the experts” he trots out the nice, well groomed, hyper-competent airline pilot. But what he really means is for you to listen to whatever experts thought the Afghanistan pull out strategy was great or endorsed Janet Reno’s Waco strategy. It’s an “experts can do no wrong” argument dressed up in the best possible clothing.
One of my own personal heuristics here is to ascribe more trust to experts in the physical sciences and in engineering than I do in the soft sciences. For instance, I am more likely to trust a physicist or an aeronautical engineer than a sociologist or a political science expert. There is less wiggle room for bullshit when your plane either flies, or crashes in a burning pile of rubble.
Man Made Global Warming
So just what do you do when presented with issues that defy easy resolution, but which have immense political power backing them? It’s clear that most powerful world governments (China excepted – which I find personally hilarious) want to employ various Global Warming mitigation strategies, most of which involve curtailing freedoms and raising taxes.
Let’s say that, like me, you find this a bit too convenient (in a Tobacco Industry research kind of way) and also do not like curtailing freedoms and raising taxes as a general rule. Good luck proving the experts wrong – you won’t be able to.
Of course, that doesn’t make them right either. Yet how can you oppose the political power backing such things without clear cut proof of error? You might employ the filters for truth and come to the conclusion that the experts are full of shit, but a good portion of that list relies on anecdote which as we’ll touch on later, doesn’t work very well when convincing others.
For one, you can’t win that fight. A thousand victories in social media debates with your cousin’s second roommate will not move the political needle. Either the politicians have the power to get what they want, or they don’t. That’s very orthogonal to whether or not the underlying position is true.
For the most part, I generally believe data that suggests the Earth has been warming in the last century or so. That is because this is a mostly physical science exercise. Obtain temperatures at various places around the world over a long period of time and compare these values, perform some math, average things out… and yeah, sure, you could probably get a general sense for temperature.
Causality, however, is an entirely different business. The pop culture narrative, generally supported by most major governments, is that this is predominately man made, that it is way out of line with prehistorical temperatures, and that this is a major crisis which will have terrible impacts, justifying all manner of government interventions.
All of those I find much more suspect. The Earth is so complex, I am inherently suspicious of anything predominantly monocausal, especially if it aligns with government interests. The latter is a source of confusion for me, at times. Political Leftists are often suspicious of large corporate interests but are prepared to believe big government. On top of that, all the doom and gloom is confusing, at times. Certainly, rising temperatures will have various costs, drawbacks, and problems. But it also probably has benefits. Off the top of my head, it probably means more arable land.
Of course, I’m not saying it’s a good thing, overall, either. I don’t know. I’m willing to generally trust the experts taking the temperature readings, but the various models and political conclusions from those models, and the blame assignment, those I am skeptical on.
It’s not very scientific, but those folks remind me a bit of the auto mechanics. Certainly not the airline pilots. In any case, the complexity of the issue renders most conclusions about it probably little better than guesses.
Anecdotal evidence can be both the strongest form of evidence, and the weakest. For yourself, if you experience a thing, that is strongly persuasive to you, personally. But its power to convince others is usually quite weak. This is a major kind of disconnect in more formalized debates. You can know a thing to be true, to a very high degree of certainty, but be completely unable to prove it to someone else. To observers watching the debate, it would then appear that your opponent is probably more right than you are.
Sometimes folks – usually midwits – will repeat the mantra “anecdotal evidence is the weakest form of evidence!” They probably heard about it in some class, or read it in a social media post, and it struck them as clever in a midwit sort of way. But the phrase’s conclusion really only applies to formal debate.
In truth, your anecdotal experiences can be valuable, or can be bullshit. It depends greatly on the circumstances. Let’s say you were one of the rare people that lost a loved one in an airline crash or something. You might say “airline pilots are incompetent assbags.” You’d be full of shit, and the anecdotal experience led you wrong. But if you go through the filters for truth, you’d realize that 5 of the filters said “airline pilots are great” and only one – YOU – suggested that they sucked. In all probability, then, it is you who is wrong.
But let’s take a more contemporary example. I’ve read several news articles and statements from politicians suggesting that either inflation is completely within norms, or is hardly even there at all, or if it is there, it’s a good thing and your salaries are surely keeping up.
Okay. We have the expert opinion. What about anecdotes? I’ve seen prices on almost everything I buy on a regular basis go up by significant amounts. Very little – if anything – has gone down. Nor has my salary gone up during this period. Maybe that’s just me, right? So, I talk to friends and family. Nope, they are seeing the same things I am seeing. Pattern recognition is saying it too. In fact, everything except the experts says this is probably happening.
In that case, anecdote is a great data point (among others) to suggest maybe the experts are full of shit. It’s not always effective, but the six filters are a great heuristic. If one is out of line with the rest, you’re probably dealing with bullshit. And if that one out of line with everything else is you, then maybe it’s you who is full of shit.
The Internet is wonderful in many ways. So much knowledge and experience are buried in it. But Sturgeon’s Law still applies: 90% of everything is crap. The Internet is vast. When you consider that most of it is probably porn, and 90% of the remainder is probably bullshit, you are left with very little truly useful content, as a percentage.
Maybe it does contain almost the sum of all human knowledge. But this is like sifting through a landfill for valuables. They probably exist. But it might be wise to have some techniques and quick filters to make wading through the muck easier. And the bigger the landfill gets, the harder it might be to find what you’re looking for.
Sometimes I wonder if going back to books might become a thing again. For a while, it was easier to find a how-to on, say, fixing your specific car’s problem by Googling it. You would find more information, how-to videos, and documentation than you ever could in the Chilton Manual. Furthermore, you could usually get to the specific problem a lot faster. Perhaps you wanted to recharge the A/C and just needed to find the recharge port.
But eventually it may become hard enough to find all of that information, wading through all the clickbait, bullshit, long-winded videos, spam, and morons who think they understand the problem, that a return to just buying the manual might be easier. Perhaps many other knowledge domains are like this, and it would be easier to buy a book, or secure a membership to a website or something specific to that knowledge domain – one that is scoured of bullshit – than to use more generalized Internet searches.
For political issues, maybe we’re already there. Whatever lunatic position someone might have, there’s probably support for it from some corner of the Internet, from some expert or authority of some kind. It’s another problem with Tom Nichols and his take on expertise: which experts should you trust? He clearly has an idea of which ones he trusts and expects you to come to the same conclusion. Those largely consist of the politically connected and powerful experts, those who have been endorsed by the ruling body. That’s his path out of the Internet muck: trust the powerful. Whether this is out of principle or submission and cowardice, I can’t say, though I’d probably guess the latter.
Personally, if the experts are a confused mess of conflicting opinions, I usually just scratch that off the list and look for another way to filter for probable truth, knowing always that there’s a good chance I’m still wrong. But, in the manner of Socrates, maybe I’m slightly less dumb for realizing that.
Watching the election in Virginia, and to a lesser extent in New Jersey, was fascinating. In 2020, the Establishment pulled every stop, every dirty trick, perhaps even outright fraud but certainly, at a bare minimum, a relentlessly biased media campaign. And, naturally, it worked. Yet the same kind of bombardment failed in Virginia. Trotting out fake Neo Nazis was caught and exposed. Open taunting about controlling schools and the education of children failed to sway parents. Fraud – at least in Virginia – either failed to materialize or was just insufficient to stop the tide.
If this had been Florida, or another very borderline state, we could write off the result as a slight swing in favor of one party or the other, but Virginia has been Blue since the Bush II days. Make no mistake, something big happened there.
Looking back, Donald Trump failed to significantly reverse Progressive gains during his presidency, but he did do one thing very well: he antagonized his opponents to such a degree that they expended enormous amounts of energy to defeat him. Money and political capital flowed freely. Journalists brazenly exposed their bias. Chants of Hitler and Nazi reached a fever pitch that dwarfed Bush Derangement Syndrome by orders of magnitude. Never forget a young woman… or man… who could tell… screaming the moment Donald Trump took office. It was the symbol for the following four years. American Leftists went mad. Establishment figures spared no expense ridding themselves of the man. Money, fraud, collusion, outright lies, ridiculous stories like the Steele Dossier, and foolish stooges like the Lincoln Project threw everything at him.
Yeah, they beat him. Who could stand against that kind of energy? The whole presidency took on the character of Horatius at the bridge. Give Trump credit for one thing: he stood there and took it. No Bush could ever manage that. I can’t think of anyone Right of Center who could have.
A very intelligent friend of mine (Morlock – follow him on Twitter here if you like) likened all of this, at a very meta level, to the lifecycle of a very massive star. First, such a star burns hydrogen, and lasts for many years in this steady state. In such a manner, liberalization held sway in the West for a long time. Even the American Revolution was a kind of liberalization against monarchism (a later attempt in France went… less well). Freedom of speech, of movement, of association were great advances – progress, we might say – against the way things had been. We can extend this to the emancipation of slaves, to old rules around race and sex withering away. This form of liberalism lasted long, and though contained missteps, was largely a force for good. Many modern Rightists call themselves ‘Classical Liberals’ in this sense. This is where they wished to stay. Alas, it was not to be.
The star exhausts its supply of hydrogen. The simple, easy fuel is gone. Pressure increases, heat rises, and the star begins to burn helium. Yet the helium does not last as long. Progressives burned through all these easy things. They had to find new oppressions to defeat, new freedoms to offer. Where a Classical Liberal might support a war in the sense of Just War theory, the 60s New Leftist supported nothing. All war was evil oppression. Pacifism became principle. Sexual liberation was on offer, something which might have been related to the later explosion of STDs like HIV. Where the hydrogen of Classical Liberalism had lasted more than a century, the New Left of the 60s was dead by the 80s.
Helium had all been fused. Now on to heavier elements. Each successive ‘liberation’ and ‘freedom’ discovered is more minute – denser, in its own way – than its predecessor. Some are freed entirely from any grounding in reality. The agender demi-sexual femme-identifying xir claims you must acknowledge… its… pronouns, or you have oppressed… it. Ever more nebulous forms of oppression are discovered. It is time, they say, to consider fat liberation. More political capital is burned in the fires of this insanity. Public deviation from the Establishment is no longer possible without severe consequences, the pressures are too great. This cycle goes on and on with ever-heavier elements, ever-mounting pressures, and more ridiculous liberations, and freedoms, and imagined oppressions.
Until the star attempts to fuse iron.
Dear readers, I don’t know when we we’ll hit iron. I only know that someday we will, and given the ever-shorter lifespans of Tumblr-inspired nonsense, that day is probably not particularly far off.
Once iron comes into play, things get very bad for the star very quickly. The equilibrium is gone. Fusing it doesn’t provide enough energy to maintain stability. It explodes, and for all intents and purposes, that is the end of the star. Perhaps its remnants form a neutron star or a black hole, but whatever the case, the cycle has ended.
Someday soon, the Progressives will reach iron. Maybe they already have, and Virginia is demonstrating that for them. Perhaps telling parents – even liberalized suburban Karens – that they have no right to a place in their child’s schooling is that iron. Or maybe the old Neo Nazi poser trick has finally expended the last of its viable political energy. Maybe COVID insanity is the last straw. Once upon a time, I thought coming for the guns might do it. Perhaps the political Left has within it another round or two of fusion, despite the hiccups here. Only in retrospect can we know when the moment came, and what drove it.
Yet iron cannot be that far off. The massive burning of political capital, money, economic resources – all of it – to defeat Trump shows the enormous pressure required to push America further Leftward. It doesn’t want to go anymore. Even with Leftists themselves, how much is about principle anymore? How much is really about defeating the Capitalism they have quasi-embraced with Starbucks, Apple, Google, and every HR department in the country? Principle is gone, now. All that remains is naked tribalism. They hate the Right, and the Right hates them, and what else is left to us? Does being called a racist or sexist have any power outside the Left’s own tribe?
Trump was no Horatius, in the end. He fell on the bridge. Whether through media pressure, money, or just plain fraud, he was brought down. Yet the enormity of the push to do that shows how hard the Left has it, now. And those same mechanisms failed to deliver Virginia from the Right, and only barely held on to ground in New Jersey. How will those mechanisms perform for truly purple states, or red ones?
I don’t know. Maybe they recover and push harder and expend more capital – dial up the pressure, fuse another element, and push a victory in 2022 or 2024. Maybe they never fully lose control of the government due to its massive unelected and largely Leftist bureaucracy.
But soon, they will try to fuse iron, and that’s the end of it all. Whether our country survives it, or in what form, I can’t say. I don’t know what all that looks like or how it plays out.
In my previous post, I said that historians will look back upon the American Empire and select a date – perhaps one as meaningless as the child puppet emperor toppling from a wobbly throne in 476 – and say “this is when America fell.” It is possible that date is already in the past.
It is possible that the date was mere days ago.
Afghanistan’s fall and our blundered exit are indicative of late stage decline. The Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, and did long survive their exit. Will we long survive ours? Leaving Afghanistan was necessary, I think – though it should have been done long ago. America is not built to fight wars of occupation in the long run. But doing so in this chaotic manner shows that the ruling caste of America cannot do much of anything right anymore. Chronic inflation, totalitarian responses to a minor disease, poorly-managed withdraws from the outer periphery of the empire… These are not the signs of a healthy domain.
World War II broke the back of Western Europe, and the mantle of Western European Empire shifted to America, as the mantle of the East shifted to the Soviets. It’s a division that dates back all the way to Diocletian splitting the Roman Empire into East and West – only now that frontier of empire had shifted to the periphery.
The Soviets are gone, now. Will we soon follow? And with us, probably the predominance of the West.
Watching Biden play a Kabuki Dance on stage, trying to say that the bucks stops with him, yet shifting blame to his predecessors is just another moment in the rapidly-accelerating decline of the American Empire. China no doubt drools over the prospect of taking Taiwan – would Biden be able to stop them? Would he even try? And if he did try, would it be bungled as badly as Afghanistan? No doubt the Chinese are wondering these same things. Or perhaps they have already made the calculations, maybe they already know when and where they will prod the dying beast next.
At home, Leftists on Twitter lament that the poor women of Afghanistan will no longer be able to pursue gender studies degrees (I do not exaggerate), and that LGBT rights will be rolled back by the Taliban. These things are true, after a fashion, but the complaints demonstrate the true priorities of the modern American Empire: to export its state religion of Critical Race Theory and Open Sexuality to a world that does not appear to want any more of it.
Oh, you thought America was a Christian country? No. Like the late Roman Empire, the state religion is changing. Social Justice is the belief endorsed by the ruling caste, not Christianity. Where the two conflict, expect protests, Cancel Culture mob justice, regulations, and the like. The White Man’s Burden of yesteryear has been replaced with the rainbow flag and Black Lives Matter. Where once the British protested the burning of widows in India, now does America protest not providing gender confirmation surgery to the trans folks of Afghanistan. NGOs in Africa are just missionary organizations bereft of God, and infused with a dose of Marxism.
The State Religion of the American Empire may outlast the empire itself, as Christianity outlasted the Roman state.
Then again, perhaps Islam will extinguish it, as the Taliban have done in Afghanistan. The two great tyrannical quasi-religions compete for domination of the Earth. As the quote goes in the Highlander movies, there can be only one. Or perhaps China will be the final beneficiary of all of this, and stamp them both out – to replace them with their own brand of technocratic tyranny, now more akin to Nazism than to its previous Maoism. Imagine the Gestapo of yesteryear drooling over the Social Credit system, the limitless surveillance and facial recognition.
The wet dream of every tyrant: limitless micromanagement until the pawns in your game aren’t even human anymore. They are just meat robots with homo sapiens DNA acting in accordance with your social program.
Whatever the case, the three great brands of modern tyranny, Islam, Chinese “Communism”, and American Social Justice are all cruel and evil in their own unique ways – and all infused with religious or quasi-religious reverence and loyalties. Frank Herbert told us to beware of times when religion and politics ride in the same cart. In the days of the American Empire’s decline, there appears to be little choice in the matter.
Will the Biden Administration fall soon? Will Kamala replace it? Or will the intelligence agencies run it all from behind the scenes? Will the next elections contain even a smattering of legitimacy, or will the whole thing be as fake as a Socialist election in Venezuela? I have no way of knowing. But I no longer suffer the illusion that our votes mean anything at all, or that the ruling caste contains any remnant of competence. The fools are at the helm of the Titanic, and there is no removing them before the iceberg comes.
In the distant future, as Gibbon did, some historian will stick his wrinkled finger on a calendar date and pronounce “and on this date, the United States of America fell.” If by some miracle I were to witness the event, I would not be surprised if that date was already in our past. Historians have the benefit of hindsight, but also of not living in the aquarium they spend their lives researching. Some say Rome fell in 476, as a puppet emperor was deposed and sent into retirement. Did Roman citizens know this was an ending of things? No. To them the real emperor resided in Constantinople. Since they had first drawn breath, all power resided there, in New Rome. Old Rome had been a shadow for generations, and even in Italy, rule had long been pronounced from Ravenna, itself far less important than the economically powerful East.
Justinian the Great thought himself the Emperor of the Romans and ruled over the Mediterranean shores as tightly as many of his predecessors, more than half a century after the fall. What changed, then, on that day historians marked? Symbols changed; I suppose. We see discontinuity, but there was none. We see change, but such change was gradual, the product of generations.
The point is essentially arbitrary. A finger found its way to a date on a calendar, one small event in a sequence of centuries, and thus was it pronounced: Rome has fallen.
Looking back on American history, where lies that point for us? Like the later days of classical Rome, we are two nations, now. Unlike Rome, there is no easy split. We are not East and West, nor are we North or South. Even Urban and Rural does note quite get to the root of the thing, though there at least we finally see some correlation.
Nor is this split limited to America. The entirety of the Western World suffers from it. But here in America we can see its purest form. We try to put labels on it: Left and Right, Liberal and Conservative. But these too fail to grasp the essence of the divide. These aren’t merely two political parties who disagree on some things. Now, they are people who have entirely different viewpoints about the world, who are brought up in different ways, who live and breathe diametrically opposed cultural values.
In America, there are two countries. We might say with some accuracy that they evolved from a single one. But whatever the origins, they are two peoples now. With the rapid influx of unassimilated immigration, we have the seeds of more countries being sown. More than two, someday. De facto, America is broken up into little islands of Red and Blue, and in some cases, completely foreign exclaves.
Each country has its own culture, its own social mores, religious preferences, traditions, and ways of life. For now, a theoretically common law and government seems to unite them on paper, but the days of Trump and Biden show us that each country views rule by the other side as illegitimate. Both sides will claim fraud if the other wins, and it is entirely possible they are correct to do so.
Moldbug once claimed that American Leftists want to count ‘every vote’ because they know that, in the end, they do somewhat outnumber American Rightists in a raw sense. They think it fair that this minor majority means they are empowered to do whatever they wish to their enemies. And American Rightists want rules, procedures, and formalized structure to the vote, because they know that, in the end, their people possess more raw power. The guns are on their side. The countryside is theirs, along with most of the raw productivity. A drug-addled ghetto resident may not be bothered with voting if it requires even a modicum of effort on his part. In this way, both countries cheat. Both countries think their own brand of power should grant them supremacy.
Therefore, Leftists wish to abolish the electoral college, and resist voter ID rules. Their goal is to get as many people to the polls as possible. It doesn’t matter if the voter is a pot-addled loser who hasn’t held a job in 20 years, or an oldster out of his gourd with dementia, or a convicted felon. The more, the merrier. It is the opposite with the Right. Keep the electoral college, institute small barriers to the vote like voter ID. Each small barrier to the vote is some lazy slob who decides it’s not worth the effort to put down the crack pipe for an hour and head to the polls. Deep down, most Rightists would say that their votes ought to count a little more than someone like that.
At a more fundamental level, it is a political power game between two peoples forced to live side-by-side. Each day grows increasingly hostile. Rule by the other is seen as tyranny – and perhaps rightly so. Were we geographically separated, I suspect America would have already given up the fiction of unity. But look around you. Even in a rural area, you will find your share of Leftists. Even in the urban core, there will be closet Trump voters. Suburbs, of course, remain a battleground. Rightists often say the cities cannot survive without the countryside, and that is true after a fashion. But how well does the countryside do without the cities?
This crosses even formal country boundaries. China is an enemy of America – something even most Leftists understand at some level. Yet China and America are interconnected economically to an extremely high degree. It is even stronger still between the Two Americas.
Even so, rule by the other grows increasingly intolerable. In older days, we would probably have already seen Civil War begin. Yet, as prosperity still reigns, few people are truly motivated to risk everything they have to start that conflict. Oh, there is always talk of this. Antifas will cry out that the Revolution has begun, and the Boog Boys will talk about sheepdogs. Social media will fill with memes about helicopters and Communists.
Nobody truly crosses the line, though. Treatment of January 6th participants shows that great punishment will come down on anyone who even creeps up on the line. Now, you might say that Antifas do not receive the same treatment – and that is true, after a fashion. The punishment of the Rightist who creeps up on the line is blacklisting. It is cancellation. It is judicial tyranny. These punishments rarely (but sometimes) catch Antifas. In other words, the system punishes them. For Antifas, the punishment is rather more literal and personal. Each riot incurs upon them a slight chance that a policeman will maul them, or that a Kyle Rittenhouse will come, and they will die. This is much rarer the other way around. Typical punishment differs between the countries.
Regardless, the Revolutionaries do not actually revolt. And the Boog Boys launch no Boogs. Yet always the unspoken threat of both lingers over the political horizon. Both know that, should that day come, the iPhones and vente lattes will dry up. Cheap ammo and plentiful bacon will be gone. And all know that the first movers – the ones who do not just creep upon the line but cross it blatantly – will pay a great price for doing so.
So, the Two Americas engage in a Cold War with its occasional, but isolated, hot spots. Mutually assured destruction has been achieved without nuclear weapons. If the cities go, so does the country. But as the country goes, so does the city. As Leftists go, so do the Rightists. This probably all hovers somewhere in the mind of the average American. Perhaps it is not even fully realized, consciously. Maybe it manifests as a vague unease – a feeling of going too far, a fear of stepping over the line. Each time someone approaches the line, they draw back.
What will their family think? What will friends on social media say? Will they be able to get jobs, buy food, and enjoy the latest Apple devices? No… no they cannot step over the line.
But the Saxon still hates. The Communist still seethes with anger every time he sees an F-150 with a Salt Life sticker on the back. Neighbors nonetheless pretend not to know the affiliations of others. The Democrat lives in peace with his Republican neighbor – but only so long as the other pretends they are living in the same America.
Once, perhaps this is how America remained one country despite ideological divisions, in older days. Peace was maintained so long as the fiction remained that your neighbor was little different, ideologically, from you. With the rise of the Internet and social media, all such polite fictions have been stripped away. You know. They know. Everybody knows. Yet, some remnant of the old peace remains in the real world.
But beyond the router, there is no peace.
Look out of your window and see urban gentrification, perhaps. Or peaceful suburbia. Perhaps you see farm fields, forests, or the unbroken concrete towers of the projects – those never particularly peaceful, but no worse, perhaps, than you recall in your youth. America outwardly looks like America.
On the Internet, however, it is every cyberpunk dystopian hellhole ever conceived. And worse, perhaps. The things that lie beneath on Twitter should scare anybody.
A video was posted the other day of two thieves conducting an armed robbery. One of the victims pulled out a handgun and shot one of the thieves. You could tell the affiliation of every commenter. Their cultural and moral values were so diametrically opposed that nothing could unite them. To the Leftist, this was a great tragedy, and the victim was evil for killing some presumably poor person for the crime of attempting to feed themselves and resist systemic oppression. To the Rightist, the armed robber had forfeited his life the moment he drew that weapon and attempted to steal someone else’s possessions. The shooter was to be commended for eliminating such a clearly deficient specimen.
In a way, it does not even matter which one was right, though I suspect my readers would have a strong opinion. What matters is the diametrically opposed viewpoints, the hatred and vitriol thrown back and forth between people who are theoretically of the same nation, the same cultural stew. Of course, they are not of the same milieu, not truly. We know that now. Was it always this way, and the Internet just exposed it? I do not know. Maybe.
Regardless, there is no peace beyond the wifi.
Yet the fragile peace – with its occasional flare-ups – that holds in the real world cannot hold forever. What will happen if that dam ever bursts? If all the animus, hatred, and vitriol of social media crosses into reality?
Driving down the street, look at the signs. MAGA signs never taken down. Declarations that this house or that house believes in the core tenets of Progressive Faith. Screaming matches over mask and vaccination policies. The peace in the real world stands on the edge of a knife. Everyone fears to cross the line, to admit openly what they know privately: these are not my countrymen. These are not my people. I do not like them, and they never liked me. They do not share my values, and I do not share theirs. We have nothing in common.
What happens when all pretenses are stripped away?
Someday, the historians will look back on our history, and they will find a moment – perhaps one as seemingly-insignificant as the deposition of a minor puppet ruler in Italy was to the story of Rome – and they will say “this is the day America was cleaved in two.”
Perhaps those same historians will say of the Cold War that both the USSR and the USA fell, the former due to economics and the latter due to cultural infighting. Perhaps like the ancient fall of Sassanid Persia and the diminishing of Byzantium. Or perhaps it will be seen as something entirely different. We live in the aquarium they will someday comment on. None of us will live to know.
Regardless, there is no singular America, not anymore. Only the outward appearance still exists – and only so long as the waning pretenses of peace last in the real world. Not forever, I imagine. Perhaps not even very long.
Curious if y’all like this variant of the opener better than the previous one…
Red sunlight shone through the stained-glass windows of Saint Robert’s cathedral when Kyle Rivera came to meet the old priest. Approaching the altar, the middle-aged captain made the sign of the cross before the church’s famous relic, an ancient letter that predated the Second Exodus.
“Fascinating, isn’t it?” The priest said. “They say it came all the way from the Origin world. The letters are Greek, of course, but a dialect much older than the pidgin Greek of the Confed border.”
Kyle nodded and stood. “Is it authentic? Truly?” There were, it was said, enough relics of the Second Exodus to fill a thousand fleets.
“It was tested many times and confirmed,” the priest answered. “It’s a letter from an ancient Christian Emperor to Pope Eugene III, so long ago nobody can really say when it happened, what with the old time-dilation effects of the early exodus. It was written on the world Christ died upon. Priceless beyond measure.”
The grizzled captain nodded, gesturing to the empty pews around them. “And yet there are few pilgrims to see it.” It’s a wonder nobody has stolen it. A relic predating the Second Exodus out here in the boonies?
“True enough. Few come out to the Kileen sector anymore, even for pilgrimages. These are old worlds, as you know. Abandoned, save for the mining corporations and the forensic data archaeologists, looking for old relics. Which is part of the reason I asked you to come, Kyle.”
The priest motioned to the empty pews, worn in many places by generations of worshipers long dead. Kyle felt the age of the place around him, in the musty scent, the etched stone, and the architectural details long out of fashion in the core worlds.
“I know World Corp has you running another gate job out here.”
“How would you know that?”
“For one, why else would you come back here? But we are always monitoring new gate jobs.” The priest sat down in one of the pews, his robes billowing about him momentarily. “In this case, we want you to decline the job.”
Kyle laughed boisterously. “Yeah, sure. Turn down two million credits. Janus, for a priest you’ve got a lousy sense of humor.”
“It’s no laughing matter. Look, you know as well as I do that this sector is old. Older, perhaps, than New Landing itself. The Church’s records are quite clear that a colonization fleet reached Kileen in the early days. Perhaps direct from Old Landing itself. Perhaps even earlier. Only our records reach that far back, even in corrupted form.” Janus explained. “You should listen to us, Kyle. World Corp has been around for what, half a century? How old is the Church?”
Kyle shook his head. “You don’t get it, Janus. It cost me a quarter million just to get the equipment and the fuel to reach this sector. If I don’t get paid, I go under. That’s the nature of my business.”
“But you live here…” Janus pointed out. “Or you did. Your christening was on…”
Kyle interrupted the priest, unwilling to take a trip down memory lane. “Not for a long time. Look, I get lots of business out this way because people know me. But that doesn’t mean it’s free to travel. It costs 25 large just to get into orbit on a dustball like this these days. But forget all that. I’m a businessman.”
It was the priest’s turn to laugh. “You’re a mole man, Kyle.”
“Yeah, so?” Kyle challenged him, his voice hard. “It’s honest work, after a fashion.”
“Look,” Janus said, reaching into a small bag. “We will pay you not to go.”
Silence stretched out a moment as Janus produced the Estate Certificate, as good as gold – better even – anywhere the Church still had influence. Five-hundred thousand credits backed by the Vatican, and Janus just casually dropped it in Kyle’s lap. Cryptographic codes clicked at the top of the certificate’s display, confirming the denomination. Something is going on, something bigger than World Corp’s mining contracts. But what? What could motivate the Church to throw money around like this?
“Don’t go, Kyle. Not just for us, or the money. There are warnings. Warnings as old as the Vatican itself, that tell us not to go where they’re sending you. The Church has always been cautious in this sector, even after the Great Migrations. Ask yourself why this church remains in such good repair, despite the waning pilgrimages, the minimal and transient population. This watch has stood here for two thousand years, and never faltered.”
Kyle shook his head. “Legends to frighten children, Janus. Nothing of importance happens here. This is the backwater of the universe, always has been, even since I was a kid. Without World Corp’s mining operations, these worlds would be dead. Neither of us would be here.”
“Maybe,” Janus said. “Maybe. But the warnings are legitimate, they come from our oldest records, and speak of the nameless force that chased all of our ancestors out here. You remember your schooling?”
“Yeah. But look, let’s not get dramatic, Janus. People have been poking around the Kileen sector since the early days – by your own admission – and nothing interesting has ever happened here. The whole area is so boring, most of the early settlers left for New Landing. These worlds are cold and infertile, the terraforming job was shit and most of the habitable rocks out here are reverting. If it weren’t for the relics and rocks people dig out of the ground, nobody would even bother. There is no boogeyman out here. There isn’t anything out here.” But he wondered at that. Was he trying to convince the priest, or himself?
Janus shook his head. “It’s not like that. Look, I don’t have time to get into it. Point is, we take the warnings serious, and so should you. But even if you don’t care, we’re offering to pay you to do nothing, and it’s a good offer, Kyle.”
“They’ll just send another gate building crew, you know. Even if I take your money.”
“No. They won’t. You’re the last.”
“You bought them all?” Kyle tried not to think of the enormous expense that represented. WorldCorp must really want the mining rights to that system, because surely the Church would have tried to bribe them directly before going to every gate building crew in the Churchlands. Sure, it’s specialty work, but there are least a dozen other crews and… Well never mind that. Do I want five-hundred thousand credits for free, without months of my life getting flushed down the shitter? We can take another job, maybe that gig in Ravenna, and pocket the money as a bonus. Of course, if the Church is this desperate…
“One million.” Kyle demanded, trying not to betray his own anxiety.
“If you call World Corp right now, and cancel the contract with me as a witness, the Church will agree to one million.” Janus reached into his bag and produced a second Estate Certificate.
“Jesus… you’re serious. Okay, you win…”
Mercifully, the priest declined to call him out on his casual blasphemy. Janus walked him over to the cathedral’s wallcom, pinging the local World Corp headquarters. It was exceedingly late on board the orbital habitat, but if he knew his man…
Sure enough, Paul’s groggy, stubble-covered face filled the screen. The mining executive’s eyes were slanted in a fashion common in the Eastlands. “Captain Rivera. This is unexpected. And… fuck. Not again.” He caught sight of Janus. “Whatever this man is telling you is bullshit.”
Kyle nodded his firm agreement. “Yes sir, it’s probably horseshit and then some. But his money is good. And I can exercise my opt-out clause.”
“You don’t want to do that. You do that, and you’ll never get a job from us again.” Paul frowned.
“Now who is full of shit? If every other gate building crew in the Churchlands is out, then that means we were last on your list anyway. Which, I suppose I should have figured out on my own.” He chuckled. After that job on Cordova III, the whole crew had been on the World Corp shit list. Come to think of it, Kyle wondered, it was really suspicious that they’d even bother with us after all that. Maybe there’s something to Janus’s claims.
“What’s he offering you?” Paul sidestepped the question entirely.
“One million. And that’s for doing nothing at all. And me? I like doing nothing. Been wanting to do nothing for years, in fact. I got a whole lot of plans for doing nothing.”
“We’ll do four.” Paul said simply.
Well, he doesn’t waste time. Kyle smiled. This was going very well for him indeed. With that kind of money, he could pay off his loan on the ship. But there was almost certainly more room on the negotiating table.
“Five million or I walk.”
“Don’t do this.” Janus’s strained voice came from behind him.
“Unless you can lay out more cash, I’m definitely doing this. I am a businessman after all.” Acid dripped from Kyle’s voice. The priest’s silence confirmed that he either could not or would not.
On the viewer, Paul stroked his chin nervously. There was a dangerous look in his eyes. “Fine. Five million. I’ll have the papers drawn up in the morning. Don’t be late, this does not alter our timetable, understand?”
Kyle nodded, and Paul cut the transmission. He turned to the priest, wondering what he could even say.
“I’m sorry, but… look, the money is good. Still, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without your assistance. So, you want a cut, maybe? Maybe I could donate a quarter mil to the Church or something. Call it a tithe.”
“This is a mistake, Kyle. I’ve taken your confessions before… and yet I think this is the worst mistake you’ve ever made.” Janus stood up and stared at the tarnished, ancient reliquary for several moments. “But if you must go, at least take one of us with you.”
“We’re not going on a pleasure cruise.”
“No, you aren’t. But you may just need the Church’s help.”
Kyle rubbed the stubble on his chin for several moments. “Fine… but the Church pays the orbital fees. You want to tag along, okay. But it’s on your dime. I’m not paying the upfront costs.”
Janus nodded. Kyle looked up at the stained-glass window, the local sun setting beyond the horizon, darkening it. Great cylindrical generation ships lay below the figure of Christ, enthroned as the Lord of the Universe. There was a sadness in the messiah’s eyes, three crosses behind him burning as old Earth fell to the legions of Hell. But his arms encircled the ships of the Second Exodus, protecting them from harm as they traveled the deep.
I hope Janus is wrong. I always thought that was all bullshit to frighten children, but sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a grain of truth buried in it after all…
He shook his head slightly to clear his thoughts, walking out of the old cathedral. The rest of his crew would probably be in the village’s local dive bar. He felt more than saw Janus’s eyes burning into his back as he left, and he found he could not turn to say goodbye.
David Hogg recently claimed owning 22,000 rounds of ammunition should “put you on a list or something.” As with all such claims, one wonders what the threshold of being on “a list” might be. Can you own 100 rounds without being on a list? 1,000? In reality, of course, the Left generally wants to track ammunition the way guns themselves are tracked. Read the Giffords.org position for more on that. Whether you have 22,000 rounds, or just a handful of .22lr, the Left wants to know and track.
In some ways it reminds me of helicopter parenting writ large.
So many Leftist arguments boil down to the fact that they want to be your parents. They want to divvy up everything fairly. They want to monitor what you say on the Internet. They want to know how much of this or that you have, and regulate where you are permitted to go, and the method by which you travel. Of late, I have seen a number of liberal acquaintances mentioning that masks should become a permanent feature of society, because flus and other sicknesses can kill old folks, too, and how greedy and selfish is it to not wear a mask (even if you are vaccinated) and put others at risk of catching a cold?
Wear your mask, little Jimmy, and put on your helmet when you ride your bike!
I am old enough to remember when it was the Right who wanted to censor things – Harry Potter was Satanic or something. Now, Harry Potter’s author is transphobic, so out with that, I suppose. Your Leftist “parents” have determined that it is not good for you.
So many liberal causes have, at their root, a desire to control everyone else. Climate change implies that we must be told how much energy we are permitted to use, what we may drive, where we can go, and what we can purchase. Gun control implies that we cannot be trusted to defend ourselves. Knife regulation in the UK is particularly hilarious to me. Put that butter knife down, Jimmy, only grownups can have those! And by grownups, we mean agents of the government, of course. Extensions of political will. We might trust a soldier with an M-16 in battle, but when he leaves the military, he clearly cannot be trusted with an AR-15 in private life. Mommy government decrees it.
This video shows the child-like manner laid bare.
When you look at Social Justice language and style, it has a profoundly childlike spin to it. You have Safe Spaces, and everybody’s feelings are paramount. If you are having difficulty with college, there are spaces full of teddy bears and positive reinforcement to help you manage. There are Trigger Warnings to be had – like everything rated PG and above needs to come with a disclaimer. We must have warning labels on everything. It is not enough, even, to say that smoking may cause cancer. We must put giant bold language on every pack: SMOKING KILLS! Sugary drinks should be regulated, but remember, fat is beautiful (body positivity!), and everyone is special.
It’s as if life in a Left-leaning society is an adult-centered parody of Kindergarten. If you’re rich, the question is always “did you bring enough for everyone?” If not, of course, your wealth is illegitimate and immoral. One mass shooter, probably on a cornucopia of meds or just plain crazy, goes in and shoots up a place, and suddenly nobody can have guns, because there are a couple of insane loons. Get your universal healthcare, too, because Mommy Government will fix all the boo-boos. Censorship is important, because Mommy Government says nobody can say anything mean on the Internet!
It’s as if we aren’t adults, and aren’t allowed to decide if we want to smoke – knowing the risks. It’s as if we are incapable of separating words from actions, or brushing off a mean comment like a functional adult. We’re clearly all children who can’t go to college without stuffed animal infused Safe Spaces to keep you safe from all the icky mean things in the world. You can’t be trusted to drive a car, own a firearm, earn your own money, or choose your own doctor. And all the children must strive to save the Earth from the evil automobiles and air conditioners that are destroying it. Perhaps the Left will offer some construction paper and plastic scissors (the metal ones are too dangerous, of course) so we can all make little Kindergarten posters about saving the poor creatures of… wherever.
In the Liberal mind, nobody is an adult. Everyone is a perpetual child, and must be treated as such. If one argument doesn’t work on you, they will try another. And another. And another. If gun control doesn’t do it, then censorship, maybe. Or Climate Change. Or righting the historical wrongs committed against people long dead, by people long dead. Maybe it’s universal healthcare, or maybe it’s ending homelessness. If one cause doesn’t guilt you into becoming a Ward of the State, some other one will. It’s like throwing spaghetti against the wall until one sticks.
And if you disagree despite all this, go into timeout, little Jimmy. You’re clearly a meany poopyhead white supremacist.
Leftist moral supremacy is a Kindergarten kind of taunt, too. It’s “I’m better than you, neener-neener!” If you prefer private retirement plans to government ones, you clearly want to push granny off a cliff, therefore the Liberal (who does not want to push granny off a cliff – unless she’s a Republican) is morally superior! Wheel out the bat signal of ultimate virtue! Little Jimmy is not a Democrat! Na-na-na-na-na-naaaaaa.
I wonder what percentage of Leftists had severe Daddy issues growing up? Either way, I suppose there’s a reason we call it the Nanny State.
And Hell, maybe there are people out there who need a perpetual Mommy Government to do everything for them. But for the love of all that is holy, can they not drag the rest of us back down to Kindergarten with them? Some of us actually like being functional adults.
Election night looms before us. Four years ago, we had the Hail Mary pass of all Hail Mary passes. At the time, I thought that America had reached peak divisiveness. Years of Social Justice crusades across the Internet lost steam. Salty tears flowed from the Bluechecks like a flood of Biblical proportions. But what truly happened? Was this a fluke? Was it the last gasp of old America? Tonight is when we will learn that. All your base are belong to Trump, indeed (and this may have been my finest meme-making work):
Once is an accident. Twice is a pattern. Tonight will tell us which it really was.
Events did not deliver the change we sought in 2016. I can’t blame Trump for that, as much as I’d like to. A media and pop culture establishment fused with Woke Corportatism to become some kind of Frankenstein’s political monster. Trump’s attention span – such that it is – was spent fighting that monstrosity almost every day. Oh, we had our share of wins. We got our judges – and should we fail tonight, well, that is the last roadblock we have left. That’s not nothing.
But now we are on the verge of Civil War, or something akin to it. I’ve never seen divisiveness of this sort in my country in my entire lifetime. We’ve gone from the occasional beatdown in a protest, to burning neighborhoods and roving gun battles in the streets. Perhaps the political Rubicon has been crossed and it’s too late, no matter who wins. Political rage is everywhere.
The polls would tell us to have no hope. Even FiveThirtyEight gives Biden an 89% chance of victory, compared to 2016 where Nate at least offered a 1 in 3 chance for Trump. Are the polls completely wrong? The possibility is very strong, in my opinion. With the emotional charge of politics today, in the middle of what may be a major political realignment, how can a pollster even account for all of the variables? How can the pollster be more accurate than a flip of the coin under these circumstances? The statistical models of the past may have worked in a pre-divisive environment, but I highly suspect everything is off, now. Of course, tonight will tell us that, too.
Statespoll tries to compensate for these factors as best they can with their modeling. They believe Trump is likely to win. But it’s unclear to me that this is any more likely to be right than Nate Silver. A coin flip may be a better prognosticator than any of them.
2020 has tested the fabric of America in a way, in my opinion, even the 1960s did not. In some ways, Kurt Schlichter’s split of America scenario may be overly optimistic compared to what lies before us.
Before 2016, I had many Lefty friends – perhaps more than Rightist ones. After all, as a DJ and a software developer working in the city, my environment has been one of perpetual Leftism, to the point that I started this blog primarily as a way to express things I could no longer say to people I cared about – and still expect to keep the peace. That reason has largely evaporated. Most of them are long gone, now. Denouncing me one at a time as a hater, bigot, Nazi, or whatever. Of the few that remain, most of the time we dance around the subject entirely. They know what I am, and I know what they are, but we pretend we do not know. It’s a shallow way to live, but I take pride in the fact that I never told them to get lost, or pushed them away.
Always it comes from their side, not mine.
Will that continue? Perhaps with me. I am not built in such a way as to tell people in my life to fuck off due to their politics, and that is, in some ways, a weakness. Though of late I have stopped talking to them and kept my distance in the hopes that, perhaps, sanity will return. But will that continue with the rest? A thousand events all across the country, from Kenosha to the Biden Bus incident show that Rightists are becoming as hostile in turn as Leftists have been these last few years. I can’t fault them. One of the prevalent themes in Tom Kratman’s books is the notion that your enemy will learn from your actions. He will become like you. If you do something to him, he will learn, and do it to you in turn. I don’t like these things that are happening, just as I would not want to do some horrible thing even to an enemy. If the enemy does it first, however, you must do it, or something of equal or greater magnitude, in turn. Otherwise he will never learn.
Otherwise you become the chump hitting “Keep Faith” every time your opponent hits “Betray”. Perhaps Betraying in turn will teach him a lesson, or perhaps not, but at least you’ll be even in the latter case.
If you believe this is an American phenomenon alone – and I doubt many of my readers do – take note of the fact that Chile may need to bring back Augusto Pinochet after this business:
Vox freely admits that Pinochet’s reforms brought prosperity and economic growth to Chile. Are they going to throw that all away for Venezuela-level equality? It’s hard to tell, I don’t trust anything the media spouts these days. But if so, I wonder if Chile has another Pinochet. If the choice is to let your country fall to Socialism and have mountains of dead bodies, or throw a couple thousand Communists out of helicopters, well, is that really a difficult choice?
I prefer freedom over any of that, this goes without saying. But if politics has taken freedom completely off the table, and the only options are your boot stomping on my face, or my boot stomping on yours, what choice do you really expect me to make? Leftists think Trump is a dictator. They wouldn’t know a dictator until he put them in front of the firing squad. Trump isn’t even remotely close. As far as I know, he has killed zero Communists. But as the old saying goes: play stupid games, win stupid prizes. If you WANT a military coup and dictatorship, scapegoating roundabout 50% of the American population – the ARMED 50% – is a pretty good way to risk ending up with one.
If Trump wins tonight, I fully expect a meltdown of near-Biblical proportions. If Biden wins, well, the news outlets saying this would be the less violent option may prove to be right in the immediate short term. In the long run, a Kamala Harris shadow presidency is, in my opinion, as likely as not to end up in a Kurt Schlichter scenario, and ultimately may prove worse on the violence and stupidity scale.
Either way, I still hope Trump pulls it out. If we can manage a few more years of relative prosperity, maybe my own family will be better insulated against the shitstorm I think is waiting for this country in the coming years. I hate that we’ve ended up here, with a country full of people denouncing their neighbors as Trump supporters, throwing away friendships, family, marriages, and careers over this. But I have no control over events. None of us do.
We’re all passengers on the Titanic. Some of us are even shouting to the crew that there’s an iceberg ahead.
Nobody seems willing to turn the wheel.
And it might be too late to do anything about it anyway, now.
Many of my readers will remember an incident back in 2017, where a Right-wing protest and a Left-wing protest confronted one another in Berkeley and the “Based Stick Man” (Kyle Chapman) broke his stick over the head of a Lefty antagonist. At the time, this was so notable it became a meme. Gifs of the moment the stick broke on the Lefty’s head became associated with Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy VII Limit Breaks, and other such things. Eventually a graphic novel of the event was even proposed.
In other words, this was a notable event. It was different enough from the norm of political discourse in the country to receive national attention.
Today, there are probably several stickmen hitting people over the head at political protests and rallies every week. The Frog has been slow-boiling these past three years. Achieving notability today means pulling an AR-15 and a handgun out on a mob breaking into your neighborhood, or killing two antagonists and wounding another as happened in Kenosha, or getting shot by a ‘security guard’ after some kind of argument at a protest.
Neighborhoods burn, naked women display their genitals at the cops, people fight in the streets, and we have the occasional open gun battle making its appearance. Hitting someone with a stick is nothing, now. From 2016 to 2020 we’ve gone from relatively normal protests and rallies, to dead bodies rapidly becoming expected in protests increasingly degenerating into street fighting. At this rate, a Beer Hall Putsch from the Left should Trump win wouldn’t even faze me. I more or less expect that it is more likely than not in the event of a Trump victory in the election.
In the last few years, the entire tone of political interaction in America has been poisoned. I remember the days where I could have have political discussion with Leftist friends, and they might disagree with most of what I said, but it was not a particularly big deal. The very same people are now posting things like “if you don’t believe systemic racism is the greatest problem facing America, don’t even talk to me! This is not up for debate!” Or another one: “it’s okay to disagree about favorite pizza toppings, but not over support for Black Lives Matter!”
Political opinions have been elevated to “fact” status by the political tribes. So if my opinion on universal healthcare differs from a Leftist’s opinion, I must be wrong, because it’s a fact that universal healthcare is superior. It’s not up for debate. Socialism is superior to Capitalism. Not up for debate. Trump is a racist. Not up for debate. The illegal immigrants being held until they can be returned to their countries of origin is the exact same thing as concentration camps, this is a fact not up for debate, and this means that Trump is Hitler.
Again, not up for debate.
The moral surety of the political tribes is what disturbs me the most. It is one thing to say “I think X is more likely to be true than Y” and act accordingly. It is quite another matter to say “X is definitely better than Y, and any disagreement means you are evil, and I have moral license to do whatever I want to force your obedience.”
Some people blame the political poison on Trump, and this might have carried water if the behavior originated with the MAGA tribe. It largely, however, originated with the political Left in recent years. It’s to the point that the Washington Post ran a piece about how only a Biden landslide victory could stave off the political violence. It was an implicit admission that if the Left doesn’t get their way, they will burn it all down (or at least threaten to). What is also implicit in this is that the political Right is starting to respond in kind (and the Kenosha shootings are tacit evidence that this worm is turning).
Now, I am cautious of using any one single graph as gospel. But this is nonetheless an interesting datapoint:
The trend here is worrisome. The Kenosha videos were fascinating in that if you listen closely, it sounds like there are other shooters other than Kyle Rittenhouse. No one else was shot aside from those involved with Rittenhouse, of course, but it was interesting that we had a city burning and some kind of roving gun battle in the streets. I mentioned earlier that this was the crossing of a political Rubicon. Protests haven become street brawls (Based Stickman gives us a rough timeline of when this began). And street brawls are starting to mutate into open war (Kenosha). Kyle Rittenhouse may be similar to Based Stickman in that he marks a point of departure, where history can say “this is when things really went off the rails”.
From 2016 to 2020, we went from large-scale (but mostly peaceful) protesting to street brawls and gun violence. Where will we be in 2024? When will the frog jump out of the pot? The whole tone and emotional tenor of political discourse has radically shifted.
America is heading rapidly toward something like Civil War (albeit nothing like the previous one). I see no signs that it will diminish, no matter who is elected in November. Trends continue until they don’t. We don’t know where the inflection point will be, or what it will look like. Tomorrow this could all calm down, though I don’t think it is very likely. But if the trend holds, America is in for some seriously dark times.
Keep your ammo dry, my friends. There’s a non-trivial chance you’re going to need it soon. The Culture War is starting to turn into something much worse.