Another Sunday Morning

I don’t have a lot to say today. It’s a pleasant Sunday morning, and I’ve little desire to sully it with excessive politicking. It’s a cigar and whiskey kind of day, where I consider myself fortunate for the blessings in life. There are a few Cubans sitting in my humidor, and a bottle of bourbon with my name on it. I’ve long maintained that hard times are coming. Tomorrow maybe, or the day after. No man can know exactly when the hammer will fall. But until then, enjoy the luxuries while you have them.

A Twitter follower of mine reminded me of this old song:

Just some easy listening on a Sunday morning. I hope your Sunday is as pleasant as mine.

Numbers 6:24-26

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

On Manufactured Outrage

Every day some facet of American culture will bear the brunt of media attention. There will be protests, and riots, and celebrities opining on the oppresiveness of whatever thing has aroused their wrath. We will discover, perhaps for the first time, or perhaps for the ten-thousandth, that someone or something is offensive. Let us take a moment and recall a few recent issues worthy of national attention. We had the terror of people who took up too much space on the subway, and after that we had to worry about oppressive gender politics in North Carolina’s bathrooms. Today, Confederate monuments are the cause célèbre.

My stance on Confederate monuments is a matter of record, and I see no reason beat a dead horse by repeating myself. It is farcical to even discuss this manufactured issue. Yesterday, nobody cared about Confederate monuments, save for a few fringe jobs who clamored on about slave ownership somehow contaminating history, as if America was somehow uniquely evil for having continued the practice for a time.

Indeed, most folks probably weren’t even aware of the existence of Confederate monuments, at least not specifically. If they were noticed, it was as passing distraction. Oh look, a statue of somebody. Presumably he’s notable for some reason. Whatever. I recently discovered that there was a statue of Lenin in Seattle when the pictured popped up in my Twitter feed. How many people even knew that? Ironically, the statue is currently for sale for the price of $250,000. Sounds like a tidy profit for some enterprising capitalist.

Nobody cares about these things. At least, not enough to take special notice of them. Lenin will not possess his statue and steal my pocket change for the proletariat. Neither will Robert E. Lee clamber down from his bronze horse and march to D.C. with an army at his back, though we can certainly wish he would. This Southerner would even sign up for raising Sherman back from the dead and convincing him to march North this time. Eventually, the paladins of Social Justice will get around to pulling down Grant’s statue, and Sherman’s will follow. After all, Grant was a phallocentric cishet misogynist drunk, or whatever buzzwords are in fashion among the SJWs, right?

It’s all manufactured outrage. The process is simple and transparent. Any man can see it for himself if he chooses to look.

First, an issue is identified by somebody with some level of popularity, wealth, or political power. The issue can be anything, you understand. Perhaps the issue will be the cultural appropriation of taco Tuesday by white Americans. Or maybe it will be how men belching is a dog whistle for misogyny. The man, you see, is demonstrating his contempt for any females within earshot when he burps. Anything can be rationalized this way. Anything can be argued to be hateful or discriminatory.

Once it is identified and pushed in some small way by someone with reach, a few genuinely angry people will protest it. Understand that for anything in the world, someone can be found to hate it. You could make your issue the color blue and be assured that someone, somewhere, would be offended enough to protest its existence.

Now, once a few legitimate protests spring up about the thing, the media will give it 24/7 news coverage. Perhaps there are only a few dozen people who hate the thing enough to come out on their own to protest it, but that doesn’t matter. Clever editing, camera angles, and constant coverage can multiply the perceived numbers and create the illusion of a much bigger movement. Note, too, that this can be used on political enemies as well as allies. When a few dozen Klansmen get together somewhere, the editors can make it appear like the Nuremberg rally.

Once news coverage is established, various wealthy and powerful Leftists can bus in supporters, pay some protesters to show up, and deliver canned protest signs and messages. Distributors of pussy hats may be found. T-shirts made in Chinese sweatshops for a few pennies will arrive, all because of happenstance, you understand. College professors will send their students to the protests, and various Left-wing organizations under the loose control of the DNC will bring in their own people who, like most folks, did not originally care about the issue, but have been convinced by the virtue signals to do so.

Now the issue is trendy. It is a hashtag, an exciting event with news cameras everywhere, a chance to be seen on TV to claim your 15 seconds of fame. Masses of people show up, more because it’s a cool, trendy thing to do than any real belief about the issue. It’s a good time at the protest, it feels nice for them to be part of a big crowd, fighting the injustice of whatever. And Madonna, or some other screeching hag trying to restore her lost relevance, will come to soak in the adoration of the crowds.

Once the protests are large enough to obscure them, bad actors soon show up to make it exciting, or to just loot some free shit and burn down a few buildings. The ritual smashing of windows and burning of trashcans commences. People in black handkerchiefs wave Soviet flags and proudly sport their all-black fashion sensibilities.

Celebrities lament the terrible tragedy of the issue, and condemn the thing as racist, sexist, homophobic, or some other buzzword of bigotry. Every media outlet runs stories on it. Perhaps Fox pushes a counter-narrative, but perhaps not, too. Most conservative politicians won’t touch the issue, and certainly won’t defend it, out of fear of being tarred alongside it. When in power, Leftist politicians will push for legal remedies for the manufactured issue, which will either involve a suspension of some liberties, or an increase in taxation. Preferably both. When not in power, the burning, screaming, and looting will continue until the Republicans cave in, or until a newer, shinier issue is presented.

As the Confederate monuments come down all across the country, remember this: in a year, few of the participants will even remember that it happened. They will be too busy tearing down the statue of, say, General Grant, or George Washington, or some other “dead white male.” Or perhaps they will lament the sexism inherent in men’s bathrooms having separate urinals, so that men can pee standing up when women cannot.

My crystal ball is fuzzy on the specifics of our future ‘issues’, but it is quite clear on the methods and tactics used to manufacture them. This tactic will be repeated ad nauseum until there are no more freedoms left, until the taxation reaches truly Marxist proportions. And when the last issue is gone, and the media has fallen silent on them, the purges will begin. After issues, it will be people. Reactionaries, perhaps, or kulaks. Like the fake issues, the specific groups of people do not matter. All that matters is that people have their perpetual two-minutes hate, for all time.

Moral Courage and Moral Arbitrage

Every good capitalist is on the look out for imbalances in the market, opportunities to earn a profit off of a thing that either the market lacks completely, or current businesses do very inefficiently and ineffectively. You can consider it a form of arbitrage.

Today’s politicians, media talking heads, celebrities and the like are moral capitalists, even though they are economic collectivists. That is to say their morality is a form of arbitrage, always for sale to the highest bidder, where each statement they issue is calculated to profit them personally.

Take Marco Rubio, who today issued a series of tweets condemning Donald Trump for suggesting that the Charlottesville attack, and other similar incidents between Antifa and White Supremacists, was equally the fault of both parties. Donald Trump’s position is that both are hate groups, and both are quick to resort to violence to further their political goals, and that putting them together like that was surely going to stir up violence.

Personally, I think Trump is somewhat understating the case. White supremacists are exceedingly rare, even if they’ve received a shot in the arm from SJWs harping on white people all the time (hint: that tends to manufacture more supremacists, not less). What happened in Virginia may very well represent peak white supremacism, the very most such groups are capable of. Antifa and militant Marxists, meanwhile, enjoy far greater support from media, financiers (oh, the irony), and society-at-large. Antifa dwarfs Klansman and Neo-Nazis. Militant Marxists are, by far, the greater threat currently.

But that being said, Trump did put his finger on the central point: both groups espouse violent ideologies that are incompatible with freedom.

Marco, meanwhile, in his own words, pins 100% of the blame onto the supremacists.

rubio

This argument is remarkably similar to Antifa and other Marxist groups saying that mean words justifies violence, that speech they don’t like justifies burning down cities and attacking people. It is okay for them to violently shut down anybody right-of-center on college campuses around the country, but it is not okay for anyone right-of-center to speak.

Marco is on a continuum with the SJWs on this matter. He concedes the central point, that violence is an acceptable response to speech deemed offensive. Yes, in the case of Neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the speech actually is offensive. But it is still speech. Until it isn’t, anyway.

But if you’re a regular reader of The Declination, you already know my position on freedom of speech, and how speech alone does not justify violence.

To be fair, a lot of people are saying this, though, so let’s analyze this a little differently. Why does Marco denounce the white supremacists so readily, yet lets militant Marxists off the hook? As a man of Cuban ancestry, he ought to be very familiar with the depredations and dangers of Marxists. Why is he so willing to assign them 0% of the blame?

There is moral arbitrage here. When some politician or celebrity denounces Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other assorted white supremacists, he is cheered. He is called stunning and brave. He is bashing the fash, taking a brave stand against the most evil ideology of man. In other words, he gets a huge moral bonus in the eyes of the media. It is easy to denounce white supremacists, who probably represent less than a tenth of a percent of the population. And it is profitable to do so, as well.

If it’s cheap and profitable, expect everyone to jump on the bandwagon. The explosion of Nazi denunciations is like the proliferation of those little fidget spinners that cost 10 cents to make and sell for $7.99 in every convenience store from here to Seattle. Everybody wants a slice of that action.

Meanwhile, taking a similar stand against Marxism is expensive. If a politician or celebrity stands up and denounces Marxism as a hateful, murderous ideology that is at least as evil as Nazism, he is often shot down. Real Marxism, of course, has never been tried. Real Marxism is a good theory, a good idea that maybe just hasn’t been implemented quite right. It’s morally true and righteous, and even if it has some problems, surely bashing the fash has to take precedence, right?

Except Marxism has a much higher share of the population. Marxism is celebrated openly on college campuses around the country. Marxists trash cities, riot, commit acts of violence with frightening regularity, and Marco assigns them 0% of the blame, because somewhere, there is an inbred Neo-Nazi off his meds tweeting from his mother’s basement.

Marco obtains a moral profit from denouncing white supremacism. He incurs a moral cost from denouncing Marxism. Playing the moral arbitrage for profit thus demands he pin the blame for political violence on only one participant. Then he is “stunning and brave” in the eyes of the body politic.

Marxists have been doing this as long as I’ve been alive. It is correctly seen as stupid and disgusting to wear an Adolf Hitler t-shirt. Yet somehow Che Guevara t-shirts are absurdly common. The Nazi swastika is correctly seen as a hate symbol, yet the Soviet hammer & sickle is given a pass. It is a historical tragedy that Communism was not discredited with the same vigor as Nazism was.

It is socially cheap to oppose Nazism. It is socially expensive to oppose Communism.

Donald Trump, whatever his other faults, possesses enough moral courage to speak the truth: both groups are hateful. And he paid the price for speaking that truth. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, lacks the stones, even though as descendant of Cubans, he ought to know better than most.

I’m very disappointed in him. I expect this from Democrats who have lacked moral courage as long as I’ve been alive, I even expect it from Republicans who have no history with Marxism. But I do not expect it from a Cuban Republican. Of all people, Marco, YOU should know better. Stop playing the moral arbitrage and speak honestly.

After all, even Donald Trump is showing more honesty and integrity than you are, right now.

Weaponized Empathy and the Edge Case

Weaponized Empathy has long been a topic of discussion here. Today, let’s break down a very common use of it in private circles, in debates between regular folks on social media.

The tactic looks something like this:

Conservative: I believe in [insert policy here].
Progressive: Here is a sad story about someone (or even a hypothetical someone) who would be affected by the policy. Do you want this person to suffer?
Conservative: Well, no, of course not…
Progressive: Well then, you shouldn’t believe in [the policy]. It’s immoral.

This is an exceptionally low bar to clear for the Progressive. No matter what political positions a person might have, at least some people, somewhere, can be found who would be negatively affected by it. If, for instance, the tax code were simplified, the poor IRS agents auditing people with a microscope for violations of their arcane system might lose their jobs. Or, perhaps some poor person somewhere might end up with slightly less from the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Clearly the Conservative then wants poor people to starve, and IRS agents to be unable to feed their families. This is, of course, a rather blatant example, but read on for a more subtle and more powerful version of the argument.

Once a negative example is trotted out, the Progressive declares moral superiority and thus victory in the debate. Clearly he is more moral, because he wants to make sure nobody slips between the cracks, and everyone gets their fair share of… whatever.

A classic example can be found in this debate with Ron Paul, wherein the liberal moderator trots out a hypothetical person who has “a good job” but somehow has no money, decides not to buy a healthcare plan, has no existing government aid, can obtain no charitable aid, and possesses no friends willing to help him, and is experiencing an expensive health problem. What would happen, asks the liberal?

The absurdly unlikely (but theoretically possible) scenario is thus implied to be proof that we need government-managed universal healthcare.

Conservatives need to stop accepting this low bar as evidence of anything. Time after time, I’ve witnessed Conservatives argue these types of absurd positions by positing equally unlikely ways the free market or charity will cater to all such edge cases. Once dragged down to this position, victory is impossible. The best debaters may score a draw, edge case vs. edge case. Everyone else will lose, and the Progressive will trumpet his moral superiority over the evil, greedy Republican Uber-Nazis until he is blue in the face.

Ron Paul, being a very smart man and a doctor himself, argued this thing to a draw. I doubt many others could have pulled this off.

This is the wrong way to argue the point. It is, in fact, tacitly accepting that the Progressive’s position that the edge case means anything about national policy in the first place. Progressive policies, even if they are theoretically universal in scope, will also be subject to edge cases, as the Charlie Gard incident demonstrated. In fact, one essential truth about government micromanagement is that it is likely to result in more such edge cases, not less. Bureaucracies aren’t known for their intellectual flexibility. More people will fail to get the care they need, not less.

But even that isn’t quite the right way to argue the point. Leftism is demanding a sort of universalism that simply isn’t possible in any human institution. And, invariably, when the institution falls short of universal perfection, it is excoriated by the Left and used as justification for giving them (as in the Progressives themselves) more power under the excuse that they are morally superior. It is nothing more than a blatant power grab, thinly disguised as a moral argument.

This must be challenged immediately in any debate with them that goes down the edge case path. “Are you demanding perfection? That every single person receive 100% of all needed care? If so, you are a lunatic. Hard cases make bad law.”

This moves the bar up a notch. Now the Progressive must demonstrate that his system is better at a meta level, not just an individual hard case level. Weaponized Empathy can still be deployed at higher levels, but this is generally much more difficult, especially given the fact that Socialism generally produces very poor results when taken as a whole. However, expect the next rung on the Progressive argument ladder to be something along the lines of “well, Nordic Socialism is just great.”

More on that argument later.

America is Slowly Falling Apart

I realized something important today. There is a friend of mine who is liberal, but I always chalked up as a sort of moderate lefty. We could talk about politics, and disagree on most everything, but drink beers and bullshit anyway. No rancor. We both acknowledged that we were trying to solve the same problems in different ways. Mostly, I could understand him, and he could understand me.

But now, I feel like I can’t reach him anymore. He’s drifted off too far. Oh, he mouths the same words as before. But they are empty. Like he doesn’t really believe them anymore. And I’ve come to realize it is the same for me.

We don’t live in the same country, the same culture. I like him still, but he is a foreigner to me, now. I may as well be talking to someone from Norway or France. His issues aren’t my issues, his world isn’t my world. We’ve nothing left in common. When I talk to him, it’s just going through the motions, now. I see on his wall how much he hates Trump and thinks his supporters are racists and such. He won’t say as much to me, of course, but… it’s there. And we both know that.

It is difficult to explain, but for me this is a major turning point. I used to be able to reach the other side. Oh, it was rare that I would change their minds. But they would listen, and nod, and understand. We could communicate. Make sense to one another.

And we can’t anymore. It’s not even the same language. I hear him talk about microaggressions, and the latest thing some lefty outlet like HuffPo is going on about. Maybe it’s genderqueer rights, or how some industry needs to be nationalized because of slavery. Even the words don’t have the same definition. When he says “justice” he means something entirely different. I don’t know what, exactly. I’ve only a vague understanding of what he means, but it is not what I mean when I use the word. Repeat for many terms, from “equal” to “fairness,” and even to “colonizing.”

We were born in the same country, but I suspect we will not die in the same country. They have different stories, different heroes, different words, different beliefs, and an entirely different culture. I came to realize that he was speaking what I regarded (politely) as gibberish. Utter nonsense. But, somehow, it made sense to him.

This isn’t about disagreements anymore. It’s something much bigger. It’s about the American people separating into its component parts, like taking the whole thing to the scrapyard to be torn apart. People are fracturing along ethnic, religious, and political lines. We aren’t one nation, under God.

But like my friend and I, sometimes we drink a beer together and pretend we are, just vaguely shouting gibberish at one another from the distance. Perhaps for reasons of nostalgia, or maybe just out of some kind of cultural inertia that will soon run out of steam.

Whatever the reason, I am not optimistic about our future as one country, one people.

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