Tyranny of the Midwits

This afternoon, I came across a fascinating Tweet thread by the esteemed Eve Keneinan. Eve echoes my own thoughts on the subject of Academia and militant anti-theism. Leftists love to make fun of folks they perceive to be peasants. Farmers, rural folks, working men, they are all stupid hicks and rubes to the hard Left. And Leftists love to make fun of the Christian faith possessed by these folks. Stupid sky wizards and zombie overlords, they’ll say. All the ‘brights’, the so-called smart people are, of course, proper atheists and good Socialists.

Except as Eve points out, they aren’t. Sure, the working man might not have a fancy education, but this doesn’t necessarily imply stupidity. And meanwhile, those truly comfortable with their own knowledge and experience seldom see a need to be insecure about it. It is the midwit, the person who is moderately more intelligent than average, and thus has had years of smoke blown up his ass about his relatively high intelligence, who is most vulnerable to such insecurity. And, in turn, superficially intellectual philosophy is appealing to him.

Eve explains:

It was [midwits] in Vietnam who were most likely to turn traitor. They are the most easily led by the nose class of persons.

 

Stockdale spent 8 years in the infamous Hoa Lo prison, the “Hanoi Hilton,” and observed many things about the human condition.

 

One was the varying effects of Vietnamese communist propaganda on various types of men.

 

Rough, uneducated soldiers were largely immune. A sergeant from Tennessee met every attempt to break his loyalty with one word: “BULLSHIT!”

 

Stockdale, highly educated (having studied philosophy) was also largely immune. He could show his captors how THEY were misreading Marx …

 

The men who turned coat were the moderately smart, moderately educated. THESE are the class that are MOST susceptible to propaganda.

Flattery and negging, in turn, are the weapons used to convert the midwit into the service of Marxism. You’re stupid if you believe in the Christian sky wizard, and the ‘invisible hand’ of Capitalism. You’re dumb if you think you have freedom. But you’re smart if you understand Marxian dialectic. You’re smart if you see through to the great wisdom of Socialism. Only the educated and wise, you see, are capable of understanding the nuance. Your own insecurity is a weapon in their hand. Your desire to be perceived as intelligent is soon used against you.

Whereas the “stupid rubes” are largely immune. They point, laugh, and say “you’re full of shit.” It doesn’t matter if you call them stupid. That is something they’ve heard from city-slickers since the dawn of civilization. And you can flatter them all you like, but they are largely immune to that, too. For them, fancy words are about as useful as a windshield wiper on a goat’s ass.

The city boy with a 125 IQ who gets his 4 year degree, on the other hand, is extremely vulnerable. He’s intelligent enough to notice that he’s above the norm, but will likely always feel small in the presence of greater men. Academia can easily mold him into a good Socialist by playing the flattery/negging game.  He is invested in his status as better than others, and that is the easiest lever with which to move him.

Of course, the highly intelligent, highly educated folks tend to be relatively immune to this sort of thing. If you are very secure in your intellectual capacity – and this is more a matter of knowing your limitations than anything else – the lever will not move you. Only truth will do. Fooling such a man is extraordinarily difficult. But, it should be noted, that in many ways the country rube is still the harder man to fool. The high intellectual will evaluate and entertain a thing, dissect it, and attempt to understand it before passing judgment on it. The “rube” will simply dismiss it if it fails to produce concrete results. The how and why isn’t of much concern to him.

In many ways, this is very sad. For though folks on Twitter are prone to using the term “midwit” as an insult, it really isn’t one. A man of moderately high intelligence and good education is incredibly useful. They form the ranks of engineers, technicians, programmers, medical specialists, and a number of other critical fields. They just need to get over themselves. Yes, you’re smarter than the average bear. But don’t get in over your head. Just because you were the best basketball player on your middle school team doesn’t mean you’re going to go pro. And don’t let folks falsely flatter you and manipulate you because, deep down, you’re insecure about this.

And lastly, remember one other fact. The folks you might dismiss as uneducated hicks are often a lot more intelligent than they appear to be. What, did you think every guy with a 150+ IQ went to an Ivy League school? Some were happy where they were at. Some preferred to till the soil, or work on old cars, or DJ dingy nightclubs. I’ve got friends of all shapes and sizes. Some of my people are rednecks from the sticks, who do a lot more hunting than they do reading. Others, like my friend Francis over at Liberty’s Torch are men of immense intellectual capacity and education (don’t tell him that, I don’t want his head to explode!). And you know what? I learn a little bit from all of ’em.

If you get over yourself, then no matter what your IQ level or educational achievements, you might just learn something. And, of equal importance, you might avoid swallowing a load of complete bullshit.

Blue Checkmarks Strike Again

If you use Twitter with any frequency, you are probably already aware of the special sort of stupidity emitted by the Blue Checkmarks, that is people who are verified by Twitter. Since Twitter has a habit of banning Rightists, either directly or through shadowbanning, the number of verified Conservatives is rather smallish. It is non-zero, of course, but it could be said that Twitter wishes there were none. Thus Blue Checkmarks are usually liberals, and a large percentage of them fall into the category of Shitlibs, the special breed of liberals prone to the most idiotic and useless drivel imaginable.

Consider this:

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The Blue Checkmarks Strike Again. This appalling level of deceitful filth equates Donald Trump joking about “grabbing ’em by the pussy” with literal sex slavery and mass murder committed by ISIS. This is the mindset of the far Left, any deviation from their narrative is deemed literally Hitler. Or in this case, literally ISIS. As this “genderless male” puts it, it is binary. If you are not with him, you are evil. And as evil, you must be destroyed.

Now, some might say that an out exists. What if the person disagreeing with the narrative is merely stupid? Ah, well Blue Checkmark Twitter has an answer for that, too:

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So, stupid and evil are the same. They are both evil. Crass sexual humor is the same as sex slavery and mass murder. Words are literal violence. But violence conducted against Rightists isn’t violence at all. These people play very fast and loose with their language. It is language pollution of the highest order. Words mean whatever these cretins want them to mean. And, of course, what they want words to mean is “kill Righty” or maybe it’s “kill Whitey.” Whatever. In their world, it’s probably both.

Here’s a great example of that:

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Of course, the casual reader might say that I’m cherry picking these. And sure, I’ve picked a few whoppers for the amusement of my readers. But you can browse for yourself, and see the idiocy and hateful language spewed by Blue Checkmark Twitter.  Many of these people have jobs in entertainment, media, and academia. And most of them despise you. For every Sean Hannity with a Blue Checkmark, you’ll find a dozen of these cretins. And as we saw with Milo Yiannopoulos, Twitter loves to remove the checkmark, or simply ban a Rightist, if they believe they can get away with it.

This Tweet appears to have been removed, but the Blue Checkmark who tweeted it is still around:

but

If this were during the days of the Obama administration, and a Rightist posted something like that, he would have been booted off the island with a great deal of media fanfare. This goes right under the radar.

But don’t take my word for it. Browse Blue Checkmark Twitter for yourself. You will never find a greater hive of scum and villainy.

 

24/7 Attacks on Trump

Ever since Trump became a force in the Republican primaries, the media has been engaged in a constant battle against him. Even Bush Derangement Syndrome resulted in occasional gaps in media attack coverage, occasional lulls in hit pieces. Trump Derangement Syndrome is 24/7. It never lets up, not even for a second. Every celebrity timeline is filled with anti-Trump posts. Every media talking head is constantly talking about Trump.

It never ends. Trump could sneeze, and it would be racist. He can executive the Constitutional prerogatives of office, and discharge political appointees, and it’s evil Russian collaboration. He could appoint an Attorney General, and it’s the KKK coming back from the dead. Snark-peddlers call him “Putin’s cockholster.”

Step out of the slow boil to this for a moment. Be the frog who steps out of the slow-boiling pot.

Have you ever seen coverage like this? When Trump won the primary, the media looked for every possible avenue to keep him out of office. When Trump won the election, they peddled insane conspiracy-minded theories about hijacking the electoral college and getting faithless electors to keep him out of office. When he won, everything was a constant 24/7 scandal worthy of impeachment, and if impeachment doesn’t do the job, they want to use the 25th Amendment to get rid of him.

Note, this isn’t a few kooks and crazies proposing this. This is constant media coverage.

Francis tell us what we’re dealing with here:

The entirety of major-media “reporting” these past four months has been dedicated to the Spaghetti Theory of Political Combat: Fling enough at the wall and eventually, some will stick. Nothing they’ve flung has adhered to Trump yet, but they remain dedicated to their strategy. Worse, supposed conservative luminaries are buying into it as well…on the basis of the media hysteria and nothing else.

I cannot imagine that Trump foresaw this during his campaign. If he had, would he have wanted the job?

This is not going to let up for even a moment. If Trump proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that every single accusation ever lobbed at him was blatantly false, it still wouldn’t be enough. They’d come up with more. As far as these people are concerned, Trump is guilty. He was always guilty. Presumption of innocence doesn’t matter. Courts of law don’t matter. Nothing else matters, except that they hate Trump, and therefore he must be removed by any means possible.

Francis linked over to Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, who describes this farce for us:

Today’s headline news is that an alleged Comey memo indicates President Trump tried to obstruct justice in the Flynn investigation by saying to Comey in a private meeting, “I hope you can let this go.”

 

Key word = hope
How did the New York Times characterize Trump’s expression of hope?
Do you see Trump asking Comey to end the Flynn investigation in the quote “I hope you can let this go”?

 

All I see in that sentence is “duh.” Obviously Trump HOPED his friend and advisor Flynn would be okay. Did it need to be said? Was there some confusion on this point with Comey? Did Comey enter the meeting thinking maybe President Trump wanted to see his friend and advisor Flynn get eaten by the system?

As always, I’ve no idea if Trump is guilty of anything or not. What I do know is that the media hates him with a passion I’ve not seen in my lifetime. Many of their attacks have been proven to be blatant lies, or even outright hoaxes (remember when 4chan took them for a ride with the Russian prostitutes story?). So given the media’s track record as hateful liars with an incredibly obvious agenda, people would be absolute fools to trust them on any of this.

Some folks on Twitter have asked why we trust Trump, given all of the smoke around him. The thing is, I’ve never said I trusted Trump. Rather, I distrust the media, and I’ve correctly identified them as manufacturers of smoke. There’s a world of difference there. Trump is a politician, so I am wary of him on that basis alone. But the media is a pack of lying, disgusting, filthy animals who are steering us down a path of Social Justice and Marxism, and doing so obviously now.

If some folks think Trump is genuinely guilty of something, perhaps they ought to tell the media to shut up and stop manufacturing bullshit. After all, in a cloud of fake smoke generated by liars, how in the hell am I supposed to tell if any of it is real? The only people the media have won over are those who hated Trump anyway. They aren’t making their case, they are making us trust them even less. And, quite honestly, I’m amazed it’s even possible for them to achieve that. I thought we already hit rock bottom with them.

Apparently not.

Social Justice is Word Salad

Folks, we’ve gone beyond mere doublethink into the Twilight Zone of Social Justice insanity. There is nothing too stupid, too bereft of meaning, to become an SJW headline. It’s getting to the point that a random chat bot could compose headlines that made more objective sense. Turing’s test must now be applied in reverse: when does a human being become so stupid as to approximate an AOL chat bot?

For our first example, I present Exhibit A:

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There is narcissism, there is solipsism, and then there’s whatever the hell this is. The ability of SJWs to coin irrelevant, bizarre jargon for their nigh-incomprehensible word salad is impressive, in its own way. Although, this headline begs the question: did this woman swear an oath to lie only with herself?

I can only presume that this woman conducted a sort of false ceremony in an effort to convince others that she was happy with her miserable life. More attention-seeking devices from the same species that invented the selfie stick and duckface, because damnit, it all has to be about me. Why go through all this effort to convince others of your satisfaction in your choice to remain single? If Social Justice remains true to form, we will soon be told that “sologamy” is morally superior to mere monogamy, because all sex is rape, or all men are evil (#YesAllMen). But hey, it’s all about equal rights for women, right?

Let’s move along to Exhibit B:

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Affinity Magazine is one of the few SJW rags to approach Gawker levels of Social Justice virtue signalling. I actually skimmed this pile of drivel, and I feel dumber for having read it. One quote stood out as especially idiotic:

The surplus of women seeking higher education at universities has created less power for women in relationships they develop. This has caused women to compromise their Christian values and have sex in order to attract and keep a male partner. Women have to compete with one another for a male’s attention. Because of the ratio, women are both pressured into being promiscuous and being slut-shamed by the Christian influenced American society.

Here we see the SJW ranting about the “surplus of women seeking higher education.” Presumably, she is bothered by the fact that more women than men are attending and graduating colleges these days? I thought education was all about empowering women? Make up your damned mind, please. Now, she explains, colleges are promiscuous because they are not Christian enough? And this is, somehow, Christianity’s fault because America is mostly Christian.

Even a superficial reading of the article is sufficient to expose the author as a drooling idiot.

On to Exhibit C:

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Family is a concept Marxism has been at war with for a very long time. A strong nuclear family tends to resistance collectivization because of the simple truth that a parent generally wants the best for his children. Bread lines, riots in the streets, and the other sorts of things common in Communist countries just aren’t seen as wonderful and great for the children. Certainly Venezuela’s infant mortality rate didn’t so so well recently.

And so for SJWs, anything to promote the image of families as divisive, oppressing, and outmoded is quite welcome, even when presented in the passive-aggressive form of “how not to hate your husband.” The very premise is ridiculous. You don’t need a guide to tell you not to hate your husband. If you hate him, why are you married in the first place? And why would having a child with someone you love cause you to suddenly do a complete 180 and hate his guts?

Exhibit D:

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Okay, it’s not a news headline. But it is a spectacular example of just how far the Leftist will go in his quest to make everything political. A mother who died 25 years ago is dragged into a political tweet about Trump on Mothers Day. This rationalization is like a final boss in the game of word salad. The pretzel-like intellectual hoops Joss must jump through to associate his dead mother with Donald Trump are truly staggering to observe.

What is this? What is he even trying to say? Is he saying he’s glad his mother is dead, because if she were alive, Donald Trump’s existence would somehow ruin her day? Is he saying that, if his mother wasn’t dead, he’d “give her the gift” of death, because Donald Trump is president?

Our final exhibit today exceeds even the idiocy and pettiness of Joss Wheedon:

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Yes, my friends, this is true. Trump sometimes eats more ice cream than other people at the dinner table. CNN thinks they are delivering a funny when the reporter says “and CNN got the scoop… literally!” Bad puns aside, the pettiness of talking about dessert choices at the White House is low even for the very same media that fell for the 4chan Russian hotel prostitutes hoax.

When I saw this graphic floating around Social Media, I was convinced it was a photoshop job, just because I couldn’t believe even CNN would stoop quite that low. But I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, after all the media told us that Trump’s habit of ordering his steak well done was some kind of apocalyptic omen.

Oh, whatever will you do, if you are eating dinner at the White House, and the server brings you one scoop of ice cream, and gives Trump two!

The lengths the media has gone to in order to discredit Trump is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in America. The vitriol, the passive-aggression, attacking him for even the most minor and petty of perceived transgressions against the gods of ice cream scoops has convinced me that this is only one step removed from all-out open warfare. Nothing is off limits. Not even the most minor of things, one’s taste in food, is off the table.

The attack is 24/7, never letting up for even a moment, with the entire media, most of the government, and most of the entertainment industry engaged in constant battle against Trump’s administration.

They didn’t even hate Bush quite this much.

Fisk of the Day: Tom & Trump Voters

Well, if you’ve been a regular reader of The Declination, you are no doubt aware that I’m not exactly in the Tom Nichols fan club. Some folks might be under the impression that my disdain for him is rooted in his status as a NeverTrumper. But that isn’t the case. My good friend Nicki is a NeverTrumper, and I take no issue with that.

The difference between Tom and Nicki is instructive. Nicki merely disagrees with a political choice, which is part of a long tradition in America, whereas Tom actively disdains Trump voters, and views them as something akin to a teeming mass of idiots ruining his intellectual utopia. Consider this article:

Are Trump voters ruining America for all of us?

Just the title of this article is sensationalist clickbait. Tom pulls no punches in his disdain for the Trumpist peasantry. But if you expect the article to take a more moderate tone, you’re about to be disappointed.

President Trump’s record in his first 100 days, by any standard of presidential first terms, is one of failure. Aside from the successful nomination of the eminently qualified Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, there are almost no accomplishments — and a fair number of mistakes.

Now, don’t add me to the “Trump is perfect” fan club either. I’m rather irritated at his handling of Syria at the moment. But Tom wants us to believe that by “any standard” (he really means by his standard), Trump’s record is terrible. Worse, probably, than any other President. Yet he admits right away that Trump nominated a qualified and decent candidate to the Supreme Court.

That, in itself, is an immense thing. Many of us viewed Trump as a lesser evil precisely for this reason, because we were very concerned about what another liberal justice would do to the Court. Irrespective of his other failures, this was a huge achievement, and Tom just brushes it aside as an afterthought.

The president’s first national security adviser had to quit after a record-setting tenure of only 24 days. The administration’s first major legislative initiative, on health care, crashed and burned in a spectacular political wreck. Foreign policy has lurched from alienating China to relying on China to help us with North Korea. A rain of cruise missiles on a Syrian air base led to a brief moment of hope for those who care about humanitarian intervention (and a moment of despair for Trump’s isolationist base); less than a month later it is all but forgotten by supporters and critics alike because no actual policy emerged from this stunning use of American force.

So he held his National Security Adviser to account when the man screwed up, and this is deemed as a failure. Tom is misunderstanding how a man like Trump thinks. Trump is not thinking of political image (indeed, the idea is laughable), he is thinking in business terms. If you don’t trust a subordinate, dismiss him. Tom’s experience as a former Senate aide may be clouding his view here. If one of Obama’s advisers screwed up, Obama’s first inclination would be to cover it up. When one of Trump’s advisers screws up, Trump’s first inclination is to fire the idiot.

As for China, this is partly a recognition of a geopolitical truth: China is a “frenemy.” In some situations, we must treat them as something akin to an enemy. In other situations, we are best advised to work with them. This isn’t rocket science.

Lastly, the idea that Trump’s supporters suddenly forgot about his attack on Syria is absolutely ludicrous. My feed absolutely exploded with Trump supporters who were angry at him for this and it hasn’t stopped. No, Trump’s supporters may still be largely behind him, but they were not happy with this.

Meanwhile, almost every day produces a cringe-worthy moment of messaging failure, from spokesman Sean Spicer’s bizarre comment about how Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on his own people to Trump’s claim that his ratings on a television news program were bigger than 9/11.

A spokesman makes a messaging mistake. And Tom puts this on Trump. But this is a Catch-22, because if Trump fired Sean Spicer for doing something stupid, Tom would undoubtedly call that a failure, too. “Trump had to dismiss his press secretary, he’s such a failure!”

Not surprisingly, Trump is at this point the most unpopular new president in the history of modern polling. What is bewildering is that at the same time, 96% of Trump voters say they have no regrets about their choice. How can this be? Is it just partisanship, with Americans so divided that they will simply cheer on their own team and stay loyal beyond all rational thought?

You’d think people like Tom would have learned to take these polls with a huge grain of salt, at this point. I mean, it’s not like they were all wrong about the election in the first place, right?

Anyway, Tom again is misunderstanding what’s driving the support for Trump, what’s been driving it all along. People are sick of being lied to by Washington. They know they are being lied to. They know 2+2 is not 5. You can tell them that water is not wet until you’re blue in the face, but they know you are lying.

Now, they may not be geopolitical geniuses. If you asked them about the capital city of Zimbabwe, or something, they probably won’t know. But they are intelligent enough to realize that they don’t want to send millions of their taxpayer dollars there.

The wide disagreement among Americans on the president’s performance, however, is more than partisanship. It is a matter of political literacy. The fact of the matter is that too many Trump supporters do not hold the president responsible for his mistakes or erratic behavior because they are incapable of recognizing them as mistakes. They lack the foundational knowledge and basic political engagement required to know the difference between facts and errors, or even between truth and lies.

They don’t know the difference between truth and lies, facts and errors. They have no political foundation. So, perhaps, they ought to just let their betters run things, right? If other Senate aides have this much disdain for the American people, it would explain an awful lot about DC.

As the social psychologist David Dunning wrote during the campaign, “Some voters, especially those facing significant distress in their life, might like some of what they hear from Trump, but they do not know enough to hold him accountable for the serious gaffes he makes.” In other words, it’s not that they forgave Trump for being wrong, but rather that they failed “to recognize those gaffes as missteps” in the first place.

I’ve about as much confidence in the pronouncements of a social psychologist as I do in the local astrologist, delivering palm readings out of her trailer home.

This was most evident during the campaign itself, when candidate Trump’s audiences applauded one fantastic claim after another: that he saw Muslims cheering the 9/11 attacks, that the United States pays for over 70% of NATO’s costs, that he knew more than the generals about strategy. When he became president, he continued the parade of strange assertions and obsessions.

Except Muslims did cheer the 9/11 attacks. I was just watching an excellent video put out by Prager U, wherein an apostate from Islam described his own family cheering the attacks. And as for NATO, even the Washington Post admits there is some truth to the 70% figure.

The relevant part:

NATO documents show that a majority of NATO members fail to meet NATO’s guideline, established in 2006, that defense expenditures should amount to 2 percent of each country’s gross domestic product. The median spending in 2015 is just 1.18 percent of GDP, compared to 3.7 percent for the United States, NATO says. Just four other countries currently exceed the 2 percent guideline.

“The volume of the US defense expenditure effectively represents 73 per cent of the defense spending of the Alliance as a whole,” NATO says in a discussion of indirect funding. “This does not mean that the United States covers 73 per cent of the costs involved in the operational running of NATO as an organization, including its headquarters in Brussels and its subordinate military commands, but it does mean that there is an over-reliance by the Alliance as a whole on the United States for the provision of essential capabilities, including for instance, in regard to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; air-to-air refueling; ballistic missile defense; and airborne electronic warfare.”

NATO concedes this imbalance has been an issue since the start of the alliance: “The combined wealth of the non-US Allies, measured in GDP, exceeds that of the United States. However, non-US Allies together spend less than half of what the United States spends on defense.”

It depends on whether one is discussing the direct contributions to NATO, or the overall share of military expense by members of the alliance. Of course, Tom knows this too. So I’m not sure why he’s being dishonest in this respect.

To be sure, some of Trump’s voters, like any others, are just cynical and expect the worst from every elected official. Others among them grasp Trump’s failings but fall back on the sour but understandable consolation that at least he is not Clinton. But many simply don’t see a problem. “I think I like him more now that he is the president,” Pennsylvania voter Rob Hughes told New York Post writer Salena Zito.

So Tom picks a single quote by a single voter to a single publication, and then sees this as some indication that Trump voters are somehow blind to his mistakes. Clearly, Tom travels in different circles than I do, where Trump supporters are angry about Syria, and very impatient for the Wall. It’s all over social media, easy for him to see if he even bothered to look. Ann Coulter even publicly chastised him for this, and she was among his most ardent supporters. No, Trump voters are watching him like a hawk. There are exceptions, of course. But does anyone really see Trump getting a second term if he doesn’t produce the requisite Wall? I sure don’t.

There is a more disturbing possibility here than pure ignorance: that voters not only do not understand these issues, but also that they simply do not care about them. As his supporters like to point out, Trump makes the right enemies, and that’s enough for them. Journalists, scientists, policy wonks — as long as “the elites” are upset, Trump’s voters assume that the administration is doing something right. “He makes them uncomfortable, which makes me happy,” Ohio Trump voter James Cassidy told the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale. Syria? Korea? Health care reform? Foreign aid? Just so much mumbo-jumbo, the kind of Sunday morning talk-show stuff only coastal elitists care about.

The elites, the journalists and policy wonks have very strong disdain for the hoi polloi. It’s utterly obvious. I remember when GamerGate first became a thing, and gamers were shocked about the articles from game journalists explaining that gamers were racist, sexist, homophobic monsters. And then said journalists were surprised that the people they were insulting suddenly didn’t like them very much.

The American news media, policy wonks, some scientists (most notably involved in climate change research) and otherwise have been doing this for decades. And now Tom is surprised that some Americans who may not even like Trump very much are nonetheless not overly concerned when he attacks those people.

In my own circles, I’ve seen a number of people who didn’t even vote for Trump nonetheless sprouting “schadenboners” at seeing how the Left and the news media are collectively melting down over his election.

There is a serious danger to American democracy in all this. When voters choose ill-informed grudges and diffuse resentment over the public good, a republic becomes unsustainable. The temperance and prudent reasoning required of representative government gets pushed aside in favor of whatever ignorant idea has seized the public at that moment. The Washington Post recently changed its motto to “democracy dies in darkness,” a phrase that is not only pretentious but inaccurate. More likely, American democracy will die in dumbness.

Who defines the public good, Tom? That’s always the question. We haven’t had a representative government for as long as I’ve been alive. It’s been an oligarchical farce, masquerading as a democracy. Occasional exceptions like Ronald Reagan were never enough to right the ship.

Tom’s fascination with calling everybody who disagrees with him stupid may be a rather extreme form of projection.

Those of us who criticized Trump voters for their angry populism were often told during and after the election not to condescend to our fellow citizens, and to respect their choices. This is fair. In a democracy, every vote counts equally and the president won an impressive and legitimate electoral victory.

Even so, the unwillingness of so many of his supporters to hold him to even a minimal standard of accountability means that a certain amount of condescension from the rest of us is unavoidable.

In every election, we must respect the value of each vote. We are never required, however, to assume that each vote was cast with equal probity or intelligence.

So the conclusion of your whole rant is exactly nothing, Tom. All it serves to do is provide you with some rationalization for why you can act condescending to Trump voters, and call them stupid.

Look, I’m not exactly Trump’s number one fan, Tom. In fact, I said some months back that in better times, I’d want to keep a man like Trump as far from the levers of power as humanly possible.

But what you’ve been missing, while putzing around political circles, is that middle America is falling apart. And the whole time it’s been falling apart, the media, the policy wonks, the politicians, celebrities, and talking heads kept telling us: “you need to sacrifice more, you need to give up more.”

Stop driving cars so much, they said. Pay more taxes, they said. Give up your nice home and comfortable energy budget. Black Lives Matter and yours don’t. You’re racist, sexist, homophobic, hateful, and bigoted. You’re stupid, they said, and so we’re going to tell you how to live. We’re going to micromanage your life for you. Then, if we decide to get in a war in some third-world shithole, you need to go die for us. And if we feel like throwing away the victory bought with your blood, too bad, because we’re smart, and you’re stupid.

After decades of this mistreatment, men like Tom are surprised that the American electorate flipped them the bird and said “fine, fuck you, enjoy Donald Trump, assholes.”

Tom, you sit there talking about how American democracy will die in dumbness. You’re wrong. American democracy is already dead. It was dead when the Democrats cleared the field for Hillary Clinton’s anointment. It was dead when the GOP tried to force Jeb down our throats. It died as the GOP establishment gained all major levels of federal power and still surrendered to the Democrats on almost every point of contention they thought they could get away with. What the people want is irrelevant to Washington. There is no democracy here. Not much of a republic either.

What the layman in the street sees is a steady expansion of government power, and a steady erosion of his fortunes. He sees more of his liberty disappearing, and more of the politically-connected getting whatever their hearts desire.

He may not be learned in the way some of us are. He may be a regular Joe, scratching a living, who never had the time and money for college. But that doesn’t mean he’s stupid. That doesn’t mean he can’t see what’s going on right in front of him. He may not necessarily understand why this is all happening or be able to articulate the exact mechanisms behind it. But he can nonetheless see the effects.

You’re pissing down his back and telling him that it’s raining. And then you’re wondering why he doesn’t trust you anymore.

Experts and the Common Man… Again

There is a type of person in this world who will grate on my nerves long before he ever speaks, and will only exacerbate the problem when he does open his mouth. Over time, I’ve come to recognize this almost visceral reaction to some people as a some kind of basic human instinct. Now, I’m not one to speak on my personal feelings very often. Truly, most of the time folks would be understandably bored by such. And if SJWs are lurking about, ready to pounce on admissions of racism/sexism/whatever, you are likely to be disappointed, as most (but not all) of such individuals are actually white guys.

Yeah. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, SJWs.

If I can describe the feeling with a metaphor, it would be like that moment you walk into a car dealership, and the salesmen lurking near entrance are circling, like a pack of vultures waiting to pounce upon hapless, vulnerable prey should it show any sign of fatigue or weakness. They have lemons, and you’re a mark. You get a feeling in the pit of your stomach, your gut telling you that these people are wrong, somehow. That they are not to be trusted, and indeed, their every action much be carefully watched and calculated against.

Over the years, I’ve recognized that some folks engender this automatic response outside of car dealerships. You don’t want to deal with them in any way, but circumstances may be such that you feel the need. Perhaps that are gatekeepers, and you must get through the gate. Or perhaps they control personal fiefs that intrude on yours in some fashion. Whatever. The point is, you have to deal with them.

I’m sure most people have felt this one way or another. What I’m about to explain is why. Many of my readers, often wiser folks than I, may already know this. But for some, this may be new.

The type of person I’m talking about is the one who thinks he is better than you. No, not better in some specific capacity. The pilot may justly say “I’m a better pilot than you.” Sure. I don’t know how to fly, at least not outside of a simulator, anyway. The pilot flies better than I do, because I do not fly at all. Nor am I talking about the person who has a higher IQ, or can bench press more weight, or is a better basketball player. Again, folks in each circumstance can justly say they are better than me at those things. Whatever. The specifics are immaterial here.

I’m talking about the man who thinks he is better than you in general.

The reason this is so insidious, is that every action by such an individual is designed to elevate himself above you in general. Your opinions are irrelevant to him, because he considers himself better in all things. So if you talk to him, the response invariably becomes an exercise in establishing his authority over you. After all, if you are better than another, should you not rule over him? This has been the excuse of tyrants since the dawn of time.

Folks may remember an old troll here named Merkur. And while I don’t want to delve too much into him, since he is no longer here to defend himself, he did demonstrate this sort of air. At one point, he explained that I should read a book called You Are Not So Smart. Now, normally a book recommendation wouldn’t be untoward. But this “recommendation” occurred during a debate in which Merkur was attempting to convince me that I was biased (something I never denied — all humans are biased, I am human, QED), while taking a position of authority on the matter of cognitive biases.

In simple terms, rather than address the central point of my arguments about Islam and Weaponized Empathy, he would nitpick minor points, then accuse me of being biased, more biased, in fact, than him. Then he chose to recommend said book. Do you see it? His implication was I am smarter than you. Not “I know more about psychology than you” which I would have likely accepted. Not even “I know more about specific cognitive biases than you,” which again would have specificity and plausibility. It’s not my field of education, for sure.

The implication was you are biased, I am smarter than you, therefore I can disregard your conclusions. It’s a slippery form of Ad Hominem, because it distracts from the original conclusions. At that point, we were no longer talking about Weaponized Empathy, or the role of Islam in terror attacks. We were, instead, talking about how biased one Dystopic was (hint:  I’m sure I’m pretty damned biased – whether I’m wrong, however, is a different matter altogether).

Of course, when pressed, Merkur denied this. He just wanted to educate me about specific cognitive biases, you see. It wasn’t a personal attack. He just happened to do this in a thread about Islam, and it just happened to derail the original topic, and he just happened to avoid the original point, except to call attention to minor nitpicks.

Folks may wonder why I brought up Merkur again, since he has kept to his word and not returned. The reason is that I encountered the same behavior from Tom Nichols today. He posted a link to the following article: Working-class whites can’t handle their status as ‘the new minority’. The article is full of some rather pointed dreck about Trump supporters, blue collar white folks, and racism. Nothing we haven’t seen before from a dozen other outlets since Trump became a political force.

Now, Tom has spent a lot of time since beginning the writing and promoting of his book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters more or less insulting common folks. In our last Twitter flame war, he indicated that most Americans shouldn’t be informed by the government about the non-classified details surrounding terrorist attacks, even after the fact, because he thought most Americans were too stupid to read maps.

He then compared trust in the alphabet agencies to trusting pilots who fly airliners. Why, he thought, if people trust airline pilots do they not trust government intelligence agencies? This was evidence that the common man was an idiot. The fallacy in this line of thinking should be pretty obvious to most of my readers. It is rather easy for a man to know whether or not airline pilots are generally reliable. Despite big crashes hitting the airwaves, from time-to-time, you are generally safer in an airliner, than in your own car. The general reliability of airline pilots is data that is readily available to us. Not so much with the alphabet agencies. Indeed, we catch them in egregious lies and screw ups with frightening regularity. Consequences from their geopolitical screw ups can certainly dwarf a mere airline accident.

But my beef with Tom wasn’t just over this issue. It’s an issue that folks might reasonably sit down and chat about, because God knows there are some dumb voters out there (just look at all this Antifa business right now). What bothered me was the original tweet to him was respectful and reasoned, and his response was basically you and everyone like you is stupid, and I’m smart! This is a variation of I’m better than you. No, not “I’m more educated than most on foreign policy matters”. It was I’m better than a sizable fraction of America.

At the time, this attitude was mildly irritating, but I ignored it. We got into it again, and then again today. Now, today, I was definitely not respectful and gracious to him. My patience with him has worn thin. I was downright hostile, and that came through well enough in my tweet to him. I was fully expecting another I’m smarter than everybody else tactic from him. What I got was arguably worse. Instead, he accused me of not reading the article I was responding to, or even knowing who the author was.

This is about as dishonest and cowardly a tactic as a man might use. On the internet, his statement was unfalsifiable. There was no way I could prove to him that his statement was wrong. But we also both knew it was a total lie, invented for precisely this purpose. He debates exactly like a Progressive would. This I recognized immediately as an Ad Hominem, similar to what Merkur did, but without the modicum of decency that Merkur at least attempted to display. He didn’t want to talk about the article in question, he wanted to shift the argument away from it. And meanwhile, he chose to use an exceptionally ridiculous version of I’m better than you. The implication being that other people don’t read articles, or understand them, and so he doesn’t have to defend his posting of this drivel on his own Twitter feed.

Then, when challenged on that, he explained that it wasn’t an Ad Hominem, because he was just innocently trying to teach me about the importance of reading articles. Cue a back and forth discussion with some of his followers about the definition of Ad Hominem, and why I should have posted links to the definition in my reply to Tom (does anybody on Twitter even do that?).

Yeah, pull the other one.

This is a form of passive-aggressive behavior, hidden behind airs of self-righteousness and some kind of superiority complex. Tom is invested in himself as the smartest guy in the room, but his argument essentially boils down to I’m smarter than everybody else, so I’m automatically right. No defense of his positions are necessary, unless you prove yourself worthy (and nobody is worthy, unless they agree with him).

And what I’ve come to realize, is that these individuals produce a natural desire in most humans to punch the smug asshole in the face. Perhaps this is nature’s way of informing the individual that, like Merkur’s book recommendation, You Are Not So Smart. A punch in the face can do that well enough sometimes. Maybe the book is good (and I may very well read it – I am morbidly curious), but cold, hard reality is often better. God knows it’s happened to me more than once.

That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when these folks are around? That’s your body saying “this guy is an ass, and it might be better if you just punched him in the face, but if that isn’t an option for whatever, well just be careful.” After all, he could be a salesman trying to sell you a lemon, or Tom Nichols trying to establish himself as the wisest technocrat in the universe. As far as we have come from the elementary playground, the argument still essentially boils down to the same thing a pair of first graders might say to one another: I’m better than you! Neener Neener!

Socrates would know him for the fool.

As an aside, I’d really like to see a debate between Nicholas Taleb and Tom Nichols. For Taleb has warned us repeatedly about intellectual idiocy, and Tom is a proponent of why the intellectuals must be trusted. The two positions are diametrically opposed. Of course, there might be a worldwide shortage of popcorn should such an event come to pass.

In the meantime, Merkur might say it’s bias, and he’s really not wrong, but sometimes, biased or not, your gut knows exactly what kind of person you’re dealing with. God, and countless generations of natural selection, have granted us a finely-honed sense for people who are trying to bullshit us. Often times, it’s worth listening to.

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