Modern Media, Superiority Complexes, and the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

Social media is full of long-winded, acrimonious debates about politics, sociology, cats, etc… It’s enough to make a man seriously consider giving it up completely. My colleague at Liberty’s Torch discussed cutting that particular line earlier, and though I have not done what he did, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think about it.  Mostly, the arguments are just for show. People don’t expect to win hearts and minds in them, not really. Rather, it’s often just a virtue signal, or the refilling of narcissistic supply.

A few posts in, and the insults about stupidity, bigotry, Dunning-Kruger, and otherwise will make themselves known. And in them we see the true purpose of many such debates: feeling superior. If you infer that your opponent is a Nazi, you feel morally superior to him. If you call him stupid, you can feel intellectually superior. The bigger the audience, the better, so more people can affirm your superiority over your enemy. The actual issue at hand is rarely as important as these feelings. Find me a Facebook debate, and I can almost guarantee you at least one participant who is engaging in this behavior.

And since no one is really arguing in a dialectical manner (though you will see the word “facts” repeated as mantra for things that aren’t), nothing gets resolved. No new knowledge is gained, no insight or deeper understanding. It is purposeless mental masturbation. It certainly doesn’t make one an intellectual, or more intelligent.

What I’ve come to realize is that this behavior on social media is a microcosm for our society at large. The same behavior applies at the highest levels of media and politics. Most of these people have no idea what they are talking about, even most of the so-called experts (contrary to Tom Nichols’ assessment of political expertise). Find me an expert pilot, and we can go through his records, how many hours he’s logged, on what aircraft, and with what results. It is demonstrable. There is no similar metric for media talking heads, especially where results are concerned. And for politics, and measure of this is bound to be skewed by the political views of its members, such that our reliance upon it is already suspect.

This leads to an environment of low accountability. Oh, sure, if a man like Dan Rather gets snookered by some fake memos very publicly, the house of cards can fall down on him. But the mistake has to be high profile enough and, paradoxically, covered by the media enough, for it to get out in the first place.

Michael Crichton explained the problem as the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. Observe:

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

 

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

 

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

 

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

 

But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

A combination of superficial understanding and political narratives results in articles and news programs that make no sense. The percentage of the problem attributable to either feature varies widely from case-to-case. Sometimes it is blatantly political, and it cannot be explained by ignorance. Other times, it is probably best explained with stupidity. Most cases are probably a little of both. The media and its supporters, meanwhile, are quite blind to this. I came across this gem this afternoon, and it made me laugh out loud for the sheer stupidity of it:

lolol

The amusing thing is how easy this is to disprove. A quick glance at the SAT scores of incoming college students, broken down by major, is sufficient to reveal the error (see page 13 here). Of the STEM majors, all outscored journalists (see: engineering, physical sciences, mathematics, computer/information sciences). Some did so by staggering margins (see: mathematics). That the author of that tweet couldn’t be bothered to check his work, when claiming high intellect, is actually pretty damned hilarious. It’s enough to make me wonder if the guy is secretly trolling.

Anyway, point is, try Michael Crichton’s test for yourself. It’s something I’ve spoken of before – I just lacked the convenient name for it. Talk to other people who have done the same for different subjects, people you trust. You’ll soon see just how wrong the media is. Trump frequently calls CNN fake news, but in reality pretty much every outlet I’ve seen is full of shit to greater or lesser degree. Sometime I’d like to see a counter for how many times individual journalists have been caught in lies, or made serious mistakes driven by stupidity and ignorance.

These are the same people who, like the randoms on Facebook, want to demonstrate how enlightened they are, how wise, all-knowing, and progressive. They have a bigger podium, of course, and more spectators. But the motivations are similar enough. It’s all about appearances and narcissistic supply. It all boils down to a statement even a toddler could understand, and likely hears frequently on the playground. “I’m better than you! Neener-neener!” But they aren’t willing to do the work. They all expected Hillary Clinton to win, right up until she didn’t. Never forget how badly they called that election. If you get amnesia about their smaller mistakes, at least hold on to that one. They pretend to expert status. Meanwhile Trump, the supposedly stupid bigot, baits them like a matador. It’s comical how he plays them.

They want so desperately to shout down this man. I once thought it was because of his immigration policies – and I have no doubt that was a major factor, at least at first. But I’ve come to realize that there’s a deeper reason. He makes them look like idiots. He hurts their egos. Because, deep down, they know they aren’t the superior intellects they pretend to be. They know they are fake news. And he not only sees through them, he’s exposed them as frauds in front of the world. This they cannot forgive, or forget.

Insight From a Reader

A reader of The Declination by the alias of fslenentine had this to say on the matter of Padraig and others like him.

The question of Padraig’s intellectual insecurity is more consequential than is generally realized.

Today, intelligence is increasingly the most important attribute one can possess. No longer are there multiple avenues to social worth, just the one.

The problem is that most people aren’t smart enough to be special, and two thirds of the population is average to below average.

This has produced a culture of lying. Everyone has to pretend to be smart, and we all have to pretend that they are so in order to avoid being called out for our own banal mediocrity. After all, the average IQ in this country is 98 but the average self-reported IQ is 118, more than a full standard deviation away.

The internet makes it incredibly easy to give the superficial appearance of intelligence. Consider the old tactic of “link-storming” in which someone would just post, in place of an actual argument, links upon links which often only have passing relevance.

The end result of this is that most everyone is pretending to be smarter than they are, and thus live lives of deceit. They are wracked with insecurity and it manifests in malice.

Psychologically speaking, they’re angry and resentful at the world because they aren’t as special as they’ve been told and/or imagine themselves to be.

I call it the “American Idol” problem in which a competent but unspectacular singer is turned down and leaves in utter shock, having never considered that he/she might not be good enough. After all, everyone told them how great they were.

People who live fraudulent lives are prone to resentfulness and then true malice.

I suspect that this has much to do with the embrace of postmodern marxism.

Universities, in a classic sense, challenge students with truly difficult material from truly remarkable minds. The brutal truth is that most people aren’t intellectually equipped to deal with Kant, Aquinas, Jung, and so on.

Bringing in more students means lowering the bar, intellectually speaking (and please, this is no comment on gender or race because that’s the first place Padraig will go. It’s a pure numbers game), not just for students but teachers.

Now we have generations of failed intellectuals with delusions of grandeur and wracked with resentment, unable to solve the immensely complex problems that society presents. As such, they retreat into pseudo-intellectualism, i.e. postmodernism.

It demands no rigor and affords them the ability to create what is the equivalent of fan theories about movies. Clever, fun, but meaningless. More so, they bury it in opacity. They abhor clarity for it exposes the vacuity of their efforts.

Increasingly mediocre teachers combined with even more increasingly mediocre students means a ripe environment for pseudo-intellectualism.

This affliction affects the slightly above average person the most because they’re smart enough to know that they’re above average, but not smart enough to be insightful or special. Thus, what’s their intelligence worth? To them it should entitle them to a place of status. Instead it just means that they can be a mid-level accountant or marketing manager. That’s simply not enough. They expected more. They were promised more. Now they feel angry and betrayed which causes them to lash out.

My rambling point is this: we overvalue pure intelligence and thus we create a situation in which many, many people have to pretend to be smarter than they are, and that produces psychological resentment, which is the foundation of malice.

Enter Padraig. He’s not here to discuss, which is what intelligent people generally do. They recognize the limits of their intellect and enjoy discussing with people who see the world differently. He’s not here for that. He’s not even here to lecture. He’s not even here to show-off his superior mind. He’s here to establish his bona fides as a true intellectual by attacking. That’s all he has: malice.

The all-too obvious problem is that he’s not particularly impressive. I don’t think he’s stupid but he seems perfectly average to slightly-above average. He offers no original thoughts of substance and I think it’s because he doesn’t have any, and he knows it, which is why he’s here, attacking a small blog.

Dystopic is, in his mind, an easy target. He wouldn’t risk going after someone who’s a heavyweight. Hell, I doubt he’d even risk attacking a minor leaguer like Ben Shapiro. He has no intellectual heft and he knows it. He just thinks Dystopic and his viewers don’t either.

***

This is a very important concept to understand. I’ve said for a long time that many Lefties are motivated by a desire to appear intelligent and moral, to be superior to those knuckle-dragging, hateful Republicans, or whatever the Leftist boogeyman of the day might be.

The question is why?

Fslenentine answered it succinctly. I frequently tell people here that I’m just a regular guy trying to work through the political ratfuck of our age. But the fact is, I could have been a Padraig myself, were circumstances a little different. I recognize in him certain character flaws that I once expressed, though not quite so obviously. Two things conspired to prevent that. First off, while I was probably the smartest kid in my high school (and it was not small), when I began writing software, I realized that much smarter men existed. I soon had the notion that I was uniquely clever or special beaten out of my skull.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, I began gaining recognition for genuine intellectual accomplishments. Nothing too big, nothing that would make me famous or land me a chapter in the history books, but real nonetheless. I started seeing my work out in the world – you’ve probably seen it too, though you’d never know it. And once you accomplish something real and meaningful like that, the sort of false ego-stroking you get from winning Internet debates on meaningless shit feels hollow and fake.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to become a cruel, angry person when reality doesn’t kiss your ass the same way all the fawning idiots of your youth did. I don’t blame a man for going through that period. But I do blame him for never exiting it.

This SJW Should Win a Razzie

I don’t even have much commentary for you. Just go read the article and watch the video contained therein. This SJW delivers a terrible, B-movie hate crime performance trying to make out a bunch of store clerks to be racist scum because, God forbid, an item somewhere in the store has a Confederate flag on it.

SJW Mom Triggered by Confederate Rug Shows Us How NOT to Fake a Hate Hoax

It truly is utterly amazing to watch. Fake crocodile tears, screaming in fear of a guy standing still 50 feet away…

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:

C_4KFXoUIAEH0Hu

 

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:

C_y0qJRXsAAs-hQ

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:

C_jfQdMXcAAZGPa

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:

18489649_10155272425336171_392767465694103847_o

 

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:

CNN-Trump-2-Scoops-Ice-Cream-w-border-e1494644022327-620x437

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.

Bureaucrats and Their Nits

Nitpicking is, of course, a favorite pastime of bureaucrats everywhere. Oregon’s state engineering board, however, managed to ascend to heights heretofore unattained by the American subspecies. The title of this article is revealing: Man Fined $500 for Crime of Writing ‘I Am An Engineer’ in an Email to the Government.

The case is interesting. An electrical engineer was involved in a dispute with the government regarding the timing of yellow lights, and in the course of his complaints, did a rather exhaustive amount of research on the matter. Upon presenting his findings to the state’s engineering board, he made reference to his employment as an electrical engineer (for which he also had the suitable degree). This offended the sensibilities of the board which, apparently, has a monopoly on the use of the word.

Now, it’s one thing if you claim to be a certain kind of professional engineer, the sort that stamps architectural and civil documents (especially in government employ), as these are licensed, board-certified individuals. Whether they ought to be is another question altogether, but never mind that. It’s quite another matter to say “I am an engineer.” Many in my general line of work bear the title of software engineer. Engineering titles are applied to many disciplines not involved in the board’s business.

Whatever. The legalese of the use of the word is beyond the purview of this post. The point is, however, that Oregon didn’t want to have to consider this man’s exhaustive research into yellow light timings, and the system of camera designed to catch offenders (which the engineer argued was broken). Rather than even consider his point of view, they merely looked up a suitably arcane and nitpicky regulation, and used it to fine him. In essence, an engineer was fined for saying that he was, in fact, an engineer.

I imagine the bureaucrats felt pretty good about themselves for this.

This ties into a point I made previously about cowardly Ad Hominem tactics. This is a very literal case of Ad Hominem, where rather than dispute the man’s findings, they merely attacked him through regulatory hoops. Perhaps if he didn’t mention his engineering background, they would have dismissed him by saying he was unqualified. And if he was board-certified to bear their official titles, they might have first dismissed him (or whatever the practice is for getting rid of his certification), then said he was unqualified. The government finds a way to dismiss arguments it doesn’t want to hear, regardless of the truth.

In essence, it’s a bureaucrat’s way of saying “I’m better than you, so shut up.”

Meanwhile, of course, the matter of Oregon’s red light cameras remains unaddressed.

Here in my home state and county, there was a red light camera program that went on for some time, and after some research by many individuals, irregularities came up. First off, the red light cameras were installed, run, and maintained by a third party given license by the government. The government and the third party company then split the revenue. One or the other, or perhaps both (that matter was never conclusively settled, so far as I know) decided to shorten the yellow light timings at some busy intersections in order to boost revenue. Also, those who were ticketed, and said they were not driving the vehicle, and could not be identified in the photo (i.e. a friend or family member was driving it), were then forced into a position of either giving up the other person’s identity or paying the fine anyway. That had plenty of legal consequences that were rather unpleasant, and perhaps even unconstitutional. It was also demonstrated that one could enter the intersection through a legal right turn at just the wrong moment, and the camera system would count it as a violation anyway. People were soon afraid of making legal right turns at red lights, and this lead to an increase in traffic and road rage.

The program became extremely controversial, because the entire justification for it was to curb Florida’s problem of excessive red light runners. To be fair, this is a legitimate problem around here. Florida has an awful lot of these folks compared to most places I’ve lived. But the red light camera program merely changed the type of accident. Less actions occurred inside the intersection, but many more rear-end collisions were reported. In the end, the program proved unpopular and was mostly abandoned.

Of course, I don’t know if Oregon is facing the same issues Florida had with red light cameras. Indeed, I don’t know if the engineer’s report was correct or completely bogus. But given the government’s track record with honesty, and the fact that they went out of their way to nitpick the regulations in order to attack him personally, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that they’ve got something to hide here.

Food, Virtue Signalling, and Narcissistic Supply

Recently, there has been some foofarah over the President’s food preferences. Namely, he likes his steaks well done and slathered in ketchup. The horror! The utter, unmitigated gall of a man to order food the way he likes it!

You know, it’s funny. My father still orders his steaks well done, and I’ve never quite understood why. Medium rare to medium has always struck me as the best balanced steak. I really don’t care for a bloody mess on a plate, so rare and blue rare are right out. If I wanted that, I’d just go to the Serengeti, chuck a spear at some wild animal, and eat the flesh raw. But well done, indeed, cooks out much of the flavor. So, yeah. Balance. But what business is it of mine to harp on a man for what he likes to eat? It is enough that I’ve my own preferences, and another man has his.

Food virtue signalling, or more aptly, food snobbery has been a thing for a very long time. And like political virtue signalling, it is all about display one’s superiority over another based on some irrelevant metric. “Look at me,” says the narcissist, “I’m superior because I like my steak rare.”

Of course, it is not merely steak that has suffered this effect. Wine has traditionally been a strong bastion of snobbery, but the practice has moved to craft beer. Now, again, don’t get me wrong, I like craft beer. For the longest time, I thought I didn’t like beer, because I found Bud, Coors, and Miller Lite to be foul-tasting  beverage abominations. But therein lies the point: I found them foul. Another man might like them. Indeed, even today these beers sell like hotcakes. Obviously somebody likes them.

If the President wants a Bud Lite, get him a damned Bud Lite. And just because you drink Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA (which I also find foul, by the way, as it’s a totally overrated beer in my opinion) doesn’t mean you are a better man, or have a more “elevated” palate, or anything of the sort. Here’s a great video about the irritating nature of the new craft beer snob types that have been popping up in trendy bars around the country:

 

Some years back, I remember reading about a blind taste test of wines, and a number of Napa valley California wines beating out French wines among the French. Naturally, the French were angry about this. You can’t virtue signal your superiority if you’re just rating what tastes good. Or, put in simpler terms, the French taste testers couldn’t cheat and give their own a leg up.

There’s this thought today that, like correctness in politics, there is correctness in food and drink. There is an Overton Window for acceptable steak. There are some steak places I’ve been to where ordering a medium steak gets me a dirty look from the server. As if to say “how dare you order cooked food from our establishment.” Given that Donald Trump likes his steak well done, I’m sure he’s dealt with much worse over the years.

Folks act like Donald Trump is afraid to try new things, afraid to eat superior food, or some such. It’s lunacy. More than likely, he’s tried his steak other ways in the past, and just likes what he likes. After all, if you like your steak rare for whatever reason, you’ll deal with a lot less dirty looks and peer pressure. Just like, it should be noted, that if you like your politics Leftist, again, you will deal with a lot less hate for it.

cook-a-steak-blue-rare-medium-welldone-2

Rare has been deemed by the nameless food correctness authorities to be the *perfect* steak. Anything else is wrongthink.

 

This is past the point of ridiculousness. Not only must your politics be perfectly correct, according to some nameless, faceless, cultural authority, but your food and beverage choices must be also. Or else, as some outlets have implied, you are not qualified to be President.

I wonder, however, if the people who push such narratives of correctness even believe any of their own bullshit. Do people really prefer their steaks rare in such mass numbers? Or are a healthy percentage of them doing it because the snooty server at the fancy steak place will give you a dirty look if you order anything else?

How many craft beer snobs drink the beer for taste, and how many drink it because it’s trendy? I suspect a great many folks do this out of trendiness. When I went to Germany some years back, I noticed that some of my favorite German beers were incredibly cheap there. I filled up on beer, let me tell you. I remember walking through the aisle of a kiosk store there, and seeing bottled water selling for a higher price than some of the best beers in the world (again, in my opinion). Amusingly enough, German purity laws regarding beer probably meant the water in the beer was probably of better quality than the actual bottled water. But never mind that. I had a great time at the breweries and such.

But one thing that stood out to me was how normally the Germans regarded their beers. To them, this was just how beer was. If you wanted one, you drank one. People weren’t sitting around sniffing their glasses, or some theatrical bullshit like you see sometimes in American craft beer bars.

If you like your beer, you can drink your beer.

It was that way in America, once too. Sure, our beers were probably crappier in those days, but I do miss the idea that if you liked a certain kind of beer, nobody cared. I wonder if steaks were once that way too. Wines, of course, probably weren’t, but we can blame the French for that. Though if you read your Bible, you’ll notice how wine didn’t seem to be a big deal in Christ’s day. Certainly the Messiah didn’t see the need to sniff the cork and aerate the wine before doing whatever with it.

Most of this is just theatrics. Maybe more folks like their steak one way as opposed to another, and maybe more folks like this beer over that beer. But it’s not about that anymore. It’s about putting on airs of self-righteous indignation every time someone does something differently with their food and drink. It’s about saying “I’m better than you.”

For a bunch of Leftists who once tried to ride the wave of prole resentment into Communism, it’s something of an irony. Their behavior has much more in common with aristocratic disdain for the peasantry than any sort of “workers of the world unite” bullshit.

Apparently, you can have infinite number of genders, my friends, but you must order your steak only one way.

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