Many of my readers have already seen Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov’s videos on ideological subversion, but on the off chance some of you have not, take a gander at this:
The stereotype of the KGB was that of a spy agency, a sort of spook counterpart to the CIA. But in reality, their primary weapon was ideological subversion, the deconstruction and brainwashing of a people, such that they can no longer come to sensible conclusions about anything. To use a modern and practical example, the human species has two genders, male and female, and an exceptionally small number of individuals who have very specific physical abnormalities (XXY/Klinefelter syndrome, for instance), who possess traits of both to varying degrees. Another small subset of individuals have a desire to be the opposite gender, but they were nonetheless born male, or female.
Ideological subversion has set into the culture to such a great degree, that stating the simple truth that there are only two genders is enough to incur the wrath of most of Academia, and one of America’s two major political parties.
You’ll notice that in this short video, Yuri places a timetable on ideological subversion, and this timetable is fixed around generations of students. Infiltration of Academia is how the KGB initially demoralized and subverted the American system. Now of course the KGB is gone now, and whatever Putin’s KGB past and Russian nationalistic ambitions, he does not appear to be behind the ideological subversion taking place today. Indeed, the previously-subverted are the ones most likely doing the subversion today, like a mad scientist project gone haywire.
The students subverted back in the 1960s still occupy many positions of power today, but they are falling by the wayside. Today’s academics are arguably worse than the generation that preceded them. Yuri explains that they are programmed to think and react in certain ways, to certain stimuli. They are trained like Pavlov’s dog. When someone cries “racist” they are trained to initiate a Maoist struggle session. When someone cries “rape” they are trained to believe the accusation in the face of all available evidence to the contrary. Virtue signalling is the method by which they communicate and relay relative status, and their position in the Progressive hierarchy.
To quote Yuri: “the process of demoralization is complete and irreversible.” You can’t reason with them anymore, because they don’t listen to reason. They listen to virtue signalling, to NewSpeak. It is instructive to view them as speaking an almost entirely different language. Communication is extraordinarily difficult. Conversion is impossible.
They are useful idiots, however. Yuri also tells us that when these people see the true fruits of equality and social justice, they will revolt. The subverters know this. The people in power will want to dispose of the idiots as soon as they are finished with us. They are a tool of the enemy, no more, no less.
Sadly, Yuri was ultimately proven to be correct. Though the Soviet Union collapsed of its own internal contradictions, the ideological subversion of the United States was already largely complete. That is why, 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Marxism still commands such great respect from the Left and has, in many ways, become much more virulent than it was in Reagan’s day. The infection is even within us, dear readers. I will provide some psychological examples for you.
When I say “nationalist” what is the first thing that comes to mind? For most Americans, nationalism is tainted by Nazism. Any mention of nationalism brings up images of fascists, and genocidal maniacs, and racial supremacists. Why? Nationalists, i.e. people who love their country and its people, have been around since the dawn of civilization. Nationalism is neither inherently good, nor evil. It merely is. Certainly it can be used for evil purposes, as the Nazis did. But it can also be used for good purposes, as used by the patriots of the American Revolution. Yet the word is irrevocably tainted. That is ideological subversion at work. Pride in your country brings feelings of guilt, for things you have never done, nor would ever countenance yourself.
When the accusation of racism is leveled at a person, the first instinct is usually defensive in nature. It is to attempt to prove that you are not guilty of the charge. You might point to a friend of the race in question, or in one of my friend’s cases, his very own wife. And then you say “see, I can’t be a racist, because I genuinely like these people.” No, this is ideological subversion at work. The charge should be dealt with in the exact opposite manner. One ought to say “prove it! Prove your claim that I am racist.” They’ve no proof — they almost never do. The accusation is a political weapon designed to discredit you. Alternatively, you can also respond as I’ve suggested in the past with “fuck you.” That works, too. Francis at Liberty’s Torch, has suggested saying something along the lines of “well, by your definition, fine, I’m a racist. Now what?”
Being defensive plays into their hands, for they can say “see, he feels bad, that’s why he’s being defensive about it, more evidence that he’s a racist!” Saying “prove it” won’t work on them and their ilk, of course. But it will work for those who are not entirely subverted. Those who still adhere to the concept of innocent until proven guilty will get it right away.
Nonetheless, the guilty feeling, the horror at being called a racist, is a form of ideological subversion. You don’t want to be seen as one, because the culture at large has told you how horrible it is, and so you do everything you can to not appear racist. This is a weapon that was tried on me very recently.
The thing to understand here, is that when you feel a sort of guilt or revulsion when you know you shouldn’t — because you are not guilty of the crimes in question — that’s probably ideological subversion at work. This is everything from your school teachers to mass media attempting to control your thinking, to make you question your own beliefs at an emotional level rather than a rational one, while applying no such critique to theirs.
The thing that still confuses me, however, is the end goal. Yuri was worried it would be a prelude to Soviet attack through more direct means. Obviously that is no longer a possibility. Yet we are seeing the destabilization right now, the unprecedented resistance to Trump’s administration. We see even semi-serious calls for secession in places like California.
So who is waiting to take power, should Trump fail? Thoughts?
Consider this post to be something of an expansion on the concept of the Brahmandarins. Technocracy is one of those things which sounds perfectly good on the surface, but can lead to absolute tyranny in short order. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, technocracy is, in essence, rule by technical elites. For instance, your media would be run by trained, credentialed journalism experts. Politicians would be groomed and educated to be leaders from an early age. You could not, for instance, be President if you did not attend the proper schools, earn the proper certifications, and demonstrate a certain set of requirements, like IQ, or perhaps an impressive set of grades in your debating classes.
Climate scientists would run the departments dealing with weather and climate change. Rocket scientists would own NASA, and determine how it should be funded in consultation with the banking experts. The bankers, of course, would run the monetary system and determine appropriate levels of taxation and redistribution.
In The Shape of Things to Come, H.G. Wells describes the Dictatorship of the Air, a prototype for technocracy. He was rather more bullish on the idea than I am.
Naturally, none of these technical elites would need to consult with you and I on these matters. If you are not one of the elite, you would need to be quiet and accept the rulings of your superiors.
The flaws in technocracy are very obvious, to any who care to see them. First and foremost is the matter of trust. Even if we were to concede that the trained, technically-minded elites were better than the hoi polloi, how could one be assured that they were not pulling the wool over the people and taking advantage of them? After all, just because you’re intelligent doesn’t mean you’re honest.
Similarly, being able to design and build rocket ships does not confer upon you the ability to manage and run organizations of rocket scientists. It’s a known problem among STEM folks, and a problem I suffer from personally, that technical ability and management ability are often mutually exclusive. I couldn’t manage brothel in Thailand with a US Navy aircraft carrier in port. But I can write and engineer software all day long. The intelligence and talent I possess is suited for certain things, and ill-suited for other tasks. Nobody would ask me to be a therapist, that’s for sure.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, technocracy denies a voice to the peasantry. We’ve tried that before. We call it feudalism and those feudal elites were called nobles. They knew themselves to be more intelligent and better-suited for leadership than those dirty plebs. Why, they could afford a costly scholarly education for their children, when desired, and the rag-wearing farmhands could not. And there was the Divine Right of Kings to consider, also.
What prompted this screed? Tom Nichols posted a long-winded series of tweets about how he is irritated that the Internet exists, and gives voice to people he regards as stupid. Observe:
I can’t really escape the conclusion that for most people, the internet has been a bad thing. In many ways. I was in my 20s when the internet arrived, and I loved it. Especially the way it could link me to other scholars and resources. And the internet, like gunpowder or nuclear energy is a boon. Except in the hands of people who misuse it. Which is nearly everyone.
His Twitter series begins by explaining that while scholars like him can properly use the Internet, it’s bad in the hands of nearly everyone else.
It’s made the world smaller, sure, but mostly to create less distance for bad information to travel and nuts to find each other. It’s also been the spark for an epidemic of relative deprivation that is destabilizing our democracy. It’s also encouraged our worse impulses. The internet’s dark side has likely broken up more relationships than whiskey and cards. And instead of democratizing information, it’s created a buyer’s market for stupidity delivered at the speed of cable.
Tom explains that the Internet has broken up more relationships than whiskey and cards. This is something I find fascinating, because so far as I can tell, no evidence exists for that. Surely, if Tom is right, we would see a spike in the divorce rate around the time Internet usage became widespread. Take a look at this chart, do you see a spike around that time?
If Tom’s hypothesis is true, we should see divorce rates skyrocket around the late 90s to early 2000s. We see nothing of the sort. I’m just armchair quarterbacking here, but my thought is the phenomenon Tom talks about, things like pornography, cheating sites like Ashley Madison, social media leading to the reigniting of old flames… all of that is counterbalanced by easily-available marital and relationship advice, dating sites that allow people to select from a wider pool, and other boons. Thus the trend that already existed before the Internet more or less continues.
This makes you wonder. Is it possible Tom is then wrong about the proliferation of bad information? Or, rather, that the bad information is counterbalanced by easier access to good information?
Do I think people were better off having to read a book and only having 4, 10, or even 15 channels? Yes. It’s even made us (including me) phobic about being out of touch with each other for just minutes. (WHERE’S MY PHONE?!) No quiet time. So, while I love the internet, I think it’s been a dangerous, anti-social development in an affluent society that can’t handle it. And yet, here I am, because this is the new public space. For better – or mostly – worse.
Tom is telling us that the world was better when a few media giants had exclusive control over the flow of information. Major publishers decided what books would be published, and what was permissible for authors to say. Major media outlets decided what was news, and what wasn’t. They decided which opinions were sanctioned, and which ones were wrongthink. Everything you saw, read, or heard was carefully screened by technocrats.
However, the phobia he speaks of is a real phenomenon, mind you. This obsession with being constantly connected has had detrimental effects. People can’t put their phone down. They can’t close the social media window. This is the trouble with folks like Tom Nichols, and technocrats in general. They are right about some things, even a great many things, and so stock is placed in their opinions and expertise. The best lies contains elements of verifiable truth, the better to hide the lie. But is it possible this flaw, like the others noted above, might also be counterbalanced by something else?
Fact is, the Internet is my area of expertise, not his. I’ve been writing software and building websites and applications since the mid-90s. I see the user research data. I built user interface layers by the hundreds (maybe more? Hard to remember them all now). So by the logic of the technocrats, by Tom Nichols’ own commentary on the death of expertise, he ought to listen to me on this.
The Internet is a vast and complex system, and its ad hoc nature makes it very difficult to make the kind of judgments he’s making. It would be like saying cars are bad, because of stupid drivers, car accidents, pollution, etc… Cars certainly impose costs, but they also supply benefits. Would people be driving them so often if the costs were truly greater than the benefits?
The same holds true for the Internet. I once opined that Gibbon had to spend a lifetime travelling Europe to do research for his opus The History of the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire. It was, quite literally, a life’s pursuit. Today, the research for such a work could be conducted on your Kindle. You could find, purchase, and download books instantaneously. Many of those books may have been denied by major publishing houses for various reasons. Perhaps the author was not politically correct, or perhaps his particular conclusions were not in vogue at the present moment. Or perhaps they were blatantly incorrect, but the researcher wants to highlight the bad data so as to better show the good.
Either way, Gibbon would have loved the Internet.
Tom Nichols can pine for the restoration of the old gatekeepers, the highly-placed technocrats who determine what may be said, and where. He can imagine himself as an arbiter for the flow of information. But all the pining in the world will not bring them back. They are gone, and for better or worse, Tom needs to get used to this idea. And truly, it’s not a bad thing, overall. At worst, it is neutral. But I, for one, believe it to be a great boon.
So I have returned from my short little vacation, a free trip to Las Vegas, gambling mecca extraordinaire. Of course, I’m not inclined to gamble, because the house always wins in the end. But we had a great time going to some shows, meeting some old friends, and enjoying the break from work.
Nonetheless, the gambling environment is instructive in human nature. People know that they will lose money, they know the odds are stacked against them, and they play anyway. Even if the house advantage is razor slim, as in Black Jack, repeated often enough the house still wins.
Democracy in America operates under a similar principle. The primary purpose of a biased media is not to prevent a right-wing victory per se, but rather to give the house (the Democrats) better odds. The same is true of our Leftist education establishment, celebrity figures spouting mealy-mouthed Marxist platitudes, and so on. Even now, with desperate plays by Jill Stein to force recounts in the Rust Belt, and with SJWs harassing Republican electors and fantasizing about the electoral college putting up John Kasich as an alternative… we are seeing nothing more than last minute, desperate plays by the house to recover from a loss they didn’t expect.
Yes, the house always wins the war in the end. But they still lose individual battles, individual hands, and this one cost them big time. You might even look at Donald Trump as a card counter. He knew the game the house plays, because he was part of the house.
So full media, education, and cultural control is sufficient to give the house an advantage, but not enough of one. Certainly not enough to bankrupt us as quickly as they would prefer. So another means was identified and created in recent years: Virtue Signalling.
If you are familiar with Game Theory’s Prisoners’ Dilemma, you know that the ideal result for the individual is to betray while the other sucker confesses. But the ideal result for both as a whole is to cooperate, and for each to receive very little punishment.
The numbers used often vary, but here is the basic matrix.
Virtue Signalling is the cheat code to Game Theory. It is how politicians, SJWs, and other assorted tyrants on planet Earth have managed to short-circuit the rational self-interest of people in Western countries. It uses political correctness as a bludgeon with which to force you into a default state of “cooperate”. Knowing that you will usually choose “cooperate” due to political pressure, they are then free to “defect” whenever they wish, leaving them with all the benefits, and you with all the costs.
It would be like playing poker where you had to show your hand (because Social Justice, or whatever excuse is in fashion at the moment), and the other player could keep his hand secret.
It must have been a consistent problem for tyrants throughout history. How do you get a theoretically democratic populace to vote consistently against their own rational self-interest, and in favor of your own? Control of education was one natural step, of course. If you fill the heads of impressionable young people with Communist “end of history” claptrap, they can be counted upon to vote your way for a while out of ignorance, at least. But reality quickly intrudes…
The quote falsely attributed to Churchill (it may have actually originated with Edmund Burke) explains for us:
If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.
So propagandizing education only works for a while. Virtue Signalling political correctness is a much more consistent weapon, because it can also be used against people who know better, but are merely afraid to speak up due to the probable consequences to career, family life, and friendship.
You better show your poker hand, pleb, or else you’re an evil-mean-bad person, and you’ll lose your job. Virtue Signalling is your warning that you are treading too close to “defect” and you better “cooperate”. No such restriction applies to the other side of the bargain.
Virtue Signalling forces a default setting of “Keep Faith” even when the person knows they will be betrayed. It forces “Keep Faith” with mass Islamic immigration even when most terror comes from an Islamic source. It forces “Keep Faith” even when illegal immigrants and Islamic migrants bring in diseases previously eradicated in America, when many use the people-smuggling routes for drugs, weapons, and cartel activities. It forces “Keep Faith” with thugs, criminals and malcontents.
Why? Because anything other than Keep Faith is hate, bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, otherkinphobia, and whatever bigot buzzword bonanza the SJW Left decides is the cause-of-the-minute.
At this point, I cannot conceive of anything that any Leftist victim group could possibly do that would diminish them in any way in the eyes of the Left. If Islamists nuked an American city, they would still say that Islam is a religion of peace. If a repeat of the LA riots occurred, and another Reginald Denny was pulled out of his truck and beaten near to death, the sympathies of the Left would still be with the poor, disenfranchised thugs, not the truck driver, who would still be accounted as having white privilege. And if a woman raped a man (yes, it is possible), radical feminists would celebrate the crime as a great step forward for women’s rights.
Keep Faith. Cooperate. Obey.
They may as well say: “always lose.”
Life is not a zero-sum game, or at least it shouldn’t be, but the Left plays it that way. Their entire ideology is built around it. Marxism is an economic zero-sum ideology. Social Justice is a social zero-sum ideology. And, as the house, they seek to maximize their personal gain from it. They are the house, The Man, the Establishment, whatever you want to call it. And we are the poor slobs dumping money into the slots by the bucket load. And on top of all that, they still cheat.
Only, unlike my trip to Vegas, there is no option to say “no thanks, I don’t feel like playing a rigged game.”
Back in preschool daycare, there was a phenomenon I remember which most folks can probably relate to. Tattling was a tactical move which could either confer status upon you, or take it away. Deep down, nobody liked a tattletale, but kids often feared him and pretended to like him when the teachers were around, so as to avoid punishment. There was always a kid who would tattle frequently, even inventing stories out of whole cloth. And the teachers often liked this kid, because it appeared that he made their jobs easier by policing the other kids for them.
Of course, when the teachers were not there to watch, there was an entirely different opinion of the tattletale. An opinion that, frequently enough, turned violent. But even this played into the sanctified victimhood of the tattletale. He thought himself persecuted by the other kids, and this only enhanced his desire for vengeance through the administration. And so many children separated into two groups of deceivers, both of whom pretended to be paragons of virtue in front of authority figures. They were the tattlers and the bullies. But both may be thought of bullies, just one of a more physical sort, and another of a more mental or emotional sort. In the tradition of Lord of the Flies, this feature persists throughout childhood, but ought to be effectively resisted by thinking adults.
Yet here it is, in 2016, and the same two groups persist into the adult world. We see the tattlers in the form of Social Justice Warriors, radical feminists, and other assorted Leftist “intellectuals”. And coextensive with them we find the physical bullies in the form of Black Lives Matter protesters, criminals who use ethnicity as a shield for their behavior, and others of their like. Observe here:
The infantile nature of the Left is fast becoming quite transparent. The emotional bullies become proxy stooges for the Establishment, claiming to be victims of whatever group is currently resisting the activities and desires of the power brokers. It’s funny how many radical feminists claim to be victims of white male violence in some form or another, and yet the group that is most obviously physical in their criminal activities certainly isn’t straight white guys.
As in preschool, a sort of understanding has taken place, wherein the emotional bullies and the physical bullies have, at least for the time being, joined forces to extract as much lunch money from the rest of us as possible. And we cannot go to the authorities, for the stooges have Establishment support. And we cannot fight back effectively without those very same stooges telling on us for daring to have the temerity to resist our fleecing.
In this day and age, the appearance of victimhood has become a coin unto itself. As long as you can cloak yourself under its protections, you can steal, loot, burn, pillage, and rape, and excuses will be made for your behavior. And so being a “victim” grants prestige and power. Just as us capitalists are inventive in our search for profit, so are these people ever more creative in inventing new methods of gaining victim status.
Browsing around Twitter today, I encountered this picture from @AuditTheMedia:
A debate as sexual violence, requiring a trigger warning…
Yes, merely by watching a debate, freely, of your own choosing, you can be granted victim status. Perhaps you will go to the counselor, and the call the sexual assault hotline. You might write a book about your PTSD, and the suffering the evil Trumpites have done to you by merely existing. And then you can go onto social media and call for the death of all white men, and nobody bats an eyelash, because you are a victim and have your ironclad documentation thereof. Bottles of antidepressants, counseling receipts, fake death threats, and sad photographs all serve as proofs. Skin color and genitalia likewise confer benefits. And it is even possible to gain them without having the requisite genitals or skin color. You merely claim transgender status, or pull a stunt like Shaun King, and invent your blackness out of whole cloth.
Anyway, once your proofs are established, you get to exercise power as an agent of the power brokers, like the tattletale in preschool. Did someone look at you funny? Time to tell on them, get the fired from their job, attack their businesses, or whatever. With the rise of the Microaggression concept, anything can be grounds for telling on someone. What constitutes criminal offense is entirely in the hands of the empowered accuser. If necessary, the story may be bolstered by fake death threats, racist text messages sent by their own, or even poop swastikas plastered on a bathroom wall by parties unknown.
Meanwhile the physical bullies have realized that they can exercise the same power, and escape justice, by cloaking their own behavior under the same proofs. If one of their own is punished for his behavior (even in a case of suicide-by-cop), that is merely an excuse for the rest of them to flex their muscle. For now, the two types of bullies have a sort of fragile truce in order to loot the rest of us as efficiently as possible. But supposing we were ever sufficiently impoverished and cowed, they would turn on each other soon enough.
The thing to understand here is that this power is an illusion, and it requires some level of cooperation from the real victims. If an accusation of racism/sexism/whatever wasn’t treated as an automatic guilty verdict by a sufficient number of people, then what power would it hold over you? If a large enough number of Americans didn’t believe every sob story they heard on the nightly news, how could you be guilted into supporting blatant bullying behavior?
In the preschools, there was always one power that could upset the bullies, both of the physical and emotional varieties: standing up to them. If you punched the physical bully in the nose, even if you lost the conflict, you made it expensive enough for him that he would probably stop. And with the tattletales, if the rest of the class presented a united front and challenged him, the teacher had no choice but to accept your victory over the tattler. In the rare case that the tattler was believed over the entire rest of the class, it was possible to bring the parents in and challenge the verdict.
Americans MUST stand up to the bullies of both varieties. And they must do so now, before it is too late. They must bring the cash value of victimhood down to zero. Indeed, we must laugh at the individual who tries to confer victimhood upon himself. Did someone use their genitals as an excuse for failure? Point and laugh. Shame them for this behavior. Did another individual cry because someone disagreed with him? Turn your back on him and ostracize him. Indeed, make the value of this product negative. As with any product in a free market, the consumer retains ultimate power to categorically reject something, and that is what we must do as a people.
Stop rewarding bad behavior, and it will eventually stop.
So, in the tradition of Anti-Think, Weaponized Empathy, and Progressive Magic, I have another useful term for you: Political Liquidity. Wherever you may stand on this bizarre election, one thing must be acknowledged openly and honestly: Hillary Clinton is more powerful than Donald Trump. That doesn’t mean she will win, mind you, but with the media firmly on her side, from major news networks down to the local business journal in my hometown, it is clear that this a home game for Hillary. Wall Street is behind her, also. The big donors prefer her, while Trump’s own party withholds support from him. Now, we know how divisive Trump is, and how those who oppose the Left have divided into three camps: NeverTrumpers, the Trump Train people, and the Reluctant “anything over Hillary” folks, of which I am a member.
But that alone doesn’t explain what we’re seeing here, why the system, so to speak, is so strongly in favor of Hillary. Remember, this same system favored her over Bernie Sanders, and whatever else his failings may have been, Sanders was not Trump. There’s a simpler explanation: Hillary Clinton is wealthier than Donald Trump.
Does this sound strange? How could the Clintons, whose net worth is difficult to estimate (figures are all over the board, but $100 million or so may be close), be more wealthy than Donald Trump, who is estimated to be worth around $4.5 billion?
That’s just it. Money and net worth is a poor measure of wealth these days. When we talk of assets that we own, we often speak of the asset’s liquidity, how quickly it can be converted to cash. We say this as if cash was the most liquid form of wealth. It isn’t. Political arbitrage is one level above cash. Allow me to explain.
So most of my readers will be familiar with the Uber fiasco, wherein many cities are banning Uber, or requiring Uber drivers to hold the same tokens and certifications that taxi cab drivers have. The logic, they say, is that taxis are regulated, and taxi drivers have certain checks and certifications, and so on, which improves taxi service and keeps it safe for everyone. That’s the excuse, anyway. I spoke with the Uber drivers I’ve used about this. Get this: every single one of them was a taxi driver. Now, I’m betting this is partly because of my small Uber driver sample size, but nonetheless it’s interesting. These drivers explained that they make more money under Uber. Why is that?
My brother-in-law explained the problem to me in more detail. Most cities issue tokens, a sort of taxi license provided by the city, which is required to operate a licensed cab. The tokens are limited in quantity, and there are typically far too few for all of those who want to drive cabs. Usually big taxi companies will buy up the available tokens, driving up the price of what few may remain on the open market, and so if you want to be a cab driver, you must work with one of these companies. You rent the cab from them for an exorbitant amount of money ($100/day, minimum, for some outdated crappy crown vic or minivan). The lion’s share of the profit goes to the cab company. Uber, of course, bypassed all of this. Drivers could use their own car, and business was constantly coming in. The lion’s share went to the driver instead, with Uber getting a cut for hooking up driver and passenger.
It’s not cab drivers who are angry with Uber. It’s cab companies. Suddenly, their political monopoly on cab licenses (under the excuse of regulation) was threatened — the bottom had dropped out from under them. Cab drivers could freelance and make as much, or more. People could enter the industry without paying them. Yet it is mostly liberal cities that are angry with Uber, and banning them from operating, or requiring them to use taxi licenses, which puts everybody back to square one: pay the cab companies a ton of money, only now in some cases, pay Uber too. Way to fight for the little guy, right?
The reason is that these liberal cities are hotbeds of political trading. Just as we might have an auction house, or a stock exchange, or some other marketplace for buying and selling things, so does politics have an exchange mechanism, even if it’s not as obvious and well understood to those of us without such power to trade. The cab companies had enough political liquidity to convert some of their cash into political power sufficient to combat (or, more likely, to co-opt) Uber. Just as cash is a more liquid form than, say, real estate, so is political power more liquid, even, than cash.
In simple terms, the cab companies exist solely (or mostly) because of political arbitrage. It’s an exercise in rent-seeking behavior. Nobody would need them, otherwise. They must agitate for political regulation favorable to their existence and continued profit, or they would be replaced. A certain amount of their value is transmitted upwards, liquidated politically, to the powerful in exchange for royal favor.
Consider a theoretical example. Hillary decides she wants a yacht. A normal person in such circumstances would need to save up the money for a yacht, to purchase one, maintain it, crew it, etc… But someone with Hillary’s level of power need only casually say “I want to go yachting” and some big donor would surely lend her his yacht and crew for however long she should need it. She doesn’t own the yacht. It’s not on her balance sheet in any way, and her name is not on the title. And yet whenever she wants to go yachting, a yacht and crew are available to her at no cost, because she has political power, and she can convert it into a lesser asset anytime she wishes.
When you or I decide to go to a restaurant, we must pay a bill. When Hillary goes to a restaurant, people pay tens of thousands of dollars to her just to be in the same room. So how does this factor into her net worth, into how rich we perceive her to be? We only look at the official balance sheet of her official assets. The media largely ignores her foundation, and the perks and favors that someone of her level of power are given freely. Put another way, does anybody think Senators live off their $174,000 salary?
She doesn’t need to convert much of her power into cash, and then convert the cash into something else. She can simply snap her fingers and go directly from power to desired asset. Her wealth is political, and it is more liquid than Trump’s mountain of cash and ponderous towers of real estate (which are even LESS liquid). She need only carry as much cash in her name as is convenient for smaller, everyday transactions.
They say money is power, but that’s not accurate. Money can be converted into power, and power can be converted into money. But of the two, power is the more liquid. Power is more widely accepted as the coin of choice among the aristocracy. They may have to buy their toilet paper with dollars, though the time may be short before they are more or less the same thing, but great transactions are ones of political arbitrage. The money is incidental, like the moldy bread you throw to the slaves to keep them just healthy enough to work for you. Yes, the slaves will trade the bread, but the masters… their real coin is power.
So it’s very hard to estimate how wealthy Hillary truly is. But she’s much more wealthy than Donald Trump, at least. And the Leftist elite has been more wealthy than the Conservative Right for a very long time — at least as long as I’ve been alive. They speak of privilege and the oppressive nature of this group and that group… but they are, quite literally, the most privileged and powerful of all human beings on this Earth. They have Political Liquidity. You and I do not.
I had to think long and hard about tackling this particular subject, because Tom Nichols is a smart man and I often agree with what he has to say. Even in this, there are some points of agreement. I’ve long noted the dumbing down of America, most poignantly demonstrated in the under-appreciated film Idiocracy. When Tom speaks of the death of expertise, he is commenting on a phenomenon that is real, pervasive, and at least partially responsible for the mess America finds herself in. After all, if the average voter is a complete moron, should we be surprised when he votes for morons to represent him?
Yet, Tom and I got into a bit of a flame war on Twitter surrounding this issue. It started when the 911 transcripts for the Orlando shooting were released with the now-famous [omitted] redactions plastered throughout. Now, as my readers are aware, I have a very personal interest in the Orlando shooting. So I found this transcript rather insulting. Even the idiots Tom is wont to rant about are likely able to make the connections the redactions were supposed to suppress. The government wasn’t fooling anybody, but they did demonstrate just how little they think of the American people.
Even the redneck from Podunk is likely to understand that much. I suggested that they ought to release the 911 transcript without such redactions, and release any other such materials that were not classified. Daylight, I said, was the best disinfectant for terrorism. Tom vehemently disagreed with me, and framed the resulting argument as a sort of anti-intellectualism. The flame war continued for awhile, and some choice words were exchanged. I won’t get into it here, but you can view it on my Twitter account, from a couple of days ago, if you wish.
One of the things that struck me as odd, however, was that Tom explicitly trusted the intelligence community to handle this matter. He stated as much, likening my suspicion of them to desiring a random layman to pilot an airplane. Yet therein lies the problem with Tom’s argument. I trust the pilot not merely because he has credentials, but because the safety record for commercial airline travel is impeccable. You are far more likely to die driving a car, than in an airline crash.
So unless the pilot is shouting “Allahu Akbar” I have little reason to doubt him. On matters of intelligence analysis, however, we have more reason to doubt. In this specific instance, the Orlando shooting, the FBI had been watching him for some time. He had been on and off of terror watchlists. A gun store reported him as suspicious, also. The analysts categorically failed with him.
Furthermore, the Obama administration often characterizes right-wing terrorism as the grave threat which America faces. Is this a failure of intelligence, or just a failure on the part of the chief executive? I don’t know, but it’s worth investigating. Other intelligence failures abound. Everything from Benghazi, to 9/11, to the Iraq war indicate failures in intelligence.
And, apart from those failures, it’s worth noting that even if you accept the expertise of the government in these matters, that doesn’t mean you trust their motives. The airline pilot and his passengers have no conflict of interest, generally speaking. All involved desire that the plane land safely at its destination (the rare suicidal pilot being the noted exception). So, with the documented safety record of commercial airline travel being good, his credentials and expertise, and with the alignment of our interests, I am pleased to trust the pilot.
That does not mean I should trust the government experts. Their interests do not necessarily align with mine. The government has a record filled with intelligence failures. The administration is on record saying the most blatantly untrue things, be it either out of ignorance or malice (or both). So, while I am not an intelligence expert, I do have good reason not to trust them. If you hire an electrician to fix your breaker box, and after he leaves the breakers keep tripping, you know that he failed, even if you don’t necessarily know what, specifically, he did wrong.
Tom explains his view for us:
I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.
This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.
To some extent, I agree with his first statement, that there are all too many people who will think themselves knowledgeable on a thing merely because they looked it up on Wikipedia. I tire of them. I have spent much of my adult life studying Byzantine history, and I once found myself in a debate regarding the Pirenne Thesis, a theory put forth by Henri Pirenne in the 1930s regarding the then-innovative idea that it wasn’t the Germans who were responsible for the Fall of Rome, but rather the Arabs. Several of us educated on matters of Byzantine history were discussing the finer points of the thesis when a Wiki-idiot decided to butt in and explain that Wikipedia said the Roman Empire fell in 476, and Arabs didn’t come until later, so we were all wrong.
To say I wanted to throttle this person until his head popped was an understatement. It didn’t help that his proclamation was followed by the sort of Jon Stewart smugness such people are naturally inclined to. So in this, I understand and agree with Tom completely.
It is the second paragraph where Tom starts to go awry. He declares: “…and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.”
Here’s the thing, they do have a right to their opinion. If someone wants to ignore the advice of his doctor, and go get acupuncture treatment instead, that’s his right. Indeed, perhaps a little natural selection might improve the gene pool. Even the smug Wiki-idiot who interrupted our discussion on Byzantine history had a right to his opinion.
In politics, too, the problem has reached ridiculous proportions. People in political debates no longer distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” from the phrase “you’re stupid.” To disagree is to insult. To correct another is to be a hater. And to refuse to acknowledge alternative views, no matter how fantastic or inane, is to be closed-minded.
In this, I must tell Tom that we have reached a pot, kettle, black situation. When I confronted him on his assertion about the 911 call, his approach was to frame me as being stupid for disagreeing with him. He did the very thing which he accuses others of doing. That’s okay, I still respect him. God knows I’ve gotten angry and called people morons when they didn’t deserve it, also.
Critics might dismiss all this by saying that everyone has a right to participate in the public sphere. That’s true. But every discussion must take place within limits and above a certain baseline of competence. And competence is sorely lacking in the public arena. People with strong views on going to war in other countries can barely find their own nation on a map; people who want to punish Congress for this or that law can’t name their own member of the House.
Here is where I start to peel off from what Tom is saying. He suggests that discussions must take place within certain limits. Who decides these limits? Who decides who the experts are in the first place? The Climate Change debate is a famous example where criticism is automatically shut down, because disagreement with the premise is taken to be stupidity. The sort of intellectual protectionism which Tom is suggesting here can be very easily perverted into intellectual elitism wherein alternative views are automatically dismissed because they did not originate from the properly orthodox.
There’s also that immutable problem known as “human nature.” It has a name now: it’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which says, in sum, that the dumber you are, the more confident you are that you’re not actually dumb. And when you get invested in being aggressively dumb…well, the last thing you want to encounter are experts who disagree with you, and so you dismiss them in order to maintain your unreasonably high opinion of yourself. (There’s a lot of that loose on social media, especially.)
This Dunning-Kruger effect is touted widely by SJWs who, ironically, think they are smarter than they actually are. They use this notion to shut down debate. If you prove them wrong, it’s not really because they were wrong. It’s because you’re not smart enough to understand the nuance of their position. Then the Jon Stewart smugness makes its appearance, and the Wiki-idiot relishes in his imagined superiority.
No, I’m not accusing Tom of being an SJW. But he’s walking on a knife edge here. Once, in the Western world, a dreadful insult was considered worthy of a challenge to fight, often to the death. The gauntlets would be thrown, and if the challenge was not accepted, then one was considered a coward. But it was permissible for a man of high stature to ignore a man of sufficiently low stature. A great lord need not accept a challenge from a stable boy. Yet this exemption had to be used very carefully, so as to avoid the appearance of cowardice. It was better to default to accepting the challenge, unless the difference in station was demonstrably great.
So, too, must the notion of Dunning-Kruger be used carefully, and in circumstances where the other person is clearly of far lower intelligence. Do not bring it out immediately, or use it defensively.
None of this ignorance stops people from arguing as though they are research scientists. Tackle a complex policy issue with a layman today, and you will get snippy and sophistic demands to show ever increasing amounts of “proof” or “evidence” for your case, even though the ordinary interlocutor in such debates isn’t really equipped to decide what constitutes “evidence” or to know it when it’s presented. The use of evidence is a specialized form of knowledge that takes a long time to learn, which is why articles and books are subjected to “peer review” and not to “everyone review,” but don’t tell that to someone hectoring you about the how things really work in Moscow or Beijing or Washington.
Peer review is a great theory. But in practice, there are problems with it. Like all human institutions, orthodoxy can creep in, wherein questioning the accepted narrative is considered heresy. Your peers may suppress you, even if you are completely correct. In other examples, the peers may become lazy, and accept things that are clearly false merely because they haven’t bothered to thoroughly review your work.
Now, again, I’m not saying peer review is all bad, either. Rather, I suspect Tom puts too much trust in these things. One thing that any scientifically-minded person should practice is a healthy dose of skepticism. Experts can be wrong, also. Here is a professor of Byzantine Studies who wrote an error-prone book laced with falsehoods and carelessness (her arguments torn to shreds by Dr. Kelley Ross):
Herrin returns the neglect, if not the contempt, with a certain shocking carelessness for Roman history of Late Antiquity (despite her being a professor of “Late Antique” as well as Byzantine Studies). Thus, she says:
“…and the last Roman Emperor in the West was deposed in 476, leaving a half-Vandal, half-Roman general, Stilicho, in control of Italy.” [p.13]
Unfortunately, Stilicho had been assassinated in 408. Herrin is thinking of Odoacer. Similarly, she says of the original Constantine, who was proclaimed Emperor by his father’s troops in 306, that “he was not recognized by Licinius, the senior emperor in the East” [p.4]. Again, unfortunately, Licinius was not made an Emperor until 308, and he was at that point junior to Galerius (d.311) and Maximinus II Daia (d.313).
Judith Herrin was acknowledged as a credentialed expert, subject to peer review from other historians. She was also very wrong, and you categorically did not need to be an expert to understand that.
Tom recovers himself a bit in the end, though:
But when citizens forgo their basic obligation to learn enough to actually govern themselves, and instead remain stubbornly imprisoned by their fragile egos and caged by their own sense of entitlement, experts will end up running things by default. That’s a terrible outcome for everyone.
At last we get to a point I can strongly agree with. The experts running things is a bad scenario, not a good one. The fact is, there is a strain of intellectual elitism in the West, wherein those who do not run in the proper circles are dismissed arbitrarily. The technocrats determine what is best for you, and in doing so strip you of your freedom and self-determination.
The most common excuse for their removal of your rights is that people are stupid. They are so stupid, say the elites, that they must surrender control over their lives to smarter, wiser men.
Socrates would have known them for the fools they are.
But an expert is far more likely to be right than you are. On a question of factual interpretation or evaluation, it shouldn’t engender insecurity or anxiety to think that an expert’s view is likely to be better-informed than yours. (Because, likely, it is.)
Is that the case? What if the expert decides to lie to you? Technically, in his own mind, he is correct. But he would be using his acknowledged status as an expert to hoodwink you. Politicians do this all the time. Trust us, they say, because we’re the experts. Don’t send a regular guy to Washington, send an experienced, expert politician…
An engineer or a doctor has a much harder time hiding a lie or a mistake. For if an aeronautical engineer makes a mistake, maybe a plane crashes, and people die. When a doctor does likewise, people die. When a plumber makes a mistake, the pipe bursts and your house becomes a lake. You may not know much about plumbing, but you know that he did something wrong.
Politicians, analysts, and other government cronies can hide their mistakes. They can pass off the blame. They can lie, cheat you, steal from you, and use you. So, even supposing they are competent, you still have good reason to mistrust them and to question them.
Tom takes a parting shot:
And how do I know all this? Just who do I think I am?
Well, of course: I’m an expert.
I find this one particularly amusing. There was a book I read sometime ago called Tales of New America. There was an amusing scene in the book, wherein a very attractive, intelligent, and sophisticated man finds himself being questioned by a border control guard. The man is naturally dismissive of the guard, for what else could he be but a low-level flunky? He was fat, and plain in the face. He did not use higher, educated language.
The guard books him quickly, after discovering the man’s illegal activities. The sophisticated man is confused and angry. The guard explains that, while he didn’t have the money to go to a good school or the good looks to garner a high station in life, that didn’t mean he was stupid or uneducated. Intelligent people are everywhere, and often where you least expect them.
After all, does anyone expect a club DJ to be an expert in Byzantine history? Probably not…
I'm a DJ, developer, amateur historian, would-be pundit, and general pain in the ass. I still cannot decide on the wisdom of the Oxford Comma. These are my observations on a civilization in decline, a political system on the verge of collapse, and a people asleep at the wheel as the car turns toward the jersey barrier.