Weaponized Empathy and the Edge Case

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

The tactic looks something like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on that argument later.

America is Slowly Falling Apart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Friend Encounters the Left in DC

Lately, the political world has narrowed. It has become small. When the shooting happened at Pulse, in Orlando, I saw folks I knew distraught over the affair. I knew people who lost friends there. I’ve DJed in that area many times. It was too close for comfort. It is one thing when such violence is far away, and quite another when you realize how near to you the lightning struck.

Well, it’s happened again, and even closer this time.

My friend Louis, who lives less than a block away from me, has now been a subject of national news after an altercation over his support of Trump.

Because of ongoing legal matters, I cannot tell all of the details. What I can say is this: Louis acted in defense of himself and his family.

He brought his Trump “Make America Great Again” hat with him on his vacation to our nation’s capital. Louis has been a strong supporter of Trump from day one. In this, we sometimes disagreed, on occasion, as my support for Trump was somewhat more grudging and less enthusiastic. But nonetheless, he wanted to support our President on his trip to DC, and I can’t blame him for that. While in a restaurant with his wife and two daughters, he was heckled by three men over his hat. There were threats made in front his family. I won’t repeat them here, but note that they were targeted at his wife and daughters as much as at him.

Louis tried to leave the restaurant, not wanting to deal with that sort of thing while on vacation, but while waiting for an Uber ride to pick him and his family up, the three came outside and continued with their heckling and threats. And then one of the men struck him.

Suffice it to say, once they turned the situation physical, it did not go so well for them. 3 on 1, and they got their asses handed to them.

DC Police, of course, sided with the Leftists immediately. After all, it’s not exactly a bastion of Trump support. They tried to charge him with a hate crime, despite the fact that it was the anti-Trumpers who kept following him (this much has already been proven from cameras inside the restaurant), and it was them who struck first. Fortunately, it appears that his lawyer got the hate crime charge struck down, at least. But Louis’ defense will be expensive, and victory is not at all assured, unless camera footage from outside the restaurant can be found covering the incident. The punishment is the process, and he’s suffering it now.

Our political world is narrowing. Or, at least it sure feels that way to me. Used to be I didn’t know anyone who had been through political violence like this. Now, it’s becoming routine. Not to mention Antifa has been calling Louis and his wife continuing with various threats, and trying to post bad reviews of his business. Standard operating procedure for them, I suppose. Our block is ready for them, of course, should they try anything particularly stupid.

But, being cowards who only attack with 3 to 1 superiority (and still lose), I doubt we have much to worry about. Until the next such incident, anyway. Next time it could be you, dear reader, or even me.

Be ready.

Kurt, Military Coups, and the Sucker Tax

Kurt Schlichter wrote a fascinating what-if scenario positing Leftists of #TheResistance mobilizing a coup against President Trump, using Leftist-sympathizing military leadership. While somewhat far-fetched at the present moment, there is a disturbing amount of plausibility to the idea. What is going to happen if the Left fails to make gains in 2018? What if, instead, the wishy-washy GOP Establishment types face primary resistance? In other words, what will happen if the country shifts further away from Social Justice?

Read Part 1 and Part 2. You will find it both disturbing and realistic.

Make no mistake, Social Justice is exactly what they desire. Of course, it is neither social, in the sense that it avoids any kind of organic social consensus and instead forces the issue, nor is it justice, insofar as one may be punished for deeds one has not committed. Social Justice is, instead, a sort of tax on suckers. Bureaucrats are effectively middlemen in this. They take from the so-called privileged and give to the so-called oppressed, taking a lavish cut for themselves, naturally.

Even corporations are cashing in on the trend, with videos like the famous Pepsi commercial or the recent abomination from Proctor & Gamble. Fleecing suckers is definitely something the corporate world wants a slice of, too. The idea, of course, is to virtue signal agreement with the precepts of Social Justice in an effort to get their money. Patronize our business, not the businesses of those icky conservatives. It is a strategy employed by many companies, from Marvel Comics to Starbucks.

There is a reason, after all, that liberals worship the almighty Apple.

And so the Sucker Tax is inflicted upon us both by government, and by corporate cronies. It’s big money, this Sucker Tax. Imagine being able to virtue signal your love for people of color while outsourcing your manufacturing operations to some third world toilet where you actually oppress people. Then you can sell your goods to some sanctimonious white liberal who watched the Proctor & Gamble “The Talk” video and thinks she is now an expert on race relations.

What does this have to do with Kurt’s coup scenario? Quite a lot, actually. You see, us conservatives are accustomed to thinking of Social Justice as a political ideology, a bastardized form of Marxism hell-bent on reestablishing something reminiscent of the Soviet Union. And that’s not entirely incorrect, but neither is it entirely correct. You see, there is big money in Social Justice. You can charge people more for a cup of coffee if they believe they are fighting racism by buying that Starbucks vente mocha. You can tax people into oblivion if you frame it as reparations for racism, sexism, and homophobia. Social pressure and white guilt are cash cows. The rich can get cheap help from Mexico and make taxpayers foot the bill when the gardener trips on a rake and breaks his leg, necessitating a trip to the emergency room. They get the cheap labor, you get the bill. Oppose it? You racist! Even better, you see, if there is single payer. Then the taxpayers can foot even more of the bill.

It would be nice to eliminate all the guns, so government can proceed with their totalitarian desires without worrying about defending against an armed population (it’s cheaper to oppress the unarmed). Similarly, wouldn’t it be great if automobiles were demonized as sinful destroyers of the environment so the freeway could be cleared of plebeian traffic, set aside only for use by the rich? Also, imagine how much nicer and less icky airports would be without so many people in them.

Social Justice is the ideology the rich and powerful have created in order to stay rich and powerful. Any time the people might start to get a sniff of this, a new political issue is invented out of thin air as a distraction. Perhaps we need to talk about 0.01% of the population having some difficulty selecting their preferred bathrooms. Or maybe it’s time to talk about how there aren’t enough people of color in Dunkirk, a movie produced by liberal Hollywood. Maybe it’s time for a woman who does porn to cart around a mattress all over campus to protest a rape that never happened.

What happens when these distractions fail? What happens if the American people wake up to the fact that the very same 1% the Left constantly criticizes basically is the Left? Hell, what happens if a mere 51% of America figures this out? It came very close with Donald Trump’s election. Close enough that Trump secured electoral victory.

Does anyone think these cretins are simply going to pack up and go away? “Oh, you caught us now, I guess we’ll be going.”

No. If such a thing came to pass, they would have to go all in, to give up the velvet-gloved tyranny they’ve been espousing since I was a kid and embrace the iron fist. They aren’t giving up the Sucker Tax, their entire livelihood depends upon it. And they’d need a coup to keep it, in such circumstances.

A coup that could play out very much like what Kurt has written.

Gun Control Fantasies

SJWs drool over the possibility of disarming the American citizenry. It is their most important goal, for even they realize that their path to total domination of American culture, government, and life will require them to do this, at some point. But I am, on occasion, reminded that the SJW Left doesn’t really understand us. To them, the idea that we would actually fight back is ludicrous. After all, were they in our position, they would not fight. Fighting is not their way.

Observe:

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Amazing, isn’t it? Zinnia Jones doesn’t understand how this would actually go down in practice. For one, people would need to be found who were willing to confiscate the guns. Does Zinnia propose to use the military for this purpose? They will not execute this order. At least, not enough of them would. It is possible some police forces, or federal agents might be found to do it, however. Then again, perhaps not. Even those who are inclined to agree with Zinnia’s ideology are likely to understand that the action is extremely risky.

Now, supposing a force could be found to execute the order, would it be as Zinnia claims? Would Americans just surrender, door-to-door, without fighting back? The answer has a few parts. One, some might do so, out of fear for their families and such. But once it hits the airwaves that the government is doing this, the rest would bury their guns and/or decide to fight back. It would only take a couple incidents going bad for resistance to be inspired. Once again, the military is not likely to intercede on Zinnia’s behalf.

What Zinnia proposes would result in either Civil War, secession, or some form of insurrection. But, being an SJW, disconnected from reality, he doesn’t understand this. He only sees people submitting to implied threats (we will kill you and your family if you do not give up your guns). The very thought that some would choose to fight, and that others would choose to hide, is anathema to him. After all, he possesses no such courage or ability.

But, as we can see, SJWs don’t have a good understanding of weapons, either:

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After all, does anybody have a mythical hybrid of an AR-15 and an AK-47 called an AK-15? It’s also funny when they refer to a handgun as an automatic, not understanding the distinction between semi-automatic and automatic. Their knowledge of weapons is very poor, so it would be foolish to assume that their knowledge of the people who own them is much better.

But to all of these idiots, only one thing needs to be said: Molon Labe. After all, if Zinnia Jones is so stunning, brave, and courageous for being a transsexual, certainly he should be able to muster the courage necessary to confiscate the guns himself. He should be the first one to knock on the first door. And, since he is against guns, he should be unarmed when he attempts this confiscation.

Global Warming and Suckers

As some of my readers may know, I am actually rather attentive to environmental concerns. For several years, I have put my money where my mouth is and volunteered for local cleanups (including ocean cleanups our krewe specializes in – we have a special focus on the ocean), helped out at local animal sanctuaries, and spread a message of good stewardship with regards to our home. My wife is even more attentive than I am to these matters. She has spent most of her career working in zoos, aquariums, and veterinary hospitals.

So for me the fanaticism of Global Warming proponents is particularly irritating. Last night, my wife was watching a documentary on the Great Barrier Reef, and the mass coral bleaching event that happened in 2016, and the spin was obvious from the very beginning. Cameras panned over rows of crying academics, watching the coral turn white, and then die, pieces of flotsam carrying off into the current to music that sounded like it belonged in a funeral.

Marine Biologists and Climatologists (all on government payrolls) went on a series of adventures collecting the raw camera footage of dead and dying coral. It was explained to the viewer that even a 2C degree shift in water temperatures was sufficient to kill most of the Great Barrier Reef, and if we did not act soon, it would surely die. The rhetoric in the media was particularly extreme. The reef was declared “dead” in scare quotes, even though most of the reef survived the event intact.

By act, of course, they mean to have government regulations and taxation schemes put into place that would make things more expensive for the average Joes of the United States. It is, you see, always America’s fault. And it is thus America which must be taxed and penalized for the environmental problems somewhere else. Governments have, historically, been excellent polluters and destroyers of the environment. Why they should be trusted on this matter is beyond me.

The hole in this logic was immediately apparent to me. If a 2C shift in temperature was sufficient to wipe out the reef, how has this 18 million year old reef system (the current iteration is approximately 8000 years old) survived so long?

Here are two graphs which illustrate my point:

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Notice that in both graphs, during both the 18 million year period, and the 8000 year period, temperatures have been higher than 2016, the time of the Great Barrier Reef mass bleaching event. So how is this reef still here? Why did it not die long before man starting dumping CO2 into the atmosphere? If a mere shift of 2C is sufficient to kill it, why is it there in the first place? Did similar mass bleaching events occur in the years when temperatures were higher than today?

This is only one of many inconsistencies which bother me, both in the climate models and the data itself. Correlation, as any idiot knows, is not necessarily causation. Perhaps there is an explanation for the why the Great Barrier Reef has survived previous warm periods, but is having trouble with this one. I cannot say. But so far, the explanation of the warmistas is insufficient.

Simple fact is, I don’t trust them. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb would say, these people don’t have any skin in the game. Indeed, it’s quite the opposite. They are paid by the very agency which wishes to push this agenda for its own benefit. Conflict of interest is readily apparent.

Thinking of this, I decided to peruse Taleb’s opinion the matter, which I located here. The thrust of the brief article is that the climate models and scaremongering are not required, nor are the specific policies espoused to correct them. Taleb’s skepticism of such modeling techniques is a matter of record. But, he tells us, the risk of global catastrophe from screwing around with Mother Nature shouldn’t be ignored. We have only one Earth, after all. It sounded sensible to me.

I’ve often thought that, were the Left truly honest about their concern for the environment, this would be the position to take. In other words, the models don’t work well, and the data is conflicting and, in any event, not accurate over a sufficiently long amount of time to be particularly useful. But, polluting the Earth is bad on general principle. Put simply, we have one planet (for now). Don’t fuck with it.

Instead, the warmistas have taken very specific policy positions but have failed to live by those same principles themselves. They will tell John Doe to give up his car, use less A/C, and to have less kids, but they will fly around in private jets, cool 14,000 sqft mansions, and do whatever they like with regards to their own families. If they really believed the Earth was doomed unless drastic measures were employed to alter human behavior, they would alter their own behavior as well.

I continue to maintain that financial wisdom is the path forward for us to be good stewards of Earth. Every time you load your shopping cart up with useless trinkets shipped over from China, running up consumer credit, you are contributing to the problem. This is an axiom I live by personally. Skin in the game. Similarly, don’t throw out the old for the new just because it is new. If you’ve ever watched those HGTV shows, you’ll see folks throwing out perfectly good refrigerators and ovens for fancy, new, “green” units. They moralize about it, patting themselves on the back for how environmentally aware they are. It amuses me how few people take into account the manufacturing expenditures necessary to make that new “green” appliance, nor understand that often times, the new models are less reliable than the old, and will eat up such savings in other ways.

Similarly, you see many Toyota Priuses, other hybrids, and new fancy electric cars driven by people who consider themselves to be proper environmental stewards. The effects of the cocktails of chemicals in the batteries are not taken into account, nor that, in effect, for a hybrid you must build two whole motors, with all the attendant manufacturing pollution. If the environment were truly their most valued goal, they would buy a used economy car, with good gas mileage, in reasonable shape. Or, perhaps, they would even ride a bicycle to work. This, of course, they rarely do. I’m much more inclined to listen to the rare environmentalist who does, however. He has skin in the game, after all.

Being frugal with your expenditures is an excellent way to both avoid loads of debt, and be a good steward. And given that China is the worst polluter anyway and is often exempted from the ire of Leftists (why let the biggest polluter off the hook?), the best things America can do is to buy less Chinese kitsch, and bring more manufacturing back to the United States. After all, we are generally cleaner about the process. The latter, of course, is anathema to the Left. They’d much rather tax American business into oblivion and let the third world dump as much pollution as it wants in an effort to punish the evil, racist United States. Such punishment is a higher concern to them than the planet they live on.

I mean, I wonder if all the crap China dumps into the water is having any effect on the Great Barrier Reef? After all, in the very same period quoted in the documentary as being extensively warming, China was rising as a major manufacturing concern. It’s entirely possible man is causing the damage, just not in the way Western academics are obsessing over.

Reducing pollution is a good and noble concern, and I support it, both in my own life and as a suggestion to others. I do not, however, support the specific policy positions of the Left, nor trust the government’s conclusions or ability to repair any damage. Notions that they can model the entire climate of Earth are foolish. Their obsession with carbon dioxide and warming has outstripped pollution concerns that could be much more pressing. They excuse the world’s biggest polluters out of political expediency, and fail to live by their own rules. They praise superficialities like “I drive a hybrid” over real volunteer work. The Leftist governments they support are often far worse environmentally than any private concern. They have no skin in the game. They are terrible stewards of the Earth. We should not listen to them.

But let’s not make the mistake of giving up proper stewardship of our home, either. As Taleb tells us, we only get one, and it is best not to play games with it if we don’t have to. And such stewardship often comes with financial benefits anyway. Leftists are determined to make their version of “good” stewardship expensive, to punish. I propose the opposite: being wise and less wasteful with your spending probably benefits the environment, too. And it is individual citizens who can best help, not bloated governments loaded with corruption, waste, and rent-seeking behavior.

On Intimidation and Character Assassination

After a short break from political posts, I have returned. This morning, I read an excellent piece at Liberty’s Torch, which touched on intimidation in politics. This, in turn, was inspired by another post at The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. Both got me thinking on the matter of  subtle intimidation.

Intimidation is a common feature of Leftist politics, such that most regular folks routinely hide the extent of their true political beliefs.

Leftists have taken it upon themselves to insinuate that this is racism, or some other -ism, and that we are all secret fascists who merely don’t want our horrible views exposed to daylight. But they have it exactly backwards, probably by design. You see, actual neo-Nazis and modern fascists are anything but secretive about their beliefs. Though they are very few, they are also very loud. They want to be seen. They have already paid the social price for it. Calling a Nazi a Nazi doesn’t hurt their feelings any. They know what they are.

In this, SJWs and their ilk are projecting their own behavior onto their ideological opponents. Many SJWs are thinly-veiled Communists, so they presume that we must all be thinly-veiled Nazis. After all, it’s the sort of thing they would do in our place.

In reality, most people on the Right are just scared. Not of physical violence for the most part, though perhaps some worry about that too. Rather, they fear character assassination. They fear being tarred as racist, sexist, or some other thing, and losing their friends, their jobs, and their good names.

Meanwhile the Left continues to increase the number of indications of racism. Eating a plate of Chinese takeout may now be considered a racist act. Wearing a kimono to an art exhibit about a well-known painting featuring a kimono is now cultural appropriation. Enjoying the wrong video game is an indication of sexism. Failing to be 100% convinced by Climate Change activists is proof of… well, some kind of violation against The One True Narrative. The specifics don’t matter. There is always something they can use against you.

In such an environment, many folks do indeed hide their beliefs. They fear that they might be the target of a political witch hunt, that anything they say will be taken out of context by the hostile media establishment and used to destroy them.

In some ways, this has bit the Left in the ass. Donald Trump’s election was unexpected in part due to the fact that people hid their support for him out of such fear. Polls were shifted as a result. The hidden Trump closet proved fatal to Hillary’s campaign.

But nonetheless, the fear is strong. I hear it from many personal friends who read my posts, but do not comment on them out of fear of being identified. One friend told me: “I love your posts. Even when I disagree with them, they always give me something to think about. But I can’t reply. It’s too public. I don’t know how you do it.”

In a Facebook thread that blew up to over 500 replies, I admitted my conservative/libertarian leanings in public view. I lost dozens of “friends” over this, one who spent the better part of the thread calling me a neo-Nazi and suggesting that I wanted to send Muslims to death camps, before he finally blocked me.

The level of vitriol you are exposed to as an open conservative is staggering, and I am not surprised that most regular folks are disinclined to weather it. Indeed, I wouldn’t have even done it, had my financial position been at all insecure. Only from a strong financial position can you weather character assassination by the media.

And I did lose some support in that quarter. The admission cost me one of my long-time DJ residencies. The promoter was an outspoken Bernie Bro, and could not countenance working with someone who as an admitted Rightist. I made up the difference with a new residency (and I maintained one of my other ones – I found out that promoter was a secret libertarian), but it was nonetheless disappointing to me. This was someone I had worked with for several years.

The financial and social penalty for admitted Rightists is non-trivial. Whereas most Rightists I know will continue to work with admitted Leftists. Perhaps this is a mistake. The Left has deployed a weapon against us, and perhaps it is time to use it against them, to expel them from our communities, to price them out of our markets, and to remove them from groups under our control.

For me, however, the price was much smaller than it could have been. By having minimal debt (only a mortgage now, and one that is approaching 50% equity), significant savings, and multiple streams of income independent of one another, it is very difficult for a Leftist to ruin me. The attempt cost me less than 5% of my income, and even that was quickly replaced.

How different is it for a man who has a lot of debt, and only one job? How much fear does he have that a media storm could deprive him of not only his job, but of his employability? I submit that such folks vastly outnumber folks in my position.

But it is always the Left that claims they are oppressed, harassed, bullied and such. The pressure on Rightists is not so obvious, but it is pervasive and everybody knows about it. This is why the Left continues to push the Nazi label. “Do what I want,” says the Leftist, “or I will make the entire world see you as the scum of the Earth.”

Of course, it’s seldom openly stated as such. But we all know it, nonetheless.

It all comes down to the media. Without the power of the media to amplify such nonsensical accusations, nobody would fear the Left. We would laugh at such insults. The stupidity of calling everybody a secret fascist would be readily apparent. But with the media able to pick any random target it wishes, and assassinate that person’s character at will, with little to no possibility of defense… the fear is there.

Incidents like what happened to Justine Sacco reinforce this. Remember Brendan Eich “resigning” (we all know the he was pressured to do so). Remember the media trotting out to the middle of nowhere to find a pizza shop that didn’t want to cater gay weddings. The implication is that anyone could be a target. Being a small business owner in the middle of nowhere doesn’t make you safe.

Nobody is safe from the media. That’s what they want you to believe, but in such a way that no one clearly states it, that nobody clearly admits it, so that they always retain plausible deniability.

Note that since Trump unexpectedly won the election, the media has been dedicating itself 24/7 to doing nothing but assassinating his character. They even tacitly excuse literal assassination, in the case of Steve Scalise.

At some point in the history of this country, the gatekeepers in media and entertainment presumed that they were the true rulers of this country, that they determined what people believed, what they thought, and what they were allowed to say. They presumed to move Presidents and Congressmen merely by leveraging character assassination and establishing the framework of their accepted Overton Window. They could swing whole elections.

The Internet has deprived them of the exclusivity of this framing. People may (and frequently do) bypass them for news and information. But they still retain the power of character assassination, even if a few, like Donald Trump, have remained stubbornly immune to it. They have the funding, the airtime, the audience, and allies among gatekeepers and HR departments around the world.

It is that power which must be broken if we are to step out into the light again. It is not enough that we cast them as fake news, though this must be done also. They cannot be permitted to assassinate characters on a whim.

And if we cannot break them of this power, then we must deploy a similar power ourselves. How much economic damage can we force on them if they do this? How many people can we get fired? How many businesses can we destroy?

I really don’t want to go down that road. I’ve always thought it to be one of the lowest, most scummy tactics a man might use on a political opponent. I hate it, and I’ve always attacked the practice as the worst of mudslinging.

But if they don’t stop it soon, what choice do we have? And maybe that’s the message we have to use: “stop now, we really don’t want to do this back to you, but we will if we must.”

The Trap of Perfection

Stepping away from the blatantly political for a time has already proven healthy. This morning, an aphorism entered my brain which, in turn, inspired a whole lot of thinking.

Some people demand absolute perfection of all others, but possess no desire for self-improvement.

I’m sure someone else has said similar at some point in time, but nonetheless the thought was inspiring for its completeness. When discussing politics with most people, exceptions are often brought to the table as if they somehow disprove the original assertion. For instance, one might say that a free market solution to healthcare is wrong, because one individual in certain extenuating circumstances might receive inferior care. The imperfection is then championed, weaponized empathy is applied to it, and soon the media talking heads ponder why Republicans want to push granny off a cliff.

Forget the political side of this for a moment and focus on what the real underlying message is. This is imperfect, says the academic, and since it is imperfect it must be discarded.

This same brand of thinking is what leads to excessive legal wrangling over minute issues of grammar. Second amendment opponents will drive themselves into conniption fits over the position of a comma. The point, the spirit of the law, sails right over their heads. They are consumed by a search for perfection, for an absolute set of principles that governs all human interaction without the slightest deviation.

In other words, they demand perfection from all others, while celebrating their own victimhood and eschewing self-improvement.

Those of us with a modicum of sense have long made peace with the fact that anything involving humans is going to lack perfection. The presence of perfection in anything short of the divine is, in fact, prima facie evidence of error. It cannot be perfect, thus either someone is mistaken, or is deceiving you. Demands for perfection should be scoffed at. One may as well demand flying pink unicorns, for all the good it will do.

In this way, academics and media talking heads are prone to treating people as some kind of scientific experiment. The Scientific Method provides us with a situation where a counter-example is proof of error. If, for instance, I were to dispute the claim that, in a vacuum a feather would fall at the same speed as a hammer, one counter-example would prove me wrong. Both were brought to the moon as a sort of amusing demonstration, of course:

With humans, however, it does not work this way. And this is a key problem with the way academics are prone to thinking. If a counter-example is found to disfavored public policy, wrongthink, or politically incorrect thought, that example is deemed sufficient to disprove the theory. If one person suffers because, say, Obamacare is repealed, then it is proof that Obamacare was good, and free market healthcare is bad.

I feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but humans are not feathers and hammers. Conduct your experiment with another set of humans, and you may get an entirely different set of results. These people are committing a category error long before their favored political positions are even properly formed.

The thing to note about folks who think this way is that they rarely reflect inward. They are quick to criticize the imperfections of others, but are loathe to look at themselves under a similar microscope. This is how you can get folks who complain about greedy capitalists, and yet are caught with their hands in the cookie jar, stealing money for themselves. You would think that someone obsessed with perfection would start with himself, but alas, it is rarely so.

Human perfection is impossible, short of divine intervention. And whatever else academics might believe, they are certainly not gods. Hell, even the Greek gods had less personal problems than they do.

I Need a Vacation

Of late, politics has been particularly nasty and overly repetitive. Russia! Russia! Russia! Trump tweeted something. Something was sexist, or racist, or some other thing. And then there’s a contingent of folks who are non-ironically bringing Nazi shit back. No, I’m not talking about being anything right-of-center (we’re all Nazis according to the political Left), I mean folks who actually break out the swastikas, Hitler quotes, and Jewish conspiracy theories.

All of this is too much. It’s headache-inducing. At one point, I could laugh at politics. Bill Clinton couldn’t keep it in his pants, George Bush tried to eat a pretzel, and we all remember the flying shoe of death. Rubio robot recited his lines, Chris Christie was a giant donut, and Trump blamed Megyn Kelly’s foibles on Rosie O’Donnell.

Today, the amusement has been sucked dry, and replaced with the constant bleating of sheep. It’s not funny anymore. Everything is identity politics. Everything. You can’t have a glass of milk without someone saying that milk is white, therefore racist. You can’t enjoy Chinese takeout without accusations of microaggressions. You can’t even fish in my neck of the woods without some PETA protesters coming by and dumping your catch into the sea and calling you a murderer.

Most folks in the world just want to be left alone. And that is precisely what cannot be countenanced these days.

Well, to hell with that. I’m going to take a break from politics for at least a few days. Maybe I’ll write about whiskey, or technology, or Byzantine history. I don’t know.

But no politics.

I highly recommend other folks do the same from time-to-time. This level of politicization cannot be good for anybody.

Discovering Truth

One thing that has become clear to me over the years is that people can reason themselves in and out of pretty much anything. Evidence can be provided for just about any assertion, no matter how ludicrous, and debunking it can lead to an endless rabbit hole of argument and counter-argument that never resolves much of anything. You can test this by googling just about any idiotic idea, and mountains of “evidence” will be found to support it.

So how does a man determine what is true, or at least more likely to be true?

Scott Adams has an excellent method for sifting through bullshit quickly and efficiently. He provides a list of common methods of discovering the truth:

  1. Personal Experience
  2. Experience of People You Know
  3. Experts
  4. Scientific Studies
  5. Common Sense
  6. Pattern Recognition

Note that each one of these methods contain serious problems if used alone. For instance, personal experience can be narrow and subject to confirmation bias. Experts may lie to you, or be a member of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Intellectual Yet Idiot class. Scientific studies can be twisted, or could be outright fabrications. Common sense, which I actually liken to basic logical consistency, can be wrong on the basis of flawed assumptions.

So a good bullshit filter is taking the list as a whole. A lie will not pass all 6 items. Neither is it likely to even pass a majority of them. Studies and experts may, for instance, tell you that Islam is a religion of peace. But common sense, pattern recognition, and the experiences of people you know would tend to counter the assertion. Where one contradicts another, resolution must be made.  If your experience and the experiences of people you know contradict the experts, who do you trust? In that case, I look for a motivation for the expert to lie (like, say, grant money for Climate Change researchers). If I find a blatant conflict of interest, I will usually dismiss the expert opinion on the basis of the other evidence. If I don’t, perhaps I need to reevaluate why my experiences and those of folks I know are different. Maybe there is another factor at work.

Some time ago, I explained that Francis once changed my mind in a big way on an important issue. At the time, I considered mortgage debt to be generally good. After all, experts claimed that it was good debt, studies showed that holders of mortgage debt did better than their fellows, and common sense generally appeared to favor home ownership (I later understood that it didn’t, per se). The experiences of people I knew were good, and I recognized the pattern that homeowners were generally better off than their fellows. Everything lined up for this, right?

Except it didn’t. My personal experience went south in a hurry. And in 2008, the experiences of people I knew turned sour as well. And when I went back and thought about it a little more, even common sense (in line with what Francis originally wrote) suggested that being exceedingly careful with debt was the wiser course. The experts, of course, changed their tune pretty quick, for a while. But one of the things which turned me off to media talking heads and anointed experts was precisely how quickly they turned, backpedaled, and pretended their earlier assertions had never even existed. After that debacle, I’ve been a lot more skeptical of their class.

Point is, when I reran the assertion through the bullshit filter, I became convinced that Francis was right, and I had been wrong.

But you must be very careful with the tool. Some time ago, I had a self-admitted Marxist attempt to convince me that the red states were economically backward, and that the quasi-Socialist policies of the blue states had created economic gains relative to their backward right-wing brethren. He cited some experts that were criticizing Kansas, and some others who were criticizing the South.

Interestingly enough, I am a well-traveled man, at least with respect to the lower 48 states. Having just returned from a trip to Philadelphia, the evidence of my own eyes immediately contradicted the Marxist’s assertions. Most of Philly was terrible. Outside the downtown core, it looked like a bomb went off. Hiroshima probably looked more attractive after it was nuked. And even in the urban core, the sidewalks smelled like piss, there were cops on every corner, and the black panthers were demonstrating right across from City Hall, in an effort to get an Islamic terrorist freed.

The evidence of my own eyes did not show me a fountain of prosperity for Philadelphia. Nor have my travels to other northern cities shown me likewise. Now, one might say that Miami and Atlanta are bad too, and that perhaps this is a trait of big cities, not something unique to the blue states. But even the worst areas of Atlanta and Miami were better than most of Philadelphia. It was that bad.

Nor, I should note, do my friends who live in Chicago and Detroit say any better about those places. Oh sure, each has a limousine liberal urban core. But outside of that, they are all cesspits. And I lived in Los Angeles long enough to know that it is nearly as bad as Philly. No, the blue states don’t get to claim economic superiority, regardless of what GDP numbers say. There is something terribly wrong with blue state cities. And if some red state cities have a similar disease, it certainly isn’t anywhere near as bad.

So the experts can make their claims all day long. I’m not buying it, no matter how well they present their case.

Folks these days put too much stock in some items of the bullshit filter, and not enough stock in others. Where personal experience contradicts the experts, where common sense and pattern recognition contradict the studies, a resolution must be made. Most people would have you rely on the experts and the studies more heavily. But over time, I’ve come to favor personal experience at least as much.

Winston said it properly in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre.

To this day, this remains one of my most frequent citations. Buried in this is a central truth about many ideologies that have been peddled throughout history: they assert the primacy of another’s view over the evidence of your eyes and ears. Once trained to dismiss this, a man might be made to spout any kind of absurdity.

Leftists often assert that the Rightist has a closed mind. But it is the Left that commands us to ignore what we see and hear, and to spout only pre-approved views, without question or critique. Their notion of an open mind is actually a controlled mind. Skip the bullshit filter, believe what you are told, obey.

No thanks. I’ll run everything through the bullshit filter, thank you very much.

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