Wednesday, February 14, 2018

On Intersectionality

In the spirit of trying to find ideas small enough to write about, I'm going to write about intersectionality, even though I want somewhere nearby the bottom of my heart to move away from shitting on well intentioned people.

Intersectionality is a brilliant legal argument. You can hear the chief proponent (that I can find) of Intersectionality explain the origin of the term in a legal argument in this video. In the spirit of deference she's the champion of the concept.

The example starts at about the 6 minute mark of the talk and the relevant part, in the bare bones of the example: you had a black woman apply for a job at an automotive firm. She felt her application was rejected on a discriminatory basis and pursued it to court. The court could find an example of the employer, employing black people, and also employing women and rejected the claim.

Then the legal argument came in that the employer employed white women to do front-office, front-of-house type tasks, and black men to work the menial, physical jobs. So at the intersection of being black and a woman then, she was discriminated against by the employers policy.

That's as succinct as I can make the same argument, and I am admittedly not known for being succinct. I'm no Blaise Pascal, no George Orwell, no Abe Lincoln.

Intersectionality deals with multiple conditional logical if statements. These are not easy to write out in mathematical notation, though if you've ever had to use excel to do analysis on data in a workplace you probably have.

So in the example, the logic statement would probably be:

if (black>0) AND (woman>0) then Discrimination = 1

which when I say 'probable' I have no idea what the typographical notation is outside of excel for writing out logic statements. So if I find it hard to articulate mathematically, and you possibly, find my notation hard to decipher... you'll love when I try to encrypt the ideas of intersectionality into the multi-variable all inclusive concept of intersectionality.

Then you are talking about multiple nested and/or logic statements (I assume):

if (woman>0) and ((ethnic minority>0) or (disability>0) or (religion>0) or (queer>0)) or (ethnic minority>0) and ((disability>0) ... then discrimination = 1.

And from what I've voyeuristically spied from the sidelines, large catch all terms like 'person of color' or 'queer' etc. are not nuanced enough to properly capture the issues that intersectionality is designed to address.

For example, in LGBTIQA et al. issues, there is internal debate as to discrimination within the movement like gay men getting far more representation and winning far more recognition etc. than other groups like Bisexuals and Trans groups.

Different ethnicity are discriminated against in very different ways and also enjoy very different socio-economic status, such that 'people of color' is too broad when you have 'model minorities' like Asian and Sub-continental people being exploited by asset owning classes and African descent minorities being abused by law enforcement. There can even be nested discrimination within the same ethnic groups based on lightness of the skin, or caste status.

Disability can be sub-categorized into mental health issues, acquired brain injuries and other cognitive impairment and physical disabilities affecting mobility or sensory inputs. In turn disabilities can be experienced differently based on their visibility to outside observers.


At one point in her talk, Crenshaw says 'it's like discrimination squared' and that's interesting. Because it suggests that Intersectionality deals in power laws. Which is to say if you experience 3 points of discrimination for membership to an oppressed group, if you belong to two oppressed groups simultaneously you do not experience 6 points of discrimination, but 9. And three groups is not 9 points of discrimination but 27.

But Crenshaw also argues for the diminishing attention given to issues as they stack up. So if a black man is killed by police, that's making national headlines and dominating late night host monologues (in recent times), if a black woman is killed by police or in police custody, it gets written up and forgotten. That's a huge fucking drop off in attention.

And here is where, Intersectionality is a brilliant legal argument... but a terrible marketing strategy.

In their book 'Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind' which was mentioned no less than 4 times in 4 different subjects of my marketing degree and is basically better value to read than to do a whole marketing degree, the Authors ask you what a Cadillac is.

The answer is a Cadillac is a large luxury saloon American Car.

Then they ask you what a Ford is.

The answer is that a Ford is a small cheap economical efficient medium large luxury saloon sedan  limousine truck hot rod sports car... or something.

In marketing this has come to be known as product line extension which most often ends in 'Cannibalization'. The point being that in consumer minds a brand can only stand for so much, and it certainly can't stand for everything.

Hence Ries and Trout presented General Motors who created a brand per product line (cadillac for large luxury, Buick for medium economy etc) as a superior strategy to Ford's universal branding conceit, and why at the time of writing (the 80s) GM outsold Ford in every single category.

Similarly if Coke release Diet Coke, and Coke Zero, and Vanilla Coke, and Cherry Coke and so forth they may enjoy with each product launch a short-term uptick in sales but very quickly your products start competing with themselves (hence 'cannibalization')  rather than taking market share away from Pepsi, and it costs far more to run and stock and forecast supply for 8 product lines than 1, so weaker companies than the Coca Cola brand can bury themselves doing this.

Because Intersectionality as a concept is unwieldy, Crenshaw actually needed to come up with a metaphor of the intersection to the concept across to a judge. But a law court has people that are both experts at making arguments and experts at listening to arguments, figure out unwieldy complicated concepts and cases like this while poring over legal precedents and arguing the facts of the case and combing through documents in discovery and bound by legal standards and practices and burdens of proof and council can retreat to the judges chambers or approach the bench to slow the pace or make appeals as to how to proceed in the case, recesses can be declared and injunctions can be filed etc.

The courts and para-legal institutions (like a binding mediation) are the rare environments where arguments that require brilliance to implement properly can fly. It is a legal process conducted in front of a judicial authority - it is not public discourse where basically any one can believe what they want and the only thing that can hold them to any standard at all is external reality, which many members of the public don't believe in.

So let's look at intersectionality in practice. Here's an example I spotted that made me feel chagrin.

So some group has had enough of how women are treated, and they decided to set up a twitter account and promote their cause by pasting up excerpts from their twitter in fairly forward thinking and progressively aspirational Fitzroy. Then while fighting the 'good fight' and attacking the patriarchy, someone who has had enough of how transwomen and sex workers are treated decided to scrawl their disapproval of the narrow scope of the authors/distributors of these posters. All witnessed with aforementioned chagrin by myself, a white straight man.

And spotting this felt like standing on the ramparts looking at an army charging my gates with a battering ram, only to see another army, or another unit of the same army come and attack the troops carrying the battering ram.

It is here that I feel I need to point out to anyone invested in Intersectionality a logic puzzle as analogy. It's called 'the Pirate Game' which you can click the link for a very succinct and coherent description and explanation of the game.

What is important is that you have this hierarchy and at the top of the hierarchy is the Pirate captain. The captain gets to propose the division of the loot, however he must get a majority vote or a tie from the crew to save his own neck.

Intuition gives you one answer, if the captain wants the crew to vote for his proposal then he has to propose something fair, like 100 gold coins divided by 5 crew members = 20 each will save his skin.

That's actually the wrong answer and it is wrong for the same reason intersectionality is problematic in practice.

Wikipedia, describes the solution better, but basically pirate number 2 is fucked because of pirate number 3 who is fucked because of pirate number 4 who is fucked over by pirate number 5 so the captain gets just about all of the loot and pirates 5 and 3 give him the votes he needs for a pittance.

It's important to know that Pirate ships didn't work like this in real life and were some of the first functionally democratic organisations in recorded history (bearing more resemblance to post-enlightenment democracy than Athenian democracy).

There are few cases in history however where the oppressed population is also more numerous than the privileged classes. Apartheid South Africa was in part so overtly racist in stratifying South African society because the clear democratic majority where black and 'colored' South Africans. But in Australia the indigenous are a tiny fraction of the population, the same goes for every oppressed group bar women who possibly outnumber men which I think they do based on the last released census.

In which case intersectionality deals with multiplying fractions by fractions, so consider then the picture of the most marginalized member of society petitioning the patriarch for fair treatment and justice. 'Mr Man, what do you propose to do about how Queer Indigenous Muslim Women with Mental Health Issues and Physical Disability are treated under your laws?' To which the patriarch says 'What are you referring to?'

And here is where I depart from most critics of institutional power, in believing (and I don't have any real solid research to back this assertion) most oppression is simply a biproduct of institutions self-organizing to achieve their main goals. Overt, malicious oppression (like a politician scapegoating Mexicans or Muslims) are more the exceptions than the rule, and most oppression experienced daily by most people is the result of flawed design of the ordinary operation of a power structure.

Thus intersectionality is a poor marketing strategy because there's so much education required to explain how the very worst treated members of society exist at the intersection of all these design flaws in systems that were designed without them in mind. It is, in other words, the kind of really poor marketing strategy that engineers at automotive companies come up with all the time wanting to sell their own brilliance without considering that nobody else understands what anti-lock braking systems or diesel injection systems are or mean for them.

Of course if you've been to a rally recently, apart from maybe noticing the ever increasing initials of the LGBTIQA+ movement (itself probably a product of intersectionality) you'll really just hear the broad easy to digest themes like marriage equality, which really address the 'L' and the 'G' and to a lesser extent 'B' and 'T' and by the time you move past them for somebody outside the movement such as myself, the issues surrounding Intersex peoples, those identifying with Queer that don't fit LGBT and Asexuals are fading into to full obscurity.

What I imagine happens and only see occasionally in passing on social media or morbidly fascinating articles is that Intersectionality nests itself in movements in a logically recursive way.

If that last sentence was impenetrable, keep in mind I'm actually not that coherent, while I try and spell it out for you.

Women are 51% of the population of a majority white place (let's assume) and oppressed. At a meeting of oppressed women who are fed up, you will have some part of the that population be queer (let's assume 20%) these queer women form a subcommittee and of those queer women 10% are people of color. Picking arbitrarily easy numbers you have a 100 strong group of activists, within which 20 are queer and 2 are both queer and people of color.

If the 2 queer women of color want to take their issues direct to the streets that's 2 people and not a very intimidating protest (though individuals can often outperform groups but this is off topic). So what you get instead is nesting, where somehow those 2 women need to get all 100 activists to adequately represent them.

Now the actual nesting is going to be far less neat, like that massive AND/OR nested logic statement I didn't even bother to write out earlier. The important thing is that this works like the pirate game, and the pirate game is logical.

The designated chairperson gets up on the dais and yells into a microphone 'we are 100 strong, tomorrow we SMASH the patriarchy viva la matriarchy!!!' or something and the 20 queer women say 'hang on, hang on, hang on... say we help you smash the patriarchy straight women, what assurances do we have that once you are in charge you are going to affect changes to issues that affect us as queer women?' and the room descends into a charged and heated debate about representation and what not in the groups leadership committees and obtaining written assurances and collateral and identifying recourse and then 'hang on hang on hang on... queer women, when you are negotiating these deals are you negotiating for us? Us queer women of color? and what assurances do we have that in helping you secure your assurances on queer rights that you will continue to help us secure the rights we need as people of color?' and the negotiating power of the queer committee breaks down while they handle internal crisis.

Meanwhile the patriarchy, abstract concept that it is nevertheless can sleep soundly knowing it probably wont have to deal with 100 angry women at all tomorrow.

So Intersectionality is a really logical concept that in practice I am willing to bet: basically cripples social progress. Because it boils down in practice to introducing wedge issues, and/or wedge politics to socially progressive movements.

There's two 'solutions' one could approach, which is to figure out as previously illustrated, who in a movement is the singularly most oppressed (who stands at the most intersections) which is not easy in itself, and then solve all their problems and work your way back up from there, 'popping up' from the lowest nested level.

Which may in practice be no different from the other solution: basically requiring pirate number 2 to figure out a functioning utopia in order to have the Pirate captain ousted and everyone's situation to improve, which is the second approach.

And the second approach is kind of sensible, but consider how asymmetric it is. So without bothering with definitions (largely because the specifics don't matter) assume this abstract concept of the patriarchy is what needs overthrowing - it doesn't have to be perfect, it is an oppressive regime and all it has to do is be powerful (retain power). Like the pirate captain it has to pay out the bare minimum to keep its power on top. The next pirate along though, doesn't have to pay the minimum to win, instead it has to deliver everything to everybody in order to displace the tyrant. Thus any alternative to the status quo is incredibly costly to implement, while the status quo is incredibly cheap to maintain.

It should be noticed that just as technology makes everything more efficient, it has made ruling more efficient as well, and thus people who enjoy actual power have likely never been such a small proportion of the most privileged class as they are right now. Thus the vast majority of white straight men don't get to participate in societal power in any meaningful way at any stage of their lives. (They may however enjoy some power in microcosms like a family unit, over non-class members and they may enjoy the Pirate's game pittance in the form of authorities and customer service reps being friendlier and more accommodating to them right up until work makes them redundant and banks evict them from their homes.)

But that's a side note. The patriarchy doesn't have to be perfect, any contender group to overthrowing it does - it is sidelined until it can solve all the problems the patriarchy hasn't.

Thus the alternative strategy to Intersectionality I'd be inclined to recommend was articulated by former President Barrack Obama who said (somewhere) 'I have to keep reminding my people that better is good.' and by 'my people' I believe he was referring to his Whitehouse administrators.

He's re-wording the more widespread conventional wisdom that 'Perfect is the enemy of the good' and 'The good is the enemy of done.'

But it's a conundrum that offers me no answers, because with that power law-nesting problem, I believe probability basically says that as you multiply fractions they get smaller and smaller quite rapidly. So you start with everyone, then halve it, then multiply that by 10% (5%) and that by 10% (.5%) and then that by 3% (.015%) and by the time you are standing on the corner of a 4 road intersection you are dealing with populations so small that you need to nest your activism in a system of democracy where numbers = political will, while a big city may be able to contain half a city of women and then a village of queer women, it may have less than a handful of black lesbian paraplegics. Can you muster the numbers to protest the general population? I doubt it. Can you make a ruckus within a subsection of the general population? Probably. Just as a broad category like Women can get a voice for the broad issues of feminism in modern society, the population differences may mean you can get a voice in feminist circles but not in general society.

Of course, it should be said that life is not as neat as the Pirate game. Women in general can and have made progress despite all the internal political wedges that are debated... as far as I can gather...constantly. I also hear from the lived experiences of others, that the 'trickle-down' forms of activism work about as well as trickle-down economics. Where if one large group manage to secure their property rights, they disappear no longer turning out for the remaining downtrodden.

That said, in Crenshaw's own talk about death of black women by police and in police custody, we can't know if the #blacklivesmatter movement wouldn't address the problem regardless of gender, largely because it hasn't addressed the problem yet so much as give it widespread publicity. If indeed the stats hold out and more black women are killed by police than black men, then there is some unfairness to it that the people are only mobilized by the deaths of men - however this is true of most of history, and so I guess my inclination would be to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

A post-racial society may still be sexist, and a Gender-egalitarian society might still be racist, but both societies are better than the one a black woman lives in now. Of course the society I live in now is just peachy to me.

I don't have any answers but intersectionality isn't one of them.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

On the Egalitarian Approach

I've spent, I don't know... two or three years of my intellectual, cognitive life trying to figure out why I'm bothered so much by causes I feel I believe in. It seems a lot of people starting at the same point fall into this trap of going - if I don't like this feminism then I must be alt-right or some shit.

I feel though, for all my efforts I've managed to perceive a crucial distinction between a cause and how it is prosecuted. And most of what I don't like is 'the egalitarian approach'. 

Most people would, like me, not believe in a hardline form of egalitarianism. A core belief that everyone is so equal, that should you find yourself in the situation where you have one last chance to appeal your death sentence, their pretensions to egalitarianism would not equate a highly experienced and respected defense attorney and a randomly selected friend on social media. 

I believe most of us are not so egalitarian that we would say 'go ahead and spin that wheel because everyone is as good as everyone else.'

Most of us can readily recognise contexts in which egalitarianism can just fuck right off. Courts of Law, Sporting Contests, the Military, Festival Lineups, Restaurant Menus... but we seem curiously unable to recognise public discourse as one of these domains. Particularly when looking in the mirror.

And here's the kicker, for right-wing agendas, having an egalitarian approach is much less of an issue than it is for left-wing agendas. Namely, because right-wingers tend to support vertical heirarchies and non-egalitarian outcomes even if the make allusions to merit that are wrong.

Thus if you are wanting to tighten up on immigration in order to spend less on your immigration projects it doesn't matter too much for your agenda if a bunch of idiots grab tiki torches and march on some church. If people raise an uproar over them and their cause a right-winger can come right out and say 'we hear you, we were just legislating a crack down on public freedoms and right to assembly.' So if people take it upon themselves to represent a cause or agenda in an incredibly stupid way, it doesn't hurt too much if you are fundamentally anti-participation.

But the left wing is all about participation. But is much worse at distinguishing between advocating for participation/self-determination/equal opportunity/the pursuit of happiness and letting any old nob advocate for you.

For example look at this picture:
pro-social Helen Mirren, whom in the first coverage of this piece was also praised for holding her bag on her lap rather than placing it on a seat, is crowded out by the much derided and maligned 'manspreading' next to her.

But now let's change trains and hop on this one. This video was shown to me as an example of a white privileged male engaging in police brutality towards a woman of colour. But it's a terrible video. It depicts a pro-social police competently carrying out his duty in accordance with a law designed to protect the public and a belligerent teenager engaged in anti-social behavior. 

I must admit I haven't watched it to completion, so maybe it turns real real nasty at some point, but within the first 4 minutes of the video, I'd be hard pressed to identify anything in the officers conduct that is even remotely questionable while the 18 year old girl manages to completely incriminate herself as well as the bystanders who manage to profess their ignorance.

And here's the thing, police abuse of power and institutional racism is a serious fucking issue, that deserves to be taken seriously. The people on the shitty end of this stick need really good advocacy not just in institutional and official reviews but in the public sphere as well.

At about the 2 minute mark the girl says 'this is so fucking unfair you have no right to take me off the train because I had my foot on the seat because I was comfortable like that, there's no law...' and it's important to note that these are not statements of fact but of opinion. At one point bystanders question the officer as to what law, what rule. All of the visible bystanders appear to have smart phones in which case they could also look up the rule themselves... which I did it's on page 4 in quite large print. And unfortunately if you don't know something it can still be illegal. I didn't even know LA had trains, doesn't stop the trains from working.

Virtually everyone in this video owes the officer an apology, and the girl who failed to comply with the officers instructions probably owes an apology to everyone on the train for delaying them by acting like a petulant child. At best, she would have had a potential damages claim for her public humiliation and psychological distress, except that her own contribution to the situation is now well documented and most of the humiliation she owes to the well intentioned bystanders filming the incident and publishing it online.

This is the egalitarian approach's severe and crippling limit. You can't have advocacy with no quality control or you wind up giving grist to the people standing in the way of progress, and you become someone that hampers progress.

Now recently I'd been trying to educate myself on postmodernism, and my exploration of Michel Focault has rather than being enlightening, a stupefying experience for me. I just pulled this off his wikiquote page to defer to a community's sensibility of what is a fair quotation:

I try to carry out the most precise and discriminative analyses I can in order to show in what ways things change, are transformed, are displaced. When I study the mechanisms of power, I try to study their specificity... I admit neither the notion of a master nor the universality of his law. On the contrary, I set out to grasp the mechanisms of the effective exercise of power; and I do this because those who are inserted in these relations of power, who are implicated therein, may, through their actions, their resistance, and their rebellion, escape them, transform them—in short, no longer submit to them. And if I do not say what ought to be done, it is not because I believe there is nothing to be done. Quite on the contrary, I think there are a thousand things to be done, to be invented, to be forged, by those who, recognizing the relations of power in which they are implicated, have decided to resist or escape them. From this point of view, my entire research rests upon the postulate of an absolute optimism. I do not undertake my analyses to say: look how things are, you are all trapped. I do not say such things except insofar as I consider this to permit some transformation of things. Everything I do, I do in order that it may be of use.

I am not smart enough to decipher (lit. de-cipher) what the fuck Focault is actually saying - does power exist or not? Even being charitable and extending a benefit of a doubt that Focault suffers largely from translation - like no philosopher I have ever come across before, I haven't found an example of Focault yet that approaches intelligibility. Even the more penetrable quotes like: 'Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?' are functionally vacuous like 'LISTEN has the same letters as SILENT.' 

My inability to understand what the fuck Focault is talking about is only so relevant as it concerns egalitarianism- does it inspire confidence in me that a randomly selected friend of mine on social media is going to understand what Focault is talking about.

Whatever Michel is advocating, he is himself a terrible advocate for himself. I have to defer though to the fact that he is regarded as a highly influential philosopher, and let's now look at one of the philosophers he influenced, Judith Butler:

"When we say that gender is performed, we usually mean that we've taken on a role; we're acting in some way…To say that gender is performative is a little different…For something to be performative means that it produces a series of effects. We act and walk and speak and talk that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman…we act as if that being of a man or that being of a woman is actually an internal reality or simply something that is true about us. Actually, it is a phenomenon that is being produced all the time and reproduced all the time."

To some extent I get the same thing, I'm not smart enough to really penetrate what is being said, although with Butler whose native language is the same as mine, what might be more accurate is to say I don't understand in her theory of gender performativity why she wouldn't say instead the much simpler and well supported conclusion 'we are what we do.'

Now steering back to egalitarianism, I have a thorough non-understanding of postmodernism, largely because thus far in my exploration it has a seemingly well deserved reputation for finding the most complicated way to say nothing at all, I have absolutely zero faith in virtually anyone I know being able to hold this philosophy in their head and understand it when they come out to advocate against our existing power structures.

What I think happens instead is that people incompetently license themselves to act on a very popular intuition that we are who think we are and thus nobody has the right to tell us who we are. And that intuition isn't nuanced enough to work in society. (that's an interesting argument to have, but another post altogether).

Let's take a breath and illustrate this point through the concept of delegation.

Management economics is a concept touted by the creators of 'Manager Tools' a business podcast explained in a 4 minute video here. But for my purposes it's a pretty basic principle that leads into a pretty basic rule of thumb. So if you have an organization where one person up the top is paid $1 million dollars and a person below her is paid $10,000 and both of them can do the same task to the same quality, it should be done by the person who is paid less. 

This is 'management' economics because it is to do with delegation, a manager actually gets to choose which tasks they do themselves and which tasks people reporting to them can/should do. And some managers are bad at delegating tasks hence they need the principle explained.

Basically if you are paid more, then your obligation is to do only the tasks that only you can do, and anything anyone paid less can do as well, you delegate to them. That's the principle.

Now, what if they can do it, but not as well? Here is the rule of thumb: if there's a task that somebody paid less than you can do to 70% of the quality you would, and you should, delegate. (Strictly speaking you could break down the salaries and numbers and come up with an exact economically rational quality threshold of when to delegate and when to do it yourself, however you are paid a lot of money to spend your time on the most effective and productive tasks you can accomplish, and scrutinizing every delegation decision to precision is probably self-defeating.) 

Now the question: what's 70%^5? or .7 x .7 x .7 x .7 x .7? 

It's in the neighborhood of 16%. 

This describes a situation where the rule of thumb becomes chained - a problematic situation. Here the person earning a million delegates a task to 500k person because they can do it 70% as well, they in turn look at 300k who can do it 70% (but 49% as well as 1M) as well as them and they delegate it down again. 300k delegates to 120k and 120k delegates ... until some entry level staffer on 25k a year is faced with completing a task originally put on the CEO's desk and the 70% rule has compounded to 10% relative to the CEO.

Now substitute the millionaire with someone like Ta-Nahesi Coates or Malcolm Gladwell, advocating for progress in the issue of institutional racism. And substitute someone 10 rungs down the organisational chain with the bystanders filming the officer removing a teenager from the train. Up top you have journalists who are very good at making articulate and intelligible arguments and down the bottom you have people who don't understand basic but unintuitive concepts like the rule of law, public goods, public property, consumer rights and who haven't bothered to even fact check themselves that indeed putting feet on the seats is against the rules.

Who do you want advocating for the cause?

And more to the point, this isn't an example of delegation, it's an example of the Donning Kruger effect wrapped up in a sense of righteousness that excuses one from having to understand anything. There's no hierarchy delegating the task of holding public servants accountable down the line. What the internet and social media have facilitated is not an increase in chained-delegation, but a complete lack of deference. 

Consider that a 22 year old woman managed to get herself arrested and charged, defending a person who broke the rules and failed to comply with reasonable requests for cooperation, in the absence of any objective use of excessive force and it was all documented including by the officer's body cam. 

That's moronic.

Go right-wing though, and it isn't quite the same. Now you are on a train at 1am in the early hours of a Saturday morning travelling home from a big friday night wondering which patron of the train is going to vomit on the floor. Here though, a white man in his mid 40s who didn't complete high school and has struggled on and off with unemployment and substance abuse problems decides to appoint himself to the front line of the war on terror by harassing a man with a higher concentration of melanin in his skin. 

His qualification to 'fight terror' are that he has a valid ticket to be on this train and he's a little loaded. He's not even 10% as capable of identifying a terror cell as a counter-terrorism expert working for a regulated and state sponsored police service. You yourself may be eminently more capable of fighting terror than he, simply by being able to visually discern between an Islamic Jihadist and a Hindu Engineering Student which he cannot. But that doesn't mean you even meet the quality threshold to do anything about terrorism.

There are things everyday plebs can contribute towards civilization. A campaign like 'if you see something, say something' though is not a strict act of delegation, deputizing every citizen to take the laws into their own hands. On the right-wing, the campaign strictly speaking, if you scrutinize the words, a call for citizens to defer to proper authorities. To report activities to people capable of dismissing it or pursuing it.

One thing everyone can do on the left-wing though rather than forming para-legal kangaroo courts because of your inherent cynacism to any formal institution, is refrain from arguing and simply reinforcing social norms. This is the best advice I've heard. Rather than saying 'don't you think what you are saying is racist Ted?' it means saying 'okay Ted, but we don't discriminate based on race here.'

There's also a problem with deference too. Expertise has it's limits, fields like psychiatry and economics and nutrition are a rich history of problems and corruption. However just because a field of expertise is contentious doesn't make it the equal of complete ignorance: you should still defer to an expert critic to advocate against established orthodoxy. 

There's this documented psychological phenomena called the Donning Kruger effect, and word is it has caught fire on discussion boards and is now often employed as a fallacy, but it is a real thing. In summary it's the phenomena where the less you know about something the less you assume there is to know, and so you overestimate your own proficiency.

Consider the distribution of IQ, I've never actually sat a formal testing for it, and it doesn't really matter what you think of IQ, the point is it's normally distributed and documented. So two-thirds of the population have an IQ between 85-115, if you have an IQ of 116 that means that sitting at a table of 6 people, you are the smartest person at the table. At 120, if you are in an elevator with 8 other people in it, odds are you are the smartest one there. So by 120 you are already going to have lived a life where you were one of the top 10 performers in school, people will have been telling you how smart you are all your life and this notion will have constantly been reinforced. But to be confident you have a crack at being the smartest among all your facebook friends, you actually need an IQ of at least 144. that's 1/336 people rare. 

This argument is specifically bogus in all kinds of ways, and that's because I'm not smart enough to make a better one, but the key thing is to note the implicit hubris in tackling a nuanced and complicated issue in a public setting with no formal training. Even if people have told you you are smart all your life, the sea is vast and full of all kinds of people and there are intellectual giants that would stomp on you, and there are certainly social problems too complicated and nuanced and cross-disciplinary for you to have anything substantial to offer on your lonesome... Sadly the smartest people alive are often but one intellectual elephant in a sea of intellectual mice repeating arguments that have evolved through hearsay and motivated reasoning and confirmation bias and appeals to ignorance.

If it's your thing, it's kind of amusing to look up Chomsky on Zizek on Youtube, and to a lesser extent Zizek's response. Chomsky accuses Zizek of posturing and lacking any content. Zizek's response is basically a rambling content-less rant. Zizek thinks he's a really smart guy, and the notion is being reinforced. That notion is revealed as fragile when Chomsky more or less dismisses him and his intellectual tradition, then if you want to see yet more hubris, dip below the lines and look at the kind of 'intellectuals' that comment on youtube videos featuring Chomsky or Zizek and ask yourself how much value any of their comments add. 

If the answer to that is 0 value, then I've at least gotten somewhere in illustrating the problem with the egalitarian approach. 

Public discourse I believe, is subject to economies of scale. Certain people are better at dissuading and persuading than others. Notably competent experts and comedians. One of them can sway the tide of public opinion if given the right platform and not shouted down by their own idiotic supporters. Like champion warfare, the sway of public opinion can be carried by the outcomes of two single combatants. I like comedians because comedy is disarming, meaning they are better than most at getting through partisanship and making people reconsider a previously held belief. Competent experts are transparently ideal because they aren't prone to all the fallacies the general public can intuitively lapse into.

Including myself, I don't know a single person I'd have confidence in to debate a character like Jordan Peterson. If there had to be a debate I'd want someone like Robert Sapolsky or Noam Chomsky to champion me, and I feel like Sapolsky is too nice a guy to get into such a debate, and Chomsky is too mean a guy to debate Peterson, and perhaps we all should be taking a cue from them. 

What I feel happens is, that on the right side of the political spectrum the tendency to look for hierarchy and defer to a champion perhaps in part explains the rise of Peterson's popularity. Whereas on the left-side of the spectrum, the inclination to advocate for Trans-rights, Disability advocacy, Post-Racial etc. inclines one to not rally behind elite white men like Sapolsky or Chomsky and instead form mobs of 'equals' who are easily derided and dismissed for their lack of consistency and coherency, yet sadly can have a half-assed impact on politics as centrist left parties make ill conceived tokenistic gestures towards them to secure their vote. 

An excellent example of the left-side of politics getting this champion-warfare right is Billy-Jean King vs Bobby Riggs in the 1973 exhibition match, "the battle of the sexes". The movie is well worth watching if you really get a bad taste in your mouth over the thought of deferring to someone better able to champion your cause.

The big problem for the left of course, is the fallacy fallacy, which is that if you commit a fallacy it doesn't mean you are wrong, it just means your argument doesn't prove your point. Margaret Court lost to Bobby Riggs, which as we know doesn't justify a pay gap between female and male tennis athletes - something we now know only because King threw down and handled Bobby Riggs. Any listeners, and particularly partisan listeners will seize on the fallacy fallacy to feel in the right and dismiss your position, so proceed incompetently with caution. 

I would guess, that most people on most issues gravitate towards a position of not caring. Then there are noisy motivated minorities on either side. I don't give a shit if angry young men go Alt-right and make shitty arguments and alienate themselves. I do care if advocates for vulnerable groups make shitty arguments and successfully alienate the very people they are fighting for and set progress back another 10 years.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Cage Eggs and Old-Growth Paper

There are many things I am not, and consumer activist is not one of them. I will never be drawn to the inefficiency of it, or any popular movement.

Having said that though, I cannot bring myself to purchase cage eggs, or for that matter cook with eggs that I know or suspect to be cage eggs. I'm also not, however, one of those people that asks a waiter whether the eggs are cage free. As such I probably consume a bunch of cage eggs just through food products that use it as an ingredient.

But when buying crappy copy paper, that I mostly use for doing crappy sketches, I might like a label on the pack suggesting that there's recycled paper and sustainable forrestry practice endorsements, but by and large I don't particularly give a shit how the paper was made and where it is sourced from.

Thus I have a personal inconsistency, and I love discovering these. The volume of cage-eggs stocked by supermarkets suggests that many consumers care more about price than cruelty. Now there probably is a debate to be had about how cruel cage eggs and indeed factory farming is perceived to be, and how cruel it actually is in terms of a lived experience, but in terms of public perception that debate is irrelevant because I believe most consumers would be biased towards perceiving cage eggs as crueler than they've ever bothered to investigate.

Because it looks awful, and we can't imagine life in a cage eating out of a tube through broken teeth with no room to move. I also can't imagine having no capacity to think about the future or reflect upon the past, to not be able to contemplate my own mortality - but again, interesting but irrelevant.

The thing is it also smells bad, and for reasons I shall never understand, my mother took my siblings and I as children to 'Happy Hens' probably for the giant slide, but we did go on the tour of the cage farm.

And it is indeed, unappetizing. I suspect that might be key to my inconsistency. I have a visceral reaction to the thought of cage eggs that views them as dirty, disgusting. For a while my mother would get eggs from a market vendor, like a farmers market that unfortunately sourced their egg cartons from old discarded egg cartons, meaning that most often these organic free-range market eggs came packaged in cage egg labelled cartons.

Curiously, though assured by my mother (known for being snug with a buck) that they were indeed eggs from the market simply placed in re-purposed cartons, I would actually percieve the egg yolks as more anemic, more nutritionally deficient and the whites as runnier, less viscous. I'm not sure if I could ever subjectively praise the quality of an egg, but my brain I'm sure changed the taste and experience of the egg based purely on the packaging.

I speculate, that much as if a non-depressive and depressive were to drink together, the non-depressive enjoys their drink less because while they get the same pleasure of intoxication, they do not experience the same relief of inwardly directed rage of a melancholic depressive - so too if a vegetarian who was vegetarian for environmental reasons, and a vego who was a vegetarian for conscious reasons were to sit and eat bacon, the former might enjoy the sheer joy of eating bacon where the latter cannot because the flavor is tainted with their perception of the benefactors suffering.

Does that make sense? Someone who cares, tastes the cruelty.

And crucially food is primed to pick up on the biological systems in our brains that generate disgust. Which are the same systems that often shape our reactions to moral stimuli. In our evolution, our ancestors survived by not eating putrid foods, and diseased flesh, and parasite infested species. The mechanic being disgust, and it's corresponding safety mechanisms like throwing up.

Our brain didn't have a unused cluster of neural anatomy lying around for navigating social-moral stimuli, so it multi-tasked our disgust circuitry. At least that's my paraphrasing of actual respectable research.

And paper, paper is much harder to build that visceral disgust-association with. Even the aesthetics of clear felled landscapes, slash and burn smoldering pits, or cute displaced fauna doesn't seem to have anywhere near the impact of stuffing a chicken in a cage and force feeding it through a straw.

Thus it'd s marketing challenge to me, if you are a conservationist, it's a question of evoking not just the emotions that come with the destruction of rain forest or old-growth forests, but the visceral disgust which has far more hand-staying power when reaching for an item in a shelf than a rational belief.

If environmental issues could tap into the same brain circuitry that bad-food handling does, political will would in my opinion, have far more traction.

Of course, it seems a bunch of consumers don't give a shit about cage-eggs, and the biggest volume-consumers are probably much more problematic than individual consumers (like a catering business or an office building for paper).

And then you get the cage egg producers branding their cartons so they have 'farm' and 'barn' and such in the title, with discrete as possible labels that they are in fact cage eggs. These may fool the unsavy consumer. But still, I feel by several orders of magnitude, my inconsistency would be reflected across the population.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

On The Alt-Right or whoever the fuck we are talking about.

It occurs to me, and surely others, that I don't spend much time talking about the right wing, I don't spend any time criticizing it, and I spend much more time criticizing people who are the sworn enemies of the alt-right. So under the pretext of 'An enemy of my enemy is my friend...' I must by default be a friend of the alt-right, or male rights activists, or white supremacists or all the angry guys out there in internet land or whatever.

It's hard to write any particularly scathing critique though, of garbage people with garbage beliefs on the fringes of society who don't pose any particular threat to me, who don't have anything to offer me and have little to no relevance to my existence beyond many of the people I know having a morbid fascination with them.

However, it's not so simple, Alt-right, MRAs, White Supremacists and even conservatives do have an impact on my life... but it's not the one you might be frightened of, the old 'First they came for the Jews and I said nothing...' paradigm. They impact on my life because of algorithms. Because the most popular sites on the internet - with the non-coincidental sole exception of Wikipedia, the most popular not-for-profit site - present a polarizing world.

So yeah, if I want to watch a BBC documentary on Friedrich Nietzsche, youtube will assume I want to watch Joe Rogan interview some man on why feminists are stupid. And the thing about ignorance and search functions is: if you don't know what you don't know, then it is very hard to search your way out of an algorithm.

Thus if you want a top-tip I like my man Rumi's poorly translated into English advice 'God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites, so that you will have two wings to fly, not one.' which is to say, if you are feeling particularly persuaded by something, go and look for a persuasive critique of that work.

Which is not to say, that there's any validity to all the raving nobodies on Youtube, or the internet at large. Both highly polarized sides of the debate suffer from a menacing case of unchecked egalitarianism - where any fucking nobody is allowed to pick up stones and hurl them at tanks...

Or dogs... so the main reason I don't spend much time or energy hurling rocks at the alt-right is because a white man once explained to me 'You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.' which is apparantly not well-sourced enough to make Winston Churchill's wikiquote page, so let's take it with a grain of salt.

Let's break it down though:

1. White Supremacy

A garbage proposition, and it isn't the Rubiks-Cube of psychoanalysis to unlock that when you come across people advocated a supreme race, it is never the case that they are motivated by their inherent sense of superiority - be it North Koreans, the French, the Japanese, German Nazi's or Tiki-Torch Klansmen. They don't march because they feel powerful and entitled, but because they feel victimized and marginalized.
A consultation of the facts though will show that white people are supreme - in terms of land ownership, resource command, military power, technology and most quality of life measures. The kicker is that you may be genetically a member of the supreme ethnic group, but not actually participating in power and its benefits.
The thing is that White Supremacy movements only need watching in so far as they are processed legally with due-process. There are provisions against hate speech even in the US constitution and one cannot insight a riot etc. If you murder someone or lynch someone that's a crime and a police matter. The point at which you need to speak out and take a stand is when law-enforcement drops the baton.
The tragedy of White Supremacy and racism in general is that it takes the disenfranchised members of the oppressor's ethnicity and turn's them against their fellow oppressed to shore up the base of their oppressors.
Of far more consequence than having morons shore up the base of a moron like Donald Trump though, is having poor ignorant people shore up the economic policies of the Republican establishment. It was far worse for all but the few people murdered by recent racist attacks, when everyone in the rust belt of America was voting for George W Bush because they could picture him on a farm.

2. Male Rights

I must confess some sympathy for the tiny amount of men who find themselves on the wrong end of a histrionic personality disorder. Having someone bare false witness against you is incredibly damaging, possibly unrecoverable. But that's true of everyone under all circumstances. If you find yourself or a loved one facing a false allegation of rape or other sexual misconduct, absolutely fight it tooth and nail. I do not begrudge parents and partners defending an accused man even in the circumstances where his denials are lies - unless they are willfully complicit in believing the lies.
But that's about the limit of it. It's a serious issue if you are in it, but it pales in comparison to the incidence and frequency and systemic society wide cost of women being raped, sexually assaulted and the psychological abuse and torture that gags them.
Both are problems, and one problem is minuscule when stood beside the other. Were I put in the situation of facing a false allegation, I would absolutely disregard any pretense or appeal to 'being woke' and defend my reputation tooth and nail. If I didn't have a superstitious aversion to lying, my opinion of the justice system is sufficiently low that I wouldn't begrudge myself defending against true allegations against me.
Alas, poor men, some 60% of women in Australia have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault by the age of 18. Good character furthermore, is not distributed normally or randomly across the population but seems to concentrate in certain individuals who exhibit masses of pro-social behavior, and the vast majority are sociable enough for society to function, but generally self-serving and inconsiderate. The relevance of that being that I don't think a few men are doing all the groping and harassment so much as if 60% of women are getting harassed, it seems likely to me that 60% of men have done some harassing. I'd probably posit that across a spectrum of harassing behavior going from 'bad judgement' to 'malicious intent' 100% of men have done some harassing.
Thus, I just don't have time for Male Rights Activism, even if there's some serious issues there, because it's competing for attention like Deaths-from-Shark-Attacks vs Deaths-from-Suicides. One is so common everyone has a stake in it, and the other so rare that though serious cannot be a priority especially given its capacity to exacerbate the more common, severe and widespread problem of women getting raped.
And yeah, it's probable that male rights go far further than just false allegations of rape. The trouble is, the systems pretty friendly to men already. Women are just as capable in my opinion of psychological abuse towards males as the reverse, however in my locale any guy can go see a psychologist. The services are there already. Even the legal system is heavily biased towards protecting the innocent from false accusations. The burden of proof is not upon the defendant. That means that literally if you rape a women and there's no evidence but her testimony against yours, if you plead not guilty the state will let you walk, it may even not bring a case against you at all.
So what the fuck is the proposed solution of MRA's that women be prevented from testifying? from speaking? It's garbage through and through.
I'm comfortable with the risk that one day I myself may have a false allegation leveled against me. The plan is to protect myself by not raping any women, and if possible avoiding the company of histrionic women. Even so, I have confidence I can avoid an accusation by a criminal mastermind that can falsify means, motif and opportunity. That can simulate the injuries of rape and get my dna under-their-fingernails etc. Then even exonerated, my reputation will probably have taken irreversible damage at which point I will eat shit and move towns, country whatever. Lemons > Lemonade.

3. Climate Skepticism

Yeah it's anti-science, anti-intellectual whatever. One day, whoever added grist for the public wanting to bury their heads in the sand over climate change will probably be held culpable. In the meantime, the ocean is going to expand, the weather will get more extreme and severe and the necessary solutions, if there are solutions at all will get more costly.
I just don't think the climate change denial mouthpieces are the cause so much as a symptom. There aren't people actively going around encouraging people in their 20's and 30's to not prepare for their retirement, yet the outcome is just about the same. It's hard to make a human mind care about long term big-picture issues when they are distracted by the here and now.
I'm sure if you went and explored it, you would find the major source of top-down executive action on climate change is because shameless lobbies are saying 'we don't want to pay for this shit' and 'we don't want to write down our business activities that we'd have to stop.'
Yeah the climate skeptics are doing something to contribute, but mostly they are calming people down by giving them permission to go into denial. The lobbies are demonstrating that popular causes hold little sway over government policy, so public opinion is probably not a long term or sustainable solution to getting the decision makers to defer to scientific expertise.
Thus who gives a shit? most people argue censorship not on their own behalf, but on condescending behalf of others. I don't know what the answer to corporate lobbying is, but a popular movement to demand campaign finance reform - something simple like vote for the party that advertises the least, may result in more representative democracy than a popular movement on any one issue.

4. I don't know what the fuck else these guys stand for.

Because I don't pay much attention to them, as stated. I don't even voyeuristically watch Alex Jones or read Brightbart or whatever it is called. I suspect Alt-right critics that do have some kind of freudian secret 'jones' for 'Jones'. Like Athiests think about God more than most religious people do.


The Alt-Right are probably more a problem for themselves than anyone else. Like terrorism and other attention seeking paradigms, do the most damage if you participate in it. And not by joining ranks but by engaging at all. These are marginalised and disenfranchised people.

You may be tempted to make a 'first they came for the...' type argument that the Alt-right are just the beginning murmurs of Nazism and thus they need to be quashed before Holocaust II breaks out.

I don't begrudge people that argument, but nobody is idly standing by while mass deportations or even racist demonstrations are going on except for maybe the President of the United States.

But for me a better analogy and of more pressing concern is this one:

It's May 1st, 2003. George W Bush stands on top of the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier beneath a 'Mission Accomplished' banner picked out in red, white and blue. Gulf War 2 is over, and now we move onto the occupation, which the people of Iraq are anxiously awaiting the details of how the regime change and rebuilding of Iraq will unfold.

In this analogy, the 'Coalition of the Willing' are the left, and I guess Saddam Hussein would be Harvey Weinstein or some other symbol of the patriarchy.

I see much of the Alt-Right as the people in Iraq that upon realizing that nobody had really thought out what happens after the patriarchy is smashed, and the conduct of the left seem to see them as oppressors by default and have no place in the coming utopia that these are the naive people that go fall in with ISIS simply because ISIS will have them.

And ISIS are/were a problem that for the west were not worth addressing, and probably much more of a problem for their constituents, though with a little more consideration and a little less egalitarianism we could have prevented ourselves from helping them get the legs they did.

And if you are reading this and feel the understandable desire to distance yourself psychologically from George W Bush, that's a simple task - what does the world look like once the patriarchy is smashed? Once black lives matter? Once the Alt-right are gone for good? Have you thought beyond the popular movement, the smashing of the old regime and thought through the occupation, the reconstruction period?

If you have, then I guess you aren't the coalition of the willing, if you haven't thought that far ahead and thought that once the problems at hand were dealt with it would be smooth sailing from there and Meryl Streep or something can be president, then you too are W baby.

On Male Feminism

With apologies to Norman Rockwell.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas On The Couch

By which I mean the psychologist's couch, not a particularly laid back Christmas which sounds wonderful.

I'm one of those people in the 'Christmas is a day to be survived camp.' Even though my family of origin are good and nice people that I would be happy to spend a day with even in the absence of any relation.

I don't have fond memories of Christmas day from childhood, Christmas day was a good 30 minutes - 1 hour in Childhood where myself and my two siblings would coordinate ourselves to come down stairs and open our presents together. It was exciting and fun and Mum and Dad would look on and perhaps exchange gifts with each other. (I've never thought about it before, but the lie of Santa does help facilitate kids feeling no reciprocity to their parents for all the gifts they can't buy them, and God knows how many kids feel indebted to parents all their lives even with Santa.)

Even though it may sound materialistic, after opening all the presents we would be given our marching orders, having to dress and pile into a car to endure a long and boring car ride from the Rat to Melbourne, where we would have to have Christmas lunch with my mum's side of the family, the semi-standard winter fare roast up that was not a novelty for children of the 80's whose parents could afford protein every day, and hours upon hours of idling and waiting and then a crappy present exchange with the extended family that mostly involved watching for children - and that parts key - my (and dare I say, our) childhood Christmas' were spectator sports, we mostly got to watch my mum's family have their Christmas.

And as if that wasn't enough, relief came in the form of being bundled back into the car and driven to Gippsland for Dad's side of the family. This was inarguably much more fun. My cousin had a better computer than we did and more games we didn't have. My paternal relatives are much more chill and keep it casual, the only real problem was that taking a leisurely stroll is not very pleasant after running a marathon. We were also faced with two unappealling options, not that we were given a choice - stay in Gippsland at Nana's house - which would keep us from getting to play with any of the gifts we'd learned we had. Or drive hours back to Ballarat (I'm not sure if that ever happened). Quite often we'd have a camper in tow, and Christmas day was actually the unrelaxed start to our annual vacation - which was great, and through adulthood has anchored my geographically when the family home was sold and everyone relocated - but nevertheless facilitated depriving us of any lasting joy in Christmas day.

Now there are certainly worse things that can and do happen to people on Christmas, although I can't claim to feel it's truth, I believe isolation would be much worse than an excess of family for company on the day. But upon reflection, Christmas as a child was an emotionally isolating experience, I know to some extent my siblings shared this experience, as we wandered aimlessly through the three open rooms of my Aunt's house, bored out of our fucking minds and cowed by my maternal relations lack of conversation skill in being unable to talk to eachother, that and the fact that the most desirable thing to discuss with my siblings would have been complaints about our immediate circumstances.

It walked that fine line between unpleasant enough to be torture, and so trivial you couldn't address it. There were kids of divorce, kids of abusive parents, kids raised in abject poverty to think about - we were 'the Turkey's a little dry' kids, nobody need get a violin out for us.

I have a pet theory though, that I can't really prove and have an unscientific sample size for. It's this though - the more dysfunctional a family the more in to Christmas the family is. I can furnish a story for why a believe this to be the case. If you have a dysfunctional unhappy home, the social expectations and rituals of Christmas finally unite the family into performing the role of people who care about each other. If father is a resentful callous abuser, it's going to be a huge relief to see him acting the role of great provider, and if mother is a resentful stressed out mess most of the time, then seeing her stress over decorating and preparing a Christmas table is going to be a welcome preoccupation for her.

If your family are chill people who get along with eachother every other day of the year, the stress of Christmas ritual is a deficit to the standard operation, not a relief. Hence I'm happy to say that Christmas is a day I simply hope to survive, because it indicates that the status quo is way better than Christmas itself. In fact, I've had a few 'orphan Christmas' and these are much better than the family gathering, not because of any character flaws of my family of origin, but because Christmas feasting actually can facilitate bringing me closer to people I care about when it's a bbq on a public holiday in a public space with a group of geographically displaced friends who care about each other.

So the dreaded commute has dropped off in adulthood, presents flow in every direction not just from Santa filling a pillowsack with shit I wrote on a list for him. The lunch is at my parents house, and the number of maternal relatives involved has more than halved.

So what has to be endured? Survived? My mother, in my case, and sadly what has washed out in recent years is a paradox that I believe a lot of people find themselves in at this time in this culture, if the comically stressed vibes surrounding my visits to the supermarkets in recent days are anything to go by, I cannot be alone.

The paradox is this, the rituals of the feast-day are all with the intention of showing people you care about them. These rituals have become so costly and stressful that a bunch of families have turned the day into demonstrating how much they care about the ritual.

To put it another way, because I find it helps, imagine if a relative (the one who cares the most) came to you for each of the 5 days leading up to Christmas and said 'yo, I need $20 contribution for your Christmas fund.' and dutifully you hand them $20, each day for 5 days until you've paid up your $100 dues. Then the next day you receive approximately $20 worth of food and gifts.

If you are someone like me, you are not going to be able to ignore that it's fucking stupid for a celebration to cost you more than you get to celebrate. Today as I'm writing this it is not Christmas day, but it like the past 5 days and the next 2 days have been stressful as my mother transforms into a Yuletide version of the Bridezilla phenomena. And while the worst Bridezilla is only going to have 3-4 weddings in a lifetime, Christmas happens every year.

In my personal case, Christmas is and always has been about my mother, and probably to dig a little deeper about her childhood traumas. She's been safe for decades now, but can't realize it in the way most trauma can't recognize safety. Worst of all, I lack the imagination to devise a solution.

She simply cares more, looking back on my childhood Christmasses, why would I care? How could I care? I don't think my mother realizes, but whatever she finds so special about Christmas, I've been left out of all my life. She is somewhat cognizant of this fact, long before we ever brought it up (excluding the honest insightful grizzling and whingeing of children) my parents have expressed regret at how they handled Christmas through our childhood.

But we are not that household that cooks seafood for Christmas, or has a picnic in a public park where kids can play and climb trees, we aren't that family that goes to a restaurant to take the stress out of Christmas and help some backpackers make bank serving tables. We are the classic Australian family that cooks climate inappropriate anglophiliac foods in excessive quantities in a decorated house because it reminds the grandparents of their grandparents nostalgia for the old-country.

Past attempts to wrest Christmas away from my mother's control - like taking over the cooking and minimizing the decorating have received the damning review 'It didn't feel like Christmas' and there is the sticking point for my imagination, 'it didn't feel like Christmas' is a glowing review for someone like me who doesn't enjoy Christmas much, but my mum cares about it a lot.

Leaving one with the only option one ever really has: acceptance. My best recourse is simply to accept that Christmas is always so long as she (or I live) going to be about her, and her childhood. By accepting that you can begin to reject the societal messages of what Christmas claims to be about and experience and expectation can harmonize.

There are people that judge those in the 'Christmas must be survived camp' as Grinches, but to me and in my experience it's generally indicative of quite positive psychology, people that have accepted that Christmas is how the feel about Christmas and not how Christmas is marketed to everyone. Because people fuck it up constantly by caring about the rituals, the decorations and it isn't fare to say they don't care about the participants, they just forget how to care about the participants.

Have a safe Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 07, 2017


Increasingly my experience confirms that you cannot simply tell people information and it will be heard, let alone understood.

This wasn't my own revelation, not a lesson I learned the hard way. I studied marketing, it was handed to me on a platter by Al Ries and Jack Trout, who's book 'Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind' I would still say is better than actually doing a marketing degree, because that's the signal, and the rest of a marketing degree is noise.

But just as the Titans gave birth to the Gods of Olympus and were overtaken by them, it seems Marketing's struggling progenator - Psychology has also caught up, in the form of cognitive distortion and nueroscience even suggests that when confronted with information we don't want to believe blood drains from the parts of our brain necessary to comprehend it.

There's also the question of competence - communication as a process starts with the sender having some meaning in their mind, that they encode into a message (which requires competence) the message is sent to a recipient who has to decode the message into meaning in their own mind, and communication is successful only when there's a shared understanding of meaning.

If you think apple and you say 'shiny fruit that fits that can be carried in one hand' and the person hears this and thinks orange, then the communication has failed. There are fairly boring board games built around this concept.

But yes, there are mundane challenges in the way of anyone being understood ever, like how much knowledge to presume and so forth.

How to be understood is a skill, a process that few people learn and fewer apply. Partly because empiricism is rare, many of us walk around not really confirming whether people understand us, simply that they say what we need them to say.

Consider how many people believe that money doesn't buy happiness, and better yet, have come to understand that money can't buy them happiness?

More than zero, even though its pretty easy to recall a sad story involving a rich person - the current President of the United States is one very public example that disproves the rule.

There's a lot of people that don't want to believe that winning the lottery will in the long run leave them no happier (and probably no richer) than they are now. They don't want to believe it.

Less extremely, how many people want to hear that they are not good at their job?

Now consider the plight of a CEO, no need to break out the sarcastic violin just yet, this plight doesn't involve getting fired for exposing his penis. In fact there's no need to assume she has a penis.

She just wants to not only communicate, but disseminate a message about organisational values to the entire organisation.

In one relative sense, her task is easy as the CEO much easier than trying to disseminate a message through the organisation from the bottom of the hierarchy. She has the current of the river flowing for her.

But consider first that she needs to encode her message so it will be as meaningful to her CFO and to the receptionist on the front desk that greets members of the public.

So the message needs to be meaningful regardless of the spot an individual holds within the organization. So a lot of exposition, clarifying is gone, it is delegated to the decoding process. So she is railroaded into speaking generally.

This CEO has been sitting around thinking about the whole value chain, and reconciling it with the fact that they have 10,000 daily interactions with customers. She's thinking that consumers are far more likely to tell their friends about a negative experience with the company than they are to talk about a positive experience with the organisation and how if just 5% of customer interactions are handled poorly, it could be enough to seriously damage the business.

So she wants to give everyone the message to 'be fucking professional and courteous to customers, even if they are difficult.' but she can't encode the message that way - because she has to be consistent with the very professionalism she is trying to communicate.

So she might say something like 'Here at WidgetCorp we value professionalism, it's important to be professional at all times in every interaction with a customer. Not only the customers we engage with outside our organization but the internal customers between departments. Ultimately it's the customers that provide the money that constitutes our paychecks, and the impression we give them will determine how long we all will stay employed. So think about how you can apply professionalism in your role and especially in your interactions.'

This message is disseminated. Most won't even see it. It'll shoot right over the top of their heads. Some will look at it and perceive no real content. But the CEO makes the reception of this message her hobby horse, she makes sure that the managers that report to her pay attention and draw attention to the message in the weekly team briefings etc.

So let's say she gets 30% of the organization to eventually through around 6 repetitions to hear the message. Now what? Now the message has to contend against other pressures. What if an employees incentives are not aligned with this organizational value of professional conduct.

Firstly, they may be front line staff - they may, have a shitty job. They are not likely to think big picture and thus interpret how they interact with a customer as being something personal to them, rather than of consequence to the organization at large through the aggregate.

So this front line staff may consider their emotional states as roughly equal in consequence to the customers they deal with on a daily basis. It might be hard to understand that the last interaction with a customer should not predispose them towards the next customer (positively or negatively) but should instead have a standard professional disposition because they are performing for the company that employs them.

Higher up, the Manager of the IT department may not want to believe that the people from the sales and the accounts departments are in fact their customers rather than their equal, given that they hold equivalent titles, earn equivalent salaries etc. just the value chain doesn't go that way. IT is there to serve the needs of the other departments. Logistics is there to serve the sales department etc. This may come up against people's egos. They don't want to see themselves as servants but equals.

Throughout the organisation there will be people who don't think of themselves as individuals that have sold their time to the organisation in exchange for an income, but see the organisation as a means to achieving their personal ambitions. They will act in a self serving manner and disregard the performance they actually owe in exchange for their salary, for better or worse.

And some people will just be straight up too stupid to supply the necessary imagination to decode the message into their own conduct.

Others will resent the implication that they are anything less than professional currently and see the message as redundant even though they could improve with applied thought and effort.

In this regard disseminating a message from one to many, is a bit like using a pool cue to hit a pool cue to hit a pool cue to hit a pool cue to sink a ball in a designated pocket. A plausible but improbable undertaking, and at the very least hugely inefficient. I don't hold high hopes that the solution is technological because the hardware we are dealing with is the human brain and the human brain comes with a bunch of built in defense measures for preserving existing beliefs.

This is of course bad news if your belief is that problems can be solved by simply educating people with the facts through a speech or art-piece that goes viral.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

On Progressives

This has proved incredibly hard to write. The most accurate word I can muster to describe the emotional state of writing this - is vexing. I'm vexed.

It comes largely from the nebulous term of 'Progressive' and ultimately I have to conclude that as far as subject is concerned - I quite literally do not know what I'm talking about. I'm also confident, that neither do you.

In writing this, my first stop was wikipedia to just grab a definition of 'Progressive' where I discovered that 'progressivism' isn't a thing, or more accurately, it isn't the thing I'm talking about. And to be honest, despite their being characters like David Pakman and Sam Seder that identify themselves, or their content as 'progressive' I would be hesitant to suggest that 'progressive' is not a pejorative (especially since I first came across the term on 'The Rubin Report') and the urban dictionary definition is clearly pejorative.

At best, perhaps it is simply 'least pejorative' when referring to the same people that are labelled 'Social Justice Warriors' (SJWs) or 'regressive-left' and I'd be completely open to an explanation that all this terminology is part of a liberal identity crisis.

It's possible that anybody who is more, shall we say, exuberantly left of you becomes 'one of those people' and anyone less exuberant or more skeptical than you becomes a 'closet right-winger' or something.

Anyway, I wanted to write this because I'm fucking curious. And I'm specifically curious as to what is going on emotionally with the kind of people, that behave in the kind of way, that might have them, or me, describe them as progressive.

So I could fuck around all day with exposition and attempting to define something with no authority but personal opinion. What I discovered upon digging though, is that 'Progressives' are really just people, reactive people rather than people in possession of a specific or explicit ideology.

But let's dig.


The first important emotion to consider is 'confidence' and the linked wikipedia page gives a pretty good definition of how we tend to employ confidence in everyday speech and how we think about the emotion. The etymology of 'confidence' is a derivation of 'confidere' the latin verb 'to trust' and from that we can understand confidence in other contexts like 'I told you that in confidence' or 'I was scammed by a con-man' (even though you may not realize that 'con' is an abreviation of confidence).

The important thing about trust is that something or someone is being trusted. I don't want to go down the rabbit-hole of trusting something whether it be a rope ladder or a bridge, or whether it is a process whereby we obtain knowledge like empiricism, skepticism, the socratic method etc. I'm not qualified or motivated enough to look at the nuances of epistemology.

When we are confident because we are trusting someone it's a different matter though, and this is a very human characteristic. As a simple example where you and I probably agree is that climate change is a real phenomena caused by human activity. Something else we probably have in common is that left with no devices to refer to, there's only so far we could explain the phenomena of climate change to a stranger. For me that threshold is reached by the time I'd have to explain why carbon particles being more massive and retaining more heat would remain in the atmosphere instead of filtering down through the less massive gases back to the surface, and also the properties of methane emitted by cattle that make it a concerning greenhouse gas.

Hitting that threshold though, I could pull on a thread and find someone trustworthy that is the basis for my confidence that climate change is real. Figures like Al Gore, Bill Nye, Noam Chomsky none of whom are themselves climate scientists, but even so you can pull that thread and with internet access you can find institutions, papers, government agencies, private research firms etc. to trust in. You can find whole disciplines of science to defer to - experts. Meteorologists, chemists, physicists, actuaries, statisticians etc. You can defer to.

So here was my question. Who are the progressive public intellectuals? Who do progressives trust? What institutions are driving progressive thought?

When I got curious as to these questions, I assumed, I guess you'd say stereotyped it into being an easy ask. I made two assumptions 1) I was ignorant of the progressive thought leaders. 2) tertiary education correlates with liberal preferences and therefore liberals tend to recognize experts aka defer.

By comparison who are the 'alt-right' deferring to? It's easy - Alex Jones, Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopolos, Ben Shapiro etc. It's real fucking easy to point to where the Alt-right are getting their fucking crazy ideas from.

Now I presumed that progressives would also require a greater standard of expertise, dignity and decorum for their trustees than the alt-right do. I presumed that I would not need much search skills to find out where progressive ideas are coming from.

It's almost impossible to find someone reputable, working for a reputable institution or organisation speaking for a publication with any shred or modicum of quality control in place to advocate an idea like race is a social construction. Or someone to coherently walk an audience through why trigger warnings and safe spaces are appropriate ways to address mental health issues like chronic anxiety or trauma.

And mental health issues/advocacy is low hanging fruit to demonstrate how conspicuously absent the trusted experts are behind progressive behavior. Because mental health is a serious issue and should be dignified with serious treatment. 'Trauma' means something, it requires clinical diagnosis, because it has serious treatment outcomes.

As somebody who holds a degree in economics and finance aka 'a certified fool' I know it is okay to hold opinions that run against the consensus of a social science. It's okay to be critical of an orthodoxy. But the thing is, if I hit my explanatory threshold as to why I reject Neo-classical economic dogma, it's easy for me to point to economics professors who have substantiated their criticisms: Mark Blyth, Robert Schiller, Yanis Varoufakis, Richard Thaler. I can point to finance critics like Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Warren Buffet, Peter Schiff or outsider critics like Noam Chomsky a linguist and David Graeber an anthropologist.

These public intellectuals not only have expertise but they get to speak on platforms such as TED, Big Think, Talks @ Google etc. They do keynote speeches at universities and so forth. They leave big obvious foodprints for me to follow and thus derive my confidence.

If you are going to adopt tactics that go against psychology, that's fine. But I would expect you to be able to point to charismatic, coherant, articulate public intellectuals that can walk out on the stage at TED and advocate why people are blank slates formed purely by their social environment that is constructed by conscious agents and society is as it is for non-arbitrary reasons.

I can't. It's exceedingly difficult, with some exceptions. If you take a basic transferable skill known in the business as 'search skills' I should be able to find someone who can justify a concept like campus safe-spaces, trigger warnings, microaggressions, privilege (in any of it's variants), male-fragility, the patriarchy, intersectionality etc.

The few exceptions are Kimberle Crenshaw who appears to have originated 'Intersectionality' as a concept, and Ta-Nahesi Coates who speaks eloquently on race as a social construct. There's also plenty of Feminist public intellectuals running a large gamut, from Camille Paglia through to Andrea Dworkin.

Which is the second aspect of confidence, which is the assumption that the confident people know who they have confidence in. So Crenshaw articulates in a TED talk a quite compelling argument about intersectionality that addresses almost a difficult logic puzzle of acknowledging discrimination that happens at the intersection of two discriminated groups. But even so, this is limited in terms of Crenshaw's ability to provide a rationale for disregarding psychology - marketing even...

It's difficult to not dig into the side tracks to try and illustrate the lack of deference, but at best I've found a few people, far less than you'd think who are very good at describing problems that progressives and broader liberals alike are concerned with. It has thus far been impossible to find someone who can justify the solutions that are adopted and thus characterize progressives in terms of attacking feminist initiatives for not being intersectional, utilizing trigger warnings, diagnosing psychiatric conditions, advocating safe spaces, vandalizing confederate statues or punching nazis.

Thus the conclusion I came to was via what I feel is the most useful analogy. People by and large are economically illiterate. Thus we tend to defer when it comes to investment decisions. But what you can freely observe anywhere is that people from all walks of life can defer vast sums of money - the majority of their personal net worth to investment in property. And who do they defer to?

Their parents, their friends, mortgage broker ads, reality shows about renovation and property flipping, bank aps, real-estate industry funded advertorials, real estate agents, gossip and hearsay. Even though we have, and have never had more access to accountants, financial planners, economists, fund managers, professional investors etc. Experts exist and have legal obligations to provide best-advice to people, but they don't they simply trust in often the people who are immediately around them. I am confident in saying that the majority of investment behavior is just herd mentality.

Another way of saying it is, that people have confidence not in people that have a superior understanding or superior reason for being confident than them, but they have confidence in people who are just like them. They look across not up.

The worrying thing is though, articulated by Nietzsche 'The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think different.'

Confidence II

Which won't be as long. In fact it's really just two quotes. Something I am extremely confident in is that the more secure your belief is, the more willing you should be to have to defend it. Which is to say, a willingness to engage with dissenting views. If you have any confidence in your beliefs, then the concept of a 'dangerous viewpoint' shouldn't exist. If you can defend your beliefs against it, then what of it? If you can't then you have an obligation to adopt the superior belief until you can defend the previously held one.

So I'm reminded of Mark Twain's 'The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.' is something to endeavor to keep in mind, I find progressives dismissive - quick to label a dissenter as a member of the outgroup, or even to dismiss whole areas of science - like biology or evolutionary psychology. But if you can, be like Twain and suspect yourself whenever you feel the compulsion to dismiss someone.

It also alludes to something greater as regards the easy confidence with which a progressive may act - they have an onus to refute psychology if they want to advocate trigger warnings, or call people out for microaggressions, or ask for service workers to train themselves into gender neutral speech. You have an onus to justify moving the limits of individual rights from where one person's end where another person's begin etc.

This is the big question as to the confidence of progressives - as hard as it is to find reputable experts to articulate the rationale of any specific progressive meme, it is quite easy to find reputable articulate experts that provide compelling and coherent critiques of much of what progressives advocate. Ben Franklin expressed a similar phenomena that reminds me of my experience researching progressive ideas "Some Books against Deism fell into my Hands; they were said to be the Substance of Sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an Effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them: For the Arguments of the Deists which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much Stronger than the Refutations. In short I soon became a thorough Deist."

This interview for example, is a pretty comprehensive coherent explanation of the phenomena of progressivism although they use the language of 'Campus Culture' mostly as Jonathon Haidt was one of the earliest critics. However if you aren't suspect that your own religion isn't folly, then you should be able to sit through it and easily dismiss what they discuss and the sources they sight.


Not so much an emotion but an intuition, but dualism is an intuition we can get emotionally invested in. It's basically the mind-body dichotomy. For the record, I do not believe in dualism.

And for me, it isn't even that I defer to philosophers or nueroscientists. I can do the necessary experimentation myself to determine that my mind and body are very interlinked. I get a filling in my tooth at the dentist then ride through traffic home as the anesthetic wears off and I notice I am far more acrimonious towards the drivers than I normally am.

I try to cut pizza out of my diet and find myself caving after 1 day and rationalizing why it's a bad time to cut my diet and tomorrow would be better. I find someone attractive and discover I am suddenly tolerating different viewpoints that I have previously been scathingly critical of. (One of the best aspects of falling in love.)

My physiology has a huge impact on the shape of my thoughts. Thus as regards addictions and what not, it is by now virtually impossible for me to cede that we can simply think ourselves into new ways of being.

Thus as nebulous and unofficial as it is, I feel the handle 'progressive' is non-arbitrary and quite descriptive. It describes people that possess the intuition that you present them with an updated belief - for example, a new attitude towards transgender individuals, and they will simply become open tolerant people because that is how the mind works.

Unfortunately, it isn't how the mind works. The mind works through 'belief perseverance' and 'confirmation bias'.

And this is purely speculation but in my experience progressives really want to believe that we are who we think we are. And therein I can go no further because it gets into postmodernist philosophy which I - like most progressives do not understand, but like Ben Franklin, I find the critics of postmodernism far more compelling than the arguments of postmodernism. Whether it be someone as distasteful to progressives as Jordan Peterson, or Camille Paglia or an activist as beloved as Noam Chomsky you should be able to substantiate rebuttals not just to these people, but what psychologists and nueroscientists can demonstrate repeatedly in the lab, whether it be experiments in embodied cognition, enclothed cognition etc.


Feeding straight out of dualism, we come across egalitarianism. And this seems to be the thing that divides people within the spectrum of being liberal or left. It seems to be where one stands between notions of equality like 'equal opportunity' and notions of equality like 'everyone is equal'.

I believe progressives are much closer to the latter notion of equality. And this is problematic, particularly for progressives, because without distinctions between individuals, particularly in concepts like merit - you cannot have quality control.

So in part that explains the issues of confidence, there's no deference to authority because everyone is equally an authority. It also explains the complete absence of delegation among progressives and within progressive campaigns.

Emotionally there seems to be a great investment in the notion of a 'popular movement'. People power etc. I suspect that may be where critics of progressives infer the influence of Marx - because the lack of delegation isn't democratic. Democracy is a system whereby the people delegate somebody to serve as their leader - thus ideally we are meant to elect people more capable than ourselves of representing our interests, in the same way as you might employ a defense attorney to represent you in court. If you are a progressive, confronted with a alt-right troll, and you had the option of tagging-in Barack Obama to argue with them on your behalf, would you tag him in? If yes, that's democracy at work. If 'no' you believe in popular movements.

Popular movements are to me problematic though, for example I found upon first exposure this video to be actually distressing to watch. It's been criticized enough, trolled more than enough, that I would find anyone hard pressed to suggest that it helped the cause more than it set it backwards.

And the trouble is, when you have campaigns for social justice that are completely decentralized and anyone on their own initiative has equal opportunity to represent your cause, I tend to observe quite visceral human behavior one that doesn't promise a brighter tomorrow filled with 'due process' and 'rule of law' and that respects 'onus of proof' and has protections against 'the tyranny of the majority'.

This short video of toppling a confederate statue by protesters captures what I'm talking about. It's obviously nothing compared to a neo-nazi driving a car into protesters and murdering a person, but all the spitting and kicking of the statue when it's down is a far cry from Ulysses S Grant's shushing of the Union army band and remarking "The war is over, the rebels are our countrymen again."

For me, emotionally it is hard to believe I'm on the winning side when my allies show no decorum and do not extend the concept of human dignity even to themselves. This is the general pitfall of popular movements and looking at history it's hard to find examples of egalitarian movements overcoming opponents that exert some level of quality control as to who gets to be in the front lines.

Another piece of Nietzsche that is worth baring in mind is "The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments." you take out the 'deliberately' and you essentially have egalitarian popular movements, where the only qualification to represent the cause, to speak for the cause is that you are on it's side - loyalty to the ingroup. After that it doesn't matter as to questions of your temperament, your verbal abilities, your intelligence, your comprehension of your own avowed ideology. It is simply enough that you are a member of the same team.

Much as we don't want to believe it, xenophobia, fear of 'outsiders' or 'outgroups' is a very human intuition, it takes personal discipline to compensate for that, and egalitarianism is no exception. Which brings me too...

Double Standards

Ta-Nehisi Coates articulated this really good point talking about 'We Were 8 Years In Power' that upon hearing it seems self-evident. Which is to say, the current Republican party obsession, and President's obsession with reversing every decision of Barrack Obama's administration is driven not by a belief that he was a bad president, but by a fear that he is a good one.

I basically agree with Coates, and I view him through the context of being one of the racists he criticizes. But I also agree with commentaries like Yanis Varoufakis about Obama's missed opportunity to penalize wall street rather than bailing them out that helped Trump's campaign. But even then, Coates concedes that not all Trump voters are necessarily racists, but the fact of Trump being a racist and white supremacist was not disqualifying does need answering for.

But most relevantly is the observation that a black President has to basically be perfect, where a white president can be pretty much as flawed and reprehensible a human being imaginable has an interesting implication. Which is to say, if you want the best candidate - vote for the one who is held to the highest standard.

It's almost a stoic philosophy, of utilizing hardship to temper yourself into a stronger person. But do progressives embrace stoic philosophy?

No. Advocating trigger warnings, campaigning against microaggressions (or punishing them), advocating or demanding safe-spaces flies in the face of stoicism, not just psychology.

But even then, there's another abandoning of the double standards, which is that there are no 'rules of engagement' progressives engage in, for those that identify as 'progressive' they do not appear to hold themselves to higher standards than their sworn enemies the alt-right.

Take for example two of the few people that actually identify themselves and their content as 'progressive' David Pakman and Sam Sedar. When first introduced to David Pakman I commented on how similar he was to Alex Jones. Of course the similarities I see are there, but obviously not in the content of their ideologies.

But both basically are white men, that sit behind the affectations of a professional news studio, both wear suits and watches and both promote sponsors while neither are held to any kind of journalistic standards.

Credit where credit is due, David Pakman obviously possesses a lot more dignity than Alex Jones, and as a host he has some impressive qualities - for example he tends to demonstrate as an interviewer a quite hospitable and dignified demeanor. He also extends the principle of charity, where he tries to summarise the views of his guests and obtain their confirmation that their views are fairly represented.

That's nice. But then he posts videos like this that he himself is for some reason personally proud of, when he does a lead in. To me it is a weak interview, where instead of questioning the validity of the strategy of burning Korans to achieve his avowed aims. Instead he drives at trying to get the guy to expose himself as a racist red neck, and the interview subject winds up coming across as someone who believes the dogma of his own religion. Thus unbelievably, Pakman somehow manages to take a person burning Koran's to send a message to Islam and conduct an interview that makes him look like a man with the courage of his convictions. A feat in and of itself.

Furthermore, the video is titled 'Koran Burner interview goes bad quickly.' which would be accurate insofar as describing Pakman missing the window to truly reveal something reprehensible about his subject, but promotes it as far more dramatic than it is. This is a theme with Pakman videos in terms of his marketing strategy - video titles like '#GamerGate: Brianna Wu Accuses Interviewer of 'Hit Piece' Attack' and 'Pastor David Manning Admits to Gay Impulses, Claims Gay Semen in Starbucks Coffee' that not only sensationalize the content of the actual interviews to the point of being misleading, but are straight out of the propaganda play book.

And if you take the David Pakman Show and lower the journalistic standards a 1000% you get the Majority Report with Sam Sedar. I would trust most people to have an immediate visceral response to the Majority Report that tells them they are watching something bad, try it, if you dare. The smarm, the condescension, the clique laughing in the background. Even when fundamentally I agree with the ostensible stance of the segment, I'm not sure how someone could be so dedicated to being so unlikeable.

The quality control is so low that the channel has segments like this that it releases for general consumption. Billed as 'Trump Forces Japanese Prime Minister To Hold His Stupid Hats.' it's propaganda that wouldn't even get by the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's 1984. The emotive language, the innacuracy ... it's just irredeemably bad content given that the hats were provided by Japan, whom are most concerned about getting rid of North Korea, are brazenly pandering to president Trump and if anything is true, it's that Japanese prime minister forces Trump to hold stupid hats through excessive pandering.

It's just fucking juvenile and emotionally indistinguishable from the worst of the alt-right commentators. An In-group circle jerk of a program that appears to be dedicated to reassuring themselves that they are right and everyone else are idiots.

The thing is, there's no progressive leaders or authorities that could ever say 'you guys (you white college educated guys) are harming more than you are helping, we need you to lift your game and quit this sensational smarmy bullshit.' because there is no deference to any authorities. The internet isn't regulated like television media.

Australia has a publicly funded broadcast channel that has a program called 'Mediawatch' that is tasked with holding journalists to journalistic standards. And yes, newsprint, radio and free-to-air television is still more influential in Australian politics than Youtube amatuers, but Mediawatch wouldn't know where to begin with Pakman or Seder, and they pump out more content than can be scrutinized to any degree.

If the self-identified 'progressive' podcasts aren't open to reasonable debate, don't fairly represent their own content we can at least conclude there is no double standard in terms of Alex Jones and Sam Seder. They are just two white men who disagree about which side they are on.

If you do want to hear progressive content from a white male behind a desk, there's Jon Oliver, Steven Colbert and Seth Myers who don't pretend to be legitimate news anchors, have research teams, are scrutinized and held to standards and don't resort to brazen marketing propaganda.

There's no deference to Ghandi in terms of 'be the change' it appears that living up to a higher standard than your oppressors, or the patriarchy, or right wingers is not necessary and there's no market forces in operation to make these guys lift their game.

These two guys may be poor examples of journalists, and prominent examples of progressives, but even so without busting out the Machiavelli pamphlet 'The Prince' there's kind of a thing where by the time you are denouncing your friends for committing 'thought crimes' like questioning whether gender is independent of biological sex, or preventing conservative speakers from setting foot on a campus, or circumventing local government to demolish statues on your own authority you've ceded any chance to claim moral superiority.

You've probably only made it this far because it never occurs to right-wing thinkers to imitate Gandhi's successful civil disobedience campaign, or Martin Luther King Jr's civil rights campaign.

Malcolm Gladwell outlines a quite beguiling theory as to why the discipline and standards aren't being enforced by anyone in this talk (the full version must exist somewhere).

The Narcissism of Small Differences

Did you know that your political leaning can be determined using psychometrics? Below is mine, the green bars representing how I value each of the 'moral value circuits' and from it you can see that I am more right than most left people, but much more left than I am most right people, and I'm off the chart left when it comes to how little I care about purity.

The narcissism of small differences is a Freudian idea, and therefore probably contentious. But I observe it enough in all kinds of domains the most obvious being that sport fans will dislike supporters of another team more than they dislike people who are not a fan of the sport at all. I am told but can't validate that Vegans will argue more aggressively with Vegetarians than they do with omnivores, and that Bisexuals get a harder time from the gay community than straight people like me would assume.

But what I notice is that much of the criticism of the progressives actually comes from liberal people. This point though is lost on most progressives, particularly since it seems to be characterized by a fierce need to conform to orthodoxy. (But that stuff is addressed in the Peterson-Haidt interview).

It puts me in mind of a George Carlin bit which wound up describing a kind of psychological truism. 'Have you ever noticed when you're driving that anybody going faster than you is a maniac and anybody going slower than you doesn't know what they are doing.' And when you think about that we have to believe it's the case to arrive at our subjective equilibrium.

Thus the proliferation of undefined terminology - including progressives and feminists, where the definition is highly subjective over a large segmentation means that people who actually identify as being for the same noble ideals are perfectly capable of being identified by others as having the complete opposite ideals. There's a corresponding decay of language into near meaninglessness - eg. calling someone who asks a person of Asian ethnicity 'where are you from?' a racist takes the teeth out of being labelled a racist if a middle aged white woman driving an airport-hotel shuttle bus is labelled with the exact same label as a tiki-torch brandishing white man marching in Charlottsville chanting that the Jews will not take over.

It's concerning to me that a false dichotomy might emerge between people who believe that identity politics are the most pressing and immediate concern of our times believe that other people who are concerned about preserving the social safety net, addressing environmental issues and regulating markets are right-wing. There's a lot of space between using another person's non-preferred personal pro-noun as a hate crime and believing in a white-nativist movement that should deport all immigrants.

Scared of Own Shadow

I originally forgot to actually write this in, but I feel it is for me the most compelling piece of speculation I have done.

There's this concept originating from Carl Jung called 'Integration' which loosely describes the process whereby we accept our own 'shadow' which he described roughly as the 'suppressed or disowned qualities of the conscious self.' Another psychologist Carl Rogers had a much nicer way of putting a similar concept that he called 'Incongruity' which is the gap between our ideal-self and our perceived self.

Carl Roger's humanist psychology is much softer and nicer and the ideal of achieving greater levels of congruence kind of has an appealing feel to it. But incongruity can turn ugly when the gap isn't so much between someone's ideal-self and perceived-self, as it is between the self-perception and other people's perception. That kind of disparity produces the reality show auditions where a talentless individual turns hostile upon being told they have no talent.

I suspect though, that Jung's shadow archetype and options of denial, projection, integration and/or transmutation as unscientific as that sounds are more descriptive of the political climate particularly online.

People are really reluctant to identify themselves as racist, or sexist, or parochial. There's a big aspect of social desirability at play. And in Jung's model, what happens is in denying your own shadow side you can wind up projecting it onto others - which explains the dilution of terms like racist, and rape and so fourth. And perhaps more disconcertingly, blinding yourself to your own behavior, so that you don't notice when you've given the word 'mob' a bad name or that you and your friends have started acting like totalitarians, or that you are holding unsanctioned kangaroo court trials of members of your social group and inflicting economic damages on them.

It's probably all to psychoanalytical for most to swallow, but it isn't unprecedented. Like the high correlation between anti-gay activists that are eventually exposed as having same sex-extra marital affairs, or the studies of campus drinking cultures that find that the majority actually doesn't approve of the binge drinking culture and that some of the least enthusiastic wind up being the biggest enforces.

It also helps to explain why so many progressives engage in so little critical thinking, and do not engage or quickly disparage it's critics. Even the more reputable and coherent ones.

There is very similar behavior to the philosopher's Galileo wrote to Kepler about in 1610, whom refused to even look through his telescope to observe the planets for themselves. It was not out of concern for their ocular health, but a fear that their notions of the world might be disproved.

I have in my time come across people who are very emotionally opposed to permitting 'The Stanford Experiment' any of its conclusions. As near as I could discern, to suggest that environments could shape people into immoral agents is too confronting to their world view.

So too is an idea, very much akin to a belief in the mind as being this infinitely changeable entity distinct from the body, that someone can somehow both have an identity but no in-group preference. Such that only patriarchs choose to oppress other people, and everyone else is free to choose to make no distinction between themselves and anyone else on any grounds.

These are hard things to face, and I can only testify as to my own opinions, that processes like integration or achieving congruity either require a strong sense of self, or provide a strong sense of self. My own journey was accidental, I got obsessed with being honest in line with my obsession with Abe Lincoln. Thus I had to start identifying as a non-feminist, and a racist and so forth. I can report that indeed these concepts are so devalued that the bear no social cost that I've been able to perceive.

But there is a definite cost to fleeing your own personal shortcomings. No Villian ever believes themselves to be the bad guy. So perhaps exercising a little skepticism into your own virtuous character is a good place to start.


Because I'm so fucking tired. Here it is. Liberals are generally characterised by certain axiomatic assumptions that are simple and straight-forward: racism is bad, tolerance is good, equality for all, justice for all etc.

The details of 'how' are lacking, and then we get this generation of young people who are peer-oriented rather than adult-oriented and have grown up with smart phones and social media.

So some of them grew up to study contentious social sciences and for some it may have been economics courses that never made clear they were neo-classical economics and thus of a specific ideology (which was my experience) and for others they studied gender studies or the arts and were never informed of the postmodern influence and nothing in their upbringing or media consumption had them in the habit of questioning the information they were given to see if it was even contentious.

So progressives really are just members of the demographics that tend to take their information and social cues from social media that are not regulated like regular media and they are just a bunch of people with no real ideology that adopted a bunch of memes whether it's trigger warnings or micro-aggressions, or intersectionality, or rape culture, or universal basic income, or the AI singularity or whatever. The only thing it had to get past in terms of a filter were those broad liberal principles so so long as they kind of fit with not being racist and being more equal then they are adopted because everyone else is doing it.

And you wind up meeting people that believe a bunch of things as if they walked with a plate past an idea buffet and just loaded it up, and others look at it and say things like 'how do you square being feminist with denouncing critics of Islam as Islamaphobic?' and if you have no coherent ideology you can point to or defer to you simply denounce them as well, because that's what goes down on social media.

Which is a highly speculative and fairly inconclusive conclusion.

Real Conclusion

If you want to change this world for the better, do some fucking research and make sure you understand what you are doing before you do it, because researching a social phenomena that arises from people doing no research is fucking nightmare.