Never, Ever, Ever Debate Anyone, Ever.

Our favorite litterbox-liner, the New York Times, must be run by some of the smartest, unbiased, even-tempered, and totally not insularly-clueless people in our great nation.  With Thanksgiving in mind—that glorious time of year the whole family gets together to have a good home-cooked meal—they released an interactive quiz-guide on how to deal with that weird, red-hat wearing, conservative uncle that’s ostracized himself from the rest of the family because he’s just too rough around the edges.

See for yourself.

This turned into a slightly longer post than I had intended, but the audaciousness of its writer needs a decent expansion in order to fully enjoy.

Take its little interactive test a couple different times and play around with both Uncle Conservabot as well as Uncle Libbot.  As always, the nature of the quiz and its answers reveals a lot more about the people who designed it than it did about the people it’s supposedly tempering you for.

Let’s take Uncle Conservabot first.  For the purposes of simplicity, we’ll call him Uncle Ted.  Uncle Ted’s a firebrand #MAGA Trump supporter, eagerly waiting for any opportunity to slander Hillary Clinton and proclaim the greatness of Donald Trump’s administration—a character that, clearly, all of us probably know in real life.  Except, apparently, me, or anyone that I know.  In fact, Uncle Ted seems more like something out of a poorly-thought out political cartoon (but I repeat myself) than a character in any way pertaining to someone that might exist outside of the imaginations of liberals.

Our friends at the NYT have a very simple, foolproof, and clearly enlightened method of dealing with Uncle Ted’s rampant political extremism: pointed and direct questions about his personal life, and in particular, his lousy finances and how the economy has left him destitute.  But uh, hey there… what’s her name, Dr. Karin (with an “I”) Tamerius, founder of SMART POLITICS and a FORMER PSYCHOLOGIST, what if our buddy Uncle Ted isn’t having significant financial troubles and isn’t as easy to distract with personal questions as you make him out to be?

The founder of Smart Politics made this quiz.  Shit man, I didn’t realize I was dealing with a professional.  Smart Politics.  Just saying it loud makes you feel like your IQ has increased a few points.

Okay, well, we get the gist of Uncle Ted.  The solution when dealing with a mad Trump supporter is to 1) expect them to be financially insecure, like most of America is, 2) commiserate about the economy, and 3) avoid talking about politics or engaging in any sort of debate.

So let’s look at his equally robotic liberal counterpart, Uncle Greg, from the perspective of a conservative nephew.  Right out the gate, Uncle Greg is convinced—unprompted—that Medicare for all is an unalienable right.  Like the atheist at the table, the implied “DEBATE ME” imperative goes unsaid.  This is where the quiz gets amusing.

Predictably, the line of questioning goes more or less the same: completely passive questions, noncommittal responses, and a distinct unwillingness to engage in any particular form of debate.  Amusingly, however, the entire form of the conversation is different.  The guide asks us to humor Uncle Greg, and listen to him make poorly thought-out remarks about universal healthcare, and we aren’t even given the option to ask about Uncle Greg himself.  So I guess the initial takeaway here is to ask Trump supporters personal questions but to humor liberal relatives when they’re speaking nonsense.

And it gets better.  When selecting a particular wrongthink response to Uncle Greg’s position on healthcare, our helpful big-brained founder of Smart Politics gives us this helpful tip:

Rebuttals reinforce the sense that you are on opposite teams. If you want people to listen to what you have to say, create an alliance by finding something to agree on before sharing your perspective.

Don’t engage!  Abort, abort! Pull up!

All of Dr. Karin’s helpful tips are oriented around the same socially frail method of interaction.  “Do X to SHOW the other person that you understand!”  “Do Y to make the other person FEEL SAFE!”  The whole point of a piece like this is to enforce this idea that all dialogue must be conducted as though everyone is standing on eggshells.  Mindfulness of words is one thing; hypersensitivity to disagreement is something else entirely.  After all, you might find out what their opinions are!  You might start to learn about who they are!  You might even end up unable to generalize them into some kind of stereotype!

At the end of each segment we reach this doctor’s conclusive method of talking across the aisle:

1. Ask open-ended, genuinely curious, nonjudgmental questions.
2. Listen to what people you disagree with say and deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.
3.
Reflect back their perspective by summarizing their answers and noting underlying emotions.
4.
Agree before disagreeing by naming ways in which you agree with their point of view.
5.
Share your perspective by telling a story about a personal experience.

Remember being in grade school and having large, brightly-colored posters on the wall about how to follow rules or how to write a paragraph?  This is what that is—it’s even worded the same way—but the difference is that it’s targeted at people older than seven.  You shouldn’t feel informed by reading this.  You should feel patronized and condescended.  The NYT really does believe you’re dumber than a seven-year-old.

But the real diamond in the rough is after this.  I have to quote it directly because if I didn’t, no one would believe that the staff of the NYT, to say nothing of the FOUNDER of SMART POLITICS, would be so bold as to make this admission:

People cannot communicate effectively about politics when they feel threatened. Direct attacks – whether in the form of logical argument, evidence, or name-calling – trigger the sympathetic nervous system, limiting our capacity for reason, empathy, and self-reflection.

That’s right, folks.  Logical argumentation and evidence limit our capacity for reason and self-reflection.  Reasonable debate is a form of personal attack.  Rebuttals, counter-evidential claims, and arguments from rationality are all bullying tactics that just make people feel really gosh-darn sad!

This says a lot more about the writer of the article than it does about anything contained with in it.  Debates trigger the sympathetic nervous system?  Evidence of a claim puts you on the defensive and limits your ability to assess your own perspective?  Maybe if you’re functionally retarded–or, apparently, an ex-psychologist and the FOUNDER of SMART POLITICS.  No wonder she’s an ex-psychologist.

Who is offended by a sound argument?  Who fears being proven wrong, except those that might have something to lose?

Who fears the truth?

Well, I think we know the answer to that one, at least.

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What is Modernity?

I’ll be writing a shorter piece for The Nightly Grind on the topic of Pope Pious X’s encyclical next week, for any of you who are interested. Keep on keeping on!

qnuw

I’ve written a bit about modernity over the past couple of years, and in fact, I think the entire QNUW project at this point could be defined as a reaction against it.  But the concept is a tricky one, because it’s a term for the very air we breathe in contemporary society.  And it’s not something as simplistically defined as “the present day” or even “the present operation of things,” since those would imply that modernity is a definition related to a period of time rather than a term that applies to specific systems of ideologies.

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Don’t Eat the Rich—They Taste Bad!

Imagine writing something like this.

Here it is: adhere to a narrative.  Screw the rich—they’re bad people, they’re sad people, they’re pathetic and impotent and whatever.  Maybe the writer is correct!  They probably are sad or pathetic or impotent.  The modern world demands that wealth comes with sacrifices most of us aren’t willing to put up with: horrendous work weeks, miserable jobs, awful clients, and, of course, nepotism that most of us simply don’t have access to.  Plenty of skill and intellect go into it, at least at first, but beyond that, it’s up to your contacts after a certain point.

But these people aren’t the super-rich.  Are they the one percent?  Maybe, but numbers mean little in a world run by a technocratic elite.  But having an outside service come in and clean your home while you’re at work as a doctor, or on a meaningless date at some random bar?  No, the super-rich don’t work that way.  The people whose opinions actually matter, who really run things—they don’t just let some random maid in to clean their home office.  They also don’t go to random bars in town that, apparently, some random maid can afford to meet her own date at.

On that note, I’ll take “Things That Never Happened For $400, Alex.”  The writer had me going—I did start to think she was being truthful—up until she described being at some bar and casually spotting some madam of the house that she cleaned before.  That sort of thing simply doesn’t happen.  The super-rich don’t even look at such bars, and the rich-enough generally don’t go to them—particularly when they’re on a date with a person they’re already involved with.

So what’s the point of an article like this?  For context, I found it recommended to me by my browser upon startup.  That recommended feed just grabs stuff off the internet based on parameters I neither set nor influence, given that it’s always recommending me articles from sites I never browse based on topics I never search.  So this was clearly something that was “recommended” in order to steer me towards it in the first place.

Articles like this attempt to steer the narrative.  “Don’t wish that you’re rich,” it’s saying.  “Look forward to being poor.”  “Rich people are all unhappy losers.”  “Rich people don’t pay attention to anyone but themselves.”  Rich people!  It’s sort of a you-know-it-when-you-see-it thing, I guess.

You know that’s what the message is because the piece is purely anecdote and rhetoric, written in scenes and spiced with statements about the author’s feelings and reflections.  It’s a self-indulgent exploration into the writer’s own sense of self-importance.  “Look at what these rich people are like based on the garbage I had to pick up at their houses!”  Judge a man by the garbage he leaves behind and you’ll only ever have a negative opinion of them.  If I remember right, the adage goes “by their fruits ye shall know them,” not “by their refuse.”

But that’s how it goes.  That’s what counts as publishable and worthy of recommendation.  Thanks.

The Midterms Weren’t Bad!

All things considered, the election turned out pretty swell!  Despite the liberal news & entertainment complex’s decree that Trump and his party would suffer during the midterms, the opposite seems to have transpired.  Now yeah, we have to admit, the GOP could have swept the house and turned the Blue Wave into a Red Tide, but we’ll take what we can get.

And what we got, it turns out, wasn’t bad at all.  The House is still divided to a point of near-gridlock, though it now has a Democratic majority and that joke of a politician, Nancy Pelosi, who famously had Obamacare pushed through congress with the words “We have to pass it in order to find out what’s in it,” is back in her clown chair at the head of it all.  Meanwhile, the GOP made history by losing their majority in the House but gaining several seats in the Senate, where most of the legislative power is held.

It turns out that many if not most of the GOP seats lost in the House were those moderates who tended, more often than not, to be thorns in the side of the Trump agenda.  Such seats deserve to be lost in an embittered political landscape that has polarized beyond hope of any immediate solution.  Republicans equipped to debate the nuances of the free market, or those who seem to still think that Democratic voters can be convinced with rhetorical arguments of Reagan, are of no use today.

The lessons from Tuesday should be the same lessons from 2016, albeit perhaps more in the vein of verification rather than discovery.  The important take-away is that the voting blocks of the United States are divided across ethnic lines.  This is not up for dispute.  Falling back on a liberal point of view and simply expecting the entire voting base of the country to respect each other’s wishes as free thinking, autonomous individuals is as blind as it is cowardly in today’s political field.  It is now no longer feasible to call “well-meaning but deluded” any republican politician running on a platform of classical liberal values; attempts to do so, when confronted with the obvious reality of the opposition’s race-fueled platform, is intentional suicide.

Worse, the GOP has no hope of capturing those Democratic voters invested in their ethnos.  Between the entrenchment of the propaganda system at the top of American life and the fierce in-group ethnic dedication among these voting blocks, the GOP’s only hope is to rest its laurels on white America.  The problem is that white America has only a few short years left as a national identity.

The second lesson: radicalism is the way forward.  Not violence, although the country’s accelerating slip toward balkanization should be clear to those paying attention.  Rather, ideological radicalism; the two sides of this political argument are well past the point of listening to one another.  Around dinner tables, fortunately, there still exists some semblance of political sanity—at least for now.  But at the federal level, and at the national level of media and entertainment, neither side can afford to paint the other as worthy of the same respect due to a neighbor.

The GOP has to play to win and play to keep.  Trump understands this.  If there is any hope of curbing the takeover of the country by the Democratic party, it’s to breakdown on immigration and start taking aim at the media giants and monopolies—tech valley, I think, will soon be under scrutiny for this reason.  If this sounds partisan, just sit back and remember a few things: major Democratic leaders slandered Kavanaugh during his hearings and propped up a liar purely to suit their political agenda; Democratic leaders like Maxine Waters have called for public hounding—arguably violence—against Republican congressmen; Democratic leaders have given platforms and sympathy to radicals who loudly proclaim “Abolish I.C.E.” as if I.C.E. is America’s gestapo unit; Democratic leaders are all cozied up to the handful of people who run the entertainment industry, the major internet sites, and the mainstream news establishments, all so they can be turned into mouthpieces for their own ridiculous agenda.

These people are not your friends.  They aren’t even their own friends.  They are motivated by power and have ceased to bother attempting to conceal their unapologetic disgust for the American identity.  These midterms did not teach us anything new, but for those who had any lingering doubts after 2016, those doubts should have now been driven firmly from your mind.


Sorry for the infrequency.  Been a rough couple of days at home managing a few real-life projects and family obligations.  I expect to make a post related to one of these things in the future, but as yet it’s too early to start.

I have a lot of content planned for the coming few weeks for both this site and the main blog, so stay tuned.  Hopefully I can get a few of the recordings done that I’ve fallen behind on, as well.

From the Shelf: The Irrepressible Conflict

Sixty pages into I’ll Take My Stand and we come to what is perhaps the most objectionable piece so far, at least if we’re to judge according to our liberalized public school-style education on the topic of the Civil War and its causes.  Frank Lawrence Owsley’s piece, “The Irrepressible Conflict,” gets into exactly that, with all the subtlety and even-handedness of a vengeful rebel wielding a sledgehammer.  The man clearly had a few bones to pick with the liberal, industrialized North, and he wasn’t afraid to show it.

Like the pieces before it, this essay is chiefly devoted to the analysis of Southern agrarian culture, and in particular, the causes and nature of the widening divide between it and the Northern industrialism in the years leading up to the Civil War.  It’s a longer piece so in the interests of brevity, I’ll restrict this post to what is simply the most interesting part of his analysis: the problem of slavery.

“The eternal race question had reared itself.  Negroes had come into the Southern Colonies in such numbers that people feared for the integrity of the white race.  For the negroes were cannibals and barbarians, and therefore dangerous.  No white man who had any contact with slavery was willing to free the slaves and allow them to dwell among the whites.  Slaves were a peril, at least a risk, but free blacks were considered a menace too great to be hazarded.” (77)

He goes on to mention the brutal spectacles of bloodletting that came to be known as the slave revolts of Santo Domingo and Haiti, in which the whites on the island were driven to extermination and the entire infrastructure of civilization that had been started there was willfully demolished by the newly-freed slaves.  The legacies of these events still haunt much of the Caribbean today, in fact.

Now it probably goes without saying that passages like this would never be assigned reading in modern schools except as a means of vilifying Southern Agrarianism in its entirety, to say nothing of further highlighting the inherent villainy of the supposed “white race.”  It’s true enough that the freed blacks of the North weren’t, in general, the feral beasts whose wills were subservient to their passions, nor did they exist in such numbers or concentration as to be a civilizational threat.  It’s true also that, as Tocqueville noted in Democracy in America, the blacks of the North often faced harsher de facto racism—and likely reciprocated it—than the enslaved blacks of the South did prior to emancipation.  But it is also true that, generally speaking, the slaves of the South were not invited to partake in the civilization they were demanded to serve; as a result, the children and grandchildren of the peoples enslaved by neighboring tribesmen of Africa grew up with only the loosest sense of cultural identity, a lack of historical knowledge regarding both their own people and the people that they were in shackles to, and of course, they were often denied the basic education taken for granted today.  This made an already difficult problem nigh-unsolvable.

Which is what Owsley points out.  Efforts at deportation and recolonization in Africa—the Liberian experiment—were costly, inefficient, and too subject to failure, or at least Owsley claims.  In reality, they were costly and inefficient, but the Liberian political scene and domestic life remained remarkably stable all the way up into the mid-twentieth century, when communist and revolutionary ideas spread throughout the country and turned the place into yet another example of a failed African state.

He does mention, however, that the introduction of the cotton gin made it nearly impossible for the South to accept emancipation of the slaves, an idea that they may have been willing to entertain prior to that development but certainly not afterward.  This is a strikingly economic argument, which seems to contradict his earlier point that the slavery of the South did not underpin the existence of the South’s agrarian nature.  While ostensibly true, the absence of the institution would have meant that the South would likely never have been economically viable enough to offer any feasible political resistance to the Northern alternatives in the first place, much less fund a war.

It is because of this acceptance of the institution—both in the South and even in the North, implicitly—that Owsley claims this:

“They had considered emancipation honestly and fairly and had found it out of the question.  Their skirts were clear.  Let the blood of slavery rest upon the heads of those who had forced it upon the South.” (78)

What Owsley is saying here, as he mentions in the following paragraphs, is that the notion of the complete abolition of slavery across the South was a radical position that Northerners embraced, completely ignorant as to the nature of the situation in the region.  And while he paints slavery with perhaps too lenient a brush, his fundamental point is nonetheless worth considering.  The abrupt change in the way of life in the South that the abolitionists desired (and eventually got), themselves removed from the consequences of that action, indicate a gross negligence on their part.  The question of what to do with the slaves was never fully answered; it simply changed its shape a little bit.  Ironically, the same could be said for the Civil Rights period that occurred a century later.  The time that transpired between the two events is riddled with reactions to the former.

A good book that covers a lot of the build-up to the Civil War in detail is Christopher Ferrera’s Liberty: The God That Failed.  I don’t have the space to go into it in detail here, but many of the points Owsley raises in this piece are effectively demolished by Ferrera’s admittedly anti-Confederate analysis of the build-up to the war.

I’ll end it here tonight because this is already longer than I had intended, but Owsley’s piece goes on to mention other interesting aspects about the dynamic between federal and state power, particularly in how it relates to business and regulation.  We’ll look at that tomorrow.

Are Video Games Art?

Continuing on with the art stuff we covered on Wednesday. In other news, I’m setting up a Discord server. See how this goes. Link will be up in a while.

qnuw

Spend enough time around internet forums and video games and you’ll encounter the same tired pseudo-intellectuals that pretend to philosophize about arts and entertainment.  There is always a trend, no matter the fandom, to take your hobby a little more seriously then it probably deserves.  There isn’t usually anything wrong with that, so long as you don’t go overboard and start calling it something it isn’t or investing unhealthy amounts of time into it.  Hobbies are, after all, hobbies.

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From the Shelf: A Mirror for Artists

I’ve written before on the degradation of the art world, and specifically Modernity’s impact upon both the interpretation of art and its creation.  In short, the commodification of art, the development of the art market, and the disintegration of art patronage by an aristocratic class has had a twofold impact upon the development and presentation of the arts: on the one hand, art has become inaccessibly obtuse and designed for the consumption of a philistine elite, and its market increasingly a platform for money laundering; on the other hand, art has been reduced to the most base common denominator of a banal and equally philistine public, in which consumption and marketability are the deciding barometers of its success.

Well, as it turns out, it doesn’t take the wretched state of the market in 2018 to have figured all of these things out.  Continuing on with our brief excursion into I’ll Take My Stand, Donald Davidson approaches the topic of the arts in the wake of an industrialized society in his essay, which follows up John Crowe Ransom’s piece that I touched on last night.  Davidson’s work, “A Mirror for Artists,” directly attributes the over-commodification of the arts to industrialization’s tendency to reduce all objects and peoples into economic units which can be measured according to terms like scarcity and surplus.

Davidson outlines rather clearly how the revolution in thought that both precipitated and got energized by the industrialization of the last three hundred years left its tracks all over the gradual shifts in artistic output beginning with the Romantics of the nineteenth century.  The Romantics, he argues, emerged as artists who pitted themselves against the societies in which they functioned as artists; art became removed from its proper place and in turn became a vessel for critique or for fantasy.  It’s not hard to follow his logic when one considers how suddenly artistic output shifted from not only the aesthetically pleasing, but also the glorification of the religious and the veneration of the past, into an outright glorification of ancient paganisms and eventually the myopic interest of the mundane, as exemplified by the impressionists and realists.

As that perfidious herald of Modernity crept into the brush strokes of artists and the pens of poets, they ceased to deliver content made explicitly to serve an audience—and not simply to please but to elevate that audience spiritually—and instead produced works of increasing rational opaqueness, limiting its reach until works were made with only the artist himself in mind.  “In short,” he says, “the condition of the arts themselves, whatever the field, gives little ground for thinking that they are actually cherished by an industrial civilization” (47).

He continues by separating, I think unsuccessfully, the democratic politics which have endangered the art world so catastrophically from the industrialization that allowed that democracy to crystalize into its current form:

“Democracy did not, after all, disturb society unduly.  It was a slow growth, it had some continuity with the past, and in an agrarian country like pre-Civil War America it permitted and favored a balanced life.  Industrialism came suddenly and marched swiftly.  It left a tremendous gap.  Only as democracy becomes allied with industrialism can it be considered really dangerous, as when, in the United States, it becomes politically and socially impotent; or, as in the extreme democracy of the Soviets, where, converted into equalitarianism within class limits, it threatens the existence of man’s humanity.” (49)

I mention that this separation is unsuccessful because the democratizing principle at work in the arts, which turned the reverent artistic content of the past into the naval-gazing output of the nepotists today, was already at work prior to the rampant growth of the industrial age.  It was the ideological schism with the past—the philosophical revolution of the Enlightenment in particular—which brought this change on.  When Donaldson is referring to industrialization, he’s only referring to the tangible, economic results of the sudden philosophical changes that had run roughshod over the eighteenth century elite.  America, as you can note in a reading of Alexis de Tocqueville, was birthed as a direct result of this schism.

Donaldson wraps up his essay by drawing the contrast with the Southern way of life and its relationship to the arts, and here he is fairly undeniable.  The South’s style of architecture had remained, at the time of his writing, quintessentially Southern; its great writers had already begun to peak, and they wrote not against the Southern tradition but directly within and in line with the arteries of its culture.  The Southern artistic traditions did not lapse into the broadly self-obsessed and indulgent culture of narcissism that awaited their industrialized counterparts in Europe and New England, at least for the most part.

What we see with Donaldson’s piece is an optimistic glimpse of what was perhaps the last worthwhile American artistic movement before the academies, universities, and institutes were so fully compromised as to make the arts—be it visual, literary, poetic, or musical—unaffordable, useless, stupid, and irrelevant endeavors.  In retrospect, it reads in some senses as a timeless commentary on the dangers of industrial modernity and how damaging it is to artists.  On the other hand, it is also a product of its time, as Donaldson here failed to fully grasp the utter wasteland of the arts that awaited not just the South, and not even just America, but the West as a whole in just a few scant decades.