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Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Disunity and decline

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One of the signs and causes of decline that John Glubb mentioned is the collapse of imperial unity: internal bickering leads to the inability to unite in the face of external threats, or potentially even the amplification of an external threat in the form of an internal faction’s alliance with it against another internal faction.

That it is now often said that the problem with America is Brahmindom is part of the process of decline. If this process is to be reversed, a new unity must be forged; and any attempt at unity must avoid the progressive error of writing out a large part of the country. (Yes, progressivism did attempt this, at least twice: first with the actual Progressive Era (where do you think the Pledge of Allegiance comes from?), and second with their response to the race riots of the ’60s. The absurdity of going to war against a large part of the population for the benefit of a small part of it must be noted, but some of themthe ones old enough to remember the race riots, anyway—actually believe this. It helps, of course, that there were pre-existing phyletic hatreds in place.)
Lack of coordination leads to decline, and coordination across distinct phyles can only be accomplished through a series of armistices. These armistices are now being broken. Who is breaking them? There is the enemy.

The collapse of the external enemythe end of the Cold War—probably contributed here. There is less motivation to preserve coordination after the disappearance of an existential threat from outside. Attempts to create a new external enemy to take the place of the Soviet Union—Islamism, Putin, etc.—have failed and will continue to fail; America—Usonia, rather, since the political religion of Americanism cannot provide what is necessary, and will only uselessly take up that space—must stand on its own, must develop a positive sense of identity to provide a thedish basis for this coordination.

It’s too bad there’s no word in English (yet) for the Roman sense of religio:

We struggle to understand the persecution of the Christians under the Roman empire. Roman society tolerated a great variety of deities and cults; worship of Christ as (a) God did not in itself threaten or offend, and religious innovation was not impossible. The emergence of Christianity itself coincided with the novelty of cultic worship of the Roman emperors or their tutelary spirits, which could be included alongside other deities in existing religious frameworks.

Christian beliefs and practices were, however, radically exclusive, or radically extensive in their claims over the whole of religious loyalty. …

Despite some continuity of actual doctrine, what we call religion in twenty-first century Australia is not the same in structure or character as ancient constructions of the relationship between religious belief and the rest of life. Religio in Latin, Tertullian’s or anyone else’s for that matter, does not mean “religion” in the sense of one belief system among others, but the piety or scrupulosity with which cultic and other duties are carried out.

Roman “religion” (as we might persist in seeing or analysing it) was, despite its apparently pluralistic character, coterminous with culture and society itself, and hence left little room for genuine diversity or dissent. We can only understand it as “religion” in the modern or post-modern sense by the artificial excision, from the ancient set of beliefs and practices, of certain elements which make sense to us as religion. …

Constantine’s recognition of the Church involved discernment of the potential for the growing Christian movement to achieve for the Empire what the cultic worship of the Emperors themselves had not: namely a coherent belief and ritual system which was not ethnically-prescribed, but capable of universal relevance.


As a side note, the extent to which political life has been shaped by previous attempts to establish such a civil religion (usually limited strictly to the weak and sham-filled political realm) has yet to be seriously investigated, as has the more general question of the influence of institutional intelligences. A common example of this influence in some circles is ‘cultural Marxism’, but has anyone asked whether there were economic interests that favored the idea of redefining leftist ‘liberation’ in terms unrelated to the economic? And that does not even address the question of the Cold War, which will have to be left for another time.

Written by nydwracu

November 16, 2014 at 21:59

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Notes from IRC

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There are already entities with vastly greater than human intelligence working on the problem of augmenting their own intelligence. A great many, in fact. We call them corporations. … Let’s focus on as a very particular example: The Intel Corporation. Intel is my favorite example because it uses the collective brainpower of tens of thousands of humans and probably millions of CPU cores to… design better CPUs! (And also to create better software for designing CPUs.) Those better CPUs will run the better software to make the better next generation of CPUs.

 Ramez Naam

A man cannot be a person without the fellowship, community, or society that made him. Unsocialised, man’s potencies are not activated, and he stays at a level close to a beast, bereft of speech and reason, let alone partaking of the higher arts and sciences. Individualistic societies are decomposing social bodies in which kinship-ties are loosened and even cut, and which can be held together only by an all-pervasive and socially-alien bureau-technocratic power — the “coldest of all cold monsters”.

The state of nature is ahistorical. Always and everywhere, humans form societies, organizing principles acquiring and preserving institutional memory and institutional knowledge: societal wisdom that may not be known or knowable by the people who make it up. Institutional intelligences.

Nick Land sees capitalism as a thing, a thing of a certain type. What type is it? Another organizing principle, a superhuman (super- in the sense of ‘above’, with humans as its constituent parts) intelligencethat is, an institutional intelligence.

Institutional intelligences compete both within and outside their type. Within: societies compete with other societies, corporations compete with other corporations, governments compete with other governments, media outlets compete with other media outlets, and one economic form competed with another economic form in the Cold War. Outside: governments compete with traditional cultures, organized crime, the Catholic Church, and so on, and capitalism competes with societies and families. (The Last Psychiatrist talks about capitalism’s weaponization of progressivism, but a particularly good example is feminism. I once had a professor explain that it was absolutely imperative for women to cease full-time motherhood and enter the workforceand therefore outsource to some extent the function of child-raising to the state, the media, the economy in the form of hired help, and so on.)

Institutional intelligences have goals, which run in a spectrum from strictly and totally cybernetically encoded in the most literal sense to depending on the individuals who are parts of the system. The victory of certain types of institutional intelligence with certain goals is usually seen as a problem: if capitalism totally wins then we all have no family and work twelve hours a day with Soylent instead of a lunch break and so on.

Atomization is the result of a certain type of institutional intelligence being outcompeted by another type. The reality of atomization is indisputable: the loss of social ties, the decline of traditional cultures, women married to the state, children raised by the ruling structure, loss of imagined communities fostering commonality and promoting/easing interaction, loss of historically-continuous thedes to identify with and their replacement with subcultures and trends, and increasing multiculturalismwhich studies like Robert Putnam’s demonstrate is a problem (for intuitively obvious reasons which I don’t have the vocabulary to express yet) and which is clearly supported by capitalism (deterritorialization, Koch-funded open borders promotion, etc.).

If atomization is a problem, you want to fight it. How do you fight it? Summon up an institutional intelligence that can fight it. Thede-magic may prove useful here: see Benedict Anderson on the use of nationalism as fuel for revolutions. (I used to yell at Communists for their internationalism, but I later realized that they’re tapping thede-magic even though they don’t realize itit’s a particularly weak form, though, consisting mostly of Streicherite crocodilism with little to no positive identity-content. This appeals to jackboot types, but most people seem to want thede-magic with positive content: hipsters adopting kitsch Americana and justifying it with a thin coating of irony, conservatives feeling the need to constantly remythologize American history, and so on.)

Written by nydwracu

August 16, 2014 at 03:09

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On stability

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(Epistemic status: Crystallizing a pattern I’ve noticed in passing. This is a hypothesis; further historical research is needed to determine its predictive/explanatory power.)

There are three types of stability.

The first type of stability is the stability of a society with little to no thedish conflict, a society of people who believe that “we’re all in this together”, who see that society as a ‘we’. This unity may be brought about by shared adherence to meta-level principles, as in Switzerland, or by near-identity of society and thede, as in Iceland. (The Icelandic language, interestingly, has no dialects, and very little regional variation. Some of this is due to campaigns to eradicate what little regional variation once existed, but it has been hypothesized that the unity of the language is a result of the periodic meeting of the Icelanders at Þingvellir. The thedish consequences of this should be obvious.) This type is characterized by very little potential instability: little top-down pressure is necessary to prevent it from collapsing.

The second type of stability is the stability of a political unit with multiple factions roughly balanced in power, as has been the case for the United States. The history of these States is characterized by conflict between multiple distinct and roughly equally-matched nations: no nation has yet been able to establish total dominance over all the others, though some have long desired the elimination of all others not aligned with them. If this rough balance of powers ever collapsesas it is likely to soon, with the demographic replacement of the Southern and Midwestern nations with factions nominally aligned with the Northern nations but with far fewer compunctions about openly organizing in their own interest or about resorting to violence to get their way—or if it ever becomes sufficiently eroded to allow one nation or faction to take measures to slowly destroy its opponents (which they surely will, no matter the risk of harm to the political unit as a whole—such concerns are mostly irrelevant to each faction)—as has already happened—then the potential instability will turn kinetic.

The third type of stability is the stability of a political unit controlled by a small and hated minority, as was once the case for Alawite-controlled Syria. The ruling minority has no reason to adhere to any principles, to show any concern for the welfare of the political unit, to refrain from any action that they think will increase stability; if their power falters, they will be slaughtered. This type of stability is an illusion: the potential instability is too great. Unless the ruling minority can perform the near-impossible and utterly change the thede dynamics of the political unit, it will eventually falter and be crushed.

These types are ordered in a spectrum from best to worst, from most to least stable, from concern with the welfare of the political unit as a whole to tribalistic concern for only one’s own and a desire to take power from all others, no matter the costs. It is desirable for a political unit to move upwards in type, and potentially disastrous for it to move downwards.

The social technology of nationalism allowed a political unit to move away from the second type and toward the firstbut it failed. An elite emerged whose sensibilities were detached from those of the peoplein no small part due to the actions of USG, the government of a political unit that has always been of the second typeand it proceeded to secure its short-term power by moving the countries it governed downwards on the scale.

The West is going down.

Written by nydwracu

August 13, 2014 at 21:39

Voice, exit, and Moldbuggery, part 1

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One of the problems with Mencius Moldbug’s writing is that it doesn’t proceed in a linear fashion: key terms are hidden in obscure posts outside of the main sequences, rendering those sequences much less comprehensible to people who don’t read the whole blog. So an introduction, a summary, is necessary: a thing that attempts to state at least the outline of the argument in clear, linear terms.

This is such an attempt. It has its problems: it’s based on memory, so citations are difficult and it may not be entirely accurate; and its main purposes are the correction of certain misconceptions, such as the confusion over ‘demotism’, and the linear statement of a series of arguments presented in decidedly nonlinear form. Some of the interpolations are original, but I will follow the general structure of the original neocameralist argument.

What are voice and exit? Feedback mechanisms, intended to create incentive-structures leading toward good governance.

The democratic argument is the most widely understood, so it serves here as the best example. Democracy is necessary because it creates a government that is responsive to the demands of the people. Monarchs and aristocrats have little incentive to care about the welfare of commoners, beyond the threat of popular revolt; democratically-elected politicians are chosen based on the votes of the people, and therefore have much stronger incentive to carry out the will of the people, to be responsive to the wants and needs of those over whom they rule. The dangers of majority rule are well-known, so there are two mechanisms by which it is held back from causing damage: representative democracy instead of direct democracy, and a Constitution and Bill of Rights to prevent certain types of abuses.

A flowchart may be instructive.

Monarchy/Aristocracy vs. Democracy (democratic view)

That is the democratic view. There are many problems with both charts; I’ll focus on the second one.

First: voice is not an unmoved mover. Lippmann and Bernays wrote books about this. You probably haven’t read them; I haven’t. But you probably have seen campaign advertisementsand you probably have gone through third-grade social studies. Moldbug says: “You’ve been taught to worship democracy. This is because you are ruled by democracy. If you were ruled by the Slime Beast of Vega, you would worship the Slime Beast of Vega.” If you’ve been taught to worship democracy, there might be other things you’ve been taught; political factions certainly believe that they ought to be teaching people things, as may be seen from the Texas schoolbook controversy a few years ago, the occasional editorial praising television for promoting the acceptance of homosexuality, etc. Surely you can provide your own examples.

Why does this matter? Why does this happen? Well, how does the sovereign maintain internal order? Moldbug builds a typology: there’s psycharchy, and then there’s physarchy.

There are two basic classes of internal control. A sovereign can control its residents by managing their minds, or managing their bodies. We can call the former mode psycharchy, the latter physarchy. A psycharchy persuades its residents to refrain from organizing, seizing and capturing it. A physarchy physically restrains its residents from organizing, seizing and capturing it.

Physarchy is further analyzed into legarchy and phobarchy:

Under legarchy, the sovorg exercises internal control as an extension of the judicial system which keeps residents secure from each other. It simply adds a class of offenses which are crimes against the sovorg itself, without any other direct victim. For example, you may not train your paramilitary militia in the Sierras. You may not keep a cache of automatic weapons in your basement. If you are in a crowd and the police order you to disperse, you must do so. …

We enter a different territory with phobarchy, which is the tactic of maintaining internal control by unpredictable intimidation. “Death squads,” for example, are a classic technique. Most of us consider finding bodies on the doorstep, let alone being one of the bodies, remarkably unacceptable from a customer-service perspective. However, since many 20C sovorgs have maintained power by exactly this method, we would be foolish to dismiss it.

These are the available physarchic methods; what are the available psycharchic methods?

Mandatory loyalty training for children, official support for approved information producers, and social, civil or criminal penalties for wrongthink are common, effective forms of psycharchy.

The second is especially interesting. I think a special word, massarchy, is appropriate for the 20C system of internal control via education, journalism and science. Each of these words assumes a systematic professional infallibility, entirely unearned in the case of the first two professions, and increasingly dubious in the case of the third. The Third Reich had its own wonderful word for the distribution of official information, Aufklärungmeaning literally, “clearing up,” and more broadly enlightenment. Indeed, all the state-sponsored information professions see their task as that of enlightening the public. And from enlightening to guiding is a small step indeed.

In other words: third-grade social studies classes. And journalism, and science. (‘Journalism’ here refers to the mass media as a whole: propaganda is definitely in psycharchy’s toolbox.)

This is restated here, after a summary of another problem with the above chart:

The real problem with democracies is that in the long run, a democratic government elects its own people. I refer, of course, to Brecht’s verse:

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

One way to elect a new people is to import them, of course. For example, to put it bluntly, the Democratic Party has captured California, once a Republican stronghold, by importing arbitrary numbers of Mexicans. Indeed the Third World is stocked with literally billions of potential Democrats, just waiting to come to America so that Washington can buy their votes. …

But this act of brutal Machiavellian thug politics, larded as usual with the most gushing of sentimental platitudes, is picayune next to the ordinary practice of democratic governments: to elect a new people by re-educating the children of the old. In the long run, power in a democracy belongs to its information organs: the press, the schools, and most of all the universities, who mint the thoughts that the others plant. For simplicity, we have dubbed this complex the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is a feedback loop. It has no center, no master planners. Everyone, even the Sulzbergers, is replaceable. In a democracy, mass opinion creates power. Power diverts funds to the manufacturers of opinion, who manufacture more, etc. Not a terribly complicated cycle.

In addition to the Lippmannian problempublic opinion is not an unmoved mover, but rather downstream from its sources of informationwe have die Lösungpublic opinion, like Soylent Green, is made of people: different types of people, who form different blocs, the size of which can be manipulated through government policy.

Just as public opinion is downstream from its sources of information, so are politicians’ decisions. Public concern is shaped by the media:

The New York Times is a paragon of “responsible journalism.” It, or at least its journalists, would like us to be concerned about global warming. We can tell this by the fact that they write many stories on the subject. Surely if they didn’t want us to think about the subject, it is within their personal discretion to avoid it. They don’t. And since many people read the New York Times, many of us are concerned about global warming.

And proposals for legislation may be put forward by think tanks, academics, and so on.

These are the two best-known problems Moldbug mentionsprobably because they’re the ones most notably contained in the terminology. But there are more, of which the most obvious problem is that the chart above leaves out two entire branches of government.

Considering the messy proliferation of ‘independent branches’ of the executive, and the connotations of the term ‘executive’ itselfwhat do functionaries have to do with executives?it’s better to refer to the administrative branch of government. Much could be said about the proliferation of administrative edicts, but I will not go further here than to mention their existence, and the consequence that a great amount of formal governmental power lies outside the hands of elected officials.

There is also the judicial branch, and it has its own power:

The real legal nature of the Fourth Republic is that, like the UK, it has no constitution. Its legitimacy is defined by a set of precedents written by New Deal judges in the 1930s. These have obscure names like Footnote Four, West Coast Hotel, and Wickard v. Filburn.

This is currently visible in the recent series of gay marriage rulings, most notably the overturning of Proposition 8 in California: it won the support of the voters, but did not have the support of the unelected district court. The flowchart attempts to capture this with ‘Constitution’, but pieces of paper are not men, and only men can rule.

A government’s constitution (small c) is its actual structure of power. The constitution is the process by which the government formulates its decisions. When we ask why government G made decision D1 to take action A1, or decision D2 not to take action A2, we inquire as to its constitution. …

American law schools teach something called constitutional law, a body of judicial precedent which purports to be a mere elucidation of the text of the Constitution. Yet no one seriously believes that an alien, reading the Constitution, would produce anything like the same results. Moreover, the meta-rules on which constitutional law rests, such as stare decisis, are entirely unwritten, and have been violated in patterns not best explained by theories of textual interpretation. Thus the small ‘c’ in constitutional law is indeed correct.

If one were to draw a flowchart of the constitution of the United States government, with arrows representing what has power over what, the Supreme Court would be at the top of the chart: its power has not been challenged since FDR’s court-packing plan, and the only other check that exists on it is the ability to amend the Constitution, a power which, with one exception (which involved the use of a very interesting loophole that is no longer available), has not been used since 1971. In formal terms, the federal government is an ennearchy.

When we look at how USG actually works, we see that it is governed by a set of rules known as “constitutional law.” The relationship between “the Constitution” and “constitutional law” is entirely arbitrary and historical. The proposition that the latter can be mechanically derived from the former is too absurd to even consider defending. …

“The Constitution” is an interesting historical document, no more valid than the Salic Law. Rather, it is “constitutional law,” ie, the precedents of the Supreme Court, which are the supreme law of the land.

Here we arrive at the more conventional interpretation, the “living constitution” theory, which has largely prevailed for the last 75 years. Certainly, after 75 years of “living,” there cannot be much left of any written “Constitution!” The theory of the “living constitution” is simply the theory of the rule of force. Who rules, makes the rules. …

Who holds sovereignty in the United States? The Council of Nine, also known as the Supreme Court. For they are the unmoved mover, those whose decisions are final and cannot be overridden.

If the Supreme Court orders President Obama to give his next video address standing on his head, or converts as a group to Islam and establishes the Caliphate of America, or declares that “the Jews are our misfortune” and gives them one year to leave the country, these things will be done. Or at least, if they are resisted, they can only be resisted unlawfully.

Of course, the Justices are unlikely to do these things. Why? Because these things are neither (a) in their personal interests, nor (b) in accordance with their values and beliefs. The Supreme Court, a sovereign committee, is unlikely to tyrannize in these appalling ways – but only because of the personal responsibility of the sovereign individuals. Exactly the same is true of any monarchy, however the ruler is selected.

There also exists social control outside government. Remember this sentence above? “Mandatory loyalty training for children, official support for approved information producers, and social, civil or criminal penalties for wrongthink are common, effective forms of psycharchy.” Social penalties for wrongthink are not imposed by the government; they exist nonetheless. The First Amendment prohibits the government from throwing you in jail for saying that HNU or AGW are false; it doesn’t prohibit your employer from firing you, or your friends from abandoning you and denouncing you as evil. Which happens.

Next time: a better flowchart, the problems with the structure of the Cathedral, and neocameralism.

Written by nydwracu

August 9, 2014 at 22:16

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with 3 comments

What is a monoatheist? A monoatheist is someone who does not believe in one God. The monoatheist does not not-believe in many gods; he just doesn’t think like that. We were all raised monoatheist; many of us still are. No escape from no-escape!

The Archipelago is Patchwork for monoatheists. Metamonarchy now!

Monoatheism can’t abide the Outside. Cladistic inheritance from religions of conquest manifests in a spectrum between genocidal fantasies and occasional incomprehension. Preserve the Union! Make the world safe for democracy! 

Polyatheism is a Marcusean monoatheism: it cannot tolerate a monoatheism that takes itself seriously, and when it cannot escape it or syncretize it into oblivion, it must declare defensive jihad. Get off my lawn!

Monoatheism preaches the end of history. (Fukuyama ignored the past and present of his own areligion.) Polyatheism awaits its return. Time and space shall rise again!

LessWrong is a monoatheist religion, except when it’s not. Comrades! The world is not enough! We must conquer… the future!

Elua and Omi Oitherion are both monoatheist—so let’s talk about how beneficial game-theoretic equilibria can come to exist even in the absence of centralized enforcers.

Written by nydwracu

August 2, 2014 at 15:59

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The fins of Cthulhu

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Here are four sentences. They have two interesting properties.

In short, you know not what you speak of. You reap the rewards of these women’s sacrifices every day of your life. When you grin with your cutsey (sic) sign about how you’re not a feminist, you ignorantly spit on the sacred struggle of the past 200 years. You bite the hand that has fed you freedom, safety, and a voice.

First of all: notice that word, ‘sacred’. That is a very revealing word. More Haidtian rhetorical analysis ought to be done—the two-foundation aspect of Haidt’s moral foundations theory is in accordance with what liberals like to think about themselves, but it’s probably not true. This could be demonstrated by follow-up studies with more carefully designed questionnaires (some of the questions on the other three axes serve as proxies for conservatism), though this may not be able to get around the problem of people answering in accordance with what they like to think, rather than what’s actually true—the practical workings of memeplexes may not be in accord with the internal views of those memeplexes held by their believers. But it’s easier to just point out the instances where liberals don’t talk like two-foundationers.

But the more interesting feature of those four sentences is that they’re an example of a common rhetorical tactic—especially from feminists, but political parties do it too. (“The party of Lincoln!”) The tactic is to, instead of arguing directly for the rightness/righteousness of an idea or the wrength/unrighteousness of opponents’ ideas, set up those qualities as inhering in factions (rather than ideas), in order to create the ability to argue for any position the faction supports (or against any position an opposing faction supports—”The Democrats were the party of slavery!”) by bleeding over the imbued historical quality of the faction onto the position.

…Except it’s even further removed than that.

The point isn’t to make points about factions that lead to arguments for positions; it’s to make points about factions that lead to identification with the faction. It’s not “feminism has historically done very good things, and therefore you should support the things feminism wants to do today”; it’s “feminism has historically done very good things, and therefore you should become a feminist”.

Of course, “movement X has historically done very good things” is indistinguishable from “movement X or something like it has gained enough power that you think the things it has historically done are very good”. Perceptions of morality aren’t formed in a void; they’re downstream from power.

Here we see a possible rhetorical mechanism for the ratchet. Not that there aren’t others, of course…

(This rhetorical tactic should be pattern-crystallized into a thing with a name, but I don’t know what to call it yet. Suggestions?)

Written by nydwracu

July 27, 2014 at 15:47

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On hate

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Hate is an interesting term. A hater, one who hates, may want to avoid interaction with members of the hated elthede, may complain of the problems with them and with interacting with them, may claim there are just too many of them around himor may advance pseudoscientific theories claiming that members of the elthede are mentally deficient, or say they’re all disgusting miscreants who are literally devoid of independent thought and who ought to be imprisoned en masse for identifying with the hated elthede, or advocate the total destruction of the elthede’s identity, or just write or listen to songs that go, “Kill them all! Kill them all!”

In the context of American politics, who is a hater? If you are told that someone hates, or affiliates with hate groups, what comes to mind? What inferences can you draw? Which party, for example, do you think they would be more likely to vote for?

To answer this question, you must answer the questions of membershipwho is a hater?and of prototypicality.

Under the classical model of semantic categorization, objects are sorted into categories by listing their properties: a category consists of a set of properties shared by all their members. The standard example here is that a bachelor is an unmarried man: all things that are human, male, and unmarried are bachelors.

This model gives rise to all sorts of problemsthe Sorites paradox, absence of fuzzy concepts, and so on—but the important one here is the problem of prototypicality: some members of a category come to mind more easily than others, and are taken as more central to the category.

Here is the standard example of prototypicality: think of a piece of furniture. It’s more likely, at least if you’re an average Westerner, that you thought of a chair or a table than it is that you thought of a barstool, a hammock, or a kotatsu. All are types of furniture, but chairs and tables are more central to the categorymore prototypical. Barstools, hammocks, and kotatsu are types of furniture, but they don’t come to mind as quickly.

Prototypicality is connected to not only the commonness of an object, but the presence or absence in that object of properties held to be prototypical: flightless birds are less prototypical in the category ‘bird’ than birds that can fly, and, at least to me, furniture that actively does something, like a kotatsu or a massage chair, is less prototypical in the category ‘furniture’ than furniture with no active function, like a chair or a barstool. (Wikipedia lists things like pinball machines and video game consoles as types of furniture, but to me, they have enough machine-nature that they have no furniture-nature.)

Language is not an objective thing existing in the Platonic realm of forms, but an abstraction, a cluster-in-thingspace over individual idiolects; similarly, prototypes and prototypical properties are not objective forms, but abstractions over individual judgments, which are affected by individual environments. Someone who has spent all their life in a society that does not use chairs would not consider chairs to be a prototypical type of furniture; someone who has spent all their life in a place with no robins or sparrows would not consider robins or sparrows to be prototypical types of bird.

It’s not just prototypicality: membership may also vary, and its variance implies factors causing it to vary. One may not recognize the ad hominem or the slippery slope as a fallacy before it is pointed out as a fallacy, from a source taken to be authoritative on fallacies. And after it is pointed out, its membership may be contested: some virtue ethicists have argued that ad hominem is not necessarily a fallacy, and the concept of the Schelling fence argues that slippery slope is not necessarily a fallacy.

Membership-variance in certain categories, like fallacy, is naturally going to be contested due to the ideographic implications of membership or non-membership. (A trivial example: an argument over whether or not a thing is a member of the category things that are racist.) For Marcus Arvan to argue that beliefs that correlate with aspects of the Dark Triad should be dismissed on the basis of that correlation, he first has to argue either that his dismissal argument is not an ad hominem or that ad hominem is not necessarily a fallacy; otherwise it pattern-matches to ad hominem, which pattern-matches to fallacy, and membership of an argument in the category fallacy allows dismissal of that argument.

How does contestation of prototypicality and membership work? Since both prototypicality and membership are abstractions over individual judgments, the goal of contestation is to shift individual judgments in the desired direction.

Contestation or implementation of judgment-shifting policies may not be consciously motivated by a desire to shift judgments. In the age of furniture stores, furniture stores form a part of the environment. I’ve been to furniture stores, and they didn’t sell pinball machines or video game consoles. If they did, I’d be more likely to consider pinball machines and video game consoles types of furniture; furniture stores are authorities on furniture. If I got into an argument with someone about whether pinball machines are furniture, and furniture stores sold pinball machines, I could cite that fact as evidence that pinball machines are furniture. The furniture stores would not intend to redefine the category furniture to include pinball machines (or redefine pinball machines to be a type of furniture); all they would intend to do is respond to a profit-incentive.

The point is that prototypicality and membership may be contested, and that there are benefits/incentives to doing so, as the Arvan example shows: his argument pattern-matches to a fallacy, so he has to break the match. The same principle can apply in reverse: it can be beneficial to set up a connection between an instance (or a category) and a patternespecially when the pattern to be matched is an ideograph, when the pattern holds some connotational (good vs. bad) or exosemantic (thedish vs. elthedish, like us vs. like the enemy) valence.

Prototypicality matters because it’s how we think: categories may have formal definitions, set up with necessary and sufficient conditions and set out in authorities that one may appeal to, but actual judgments may differ from those definitions nevertheless. A sandwich technically consists of food between two pieces of bread, but open-face sandwiches and pita sandwiches are sandwiches even though they only have one piece of bread—and what about hamburgers? As one poster in the link put it: “Yeah, technically they are…but I wouldn’t say they are”. Hamburgers meet the formal definition of sandwiches, but are still not considered sandwiches.

It may be that categories are shaped through comparison of features with those of the prototypes; it may also be that they are shaped through comparison of features with already-existing members. The difference doesn’t really matter here. Botanically, tomatoes and cucumbers are fruits, but the prototypical fruits are sweet, are eaten either by themselves or in fruit salads, and can be made into jams or pies, whereas the prototypical vegetables are not sweet, are eaten either on sandwiches, in salads, or in cooked dishes, and cannot be made into jams or pies. Tomatoes and cucumbers are not sweet, are put on sandwiches, and cannot be made into jams or pies, so they’re considered vegetables. (For tomatoes, see Nix v. Hedden.)

In the process of writing this post, I came across an article on the Daily Beast about “hate music”an informative case study in category-membership.

In the aftermath of the killing spree, the volume has been turned up on the music scene that appears to have fostered Page’s beliefs, a shadowy corner of the punk-rock universe—also known as white-power music, hatecore, or hate rock—that has existed in semi-obscurity since the ‘80s. The genre promotes a kind of racial apartheid and appeals to a tiny but rage-prone audience that often, in turn, fights viciously within its own community. According to the Anti-Defamation League, hate music stands as “one of the most significant ways neo-Nazis attempt to attract young people into their movement.”

The suspected shooter reportedly performed at white power and neo-Nazi skinhead festivals such as 2010’s Independent Artist Uprise Fest in Baltimore and Georgia’s Hammerfest, one of the largest hatecore-skewing festivals in America. Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Project Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, described the event as “like the Lollapalooza or the Ozzfest of hate.” …

The immersion in hate music appears to have influenced Page’s worldview enough to compel him to acquire several large neo-Nazi tattoos.

Beirich says the genre actively encourages hate crimes. “The lyrics tend to be really explicit in urging the commission of acts of violence targeting minorities,” she said. “[The genre] is associated with the most violent part of the white-supremacist movement.”

Hate music, in other words, is neo-Nazi, and advocates white power, and the commission of acts of violence targeting minorities.

When I wrote the first part of this post, I had a specific song in mind. The chorus of this particular song has only one line; that one line contains the word “kill” immediately adjacent to the word “all”, followed by the name of a thede. The band that wrote it also wrote another song, which begins, “It’s okay, allow yourself a little hate…” The album on which the latter song appeared made it to the top of the Billboard independent album charts.

The band that wrote it would never be described as hate music. This should be obvious: the top of the chart is not “semi-obscurity”. But isn’t that interesting? Hate music is music advocating hate, but music advocating hate is not necessarily hate music.

What is required to shift or create general judgment of prototypicality? What is required to shift or create general judgment of membership?

General judgment is an abstraction over individual judgments, so these questions break down into two parts. First: what is required to shift or create an individual judgment? Second: what is required to shift or create individual judgments on a mass scale?

The second question is easy to answer: to shift or create individual judgments on a mass scale requires the ability to reach a mass of individuals in whom to shift or create judgments.

The first question is similar to that of the operations of magic, and many of the same terms apply. An individual judgment can be shifted through reinforcementjuxtaposition of the object and the category, as with the pinball machine in the furniture storeand it can be created through the invention of a category to hold the object, or the redefinition of an existing category, the creation of an argument for or against the membership of the object in the category.

There’s an important difference between reinforcement and redefinition: redefinition draws attention to itself, makes itself explicit, whereas reinforcement operates in the background and takes it for granted that the reader already gets the point. The Daily Beast article does not argue that hate music is equivalent to neo-Nazi white power music; it just says it. Reinforcement implies that the author believes the reader to already share the judgment; redefinition implies that he does not. When Mencius Moldbug argues that the prevailing political belief-system in America is “super-Protestant”, he cites a 1942 Time article that described a “super-Protestant” foreign policythat reinforced the membership of the policy points listed in the article in the category of things that are super-Protestant, and therefore implied that, in 1942, the writers of Time thought not only that the points listed were members of the category, but also that the readers would already share that judgment.

Those are the operations; who can apply them? It’s possible to read an article that reinforces the connection between the pop music industry and the Illuminati without buying the reinforcement, so clearly these can’t be applied by anyone to anyone.

Reinforcement is easier if the judgment being reinforced fits with what the reader already thinks, either in the literal sense (if your parents, your friends, and your teachers tell you that Kim Jong-il can control the weather, you’ll probably believe it when the newspaper reinforces that belief; if your parents, your friends, and your teachers tell you that the weather is a natural process that can’t be controlled, but the newspaper reinforces the belief that Kim Jong-il can control the weather, you’ll cancel your subscription) or in the sense of extension from already-held beliefs (if your parents, your friends, and your teachers all reinforce the belief that Kim Jong-il can control the weather, you’ll be more likely to believe it when the newspaper mentions in passing that he also invented the hamburger than you would if your parents, your friends, and your teachers all tell you that Kim Jong-il was a bumbling tyrant who manufactured outlandish propaganda about himself). This is also the case for redefinition.

Reinforcement and redefinition are also easier if the reader judges the speaker to be credible or authoritative. The whole point of the mainstream media is that it’s widely considered to be authoritative. (The Cathedral is called the Cathedral because it speaks ex cathedra.) Remember the pinball machine and the furniture store: furniture stores would be considered authorities on furniture, so if furniture stores sold pinball machines, one could point to that fact as evidence that pinball machines are furniture. Also remember Nix v. Hedden: that the Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes are vegetables is evidence that tomatoes are vegetables. As is obvious by the fact that tomatoes are botanically defined as fruits, category membership need not have anything to do with the formal definition of the category.

As for the results of a shift: when the operation has been donewell, what is the goal? The goal is to shape a judgment, to define or redefine a category, its prototypicality, and its membership. If this goal is met, if the shift is successfully carried out, the category, its prototypicality, and its membership will be (re)defined.

NOFX is not a hate band. NOFX wrote a song that begins, “It’s okay, allow yourself a little hate”; they also wrote a song titled “Kill All the White Man”. But NOFX is not a hate band.

Brian Leiter is not a philosopher of hate. Brian Leiter fulminates on his blog against “the Right-Wing Blob” whose members are “fascist thugs” who are “literally devoid of independent thought, they are just bits of slime that ooze off the Blob when the Blob is poked”; he says that “these sick, sick people need to be caged” and approvingly excerpts an Amiri Baraka poem that ends with a call to imprison Republicans en masse. But Brian Leiter is not a philosopher of hate.

Hate has a definition. NOFX and Brian Leiter both fit the definition. Sandwich also has a definition, but hamburgers are not sandwiches.

The prototypical meat-containing sandwich (I specify meat-containing because, to me, the prototypical sandwich is peanut butter and jelly) contains either cold cuts or thinly-sliced meat. Hamburgers fit the definition of sandwiches, but their meat is neither cold nor thinly sliced. The prototypical meat-containing sandwich is sold in sandwich shops; hamburgers are not sold in sandwich shops, but in burger shops. The prototypical sandwich is put on either slices of bread from a loaf or a hoagie roll; hamburgers are put on burger buns. Hamburgers fit the formal definition, but are far from the prototype and don’t match up in the relevant characteristics.

The prototypical hater is Hitler. Hitler was a right-wing extremist, in the same sense that the prototypical sandwich contains either cold cuts or thinly-sliced meat on either two slices of bread or a hoagie roll: in both cases, we can reach a great deal of accuracy in categorization by matching the characteristics of the prototype. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich contains no meat, but its contents are placed between two slices of bread; an open-face sandwich usually contains cold cuts (and when it doesn’t, it contains other common sandwich materials, like lettuce and tomatoes), but is on only one slice of bread. In both cases, one characteristic matches with the prototype, so it falls within the category; in a case like a hamburger, which contains a large block of warm ground meat on a burger bun, neither of the characteristics match, so the object is not part of the category.

(For sandwiches, better results would be reached by positing an additional category of absence of rotational symmetry about the horizontal axis, and requiring a match to two of the three categories, to avoid matching Italian wraps, which contain cold cuts. But the accuracy isn’t much better, and this standard would say that sloppy joes are not sandwiches, a judgment with which I intuitively disagree. But the whole point is that definitions don’t work by conditions; this updated pseudoclassicalism is close enough to work well as a useful approximate explanation, but it’s not perfect.)

To reach an approximate explanation of membership in the category of hate, the same test can be applied. Hitler was a right-wing extremist. Left-wing extremists may be considered hateful, like Kamau Kambon; but they are often not. (Communists are not generally considered hateful. Is Noel Ignatiev? I doubt it.) Right-wing moderates are frequently considered hateful: Clarence Thomas, Jezebel solemnly informs us, “fucking hates minorities”. But left-wing moderates like NOFX and Brian Leiter (and isn’t it interesting how easy it is to describe them as moderates?) match neither of the categories, so they are not considered hateful.

Hitler is also the prototype of evil, as the existence of Godwin’s Law demonstrates. One of the reasons why he was so evil is that he was very, very hateful; disapproval of Hitler bleeds over quite naturally into disapproval of hate, and disapproval of hate means disapproval of the Rightnot because of a match with any formal definition, but because of the bleeding-over of disapproval onto characteristics of the thing disapproved of, whether or not those characteristics are actually relevant. (The mustache is also disapproved of, but there is nothing connecting the mustache to evil other than Hitler.)

Brian Leiter is not hateful, even though he is. Clarence Thomas is hateful, even though he is not. Leftists are not hateful, even when they are; rightists are hateful, even when they are not.

Isn’t that interesting?


‘Hate’ is not denotatively applied; its strict meaning does not correspond to its use. It just doesn’t work like that.

There’s no convention yet for separating out denotative meaning from connotation and exosemantics, so let “hate”, with double-quotes, refer strictly to the denotative meaning, and hate refer to the rest of the word. Is there any evidence to determine whether, say, Clarence Thomas is “hateful”? That is: is there any evidence that he “dislikes intensely or passionately; feels extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detests” any particular group?

What evidence does Jezebel give?

Thomas goes out of his way to make life more difficult for black people. Hey, are you a black guy who was convicted and put on death row because the prosecutor purposefully hid exonerating evidence from your lawyer? Go fuck yourself[3], says Thomas. Are you a racial minority who wants to attend college? Eat this shit, courtesy of Clarence Thomas. Yesterday[4], Thomas went out of his way to point out that he would strike down affirmative action if given the chance even though no one asked him to rule on that issue. He just wanted to make sure you knew he fucking hates minorities!

When you follow the trail of links back to the source, here’s what turns up.

Thomas argues that before Grutter, the court had only twice approved racial discrimination. First in Korematsu v. United States in 1944, when it cited national security to uphold an evacuation order for all those with Japanese ancestry, and then in 1986 when it said in Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed that the government “has a compelling interest in remedying past discrimination for which it is responsible.”

Thomas argues that Grutter doesn’t fit within those “strict-scrutiny” precedents and so it should be overturned.

Jezebel doesn’t think that there’s any possible reason motivating this other than hate. There are many possible reasons that don’t involve “hate”for example, a belief that the argument is actually rightbut, at least to Jezebel, there is no possible reason that doesn’t involve hate. One may assumeand assumptions of this sort are only made stronger by the recent Hobby Lobby rulingthat there is a direct and immediate emotional association between Clarence Thomas, his position, or his wing of the Court and hate.

(The structures underlying this are unimportant for the purpose of establishing that there is, in [at least Brahmin] American culture, a direct association from right-wing to hate. So they will not be addressed here.)

If you have been raised in Brahmin culture, you can make use of the method of introspection, as is described here:

I have never had or seen anything like the “red flags” response to socialism. If I saw a crowd of young, fashionable people lining up at the box office for a hagiographic biopic on Reinhard Heydrich, chills would run up and down my neck. For Ernesto Guevara, I have no emotional response. Perhaps I think it’s stupid and sad. I do think it’s stupid and sad. But it doesn’t freak me out.

Some friends of mine live on a street in Brooklyn where there is a Black Muslim storefront with TVs in the window, broadcasting Louis Farrakhan’s Jew-hating black nationalism 24/7. To get from their compound to the subway, you need to go past a little taste of Rev. Louis. Should this freak me out? Should I see “red flags?”

Maybe I should. But I don’t.

Do you think the author of that Jezebel article sees red flags around Clarence Thomas? It sure sounds like it. I’ve seen people see red flags around Scalia. As for the examples above, the consensus about Nazism is that it’s indisputably evil and definitely worthy of as many red flags as possible, and the consensus about Communism is that it was well-intentioned: good in theory, but, unfortunately, bad in practice, and also Che Guevara is really cool. Some people see red flags around the USSR; very few see red flags around Che. And nobody sees red flags around NOFX. “Kill all the white man!”

If you generalize from individual judgments to the general judgments of a society (in the same manner that one generalizes from idiolects to dialects), you begin to see patterns. Hitler, the Klan, Clarence Thomas, the Hobby Lobby ruling, and evangelical Christianity on one side; Che Guevara, NOFX, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Roe v. Wade, Louis Farrakhan, and Unitarian Universalism on the other.

The pattern should be obvious.

Written by nydwracu

June 11, 2014 at 07:36

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,


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