Quotulatiousness

May 12, 2016

QotD: Non-religious religious mania

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The left are secularists, but they are extremely poor secularists. As you may know, I’m a secularist myself. I’m a nonbeliever, and to the extent I’m willing to entertain any belief at all, it’s only because I’m a skeptic. That is to say, I’m skeptical of my nonbelief.

It occurs to me — as a skeptic and secularist — that if you seek to put away Magical Thinking, you put it all away. If you disbelieve in God, then you really ought to disbelieve in Transcendence as well, and Rightwing Sorcerers, and Magic Words, and Sustaining Myth-Lies, and all the rest of it.

One amusement to me, as a lonely disbeliever on the right, is noticing this about the Left: The Left imagines that their disbelief in God frees them from superstition.

In fact it does no such thing. The Left’s disbelief in God does not free them from superstition — rather, it frees the superstition to infect all other modes of their thought.

Rather than thinking in terms of the divine and magic in the area of theology and metaphysics — which is really where thoughts about the divine and magic should be contained — the left, being Bad at Secularism, instead permits superstition, myth, and magic to flood into all other compartments of their ship of the mind.

Rather than keeping religious thought confined to religions matters, as the openly religious do, the left, which is intensely religious but believes it is not, instead employs religious thought in all modes of thinking, particularly in politics (where The Government easily steps into the place of God as the Large, Abstract Power That Lords Above Us), but also in what they call “science.”

You know, the science which personifies the Earth as a deity who seeks vengeance upon polluters and people who drive cars.

These Bad Secularists do not call this religion. They will not acknowledge it as fundamentally magical thinking, “pre-logical” and falling into the same primitive thought patterns still kicking around in the human mind which require that every extraordinary event be conjured by Mighty Sorcerers, or sent by the gods as punishment for a Grievous Sin.

And yet those who preen as being the most Free From Superstition are in fact the most shackled by it, because their very vanity will not permit them to see the ridiculous magical mythology they surround themselves in. Thus, within one single day, the Bad Secularists at the New York Times will posit that magical rightwing sorcerers directed the communist crocodile Lee Harvey Oswald to snatch the Princeling Kennedy from the river’s bank, and the Bad Secularists at the Washington Post likewise weave mythic strands around Lee Harvey Oswald, Marxist, Soviet Defector, and world’s first known Tea Partier.

And thus all the world’s Devils are grouped together, ranked in Might and put into their diabolical hierarchy, Satan on top, Baal and Moloch next, and so on, down to Sarah Palin and the Koch Brothers.

We live in an age of religious hysteria. And the religious hysteria is not coming from the usual quarters, the self-acknowledged religious. Instead it comes from the irreligious, whose liberation from god only loosens the leash of their illogic and preference for mythic structures over reality.

You don’t need God to be religious hysteric.

All you need is a Dogma and a Devil.

Ace, “Enchanted Crocodiles, Mighty Sorcerers, and Lee Harvey Oswald”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2013-11-22.

February 6, 2016

QotD: The addict’s political worldview

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Writing about those rioters who in the summer of 2011 smashed, burned and looted shops across Britain, [Russell] Brand writes that their actions were no worse than the consumerism which he describes as having been “imposed” upon them. And this, I cannot help thinking, is an especially revealing phrase — entirely at one with a popular world view. That view sees “us” as poor victims of forces and temptations which are not only pushed upon us, but to which, when they are pushed upon us long enough, we will inevitably and necessarily succumb. If you are in a “consumerist” society long enough how could you be expected to just not buy crap you can’t afford when you don’t need it? No — the answer must be that of course you will succumb. And from there any bad behaviour — even looting and burning — will be excused because it will be someone else’s fault.

This is the world view of an addict. And the answer to all our society’s problems of the addict Brand is one answer which some addicts seek for their addiction — which is that everyone is to be blamed for their failings except themselves. Grand conspiracy theories and establishment plots offer great promise and comfort to such people. They suggest that when we fail or when we fall we do so never because of any conceivable failing or inability of our own, but because some bastard — any bastard — made us do it, has been planning to do it and perhaps always intended to do so. Of course the one thing missing in all this — the one thing that doesn’t appear in either of these books or in any of their conspiratorial and confused demagogic world view — is the only thing which has saved anyone in the past and the only thing which will save anybody in the future: not perfect societies, perfectly engineered economies and perfectly equal, flattened-out collective-based societies, but human agency alone.

Douglas Murray, “Don’t Listen to Britain’s Designer Demagogues”, Standpoint, 2015-01.

January 26, 2016

Inventing ISIS

Filed under: Middle East, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Strategy Page looks at some of the prevailing beliefs about the origins of ISIS among refugees:

Interviews with refugees from the fighting in Iraq and Syria as well as people still in those countries shows that over 80 percent believe the Islamic terrorists in general and ISIL and al Qaeda in particular are creations of the West (particularly the United States) and Israel as a means to destroy their countries and Islam. This is nothing new and while all this is unbelievable to most Westerners and largely ignored by Western media and politicians it is very real and has been for a long time. Media in these countries is full of even more fanciful (to Westerners) inventions. This has caused problems for Western troops operating in those countries, although some have figured out how to take advantage of it.

All cultures have a certain belief in magic and what Westerners call “conspiracy theories” to explain otherwise unexplainable events. In the Islamic world, there is a lot of attention paid to sorcery and magic, and people accused of practicing such things are regularly attacked and sometimes executed because “sorcery” is a capital crime under Islamic law. Conspiracy theories are also a popular way to explain away inconvenient facts and this is often found useful in countries that are hostile to other forms of sorcery.

For example back in 2008 many Pakistanis believed that the then recent Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai, India was actually the work of the Israeli Mossad or the American CIA and not the Pakistani terrorists who were killed or captured and identified. Such fantasies are a common explanation, in Moslem nations, for Islamic terrorist atrocities. Especially when Moslems, particularly women and children are among the victims. In response many Moslems tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems).

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, many Moslems again blamed Israel for staging those attacks. A favorite variation of this is that, before the attacks on the World Trade Center, a secret message went out to all Jews in the area to stay away. Another variation has it that the 19 attackers (all of them Arab, 15 from Saudi Arabia) were really not Arabs but falsely identified as part of the Israeli deception. In the United States some Americans insist that the attack was the work of the U.S. government, complete with the World Trade Center towers being brought down by prepositioned explosive charges. While few Americans accept this, the CIA and Mossad fantasies are widely accepted in the Moslem world. Even Western educated Arabs, speaking good English, will casually express, and accept, these tales of the Israeli Mossad staging the attacks, in an effort to trick the U.S. into attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans are shocked at this, but the Moslems expressing these beliefs just shrug when confronted with contradictory evidence.

December 17, 2015

A slightly more plausible conspiracy theory about “The Donald”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle isn’t normally a spinner of conspiracy theories, but here’s one that might appeal to you if you’ve been feverishly searching for the reason behind the Trump Insurgency:

If the news media actually operated like the tacit conspiracy that many conservatives imagine, we would have all quietly gotten together and agreed to bury Trump. He could rant in the privacy of his own home, as reporters graciously declined to broadcast his latest pronouncements. Instead, every time he says something, everyone in the media rushes to condemn, fact-check, analyze, highlight, mutilate, fold and spindle it. All this media outrage, of course, only improves his ratings with people who believe in the conspiracy.

Why does this happen? It’s a collective action problem. If other people are reporting on Trump, then he’s news, which means you have to report on him too. Witness the fact that I am writing something like my sixth or seventh column on a man who I still don’t think will be the Republican nominee, much less the president of the United States.

It’s obvious that media moguls didn’t meet in a smoky back room to silence coverage of Trump. But there’s a slightly more plausible theory: That the Hillary Clinton supporters among the news media see Trump’s nomination as the best thing that could possibly happen for the Democratic Party. Unless the Grand Old Party nominated the disinterred corpse of Richard Nixon, there’s probably no surer path to Clinton’s victory.

Trump consistently underperforms folks like Marco Rubio in head-to-head matchups against Democratic candidates. As a nominee he would motivate massive turnout among Latinos who want to vote against him. And the party operation he’ll need to actually get supporters to the polls in November 2016 is not going to rally behind him with any great enthusiasm even if he somehow manages to secure the nomination. Trump supporters should be absolutely clear on this point: A vote for Trump in the primary is a vote for Clinton in the general.

It’s a slightly more plausible theory, but let’s get real: Journalists are covering Trump because he’s newsworthy. It’s an unintended side effect that coverage of Trump helps Clinton.

December 11, 2015

“It’s fun to read a real scientific paper than says ‘bulls***’ 200 times”

Filed under: Cancon, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Doug Bolton reports on a recent Canadian university study:

A new scientific study has found that those who are receptive to pseudo-profound, intellectual-sounding ‘bulls***’ are less intelligent, less reflective, and more likely to be believe in conspiracy theories, the paranormal and alternative medicine.

PhD candidate Gordon Pennycook and a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, tested hundreds of participants to make the link, detailing their findings in a paper entitled ‘On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bulls***’, which mentions the word ‘bulls***’ exactly 200 times (surely some sort of record).

Defining bulls*** is a tricky task, but Pennycook and his team tried their best in the paper.

As an example, they gave the following ‘pseudo-profound’ statement: “Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty.”

The paper says: “Although this statement may seem to convey some sort of potentially profound meaning, it is merely a collection of buzzwords put together randomly in a sentence that retains syntactic structure.”

[…]

Almost 300 test subjects were asked to rate the profundity of these sentences on a scale of one to five.

The mean profoundness rating was 2.6, indicating the quotes were generally seen as between ‘somewhat profound’ and ‘fairly profound’. Around 27 per cent of participants gave an average score of three or more, however, suggesting they thought the sentences were profound or very profound.

In the second test, the team confronted the participants with real-life examples of bulls***, asking them to read tweets posted by Deepak Chopra, a writer known for his New Age views on spirituality and medicine, as well as using the computer-generated statements from the first test.

The results in this test were very similar, indicating many participants were unable to spot the bulls***.

November 6, 2015

Turkish politics, post-election

Filed under: Europe, Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Austin Bay looks at Turkey’s domestic political situation following the re-election of Recep Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party:

The threat to Turkish democratic institutions is a man notoriously jealous of Ataturk, current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The snap election gave Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, AKP, overwhelming control of parliament (316 of 550 seats). The AKP had controlled parliament since 2002, but in the June 7 election it lost its one-party majority. Political haggling among opposition parties, including Ataturk’s Republican Peoples Party, the CHP, failed to produce a coalition government; a new election was necessary.

However, in the intervening month’s domestic terrorist incidents, the fitful war with the Islamic State in the Levant and Syria’s violent chaos dominated Turkish politics.

Erdoğan portrayed himself as the only leader capable of addressing Turkey’s deteriorating security situation. Domestic security certainly diminished; why it did stirs angry accusations. Erdoğan’s political opponents maintain that he used the violence to solidify political support. His more vicious critics accuse him of intentionally permitting violence. For example, they argue his government could have prevented the Oct. 10 terror bombing of a peace march in Ankara, now attributed to ISIL. Over 100 people were murdered in that attack.

Is it an over the top conspiracy theory-type accusation? Possibly. Erdoğan himself, however, believes over the top conspiracy theories, and he uses conspiratorial doubt and fear as political tools. His record for jailing journalists and intimidating political opponents associated with his alleged conspiracies is fact, not theory. The election didn’t assuage his fears — it ignited another surge of arrests. On Nov. 3, police arrested scores of people associated with Erdoğan critic and Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. At one time Gulen supported Erdoğan and the moderate Islamist AKP. However, Gulen broke with Erdoğan over credible charges of corruption within Erdoğan’s governing circle.

Daniel Pipes isn’t convinced that the terror stampeded voters in Erdoğan’s direction (especially Kurdish voters), and he suspects fraud in the election results:

Like other observers of Turkish politics, I was stunned on November 1 when the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP) was reported to have increased its share of the national vote since the last round of elections in June 2015 by 9 percent and its share of parliamentary seats by 11 percent.

The polls had consistently shown the four major parties winning about the same number of seats as in June. This made intuitive sense; they represent mutually hostile outlooks (Islamist, leftist, Kurdish, nationalist), making substantial movement between them in under five months highly unlikely. That about one in nine voters switched parties defies reason.

Polling results between the June and November 2015 Turkish elections

Polling results between the June and November 2015 Turkish elections

The AKP’s huge increase gave it back the parliamentary majority it had lost in the June 2015 elections, promising President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a semi-legal path to the dictatorial powers he aspires to.

But, to me, the results stink of fraud. It defies reason, for example, that the AKP’s war on Kurds would prompt about a quarter of Turkey’s Kurds to abandon the pro-Kurdish party and switch their votes to the AKP.

September 26, 2015

QotD: The “stab in the back” theory

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There’s this underlying tone, whenever you see people talking about the “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy to destroy Germany” and the “stab in the back” theory of why Germany lost World War I, that the latter was come up with out of whole cloth by the German aristocracy and military while the former was Hitler’s own insane twist on the theory.

Unfortunately, neither one of those statements is entirely true. First, while Germany would have ended up losing World War I even without its internal issues, the fact of the matter is that the morale issues and general disaffection that led the German high command to sue for peace in 1918 were exacerbated by socialist agitation. The most obvious result of this was the Kiel mutiny, when the sailors of the German navy refused to go out and have a last “glorious” battle with the British and proceeded to set up a socialist-led soldiers and workers council, and eventually forced the German government to overthrow the Kaiser. In other words, the “stab in the back” happened — it’s just that it was more of a result of Germany’s loss of the war than the cause of it.

As to the “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy” — well, the awkward thing is that a disproportionate amount of Jews were involved in leftism in this period. Many of the leaders of the Spartacus League, which was heavily involved in the 1919 Spartacist uprising that attempted to take over Berlin, were Jewish, as were many within the Bolshevik uprising in Russia itself. The reason for this, of course, was that a disproportionate number of Jews were intellectuals, and intellectuals are often attracted to leftism. Now, the emphasis on Judaism was part and parcel of a longstanding pattern of German and European anti-Semitism, while the destruction of Germany/the German people was a case of a toxic combination of “They believe, as I do, that their policies are bad for Germany” and projection.

However, it should be noted that both of these theories, like all the really powerful lies, had a little kernel of truth in them, and a lot of belief behind them. There had been a socialist uprising in Germany that served as the straw that broke the camel’s back, and there were a number of Jews involved in the German left.

Sarah Hoyt, “Social Injustice – 60 Guilders”, According to Hoyt, 2015-07-31.

June 13, 2015

The secretive Bilderberg group meets to plan global domination

Filed under: Europe, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

… or, y’know … to get the global movers and shakers together for a quick rubber chicken dinner or six and a few grip’n’grins among the well-connected and the extremely-well-wealthed:

The annual Bilderberg meeting begins today in Telfs-Buchen, Austria. This year the summit’s influential attendees range from David Petraeus to Henry Kissinger, from the CEO of Airbus to the secretary general of NATO. There are some press figures on the guest list too — Bloomberg‘s John Micklethwait, The National Post‘s Andrew Coyne, The Washington Post‘s Anne Applebaum, and a few others. But the journalists won’t be writing about what they see, because the whole thing is off the record.

This combination of power and secrecy inevitably produces conspiracy theories, and the Bilderbergers have been dogged for decades by people convinced they’re the secret parliament of the world. The meeting is more mundane than that, sitting somewhere on the spectrum between a G7 summit and a Davos forum. But if some of the things people claim about Bilderberg are crazy — a couple years ago, Michael Tracy interviewed a protester outside the meeting who was convinced it featured “Devil worship” and “pedophilia” — it’s not at all kooky to recognize that powerful people are gathered there and that the things they’re saying in private may be newsworthy. Bilderberg is not a hidden government, but it’s certainly an elite institution, and it has been since it was founded in 1954.

May 19, 2015

The Tin Foil Hat Brigade and Jade Helm 15

Filed under: Military, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Tom Kratman on the overtly paranoid reactions to the upcoming Jade Helm exercise:

In about two months, exercise Jade Helm 15 is scheduled to kick off. This is a two-month long special operations exercise, spread out across the southwest of the country, from Texas to California. It has the Tin Foil Hat Brigade, Right Wing Regiment1, demonstrating all the calm and relaxed demeanor (I am, of course, kidding), as well as the typical paranoid delusions (not kidding at all), for which it and its members are justifiably famous.2

Never having actually enlisted with the Tin Foil Hat Brigade, my initial reaction to exercise Jade Helm 15 was a resounding, “ho hum,” and my reaction to the TFHB reaction was, “As Christ probably would have said if He’d thought about it, ‘The loons ye shall have with ye always.’”

To be fair to the TFHB, though, whenever the New York Times3 and Washington Post4 agree that something like this is clearly harmless, it’s possibly time to inventory our stocks of ammunition and break out the banana oil to make sure our protective masks are in good working order. In other words, their enthusiastic and unquestioned agreement constitutes a rebuttable presumption that FEMA is about to open concentration camps.

However, rebuttable presumptions are there to be rebutted. This week and next I’m going to limit my rebuttal to the notion that the exercise is inherently suspicious because it is so militarily useless and unnecessary as to be indefensible. To do that we need to get into a little history, a bit of doctrine, and a touch of dogma.

[…]

1 Which in general demeanor much resembles the TFHB, Left Wing Regiment.
2 Just Google it; there are too many examples for me to illustrate without appearing to be playing favorites.
3 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/us/conspiracy-theories-over-jade-helm-get-some-traction-in-texas.html?_r=0
4 http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/29/jade-helm-15-a-military-simulation-draws-scrutiny-and-wild-speculation-in-texas/

February 20, 2015

QotD: Post-modern conspiracy theories

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

To the feminists and their allies we owe the coining of the phrase “heteronormative,” which describes the moral terror that all good people are expected to feel for walking around with their bigoted heads full of the notion that, however tolerant or even indulgent we may be of our more exotically inclined friends and neighbors, there exists such a thing as sexual normalcy, and that our norms are related to that which is — what’s the word? — normal. Conservatives are of course inclined to account for the great variety of human life as a matter of fact if not as a matter of moral endorsement: William F. Buckley Jr., upon being told that at most 2 percent of the population is gay, replied that if that were really the case then he must know all of them personally. The heteronormative is right up there with “rape culture” and various distillations of “privilege” — white, male, etc. — that together form the rogues’ gallery populating progressives’ worldview, which is at heart a species of conspiracy in which such traditional malefactors as the Illuminati and the Bilderbergers have been replaced with disembodied malice that can be located anywhere and at any time it is convenient to do so.

Like the old-fashioned conspiracy theorists they so closely resemble, progressives regard any resistance to their risible claims regarding the all-pervasive power of patriarchy/heteronormalcy/white privilege/etc. as nothing more than evidence of the reach and strength of the conspiracy’s tentacles. A regular at a coffee shop I used to frequent was known to one and all as “Conspiracy Theory Larry,” and had an explanation for everything — everything — that was wrong with the world, and my derision was enough to convince him I was a junior-league Illuminatus. (I can only imagine that he was confirmed in his suspicion when I joined National Review, which after all was founded by this guy: “William F. Buckley Jr., the American publisher who heads the elite Janus mind-control project at NATO headquarters, was the most awful of all of them. [Ed: “Them” being reptilian shape-shifters.] Quite honestly he used his teeth a lot. He used to bite a lot. He got pleasure out of hurting people by biting them after he shape-shifted. To this very day I have an aversion to that kind of thing.” I suppose one would.) If forays into gender-role adventurism are met with so much as a raised eyebrow, it is, in the progressive mind, evidence of a monstrous evil. As in a good conspiracy theory, every evil must be in unity with every other evil, which is why progressives can see no difference between a social norm that assumes boys do not normally wear dresses and one that assumes homosexuals will be put into concentration camps.

Kevin D. Williamson, “Gender-Neutral Dating”, National Review, 2014-01-11

November 16, 2014

Breaking: Stephen Harper installed in quiet coup by CIA!

Filed under: Cancon, Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:58

It was such a quiet coup that even the media failed to see it! Mark Taliano screams to us Canuckian sheeple that it’s time to wake up!

The biggest threat to Canada’s national security is internal. It is the offshoot of an extraordinarily successful quiet coup that imposed itself on the country with the federal election of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) in 2006, and solidified its impacts with the election of a Conservative majority in 2011.

Author, poet, academic, and former Canadian diplomat Prof. Peter Dale Scott recently disclosed a WikiLeaks cable indicating that the International Republican Institute (IRI), an off-shoot of the CIA, and a subsidiary of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), helped install Stephen Harper as Canada’s Prime Minister. This was the coup.

Point 12 of the cable explains that In addition to the campaign schools, IRI will be bringing in consultants who specialize in party renovation to discuss case studies of political parties in Germany, Spain, and Canada which successfully carried out the process”

My GOD! Canadian political parties bringing in American advisors? This must be resisted! We won’t stand for filthy imperialistic Yankee scum polluting our pristine and uncorrupted political sphere!! Oh, wait … Justin has American advisors too? Oh. Move along: nothing to see here. Move along.

Dr. Anthony James Hall, Professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge, in Alberta, explains the genesis of the Harper Conservative assault on the “Red Tory” traditions of Canada’s indigenous conservative party in Flanagan’s Last Stand?:

    The assault by the Harper-Flanagan juggernaut on the generally friendly orientation of Canadian conservatism towards the state, towards Indigenous peoples, and towards the institutions of Crown sovereignty helped clear aside obstacles to the importation from United States of the Republican Party’s jihad on managed capitalism. Flanagan and Harper took charge of the Canadian version of the Reagan Revolution aimed at transforming the social welfare state into the stock market state.

I’d love to say this was just a parody, but I think at least some people on the left really do believe all of this.

August 22, 2014

Broad, bipartisan support for … conspiracy theories?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:04

In the Washington Post, Alfred Moore, Joseph Parent and Joseph Uscinski show that it’s not just fringe activists on either side of the divide that indulge in conspiracy theorizing: it really is just as common on the left as it is on the right.

Krugman makes a fair point: in moderation conspiracy theories may show healthy skepticism, but in excess they can erode the trust needed for states to fulfill their basic functions and warp the respect for evidence necessary for sound decision making.

Yet Krugman is mostly wrong that nuttiness is found mainly among conservatives, and his misperception actually reveals a great deal about U.S. politics. People of all political persuasions believe their views are objectively right and others hold positions that are arbitrary and asinine. Daniel Kahan finds that partisan commitments make people look for evidence to justify their conclusions. Even when, say, liberals come up with a correct answer, it may not have been because of their high esteem for evidence. They just got lucky. The implication is that people use data like drunks use lampposts: more for support than illumination. Columnist Ezra Klein concurs with Kahan, although he points out the large numbers of Republicans who refuse to accept climate science and wonders whether there is a liberal equivalent to climate change denial.

[…]

In our survey, we also measured respondents’ underlying propensity to believe in conspiracy theories — that is, the general mindset that leads people to accept or reject conspiracy theories. We asked respondents whether they agreed with four statements:

  • “Much of our lives are being controlled by plots hatched in secret places,”
  • “Even though we live in a democracy, a few people will always run things anyway,”
  • “The people who really ‘run’ the country are not known to the voters.”
  • “Big events like wars, the current recession, and the outcomes of elections are controlled by small groups of people who are working in secret against the rest of us.”

We combined these questions into one summary measure. This graph shows the percentage of Democrats, Republicans, and independents that showed a strong or medium disposition towards thinking conspiratorially.
Conspiracy theories on the left and the right
The upshot: near symmetry between left and right.

If Republicans and Democrats are equally prone to believing in conspiracy theories, where then is the liberal equivalent of climate change denial? An obvious possibility is the belief that Big Oil conspires to marginalize unfavorable findings or block alternative energies. Our survey, for example, shows that 52 percent of Democrats believe corporations are conspiring against us.

July 30, 2014

Another view of the Endarkenment – “a treasure trove of top-shelf heterdox samizdaty badness”

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:12

Andrea Castillo tries to outline the “Dark Enlightenment” (or “neoreaction”) for libertarians and other as-yet-unenlightened readers:

A puckish new brand of right-wing radical subverts the postmodern power machine each day over Twitter and RSS for fun and praxis. It’s a real hoot to watch. These rudely triggering firebrands are denounced by the people who matter as wrong-thinking zealots of the most problematic variety — to the masochistic vindication (and occasional sacking) of our impish dissidents. Their freakish messages seem almost tailored to demand attention in our outrage-driven world of social media signaling. Libertarians, meet the neoreaction.

Where to begin? We might think our post-scarcity anarcho-capitalist sex-positive brunch-laden anti-war techno-utopian open borders global activism is pretty avant garde, but these guys have moved on to fashion intellectual foundations for the glorious reinstatement of the rightful House of Stuart (among other anachronisms). They’ve been blowing up the extended artisanal blogosphere in a big way. We’re going to get lumped in with this crew more and more as they gain exposure (they’re not happy about it either), so you should probably know what we’re up against.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m vaguely aware of some of the leading lights (or should that be “leading darks”) of this movement, but with one or two exceptions, I’m not aware of the details of their beliefs. I’m still not convinced they’re as “big bad” as they and their detractors seem to think they are.

Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This motley band of techno-futurists, traditionalists, seduction artists, funnymen, reluctant Sedevacantists, inconvenient ethnonationalists, monarchists, communitarians, general heretics, homebrewed evolutionists, and one dedicated Jacobite to guide them all is perhaps easier for libertarians to initially understand through what they commonly oppose than for what they separately advocate. It’s simpler than you might think.

You could say that these cats take Carlyle, Hobbes, and Darwin pretty seriously. They, like our premier techno-libertarian emissary, do not believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. They reject egalitarianism to a consistency that would have impressed even our old grizzly Bard. Some of them out-Hayek Hayek on social justice, too. Like Mises, they intuit and repudiate the anti-bourgeois mentality of political and cultural Marxism. According to the neoreactionary narrative, these false gods beguile and confuse the masses of unwitting postmoderns into worship of the Cathedral.

Understanding Moldbug’s Cathedral is key to understanding this Dark Enlightenment. Think of it as a public-private partnership that promotes and protects the entrenched secular Puritan paradigm (long story) that neoreactionaries believe runs the world. Or, in the parlance, it’s a cosmos sprung from a taxis that justifies the progressive right of the International Community. Take that rascally State we all rail against and add its cultural allies. Voilà: you have #realpolitik.

July 8, 2014

Understatement of the day – “Britain in the Seventies was a very weird place”

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:42

In the Telegraph, Iain Martin tries to put this summer’s British media hysteria/witch hunt into a bit of perspective:

Anyone who expresses astonishment about the wave of recent revelations and allegations centred on the conduct of assorted entertainers and celebrities from the Seventies must have been lacking access to a television set, if they are genuinely shocked. In that decade, and on into the Eighties, even the most successful and least funny comedy programme rested mainly on one joke, which involved a man in a raincoat chasing around bikini-clad young women. Back then the work of Benny Hill was regarded as family entertainment, and groping, sexual incontinence and jokes about the corruption of innocence were the staples of countless other comedians. It would be surprising – really, wouldn’t it? – if a minority of twisted, power-crazed people working in “entertainment” intent on sexual abuse hadn’t exploited the opportunity to do terrible harm.

Britain in the Seventies was a very weird place. The sexual revolution (largely an elite project of the Sixties, which did not go mainstream until later) had produced a bizarre popular culture hybrid. In the Seventies, the British saucy postcard tradition, always darker than it looked, featuring cheeky innuendo, collided with a crazed mood of supposed sexual liberation. The message pushed out in some sitcoms and other forms of popular entertainment was that everyone was permanently at “it” and that any woman resisting “it” was a prude or a relic of a bygone era. Questions of license, consent and desirability became hopelessly confused. This was the dark flip side of the numerous benefits which came with the abandonment of the old, stifling constraints imposed on both sexes.

To make matters even more hazardous, Britain in the Seventies was a country wobbling on the verge of a transition. The population’s over-reliance on deference and a blind faith in the virtues of authority had already been tested in the Suez disaster and in the Profumo scandal of 1963, although it had not collapsed entirely. Parents still operated on the assumption that fellow adults in positions of power were likely to be trustworthy, and the majority were. But thanks to scandals revealed since involving schools, churches, children’s homes, the BBC, the Scouts and so on, we know that some individuals and networks of paedophiles exploited that trust, again to do terrible harm.

The hound pack of the media is in full cry, and that urge to convict before trial is overwhelming common sense and propriety.

But increasingly we seem less interested in due process – as a protection against miscarriage of justice or to prevent a bad precedent being established – than we do in the excitement of the moment and urgent demands for a government “inquiry” which must usually be “over-arching”. These inquiries are now an industry in themselves, although curiously the one area that probably deserved it (the banking collapse presided over by the political class which triggered the worst downturn in 80 years) was not given a proper inquiry. Funny that.

On Westminster child abuse, the risk was identified by Claire Fox speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme earlier. She said that rumour is already becoming confused with evidence. All manner of claims are now being aired and reported as though they are fact. “Twenty members of the Establishment,” “ministers” and unnamed “leading figures” are accused of dark and sinister deeds. Alongside those making genuine allegations, anyone with a claim will get on air at the moment, any crank or fantasist who wants to attract attention or settle scores will cry that they are being ignored or suppressed if the broadcasters will not give them a platform immediately. It would be a brave BBC producer who would decline right now.

June 19, 2014

The NFL conspiracy theorist

Filed under: Football, Humour, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

“Draw Play” Dave Rappoccio is running a series of cartoons on the various sub-groups of NFL fans. This week’s subject is the Conspiracy Theorist:

Draw Play - The Conspiracy Theorist
Click to see full cartoon.

He also talks about the mentality of the conspiracy theorist fan in some detail:

A part of me struggles to accept that people this deluded actually exist, but they do. I’ve heard stories, and I’ve seen the occasional online post about it. These people are few, but not fictional. There are actually people who think the NFL is scripted.

Like most conspiracy theories it sounds absolutely stupid at first, then part of you might go “well, I guess that was kinda perfect that it happened just that way”, then you think about it a little more and you realize that yup, it’s still stupid and the logic falls apart. But some people don’t get past that second stage. I can’t figure out why. The best guess I can muster is that most of the fans are somehow bitter about the way their team loses or something.

[…]

But some people legit think it’s scripted like pro wrestling. These people are…I can’t defend them. They are deluded. For everything that sounds like it might make some sense, lots of other things just make it feel so forced. The NFL has been around for a long time, and started as a small time game. It has grown into the giant it is not overnight, but over decades. There has never, ever, been any evidence that has come out to suggest it’s scripted. No retired referees, no disgruntled employees, nothing. Over decades. Come on. There are so many people covering the league now, so many media members, so many pundits, so many sources. The NFL being scripted would be a huge story, but none of them have ever investigated it? Nothing? No player, current or former, EVER, in all this time, has come out and said things weren’t right. None have even suggested it. You think in a league with players treated as poorly as they are in medical coverage that one wouldn’t want to blow the lid off the biggest sports story ever? There is no evidence of scripted play, and if you think it is, you are dumb. We are not sheeple, you are gullible & trying to find deeper issues where they don’t exist.

I forwarded the link to a friend of mine who is emphatically not a sports fan, but who has floated the occasional theory about “the fix” being in in all professional sports in one way or another. His response was entertaining:

As for the article, I’m not entirely sure of his point. Is he arguing that pro sports cannot possibly be fixed because the key games are often so boring? The author so wants to believe in his fantasy land where men wearing shiny tight pants can bum-pat and hug each other without feeling a little bit weird about it that he’s willing to overlook any possibility of there being corruption in the game. […]

Football gives the illusion of one team being better than another through its very short season. With just 16 games, you just do not have a very large sample size to gauge performance. It’s like me typing 16 words without an error: I must therefore be the world’s best typist. If the NFL season dragged on as long as the insufferable NHL season, I bet we’d see all of the teams finish much closer together in their win-loss-tie figures. With a larger sample, we’d likely see that all the teams are likely pretty much the same.

But pro sports fans really want to believe in heart and giving a-hundred-and-ten-per-cent and playing a good psychological game and putting the biscuit in the basket and all of that other crap. Even if refs and players came forward and admitted to throwing games I suspect that the fans would not want to believe them. Look how the fans keep coming back even after players’ strikes — these are people so desperate for a fix that they will put almost anything in their veins.

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