Friday, January 31, 2014

Crocodile Prayer

"In Egypt," says Clement of Alexandria, "the sanctuaries of the temples are shaded by curtains of golden tissue. But on going further into the interior in quest of the statue, a priest of grave aspect, advancing to meet you and chanting a hymn in the Egyptian tongue, slightly raises a veil to show you the god. And what do you behold ? A crocodile, or some indigenous serpent, or other dangerous animal, the Egyptian god being a brute rolling about on a purple carpet."
 
--Taine, French Revolution
 
Some of us have this least glancing regard
For at least the recent most of yesterday.
Feel free to think us strange!  As if we cared.
All we care about is observing the obvious.
Tonight we peek behind the purple curtain.
Let subtle stay seated for the next poem.
Why but as tautology, whatever's worth
Worship that overcomes not life itself?
Why shouldn't any man's answer be easy?
Why look past death?  You worship yourself
And death.  You hardly need a third.  Mere
Self-worship long disguised your obvious
Adapted habitat: not the Congo jungle
But the Congo swamp - with obvious god
The crocodile.  What else reaps, beating
Man's fastest man on mud or land or water,
His treeless fief like a hungry diesel?
Man it's not who sums up the sums of life,
Who calipers heads for the national window.
The crocodile chooses. "He alone goes bang."
And what in the end is left of Mandelstam?
What about Lavoisier's mouth-pipette?
What hole's got the socks of Lafayette?
At least we are not without old Bentham -
But where is Bulgakov, but a cat in a box?
Which god exists but death?  Death the crocodile,
"A master from Germany" but not just Germany.
"Or traffic in the grasshoppers or bees."  
A war of three crocodiles.  A century's war.
"Not the Congo jungle but the Congo swamp."
The world crocodile; Crocodile Ouroboros;
Full of black cancer, fat as a highway,
Grayer than Nantucket, quite toothless,
Jawed with an avalanche of starving gum;
Calm as stone and invisible underwater,
Bartender of some secret rotting larder -
He hunts so seldom now, and we know why.
Yet in prayer, better lit; a remarkably,
Even universally, attractive figure; by no
Means adored for size and appetite alone
But behemoth in real character as well;
Immortal, and not without a certain humor,
A real critic of the edible swamp ape.
"The Republic has no need of savants."
Admit it, you love him and you love death.
Whoever brings home death in his teeth
Is measure and majesty of enlightenment.
And this is natural; no more need be said.
Ave Maria, for most of four centuries now!
We pray for the obvious and never receive.

Thursday, November 28, 2013 228 Comments

Mr. Jones is rather concerned

Something is happening here.  But you don't know what it is - do you, Mr. Jones?

Is there anyone else in the room who's here because he's just plain embarrassed by the present world?  The past is a foreign country, someone once said.  If the past is a foreign country, someone else said, a reactionary is a patriot of that country.  Almost an exile from it.

And unlike the presentist, who sees the past as a tiny, backward and contemptible province of his vast eternal present, the reactionary knows the opposite.  The present is a province of the past.  Yes, it's true - like any province, it has its specialties.  The food, for instance.  The iPads - superb.  The movies - never better.

But overall!  Stuck here like Ovid among the Pontic Greeks, Augustus beyond deaf to all appeal, the civilized man can only murmur: barbarus hic ego sum.  Does he wish for friends?  He has no shortage - he could not imagine better.  No, what he really needs is a better grade of critics.  The bar is too low.  And when you're trying - absurdly of course, but with real feeling - to write sub specie aeternitas, that's what kills ya.

In Rome, of course, critics were no problem.  Out here in Pontus, it's pretty much all, you talk like a fag.  What makes the provincial critic so grimly, hilariously terrible is that he imagines himself not just equal to the wits of the metropolis, but vastly superior.  Is it even possible to respond?  Shall the man of letters respond: "excuse me, 'Dr. Lexus,' but I am resolutely heterosexual - as if it mattered - and 'my shit,' as you call it, is anything but 'all retarded'?"

But the present world, province though it be, has some advantages.  It does exist and we do have to live here. So, from one barbarian to another, perhaps a brief comment is in order.

Not to the original source.  Argue with Dr. Lexus?  Really?  With Mr. Jones?  When Mr. Jones is not quite sure whether he's a belletrist or a Stasi-Mann (apparently "Doxing 101" is the cornerstone of the media and communications major these days at Pontus State); when neither he nor his undoubtedly overworked copy editor can balance a quote, place a comma, or master the mysterious art of the proper noun - forget it, Ovid.  It's Pontus.

No, obviously no one should ever respond to a journalist.  (Or a Stasi-Mann.)  It's a mistake to think these people have opinions.  They have careers.  They're paid by the click and not paid well.  If you or I had Mr. Jones' job,  we'd write what he writes or lose it - maybe in slightly better English.  It's a mistake to anthropomorphize Mr. Jones.  He's a piece in a machine.

The basic nature of constitutional government is the formalization of power, and democracy is the formalization of mob violence.  Why is America's constitution democratic?  Because the Puritan mob drove Charles I (who, like Louis XVI and Nicholas II, was basically just a nice guy) out of London in 1642.  In a present world where mob violence is a thing of the past, we wouldn't expect to see genuine demotic opinion actually matter in the political process - much as we wouldn't expect to see feudal knights matter in a world that's invented the musket.  For instance, the closest thing America has to a non-astroturf political force is the Tea Party.  Which doesn't even litter.  Nor does it matter, and this is not a coincidence.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to call journalism the last real remnant of American democracy.  The job is about two things: minting clicks for slave wages, and feeling important.  (You might say that journalists are paid both in money and in power.)  Anything that can produce a good Two Minutes' Hate punches both buttons.  If one Mr. Jones misses it, the next won't.  I've seen the future of journalism in America.  It's called Upworthy.  It's exactly what Pontus both demands and deserves.

Fortunately, the Pontic mob has both the attention and the testicles of a gnat, and its bite-to-bark ratio is really difficult to understate.  Since I regret everything pathetic in the present world, and especially the death of all kings, I mourn even King Mob.  (After all, Priestley got exactly what he deserved.)  In this case, though...

Anyway.  So much for Mr. Jones.  But Pontus does offer its rewards, even intellectually.  When I think of the Pontic critics, my mind turns always to Buck Harkness.  The tragedy of Buck Harkness, "half a man," is that he was born with all the ingredients to be a Colonel Sherburn.  But nurture played him false - the bar was too low.  In Pontus, half a man is all the best of men can be.  (In Rome, I'd be instantly exposed as a ridiculous poser for talking about Ovid when I never even learned Latin.  Whereas in Pontus, just the fact that I've heard of Ovid makes me sound like a fag.)

Take David Brin.  Insomuch as Pontus has real writers - real critics, even - Brin is one.  When I was twelve I read one of his books and really enjoyed it.  Something about superintelligent mutant dolphins in an alien ocean.  He has ideas, too - I've been meaning to read this for a while.  It's not terribly controversial to me, and, you know, 20th-century ideas.  When there's so much of Maistre I haven't gotten to yet.  But it offended a lot of the usual Pontic pundits, and who can argue with that?

But really.  Your Pontic Buck Harkness shows no signs of ever having read anything pre-1922, except inasmuch as he was maybe assigned an excerpt from it in college.  Colonel Sherburn shouldn't have to argue with Buck Harkness and his mob.  If he's really Colonel Sherburn, he just sends them home.  It's less a fight than an episode of Knockout Game.

So for instance, Brin seems very big on the Enlightenment.  It would be interesting to know the last book from the Enlightenment he read.  If he's read any.  My suspicion is that what he reveres is not actually the actual Enlightenment, but the "Enlightenment" as taught in 20th-century universities.  Did you know that powdered eggs are actually made from actual eggs?  Imagine a science-fiction dystopia in which, perhaps on board your starship, you ate powdered eggs for breakfast every day.  Eggs, to you, are powdered eggs.  Real eggs are illegal.  Or something.  But one day, someone smuggles an actual chicken on board...

When I think of the Enlightenment, for instance, the man who jumps to mind is Hume.  Pontus is a busy place and perhaps you don't have time to appreciate Hume yourself.  I've read a good bit of his History of England, which is excellent and really ought to be updated in the proper spirit.  But I'll just quote Wikipedia, which of course contains the truth on all subjects:
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment.
Unfortunately for Buck Harkness, Hume's ideal form of government was... a "civilized monarchy":
In a civilized monarchy, the prince alone is unrestrained in the exercise of his authority, and possesses alone a power, which is not bounded by any thing but custom, example, and the sense of his own interest. Every minister or magistrate, however eminent, must submit to the general laws, which govern the whole society, and must exert the authority delegated to him after the manner, which is prescribed. The people depend on none but their sovereign, for the security of their property. He is so far removed from them, and is so much exempt from private jealousies or interests, that this dependence is scarcely felt. And thus a species of government arises, to which, in a high political rant, we may give the name of Tyranny, but which, by a just and prudent administration, may afford tolerable security to the people, and may answer most of the ends of political society. 
But though in a civilized monarchy, as well as in a republic, the people have security for the enjoyment of their property; yet in both these forms of government, those who possess the supreme authority have the disposal of many honours and advantages, which excite the ambition and avarice of mankind. The only difference is, that, in a republic, the candidates for office must look downwards, to gain the suffrages of the people; in a monarchy, they must turn their attention upwards, to court the good graces and favour of the great. To be successful in the former way, it is necessary for a man to make himself useful, by his industry, capacity, or knowledge: To be prosperous in the latter way, it is requisite for him to render himself agreeable, by his wit, complaisance, or civility. A strong genius succeeds best in republics; a refined taste in monarchies. And consequently the sciences are the more natural growth of the one, and the polite arts of the other.
Moreover, when we read the Enlightenment, we pay it very little respect indeed if we read it as if it was the Bible.  Hume today would both read and judge himself, and so must we.

For instance, Hume genuinely believed that the way to gain "the suffrages of the people" was for a politician to "make himself useful, by his industry, capacity, or knowledge."  Was he... a moron?  Did he... talk like a fag?

No, his work is a product of its time and place - the Whig aristocracy of 18th-century Britain, a marvelous synthesis of the old Puritan and feudal strains which somehow preserved the virtues of both.  It really was (to some extent) true that the Puritan middle classes of his era were a remarkably virtuous people.  Empowering them with republican forms created a regime that wasn't called Augustan for nothing, and laid the foundations for the empire in whose ruins we live.

But even by the late 18th century, this structure, really a settlement of the great 17th-century conflict, is crumbling.  The engineering does not work.  The republic is too strong for the monarchy and begins to tear it down.  And the virtue... oh, now I'm making myself cry.  Where did all that Puritan virtue come from, anyway?  It brought down the Stuarts.  But it was not born under the Stuarts.

Hume would be the first to point out that the constitution of any country depends on the actual people of that country.  Republican forms are not an end in and of themselves.  When virtue is widely distributed, these forms are a way of concentrating and employing it.  You will find writers who believe republican forms can build a virtuous state from a vile electorate.  Hume is not among them.

No, I suspect the average Pontic will accuse me of a little bait and switch here.  When he thinks of the "Enlightenment," he doesn't think of the Scottish Enlightenment.  He thinks of the French Enlightenment.  He goes "full Rousseau."

To explain what a sane 21st-century reader should think of the French Enlightenment - once again, not worshipping it in medieval scholastic fashion, but judging it in Enlightenment fashion - I have no better quote than the great dialogue of Taine, from the close of his Origins of Contemporary France.  Who?  Hippolyte Taine.  Yeah, I know.  He sounds like a fag.  Worse, he's quoting (probably with some editing) another obvious fag, La Harpe:
It seems to me, [La Harpe] says, as if it were but yesterday, and yet it is at the beginning of the year 1788. We were dining with one of our fellow members of the Academy, a grand seignior and a man of intelligence. The company was numerous and of every profession, courtiers, advocates, men of letters and academicians, all had feasted luxuriously according to custom. At the dessert the wines of Malvoisie and of Constance contributed to the social gaiety a sort of freedom not always kept within decorous limits. At that time society had reached the point at which everything may be expressed that excites laughter. Champfort had read to us his impious and libertine stories, and great ladies had listened to these without recourse to their fans.
Hence a deluge of witticisms against religion, one quoting a tirade from 'La Pucelle,' another bringing forward certain philosophical stanzas by Diderot. . . . and with unbounded applause. . . . The conversation becomes more serious; admiration is expressed at the revolution accomplished by Voltaire, and all agree in its being the first title to his fame. 'He gave the tone to his century, finding readers in the antechambers as well as in the drawing-room.' One of the guests narrates, bursting with laughter, what a hairdresser said to him while powdering his hair: 'You see, sir, although I am a miserable scrub, I have no more religion than any one else.' 
They conclude that the Revolution will soon be consummated, that superstition and fanaticism must wholly give way to philosophy, and they thus calculate the probabilities of the epoch and those of the future society which will see the reign of reason. The most aged lament not being able to flatter themselves that they will see it; the young rejoice in a reasonable prospect of seeing it, and especially do they congratulate the Academy on having paved the way for the great work, and on having been the headquarters, the center, the inspirer of freedom of thought. 
One of the guests had taken no part in this gay conversation; a person named Cazotte, an amiable and original man, but, unfortunately, infatuated with the delusions of the visionary. In the most serious tone he begins: 'Gentlemen,' says he, 'be content; you will witness this great revolution that you so much desire. You know that I am something of a prophet, and I repeat it, you will witness it. . . . Do you know the result of this revolution, for all of you, so long as you remain here?'
'Ah!' exclaims Condorcet with his shrewd, simple air and smile, 'let us see, a philosopher is not sorry to encounter a prophet.' 
'You, Monsieur de Condorcet, will expire stretched on the floor of a dungeon; you will die of the poison you take to escape the executioner, of the poison which the felicity of that era will compel you always to carry about your person!' 
At first, great astonishment, and then came an outburst of laughter. 'What has all this in common with philosophy and the reign of reason?' 
'Precisely what I have just remarked to you; in the name of philosophy, of humanity, of freedom, under the reign of reason, you will thus reach your end; and, evidently, the reign of reason will arrive, for there will be temples of reason, and, in those days, in all France, the temples will be those alone of reason. . . . You, Monsieur de Champfort, you will sever your veins with twenty-two strokes of a razor and yet you will not die for months afterwards. You, Monsieur Vicq-d'Azir, you will not open your own veins but you will have them opened six times in one day, in the agonies of gout, so as to be more certain of success, and you will die that night. You, Monsieur de Nicolai, on the scaffold; you, Monsieur Bailly, on the scaffold; you, Monsieur de Malesherbes, on the scaffold;. . . you, Monsieur Roucher, also on the scaffold.' 
'But then we shall have been overcome by Turks or Tartars?' 
'By no means; you will be governed, as I have already told you, solely by philosophy and reason. Those who are to treat you in this manner will all be philosophers, will all, at every moment, have on their lips the phrases you have uttered within the hour, will repeat your maxims, will quote, like yourselves, the stanzas of Diderot and of "La Pucelle."' 
'And when will all this happen?' 
'Six years will not pass before what I tell you will be accomplished.' 
'Well, these are miracles,' exclaims La Harpe, 'and you leave me out?' 
'You will be no less a miracle, for you will then be a Christian.' 
'Ah,' interposes Champfort, I breathe again; if we are to die only when La Harpe becomes a Christian we are immortals.' 
'As to that, we women,' says the Duchesse de Gramont, 'are extremely fortunate in being of no consequence in revolutions. It is understood that we are not to blame, and our sex.' 
'Your sex, ladies, will not protect you this time. . . . You will be treated precisely as men, with no difference whatever. . . . You, Madame la Duchesse, will be led to the scaffold, you and many ladies besides yourself in a cart with your hands tied behind your back.' 
'Ah, in that event, I hope to have at least a carriage covered with black.' 
'No, Madame, greater ladies than yourself will go, like yourself in a cart and with their hands tied like yours.' 
'Greater ladies! What! Princesses of the blood!' 
'Still greater ladies than those. . .' 
They began to think the jest carried too far. Madame de Gramont, to dispel the gloom, did not insist on a reply to her last exclamation, contenting herself by saying in the lightest tone, 'And they will not even leave one a confessor!' 
'No, Madame, neither you nor any other person will be allowed a confessor; the last of the condemned that will have one, as an act of grace, will be. . .' He stopped a moment. 
'Tell me, now, who is the fortunate mortal enjoying this prerogative?'
'It is the last that will remain to him, and it will be the King of France.'"
Imagine the fate of poor Condorcet. He has drunk his own medicine. Condorcet, the scientist! Lucky the scientist whose hypothesis is never tested.  Condorcet's was tested.  Unlucky Condorcet - unlucky France.  Who can see France today and not realize that it has never recovered from the Revolution?  Go to Saint-Denis.  See the looted tombs of the "thirty kings who made France."  Then get back to the RER as fast as you can - you're in a ZUS...

But most agonizing of all for this scientist, he (like La Harpe) has thought scientifically.  He has seen his hypothesis tested, and (presumably) stopped believing in it.  You have not. Or, well... Buck Harkness has not.  He did study science at one point, didn't he?

Imagine that revolution is a drug.  It's seeking FDA approval.  This drug, it's claimed, creates social harmony, good government, the "reign of reason."  The mechanism has been studied.  Philosophers everywhere agree.  The chemistry seems plausible.

At what point in history do you approve the drug?  After the French Revolution?  The Russian?  Where, in history, do we see the drug produce its claimed results?  Everywhere - from France in 1789, to Russia in 1917, Libya and Syria in 2012 - we see social catastrophe, mass murder, and the most rigid and savage of military despotisms.  Historical comparisons are difficult, of course, but when we're talking about a therapy, the first comparison is obvious: the patient before, the patient after.  I mean, duh.

And yet, the good doctors of philosophy, not giving a shit about Hippocrates (obviously a fag) continue prescribing this medicine.  The Enlightenment cannot heal itself.  It cannot judge itself.  Having given birth to the monster of Jacobinism, it produces this same monster again and again - in the 20th century and even the 21st.  It finds a perfectly functional, if hardly perfect, absolute monarchy, and replaces it with chaos and terror and death - the rule of the gun at its most direct and barbaric, the "Turks and Tartars."  Then it pats itself on the back.  Freedom! Yeah, man, freedom!  You talk like a fag who doesn't believe in freedom, man.  Freedom is cool.

But David (no relation to Sergey) Brin lands what he's sure is a deadly knockout punch:
North and South Korea.
Oh, dear!  Tell me, Mr. Harkness: what is the difference between Kim Jong-un, Elizabeth I, and Louis XIV?  Let's see: all three are absolute monarchs.  One of them is an insane dictator who throws whole families in concentration camps.  The other two... talked like fags?

The enormous chutzpah by which a loyal disciple of the Age of Revolution attributes the North Korean monster to a reactionary absence of revolution can't be overstated.  Who is Kim Il-sung?  Is he more like Louis XVI, or more like Robespierre?  North Korea is not the converse of revolution.  It's the product of revolution - exported overland from America, through Moscow out of John Reed.

In fact, Korea was a perfectly successful and flourishing nation before we spread our cancer there.  To the extent that anything of Korean culture remains after the devastation of the 20th century, it is the culture of the Chosen Dynasty.  This empire was utterly determined to preserve Korea as Korea, adopting a policy of isolation very similar to that of the Tokugawa in Japan and the Qing in China.

Alas, all three failed, or we'd have a Japan, China and Korea that actually was Japanese, Chinese or Korean in some sense, you know, other than the language, the script and the gene pool.  What a treat that would be!  To have an actual non-American civilization, alive and well and living in the 21st century!  Give me a passenger pigeon while you're at it.  Indeed, the mentality of Commodore Perry is very like the mentality that clubbed the passenger pigeon to death with sticks, and ate it.

Instead, after a century drenched in blood, largely through bizarre Cold War PR games that no one really understands yet, we end up with an American puppet state in the South and a Communist prison state in the North.  Certainly the American puppet state is preferable to the Communist prison state.  The whole Anglo-American tradition, which created this monster of revolution and unleashed it on the world, is also the most immune to it - on some days, you could even believe you were living in Hume's "civilized monarchy."

What shines through every line of Brin's screed is this revolutionary passion for murder, desolation, destruction.  The Voltaires and the Condorcets, in France's civilized monarchy, could play with this same fire like a toy.  At present the power of the fire seems pretty weak (which is why I can write this stuff, without a mob burning down my house) - it really is a toy.  A tacky toy.  On the other hand, we still export this toy, and it just burned down pretty much the entire Middle East (except Egypt, which somehow has by the skin of its teeth escaped - infuriating the NYT no end).

And there's something else, besides its revolutionary heritage, that few of us notice about North Korea: it's at war against the entire civilized world.  At least, the entire civilized world would love to replace its regime, which is pretty much the definition of "at war."  If Washington doesn't bother with the Korean equivalent of "Qaddafi must go" or "Assad must go", it's only because it doesn't believe it can get itself obeyed.

In a world that was willing to tolerate the Chosen Dynasty, the Chosen Dynasty would still exist.  It died because it couldn't secure itself against a hostile world.  Burke in his Letters on a Regicide Peace describes the foreign policy of the Jacobins, since inherited by America:
In other words, their will is the law, not only at home, but as to the concerns of every nation. Who has made that law but the Regicide Republick itself, whose laws, like those of the Medes and Persians, they cannot alter or abrogate, or even so much as take into consideration? Without the least ceremony or compliment, they have sent out of the world whole sets of laws and lawgivers. They have swept away the very constitutions under which the Legislatures acted, and the Laws were made. Even the fundamental sacred Rights of Man they have not scrupled to profane. They have set this holy code at naught with ignominy and scorn. Thus they treat all their domestic laws and constitutions, and even what they had considered as a Law of Nature; but whatever they have put their seal on for the purposes of their ambition, and the ruin of their neighbours, this alone is invulnerable, impassible, immortal. Assuming to be masters of every thing human and divine, here, and here alone, it seems they are limited, "cooped and cabined in"; and this omnipotent legislature finds itself wholly without the power of exercising its favourite attribute, the love of peace. In other words, they are powerful to usurp, impotent to restore; and equally by their power and their impotence they aggrandize themselves, and weaken and impoverish you and all other nations.
It's small wonder that a regime that dares to fight against the universal revolution, and actually has preserved itself, would be a bit Spartan and more than a bit insane.  Revolution created North Korea, but the North Korean state has an obvious desire to evolve into something much more like the Chosen Dynasty - the general process of recovering from revolution.

In a world in which Americans actually cared about North Koreans, rather than just using them as rhetorical pawns, or salivating about their chances of causing yet another revolution or civil war, Americans would see that the easiest way to let North Korea heal is to acknowledge the Kim dynasty as what it is: a monarchy.

If rather than exporting revolution 24/7, US foreign policy was actually capable of respecting, supporting and securing its sovereign peers the way, you know, classical international law of the Enlightenment era suggests, the Kims would have no need for their concentration camps.  Possibly they're so insane that they'd keep them anyway - but I suspect not.  Historical examples of a genuinely insane monarch are rare - he has trouble hanging on to his throne.  The regime in North Korea has a very simple problem, which is that if it relaxes its grip it explodes.  The only actions that the outside world can take which will solve this problem: remove the regime by force, or accept and support it.  I don't see anyone proposing either, which leaves me to think Americans don't actually care very much about the aquariums of Pyongyang.

So when he considers the faith in revolution as a whole, the sane man must consider it as a kind of satanic church of murder.  It is as irrational as it is dangerous.  Or to use a simpler word: insane.  There is a kind of symmetry here: to Pontus I appear an insane barbarian; it seems natural to me, therefore, to view Pontus as a country of insane barbarians.

Insanity has consequences - big and small.  The "Arab Spring" is big, but at least it's far away.  I want to talk a little more about the local consequences and knock out another critic or two.

David Brin didn't come up with his Korean "evidence" by himself.  He got it from a fellow named Scott Alexander, who's produced a gargantuan and humorless "Anti-Reactionary FAQ."   Again, the constant embarrassment of life in Pontus is that you wish for better critics than you have.  I really ought to give this thing the thorough reaming it deserves.  But in general, it's not bad enough to be funny and not good enough to be interesting.  I'm a busy guy and my motivation does flag.

Alexander is a disciple of the equally humorless "rationalist" movement Less Wrong, a sort of Internet update of Robespierre's good old Cult of Reason, Lenin's very rational Museums of Atheism, etc, etc.  If you want my opinion on this subject, it is that - alas - there is no way of becoming reasonable, other than to be reasonable.  Reason is wisdom.  There is no formula for wisdom - and of all unwise beliefs, the belief that wisdom can be reduced to a formula, a prayer chant, a mantra, whatever, is the most ridiculous.

I know a lot of people involved in Less Wrong and I have a lot of sympathy.  I even met its charismatic leader, Eliezer Yudkowsky, once.  For a reason which at the time I couldn't quite place, he made me think immediately of a historical figure: Shabbatai Zvi.  But why?  Reading through the comments on Mr. Jones' article, I finally realized why:

Eliezer Yudkowsky of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute here. [...] "More Right" is not any kind of acknowledged offspring of Less Wrong nor is it so much as linked to by the Less Wrong site. We are not part of a neoreactionary conspiracy. We are and have been explicitly pro-Enlightenment, as such, under that name. Should it be the case that any neoreactionary is citing me as a supporter of their ideas, I was never asked and never gave my consent. Some kind of note in the article to this effect seems appropriate. Thanks.

Also to be clear: I try not to dismiss ideas out of hand due to fear of public unpopularity. However I found Scott Alexander's takedown of neoreaction convincing and thus I shrugged and didn't bother to investigate further.
Indeed! That one certainly comes through loud and clear.  In related news, Shabbatai Zvi did not become a Muslim because the Sultan threatened to chop off his head.  No, it was because he found the Koran convincing.  He had certainly never heard of Islam before October 20, 2013.  But once he did, wow, Islam!  Poor Shabbatai - I'm still trying to work my way through "The Cow."

Look, it's no secret why people believe in the revolution.  The revolution is powerful.  Eliezer Yudowsky is, without doubt, rational, and it is the highest form of rationality to serve power.  By doing so, one serves oneself, and what could be more rational?  As a bit of a cult leader myself, I declare that Less Wrong will now and hereafter be known as "Less Wrongthink."

And yet, because one has to lie to oneself to serve a lie, there are certain tics and insanities that actually affect one's daily life.  Take Scott Alexander - who is, in fact, a psychiatrist by trade.  Surely he agrees with my definition of insanity: living and acting in a world that is not the real one.

I would much rather criticize his other posts than his gargantuan FAQ, because I think they are more interesting and illustrative.  The other day he posted one I quite liked - about FDA's (insiders say "FDA," not "the FDA") decision to kill consumer genetic testing:
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to voice concern at your decision to ask the company 23andMe to halt genetic testing.  As a doctor...
Alexander goes on for many paragraphs in a voice of perfect reason.  Everything he says is true, right, politely and elegantly stated, etc, etc.

Which is exactly the problem.  First of all, this is a person who believes - ostensibly - in democracy.  In other words, historically speaking, he is insane.  Yet his actions bespeak actual sanity, because they bespeak an actual, practical knowledge that he is not living in a democracy.

Alexander sees that his government has made a bad, stupid, irrational and really downright evil decision.  But he does not go out and try to convince his readers (all 10,000 of them, perhaps) to vote differently.  In his actions, he reveals that he's perfectly aware that this highly touted failsafe mechanism against bad government, always and everywhere, does not in fact exist.

That, in fact, the elected officials of American democracy have little or no effective control over the actual agencies of USG - and if these elected officials in fact ceased to exist, USG would continue as it is.  In fact, to anyone who knows Washington, it's quite clear that USG would work not only just as well without a Congress or White House, but in fact somewhat better.

Instead, following Maine's law, Alexander adopts the oldest monarchical method of correcting abuses.  That is, of course, petitioning the king. But there is one little problem here - which still reveals some actual insanity.  Namely, Alexander suffers under the terrible delusion that someone in Washington cares what he thinks.

Actually he does not think of himself as addressing his letter to Margaret Hamburg, Jeffrey Shuren and Alberto Gutierrez.  These actual, individual human beings, whose government (in this matter) is no less absolute than any king, are unlike a king anonymous and mysterious.  If he had a king, he would actually know who the king was.  Moreover, he would have some reason to know whether the king was actually someone who cared at all what he thought.

Actually I suspect that Alexander does not sees himself as ruled (in this matter) by these individual human beings.  I suspect he sees himself as ruled by an abstraction, in this case Science.  Who wouldn't want to be governed by Science?  Again we see Maine's law in action - consider the number of monarchies that have convinced their subjects that they are not ruled by a man, but governed by God.  God, of course, listens only to prayers.  Science hears open letters, especially when sent by a scientist.  And so on.

But in fact, these human beings are what they are - bureaucrats.  Their stated reason for killing genetic testing is a deep, sincere concern for the health of Americans.  But it's curious, isn't it?  If they are reasonable and motivated by this concern - Scott Alexander's points aren't exactly recondite.  Surely the King, oops, the Commissioner, has thought about this matter?  What could possibly impede Margaret Hamburg, Jeffrey Shuren and Alberto Gutierrez from noticing these obvious arguments?  Can it be... that they haven't been reading Less Wrong?

Of course not.  Actually, the most parsimonious explanation is that since they're bureaucrats, they care about the one thing almost all bureaucrats care about: power.  By acting effectively, by smashing something and getting away with it, they display their power and their testicles (or ovaries) expand.  It's basic chimpanzee ethology, also applied to our strange mutant human clade.

If we have to ask (in the real world, where we are ruled by human beings, not the imaginary world where we are ruled by Reason itself) why FDA killed 23, the answer might well be quite familiar to the court of Versailles.  Namely, Sergey Brin (no relation to David), has found something younger to boff, and 23 has found itself deprived of its krysha.  I don't know.  It could be true.  Or not.  I'm just speculating.

But in the real world where we actually live, what is the easiest way to get rid of Messrs.  Hamburg, Shuren and Gutierrez?  Is it... an election?  Um, these are permanent civil servants, "We the People" don't have the power to fire them.  Or to elect anyone who can fire them.  Or... really any power at all, when it comes down to it.  So, if USG is abusing its power - what?  What is your real-world course of action?  What can USG be replaced with?

I have an answer, actually.  Alas, Pontus doesn't seem to like my answer. 

Fine!  Let Pontus be happy, therefore, with the barbarian chieftains it serves.  Live more rationally, with less wrongthink.  Write fewer open letters, and learn to love USG.  Be satisfied with power as it is.  Augustus is a son of a bitch, no doubt.  But he's better than the Augusti that will follow.  Sit back, relax, stay out of the ZUS or your local equivalent, and learn to enjoy the decline...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Urbit demo Sep 25 in SF

I'll be giving a (very) brief demo at Johannes Ernst's personal cloud event.  Please come only if you're actually a system software geek - I hate to swamp these events with hundreds of brawny, hoodie-clad, historically conscious young men wielding road flares.

Update: perhaps inevitably, the page has leaked to Hacker News.  I have no joke - I just like saying, Watching the video blew my brains out the back of my head. Figuratively of course. Thanks for not letting me get anything productive done for the rest of the day.  Please, don't bring any UR-branded road flares to HN or anywhere else...

Friday, September 13, 2013 267 Comments

Technology, communism and the Brown Scare

It's with mixed emotions that I see the Brown Scare starting to really rise up and kick ass in my own dear field of hackerdom.   "The enemy at last in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off..."

Brown Scare?  Or dare I say... #BrownScare?  But what else to name America's ginormous, never-ending, profoundly insane witch-hunt for fascists under the bed?

For there's nothing new here.  At the height of the lame, doomed "Red Scare," the Brown Scare was ten times bigger.  You may think it was difficult making a living as a communist screenwriter in 1954. It was a lot easier than being a fascist screenwriter.  Or even an anticommunist screenwriter.  (Same thing, right?)  And as any pathetic last shreds of real opposition shrink and die off, the Scare only grows.  That's how winners play it.  That's just how the permanent revolution rolls.

Not that valiant philosophical efforts haven't been made, such as this one, to distinguish between witch hunts and witch hunts.   Apparently Popehat, though he claims to be some sort of a legal scholar and definitely has strong and (more unusually) sincere opinions about free speech, has never heard of Red Channels or Faulk v. AWARE.  It's not clear whether he (a) thinks the Hollywood blacklist was a fine idea, (b) believes it was enforced by the FBI, or (c) considers it laudable to purge fascists but horrible to purge communists.

(Update: with eerie, beautiful historical fidelity, Anil Dash channels Red Channels:
There was also a pretty dogged pitch for his film, which will get all kinds of warm huzzahs from the intersection of atheists, pacifists, communists and Jews.  I was pretty amazed that he went for it. He flat out said that he wants his film to be funded and wasn't sure if it'd be possible after all of his, and I replied that it realistically wasn't going to happen without the say-so of someone like me, and I wasn't inclined to give some producer the nod on this. 
On reflection, I'll be explicit: If you're a producer, and you invest in Dalton Trumbo's film without a profound, meaningful and years-long demonstration of responsibility from Dalton beforehand, you're complicit in extending the film industry's awful track record of communism, and it's unacceptable.
It is also wonderful to see the enormous cognitive load which besets the liberal mind when asked to decide whether it's the overdog or the underdog.  All the CPUs max out, the fan goes crazy and the case could cook an egg.  The whole post is worth reading - in the author's own humble words, it's the very image of "positive, ambitious, thoughtful, inclusive, curious, empathetic and self-aware.")

Memo to Popehat: most of what we call "McCarthyism" was a matter of "social consequences."  Besides, the social consequences work for one and only one reason: there's an iron fist in the velvet glove. Being sued for disrespecting a privileged class - excuse me, a protected class - is not in any way a social consequence, but rather a political one.  Hey, while we're chatting, could you remind me exactly how Warren Court jurisprudence derived the "protected class" from "equal protection of law?"  I know the theory, actually - but it'd be fun to see you explain it.

Of course, ain't nothin' new here.  For quite some time in America it's been illegal to employ racists, sexists and fascists, and mandatory to employ a precisely calibrated percentage of women, workers and peasants.  Because America is a free country and that's what freedom means.

But "technology," defined broadly as anything new and cool that happens in California, has been in practice exempt from these restrictions.  The elite, especially a productive elite, always enjoys a special level of tolerance.  I once asked a Googler: which population, from his unscientific experience alone, does Google employ more of?  African-Americans, or Serbs?  "You must be joking," he said.

Google, of course, claims the fact that it would rather hire out of East Bosnia than East Palo Alto is a competitive trade secret.  Well, I suppose.  Curiously enough, Apple, Yahoo, and Oracle share the same secret.  Ha, ha!  Is it a secret to you?  It's not a secret to me!

You know, Goog, once you start lying, there's really no end to it.  For one thing, even if your enemies ignore lying, defensive evasion, and other telltale "beta" behaviors, they still own you.  They've just decided not to eat you just yet, maybe in the hopes that you're still getting fatter.

So in a way I actually like to see the #BrownScare getting big in Silicon Valley, because I think there's a lot of potential for opposing it here.  A lot of wasted potential.  Which will probably remain wasted, but why not try, eh?  Dear fellow geeks, there's no need to get purged.  Your predator, though powerful, is not complicated, and not that hard to hack if you're careful.  Indeed, properly organized, you may even be able to overcome him.

It's actually not hard to explain the Brown Scare.  Like all witch hunts, it's built on a conspiracy theory.  The Red Scare was based on a conspiracy theory too, but at least it was a real conspiracy with real witches - two of whom were my father's parents.  (The nicest people on earth, as people.  I like to think of them not as worshipping Stalin, but worshipping what they thought Stalin was.)  Moreover, the Red Scare was a largely demotic or peasant phenomenon to which America's governing intellectual classes were, for obvious reasons, immune.  Because power works and culture is downstream from politics - real politics, at least - the Red Scare soon faded into a joke.

As a mainstream conspiracy theory, fully in the institutional saddle, the Brown Scare is far greater and more terrifying.  Unfortunately no central statistics are kept, but I wouldn't be surprised if every day in America, more racists, fascists and sexists are detected, purged and destroyed, than all the screenwriters who had to prosper under pseudonyms in the '50s.  Indeed it's not an exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of Americans, perhaps even a million, are employed in one arm or another of this ideological apparatus.  Cleaning it up will require a genuine cultural revolution - or a cultural reaction, anyway.  Hey, Americans, I'm ready whenever you are.

The logic of the witch hunter is simple.  It has hardly changed since Matthew Hopkins' day.  The first requirement is to invert the reality of power.  Power at its most basic level is the power to harm or destroy other human beings.  The obvious reality is that witch hunters gang up and destroy witches. Whereas witches are never, ever seen to gang up and destroy witch hunters.  By this test alone, we can see that the conspiracy is imaginary (Brown Scare) rather than real (Red Scare).

Think about it.  Obviously, if the witches had any power whatsoever, they wouldn't waste their time gallivanting around on broomsticks, fellating Satan and cursing cows with sour milk.  They're getting burned right and left, for Christ's sake!  Priorities!  No, they'd turn the tables and lay some serious voodoo on the witch-hunters.  In a country where anyone who speaks out against the witches is soon found dangling by his heels from an oak at midnight with his head shrunk to the size of a baseball, we won't see a lot of witch-hunting and we know there's a serious witch problem.  In a country where witch-hunting is a stable and lucrative career, and also an amateur pastime enjoyed by millions of hobbyists on the weekend, we know there are no real witches worth a damn.

We do not see Pax Dickinson and Paul Graham ganging up to destroy Gawker.  We see them curling up into a fetal position and trying to survive.  An America in which hackers could purge journalists for communist deviation, rather than journalists purging hackers for fascist deviation, would be a very different America.  Ya think?

Whereas the real America, the America in which a journalist little more than an intern, with no discernible achievements but a sharp tongue, a Columbia degree and trouble using MySQL, can quite effectively bully one of the most accomplished hackers of his era, not to mention a way better writer - this is the remarkable America that we live in and need to explain.

This phenomenon of spoiled children systematically bullying their elders and betters reminds us, of course, of Mao.  But still more, of Plato.  Do they still read Plato at Columbia?  Ha, that's very funny.  Plato!  Gawker may not know Plato, but Plato knows Gawker:
Yes, he said; that is the way with him.
Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he-is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of any one who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.

Yes, he replied, he is all liberty and equality.
Yes, I said; his life is motley and manifold and an epitome of the lives of many; --he answers to the State which we described as fair and spangled. And many a man and many a woman will take him for their pattern, and many a constitution and many an example of manners is contained in him.

Just so.
Let him then be set over against democracy; he may truly be called the democratic man.

Let that be his place, he said.
Last of all comes the most beautiful of all, man and State alike, tyranny and the tyrant; these we have now to consider.

Quite true, he said.
Say then, my friend, in what manner does tyranny arise? --that it has a democratic origin is evident.

Clearly.
And does not tyranny spring from democracy in the same manner as democracy from oligarchy --I mean, after a sort?

How?
The good which oligarchy proposed to itself and the means by which it was maintained was excess of wealth --am I not right?

Yes.
And the insatiable desire of wealth and the neglect of all other things for the sake of money-getting was also the ruin of oligarchy?

True.
And democracy has her own good, of which the insatiable desire brings her to dissolution?

What good?
Freedom, I replied; which, as they tell you in a democracy, is the glory of the State --and that therefore in a democracy alone will the freeman of nature deign to dwell.

Yes; the saying is in everybody's mouth.
I was going to observe, that the insatiable desire of this and the neglect of other things introduces the change in democracy, which occasions a demand for tyranny.

How so?
When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom has evil cupbearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom, then, unless her rulers are very amenable and give a plentiful draught, she calls them to account and punishes them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs.

Yes, he replied, a very common occurrence.
Yes, I said; and loyal citizens are insultingly termed by her slaves who hug their chains and men of naught; she would have subjects who are like rulers, and rulers who are like subjects: these are men after her own heart, whom she praises and honours both in private and public. Now, in such a State, can liberty have any limit?

Certainly not.
By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private houses, and ends by getting among the animals and infecting them.

How do you mean?
I mean that the father grows accustomed to descend to the level of his sons and to fear them, and the son is on a level with his father, he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents; and this is his freedom, and the metic is equal with the citizen and the citizen with the metic, and the stranger is quite as good as either.

Yes, he said, that is the way.
And these are not the only evils, I said --there are several lesser ones: In such a state of society the master fears and flatters his scholars, and the scholars despise their masters and tutors; young and old are all alike; and the young man is on a level with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word or deed; and old men condescend to the young and are full of pleasantry and gaiety; they are loth to be thought morose and authoritative, and therefore they adopt the manners of the young.

Why not, as Aeschylus says, utter the word which rises to our lips?
That is what I am doing, I replied; and I must add that no one who does not know would believe, how much greater is the liberty which the animals who are under the dominion of man have in a democracy than in any other State: for truly, the she-dogs, as the proverb says, are as good as their she-mistresses, and the horses and asses have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen; and they will run at anybody who comes in their way if he does not leave the road clear for them: and all things are just ready to burst with liberty.

When I take a country walk, he said, I often experience what you describe. You and I have dreamed the same thing.

And above all, I said, and as the result of all, see how sensitive the citizens become; they chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority and at length, as you know, they cease to care even for the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them.

Yes, he said, I know it too well.
Such, my friend, I said, is the fair and glorious beginning out of which springs tyranny.

Glorious indeed, he said. But what is the next step?
The ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy; the same disease magnified and intensified by liberty overmasters democracy --the truth being that the excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction; and this is the case not only in the seasons and in vegetable and animal life, but above all in forms of government.
Or so we can only hope.  I have a bad feeling Plato may be too optimistic here, however.

In any case, from Plato's dialogue we see how the witch-hunter can invert the reality of power and presents himself as the underdog, fighting back against the gigantic and all-encompassing conspiracy of witches.  This fantasy is expertly constructed and appears quite real to the casual observer.

The primary technique is to present the natural order of human society, which the revolution has in fact totally overthrown - an order in which the young respect the old, the inexperienced follow the accomplished, and dogs obey their owners - as the existing order.  The professional witch-hunter, who is in fact a petty bureaucrat, a tool of power and a bully for hire, appears to himself as a sort of daring rebel against the great conspiracy.  Moreover, because this natural order both used to exist, and is always striving to spring up against Horace's pitchfork, it can be portrayed as the ruling order with great fictional nuance and detail - even after a half-century plus of permanent revolution.

Furthermore, if you can present a natural force as a human force, it is possible to attribute almost infinite power to the witch conspiracy.  Jews, for example, cause droughts.  It's easy to see how strong the Jews are - it hasn't rained for a month!  Throw the Jews down the well!

In this particular case, it's an observation only slightly more obvious than that the sky is blue - especially for those of us who are grownups not born in the 1990s, with, like, wives and daughters and stuff - that (a) geeks are born not made, and (b) a Y chromosome is a major risk factor for geekiness.  In other words, we are not equalists.  We'd certainly love it if everyone was equal (hopefully leveling up, not leveling down).  But we're not insane and don't argue with reality.

For example, I'm a geek and I'd love it if my daughter was a geek too.  She isn't.  Not only is she more girly than me, she's more girly than her mother (who has an EE degree).  She's reading Lemony Snicket in kindergarten, but she's not a geek.  A friend of mine has a daughter, about the same age, about as smart, who is a geek.  I wish my daughter cared about numbers, planets and dinosaurs.  For all I know, my friend wishes his daughter was a walking Disney Princess encyclopedia whose dolls can improvise an hour-long soap opera.  We can wish all we want, but that's just not how it is.  If I tried to impose my ideal daughter on the real person who reality decided would be my daughter, I would be a bad person and a bad parent.  And that's why I'm a realist, not an equalist.

When the witchfinder can attribute the consequences of meteorology, biology, or any other department of reality to a human conspiracy, there is no limit to the proto-divine authority which the witch-cabal then assumes.  To rebel against it seems almost as daring and hopeless as a rebellion against God himself.  How romantic!  How empowering!  Smash the great conspiracy of differentness, without which we would all be gloriously the same!  Throw the Jews down the well!

A great technique.  But like all propaganda methods, it wears off.  Most people, most of the time, especially in an old worn-out post-democracy like our own, are extremely tired of politics, political philosophy, conspiracy theories, and the like.  It's not exactly that they disagree with the party line.  But it no longer excites them.  It still excites a ruling minority, of course, and quite vociferously indeed.  (The Gawker comment threads, like those of every other party-line board, are full of amateur bullies who derive great apparent pleasure, if not profit, from piling on.)

What the bully needs is to provoke mild approval, from the vast majority of ordinary, decent people who don't care about politics or power and are really not involved with the game at all.  It's this abuse of common decency that offends me most about the witch-hunting process.  The ordinary observer does not, really, believe in witches - or disbelieve in them, either.  Rhetoric about black cats, third nipples and secret meetings with Satan doesn't make much impression on her at all.

But what she knows is that Goody Hannah is a strange, mean old lady with no husband and a snippy tongue, who smells funny and sleeps way too late in the morning, and once yelled at her when she was a little girl.  Left to her own devices, our decent observer would never think of reasoning from this to the proposition that Goody Hannah needs to be drowned.  On the other hand, when the crowd (consisting mostly of decent observers) is about to drown Goody Hannah, she's not exactly about to speak up and stick out her neck.  For a strange, mean old lady with no husband and a snippy tongue?  That no one speaks up, of course, is no more and no less than the witchfinders need.

Clearly, everyone should be nice and no one should have a snippy tongue.  We often hear the word offensive.  What is an offensive person?  In a word, an asshole.  Everyone who hears this word (including Popehat - especially Popehat) should stop and think: is it illegal to be an asshole?  If so, why should it be illegal to be an asshole?  If not, why should it not be illegal to be an asshole?

Curiously, two thousand years before anyone had even heard of a "microaggression," a bunch of old white guys called "the Romans" considered this issue and concluded: de minimis non curat lex.  Literally: "the law does not concern itself with trifles."  Or metaphorically: no.  No, it is not, and should not be, illegal to be an asshole. 

Think about the logic of a world in which it's illegal to be an asshole.  Or at least, in which one is liable for being an asshole.  Anyone could sue anyone else, at any time, for being an asshole.  In this world, "you dick" isn't an insult.  It's a tort.  It's a factual claim that, if proven true by a court of law, pays damages.

Of course, we know the Romans were a bunch of ignorant heteronormative dicks.  The Greeks, too!  Plato, Socrates, Aristotle... morons!  Ah, how far we've come.  But really, why shouldn't Spicoli be able to sue Mr. Hand?  Who really was a dick, wasn't he?  Why should anyone be allowed to be a dick?  Why should that be okay, in our tolerant society?  To be a dick?

A legal system in which insolence is a tort has never, so far as I know, been tried.  In general, sages and jurists for all the world and time have agreed that, though it is not nice for people to be not nice to each other, the desirable goal of enforcing universal sweetness and niceness is simply not one within the reach of human jurisprudence.

For one thing, the courtroom process relies on witness testimony, and even with eyewitnesses it is often difficult to establish who hit whom.  Imagine a lawsuit between two people, each of whom accuses the other of being a dick, but who were the only people in the room.  It's preposterous.  No, clearly - the problem of giving dicks their just reward, which is neither jail time nor monetary damages, but simply social exclusion, is best left to Popehat's "social consequences."

Or so a bunch of dead old white dicks believed.  I mean, what the fuck, right?  Obviously, dead white dicks are going to believe it's okay to be a dick.  Duh.

But a legal system in which rudeness to certain people attracts the attention of the law... this system is by no means unusual in human history.  Nor is it universal.  But it's certainly the norm.  It's really the Enlightenment system of uniform legal protection that's unusual.

Here's an example of the normal historical approach - from a non-Eurocentric context:


In old Japan, it wasn't illegal to be an asshole.  It wasn't even illegal to be an asshole to a samurai.  But it was illegal to be an asshole to a samurai - if you weren't a samurai.  See how it works?  You might say the samurai were a sort of protected class.  A system not at all unique to old Japan.  Always and everywhere, "microaggressing" against the protected class is hazardous to your health.

There was even a word, dating back to those same Roman dicks who gave us this "de minimis" bullshit, for a system of law that assigned certain people special rights.  This set of rights varied - but in almost every case, the right not to be offended (by those outside the subset) was the first and most basic.  The word, in fact, was privilege.  Meaning, in Roman dick-speak, private law.

Type it into the searchbar.  Somehow, you still get:
A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis.
I don't think I need to mention what the America of 2013 has done to this word.

Hey, America - just to let you know - the language I speak, English, is actually older than you. (Not even counting the Roman bits.)  Hopefully it'll outlast you as well.  Maybe not.  But when you rape it, you rape my brain.  And you know - unlike some people, I guess - I really don't get off on that.  Just to let you know, America.

As for the actual reality of a two-tier legal system, I don't mind it that much.  Really, it's historically normal.  For an example, consider this now classic tweet:


Whom is it illegal to offend?  Well, for example, Pax (and his 50 re-tweeters - who should all also, of course, be investigated!  Any junior-league Matthew Hopkinses out there?  Gosh, Gawker has interns, don't it?) was satirizing Mel Gibson.

Were Mel Gibson King of America (not my ideal outcome - but perhaps still preferable to present conditions), this would constitute actionably offensive speech in the form of lese-majeste.  (Which is still a thing in Thailand, doncha know.)  Or, if America was a Christian country, this would be actionably offensive speech in the form of blasphemy, because Jesus is the Son of God and wouldn't just let Himself be ambushed from the rear like that.  Or...

But naturally our decent observer, pushing down again on the ducking stool as Goody Hannah struggles for air, cackling and shrieking exactly as a witch would, has no more conception of these power dynamics than a cat of tennis.  All she knows is that someone has said something offensive.  Which is true.  Since she's not interested in the political patterns of who does and doesn't have the right not to be offended, her decent, good-natured desire that everyone should be nice to everyone else gets captured by the strong and used as a weapon against the weak.

The world we live in is an awfully sick, cruel place, isn't it?  Well, we are all basically chimps.  You may not be interested in Power - but Power is interested in you.

But we're still missing something...

Because in any of these absurd hypotheticals, Pax is insulting the governing class - the king, clergy, etc.  It is always a crime to insult Power, and we can take it for granted that Power has been insulted here.  And yet - we know who, specifically, has been actionably disrespected.  It ain't Jesus and it ain't Mel Gibson. It's African-Americans and prostitutes.  Or worse, women who dress like prostitutes - sadly a much larger set.  Fine - African-Americans and women.

But it's really not possible to contend that African-Americans and/or women are American's governing class.  This simply does not compute.

Which leaves us, for all our historical wisdom, at a sort of dead end.  What we're seeing here has never been seen before.  The privilege of not being offended, the most basic and customary privilege of nobility, after centuries of desuetude has been reinvented and regranted.  But the grantees have no resemblance to any traditional noble class.  Not only are they not a ruling class, they don't even seem... especially... noble.

Fine.  We have to go deeper into the rabbit hole.  You know that hit of acid?  The one you've been saving?  For special emergencies?  Yo.  It's time.  Come back in an hour when your tongue gets big.  (Not that there's anything really new here, of course, for the hardened UR addict.)

While I really have no brief for the Wachowski siblings, and the sequels prove there really is such a thing as accidental genius, genius remains genius and The Matrix is its work.  You can't watch this scene too many times, especially if you're on acid:


Out here on the right edge of the sane world, not quite yet in the ocean of madness but close enough to hear its cold black surf, there's a lot of talk about this Red Pill.  We of course live in the Matrix, or rather the Cathedral - I'm glad to see this label catching on, though "Matrix" would do just as well.

But is there actually a Red Pill?  That will cure all this nonsense and explain everything, once and for all?  Acid is great, of course, but alas it does wear off.

I'd like to believe the Red Pill is UR itself.  (There are a lot of blogs that get 500,000 views; there are a lot of blogs that get updated.  There are not a lot of blogs that get 500,000 views while not getting updated.)  But one would have to admit that it's a pretty big pill.  Keanu is going to be here all day and he'll need more than one glass of water.

No. I think I've chosen my candidate for the Pill itself.  And I'm going to stick with it.  My Pill is:
America is a communist country.
What I like about this statement is that it's ambiguous.  Specifically, it's an Empsonian ambiguity of the second or perhaps third type (I've never quite understood the difference).  Embedded as it is in the mad tapestry of 20th-century history, AIACC can be interpreted in countless ways.

All of these interpretations - unless concocted as an intentional, obviously idiotic strawman - are absolutely true.  Sometimes they are obviously true, sometimes surprisingly true.  They are always true.  Because America is a communist country.  As we'll see...

Obviously, as a normal American, or at least a normal American intellectual, this Red Pill strikes you as hilariously and obviously ridiculous and wrong.  You cannot even begin to process it as a serious hypothesis.  It is simply too stupid.  Right?  Right?  Bueller?

I know two ways to answer this laugh: the fast way and the slow way.  The fast way: agree and amplify. "That's right.  America is a communist country.  For workers and peasants, read: blacks and Hispanics."

It may change to rage, fear, denial, whatever - but that laugh will suck itself right back down into the lungs.  That's what happens when you get punched.

You can follow this punch (only punch if you need to, of course) by explaining to your erstwhile mugger why he laughed.  More or less the rhetorical equivalent of kicking him when he's down.  As with the punch, only deliver the full treatment if it's really necessary.  Always be willing to accept surrender.  Ideally, you'll give your man a hand and he'll stand up and switch sides.  But of course, when it's time for the rhetorical ground-and-pound, it's time for the rhetorical ground-and-pound.

The laugh got emitted because one of the simplest ingredients in your standard Blue Pill is a trio of parallel antibodies that convert the Red Pill, in three different ways, into harmless idiotic strawmen.  Obviously, growing up in the Cathedral, we've all received an enormous lifetime dose of Blue Pill.  Before we capture and study these antibodies, we can go no further.

The first and most important antibody converts the RP into the perfect strawman:
America is a Communist country.
Note the capital C.  Generally, the majuscule proper noun implies not the general idea of communism, but the specific entity that was the CPSU - and its various satellite organs, such as the CPUSA.  Hence, today, we read:
America is secretly ruled from a secret Faraday cage under the White House by KGB Colonel-General Boris Borisov, who sometimes emerges in blackface to appear as "Barack Obama."
For example, Nazi Germany was a fascist country.  But Nazi Germany wasn't a Fascist country.  Nazi Germany was a fascist country because Hitler's political system was generally similar to Mussolini's.  But Nazi Germany wasn't a Fascist country - because Hitler wasn't a secret agent secretly working for Mussolini.  Get it?  Come on, of course you get it.

With the small 'f', our sign signifies a political system, ideology or movement, by its objective characteristics.  With the big 'F',  it signifies a political party, organization or regime, by its nominal identity.  You might find it hard to generalize this distinction to an earlier letter in the alphabet, if you are stupid, or haven't taken any semiotics classes.  Otherwise, it ought to be easy to see that though every Communist is a communist (adherent of the political system, ideology or movement), not every communist is a Communist (card-carrying disciple of MOSCOW!!!).  I mean, duh.

This narrative of international subversion is the most effective kind of propaganda strawman - a strawman that you can actually get your adversary to adopt.  An essentially nationalist, and utterly misguided, interpretation of the Communist Menace was the staple of the American right for the entire 20th century.  Indeed it still sells books.  Not bad books - but never perfect.

Historically, the subversion narrative of classical anticommunism is ridiculous as applied after 1989; generally wrong as applied after 1945; accurate in a sense between 1933 and 1945, but still generally misleading. (Alger Hiss is not Aldrich Ames; broadly speaking, the Americans involved with the Soviet security apparatus during the FDR period, including most likely FDR himself, saw themselves, correctly, as the senior rather than junior partners in the relationship - and considered their actions, though technically unlawful, unofficially authorized and the highest form of patriotism in spirit.)

The basic problem with the outside agitator Commie subversion narrative is that it's way too optimistic.  Were communism some exotic pest, it would be easy to eradicate.  Perhaps we could find some kind of microscopic wasp that kept it in check in its strange foreign homeland.  Indeed, the usual pattern with an invasive species is that resistance to it is strongest in its actual homeland.

For example, when we look at John Reed's short dramatic life, we see several epidemiological hypotheses - pick one:
  • The Russian and Mexican revolutions have no connection; similarities are coincidental.
  • There is one revolution, inherently Russian.  It spread, through America, to Mexico.
  • There is one revolution, inherently Mexican.  It spread, through America, to Russia.
  • The Russian and Mexican revolutions are connected via somewhere else - maybe Brazil?
  • Communism is as American as apple pie.
Of course, nationalist rhetoric - of a particularly virulent anti-American kind - was an essential ingredient in both the Russian and Mexican revolutions.  If the origin of these revolutions is essentially foreign to the countries they devastated, it makes perfect sense that the lady would have no alternative but to protest too much.

It's not foreign to ours, however, which explains why communism has only mildly devastated America.  No gulags here!  The home of the screwworm is also the home of the screwworm-eating wasp.  Unfortunately, one can't really rely on the wasp to eradicate the screwworm.  But it keeps the screwworms relatively sane, honest and under control, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.  It's a good thing because it's a good thing.  It's a bad thing because it makes it a lot easier for us to deny we have a communism problem.

When the story of the 20th century is told in its proper, reactionary light, international communism is anything but a grievance of which Americans may complain.  Rather, it's a crime for which we have yet to repent.  Since America is a communist country, the original communist country, and the most powerful and important of communist countries, the crimes of communism are our crimes.  You may not personally have supported these crimes.  Did you oppose them in any way?

The national guilt is especially strong, since our nation is anything but contrite.  Unlike our gelded pet Germans, we still believe in our national ideology of mass murder.  We ourselves are not murdering anyone right now, at least not a large scale.  But we did in the past, and we still believe the same beliefs that made us accessories, before and after the fact, to Soviet atrocities on an epic scale.

If the 20th century taught us anything, it taught us that it's not just the triggerman who's responsible for political murders.  The Schreibtischtäter has also his place in the dock - and behind him stands the howling mob.  And Mission to Moscow was not a flop.  Your grandparents watched it (mine did, anyway), and laughed and clapped.  Across the Atlantic they were laughing and clapping to Jud Süss.  Man is Caliban, everywhere.

Consider one of America's most revered 20th-century writers.  I mean, of course, Ezra Pound.  No I don't - I mean Ernest Hemingway.  According to George Plimpton, Hemingway liked to have a few daiquiris and then go watch Che mow down political prisoners with a machine gun.  Hem and Che both remain cult heroes worshipped by cool people everywhere.  Hey, what national guilt?  It's all cool, right?

Heck, if the Nazis had pulled it out, we'd wearing Reinhard Heydrich T-shirts instead.  Power, victorious power, is always and everywhere adored.  Its crimes?  Well, the winner always has some good excuse.  Who ever was prosecuted for Allied war crimes?  What war crimes?  Bueller?

Cured of that antibody yet?  There's actually a second one:
America is a communist country.
is trivially translated, certainly if you're a communist (and we're all communists), to (in communist jargon):
America has achieved communism.
Achieved!  Who said anything about achieved?  The Soviet Union was a communist country.  Right?  Did it achieve communism?  Did it even claim to have achieved communism?  Of course not.

Obviously, a communist believes that when communism is achieved, social, political and economic equality will be achieved.  In the Soviet Union, there were enormous social, political and economic inequalities.  In America, there are enormous social, political and economic inequalities.

Of these inequalities, a communist would say, with Boxer - we must work harder!  An anticommunist would say: of course you can't achieve these goals.  Communism creates enormous destruction while failing to advance at all toward its stated goals.  That's kind of why communism sucks so much.

Moreover, it would seem obvious that, by taking the stance not that the failure to achieve communism means that communism doesn't work, but the stance that the failure to achieve communism means we haven't worked hard enough to achieve communism - you may not have chosen the best counter-argument against an anticommunist who irrationally persists in calling you a communist.

Yes - America, original homeland and sole remaining capital of communism, is also the nation of hedge-fund billionaires in the Hamptons.  Actually, if you look closely, you'll see that for every libertarian billionaire there are ten "progressive" ones - with about twenty times as much money.  But hypocrisy, too, is as American as apple pie.

But probably the most sophisticated antibody to AIACC is the dualist interpretation of communism.  The dualist believes that there are two kinds of leftism in the 20th century: moderate liberalism, which is as meek and mild as a spring lamb and wants nothing more than to rectify "social injustice," and radical communism, a criminal deviation which sullies the name of the moderates by, you know, murdering hundreds of millions of people.

This antibody is easily recognized as the logician's friend, No True Scotsman.  No true Scotsman would massacre political prisoners.  If Scotsmen are found massacring political prisoners, they are found not to be true Scotsmen.  The fallacy is subtle - it is fallacious only because the distinction is manufactured as a consequence of the test.  For example, if we discovered that Highland Scots committed massacres and Lowland Scots did not, it would not be No True Scotsman, because the Highland/Lowland distinction exists objectively prior to the massacre/no-massacre distinction.

It's an interesting exercise to try to construct a meaningful and objective prior distinction between an American communist and an American liberal of the mid-to-late 20th-century.  For example, we could look for a partition of the social graph.  Perhaps liberals hate communism so much that they never invite communists to their parties?  Or fire them, for communist comments on Twitter?  We do see some partition between the moderate and extreme right - but if anything, it's the extreme left that tends to socially exclude the moderate left.  But not with enough consistency to make a good test.

What, for example, is a "progressive?"  If the anti-communist liberal (as opposed to the anti-Communist, ie anti-Soviet, liberal - a very real phenomenon) was a real phenomenon, and viewed communists the same way he viewed Nazis, for their remarkably similar human rights offenses, we'd expect him to avoid communist political terminology.  For much the same reason that, as cool as that glyph looks, you'll never ever see a swastika in an Apple ad.

Whereas actually, codewords like "progressive," "social justice," "change," etc, are shared across the Popular Front community for the entire 20th century.  They are just as likely to be used by a Cheka cheerleader from the '20s, as a Clinton voter from the '90s.

The dualist constructs his Scottish strawman as follows: Jimmy Carter is a vegetarian intellectual; Felix Dzerzhinsky was a cold-blooded killer.  Therefore, it is absurd to refer to both using the same label, for the same reason it is absurd to imagine Jimmy Carter snuffing out kulaks and reactionaries with a bullet in the nape of the neck.  Thus we create two categories of "progressive," the "nice progressive" (who sounds like NPR) and the "nasty progressive" (with a bad Slavic growl).  And thus, since "communist" means "nasty progressive," and there are no executions of dissidents and hence no nasty progressives in America... it is absurd to consider America as a communist country.

True.  On the other hand, it is also absurd to imagine Rudolf Hess (a rather Carter-like personality) shooting anything larger than a rabbit.  No doubt, if the Nazis had won the war, the whole Holocaust thing would be considered an unfortunate (but understandable) aberration of Himmler and Heydrich.  (Hitler never put it in writing, very much for this purpose.)  No true Nazi would do any such thing.

And indeed, most Nazis never hurt a single Jew.  And nonetheless it does not seem at all illogical to maintain a monist interpretation of both Nazism and fascism, which does not separate fascists or Nazis into "nice" and "nasty" and exculpate the former from the crimes of the latter.  Indeed, much good ink is shed over the guilt of the innocent gullible Hitler voter.  Who'd never even heard of Auschwitz, much less approved of it.  But guilty he remains, eh?

No one at Gawker is shooting anyone in the nape of the neck.  On the other hand, no one at Gawker has the option to shoot anyone in the nape of the neck.  So we can't really know whether they would or they wouldn't, can we?  There sure does seem to be quite a bit of hate out there, however.  My guess is that most wouldn't, but some would.  And isn't some all it takes?

So - now that we know what American communism isn't, let's look at what it is.  Then we'll see what it gets out of purging people.  Then we'll see how to dodge the purge.

Of course, communism is an ambiguous term and we can define it in any way.  One of the easiest ways to see why America is a communist country, for instance, is to define communism as a cultural tradition, essentially a religion, which is transmitted through early nurture like a language.  Although languages are not, of course, encoded in our genes, they have an evolutionary history like that of genetic traits.  Englishmen are related to Germans, English is related to German.

Language and dialect diversity hasn't done well in the 20th century, but political and cultural traditions have taken the biggest hit of all.  Both worldwide and in America, the set of belief systems is far narrower in 2013 than in 1913.  Broadcast technology kind of does that.  Political and military developments have, of course, played a role as well.

What this means is that if you look for Americans in 1913 who have the same basic worldview of an ordinary American college student in 2013, you can find them.  But you can't find a lot of them.  The cultural mainstream of 2013 is not descended from the cultural mainstream of 1913, most of whose traditions are entirely extinct.  Rather, it is descended from a very small cultural aristocracy in 1913, whose bizarre, shocking and decadent tropes and behaviors are confined almost entirely to exclusive upper-crust circles found only in places such as Harvard and Greenwich Village.

What were these people called?  By themselves and others?  Communists, generally.  Though when they wanted to confuse outsiders, they'd say "progressive" - and still do.  But poking at this paper-thin euphemism, or any of its friends - "radical," "activist," and a thousand like it - is "Red-baiting" and just not done.  You've got to respect the kayfabe.

For example, my favorite example of a culturally ancestral aristo-American is Thomas Wentworth Higginson.  Higginson is best known for discovering Emily Dickinson, which may have been the only good deed he did.  But as a young man, he made pioneering strides in terrorist finance as a member of the Secret Six.  (If you have to get your balls groped at the airport, it's because America isn't your country.  It's John Brown's country - you just live here.)  In the 1890s, he worked hard to promote revolution in Russia.  Some friends Russia had!  And as an old man, Higginson helped Jack London and Upton Sinclair start the Intercollegiate Socialist Society; which later became the awesomely named League for Industrial Democracy, which really should have been a band or at least a nightclub; which begat the SDS; which begat (shh!) B.H. Obama...

Clearly, this is the authentic American tradition, unbroken and unchallenged.  Accept no substitutes!  And in fact, you can go to Google and read T.W.'s writing, and observe that for the most part it's fresh as a daisy and could be read on NPR tomorrow, without shocking or even surprising anyone.  In short - this is who we are.  Of course, we can go back to No True Scotsman, or any of our other fallacies, and argue that there's some sort of transcendental difference between a "socialist" and a "communist."
But really, why bother?  It's just obvious that we're all communists now.

But what is communism?  A tradition, sure - but what is in the tradition?  Why does it work?  Why does it rule?

In the terminology of the father of modern political science, Gaetano Mosca, communism is a political formula - a pattern of thinking that helps a subject support the organized minority that governs him.  Typically a modern political formula allows the subject to feel a sense of political power that convinces him that he is, in a sense, part of the ruling minority, whether he is or not (usually not).  Since humans, and in fact all great apes in the chimp lineage, are political animals evolved to succeed in hierarchically ruled tribes, feeling powerful is deeply satisfying.  Communism works because it solves this problem, more effectively than any other political formula in wide distribution today.

When it comes to the formal governance process proper, of course, few are actually in the loop.  Just as pornography can stimulate the human sex drive without providing any actual sex, democracy can stimulate the human power drive without providing any actual power.  But one of the problems with American democracy today is that it's far too constant.  It's like a single page ripped out of Playboy, pinned up in your prison cell.  Fifty years ago it was still enthralling, even though your forebrain may have known it was meaningless.  But eventually even your hindbrain figures out that it's just a piece of paper with some ink on it.  And it sure doesn't help that your forebrain knows the real lady in the picture, while real and actually female, is actually on Social Security by now.

Witch-hunting on a purely informal basis, Popehat's "social consequences," scratches the political perfectly, because of course here is actual power - the power to harm other human beings - being exercised by ordinary people who are not mysterious DC bureaucrats.  Never, ever understate how fun it is to just chimp out for a minute.  If you mock it, it's because you've never had a chance to be part of the mob.  You can condemn it as a vile, base passion, which of course it is - and a human passion as well.  We really all are Caliban.

But we have an angelic nature too, and our angelic forebrains need a cover story while the chimp hindbrain is busy biting off toes and testicles.  Pure sadism is enough for the id.  It's not enough for the ego.  This is why we need communism.

And what is communism?  As a political formula?  Perhaps we can define it, with a nice 20th-century social-science jargon edge, as nonempathic altruism.  Or for a sharper pejorative edge, callous altruism.

What is callous altruism?  Altruism itself is a piece of 20th-century jargon.  We could contrast it with the original word for the same thing, obviously too Christian to prosper in our age: charity.  When we say charity, of course, we think of empathic altruism.

When we think of charity, we think not just of helping others - but of helping others whom we know and love, for whom we feel a genuine, unforged emotional connection.  For whom we feel, in a word, empathy.  Understandably, these people tend to be those who are socially close to us.  If not people we already know, they are people we would easily befriend if we met them.

Dickens, no stranger to genuine empathy, had a term for nonempathic altruism.  He called it telescopic philanthropy.  Who is Peter Singer?  Mrs. Jellyby, with tenure.

So, for example, in classic Bolshevik communism, who is the revolution for?  The workers and peasants.  But... in classic Bolshevik communism... who actually makes the revolution?  Nobles (Lenin) and Jews (Trotsky), basically.  To wit, the groups in Russian society who are in fact most distant - emotionally, culturally, socially - from actual workers and peasants.

Similarly, the most passionate anti-racists in America are all to be found, in early September, at Burning Man.  Everyone at Burning Man, with hardly an exception, is highly altruistic toward African-Americans.  But, to within an epsilon, there are no African-Americans at Burning Man.
 
But wait, why is this wrong?  What's wrong with nonempathic altruism?  Why does it matter to the people being helped if the brains of their helpers genuinely light up in the love lobe, or not?  Loved or not, they're still helped - right?

Or are they?  How'd that whole Soviet thing work out for the workers and peasants?

Heck, for the last 50 years, one of the central purposes of American political life has been advancing the African-American community.   And over the last four decades, what has happened to the African-American community?  I'll tell you one thing - in every major city in America, there's a burnt-out feral ghetto which, 50-years ago, was a thriving black business district.  On the other hand, there's a street in that ghetto named for Dr. King.   So, there's that.  And since we mentioned Mrs. Jellyby, what exactly has a century of telescopic philanthropy done for Africa?

Are Gawker and its ilk genuinely interested in bringing women into technology?  Do they genuinely like either (a) (other) women, or (b) technology?  Because it would sure seem, to the uneducated observer, that the actual effect of their actual actions is to scare women away from programming careers - on the grounds that, if they so much as master MySQL, they will be instantly raped by a pack of Satan-worshipping "brogrammers."

Do you know what women who actually want to help other women learn programming look like?  They look like this.  Sexist, check.  Probably illegal, check.  Recognizing that women are different from men in more areas than the chest compartment, check.  ("Men's rights" activists, shut the fsck up!  If you were real men and not communist pussies, you'd know that no one has any rights, least of all you.  Only one thing makes right - that would be, of course, might - and whining that you're taking it in the tail, though taking it in the tail you are, is anything but a way to create that.)

(UC Berkeley when I was a grad student there had an excellent program, very similar, also (in practice) women-only, called the "CS Reentry Program."  I was ill-disposed to respect this program and the people in it, but reality quickly convinced me otherwise.  It was later done away with, for exactly this reason - communism has to pretend to be gender-neutral.  So it can't actually just help women by, you know, helping women.  That would involve appreciating women for what they are.  Which is obviously illegal in a communist country.  Similarly, once while decoding a Victorian book I told my daughter that in "the old days," many girls went to schools where there were no boys.  She looked at me as though I'd told her that in the old days, the whole world was made of chocolate.)

Can men be assholes to women?  Can women be assholes to men?  Well, actually, it's usually men who are assholes and women who are bitches - though not without exceptions.  But broadly speaking, can everyone be assholes to everyone else?  They can.  They are.  And if you're genuinely mentoring a younger person, with genuine empathy and a genuine interest in their genuine success, what you say in every case is: life is full of assholes.  When someone is an asshole (or a bitch) to you, ignore him and have as little to do with him as possible.)

Once you learn to recognize the distinction between empathic and nonempathic altruism, you'll see it everywhere.  Empathic altruism - charity - is simply good.  Nonempathic altruism - communism - is simply evil.  There's not a whole lot of gray area between good and evil.  Evil motivations can certainly, by coincidence, produce good results - but this is an accident, which has little or nothing to do with the supposed "good intentions."

Consider our late lamented "Arab Spring," a true "spring surprise" that is creeping closer and closer to having killed a million people.  As Stalin said, of course, a million people is just a statistic.  You need a visual.  I like to work with Olympic swimming pools full of blood.

And why did the Arab Spring happen?  It happened because our dear State Department incited revolutions across the Arab world.  And why did State do that?  They did it with the full-throated approval of the American people - all the American people, from left to right.  As far as I can recall, UR and David Goldman were the only two pundits condemning this enormous crime, which has produced exactly the results we expected.
 
And what were the American people thinking?  They were in a pure state of callous altruism.  They thought, we'll help our little brown Arab brothers by supporting them in their enlightened democratic revolution.  Mrs. Jellyby could not have expressed it better.

When you are motivated by genuine charity, and your charitable efforts backfire and actually harm the recipient of your help, you feel guilt and sorrow like nothing else.  You're a witness to a horrific motorcycle accident.  You run over to the man on the ground, pull his helmet off, hug him and give him CPR.  Unfortunately, he would have been fine, except that you just severed his spinal cord.  How do you feel?  Is your reaction: "oh well, at least I tried?"

How did the American people react when their Arab experiment didn't go so well?  I'll tell you exactly how they reacted.  "Oh well, at least we tried."  And then they changed the channel.  And that's what's wrong with callous altruism.

Of course, I'll be guilty of this same crime myself if I harp too much on the "women and minorities hardest hit" line.  What's really wrong with callous altruism?  It's a damned lie, that's what's wrong with it.  It steals charity's good name and makes Randroids condemn charity and communism in the same breath.  And all for stupid political power, with which it does nothing.  I'm a grownup and don't need political formulas.  Order me to respect the Party, I'll respect the Party.

I'll tell you what the real emotion behind the Arab Spring was.  Actually, Beavis can tell you better.  "Fire is cool," said Beavis.  Fire is indeed cool.  Americans were bored and needed some better CNN.  They wanted to see shit burn.  Shit indeed burned, and is still burning.  Which was cool.  So they got what they wanted.  Not too different from the crowd in the Colosseum, just less honest about how they satisfy their very simple chimp/human needs.

And it's not just sadism that motivates callous altruism.  Another source of venal satisfaction is that when you help people, or appear to help them, you become a patron.  You gain ownership over them.  When you help overthrow the dictator of Egypt, for example, you become in a sense the new government of Egypt.  The old dictator was a strongman - the new dictator is a weakman, because he owes his job to someone else.  That someone is you - the collective you, but you nonetheless.  If you decide you don't like your weakman, it's easy to find another weakman.

The fear that someone, somewhere, is exercising power over someone else, is one of the most basic cues of the callous-altruist mentality.  Let me kill the master and free the slave.  Out of altruism!   Not sadism or ambition, of course.  My hands are pure.

But slavery is simply dependence, and the default state of the newly "freed" slave is to be dependent on his new master - you, because you killed the old master.  So your sadism itch is scratched, because you get to kill; and your ambition itch is scratched, because you become a slavemaster.

(A slavemaster?  You may not tell your dependent what to do all day.  But if you pay him to do nothing, he is still your slave - you may not ask him to work today, but you could tomorrow.  He would have to obey your commands or starve.  In other words, he's a slave.  And of course, there's one thing you've surely bought - his vote.)

When Higginson and friends tried this experiment in the 1860s, roughly a fourth of the slaves died as a consequence of the operation.  Not to mention all the other people killed.  Naturally, since America is a communist country, this episode - which might under other regimes be viewed as an outbreak of mass criminal insanity - is considered one of the most glorious in our glorious history.

And this is why you don't want to be a part of the lynch mob.  Even if you think there aren't enough women programmers and there should be more.  It is not your forebrain that lusts for power.  It is your hindbrain.  Forebrain... must... control... hindbrain.

As for the mob's victims, who already understand this stuff - there's an easy way to not get purged.  Don't play the fool.  What is attacking you, though it seems like a frivolous phenomenon, is anything but.   This is an active volcano which has claimed hundreds of millions of lives.  Just firing you is a small, small thing for it.  Just destroying your life - very easy.  Don't mess with it.  If you can avoid a fight with it, do.

And if you can't, don't be defensive.  Attack.  If possible, attack in depth and preemptively.  (What do you think I'm doing here?)  One of the things that this evil machine is capable of, for example, is covering up hatefacts - realities that embarrass it or contradict its narrative.  Your goal in attacking it is to embarrass and contradict it, creating a counter-narrative that it cannot incorporate into its own entertainment product.  If you succeed, you will be covered up as well - which is exactly what you want.  So the purpose of your attack is not to draw attention, but to avoid attention.

And finally, I have one last message for Gawker itself:

At long last, bitch, have you no decency?