Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Chapter 5: Part II: Weapons in the war to save Fact

  I've been posting (for free!) chapters of Polemical Judo, in hope that at least a few of the ideas may percolate through some of you to where they'll do some good.  
(Or start fresh with Chapter 1. Or else... actually buy a copy?)

Last time we offered the first half of Chapter 5: End the War on Facts!  Here we'll offer the Second half offering a a wide variety of specifics including "counter-incantations" that neutralize the common attacks by fact-haters. These examples would all be of use to our Union side in this blatant time of Civil War. If only we had generals with top level brains and imagination.

They are good people, though. So that will have to do... 






This method is no magic bullet. In a dispute among mature or sincere minds – or even Junior High School debaters – you should seek advice from prim and reasonable logicians. But no... I’m here to show you weapons against culture warriors who refuse fair argument, ways to get around their screeches and distractions. 

These methods won’t work on the truly hate-drenched or dogmatic, but they can corner the uncomfortable ones, who chant their rightist nostrums in desperation not to see or hear what’s become of their hijacked movement.


Here are a few more very specific examples.


Bonus counter-incantation #1: In Chapter 8 we’ll talk about what it takes to run a conspiracy. The first rule is to limit the number of plotters in-the-know! And don’t have too many lower-level henchmen, either. (These rules don’t apply when you control a despotic state that easily kills whistleblowers.) 


Here let me just reiterate the zinger that’s boxed a couple of pages back. That you can get real mileage by mocking the notion of a “conspiracy” of ten million scientists, journalists, teachers, FBI agents, professors, doctors, and intel/military officers, when it’s obvious to anyone that 5,000 golf buddies in an incestuous CEO caste can much more plausibly connive in secret with parasitic Wall Streeters, casino moguls, Mafiosi, “ex”-KGB agents and inheritance brats. 

The very folks who want populist rallies pouring hate at both people of color and smart folks.


Bonus counter-incantation #2: Here’s one cult incantation that should long ago have been answered with a judo challenge, instead of year after year of plodding-grunting sumo: 


The scientists pushing Global Warming are all in it for climate study grants.


Seriously, you never realized you can judo-kill that with just four words? 


Show… us… the… ‘grants.’


Truly, has no one simply challenged Fox n’ Pals, on-air? 


Back it up! Your assistants could tabulate these ‘climate grants’ in a day, certainly a week. Issue a list of ‘climate grants” and how they correlate with the incomes of the 98% of experts in pertinent fields, who avow that something dangerous is happening to our planet.


Show us how meteorologists, who are rich from selling forecasts to industry, need ‘climate grants.’ Those geniuses expanded the old two-hour ‘weather report’ into a miraculous ten day forecast, using much the same equations and data as climate scientists. Those flush-successful meteorologists owe nothing to measly ‘climate grants,’ yet they too agree Earth is in deadly peril. 


Back up this ‘grant-hugging’ calumny on the Fox web site by next week, or admit now that you’re a coward-liar.


Bonus counter-incantation #3 THE GEORGE SOROS THING: 

This one may seem old and a bit odd,[1] but for 20 years I found that it always shreds! In fact, I’m told it deeply fretted Glenn Beck, back when his favorite conspiracy-yarn rants revolved around George Soros.


Of course Soros is a criminal mastermind whose NGOs suckered millions around the world into raving socialist frenzy. Never mind that his wealth and media “empire” are minuscule compared to the triumvirate of Murdoch, Koch and Saudi co-owners of Fox. Even after Glenn Beck left TV, other rightist pundits have repeated this chant: 


Soros is so scary-manipulative that he personally toppled EIGHT foreign governments! 


I don’t recall a single major figure of the left or center who noticed this doozy judo-opportunity. Because… it’s true! For once, Beck and his pals weren’t lying. Their Soros rant is based on one of those truths that must never be made explicit. 


In fact, George Soros did – through his NGO foundations - help topple eight foreign governments! 

Alas, GOP intellect has plummeted so far, since Goldwater and Buckley, that no audience member of the Beck, Limbaugh, or Fox Riefenstahl-rallies ever lifted his head to ask. “Um… Glenn? Rush? Sean? Which foreign governments are you talking about?” 


Are you ready to ask? Here are those eight[2] nations the right credits George Soros with toppling – without ever saying their names aloud.


The communist dictatorship of Hungary. 

The communist dictatorship of Poland 

The communist dictatorship of Czechoslovakia 

The communist dictatorship of Romania 

The communist dictatorship of Bulgaria 

The communist dictatorship of Estonia 

The communist dictatorship of Latvia 

The communist dictatorship of Lithuania  


And yes, Soros considered undermining the USSR and Iron Curtain to be his life’s core work, helping with the liberation of hundreds of millions and a victorious end of the Cold War. Russian President and “ex” KGB agent Vladimir Putin calls the fall of the USSR “history’s greatest tragedy,” and he pours special blame-hatred for that calamity at George Soros.


Others also credit Soros with this impressive (and terrifying) feat! The right-wing Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute repeat the accusation, along with many GOP politicians. But… but wasn’t that supposed to be Ronald Reagan? 


In fact, they both share credit with Mikhail Gorbachev, and with the architect of our grand 1945 to 2000 plan, George Marshall. And hey, let’s be generous and give some credit to the people of those nations, too. 


OMG, such drivel!


Seriously, can you see the disservice that our brightest blue pols and pundits and observers have done us, by just shrugging off these Soros rants without efficiently cutting them off, at the knees? Sure, the viewers of this crap never rouse to question the tsunami of ironies and contradictions at their Nuremberg Rallies. But far more urgently – why does no one on the other side?


Bonus counter-incantation #4:  Of course I should reference others who are also in this fight over restoring the primacy of verifiability and accountability to the word “fact.” For example, right after the 2016 U.S. election was trashed by malevolent forces, Facebook invited me to their headquarters to consult about ways to use transparency to prevent their site from being hijacked again by meme-manipulators. I can tell you now that absolutely none of my suggestions were adopted, or even closely examined. I am not encouraged.


In contrast, read about how sapient Italians have been using a two-level approach to combat the anti-vaxxer fanaticism, which had left Italy with the lowest immune-rate for preventable diseases in Western Europe:


“There are Italians who will be moved by forceful communications from a genuine expert, there are Italians who will be moved by gentle persuasion from someone who seems simpatico, and there are Italians who will be moved by government policy. And that has further implications: It means that any counter-disinformation campaign might require more than one tactic, more than one message and more than one kind of messenger if it is to succeed. In a world where conspiracy theories – medical, scientific and, of course, political – are proliferating, this is more than just a useful insight. It should be the beginning of a new way of thinking about long-term strategies to deal with disinformation more generally.” – writes Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post.[3]


A well-reasoned approach, more mature than my radical demand for in-yer-face confrontation. But yes, by all means. 





A chapter about the War on Facts should include comparison of outcomes. After all, what could be more pertinent to the purpose of politics in a mature society? Isn’t that purpose to elect statesmen and stateswomen of stature who will negotiate new laws and revised policies in good faith, based not just on theories but a landscape of changing but verifiable evidence?


Okay, that paragraph made you choke on your beverage. But after you clean up, consider: there have been momentary glimmers of political maturity across American – and human – history. Such beacons and the reforms they engender can make up for decades of sloth and turpitude, such as we’ve seen of late. Moreover, you can find some folks who are now clinging to conservatism with their fingernails – I call them RASRS or Residually Adult Sane Republicans – who yearn for such an era. They may be approachable with comparison of outcomes. I’ll do this in more detail in Chapter 10 (Government), Chapter 11 (Economics), Pause#15 (Clinton-Obama Obsession) and elsewhere, especially where the topic turns to wagers


But for now let’s examine one more bulwark rationalization of your average Republican. One of the deepest is the truism that Democrats are squishy-compassionate. Therefore:


 – They must be naive and inept at running a Pax Americana that can be agile and win at international realpolitik.


– Those “socialists” must do badly at encouraging growth in an entrepreneurial-competitive capitalist economy.


– They’re fiscally irresponsible and will saddle future generations with outrageous debt.


– Because liberals moralize, that means they cannot be the pragmatic ones. 


Would it surprise you that these truisms all run diametrically opposite to fact? Or that almost none of our side’s pols or pundits have glommed onto that response?


Democratic administrations – at both the state and federal level – are almost always more fiscally responsible than Republican ones. Nearly always.[4] Republicans are the budget busters and debt-saddlers, down the line. (Chapter 11.)


In fact, almost every clear metric of U.S. national health, from unemployment and GDP growth to deficits and liberal desiderata, like rates of poverty or public health or childcare, do better across the span of Democratic administrations.


The states that are run by blue-squishy moralizers are nearly all in better shape than those that are red-led. And the condition of our alliances – NATO and so on – is always better when the U.S. has a high moral quotient. (That’s also when we attract lots of defectors from our opponents, and nothing could be more practical than that. See Chapters 9 &14.)


Finally, a legitimate conservative gripe: All right though, there is one fundamental “red” complaint about their squishy-moralizing liberal neighbors that has credibility. In fact, it is one of the root-underlying causes of their resentment. 


Liberals nag.


They’re rude. They get in your face with guilt trips. Last year’s progress is taken for granted without a spoonful of credit, as new issues and causes press forward. Their neighbors are called racist-sexist troglodytes and no litmus test will ever be good enough. No customs of courtesy or demure behavior will restrain or tone down the guilt trips. And there comes a point when many of our conservative neighbors shrug, asking: “Why should I try?”


Dig this well, I know which side I am on – the one that aims for a truly good and wonderful civilization, like in Star Trek. One where the liberal preoccupations of today are rendered moot and boring, because they were solved with compassion, generosity and fabulous innovation. So when I point out some of the underlying reactionary memes, and admit some have a point, I’m not changing sides. I’m trying to be adult.

Adults don’t deny facts. Well, they’re not supposed to. 






All right then. Let’s suppose Brin is correct. A world cabal of elites  – the stupidest and richest – have got it into their heads that they must repress democratically empowered voters (the mob) and restore a natural, pyramidal hierarchy based largely on money and inherited position… perhaps soon enhanced by technological tools of universal surveillance and even immortality.[6] They further realize that one obstacle obstructs their goal: the rule of flat-fair-transparent and accountable law, administered by faithful civil servants, scrutinized by a savvy public and informed by tens of millions of smart-knowledgeable Fact People. 


The oligarchic putsch must do what we see happening before our eyes. They must wage all out war upon those fact-using professions.


Their method is the same one chosen by German aristocrats in 1930 – subsidizing a hate-drenched populist movement that spews abhorrence at vulnerable minorities, but also goes after all fact-elites. And yes, we know how well that plan turned out for the German aristocracy. 


How can we fight back? Well, democracy, of course. But powerful ways must be found to combat this new Know-Nothing campaign. The theme of this book – Judo Polemic – may offer at least a few weapons to those paladins of press, politics and punditry who are fighting for civilization.


But for a moment let’s assume victory. At least a partial one, in which the Confederacy and its putsch maters and foreign-despot allies get ejected from power in Washington D.C. In other chapters I offer lists of priorities! Suggestions and measures that could make a big difference. 


But here, concluding our chapter on the “War on Facts,” I want to present something particularly pertinent. At the request of the Internet Caucus of the 2018 California Democratic Party Convention in San Diego, California, I hurriedly drafted a piece of “futuristic legislation. 


The “Fact Act”[7] would help restore access to useful and confirmable information for public officials, politicians and citizens. Rather than establishing some suspect "Ministry of Truth,"[8] this legislation will encourage systems that use diversity, competition[9] and grownup adversarial methods, helping leaders and the public to parse lies and distractions from assertions that are supported by strong evidence.

If you wish to read the actual text of the FACT ACT...

... and now...

==  Conclusion of Chapter 5 of Polemical Judo ==




Imagine you are a Jew in 1930s Nazi Germany, reading all the libels and lies spread about your people in Nazi-controlled media, unable to demand: “I want a fair trial, so I can show it’s all false!”


Or you’re an antebellum slave, told that your condition was “natural” because of inferior intelligence, yet forbidden even to self-educate, so you might prove that calumny wrong. 


A similar world awaits all of us, if we don’t step up to reinforce the marvels of open honesty and knowledge and justice that our enlightenment has achieved, so far… including especially our chance to take it much, much farther. The hard-won lesson of the last two centuries, which even many liberals don’t grasp, is that most injustices shrivel under the application of light. And light consists of photons called facts.


Reiterating: we see zillionaire oligarchs finance relentless propaganda aimed at riling millions into hatred, and not only wrath aimed at powerless minorities. Just as dangerous is their campaign – stirring up that pre-existing SoA reflex – of open war against “knowledge elites” – precisely because those skill castes do have power! Civil servants, scientists, teachers, doctors, intel agents and so can do a lot to thwart the New Lords’ ambitions. All must be gelded. Broken to harness. Taught their place.


Ironically, while it’s been cleverly executed so far, this overall plan is incredibly dumb! Whatever the putschists envision… e.g. that they’ll “control” the hateful mobs they’ve riled… or that feudalism is the natural order… or that it’s for the greater good… or smiling happily as flatterer-sycophants tell them how superior they are… whatever their rationalizations, they have already lost, because the ultimate thing they are warring against is called Objective Reality. And it exists. 


These plotters believe in triumph of their will, empowered by mountains of lucre. Indeed, they may succeed at bringing the Enlightenment Experiment crashing into a new dark age. But the cabal leaders themselves won’t benefit, nor will their scions, for one reason above all.


You see, the fact people are myriad and varied. Some of them know everything about the New Lords, including where their Patagonian or subsea or Himalayan/Siberian hideaways lie. Others know stuff about computers. About chemistry. About biology. About nukes. Hence, the stupidest thing for this deeply stupid clade of would-be New Lords to do is ignore the lessons of history. Myopic as they are, they should squint at what will be their inevitable outcome, if they insist on making all the smart people really mad.


Take some advice from Dr. Bruce Banner. You won’t like us when we’re mad. And that’s a fact you can bank on.


[1]  “David Brin’s Epic Takedown of Fox’s Soros-Haters.”


[2] The figure should be ten, to include East Germany and Ukraine.


[3] The Washington Post:


[4] “Do outcomes matter more than rhetoric?”


[5]  “Enact the Fact Act.”


[6] “Do We Really Want Immortality?”


[7] Note: This "Fact Act" is not to be confused with another bill that was somewhat less apropos: The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


[8] That the "Ministry of Truth" Orwellian accusation will be trotted out is guaranteed; hence, it must be prepared for.


[9] This principle underlies our competitive, fact-using arenas: markets, democracy, science and justice courts. We know how to do this.



Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Whatever the putschists envision… e.g. that they’ll “control” the hateful mobs they’ve riled…

You'd think they'd never seen Cabaret.

"Tomorrow belongs...
Tomorrow belongs...
Tomorrow belongs to me."

"Do you still think you can control them?"

Alfred Differ said...

Finally, a legitimate conservative gripe: All right though, there is one fundamental “red” complaint about their squishy-moralizing liberal neighbors that has credibility. In fact, it is one of the root-underlying causes of their resentment.

Liberals nag.

Heh. I enjoy the juxtaposition on this one. Most of my life it is the conservatives AND progressives (American Liberals) who have been moralizing. Now one side stops and accuses the other.

So... yah... they are nags. Imagine the guilt trip laid on you with the worst nasal twang possible.

Doesn't work. No one likes a nag. We do our damnedest to tune them out. Want your co-worker to ignore you? Just start nagging them. Lots of us SHOULD learn the lesson when we try and fail this way with our spouses... but no. Gotta learn the lesson a million times over for it to chip away at our mental siege defenses. Walls 20 years thick.

The root of the problem is that a good nag will think they were successful if something they wanted to happen actually happens. Confirmation bias.

Slavery ended in the US after lots of nagging my Abolitionists, right?
So their nagging worked, right?
Their support of the Union war effort did it. $$$ and bullets.
Angry, non-abolitionist Northerners did it. Volunteers, more $$$, and more bullets.

No doubt the naggers will finally get it right to deal with climate change, though. Right? Maybe for equal rights? BLM? Disenfranchisement? Prison reform?

Nagging is a cheap way to feel like one has done something that matters.
I'm on record as opposing X... whatever X is... and I told someone off.
Doesn't work, though. At its worst, it is virtue signaling.

No one likes that. Not your wife. Not your kids. Not even the dog... and they know when you do it even with their tiny brains.

TCB said...

Dr. Brin is the first person to suggest seriously that US politicians were being blackmailed. The theory makes more and more sense. But do we have any proof yet?

Jerry Falwell Jr endorsed Donald Trump after being blackmailed with “racy” pictures according to Michael Cohen. Falwell enjoyed watching his wife get busy with the pool attendant, it seems.

“I actually have one of the photos,” Cohen said, calling them pictures usually kept “between husband and wife.”

“It’s terrible.”

Now, Falwell isn't a politician in the standing-for-election sense, but he's one of those people who are so political that I'll go ahead and count him.

Jon S. said...

On conspiracies: I usually like to point out the Watergate affair. Less than a dozen conspirators, all highly motivated to keep the conspiracy hidden (so as not to go to jail), and their silence lasted for what, six months? And you want me to believe that The Libs are running some kind of massive planetary-scale scam, requiring millions of participants, lasting for decades, and somehow that's being effectively hidden from the world??

Larry Hart said...


Dr. Brin is the first person to suggest seriously that US politicians were being blackmailed. The theory makes more and more sense. But do we have any proof yet?

It wouldn't count as proof in a court of law, but with Lindsey Graham, it's got to be obvious even to the most obtuse by now.

Now, Falwell isn't a politician in the standing-for-election sense,

He was a key influencer in getting Evangelicals to support Trump.

David Smelser said...

I think there is a definition problem about nagging.
We tend to call it nagging when it is ineffective.

Operationally, it is negative reinforcement (contingently removing/avoiding an aversive that resulting in a behavior increasing). There are plenty of examples of negative reinforcement working -- putting on the seat-belt to turn off the annoying buzzer in the car, using an umbrella to avoid getting wet, stress positions, work slow downs, etc.

Sometimes the behavior that gets reinforced isn't the behavior you want -- you get avoidance (they avoid liberals) or counter protests (they nag that "liberals nag too much") instead of the compliance.

When I see people on the left suggest that there should be less nagging, what I often see isn't an abandonment of negative reinforcement, but rather a call to more effective negative reinforcement -- using things that aren't so easily ignored (sit in and traffic blocking peaceful protests) or more directly contingent on demands (strikes or work slow downs until specific conditions are met).

TCB said...

I read somewhere about a gay sex worker in D.C. who claims everyone he knows has been with Lindsey Graham, that Graham has numerous moles around his sphincter, and that he refers to them as his 'ladybugs'. I'm not a scientist, but as a layman I'm pretty sure this is hilarious.

Larry Hart said...

David Smelser:

Operationally, it [nagging] is negative reinforcement (contingently removing/avoiding an aversive that resulting in a behavior increasing). There are plenty of examples of negative reinforcement working -- putting on the seat-belt to turn off the annoying buzzer in the car, using an umbrella to avoid getting wet, stress positions, work slow downs, etc.

You saved me the trouble of asking Alfred, "So what are we supposed to do to assert that black lives really do matter when others treat them as if they don't? Just go 'Oh well, nothing I can do will change them?' What's the sense of protesting injustice if doing is simply nagging?"

Ok, I guess you didn't actually save me anything. :)

Sometimes the behavior that gets reinforced isn't the behavior you want -- you get avoidance (they avoid liberals) or counter protests (they nag that "liberals nag too much") instead of the compliance.

There are appeals to conscience which do work over time. The trick seems to be that you're pointing out an aspect of someone's behavior that they really are uncomfortable with. What gets us liberals in trouble is trying to shame others for something that they are not actually ashamed of.

I think what matters most is whether or not you and the other person are in some way on the same team--that you are constructively criticizing him for a lapse in keeping faith with your common values. If you are criticizing him for failing to honor values he doesn't actually share, then you'll get nowhere.

Pointing out that police can be racist to an actual racist isn't going to change their opinion. Pointing out the inherent cruelty in kneeling on a helpless man's neck until he dies has a chance of doing so.

This seems to be exactly why conservatives say liberals "hate America" when we try to improve America. They don't seem to understand that criticism can be meant constructively.

A.F. Rey said...

I always thought that nagging is what you do before bringing in lawyers, guns and money, in the hopes of avoiding the latter three. :)

Alfred Differ said...

David Smelser,

think there is a definition problem about nagging.
We tend to call it nagging when it is ineffective.

I sorta agree. There is a definition problem. However, I think the second part is backwards. Nagging is an attempted negative reinforcement that is usually ineffective. It is so often ineffective that some think that IS part of the definition. I disagree, but I'll concede the point that it doesn't matter that I do so.

All I ask is that people try some other form of negative reinforcement. Our host uses an excellent one when he avoids dishing up attention when one of us goes astray. No need to nag us since many of us probably get an oxytocin boost when he responds. 8)

There are days when I wonder what the Right would do if we just shunned them. Deliberate "f@#%-off" shunning. I find that harder to do than nagging.

john fremont said...

Not only that conspiracy but the COVID-19 conspiracy. Ya know, where thousands of doctors are just writing down COVID-19 as cause of death so insurance companies will pay them more. Insurance fraud on a massive nationwide scale happening right under the insurance industries noses and it just goes on. I know some medical coding specialists and they think this conspiracy is wild.

matthew said...

I think the "nagging" argument is in bad faith. Conservatives love to nag just as much or more than liberals. It's just that for the last 50 years, conservatives have gotten to describe their version of nagging as "being patriotic" or "being religious" or "being fiscally prudent" when in fact they were doing none of the above.

Also, an interesting anecdote - I work very closely with an older retired Marine. He is very very conservative. We were talking about politics, which is something we avoid for the sake of being able to work together, and he told me that he does not think that fascism in America would be the end of democracy. He believes that the two work well together. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that one.

A.F. Rey said...

As a sad note, Diana Rigg passed away.

Mrs. Peel will no longer kick butt. Or, should I say, Lady Olenna Tyrell will no longer pull strings in dragon-infested kingdoms. :)

David Brin said...

Diana Rigg, RIP you lifelong cutie, who showed us all that a woman can utterly kick-ass. We stared, blinked a few times... and said cool! All the kick-butt fem-heroes who followed, from Xena and Buffy onward, owe so much to you. The REAL Avenger!
Also... ah-woooo!

But.... there has never been a finer tribute than this one. You will experience joy.

TCB said...

John Dean on Trump's authoritarian followers: "These clowns will take our democracy... You're wasting your time trying to persuade them. The only thing they'll understand is if they're defeated at the polls, and they're going to have to get back under their rocks for a while, and understand that their thinking about how government should operate is not American. THey should go someplace else. It's just that simple. They will not play by the rules."

Don't nag. Smite.

TCB said...

Oh did I link that John Dean bit?

John Dean: The clowns could take our democracy.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

There are days when I wonder what the Right would do if we just shunned them. Deliberate "f@#%-off" shunning.

Why wonder? We've seen that movie before.

They'd complain about "cancel culture" and whine that we're violating their Constitutional right to free speech.

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

Mrs. Peel will no longer kick butt. Or, should I say, Lady Olenna Tyrell will no longer pull strings in dragon-infested kingdoms. :)

To be fair, Lady Olenna was already dead. :)

Diana Rigg, RIP you lifelong cutie, who showed us all that a woman can utterly kick-ass. We stared, blinked a few times... and said cool! All the kick-butt fem-heroes who followed, from Xena and Buffy onward, owe so much to you. The REAL Avenger!

When I was not yet ten, I became aware of my budding sexuality because of two tv women. Diana Rigg was one of them. The other being Julie (Catwoman) Newmar.

Any coincidence in the fact that the two girlfriends I've most loved (one of whom is now my wife) are named Diane and Julie?

TCB said...

An alternative view, from Twitter Threadreader, in which Dr. Sarah Taber says:

There's a myth out there that rural brain drain is caused by "cities vacuuming away all the young/smart/ambitious people." Bullshit. Rural areas & small towns kick them out. On purpose. Spoilers: this thread has SOLUTIONS in it, keep scrolling :)

Solutions, I like that word... In a nutshell, Dr. Taber says 1.) Rural elites like being a big fish in a small pond.

The funny part is this "big fish drain the pond to stay on top" phenomenon is REALLY well-documented in poor countries & oil oligarchies. But the vast majority of the United States (in terms of square miles) behaves the exact same way. It's called resource curse.
If there's a significant natural resource, you often wind up with a small wealthy clique that owns it. They refuse to invest in any other kind of business or infrastructure (including basic civil rights). That way, they own everything and everyONE. It's a cheap way to be powerful. They're happy to be super-wealthy if it's easy to do so (see: oil oligarchs)

In the case of the rural US, what the elites own all of is LAND. But the elites are willing to be not-so-rich as long as everyone else is poorer. And the rural anti-gay thing is about marriage keeping land in the family, it seems...

Folks who make their living owning property, btw, are also terrified of LGBTQ+ reality because their wealth is all about dynastic accumulation. Social-climbing through marriage is a HUGE component of their livelihood.

So rural elites don't want too many of their young/smart/ambitious people staying and agitating for change to this status quo. Let them go to the city cores and get gerrymandered into silence, toiling for the city elites...


2. All this is to say- if we're serious about fixing the food system, I think big employee-owned farm/food operations are the only way to fly. And WHAT A COINCIDENCE, they could also fix this "we're all being herded into expensive (city) slums and it's destroying our democracy" problem.

I literally mean a strictly-business, super-vanilla, company that farms and makes food and is employee owned & governed... that's it

"Having a community" is not a replacement for self-actualization. And when you take the boot off people's neck, we're plenty capable of building community ourselves. When people have decent livelihoods we don't NEED dedicated orgs to do that for us.

Lawrence said...

Ah, David. Hippie punching again. Do we actually nag? Considering the issues at stake it seems like nagging is weak sauce. I don't nag my Republican wife. She would just shut down. I have to find subtle ways of talking about issues we disagree on. I don't nag people at work. I'm a liberal in a purple state. And even in dark blue states managerial culture in the workplace will skew conservative. Nothing to the left of Bill Clinton, who was no liberal at all. The alleged nagging is one of those perpetual grievance issues ground out by the right wing noise machine, to be sure. But is it representative of reality? I'm open to your arguments on this. Better ones than the straw man in the post. You want to experience some nagging? Visit a women's health clinic. Maybe get some pull quotes from Dr. George Tiller. Is it really a bad idea to nag Nazis and Klansmen? I know you said they aren't reachable (true) and we should focus on splitting off those short of that level of hate politics. But what's the pitch? "Say, friend, you don't really want to be over there with the Nazis, do you?" What is hard for them, at this point, to discern? As to your point about how no concession is good enough, name me a concession that was truly delivered. Haven't we been fighting backlash on every civil rights issue since 1865? I believe you have documented it well.

David Brin said...

TCB that was though provoking!

Lawrence I THINK I understand what you were saying. Not entirely sure I have mentally parsed it right.

But the extremum of 'nagging" and microaggression trigger warnings at one end and thugs going up to whites dining at a restaurant demanding abject "apologies." These doen't budge anyone or help achieve anything except a sanctimony high.

Alfred Differ said...


The problem is we don't shun them even when they whine.

Obviously we can't afford to ignore them, but we can throttle the amount of attention we give them. Like internet trolls, we might be better off starving them.

Well... I can't seem to do it myself, so this probably has to remain at a level of 'wonder about'.


He believes that the two work well together. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that one.

My guess is he believes he is in a minority that would be suppressed by a authoritarian majority. I hear that argument a lot and give them at least some credit for it. That doesn't mean they should be cheating to prevent that majority from winning, though. They should be arranging the deck chairs to disempower the majority no matter who happens to be in that coalition... including themselves.

Larry Hart said...

Republicans pretend that they never nag, until they've been pushed so far that they "just can't take it any more!". As if their nagging is such a special case that it's the exception that proves the rule.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh engages in this "exceptional" behavior three hours a day.

mythusmage said...

On the claim that some people are doing it to get money from climate research studies I have to ask; what studies?

Robert said...

This seems to be one of the examples of the 'looney left' that Dr. Brin is talking about:

I'm certain it will also be trotted out as an example of 'cancel culture', because it's a really egregious example of punishing someone for a non-existent crime.

One of my nieces got caught by that when her family moved to Canada. Fortunately her ESL teacher explained the problem to her before she could get into trouble from people who didn't understand 普通话. Made enough on an impression on her that when I went to China she warned me not to get offended by people speaking in the street…

Hailey said...

Dr. Brin I agree those don't achieve much aside from the high of self righteous sanctimony. However, and your words and actions demonstrably prove you wouldn't use it this way, this might be a good thing to know about:

Larry Hart said...

For many years, when the date "September 11" showed up on the calendar, it still had the power to produce a kind of frisson in me. For some reason, that did not happen today. You might think that it's just a case that enough time has passed that September 11, 2001 has become more history than present, but it feels to me more like "9/11 is no longer the worst thing that has happened to our country in recent memory." As if singling out an isolated terrorist attack as a moment to fear has become somehow quaint.

David Brin said...

Robert, from that article, I'd give tentative(!) 1:3 odds the "professor" thought he was being cute or getting away with a poke. While moderately low odds, it is high enough for me not to list this as an anecdote against campus SJW lynching.

Thank you Hailey. Stick around!

Re 9/11 ... Call it UA93 Day! THAT was the one good thing we saw that day, and it was done by citizens.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Obviously we can't afford to ignore them, but we can throttle the amount of attention we give them. Like internet trolls, we might be better off starving them.

Well, I already refuse to watch FOX or OANN, or to listen to Rush Limbaugh. I know I would probably understand the other side better if I paid attention to their cultural touchstones, but I just can't go with the idea of taking poison in order to better understand the pain that those who regularly ingest poison are feeling.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Re 9/11 ... Call it UA93 Day! THAT was the one good thing we saw that day, and it was done by citizens.

"Let's roll!" would make a good motto.

Larry Hart said...

From TCB's Twitter Threadbarer link above:

They're happy to be super-wealthy if it's easy to do so (see: oil oligarchs)

but "middling wealthy while everyone else around me is desperate" is fine too. Hence, stifling economic development to stay on top.

The diametric opposite of the German businessman on Thom Hartmann's show who explained being ok with high taxes for a social safety net: "I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country."

A.F. Rey said...

Since Larry once frequented Scott Adam's site, I thought he might appreciate one of the latest tweets from Scott, as reported by P.Z. Myers:

I think one of the comments summed it up nicely: “Damn it! ... He’s using the Chewbacca defense!” :)

Larry Hart said...

@A.F. Rey,

Scott Adams is dead to me.

matthew said...

Hm, my Marine co-worker is originally from South Carolina, and has a dismissive attitude toward women and anyone with brown skin. My guess is that he is OK with American fascism-democracy because of his upbringing in the Jim Crow-era South. Even after serving in a non-segregated armed service for 20 years, those old attitudes remain. He's said that he would like to restrict the vote to landowners too.

It's just..rare... to hear someone that served the USA for so many years admit that he thinks we would do better with some fascism mixed into our democracy. I've run into the attitude in vets that served for a couple of years, mostly draftee-types, but to hear support for fascism from a retired service member is, in my experience, much more alarming than to hear it from some outlaw biker that was drafted for a tour in Vietnam. It speaks to the gradual acceptance and embrace of Nazi ideals by the conservative movement in the US.

QAn*n is a rehash of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (secret cabals of blood- drinking elites controlling the common man) . The GOP is rapidly becoming a neo-Nazi group, thanks to the suggestion algorithms of Facebook, Google, You-Tube and the rest. Trump is a symptom of the Reich-wing conservative movement, not a cause. QAn*n is just the Tea Party all dressed up for genocide.

My co-worker is helping understand that mindset.

Robert said...

Here's another take on the story, with links to other examples. (Links in Chinese characters, sorry.)

Like I said, my niece warned me when I went to China that people weren't being racist when they said "nega nega nega", it was Chinese that sounded like a bad word in English. She was right — I heard it on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai all the time, used as filler words just as Prof. Patton described it as. Heard it from students in my class as they struggled to finish sentences.

It's a good example of a filler sound, and a good reason why one should be cautious about multi-lingual communications.

It's quite the story in China right now, apparently.

David Brin said...

matthew, I find they are jarred - alas not fully - by:

- "Your cult served the king in the 1770s and plantation lords who robbed poor whites blind, in the 1860s, You broke heads as union strikebreakers and now you are on your knees before aristocrats again, sucking Vlad Putin and Adelson and Murdoch and an array of WalStreeters and inheritance brats. You confederates have always been about treason.

- "Show me one study that lays out the case against "fake news" or the "deep state" accusation against the men and women who defeated Hitler, Stalin, Mao and bin Laden. You slander your betters without the slightest backing or evidence (other than a few mostly made-up anecdotes.

- "This scientific and pragmatic democracy has accomplished vastly more than ALL of your feudal lords and kings and priests did, across 6000 years. Bet me on that. Oops. You won't bet. Because no guts.

Robert said...

secret cabals of blood-drinking elites controlling the common man

You have to admit that that's actually a pretty good analogy for the Murdochs and Kochs of the world.

On that note, you might enjoy two books by James Alan Gardner: All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault and They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded.

Superhero fiction with a twist. The Dark has gone corporate — pony up enough money and you too can be immortal and have powers, as vampires et al monetize their abilities. The Light opposes that. Our protagonists are newbie Sparks — just learning what it's like to have Powers, what the limits are, and how to deal with a world where the monied elite really are blood-sucking Darklings.

In the authors words:

In my new series, The Dark vs. Spark, vampires, werewolves and demons have come out of hiding, offering the Dark Conversion to anyone who can afford it. Within a generation, the richest 1% are almost all Darklings.

Then superheroes show up: ordinary joes who happened to touch a glowing meteor or fall in a vat of weird chemicals. They represent the 99%…and they’re going to provide the Dark with Adult Supervision.

Two books of four written so far (assuming he writes one from the perspective of each Spark in the team). I loved them and am eagerly awaiting the next…

A.F. Rey said...

Scott Adams is dead to me.

Yes, but you must admit his corpse can be amusing at times, albeit in a very sad way. :)

Alfred Differ said...


My guess is that he is OK with American fascism-democracy because of his upbringing …

Okay. Sounds like some of my relatives. [If they encounter me saying that about them here, so be it. OWN it.]

The two factions (blue/gray) in the US are found splitting many families, mine included. A fight today would split brothers, though. A few generations have passed. Now it's just cousins as most of our parents are gone.

Those of us wearing blue in my family are simply waiting. We out-number them on the other side. Most of the time we CAN talk to each other. When we can't, like with politics right now, we wait and count noses among our off-spring and their friends.

I know there is a good point to drafting crew-cut candidates to change the way the parties compete in red districts that might be winnable by someone with a lot less gray in their uniform. I DO get it. However, I have my qualms. Their bootcamp experience teaches a lot more obedience than I like to have in a politician writing legislation, let alone in an executive enforcing laws. A few of them in government is one thing. Bunches of them is quite another.

For now I accept the need. We already have bunches of lawyers and that is even dumber. I won't accept it for long, though. I'm not a fan of war generals as President. Fortunately, we don't do that very often.

Alfred Differ said...

The Liberal Order (LO) has accomplished what feudal lords, kings, and priests dreamed they could do… or that only god(s) could do.

All the practical accomplishments of the first sixty centuries summed across all civilizations have been reproduced by the LO in less than four and vastly surpassed in the last two. ALL of them. Even the one surviving ancient civilization knows this and has been copying the LO as fast as it can.

When we were learning to domesticate grains and animals for farming, we lost half our children before puberty was complete. Not anymore. Globally, it's below five in a hundred now.

We lost about one in three of our children before they reached their first birthday. In some places it was as good as one in five. Among LO nations, that ratio tumbled to one in five in the early Industrial era and them plummeted last century with the arrival of improved medical knowledge. Globally, it's below three in a hundred now. Some LO nations are down to a few per thousand.

reason said...

Besides which you have to explain all the other countries as well.

Pappenheimer said...

Restricting the vote to landowners above a certain wealth level was a startling concept when I ran into it in the USAF - proposed by a first term airman, and I don't think he originated the idea. I was tempted to respond that this was excellent!, but that the minimum amount should be $10 million, and then $100 million in 4 years, and then $1 billion 4 years after that, until the vote resided in - say - 1 person. Because that's basically what happened in ancient Athens, if my memory serves me well.
Heinlein's suggestion that all male citizens lose the vote for a few decades as reparations for suppressing the female vote for the first 144 years is equally logical and would probably improve the trajectory of our country.

Jon S. said...

The "controversy" surrounding the use of ne ga rather reminds me of some complaints about the children's show Teletubbies, when it was first exported to the shores of the US from its native Britain.

Some American parents, on hearing the Teletubby Po riding her scooter, insisted she was saying "fatty, fatty", or in some cases "faggot, faggot". Her original voice actor Pui Fan Lee, however, tells us that what Po was saying was in fact "fidit, fidit", a childish pronunciation of the Cantonese for "faster, faster" (keep in mind that the Teletubbies were all supposed to be the equivalent of young toddlers, speaking in gibberish with occasional actual words mixed in).

Does "pareidolia" apply strictly to visual interpretation of cues? Is there a term for when you do the same thing with audio stimuli?

David Brin said...