Scott Alexander and Murderism

I must admit I’m feeling a little shadenfruedish over the SSC/Critical Affairs dust-up.  I was a commenter at SSC when Alexander wrote Against Murderism— and I completely didn’t understand it.  It made no sense.  It was explained to me by another commenter as “Scott trying to make the blue tribe be nicer to the red tribe.”  I think that’s accurrate.   So seeing Alexander revealed as a delicate snowflake pleading for a return to his previous relative obscurity is just delicious poetic justice.

3. Nobody is under any obligation to comply with this, but if you want to encourage this blog to continue to exist, I request not to be cited in major national newspapers. I realize it’s meant well, and I appreciate the honor, but I’ve gotten a few more real-life threats than I’m entirely comfortable with, and I would prefer decreased publicity for now.

Of course the twitterati are going are to point and laugh when Scott defends Ann Coulter followers while confessing he has never actually read Ann Coulter.

I have lived a sufficiently blessed life never to have actually heard or read Ann Coulter.

Really.  Perhaps Scott should read some Coulter.  It has been suggested to me that since conservative public intellectuals have left the party over Trump, that Coulter is one of the new “intellectuals”  leading conservative thought.  And then Scott aligns himself with David Brooks , one of the biggest punchlines in contemporary punditry.

The biggest problem I have with Alexander and his tribe of soi-disant “rationalists” is that they arent.  Are not rational, that is. They are rationalizers, like Dr. Church says in this Edge interview.

I don’t know if you’ve read The Righteous Mind, but Jon Haidt makes the point that even people who consider themselves very rational are not using a rational argument when making decisions. They’re making decisions and then using the rational argument to rationalize. A lot of what he says sounds obvious once you restate it, but I found the way he says it and backs it up with social science research very illuminating, if not compelling.

The elephant, as he refers to it, the thing that’s making your decisions in your life, is deciding that this person is telling you that you’re responsible for something you don’t feel responsible for. It’s telling you that you have to sacrifice many things that you don’t want to sacrifice. From your viewpoint, that person is inconvenient, incorrect, and you’re going to ignore them. The more they insult you and your way of life, the less you’re going to listen to them, and then you’re going to make a bunch of rationalizations about that. This is why we have problems.

I have a good friend who is a self-declared conservative, he’s a brilliant guy, respected in his field and community.  But when I asked him what he wanted from liberals, he said (and I quote), “We want you to respect us, even when we are wrong.”  I pointed out that I cannot respect someone that denies science and reality– because that is how we get fake news.

I do not think “respecting” the red tribe is going to solve school shootings or racism.  It isnt solving anything in Congress.  Racism is a pushback against cultural and demographic evolution in the contemporary US, and rejecting racism is part of the destruction of the norms and taboos that glue our society together.  “Respecting” racists won’t solve any problems– its just rejecting the norm that racism is Bad.

The Gone World

So, I read it in five hours– it reads like a screenplay and I literally couldn’t put it down. Its fantastic.  I totally forgave the artist’s liberties taken with q-physics– the application of closed-form timecurves and quantum foam are radically different from anything I learned in class.  But here’s the Goodreads synopsis.

I have to admit one of the things I’m most excited about is the eventual movie and the fact that Neil Blomkamp is in charge.   Usually the movie can never be better than the book.  I mean, I love Stranger Things (there is no book) but the unassailable fact that Netflix brutally butchered Altered Carbon initially filled me with trepidation, when I first read about the Netflix/Fox involvement.

I truly can’t wait to see Esperance modelled in the Unity engine.  Maybe we are entering a new era when the theatrical production can actually be better than the book?  And the crowd-funded effort for Firebase — Vietnam era scifi is as timely and relevent as District 9 was to apartheid South Africa.

Not everything is horrible.  I know I sound like that some of the time– but Blomkamp and Oates Studio are a wonderful beautiful shaping event in cultural and technological evolution– the leading edge of the waveform.


A Clapback at Christopher LeBron and Boston Review

I loved LeBron’s classy clapback at Laura Ingraham and FOX.  Hashtag “WeWillNotShutUpandDribble”.  So when one of my mentors used this Boston Review hit piece to validate his reluctance to see Marvel’s Black Panther movie, which I view as a shaping event in cultural evolution, I thought I’d write a small clapback of my own on why the BP film is so important.  To begin with, the title– “Black Panther is Not the Movie We Deserve”– lol, what entitlement– “We” don’t “deserve” anything.

the Boston Review piece–

The change that the movie supposedly heralds is black empowerment to effectively challenge racist narratives.

???? WTH? where is that coming from?  Maybe I’m compromised because I have read and cherished the comix from the Ta-Nehisi Coates reboot, but one of the (many) major themes is terrorism.  Killmonger is a terrorist.  Chris Lebron moaning about how Killmonger isnt Loki is just spectacularly irrelevant.

From 2016: TNC’s own words about the reboot.

WIRED: What’s your take on the politics of Wakanda?

TNC: Wakanda is the most advanced nation on earth—in certain renditions of Black Panther, these guys came up with a cure for cancer—and yet it has the most primitive form of governance on the planet: absolute monarchy. The one case an absolute monarch can make is “I keep the people safe.” What happens in a country where that’s no longer true? How do the people feel about that? That’s the story we’re telling.

Black Panther and Cultural Evolution

I have all the Black Panther comix from the start of the reboot when Ta Nehisi Coates began writing the storyline.  Its just tremendously good. Textured and layered with meaning and subtlety.  Like all his work.  The first thing I ever read by Coates was this Atlantic essay— and I have this line graved in my memory like the first line from Finnegan’s Wake or the beginning of Rebecca– I cant forget it.

But in this deeper home of mine, from the aspect of the slave, a Road is a star-ship, a tesseract from half-man to man.

I was heartbroken when TNC was driven from twitter by alt-right trolls.  But worse than the Spencer style frognazi troll attacks was the immediate betrayal of the rightist public intellectuals.

I dont read conservative tendency public intellectuals or twitter pundits.  I only get exposed to RW tendency when i read Steve Hsu or SlateStarCodex .  I was particularly saddened by this Steve Hsu post.  And this Steve Hsu post.  Hoo booy, hopping right back on the old HBD hobby horse of black racial inferiority.

I think conservative tendency must have a phenotypic basis.  That’s why its not possible to persuade individuals with red brain biochemisty.  Its why the GOP base can be manipulated by carny barker Trump and his freakshow administration into doing the bidding of the one percent.  Its because red brains are less intelligent than blue brains on average.  Thats what the HDB guys say on racial IQ, on average.

The cool thing about this is we are likely going to be able to prove this with Big Data, GWAS, and cognitive genomics.  Would it be good to prove this?  Probably not– its a pretty big basilisk (something we would be better off not knowing) — might actually start a new civil war.

If we think of society as a large pond, we can envision culture events as stones tossed into the pond spreading ripples…school shootings seem to be small pebbles with little ripples.  But the Black Panther movie is a boulder.  Millions of humans will see the movie.  The propagation of the wave forms from Black Panther will have massive and lasting effect.

My nephew is in high school in an affluent North Carolina suburb– he’s 16 and he’s read two books by TNC in his African Studies class.  Women’s rights, minority rights, gender rights, all part of the culture pond he and his friends swim in.  TNC’s movie even has a warning about wall building spliced into the credits.  He and his friends think Trump is a ludicrous old creeper.  Now Steve Hsu and Glenn Loury may think TNC is not a “deep thinker”–

Loury (@19min): “He’s a good writer but not a deep thinker, and he’s being taken seriously as if he was a deep thinker… he’s talented I mean there’s not any doubt about that but the actual analytical content of the argument, there are gaping holes in it…”

–but TNC’s thoughts are shaping culture and society in a multi-media way theirs are not.  And never will.

TNC is shaping the culture of the future.


Scott Alexander and the Nexus of Wrong

The SSC commentariat read the wrong article again.  Shouldn’t be reading Rauch and Wittes on how Trump and the GOP are dangerous to the Rule of Law– they aren’t.  Trump/GOP loves laws, and is working diligently to make many more pro-redtribe laws– on restricting immigration, restricting voter rights, gimme tax cuts for the 1%, etc.  No, what Trump and the GOP are doing is destroying democratic norms in the pursuit of Constitutional Hardball.

Here is a game theoretic analysis of what is happening– Constitutional Hardball and the Calculus of Selfishness.   Like the article suggests, the only way to fight our way back to normative behavior is to model forebearance and tolerance.   But given that the liberals will probably be more inclined to retaliation I doubt that will happen.  Refusal to consider Garland, killing blue slips, evidence of the destruction of normative behavior, and when liberals get control of the house, retaliation strategies will rule– the rise of TFT on the blue side of the isle.

Rauch and Wittes are actually implementing the strategy Tushnet suggests here:

Not surprisingly I was pleased to see that my idea of constitutional hardball plays a role in Levitsky and Ziblatt’s book on How Democracies Die (op ed here). Here I want to reflect on strategies once the game has started and you want to get it to stop. Levitsky and Ziblatt’s book has the obvious prescription for Republicans — the remnants of the “establishment” should do what they can to change the players on their side. For Democrats, though, their strategies involve policy prescriptions, not “moves” in the immediate game. What can Democrats do on a day-by-day basis in the game of constitutional hardball when their ultimate goal is to reinstitute the norms that Levitsky and Ziblatt treat as essential to sustaining a democracy?

Tushnet has been developing his theory of constitutional hardball for quite a while– since at least 2003.  Politics, history, philosophy, humanities– all things I was spectacularly uninterested in and should have paid more attention to– I only ever chose coursework in science and math.  I expect I’m not alone in this.  Now I have to pay attention.   We all have to pay attention.   That is what Trump is good for, really.  A call to attention for the slow frog-boiling death of democratic norms.

I do however, adore game theory– especially complex adaptive games and the Cooperation/Competition Paradigm.  Its my hypothesis that constitutional hardball evolved as a strategy on the Right because of cultural and demographic evolution.  How exactly is the Right supposed to respond to cultural and demographic disenfranchisement?  We aren’t going to see the invasion of cooperative strategies like Pavlov or Snowdrift IMHO.  John McClain, much like John the Baptist, is a lone voice crying in the wildneress.  The conservative public intellectuals that could have tried to lead that movement have left the party.  I think we are going to see a collapse.  Whether the collapse emerges as a civil war or a putsch, or in some even more exotic form, remains to be determined.  It seems somewhat unfair that the liberals are now expected to rescue the system by modelling forebearance and tolerance, those stellar virtues– indeed the Left’s base may revolt.  But if liberals embrace an AllD strategy like the GOP has, its Game Over isnt it?

I was so completely mistaken about the purpose and content of SSC– I initially thought it would be a good place to develop empathy for the Right, à la Arlie Hoschild.  But its not a place for discourse or discussion.  Its more like a game preserve or a zoo with Scott’s niceness/kindness protocols allowing for the perpetuation of Rightwing eumemes and doomed archaic conservative ideology.  I really failed…I came away wholly despising the SSC commentariat.

Eventually white people will be a minority…and if the US is still a democracy, they absolutely will lose power.

But then again…maybe the US will be something else.


Constitutional Hardball and the Calculus of Selfishness : Retaliation Edition

I think this is the best analysis of the current state of the US republic that I have found– an op-ed in the NYT distilling some of the concepts of the Zillblatt and Levitsky book, How Democracies Die.

This is not a traditional liberal-conservative divide. People don’t fear and loathe one another over taxes or health care. As political scientists have shown, the roots of today’s polarization are racial and cultural. Whereas 50 years ago both parties were overwhelmingly white and equally religious, advances in civil rights, decades of immigration and the migration of religious conservatives to the Republican Party have given rise to two fundamentally different parties: one that is ethnically diverse and increasingly secular and one that is overwhelmingly white and predominantly Christian.

White Christians are not just any group: They are a once-dominant majority in decline. When a dominant group’s social status is threatened, racial and cultural differences can be perceived as existential and irreconcilable. The resulting polarization preceded (indeed, made possible) the Trump presidency, and it is likely to persist after it.

But the most obvious cause of the divergence is retaliation.  Furious at their inability to capture the WH under the current democratic norms the Right just threw away the norms.  The thing Trump does that most endears him to his base is punching liberals.  Culture and demography are both trending blue.  Like Frum says here.

FRUM: Instead, they [the GOP] concluded: “What if we shaped the electorate to be a little more friendly to us? Might our formerly unpopular ideas prevail then?” The G.O.P. is complicit with Trump because he delivered a success that finer leaders and better methods could not deliver. Trumpocracy is the fusion of Trump’s authoritarian instincts with the G.O.P.’s plutocratic instincts in the context of a country trending in very different directions.

A success that normative politics couldn’t deliver.

Democrats are beginning to respond in kind. Their recent filibuster triggering a government shutdown took a page out of the Gingrich playbook. And if they retake the Senate in 2018, there is talk of denying President Trump the opportunity to fill any Supreme Court vacancy. This is a dangerous spiral.

American democracy retains important sources of strength, including vast national wealth, a vibrant media and civil society, and a robust judiciary and rule of law. But the norms that once protected our institutions are coming unmoored. President Trump has accelerated this norm erosion, but he didn’t start it. Intensifying polarization, driven by an extremist Republican Party, is making constitutional hardball a new norm for party politics.

Of course democrats are “beginning to respond in kind”.  Republican rejection of the norms of tolerance and forbearance worked...and the GOP captured all three branches of government.  Here is an excellent article by Mark Tushnet, the originator of the concept of constitutional hardball.

And, finally, what about the (remote) possibility of Democratic control of Congress and the Presidency? Lots of things can change between now and the imagined then. I’ve tried to put Court-packing on the agenda, with no direct success (although I think I’ve managed to budge the needle a bit to the point where people who think about these things are now willing to entertain the possibility that some sort of “tit” is appropriate for the Republicans’ “tat” in blocking Garland’s confirmation; it’s just that Court-packing isn’t yet thought to be the right response).

TFT is a harsh strategy, and if democrats employ it in response the country will be further divided.  Yet TFT is a natural response because it employs retaliation, something the human brain is quite good at.  The game worked when it was based on reciprocity…but the game will implode when its based solely on retaliation.

I still read SSC sometimes…its fascinating to me.  It’s like a game preserve or a zoo for archaic conservative/libertarian failmemes and eumemes– it also very much embodies the “punching back” retaliation culture so popular with the redtribe.  Its seems to me that the “rationalist” community has now devolved into the 21st century analog of a CP Snow First Culturepeople talking about people talking about things.  Those two linked posts represent thousands of line of text and hundreds of comments blathering on about Mistake Theory v Conflict Theory.  So much time spent trying to validate amoral, irrational ideology.  To me a game theoretic analysis is far more obvious and explanatory.  So I dug out one of my old text books, Sigmund’s Calculus of Selfishness.  I consider abandoning democratic norms to be cheating, so the republicans are the defectors in this iterated game.  How did we get here?  Simulated artificial societies demonstrate an AllD strategy can invade.

The GOP defected from normative reciprocity to retaliation.  The last time normative reciprocity broke down in this country we experienced the War Between the States.  We still have the scars from that.

From Selfishness:

Today, after a few decades of this research, the net result is sobering.  Beyond the realm of primates, there are few undisputed examples of Tit for Tat-like behavior.  On the other hand, an overwhelming body of evidence proclaims that humans are, far and wide, the champions of reciprocity.  This is not only clear from a huge amount of psychological tests and economic experiments.  Brain imaging seems to support the view part of our cortex is specialized to deal with the ceaseless computations required to keep count of what we give and we receive, and to respond emotionally to perceived imbalance.

The 21st century problem is rapid environmental change– demographic and cultural evolution is trending blue, and the only way the Right can cling to power is to change the rules.

From How Democracies Die:

Perhaps the most consequential was the Senate’s refusal to take up Mr. Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Since 1866, every time a president had an opportunity to fill a vacancy before the election of his successor, he was allowed to do so (though not always on the first try). The Senate’s refusal to even consider an Obama nominee violated a 150-year-old norm.

Democrats are beginning to respond in kind. Their recent filibuster triggering a government shutdown took a page out of the Gingrich playbook. And if they retake the Senate in 2018, there is talk of denying President Trump the opportunity to fill any Supreme Court vacancy. This is a dangerous spiral.

American democracy retains important sources of strength, including vast national wealth, a vibrant media and civil society, and a robust judiciary and rule of law. But the norms that once protected our institutions are coming unmoored. President Trump has accelerated this norm erosion, but he didn’t start it. Intensifying polarization, driven by an extremist Republican Party, is making constitutional hardball a new norm for party politics.

The lessons of history are clear. Extreme polarization can wreck even established democracies. America is no exception. As long as Americans do not overcome their deepening partisan animosities, democracy remains at risk — President Trump or no President Trump.

There are many signs that democrats are now inclined to retaliatory behavior, the most important being the realization that conservative tendency is largely immutable post the college education age.  I think there is genuine phenotypic difference between conservatives and liberals, and we are seeing actual psuedo-speciation in this country!  21st century advances in social physics, Machine Learning and Big Data, cognitive genomics and population genetics will make it possible to prove this thesis.  But this makes it all the more critical that the leaders of the left model forbearance and tolerance, like Tushnet hopes.  Right now just the GOP has defected from the AllC so we have a mixed population–but if the democrats go AllD as well…then we may be entering collapse mode…a putsch or a civil war.


Can the GOP Survive Without Intellectuals?

I have been wondering about this since the election.  GOP public intellectuals fled Trump like scalded cats after the election and it doesn’t look like any of them are coming back.   What does this mean from a social physics perspective?  Can a political movement survive totally bereft of intellectual and scientific support?  Historically communist and fascist movements have rejected scientists and intellectuals, indeed even imprisoned or killed them.  If you wonder where Patterico, Ed Morrissey, Allahpundit, Iowahawk, etc have gone you can find them sleazing around PopeHat’s TL sometimes (without expressing a nanoparticle of remorse for causing the Trump Event with decades of abject pandering to the GOP base.)  George Will has entirely left the building.

Here is a convo between Ross Douthat and David Frum, and even Ross cant manage to squeeze out anything better than Trump has only caused a fall of two steps, rather than the header off the landing we were expecting.

DOUTHAT: That’s fair, but if the danger was taking a header off the landing, and instead we’ve just rolled down a step or two, I’m not going to apologize for feeling a provisional relief.

Pretty weak support for Trump– hes not as bad as we feared he would be…yet.

This however is spot on.

FRUM: Your use of the word “unilaterally” casts a useful clarifying light on what may be the foundation of our disagreement. Let me be very clear what I do not mean by “Trumpocracy,” at least not yet: Caesarism. The authoritarian-nationalist system Trump is building is not being built against Congress, but with Congress — and even more, with Republican Parties at the state level. The big reveal to Republicans in the second Obama term, continuing now into the first Trump term, is that you and Reihan Salam and Ramesh Ponnuru and Henry Olsen and other “reformicons” were right on the politics of Paul Ryan-style conservatism: Such politics simply could not prevail in a free and fair democratic contest.

And there is the rub– culture evolves.  Republican ideology is less appealing every year– the Cambrian explosion in Machine Learning and Robotics is going to fiercely favor a younger, more educated workforce.  Educational attainment is a definitive marker for anti-GOP voters.  The GOP simply has no recourse but to cheat.

I get really bored when the “rationalists” at SSC cite the Iterated Prisoners Dilemma as “proof” that defectors will fail.  From a text book, The Calculus of Selfishness, by Karl Sigmund:

My hypothesis is that the GOP AllD strategy has invaded the previous bipartisan, cooperative, reciprocal AllC strategy– the normative state of the US democratic republic.  But given evolution of culture and society in the US…what alternative does the GOP have?

This is true.

FRUM: Instead, they [the GOP] concluded: “What if we shaped the electorate to be a little more friendly to us? Might our formerly unpopular ideas prevail then?” The G.O.P. is complicit with Trump because he delivered a success that finer leaders and better methods could not deliver. Trumpocracy is the fusion of Trump’s authoritarian instincts with the G.O.P.’s plutocratic instincts in the context of a country trending in very different directions.

As American society trends more diverse, more feministic, and most importantly– more educated, there is no future for a GOP that constantly looks backwards and basically has no intellectual class to promote its ideology.  Much like the Know-Nothing Party, the GOP is doomed to extinction.