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.

WAKANDA FOREVER!

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.

Thought Experiment: Can MBS Succeed in Forming a Sovereign Sunni Bloc?

After reading dozens of articles on the current situ in KSA, I think I am beginning to see the nebulous shape of MBS plan for MENA.  Consider this as a thought experiment exploring whether MBS design for a sovereign Sunni bloc can work.  Obama’s plan for the ME was a “concert” system, a balance of powers to reduce the need for US to police the region.  Because, Africa is coming and US has already spent 5.6 trillion WoT taxpayer dollars in the region over the last 15 years with essentially nothing to show for it.

The chaos of the US election and the resultant divided country have offered a unique opportunity for MBS to wreck Obama’s plan.  Trump is eager to destroy Obama’s legacy, insecure about his presidency, desperate for some policy wins, and thirsty for flattery and praise.  MBS is exploiting all these weaknesses as rapidly as he can, because Trump’s presidency may be shortlived, the generals and State are not going to support MBS plan, and also to roll back Iran before it really becomes entrenched.   For example, Trump believed it was his idea to blockade Qatar, and the damage was done before Tillerson and the generals could stop it.  It looks like the blockade of Qatar may succeed, a win for MBS.

To gain Trump’s support MBS has to go full-frontal Rambo on “terrorism”, has to successfully headfake western style “reforms” while continuing to spread the approved version of wahhabism,  and has to ally with Israel.  That is why Kushner was there for the mass arrests.  Kushner is tasked with solving the Palestine problem.  Alliance with Israel is part of the cost of US support.

But MBS idea of reform is not cultural reform.  Thats a sop to the americans and the 70% youth population of the Kingdom, and its just another tool for consolidating power.  MBS is going for economic reform.  If Trump gained power through populism, why shouldnt MBS be able to pull it off?  Only it is youth populism in KSA, not old white people populism like the US.  Here is a good article on the situation, which should be be read in entirety.

Most efforts to comprehend the dynamics of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing political earthquake have focused on the psychology of the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. But there are also structural reasons for Prince Mohammed’s brand of populism. Understanding these factors is key to finding a better path forward.  In the past, political stability in Saudi Arabia rested on three separate deals: within the royal family; between the royal family and the Kingdom’s traditional elites; and between the state and the population.

The deal within the Al Saud family is rooted in asabiyya – the ability of an ambitious tribe to stick together to monopolize power. But the royal family has grown too large and become too divided to justify the cost of maintaining its unity. Loosely estimated, the 5,000 or so third-generation princes and their entourage consume $30-50 billion per year.

The deal among traditional elites is also rooted in the Kingdom’s genesis. These notable families were encouraged to accumulate economic power. Privileged access to government contracts, subsidies, capital, protection from competition, and the ability to import labor freely have embedded their companies deeply in the economy.  This protected elite private sector grew to represent over 50% of Saudi GDP. But, because it is largely staffed by expats, it generates no trickle-down benefits to the local population, only negative externalities.

The population, meanwhile, was offered economic security in exchange for loyalty – an arrangement institutionalized through a patronage network of high-paying public-sector jobs and a broad array of generous welfare benefits and consumer subsidies. As a result, more than 75% of Saudi citizens work for the state, and much of the rest of the public budget is spent on cradle-to-grave social support.

But with per capita revenue from oil exports now only $5,000 a year for Saudi Arabia’s 20 million nationals, the system has become too costly. The challenge for Prince Mohammed is to oversee a transition to a less expensive political order, while generating sufficient economic efficiency gains to prevent the necessary adjustment from fueling instability and civil unrest.

Other autocratic regimes in the region, with larger populations and less oil – such as Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, and Syria – followed a “republican strategy” that appeased the poor with various forms of patronage, and repressed economic elites. This blocked the rise of any credible opposition, at the cost of entrenching an anemic, largely informal, and consumption-based economy.

Its true that most pundits are in the pearl clutching phase of their MBS analysis.  But I think MBS plan has a good chance of working, although there are many risks.  I think the alliance with Israel is the biggest risk.

But there are other reasons why MbS is naïve about the benefits of an alliance with Israel. After taking care of Iran, Israel will certainly not allow Saudi Arabia to become the de facto hegemon of the Middle East. According to the logic of balance of power, alliances made against a common enemy collapse once the enemy is eliminated. Saudi Arabia would not feel the same need for Israel once Iran is gone. It might even resume the Arab plan of liberating Palestine. Even worse, war might extend into Saudi territory itself, endangering and possibly even scuttling the current political order established on the basis of the supremacy of MbS.

Part of the Israel risk is it may generate a whole new bumper crop of outraged islamic insurgents.  Remember, the way we got Bin Laden and al Qaeda was the US attempt to put an airbase in the Land of the Two Holy Sites.  That is why the US has airbases in Qatar.  But Sisi has managed to control Egypt’s anti-Israel sentiments with extreme authoritarianism, so perhaps the greater risk is to Israel.  The only way US gets out of MENA is for KSA to become Israel’s partner and protector, but KSA has no AIPAC or jewish population to shape a pro-Israel position.  KSA does have palestinian sympathies and so may force a two-state solution on Israel once Iran is crushed.  Or throw Israel under the bus if it becomes necessary.

The next biggest risk is that Trump’s presidency ends too quickly, or that the Generals and State are able to restrain Trumps impulsive and chaotic FP style.  This is why Tillerson called Trump a moron.

Things MBS has going for him:

1) the internet– the ‘net is why populist movements can succeed in the 21st century, like Trump’s election.  Muslims are about to become 1/4 of the global population, and they all read the same book.  The internet connects them.

2) an internally weak and easily manipulated US president who desperately wants to look strong on FP and destroy all of Obama’s policies.

3) custodianship of Mecca and Medina

4) demographics– 70% youth population and popular support for anti-corruption programs

This route is feasible, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s abundance of low-hanging fruit: a youthful society clamoring for social emancipation, better-educated women yearning for more participation, and millions of jobs created for expats available for nationals to fill.

What clouds this scenario is the low productivity of the elite private sector. To break free of its middle-income trap, Saudi Arabia needs to democratize, if not its politics, then at least its markets, through greater reliance on the rule of law and fair competition. Viewed from this perspective, Prince Mohammed’s current anti-corruption campaign will need to be followed by efforts to establish more inclusive rules for the private sector.

If the Kingdom’s private sector can be made to work, the economic challenge becomes modest. About 200,000 young people enter the labor market every year. If as many jobs are needed to allow women to join and to slowly wind down the public sector, two million new jobs would be needed over the next five years. To put this in perspective, there are now nine million foreign workers employed in the Kingdom.

5) In the Visual Age, appearance is all– MBS looks the part.  I originally thought MBS wanted to be a new Ataturk…I no longer believe that.  I think he wants to be a new Salahudeen, a 21st century Salahudeen.  And maybe he will be.

Inshallah.

Dr. Atran’s Procrustean Bed of Radical Extremism

I have always admired Dr. Scott Atran.  That’s why I’m both shocked and puzzled by his new piece in Aeon magazine.  Because the Alt-right and islamic jihadists are hugely different.   Any superficial similiarities are dwarfed by scale, demographics, ideology and time and space.

Often when a researcher creates a model, they become overly invested in that model, eg:  when all you have is a hammer, the world is made of nails.  I think that this has happened with Dr. Atran and the idea that radical extremists can be unmade, that there is some universal recipe for radicalization.  The  hammer requires that all nails are morphologically and functionally similiar.  Dr. Atran has made a sort of ideological procrustean bed– he trims and stretches radical ideologies to get a uniform fit.  I violently disagree– but maybe that is my model bias–  because I think we are not the same.  If you doubt this consider Trump’s election and his voter base.  I think of Dr. Atran as a gaussian, smoothing the curves of radicalization, to get a uniform response template.  But I’m a fractalist, and I’m wildly bumpy.  It seems to me that a fractal representation of extremism is superior– the shape is the same, the scale is different.  And here is where we get to the scale problem– both islamic jihadists and alt-right neo-nazis desire a homeland.  The difference is the Alt-right white nationalists want a “white” homeland within culturally and racially diverse nation states and islamic jihadists want islamic nation-states within a vast islamic monoculture, Sunnistan.

To begin, the Alt-right has no analogy to the Quran.  In studying Quran and ahadith, it is apparent to me that jihad is in the memetic DNA of Islam.  Its easiest for me to think of jihad as a kind of cultural “gene expression” in response to environmental triggers.  The current explosion of jihadism represents a kind of gene drive, a “meme drive”, a reaction to environmental triggers.   Dr. Atran would have globalism and transition be the culprits– totally ignoring the endless war mono-culture of the unipolar power that creates the ongoing chaos fields blooming with hundreds of emergent islamic militias.  So no, Islam isnt separable into “radical Islam” and “moderate Islam” just as the Quran is not separable.  There is only one Islam.

The Alt-right has no analogy to global population dynamics– the youth bulge in Africa will deliver 1 billion youth to the global population by 2050, more than half will be Sunni muslim– we will likely see 100’s of millions moving North as economic and warzone refugees, and as victims of climate change.  Europe couldnt handle a million refugees– what will 20 million or 200 million do?  Dr. Atrans fragile outreach systems would be instantly overwhelmed.

This seems to me like the kind of  “whataboutism” so prevalent in the US– sure, Nazis, Proudboys and confederate revanchists are bad, but what about ISIS?  A very facile and superficial treatment of a horrific and burgeoning problem — that muslims are not allowed representative government since the collapse of the Ottoman empire.  Algeria, Chechnya, Egypt, Turkey, all attempts to impose top down control on emergent, organic systems of islamic government by the west.  Jihadism is a reaction to injustice, while white nationalism is actually a reaction to justice, the representation of multicultural and multiethnic citizens in racially diverse societies.

What Dr. Atran proposes is the same sort of weak feel-good patching that has precipitated the building problem– democracy is not a solution.  In fact, I think democracy is a terrible lie.  He was much more accurate here:

One quarter of the global population is going to be muslim.  US has spent 5.6 trillion dollars over the last 15 years for nothing in Syria, Pak, Iraq, and A-stan.  We could have built a freaking moon-base for that.  How much more effective to take Dr. Atran’s original sound advice and shape emergent sunni nations.   I do not think that will happen.

I think instead collapse is coming.

NOTE:  Apparently Aeon picked that awful title for sensationalist purposes.

Dr. Atran: It is not a title I would have picked and I had no choice in the matter. The title I wrote was “the collapse of cultures” and I didn’t see the other title until it was published.

I’m all about Collapse of Cultures!