Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wingnut update

Let's check in with our favorite right-wing lunatics:

Mencius Moldbug was going to give a talk at a conference on seasteading organized by Milton Friedman's grandson, but pissed off another, more prominent speaker by calling him a faggot and got disinvited. Oops.

Lawrence Auster was weirdly obsessed for awhile with the "The Game" aka pick-up-artistry. He's the most popular search keyword for this blog, so I guess I should mention him again.

Scipio was the subject of an profile in Esquire (the author shared my alarm that someone this deranged was in charge of a classroom of children), after which his site went down, and has remained that way for weeks. If he was hacked, well, maybe it was by one of the liberals he fantasized about stabbing to death.

Spengler is trying to protect some rigid definition of Judaism from the practices of actual Jews. L'shana Tovah, bro.

Gagdad Bob continues to spew forth metaphysical mush interspersed with attacks on the left. I still find something fascinating in how coherent his worldview is, although it's both wrong and repellent and supported with transparent lies.

Both Gagdad and Moldbug strike me as creatively intelligent people who for whatever reasons could not accept the consensus worldview of their peers, and so struck out in (somewhat) original directions. That's the source of their continued appeal to me, but in their determination to separate themselves off from liberalism have veered far into paranoid craziness, and have hence dug themselves into intellectual corners that they can't escape. Their ideologies are impervious to critique -- Gagdad like to crow about things he knows with "absolute certainty" -- or argument from outside; facts are selectively chosen or radically twisted to fit the paradigm.

There are certain kinds of genius who create their own worlds; many of the greatest artists belong to this group. That's all well and good for fiction and art (Joyce, Tolkien, Picasso, Sergio Leone come to mind), but for poltics it is ultimately either tedious or dangerous. Politics is the art of the possible; the only justification for thinking about it is if doing so can help to understand and improve the real world. Too many people think it's about building castles in the air. This was always at the core of my long argument with libertarians -- they are nerds in love with an elegant theory and don't care about the mismatch with reality. Gagdad and Moldbug are more interesting but have the same general flaw.

All of which is to say I am trying to get over my unhealthy fascination with wingnuts. They are just not that interesting except as pathology. Besides, now the academics are getting into it. My Yom Kippur resolution is to spend less time on these wackjobs and more on tikkun olam.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fauxtrage

A couple of decades ago I got ahold of High Weirdness by Mail and made a hobby of collecting crank literature from variety of religious and political nutjobs. I viewed this as a form of research. Seeing the odd pathways it is possble for human minds to go down was a way to understand the workings of more ordinary ones. My former housemate Donna Kossy made a small career out of similar activities.

The Internet of course has made it too easy to find disturbed and disturbing people, so it became somewhat less interesting to me. Also there was an element of it I found distasteful, as if I was mocking the patients in Bedlam as was the practice in 18th century. So I mostly dropped that hobby. Kookdom, I supposed, would continue as ever on the fringes of discourse, perhaps gaining some strengths from the net's ability to let interest groups coalesce.

I never expected the nutjob paranoid style -- the kind that likes to draw elaborate influence diagrams -- to become mainstream. Yet here is Glenn Beck, owner of a show on a mainstream corporate network and Time magazine cover subject, ranting away about some conspiracy involving Che, Woodrow Wilson, George Soros, and of course Obama.



I don't really believe that Beck is a genuine kook (although who knows about his audience). He is a showman, and has cleverly appropriated the style of paranoid conspiracy theorists for his own purposes. Note that whereas the genuine paranoids would at least pick targets for their diagrams that had some actual power (The Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergs, Rothschilds, etc), Beck targets organizations like ACORN and the SEIU which are composed largely of poor and working-class people. This cleverly redirects whatever genuine insights the conspiracy-mongers have to offer. There is, in fact, an elite who runs the world, whether they need to meet in shadowy rooms to do it or not. They do not have your interests at heart. This fact drives some people mad, but at least their madness is grounded in something real. The madness of Beck and his followers lacks that. It's either insincere or just plain stupid. It's paranoia for lazy obese Americans who can't even manage to generate their own crazy obsessions.

Beck's success at peddling a faux version of kookery just proves once again that the genius of America is its ability to convert absolutely anything into a product.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ayn Rand (and the) Sociopath

This article on Ayn Rand and her cult has gotten a lot of attention recently, but it didn't tell me much that I didn't already know -- both her and her followers were immature, emotionally stunted and dysfunctional. The sexual and power escapades of the cultists are somewhere between amusing and pathetic.

This, however was new to me and genuinely horrifying. Good Lord.

The wall between political ideology and psychopathology just keeps getting weaker. Or, put it another way: politics inherently involves deep-seated psychological processes: emotion, attachment, self-image, object-relations, purity, boundaries, etc. Like religion, it's one way people deal with their inner turmoils and conflicts, by projecting them outside themselves. Extremism in politics goes together with extreme psychological states. The madness outside is a reflection of the madness inside.

One of the reasons Marxism seems so hokey to me is that it presumes that people's politics should be based on a rational material interests. Not on this planet. I suppose standard capitalist economics makes the same assumptions but is more robust to their falsity.

I always thought that autism was the right model for Randroids but perhaps the sociopath is closer. In both diseases, the person has something fundamentally wrong with their theory-of-mind module. Rand elevated this lack of ability to have compassion into the cardinal virtue of her ethical system. Most Randroids of course do not have anything organically wrong with their brains, they are merely would-be sociopaths.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Health care assortment

The issues for dummies:


After Obama's speech the stock price of major health insurers rose fairly significantly. This is a pretty good sign that Wall Street, at least, believes that the public option won't happen and nothing in whatever reform happens will impact the profits of these almost entirely parasitical entities.

Speaking of that, a friend of Doug Henwood points out that the total market cap of these companies amounts to about $150 billion, whereas the administrative overhead they impose over a single-payer scheme is closer to $250 billion. Thus a simple nationalization via buyout would easily pay for itself in a year. Obviously, nothing that sensible will happen.

How is it that we have a sizable chunk of population that is obviously at risk of health cost catastrophe (I refer to the white, lower class yahoos who make up the teabaggers) yet is willing to put themselves out to prevent a guarantee that they won't lose their insurance? I truly don't get it. Obviously these aren't the brightest bulbs in the chandelier and can easily be whipped into a frenzy of hate and paranoia, but in a visble economic downturn how much brains does it take to realize that you are at risk of losing your job, your insurance, and are thus at risk of medical bankruptcy? I really do not get it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11

Yes, let's memorialize the 3,000 or so Americans (and others) who died in the attacks of 9/11, but only if we also remember the 4343 American soldiers who died in the course of waging a wholly unnecessary and ill-conceived war in the wake of 9/11. And, of course the roughly 100,000 Iraqi civilians who have died in the course of that war.

I'm trying to refrain from political thinking today, in the hope that that will be the best way to honor the dead. The vast majority of the dead indivduals above probably weren't that interested in politics, religion, or war, and just wanted to live their lives. But as Trotsky said, "œYou may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." Choosing sides is always necessary; the best we can do is be on the side that is against conflict.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Union Maid

I'm lazy today but I seem to have a tradition of having labor day posts, so I'm outsourcing this one to the Guthrie family.

And yeah, before people chime in to tell me how horrible unions are, let's remember who gave us the weekend, the eight-hour day, child labor laws, and work-safety laws. To be sure, they also did their part in contributing to the decadence of American industry.