Cultural Traps, Part III

Observing your own culture with a detached eye helps one recognize the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. I’ve written about some of these traps before, those parts of American culture that we all take for granted but might not actually make sense.

In this third edition, I’m going to look at some things that might be emerging trends in America that are both really stupid and really dangerous, many culled from my own experiences and observations. 

Some of these might not be uniquely American. They may just be human nature. But when I see my countrymen and women (whatever the hell that means anymore) act like scary monsters, I can’t help but see these tendencies shaded in red, white, and blue. 

Opposing one thing automatically means liking the other.

Are you against the death penalty? Then you clearly want to open all the prisons and are super-soft on crime.  

…or maybe you’re just against the death penalty. 

Perhaps you oppose partial-birth abortion. You obviously want women at risk of death die from birth complications to die. 

…or maybe you’re just against partial-birth abortion. 

This might be more of a logical fallacy than a cognitive trap, but it is still (a) everywhere l, and (b) dumb.

Unintelligent people think like this, or liars. I’m sorry if that sounds mean, but it’s true. One is either incapable of seeing this trap, or is wielding it as a rhetorical club. 

If the former, you can learn. If the latter, its effective, sure, but it really doesn’t move the needle in any direction. It does something that could arguably be another entry on this list, which is assuming ill intent on the part of the other. Rhetorically, it’s a weapon. But it weakens your own position and makes you look silly. You risk losing credibility, which in a debate–akin to a trial–is the kiss of death.  

Disproportionality and overreaction, aka hysteria.

Debating is an art that requires practice and preparation. It also requires an understanding of the rules of a particular interaction, such as whether the relationship with your opponent will be ongoing, whether you’re trying to change the other’s mind, or whether you’re trying to illustrate a point to your observers. But either way, you want to make your points using reason, logic, and evidence.

Of course, what really changes hearts and minds is emotion. So use rhetoric where applicable. It’s very effective, and for some people, whether you call them midwits or IYIs (“intellectuals, yet idiots,” per Nassim Nicholas Taleb), that’s all they understand.

This trap dovetails nicely with the first, but it’s distinguished by what I call default nuclear. Continue reading “Cultural Traps, Part III”

The Monopoly on Normal

The state is defined by some as being the entity that has a monopoly on violence. 

But there’s more to a society than just who has the guns. There are other forms of control. 

I’m more interested in the entity that has a monopoly on normal.

And that entity is not necessarily just “The State.”

What is acceptable?

What can you do?

What can you think?

Who is it that you can criticize? And who is it that you can’t?

And who makes these rules?

There’s this tendency, which I find laughable, of constantly deriding the 1950s as an era of overwhelming, stifling conformity, a boogeyman to be invoked every time we beat our chests and crow about “how far we’ve come.”

And while certain things are better–many, in fact–in other ways thigs today are just as stifling. 

Every era has its problems. And every era has standards that you will be nudged to comply with–at first gently, and then with increasingly greater force. Until, eventually, the guys with the guns, threatened or actual, will come pay you a visit.  Continue reading “The Monopoly on Normal”

Movie Review: Silenced: Our War on Free Speech

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There’s so much talk about free speech these days. But what does “free speech” even mean? Why does it matter?

As Americans, free speech is our “first right,” from which our other rights flow.

Free speech is constitutionally guaranteed in the First Amendment, arguably one of the greatest codification of fundamental human rights in existence, as one of our God-given rights.

Even if you don’t believe in God, you have the right to free speech by nature of your being a human.

Despite the importance of free speech to American society, even those not “plugged in” to contemporary politics and culture can sense a narrowing of what is acceptable speech and what is not, about political correctness and the unwritten list of things one can and cannot say.

Is the government behind the increased stifling of free expression these days? Or is this political correctness and silencing of the “wrong” speech coming from somewhere else?

These are the questions asked and discussed in Silenced: Our War on Free Speech, the new documentary film from Loren Feldman (director) and Mike Cernovich (producer). And as an original Kickstarter backer of the film, I was lucky enough to have the chance to watch the film before it’s release.

As Harvard professor and First Amendment lawyer Alan Dershowitz says in the movie, we’ve largely won the free speech battle against the government. Our current culture of censorship, silence, and intimidation is coming from ourselves.

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Silenced is a film I am proud to have helped make possible, even in small part.  

I’ve written about Mike Cernovich before, the mindset expert who made a name for himself with his book Gorilla Mindset, and, most recently, with his journalism and political activism. Silenced, his first film, explores Americans’ current obsession with censoring each other and what it means for the future of our politics and culture.

And while Cernovich himself is on the political right, don’t think this is a “political” film. There are many guests on the left, in the center, and those whose politics no one knows. And regardless of their personal politics, they all share a common belief: Free speech is vital to a free and open Western society. Choke it at your own peril. Continue reading “Movie Review: Silenced: Our War on Free Speech

Get Them While They’re Young: Youth Obsession and Indoctrination

We are all born with small brains. But the good news is that brains grow.

We come into this world, quite frankly, ignorant in the truest sense of the world–some might say “stupid”–and spend the rest of our lives acquiring knowledge and wisdom in the hopes of, at the very least, mitigating this stupidity.

There is nothing wrong with being young. Yet here in America we have this weird obsession with youth.

I can be tough on Millennials, but I also have a fair bit of sympathy for them.

To be fair, I should say “us,” as according to most cut-offs, I am also a member of this generation, being born in 1981 (although some people who study this sort of thing put the cut-off at 1982).

The interesting thing about Millennials is that the exaltation and, indeed, worship of youth is relatively new in history.

Youth Over All

There is nothing wrong with being young. We were all young once, and it is fun to be energetic, vigorous, free from responsibility, dreaming big dreams and beholden to no one except maybe your parents. The young do see things differently, unconstrained by past precedents or logical fallacies that hold many of the rest of us back.

But this is in large part because of their relative ignorance and inexperience. These are not necessarily things that should be celebrated.

Youth should be spent trying to pave the way for adulthood, not remain in a perpetual state of adolescence.

I am 35. I know a hell of a lot more than I did when I was 15, or 20, or even 25. However, when I am 70, I will look back at my 35-year-old self and say, “what an idiot!”

I have a hypothesis about why this youth-obsession is so prevalent, so powerful: The young are easy to indoctrinate and manipulate.

And they are, as my friend Rawle Nyanzi puts ita captive audience.

A large part of this is the cynical desire to sell stuff to young and create lifelong customers who will induce their parents to spend money on their behalf until they are ready to spend their own.

But our youth-obsession goes beyond trying to make a buck. We tend to see everything “young” as “good” and “old” as “bad,” without thinking about the actual issues critically. What’s worse than adults doing this is the fact that the young do it themselves. Don’t believe me? Check out the reactions to two elections that occurred in 2016:

  1. Brexit. Our friends across the pond voted to leave the EU. The Remain vote was heavily concentrated in cities, the Leave vote in more rural areas. There was also a young-versus-old age gap.  How many hysterical did we see by the young for the “old people vote” to be nullified, or the “elderly”–that is, anyone over 35 or maybe 40–disenfranchised?
  2. The U.S. Presidential election. Here in the States, we’re being shown election maps of “what if only Millennials voted?” showing a unanimous Hillary Clinton victory. This has been coupled with bloodthirsty hopes that all old, and usually white, people will literally die (and some are trying their damndest to make this happen).

This is pretty genocidal, to say the least. But it goes to show that the indoctrination is working.

Indoctrination

Everyone is indoctrinated, and everybody advocates for indoctrination. Everyone.

When you educate somebody to have good manners, or to respect their family name, you are indoctrinating them. If you are religious, you are indoctrinating your children into a religious worldview. Patriotism, love of country, military service and respect for it, these are all things that are indoctrinated.

The idea all societies have, from the primitive to the highly advanced, is to indoctrinate children with things that are good for society, and to recognize those that are bad. Continue reading “Get Them While They’re Young: Youth Obsession and Indoctrination”

The New Beige

You like fun. That’s why you’re here. That’s why any of us are.

But not everybody likes fun. Recently, filmmaker and Internet celebrity James Rolfe released a video at his website Cinemassacre. In it, Rolfe, a self-avowed fanatic of the Ghostbusters franchise, gave a very reasoned and subdued explanation why he will not be seeing the new Ghostbusters movie. Rolfe made his decision based on the movie’s trailer: The jokes fell flat, the effects didn’t impress him, and he didn’t appreciate its makers using the goodwill of the Ghostbusters name to put out yet another remake instead of coming up with a unique way to revive the franchise. Therefore, he won’t spend his money on the movie.

Mild stuff. The problem for Rolfe is that the main cast of this movie is female.

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The reactions were swift but sadly predictable. Rolfe–one of the least political Internet personalities out there–is a misogynist, a sexist, a whiny manbaby, a loser, and so on.

To be fair, the bulk of tweets I saw were in support or Rolfe, which is a good sign. But it’s important to highlight the disproportionate level of vitriol directed his way.

Here’s the thing: Rolfe did mention the all-female cast, but only to wonder if, given that the movie has the same name as the 1984 original, people are going to refer to it as “the female Ghostbusters.” He finds this absurd since, in his opinion, the movie should have a different title to differentiate itself.

If Rolfe actually said something derogatory about women like “Women can’t act,” “Women aren’t funny,” or “I won’t see this movie because it has women in it,” I could see the reaction. But his video was as mild a criticism as it gets. So what gives?

The whole thing is absurd, but it goes to a bigger point: Rolfe’s sin was not enjoying what The Powers That Be deemed must be enjoyed in order to be a “good person.” Continue reading “The New Beige”