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”

Internet-free and Loving It

Hi everyone. It’s me. I’m back again. 

I just spent two weeks in Greece. I’ll write about it later, but suffice it to say, I had a wonderful vacation, my first in about six years. 

You probably noticed that I didn’t publish any blog posts during that time, nor was I on any social media. Nor did I check my emails. This was by design. 

During the trip, I made a conscious decision not to have Internet access, and it was glorious. 

4th century monument to Laomedon, one of Alexander the Great’s trusted generals, Amphipolis, Greece.
Did you know that it can take upwards of 20 minutes to return to the task you were working on after checking your device? Twenty minutes! That’s crazy, isn’t it?

I’ll spare you the talk about our brains not being wired for the modern world or whatever because, quite honestly, no one’s brain could be wired for the cluster-you-know-what we find ourselves in today. But I just want to briefly share some things I noticed during my two-week (ugh, I hate this term, but here it comes) detox from technology:
Continue reading “Internet-free and Loving It”

When Reality Just Won’t Listen

Let me paint you a scene:

A man wakes up somewhere in America. It’s Monday morning, six a.m. Slightly groggy and irate at the alarm, he reaches over and shuts his phone. Like most of us, the man’s mobile device doubles as his alarm clock (and his camera, and his music player, and his calendar, and his notebook, and his television remote, and…)

He sits upright, rubs his eyes, yawns mightily. At some point he stands up, maybe puts on a short, and walks quietly out of his bedroom. 

What’s the first thing this man does? Make the coffee? Brush his teeth? Relieve himself?

None of these. This man is a creature of the 21st century. He looks at his phone, fires up one of the myriad news or social media sites, and starts scrolling. 

He reads mostly just the headlines, letting the ideas of others whizz by him and cast their hooks in his consciousness. A few bits stick, but not the specifics. 

What he’s retaining is something different. It’s an idea, a zeitgeist, a narrative

A template

As the man scrolls, perhaps while brushing his teeth, he gets idea about what the day’s topic of conversation is supposed to be. What he’s supposed to care about today. 

But the template is sinking in. 

Maybe now he starts the coffee. 

It’s a morning just like any other. Now the man truly wakes up, hazy gray slumber giving way to full-color alertness. Stomach rumbling, e wonders what to make for breakfast, thinks about what traffic might be like, goes over the workday’s tasks in his mind. 

And then he sees it. It could be a tweet, or it could be a story, or it could be a blogpost. 

Somebody somewhere, some politician or pundit or even a private citizen, said something. Something so wrong, so egregious, that the man can think of nothing else. 

His mood is ruined. His focus is shattered and reconstructed, centered only on this one thing. 

Someone was wrong. 

Suddenly, his morning doesn’t seem so good. 

This is not right. 

This person must be answered. 
He hits “Reply” and begins to write. 

And if his mother, or his girlfriend, or his co-workers could read what he writes, they’d wonder how it could come from the sane, rational, decent man they thought they knew. 

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like anyone you know? 

Or you? Continue reading “When Reality Just Won’t Listen”

Reverse Chronological Snobbery

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It’s a common refrain for lots of us to lament that we were born too late. “Things were better, then,” we say, without specifying much beyond some vaguely defined “golden age.”

“There are no more good girls!”

“Where are all the real men?!”

“Nobody has any respect for anyone or anything these days!”

“What happened to our leaders?”

And here’s a classic: “Our grandparents never had to deal with this stuff!”

I call this reverse chronological snobbery. Conventional chronological snobbery holds that everything now is better than what those less-enlightened folks had then. You’re all smart enough to know what the inverse of that is.

But not so fast. While it’s true that some things are worse, mostly the fact that we’ve been discarding tried-and-true human things that have worked for millennia in favor of fads cooked up by faculty Marxists, and that older generations, particularly the Boomers, have royally screwed over Gen-Xers and Millennials, this really is the best time to be alive in a lot of ways.

In fact, I think I was born too early.

Don’t believe me? Let me explain.  Continue reading “Reverse Chronological Snobbery”

Trolling for Amateurs and How to Make the Internet Work for You

Troll Face

I had an Internet revelation recently: I am no good at trolling.

“Trolling,” according to one definition, is “mak[ing] a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” A lot of times this involves memes, those delightful pictures with funny captions on them, usually relating to pop culture, politics, or simple buffoonery designed to make you laugh.

No One Hides From Me meme

But you’re Internet-savvy, so you already knew this.

Trolling and memes are fun. They crack me up sometimes. And the best part is that they’ve infiltrated our normally stuffy and over-serious politics. Some see this as a symptom of societal decline. I beg to differ. I see it as using psychological operations to attack your opponent’s credibility using the tools available to us in this digital age.

Internet trolling is about:

  1. Throwing rhetorical bombs in order to get a reaction (reaction = attention).
  2. Using the power of images to back up your words.
  3. Appealing to emotion rather than reason or logic.
  4. Good old-fashioned hell-raising.

You know, standard ideological warfare tactics that have existed since the dawn of time.

But trolling is not for everyone. I thought I’d try my hand at it just to get a few laughs, draw some attention to my writing, and in general join in the fun. So I tried to create some memes.

They did not work.

For a brief, stupid moment I felt kind of left out of the “in” crowd. But then I had another revelation: Trolling isn’t me, so who cares?

The Internet is a wonderful thing. You can make it work for you, no matter who you are. You don’t have to troll or create memes to get some use out of this gigantic world-wide free-for-all. Continue reading “Trolling for Amateurs and How to Make the Internet Work for You”

Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life

I make fun of the legal profession a lot here, because let’s face it, it’s so easy.

In fact, I have a hypothesis about lawyers you that I’ll expand upon in a future post, but I’ll share it with you now. It’s called the LAWYERS RUIN EVERYTHING HYPOTHESIS OF CURRENT EVENTS, and it goes like this:

If something in American society seems so stupid, so counter-intuitive, so messed-up, and so unfair, the chances are incredibly high that at some point in time, lawyers were involved in making the decision.

Lessons from The Law

But I have not come to bury the legal profession, but to praise it.

That’s right! There are actually certain lessons one learns in law school and in the legal profession that can be transferred to your everyday life. Now, they’re not quite as bad-ass as Ed Latimore’s “Important Lessons From Fighting You Can Apply To Your Life,” but that’s why Ed’s Ed and I’m me.

While I don’t litigate anymore, trial practice taught me some skills that have helped me in all areas of my life.

So without further ado, here are Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life: Continue reading “Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life”

The Art of War for Nerds: SJWs Always Lie by Vox Day

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Even though he thinks I shouldn’t be allowed to vote, I have nothing but respect for the intellect of Vox Day.

Whatever his thinks of me personally, Day–the pen name of author Theodore Beale–is one of my favorite personalities on the Internet. Love him or hate him, all he cares about is protecting and preserving freedom, free speech, and American culture. While his objection to my having the franchise results from his “magic dirt” theory, fleshed out in his book Cuckservative, this is a review about his 2015 political/philosophical polemical, SJWs Always Lie.

All you need to know about SJWs are these three laws:

  1. SJWs always lie
  2. SJWs always double down
  3. SJWs always project

What is an SJW? SJW stands for “Social Justice Warrior.” Social justice . . . that sounds like a good, doesn’t it? An SJW must be some kind of hero, then.

No. Continue reading The Art of War for Nerds: SJWs Always Lie by Vox Day”