“He is a hard man who is only just, and a sad one who is only wise.”
More on Weinstein here. Interesting guy.
There’s 4 kinds of “fake news”:
I) Narrative driven (NYT)
III) Factually false
I/IV now at war w II/III.
— Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) December 7, 2016
As this blog has noted: One of the core functions of successful media outlets lies in aggregating information and sources of information, cornering a market if possible, and maintaining competitive advantage by implementing new technology ahead of others in the same market space. It’d be nice if they had an idea of the ‘public trust’ in mind, or reader-respect, or consumer responsiveness…but…there are no guarantees. Also, they can easily become beholden to the people they rely upon for access.
What if the technology changes rapidly enough to make many old models obselete, or many of them obselete within a relatively short period of time?
The losers can be very vocal about their losses (some going-in for special pleading and the end-is-nigh handwringing….often with an inflated sense of their own importance).
A lot of the people who used the math to design the algorithms that now structure user interaction with information and sources of information have similar gatekeeping power/influence the old outlets had.
***Actual beat journalism costs time and money, is probably best done locally, and can be a vital check on those with power and influence (or more power/influence than the media outlet has, and more likely with conflicting political/business/ideological interests than the media outlet).
There is a risk calculation necessary for this type of journalism, because it often doesn’t pan-out.
Thanks to a reader.
Related On This Site:A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’
-(addition) Via a reader: Eugene Volokh argues freedom of the press ain’t about saving the buggy whip industry:
‘I’ve often argued that the freedom of the press was seen near the time of the Framing (and near the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, as well as in between and largely since) as protecting the right to use the press as technology — everyone’s right to use the printing press and its modern technological heirs. It was not seen as protecting a right of the press as industry, which would have been a right limited to people who printed or wrote for newspapers, magazines and the like .‘
At least with the Weekly World News, you got the best of fakery:
Hello there fellow secular human being!
As we both know, past traditions, institutions, laws and honor-bound individual obligations are anachronistic at best, oppressive at worst.
They just don’t work.
As an empathetic life-form, you’re not only feeling overwhelmed by too many consumer choices, but also by the failures of ‘neo-liberal’ and rootless global cosmopolitanism.
Our Leader bears witness to your hidden talents and challenges you to empower your Self to become part of the new ‘creative class.’
Roll-up your sleeves and work for more pure and collectively oriented democratic institutions today! It’s up to us to choose benevolent and energetic politicians; strong leaders possessing all the right knowledge and rhetorical prowess.
Come join us at The Human Pagoda, global democracy’s laboratory for progress and collective human leadership.
At Peace Pavilion West, we have a new, inspirational mural painted on the ceiling of The Human Pagoda. It depicts Saints John, Paul, George and Ringo locking arms with Mother Mary, Our Lady Of The Global Village. #LoveIsAllYouNeed
— Chris Navin (@chris_navin) February 4, 2019
At Peace Pavilion West, we have an on-site ethicist, a brain-scan and palm reader, and a community empath with two Humanities degrees. #WhatCanTheHumanPagodaDoForYou?
— Chris Navin (@chris_navin) February 5, 2019
***The above is entirely, 100% true.
Dreher: ‘Now, here is where Girard becomes especially interesting, and relevant to our moment. He says that today, “we hear repeated in every way that we no longer have an absolute,” but in fact the concern for victims “is our absolute.” That is, it is the basis for our morality: “it is the concern for victims that determines what is most important.” This is the case because all other sources of absolute value have been lost. More:’
GIRARD: The current process of spiritual demagoguery and rhetorical overkill has transformed the concern for victims into a totalitarian command and a permanent inquisition. … We are living through a caricatural “ultra-Christianity” that tries to escape from the Judeo-Christian orbit by “radicalizing” the concern for victims in an anti-Christian manner. … The intellectuals and other cultural elites have promoted Christianity to the role of number one scapegoat.
Of course, there is an implication that the replacement of absolutes is to be reinstituted through Christian doctrine.
I have my doubts.
One explanation doing some work for me is the rapid technological change going on.
The old T.V./print business models are feeling stiff competition and or/failing in important ways. On this site, see the views from a smart, radical sort: Repost-It Ain’t What You Know, It’s What You Know That Ain’t So?-Eric Weinstein At the Rubin Report: The Four Kinds Of Fake News
Many technological channels themselves (Twitter) reward rushes to judgment, commentary without context and the loudest, often most foolish and strident voices coming to the fore.
Another explanation is the rapid rate of social change outpacing our institutions, two incredibly weakened national political parties and fewer low-resolution, shared maps describing the landscape for many, many American citizens.
I’m pretty sure this ride ain’t over yet.
One basic low-resolution map shared by many outlets (CNN especially) is the activist model of social change vs the oppressor, which failed miserably in this case (noble ‘Black Men’ and noble ‘Red Man’ oppressed by ignoble white male Trump-supporting Catholic smirking and tyrannizing The Mall).
Where do I see myself in all this?: The below link still rather closely tracks with my own views. I can’t call myself a believer, but this blog continually links to Catholic, Natural Law/Natural Right thinkers and old-school Aristotelians for deeper critiques on the modern liberal project.
Often this is enough to make one uncool and unhip, but what the hell do I care?
Living in Seattle all these years, and remaining skeptical about the hot, righteous mess of much progressive activism, its many collectivist/identitarian roots and infantilizing/totalizing tendencies (liberation, but from and towards which ends?) can do that to a man.
Here’s one take on the problem, downstream of Oakeshottian philosophical idealism. Timothy Fuller On Ken Minogue’s take on this endless quest of liberalism, and its dangers:
‘For Minogue, freedom led to “oppositionality,” a topic he explores in “The Conditions of Freedom and the Condition of Freedom.” Oppositionality is the idea that citizens may exercise an independent judgement on questions of their obligations that were once off-limits for discussion; everyone simply accepted them. Opposition and is seen both as a “disruptive and dynamic” part of freedom but also a threat to it – “fundamentally parasitic” on society and often praising dissent for its own sake.
This leads naturally to “The Modern Liberal’s Casebook,” which contains Minogue’s well-known comparison of liberalism to the legend of St George and the Dragon. In his telling, St. George didn’t know when to stop fighting battles and grew breathless in pursuit of smaller and smaller dragons, as big dragons were harder to come by. In this Minogue is quite correct. Taking his analogy further, there must come a time when dragons become extinct and younger versions of St. George are misguided into pursuing chickens and other desirable species instead.’
Postmodern excesses are probably contributing as well: Some Not So Recently Updated Links On Postmodernism
Roger Scruton on Moral Relativism still has some merit and insight:
Looking for liberals in the postmodern wilderness:
‘The current law is equally defective in its choice of remedies in the event of pollution. Everyone agrees that polluters should ordinarily be required to pay for the damage they cause to both public and private property, as was long required under the common law. But one key element in the private law equation was to wait until the potential nuisance was imminent or actual before issuing an injunction. The EPA does not worry about these limitations in the exercise of its enormous permit power, but requires the proponents of any new project to run a huge regulatory gauntlet that consumes years and many millions of dollars before anything can be done.
As previously posted:
I think this comment gets to the heart of what some folks are likely thinking:
‘Look, if we can model the economy, we can model the climate.’
YOU should feel guilty about the poor, the downtrodden, and the global victims of industrial activity. WE should ‘re-wild’ nature and bring it to a state it achieved before man came and despoiled it. Humans have the power to shape their world, but only if they follow the right ideals and the right knowledge, as well as perhaps feeling the guilt and commitment and passion that come with those ideals. WE should aim for a simpler, collective life, and feel ’empathy’ with everyone (oft times the noble savage) around the globe.
Socialists publicly pushing green causes have been more rare out in public in the U.S., but there have been more lately, conflating political ideology and failed theories of (H)istory with ‘science.’ Socialists also apply their ideological beliefs onto conceptions of Nature and keep doing what they tend to do best: Political organization and appeals to sentiment.
A poster from Seattle a little while back:
There’s more than a little anti-corporate, anti-industrial activism that often finds expression within environmental movements. This activism can make its way into laws, and forms a major plank in the Democratic party platform nationally.
Whatever your thoughts on the natural world and conservation, I think it’s fair to say that from cartoons to schools to movies, there’s also been remarkable popular success in making environmental activism mainstream conventional wisdom; easy, cool and fun to join.
Rarely though, is there much discussion of the costs environmental laws can impose on private landowners and consumers (not just big real-estate developers and industrial interests) through compliance with the laws and higher prices. Supporters of environmental causes don’t often connect the dots between their interests and the potential for bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, nor the downright twisted incentives that can result for citizens, lawmakers and even budding scientists looking for grant money.
As we see in California, I think once you get enough public sentiment believing in the basic tenets of green thinking, then climate science, whatever its merits, often becomes a sideshow, while politics and money can become the main event.
***I think Monbiot was on much more stable ground when he appealed to J.S. Mill’s harm principle regarding people harmed by industrial activity. Sometimes people in industries just don’t care about some of the consequences of their actions, and legal recourse can be hard to come by for those without money or connections. There have been beneficial consequences to individuals’ health and to those parts of nature sought to be conserved…but again…at what cost?
It seems worth continually discussing.
Related On This Site: A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-’Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance
A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’…From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’…
Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’…Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’…Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory: Falsifiability
Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?: Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?: From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit…
Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes…
-Alan Sokal makes the case that Portland State’s case against Peter Boghossian ain’t so strong.
-Ben Sixsmith on ‘The Loomer Generation.’
‘Now, the Loomers are in their senescence. Amis has been promising a novel about Saul Bellow, Philip Larkin and Christopher Hitchens, which has created the buzz of a dead housefly. Ian McEwan has produced a series of clever books which have produced diminishing returns. Rushdie’s last novel barely made a dent in the public consciousness. Unpopularity need not reflect quality. Amis might create a masterpiece for all we know. Yet how did a group of writers who were so famous end up with such indifference?’
I picture a belly up, inadvertently praying carapace on the windowsill.
A bit harsh, no?
English writers Ian McEwan and Martin Amis have a looming discussion.
When one turns, as one must, from the hare-brained utterances of ideologues, existentialist afterthoughts bound sheaf after sheaf, the mystifying cant of postmodern academese, yes, one still seeks:
‘Snow did not fully appreciate that humanism was more than a collection of facts. It is, above all, a way of understanding what was valuable about human flourishing. Great literature necessarily has a moral purpose that science lacks. As such, humanism critiques aspects of the world that technology creates, reminding us that the next new thing is not necessarily the next good thing. Snow was wrong in implying that true humanists must join scientists in singing a harmonious anthem of social progress.’
As posted: A Link To C.P. Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’
Is there even a culture anyways, man?
‘When I was a young untenured professor of philosophy, I once received a visit from a colleague from the Comparative Literature Department, an eminent and fashionable literary theorist, who wanted some help from me. I was flattered to be asked, and did my best to oblige, but the drift of his questions about various philosophical topics was strangely perplexing to me. For quite a while we were getting nowhere, until finally he managed to make clear to me what he had come for. He wanted “an epistemology,” he said. An epistemology. Every self-respecting literary theorist had to sport an epistemology that season, it seems, and without one he felt naked, so he had come to me for an epistemology to wear–it was the very next fashion, he was sure, and he wanted the dernier cri in epistemologies. It didn’t matter to him that it be sound, or defensible, or (as one might as well say) true; it just had to be new and different and stylish. Accessorize, my good fellow, or be overlooked at the party’
Worth a read.
The arts and humantities can be given a seriousness of purpose, I’m guessing, but must that purpose necessarily be scientific?
Do creative musical/artistic geniuses really need to understand particularly well how the sciences advance? How much does it matter that a theater major understands how the sciences come to say true things about the world and predict with high accuracy how nature behaves beyond a science course or two?
I could be wrong.
Clearly, one problem is that out of the postmodern malaise comes the nihilism, moral relativism and general desperation where many can be found clinging to the sciences, or some standard of rationalism and reason that doesn’t seem sufficient in answering all the questions religion claims to answer. Nor does it seem sufficient as a platform to understand human nature, history, tradition, the wisdom in our institutions, and the experience past generations can offer beyond its own presumptions.
Lots of people can thus make ideology their guide and political change their purpose, or the State their religion and their own moral failings or moral programs everyone’s moral oughts through the law and politics.
Who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge?
Where: Birkenhead Lake, B.C. Canada.
No, I can’t take photos like this, but people in the family can.
This is the poem that came to mind, even though Gary Snyder wrote from here instead, where apparently he would be for 60 days at a time:
Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout
Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.
I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.
The Bean Eaters
They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.
And remembering …
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.
Presented without comment.
Blond reviews this book by John Milbank & Adrian Pabst: ‘The Politics Of Virtue: Post-Liberalism And The Human Future‘ (PDF here).
Is it necessary to reclaim secular idealism from many secular idealists? Or at least, might it be necessary to provide an alternative to much unthinking liberal idealism which has come to govern many of our institutions?
Blond has ideas for conservatism in Great Britain, anyways:
‘Among the ideas that compete to determine the world’s future, one can count Catholicism, Islam, and (until recently) Marxism. But only one is dominant, hegemonic, and all-pervasive—liberalism.’
Blond’s apparent challenge to this form of liberalism is a return to the Catholic Church (if it ain’t exactly a neoclassical return to Platonic idealism):
‘The Catholic Church must reenter the political fray, not as a chaplain to left or right but as the herald of a new order.’
As an American, let me offer a brief family anecdote: I was raised by lapsed Catholics (Irish-Catholics mostly, thoroughly American, a little cynical, often skeptical and suspicious of authority). In that spirit, perhaps the below offers some insight into why many Boomers might have drifted away from the Catholic Church if not always towards secular humanist ideals:
There’s a Catholic girls’ high-school weekend retreat with the nuns, and the girls and the nuns are having a decent time of it. One of the girls is epileptic and starts to have seizures. The situation gets pretty serious, and, unfortunately, the nuns don’t handle it too well. In the telling, there’s much fear and diddling-around. Confusion sets-in. Time passes. The girl with epilepsy is halfway-abandoned for a bit. Although the poor girl eventually recovers, there’s a deeper suspicion of medical advancements lurking somewhere in the background. The nuns manage to impress a parochial mediocrity; a lack of calm, actionable knowledge and understanding.
Frankly, many people are happy to hit young girls in the knuckles in order to reinforce metaphysical ideas and correct behavior, the truth or falsehood of the ideas long ago internalized and no longer questioned. As long as many people get some kind of standing, purpose and security in the world, they’re happy to pay it forward.
As for me, I can’t say I don’t see a lot of parochial mediocrity and a lack of calm and knowledge in many federal bureaucracies these days (people with real power and authority over our lives, supposedly well-meaning). This is to say nothing of corporate HR departments and amongst many academics and the media. Pay insufficient tribute to the latest moral idea, and become a member of a clear minority. Refuse to gather around the high ideals and the increasingly complex rules that come with them (climate change, multiculturalism, diversity, human rights etc.) and be seen as morally suspect.
This is why I tend to welcome critiques of liberalism, but also continued satire when it comes to the Catholic Church, too (it’d sure be nice to have equal application and some backbone when it comes to Islam, especially when cartoonists get murdered for cartoons).
That’s what satire is for.
It doesn’t seem like much has changed regarding human nature, either, least of all within the Church (nor the increasingly predictable, increasingly pathetic Boomer vilification of the Church). Perhaps ‘love’ isn’t all you need.
Imagine critizing the radical discontents of the Left, which often drive the latest moral ideas within high-liberal thought; standing-up to some obviously contradictory and true-believing rightesousness?
***Beyond ‘strategic’ politics and philosophy, there are plenty of reasons like the rapid technological advancements and change going-on in our lives (genuine progress and a lot of choice in matters we haven’t always had). There are many downward pressures from global marketplaces, supply chains and mobile labor, too. Perhaps it’s harder to be local these days, and decent and derive the meaning one needs from friends, neighbors, and the kinds of constraints and rewards one has while living in the same place.
Possibly related on this site:
Ken Minogue framed it thusly, and he believes there’s going to be some authority in your life, but you’ve got be particularly careful about which kind, and which rules govern that relationship with authority:
‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’
‘Progress, Communism, and Olympianism: these are three versions of the grand Western project. The first rumbles along in the background of our thought, the second is obviously a complete failure, but Olympianism is not only alive but a positively vibrant force in the way we think now. Above all, it determines the Western moral posture towards the rest of the world. It affirms democracy as an ideal, but carefully manipulates attitudes in a nervous attempt to control opinions hostile to Olympianism, such as beliefs in capital or corporal punishment, racial, and other forms of prejudice, national self-assertion—and indeed, religion.‘
From Fellini’s ‘Roma.’ Fellini presents a kind of sinister and surreal Papal fashion show.
At least it isn’t a ‘bunga-bunga‘ party (maybe don’t leave models of governance to modern Italy?).
“Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.
Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.”
Are we really in a Platonic decline, the kind of which required The Republic?: Are you a gold, silver or bronze medalist?
That’s a little scary.
A Podcast From Britain: E30 | Dreaming The Future | Natalie Bennett, Phillip Blond, Roger Scruton
“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis. Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure. In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup. In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest. Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.
Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides. Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world. This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”
Related On This Site: Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…?: From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People
Is there a causal connection between a move away from religion and the moral structure it provides….and a bigger state?From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes: From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?
Some Anti-modernism: From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington
Thanks to a reader (there are a few out there :):
I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o’clock our neighbours drove me home.
In the porch I met my father crying—
He had always taken funerals in his stride—
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.
The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand
And tell me they were ‘sorry for my trouble’.
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand
In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o’clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.
Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,
Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four-foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.
A four-foot box, a foot for every year.
An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss;
Nor leave them happier than before.
Nor law; nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.