Current Affairs

The R word and online credibility

The word “racist”, as one might expect, is a loaded word, with much baggage, most of it negative.
The baggage is negative because in most parts of the world, racism is regarded as a bad thing. And you don’t need to look far into the history of the world, and particularly the history of empires, to understand why. In the Bad Old Days of Empire, there were the explorers/conquerors/exploiters (People Like Us Over Here) and the subjects (those People Over There). One of the easiest ways in which one differentiates is by skin color and facial features. This set us on the long road to centuries of exploitation of people in distant lands who, in many cases, looked different to us. This is not some esoteric debate. It’s a stone cold fact.
That being the case, racism is a contentious subject, particularly right now in the USA, which elected a President whose actions when dealing with people of different ethnic origins are at best problematical. He also has a track record of uttering incendiary comments about countries and their citizens. This is also not a subject of debate.
John Scalzi, in his blunt way, just pointed out what should be blindingly obvious to most of us.
However, the incendiary nature of the R word leads to it becoming very difficult to openly and honestly discuss concepts, facts, trends and events involving it. It is almost a taboo word, like “sex” was to my parents’ generation.
Many years ago, I had some political conversations with a guy I was working with in the UK. It soon became clear that his worldview was pretty heavily biased towards white supremacy. Like Donald Trump, he thought that Africa was a shithole. Unlike Trump however, he had actually visited Africa, and could name countries and cities.
However, what I respected about him, although it was soon clear to both of us that we had somewhat different worldviews, was that he was prepared to calmly and rationally discuss and debate. He didn’t engage in deflection, shut-downs, ad hominems or all of the other common fallacious and rhetorically dishonest tactics that many people do to either skew conversations their way or to position themselves to flounce off in a huff if they can’t. you know, Win.
On one occasion, sensing the way that one particular conversation was going, he said to me “look, I know you think I’m racist. And to be honest, yes, I am”.
Which on one level was kind of scary, but on another level it was good. Good because instead of playing rhetorical whack-a-mole over the R word, it was now out in the open, and we both knew where we stood.
A lot of conversations about enthnicity and race go nowhere except to a bad place, partly because racists, who are uncomfortably aware of the loaded nature of the word “racist” (as in, This Makes Me Look Bad), behave like rhetorical shitweasels when the subject comes up, dodging and ducking like the best boxers.
There are also people who use the R word as a conversational shut-down tactic; this is equally problematical.
I would have a lot more respect for some of the people on social media if, after posting and supporting racist comments, actions or sentiments, they would stop attempting to desperately pretend that they are not some combination of (a) nativist, (b) an enabler for racism, or (c) racist. Trying to pretend otherwise makes them look like zero-credibility shitweasels. They come across as unserious.


On the subject of online condescension and dickery

I want to pause to say a few words about dickery in online discussions.
I got to thinking about this tonight, after a sharp exchange with somebody in a discussion thread.
The exchange came about because a male commenter, bent out of shape over a perjorative label being applied to him by a female commenter. decided to begin his response with “Lady. You do not know me”. Then he launched into a whiny excoriation of her and her worldview.
I commented that beginning a response with “Lady” was highly likely to convince a number of readers that he was a condescending asshat.
Unsurprisingly, he was not happy about this observation, and complained that since I did not know how appallingly the female commenter had been accusing him of Bad Things, I should, as he put it, “stop flapping my gums”.
His complaint might be true, the commenter might have been unfair or rude to him. But…
…It is irrelevant.
My main point (which he chose to blow past, because he was all fired up with indignation by that point) was that beginning a comment to female with “Lady” is about as condescending as it gets. It is a clear tell of a certain level of contempt for female viewpoints. And…based on my experience in online forums, this is endemic with male commenters when women either write things that they don’t like, or when women challenge their opinions and worldviews.
Condescension (the online pat-on-the-head equivalent of “don’t you be worrying your pretty little head about this Complex Stuff”) is often a first-port-of-call for male commenters. It is, incidentally, a significant part of the reason why there are very few female libertarians, and it is part of the reason why I find it hard to respect many online libertarians, or take their opinions seriously. Condescension has become an integral part of the online arsenal of many libertarians (that plus juvenile memes promoting old shibboleths).
But I digress.
The other point that needs to be made is that just because somebody starts talking smack to you online doesn’t mean that you have to immediately respond in kind. One of the key life skills that we all have to develop is knowing how to not be trapped or tricked into escalating disputes, and knowing when to walk away from a situation when we conclude that there is no upside to continued involvement.
The sort of person who always responds in kind or with aggression when somebody says something that they find irritating or annoying is the sort of person who pretty quickly acquires the reputation of behaving like an obnoxious confrontational asshat with a temper management problem. This is not a behavior pathology that has any beneficial upside of making friends or positively influencing people.
You can be be a dick in online discussions quite easily. Lots of people do it almost without thinking, or maybe without realizing that they are doing it.
On the other hand, some of them know they do it, and don’t care. They see it as a personal feature, not a bug.
You can sometimes spot those people in advance. They will say things like “I’m not politically correct”. They may think they are signalling their ability (which they regard as a Good Thing) to be blunt and candid. However, most of the time, in reality, this is a vain attempt at pre-inoculation, a signalling of the message “At some point in the near future I am going to write something that makes me sound like a dick”.


Quick Thoughts – 10th January 2018

1. The Fusion GPS testimony transcript
Since the Republican majority on the Senate Intelligence committee refused to release this transcript, the Democratic minority went ahead and released it.
Here is Hoarse Whisperer’s analysis of it (HINT – it’s not good for the GOP or the current administration).

2. What happens when the children take over

3. Trolls on Facebook
Once upon a time there were no trolls on my Facebook friends list.
Then in the 2016 election cycle, some previously sensible people seemed to morph into juvenile trolls. Most of them (it seemed) were supporting Donald Trump, but not all of them. One or two also turned out to be Bernie Sanders supporters.
The worst offenders were given the heave-ho from my Friends list early last year as part of my annual rationalization. Two others were booted in 2017 for acting like horse’s asses on my timeline. More recently, some went on Hide.
However, some people are still behaving like trolls on my Facebook timeline. For reasons that I cannot fathom, they think it is OK to talk like a mocking strutting playground juvenile.
These people are operating on borrowed time. I intend to lower the boom om them real soon as part of my annual rationalization.


The bankruptcy of trolls and asshats

One thing I intend to cheerfully continue doing in 2018 is to excoriate nonsense in all its forms, and to ridicule the ridiculous.
So, in the interests of making an early start…an illustration of the creative and intellectual bankruptcy of all of those basement members of the 102nd Chairbone, whose tweets litter my feed like confetti.
When the Twitter authoritarian babbling children start using phrases like “Red Pill” and “snowflake”, you just know there is little to no thought behind the use of the phrases. This is like the 8 year old peer of mine at elementary school in the UK who called me a “c**t” on the school playground once. When I asked him what the word meant, he blustered and blathered and soon it became clear that he had no clue what the word meant. He was repeating it like the moronic mimic that he was, because he had heard tough-talking adults using it and thought it sounded cool.

Starting in October 2016, there was an incredibly strong correlation between their adoption of the word “deplorable” in their handle, and their use of sloganeering bullcrap like this (plus the use of other playground insults like “cuck” and “pedo”).
Nowadays, the more common early warning sign on Twtter is the use of “MAGA” in the profile or in hashtags. “MAGA” is also an indication that there is a 40% or greater chance that you are reading the scribblings of a trollbot.


Binary thinking – the fuel of hyper-judgmentalism

One characteristic of hyper-judgmental people that is easy to discern is their liking for binary thinking. When somebody, at some point in a conversation, says to me something like “I am a blck and white person”, I have a pretty good idea of what I am about to hear. Usually some variant of “My In Group Good, Those Others Bad”.
Sex and gender are fruitful topics for the hyper-judgmentalists, who fondly imagine that those are binary constructs that They Know All About.
Alas, not quite. As this thread makes clear, human gender and sexuality are nowhere near that simple. As the thread notes, bigotry as a concept is fuelled by simplistic binary judgments about good and bad, right and wrong, projected onto individuals or groups.
A graduation along a scale makes it difficult for bigots to operate unless they publicly disavow facts and science. That, of course, makes them look stupid in addition to being hyper-judgmental, not that it ever stops them.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder – an analysis of Donald Trump

Twitter user The Hoarse Whisperer wrote a tweetstorm this Summer about Donald Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I extracted it from Twitter and tidied it up because it is too old to be rolled up into a thread by online software.
Here we go…

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) seem erratic but they’re actually ultra-predictable. They are simple machines.
There are only two driving impulses:
1) Avoid shame
2) Collect adoration and esteem.
That’s it. There is no other priority or concern
Trump will do anything humanly possible to try to avoid being publicly shamed/diminished in others’ eyes. It’s an impulse he can’t control.
Take Russia/Putin. If Trump were to acknowledge Russia interfered, he’d be admitting he was less worthy of the presidency.
Donald Trump would literally sell out his entire family and the country as well to avoid acknowledging that he didn’t deserve the office.
He is pathologically incapable of doing anything which admits to the world his worst internal fear: he’s unworthy of being seen as special
Now, he has no choice on how he has to play this. He HAS to actually make Putin look worthy of partnership. He has to make the shameful thing, look unshameful somehow. He has to make shameful hacking and potential collusion somehow seem smart or purposeful or dignified.
It cannot be done. It makes no logical sense. It will fall apart and as it does, Trump’s behavior and lying will get more outlandish.
But make no mistake, Donald Trump is clinically incapable of doing anything other than what he is doing: trying to avoid the shame of being discovered to be illegitimate and unworthy of public respect. He has an uncontrollable compulsion to avoid that awful truth.
No matter how absurd each new action or lie sounds, he’ll throw even his own family under the bus until there is no way out, and then he will first explode on everyone and everything around him when he realizes there is no escape.
It will be the crazy tweetstorm to end all tweetstorms… and then he’ll either
a) implode in a miserable ball of self-loathing and flee
(b) concoct some attempt at a face-saving exit. Claiming he’s too good for the job or that he’s protesting the “deep state”…
It’ll be transparent bullshit that none but the most loco Trumpers believe but he will take it to the grave swearing it’s true.
The key thing to remember in watching Trump is that there are literally only two things going on in his mind at all times.
1) Fight to the death to avoid being seen as shameful or underserving of public adoration…
2/ Doing whatever it takes to make the people right in front of him think he’s powerful, important and special.
That’s it.
Donald Trump is an empty shell. You need do no more than ask “what shame is he trying to avoid?” and you’ll understand his every move.

Trump has no grasp of how other people feel or think. He just tries to manipulate the people right in front of him. Since he surrounds himself with awful people, pleasing the crowd means saying and doing horrible things. He is then shocked by the coverage.
Then, when called out, he can’t handle the criticism and behaves really, really badly. Doubles down, says ridiculous things, etc. It’s all impulse
Narcissists, like sociopaths, have no empathy. Understanding what other people think or feel is literally beyond their abilities. Other people are either:
1) sources of admiration (narcissistic supply); or
2) sources of criticism (narcissistic injury).
Narcissists live for more narcissistic supply to bolster their grandiose (albeit fragile) self-image, and live in fear of narcissistic injuries that would puncture it. They are often charming and charismatic (seeking that supply). They can be highly functional, channeling the need for supply into hard work. But when things go wrong, it is NEVER their fault. Other people are to blame AND have betrayed them.

Psychologists, by default, see few severe NPDs because they refuse to seek treatment. Living with one is a whole different kettle of fish.

P.S. my money is on Trump spiraling down into denials then trying to pull a face-saving exit when it is far too late to escape consequences


The Roy Moore campaign – pay attention people

Folks, a brief rant as my inner “Pay attention people” personality surfaces.
People are expressing amazement that the supporters of Roy Moore are capable of uttering nonsensical twaddle as they seek to promote him as a candidate.
This is logical, but it is irrelevant.
Roy Moore’s campaign is not a conventional political campaign. It is the campaign of a Christian Dominionist cult leader. As such, the campaign is immune to factual attack. By definition, most of Roy Moore’s supporters are not listening to or motivated by facts or reason.
The aim of sending out “advisors” and the likes of Steve Bannon to stump for Roy Moore, and to show up on major TV networks and utter jaw-dropping nonsense, is not to sway undecided voters. Those people are probably regarded by the Roy Moore supporters as useful idiots and/or heathen vermin, to be exterminated when Judgment Day comes.
The entire aim of the Roy Moore campaign right now is to get every single one of their supporters to vote on the day. They simply intend to out-turnout Doug Jones.
The election can be won by Doug Jones, but only if every one of his supporters shows up and casts a vote.
If Roy Moore wins, the commentary on Alabama will be withering and highly deserved. But his supporters will not care. They are building Jerusalem in Alabama, and they don’t give a rats ass about the modern USA or the Constitution or any of that other Secular Evil.


The tales of sexual harassment – 2 comments

You will have noticed an epidemic of exposure and punishment for sexual harassment unfolding in the USA, with the current focus being on Big Fish in the media, showbusiness and political spheres.
I have two comments:

1. Sooner or later, whether anybody realizes it at the time or bothers to do the investigation to prove it, a person or persons will be punished and driven out of their profession based on accusations that are false. There is a rather concerning willingness on many peoples’ behalf to abandon any semblance of due process in a stampeding eagerness (as they see it) to give male harassers a deserved comeuppance. This is going to lead to some bad mistakes sooner or later.
2. The focus on show business, media and politics obscures the reality that a lot of sexual harassment has occurred in corporate America. It is easier to hide bad behavior when a business basically operates out of the public eye. The situation may be worse in family-owned and run businesses, which are often private corporations, with little to no external stockholdings to provide any checks and balances.


Brexit negotiations – posturing and threats to “walk away”

The current Brexit negotiations do not seem to be advancing well.
One of the recurring themes that rabid Brexit supporters keep coming back to is that the UK should just “walk away” from negotiations.
Leaving aside the utterly deluded ideas that many of them possess about what a “hard” Brexit entails, the idea that one should flounce out of a negotiation or threaten to do so in order to get what one wants is an idea promulgated by somebody with no clue whatsoever about how to negotiate.
The UK lawyer Sean Jones wrote a tweetstorm about this pathology recently. I am sharing it below, merged and edited.

A threat to walk away *can* be effective in negotiation, but it is rarely the *key* to a successful outcome.
Very broadly, that’s because most negotiations are not zero sum. An optimal outcome is achieved through co-operation and creative compromise.
First things first: like any threat it can only be at all useful if it is credible.
That has 2 aspects.
1. Your negotiation partner must believe you’ll carry it out;
2. It must be a sufficiently meaningful threat to their own interests (NOT THE COMFY CHAIR!!)
So if walking away is so disastrous that no rational person would contemplate it, your negotiating partner will conclude…
either (1) you don’t mean it;
(2) you do
If you state publicly that it is a negotiating tactic, that undermines the credibility of the threat as it puts sincerity in doubt.
Equally, If you open negotiations with it in the hope or expectation the negotiating partner will “crumble” you aren’t negotiating, you’re bullying. You may feel “strong” but saying “we can’t be precise about what we want but if we don’t get it, we’re off” is not a constructive or rational posture.
There’s a reason we refer to the tactic as an ultimatum. It‘s best used at what might be the *end* of a process; where positions have closed and each side has reached their respective red lines.
It causes each side to ask whether their “final position” should be sacrificed for a deal that is otherwise within touching distance.
My hope is that the UK’s negotiation team is less fixated on this tactic than the Press and the public appear to be.
It’s usually a sign of a failing negotiation and using it as principal leverage is much more likely to be self-defeating than people assume.

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