Thursday, March 31, 2016

The self-loathing card

Many lazy thinkers love thought-terminating clichés, and lazy thinkers who are gay men often play the self-loathing card. When someone departs from the orthodoxy, and you either cannot refute his argument or just don't feel like doing so, simply accuse him of being a self-loathing LCR. Problem solved.

Tellingly, I never hear the people who play the self-loathing card play it against something to which the evidence suggests that it might apply, namely, the incessant gay male self-flagellation in the LGBT media and LGBT organizations. It is de rigueur in those settings to blame everything on gay men, whether or not the problem being discussed is specific to gay men. Thus, the self-loathing card has to do with wrong-thinker-shaming rather than with situations in which actual self-loathing might apply.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Donald Trump: Political correctness for the white working class

People often praise Donald Trump for being politically incorrect. In one sense he is, but in a more fundamental philosophical way, he is politically correct.

As I have noted before, political correctness is at heart the belief that certain persons' emotions are an infallible oracle into Truth with a capital T. The different strains of political correctness differ in identifying the elect. The Trump movement is all emotion, all the time, and relies on the emotions of his base.

Political correctness also emphasizes identity politics. The Trump phenomenon has that base covered, too.

Another aspect of political correctness is its view of government as the cure for whatever ails you, with narrowly defined exceptions. Trump fits that one.

Some have said that Trump holds a mirror to the American people. The view in the mirror includes those who have pushed American thought in the direction of political correctness.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Someone actually wrote this: David Brooks and the "new" shame culture

David Brooks, in today's New York Times, writes of a "new" shame culture that has allegedly taken over college campuses since the eighties:
Many people carefully guard their words, afraid they might transgress one of the norms that have come into existence. Those accused of incorrect thought face ruinous consequences. When a moral crusade spreads across campus, many students feel compelled to post in support of it on Facebook within minutes. If they do not post, they will be noticed and condemned.

* * *

[E]verybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along.

Brooks is so close and yet so far. Apart from the references to social media, he accurately describes the culture of political correctness, on campuses and elsewhere, that I experienced in the eighties. So much for the newness of the new, post-eighties shame culture.

Brooks also writes that the "new" shame culture "might reverse, a bit, the individualistic, atomizing thrust of the past 50 years." In a culture in which so many people are obsessed with identity categories, what "individualistic, atomizing thrust" is that?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Someone actually wrote this: Government, Apple, and privacy

In an op-ed in today's New York Times, "In the Government vs. Apple, Who Wears the Black Hat?," Robert Levine asks, "Shouldn’t the government have more legal and moral authority to weigh complicated issues of privacy and national security than a company that makes phones?" He does not make the case that it should.

Levine answers the question thus: "It should. After all, nobody ever elected Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, to public office." So what? History, particularly American history, is full of people of people who successfully stood up for their own and other people's rights without having been elected to public office, often by resisting the dictates of those who had been.

He continues:

The government, not Apple, should guarantee our privacy rights. But this dispute has arisen precisely because the government hasn’t done so. Instead, it squandered much of its legal and moral authority when the National Security Agency engaged in widespread surveillance of American citizens for so long. Some N.S.A. abuses targeted Silicon Valley directly.
In other words, he asserts that government "should guarantee our privacy rights" and immediately shows that trusting it to do so is a fool's errand. The problem with trusting government to guarantee our privacy rights is that we have privacy rights against government for a reason.
Important choices about the future of technology and privacy should be made by the American people and their representatives, not by Silicon Valley, where even the noblest intentions are mixed with huge financial stakes.
So, everything within the state, nothing outside of the state, nothing against the state?
[W]e are left with Silicon Valley executives making engineering decisions that could determine what information the government can and can’t have. That’s both bad policy and fundamentally undemocratic.
Instead of making a valid argument, Levine simply uses "undemocratic" as a snarl word. The outcome that he fears is no more undemocratic than the idea of privacy itself — which is undemocratic in a way, but in a good way.
But the current choice is between a government that doesn’t seem to recognize limits to its own power to access personal information and a technology company that does. It’s a bad choice, but an obvious one. While nobody elected Mr. Cook to protect our privacy, we should be glad someone is.
Except for "It's a bad choice," that is exactly it. The problem with comparing an idealized version of government to technology companies in the real world is government in the real world.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Live by the Political Sword, Die by the Political Sword

In Virginia, Christian social conservatives are calling for a law protecting freedom of association and freedom of religion — or, more accurately, cherry-picked versions thereof:
The bill would ... prohibit state agencies from punishing discrimination against people who are transgender or who are in same-sex marriages. The provision about sex outside of marriage was added minutes before lawmakers voted.
A state legislator justifies the bill thus:
“I think people of faith feel the tide turning so strongly that all they’re looking for is some reasonable accommodation, because they view that there is this secular church, if you will, that’s trying to impose its belief system upon every­body else,” he said. “As in, ‘You agree with all this or else.’ ”
I wonder how many Christian social conservatives see the irony in complaining about any other group that is "trying to impose its belief system upon every­body else." Government action to impose one belief system on everyone is what they demanded for decades. Like so many others who demand coercive government solutions, they apparently did not imagine that they or people like them would ever fall under the juggernaut that they had helped to set into motion.

The right holds no monopoly on that lack of foresight. Radical feminists, such as those at the blog Gender Trender, have experienced cognitive dissonance because anti-discrimination laws, which they otherwise support, are being used to force them to admit transgender people into womyn-born-womyn-only events. Those radical feminists have even uttered the forbidden words “unintended consequences.” Similarly, progressives have long urged greater government control over market forces, only to see socially conservative politicians take them at their word and propose new restrictions on everything from yoga pants to gay bars. Also, the Catholic Church supported Obamacare up to, but not including, requirements that would violate that church’s positions on abortion and contraceptives.

In fiscal matters, politicians in America's major cities have long used their cities' muscle in the state legislatures to shape their states' spending policies to their liking. However, many of the same cities have lost enough population that their state governments can now ignore them at no political cost. What happens next should not surprise you.

I predict that we shall see more calls for government intervention backfire similarly. For example, a recent Supreme Court decision cheered by progressives, Walker v. Texas Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., found (through reasoning that strikes me as intellectually dishonest and in defiance of the way in which appellate courts are supposed to handle questions of fact) that vehicle license plates identifying organizational membership or other interests are government speech rather than individual speech and consequently held that the First Amendment does not protect such license plates. Anyone who does not see the obvious implication for specialty license plates for liberal causes, such as Virginia’s “Trust Women; Respect Choice” plates, must be using some weapons-grade self-delusion.

Thus, people on opposite sides of various issues have switched talking points, as they must to preserve their positions, on whether government should impose the majority’s views on everyone. They both ignore the obvious lesson and refuse to acknowledge that the tide will indeed turn and that the majority to which they appeal will not always take their side. If you live by the political sword, do not count out dying by the political sword.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Every true Scotsman

I've previously blogged about the "no true Scotsman" fallacy, which involves redefining a category to exclude members of that category that are inconvenient to one's argument. The flip side, which one might call the "every true Scotsman" fallacy, involves redefining a category to include new members that would help one's argument. For example, people often argue that the countries with the highest standards of living are socialist. By what analysis do we know that those countries are socialist? Well, any sensible person can tell that they're socialist because they have such high standards of living. Never mind what those countries' own prime ministers think.

See also my rule of political and economic terms here.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The latest thing to blame on gay men

This article on hookup culture in The Washington Post attributes today's hookup culture to demographics and states that
gender ratios within the LGBT community do affect different-sex dating, oddly enough. According to Gary Gates, a UCLA researcher and a leading expert on LGBT demographics, cities known for being LGBT-friendly (New York, Washington, Miami, etc.) have disproportionate numbers of gay men, but not of lesbians. Consequently, the different-sex dating markets in these cities are worse for women than the overall census numbers imply. DATE-ONOMICS illustrates that Manhattan’s hetero, college-grad, under-30 dating pool has three women for every two men — which, like it or not, is exactly the sort of sexual playground for men portrayed by Vanity Fair.
The argument for causation implicitly presupposes something not in evidence, namely, that the male dating pool is some sort of zero-sum game in which gay men displace straight men.