Category Archives: Blog Thoughts

Gell-Mann equivalent for politics?

To quote the originator of the term, Michael Crichton, The Gell-Mann Effect is:

“Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward–reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story–and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.”

End quote. Is there an equivalent for politics? We are quite willing to believe the most horrible and devious behavior of THAT party, but while our own party may have a few flawed individuals, it’s not in any way systemic… all the evidence is simply individualized, atomized, anecdotal, and anomalous, not generalized. Even when the evidence is that the leadership of both sides is utterly corrupt and controlled is overwhelming.

Honor / Dishonorable

The concept of “honor”  – in the sense of ethical in conduct, meeting expectations of behavior, being an honorable person, etc. – is complex. The idea of “fairness” is pretty basic, one a couple of two year old’s being forced Mom to share a cookie understand can grasp; they know getting the smaller portion is unfair, regardless of the details. But “honor” comes in so many flavors – at least one for every culture and subculture – that defining it and explaining why it’s important is difficult. What is expected and honorable in one culture may be anathema, disgusting, and disgraceful in another. Continue reading Honor / Dishonorable

Heresy

Heresy : noun- (1) An opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs, especially dissension from or denial of Roman Catholic dogma by a professed believer or baptized church member.
(2) Adherence to such dissenting opinion or doctrine.
(3) A controversial or unorthodox opinion or doctrine, as in politics, philosophy, or science.

Heretic: A person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted. Continue reading Heresy

Power of the laugh track

Pointed to it from Vox Day’s blog, I just finished listening to Owen Benjamin’s description (show number 494) of the sit-com Seinfeld and how the laugh track destroyed our culture. Pretty deep  stuff. But is it over the top? One thing that it brought to mind was how the Japanese military conditioned their soldiers.

It’s not a normal act to stick a blade into someone and be OK with it. So they’d tie up a prisoner (POW or civilian, made no difference to them), perhaps put them in a trench where they could not run away or retreat, and order a soldier to bayonet the victim to death. While he did that, his squad-mates would be standing around him, cheering him on, laughing, clapping, making a joke or game of it. They’d already done the same, or soon would be. It conditioned them to think it was normal, and fun, and it dehumanized the victim. But it was the cheering, laughing, and open mocking of the dead and dying while their mate butchered a man… or woman, or child… that made it such a powerful social pressure.

It was murder with a laugh track, and it was undeniably successful at its intended mission.

Yes, what Owen says is spot on. Not over the top. It’s psychos conditioning a whole generation. No wonder there are so many people today who need a shrink. Or, better yet, to purge their lives of screens.

Veteran’s Day

It’s that time – the day we commemorate Veteran’s Day. A somber day, not exactly a “Happy Holiday!” with a cheery smile sort of occasion.  This year, appropriately enough, the observance day is also the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps (U.S.M.C.). Happy birthday, Marines!The US military has been going through a rough patch in the last few decades, with more enemies domestic and internal (especially the most recent former C-in-C, whose policies were extremely destructive to the professionalism and moral of the uniformed forces, from what I’ve heard) than external… those the external threats, from ISIS to RocketMan are not inconsiderable.

I’m a veteran of sorts – served an uneventful (in terms of actual hot-war deployment) enlistment in the US Army Reserve. It’s enough that on some job applications I can check the “veteran” status box, but on others that list specific types of veterans (Vietnam War Era veteran, Service Medal Veteran, etc.) I cannot, because I don’t qualify as any of those specific types. Just a generic “signed up, served, went home, carry on” sort of thing.

I honor those who served, whether draftees like my dad, or volunteers like myself, friends who or family who served in war and came home like Joe Huffman’s son-in-law, or those who served and didn’t, like Adam Plumondore.

So bow your head briefly, raise a glass, or whatever, and thank those who served to protect your right to politely disagree with your fellow American, and helped to create the greatest country this planet has ever seen, flawed, decadent, and in decline though it may be.

Cheers!

Happy 4th

Happy 4th, he said ironically.

America’s birthday. But the corpse of the freedom she represented has been dead a long time, and I don’t see any resurrection miracles on the immediate horizon.

I still love this nation, and think it’s the best one on the planet. But far too many of her citizens no longer desire freedom, they demand freebies. Too many don’t want opportunity, they want guarantees. The masses don’t want free speech, they want freedom from offense, and demand to shut down the speech of those they disagree with. They demand their opponents be wrapped and tied down like Harrison Bergeron. Too many of those in charge at all levels don’t desire challenge, they want sure things: they are risk averse, bureaucratic, and mindless rule-followers, and if judgment is demanded they want another rule passed by committee in which to wrap themselves for defense. Continue reading Happy 4th

Debating reality

Reality versus feelings

Score: 1-0

I had a conversation recently. We had a minor disagreement over something – the details don’t matter – but it evolved briefly into a discussion over debate methods and why he didn’t like to debate against me. We dropped it, but it got me thinking, and I realized it brought back a memory from a conversation I had a long time ago (~25 years or so) at an SCA event. Continue reading Debating reality