Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Modern Life in the Unreality-Based Community:
Surreal

Wanna see something scary? Mosey on over to, e.g., The Corner or thereabouts. It's like peering into an alternate universe, completely detached from the, ya know facts. (Or, as my students might put it, "facts.")

I suppose this is what happens when you decide that anyone who doesn't toe your loony line is biased. What you get is substantial decoupling from the facts, and the epistemic equivalent of the Galapagos Islands...bizarre beliefs that could never survive in the normal world of doxastic competition...but in the relatively predator-free environment of total groupthink, they flourish and continue to evolve toward their surreal and illogical end. What you've got over there is an island full of political platypusses and suchlike.

My favorite might be KJL gushing about how she still loves Dubya.

As Peirce might say, even stupidity and dogmatism in their purer forms can be observed with a kind of aesthetic pleasure, if we can manage to look past their respective tragedy and immorality.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Deliverance said...

Winston,
Does the indignant posture ever get tiresome? I think I'd burn out and move onto something else (possibly even something productive) if I was in a perpectual state of moral outrage at my political opponents.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Not as tiresome as the dogmatism and stupidity of the contemporary right...

But believe me, I'll be happy when sanguinity becomes rational again, D.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Deliverance said...

I'm sure you'll perk up if Obama wins in November, and your interests are better represented. Altho the myth of moral superiority is tough to shake...so then again maybe not.

1:51 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

*sigh*

I don't know where these nihilists keep coming from. "Myth of moral superiority"..jebus.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, I have some sympathy for D. I think there's something good about at least *trying* to see both sides in the dispute as being at least roughly equally wrong (or: equally corrupt).

Thing is, I don't see any way to make such a position intellectually respectable anymore in the case at hand. The evidence that the contemporary GOP has become largely rotten--and way more so than the Dems--could hardly be clearer.

But--given what I'd call the overwhelming evidence for that last point--if someone disagrees with it, I'd probably not spend time trying to convince him. I can't say anything more persuasive than the information that's been widely available for the last seven years.

The background problem here is that, once one recovers from the childish tendency to think that all goodness lies on one side and all badness on the other, one seems then to run smack-dab into the sophomoric tendency to think that the truth always lies in the middle. Once you get over that, the real tough work of sorting things out begins. Turns out that confusion and corruption can be distributed in almost any way among competing parties.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Deliverance"; deliverance from what? Obviously not deliverance from stupidity. D seems like one of these right-wing idiots that is doing drive-bys on liberal leaning blogs: the exact kind of thing that seems to be getting under Winson's skin lately. Well, I'm sure that Obama will represent Winston's interests, because he shares the interests of his fellow Americans. Americans who deserve better than the pack of thugs who is currently running the country. It's in the interest of all American citizens to have Obama as the president of the United States.

5:33 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

I think there's something good about at least *trying* to see both sides in the dispute as being at least roughly equally wrong

Yeah, you'd think so, but the theory is better than the effect in practice. In practice (see our media), anyone willing to be dishonest can adopt an extreme position in order to split the difference, and that pushes the mythical center ever - in this case - rightward, at least until the clusterfuck that is Bushism removes all doubt.

The see-both-sides-as-on-par heuristic leads eventually either to extremism or to polarization. It's not a stable heuristic under conditions of self-interested learning. Right now, we have polarization and extremism.

A better goal is to listen to both (all) reasonable sides and discard anything that's obvious bullshit (yes, from the left too) before settling down to compromise and negotiation. It's like throwing out the outliers (only in this case they're outliars) before analyzing data.

Unfortunately, our journalists have given up sorting out the bullshit from the rest, which leaves us in blogotopia to do the job, and most of us don't have big enough audiences to make up for the loss of news that's not designed to be conflict-driven entertainment.

Still, I advocate going for the truth, the real thing, not some social construction posing as the real thing on reality TV.

All of which is to say, I pretty much agree with you.

(Note: Not sure anything's wrong about the platypus. Flightless birds, yep, not long-term adaptive.)

6:30 PM  

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