Friday, February 17, 2017

What's good on the internet

As part of my bold and arduous project to contribute to civil discourse outside of horrible social media comment threads but not quite in real life (who has time for that?), and about things other than politics but not exclusively about my toddler, I might start posting occasional lists of links to take the place of substantive thoughts that I don't have often enough. Everyone else does this, so why can't I? (Ok, no one else blogs anymore, but the one person who does also does this, so my statement is technically accurate.)

- Billionaire survivalists: An article obviously intended to stoke the resentments of the 99.9 percent. Not fair! Why can't I afford a $3 million luxury condo with fake windows in an underground nuclear warhead bunker, demandeth the people who can still afford a million-dollar above-ground first home. Another mark of my gross oppression! So try to avoid reading it in that light, and it might instead prompt questions about what these "technical types," as one interviewee describes himself, actually understand about politics. At several points, they seem to view both nuclear war and economic downturn as co-equal signs of apocalypse and signalling the need to escape society and take refuge underground.

Also, instead of seeing this as demonstrating that our current elites are unusually civically disengaged or unusually anxious compared with previous generations of the super-rich, could we not see it as just a logical extension of the prevailing extreme libertarianism of Silicon Valley? Isn't this generally a culture that prizes the individual, especially the individual who overcomes natural impediments common to the rest of humanity (eg, through radical life extension or seasteading), and sees technology as capable of transcending and eventually replacing the nation-state? In that light, survivalism is just another, relatively mundane fetish derived from these beliefs.

Another question is, in the event of apocalypse, where will they get sufficient gasoline to power their private jets and helicopters and even motorcycles for more than a few weeks?

- SSC reviews Eichmann in Jerusalem. Mostly a consideration of the contexts in which people comply with or evade orders. I don't buy the exhaustive present efforts to draw parallels between the Trump administration and Germany in 1932. Trump poses a threat, but I think more likely one that will lead to disorder rather than a consolidating totalitarian takeover masterminded by someone like Bannon or any of these other previously-obscure rightwing types, whom journalists are now treating like evil geniuses whose sundry bloviations on the internet over the past decade are actually pieces of a carefully-constructed grand strategy to undermine our constitution. So I especially liked this passage from the review:
I thank G-d for the annoying obstructionists, for the nitpickers, for the devil’s advocates, for the people who hear something that’s obviously true and strain to come up with an absurd thought experiment where it might not be, for the reflexive contrarians, for the people who always vote third party, for the people who urge you to sign petitions on because “then the President has to respond”, for the people who have two hundred guns in their basement “just in case”, for the people who say “well, actually…” all the time, for the mayors of sanctuary cities and the clerks who refuse to perform gay weddings, for the people who think being banned on Twitter is a violation of their human rights, and for the people who swear eternal hostility to other people on the same side who agree with them on 99% of everything. On the spectrum from “totally ungovernable” to “vulnerable to Nazism”, I think that we’ve erred in the right direction.
- Everything is terrible and getting worse. Nick Eberstadt lays out the demographic trends.

- "Of All the Birds That I Do Know." A bawdy seventeenth-century madrigal, one of the many excellent songs to which Utopia's public radio station has introduced me, and which is now stuck in my head.


Andrew Stevens said...

I really enjoyed that paragraph too.

"Annoying obstructionist"? Check.
"Nitpicker"? Check.
"Devil's advocate"? Check.
"Person who hears something that's obviously true and strains to come up with an absurd thought experiment where it might not be"? Check (though I usually acknowledge that).
"Reflexive contrarian"? Check.
"Says 'well, actually...' all the time"? Check.

I don't qualify for all the others, but half isn't bad.

Miss Self-Important said...

I object to the thought experimenters, as a result of too long a period of study in a discipline that teeters on the brink of becoming professional thought-experimenting, but otherwise, yes.

Andrew Stevens said...

To be honest, I object to them too. Sometimes I just can't help myself, but I think it's a human instinct. Some time say in a group of people, "On average, men are faster runners than women." I guarantee you someone in the group will point out that some women are faster than almost all men, even though it's a complete non sequitur and everybody agrees that the original statement is true.