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Thursday, February 08, 2018

The apocalypse of our time

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The quote is usually attributed to Edmund Burke, although there is disagreement on that score. Haile Selassie said something very similar:
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
Our time has disproved this noble sentiment. Since liberals love to beat themselves up, they will continue to condemn themselves for apathy and inaction, but that self-criticism does not square with the facts. I don't see apathy. I don't see inaction. Everywhere I look, I see good women and good men trying like hell. I see writers and investigators and polemicists and reporters and poets and artists and satirists working like they've never worked before.

To what end? An increasing number of people believe the daily lies spread by the Alt Right and this administration.

Days ago, I had intended to write a post countering the Nunes memo -- doing my tiny, tiny bit for the truth. But in an epiphany of despair, I saw the pointlessness of the effort. What matters is not that document's deceptions. What matters is perception. What matters is propaganda.

Trump's approval ratings are going up.

Only around 36% of the populace approves of the Mueller investigation. It's our only hope, yet a majority of Americans mistrust it or want rid of it. Trump is more popular than Mueller.

I haven't seen the polling, but it would appear that a majority of the population, or at least a substantial minority, actually believes in the absurd propaganda line that the FBI was and is anti-Trump and pro-liberal. This, despite the fact that the FBI pretty much elected Trump. This, despite the fact that the FBI was called "Trumplandia" before the election. This, despite the fact that James Comey completely covered up the fact that the Trump campaign was under investigation.

People actually believe that the Obama administration did something wrong or criminal in regard to the Trump campaign. Obama deserves censure only for not publicizing what Russia was doing on behalf of Donald Trump. Obama idiotically thought that Putin would behave himself if warned sternly behind the scenes.

The "generic ballot" gap between Democrats and Republicans has narrowed considerably. Soon, the Republicans will be ahead. You may disagree, but I personally have no hope of retaking the House or Senate in November.

The majority of Americans now believe that Christopher Steele is an evil man who acted in a partisan fashion, when his only "sin" was a heroic effort to warn the FBI and the media about Russia's attack on our nation. Today, no Democrat defends his work, even though his intelligence has been proven accurate in many particulars.

Through simple repetition -- The dossier has been discredited! The dossier has been discredited! -- the Republicans have convinced the nation that the dossier has, in fact, been discredited. Yet no substantial claim within that dossier has been disproven, and much of it has been at least partially verified.

The Republicans have convinced the nation that Steele is responsible for everything which has happened -- the Manafort indictment, the Flynn guilty plea. It all stems from Steele's dossier, or so we are told incessantly. In fact, the majority of the things we've learned have no connection with the dossier. If the dossier never existed, I would still be able to write a post demonstrating that Trump/Russia collusion is a fact of history, proven beyond rational debate.

The Republicans have managed to turn something that should be absolutely damning -- Trump's association with Carter Page (an FSB target since at least 2013) -- into a net plus. My God, how is this even possible? Imagine what the Republicans would do if someone like Page had any link to Hillary!

The anti-Trump forces are doing their best to rebut the incessant lies spread by Brietbart and Fox. I've been following the news fanatically, even though I can barely keep my food down as I watch and read. If you're like me, you nodded in agreement when Seth Meyers made that crack about memorizing Rachel Maddow's blazer rotation.

Good men and women are doing the best work of their lives.Yet nothing is working. Liberals are talking only to themselves. The smears -- the impudent attempts to rewrite reality itself -- continue to take hold. Burke and Selassie have been proven wrong.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for evil men to act ruthlessly. 

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for evil men to lie constantly.

The masses prefer lies to truth because most people are, quite simply, not intelligent enough for the task of democracy. The average person's gullibility is so profound as to be indistinguishable from culpability.

Seven percent of Americans believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Fifty-two percent of the British citizenry thinks that we never went to the moon. Most Americans can't name Neil Armstrong as the first man to walk on the moon. Half of Republicans believe that Trump won the popular vote. Half of Trump's voters believe in birtherism and Pizzagate. (Seventeen percent of Hillary's voters believe in Pizzagate.) Most Americans believe that the number of uninsured citizens has increased since the implementation of Obamacare. Over one-third of our country rejects evolution. The majority of Americans refuse to believe that most scientists agree that man-made climate change is a reality.

I believe that most people use conspiracy theory as a mechanism to wipe out the reality that is and replace it with the reality they prefer.

When the majority of people use conspiracy theory in this fashion, fascism becomes inevitable. That is what the phrase "Triumph of the Will" means: The conquest of brute instinct over reality itself. People believe only what they want to believe. We prefer the self-serving delusions that spring from the most primeval and bestial parts of our consciousness.

The phenomenon is worldwide; I do not speak only of America under Trump. Not long ago, I happened across an article in Haaretz that sent me into a depression from which I have not yet recovered -- an article which summarizes the apocalypse of our time
Ex-Mossad Agent Who Helped Capture Eichmann Backs Far-right German Party With Nazi Past as 'Great Hope'

Onetime cabinet minister praises extremist group in video, saying he hopes AfD party’s ideology spreads throughout Europe
Former cabinet member and Mossad agent Rafi Eitan has expressed support for the far-right Alternative for Germany party, saying he hopes its ideology expands to the rest of Europe.
The rest of the piece is behind a paywall. Do we need more?

The question then becomes: Should we continue to fight? Yes. But do so only for the reason best articulated by the existentialists: We do what we do because that's what we do. You have to be true to your own code.

And when the fight is lost, do not castigate those who fought alongside you as weak or apathetic. They were not and are not. Once again: Everywhere I look, I see good men doing whatever they can. 

Despite their noble efforts, the triumph of Fascism is inevitable -- for one simple reason: Too many people want fascism. Americans want it, Russians want it, Germans want it, Jews want it, blacks want it, gays want it, feminists want it. All of the historical victims and opponents of fascism are now using casuistry to justify an embrace of fascism. (Identity politics plays an important role in this process.) How can we expect people who can't name the first man to walk on the moon to be capable of identifying fascism, even when they are soaking in it?

Of course, few dare call it fascism. Most of those sliding into fascism operate under the hallucination that they are anti-fascists, and that the small-d democrats are the real fascists. If you read Dugin, you will see that this upside-downism is his most important contribution to the rhetoric of fascism.

In the past, many have complained that "fascism" is difficult or impossible to define. Here's my definition: Fascism is who we are. Fascism is in our DNA. Fascism is the social system that results when the Id triumphs, as it always must, over the Superego.

Democracy is doomed because too many of your fellow human beings are wicked and ignorant. 
Thanks Joseph. Depressing but true what you have written. People consistently overrate their own judgement and the robusteness of political systems to withstand abuse. They really are children, stone age natives on some isolated shore, scanning their Ipads for signs of the next cargo cult delivery. Who can negotiate with such people.

The second ingredient is Trump. He has built a life on tearing down legal mechanisms for protecting society from people just like him. He understands the system weak points way more than most people, including the political pundits. Like Micawber he has a belief that something favourable will always "turn up." He's built his life on it. The sad part is, he's right. I guess we should adopt the Micawber philosophy. Keep your spirits up.
I have been expecting something like this (not exactly this, but...) since the '70s. Exactly because of conspiracy theory thinking, ironically enough.

Sure, there were moments of despair, when I thought of it. I have since reconciled to this fallen world and work on maintaining an ironic stoicism.

After decades, I thought perhaps it wouldn't happen in my lifetime. Life can be so surprising! Just as I didn't foresee I'd live to see the brink of the extinction of over 90% of land animals. I feel more grief for the destruction of nature, really.

The evil that mankind does is not news. But its enormity is startling.

Dunno if I agree with this, but the propaganda Republicans/Russians are using nowadays is different than propaganda anywhere else. The conventional wisdom is that propaganda works in part due to censorship either by outright banning dissent or putting it in such a tiny box that it's harmless (like they do in Russia). But that's not what's happening today. Critical voices of Trump and an exhaustive accounting of his abuses are widespread and allowed to flourish. The difference is that it is countered by Republican propaganda so that unless you are highly engaged, it is hard to tell fact from fiction causing most to tune it all out and become apathetic. And this doesn't apply just to those that don't or rarely vote. It also applies to Republicans in that those that voted for Trump but have some doubts about him decide they can't tell what's actually going on so they just throw their hands up and go with their natural conservative instincts.

I'm honestly not sure how to counter this. As far as I know, it's a new paradigm of propaganda where you just flood all sources of information with so much crap that no one knows anything so they just retreat into their default biases. The only counter that I'm pretty sure would be effective is for the goddamn MSM to do it's job and not legitimize all this BS, but I'm all ears as to how they can be made to do this. Their operational DNA is too rigid to not always assume Republicans are acting in good faith so the propaganda just gets legitimized and amplified, and they make too much money on Ds vs Rs that they don't have much incentive to switch. There has to be an answer, but I'm honestly at a loss about what to do though I think I have diagnosed the problem.
another way to look at what's happening:
Keep the faith Joe. It's the never ending battle between good and evil, always has been and always will be. I'd still much rather have Mueller's hand than Trumps. Democrat messaging really does suck, it took three days to mount a good retort and this was Carter Page. Don't underestimate the number of patriots still left, though they're now know as the 'deep state'.
The farmer in his rice paddy saw little difference between Hanoi and Saigon. To him the oppression was the same.
There a meme complete with a YouTube clip, Punch a Nazi.
Considering who did the most damage starting back in 1992 reaching a peak in 2000, ebbing in 2008 lest they be called racist, then going full howl on Hillary, it should be Punch a Newsie.
The print and broadcast news media love to report the latest Trumprage only because it reaps ad dollars. Maybe it's time to start torching newspaper delivery trucks again. That would be the kind of political action might be needed.
I am very disgusted that I have to side with a corrupt and criminal FBI that has participated in cover-ups if not actual killings, setting up bombings, framing idiot dude-terrorists, and clamping down on what happened leading up to 9/11 and the Anthrax attacks (Mueller?)- against a corrupt and criminal fake clown president and his racist crime family that have defrauded contractors and business associates and sucked Russian money into their pie-holes while dismantling the administrative state that is supposed to protect us.

Much sound and fury signifying nothing. Or, work smarter, not harder. So if you've been doing something for two years and it's only helped the opposition then do something else, don't blame the public or call them fascists because they don't go for your angle.
I haven't been following US stuff for a while. So Christopher Steele is getting framed as the bad man behind it all? Has he been accused of working for George Soros yet?

Soros is getting blamed for promoting a reversal of Brexit.

You want id? Try Brexit. The "Leave" vote was an expression of xenophobia, mostly not coming from inborn nastiness as many liberals imagine, but mostly a reaction to the extreme contempt that indigenous members of the working class have had poured on them for generations, as they've seen their living conditions go down and down. It was nothing to do with the EU, except insofar as it was a manifestation of the age-old idea that "wogs begin at Calais". Most people don't even know the difference between the European Parliament and the European Commission, let alone being able to name the members of the EU. If a person is against something they know fuck-all about, there must be more going on. The notion was the infantile "Don't let the EU boss us around", implying the cretinous "Mr Poshy Sir will see us all right", although of course that would never be admitted. Jacob Rees-Mogg is almost certain to be the next prime minister. Mark my words.

What a masterfully conducted campaign. Everything plays to the message. It knocks spots off Michael Heseltine's and Michael Portillo's under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. But neither of their dads was editor of the Times, a position which in William Rees-Mogg's time, and possibly still today, was more important than anything at the BBC.

Re. the moon landing poll (and leaving aside how spiffy it was to leave the Moon's surface and rejoin a craft in lunar orbit, with no atmosphere and the technology of the 1960s), I note the figure for disbelievers among those aged 25-34 was 73%. I've also noticed that it's the (to my mind) GENUINE videos at Google's Youtube that tend to get near-universal condemnation as "fake". Most youngsters don't have a clue what "fake" is, yet shout it all the time.

Meanwhile the CIA's Facebook gets so little opposition that it has to encourage some. That the minds of the young are mostly lost is one of the biggest difference between now and the 1960s when there were grounds for hope.

In Britain there is likely to be major difficulty bringing the harvest in this year. We are nearing the end of the Keynesian period.
@nemdam - "It also applies to Republicans in that those that voted for Trump but have some doubts about him decide they can't tell what's actually going on so they just throw their hands up and go with their natural conservative instincts."

You may find some of Serge Galam's work on "sociophysics" of interest if you haven't seen it already.

Coming at this from varying angles we all seem to be agreeing that propaganda has moved into a new stage and that something's going on with the social id.

A key moment for me was when Ed Snowden revealed GCHQ documents showing how that organisation teaches and applies advanced insights from advertising, and in particular how to reach a "critical mass" and then some. The mopping up of "laggers" can't be far off. Call it "behavioural economics" or "nudging", but its aficionados have units close to the heart of the state in several important western powers.

Meanwhile "We Have Seen The Future Of Water, And It Is Cape Town", opines waterologist Peter Gleick in HuffPo. French company "CityTaps" is targeting poor homes in that city with "smart" water meters. They're prepaid and they measure every bit of water you use and when you use it. The company also provides the billing software.

That will immediately make old hands think of Amdocs, the company that provides billing software for many western telecoms companies.

The western media practically across the board are writing in their headlines that Cape Town may be the "first" major city to run out of water. There is a very strong and a very unified message there.
The Keynesian period ended 40 years ago, b.

Regarding Brexit, I was recently at the jobcentre for a "logistics opportunity event", which was meant to bring together the unemployed and employers. There was someone from one of the big local employers long known for hiring only foreigners, Poles and the like. They were making a big fuss about how they are now trying to hire English, which might be related to Brexit maing foreigners harder to come by. Of course they weren't offering anything an Englishman would want: they were offering a place on a training course which would involve several days of working without pay with only a small chance of actual employment at the end of it, doing twelve hour shifts with eleven hours minimum wage pay per shift. A couple of the other "customers" of the jobcentre openly said they wouldn't work there because they previously have done, and experienced discrimination on the grounds of being English. The representative the company sent was some Polish girl who had licked enough boots to pull herself up by her bootstraps into admin.
You wrote: "I haven't seen the polling, but it would appear that a majority of the population, or at least a substantial minority, actually believes in the absurd propaganda line that the FBI was and is pro-Trump and pro-liberal."

This is nonsensical. I think you meant to write "ANTI-Trump".
You're right, Michael. I've fixed it. Thanks.
I am getting more like you -- depressed, and more and more hopeless for our system of government. It's broken and has reached a threshold where it's probably unfixable.

Yesterday I heard an interview with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, the authors of "How Democracies Die". One of their key points is that democracies can work mainly when the political elite respect the structures, institutions, and NORMS of the system. They fail when the elites disregard the norms and make "winning" (at all costs) their central mission. This is a highly abbreviated summary, so best read the book or listen to an interview.

I think Newt Gingrich is the one who started us on the path to democracy-FAIL. The other GOPers have gradually taken up the cause, until today when Trumpism is synonymous with failed democracy and authoritarianism.

What happened to the Dems? We continued to respect the norms and thus became the loser party. We tried to recover some of our power by acceding to GOP demands, but we still got kicked in the face. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll see that Obama was the epitome of loser-kicked-face syndrome.

Now the progressive elite are calling for Dems to "get tough" in 2018. In other words: Disrespect the norms and fight like hell. That may work, but what it means is that we are abandoning our principles because Democracy (as we knew it) has failed.

The interview I listed to was on MSNBC and focused mainly on the points made above. Here is a longer interview by Exra Klein.

Michael, in the Victorian era, people used to say that civilization depends on the vast majority of people observing rules which should never be legislated. The obvious example: No one will ever pass a law forcing you to say "please" and "thank you." Yet where would we be if everyone suddenly stopped following that rule?

In the era of Trump, all sides are forced to behave like beasts. And the most bestial will win.
@Stephen - Working class wage expenditure is still a major factor in the economy - more so than it was in say 1920 - and most people in jobs work far shorter (paid) hours than they could conceivably, and also live past the date at which they stop being useful to capital.

What sector does the big local employer operate in that hires only foreigners and sent someone to the event at the job centre? I could easily imagine a wild short-notice effort to recruit British workers to help bring the harvest in this year when the penny drops that the supply of Polish labour is at a fraction of what it was. "Work in the fields for a week and we'll give you a free hi-vis jacket to help with your employment search and keep most of the rain off when you're sleeping (and we won't remove your benefits and housing)".

I tell people that the answer to some of the problems brought by immigration is stronger trade unions that actively recruit immigrants on the same basis as home citizens. I like to imagine that sometimes my suggestion even triggers an attention spike. Unfortunately much of the left cannot get their heads around the idea that the reason for a lot of the immigration that has occurred is that the employers wanted it.
well put
Unfortunately, b, unions tend to be stronger when the people who would join them have more money, and hence they are less needed. Keep people poor and insecure and you stop them trying not to be.

The employer in question was Bakkavor Desserts, formerly Laurens Pattiseries. Big Cake. They were looking for people to go on the cake assembly line. They and the other big local employer, KnowHow (the warehousing branch of Currys, Dixons and Carphone Warehouse) generally hire only foreigners and only through agencies (one of which moved its HQ to Poland) and only at minimum wage. This has been the case for some years, so now the lower management and admin staff are also mostly Polish (KnowHow likes Lithuanians). Both companies generally have a horrendous reputation locally, for the treatment they give to workers, for the state of the facilities, for incompetence in things like letting people know what shifts they are meant to do and for corruption and theft by the security guards.

Hi-vis jackets are PPE, and hence legally required to be provided by the employer, along with the painful safety boots. If you want to keep them, you'll have to pay.
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