Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lord Save Us From the Bullshit!

While idly perusing Instapundit this morning, I was reminded of the great Law of Brandolini: that The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

The law is self-evidently true, but why? Why is it so difficult -- if not impossible -- to correct people? I no longer even try, at least with most volks. I had never thought about it before, but it must be because I intuitively understand the Law -- that to set them right will require a major commitment of time and energy.

Now that I think about it, when I was a liberal, I was pretty much oblivious to the Law. Indeed, I assumed that people were quite susceptible to correction with the usual simplistic leftist memes. But in reality, calling someone racist, sexist, or homophobic is rarely convincing. It is emotionally satisfying to the liberal, but merely off-putting to most everyone else.

In a way I envy my son, because he will not have to spend half his life refuting the bullshit he spent the other half assimilating. When I look back at the bullshit I once believed, it's appalling. Why did my parents not protect me from the bullshit? No doubt because that was when the culture and educational establishment were just beginning to take on their present outlines of being the primary transmitters of bullshit. Who knew then that our entire reality was being systematically turned upside-down and inside-out by the left?

A few prescient people, but they were on the fringes. But there is no doubt that a number of 20/∞ visionaries began noticing it by the 1950s, which is precisely when the modern conservative movement got off the ground. The movement is indeed reactionary, in the sense that it is a reaction to all the bullshit.

I just read a book -- not recommended -- on this very subject, called First Principles: Self-Governance in an Open Society. The reason it is not recommended is because the primary sources discussed by the author are so much better than the author's own analysis, which is on the banal side. However, he cites all the right people: Hayek, Weaver, von Mises, Kirk, Buckley, Paul Johnson, Hazlitt, Milton Friedman, Gilder, etc., each of whom, in his own way, attempted to cut through the bullshit.

But why does it take so much energy? I was thinking of this yesterday morning on the way to work while listening to Rush. He was discussing the wikileaks material that is so devastating to Clinton, and was, as usual, full of passion (in a positive way; there was no hysteria, anger, or resentment, as with the left).

I thought of the energy it requires to rouse this level of passion day after day, year after year. But as alluded to above, I no longer wish to do that. I want to have a calm and tranquil life. I don't like the tension. I am pleased that lightning rods such as Coulter, Milo, or David Horowitz exist, but I certainly wouldn't want to be them.

The other day in a comment, Rick asked a question about my transition from left to right, but my response was lost in the digital ether. I remembered that back in the 1990s, when writing about politics from a liberal perspective, I came to a number of conclusions that not only contradicted the party line, but pretty much blew up the whole thing -- although I didn't realize it at the time.

Specifically, I remember writing something about the noxiousness of political correctness, about the intellectual incoherence of relativism, about the bizarre conclusions of feminist extremists, and about the left's magical use of language to alter reality. In each case I naively assumed that I was just saying ideologically neutral things with which any reasonable person would agree. I mean, who could support the linguistic tyranny of political correctness, or believe that men and women are identical, or think there is no objective morality?

Right away I was in violation of Brandolini's law, as I had no idea how much energy it takes to refute these things. Indeed, you could literally spend your entire life doing so, to little wholesale effect. For example, I'm thinking of the hundreds of hours it took for Dennis Prager to get through to me. Just to refute the simple bullshit! But I'm not sure that anything short of this would have succeeded in penetrating my thick skull.

Back to the book alluded to above; in fact, back to the thread we were on prior to that, which was "principles of history."

Actually, I am more interested in Principles as such. I often think of putting together a list of simple, straight-forward principles which not only cut through the bullshit, but permanently inoculate the mind against taking it on board to begin with. Any intellectually honest person would be compelled to assent to these principles, on pain of logical incoherence, absurdity, or self-refutation. Merely to utter one would be to slay a spiritually and intellectually destructive dragon -- like holding the Cross before a vampire, or the Enquirer in front of Hillary.

Where and what are these Principles?

As I have mentioned before, the first one is surely that Truth exists and man may know it. What is the alternative? That truth doesn't exist? Or that man cannot know it? Either one is the end of all rational thought, for it is to condemn man to an absolute and irremediable cosmic stupidity.

Now if Religion is true, it seems to me that its very purpose would be to incarnate these Principles without which our minds cannot be saved -- especially from themselves. Or in other words, religion is here to save us from the bullshit, precisely. Or, let us say that a religion is true insofar as it conveys to us the Principles and cuts through the bullshit.

I want to say that Thomas Aquinas did this, but again, think of the energy he expended to get the job done! How many millions of words did he write? You could literally spend your entire life studying him, but is there an easier way, a Raccoon way, a Tao te Slack?

It seems to me that the Ten Commandments would be a fine way to start. The first three, in one form or another, are absolutely essential to mental hygiene, that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; that Thou shalt have no other gods before me; and that Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

For me, this is all really a way of saying that Truth exists and man may know it: that Truth is what saves us from slavery and sets us free; that we are not It; and that attempts to fashion our own truth separate from the one Truth are doomed to failure.

There is another principle we've often discussed, which happens to be the founding principle of the United States: that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thus, our founding document takes Principle One and Commandments one through three for granted. For example, recall that Jefferson's original idea for the design of the seal of the United States was Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt; or Hamilton's crack that the sacred rights -- and I would add principles -- of mankind are written in human nature "by the hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased by mortal power"; or Jefferson's gag that "the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time."

It only makes sense, because truth and freedom must be complementary. That is to say, an unfree being could never discover truth, and if truth doesn't exist, then we are hardly free -- rather, just condemned to meaningless horizontal drift through the cosmic bullshit.

To become cultivated is to understand that a particular class of questions is meaningless.


The leftist emulates the devout who continue venerating the relic after the miracle has been proved to be a hoax. --Aphorisms of Don Colacho.


Blogger Magister said...

"The law is self-evidently true, but why?"

Because idiotic ideas have no root. Their premises are incoherent and untrue. Their inferences are invalid.

It's like arguing with the insane.

The only success I've ever had with bullshitters is simply to inject them with unsettling facts. The only way to deal with them practically is to construct safe prams for them where they can't hurt anyone. Then make them doubt themselves, so they'll lack energy.

10/19/2016 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Bob, I'm curious about your conversion from lefty to classical liberal. Was it a gradual process with lots of fits/starts & dissonance, or did the light switch go off one day?

10/19/2016 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the old days Left said it needed x amount of taxation and power to manage and protect the American machine. Right said it could achieve better results for less. And most thinking voters stood in the middle observing outcomes to make up their own minds.

Today the common wisdom is that all politicians are incompetent bureaucrats and corrupt lobbyists who sing to their wings then go about their personal business of being completely incapable of managing or protecting anything.

An old fun one:

Maybe he was joking, but the cynicism is so bad that fewer and fewer people are even bothering with Left-Right debates anymore.

10/19/2016 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Actually, I am more interested in Principles as such. I often think of putting together a list of simple, straight-forward principles which not only cut through the bullshit, but permanently inoculate the mind against taking it on board to begin with.

That might actually make for the premise of a good parenting book. Or better, pamphlet.

Part of the trouble, at least with young minds, is the phase where they start to think they know everything and are thus inclined to believe so much that isn't so; that age of socialist susceptibility, where they reject the wisdom of their parents for a fantasy that sounds so much nicer than the real world.

10/19/2016 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...


It was gradual. Also, although the change was happening, for a long time I was in denial, mainly because I believed, along with the left, that conservatives were evil and stupid. I couldn't possibly be one of those. So although I was slowly changing my orientation, it took awhile to admit it to myself. Which is why I first called myself a "classical liberal." "Conservative" was beyond the pale.

10/19/2016 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I voted for Clinton twice, and it is even possible I voted for Gore. But the switch came shortly after that, as I was appalled at how Gore tried to steal the election. I had been leaning conservative, but that pushed me over the edge.

10/19/2016 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Funny how I really can't remember if I voted for Gore, but I think I might have, seeing him as an extension of Clinton, who mostly governed conservatively after being trounced in the 94 midterms.

10/19/2016 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't remember thinking much about politics from then until September of 2001. Bush struck me as not that different from Clinton, just a moderate Republican where Clinton had governed as a moderate Democrat.

On September 12, 2001 I bought me a Koran for the same reason Thomas Jefferson did, to find out what Islam was really all about. That's when I found out the extent to which the left was lying about it. After that I discovered Little Green Footballs -- which was then a bastion of sanity (!) -- and began posting wisecracks as Gagdad Bob. I did the same at ShrinkWrapped. Someone at ShrinkWrapped dared me to start my own blog. End of story.

10/19/2016 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Interesting. The first election I could vote was Reagan/Mondale in 1984, and I actually voted Reagan. Mondale seemed so feeble minded, so I went with my gut and actually liked Reagan even if I didn't agree with all his policies at the time. Then went off to college and got indoctrinated (culturally, not academically, since I was an engineering major). Then I voted Democrat every election since. 4 years ago I came so close with going with Romney, but sadly I didn't. Now, this election I was so ready to vote Republican. And then we got Trump... who I really dislike as a person. Talk about dissonance.

10/19/2016 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Ted, mainman Greg Gutfeld's apt quip:
'I may not like Trump but I KNOW Hillary hates my guts'

10/20/2016 03:59:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Talking about voting Democrat -- I've gone the same direction but started from a different place. I always voted Republican interspersed with Libertarian, partly because I smoked dope back in the day. I was happy enough with the cons/neo-cons up until about 2006 when the Republicans tried to push through their Dream Act, and I started to think about the globalist/nationalist split.

We are the world ain't workin'. Free of association is a basic human right. Bad company corrupts good character.

10/20/2016 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Abdulmonem Othman said...

Golden nuggets. I can not resist coming back despite my disagreement with many things you assert,but most of what you assert are heart filling. Yes it is the law of Brandolini viewed from a wider angle that positive energy outweighs the order of the negative energy, water always moves from the high to the low. When I read you I always view things from the vertical overview and not from the limited vision of the horizontal view, in line with what you advocate. Truth do exist and some do recognize it and try to align their understanding of truth with the only one divine truth, truth do exist and some deny it and refuse to a bide by it and that is why you find them always in an unstable and dissonant mode. Self-sabotaging by accepting the assumptions of the misled others is dangerous. God did send his instructions to humanity in vain but to help the feeble mind of the human to see the right way, also to overcome the heavy burden of the information overload and the drift in the human mental wandering. They say listening to silence is a good tool to ward higher consciousness in order to move away from the religious and cultural boxes that prevent peoples from seeing the demand of the time, one god,one humanity and one earth.

10/20/2016 12:00:00 PM  

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