Friday, September 20, 2013

Charles Manson, Liberalism, and Information Theory

Okay, I get it. Information theory is not your thing. Well, I'm also reading a book about the life and times of Charles Manson. Would you prefer that we talk about him?

It's a really outstanding book, not the least bit sensational or exploitive, and very well written. Not the sort of thing I'd usually read, but it got a rave review in National Review, and I like to have something on hand that doesn't strain the Gagdad melon.

It's not just about Manson, but about the whole cultural milieu(s) that made a Manson possible -- not the least of which being the Haight-Ashbury scene of 1967, where he found himself shortly after being released from prison in March of that year (by then he was 33, and had already spent most of his life in reform schools or prison).

The chaotic environment of the Haight -- full of troubled souls in denial of their troubles -- was the absolute perfect setting for a sociopath to ply the emerging trade of self-styled new age guru. There, where reality wasn't real, his abnormality would appear normal. He began deepaking his charismatic chopra to vulnerable dupes, and the rest is history.

Charlie was never much of a student, but during his last prison stint leading up to his 1967 release, he took a deep interest in two prototypes of modern-day self-help snake oil, the benign clown Dale Carnegie and the malignant clown L. Ron Hubbard. He took formal courses in How to Win Friends and Influence People, and drank deeply of Scientology. Of course, the last thing on his mind was "self-improvement" in any ordinary sense of the term. Rather, his goal was "other-manipulation" for purposes of helping Charlie.

In short, he just wanted to learn how to exert power over others.

So in that sense, he was a huge success. Aside from new-age guru, the only other career path consistent with his skill-set would have been politics or self-help books, but he obviously wasn't straight enough for those paths. So instead he practiced retail politics on the people around him, manipulating them to his advantage and organizing his own little community.

Not to compare the two, but I am reminded of Obama's friction-free passage through the liberal education establishment, in which he seems to have assimilated little but the fashionable leftist pieties and cliches of the day, resulting in nothing left standing in his head but the will to dominate and control others via politics. You might say that leftist politics is sociopathy for conformists.

Thus, if Obamacare should remain the law of the land, rationing alone will be responsible for killing many more people than was Manson. Leftism kills. Always has, always will. We'll leave it to God to sort out whether such destructive ignorance is culpable or invincible.

The book is a real page-turner, but I'm only up to Charlie in the Summer of Love. Which sounds "ironic" -- what with the juxtaposition of love and mass murder -- but of course there was nothing healthy about that disease-ridden revolt against human nature. It carried the seeds of its own violent implosion, and one of the seeds that landed there was a charismatic guru named Charlie.

Does any of the above have any possible connection to information theory? Yeah, probably, since everything does -- at least everything made of information, such as a human being. (Perhaps a better way of putting it is that information -- i.e., the logosphere -- is made of person(s).)

"Financial crises," writes Gilder, "are no more a product of evil machinations than are hurricanes." Rather, "If you build your house with the wrong stuff in the wrong place, with the wrong algorithm, you may be hit."

Likewise, if you build your psyche out of the wrong stuff -- for example, envy, ideology, the will to power, etc. -- things may not go as planned.

Again, in order for the economy to function, we need to conserve low entropy carriers such as the rule of law, stable families, religious values, etc. But the same principle applies to the successful individual. In Manson's case, there was no stable psychic foundation whatsoever, and genetics -- i.e., temperament -- took care of the rest. Or in other words, if you nurture nature in the wrong way, you're courting disaster.

How and why did the economic *surprise* of 2008 occur? Well, it "suddenly made transparent the values that had been artfully rendered opaque when packaged as low-entropy money and debt instruments."

In short, what we thought were boring, low-entropy investments turned out to be full of turbulence and downside surprisal. Investors thought they had transparent information about them, when the instruments were actually quite opaque, and were suddenly revealed as risky ventures instead of safe havens. And when the low-entropy carrier fails, then you've got economic chaos.

It reminds me of the parole board that released Manson from prison in 1967. Interestingly, even Charlie knew that this wasn't such a good idea -- that while he might appear stable in the low-entropy environment of prison, left to his own devices in the high-entropy world of reality, he wouldn't be capable of ordering his life:

"At the age of thirty-two he was finally going to be free again after almost seven years.... The facade slipped; Charlie panicked and told Terminal Island officials that he didn't want to be paroled after all. He felt safe in prison; he didn't think he could adjust to being outside again. If they let him out, he'd end up doing things he shouldn't."

No dice: "the wheels of the penal system bureaucracy were turning. On the morning of March 21 [1967], Charlie found himself out on the sidewalk with a cheap suitcase and his guitar, not certain of where to go."

And to make the same pattern immediately relevant to the news of the day, check out Krauthammer's column on the Navy Yard mass murderer. Again, liberalism -- in this case, deinstitutionalization -- kills.


julie said...

Not to compare the two, but I am reminded of Obama's friction-free passage through the liberal education establishment

Heh - the phrase "like shit through a goose" suddenly comes to mind...

As an aside, I wouldn't necessarily take yesterday's dearth of commenters as signifying a lack of interest; I get the impression a lot of people suffer a lack of slack these days...

ge said...

there's a REAL-GOOD album by an intimate player of your Manson era & crowd-- this:

one tune [not on YT] is even subtly devoted to a session Terry the famed producer had w/ Charlie

"Halls of Justice."

It seemed like a simple audition
there were just a few songs getting sung
and i had no way of knowing then
it was me about to get hung
now it seemed like another audition
people singing songs of peace
and brotherly love
I just can't imagine what
they must have been thinking
I never dreamed what they were thinking of
now I'm walking round those halls of justice
I keep looking for some old place to hide
I'm going through those halls of justice
that whole trip's got me so high
I just know I got to get off of this ride

julie said...

Again, in order for the economy to function, we need to conserve low entropy carriers such as the rule of law, stable families, religious values, etc.

I was thinking last night of the old trope of the scientist trying to build a perpetual motion machine. It seems as though life itself - leading up to the inventive scientist who comes up with ever more ways to expand human development - manages to far surpass any mere conservation of energy. And so the right circumstances allow for growth to happen where once the was either brute stasis or outright decay.

The word was god...

ted said...

I was enjoying the information theory thread very much! Just finished Gilder's book (excellent read). It's a great corrective/accompanying idea to the traditional notions that over-privilege order, and modern notions that over-privilege matter & energy.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Likewise, if you build your psyche out of the wrong stuff -- for example, envy, ideology, the will to power, etc. -- things may not go as planned."

IOW's things get FUBAR.
As for good intentions, itseems to me that those who claim they had good intentions and yet don't feel guilt or remorse for the destruction they caused (or resort to blaming a scapegoat) are flirting with spiritual disaster.

Kurt said...

I read your posts everyday, amigo. Sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn't, but either way I always appreciate the time you put into what you write. And when it does click the seeds you plant are incredibly fruitful. I'm still chewing over things you wrote years ago and still reading and re-reading books you have recommended. Don't fret the lack of comments. Go with what's on your heart each day.
And that reminds me - does anyone else wake up each day with a song playing in their head? This morning it was 'Sea of Heartbreak' by Don Gibson, for some reason...


Christina M said...

Song in the head when I wake up? Yes. Not every day, but when it happens, it tends to be trying to tell me something important.

I just ordered Gilder's book and America 3.0 through your website this week for my husband's birthday present. I can't wait to get my hands on them, as well. One of the writers is from Chicago Boyz which is a blog I used to read a lot. Have started to again, because of your book reviews.

Much of this seems to be going hand in hand with things I am reading: "Catholic Social Teaching & Economic Law: An Unresolved Tension," by Thomas E. Woods and "What's Wrong With "Distributism," another article he wrote.

I find myself butting heads with the Leftist Rear End of the Catholic Church and with the negative thinking of the Protestant Apocalypse/Rapture/Left Behind folks a lot these days.

John Lien said...

What Kurt said.

And yes, I often do wake up with a song in my head.

(Perhaps a better way of putting it is that information -- i.e., the logosphere -- is made of person(s).

Trying to make a connection here to what I read at Ace's last night. Some article about a much simpler way to model particle collisions. What got my attention was the statement.

Physicists have discovered a jewel-like geometric object that dramatically simplifies calculations of particle interactions and challenges the notion that space and time are fundamental components of reality.

If reality isn't space and time maybe it's the Logos/information underneath it that generates space and time. I dunno, just speculating here.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I woke up to Lunatic Fringe playing in my head.

Open Trench said...

Mr. Lien:

Trench POV on physics:

Time is generally defined as a session of shopping.

Space is known as the coordinates where the articles purchased are placed.

Entropy is where you enter to take a wee-wee after all that work.

Quantum Mechanics: Men who fix planes for an Australian air carrier.

Quark: You know. Happens sometimes when air gets in there.

Song playing in head: Lady Gaga Poker Face.

Olden Ears said...

I seldom leave a comment because I don't get to your blog until much later in the day than most. By then everything's probably been read and said.

Your discussion of Gilder's book has been interesting. I haven't bought it only because my stack of unread books needs attending to.

America 3.0 sounds too optimistic to me. I expect to see America 2.1, 2.2, 2.25... It will be a long slog. My children and grand-children will live in a country resembling the more inefficient and corrupt parts of South America.

Gagdad Bob said...

I agree that it is too optimistic. Their proposed solutions are great, but the idea that they'll ever be implemented strikes me as conservative political science fiction. I think the Catastrophe has to come first -- and even then, leftists will continue to be in denial, since leftism is a substitute religion, not a proper philosophy.

John Lien said...

You might want to consider raising fish in that cee-ment pond of yours.

Gagdad Bob said...

Finally, a philosophical explanation of tenured stupidity.

"More impressive still were the results among the professors. Whether I considered a large university or a small college, a famous institution or an obscure one, I found that the same fraction s of the professors are stupid."

And as suggested in this post vis-a-vis Obama,

"A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person. The corollary of the Law is that a stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit."

Van Harvey said...

I've been thoroughly enjoying the Information Theory posts. But lately the only time I've available to read is on my phone during short breaks in the day, and for well over a month now, I can't sign into blogger on my phone.

Arghhh! It's like reading a book without a pen... drives me nuts.

"Likewise, if you build your psyche out of the wrong stuff -- for example, envy, ideology, the will to power, etc. -- things may not go as planned."

And of course, we have an educational system designed to promote students who have at the very least, 10%-20% of what they 'know' to be 'stuff in the wrong place'. What else do you call an 'A' 90% proficiency means 10% wrong stuff is not only allowable, but to be striven for as 'good enough', and a 'B', 80% proficiency as being 20% of what they 'know' to be 'stuff in the wrong place' (how's that for a twist on the old 80/20 rule?).

And that 'stuff in the wrong place' which they 'know', is compounded annually.

Such a shame that so few people, so few parents, stop to wonder what that 'good enough' is most good for.

There's a lot of Bad that can be done, when you are ignorant of the fact that a large percentage of what you approve of, promote and do, is seriously bad stuff, which has been passed off to you as good enough.

Van Harvey said...

Gagdad quoted "A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person."

With a caveat. Stupid people, truly stupid people, are no threat, because they, like Dirty Harry, know their limitations.

It's the intelligently stupid people who are as dangerous as dangerous can be - they know they're smart, but they don't know that what they've accepted as 'true' is truly stupid.

But the most dangerous sort of all, is the willfully stupid, the intelligent person who knows that what they know isn't so, but willfully persist in believing in, acting on, and promoting it, anyway.

Hundreds of millions of horrible deaths, and lives little better than death, are the result of their willful stupidity - and very likely charged to their souls.

Olden Ears said...

"I think the Catastrophe has to come first..."

It's truly amazing how many people - and not the preppers or apocalyptic evangelicals - are expecting it soon.