(Note: Presently a complete mess, but it's getting there. By the time the essay is finished, I'll probably have changed, removed, or moved much of the prose currently present in this essay. The points will be the same or similar, but at present it should be considered as a set of notes rather than a finished explanatory essay. The essential message is here and I'd rather people read it in rough state than not read it at all. If one reads the current version through in its entirety, I believe they will get the point. The point is simple and so the essay ought to be simple, yet I've been trying to put it in words for years. The way this is shaping up, I might call it a sequel to A Doylist Perspective on National Debt. The hypotheses are distinct, but it illustrates an example that supports this hypothesis. That essay is reasonably complete, it contains fourteen citations, and generally it makes a sound argument if I say so myself. After that essay, the reader should have questions about how such a thing could come to be the status quo. I'll probably rewrite this essay here extensively to make it more dialectical and coherent, to put more emphasis on salient points, to include some new material I've developed, and to remove some of the extra fluff. My essays could probably be organized into a full "learning resource" if I gathered the motivation. [[AP295 (discuss • contribs))
"But two, you have to remember, that year, a large number of citizens had in effect seen through the government. I mean, there was, I remember it myself and some of you younger people who have read about it; there were riots in the streets and on campuses, there was the feeling that not just an appalling thing had been done to the people of Indochina but a terrific rape of the American Constitution had taken place, that Congress had been lied to, that the system was breaking down. Well, if they knew what the Nixon gang was up to and had been doing and how easy it was to continue to make end runs around democracy, what might have been the harvest? In my opinion, this, by the way, will hold true in all cases. What unites both major parties is much larger, greater and tighter than what divides them." -Christopher Hitchens
Americans rightly expect honesty, accountability and self-determination. Complacence can turn rightful expectations into exploitable presumptions. For example, the presumption of a free, competitive market does not admit the possibility of price fixing. Collusive arrangements such as price fixing undermine the public interest. When a large market is dominated by a small number of 'competing' firms as in an oligopoly or duopoly, collusive arrangements are typical. [Note 1] I hope to demonstrate to the reader that both major political parties in America are presently operating on a horizontal agreement with the help of a complicit mass media. In other words, the Democratic and Republican parties maintain a cooperative relationship. To be clear, I'm speaking of their leadership and financiers. Supposing for a moment they have a more or less competitive relationship, we take two things for granted. First, they'll act like competitors and generally try to out-compete one another for public favor. Second, at least one must have some degree of commitment to their ostensible ideology, as this is what supposedly divides them in the first place.
OLD MATERIAL BELOW, REDUCE AND INTEGRATE ABOVE-------
Our politicians are not ideologues with differences of opinion, they are essentially actors. Political media is designed to sustain a polarized and thus politically impotent middle class. This is achieved by a diegesis, including the dramatized depiction of two parties vying for control with participants representing all political roles, such as, pundits, protestors, internet personalities, educators, forum participants, and so on. To summarize, the two-party system as it presently exists is not a reflection of inherent ideological differences but a conscious and deliberate effort to defraud the public. As in the price fixing example, there is a clear-cut motive for collusion. The dialectical structure of this essay is essentially a reductio ad absurdum argument to refute the notion that the republican party and democratic party (or more specifically their leadership and major financial/material benefactors) have a chiefly competitive relationship. This would imply collusion and that so much political media is put forward entirely to defraud the public. I shall make use of the terms Doylist and Watsonian, and the astute reader might interpret this as somewhat rhetorical. While these terms are convenient descriptors and reflect my understanding of the status quo, the reader has every right to expect a dialectical line of reasoning, so for now let Watsonian and intradiegetic refer to any communication or discourse that occurs under the assumption (implicit or explicit) that the democratic party and republican party (more specifically their leadership and financial backers) is largely competitive rather than collusive. Conversely, Doylist and extradiegetic should be understood to mean the opposite. [Note 2]
In order to lend some authority to this dubious matter, I'll address some substantiative prior work by Christopher Hitchens and George Orwell. The sources cited should be read in their entirety. The portions quoted are most valuable for our purposes here if the reader understands their context. In his essay "On the Imagination of Conspiracy", Hitchens corroborates the idea that politics and political media in America are fraudulent in the manner stated. He does us no favors with the title, the essay itself is not particularly fanciful. He quotes several portions of a novel entitled "Winter Kills", and the relevant portion I will likewise quote here. "Nick used to think that there was the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. It had taken Keifetz a long time to explain why this wasn’t so, but after that, after Nick had been able to comprehend that there was only one political party, formed by the two pretend parties wearing their labels like party hats and joining their hands in a circle around their prey, all the rest of it came much easier". Hitchens gives his own answer: "That's put slightly cheaply: all the same, it makes more sense than the drear convention that two opposing parties contend in the 'marketplace of ideas'." Precisely so, just as collusion is a parsimonious explanation for high prices under a duopoly. Shortly after, he quotes "The Pickering Commission had operated like arms, elbows and fingers upon a silent keyboard. They had played all the notes – the score was surely there to be read, but they would not allow it to be heard. The Commission had announced Stephen Foster when they were actually playing Wagner. Surely, critics who had followed the true score should have pointed that out?" Again Hitchens responds: "A good question, but perhaps one that only literature can answer. ‘Critics’ – the press, the academics, the think-tankers – do not care to admit that they missed the big story or the big case. Nor do they get their living by making trouble for the Establishment. A novelist, however, can listen for the silent rhythms, the unheard dissonances and the latent connections." So there it is. There are many additional salient and strongly allusive points in this essay, which often take the form of quotes from other authors. So seems to be Hitchens' habit on this subject, and it comprises a petty inconvenience in that one can't directly attribute them to Hitchens himself. Rather than quote half the essay, I leave the reader to it. Hitchens' work is in general a mixed bag, but very much worthwhile. While this coyly-styled disclosure lends credit and and allows him to take some credit, he does seem to have a supporting role in reinforcing the perception of dichotomy, which I will talk about later on. It's likely that all participants are obliged to use the Watsonian context when speaking about politics. This is the first and last roman à clef I will reference. Rather than look for truth in fiction, we shall look for untruth in reality.
Hitchens provides another relevant work, "No One Left to Lie To", an excellent book on the subject of Bill Clinton. The book's first chapter begins with a quote from a novel. Importantly, the quote itself appears to have only incidental relevance to the book's content: "To have the pleasure and the praise of electioneering ingenuity, and also to get paid for it, without too much anxiety whether the ingenuity will achieve its ultimate end, perhaps gives to some select persons a sort of satisfaction in their superiority to their more agitated fellow-men that is worthy to be classed with those generous enjoyments—of having the truth chiefly to yourself, and of seeing others in danger of drowning while you are high and dry. —George Eliot, Felix Holt, the Radical". This quote only barely makes sense in the context Hitchens uses it, a fact which becomes apparent only after one reads the book. Rather, it makes more sense in the context of his essay. The remainder of the book serves to discredit the presumption that such collusion is unlikely on general moral grounds (I wish that were the case, but sadly not). Consider for example chapter six, entitled "Is There a Rapist in the Oval Office?". [Note 3] Hitchens' "The Trial of Henry Kissinger" also reveals a pattern of moral bankruptcy and a general lack of common decency. It demonstrates the wide disparity between reputation and integrity of character that can be maintained by members of the political class, which also implies a complicit mass media. These individuals reflect the culture in which they are embedded. In summary, Hitchens corroborates the hypothesis directly and in addition, his work refutes the presumption of general honesty, good character and morality on part of the media and government in the United States, via reductio ad absurdum. Much more can be said about Hitchens and his work and I've written more about him elsewhere, yet I've not decided whether or not such analyses belong in this essay.
This collusive arrangement subverts America's middle class, at least partly relieving government of its obligation to the people and to common moral principle. Voters registered as democrats will tend to be very forgiving of a democratic politician that appears to be holding the republican party at bay and vice versa. The public's expectation of morality and principle is subverted by the apparent danger of an opposing party. One no longer considers politics in terms of the public interest, justice or morality. To a large degree these imperatives are fudged, with both the archetypal left and archetypal right being seemingly well-defined in watsonian terms but quite vaguely and incongruously if one tries to isolate objective principles or moral standards. One is encouraged to "vote for the lesser evil". [Note 4] My essays A Doylist Perspective on National Debt and Should public policy mandate vaccination? each include an example of how this act is used as a smokescreen to shield private interests from public scrutiny. Orwell observed in "Politics and the English Language" that political language itself had become somewhat abstract and subject to whatever interpretation is expedient: "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality. -Orwell, Politics and the English Language" [Note 5] A fraudulent two-party system satisfies the need for propaganda that does not rely on vagueness alone but also commands a sense of urgency and willingness to defer principle. One party acts as a foil for the other and vice versa. This supports a narrative or diegesis that allows the media to make specific, credible statements like "Trump did this", "Biden did that" etc., but carefully avoids setting an example of critical discourse that generalizes beyond this narrative. The language used therein becomes idiomatic and laced with connotations rather than something one could use in a neutral, literal sense. Many terms wind up being characterized more by their association with the characters or faction they're applied to rather than the other way around. For example, "Biden is a communist", "Pence is a racist", "Trump is a nazi", "X is a libertarian", "Y is a facist", and so on. This makes them more broadly applicable in the watsonian sense but less descriptive in the doylist sense. In other words, they become idioms. These idioms are often strongly suggestive of party allegiance, which makes the dialect still less useful. "Look to the language", Hitchens twice implores in his essay, again quoting from another author. This contrived dichotomy has a watershed effect upon middle class Americans such that their political allegiances are no longer based in common ground. Members of the public are attracted to the archetype they find least repellent and then "vote for the lesser evil". The language of this diegesis is specific in many instances, but also deliberately inapposite and lacking in expressive power in an extradiegetic i.e. Doylist context. One should probably avoid using these terms in political conversation. Orwell gives a few recommendations in his essay. Most political nominalized verbs and adjectives are easily and justifiably discarded, i.e. politically-charged words ending in -ism, -ist, -ity, -tion. This is no great loss because they lack descriptive power in the first place.
Perhaps the ideal model of social communication in favor of collusion is a bipartite graph between the public one hand and bad actors on another. That is to say, an arrangement that allows the dissemination of propaganda and limits communication between potential comrades, preventing a more natural state of allegiances from arising on its own. For decades there has been an ongoing concentration of media into fewer and fewer companies and organizations. Prior to widespread internet access, the means of impressing this diegesis upon the public consisted of analog media such as television, radio, news and literature. The consumer does not participate in these forms of media, and the political argot disfavors communication between members of the public. Internet communication renders the geographical division of political allegiance less reliable. To maintain the credibility of this diegesis, a believable picture of discourse and discussion must be contrived while at the same time limiting meaningful discourse in a way that is not obvious. This is probably accomplished through the top-down management of search results, recommender algorithms, social media and discussion board policy, discussion board design, and astroturf internet communities. A search result that favors e.g. reddit, quora, stackexchange, twitter, etc. will generally serve to keep people within those communities. It seems a fair assumption to make that while there may be a great number of participants, these actors comprise a relatively small fraction of the population. Therefore, people must be corralled into one of a few social media websites, where policy and design can discourage self-organization and social transmission while encouraging or at least explaining away political division. Another artifact is apparent homogenity of culture, which must necessarily be somewhat debased from its natural state. A gratuitous amount of lip service and general policy is paid to "diversity". Typically this is a euphemism for diversity of ethnic background, though the implication (or expressed purpose) is that a diverse community engenders diversity of thought. Nonetheless, one is struck by the sheer apparent dichotomic uniformity and conformance to archetype that is consistent across these large platforms. As Mark Twain once said, "Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep 'til noon."
In my essay Policy and Standards for Critical Discourse I discuss policy guidelines that likely favor social transmission and how it may be disfavored by several popular websites. One could easily presume that the structure and content of a user-driven website such as reddit is representative of public opinion or consensus despite being shaped largely by policy, design and management. In a more general sense, the media implies a causal relationship that is not necessarily true. That is, popular demand and participation is implied as the main factor that influences media exposure. Under this assumption, one may reason that valuable or scandalous information would quickly end up on, say, the front page of Youtube, Reddit, or be a best-seller on Amazon. Bayesian reasoning then suggests that if it is not conspicuous, it is not valuable. However, if Amazon puts a list of books on their front page and calls them "our most popular books", then of course this is self-fulfilling to some degree. Likewise, reddit topics, news article, quora questions and the like are extensively indexed by search engines and often first-page results. One can interpret first-page search results, along with "most upvoted", "best selling", and so on, as "well-promoted". There's a certain distortion, or deliberate misassignment of responsibility here. We are meant to assume that this is the free market at work, but control over public opinion and behavior is a far more profitable venture than honest critique or objective discourse even if it's given commensurate media exposure. The latter are what they are, but Hollywood, for example, can make up (or remake) as much fiction as they want, year after year. Conversely, Hitchens once said that most of his books didn't make back even the small amount of money he was paid to write them. Most people already understand this to some extent, but at the same time it's frequently presumed that that the media more or less gives people what they want.
It's important to consider a simple concept from probability theory called "explaining away". Everyone is familiar with this concept already, but to illustrate exactly what I mean I will contrive an example. Suppose your post office usually opens at 7:00 am, and that you stop by 7:05 am but find the door locked. If you check the date and find that it's Columbus day, then you almost completely rule out the possibility that the building is locked because the person who works there is running late. In other words, if there is more than one explanation for some observed effect or result, evidence in favor of one cause reduces the probability of others. If we have a reasonable explanation for something and it seems to be the consensus, we tend not to go looking for other explanations. This is not willful ignorance nor is it abnormal, yet it can be exploited nonetheless because mass media is not physical reality. We have evolved to perceive and process physical reality, not a dubious representation thereof.
I will comment on a few Wikiversity resources that are written by others and which I feel are representative of wider trends in media and popular culture. I ascribe no particular intent to the authors, the contents simply serve as convenient examples of ideas that have become part of the public consciousness and that I feel are at least somewhat misguided. First, consider the resource Special:Permalink/2560411#Confirmation bias and conflict. There are several issues. Language is indeed the problem, but it's not that different parties speak mutually unintelligible language. Political language is perfectly understood by each party's counterpart, at least in the watsonian sense. The problem is that the political langue de bois is humbug altogether and difficult to use for making effective critical arguments outside the media's diegesis. Perhaps the most serious issue though is the very first bullet point. According to Paul Graham's hierarchy of disagreement, one should generally aim to refute the central point of something they disagree with, so I'll try do that now, or at least make a counterargument: People do not generally ignore information that is inconsistent with their prior beliefs or go out of their way to seek only information consistent with their prior beliefs. It is with interest and not disinterest that most people respond to information that does not jibe with what they know. There's a good case to be made that our minds learn using something like Bayesian integration (I'll find a reference or two later). This process would not work if people were in the habit of ignoring information inconsistent with their a-priori knowledge. It's just not true to say that "Everyone prefers information and sources consistent with their preconceptions.". That's not how the mind works. The reason people behave strangely with political media is because it's manipulative hokum that is designed to evoke a fight-or-flight response, an amygdala hijack. Let's put this in Doylist terms outside the media's diegesis, just to drive home the point: suppose you're watching the weather station and learn that there's a raging, thousand-acre wildfire about ten miles upwind from your house. You would certainly prefer that this were not the case, but you would not have a preference or tendency to defer to your a-priori knowledge of this situation (the weatherman has very little to gain by lying about a wildfire), which suggest there exists no fire at all, and then change the channel because you don't like the weatherman's tone. In other words, you'd prefer that there were no wildfire, but very much prefer to know if there is one. The structure of online discussion and in general the ongoing polarized state of public opinion is explained away by the hypothesis of confirmation bias. Wikipedia's page on confirmation bias very nearly say so point-blank, right after the lead. (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Confirmation_bias&oldid=1182621296) The very first sentence "Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values." It's not even stated as a hypothesis, but as though it were a fundamental tendency of humans behavior in general. Unbelievably, this is a featured article. If confirmation bias occurs at all, it's very much the exception rather than the norm. There's Practicing Dialogue/From Demagoguery to Dialogue, which I've only just read after having already written much of my essay here and the other essays I cite in this resource. The first couple paragraphs bear a superficial likeness and seem to hit the right points, but it ends up being the same trite lecture about divisiveness one reads all the time, with a heavy loading of metaphor, vagueness and watsonian pomp. It suggests "refereed dialogue", appearing to imply that people are incapable of discourse without a mediator. Again, polarization is explained away, in this case by the implied willful ignorance on part of the public. If that were the whole truth, then what would be the point of writing about it? Naturally I agree that conversations should be productive, and none of the bullet points are per se bad, but most of them are just obvious things that anyone would do e.g. "uncover assumptions, gather information, increase clarity, challenge inconsistencies, resolve ambiguity, think critically, dig deeper, identify helpful shifts in viewpoint, and improve inadequate research, reasoning, or presentation". My counterpoint is this: Most people will usually recognize and strongly prefer truth and logic when they see it. So long as they aren't primed with an amygdala hijack e.g. by political idiom or other cues, most people are likely to be reasonable and objective.
Not all political and social discourse has strong partisan connotations. Lacking any archetypal talking points, such "neutral" commentary is often hopelessly vague, indefinite or overly broad. Typically it does not impress any specific, actionable objective or precisely describe salient or novel information with appropriate emphasis and attention to detail. It would be hard to put it any more succinctly than Orwell did when he observed "The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract [...] --Orwell" This would have been a fair statement to make about my own earlier attempts at writing this essay. For some time, I found myself at a loss for words, and for longer still I found my attempts completely unsatisfactory. Consider the current list of Wikidebates, most of which seem quite detached in terms of social relevance. I elaborate in my short essay The Parody of Debate. Several other examples can be found right here on Wikiversity, e.g. Special:Permalink/2475003#Natural Inclusion, which I'm unable to make heads or tails of. The page Special:Permalink/2574331#Information is a public good: Designing experiments to improve government seems to presume its own hypothesis, offering no substantive argument. I had a conversation with the author about it Special:Permalink/2574661#Talk: Information is a public good: Designing experiments to improve government. The critical point here is that the article presumes the hypothesis "information is a public good", which at face value seems false. I suggested that the resource should instead make a statement of moral intent or imperative, Information should be a public good, and work from there. In that case, we can conclude that copyright law is an obstacle. Indeed, without copyright law I think mass media would be far less viable. It would not have to be repealed entirely, probably just rewritten so that non-commercial redistribution (with proper attribution) cannot be punished. This would not prevent anyone from publishing propaganda at any scale, but in this case mass media cannot be explained away as a reflection of consumer demand, since there is no overt profit motive besides imposing information upon the consumer. This is the difference between is and should be. When we mean the latter we must say so. There is nothing wrong with stating a moral imperative, people don't do it often enough. One commits a distortion of language if they misstate a moral imperative as a scientific hypothesis. It does not make the statement sound more objective, it just sounds presumptuous. Consider this: isn't "black lives should matter" a bit less grating than "black lives matter"? Doesn't it hit the ear a just a bit more sympathetically? Of course it does, one cannot help being sympathetic. Conversely, the latter is hypertensive. Does this really not occur to the millions of people who have the signs in their lawn? Or perhaps it does and they simply don't care, but if that's the case then it does no good in the first place and they're just posturing, which seems remarkably exploitative for someone concerned with social justice. I imagine many people put them out with good intentions, mimesis of example set by our great leaders and politicians. A road lined with good intentions, absurd as the metaphor is. In a televised discussion between Hitchens and Packer on the subject of Orwell, they remark that (paraphrased and summarized, as the interview is laced with idiom) while Orwell was genuinely concerned with social justice, most of his apparent enemies were on "the left". He did not subscribe to the odd, wishy-washy, so-called 'humanism' that seems to characterize the leftist archetype. Packer quoted a line from Shooting an Elephant, "With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts", which makes a different impression outside its context, e.g. "As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans." Orwell's sentiment is very human.
The public is so frequently impressed with the mass media's idiom, words like republicans, democrats, left, right, socialist, communist, fascist, etc. that the "average person" could be excused for expressing their thoughts in an apparently partisan or subjective manner. Less obvious is why intellectuals like Hitchens and Chomsky (and I'm sure I could come up with other examples) apply this dialect without apparent need. For example, in broadcasted interviews with Hitchens, he and the host go well out of their way to remind the audience that Hitchens is a "leftist". In "Manufacturing Consent", Chomsky makes frequent reference to things like "right-wing extremism". These archetypes and tropes are driven into the viewer or reader's consciousness like a railroad spike. It is hard to believe that Chomsky, a linguist, and Hitchens, an otherwise extremely articulate and precise writer, would do this without realizing that it has little relevance to their message. For instance, anyone with a shred of conscious, whether they consider themselves "left" or "right", would very likely agree that it was wrong for Kissinger to murder General Schneider of Chile. Anyone would agree that a serial rapist is not white house material. Anyone would agree that a state-run and/or corporatized, warmongering mass media is not likely to serve the public interest, but Chomsky calls it "right-wing extremism" (or something to that effect) which sets the discourse firmly within the media's diegesis. One can observe this pattern in many critical works, and it appears that these intellectuals and critics are compelled to reinforce or maintain an air of partisan bias. I suspect that any mainstream political critic is obliged to adopt an archetypal persona and make frequent reference to the argot of two-party politics. In other words, criticism is "allowed" but only if delivered in such a way that it does not build up public consensus against the status quo. Hitchens seems to have had a particular dislike of Kissinger and Clinton and does use a more dialectical style in his books about them, but generally it's put to the viewer/reader pretty directly that he's a "leftist" with possible communist sympathies, or "far-left". It does not necessarily reduce the value of their work in scholarly or journalistic terms, but the work is undermined in terms of its value to the public and its potential to build consensus and enable activism, becoming no more than journalism and scholarship for its own sake. It is a matter of public record that at least two of our last five presidents were frequent flyers on Epstein's "lolita express", along with a bucketload of influential Hollywood personalities. Judged by any reasonable standard of morality, our "leaders" and cultural icons are unsatisfactory, to say the least.
Jefferey Epstein was arrested for sex trafficking in 2019. His Wikipedia bio states the following "Epstein owned a private Boeing 727 jet and traveled in it frequently, logging "600 flying hours a year ... usually with guests on board". The jet was nicknamed the Lolita Express by the locals in the Virgin Islands, because of its frequent arrivals at Little Saint James with apparently underage girls.". The article states that some of his passengers and friends were very high-profile politicians from both parties, like Trump and Clinton. A couple years prior to his arrest, the "QAnon" conspiracy popped up. Here is the lead of Wikipedia's page on "QAnon": "QAnon[a] (/ˌkjuː.əˈnɒn/), or simply Q, is a discredited far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles run a global child sex trafficking ring and conspired against former President of the United States Donald Trump during his term in office. QAnon is described as a cult.". While the Epstein scandal seems to have involved members of both parties and quite a few other people in positions of power, this widely-promoted conspiracy theory has a clear partisan slant. Was this conspiracy theory intended to preempt backlash and the emergence of a credible scandal in the public consciousness? Does it exploit our conception of opposing interests between the republican and democratic parties to shield the leadership of both from public scrutiny? There appears to be a great effort to position this information in the minds of the public as the dubious fruits of the archetypal "right-wing conspiracy theorist's" hobby, rather than what is in fact (as far as I know), public record that implicates many of our so-called leaders and other people with influence and money of the crime of rape. Hitchens observed in passing (I believe it was an old interview) that American society tends to be non-judgemental: "In this country where people love to be nonjudgmental when they can be, which translates as, on the whole, lenient, there are an awful lot of bubble reputations floating around that one wouldn't be doing one's job if one didn't itch to prick". We often consider this a positive trait, yet a society reeks of cowardice and apathy if it only requires a slight cast of doubt to keep most of the public from even discussing an uncomfortable issue, let alone building consensus and forming an actionable objective. In that it marginalizes rape victims, the me too movement is another example of a subversive public relations strategy. What impression does the phrase "Me too" leave? It sounds like a bandwagon, a fad, a twitter trend. Indeed, it was promoted all over the internet. It is part of the same familiar pattern whereby a group with legitimate grievances and actionable goals are misrepresented to the larger public via social media. The character and nature of the group is debased into an archetype (left, in this case) that is mutually exclusive with certain others, and a cheap parody of what it ought to represent. Incidentally, I find it very hard to believe that foreign policy objectives like promoting women's rights and education in Afganistan are set down out of genuine concern for the edification of Afganistan's women themselves rather than simply being talking points to build up a justification for costly and heavy-handed interventionist policy. It is my own belief that if ethics and/or morality can be derived from first principles, those principles must be the right of any given group to self-determination and the right not to associate against their will with others. That is to say, any given people deserve to exist without their lives being managed or exploited by outsiders, to the greatest extent that natural resources allow. Yet always it seems that these principles are undermined by the idea that we must impose upon others, to fight communism, to promote women's rights, or whatever the issue of the day is. I do not consider these two principles I've stated to be dogma, but simply a metric by which one can judge whether or not any given action or policy is likely to be a danger to liberty and decency. Orwell got it right when he said that political speech is largely the defense of the indefensible. It is easier to build consensus with a common moral ground, and yet often we are cajoled to endorse various contraventions of these two principles in the name of social justice. No, I do not think the middle east should be able to monopolize oil, but if it's the distribution of natural resources at stake or some other objective, then would it not be better if the public were simply told so rather than being impressed with some odd distortion of morality and ethics every time it's convenient to establish casus belli? Of course the question is rhetorical. It would be better for the public, not so much for those who'd otherwise abuse the nation's military and other public resources for private interests. The false ideological differences that separate middle-class America can be resolved through the two principles I've stated. To build moral or ideological consensus, one must begin with a set of agreed upon principles and go from there. In this manner I believe most differences within the middle class can be hashed out. Neither the supposed ideology of the media's archetypal left nor right is internally consistent. A person without ulterior motives will generally listen to an appeal to morality and principle, and engage in building moral consensus. Anyone who genuinely believes in some sort of ideology (or at least has some secular ideals) should not be thought of as suffering from hydrophobia. Regardless of how misguided, they are someone who will act upon principle and will also listen to good principle. Someone with an ulterior motive may or may not, but the contrapositive suggests that someone who puts on ideological airs but refuses to engage despite appeals to common principle likely has an ulterior motive. In addition to moral common ground, an argument based in separating the public interest from private interests and drawing conclusions from this starting point is also likely a good approach. I must admit I don't get many opportunities to try these methods, but at the very least, they appeal to common ground and do not involve any politically-charged diction.
A-priori, one would reason that the people of a given demographic will generally have common material interests and tend toward common cultural interests. The individual political "positions" (if reasonably embedded into some vector space, as Guy vandegrift alludes to) of a given population should form clusters that at least roughly reflect the demographics of that population. White middle-class Americans are arguably the largest voting demographic in America. It should seem extraordinarily odd then, that the political affiliations of white, middle-class Americans form a stable dichotomy. The reason I mention this demographic is not because I feel political affiliation should necessarily be divided along racial lines, but because the present division within this specific demographic is an aberration. It is especially strange because even in any given town or city, there will be many, many white middle-class Americans who live together, work together, get married, etc. and yet have separate political affiliations, to parties that ostensibly support opposite ideology and opposite policy, and are ostensibly antagonistic to one another. As a result, this demographic is politically impotent. I want to stress that this does not imply other demographics have more political influence per se. In any case, the reader must be capable of admitting idea that America's landscape of political allegiances and ideology is unnatural, which is probably easier for those who are at least somewhat conscious of ethnic identity. This is exactly the sort of person who'd be frustrated by the media's "race-baiting" (I don't like this idiom but it will serve for now), and in spite of good intentions, might find it hard to adhere to expectations of "political correctness." In a sense they've gotten the short end of the stick, essentially being gaslighted by the media. Emperically it's white, middle-class America in particular whose political unity is undermined. Yet perhaps the most direct, frank, and concise statement one could make to suggest contrary should be true is, "white americans must unify". Presto, you're a "nazi". You may now be antagonized as though you have genocidal intent. White middle-class Americans really are the group who stand to lose the most from this collusion, debasement of culture, and general lack of ethnic unity. That is what makes gaslighting anyone who points this out so effective. It becomes a self-fulfilling accusation, and I suspect that this pattern creates far more "nazis" than it dispenses with, which is quite a shame. One must avoid falling into this trap, though like other propaganda that reinforces this collusion, the main effect is to limit social transmission. To put it another way, it seems difficult to express the idea that this division is an anomaly without being misconstrued as advocating racial political unity, which I suppose to some degree, one is, but not with evil intent. So much online propaganda is designed to maintain this chilling effect. So, add mass psychological abuse and exploiting the holocaust to the list (looking at you, wp:nonazis). In the same vein, the media's promotion (even glorification) of the idea that one's identity is something that exists in the imagination rather than something physical, genetic, or mental (in perhaps a less whimsical sense) seems to discourage accurate a-priori reasoning. One must be open-minded, but perhaps not in the way most people would expect. There will always be someone ready to fill our minds with humbug, and so the skeptical, self-styled "social conservative" is probably in a better frame of mind to deal with media subversion than most, and it's no coincidence that "political correctness" disfavors such traits. media isn't about promoting diversity, but exploiting diversity and then shamelessly and cynically gaslighting anyone who dissents while at the same time cajoling and aggrandizing anyone who will knowingly or unknowingly condone this fraud. "And by the way, we'd like you to take this very safe and very effective injection. All of you. And think of the children, you don't need any guns... etc. etc." I've speculated in the past that political affiliations and the media's archetypes in general are a surrogate for tribal unity and the sense of social cohesion and desire for self-determination that go with it, and I still believe this is to some degree the case for middle-class white Americans, though I don't want to give the point more or less emphasis than it's due. If one tries to make this point outright and are even the least bit clumsy about it, or even worse use euphemistic language, it's far too easy for someone to misrepresent your point and your intent and not much harder to gaslight the writer or speaker to subvert them entirely. Probably something for the wp:nonazis crowd to consider.
Another quote from Hitchens (one of his books, I'll add a reference when I remember which one): "Some statements are too blunt for everyday, consensual discourse. In national “debate,” it is the smoother pebbles that are customarily gathered from the stream, and used as projectiles. They leave less of a scar, even when they hit. Occasionally, however, a single hard-edged remark will inflict a deep and jagged wound, a gash so ugly that it must be cauterized at once. In January 1971, General Telford Taylor, who had been chief prosecuting counsel at the Nuremberg trials, made a considered statement. Reviewing the legal and moral basis of those hearings, and also the Tokyo trials of Japanese war criminals and the Manila trial of Emperor Hirohito’s chief militarist, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, Taylor said that if the standards of Nuremberg and Manila were applied evenly, and applied to the American statesmen and bureaucrats who designed the war in Vietnam, then “there would be a very strong possibility that they would come to the same end he [Yamashita] did.” It is not every day that a senior American soldier and jurist delivers the opinion that a large portion of his country’s political class should probably be hooded and blindfolded and dropped through a trapdoor on the end of a rope." A bit harsh for these progressive and enlightened times, but perhaps somewhere there's a rock quarry or uranium mine in need of a few very honest workers. Here on Wikiversity, there was (apparently) a debate entitled "Does Hillary Clinton eat children", which was removed, and then referenced on the Colloquium page to make the case for "some parameters" about what is or isn't acceptable conversation, on grounds that such topics are outrageous and non-factual. [Note 6] Yet suppose had it been asked "Does Bill Clinton rape children?" While his purportedly frequent trips on the so-called "lolita express" with Epstein and Hitchen's book "No One Left to Lie to" are hardly conclusive proof of anything, and while it perhaps would not have been exactly the right way to frame such a debate, I don't think anyone could have written off the question as complete bunk. The point isn't about Bill Clinton though, but about the media and government as a whole and the corporate interests they serve. Epstein apparently had many "friends" and quite a lot of money. That would not have been the case if Clinton were a single, isolated example. Convenient that the most important witness expired in custody. The media's brevity and amnesia is also surely appreciated by many.
We've had far better public servants in the past. I see no reason we can't have decent leaders again. Jackson was a genuine patriot. He was not a perfect man, but quite possibly the last president who actually saw the job through and tried to do right by his nation. He was the last president to keep the nation out of debt. Leaders, officials and public servants should be judged by their decency of character, honesty toward the public and ability to lead. Domestic policy and law must be judged in terms of the public interest, and foreign policy must in general be non-interventionist as it is wrong to impose. He said it best: [Note 7] "But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government. The power which the moneyed interest can exercise, when concentrated under a single head and with our present system of currency, was sufficiently demonstrated in the struggle made by the Bank of the United States."
What Is to Be Done? I can appreciate the title if not the contents of Lenin's pamphlet. Except in its scale, this problem is no different from any other cheat, swindle or fraud. It is morally indefensible, but perhaps just as bad, it is aesthetically indefensible by way of its cowardice, dishonesty, and the sort of culture that favors and follows from these traits. The media has taken on such a quality of unreality, homogeneity, and rhetorical absurdity that it strains credulity to the breaking point. Hitchens' writes in essay, "Most instant reporters are so wised-up that they become innocent: taking politicians at their own valuation. Thus Kennedy the Youthful and impatient, Carter the introspective, Nixon the drive, Regan the folksy and so forth, ad - if not indeed well advance of nauseam." Hitchens' comment seems to be on the mark, I've also noticed that propagandists in online social media and mass media in general take a certain relish in it, but their behavior is abnormal. Even though they subscribe to these storylines, they do so from a different point of view than the citizen. It's likely that most people are not happy with the political situation in America and probably have at least a vague idea that something's not quite right. The media would have us believe that it is impossible to plausibly communicate such a conspiracy and Hitchens at least partly dismisses this presumption of incredulity: "Mass culture in America, contrary to report, has no great resistance to believing in official evil." The diegesis is likely contrived at least in part by some or other think tank, well-informed by statistics, data, and psychological research. Its object is to convince the public of a falsehood. To disabuse the public, I believe that a reductio ad absurdum argument will be both sufficient and necessary, and I have attempted to compose such an argument here. It is still in progress and there are a few things that should probably be changed. It must be trimmed of any and all flowery, indirect or pompous language, which I have tried not to install in the first place. It must be sharp enough to cut. There are a few important rhetorical points I want to emphasize in the meantime, first just to have them in one place for myself and anyone else who wants to contribute to this essay, and also for the sake of the hypothetical reader who finds themselves of a similar mind and/or in a similar position as myself. I don't remember if Orwell said anything about this, but it seems a good idea to avoid the abuse or overuse of adjective phrases, which is a habit I'm trying to break. They add fluff but not much else, often sounding wheedling when positive and like yelling when negative. One never wants to sound deadpan but I must remember not to throw them in just out of habit. Avoid using any language that feels characteristic of either 'the left' or 'the right'. There is always another way to say what you want. One should frame political discussion with common moral imperatives such as the public interest, common decency, self-determination, and other principles that are self-evident and valued by anyone who's not a psychopath. However, one should generally avoid other nominalized adjectives and verbs with political connotations, which generally end in -ist, -ism, -cy, -tion. I'd use "liberty" instead of self-determination but sadly 'liberty' is also poisoned in the watsonian context (and restored to its full power outside that context). A smaller and more specific argument that raises serious questions, particularly questions that the diegesis cannot and does not answer is probably a better intro than asserting conspiracy as a cold open. I hope my essay A Doylist Perspective on National Debt fits the bill, so perhaps something like that. No doubt one could draw more contradictions. Always remember that your job is easier. It's far easier to convince one's compatriot of the truth than to make them believe a lie. When one gets into the habit, dialectic and reason come far more naturally than the wooden language of vague associations and partisan tropes everyone is conditioned to use. At first I thought it would be pompous to give this advice, but what could be more pompous than the distortions, lies and subversive diegesis people receive every day from mass media? It's absurd to modestly defer to an authority that shamelessly exploits this deference, so do not be discouraged by the know-your-place type of argument or assume an apologetic tone or style.
Some of my comments in Talk:Information is a public good: Designing experiments to improve government are relevant and should probably be included somewhere. I'll copy them here for the time being so I remember to do so: The sentence "Between around 1975 and 2000, the major commercial broadcasters in the US fired nearly all their investigative journalists and replaced them with the police blotter. It's easy and cheap to repeat what the police say. " catches my eye. It's a good point and I skimmed the source very quickly. It doesn't seem particularly remarkable. What is so often implied by various critiques of mass media but hardly ever said explicitly is that control/influence over public opinion is by far and away the most valuable 'asset' of mass media. Ergo, no media company should ever be implicitly "trusted" or considered a "trusted source". The idea that so many media organizations are trusted sources, reliable source, etc. is impressed upon the public ad nauseam, and rarely ever challenged directly. Wikipedia even maintains a list of such sources which users are expected to defer to and encouraged to use, while primary sources aren't even allowed. Shouldn't this provoke at least a few questions? Isn't this largely part of the problem right here, that we are encouraged to take honesty for granted even though it's widely acknowledged that these companies have ulterior motives? AP295 (discuss • contribs) 02:11, 25 November 2023 (UTC)
It's funny, Wikipedia's list is here wikipedia:Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Perennial sources. The first sentence reads "The following presents a non-exhaustive list of sources whose reliability and use on Wikipedia are frequently discussed." Despite this and other clumsy doublespeak, the list is essentially an endorsement of mass media, thinly camouflaged with a partisan skew so that the reader isn't quite in an objective frame of mind as they browse it. AP295 (discuss • contribs) 02:42, 25 November 2023 (UTC)
In short, it seems impossible to reconcile the idea that government and media should be trusted with the well-proven fact that they are frequently dishonest and profit from it not only in the form of money or other income, but also by avoiding accountability to the public and the law, in some cases even for serious, long-running criminal behavior. These people can't be brought to account if we're still using phrases like "reliable source" in reference to any given major media network. I hope you'll consider this and let me know what you think. Despite our disagreement about what constitutes a "public good", I certainly agree with the sentiment that there are large problems with mass media and government. You can't address this issue without first saying, in no uncertain terms, "mass media should not be trusted". Dissent is necessary, but so many people aren't prepared to even offer it lip service in the form of such a statement. Instead they beat around the bush, hemming and hawing about what's to be done to 'fix' mass media and encourage honesty. It's amusing to consider hypothetical conversations like the following "Joe: The media often lie, they have strong incentive to lie, it's not even clear how to make them stop lying. Bob: Maybe we shouldn't trust mass media. Joe: Well that's a bit paranoid, don't you think?" Clearly absurd. Nobody can really call you an idiot for distrusting the media, despite how strongly we're encouraged to think otherwise. AP295 (discuss • contribs) 09:09, 25 November 2023 (UTC)
That's all I've copied over for now. We could even build the joke a bit further: "Joe: The media often lie, they have strong incentive to lie, it's not clear how to make them stop lying, it's not even clear how to stop the crimes that make such lies necessary. Bob: Maybe we shouldn't trust mass media. Joe: Well that's a bit paranoid, don't you think?" Perhaps I'm laboring the point, yet here we are. It can use as much emphasis as possible and then some. I made some edits to Wikitionary's definitions to "conspiracy" and related entries, but not from any grievance against the term. Not once have I been called a "conspiracy theorist", nor any of its numerous and uncomplimentary synonyms. If I were to be called a conspiracy theorist by someone, I'd probably not assume they're trying to subvert whatever provoked the response. People who are wised up probably know better than to use the label against a sound argument, because they know they'll be asked questions that they can't (or won't) answer. If they're not acting in good faith and the situation guarantees they'll have the last word then they might make an exception. By-and-large though, the "conspiracy theorist" stereotype is something of a boogeyman or scarecrow, lest anyone fear being labeled a conspiracy theorist or a nutcase. The average Joe isn't that stupid. Sure, if one's argument is tainted by partisan idiom then this is the attack surface that will be exploited and then from Joe's point of view you are plausibly full of shit. On the other hand if your message is comprised of potent truths and you've removed the political idiom from your lexicon, you may find that bizarre, uncanny disinterest becomes a common response. A positively freakish lack of curiosity to borrow a phrase from Hitchens, which he used to describe V.P. Al Gore Junior's reaction to a rather serious question, apparently asked during some sort of PR event in Derry, NH. The quote is from chapter six of "No One Left to Lie To" and the chapter (really the whole book) is such an excellent example of critical prose that any paraphrasing would bastardize it and so I'll quote just this: "But all of this is paltry detail when set against the one arresting, flabbergasting, inescapable realization. For the first time in American history, a sitting Vice President has been asked whether or not there is a rapist in the Oval Office." I'd be thrilled, practically giddy, to be called a conspiracy theorist in the context of a two-way dialog, especially by someone who appears to have a genuine sense of social justice or ideology. It's an opportunity to enlighten a fellow compatriot and potential comrade. As dismissive or subversive responses, labels such as "conspiracy theorist" will only stick until your argument becomes truly sharp, if they do at all. I don't know how I'll organize it, but I intend to eventually have either a separate essay or a section in this essay for rhetorical matters. If one misspeaks or says the right thing in the wrong way, they'll get a dressing down. (should quote orwell here) I'm sure plenty of people have the right instinct but fail to properly articulate what needs to be said, most often in the mode of simply not saying anything. Other times they are subverted in discourse. For example, you may get a reply that appears to have been written as though you've said something different from what you actually have, attempting to put you on the defensive or steer the argument toward an unrelated tangent. In this case it's best to stay on-course and I will expand upon this in due time. Broadly, it's in no small part a rhetorical problem. To look at an extreme case, a feral child is mute for lack of example and not for lack of ability. Likewise, mass media neither demonstrates nor reinforces well-adjusted social behavior. Compare whatever schlock is on the front page of any "perennial source" to a work like "No One Left to Lie To" or "The Money Masters". Completely different, not just in content but also language and character, so to speak. When a VP is asked if the president is a rapist (and indeed plausibly so) and appears disinterested, then moral outrage is indeed the proper response, which Hitchens commendably demonstrates. Being a millennial, the Clinton presidency was not something I followed, but you'd still think that the reading of an obscure book like Hitchens' would not be the first credible and convincing encounter one has with the notion a recent and still-living president may actually be a serial rapist or demonstrate the appropriate response to such information. One almost feels encouraged to think moral outrage is unfashionable or a social problem to be managed or handled with care, reading something like Motivation and emotion/Book/2023/Moral outrage, which seems fairly representative though the example it posits is absurd and suggestive (people are more likely to be outraged by being forced to accept injected pharmaceutical product than by others refusal to do so). Hitchens remarked, "'Evil?', 'Wickedness?' The ability to employ these terms without awkwardness or embarassment has declined, while the capacity of modern statesmen to live up to them has undergone an exponential rise since Lord Macaulay so crisply profile Frederick 'the Great'." It is not normal. Even before ethics and morality, isn't this status quo insufferable just on aesthetic grounds? It's like watching a troupe of chimpanzees raid The Louvre for nesting material. Impossibly vulgar, yet here it is right before us. Doesn't it piss you off? AP295 (discuss • contribs) 11:05, 25 November 2023 (UTC)
I will also include some of my comments from https://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:conspiracy_theory&oldid=76826075: Perhaps more meaningful than the number of search results, the google ngram viewer suggests that the usage of these two synonyms has diverged sharply since the year 2000: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=conspiratorial%2Ccollusive&year_start=1950&year_end=2019&corpus=en-2019&smoothing=3&case_insensitive=true Stranger still, this is not the case with their corresponding nouns "conspiracy" and "collusion". One might interpret this as an increase in the use of "conspiratorial" to label arguments and perhaps a conscious avoidance of the word "collusive".
This seems to indicate that "collusion" is a good choice of words. Not that I'd have ever considered "conspiracy", but perhaps even more telling than the increase in the use of "conspiratorial" indicated by the ngram viewer is the corresponding and nearly equal decrease of "collusive". If anyone can explain this, please leave a comment on the discussion page. It's almost like a memo went out to a large fraction of 'popular' authors instructing them to use "conspiratorial" instead of "collusive". Looking at the google book search links on the bottom of the ngram page for "conspiratorial", a large number look like the usual political tripe you'd see Amazon hawking on any given day. Color me surprised. This is a pretty neat tool and I'm sure one could find more interesting relationships. From what I can tell, the ngram data is available for download but not the text dataset from which it is computed, which would contain a lot of copyrighted work. A linguist coauthor would be nice to have. I have to say this is a rather lonesome project. I can't be the only person who's similarly concerned or motivated yet I don't see anyone else talking about the problem like this. AP295 (discuss • contribs) 19:22, 30 November 2023 (UTC)
If it seems like I quote Hitchens rather often, it's because he's one of only a few journalists I can think to cite. There's hardly very much salient journalism from mass media, which shouldn't be surprising. His Wikipedia bio cites a paywalled article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, pessimistically entitled "Christopher Hitchens: The Last Public Intellectual?" On the one hand it seems like a ludicrous suggestion but at the same time it's hard to argue with. At any rate, it doesn't seem as though google gives very high priority to independent sources like blogs, journals, small forums, etc., instead favoring commercial sources, websites with product reviews (which all look strikingly similar and contain plenty of links to commercial sources) and the few limited discussion websites I've already talked about like reddit, quora, etc. It would be a bit melodramatic to say that the internet itself has become nothing more than online shopping and mass media yet it's not too much a stretch either. I'd certainly appreciate recommendations. Mass media rarely criticizes mass media, and such occasions usually occur within a partisan context to perturb the reader's sense of objectivity, keeping a short but effective guardrail between them and the inescapable conclusion oh, it's all bullshit. In any open discussion in a place like reddit, youtube, etc. you'll notice how quickly at least a few users are to add worthless, partisan comments, even when they add nothing whatsoever to the discussion. Part of what makes this scam so socially and culturally destructive is that it necessitates constantly setting a poor example of discourse wherein nothing is solved or concluded. LLMs no doubt make this process more efficient, making it possible to implement this deception with minimal human intervention. This is part of what I feel that ChatGPTs social benefits are so highly overrated and practically insignificant compared with its potential for repetitive, socially destructive propaganda. This is all common sense, so don't be fooled by the constant positive media exposure that LLMs like ChatGPT seem to get. I'll take speaking with a real person any day. Generally, the structure of online communication on websites like youtube, reddit, etc. is engineered to ensure that you have as little impact to the bottom line of the status quo as possible. To prevent organization and connection while making politics seem like a futile and worthless endeavor altogether.
- A decent alibi can falsify an allegations such as petty theft, hit-and-run, and so forth, but collusion may be difficult to falsify. Unfalsifiable statements like "all men are mortal" can be taken for granted. Conversely, it can be hard to construct a convincing argument to support an unfalsifiable hypothesis in the absence of salient empirical evidence. Collusion can be as simple as a gentleman's agreement. The point is, one must be open to the possibility.
- Suggestions are welcome. When I first started thinking about this I was somewhat at a loss to even put it into words. After a bit of looking around, intradiegetic/extradiegetic fit the bill. Guy vandergrift suggested doylist/watsonian, and I think they are more conversational so that's what I typically use. In the context of this essay though, they are somewhat more rhetorical than dialectical and perhaps I should even replace them. Any comments or suggestions about this or anything else about the essay would be highly appreciated. So to be upfront I don't intend them to be suggestive, much less circular, and I ask the reader to forgive (and leave a comment about) any rough edges such as this while I get it into shape. While I feel I've improved my critical writing skills substantially in the last couple years, this essay is still quite hard to get right. At first I was concerned with how I might "convince" others or if it would be possible to do so at all, which is perhaps not quite the right way to look at the problem. Reason is superior to persuasion. Fraudsters cannot apply sound reasoning in their interaction with the public. Reason is the prerogative of the citizen and patriot, and not of lying scuzz. I do not intend to scrub the essay of all rhetorical devices and emotion because it is also an appeal to the reader's sense of justice and principle. It must be so, and I doubt anyone truly dispassionate about the issue would bother to write about it at all. I'll mention here that I'm tentatively open to collaboration if anyone wants to help coauthor this, but I insist on vetting any contributions first. It would probably be easiest just to have a chat first and make sure we're on the same page, and then go from there. The framework is already here and in my other essays, yet there are many other angles to this and it seems like I notice something new each week.
- Interesting though that Hitchens will call Clinton a rapist outright, and use an entire book to do so, but he only speaks to the two-party fraud itself by stringing together quotations from other speakers or writers. Having read a few of his books an essays, my impression of Hitchens is that of a reluctant and begrudging participant in the two party fraud. If I were to give pointers on how one might read Hitchens to get the most out of his work, I'd say that one should read it for the prose itself while ignoring the partisan cues. It's a rare treat considering the debased imitation of critical writing that Americans are brought up on via public education and media. While I strongly suspected collusion before I ever read Hitchens, I was sure I had it when I read On the Imagination of Conspiracy and it perhaps saves this essay from incredulity as well, along with his other work. His interviews also turned my attention to Orwell. His work is a gift that keeps on giving. Incidentally, I haven't read his anti-theistic material, mostly for lack of interest/motivation/time on my part. Nor yet have I read the novel "Winter Kills", though I probably should. Hitchens had the authority to quote a fictional work and imply a non-fictional origin, but I do not. It's interesting to consider how he (or anyone else) comes to know about this collusion. It wouldn't surprise me if he had figured it out for himself (as I had, if you'll forgive the impropriety) but the line I quoted suggests if not implies that many including himself were/are told in confidence, though who knows. Whatever the case, he apparently felt he had to get it out of his system, and I feel that way too. I don't presume to be an author, much less an author of Hitchens' caliber, less still to fully understand his motivations. Nonetheless, I think the quality of his work diminished over time. If one cannot say what they want, then eventually one changes what one wants to say, which can debase or destroy a person's character entirely. I frequently use the word "parody", and while I cannot speak with certainty, it seems to make a parody of those involved. A democrat before is a democrat after, likewise a republican, yet one would not act with the same motives, candor, or genuine principle in mind. Instead they become a caricature of themselves, just as live ikizukuri is so often arranged in a rough parody of its living form for the 'benefit' of the diner. One must not only try to stay outside of the diegesis, but apart from it.
- Hitchens wrote an essay "Against Lesser Evilism", though it's behind a paywall and I've not yet read it. The problem of "lesser evilism", as he calls it, should be quite apparent in any case.
- The budget of fair use should grant me the privelage of quoting a few more sentences from Orwell's essay: "When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases – bestial atrocities, iron heel, blood-stained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder – one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine." One has to appreciate Orwell. It perfectly captures the uncanny and faintly disturbing quality of so much media that is hard to put into words but gives one a feeling of unease.
- oldid 2560122, Section I_think_we_need_some_parameters_for_Wikidebates
- Say what you want about the practice of dueling, but I can only imagine that a man who fights dozens if not hundreds of armed duels for honor and principle alone, and sometimes apparently in spite of social expectations, will generally not bullshit you. He seems a diametric opposite to the shameless, morally bankrupt and compulsively dishonest people we often honor in present times. Today it seems that honor and principle are portrayed as either unfashionably quixotic, or as an instance of immature and base masculinity, motivated by ego or insecurity. Passivity is called "maturity". We are expected to put up with lies and shamelessness and act like mincing cowards, and many do. It would take a lot of guts to actually risk being shot dead in a duel, with only honor on the line. I don't know if I could. However, one admits no small amount of delusion into their mind when they allow themselves to believe such a thing was mere barbarity or mental pathology.
Additional notes and works of interest: I watched an interview of an author name George Packer. Hitchens was the interviewer, with Orwell the subject matter. I've had one of Packer's Orwell compilations on my bookshelf for a while but hadn't read much by Packer himself. Just now I've had a very quick cursory look at some of his newish work, though some of it is behind a paywall. It drifts quite near genuine Doylism and appears to hit the right points, yet it is still decidedly Watsonian. At some point I will take a closer look. It hardly matters how close one gets to extradiegesis, it does not harm to the propaganda machine because words like "narrative" become trite and dilute when they are used as metaphors rather than in a literal sense. When one uses a phrase like "republican narrative" without actually identifying collusion, the point is entirely lost. Even the word "collusion" itself was taken for a pretty good ride by the media, e.g. "trump colludes with the Russians", "biden colludes with china", etc. It's annoying but not really an obstacle so long as it's made clear who is colluding with who. The words "division" and "polarization" are similarly abused. This is why the lead paragraph of this essay has to be very precise. If one isn't, the media's metaphors and idioms can call to mind something entirely different from what one is trying to say. I apply "collusion" at first in an economic sense, but then use "horizontal agreement" instead for my statement of the hypothesis. It's jargon, but still descriptive enough that one gets the message. It's just the first synonym of collusion I found when I looked for one. This belt-and-braces approach will hopefully steer well clear of encouraging any presuppositions. It's somewhat spoiled by the essay's location in "socialism", but I did not originally put it there. It started off as a comment I made on another user's essay on socialism, and they moved it into this resource. If one takes a certain view of "socialism", then I suppose it fits but that's precisely the problem. I'll eventually find another spot for it, but I digress. I intend for this essay to be honest and dialectical, but rhetorically durable and compact as well. I imagine that limiting the variety of words one can use for describing and speaking about something is a good way to ensure that such discourse is vapid and tiresome, so I suspect the media generally would not use words like "horizontal-agreement" and "archetype" when "collusion" and "stereotype" already serve their purposes just fine. I really couldn't think of a single synonym for "collusion" offhand.I'll probably also say something about other Hitchens interviews (in which he's typically the interviewee), particularly the ones with phone calls. The callers are often sufficiently partisan and melodramatic that it strains credulity. They're just a bit too convenient.
Further reading edit
- Hitchens, Christopher. The Trial of Henry Kissinger.
- Hitchens, Christopher. No One Left to Lie To.
- Hitchens, Christopher. For the Sake of Argument.