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Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Unverifiable World

A picture used to be worth a thousand words in that fanciful interval between the court painting and the photoshop when a photograph was thought to have an unfalsifiable quality. That too was an illusion and the Communists were doing their own crude photoshops, removing purged leaders from photos around the same time as the invention of the ballpoint pen. But now the photo is a thing that is hard to take seriously. They are too easy to fake and the proof of authenticity involves a debate so technical that it becomes easier to tune in to an argument about quantum mechanics.

The photograph and the video have become collections of pixels that can be tampered with to make the unreal, real. Like all realities now, photographic reality is entirely subjective. There is no reason to believe in a photo. Not when even major news organizations routinely run photoshopped news photos from their stringers.

The linguistic side has more than kept up with the technological side. Bad arguments are now a science. There are research studies on the best ways to produce talking points in response to a scandal. Every topic can be infinitely argued without any hope of resolution because the technology of bad faith debate is now widely accessible.

The fields of facts are just as bad. Don't like a study, produce another one. Don't like these numbers, find some other ones. Everything from polls to credit ratings can be juggled as many times as necessary and while that may not change reality, the only time reality is encountered is when it punches through the paper mache display. And when that happens, everyone just patches it up again.

Global Warming has become a creed without the science, whose enthusiasts keep cooking up numbers to prove what they know is true. Such behavior is hardly unprecedented in science, no matter what the PBS documentaries you watched as a kid may have told you, but it's the default mode in all fields now. Science has become a religion with ten thousand quarreling prophets threatening to burn each other at the climate change stake.

The proliferation of bad faith experts, experts for hire and amateur experts means that there is more bad science than there is good science, more wrong ideas than right ideas, and no interest in turning the leaky boat around and finding some safe harbor on the shore.

The advancement of civilization depended on developing methods of sorting ideas based on objective standards while the program of the left has been the politicization of objectivity. Without standards there is no way to agree on anything without resorting to force. This force does not necessarily have to be physical, it can simply mean seizing control of enough institutions to distribute a manufactured consensus to everyone under the control of those institutions.

That is how the left works for now, but that's just a sophisticated version of Lenin's plan to take control of Russia by seizing all the banks and telegraphs. And no legitimate consensus can be achieved through this method, only the perpetuation of a cultural war fought between those who control the institutions and those who do not. This war is not really about the truth, because no argument can ever be settled when the tools to settle an argument are no longer a part of our politicized institutions; it's always about control. 

Our civilization is sophisticated enough to deconstruct everything but incapable of constructing anything. We're still capable of a certain amount of technological innovation in the consumer realm, but outside of it we have slowed down to a crawl. Anything that can make life more convenient and entertaining for the individual in the urban and suburban cradle is shooting forward, but anything larger than the individual has ground to a halt.

The Federal budget is bigger than ever, but the space program is dead, military innovation is limited and the infrastructure is crumbling. Between 1900 and 1960, the state of the country was transformed with big projects and big ideas. In the next 60 years, the home was transformed by consumer electronics and the family fell apart. The city decayed and was replaced by the suburb. The great national projects were no longer dedicated to building the country, but to massive social welfare.

Intellectually the implosion was far worse. Everything was deconstructed and nothing was constructed. The objective was replaced by the subjective. Reason was replaced by emotion. Canon made way for trend. Dada's aggressive need to destroy everything for the sake of destruction became the motivating principle in literature, architecture and art. Each new revolution in the senseless existed only to make what had come before irrelevant, only to then be destroyed in a new revolution. Each new revolution was more subjective and less structured, a secret language into an individual psyche that could only be decoded by the artist, rather than a meaningful communication of values to a society.

Even as communication methods were undergoing tremendous technological leaps, there was no longer anything to communicate. What began with the primitive printed volume has dead-ended in a billion people arguing endlessly with no ability to convince each other of anything because they no longer share any common values or standards. Their only mutual reference points are to popular culture which they break down down into sub-languages and memes, reverting back to the pre-civilized methods of communicating by referencing common narratives, instead of common ideas.

Savages can kill each other, but they can't communicate with each other. You can't prove anything to a savage, because a savage does not believe in objective standards of proof. The savage is a subjective creature. All he knows is what he feels and he is unaware and unwilling to discuss the process through which the ideas that shape his feelings have been communicated. This is his ultimate taboo. For the savage, communication is a means of asserting his own strength and power. That is a phenomenon you can study in the Amazon or in YouTube comments. It is not a means of achieving an understanding because for the savage there is nothing to understand. Understanding requires thought and the savage feels, rather than thinks. Only those ideas which come to him as emotions and embody his sense of self are integrated into his worldview.

In the age of the savage, communications can be sophisticated in scope and technique, but empty in content. The savage can develop sophisticated languages and means of transmitting words, but he cannot make the words mean anything. He can deconstruct language, but all he can do is toy with its meanings. The savage does not use language to communicate by transcending his subjective self with an objective understanding, rather he degrades language by distorting it so that it only reflects his subjective feelings, rather than objective truths. Everything the savage says is a lie, because all his ideas are expressions of his feelings. A truth that transcends his feelings is foreign to him.

For the savage, truth is not found in an authenticity conveyed by logic or evidence, but in emotional authenticity. He cannot be communicated with, only related to.

The savage engages in emotional displays reverting to the most primitive form of communication that depends not on ideas, but on intent. For the savage, intent matters more than ideas and his ability to discuss an issue is limited to the bad faith or good faith of the other party. The savage is not interested in numbers or facts. These things are, like everything in his world, subjective.

A set of numbers that is communicated to him with a believable emotional display is more convincing to him than one that is conveyed without the same display. The numbers mean nothing to him, even if he is educated, it is only the emotional display that he processes and reacts to. One plus one does not mean two unless he feels emotionally that it means two. If he does not feel it, then he can engage in complicated arguments for why it does not. Or he can bare his teeth and shake a stick.

A savage world is a mysterious and frightening place where nothing can be proven except by a show of force or emotion. There is no cause and effect and nothing happens by necessity. A rule may mean one thing one day and another the next. The inconsistency cannot be conveyed to the savage because his mind lacks any notion of consistency. The world of the savage is a changeable place that follows only those rules that he accepts at any given moment.

The savage is creative, but not stable. He can move by leaps and bounds, but he cannot progress by steady effort. He often hits on shortcuts to achieve his short term goals, but his moves depend on intuition rather than logic. He does not solve problems by reasoning them out, but by tinkering with them until inspiration strikes.

The left's politicization of objective ideas and standards degrades them into subjective savagery. Every issue becomes tribal, sometimes literally in the accusations of racism and representation, but mostly in the sense that every position depends on affiliation. Every idea becomes a game between two sides whose outcome is to achieve a victory in a larger cultural war. Objective standards die and each issue becomes purely tribal conflict between different cultures.

Economics, atmospheric research, military options and even the most practical elements of government boil down into tribal wars between genders, races and places. Urban and rural. Black and white. Male and female. Native and immigrant. Religious and irreligious. The labels are infinite and so are the wars. Demands for proof are insincere delaying tactics because nothing can ever be proven to the satisfaction of the other side. All that matters is the power of the tribe and their control over one area of life or another.

This is what the United States of America has been degraded into. A nation and a civilization that once made the world run has been reduced to a culture where politics is at the center of everything. Political affiliation, once an issue of limited application, has become a metaphor for the entire intellectual landscape. There is no more science, no more literature, no more economics, no more art and no more entertainment. There is only politics.

Politics is innately tribal. The politicization of everything is also the tribalization of everything. It is the beginning of savagery and the end of civilization.

26 comments:

Mary @Love_NotRevenge said...

Great article! I've been feeling this way for a while now... I guess since '08, culminating in the boiled over rage & bush hatred, everything became politicized. I'm hoping you can answer an unrelated question that I've been wondering; do you have any idea what % of moslem's worldwide are radical jihadists? General educated guess? Thank you, appreciate your gift~

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Do you mean the percentage of Muslims who are willing to enlist in terrorist groups or the number who support them and approve of their actions.

The former number is obviously limited and hard to estimate, but the latter number is fairly high even in the West and can be estimated from opinion surveys of Muslims such as the Pew poll.

NormanF said...

Dadaism and surrealism may be absurd and dreamlike - but its uniquely Western.

We don't think in literal terms the way other cultures do - and this ability to progress in our idea has explained the rise of the West since the Middle Ages.

Time never stands still with us. Not everything about it is good but its underlying strength that can barely be contained. Neither Islam or Oswald Spengler ever appreciated the West's true talent not only in innovation but in literally being able to renew itself when it seemed to be at the end of its life.

No earlier civilization has boasted such prodigious energy and those who proclaim the Decline Of The West is set in stone have invariably turned out to be wrong - the West defeated Nazism and Communism and Islam is but its latest competitor for dominance of the stage of history.

NormanF said...

The West combined the logic and might of Rome with forward thinking of Christianity - which taught that Golden Age of civilization existed not in the past but the future. The Christians who ruled the late Roman Empire after the 4th Century took the classical heritage they inherited and gave it a new meaning. As the ancient world was collapsing in chaos, everything was done to preserve order and preserve the best of the old learning for the future. Its true we live nowadays in a post-Christian world but we are still influenced by - and are heirs of the legacy it left us which runs from St. Augustine right down to the secular thinkers of our own day.

Let's not be ashamed to say it - the West is that unique shotgun child of Rome and Jerusalem and we have a foot in each of those worlds that helped to create the one that remade the planet on which we now live.

Anonymous said...

After almost 200 years of constant attacks on the foundations of Western civilization by the Left, from Antonio Gramsci, to the Frankfurt school, to MSNBC, I think it's nothing short of a miracle the West isn't in worse shape.

mindRider said...

Good that you rid the comment section of the spewed filth.
The easy access and ever increasing spread of knowledge shakes the foundation of the truth of everything.
In Gemara study our sages never agreed on anything and if by chance too many do agree they considered that the concept must be wrong.
Mathematics are the only non debatables in this world (maybe).

Anonymous said...

Fantastic article, you have expressed the degradation of reason in a few paragraphs, while Ayn Rand required almost a thousand pages. Thank you.

Conservative Language Institute of America said...

Symbols symbols symbols... He who controls the language, controls the debate. He who controls the debate, controls the society. He who controls the society, controls the world.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".
Mmmmm, I wonder if that has any significance????

Gagdad Bob said...

Savagery of the left = flesh made Word.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for always writing what needs to be said and doing so memorably, powerfully, even exquisitely.

Your post brought this one to mind, "Debasing the Currency of Truth," by Allan Haley.
http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/12/debasing-currency-of-truth.html

Sibyl

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an excellent piece.

Thanks also to NormanF for the expectation of an endgame with Islam that anticipates its demise. Judaism and Christianity do not deserve to fall to the barbarians.

Anonymous said...

MindRider: in the spirit of the superb article we've just read, let me point out, without acrimony, that the first half of your statement "In Gemara study our sages never agreed on anything" is incorrect, and the second half "and if by chance too many do agree they considered that the concept must be wrong" is downright bizarre. Perhaps you are confusing Talmudic discussion with the adjudication of capital cases? The sages of the Gemara agreed on vastly more than they disagreed. The fact that the Bavli is full of disputation should not obscure the enormous consensus that existed on most major topics among the Sages. There are hermeneutical principles, rules of debate, "out of bound" arguments, and the entire written Torah that all agree to be authoritative. It would take days to type out all the principles that they agreed upon. The fact is that you can't debate for 4000 pages if you don't agree on fundamental principles.

careyrowland said...

In the coming dark age, most truth will be experienced between real people, in real time, in real communities, with a little inspiration and sagacious direction from para-prophets such as you, DG.
Thanks for sharin'. Keep up the good work. Your analyses are always profound and, though cynical, very encouraging because it is a comfort to know that someone, somewhere can still explain all this surreal dystopia in a way that makes some sense.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most all of what you have to say but consider this: In order to change things, words + reading = 0

Bill Inaz said...

"Dada's aggressive need to destroy everything for the sake of destruction became the motivating principle in literature, architecture and art."

Still,"Trout Mask Replica" was a milestone.

Anonymous said...

"A nation and a civilization that once made the world run has been reduced to a culture where politics is at the center of everything. Political affiliation, once an issue of limited application, has become a metaphor for the entire intellectual landscape. There is no more science, no more literature, no more economics, no more art and no more entertainment. There is only politics."


Perhaps one of your saddest and yet oddly beautiful articles.


Call me a dreamer but I will never let politics get in the way of my love of music, art, literature (music more than anything else). Nothing will spoil beautiful music in my ears.

And as much as a love digital photography I remember the old ways (1980s) way of going to a dark room (total blackness to the point where you must fumble around in total darkness to open the 35 mm canister open.

The marvel of seeing your creation go from blackness to "life."

May politicians never take these joys away from me.

Keliata

Thank you for this article



Keliata

Bruce Lewis said...

Precisely why I say that the age of debating the issues and political action is over. When two parties cannot agree of the most basic axioms, debate becomes impossible. When the political battle is waged by parties with opposing and irreconcilable worldviews, there can be no more politics. All that is left is war: Might Makes Right.

That is where we are now.

And that is why the gun shops are sold out, and why the federal entity -- the one that used to be a government, but is now merely the enforcement apparatus of the global satanic elite -- is buying up bullets by the billion.

Western Man turned his back on God five hundred years ago. That grand experiment in self-deification is now reaching its inevitable climax.

Might Makes Right. Them or Us. Soon we will all of us have to choose which side we are on: the side of men-like-gods, or the side of the Almighty. Choose wisely.

George J. said...

Daniel, excellent work as usual. Not only from a technical point of view, but in your overall snapshot of how our slippery counterparts think and operate.
With regards to your comment on the first poster's question, I would take it a step further. Not only would a sizable portion of Muslims support and approve of their actions, a sizable portion of Westerners, born and raised would do so as well. Academia is filled with them, for one. The students they indoctrinate spill forth into society, infesting its corridors and spewing their Western-guilt-ridden, yet paradoxically selfish revisionist historical worldviews.
They are in government, in your schools, turning your own kids against you, cheering on the demise of our civilization as if to fulfill some strange masochist urges. It sounds crazy on the face of it, but that is indeed what is happening.
That is part of the reason that you see the generation of Muslims that is born in the West to their immigrant parents far more extreme, radical and violent than their parents' generation was. At least the parents' generation had a sense of what it was like to live under the crushing grip of theocratic tyranny, which is why they moved to the West to get away from that. Their offspring has no grounding in that reality and once you combine that lack of experience with the anti-American indoctrination they receive through mass media, schools and Islamic teachings, you get a dangerous mix.

Neros lyre said...

I firmly believe we have come to a point where discussion and argument are useless except in your own tribe.Controlling the argument(s to achieve a solution to our major cultural problems is not possible,and has not been for some time.Today it is not about winning or losing on an issue that hopefully will resolve some great problem,it is all about continuing the argument forever so nothing does get finished.The simple idea that cold hard facts and statistics no longer have logical bearing on outcomes is a perfect sign of this.This has been a planned splintering of our culture into fragments of tribes even within so-called former sub-cultures.99%of all media is swill for the masses,most art,literature and music is the product of morons who pander to the squirming masses begging for delusions.When it stops,and it all will,it will be epic.It will destroy all,in one way or the other.Even those that survive will be scarred forever,and yet the lemmings march on toward "progress"while pushing and shoving the unwilling and wiser over the cliff.There is only that solution because each has their own forceful agenda and will not yield to sanity.Prepare accordingly because we are done.

Anonymous said...

This should be on the editorial page of every paper in the nation and read in every class across the nation.

But it would probably be called racist.

ghostsniper said...

Welcome to the Babel of the 21st century where communication was rendered obsolete.

Anonymous said...

simply profound. thanks.

Anonymous said...

Come on, now. Do you really believe the Left is out to destroy our country while the Right is only out to save it? Both sides love this country and are sincere in their attempts to make it better. They sinply have different opinions about how to go about it. The writing in this article is really good, but the insights are, in many cases, defective. Just more partisan crap disguised as intellectualism.

George J. said...

Anonymous,

I can understand your statement, as I used to feel that way too. But it isn't simply a matter of differing solutions offered to the same problem, with the same intentions in mind. It isn't, as you put it " different opinions about how to go about it". The "How" is just one part of it. A bigger part is "Where" we want to go and "Why" we want to go there.

The Left's ultimate goal on the surface is innocuous enough. But it doesn't even require any scratching of that surface to see that the grounding principles of the entire worldview is rooted in hatred of what America and Western values stand for, with the revisionist history painting them in the most negative light possible, as oppressors, invaders, racists, and misogynists, while the rest of the world are hapless victims who never enslaved, raped, killed and murdered.

While lower-level leftists may not think it themselves, the fact is that the leaders, backers and influencers of the Left sympathize and believe in Soviet, Marxist principles and have a deep disdain for the founding tenets of American society, namely the Constitution. They simply do not base their beliefs on the same premises. Collectivism is valued over individual rights. This manifests itself in virtually every single issue. Positive rights are valued over negative rights. Rights to, vs. freedoms from. Government encroachment is not a problem for the Left (unless of course George Bush is doing it, in which case it is a horrible thing).

In any case, I could go on, but the point is that the article isn't partisanship. Partisanship is not inherently bad, either, by the way. The worldview of the Left isn't merely a different way to help America. It is a different way to do something else entirely. And that something else is frightening.

Anonymous said...

Never read something so brilliant .

hewhotypes said...

Without emotion and subjectivity, though, it is impossible for society to survive. There would be no child-raising, no national defense, no cooperative efforts such as the large enterprises that manufacture and provide services. The only thing left would be individualistic utilitarianism.

It is natural to believe that I am rational but those who disagree with me are irrational; after all I am superior in mind and character. Beware of any idea that flatters you.

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