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July 14th, 2024

Lest You Become A Monster…

They openly admit now, that the plan is to use the tools of democracy to destroy our democracy. But here’s the thing: only the tools of democracy can sustain democracy.

Resist. Not just fascism, not merely the tyrant, but also the beast within. When you fight fire with fire, everything burns. Defend democracy.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 9th, 2023

Is it Worth Letting Trump Back Into Power?

Really?

News Item:

Representative Ryan Zinke (R) introduced a bill that would revoke the visas and refugee status of a number of Palestinians…

The Safeguarding Americans From Extremism Act would require the Department of Homeland Security to refrain from issuing visas or granting refugee, asylum, or temporary protected status to anyone holding a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority. It would also revoke visas and refugee or asylum status for anyone who was granted it on or after October 1.

The bill also directly orders Immigration and Customs Enforcement to remove those who lose their lawful status in the country under the new criteria.

“This is the most anti-Hamas immigration legislation I have seen and it’s well deserved,” Zinke said in a statement that conflated all Palestinians with Hamas…
-The New Republic, November 3 2023

I appreciate that some of my liberal/progressive friends here (and elsewhere) are aghast over what is happening now in Gaza. I’ve been appalled at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians for decades. But if you want to blame somebody for this, I’d suggest Putin because this has his fingerprints all over it. And…more generally…American evangelicals, who are some of the most anti semitic people you will ever meet (but in a very pleasant southern I’ll pray for you way), but need Israel to exist for their end times theology.

Jewish people have a right to exist. They have a right to keep to their faith and live in peace. So do Palestinians. What do you suppose is going to happen to either of these here in the United States when Stephan Miller gets his grimy hands back on the levers of power? When a president beloved of white supremacists gets back into the White House? When the MAGA brownshirts are free, free at last to act out their fantasies on the streets of this country…while chanting You will not replace us?


Very fine people according to Donald Trump

By all means keep the pressure on Biden and congress to at least try and reign in Netanyahu. But read this woman’s story, posted by Humans Of New York after Trump won the 2016 election (Link goes to Facebook)…

These last few weeks, it was mostly speculation. There was suspicion that most Americans supported him but I could hope that it was wrong. But now that hope is gone. And I have to feel differently. I have to feel like maybe most Americans don’t want me here. And I feel like no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be part of the community. And even if they’re friendly to me, or if they invite me to Thanksgiving, deep down they believe that America is a country that belongs to white people.

…then remember everything that followed. The attacks on Muslims. The attacks on Jews. The kids yanked from their parents at the border…

Toddlers standing before an immigration judge. ICE agents taking patients from hospitals, workers from the fields, children from their schools… Hispanics who have lived here almost all their lives suddenly deported to Mexico…and then killed by gangs…

News Item:

On June 4, just days after protests began in Wilmington regarding the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, a Sergeant Heflin was conducting monthly video audits — a routine part of her job — when she came across what was labeled as ‘accidental activations’ from Piner’s car….

Here’s what they found being said during those accidental activations…

“We are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them fu—– ni—–. I can’t wait. God, I can’t wait.”
-Port City Daily (Wilmington Delware) June 24, 2020

…three extremist supreme court justices and all the Trump judges now in the federal courts. The coup attempt on January 6.
Trump is already talking about weaponizing the Justice department.

Who do you think Trump will put into all those military promotions Tuberville and the republicans are holding open for him? He’s talking about invoking The National Emergencies Act immediately after taking back the White House. With his people firmly in place I don’t think keeping the senate and winning back the house is going to help much. But you can dream.

We are in a knife fight for the existence of our democracy. Results from last Tuesday’s elections are promising, but that all goes out the window if Trump gets his hands back on the levers of power. Find another Nader or Stein if you want, but you will not escape the calamity that follows if Trump wins anymore than the rest of us will, by saying the democrats didn’t give you a good enough reason to vote for them.

And the republicans didn’t?

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 8th, 2023

It’s Morning In America. No…Really…

I am on two of the Twitter/X alternatives now, Threads (@bruce72garrett) and BlueSky (@brucegarrett.bsky.social), and I’m waking up here in Charm City to the news that the republicans got routed in the off year elections last night. This is wonderful news…and amazing since the low turnout off year elections have historically been where they do best. 

Of special glee is hearing how badly MAGA/Mom’s For Liberty candidates did in local school board elections, even in historically republican strongholds. Is it too much to hope that a sleeping giant has finally been awakened?

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 18th, 2023

New Fascism, Pretty Much The Same As The Old Fascism

Roy Edroso has a Substack today you should go read.

And if you’re not already one of his subscribers or reading his blog from time to time you really should.

by Bruce | Link | React!

May 16th, 2023

The More Things Stay The Same The More They Stay The Same

This came across my Twitter feed today (Yes, I still lurk there…)…

Yeah…it surprised me too considering it’s from the New York Times. That is, the same New York Times that just a few weeks ago was still carrying water for the TERF battle against transgender people, and threatened staff reporters who signed a letter publically protesting their anti-trans coverage with write-ups in their employee files. What has changed? Who knows? Who cares? It’s the New York Times. Not just the gold, but the bitcoin standard of journalism.

Some of us still remember how for decades the New York Times refused to refer to gay and lesbian people with any other word but “homosexual”, long, long after other media began using “gay” and “lesbian”. They have standards to uphold. What are those standards? That’s not news that’s fit to print.

But this…this speaks perfectly to how cut-and-paste the right wing attacks on transgender people map to their attacks on gay and Lesbian Americans decades ago. This is Ex Gay claptrap repurposed and aimed at transgender rights. Back in the day they threw up “I Questioned Homosexuality” billboards…not in the gayborhoods across America where you might think they’d want to spread the Good News but in the swing states where family and friends of gay and lesbian Americans might need an excuse to put a knife into their neighbor’s hearts. They founded PFOX (Parents and Friends Of eXgays) as a counter to PFLAG, and wherever gay people told their stories in the media, PFOX demanded ex gays be equally represented. They created professional psychological shell organizations that invented diagnoses out of thin air, like Same Sex Attraction Disorder. Get it? Get it? We’re not gay, we’re SSAD!

So it goes. Now hear the same old song and dance with a few transgender verses added. Nothing is new in the human gutter, it only has a new coat of paint.

by Bruce | Link | React!

May 12th, 2023

What The Hated Other Must Never Know

This came in the mail just now, to add to my collection of banned or censored children’s books. I buy them to support the authors, but also to see for myself what the gutter is yapping about now. In this case I discovered this book via the author’s blog post about her very painfully having to decline an offer from Scholastic to include the book in their catalogue because of a Scholastic editor’s request/demand to remove references to racism in it. You can read her blog post here. This is very sad, mostly because of how unsurprising it is these days. One of my favorite days after the beginning of the school year was when we got the Scholastic catalog. I still have a bunch of those books I got as a schoolboy. All the precious moments I had reading them…I expected better of Scholastic.

(And speaking of blogs…since you’re reading mine now right? Do you use a blog reader like Feedly yet? You should. There’s a whole world of information and fun out there that commercial social media would rather you didn’t bother with. I’ve added Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s blog to my Feedly list.)

This book is the first in my collection that isn’t LGBT themed. It’s a simple, lovely children’s picture book, about two people who find each other in the midst of a horrible event in this country’s history. I searched the pages carefully for the mentions of racism that the Scholastic editor was objecting to and they’re only in the author’s note, which is clearly written for parents as a guide to understanding the book’s themes. The objection was clearly, sickeningly, meant to appease school board MAGA racists. But what, really, was the objection?  Teaching about racism? You might think so if you haven’t been in this culture war as long as this gay guy has been, and seen what he has seen.

The central theme of the book is the power of love told in a simple, beautiful, childlike way.

Jacob Bronowski wrote that art does not set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of right and wrong can be seen with frightful clarity. You can shine that light even in a children’s picture book. Perhaps even best in the spare elegant simplicity of a children’s picture book. The racist injustice visited on the main characters in the book is always in the background of the story, it is a critical part of the story, but it is not the primary focus of the story. It is a love story. Love of family. Falling in love with someone. That moment when you realize it. It is a love story.

And that is exactly the problem. Never doubt it. Shakespeare wrote that love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken, and bears it out even to the edge of doom. Lao Tzu wrote that being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. The author’s note regarding the racism that built the camps was for adults, the lesson about the power of love was for the children.

That was the unforgivable sin, something the hated Other must never know. Especially when they are young.

Because love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken. Because love bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Because love can give you strength, and courage. Courage enough to move mountains. And the one thing you never want the scapegoat to know, is they can move mountains. Especially when they are young.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

February 27th, 2023

The More Racists Change The More They Stay The Same

This from the Washington Post…

Musk defends ‘Dilbert’ creator, says media is ‘racist against whites’

The Tesla and Twitter chief blasted media outlets for dropping Scott Adams’s comic strip after the cartoonist’s rant against Black people

It’s to the point now where all you need to see is the name associated with the news item and you know pretty well what it’s going to be about before you even read it. Musk is is one of those and so is Adams and that still hurts a bit because I used to love Dilbert. But that was back when I saw it as Dilbert being a somewhat naive computer geek like myself, surrounded by assholes the cartoonist was making fun of. It seems that over time Adams began to identify more with the assholes than the geek. I think it was when I saw the cartoon comparing a woman breast feeding a baby in public with a man pissing on flowers to water them that I began tuning him out. It was one of those things that tap you on the shoulder saying look at that…no really look at that… But there was still the occasional cartoon strip I found hilarious. Then he went all in for Trump, who was like the pointy haired boss personified and amplified and I just closed the book on him, wondering how much of what I enjoyed in his cartoons was really there to begin with.

That’s the way it is with artists and creators you come to love and enjoy. What you see in their art is what you experienced seeing it and it’s mostly you. It isn’t necessarily what the artist themselves put into it or intended. But at least Adams was a creator. Musk on the other hand, is just rich.

He bought his way into Tesla and eventually kicked out its founders. SpaceX was born on his money and his need to cut the cost of rocket launches so he could start a garden on Mars. But it was built with the rocket engineering talents of others who came from the industry. Both those companies, so I’m told, had a board of directors and staff whose only job was to manage Musk’s mood swings and nutty ideas and try to keep him focused. In Twitter we’re seeing him totally in control and unfiltered, really for the first time. And it’s really a squalid sight to see. 

They say men don’t change, they reveal themselves. But if money is power, then absolute money also corrupts absolutely. This is a man who never really developed any internal brakes, and now all the possible external ones are gone. Maybe that’s what happened to Adams too, but with a lot less money.

Replying to tweets about the controversy, Musk said it is actually the media that is “racist against whites & Asians.” He offered no criticism of Adams’s comments, in which the cartoonist called Black people a “hate group” and said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

I’m sixty-nine years old and knocking on the door to seventy. You have to appreciate how familiar this all feels to someone who actually lived through and remembers the civil rights protests of the 1960s. The white backlash rhetoric has never changed. Every tiny improvement in the status of racial minorities in this country, every miniscule effort to uncover and learn from the history of slavery and race segregation in America, has been met with howling about reverse racism from the usual suspects. None of it sounds any different than it did back then.

I did not expect my golden years to look so much like my childhood…

We are not anti-negro…

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 20th, 2022

They Have Always Been This

Twitter, perhaps in its dying breaths, still provides interesting rabbit holes to dive down. Today it’s this post from Samuel Perry, who lists himself in his profile as: Sociologist | Studying Religion & Power | Author: Growing God’s Family; Addicted to Lust; Taking America Back for God; The Flag & The Cross. But it would be a mistake I suspect, given his other posts to assume he’s completely on board with the white evangelical power grab. And especially not this post:

Little something to remind Christian Right Twitter as they trash French for this post. White evangelicals went from 60% saying privately immoral officials couldn’t be ethical in office to 17% & the only thing that changed was opportunity. Your moral compass points toward power.

To which he adds this graphic…

He also put up this a few hours later…

Following Jan 6, White evangelicals were the only group where a huge majority said banning Trump was wrong. But they’re also the only group where a majority says social media cos. shouldn’t remove aggressive content from elected officials even if it may provoke violence.

It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and say so what, we always knew where they were. But this needs, especially these days, to be thrown back in their faces whenever they start bellyaching about things like religious freedom and same sex marriage. It isn’t their freedom they are fighting for, it’s their total dominance. And if anything that’s been made even more explicit with the publication and widespread evangelical approval of The Case for Christian Nationalism by Stephen Wolfe.

So I decide to go take a peek at what’s happening in that thread David French began with…

The magic of our republic is that it creates space for people who possess different world views to live together *and* stay true to different faiths and moral convictions. How the Respect for America Act furthers this vital national goal:

He links to this article in The Atlantic

Pluralism Has Life Left in It Yet

The Respect for Marriage Act, and the harmony between religious liberty and LGBTQ rights.

It begins thusly:

It’s been called the “oral argument that cost the Democrats the presidency.” On April 28, 2015, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. stood up in the Supreme Court and argued that the Court should recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. During that argument, Justice Samuel Alito asked him a question that voiced the concern of millions of people of faith. Here was the key exchange:

Justice Samuel Alito: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax-exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­-sex marriage?

Solicitor General Verrilli: You know, I—I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is—it is going to be an issue.

With that response, General Verrilli confirmed a growing sense of alarm in theologically conservative Christian circles. If they continued to maintain that marriage is a union between a man and woman, would they be treated as bigots? As the equivalent of white supremacists?

Let us say, after all the years that have passed between then and now, with that subset of the American population growing less and less inclined to maintain pretenses, that whatever alarm they may have felt wasn’t they would be treated for being what they so plainly are and have no trouble whatever being, but that their scapegoats, their hated Other would be granted equality in the eyes of the law. Yes, that had implications for being able to make their stepping stones to heaven out of our lives, out of our hopes and dreams. It simply could not be allowed to stand.

So then, the stacking of the US Supreme court with more Alitos. 

To really appreciate what is going on in that David French thread it helps to know a wee bit about the man…

In August 2017, French was one of several co-authors of the so-called Nashville Statement, which affirmed “that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.” [Wikipedia] 

The Nashville Statement:

  • Affirms that God designed marriage as a lifelong union between male and female, and that marriage “is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church”
  • Denies that differences between men and women render the sexes “unequal in dignity or worth”
  • Denies “that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
  • Denies “that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”
  • Affirms that “Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure”

 

And yet, Trump was a bridge too far for him. And that of course, meant his immediate exile from the fellowship of Sauron’s ring. A lot of the pushback goes something like this…

Pluralism is your idol, sir.

You would have been a ‘faithful servant’ of Julian the Apostate, David. Don’t spend your 30 pieces of silver all at once, Judas.

Are we sure 2015 David French wasn’t just as much a simp to secular pluralism and just didn’t have the opportunity to approve of such evils?

Repent and seek Christ.

This commenter almost gets it…

My goodness. 2015 David French Eviscerates 2022 David French. Makes me sad, Trump did break him.

What Trump did was give him, and others like him, a choice: take the remaining shred of humanity within you around behind the barn and shoot it, or take a step back from the abyss. 

Pluralism cannot coexist with Christian Nationalism and they know it. They have always known it. They have always despised the concept, and along with that, democracy. They may love the America of their totalitarian fever dreams, but they will fight democracy to their dying breath, and especially The Compromise: that everyone has the right to practice their religious beliefs in their churches, and in their homes, but in the public square, and in the marketplace, we are all Americans.

My money is as good as yours. I have the same right to speak my mind as you do. In the public square and in the marketplace, the government takes no sides apart from the democratic necessity of Equality, Liberty and Justice. For all. This, it must enforce. So we can all be Americans. Having to bake that cake for a same sex couple is the price you pay for government not stomping into your church and burning your holy texts.

But there are those who think that price is too much to pay for an America where we all live together in peace. Because God is on their side and the holy text that will burn are not theirs, but yours. They are the chosen ones. They have the only true religion. And God wants them to grind the heretic underfoot. Because God hates the Other as much as they do. And they are on the march.

 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 18th, 2022

Silence Equals. . .

So I let myself get dragged into a Twitter thread about same sex marriage. It started with a friendly post by a religious guy who said “Imagine thinking that allowing gay people to get married somehow diminishes heterosexual marriage.”

He gets instantly swarmed by right wing religious nutcases telling him he’s leading people to hell and so on and so forth. Okay…so much so as usual. But the yapping takes a turn I’m familiar with from the USENET days: that marriage is and can only be about procreation and children. I wait for the obvious rebuttal to that from the other gay friendly posters and it never comes. Instead the arguments swirl around secular society versus theocracy and how same sex couples have families and can raise children too, with one poster in particular doggedly sticking to the premise that only procreation matters to marriage, not any of that love stuff, because that’s how god ordained it.

And…unable to sit on my hands anymore, I jump in like it’s 1995.

But there’s a couple things I think the rest of you need to know about all this.

It took me a while to see it, but the head nutcase in the right wing infotainment cocoon, Matt Walsh, had just post election pivoted from demonizing transgender folk to demonizing same sex marriage. So that’s the topic de jour in the howling monkey tree now. But there is also this…

A new book making the case for “Christian Nationalism” has hit the streets, and it isn’t saying the quiet parts out loud, it’s writing them in neon lights. I guess they’re all done with that finally.

It’s “The Case for Christian Nationalism” by Stephen Wolfe, and it is not exactly fringe material, having been in the top 2000 books on Amazon for weeks, and charting in the top 500 ever since it’s November 1 publication. It argues for ethnic purity as a necessary condition for our, or any other nation’s survival. It argues that imprisoning, and perhaps even executing heretics, is a good and necessary thing. The book presents itself as a theological justification for White ethnonationalism. Or in other words, white supremacy…at least here in the United States.

But more fundamentally than that, Wolfe argues that even if Adam and Eve had not sinned and been cast out of Eden, humans would have congregated in separate communities on the planet and developed their distinct ways of life. This he says, is why there are nations.  And so following that, Christians have the right to do everything in their power to institutionalize Christianity, make government structured according to God’s vision for human life, creating a national government in which civil authorities direct the citizens to the “true religion” to the “fullest extent of their power.” 

Including executing heretics. But only if that becomes necessary. If you don’t know where that leaves sexual minorities message me, I’ll fill you in.

I Repeat…This Is Not Some Odd Little Fringe Tract. It is now a best seller and it has energized the howling monkey tree. The usual response to criticism of it is oh you just hate Christians.

I hate every moment of having to fight this fight. But I’m a gay man and I remember the first time I fell in love, and for the honor and the dignity of that moment, and every moment of love I ever felt for another man, I will not remain silent. Furthermore…I am an American. The flag waving doesn’t run very deep in me, but the belief in that American dream of liberty and justice for all does and I will not remain silent.

We are living in very dangerous times, and as was once said, and is still true today, Silence = Death.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 7th, 2022

We Will Find Our Way To The Better World

This from a gay history group I follow on Facebook…

Tom Doerr and Marty Robinson during a Gay Activists Alliance sit-in
at the New York State Republican headquarters, New York City.
Photo by Diana Davies, 1970.

I would have been 15 or 16 depending on exactly when this happened, and all I knew about the fight for gay equality then was basically nothing apart from the occasional snide jokes on late night TV, but they made those same jokes about hippies. But look at this photo. This is a couple. They are people not stereotypes. And they are taking a stand when that was still extremely risky, to get us all to a place when we could have what they were lucky enough to find in each other, and not be afraid or ashamed.

How often do you hear them say they don’t care what we do in the privacy of our homes, but we should not be allowed to “flaunt it” in public. But what is “it”? 

This is. This is what the fight has always been about. The haters reduce us to the sex we have, but this is what they don’t want anyone to see, especially us. We are not to know that this is possible to us. We must be scapegoats, never neighbors, never to have a place in the American dream. And so, to that end, we must see ourselves as sexual deviants, pathetic faggots, or dangerous sexual predators. What we must never be are lovers. 

Because love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken…

Because love alters not with his brief hours and weeks but bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Because being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Because love can give you the courage, and the strength, to move mountains. And the one thing you never want the scapegoat to know is they can move mountains.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 2nd, 2022

VOTE!

“That you can’t fight fascist MAGA is a rumor being spread by fascist MAGA.” (Audre Lorde…slightly paraphrased)

So today I took the light rail down to the Baltimore City Board of Elections drop box…

 

Don’t let them discourage you from voting. Don’t listen when they say your vote doesn’t matter. If they thought you vote wouldn’t matter they wouldn’t be trying so hard to discourage you from voting.

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 7th, 2022

Sound Familiar?

Found on social media…

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 12th, 2022

Back When “Conservative” And “Men of Science” Were Not Contradictions

In the previous blog post I talk about how Walt Disney’s conservatism is much different from the batshit crazy thing the republicans have turned into. Here is an artifact from the early days of space exploration, within which is Frank Capra’s last film, as described below. Please excuse the period cultural and sexual stereotypes. This is important. I want you to see and pay attention to something.

First of all, understand this: Frank Capra was politically a Very conservative republican. He despised FDR and was adamantly against government economic intervention during the great depression. Try to keep that in mind as you watch the short film he made starting around 5:26 after the opening shots of rocket launches and John Glenn’s first orbit, and see what I see, while this Very Conservative man is extolling the benefits of space exploration in that eminently Capra way, as a next step in Evolution, and how it will improve our lives, improve world communication, improve The Public Schools.

…evolution’s next step…Improve world communication…improve the public schools…

In the film Danny Thomas does a staged Man On The Street series of interviews. You know it’s staged because every single character it in is right out of the Capra playbook. There’s one particular interviewee I have in mind, because that brief little passage shocked me to my core seeing it, seeing how far the conservative movement and the republican party have sunk into history’s gutter: the man who says in all deadly seriousness “Expensive? Oh knowledge is cheap, it’s ignorance costs lives and money.”

That was the America I grew up in. It is not the America I am currently living in.

Frank Capra’s final film, a short from 1964: “Rendezvous in Space”, with Danny Thomas, voices by Mel Blanc and Jim Backus. Produced for Hall of Science at 1964-65 World’s Fair. Final act includes orbital docking of Dyna-Soar-like lifting body with MOL-like space station. In performance, the screen would go dark for a few minutes and the audience would crane their necks to see a suspended animatronic “space taxi” dock with a model space station (seen here as only a brief moment of blackness with voiceover around the 14-minute mark). An astronaut mannequin would transfer from vehicle to station, and attention would be directed back to the screen for the film’s finale.

-Randall Luttenberg

by Bruce | Link | React!

June 8th, 2022

One More Thing…

Fear of guns is not irrational, the way homophobia is. Guns are dangerous. They’re weapons. That is their purpose. To say same sex marriage is dangerous to society, the nation and humanity is beyond ridiculous, it is perverse.

To love and accept love from another, and everything that goes with it, being trustworthy, honesty, kindness, sympathy, without these things all we have is the jungle. They say that love makes the world go ’round, but it’s the very things that love cultivates in a person, that make civilization possible.

There’s a tombstone in Washington DC that reads: When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one. It took a lot of hard work and struggle, but now they’d have given him and his boyfriend a wedding if that was in the cards for them. And every time I have to choose between the politician who would let me have a gun but not a wedding, versus a politician that would let me have a wedding but not a gun, I will, with some regret but unhesitatingly vote for the wedding over the gun. To regard guns as dangerous things is not irrational, it is obvious. To regard same sex love and romance as dangerous is deranged. Too many people are these days.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

April 6th, 2022

The Stupid Matrix

Whenever I start hearing complaints about stupid people, or I start getting the itch myself, I always remember this little moment of dialogue from Plan 9 From Outer Space…

“You see!? You see!? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!”

It’s where the effete alien, attempting to explain why humanity must be stopped from discovering the power to explode the particles that constitute sunlight (yes…I know…), goes on a prissy little rant about how stupid we all are, and gets slugged by the Real Man. Let it be said Ed Wood knew his audience.

The problem with bellyaching about human stupidity is there’s precious little you can do about it. To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth, the morons will be with us always…adjust to it. I think he said that right before they killed him. But also, every one of us is stupid in our own way. We have our blind spots. We have our WTF moments. And if you’re like me and skeptical of IQ tests and charts (what is actually being tested here?), then the entire notion of assigning people spots on an intelligence scale seems a little…well…unintelligent. If nothing else, because we all move around on that scale…day by day…moment by moment.

But I was reading this essay on Facebook this morning, that riffs on work by Berkeley professor of economic history, Carlo M. Cipolla concerning stupidity. I found it surprisingly clarifying. And having witnessed the republican belly flop into the stupid pool since McCain chose Palin for a running mate, and MAGA, DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and the QAnon kooks, I’m a little more open to the notion lately, that stupid is, in fact, a label you can stick on a subset of the human family. 

What makes me want to consider his argument seriously is he agrees that the rest of us move around in his matrix. Even the smartest of us can move out of our corner, into one of the others. But the thing is We Move Around. Stupid on the other hand, he says, is grimly consistent. He calls it The Golden Law of stupidity. And it sets the stupid apart from the rest of us.

I found the essay clarifying on a number of points that have constantly befuddled me about people like Boebert and the sort that flock to Trump rallies, and Twitter trolls. Sure, some of them are, as this man categorizes them, “bandits”. They want in on the grift. But the bulk of them are just there to witlessly do damage to everything.  

——
“In 1976, a professor of economic history at the University of California, Berkeley published an essay outlining the fundamental laws of a force he perceived as humanity’s greatest existential threat: Stupidity.

Stupid people, Carlo M. Cipolla explained, share several identifying traits: they are abundant, they are irrational, and they cause problems for others without apparent benefit to themselves, thereby lowering society’s total well-being. There are no defenses against stupidity, argued the Italian-born professor, who died in 2000. The only way a society can avoid being crushed by the burden of its idiots is if the non-stupid work even harder to offset the losses of their stupid brethren.

Let’s take a look at Cipolla’s five basic laws of human stupidity:

Law 1: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

No matter how many idiots you suspect yourself surrounded by, Cipolla wrote, you are invariably lowballing the total. This problem is compounded by biased assumptions that certain people are intelligent based on superficial factors like their job, education level, or other traits we believe to be exclusive of stupidity. They aren’t. Which takes us to:

Law 2: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

Cipolla posits stupidity is a variable that remains constant across all populations. Every category one can imagine—gender, race, nationality, education level, income—possesses a fixed percentage of stupid people. There are stupid college professors. There are stupid people at Davos and at the UN General Assembly. There are stupid people in every nation on earth. How numerous are the stupid amongst us? It’s impossible to say. And any guess would almost certainly violate the first law, anyway.

Law 3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.

Cipolla called this one the Golden Law of stupidity. A stupid person, according to the economist, is one who causes problems for others without any clear benefit to himself.

The uncle unable to stop himself from posting fake news articles to Facebook? Stupid. The customer service representative who keeps you on the phone for an hour, hangs up on you twice, and somehow still manages to screw up your account? Stupid.

This law also introduces three other phenotypes that Cipolla says co-exist alongside stupidity. First there is the intelligent person, whose actions benefit both himself and others. Then there is the bandit, who benefits himself at others’ expense. And lastly there is the helpless person, whose actions enrich others at his own expense. Cipolla imagined the four types along a graph, like this:

The non-stupid are a flawed and inconsistent bunch. Sometimes we act intelligently, sometimes we are selfish bandits, sometimes we act helplessly and are taken advantage of by others, and sometimes we’re a bit of both. The stupid, in comparison, are paragons of consistency, acting at all times with unyielding idiocy.

However, consistent stupidity is the only consistent thing about the stupid. This is what makes stupid people so dangerous. Cipolla explains:

Essentially stupid people are dangerous and damaging because reasonable people find it difficult to imagine and understand unreasonable behavior. An intelligent person may understand the logic of a bandit. The bandit’s actions follow a pattern of rationality: nasty rationality, if you like, but still rationality. The bandit wants a plus on his account. Since he is not intelligent enough to devise ways of obtaining the plus as well as providing you with a plus, he will produce his plus by causing a minus to appear on your account. All this is bad, but it is rational and if you are rational you can predict it. You can foresee a bandit’s actions, his nasty maneuvres and ugly aspirations and often can build up your defenses.

With a stupid person all this is absolutely impossible as explained by the Third Basic Law. A stupid creature will harass you for no reason, for no advantage, without any plan or scheme and at the most improbable times and places. You have no rational way of telling if and when and how and why the stupid creature attacks. When confronted with a stupid individual you are completely at his mercy.

All of which leads us to:

Law 4: Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.

We underestimate the stupid, and we do so at our own peril. This brings us to the fifth and final law:

Law 5: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

And its corollary:

A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.

We can do nothing about the stupid. The difference between societies that collapse under the weight of their stupid citizens and those who transcend them are the makeup of the non-stupid. Those progressing in spite of their stupid possess a high proportion of people acting intelligently, those who counterbalance the stupid’s losses by bringing about gains for themselves and their fellows.

Declining societies have the same percentage of stupid people as successful ones. But they also have high percentages of helpless people and, Cipolla writes, “an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity.”

“Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the [stupid] fraction and makes decline a certainty,” Cipolla concludes. “And the country goes to Hell.”

by Bruce | Link | React!

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