Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Limits of Gullibility

The derogatory term “conspiracy theory” automatically gets thrown at anyone with the temerity to question the veracity of stories broadcast by American mainstream media sources: refuse to believe what they are feeding you, and you are automatically branded a “conspiracy theorist.” But what if you refuse to theorize, to impugn, to ascribe, to insinuate or to offer alternative versions, and simply point out that what is being alleged to be true simply isn’t the least bit likely? Of course, anything is possible; for example, it is possible that every single person who reads this article will instantly get hiccoughs. But it just isn’t the least bit likely. If someone were to tell you that everyone who read this article did in fact come down with a case of hiccoughs, I believe that you would be perfectly justified to say “that’s just too unlikely to be true” and leave it at that, without being scorned as a “conspiracy theorist” and without being goaded into providing some sort of alternative account because you are under no obligation to make sense out of anyone else’s nonsense.

The recent massacre in Las Vegas provides a good testing ground for this approach.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Magic Bullshit Decoder

Unbeknownst to most, their brains are a battleground. Those lower down on the intellectual food chain are programmed more or less directly, through a method close to operant conditioning, to engage in status signaling in order to demonstrate their fitness to their peers, mostly by purchasing certain consumer products, while those higher up are manipulated mostly through underhanded uses of language, using a variety of methods, into buying into a fictional narrative and proving their fitness to their peers through virtue signaling. The lower-brow methods of public manipulation, based on television and advertising, have have already been discussed ad nauseam. Not so with the numerous misdirections and fake-outs involving the misuse language: nobody seems to be involved in keeping track of all the major and minor transgressions against our ability to think clearly. Language is what we reason and communicate with, and when the very words we use are twisted and deformed our ability to think suffers also.

Let me walk you through how that’s done.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

World's Largest Playground

Lake Baikal
Quite a number of people in the world have taken up a nomadic lifestyle by living aboard boats. Instead of cooperatively running in the rat race, they have escaped and now work some vague and sketchy internet-based job while sailing around the islands of the Caribbean or around the Mediterranean, with the Greek islands a particular favorite. Other favorite cruising grounds, for those who don’t much care for the open ocean, include the canals of England or Canal du Midi in France. The Inside Passage which runs up the coast of British Columbia from Washington state to Alaska is another favored playground. The Intracoastal Waterway that runs along the Eastern Seaboard (and is lovingly called “the ditch”) is said to start in Boston, Massachusetts, but can really only be said to exist between Norfolk, Virginia and Brownsville, Texas, on the Mexican border. The more adventurous go through Panama Canal and go island-hopping among Pacific atolls. There are many others. But there is one truly gigantic cruising ground that is charted, dredged, has plenty to see and plenty to do, but remains almost entirely unexplored.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

...By Their Fruits

If you exist within the by now almost hermetically sealed-off mindscape of Western mainstream media, and if you also happen to like knowing the truth, then life must seem increasingly unfair to you—because you can’t win. For decades now the modus operandi has been as follows. Regardless of which party has the majority in Congress or controls the presidency, the same unchanging national (and increasingly transnational) elite ensconced in Washington sets the agenda and pushes it through using any means necessary, whether legal, illegal or blatantly criminal (increasingly the latter as national bankruptcy looms and desperation sets in). Their operatives make sure that there is no real investigation of what happened. All Western media reports that contradict the official mendacious narrative are quashed. Any independent efforts to investigate and to find out the truth are denigrated as “conspiracy theories”—a derogatory term coined by the CIA for exactly this purpose. Any non-Western media sources that dare to contradict the official mendacious narrative are ignored, subjected to ad hominem attacks and all manner of false allegations and, if all else fails, banned outright (as is currently happening with the satellite TV channel Russia Today).

If that happens to be the prevailing method of communicating with the public (as I am convinced, and as you should convince yourself by doing some research if you are not), then what chance do any of us stand of finding out the truth to our satisfaction? Typically, we expect to be presented with a few, possibly somewhat contradictory, versions of events and, after some probing and deliberation, render a verdict and socialize it among ourselves to reach a consensus which then becomes another brick within the edifice of our consensual reality. These are high-priority tasks, because maintaining a sense of consensual reality is important: it allows us to distinguish the sane from the insane, and it makes it possible for us to tell our young people, whose minds are too immature to let them reach their own conclusions without being driven toward unfounded or extremist views, what is safe for them to think. If we are deprived of our ability to maintain a sense of consensual reality, then we lose face before our peers (and our children) and our self-respect suffers because we no longer feel socially adequate.

But what choices are there?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Maximum Uncertainty Principle

Vasya Lozhkin
We live in uncertain times. In the US, large chunks of Texas and Florida are uninhabitable due to hurricane damage. All of Puerto Rico is without electricity. In the Caribbean, entire islands of Barbuda, Domenica and St. Martin have been destroyed. Elsewhere in the world, on the island of Bali, 75,000 people are being evacuated from around the Mount Agung volcano, which is said to be ready to erupt. In Washington, the new director of FEMA is urging everyone to develop a “culture of preparedness.” But the problem is that we don’t ever really know what to prepare for; if we did, then we would surely prepare for it, as we do for most foreseeable eventualities. Yes, having a bug-out bag with a change of clothing, a few essentials, your documents and some cash is always a good idea. But what can we do beyond that? What’s the use of a food stockpile if your home is uninhabitable? What’s the use of a fuel reserve if the roads are impassable? And what’s the use of money if power is out and cash registers aren’t working?

This may sound defeatist, and since we don’t want to sound defeatist (because that would be embarrassing) we go on expecting, and relying on, various certainties of daily life that are in fact quite uncertain. For most people, doing anything other than daily navigating a triangular course between home, work (or school) and shopping would not look like success, and that, again, would be embarrassing. But what a “culture of preparedness” entails is the ability to survive many small embarrassments instead of dying of one big embarrassment once our triangular course becomes unnavigable due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

But what else is there to do? There is only one good and simple answer: you have to think for yourself. (I hope that you don’t expect somebody else to do your thinking for you, because that’s not going to happen.) But thinking is hard! It is especially hard because we are accustomed to certainty, and uncertainty breaks our existing thought patterns with nothing to replace them. But here is the thing: uncertain times call for uncertain thoughts. Since thinking uncertain thoughts takes quite a knack, which you may not currently have, and since I am here to help, let’s get started.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Public Loathing as Deification

Before going on with discussing the many ways in which linguistic limitations, deficits and defects imperil our ability to think and to communicate our thoughts and cause us to obscure what is tangibly, experientially real behind a veil of artifice and nonsense, I want to focus on a certain phenomenon that has become particularly widespread lately and has been causing many of us to inadvertently become members of political hate cults.

Cults are often nasty things that subordinate the free will of their neighbors to all sorts of preposterous and outrageous notions. They are the breeding grounds of political and religious extremism and intolerance. They splinter societies and turn relatives, friends and neighbors against each other. Governments periodically find it necessary to suppress them, even resorting to violence—all the way to actually destroying them with fire, as happened with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas on 19 of April 1993. Cults that combine politics with religion, such as the Wahhabi state cult of Saudi Arabia that has been breeding extremism all over the world, are particularly nasty.

But the type of cult I want to discuss is quite different from these.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Arise, You Prisoners of Semantics! (Part 3)

Language is the tool that we think and communicate with. This makes it pretty important. There are some ideas floating about that make our choice of linguistic tools irrelevant. Such as: people are people, whatever language they speak is whatever language they speak, they all have the right to free self-expression, and they have the right to express their opinions, based on whatever it is they thought up, by voting. But there are differences between languages, just as there are differences between a penny whistle and a kazoo at one end of the spectrum and a concert piano at the other. Consequently, the classical repertoire is replete with piano concertos but there is a dearth of them for penny whistle and kazoo. But language has far more important uses than making beautiful music: it is the medium used for thought, deliberation and decision-making.

Just as a concert pianist doesn’t spend a great deal of time thinking about which finger to run over which key, letting the music take his hands where it wants to, so too we let our language carry our thought forward in a way that is largely automatic. The specific features of the language we speak influences the thoughts we think. It is possible but difficult to go beyond what our language can readily express through the use of special terminology and awkward, labored phrasing. On the other hand, it takes no effort at all to run roughshod over distinctions which our language does not enforce. When people start to ignore some nicety of grammar, they may at first sound uncouth and uneducated, but once the trend runs its course everyone forgets what any of it was about. But what in fact happens is that the voices of countless generators of our ancestors are suddenly and permanently silenced. They had evolved this or that grammatical category or feature through trial and error, and preserved it over thousands of years because it conferred advantages on them—and us—by enabling us to think higher-quality thoughts more or less effortlessly and automatically.

This is a horror story in which the loss of one small but vital grammatical distinction leads a certain part of humanity to be conquered and dominated by machines to such an extent that they forget what it means to be human, or an animal, or alive.

Continue reading... [3348 words]

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Organizational Announcement

By popular demand, ClubOrlov is shifting to a semiweekly publishing schedule: Tuesdays and Thursdays.

• Tuesdays will once again be free blogging days, with the full article (usually an editorial on current events) published on ClubOrlov and announced on Patreon. You should feel free to quote, excerpt or re-post these articles, provided you do so with full attribution (including my name and a link to the original).

• Thursdays will be premium content days, with the full essay (usually a longer, more in-depth, analytic piece) published on Patreon, visible to subscribers only and announced on ClubOrlov. For those who object to paying $1/month for Patreon access, a paper edition of the essays will be published on Amazon on a semiannual basis. For those who object to paying Amazon… well, there is just no pleasing some people!

Military Defeat as a Financial Collapse Trigger

Back in 2007 I wrote Reinventing Collapse, in which I compared the collapse of the USSR to the forthcoming collapse of the USA. I wrote the following:

“Let us imagine that collapsing a modern military-industrial superpower is like making soup: chop up some ingredients, apply heat and stir. The ingredients I like to put in my superpower collapse soup are: a severe and chronic shortfall in the production of crude oil (that magic addictive elixir of industrial economies), a severe and worsening foreign trade deficit, a runaway military budget and ballooning foreign debt. The heat and agitation can be provided most efficaciously by a humiliating military defeat and widespread fear of looming catastrophe.” (p. 2)

A decade later these ingredients are all in place, with a few minor quibbles. The shortfall of oil is in the case of the US not the shortfall of physical oil but of money: against the backdrop of terminal decline of conventional oil in the US, the only meaningful supply increase has come from fracking, but it has been financially ruinous. Nobody has made any money from selling fracked oil: it is too expensive.

Meanwhile, the trade deficit has been setting new records, defense spending has continued its upward creep and the levels of debt are at this point nothing short of stratospheric but continuing to rise. Fear of catastrophe is supplied by hurricanes that have just put significant parts of Texas and Florida under water, unprecedented forest fires in the West, ominous rumblings from the Yellowstone supervolcano and the understanding that an entire foamy mess of financial bubbles could pop at any time. The one ingredient we are missing is a humiliating military defeat.