- The Rebel Alliance had lady pilots after all!
- Rapper Big Boi doesn’t like Obama, or government in general.
- But let me go ahead and ruin Louis C.K. for my fellow libertarians.
- Fuck you, too, science.
- I love you, Conor Friedersdorf: “he embarks on a theoretical exploration of whether it is defensible in theory to kill Al Qaeda terrorists with unmanned aerial vehicles, ignoring real-world events and unintended consequences as obliviously as a 1970s liberal extolling the wisdom of rent control.”
- Talking to aggrandizing screen-writers is one thing, but talking to journalists is forbidden.
- “if feminism can be put through by pestering, despite the will of the people, so can socialism, pacifism, and other isms.”
- North Korea is doing space stuff and people are nervous.
- Oliver Sacks would like to tell you about hallucinations.
- Amelia Earhart’s thoughts on marriage.
- Time‘s photos of the year include some good stuff.
- This is a gross reason to fire someone.
Two Cheers for Anarchism by James C. Scott: a great point about the true meaning of anarchism buried under economic wrongness and political timidity. Still somehow net quality, and see my Reason review for more details there. Maybe I was just excited to have a lefty-dude I can still recommend.
The Art of Being Free by Wendy McElroy: the woman who bridges the gap — hell, bothers mentioning the gap — between the Henry David Thoreau who sat in jail on principle and the one who said “the state was nowhere to be found” while picking berries; who also manages to be optimistic about the future while dubbing the U.S. a police state, break out the lesser-known libertarian heroes like R. C. Hoiles, and basically be a way better libertarian than most of us.
Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy: holy 2004 panics, Batman! A slight book borrowed from friend’s bookshelf and read one insomniac night. Some fine points, truths, observations buried under a screamingly anecdotal, panicky, judgmental lefty-worried mess of writing. Levy is particularly judgmental towards sex workers, falling into the “nobody chooses that” trope. Indeed, anything where sex and money are remotely connected seems to worry her greatly. Meanwhile, the points that ring the most true for me were, say, comparisons between Jay Leno (who is let’s face it, very odd looking) and the gams-showing, cleavage-baring Katie Couric monster who filled in on for Leno on The Tonight Show. IE am not as worried about people selling sex, period, as I am frustrated by the same jobs requiring different things from a man and a woman, namely the latter always needs to sexy while doing [it]. Bonus: felt slightly more guilty than usual for wanting to go on Red Eye so much after reading.
[Halfway through] Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City by Anthony Flint: Urban outrage never used to interest me, dad’s railing notwithstanding, until I realized just how God damned nasty people like Robert Moses were towards the poor, etc. No wonder dad was such a big fan of Jacobs’, and indeed interviewed her for Reason in 2001! (Dad also did an epic piece on Pittsburgh eminent domain in 2000.) Nevertheless, the writing quality of Flint is only so-so, and though I care, like economics, I have to read semi-slowly in order to get the proper details to care the proper way. Somehow, as much as I want to be Dad or Jim Epstein in my outrage for the downtrodden urban man, it does not come as easily as I wish. Mainly because they’re great at that sort of piece, and I am God damned lazy.
[Skimmed] Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins: Another one from the bookshelf of the aforementioned friend. Flipped through and read bits here and there tonight/today. Not nearly interesting a subject to be interesting, not trashy enough to be really worth savoring. Especially not after the numerous episodes of Degrassi this household has watched in the last few weeks. It felt tame, but angsty, but not relatable angsty. Bonus: need to shame friend further for having read this instead of Hitch-22 when she received both for last year’s Christmas. Other thought: Alexandra Robbins, sure, you count as an “investigative reporter” for doing this, but something about this is so rom-com that I cannot take it seriously. You just cannot be not played by Kate Hudson in the movie in my head. Ugh.
[Begun] A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the 20th Century by Ben Shepard: It’s from 2003, I have read 20 pages, and I already feel like it’s judging me for having a “fashionable” interest in the subject of shell-shock thanks to the amazing ’90s novel Regeneration by Pat Barker. And holy hell, I need to read more fiction, eh? Nevertheless, fascinating subject. I feel like a horrible person when I say this, but it’s a relief in some ways that so many people respond so poorly to warfare. Because if that doesn’t fuck you up, what should? And indeed, if humans react so badly to being put in that situation, doesn’t that bode well for us as a species, just a bit?
Every trivia-savvy individual who doesn’t know much about psychology probably at least knows Stanley Milgram’s 1961 obedience experiment and Phillip Zimbardo’s 1971 Stanford Prison experiment. We also know that the conclusions of said experiments reflect very poorly on human nature; we follow orders from authoritative-sounding people, even if someone is screaming in agony, we fall easily into positions of sadistic power-tripping or cowed submission, even after a few measly days of playing at prison and guard; we’re pretty bad. Obviously these experiments seem to confirm in retrospect the bloodbath that was the 20th century and the millions of people who didn’t protest, and even helped, when dictators brutalized their fellow human beings with the excuse that they were inferior in race, or politics, or purity.
A few days ago The Telegraph had a brief report on new experiments that imply that human nature may be worse still than Milgram and Zimbardo’s experiments suggest. Not only do humans tend to follow the orders of officials in lab coats or death’s heads or what have you, but they also enjoy it, they feel like they are doing right. Even more unsettling is the detail that if orders are given too often, that undermines the feeling that the atrocities are “for the greater good” and therefore are a righteous act the person has chosen to participate in. The best jackboot is the true believer, not the person cowed into submission by an authority figure.
Maybe this isn’t terribly surprising, but at the same time, the article’s connection to Nazism seems somewhat forced. At the start, Nazis depended on converting people freely to their ideology but after a few years it’s not like there wasn’t an implied, but very real, threat of deadly force hanging over every single German. People seem to jump all too often at the idea that the Germans were very keen on slaughtering all the Jews, and I am sure that’s truer than we all wish it were but it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Yes, certainly the higher-ups in the Nazi regime, like Eichmann, were true believers, would it be any better if they weren’t? Propaganda doesn’t excuse the little guy participating in atrocities or ignoring them, but it makes it so much harder to say no.
But back to Milgram. A 45 minute video of the experiment can be viewed here, and it’s excruciating to watch, but well worth it. In brief, the unknowing subjects are told that they are “the teacher” in a task that will help ” the student” (who is in on the experiment) learn and retain word combinations. The experiment would demonstrate whether electric shocks would help the other man learn the words. Of course, the real experiment was gauging whether the subjects/”teachers” would stop “shocking” and if so, how long it would take them, based on the lab tech building up the pressure on them to continue, culminating — if they hesitated enough — in the command that “the teacher” had no choice but keep on.
Many of the “teachers” took to their task like good citizens, assuming that the guys in labcoats know what’s best, even if they exhibited signs of emotional distress. More painful than the good little drones, though, is the fellow near the very end of this video who keeps protesting and hesitating the louder the fake screams become. He asks questions, he confirms that the lab techs are responsible for whatever may happen; he is so stricken, but he just keeps going anyway. You can see in his face that he knows better, but he cannot bring himself to just say no. I wonder if he is the face of the little guy, who would have been completely average, who ends up helping with mass murders.
But before that, there are two men who diminish the misanthropy-fodder that is the video: first, there’s the man about 18 minutes in. He’s soft spoken, he wears black glasses and a suit. He starts the experiment as he’s supposed to, but as the screams grow more intense, and finally, ominously cease altogether he looks worried, and then he stops. He’s not like the poor bastard later who wants to stop so badly, but keeps waiting for permission that won’t come. “I think 345 is as far as I am willing to go under this condition,” Glasses says, pointing to the dial on the machine that says where the “shocks” become dangerous.
Now the lab tech must build up his pressure; it is essential to continue, the experiment requires it, and finally, Glasses “has no choice.” He responds “I have a choice — I’m not going to go ahead with it.”
More interesting still is the other man who stops completely — and he does so at at the (comparably low) level of 150 (pretend) volts of electricity. The man also has glasses, and he wears a checkered shirt. He seems more confident than the other man. He laughs, somewhat nervously, at the start (this was apparently a strangely common reaction), when the “student” first yells “ouch!”. He chews on his hand a bit, even though he doesn’t seem to be nearly as upset as most of the other subjects. But as soon as the voice in the other room yells that he wants the experiment stopped and that he has a heart condition, Checkered Shirt ends it. No debate, no waffling. Nobody else, not even Glasses is that self-assured in their decision to end the thing.
Once again the pressure starts, the experiment mandates that you continue, etc., culminating in “you have no choice” but to continue. “Yes I have a choice,” says Checkered Shirt. ‘Take the check back, I’m not going to hurt the guy…I refuse.” And in the post-experiment interview, when a very relieved Checkered Shirt learns that it was a sham, he coolly take out a cigarette and offers one to the interviewer.
Why did he refuse to keep shocking the “student”? “The hell with him, who the hell was he?” He asks breezily, in respect to a Mr. Williams, the lab-coated overlord who had been ordering him to push the button. “In my mind I was hurting that guy…To continue to hurt another human being, I don’t believe in it.”
Maybe humans aren’t that great as whole, perhaps the majority are scared, cowed rabbits who turn into wolves when ordered or pressured to tear other humans apart. But no matter how dystopian things get, there are always — always — going to be more Sophie Scholls and more Oskar Schindlers and more Corrie Ten Booms and more World War Christmas Truces, even if there are never going to be enough of them either.
If I have a religion, it’s this; if the human race is Sodom and Gomorrah then we are saved every day by righteous people like Scholl, and Schindler, and, in a small way, even by Milgram’s exceptions; the soft-spoken guy in glasses who finally said “I have a choice ” and the brash guy in the checkered shirt who so quickly said, “I refuse.”
- io9 on whether end of the world fiction is just a trend that has reached its saturation point. Still, always loved it way more than, say, vampires (the obligatory trend example in most such pieces).
- Hiroshima, USA.
- The top 15 nuclear war movies, according to someone. I am very behind.
- I am currently watching the disappointingly terrible Panic in Year Zero! over here. On the plus side, the helpful youtube user seems to have uploaded a stunning collection of truther, anti-Semitic, and JFK videos, plus other nuclear war movies like Threads (which I gotta finish one of these days), plus a bunch of…Little Rascals episodes. I love the internet.
- Also, this youtuber has uploaded a bunch of Cold War songs, which I will be bookmarking.
- This slideshow suggests the best ’80s songs about nuclear war. I don’t know most of them, but the exclusion of “99 Luft Balloons” is not acceptable.
- Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov wins the Dresden Award for not nuking the shit out of America in 1986, even when an error made things look like five nuclear missiles were heading for the USSR.
- This is terrible, particularly the headline — “War with Iran: Real, horrific costs, but what benefits?”
- Wendy McElroy rhetorically asks in a non-Alex Jones kind of way, “Should You Be Hoarding?”
- College professor thinks Stalin didn’t commit any crimes, the worst thing might be that half the students clap after his lunacy. Paging: Michael Moynihan, Michael Moynihan.
- Michael Moynihan and I could have many harsh words on foreign policy, but I believe that Oliver Stone’s history book is indeed this stupid. And Stone responds
- Peter Suderman’s contrarian response to Black Friday hand-wringing. Though I hate shopping, this is still heroic.
- Sometimes it’s clear that @horse_ebooks really isn’t overrated at all.
- “Obama is the best Republican president we’ve had”
- Dear overly eager conservatives AND certain feminists…
- io9 begins a series on pulp under totalitarian regimes.
- Oops, Tesla was pro-eugenics.
- Some good suggestions in “10 Mistakes Libertarians Make” but dammit, telling someone their vote doesn’t count is NOT the same as saying their homeless shelter volunteering doesn’t count. That’s the whole point!
- Look, Jezebel, if you can’t just come right out and say getting foot surgery to fit into high heels is fucking stupid beyond measure, you have even less of a point than I thought..
- I didn’t do very well on Buzzfeed’s “actual riot or Black Friday” quiz.
- I knew “Luft Balloons” was about nuclear war, but I had no idea that “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was written in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis!
- “The Beatles are not merely awful, I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are godawful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music.” — William F. Buckley Jr, 1964.*
- On jazz: “An idiotic little hammer knocks dryly one, two, three, ten, twenty knocks. Then, like a clod of mud thrown into crystal-clear water, there is wild screaming, hissing, rattling, wailing, moaning, cackling. Bestial cries are heard: neighing horses, the squeal of a brass pig, crying jackasses, amorous quacks of a monstrous toad…this excruciating medley of brutal sounds is subordinated to a barely perceptible rhythm. Listening to this screaming music for a minute or two, one conjures up an orchestra of madmen, sexual maniacs, led by a man-stallion beating time with an enormous phallus.”– Maxim Gorky, 1928@
- “If you would have your son soft, womanish, unclean, smooth-mouth, affected to bawdry, scurrility, filthy rimes, and unseemly talking; briefly if you would have him, as it were, transnatured into a woman or worse, and inclined to all kinds of whoredom abomination, set him to dancing school and to learn music, and than you shall not fail at your purpose. And if you would have your daughter riggish, bawdry and unclean, and a filthy speaker and suchlike, bring her up in music and dancing and my life for yours, you have won the goal.”– Phillip Stubbes, 1583#
- Supposedly from a list of Nazi prohibitions on jazz (the music itself was not entirely banned, but rather it had to be proper sort of jazz): “5) strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);”–Rest over here at The Atlantic.
- “If you don’t thrill to Mr. Kinkade’s magnificent landscapes of bridges, cottages, streams, and profusely blooming gardens, all glowing in light from sun, moon, or lamp, you are probably a member of the sniveling ‘art establishment.’ Mr. Kinkade eschewed the nihilism, obscenity, and utter nonsense of modern “art” in favor of truth and beauty.”– Becky Akers, Lew Rockwell blog.
And this particularly sad one:
- “I had not come to be their guest that night; for, it being New Year’s Day, several of the neighbors were met together to divert themselves by dancing country dances. By the advice of my companions I went in amongst them whilst a woman was dancing a jig. At my first entrance I endeavored to shew the folly of such entertainments, and to convince her how well pleased the devil was at every step she took. For some time she endeavored to outbrave me; neither the fiddle nor she desisted; but at last she gave over, and the musician laid aside his instrument…Christ triumphed over Satan. All were soon put to silence…”– George Whitefield, 1740#
Bonus points for several hilariously paleo quotes about culture that my friend Ricardo has written on my facebook.
Anyone else have any favorites?
(H/T *The Deceleration of Independents, #:A Renegade History of the United States, @QI)
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