Jesus is not Mithras

This is the time of year when posts and article start popping up claiming that Jesus is just a rehash of the old Persion god Mithras (or Mithra, Mitras or some other spelling), lining up all sorts of improbable coincidences like “Mithras was born from a rock, and rocks can’t have sex, so clearly that’s the same as a virgin birth.”

There’s a much simpler and more sensible origin for Jesus: Judaism.

I know this is a bold thesis, but I think Judaism has several things going for it as the ultimate origin of Christianity, so hear me out.

Judaism: Has a tradition that a messiah will come.

Judaism: Has a holiday at the end of December. (It’s called Hanukkah.)

Judaism: Also has a spring holiday that coincides with Easter.

Judaism: is literally the religion that Christianity sprang from.

The early Christian writer Hippolytus of Rome provides the first justification for situating Jesus’s birth on December 25th: because it is nine months after his conception, believed to coincide with the date of his death. This belief probably comes from an actual Jewish belief about prophets, albeit slightly mangled. For example, Moses is believed to have died on his own birthday (at 120 years old).

Furthermore, Hanukkah–also known as the “Feast of Dedication”–is celebrated on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev. It seems likely that when early Christians started using the Roman calendar, they translated the holiday directly to the 25th of December.

But wait, I hear you saying, doesn’t Christmas coincide with the Roman festival of Saturnalia?

It turns out that Saturnalia was celebrated on December 17th, not December 25th. The holiday was later extended to last until December 23rd, which still falls two days short of December 25th.

Since people often denigrate Hanukkah as just “the Jewish Christmas,” let’s go back and review what the holiday is actually about.

In Hebrew, Hanukkah (also spelled “Chanukah”–it’s a transliteration of a non-Indo European word written in a non-Latin alphabet, so there’s no one proper spelling) means “dedication.” The Feast of Dedication officially marks when the Maccabees reconquered Jerusalem (from the Seleucids, Syrian Greeks) and re-instated traditional Jewish temple services in the Temple, which the invaders had been using for sacrifices to Zeus.

The Feast of Dedication is actually mentioned in the New Testament, in John 10:

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in [d]doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

800px-menorah_0307
Recreation of the Temple Menorah by the Temple Institute; By ariely 

One of the sacred objects in the Temple was the 7-armed menorah, famously depicted on the Arch of Titus. (The Hanukkah menorahs lit in people’s homes have 9 arms.) According to the Bible (Exodus 25), the plan for the menorah was revealed to Moses as part of the overall plan for the tabernacle in which the Ark of the Covenant resided:

31Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. 32Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. 33Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. …

 39talent of pure gold is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories. 40See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.[1]

Once the Temple was built in Jerusalem, the menorah was placed inside, and it was this same menorah that the Maccabees were scrambling to find enough oil to light during their (re)dedication celebration. (Candles had yet to be invented.)

The menorah was looted by the Romans in 70 AD, after Titus conquered Jerusalem, and then probably carried off by the Vandals when they sacked Rome in 455. At this point, it disappears from history–and yet the sacred temple light lives on. You’ve probably seen it in a modern church, as altar lamps still hang in Catholic, Episcopal, and Anglican churches.

44asl14_7_19_2011_5_08_40_pm
Catholic Sanctuary Lamp

According to the Roman Missal of the Catholic Church:

“In accordance with traditional custom, near the tabernacle a special lamp, fueled by oil or wax, should be kept alight to indicate and honor the presence of Christ.”

The “presence of Christ” is in the physical form of the Eucharist.

Orthodox Christian churches also have a “menorah,” (though it is shaped rather differently from the Jewish ones):

In Orthodoxy, what other traditions in Christianity call the altar we call the Holy Table, and the space beyond the ikon screen is called the altar. Among items upon an Orthodox Holy Table will be a cloth ikon of Christ containing a relic, the gospels, a special ‘box’ we call a tabernacle which will contain the reserved sacrament for the sick, and candles. In the Russian tradition the number of candles we use reflect the Jewish Menorah, a seven branched candlestick as expressed in Exodus.

The sanctuary lamp is also found in many Protestant denominations:

It is also found in the chancel of Lutheran and Methodist churches to indicate the presence of Christ in the sanctuary, as well as a belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.[3][4] … Other Christian denominations burn the lamp to show that the light of Christ always burns in a sin-darkened world.

And of course it is still found in synagogues:

Looking around the synagogue you will see the eastern wall, where the aron ha-kodesh (the holy ark) is located. The ark is the repository for the Torah scrolls when they are not in use. It also serves as the focus for one’s prayers. Above the ark is located the ner tamid–the eternal light — recalling the eternal light in the Temple (Exodus 27:20–21).

In each case, the sacred fire symbolizes the presence of God.

Looking back, deeper into the Bible, we find other instances where fire symbolized God’s presence:

The menorah itself, with multiple “branches” covered in buds and blossoms, is reminiscent of a flowering tree or bush, like the burning bush encountered by Moses.

When the Israelites walked through the desert, they were led by a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night.

When Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments, God was again likened to fire (Exodus 24):

12 And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. …

15 And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. …

17 And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.

And in the story of Abram who became Abraham (Genesis 15):

He said, “Bring me a three-year-old female calf, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He took all of these animals, split them in half, and laid the halves facing each other, but he didn’t split the birds. 11 When vultures swooped down on the carcasses, Abram waved them off. 12 After the sun set, Abram slept deeply. A terrifying and deep darkness settled over him. …

17 After the sun had set and darkness had deepened, a smoking vessel with a fiery flame passed between the split-open animals. 18 That day the Lord cut a covenant with Abram: 

oil-canvas-pentecost-el-greco-prado-madrid
El Greco, Pentecost

And in the New Testament, Acts, Ch 2:

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

“Pentecost” is actually a Jewish holiday. It is partly a harvest festival and partly a celebration of when God gave Moses the books of the Torah (aka the Bible).

I regard the Jewish holiday calendar as cyclical, with many layers of meaning built into each holiday. Pentecost, (aka Shavuot), is both an early harvest festival and a Torah festival. Sukkot is a fall harvest festival similar to Thanksgiving, but it also celebrates the time the Israelites spent wandering in the desert during the Exodus (with overtones of a Jewish wedding). Judaism is an old religion, and meaning has built up over time as people have lived their lives in different ways.

The fact that two different religions celebrate similar holidays on similar dates is not, a priori, sign that they copied each other. I think it very likely that people of all sorts, from all over the world, have placed important holidays on dates like “the solstice” and “the harvest” because these are easy dates to keep track of. You know when the harvest is in; you know when the days are short or long. Other days, well, those are a little trickier to keep track of. Festivals that take place at the same time of year took on similar elements because those elements were common to the times–Sukkot and Thanksgiving both involve lots of food because they are harvest festivals, not because they are copying each other. Winter solstice celebrations involve fire because people light fires to keep themselves warm during cold winter months.

Christmas/Chanukah similarly show many layers of meaning. At the most basic, we have a solstice celebration: the temples and hearths need cleaning and the sacred fires are kindled at the start of winter. We have the historical observance of an actual, historical event–the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, as related in 1 Maccabees:

52 Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year,[b] 53 they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. 54 At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. 56 So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. 

Interestingly, the Seleucid Empire’s control of the Temple symbolically dies here on the same day it was born.

Hanukkah is also, according to the account given in 2 Maccabees, a delayed Sukkot festival (Sukkot is normally 8 days long in the diaspora). Sukkot, the festival of tabernacles, was probably delayed either due to the Seleucids banning traditional Jewish holidays, as the Maccabees complained, or due to the war raging in the country at the time. A further fourth reason for Hanukkha is given in 2 Maccabees, the celebration of a similar miracle performed by Nehemiah during the rebuilding of the Temple a few hundred years before.

What does it mean for early Christian authors to assert that Jesus was born on Chanukah, died on Passover, and the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on Shavuot (Pentecost)? Not only does this situate Jesus firmly within the Jewish liturgical year, it is a specific claim about who Jesus is.

For Jews, God’s presence in the world is the Torah, hence why the eternal light burns near the Torah scrolls in synagogues. In churches, this is of course the Eucharist.

The transition from Word to Eucharist is eloquently expressed by John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  …

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

For Christians, Jesus is the presence of God in the world symbolized by the menorah’s flame. 

What does it mean for modern authors to assert that Jesus was Mithras? It is a claim that  the New Testament is a bunch of malarkey and Jesus was, rather than an historical personage, a plagiarised pagan deity.

But let’s take a closer look at Mithras and the claimed parallels. According to Wikipedia:

Mithraism, also known as the Mithraic mysteries, was a Roman mystery religion centered on the god Mithras. The religion was inspired by Iranian worship of the Zoroastrian god Mithra, though the Greek Mithras was linked to a new and distinctive imagery, and the level of continuity between Persian and Greco-Roman practice is debated.[1] The mysteries were popular among the Roman military from about the 1st to the 4th century CE.[2]

Certainly Mithraism was popular in the area and some of its iconography is similar to later Christian paintings and statues. Christians may have borrowed stylistic motifs from Greek and Roman art, since there were no iconographic representations of God in traditional Judaism.

But let’s look at the more substantive claims.

The pro-Mithra camp usually makes a list of attributes Mithra and Jesus supposedly have in common, eg:

Mithra has the following in common with the Jesus character:

  • Mithra was born on December 25th of the virgin Anahita.
  • The babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger and attended by shepherds.
  • He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
  • He had 12 companions or “disciples.”
  • He performed miracles.
  • As the “great bull of the Sun,” Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.
  • He ascended to heaven.
  • Mithra was viewed as the Good Shepherd, the “Way, the Truth and the Light,” the Redeemer, the Savior, the Messiah.
  • Mithra is omniscient, as he “hears all, sees all, knows all: none can deceive him.”
  • He was identified with both the Lion and the Lamb.
  • His sacred day was Sunday, “the Lord’s Day,” hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.
  • His religion had a eucharist or “Lord’s Supper.”
  • Mithra “sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers.”
  • Mithraism emphasized baptism.

There are two problems with such lists. First, reducing any religion to a bullet points tends to render it almost unrecognizable, and second, many of these points are just plain wrong.

Here’s a comparison of Judaism and Sikhism, for example:

  • Both religions stress the importance of wearing hats
  • Sikh and Jewish prayers both assert the existence of one God.
  • Both started in Asia.
  • Sikhs have gurus, who are teachers. Judaism has rabbis, who are also teachers.
  • Sikhs and Jews both worship in dedicated religious buildings.
  • Both forbid religious iconography.
  • Both teach that God is formless and omnipotent.
  • Judaism has “10 commandments”. Sikhism has “10 Gurus”.
  • Sikhs have a ritual bathing ceremony called “Amrit Sanchar.” Jews have a ritual bathing ceremony that takes place in a ritual bathing pool, the mikvah.
  • Both have sacred texts

There you have it. Judaism and Sikhism have so much in common, they must be copying each other. I’m sure if you met a Jew and a Sikh in person, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart.

1. The first claim, that Mithras was born on December 25th, is basically wrong. Zoroastrians celebrate Mithras’s birth on the solstice, or December 21st. In the 4th century AD, in some parts of the Roman Empire, the festival’s date was shifted to December 25th, probably due to issues with the calendar (leap years).

The claims that everyone was celebrating Mithras’s birthday on December 25th are extrapolated from Roman celebrations of the solstice (Sol Invictus). Since some people equated Mithras and the sun, the logic goes, therefore everyone who celebrated the solstice was actually celebrating Mithras.

320px-mithras_petra_genetrix_terme
Mithras born from a rock, marble, 186 AD: just the spitting image of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, isn’t he?

2. Second, Mithras is most commonly depicted as born not from a virgin, but from a rock. The statues are very clear on this point. Only in a few isolated traditions is Mithras given a human mother; these were not the dominant traditions in the area. Even if we are generously metaphorical and allow the claim that Mithras was born in a cave, rather than directly from a rock, Jesus was not born in a cave. Jesus was born in a stable, where animals are kept, or possibly even the lower floor of a home where animals were kept during the winter.

3. Pretty much all babies were wrapped in swaddling clothes. I’ve swaddled my own babies. Oh no, I’ve produced gods.

4. I’ve found nothing confirming that Mithras was laid in a manger. He looks too big in most of his “birth from a rock” statues to be laid in anything, anyway, because he emerged fairly grown up.

5. Mithras is generally depicted attended by two torch bearers, Cautes and Cautophates. They symbolize sunrise and sunset, as Mithras is a solar deity. Occasionally, they are depicted holding shepherds’ crooks instead of torches.

The presence of shepherds at the nativity isn’t really an important theological point in Christianity. Neither is Cautes and Cautophates occasionally holding shepherds’ crooks in statues. These symbols are not meaningfully similar.

6. Empty claim: Anyone can walk around and teach things.

7. The claim that Mithras had 12 companions or disciples is taken from depictions of Mithras alongside the Zodiac. I don’t think anyone was claiming that Mithras was literally accompanied by Pisces and Cancer.

8. Empty: Pretty much ever religious leader/saint/prophet has performed “miracles.”

9. Mithras did not sacrifice himself as a bull. He killed a bull. The bull-killing scene is the most common depiction of Mithras, so it’s hard to figure out how someone could get this wrong. Let’s let Wikipedia describe the scene:

In every mithraeum the centrepiece was a representation of Mithras killing a sacred bull, an act called the tauroctony.[a][33] … The centre-piece is Mithras clothed in Anatolian costume and wearing a Phrygian cap; who is kneeling on the exhausted[34] bull, holding it by the nostrils[34] with his left hand, and stabbing it with his right. … A scorpion seizes the bull’s genitals. A raven is flying around or is sitting on the bull. … The two torch-bearers are on either side, dressed like Mithras, Cautes with his torch pointing up and Cautopates with his torch pointing down.[36][37] Sometimes Cautes and Cautopates carry shepherds’ crooks instead of torches.[38]

A Roman tauroctony relief from Aquileia (c. 175 CE; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

The event takes place in a cavern, into which Mithras has carried the bull, after having hunted it, ridden it and overwhelmed its strength.[39] Sometimes the cavern is surrounded by a circle, on which the twelve signs of the zodiac appear. Outside the cavern, top left, is Sol the sun, with his flaming crown, often driving a quadriga. A ray of light often reaches down to touch Mithras. At the top right is Luna, with her crescent moon, who may be depicted driving a biga.[40]

In some depictions, the central tauroctony is framed by a series of subsidiary scenes to the left, top and right, illustrating events in the Mithras narrative; Mithras being born from the rock, the water miracle, the hunting and riding of the bull, meeting Sol who kneels to him, shaking hands with Sol and sharing a meal of bull-parts with him, and ascending to the heavens in a chariot.[40]On the back side was another, more elaborate feasting scene.

If you read that and conclude, “Yup, sounds just like Jesus, shepherds, and apostles,” I’m not sure what to say.

Since Mithras worship was part of a mystery cult, we have very few records of what actually went on in there.. We have archaeological remains, of course, which show mostly feasting. This is the claimed “eucharist.” These were big feasts which left a fair amount of trash behind. Calling any ritual feast a “eucharist” or “last supper” is certainly a stretch–we might as well note that I have a supper every evening. (And besides, there is a much closer parallel to the ceremony with the bread and wine found in Judaism.)

The presence of many cherry pits in the Mithraic garbage indicates that much of that feasting took place in summer, when cherries are ripe–around the time of the summer solstice. If Mithras inspired so much Christian ritual, then why doesn’t Jesus have a summer celebration?

As for what Mithras was called, we have very few actual written texts on the religion–unlike Christians, Mithras’s worshipers did not go around telling people what they believed. There is one inscription on a wall that reads “et nos servasti . . . sanguine fuso” which translates to “And you have saved us… in the shed blood.” This is probably a reference to the killing of the bull, which was celebrated with feasting, rather than a Christ-like sacrifice. 

There is one reasonably complete surviving text that might have been part of a “Mithraic liturgy,” and it bears no relation to anything that goes on in a Christian church service:

At this level (lines 537–585), the revelation-seeker is supposed to breathe deeply and feel himself lifted up, as if in midair, hearing and seeing nothing of mortal beings on earth. He is promised to see instead the divine order of the “visible gods” rising and setting. Ritual silence is prescribed, followed by another sequence of hissing, popping, and thirteen magic words: “Then you will see the gods looking graciously upon you and no longer rushing at you, but rather going about in their own order of affairs.” After a shocking crash of thunder, another admonition of silence, and a magic incantation, the disk of the sun is to open and issue five-pointed stars. The eyes are to be closed for the following prayer. …

Next to come forth are the seven Pole-Lords, wearing linen loincloths and with faces of bulls. They have seven gold diadems, and are also to be hailed individually by name. These have powers of thunder, lightning, and earthquakes, as well as the capacity to grant physical health, good eyesight and hearing, and calmness (lines 673–692).The two groups of seven, female and male, are both depicted in an Egyptian manner and represent the “region of the fixed stars.”[16]

This might of course be some other mystery cult, there just aren’t any other texts that survived with enough complete sentences to actually read them. We do have a lot of statues similar to these pole-lords, but with the faces of lions instead of bulls.

320px-siria2c_sculture_del_mitreo_di_sidon2c_389_dc2c_krono_mitriaco_con_testa_leonina_e_spire_del_tempo_28serpente29
Lion-Headed figure from the Sidon Mithraeum, circa 500 AD

These statues are wild and we have no idea what they were for or what they meant. They might be related to a particular demon in Zoroastrianism, or they might represent the “lion degree” of initiation into the cult’s rites, or something else entirely. At any rate, we don’t find these statues in modern churches, and their importance within the Mithraic mysteries has not been transferred to anything in Christianity.

Any claim that Mithras was “called this” or “compared to that” or given particular attributes is on shaky ground given the lack of written records. Nothing in the normal Mithraic iconography looks like the peaceful good shepherd of Christianity. His association with Lions and Lambs is part of his general association with the zodiac, which contains both Leo the Lion and Aries the Ram–as well as Cancer the Crab and Scorpio the Scorpion. Why is Jesus not associated with scorpions, if Mithras was?

Mithras did ascend into Heaven, because he is a solar deity associated with the sun, moon, and stars, and heaven is where the stars are. Zeus lives in a kind of “heaven,” too, as do Odin and Thor.

I hope I do not need to keep refuting individual points. I’ve found nothing about baptism or Sundays associated with Mithras, and as for the marks on the foreheads of Mithraic initiates, Christians do not normally go around with marks on their heads, except on Ash Wednesday as a sign of mourning.

And the son/sun pun doesn’t even work in Latin. (Or Greek.)

My personal opinion is that the Mithras Cult operated rather like a modern Masonic Lodge or even a Rotary Club: a men’s club that periodically feasted together. (Mithraic cults didn’t accept female members.)

There are plenty of obvious pagan practice that survives in Christianity–the Christmas tress, for example. And the influence of pagan Greek philosophers like Plato on early Christianity is a subject worth whole volumes. We could even ask how much of Judaism owes its origins to Zoroastrianism, especially parts developed during the Babylonian exile. But at this point, I think it’s safe to say that people promoting the “Jesus was Mithras” story are either completely ignorant of Mithraism or purposefully trying to denigrate Christianity.

Have a merry Christmas, Chanukah, Mithras Day, or whatever you celebrate.

If you like it, had you better put a ring on it?

The diamond engagement ring isn’t “trad” by any means–while rings are ancient, the custom of giving one’s beloved a diamond was invented by the DeBeers corporation a mere 80 years ago.

Indeed, the entire modern wedding is mostly a marketing gimmick–I guarantee your dirt poor farming ancestors in the 1800s didn’t spring for a bachelor party (and shotgun marriages were more common than Camelot weddings)–but an insightful Twitter commentator whose name I have regretfully forgotten brings up an intriguing possibility: have diamond rings become so popular because they are an effective, hard to fake signal of future marital fidelity, thus taking the place of a traditional piece of legislation, the “breach of promise to marry“:

A breach of promise to marry, or simply, “breach of a promise,” occurs when a person promises to marry another, and then backs out of their agreement. In about half of all U.S. states, a promise to marry is considered to be legally enforceable, so long as the promise or agreement fulfills all the basic requirements of a valid contract.

According to this theory, as legal enforcement of punishments for breaking marriage contracts fell by the wayside, people found new ways to insure their relationships: by spending a huge hunk of cash on a non-refundable diamond.

This is a really nice theory. It just has one problem: the amount of money spent on a diamond is a really poor predictor of marital quality. In fact, researchers have found the opposite:

In this paper, we estimate the relationship between wedding spending (including spending on engagement rings and wedding ceremonies) and the duration of marriages. To do so, we carried out an online survey of over 3,000 ever married persons residing in the United States. Overall, we find little evidence that expensive weddings and the duration of marriages are positively related. On the contrary, in multivariate analysis, we find evidence that relatively high spending on the engagement ring is inversely associated with marriage duration among male respondents. Relatively high spending on the wedding is inversely associated with marriage duration among female respondents, and relatively low spending on the wedding is positively associated with duration among male and female respondents.

People who spend more on diamonds (and weddings) get divorced faster, but it appears there is a sweet spot for rings between $500 and $2000. Not having a ring at all might spell trouble, for going below $500 also increases your chance of divorce–but not nearly as much as spending over $2000.

The sweet spot for the overall wedding is… below $1000. This is a little concerning when you consider that, according to PBS, the average couple spends about $30,000 on their wedding.

These finding may have an immediate cause: debt is bad for marriage, and blowing $30,000 on a wedding is not a good way to kick off your life together. There may also be a more fundamental cause: people who are impulsive and bad at financial planning may also be bad at managing other parts of their lives and generally make bad spouses.

There is one bright spot in this study:

Additionally, we find that having high wedding attendance and having a
honeymoon (regardless of how much it cost) are generally positively associated with marriage duration.

This is probably because these are activities you do with people you actually like, and the sorts of people who have lots of relationships and like doing things with their friends are good at relationships.

So skip the wedding and just invite all of your friends to a big party in Tahiti.

(If you’re wondering, we spent about $1500 on our wedding and I hand made the rings, and we are now the most successfully and longest-married couple in my entire extended family.)

How did we all get bamboozled? The process by which diamond rings became the engagement staple is really something:

The concept of an engagement ring had existed since medieval times, but it had never been widely adopted. And before World War II, only 10% of engagement rings contained diamonds. …

Creating the Narrative:

The agency wanted to make it look like diamonds were everywhere, and they started by using celebrities in the media. “The big ones sell the little ones,” said Dorothy Dignam, a publicist for De Beers at N.W. Ayer. N.W. Ayer’s publicists wrote newspaper columns and magazine stories about celebrity proposals with diamond rings and the type, size, and worth of their diamonds. Fashion designers talked about the new diamond trend on radio shows.

N.W. Ayer used traditional marketing tools like newspapers and radio in the first half of the twentieth century in a way that kind of reminds me of inbound marketing today: In addition to overt advertisements, they created entertaining and educational content — ideas, stories, fashion, and trends that supported their brand and product, but wasn’t explicitly about it. According to The AtlanticN.W. Ayer wrote: “There was no direct sale to be made. There was no brand name to be impressed on the public mind. There was simply an idea — the eternal emotional value surrounding the diamond.” Their story was about the people who gave diamonds or were given diamonds, and how happy and loved those diamonds made them feel.

People didn’t realize this was marketing. It just felt like “culture,” and to those who grew up with media saturated with “diamonds=love,” it already felt “traditional” by the time they were ready to marry.

Remember this–there’s a lot more “marketing” going on than just the explicit ads on TV.

 

The Dangers of Being Kind

I recently had a conversation with someone who seemed entirely motivated by kindness and also entirely, dangerously wrong.

The subject was prisons, and more specifically the treatment of prisoners:

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve read a few books on prisons, crime, and legal systems. My opinion of the American legal system is that it is kind of terrifying; it usually catches the right person, but not always; unscrupulous people absolutely can use it to destroy your life.

Prisoners can be divided into roughly three groups:

  1. People who shouldn’t be there (innocent, or their sentences are absurd for their crimes)
  2. People who should be there, but feel genuine remorse
  3. Criminal psychopaths

Some prisoners shouldn’t be there at all, some should be treated better than they currently are and given more support for reintegration to the non-prison world, and some should be tortured to death.

Over in real life, I try hard to be kind to others. I hand out cookies and hot cider on cold days to the neighborhood kids, volunteer with the homeless, and feel bad about eating animals.

But kindness requires… policing. Children cannot play on the playground if it’s full of homeless druggies. Homeless shelters cannot help if they are full of strung-out druggies, either. Even eating “free range” chickens requires that farmers raising chickens in batteries be prevented from slapping a fraudulent “free range” sticker on their meat.

Kindness alone is insufficient for creating a “kind” world. Many people are not nice people and will take advantage of or harm others if given the chance. Being “kind” to such people simply allows them to harm others.

My interlocutor in the conversation about the “trans” inmate basically argued that taxpayers should fund cross-sex hormone therapy for a man who raped/tortured/murdered a family (raped and murdered their kid, too), because it is medical care that prevents pain and suffering.

This argument is flawed on two grounds. The first is obvious: the entire point of prisons is to cause suffering. Prison isn’t fun; if it were fun, people would want to be there. Prison has to be unpleasant in order to function as any sort of deterrent, and we do actually want to deter people from committing crime. (In this case, the fellow should suffer to death, but that’s irrelevant, since the death penalty isn’t on the table in Connecticut.)

This doesn’t mean that I want to torture all of the prisoners–see above–but that doesn’t change the fundamental fact that punishment is an part of what prisons are for.

The second flaw is the matter of obligation. We may not wish to cause further harm to an inmate–having determined that prison is sufficient already–but that does not obligate us to relieve suffering that we didn’t cause in the first place.

This is a very common conversation in the car: “Mom! I forgot my toy! We have to go back!”

“I’m sorry, but we don’t have time to go back. You had half an hour to get ready, so you had plenty of time to get Mr. Fuzzy before we left. Hopefully you’ll plan ahead better next time.”

Yes, kiddo is going to cry, but he’s old enough to remember Mr. Fuzzy; it’s not everyone else in the car’s job to fix his mistake.

The fact that someone wants to undergo a sex change does not mean they need to; they may be unhappy because they cannot, but there are 2.3 million other people in prison who are also unhappy because there are things they cannot do. There are people who will never attend their children’s birthday parties; men whose wives will leave them; women whose sick and aging parents will die without saying good-bye.

Life is filled with tragedies; there is nothing special about wanting to be a girl that it sets it above the others and obligates tax payers to pay for it.

I am fine with paying for actual life-saving medical care, up to a point–diabetics in prison shouldn’t be denied insulin, for example. But wanting to be a girl is not an emergency. It’s a luxury, and once you’ve torture murdered a few people, you don’t get luxuries anymore.

To this is replied that I am, in some way, denying the inmate’s humanity, or perhaps drawing lines in the sand that could get shifted in difficult cases to cause harm to someone I do not want harmed, etc. The idea that we should not decide a trivially easy case because someday a more difficult case may come along is obvious nonsense, and “humanity” in this context is meaningless. I wouldn’t torture a dog, even though they aren’t human. I think it is immoral to kill or mistreat great apes, elephants, and dolphins.

Dolphins don’t torture humans to death.

If we are going to remember that someone is a human, we should remember his victims. They were humans; he is merely a member of Homo sapiens, a distinction he neither earned nor made meaningful.

There are several sleights of hand, here. The first is the exchange of causing harm and preventing harm. We may have an obligation not to cause harm, but we lack one to prevent harm. The second is the classification of sex hormones as necessary medical care. It is not; no one dies from not undergoing HRT. The third was characterizing a denial of medical care as a human rights violation. Human rights, you know, the things the UN decided were important after the Holocaust.

Put these three sleights together, and wanting to spend my money on my own children instead of on sex hormones for a murderer is equivalent to shoveling people into ovens.

I don’t think most of these sleights my interlocutor made were intentional–rather, I think she (or he) is a very kind person who has been effectively deceived by others who prey on her niceness.

Step one in fixing this sort of problem is to realize that kindness cannot exist in a vacuum: predators have to be stopped or children will be murdered, and we do this via coercion, which is, yes, painful. Step two is realizing that money (and resources) is limited, and that spending it on one thing requires not spending it on something else. Once we realize that, we have a quick and easy morality test: would sane people take money from their children in order to spend it on this?

In this case, normal people find the idea abhorrent: no loving parent would deprive their children in order to provide a murderer with luxuries.

If your “kindness” leads to acting abhorrently, it isn’t really kindness.

More Laws, Please: Jewish Law is Different from Ours

51ta-us7crlWelcome back to our discussion of Friedman, Leeson, and Skarbek’s Legal Systems Very Different from Ours. Today we’ll be discussing Jewish law.

Jewish law may be the best-recorded legal system in the history of the world; there are hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of pages of surviving primary sources covering about twenty-five hundred years.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I had this idea once back in college to do a project on parallel legal systems like Gypsy law, and thankfully someone talked me into switching to Jewish law, mostly out of concern for my physical safety.

But Jewish law is also massively better documented.

One thing I find amusing about Jewish law is that Jews seem to actually like the subject. I can’t tell if that’s something people feel like they’re supposed to say in the same way that people feel like they should claim to like school even if they actually hated it, but they certainly give the impression of being rather enthusiastic on the subject. Where the traditional practice of Chinese law can be summarized as “Please go away and leave us alone,” or “good people don’t need law,” the Jewish approach seems like “More laws, please.”

Problems of Divine Law

Jewish law was, in theory, based on a single unchangeable source–the Torah [first five books of the Bible.]… Basing the law in this way rather than on custom, precedent or legislation raised two problems shared with other legal systems similarly based, including Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and American Constitutional Law.

Note: I wrote a post about this: The Talmud and the Constitution. The trouble comes in when two scholars/judges/etc disagree about what exactly the law should be:

In a system that views law as the creation of a legislature, king, or court of last resort, the same authority that made the law can settle disagreements about it. That does not work for a legal system viewed not as created but as discovered, deduced from divinely inspired sources.

Obviously you need some way to resolve disputes about what exactly the laws should be; you also need some way to change laws should new circumstances arise that necessitate doing so.

The initial solution to the problem of legal uniformity was a simple one. Truth is not determined by majority vote but law can be. … the legal scholars took the position that the interpretation to be followed by judges was determined by the views of the majority of legal scholars.

There follows an amusing story about some rabbis who were arguing about whether an oven could be cleaned. The majority of rabbis held one opinion; the dissenting rabbi’s opinion was closer to the original religious text. God steps in on the dissenting rabbi’s side, at which point the other rabbis basically tell Him to back off, this is a rabbi matter.

His position was summed up by another Rabbi as “The Torah has already been given at Mount Sinai. We pay not attention to a heavenly voice because You have already written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, ‘Follow the Majority.'”

According to the story, God smiled and said to himself, “My children have bested me.”

Most people I have discussed this story with object to it. They just can’t fathom the idea of telling God to buzz off and let the humans interpret divine law. Yet, as a parent, there have certainly been times when my children, as God put it, bested me. And in those moments I didn’t feel irritated or angry, but proud of them for their growth and maturity.

Anyway, as for the Jews, the authors make a good point that you’re much more likely in normal life to encounter cranks and grifters claiming divine revelations than you are to encounter actual divine revelations, so it’s a good idea to just reject divine revelations.

There is an interesting parallel between the conflict between the two schools of Jewish law, ending in the victory of one of them, and the development of Muslim law almost a thousand years later. In the early centuries of Islam, Sunni legal scholars divided themselves into four schools of law named after, and to some degree based on the teaching of, four of the early legal scholars. The schools differed in details of legal interpretation but regarded each other as mutually orthodox–and still do. …

One solution to the problem of [Jewish] legal diversity was the development of geographical schools Judges in France mostly went by the legal opinion of whoever was currently the most prominent legal scholar among French Jews…

This makes sense, given the difficulties of disseminating legal opinions to a diasporic population spread thinly across thousands of miles before the invention of cheap printing and fast transportation.

One of the other difficulties with Jewish law is that after 2,500 or so years, so much has been written that the whole mass has gotten terribly unwieldy:

Once the Talmud was complete, legal scholarship was built on top of three layers. The first was the Torah. That was followed by rabbinic legislation and commentary and interpretation based on the Torah, culminating in the Mishnah. That was followed by commentary on the Mishnah, culminating in the Talmud. Scholarship thereafter consisted largely of commentary on the Talmud, which had the previous two layers embedded in it, along with additional legislation. Further layers were added as one or another work based on those sources–the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides is one example–itself became the subject of further commentary.

This has generally been resolved via books summarizing previous decisions accompanied by more detailed legal books if one needs them, and the development of the previously mentioned local or communal law. Of course, sometimes this led to conflicts between different levels of interpretation or commentary.

There follows an interesting discussion of how marriage customs and especially the laws around marriage could have been modified to increase parental control over whom their children marry, but it is too long to quote here–you will have to read the chapter yourself.

A theory on kosher rules:

Careful observance of such rules is evidence that the observer believes in the religion, since he is willing to bear substantial costs in order to conform to its requirements. The fact that he believe sin the religion means that he will be reluctant to sear, falsely, for fear of supernatural punishment.

Well, maybe. It’d be nice to have some data on the matter.

Maimonides [a famous Jewish legal scholar] goes on to describe in some detail the rules associated with the avenger of blood,t he heir of a killer’s victim, and the cities of refuge–of which, like kings of Israel, there had been none for more than a thousand years. A killer was supposed to go to one of the cities of refuge, be brought from there to the court of the city where the killing occurred, tried and, if guilty of deliberate murder, put to death by the avenger of blood. If found guilty of unintentional killing he was to be sent back to the city of refuge to remain there until the high priest, also nonexistent in Maimonides’ day, died. En route to or from the city of refuge he could be killed by the avenger of blood without penalty.

That looks rather like the remnant of a pre-existing feud system, untidily integrated into its replacement.

It’s late and I’m pretty tired, so let’s wrap things up. I’m sorry I don’t have more to say, but I’ve already hit the point of exhaustion and I said a lot on the subject back in Why Does my Fridge Have a Sabbath Mode? and The Talmud and the Constitution.

Woketianity

Scott’s recent post, Gay Rites are Civil Rites, helped a lot of different threads I’ve had bouncing around cohere into a manageable whole:

  1. Civil religion is religion, it just doesn’t have the god part
  2. Our civil religion is Woketianity
  3. Civil religion exists to justify the rule of the upper class
  4. It does so by claiming to care about the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, etc
  5. But of course never in a way that would challenge the rule of the upper class

This explains a few things, like

  1. why SJW pile-ons and their approach to social relations look like cult behavior (because they literally are),
  2. why the entire society has suddenly come out in support of Pride Month (because this is the new chief rite of the civil religion),
  3. why companies like Goldman Sachs are making an effort to be publicly associated with Pride Month (to justify their egregious money piles via Woketianity),
  4. Why so many Woke pile-ons actually target poor and powerless people, like shop keepers and janitors (because they did not serve the Elite Wokeist with sufficient defference)
  5. and why so little of this Woketianity involves things that actually improve the lives of poor people (because that’s not the point).

If some poor people do better because of Woke policies, Wokeists won’t be disturbed, but the primary purpose of their beliefs is to justify their position in the ruling class.

Woketianity can be seen as a heretical co-option of whatever ideas people originally had about helping the poor and downtrodden.

Memes can be roughly divided into two forms–those that spread horizontally, (ie, across society) like viruses, and those that are transmitted vertically (ie, from your ancestors), like mitochondria. Mitochondrial memes tend to promote your health and well-being, because if they didn’t, your ancestors’ children would have died and never made you. Brushing your teeth is a mitochondrial meme, most likely taught by you to your parents in order to improve your chances of not dying of tooth decay. Viral memes do not need to improve your health to spread; in the short term, at least, they only need to spread faster than people die from them.

Woketianity is a viral meme, and in the minds of anyone not in the elite, it is functionally a parasite, convincing them to accept elite rule on the grounds that it is “good for the oppressed.”

There are three responses to the Woke argument for supporting the elites to help the oppressed:

  1. “I don’t care about the oppressed.”
  2. “Your proposal doesn’t actually help the oppressed.”
  3. “Fuck you, you hypocritical grifter.”

Option two has the most potential for turning into quicksand, since even if you happen to be correct on some particular issue, you are arguing against people who are trying to raise their social status by holding the Right Sort of Views, not actually deal with icky poor people.

If you actually want to help the poor and/or oppressed, the Woke are good targets for funds, but don’t expect them to come up with good ideas. They have no idea what it’s like to be a teenage runaway, homeless, ugly, crippled, or hopeless, so if anything, you will have to prevent them from instituting bad ideas that actually harm the people they want to think they are helping.

You’d like an example? Okay, here’s one:

IQ tests are actually the only reliable way we have right now of identifying bright kids who come from underprivileged backgrounds. Anyone trying to do away with IQ tests is not interested in helping poor students.

If you want to actually do good:

  1. Be sincere.
  2. Be realistic.

Algorithmic Optimization pt 2

 

There is nothing exceptional about the slowed-down Nancy Pelosi video, and nothing terribly exceptional in reporters saying uninformed things about subjects they aren’t well versed in.

The significance lies far more behind the scenes. From Marketwatch: Facebook Decided to Rethink Policies on Doctored Media two days Before Pelosi Video.

Wow, that is awfully coincidental that Facebook just happened to be thinking about changing these policies anyway right before a doctored video just happened to make it onto the news, prompting millions of people to pressure Facebook into doing exactly what Facebook already wanted to do.

Don’t be fooled: this isn’t spontaneous. Oh, sure, many of the people at the low end, like reporters, are just doing their job of reading the news they have been given into the camera, but there is plenty of active coordination going on behind the scenes by organizations like Facebook and the Democratic Party.

The Democrats realized sometime around 2016 that they have a meme problem. People on the internet thought Trump was funny and Democrats were boring sticks in the mud. People on the internet made videos about Hillary Clinton’s health, the European migration crisis, and other subjects the Dems didn’t approve of.

They don’t want this happening again.

So they are laying the groundwork now to re-write the policies and algorithms to strategically remove problematic conservative voices from the fray. Alex Jones has already been kicked off Youtube, Facebook, PayPal, etc. FB has taken a particularly hard line, threatening not just to delete Jones’s videos, but any account that posts them (excepting those that post them in order to criticize them).

Even Visa and Mastercard are getting in on the act, cutting off banking services to organizations whose political views they don’t like.

The ostensible reason for Alex Jones’s deplatforming is his supposed spread of conspiracy theories post-Sandy Hook (I say “supposedly” because I have not seen the clips in question,) but it is obvious that 1. these concerns surfaced years after Sandy Hook and 2. no one has deplatformed media outlets that pushed the “Iraq has WMDs” conspiracy theory that cost the US trillions of dollars and lead to the deaths of thousands (millions?) of people.

This has all been accompanied by a basic shift in how media platforms and infrastructure are viewed.

The traditional conception is that these are platforms, not publishers, and thus they merely provide something akin to infrastructure without much say over how you, the user, put it to use. For example, the electric company provides electricity to anyone who pays for it, and even if you use your electricity to warm the cages of your illegally gotten, exotic, endangered reptile collection, the electric company will generally keep providing you with electricity. The electric company does not have to approve of what you do with the electricity you buy, and if you break the law with their electricity, they see it as the state’s job to stop you.

A publisher and a platform, like Facebook, traditionally enjoyed different legal rights and safeguards. A publisher checks and decides to publish every single item they put out, and so is held to be responsible for anything they print. A platform merely provides a space where other people can publish their own works, without supervision. Platforms do not check posts before they go up, (as a practical matter, they can’t,) and thus are generally only held legally responsible for taking down material on their site if someone has notified them that it is in violation of some law.

EG, suppose someone posts something really illegal, child porn, on Facebook. If Facebook is a “publisher,” it is now publishing child porn and is in big legal trouble. But since Facebook is just a platform, it deletes the videos and is legally in the clear. (The poster may still go to prison, of course.)

The conceptual shift in recent years has been to portray platforms as “allowing” people to come in and use their platforms, and then ask why they are allowing such shitty people to use their platform. No one asks why the electric company allows you to use their electricity to raise your army of bio mutant squids, but they do ask why Facebook allows right-wingers to be on the platform at all.

This is treating platforms like publishers, and they are absolutely jumping into it with both feet.

Let’s skip forward a bit in the video to the lady in white to see this in action:

It’s been viewed millions of times on the internet, but it’s not real… This is really scary, and not going away, and I’m fearful this is going to be all over the 2020 election.

You know, that’s how I felt when libs kept bringing up Harry Potter in the context of the last election, but for some reason taking a children’s fantasy story about wizards is acceptable in political discourse but slowed-down videos aren’t.

And who is responsible for monitoring this stuff, taking it down? Facebook, Youtube took it down, but after how long?

Other commentator… At Facebook it’s still up because Facebook allows you to do a mock video…

The correct answer is that no one is responsible for monitoring all of Facebook and Youtube’s content, because that’s impossible to do and because Facebook isn’t your mommy. If you want Facebook to be your mom and monitor everything you consume, just stop talking and leave the adults alone.

CNN asks:

So Monika, in the wake of the 2016 election obviously Facebook has repeatedly told Congress and the American people that yo’re serious about fighting disinformation, fake news, and yet this doctored video which I think even your own fact checkers acknowledge is doctored of speaker Pelosi remains on your platform. Why?

Like the previous guy already said, because it’s not against Facebook’s TOS. Of course Anderson Cooper already knows this. He doesn’t need to get an actual Facebook representative on his show to find out that “funny reaction videos are allowed on Facebook.” And if Facebook were serious about maintaining its neutrality as a platform, not a publisher, it would not have bothered to send anyone to CNN–it would have just left matters at a blanket statement that the video does not violate the TOS.

The Facebook Lady (Monika,) then explains how Facebook uses its algorithms to demote and demonitize content the “experts” claim is false. They’re proud of this and want you to know about it.

So misinformation that doesn’t promote violence, but misinformation that portrays the third most powerful politician in the country as a drunk or as somehow impaired, that’s fine? 

Oh no, quick, someone save the third most powerful person in the country from people saying mean things about her on the internet! We can’t have those disgusting peasants being rude to their betters!

Anderson Cooper is infuriatingly moronic; does not “logically understand” why Facebook leaves up videos that don’t violate the TOS but suggests that Facebook should “get out of the news business” if it can’t do it well.

Facebook isn’t in the “news business” you moron, because Facebook is a platform, not a publisher. You’re in the news business, so you really ought to know the difference.

If you don’ know the difference between Facebook and a news organization, maybe you shouldn’t be in the news business.

That said, of course Anderson Cooper actually understands how Facebook works. This whole thing is a charade to give Facebook cover for changing its policies under the excuse of “there was public outrage, so we had to.” It’s an old scam.

So to summarize:

  1. The Dems want to change the algorithms to favor themselves, eg, Facebook decided to rethink policies on doctored media two days before Pelosi video, but don’t want to be so obvious about it the Republicans fight back
  2. Wait for a convenient excuse, like a slowed-down video, then go into overdrive to convince you that Democracy is Seriously Threatened by Slow Videos, eg, Doctored Videos show Facebook willing enables of the Russians; Doctored Pelosi video is leading tip in coming disinformation battle
  3. Convince Republican leadership to go along with it because, honestly, they’re morons: Congress investigating deepfakes after doctored Pelosi video, report says
  4. Deplatform their enemies
  5. Rinse and repeat: Vox Adpocalypse

 

One final note: even though I think there is coordinated activity at the top/behind the scenes at tech companies and the like, I don’t think the average talking head you see on TV is in on it. Conspiracies like that are too hard to pull off; rather, humans naturally cooperate and coordinate their behavior because they want to work together, signal high social status, keep their jobs, etc.

Algorithmic Optimization has Begun

My first reaction to this video was to yell Head Like a Hole at the screen.

… Head like a hole.
Black as your soul.
I’d rather die than give you control.
Head like a hole.
Black as your soul.
I’d rather die than give you control.
Bow down before the one you serve.
You’re going to get what you deserve.
Bow down before the one you serve.
You’re going to get what you deserve. …

With that bit of catharsis, let’s take a deeper look at the first video.

A doctored video of Pelosi that surfaced this week has been viewed millions of times and some social media giants are refusing to take it down.

By the way, the “doctoring” in this video was just slowing it down, not some scary-sounding “deep fake” like the scene where Forrest Gump met JFK. (Good luck distinguishing between “slowed down” and your average humorous “reaction” video.)

Social media sites like Youtube and Facebook have traditionally taken the view that they basically let people post whatever they want, without supervision, and then take it down if 1. they receive a complaint and 2. it is illegal or otherwise violates their terms of service. Aside from a Youtube algorithm that catches pirated music, these sites rely on users’ reports because they have no way to scan and check the contents of 100% of posts.

So before a company takes down a video, you have make a credible argument to them that the video is in some way illegal or violating their TOS. If the copyright holder claimed violation, the video would probably be instantly gone, because social media sites are legally required to take down copyright violations.

But merely remixing someone else’s video, maybe adding some music or a laugh track or a bit of your own commentary, happens all the time and is usually allowed–sans a copyright claim, “this video has been edited” does not violate Youtube or Facebook’s terms of service.

So one sentence in, and already this reporter is showing a fundamental misunderstanding of how social media companies handle content complaints. They are not “refusing to take it down;” they are “not taking it down because they have not decided that it violates one of their policies.”

… I think what’s different now is the way that this kind of content can be weaponized. …

Sure, the Malleus Maleficarum, 1487, might have contributed to thousands of innocent people being tortured and burned to death during the European witch trials; Nazi propaganda might have contributed to the Holocaust; communist propaganda might have contributed to mass famines, Holodomor, the Great Leap Forward, etc., but now this kind of content can be weaponized!

… There are now websites out there where you can ask people for ten, twenty bucks to make deep fakes for you…

Deepfakes are legitimately interesting in their own right and we do need to have a real, sit-down think about the possibility of all video and photographs becoming unreliable, but this isn’t a deepfake. This is a video slowed down with ordinary video editing software like the one I use to make videos of the kids for grandma.

They’re trying to scare you with the ominous sounding “deepfake” because “slowed down a bit” doesn’t sound like nearly so big a threat to civilization.

Facebook’s actions drew strong criticism from media watchers, … so, what should viewers expect from Facebook and other social media sites when it comes to authenticating media on their platform?

Nothing. They should expect nothing because Facebook does not “authenticate” things on its platform, nor does it have the ability to.

Anyone who thinks, “I saw it on Facebook, therefore it must be true,” should not be allowed out of the house without supervision (nor should they be allowed on Facebook).

So, the video reflects this problem that we’re going to increasingly face, which is that we can’t trust our own eyes so it’s not that easy for the average citizen to make sense of what’s true and what’s false, what gets circulated or goes viral on Facebook, so they need to defer to people with expert opinions…

I think that popping sound was me turning into a Marxist.

Seriously, though, deferring political decisions to “experts” just leads to people competing over what “experts” believe. We discussed this back in my review of Tom Nichols’s The Death of Expertise:

Nichols ends with a plea that voters respect experts (and that experts, in turn, be humble and polite to voters.) After all, modern society is too complicated for any of us to be experts on everything. If we don’t pay attention to expert advice, he warns, modern society is bound to end in ignorant goo.

The logical inconsistency is that Nichols believes in democracy at all–he thinks democracy can be saved if ignorant people vote within a range of options as defined by experts like himself, eg, “What vaccine options are best?” rather than “Should we have vaccines at all?”

The problem, then, is that whoever controls the experts (or controls which expert opinions people hear) controls the limits of policy debates. This leads to people arguing over experts, which leads right back where we are today. As long as there are politics, “expertise” will be politicized, eg:

“Experts quoted in the piece.”

And where do these experts come from? I study these things; am I an expert? Do I get to decide which Youtube videos are Fake News?

What, someone’s complaining that I demonetized all of their pro-antifa videos? Too bad. I’m the expert, now.

“Experts” have brought us many valuable things, like heart surgery and airplanes. They have also had many mistakes. They once swore that witches were a serious problem, that the Earth stood still at the center of the universe, and that chemicals in the water were causing the frogs to change sex. Wait, that last one is true. Experts once claimed that homosexuality was a mental illness; today they proclaim that transsexual children should go on hormone blockers. Experts claimed that satanic ritual abuse was definitely a real thing and that there was an international conspiracy of Satanic preschools, resulting in real people actually going to prison.

The potential for the rich, powerful, and well-connected to hire their own experts and fund studies that coincidentally show they deserve to keep making lots of money and aren’t doing anything that could harm your health or well being (like the time gas companies paid for studies claiming leaded gas was harmless, or tobacco companies paid experts to claim cigarettes didn’t cause cancer.)

This is why courts let both sides bring their own experts to a case–because there are always experts on both sides.

Back to the video:

I think the republic begins to suffer if people are getting extremely bad information and the authorities, the elites, the gatekeepers, are basically throwing up their hands and just saying, “not my problem.”

Don’t worry about that popping sound.

The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. –Marx,  A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. –Marx, The German Ideology

Back to the guy in the video:

In the last election, we saw how outside actors came in and tried to manipulate the American electorate, spreading misinformation and Facebook was their primary platform for spreading misinformation.

The guy who just said that the Republic begins to suffer if people are getting misinformation just spread misinformation about “outside interference” in the 2016 election, and he thinks there exists some sort of politically disinterested “experts” who can determine which videos are true or not?

So what happens when those actors, when the Russians, or some bad political actors here, try to use manipulated video that does’t just change a snippet in a clip, but invents things wholecloth?

Like the time the New York Times ran a story attacking a student from Covington highschool based on deceptively edited video footage?

Or is it okay when the New York Times, the paper of record whom millions of people trust for their news does it, but bad when Alex Jones, the guy who thinks chemicals in the water are turning the frogs gay, does it?

I don’t see how, once that firehose [of fake videos] is unleashed, we have any choice but to have some authority step in and make those distinctions about what’s real and what’s not.

It’s amazing how quickly we went from “Hooray the internet is spreading the Arab Spring” to “Oh no the internet is threatening our hold on political power; shut it down!”

For the sake of both my need to sleep and everyone’s rage levels, let’s continue this in the next post.

On the rise of mental illness on college campuses

 

It’s not just at Middlebury. As Sailer notes in his review of Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind

A remarkable fraction of current articles in The New York Timesand The New Yorker include testimony that the author feels emotionally traumatized, which is stereotypically attributed to the malevolence of Donald Trump. But the evidence in The Coddling of the American Mind points to the second Obama administration as being the era when the national nervous breakdown began.

The authors cite alarming evidence of a recent increase in emotional problems. For example, the percentage of college students who said they suffered from a “psychological disorder” increased among males from 2.7 percent in 2012 to 6.1 percent by 2016 (a 126 percent increase). Over the same four years, the percentage of coeds who saw themselves as psychologically afflicted rose from 5.8 percent to 14.5 percent (150 percent growth).

Sailer blames the Obama administration, eg, the DOE releasing new definitions of “sexual harassment” that depend more on emotion than reason, but this is only playing kick the can, because why would the Obama DOE want to redefine sexual harassment in the first place? 

So I propose a slightly different origin for the current hysteria: 

If you incentivise lying, you get more lying. If you incentivise social signaling, you get more social signaling. The next thing you know, you get a social signaling spiral.

So people start lying because it gets them status points, but people are kind of bad at lying. Lying is cognitively taxing. The simplest way to make lying less taxing is to believe your own lies.

So the more people get involved in signaling spirals, the more they come to believe their own lies.

Meanwhile, everyone around them is engaged in the same signaling spiral, too. 

People get their view of “Reality” in part by checking it against what everyone else believes. If everyone in your village says the stream is to the east, even if you’ve gotten turned around and feel like it’s to the west, you’ll probably just follow everyone else and hope you get to water. If everyone around you is lying, there’s a good chance you’ll start to believe their lies.

(Let’s face it, most people are not that bright. Maybe a little bright. Not a lot. So they go along with society. Society says eat this, don’t eat that–they trust. Society is usually right about things like that, and the ones that aren’t die out. 

Trust is key. If you trust that someone has your back, you listen to them. You take advice from them. You might even try to make them proud. If you don’t trust someone, even if they’re right, you won’t listen to them. If you don’t trust them, you assume they want you dead and are trying to trick you. 

Since our system is now full of liars, trust is suffering.)

Eventually there’s just one sane person left in the room, wondering who’s gone insane: them, or everyone else.

In the case of the “mental health breakdown” on the left, it’s a combination of the left lying about its mental health and believing its own lies about things that are bothering it.

But what incentivised lying in the first place? 

Sailer dates the emergence of the insanity to 2012-13, but I remember the emergence of the current SJW-orthodoxy and its rabid consumption of what had formerly known as “liberalism” back in the Bush years, back around 2003. I was surprised at the time by the speed with which it went mainstream, spreading from “this thing my friends are arguing about” to “everyone on the internet knows this.” 

Facebook. 

It’s Facebook. 

Zuckerberg launched “TheFacebook”, featuring photos of Harvard students, in 2004. From there it spread to other prestigious schools, and opened fully to the public in 2006. Because of its real name policy, FB has always incentivized people toward holiness spirals, and it began with an infusion of people who already believed the SJW memeplex that was hot at Harvard in 2004. 

At this point, it’s not necessarily Facebook itself that’s spreading things, and it was never just facebook. There are plenty of other social media sites, like MySpace, Reddit, and Twitter, that have also spread ideas. 

The lethality of disease is partially dependent on how difficult it is to spread. If a disease needs you to walk several miles to carry it to its next host, then it can’t go killing you before you get there. By contrast, if the disease only needs you to explode on the spot, it doesn’t need to keep you alive long enough to get anywhere. Where population are dense, sanitation is non-existent, and fleas are rampant, you get frequent plague outbreaks because disease has a trivial time jumping from person to person. Where populations are low and spread out, with good sanitation and few vermin, disease has a much harder time spreading and will tend to evolve to coexist with humans for at least as long as it takes to find a new host. 

For example, chicken pox has been infecting humans for so long that it is adapted to our ancestral tribal size (which is pretty small,) so it has developed the ability to go dormant for 20 or 40 years until a whole new generation of uninfected people is born. 

AIDS kills people, but because its method of transmission (mostly sex) is not as easy as jumping fleas or contaminated water, it takes a long time. People who’ve caught bubonic plague generally die within a week or so; untreated AIDS patients last an average of 11 years. 

The internet has allowed memes that used to stay put in colleges to spread like wildfire to the rest of the population. (Similarly, talk radio allowed conservative memes to spread back in the 80s and 90s, and the adoption of the printing press in Europe probably triggered the witch hunts and Protestantism.) 

Anyway, this whole SJW-system got perfected on social media, and strangely, much of it is dependent on this performative mental illness. Eg, in “Don’t call people with uteruses ‘women’ because that’s triggering to trans people,” the mental illness claim is that the word “women” is “triggering” to someone and therefore ought to be avoided. The word “triggered” means “to trigger a panic attack,” as in someone with PTSD.

The use of “triggered” in most of these cases is absolutely false, but people claim it because it gets them their way. 

And if people are lying a bunch about having mental illness, and surrounded by nasty, toxic people who are also lying about mental illness, and if lying is cognitively taxing, then the end result is a lot of stressed out people with mental issues. 

Death Memes, pt 2

This is part two: Why are there suicide memes? If you don’t know what a suicide meme is, please see part one: What are Suicide Memes?

Memes, as used on this blog, are units of ideas. A suicide meme happens when you adopt the memes of people who want you dead. To the gazelle, the lion is a monster; to the lion, the gazelle is lunch. It does not benefit a gazelle to adopt the lion’s idea that gazelles are tasty, nor does it benefit the lion to sympathize with the gazelle.

Concurrent with the suicide memes infecting the West is an increase in actual suicides, which carry over into an overall increase in death:

suiciderates
From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

2300_white_death_1_0323
Source: New research identifies a “Sea of Despair” among white, working-class Americans

Suicide memes aren’t exclusive to America. They pervade the West, from Britain to New Zealand. If you are inside the meme, you likely cannot see it–the world is simply operating in a rational way; once you are outside the meme, you cannot unsee it–the world is absurd.

The moment of fully understanding the suicide meme and realizing society is filled with them is, for many people, gut-wrenching. It is like having the ground suddenly pulled out from under you. Many people refer to it as “taking the red pill,” in homage to the scene in The Matrix in which Neo decides to wake up from delusion.

ETA: A friend linked me to this excellent account of the feeling: 

As I read the article about the photos, I felt a sense of disbelief. I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading was correct. … I spent the next few hours searching the subject online and found quite a bit more information, but no serious or credible refutation of the stories I’d just learned. The facts therein did not appear to be in much dispute. …

Then the strangest feeling came over me. …

The best description I can come up with is that it was a regret so intense it morphed seamlessly into guilt, as though I were responsible for something terrible, though I didn’t know exactly what. …

I sat in front of my computer and put my face down on the keyboard. I stayed in that position for a few minutes, energyless and drained. When I lifted my head I was surprised to find a few tears on my cheeks.

The experience was something akin to being married for thirty years, thinking your husband loving and faithful, and then by chance coming across evidence that he’d been living a double life all that time, with a wife and kids in another town. A sense of deep betrayal of a basic trust.

Waking up to the fact that you are surrounded by liars is not psychologically simple. How much of what you thought you knew is actually false? It is easy at this stage to feel like you are falling down a rabbit hole, to accept things as true simply because they go against popular narratives, to decide that reality must lie in some other, starkly different direction. Attempts to bring you back to reality are resisted because “reality” has already been proven to be a malicious lie bent on destroying you.

By coincidence, as I write this, Zero Hedge opines:

How to account for Americans being the most anxious, fearful, and stressed-out people among the supposedly advanced nations? Do we not live in the world’s greatest democratic utopia where dreams come true? 

What if the dreaming part is actually driving us insane? What if we have engineered a society in which fantasy has so grotesquely over-run reality that coping with daily life is nearly impossible. …

You end up in a virtual world of advertising and agit-prop where manipulation is the primary driver of human activity. That is, a world where the idea of personal liberty (including any act of free thought) becomes a philosophical sick joke, whether you believe in the possibility of free will or not. You get a land full of college kids trained to think that coercion of others is the highest-and-best use of their time on earth — and that it represents “inclusion.” You get a news industry that makes its own reality, churning out narratives (i.e. constructed psychodramas) to excite numbed minds.

When people realize they are surrounded by lies and suicide memes, they start looking for someone to blame. If there are death memes, then someone must be trying to kill them.

This is when people start blaming the Jews.

Explicit aside: I don’t.

A young man recently walked into a synagogue in Poway, California, and opened fire. His rampage was stopped by an off-duty border patrol agent who was also carrying a gun, otherwise it most likely would have been far worse; as it was, one person died.

Why a synagogue? The Poway shooter blamed the Jews for the “white genocide” he saw around him.

population_fig-2
Graph of change in population demographics by race of California from 1970 to 2015 from the Public Policy Institute of California

“But there is no white genocide,” you might be objecting. Remember that the shooter lived in California. In 1970, California was 77% non-Hispanic white. Today, it is 38% white. 27% of Californians are immigrants, born in other countries. Since the Hispanic population is growing much faster than the others, the population of Californian children is 51% Hispanic and only 27% white.

Whether you call that “genocide” or not, the shooter is in fact living through a time when he can observe his own ethnic group shrinking as a share of the population. Meanwhile, housing prices in California have become absurd and the middle class is being squeezed out, but any suggestion that maybe immigration levels should be curbed is met with charges of racism, fascism, or worst of all, being a closeted Donald Trump lover.

So this guy looks around, realizes something is not right, and concludes that someone must be doing it on purpose. Of course, the Jews:

To my family and friends. I can already hear your voices. “How could you throw your life away? You had everything!…” I understand why you would ask this. But I pose a question to you now. What value does my life have compared to the entirety of the European race? Is it worth it for me to live a comfortable life at the cost of international Jewry sealing the doom of my race? …

“How does killing Jews help the European race? The European race is doomed? What are you talking about? These Jews were innocent!” Every Jew is responsible for the meticulously planned genocide of the European race.

So… he’s a bit off.

The real reason society has gone off the tracks is far less exciting than international conspiracies cackling in the night–the real reason is technology.

The internet is an interesting place. You have sites devoted to every possible interest, from coffee to AfroPop; you have communities at every level of reputation, from total anonymity to real names only. And it has long been observed that communities which allow anonymous posting swing more to the right, while communities where people use their real names swing to the left.

Reputation, at least in our society, is liberal.

There are several reasons for this, but the core, underlying one is probably mathematical: there are more people who aren’t you than are you. There are more people who aren’t white than are white. If you are talking to everyone (as social media platforms strive for) and you care about your reputation, then you want as many people as possible to like what you have to say.

“I love me and want to benefit myself at the expense of everyone else,” is not a message that is popular with everyone else.

“I love everyone else and want to benefit them at the expense of myself,” is a message that everyone else loves.

And that, right there, is how the suicide meme is born. The more time you spend on the internet in real-name, real-reputation circles, the more pressure you will feel to espouse leftist values, because these are high-status memes and because if you don’t, an angry mob might get you fired. See: James Damore.

When we come right down to it, most people are greedier than they want to appear. We’d all like to look like angels while not exactly acting like angels, and we’d like our neighbors to actually act like angels. There’s a lot of social pressure on people to behave like angels, and on the internet, where words are all that we see, the pressure to behave and desire to seem get blended into one enormous holiness spiral.

By contrast, in anonymous circles, things you say have much less impact on your reputation. It’s hard to holiness spiral if your words have no connection to you.

But let’s back up a minute, before the creation of WEIRD societies. HbdNrx on Twitter has a thread that perfectly sums up what I want to say, so this is a quote with some expansions: 

homicide_in_europe_1200_2000“For the first few million years of our existence, humanity consisted of hunter-gatherer tribes who constantly conquered and raped and pillaged each other. Even chimpanzees fight wars over territory, killing and cannibalizing other chimps in the process. Violence was ubiquitous.

“The development of agriculture allowed larger settlements to form. Civilization began, first in the Middle East. Of course, people used their new-found technology and organization to firmly conquer and pacify their neighbors, in an orgy of violence followed by peace; we can still see the results in studies of Y-chromosomal diversity–it plummeted.

“Broadly speaking, in most areas suitable for agriculture, tribal disputes gave way to larger wars with armies. Cooperation was needed to compete. The spread of Christianity and the Catholic Church through the Roman Empire resulted in the break-up of tribal affiliations and reduced cousin marriage, especially within the Hajnal Line. IQ and cooperation were selected for during the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance was the eventual result.

“The printing press and base-ten numbers were imported and literacy exploded. We can probably blame Protestantism directly on the press, as with literacy and book ownership came the idea that ordinary people could read the Bible and form their own relationship with God. The power of the Church weakens, feudalism begins to fade, and parliaments are strengthened. Ideas like equal rights under the law are established during the Enlightenment.

“Slavery had been around since the tribal era, but now even slaves could read and write. For example, In 1789, Olaudah Equiano, an Igbo who had been kidnapped, enslaved, and then earned his freedom, published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah EquianoThe book (plus the actions of other members of abolitionist societies) soon convinced the British to abandon slavery.

“Pretty soon whites across the literate world were saying, in essence, “Hey, those slaves are people too, why don’t they have rights?” Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1807; in 1794 and again in 1848 in France; throughout much of Latin America around 1826; Canada in 1833; the US fought a war that ended slavery in 1865. (By contrast, Mauritania didn’t abolish slavery until 1981, and Amnesty International estimates that 43,000 people are still enslaved in Mauritania. Slavery is also still a problem in Libya, and of course the territory controlled by ISIS.)

“So ideas about equality and cooperation were extended further and further, from slavery to voting to the Civil Rights Act. Whites, being fair-minded people who deeply believe in equality, listened to complaints from nonwhites of oppression and tried to make things better–so we got busing, school integration, affirmative action, and now, cities just straight up not prosecuting crimes.

“The point here is that there’s a trend from the very beginnings of civilization toward expanding circles of equality–from tribe to nation/empire to the inclusion of other racial groups (and animals, especially among vegetarians), and white people have been selected more for this than any other people on the planet.

“The trend is a natural result of technological changes, from literacy to the internet, and the need for broader cooperation in order to compete in the new tech environment–it takes a lot of trustworthy people working together to build a nuke or a railroad. Fast boat and air travel enabled mass immigration, and radio, TV, and the internet allowed us to hear the voices of those who might formerly have been called savages. The current “anti-racism” ideas are an extension of this trend, into the new memevironment of social media.

“A substantial portion of whites would never have been able to resist pleas for equal rights nor open borders. These whites look at the apparent unfairness of borders or seemingly arbitrary rules like apartheid and they naturally sacrifice to increase fairness. At least 20% of whites in the US are fundamentally hippie libs like this. Much of the ideological problem is that these people look at disparate outcomes and assume that there must be something unfair causing this inequality (completely ignoring biology and culture).

“Then you have the cuckservative types–the people with no ideological defense to the liberal accusations who just go along with it, and the people who actively promote cheap labor because it’s in their immediate interests. Most of them see themselves as “conservatives” simply because they believe in the liberalism of 30 years ago, rather than today. That’s most of the mainstream Republican party, >30% of whites.

“So we have at least half of whites basically opposed to doing anything to stop this trend, and we have nearly all the nonwhites advocating for their own interests. If you’re looking for people to blame, there it is–a majority of the population.

“Of course, we can also blame individuals like LBJ and other politicians at the time who pushed the civil rights act and the immigration act, and we can blame some of the acceleration of identity politics on postmodernist academics and the Frankfurt school. But by and large the trends are bigger than all of them, especially now that we have social media accelerating everything.

“These values of equality and cooperation are deathwish values in the global context, as we can see by the declining white % globally. So, the trend toward increasing equality and cooperation won’t go on forever because its strongest proponents are being selected against.”

In other words:

Technological and economic progress have expanded people’s social circles from their immediate tribes to cities and nations. These changes promote the spread of universalist memes. Many of these ideas were probably adaptive when they first arose, when people were just dealing with other people in their immediate communities, but are no longer adaptive due to our rapidly increasing ability to travel and communicate.

Horizontal (viral) memes have proliferated and adapted in the new environment of the internet, with nonwhites, especially, advocating for their own interests with the language of fairness/oppression.

Meanwhile, in academia, postmodernism–the idea that we should analyze why someone wrote what they wrote and how their background identity influences their opinions, rather than analyze what they actually wrote–has kicked objective reality out the window. See, for example, this list:characteristics of white supremacy

In general, suicide memes are a natural development of social and technological activity, although some groups are more into them than others. High-IQ, high-class people tend to favor suicide memes because they want to signal to potential partners their willingness to cooperate, not defect. Most of these people are well-meaning.

To summarize:

First, new technology makes communication easier, giving us suicide memes.

Second, people notice suicide memes and conclude that someone is trying to kill them.

Third, they decide that the Jews (who are disproportionately represented in academia and the real-name parts of the internet due to social status,) are trying to kill them.

Fourth, they strike back.

If you’re Jewish, this is a good time to realize that this trend is not working in your favor. (Please see my Open Letter on this subject.)

So how do I know the Jews aren’t secretly conniving in backrooms to fling open the borders and offer Affirmative Action to all?

Because the Lutherans are just as bad. Ever since the Biafran Airlift:

The Biafran Airlift was an international humanitarian relief effort that transported food and medicine to Biafra during the 1967-70 secession war from Nigeria (Nigerian Civil War). It was the largest civilian airlift, and after the Berlin airlift of 1948-49, the largest non-combatant airlift of any kind ever carried out. The airlift was largely a series of joint efforts by Protestant and Catholic church groups, and other non-governmental organizations (NGO)s, operating civilian and military aircraft with volunteer (mostly) civilian crews and support personnel. Several national governments also supported the effort, mostly behind the scenes. This sustained joint effort, which lasted one and a half times as long as its Berlin predecessor, is estimated to have saved more than a million lives.[1]

–or perhaps before–Christian churches in the US have played a significant role in both aid to Africa and resettling refugees in the US. The Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, Catholic Charities, and Arrive Ministries are responsible for resettling at least 10,000 Somalis in Minnesota–a coincidentally very profitable business.

Remember this?

We Are the World” is a charity single originally recorded by the supergroup United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is one of fewer than 30 retail singles to have sold at least 10 million copies worldwide. …

Before the writing of “We Are the World”, American entertainer and social activist Harry Belafonte had thought for some time to have a song recorded by the most famous artists in the music industry at the time. He planned to have the proceeds donated to a new organization called United Support of Artists for Africa (USA for Africa). The non-profit foundation would then feed and relieve starving people in Africa, specifically Ethiopia, where around one million people died during the country’s 1983–1985 famine.[1][2]

There are a lot more Christians trying to resettle refugees in the US than Jews.

Moreover, undermining Western Civilization doesn’t benefit the Jews. America is the least anti-Semitic country in the world. Antisemitism is much higher in Latin America than the US. It’s much higher in Africa and China. It’s a little higher in most of Europe. It’s way higher in Islamic countries. So outside of a couple other WEIRD countries in northwest Europe, immigration from pretty much any other country on Earth is bad for the Jews.

Jews don’t want to die, and they bleed just like anyone else. I’ve met Jews who’ve fled South Africa, Detroit, New York, and LA. Always because of violence (sanitized as “crime”).

Here’s Bret Weinstein, formerly of Evergreen College, on the death memes that drove him out:

There’s an excellent three-part documentary on Youtube about how the (mostly) black students at Evergreen rioted, hunted Bret down with bats and tazers, and eventually drove him out of the university for the literal crime of teaching on campus while white.

Bret’s Jewish, in case you missed that. As far as non-whites are concerned, Jews are white and are treated accordingly. It’s in the Jewish interest for America and Britain to be nice, civilized, non-antisemitic countries that support Israel; not for them to degenerate into crime-ridden, antisemitic shitholes where Jewish wealth is taxed to fund welfare programs for non-whites.

If you’re looking for someone to blame, maybe blame the guys hunting down white academics with bats and tazers.

Of course, even if they aren’t trying to destroy civilization to benefit themselves, Jews could just be accidentally doing it because they’re stupid. This wouldn’t be a conspiracy, but people do actually do stupid things rather often. Jews are, in fact, disproportionately left-wing in the US (but not in other Western countries–in Britain, for example, they vote for the Tories).

But there is very little functional difference between liberal Jews and liberal non-Jews. Unitarian Christians and Reform Jews are practically the same (and many Reform Jews attend Unitarian churches). Orthodox Jews are conservative, keep to themselves, and basically avoid American politics; they certainly aren’t encouraging people to crossdress or get abortions, and most of them voted for Trump (54%–which is identical to the percent of whites who voted for Trump.)

Okay, so we know we have a problem: suicide memes, and we have a second problem: people who are getting violent about suicide memes.

What are the solutions? Getting violent isn’t a solution. Violence only works if you have the support of society behind you, and society supports people with high-class reputations. Society supports death memes; society does not support fighting back against death memes. Right-wing violence does not work because reputation is leftist. Making things worse is not a solution, but getting around the reputation problem could be.

The next bright idea I’ve seen people advocate is trying to convince everyone that humans races don’t exist.

This is a lie, and lying to people who are already onto the fact that you are lying to them is not going to work. They will just conclude that you are lying because you want to kill them. Remember that one of the indicators that genocide is likely to happen–as articulated by Genocide Watch–is “Systematic official denial of the existence of particular distinct groups.” By claiming that races don’t exist, you are walking straight into the paranoia of people convinced that you are trying to genocide them.

The truth of the “human races share 99.9% of their DNA in common” statement lies in the fact that the changes to our DNA that make genes do different things are, in fact, very small. The lie is that the size of the changes matters at all.

Mike came in the house, put away the groceries, cooked dinner, set the table, and said, “Let’s eat, kids!”

Mike came in the house, put away the groceries, cooked dinner, set the table, and said, “Let’s eat kids!”

These sentences are over 99% identical. What’s the big problem?

And besides, humans managed to slaughter their neighbors for millions of years before we discovered genetics; we’ll certainly be able to keep slaughtering each other even if we forget about genetics.

The best solution I can think of to suicide memes is to become aware of them,  stop spreading them, and point out when others spread them.

 

By the way, if you haven’t read my previous work on memes or aren’t very familiar with meme theory, here are a few relevant posts: Dangerous Memes, Mitochondrial Memes, and more memes. 

Death Memes Pt 1

The West is infected with a suicide meme. If you are inside the meme, you likely cannot see it; once you are outside the meme, you cannot unsee it.

This post will be broken into two parts:

  1. What are suicide memes?
  2. Why are there suicide memes?

Part One: What are Suicide Memes?

Memes, as used on this blog, are units of ideas. A memeplex is a set of ideas that usually come together. A god who dies and is reborn is a meme–the idea shows up in many religions. Christianity is a memeplex–a whole set of ideas about god, morality, religion, and history that normally travel together.

A suicide meme happens when you adopt the memes of people who want you dead. To the gazelle, the lion is a monster; to the lion, the gazelle is lunch. It does not benefit a gazelle to adopt the lion’s idea that gazelles are tasty, nor does it benefit the lion to sympathize with the gazelle.

Here are some suicide memes in action:

America:

So there’s a second thing in that black box: an unrelenting string of immigration. Non-stop. Non-stop. Folks like me who are Caucasian of European descent, for the first time, in 2017, will be an absolute minority in the United States of America. Absolute minority. Fewer than 50% of the people in America will be, from then on, of white, European stock. That’s not a bad thing–that’s a source of our strength.

“Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in?”

Grand Rapids, Michigan, wants to make it harder to call the police on black people

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, it may soon no longer be just unfair to call the police on people of color who have done nothing wrong. It may be downright illegal. The City Commission held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed human rights ordinance that would make it a criminal misdemeanor to “racially profile people of color for participating in their lives,” the city said in a statement. The charge could result in up to a $500 fine, according to CNN affiliate WOOD.

Note: it is already illegal to call in fake police reports.

Dallas has decided that instead of punishing whites who call the police, they’re just not going to prosecute crime anymore

Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezot announced earlier this month he no longer plans to prosecute low-level crimes, including theft cases involving personal items less than $750 in value in many instances.

Canada: Experts recommend having fewer kids to combat climate change:

Seth Wynes, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, researches the personal choices that have the highest impact on climate change. … 

His study found that the four biggest ways individuals can help cut down on emissions are:

  • Have a smaller family
  • Eat a plant-based diet
  • Avoid air travel
  • Live car-free

Here’s a graph from the article:

11-things

Note that the CBC is a “Canadian federal Crown corporation;” Crown corporations are state-owned enterprises owned by the Sovereign of Canada. The CBC receives funding from a variety of sources, including taxes. 

What makes babies so bad for the environment? Well, they’re people, and people use resources. 

Of course, immigrants are also people, and moving from a low-carbon footprint country to a high-footprint country like Canada also has an impact on global warming. 

Meanwhile

In 2016, Canada admitted 296,346 permanent residents, compared to 271,845 the previous year – the highest admissions levels since 2010.[1] …

According to data from the 2016 census by Statistics Canada, 21.9% of the Canadian population reported they were or had ever been a landed immigrant or permanent resident in Canada …

The three main official reasons given for the level of immigration are: 

  • The social component – Canada facilitates family reunification
  • The humanitarian component – Relating to refugees. 
  • The economic component – Attracting immigrants who will contribute economically and fill labour market needs.

Well, gee, Canadian government, couldn’t you just fill your labour market needs by having more children instead of using your own people’s tax dollars to tell them not to have children and then importing people to fill the jobs left vacant by those missing citizens?

Australia:

From Wikipedia: 

Since 2008, a welcome to country has been incorporated into the ceremonial opening of the Parliament of Australia, an event which occurs after each federal election. The welcome includes a speech as well as traditional music and dance. Given that Parliament sits in Canberra, traditionally part of Ngambri country, a Ngambri elder officiates.[8] …

If a local elder is not available, the host of an event can offer an acknowledgement of country in place of a welcome (though the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably). The following form of words, published by the Victorian Government, is typical:[12]

“I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land [or country] on which we are meeting. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and the Elders from other communities who may be here today.”

I have a very functional idea of ownership. You own something if you can use it and can stop others from using it. Rights of use and access are fundamental to property; the modern Australians own “Australia” because they exert military control over the continent. Stop paying your taxes in Canberra, and the guy who shows up to put you in prison will be a representative of the Australian government, not the Ngambri–proving that this is Australian land, not Ngambri. 

What is the point of lying to children about who owns the land they’re sitting on? 

Back to Canada:

According to the description of the video, provided by Canadian Broadcasting Corp, they do this every day.

These students are being prepared for their own slaughter. 

TeenVogue, which has gone from “fashion magazine” to “Tumblr insanity” and is thus a window into what teenage girls are thinking and why you should never allow your children on the internet, has an article on why Indigenous Land Acknowledgements are important:

By now, many know that the colonization myth we learned in school doesn’t tell the whole story of how the Americas were settled. In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but what he discovered was not a “New World” — it was one inhabited by millions of indigenous people. …

I apparently hate life enough to click on the “colonization myth” link and it’s full of garbage like “[The Taino] had a highly evolved and complex culture.” No. The Taino had no steel and no plows. They still used stone tools and practiced a combination of horticulture and hunter-gathering. They had neither writing nor math, and lacked the ability to navigate to nearby Africa or Europe. Their society had only two major social classes, commoners and nobles. The Taino might be the nicest people on earth, but calling their culture highly evolved is an outright lie. 

Criticizing Teen Vogue for being stupid is like shooting fish in a barrel, but it provides a lesson in the lies young people are being told. In sentence two, the author pretends not to understand how language works to take a dig at Europeans, those stupid people who thought they’d discovered a whole “New World” even though–get this–there were already people living there. Never mind that no one ever meant “New World” as signifying, “Wow, a new continent just rose out of the ocean!” Europeans knew the “New World” had people in it because Columbus brought Tainos back to Europe on his very first voyage. They knew Cuba was “old” to the people living there. They called it “new” because it was new to them, which is pretty obvious if you’ve ever talked to another human being in your entire life:

“Hi! Do you like my new dress?”

“What? You got that at Goodwill, so it’s your old dress, because it’s not new anymore to its original owner,” said no human, ever.

Back to Teen Vogue:

Living in villages, bands, and confederacies, their traditional territories spanned the entire continent. Indigenous people still live among us, yet how many of us could name the specific tribe or nation whose land we live on?

Unless you live on a reservation, you live on the land of the country you live in. For example, I live in the US. This is American land, because my ancestors conquered it. That makes it my tribe’s land. The Delaware Indians might have owned this land 400 years ago, but they do not own it today. If you are in Canada, you live on Canadian land. Teen Vogue–and the Canadian government–are trying to pull a conceptual bait-and-switch where they replace current land ownership with ancient land ownership in order to delegitimize the land’s current owners.

In Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, it’s harder and harder to not be aware. That’s because school days and meetings — and even hockey games — often begin with a “land acknowledgment,” a formal statement that pays tribute to the original inhabitants of the land. Indigenous peoples have acknowledged one another’s lands for centuries, but in the past decade, some Western governments have begun to promote the practice. 

No human, anywhere on earth, is the “original inhabitant” of the land; we did not spring fully formed from the dirt. Humans moved. They fought. They conquered. They moved some more. Every single inch of territory outside of Antarctica has been conquered and re-conquered over and over throughout human history (and before.) Even chimps, lions, and wolves have territory that they conquer and defend from others.

700cs_80622n_skulltower
Literal Aztec Skull tower unearthed by archaeologists, from “Feeding the Gods: [Thousands] of Skulls Reveal Scale of Sacrifice in Mexico City

The claim that Indigenous peoples “have acknowledged one another’s lands for centuries” is a bald-faced lie. (Incredibly, the New York Times also repeats this obvious fiction.) “Indigenous peoples” conquered their neighbors and defended their own tribal territories from invasion just like all other humans. I guarantee you the Aztecs didn’t stand up at the beginning of their ceremonies and announce that “This city was built on traditional Huastec land, and by the way, they are delicious with a nice mole. Okay, let’s get someone up here for a nice, indigenous heart-ripping out sacrifice.”

Land acknowledgments are, on the surface, stupid. If you care about native peoples, go do something nice for them. Donate to a college scholarship fund, help build houses, or be a friend and invite someone over for dinner. Sticking a modified version of “Hey, we conquered you,” at the beginning of speeches isn’t helping anyone.

But from the point of view of convincing people they don’t have a right to their own land, they seem effective. For children, having all of the adult authority figures in their lives telling them every day that they have no legitimate right to the land they live on and that it was “stolen” from others is bound to have an effect.

bq-5be99ab2cec78

No one else in the world does this. Turks do not start every school day with an announcement that they are living on land stolen from the Anatolian and Byzantine peoples. Taiwanese schools don’t start the day by acknowledging the Aboriginal Taiwanese; Pakistanis don’t apologize to the Indus Valley People.

In fact, it was from a Pakistani acquaintance that I first heard an articulate defense of loving one’s own nation that helped snap me out of my own SJW-induced-self-loathing fugue. The conversation, roughly paraphrased, went like this: I criticized Pakistan for being, in many ways, not very good. He responded defensively. I responded by criticizing him for not criticizing Pakistan. He responded that he was perfectly aware of his country’s many defects, for goodness’ sake, he lives there, but it remains his country, and like his family, he loves it. Our parents aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, but we still love them. So, too, do we love our countries.

This is a healthy attitude.

Do you think genocide simply begins without warning?

Did the Hutus just wake up with a bad case of the Mondays and decide to go kill 70% of the Tutsis?

Of course not. Anti-Tutsi sentiment had been brewing since at least WWII. Hutus had been importing large numbers of machetes and training bands of children in their use for chopping up humans for years. Propaganda had been featured in Rwandan newspapers and radios for years. The killing of nearly a million people in 100 days took much longer to prepare.

The Tutsis had the misfortune of being a market-dominant minority–always a dangerous position. (I don’t think I need to educate anyone on the history of Nazi propaganda about the Jews.)

The difference between a religion and a cult is that a cult asks you to sacrifice everything for the cult. Incidentally, so does Nike

In South Africa, the popular buzz-phrase is “expropriation without compensation.”

 

You might think that explicitly calling it “expropriation without compensation” is oddly honest for anything done by a government, since governments usually try to hide their harmful actions, but when a policy of destroying a minority is clearly desired by the majority, there’s no reason not to advertise it. 

“We’ve not called for the killing of white people–at least for now. I can’t guarantee the future.”–Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters of South Africa

Of course, they tried this in Zimbabwe, which lead to the total collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy. 

South Africa is a modern, industrial country whose economy is not agrarian–though of course people still need to eat–and thus land redistribution would only reduce the amount of food being produced without actually getting people the kind of jobs they need to be doing, like running electrical power plants. South Africa has plenty of farmers already; like all industrialized nations, they need more people in industry, medicine, education, and technology. 

South Africa’s approach to “justice” is vengeance, not uplift: All of the Charts Show that South Africa’s Inequality is Only Getting Worse

Today, the disparity in education, skill, and income continues. Two recently released World Bank reports further show that the gap is not only widening, it is intergenerational. … 

The middle class has particularly suffered from South African economy’s inability to create new jobs. To achieve a significant reduction in the country’s unemployment rate, the World Bank estimates 600,000 jobs would need to be created every year. The economy is producing half that number. Most of the new jobs are in the services sector, while low-skill agriculture and manufacturing jobs are on the decline.  …

Post-apartheid economic policies have been unable to find a balance between job creation and economic growth. During the Mandela years, the country tried the Reconstruction and Development Program, which focused on social security but the program was costly and was not able to broaden the tax base. Then there was Growth, Employment and Redistribution, which tried to stimulate growth and reduce inflation and the deficit, but failed to create many jobs. It unsuccessfully depended on a trickle-down effect to grow the middle class. … 

These policy decisions have created a so-called “missing middle” in various sectors of society which is becoming increasingly dissatisfied. It is glaring in South Africa’s higher education. Categorized as households who earn less than 600,000 rand per year ($47,800), the students who make up the missing middle don’t qualify for national assistance, but they simply can’t afford to pay tuition.

They made up the thousands of young people who created the #FeesMustFall movement, and they are overwhelmingly black. Only 5% of black students are likely to graduate, compared to 15% in 1975. 

And now: South Africa’s Decline Worst among Nations not-at-war:

South Africa’s performance on a range of social, economic and governance measures deteriorated more in the past 12 years than any other nation not at war, according to Eunomix Business & Economics Ltd.

The decline is likely to continue as the country wrestles with the consequences of nine years of worsening corruption and policy paralysis under former President Jacob Zuma, the Johannesburg-based political-risk advisory company said. The fragility of the economy may also limit the tenure of his successor Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces his first national election on May 8, it said.

From the Irish times: Primary Teachers Disproportionately White, Irish, and Catholic:

The majority of trainee primary school teachers are white, Irish and Catholic and do not reflect our diverse population, new research has found. …

The study calls for further discussion of measures that can be taken to attract and recruit more individuals from minority groups into the teaching profession.

Ireland has too many Irish teachers! The solution is to fire the Irish teachers and hire non-Irish teachers.  

Oh, sorry, the solution isn’t firing them. That would be too obvious. It’s just not hiring them anymore. Official discrimination against the Irish in Ireland. Because having Irish people working in their own country is a problem.

Dr Heinz said it is important we take notice of the widening diversity gap and identify potential barriers for individuals from underrepresented groups.

“For many students who are refugees, have certain learning difficulties, or have come from abroad and did not speak English when they enrolled in school, the door to primary teaching is closed early as they can be granted an exemption from the otherwise obligatory Irish instruction at school, where Irish, English and Maths are essential subjects for applicants to primary teacher education programmes in Ireland, a barrier to non-Irish nationals who weren’t educated in Ireland,” said Dr Heinz.

The Irish language might matter to the Irish, but looks like we’ll have to get rid of it accommodate newcomers who can’t be bothered to learn it. Slán!

Also from Ireland: 

Meanwhile, at UCLA (America): 

Mathematicians who want tenure at UCLA have to do more than show a facility with numbers. They also have to pledge in writing a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity.

In fact, all professors applying for a tenure-track position at UCLA must write a statement on their commitment to diversity, showing, for example, their “record of success advising women and minority graduate students,” according to the UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. …

The University of California system is especially active – UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, and UC Berkeley all require such statements. UC Santa Cruz requires them for candidates for faculty Senate positions. …

No one knows how many schools require such diversity statements, but the practice appears to be in vogue. Vassar College, for example, requires tenure-track job candidates to write about their contributions to social justice. Both Vanderbilt University and the University of Pennsylvania provide guides on how to write an effective diversity statement.

 Never mind whether a teacher is good at teaching; you have to write an essay about how committed you are to the quest for fewer white men doing your job. 

These are just a few examples of death memes, picked from different countries. Death memes have become so pervasive that they roll off the tongue; in the UK, a white woman comments on a painting of students who died in WWI:

“Mark my words- we’re taking down the mural of white men in the uni Senate Room, even if I have to paint over it myself”.

I doubt she even knew at the time what it was. People just signal their hatred of white males reflexively.

The death meme is simultaneously telling people to have fewer children for the environment and that we need more immigrants to fill jobs. It’s telling people that all cultures are good–but yours is bad. It’s saying that we should not blame a whole culture for the actions of one person when someone attacks you, but the whole culture is responsible when the attacker hails from your culture. It’s tearing down people’s statues and painting over their murals, attacking their history and telling them their heroes were evil. 

The effects of death memes are, unfortunately, death:

2300_white_death_1_0323
source

 

Part two: Why are there suicide memes? will continue in the next post.