Trump and the mind of the abuser

Is he an idiot or a genius? He is neither, simply a psychological predator

One of the most common dilemmas that Trump watchers must suffer is to ask themselves whether Trump is an idiot or a genius. Arguments for both abound. On one hand, nearly nothing that Trump has done as President (or any other of his business endeavors) suggests anything other than unadulterated, blithering stupidity. According to most inside accounts of his behavior, be it from Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, or Bob Woodward’s more recent Fear: Trump in the White House, Trump is a man of frighteningly low intelligence who has trouble grasping basic concepts, much less expressing them in coherent form. His unhinged, incoherent rambles that pass as public speeches seem to be testament of this: it would actually take a supreme effort from someone of moderate or above-average intelligence to consistently speak so badly on so many topics.

On the other hand, the way in which he has whipped up such a large support base appears unparalleled in modern US political history. The comparisons with Hitler and Mussolini abound, and it is obvious that despite the hideousness of their policies they were quite intelligent men and crafty statesmen. Is it also common for those of us living in Britain to compare Trump with his British Tory opposite, the buffoonish Boris Johnson, an Eton- and Oxford-educated man born in privilege and who is just as likely to recite the classics as he is to fly on a zip line waving Union Jacks like a clown at a children’s party. Johnson is no fool, he just plays one. Is Trump a master thespian? A genius wearing a cloak of idiocy?

In my view, no, Trump is no genius. He’s merely an abuser. Continue reading

The tale of the immoral cyclist (and CEO, and Republican)

Why pretending to be moral will actually make you a worse human being

Use the Greenwich Foot Tunnel during rush hour at your peril. Every weekday from around 5pm onward (I have not crossed it in mornings), the Victorian-era tunnel that conveniently connects both sides of the Thames between Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs becomes a shortcut for cyclists who speed through it at full speed from their finance jobs in Canary Wharf to their southeast London homes. The cylindrical foot tunnel, which as its name describes is for pedestrians, is not much more than 2 meters across at ground level. Most annoyingly, it has very large and very clear “NO CYCLING” signs at both entrances and also painted on the ground every couple of meters along the way. Despite this, only a fraction of cyclists who cross the tunnel during rush hour ever bother to dismount from their bikes and cross it by foot. Which by law, they should.

One typically expects reckless, obnoxious behavior in London to be committed by the usual suspects: chavvy youths or wolf-packs of loutish drunk working-class men. Not well-off bankers, most of which are white, middle-aged men. Furthermore, one expects blatantly illegal behavior like riding at full speed in a pedestrian tunnel, where a slight mishap might have them seriously injuring (possibly even killing) someone, to be the domain of cyclists. Cyclists, after all, are the good guys in the story. They don’t burn off CO2 from their cars or from using transportation. Many Western cities now openly encourage people to take up cycling to work.

Why are the most morally-minded, ethical people doing something so wrong? Continue reading

The Spectrum Fallacy

Why all of something good isn’t better than just some of it

The economic rise of China since the 1980s has been one of the most, if not the most, impressive feats of economic progress ever. It has eradicated poverty by the hundreds of millions, created an industrial sector that has dwarfed anything ever seen in human history, and despite the country’s size and maturity, continues to grow at a pace that any Western democracy and even most developing economies can only dream of. This has been largely been achieved by the Chinese government’s adoption of market policies. China is now the world’s greatest trading nation and also a massive receptor and supplier of foreign investment. Capitalism works, and it follows that China is the perfect example of why countries should liberalize their economies and embrace free markets unconditionally.

Except it doesn’t follow.

If you were tempted to draw this apparently obvious conclusion, congratulations, you are a victim of what I like to call the Spectrum Fallacy, possibly the most pernicious flaw of logical argumentation in policy circles. What is the Spectrum Fallacy? It is the flawed premise that just because something is demonstrably better than something else, more of that something is necessarily better than only some of it. It is very similar to a well known logical fallacy, the false dilemma. Like the false dilemma, the spectrum fallacy assumes that there is a false choice, that one must necessarily choose between two mutually exclusive options (statist communism or laissez-faire capitalism). However, here we are assuming not that there are more choices but that either of these two choices can be better when they are applied less extremely across the spectrum of possibilities. Continue reading

In defense of Free (ish) Will

Beneath the hype, hard determinism still has major flaws

The debate around free will is one of the longest running in all philosophy, and has huge ramifications well beyond it. By and large, we live in societies created under the libertarian notion that human beings possess free will: the ability to make decisions that are free of causal and coercive influences. If I go to a bar and choose beer over wine, it was an act of free will since nothing stopped me from choosing wine instead; I don’t dislike wine (though I prefer beer), they cost pretty much the same, and both were readily available on the menu. Laissez-faire economics runs on the notion that we have free will in nearly every element of our lives, and the way to maximize individual freedom is to provide people with more choice, while removing the constraints that would limit those choices (namely the state). It’s hard not to feel some natural sympathy for this position. We all feel like we have free will. The very notion of being human and feeling human (as opposed to being an automaton) depends on this.

Unfortunately, the evidence in favor of this libertarian view of free will is scant. In contrast to libertarians, determinists believe that every single human action was entirely determined by prior causes and therefore is not truly free even when there is no coercive influence that prevents us from doing otherwise. So perhaps nothing stopped me from choosing wine, but was I entirely in control of my physical desire for beer? Not really. Perhaps I want to “prove” my free will by next time choosing wine but did I choose the thoughts in my head that made me want to behave like a contrarian? Did I choose my contrarian personality? Perhaps there is some degree of randomness in the neural activity or quantum mechanisms in my brain that led me to this and so my choice is not fully determined in a strict sense, but since I cannot control processes at the micro-level, are they even relevant? Either way I did not have the free will to pick wine over beer in the first instance, or beer over wine in the second.

In recent years, determinism has exploded in popularity, particularly since it has been embraced by numerous celebrity public intellectuals like Sam Harris (who wrote an essay length book in 2012, Free Will). Determinism is to pop philosophy similar to what Freakonomics was to pop economics a few years back: it’s a great way to start a dinner conversation and look like you’re the smartest person in the room. After all, most people who haven’t read extensively on both sides of the philosophical debate would be naturally prone to thinking that they have libertarian free will. Getting swayed to the determinist camp is easy when done by an eloquent and convincing interlocutor, which Harris certainly is, and when one doesn’t particularly have a stake in the outcome – if anything, determinism seemingly justifies all the bad things you’ve ever done since you couldn’t help yourself from doing them! The problem is that Harris performs a number of intellectual sleights of hand that are common among determinists: reduce the debate to a single definition of free will, claim that the opposing arguments are so rubbish that they cannot be taken seriously, and avoid discussing those arguments that seriously threaten his point. That Harris chooses a 66-page pop philosophy book to do this rather than undertake his battle in rigorous, academic channels is telling of his unwillingness to face serious opposition from compatibilists: those who believe that free will and a deterministic universe can coexist. Continue reading

The trickster: dissecting Jordan Peterson

Why the Canadian darling of the alt-right is the most overrated public intellectual of our day

The meteoric rise of Jordan Peterson to the status of public intellectual stardom has been one of the most interesting, if not regrettable, cases of how the internet has created idols out of people who would have best languished in obscurity. Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, was a hitherto relatively unknown figure outside of Canada until a number of his videos caught the public attention in 2016. The videos were made in protest of a proposed amendment to Canada’s Human Rights Act (a bill known as C-16), which included “gender identity and expression” to the list of characteristics which would be subject to human rights protection. The bill also included a specific mention to “refusing to refer to a person by their self-identified name and proper personal pronoun” as grounds for discrimination. The bill was clearly seen as a victory particularly for the transgender community. But Peterson, along with many conservatives, decried it as an abuse of free speech. According to Peterson, the law opened the door for anyone to be jailed if they used the wrong pronoun to refer to a transgender or non-binary person, even if they were unaware of it. Amid the poisonous atmosphere of identity politics that dominates the West (both on the left and right), Peterson’s objections went viral and a celebrity was born.

Since then, Peterson has become one of the most identifiable members of the so-called “intellectual dark web”, a group of pundits and academics who share two main characteristics. The first is their massive online followings; many of them are regulars on the podcast circuit or are otherwise ubiquitous on YouTube. The second is that regardless of their backgrounds and ideologies, most of them share an opposition to radical progressivism, “social justice warriors” (SJWs), and the campus activism that has become commonplace in recent years, mainly in the US. Not all of them are declared conservatives. Most openly dislike Donald Trump or at least express serious reservations about him. Many of them describe themselves as “classic liberals”, an increasingly used cop-out that seems to be a euphemism for hardline libertarianism but which implies a belief in social liberty. Aside from that, the intellectual dark web comes from all walks of life, be it neo-conservative journalists (Douglas Murray), Bernie Sanders-supporting evolutionary biologists (Bret Weinstein), and more traditional conservative pundits (Ben Shapiro). Even unconventional feminists like Christina Hoff Summers and Camille Paglia occasionally join their otherwise almost entirely male-dominated ranks. And the doors are also open to non-intellectuals, like disgraced Google programer James Damore of the infamous gender memo fame.

Not surprisingly, many of the most prominent members of the intellectual dark web have huge alt-right followings; in Peterson’s case, borderline rabid as evidenced by the commentary in any one of his YouTube videos. But given their academic credentials and their lack of overtly racist pronouncements, many of them (including Peterson) have been labelled the “alt-lite”. They may not be Tikki Torch-wielding white nationalists from Charlottesville but you’ll find many ideas that at best can be described as “hate enabling”, such as spouting contested ideas on IQ differences among race and gender, stringently denying concepts like white privilege, and condemning left-wing activism like Black Live Matters and the #MeToo movement while being remarkably complacent about the activities of the radical right. These views are not unique to the alt-lite or the intellectual dark web but have been spreading even among more respected intellectuals such as the New Atheists and New Optimists (notably Steven Pinker), many of which share an overlapping fandom and can be seen in many of the same online outlets  such as the Rubin Report (arguably the headquarters of the intellectual dark web and the alt-lite), as well as the widely followed Joe Rogan and Sam Harris’ podcasts. Snippets of their media appearances are everywhere on YouTube, usually given provocative click-bait titles like “Jordan Peterson DESTROYS progressive interviewer on gender pay gap” and which in reality are far from the knockout blows their titles claim to be once you actually watch them. Continue reading

How to filter bad beliefs

A six step guide to weeding out truth from nonsense

A few posts back I made the case that beliefs don’t matter as much as the process in which you acquire them. This is not a problematic conclusion to anyone with any semblance of common sense, the logic being that even if your beliefs prove to be wrong, you will have been wrong for all the right reasons and also that in the long run, you are likely to have more beliefs proved right than in the case you adopt them arbitrarily. But just how do we go about choosing our beliefs? Is there a set of principles that we can use to weed out the good beliefs from the bad ones?

I believe there is. Read on to find out:

Step 1: Can your belief pass the Truth Demon test?

One of my favorite pieces of philosophical wisdom in recent months has been this article by Keith Frankish which describes the Truth Demon, a very simple thought experiment that everyone can use to test just how strongly you are committed to a belief. In summary and in slight variation to the original, imagine there is a Truth Demon that will torture you for eternity if the certain belief in question is wrong. Take god, for example. If you had to bet your soul’s eternal torment on whether god exists, I suspect that not only atheists but a large share of believers would bet against his existence. Why? Because there’s no real negative payoff in believing in god in real life. Pascal’s Wager even argues that this is a logical, rational choice. However, imagine if we modified the decision matrix to assume an infinite loss if you believed in him wrongly. Suddenly you need to be really, really convinced. The Truth Demon fits in neatly to what mathematician Nassim Taleb calls the “silent risk” of not taking payoff into account. Continue reading

Wanktivism in the social media age

Or how to promote thought without actually thinking
This is you on a social media high

This is you on a social media high

This piece is Part II of this one

I’m pretty sure you have at least one Facebook friend who makes P.C.U’s causeheads look as lazy and apolitical as The Dude from The Big Lebowski. These people don’t just stick to a cause for a week before picking up a new one, they barrage your Facebook wall with a post about every real or imagined social ill in the world. In real time. 24/7. An infographic of how meat consumption is causing climate change is followed by a Marxist blogger’s post about the IMF and World Bank being root cause of global inequality, followed by a fact-meme reminding you that the West African Grey Lesbian Rhino is now extinct, then a video of (insert left-wing Latin American leader from a socialist wonderland where there are bigger queues to buy toilet paper than for the launch of a new iPhone) denouncing corporate profits, and finally the latest batshit crazy conspiracy theory on how the US is guilty of everything wrong in the Middle East in collusion with Big Oil, Big Pharma, the NRA, Monsanto, Goldman Sachs, Israel, Blackwater, the Illuminati, the Vatican, and Gap for Kids. Forget that half of what this person posts is factually wrong, and that the other half is of dubious intellectual value because it is written by such a biased source that there’s as much objectivity as a Breitbart book review of The Elders of Zion. This person is on a mission to remind you that they’re saving the world, one meme at a time. And if you dare question them then you’re also part of the status quo, surely hoarding some of the profits of laissez-faire capitalistic greed with your grubby porcine hands.

I have a term for this: wanktivism. It’s the cognitive version of clicktivism, a word used to describe activism with the minimum of effort like clicking the “share” button of something that promotes a cause or signing an online petition rather than actually doing something for said cause. If clicktivism is promoting action without actually taking action yourself, wanktivism is promoting thought without actually thinking. It’s sex without the other person, i.e. wanking. Now, being a leftist myself I genuinely find many of the causes above to be noble and worth pursuing. But for fuck sake, is it that hard to fact check what you share first? In the age of Google and Wikipedia there’s simply no excuse for not doing so, and it’s particularly appalling that people with college degrees, even postgrads and PhDs (and professors are guilty too) feel the internet is a legitimate no-reference zone where the accuracy of any statistic, article, or meme is instantly validated merely by the fact that it conforms to your existing ideological prejudices. Sometimes I feel people don’t even read anything other than the title of what they share. It’s as if our capacity to digest anything that is longer than a 140-character tweet has been lobotomized by our quest for online righteousness. What’s worse it the reaction when they are shamed in public, which as of late has been one of my favorite sports. It would seem to me that if I promoted information that was verifiably false I would feel somewhat embarrassed about it, then be humble enough to accept that it was wrong, then do the common sense thing and delete it so that nobody stupider than I shares it, thereby perpetuating the viral nature of internet misinformation.

But that is not to be. Usually the response is one of the following:

“You’re right, it’s just that I didn’t have time to read the whole piece”. Translation: I was too lazy to actually read the article I posted since the title conformed to the political message that I wanted to spread, and sharing something that someone else wrote would make up for my lack of original opinions and argumentative skills. Indignation level: mild. Likelihood of being defriended: 10-20%.

“Ok that figure may be wrong but the essence is still true.” Translation: You caught me red handed sharing a statistic that is patently incorrect but since the meme supports my righteous cause it doesn’t matter if the numbers are all fudged up. Secretly I also suspect that you are not the liberal progressive/conservative patriot you claim you are since you are pointing this out rather than siding with me by keeping quiet about my mistake. Indignation level: mild. Likelihood of being defriended: 10-20%.

“Just because I share something doesn’t mean I agree with it.” Translation: I have no way of defending what I just shared and since I cannot go back in time to undue this embarrassment, it I’ll just act like I shared it to elicit debate and discussion among my friends. Never mind that nobody actually shares stuff that they disagree with without making it demonstrably clear that they do so. Indignation level: moderate. Likelihood of being defriended: 30-40%.

“You’re entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine. Let’s agree to disagree”. Translation: I’m going to try and extricate myself from the embarrassment of sharing something that is factually incorrect by trying to eliminate the distinction between fact and opinion and since there’s no such thing as a wrong opinion then I can’t be disproven. Indignation level: moderate. Likelihood of being defriended: 50-60%.

“It’s my wall and I can post whatever I want in it. You don’t have to read it if you disagree”. Translation: I have no intellectually respectable way of crawling out of my own bullshit so I might as well just act outraged in order to paint you as being rude and aggressive. Since I don’t go to your wall and challenge your opinions because deep down I know you’ll be able to defend them, I expect the same courtesy on your part so I can erect my wall of stupidity where only people as brainwashed as myself are given shelter. Indignation level: high. Likelihood of being defriended: 80-100%.

Now if you think I’m unfair to lefties, rest assured that’s not the case. Conservatives are way worse in terms of their patent abhorrence for objectivity and facts. In fact, conservatives hate numbers more than Vladimir Putin hates shirts on a Siberian hunting trip. George W. Bush disdainfully called it “fuzzy math” because nobody likes it when numbers are used to disprove their neanderthalic opinions on global warming, minimum wages, the gender pay gap, and taxation. But at least conservatives are honest about being assholes, and they don’t have any intention of urging social change for a better future unless that future is a time warp to the good old days of Victorian poorhouses, Southern plantations, and gender relations that would make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like an episode of Girls. Of course they won’t say that because as explained earlier, we do live in a world where political correctness has consolidated itself to some degree into every day discourse, and appearing as a social retrograde carries risks insofar as you’re not wily enough to hide it through one of many carefully thought out excuses such as “it’s bad for business”, “it’s socialist”, or (my favorite) “it’s French”.

The problem with social media, and Facebook in particular, is that it’s a lose-lose environment for intellectual discourse. That’s because due to the myriad of cognitive biases that cloud our reason and our common sense, nobody ever admits to being wrong in public, and therefore any challenge to someone’s opinions – regardless of how baseless and outright asinine they might be – will be met with an even more entrenched perspective on the same issue, exactly the same case as if they had won the debate. No matter how many times you keep shooting them down, the kamikazes of stupidity keep flying, each one more laden with indignity than the previous one, each time reinforcing themselves more and more. Ask yourselves: have you ever caused someone to change their political opinions on Facebook? I doubt it. So then why do you keep posting an endless barrage of political memes and op-eds rather than take the time to explain at length your positions and open the floor for debate? The answer is wanktivism. You want to change the world, and win the hearts and minds of those around you without doing much effort beyond clicking that “share” button. And you don’t actually want to be challenged when you do. The three litmus tests of the wanktivist are quite simple. 1) Does this person frequently post original material besides shares? 2) Does he or she make an extensive comment on the things they are sharing in order to add value to what someone else is saying? 3) Do they have a blog or do they take some other direct action in favor of their causes such as working for an NGO or participating in protests? If any of these three is true, then this person is probably not a wanktivist, they’re simply very politically opinionated. The rest of you, the ones who reduce your core beliefs about the world to a JPEG image, are.

A similar and perhaps worse social media trait that is similar to wanktivism is virtue signaling. This concept, coined by journalist James Bartholomew of the British conservative magazine The Spectator, is defined as:

“The way in which many people say or write things to indicate that they are virtuous. Sometimes it is quite subtle. By saying that they hate the Daily Mail or Ukip, they are really telling you that they are admirably non-racist, left-wing or open-minded. One of the crucial aspects of virtue signaling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous. It does not involve delivering lunches to elderly neighbors or staying together with a spouse for the sake of the children. It takes no effort or sacrifice at all.”

At least wanktivists (for the most part) appear well intentioned, they just simply don’t have the time to actually save the world or maybe they are even conscious of their own intellectual limitations to do so, hence they just share what others have thought up for them. But virtue signaling involves a subtle egotism and even, dare I say, malice. Those doing it don’t actually care about the issues at hand, it simply fits the personality (online or otherwise) that they want to project. The example above is geared towards the prototypical left-winger, but right-wingers are just as guilty of virtue signaling. They may rile against welfare to show how they believe in individual merit (forget for a moment that daddy paid their way through college, and daddy’s friends got them a job). They may complain about every union strike that made them 30 minutes late for work because they do not want to be identified with dreadlocked college students with Che Guevara posters in their dorm room (imagine them imagining themselves with slicked back hair, suspenders, and a big fat Cuban cigar). And of course, they will openly oppose any move towards gender equality or LGBT rights because, well, that would be so fucking gay, now wouldn’t it? No self-respecting alpha macho should give an inch to the feminazis lest it reveal the true size of their sexual inadequacies.

So if nobody will change their opinion regardless of how many facts to the contrary to array against them, why even bother? Does this mean that any form of online debate necessarily descends into sheer trolling? Because if you know – like I do – that arguing leads to nothing, then it’s done solely for the sake of arguing. Which is kind of the definition of trolling, albeit of a higher intellectual standard than the average 4Chan forum discussing Gamergate. But a part of me thinks that wanktivism or virtue signaling or simply every form of misinformation that people are guilty of on the internet should not go unresponded. Because as stupid and gullible as these people are, sadly there are even stupider and more gullible people out there but who just might be swayed by your argument more than theirs. And maybe after enough embarrassments and humiliations these people will think twice about posting so much bullshit, assuming of course, they don’t defriend you first. In which case, you won. Maybe just one out of a thousand online battles, but if one Facebook or Reddit soul could be saved from the fires of intellectual damnation, it was worth it. It was truly fucking worth it.

Fellow economists, we’re mostly to blame for this mess

Brexit, Trump. We built the world that let extremism thrive
This is on us

This is on us

Dear world, on behalf of economists I offer an apology. More than anything or anyone else, we are responsible for the clusterfuck that has been 2016.

Since the 1980s we said that inequality didn’t matter. That working and middle class people would be fine if their incomes didn’t worsen even as those in the top 10% (and especially 1%) saw their own income and wealth skyrocket to levels not seen since the Gilded Age. We did not see that people did not view their lot in absolute but in relative terms. We expected them to accept our logic, and acted dumbfounded when they didn’t express gratitude for the few tiny drops of prosperity that trickled down. We never imagined that they’d be rightfully pissed. Then we blamed them for living beyond their means to catch up with the Joneses, for being irresponsible for maxing their credit cards and taking out mortgages on houses they couldn’t afford. We never saw inequality as a psychological problem as much as an economic one.

We called anyone who disagreed a socialist.

Around that same time, we said that free markets were a panacea for growth. True, many countries did benefit heavily from globalization and certainly those countries that did not follow certain basic rules of market logic have fared terribly (Venezuela being a case in point). But globalization was not a panacea for the working and middle classes of the developed world. In our smugness, we said that the lost jobs either to China, Mexico, or technology were a necessary evil for continued productivity growth. We acted like it was their fault that they did not have the skills needed for the new economy, and that it was nobody’s responsibility to find them those skills either. In the dog eat dog world of neoliberal economics there are losers, and we could afford not to be those losers becomes economists are still not being outsourced to India or replaced by robots so we had little empathy for those who were less lucky. We applauded that unemployment fell and didn’t care that it was because people lost stable, salaried jobs and became self-employed with zero benefits. We cared more about the Dow Jones than the Gini index.

We called anyone who disagreed a socialist.

We also assumed that everyone was rational. We even had a name for this species of humanity that always took decisions based on all available information, weighed all options, and picked the one that maximized their utility: homo economicus. Since we thought psychology, sociology, and all the other social sciences were inferior disciplines because they could not prove their hypotheses with econometrics, so we never bothered to accept their insights into human behavior. The result is that we thought markets were self-correcting, industries were self-regulated, and markets punished those who took decisions against the public interest. We saw the “irrational exuberance” of the dot-com bubble and then did nothing when a bigger bubble, the subprime housing bubble, sprung up almost immediately after the first one popped.

We called anyone who disagreed a socialist.

And finally, we assumed we had all the answers. We took the view of Noble laureate Robert Lucas that the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved, for all practical purposes, and has in fact been solved for many decades”. This was just five years before the global financial crisis. We also poisoned the minds of politicians, who adopted our elegant yet simplistic neoclassical view of how the world worked. We flooded bookstores with titles like Freakonomics and The Economic Naturalist: How Economics Explains Everything to educate the masses on why we knew better. We were conceited, arrogant, and frankly, fucking annoying.

We called anyone who disagreed a socialist.

Then on June 23rd we wondered how the British could be so stupid as to want to leave the EU. On November 8th we were even more perplexed on how Americans could be dumb enough to vote for someone like Trump. From our little intellectual ivory towers, the framework in which we understood the world was perfectly fine. We didn’t get that we didn’t get it.

And now with the twin shocks of a global crisis in 2008-09 and a political crisis in 2016, our world has been shattered. Probably irremediably. But we don’t know it yet. This will still be blamed on people (deplorable as they may be), rather than the structures that conditioned them to be that way. And we’ll be scratching our heads into oblivion by failing to understand why a laid off steelworker from Pennsylvania or miner from Yorkshire won’t be voting with rapturous joy for the man or woman who promises free trade agreements, minority rights, and open immigration in place of the only thing that really matters to them: dignity.

(The author wishes to note that he has stood against everything that has been criticized in this piece since his days as an undergrad. And if you think he is a socialist, well, you’re pretty much the type of person he wrote this for)

How anti-political correctness is breeding a new style of asshole

The gateway drug for for smart people turning right-wing
Political correctness is not the root of all evil

Is political correctness really the root of all evil?

Are you a causehead? For those of you have not seen the cult classic 90s college film P.C.U. (stop reading this NOW and go see it), causeheads are people who “find a world-threatening issue and stick with it… for about a week”. This was probably the precursor to the internet-era’s social justice warrior; people who act like progressives purely for self-gratification and do so with the minimum possible effort. Admittedly, a causehead had to a bit more work than simply barraging their Facebook profile with anti-austerity or pro-LGBT (I am probably missing a few letters in this ever-expanding acronym) internet memes; they actually had to make signs with catchy slogans that had to be written by hand and do a modicum of research on the political issue du jour rather copying stuff from someone else’s wall. And yet, as annoying as causeheads and SJWs are one has to reluctantly admit that their hearts are in the right place even if their brains are stuck a few feet up their ass. And if their biggest sin is being too politically correct for their own good, well, one has to weigh their damage to society besides that of their polar opposite, the anti-political correctness asshole.

I should start with the disclaimer that I’m not particularly a fan of political correctness for political correctness’ sake (that bit should have been pretty damn obvious for anyone who knows me personally); if there is no apparent benefit deriving from an act of political correctness, or the harm avoided is disproportionately low compared to the inconvenience or disruption caused by it, then what’s the point? Sometimes, the PC terminology is even more questionable than the non-PC, for example the recent attempts to use of the term “people with different abilities” to replace “disabled” people. Yeah, I can see how disabled can be taken the wrong way. Just because someone lost some abilities doesn’t mean they’ve lost them all which is what the dis- suffix could potentially imply. But “people with different abilities” describes every single human being that exists. Last time I checked, not everyone who still had their two legs could run like Usain Bolt, who in turn cannot play the guitar as good as Slash, the latter who can’t write as good a horror novel as Stephen King. And if “people with different abilities” isn’t bad enough, let’s not forget the even more patronizing “handi-capable”. Whenever I hear the word “handi-capable” I imagine some cheerfully smug American middle aged idiot saying it with a high-pitched voice and an ear-to-ear smile, the same kind of idiot for whom the phrase the road to hell is paved with good intentions was coined for. Continue reading