It’s useless discussing, yet again, whether Stanley Kubrick was murdered because he revealed too much (this is obviously true so it warrants no further analysis). What is more important is the meaning such a dedicated craftsman meant to convey in the richly-layered symbolic strata of his masterpiece. A very simple cue. In the final shots, the protagonist couple’s young daughter trails after— or is lured by?— two older men in a department store. These men appear once previously, at the Ziegler ball from the story’s beginning. On the surface level, this implies the couple is indeed being surveilled (a point of ambiguity in the sequences filmed from Bill’s perspective, or at least as close as Kubrick ever comes to adopting a character’s vision (I don’t offhand recall any explicit perspective shots in his movies)). In the immediate symbolic layer, Ziegler’s party is an obvious symbolic double of Somerton— everything about the party is imbued with sexual innuendos, but in the everyday once-removed, plausible-deniability sense that allows everyone to retain their social masks (to ‘save face’). This world in inverted at the Somerton orgy, where the barbarism can proceed because everyone wears actual masks. In fact, these are not two separate events— you can mentally superimpose Ziegler’s party over Somerton to obtain the totality, the Symbolic world of language and social-games that constitutes the self above the primordial ‘reality’ (in actuality part of the totality that collectively describes reality) that lies beneath. Kubrick shows this singular event in two separate scenes because this is the only way to depict the layered structure of reality in linear time (unless you were to— as a very tacky cinematic device— do it with superimposition or split screens). Everyone at the Ziegler party has a double at Somerton, because they are precisely the same event, an equivalence which is heavily implied throughout the story (e.g., when Ziegler reveals to Bill that “I was there [at Somerton]”). Everyone at both parties is an uber-elite— again, Ziegler says so explicitly when he confronts Bill— with Bill as an outsider (Bill: “why does he even invite me to these things?”) and possible inductee as an accomplished New York City doctor. The two men in the screenshots, as older and presumably more established members of this elite, are insiders and hence sexual deviants, shown here whisking a young girl away from her parents. This is more than slightly intimated with the subplot of Rainbow Fashions, whose owner appears to sell his daughter to a couple Japanese businessmen. Bill is appalled, but he succumbs the same: either child sacrifice is the cost of his entrance into the elite, or it happens through mere inattention. I mean, you didn’t notice this either, did you? Relax, it’s not your kid. Step aside, The Shining; the ending here terrifies more than any conventional horror story ever could.
A full-fledged analysis will have to wait, perhaps till Christmas when EWS viewing-time returns. But I will point out an obvious parallel to the first season of True Detective, another story about elite child abuse rings. It is implied that Marty’s daughter, the one who becomes a teenage rebel, suffered from sexual abuse. When Marty is about to confront her, as a younger child, about inappropriate drawings she made at school, we briefly see him fixated on this scene she created:
In retrospect, this setup appears identical to the one witnessed in the Marie Fontenot video (also the scene that Rust carves out of beer cans while he’s interrogated. You didn’t notice that? That’s okay, neither did the detectives grilling him). Marty’s dialogue over the scene that transitions from time period 1 to time period 2 says, “my greatest sin was inattention”). You can say that again. How literally you treat the ‘elite groomer ring’ elements of these two stories is up to you. I will say that evidence has not been especially kind to skeptics, would they but have eyes to see, but that’s beside the point. (I could also add Chinatown to the list— Polanski would know— but that’s best treated separately another time). What they point toward is an ancient (re: primordial) and latent evil that, if it doesn’t actual inhere in individuals, operates through a nexus of elites elevated beyond normative constraints. It’s a force that demands child sacrifice. Are you paying attention?
Addendum: Great artists that live long enough to see themselves become famous also become self-reflective and develop symbolic models of the cinematic craft itself. Kubrick achieved acclaim by Dr. Strangelove and continued to direct for another thirty-five years, so we can see how his personal model changed over a reasonably long career. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is made clear his model for cinema is technological, a source of innovation through which mankind is driven to higher evolutionary stages of development. We know this because the monolith has the exact appearance of the cinema screen. (This is changed from the novel, where the monolith is described as crystal, transparent and later milky white and glowing. At any rate, Kubrick was basically the book’s coauthor). When Bowman travels through the Stargate after finding the monolith hovering near Jupiter, the screen goes black for awhile— what happens is the cinema screen has perfectly aligned with the monolith: Bowman and the viewer are gazing directly into the monolith. Remember the monolith, in the opening scenes, spurs the evolution from apelike creature to human; for Bowman it begins his evolution to Starchild, seen in the closing shot. Kubrick’s model is— again, because we are gazing into the monolith during the Stargate sequence, just as Bowman is— one where cinema, or art generally, serves as a quasi-technological vehicle through which we reach for higher levels of development. Quite characteristic of the ‘60s in its optimism, aspiration, hopefulness, although not without a bit of terror (think Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog). His model changes in Eyes Wide Shut. It becomes one of the most common models favored by great directors, a dream. And his vision of this model, with the aforementioned elements of Freudian psychodrama where the subtext of social conflicts are communicated symbolically, is perhaps the best executed version in cinema. Note that it is less hopeful, more ambiguous about the power of cinema. A dream does not impel or drive you, it suggests and hints with its own linguistic structure, one you can brush off and pretend is mere phantasm. You wake up and get to decide how the dream affects you, if at all. You wake up. So what’s it going to be?
Another week, another round of the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, and author of five books, getting dunked on by anime pfps. Ignoring the political content, his book How Fascism Works is quite possibly the worst academic book ever written. (Condolences to the editor who transcribed it from the original crayon and macaroni art). To start, his conceptualization rests on the Social Identity Theory proposition that humans bifurcate social reality into “ingroups” and “outgroups” or, in Stanley’s language, “us” and “them.” (As an aside, it’s bad academic practice not to cite your classical foundations, in this case Carl Schmitt). The problem is that, if you read the original SIT papers, this applies to all human associations (by both empirical discovery and theoretical construction). The studies found that social identity dynamics arise even when you randomly assign people to meaningless groups, e.g., labelled ‘group x’ and ‘group y.’ It’s no wonder that Stanley sees fascism around every corner— ubiquitous fascism is a straightforward implication of his worldview.
You can see the basic inferential error, one that’s usually grounds for failing an upper-level undergraduate term paper. Selection on the dependent variable: he takes Nazi Germany, picks a few qualities with little justification, and considers these the defining attributes of fascism. But without comparison to non-fascist cases we don’t know whether those ‘fascist’ features are in fact unique to fascism. With such an error, you might end up in an absurd situation where all the ‘distinguishing characteristics’ of your case are also found in all the non-cases. Oh.
Sure, Nazi Germany had many attributes— an infinite number, in fact— but most are not unique to fascism. Stanley’s list would be comparable to selecting USA as an instance of ‘democracy’ and concluding ethnic obesity, and the Roman alphabet are its inherent qualities because you’ve never heard of Japan. And this error goes a long way to accounting for Stanley’s profound retardation. Restated simply his argument is that conservatism (which is anachronistic because it predates fascism) is synonymous with fascism. Here’s a snippet from his book where he basically calls Mitt Romney a Hutu genocidaire because he refers to women as ‘wives and daughters.’ [Rodney Dangerfield] Hehe, I dunno about you but thinkin’ bout my wife and daughters makes me wanna commit a Holocaust too! [\Rodney Dangerfield]
An irony is that Stanley’s “fascism” is not a social scientific, conceptual designation, but a political one. It makes sense only as political propaganda in the strictest sense, as a work that delineates the enemy. In this, case the enemy is Conservatives (which is a misnomer in America— he means Liberals). I am not convinced he genuinely believes his propaganda; just as likely is he’s Adolf Eichmann, obsessed with trivial professional accomplishments and ambitions to rub shoulders with in-party political elites and this is the surest way for someone with his credentials to get there. The accelerationist in me thinks this is acceptable. A lot of good threads were written this past week on the mutually-constituted nature of fascism in Germany, that it was produced in ‘reaction’ to an enemy that willed them into existence (though I would debate the extent to which Nazism was ‘reactionary’— certainly the conservative revolutionaries hated them, see: Diary of a Man in Despair). And despite all the middling leftist retorts of, “ha, they just wanted to be Nazis all along!,” it has in fact been a fixture of leftist thought since Marx that you manufacture a group-level consciousness through agitation. If me and my friends go around bitch-slapping everyone who rests their elbows on the table while eating and calling them “table-faggots,” there will probably be an NYT exclusive and 10,000 people fighting for table-faggot justice within the month. Stanley should keep it up; it’s not like liberal-conservatives can get any weaker.
Note: I initially typed up an ~8,000 word definition of fascism that I believe is conceptually coherent and historically accurate, replete with a number of excerpts from books nobody but me has read in the past decade. Maybe another time (or perhaps I’ll write my own book nobody will read). For now, there’s only one appropriate response to accusations of fascism.
Every American should read de Tocqueville. He predicted the 1848 French Revolution a month before it happened and the Cold War a century before it happened (and in between, the bureaucratic-totalitarian state and US hegemony). I leave it as an exercise to the reader to discover what he predicted that’s relevant as far out as now (no cheating— it’s not that long a book).
I promised @17cShyteposter I would watch an anime called the ‘Cowboy Bebop.’ So far I’m about 10 episodes deep. It starts with a neo-noir, jazz aesthetic closely resembling the intro sequence to the 1997 movie This World, Then the Fireworks (I can’t find this sequence online— you could probably download it but as a whole it’s quite nihilistic, so best avoided if you don’t want to stare into the void). A succinct description of the show is postmodern anime: it genre-mashes noir, sci-fi, and western, with allusions to Clint Eastwood’s The Man With No Name, various Bruce Lee movies, Seijun Suzuki, and it lifts stylistic devices from the 1983 Golgo 13 (more unbridled nihilism) and sci-fi from 2001 to Blade Runner.
Postmodern creations are fun but, more often than not, leave you empty once the superficial cool subsides. 6/10— I’m not sure what the big deal is with anime. (I probably would’ve liked this more had I watched it younger). I am happy I watched this over Neon Evangelical’s Genesis, at least; that one is apparently more divisive and is about a guy torn between his obligation to save the world and his desire to jerk off sadly.
I read @MrGeorgeFrancis and @KirkegaardEmil article “National Intelligence and Economic Growth: a Bayesian Update.” It’s a fine paper, and worth reading. But I’m always torn over these publications. On the one hand, I have culturalist inclinations and do not think we have methodological tools suitable to test sociobiological theories of economic development (or other highly-aggregated macroeconomic phenomenon). On the other hand, I love scientific racism like Leo’s character in Django Unchained. It’s a nice corrective to the intellectual fads that dominate academia. My methodological reservations about such articles are basically the same I have toward most contemporary social science. Take the preferred criticism of national IQ studies: the measurements are flawed. Certainly, but this is true of most state-level, aggregate variables. The same personality that scoffs at national IQ measures takes ‘democracy measurement’, usually some average over asking researchers “attach a number of democratic-ness to these countries,” at face value. Smells like bad faith to me.
Mainly, the weakness of these studies is not that they are incorrect but that they are underwhelming. See the figure above. Does anything in it surprise you? I have a hypothesis: if you replace the IQ measure with ‘average skin color’ you will find near-identical results. You do not need statistics to arrive at this conclusion; a passing familiarity with the world map is enough. It took me until the ‘results’ section, where it’s noted that there are ~70 observations in the dataset, to realize the basic design: a cross-section of countries, dependent variable is the difference in GDP between now and 1960, and a collection of macro-economic independent variables. We do not even have panel data because of the general disinterest in collecting IQ data. The Bayesian Modeling Strategy means the authors estimate a large number of regression models via combinatoric selection of the variables included in the right-hand side of the equation and average them (with the coefficients weighted by the posterior distribution). Looking at the graph you can see the methodological sophistication masks the same simple problem: no matter what combination of variables you throw into the model, you wouldn’t find that the correlation between ‘brown-ness’ and GDP growth disappears (‘aha, turns out it was the climate all along!’) I like the instrumental variable analysis— clearly an afterthought requested by a reviewer— because they use a measure of cranial capacity. Phrenology comeback, long overdue. I’m only disappointed they didn’t mention the three dimples. But it’s the same thing: a measure of historical average skin color— hey, you could even render those “wut colur wuz Jesus?” pictures normies love, but for the whole world— would meet the exogeneity criterion and work just as well.
The authors are obviously sharp but I believe they would do more interesting work outside academia entirely. The dominate paradigm sets the research agenda; it is inescapable. Imagine the ideological bias of academia were such that every article on physical strength concluded, “actually babies are just as good at power-lifting as adults.” Obviously this is retarded. Now the rightful critics spend their time publishing articles showing that babies are, in fact, weaker than adults (on average— superbabies aside). Well, yes. But here’s the trick: aside from the 15 percent of strength researchers who are actually babies, perhaps even some superbabies, nobody operating inside the dominate paradigm really believes the superbaby hypothesis. Sure, they will utter the magic incantation, “babies are as strong as adults,” but then will study the subject of strength in a way that partials out age, e.g., some randomized control trial that assigns college students (all aged 18 to 22) to different training regiments to estimate their effect on strength gains. If you include babies and the elderly, and control for sex, then age will explain most of the variation in strength, but a study that confirms this obvious truth ends up less interesting and rigorous (you cannot randomly assign someone to an age) than the experiment from the researchers who falsify their belief in the superbaby hypothesis.
Now, if you are interested in age (not its relation to strength, but generally), there is basically nothing you can do within this paradigm. You might have a fascinating article, but the true believers will reject it on the grounds that age isn’t real, funding agencies will not award grants to ageist research, and spineless editors and hiring committees will look out for themselves first. You return the drawing board, frustrated, and decide to write articles that show age does matter. Okay, but the delusional, true believers will never be convinced and everyone else already knows this (I mean, they’ve seen babies— total pushovers). Perhaps you can fly under the radar, publish better age-related studies, and teach at an unknown university, or get some underfunded external age-truth agency to put together some funds for you. It’s not bad but it has obvious costs, and the universities are so lost that I believe we have greater collective strength maximizing our wealth and influence elsewhere.
I take it for granted as obvious and perfectly well-established that there are real, innate difference in intelligence within and across groups that account for much of the variation in outcomes, to the point where it sounds to me like “most of the variation in strength is explained by being an adult.” Even if the rest is less important, I find it more interesting (have seen the crazy shit that happens in strange cultures?) Twitter has shown me a ton of interesting hypotheses, even full-fledged analysis, of ‘human biodiversity’ that is quite fascinating. I would love to see a lot more of it, even if that means I have to dust off the old genetics textbooks. Here’s the catch: whenever I run across something like that it’s from an anon.
(Note: Maybe you care about economic development as a dependent variable. Yeah, some ‘states’ and ‘economies’, to the extent those concepts even apply, fail because they’re in fucking Africa lol. Like with the strength example, that will explain most of the variation in the outcome, but there are other, less-obvious things that account for the rest. Those are more historically interesting, at least outside the population genetics perspective. My intuition, based on conversations I’ve had, is that many social scientists accepted this until recently and were simply more curious about the left-over variation, but new generations of frankly delusional scholars interpreted this as saying all that matters are the added variables. Psychoanalysis suffered a similar fate: Freud and his immediate successors were adamant that biology explains the majority of human behavior, which they built into their theories and extended to include the additional factors. Obviously, there are other things like family structure that are important to individual psychology as well. Famed sociobiologist Konrad Lorenz notes this in his book On Aggression when he finds, to his surprise, that he and the psychoanalysts were in complete agreement on the biological foundations of aggressive behavior. It was only generations later that the theory degraded and its proponents, due to self-selection of people only interested in the non-biological elements, spun crazy notions about biology being irrelevant to the mind. Maybe we’ll see with macro-economics a similar outcome: slow death.)
What’s the probability that a nuclear weapon will be deliberately used in combat? Nobody knows, it’s a— *snort coke, eat squid*— black swan event, so at best we can infer it’s low-probability but high-risk. Once upon a time, as a grad student, I read humanity’s collective research on nuclear weapons. It doesn’t add up to much. We have a pile of increasingly sophisticated game-theoretic models (let me put emphasis on theory) that are interesting but no more informative than the classical, simple models pioneered by Von Neumann and Schelling.
Your belief in these models, which usually imply that states will not use nuclear weapons, should hinge on your belief that ‘states’ and their leaders are ‘rational actors.’ Obviously this is an old idea, although in international relations the most famous, mathematically-taut formulations is found in Fearon’s 1995 article “Rationalist Explanations for War.” He’s clearly a brilliant guy, but you should consider how much weight you’re willing to give to economic-rationalism. Let’s take a look:
Always amuses me that WWII spurred the international-relations-security-studies PhD industry, yet their regression analyses usually begin in 1945. We see here even the theory breaks down in WWII. I know he put this parenthetical in here because a reviewer requested it (otherwise, it would be built into the theory somewhere). That should give you pause— it didn’t occur to him and, when it was pointed out, it becomes a parenthetical, a footnote to a pristine formal, bargaining theory. Rationalism is a theoretical baseline, the theoretical equivalent of an over-time average. What will happen tomorrow is what happened today and what happened yesterday. . . . Your neighbor with the crew-cut and taped-over glasses will wake up, go to work, come home, jerk off, watch TV, as he does every day because this is what a rational person does on autopilot. Some small fraction will snap one day and try to decapitate you with a hacksaw because you mowed into his lawn by mistake. Gee, it would be helpful to predict that— I didn’t care so much about the jerking off. What predicts a WWII? Nobody cares if Peru invades Bolivia. I doubt even the Bolivians care much.
We don’t know which theories about world politics are most often correct because nobody is evaluating them. Seriously, it was a four-decade outpouring of in-sample regression analyses until 2003 when the field decided, you know what, let’s forget about international war and do some regressions on civil war— I bet GDP per capita will have a statistically significant coefficient! And whenever someone does try to make theoretically-informed predictions they turn out wrong. Every time. Fearon published a nice, confident think-piece in Foreign Affairs (or Foreign Policy, I can’t recall) in 2006 that predicted a withdrawal from Iraq would quickly end the conflict because combat would reveal information about who would eventually win. Oh, hey there ISIS. Turns out some people just really, really like decapitation, and that war was in the error term all along. Rationalism in international relations is quite elegant, and it’s always wrong when it matters (when you want to predict the big, exceptional events).
If the internet is assigning higher probabilities of nuclear weapons use over time, then I’m inclined to agree even if they over-estimate the probability by a few orders of magnitude. What else do we have to rely on? Rationalism (meme version) is simply re-discovering what rationalism (economic-academia) ‘discovered’ generations ago. “Ha, that just means we’re clever!” Okay, how much confidence do you have in mainstream academic research? Game theory is fine but I wouldn’t bet our collective survival on it. Question is, does someone test out the Davy Crocketts first? Are tactical nukes that bad? If they’re going to send in troops to machine gun the entire village anyway, I’m not sure it makes a difference. Is it worse if someone kills you in the Milgram experiment or in real life, strangling you so he gets a good look at your eyes rolling back into your head? I believe the problem here is of negative externalities. “Not with a bang but, well yeah, but it’s like a bunch of tiny bangs, and some people still whimper from their basements.” Try getting that published in a literary journal.
Now that I’ve entertained the idea that perhaps nukes aren’t uniformly all that bad, I wonder if pseudo-surveys capture a decline in the moral aversion to nukes (or the accurate perception of such). This was a narrative construction borne out of WWII (the firebombings were as deadly as the nukes). And why not? No norm left unturned. But probably there’s nothing to worry about— mainstream theory predicts business as usual, and it was right yesterday and the day before, so it will probably be right tomorrow and the next day and the day after. Until it’s not.
(Note: My favorite book when I was reading about nukes was some Frenchman’s The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation. Pursuit of nukes in the international realm certainly is some form of ‘deviant behavior’, so the perspective makes more sense to me once the world is removed from the neat game-theoretic bipolarity of the Cold War. Political scientists are simply uninterested in psychology, except its most juvenile forms, and psychologists are too busy running experiments on undergrads to consider state leaders. Okay, psychoanalysis at a great distance is theoretical mumbo-jumbo. Did those experiments replicate? Oh, guess it was all for nothing then.)
An investment strategy works until it becomes an investment strategy, after which it ceases to work. It doesn’t much matter that it’s partly deliberate— the Fed is actively eliminating wealth to reign in inflation— because the gains were due to the infinite money-machine to begin with. Pensions and retirement accounts hit hardest.
Written in 1959— time is a flat circle. You have an advantage over the competition if you do what they won’t: read.
And once more, there is nothing new under the sun.
A tale as old as time.
McKinsey report from earlier this year found about 35 percent of the workforce has fully remote-eligible work. Some of this makes sense: many technical and creative workers have no reason to be stuffed in an office. Others seem unsustainable. How do healthcare, education, and social service workers perform their basic duties from a home office? I suspect it’s the stickiness of the greatest transfer of wealth in world-history— maybe it never ends.
What are the two books you cite under 7? thanks!
A short note to say how much I appreciated the reference to Diary of A Man in Despair. A great, great book and every time I see it mentioned, such as just now, I'm surprised it isn't mentioned much, much more often