How to Shift Public Opinion

Most people don’t really understand how to shift public opinion because they have a tough time grasping the concept of leverage.

It’s easier to think about influence at the sub-Dunbar level, even with all the tools available now for even impoverished people with an internet connection to reach millions. To handle influence at scale, you have to think in terms of abstractions rather than in terms of individuals.

The typical response to a radical proposal is that “it will never work” because of inertia. While it’s possible that it will never work, the point is not necessarily to achieve the radical proposal, but to establish it as a gravitational center, and then to pull  and push attention & conversation to that center.

An example of such a proposal is “Restore the Stuarts.” Saying this absolutely po-faced on Fox News would probably not do the trick on any meaningful timeline. That doesn’t really matter all that much, because by doing that, you’re establishing a new boundary that more timid opinion-nudgers can define themselves against.

The timid person might want to be more radical, but they know that it wouldn’t be practical. But by appearing more radical than the timid person, you make it possible for the sissy with a larger audience to shuffle several steps to the right. The larger and more powerful that you can make the gravitation on the outer right, the stronger the pull is felt by the timid ones who minister to the masses, who in democracy only care about the consensus, safe opinion.

The timid editor or TV producer acts like the basic political science model of rational election-winning positioning. Their whole function is just to look at the scale of public opinion, and then to plunk themselves down at the center to maximize their appeal to their market. By forcing more weight onto the right side of the scale, you can shove around the timid people who react predictably with little in the way of meaningful agency.

This is why in politics, the intellectuals are more powerful than the populists — the populists only react to the frame set by the leading thinkers. Crushing the opposing side’s thinkers enables you to re-set the field that the little shiny spokespeople must reconfigure their positions to react to the changed field of public opinion.

This works better if you really do want  to achieve something like “Restore the Stuarts” or “Return France to the Bourbon Monarchy” or “Reinstate the Articles of Confederation” or “We Demand Texan Independence,” and behave as if you believe that it’s possible with absolute certainty. It’s the low-ball or high-ball offer that you don’t necessarily expect to get in the first round, but might be able to get through successive rounds of aggressive bargaining.

Disrupting Electioneering

Elections in the United States are much less popular than they once were. In 2012, the presidential election only earned a 55% turnout nationwide. That’s the most popular election in the country. Many other elections earn minimal turnouts and even less attention.

Why do people participate in elections? In Moldbug’s terms, elections are to power what pornography is to sex. People enjoy elections because it’s a simulation of having power over other citizens. The reality is that participating in an election is always a waste of time at the individual level, and only useful for the people actually driving the electioneering activity.

It’s not going to be possible to get everyone to abandon their addiction to pseudo-power. But whenever you want to replace a behavior in someone, you have to offer an alternative that meets a similar desire.

In short, you have to go after the issues that politicians use to get people to turn out to vote, and then help people either solve them for themselves or do it collectively. Instead of giving them a simulacrum of power through the democratic political process, you have to help them to take responsibility for solving their own problems.

The two typical responses to tough problems are either to petition the government to solve them or to throw up one’s hands and complain that the government blocks the solutions. Instead, better to route around whatever blocks there are and get it done, and damn the consequences.

The Outer Right Coalition

The outer right has no coalition, even if it appears all of  its component organizations are coordinating.

Part of the reason for this is egoism, but part is also a negotiating gambit among the people who resist forming alliances.

Generally, people writing and speaking on these issues have a special interest. They want to make sure that their special interest will not be downgraded if they collaborate with other people who either don’t share that interest, or don’t have that interest as their foremost concern.

To form a useful coalition, each of its members has to be willing to put aside some of their pet issues for some time, at least in the particular context of presenting a united front on a single issue, even if it’s temporary.

Part of the reason why Europe and its descendants have been so successful relative to other parts of the world is the unusual cultural capacity of Europeans to devolve and delegate authority to lower levels, to set strategic goals at a high level and then to use a high-trust culture to enable people closer to the ground to act on their own initiative.

In return, broadly spread property rights enable greater shares in the profits, as risk is similarly shared throughout the population.

Property rights are always present, even in the most despotic societies, although the sphere of protection that they represent is more restricted. Even in despotism, property rights are enforced within the limits of the imperial palace. When property rights are spread throughout society, recognized as social norms, and enforced predictably, the society can be more active and responsive to changing conditions. Decision making loops can become tighter and faster, rather than being regulated by a single decision loop in the imperial capitol.

Setting up a structure that is capable of making faster, better-informed decisions than the competition is an effective way to crush a competitor, no matter how small the starting point is. If you can make 1,000 effective decisions in the same time that it takes the competitor to make 1, then the defeat of the competitor is almost inevitable.

A culture based on decentralized leadership will defeat a consensus-based culture routinely, because reaching consensus takes exponentially greater amounts of time depending on the scale of the organization that must be brought to consensus.

For the outer right to become an effective force in politics, people need to be able to bargain without giving up the essence of what they want to preserve. Without the need to appeal to an entire society of hundreds of millions, it’s possible to form more effective groups that don’t require the surrender of every important point in the pursuit of winning an election.

It’s much easier to build a smaller culture of millions from the defectors of the mass-culture than it is to try to go after an entire mass-culture at once which has no interest in defection.

The aim shouldn’t be to form a counter-culture, but to create a viable alternative culture with all the trappings of a self-sustaining culture. Once that is on solid footing, then the other components fall into place. Counter-culture defines itself as the opposite of the culture that it opposes, ceding the opposition the frame of discussion immediately. A competing culture defines itself, with its opposition to the neighboring culture being a secondary matter.

Mass Androgyny and World War T

World War T, a term coined by Steve Sailer, actually has little to do with real transsexuals, who are a minuscule minority by any count. The amount of attention paid to this new frontier in equality is wildly disproportionate to the actual incidence of transsexualism in the general population.

What the interest is more likely to be is about transsexualism as a metaphor for mass androgyny, which is part of the egalitarian, democratic experiment. The androgyny relative to historic standards is what is aberrant and significant.

The people who are most androgynous overall, namely white, urban, educated liberals, also put forth the greatest effort to show moral concern over transsexual acceptance, and are more likely to support state subsidies for genital mutilation and hormone treatment to allow a person to effect a more masculine or feminine appearance than biology would allow.

Brainier liberals will use terms like ‘gender dysphoria’ to describe an emotional experience that presents as people claiming to feel as if they have spirits with an alternative gender to the one that nature assigned to them.

In reality, we impose gender dysphoria through instruments like the school system which feminizes boys and masculinizes girls. Civil rights laws addressing gender differences attempt to ‘correct’ for the natural sexual dimorphism in the human species.

Democracy’s ideal has become to mold men with the spirits of women, and women with the spirits of men. According to the values inculcated by the education system, a good biological girl has the enterprising, adventuring spirit of a man. A good biological boy has the meek, gentle nature typical to girls. We encourage both genders to play against what biology pushes them towards, using operant conditioning and social disapproval to rectify any deviations from our attempts to realize the blank slate, to train billions of little Émiles.

World War T resonates because the power structure expects us to all be trannies now, at least on the inside. For the ideal of equality to be realized, men must be encouraged to be effeminate, and women must be encouraged to be masculine. In popular culture, the parody of this is the flamboyant homosexual and the butch lesbian in the lumberjack-plaid shirt. But part of the broader goal of the thrust towards equality is to encourage indifference regarding the social construct of sexual orientation. Rather than calling certain acts sinful, we instead manufacture alternative ‘identities’ around sinning with pride, around favorite sins, while simultaneously condemning most of the classical virtues.

Popular art reinforces the real dysphoria, the common kind that no surgery can correct for, by casting women as competent hard-boiled killers and men as sensitive, bumbling cowards. The ideals that even radical liberals rarely are able to fulfill in the real world show up in their fiction, repetitively.

The obsession about the rights of the transgendered has more to do with soothing people uncomfortable with what they have done to themselves, feeling miserable and unhealthy, having abandoned their natural roles in human society. The ‘brave’ transgender who undergoes surgery is a stand-in for the internal world of an ordinary person who has abandoned their traditional gender role. They dramatize with their flesh the internal struggle of the educated liberal, of the tension that they feel in ignoring what their own body tells them is right.

Whereas the physical transsexual receives praise for responding to emotion with surgery and drugs, the spiritual transsexual receives praise for suppressing their feelings and following the trumpet-calls to corporate ambition, achievement, and certification in place of children, home, and church. While the spiritual transsexual might present as outwardly ‘cisgendered,’ on the inside, and in terms of their behavior, they are firmly trans — no surgery needed.

Rigid gender roles remain both a social construct and a good idea. If the principle advocated by trans-rights-activists that the inner feelings of a person regarding their gender ought to be respected, than that goes even more for people trained by mass education to form a character that runs contrary to their inner feeling of what is right, based on the gender that nature assigned to them, which is unchangeable.

It is cruel to attempt to push girls to forsake femininity and womanhood and to push boys to forsake masculinity and manhood. That’s what’s going on at the scale of billions worldwide, and that’s one of the things that causes so much unhappiness and misunderstanding.

The Democratic Careerist

In democracy, people are supposed to be roughly equal in ability and talent. People are not supposed to notice inborn differences between people that make for wildly different sets of capabilities and interests across the population. The thought is that, generally, emotional engagement or hard work at something can trump all other factors.

Despite this, even in the most democratic of settings, the compulsory school, we all know of students who never seemed to need to spend time studying to win excellent marks on tests. Part of this is due to the general lowering in educational standards, but it’s also partly because some people are intrinsically more intelligent than others. Some people need to put in hours of work to try to solve a problem and fail, whereas a more intelligent person might be able to solve it in seconds of thought.

Although the democrat praises hard work, the results of hard work over time tend to make them feel uncomfortable. Learning, high levels of skill, and wisdom are all concepts that make a democratic people uncomfortable. There is a general idea that, gaining too much knowledge about any area that might be outside their narrow job description is a suspicious activity.

Even among ‘knowledge workers,’ at least if they’re not technical, it’s common to find people who may only read a single book a year, if that, and otherwise spend the spare time watching television, listening to the radio, and scanning social media feeds. To depart from the culture of mainstream media consumers is to become socially awkward, and to be socially awkward is to be at a professional disadvantage in such an environment, which prefers conformity to virtuosity.

 

Rather than defining a person by their family name or where they come from, at contemporary parties, democratic people identify themselves by what they ‘do.’ In some cases, they may have ostentatious titles that rival those of the old nobility in length and incomprehensibility.

Democratic people tend to focus on building credentials which advance their ‘careers,’ accumulated in a text document, along with recommendations from their former bosses. They may or may not have real skills, but what matters is the long record of conformity that they have behind them. They appear reliable, even if it’s difficult to tell whether or not they are actually effective as individuals. Because of this, the most competitive careerists look to get some brand name companies on their record, which acts as a sort of magic dust that makes them stand out, at least as long as that name remains relevant.

What the democrat rarely seeks is excellence. Excellence is sometimes spoken of in hushed tones, because excellent men are not supposed to exist. The ancient Greeks sought areté, excellence, whereas the careerists seeks to merge their identity with a trust-worthy collective, which, although it may be excellent in its own way, will rarely phrase itself in terms of the excellence of a single man. There are, of course, sacred exceptions, that responsible people treat with an inverted awe, freely praising a particular that they would condemn in general.

Pre-democratic Europe preferred the artisan, whose excellence spanned generations — and still does in certain pockets. People joke about the ‘artisanal’ buzzword as if it’s a joke, but when artisanal products displace industrial ones, it has implications for public morality and philosophy as well. The industrial producer creates democratic products for a democratic people. As democracy fades into the past, slowly, so do its artifacts, and its characteristics of ordinary life.

Instruments of the Terror

It’s under-appreciated how state terror envelops society as both a bottom-up organic process as well as being a top-down, state-induced state of chaos. You can especially get this sense by reading Solzhenitsyn.

If you impose terror too quickly, you run the risk of having people escape with their resources, and can possibly interrupt economic activity that you could otherwise collect rents on. Revolutionary governments tend to be money-starved governments, and the ones that survive for longer tend to be better at maintaining a sense of normalcy within the productive class for as long as possible.

Everything is simplified during a real war from which no one can escape, so we won’t consider that instance in this case.

The most basic human instrument of terror is the thug. The thug rarely works, unless it’s as a pimp, a smuggler, or a general-purpose wiseguy. Turned into a political instrument, the thug has an explicit party membership. He may collect a stipend and hold a title, which he can augment with his sidelines and his position of legal authority. Part of what makes the thug useful is that he is disposable if he causes problems.

Thugs can have official status given or retracted as it suits the needs of the party in a particular region. To the extent that the thugs are not officially part of the party, they can be used as pressure to push productive people into joining the party for protection from the chaos that always surrounds the thug’s activities.

A second critical character to the care and feeding of the terror is the informant. Informants are often women or children, but they can be men as well. Informants are usually motivated by either envy or spite, but they may also turn in their friends for counter-revolutionary activity because they are themselves under pressure. Professional informants may also be used, but people can train themselves to spot them, whereas everyone has neighbors, and in cities, it’s not possible to restrict who those neighbors are.

Why do they do what they do? Because thought criminals are legitimately dangerous to the people around them. They instinctively perceive them as threatening, because tolerating their presence is dangerous. And most people have the courage of a mouse.

Finally, there’s the commissar, who will often start as a pure believer in the revolution. The commissar provides the verve, the faith, that the other instruments of terror lack. A thug will torture someone for pleasure, but a commissar will do it because he believes that it’s just.

The thug is useful at all stages of the terror. In the beginning, he is the most deniable tool. Crime can be portrayed as almost a force of nature. If the judge is sympathetic, he may only put lenient sentences on the thug for his actions, if he receives any sentence at all.

As the terror escalates, the thug gains opportunities to wrap himself in the righteous cause. The more that he is able to wrap himself in the colors of the revolution, the more he is able to indulge his sadism and greed with impunity.

Whereas the party may start out condemning the thug’s crimes as crimes, as the revolution accelerates, his crimes shift from regrettable, to understandable, to necessary actions.

A commissar may start out as a thug — even many of the bright names in the Soviet leadership were bank robbers — but he often possesses intelligence, charisma, and an unstoppable work ethic. In ordinary times, a commissar would go from being a bright, passionate student into becoming a dull if scrupulous clerk. Political repression can help him preserve his romantic sense of himself for much longer than would be possible otherwise. The badge to him means everything. When he kills someone, even a woman, he rarely feels regret or pity, even for a moment. The notion of guilt is foreign to his temperament.

While a priest might doubt himself, a commissar does not, at least until the revolution burns out.

Informants are typically ordinary people, who in more moral times would simply be an annoying co-worker or a nosy aunt. The revolution gives them a sense of new-found purpose. Whereas in better times, their vigilance might be put to use reporting a dangerous looking vagrant lurking near a park, during the revolution, they perk up their ears for politically incorrect jokes and other indications of reactionary tendencies.

The universal moral corrosion common to totalitarian regimes is what dissidents and historians usually remark on. It becomes almost as if everyone who stays within the totalitarian society is incapable of being good. There may be occasional good acts performed by bad people under totalitarianism, but part of what makes it so sinister is that the idea of goodness dies within the common people as well as the elites, except for perhaps within some of the surviving elderly people.

Denied the outward performance of goodness, the inner light tends to die as well. That is what makes it so intolerable.

In America, we are still at a relatively early time in the development of the terror, in part because it’s mostly only been possible to move slowly. When a thug performs a crime, the commoners see a criminal. But the revolutionaries and the temporary elites who know that they must appease them see a soldier, or a martyr. The two groups can see the same images, know the same facts, and yet hold a different narrative about the meaning of those images and facts within their minds.

Once the terror begins, it must intensify through a ratcheting process, as elites rely more heavily on the revolution to retain access to resources and control, and the revolution needs to accelerate to avoid decaying into nothing. When the current elites cease to be useful, the revolution eats them, and takes their place in the shell where government was previously.

As the revolution fails to produce the perfection of the idea of the revolution, it must intensify every trend, must make greater use of its instruments, and destroy not just all good things, but attack the idea of goodness itself in the common mind. Thugs being quite literal, they do this by battering the brains of good people until blood and organs stain the walls and ruin the carpets. Hammers, knives, spikes, household objects, guns, machetes, gasoline — complicated tools are not necessary for this sort of mass moral restructuring.

Goodness being redefined as evil, the commissars seek out everyone who is good, to torture them until they stop being good, or cease being. With competing sources of Goodness gone, the revolution looks taller by comparison relative to the crowd of nihilists that it leaves behind.

Left-Liberals and Right-Liberals on Race

Among modern republicans (small r), there are two politically acceptable views on race.

They both hold the view that race is not a biologically important reality beyond physical appearance. Further, they both agree that physical appearance has no bearing on any genetic trait with moral weight or an impact on ability.

Left-republicans believe that, despite these facts, white people should be made materially equal with people of other races. The racial divide in terms of wealth and status must be leveled by any means necessary — even murder, mass surveillance, property destruction, and theft are permissible. This is essentially the responsible center-left position of today, ratified by publications like the New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate, and the Atlantic, the last of which published an extensive article arguing specifically for slavery reparations for blacks paid for mostly by white citizens.

Right-republicans affirm that race is not a biological reality, but holds that any observed differences between the behaviors and life outcomes for people of different races are due to some combination of moral deficiency and bad fortune. Right-republicans also endorse Civil Rights law without reservations, which calls for equal outcomes, but they tend to blanch from the full implications of what has been passed into law, arguably in a hypocritical way. For example, it makes no sense at all to hold a position that the existing civil rights law is good and affirmative action in education and business is bad. Affirmative action is just a means of ensuring that more of the institutions legally obligated to comply with civil rights legislation do so in a predictable manner.

When voting, a person has a choice between two positions: they can choose the logically correct, but morally monstrous position of the left, or they can choose the logically invalid but humane position on the right.

Of course, the better position is to choose a set of policies that is both logically valid and humane — that which takes into account the reality of human biodiversity, and structures the law accordingly.

Democracy In Action

Mass looting is democracy in action. In its bureaucratic form, the looting is formalized, with a careful cultivation of attitudes on the citizens to make them acquiesce to the looting.

In primitive cultures, this is done through potlatch exchanges, in which tribes exchange symbolic and real gifts to ward off war between tribes. In democracy, we have bureaucratic redistribution programs between population groups, calcified by moral language into seemingly permanent political fixtures.

When potlatch breaks down, war must usually follow, because when exchanges of gifts are needed to prevent warfare, it’s a sign of mutual antipathy between groups rather than real fellow-feeling. In a more modern context, we have the maxim “if goods don’t cross borders, armies will,” used to illustrate the point that trade provides incentives to both parties to avoid conflict with one another. Democratic systems like the one in the United States lessens these incentives, in part because the temporary rulers of the government are only tenant caretakers of the system as a whole, rather than owners with a long term interest.

Indeed, their material interest is to loot the polity as much as they can for their party and their personal retinue while in power. When their destructive actions turn the mob against their party, the next party steps in on a wave of popular acclaim. Afterwards, they get to taking everything that’s not nailed down, also, until another wave of revulsion sets in.

In democracy, property rarely remains secure, and moral principles around absolute property rights tend to be untenable. If the will of the mob is to be respected, then if it’s the will of the mob to eat the members of the smaller mob that opposes it, then it must be done, damn whatever squalling about abstract rights that there might be.

When the state creates classes of dependents, those dependents fall out of the market system except as consumers. They are not usually producers, and are only occasionally market intermediaries. These intermediaries have no direct incentive to preserve the capital infrastructure of society that they rely on — in fact, the only way for them to retain their positions in that democratic society is to be able to stand in as a threat, and as a pitiful justification for those same dependency-generating programs.

The masses of dependents provide occasion for expressions of public piety and pity — the rich, especially, love to preen over how much they are doing to ‘help’ the masses, through the instrument of the state. That those masses are mostly predating on the middle class is little remarked on, especially because the better sorts of middle class people in a democracy do their best to mimic the moral performance art of their betters.

Because the doctrine of equality prevents people from seeing that the poor are often morally dissolute as well as destitute, the project of moral improvement is abandoned, and higher classes turn to imitating the worse ones, and the whole of society descends into the mire, becoming more equal in turpitude if not in wealth.

Turkey Time Reading

turkey

If you’re reading this, you probably should be helping in the kitchen or spending time with family & friends instead.

In case you’re looking for a longer read, you should check out my column on Social Matter about the war after Thanksgiving.

Also in the news is that Sarah Perry’s book, Every Cradle is a Grave, comes out tomorrow in paperback. Last month, she also published a paper on the history of fertility transitions.

If you haven’t done so already, before you run out of money buying presents on Black Friday, donate to Pax Dickinson’s project to expose corruption in American journalism.

State-Sanctioned Riots

Rioting-the unbeatable high
Adrenalin shoots your nerves to the sky
Everyone knows this town is gonna blow
And it’s all gonna blow right now:

Tomorrow you’re homeless
Tonight it’s a blast

 

The state’s opinion-making organs are sanctioning riots.

The police and the national guard aren’t there to protect the townspeople. They’re there to protect the rioters from people who would defend their property with lethal force.

America has ceded what used to be the prerogative of militia to professional standing armies and police forces. The result is that public defense gets left to parties who have a limited direct stake in the town itself. The soldiers don’t care because they are not from the town, are not culturally linked to the town, and could arguably care less about whether everyone there lived or died. This is the same for the democratically elected civilian governors who are in and out of office in a matter of years rather than lifetimes.

Out of the many businesses burned to the ground in Ferguson, MO over the last two days, it seems that the official military organizations have been both unwilling and unable to retaliate or act pre-emptively in such a way as to discourage future destruction.

Republican government is a joke-concept if there is no militia made up of citizens, if the rights of citizenry aren’t directly connected with the people who actually need to enforce the law directly. To the extent that citizens cede law enforcement to standing armies, they cede their governing ability. To say that citizens ‘govern’ and are ‘sovereign’ when outside parties actually implement governance without any authority higher than they are is to say something false, or at the very least to water down the word ‘citizen’ to the point to which it is meaningless.

It’s certain that, given that the most influential national press organs are supporting riots, excusing the destruction of property, that those riots will continue to spread until they are met with real physical resistance. Given that the law is an insufficient tool for progressives to achieve their goals, they are using their influence to suppress the state’s own fighting-forces, and instead relying on mobs of thugs to intimidate what remains of their scattered opposition into submission.

It’s a demonstration of power, to be able to destroy a town with impunity, at any time, using nothing but incitement to the mob, and entangling competing security forces with absurd rules of engagement which prevent them from providing an effective defense.

This is likely to continue and become worse, because to the extent that looting goes unpunished with the appropriately lethal severity, it begins a positive feedback loop. Even an auto parts shop like the one in your home town might be holding hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory that can be easily re-sold on the internet to buyers indifferent to where they came from. There’s real plunder to be had from the American middle class, and not all of it can be seized directly from a 401(k) account at the press of a button.

Much of it has to be stolen or destroyed directly, especially when it’s real estate.

This is always the course of the left in power, and none of it should be terribly shocking. The ‘nice’ nebbish reporter provides the moral suasion for the looter coming for your property and your life tomorrow. The looter has no capacity to survive in a civilized society without the intellectuals providing verbal cover for their actions, hampering the organization of armed defense.