Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: They want to blow it all up

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  • Chris Bowden,

    A good podcast on the WTO process. However bad the US is doing at a number of things, they do great podcasts: from Planet Money

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Now that’s fine if you are dealing with maths but when you are dealing with people there really is no fundamental reason to believe that a trend will continue.

    I think it would be a reasonable thing to say – if we continue advances in public health then overall the health of the population will improve. That’s been shown with vaccinations, fresh water supply etc.

    Those were all the result of concerted action and application of liberal ideals but yes the trend may not continue if Trump et al get their way. Which is where I’m not completely convinced by his optimism.

    Pinker argues “don’t worry about it”

    That’s a very unfair characterisation of his views. If you read him he’s got a fair amount to say on how we deal with charasmatic authoritarian males – they don’t go away, there needs to be strategy to deal with them.

    Since Nov 2016 • 210 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Neil,

    I think it would be a reasonable thing to say – if we continue advances in public health then overall the health of the population will improve. That’s been shown with vaccinations, fresh water supply etc.

    Those were all the result of concerted action and application of liberal ideals

    I agree to some degree that things have improved. I'd argue strongly that many of those changes in public health derive from socialist ideals and not liberal ideals - although that may depend on your definition of liberal and/or socialist.

    However the point is that much of the improvements Pinker likes to cite come about from huge gains made at the very poor end. It doesn't take much of a change to reduce child mortality in sub-saharan Africa, essentially clean water is enough. That change has a massive impact of the averages because the number of humans affected is large.

    But that averaging says nothing about the lives of say Sth Auckland Pacifica where very little of the benefits associated with Pinker's optimism have much impact today.

    Instead Pinker's theses are used to support a neo-liberal economic setting that demonstrably harms poorer sections of our society while allowing Remuera tractor drivers to pat each other on the backs and congratulate each other on how well their ideology is working.

    I know Pinker is more nuanced than that but that's how his theories are being used and he does not own that responsibility.

    So no I don't accept the thesis that things can only get better and I have little patience for Pinker and his ilk because frankly, whether he intends it or not, his ideas are being used to justify harm.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4426 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Neil,

    Pinker argues “don’t worry about it”

    That’s a very unfair characterisation of his views.

    I disagree. If you read 'better angels', that's exactly what he argues in relation to, say, ww2. 'Yes, sure this was horrible, but compared to the Mongols or Vlad the Impaler, not so bad, really. And bonus! Those guys didn't get treated as villains, but Hitler did. So....winning!"

    Pinker also completely ignores or handwaves away various elephants wandering around the room in order to show that the trend on the graph will comtinue it's slow upward rise over the course of centruies, even if we have a few rough decades (but come on chaps, what's a few rough decades between friends, amirite?) I'd challenge you to read 'better angels' and find any discussion of global warming, for example. And our recent ability as a species to cause our complete annihilation (via nuclear war, for example) and not just localised chaos is dismissed as 'well, it hasn't happened yet, so probably won't', which does tend to go against his other arguments that we have to look at the bigger/longer picture, and not just a few decades.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2727 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Pinker also completely ignores or handwaves away various elephants wandering around the room in order to show that the trend on the graph will comtinue it's slow upward rise over the course of centruies

    Speaking of elephants...

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5385 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Neil,

    His optimism about just how stable liberal societies are is something that’s possibly being put to the test by the likes of Trump and Putin.

    Francis Fukuyama once wrote of the "end of history" following the USSR's collapse, and back then he was a bit of a foreign policy neo-con. Since then, Fukuyama has broken with the neo-cons, and now fears for the future of liberal democracy post-Brexitrump.

    Steven Pinker is a smart man, but he also comes across as asleep at the guard post.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5385 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Neil,

    charasmatic authoritarian males – they don’t go away, there needs to be strategy to deal with them.

    You mean to say the fields of finance, real estate, business, politics, sport, war, psychology, hollywood producing and cheffing are enough to keep said males out of mischief?
    christ how many do they need!

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1715 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    For those struggling to understand Trump.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_disorder

    Read. Really. The thing where he likes NK is just that they have these parades where tens of thousands of people salute dear leader in synchronisation, and he would like that for himself.

    He's not a stupid man, nor actually inconsistent, he just has a different outlook on what is good in life, and it is those rallies where they make the crowds look big by stuffing them in a small building, united by giving them matching gear and flags at the door, and all cheer him when he walks in.

    That's being president, for Trump, and you're all just jealous losers if you suggest otherwise. All the meetings and whatever, yeah, he makes it up as he goes along, that photo was all him on the front page everywhere and how good is that! Woo, president! Biggest inauguration ever. Boo ya. Unf. </tinyflag>

    Since Nov 2006 • 596 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Well it's a start I guess
    Some good ideas here calling it a game might appeal to some, but getting people to change their minds on the way they live is not a game 'cause it can take years, generations in some cases.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1715 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    So no I don’t accept the thesis that things can only get better and I have little patience for Pinker and his ilk because frankly, whether he intends it or not, his ideas are being used to justify harm.

    I don’t think Pinker is arguing things can only get better - rather they have got better and better for various well defined (in his opinion) reasons. He’s not arguing that it got better for everyone at all times, clearly that’s not the case. But to argue that the failure of liberal values to take hold in some areas proves him wrong doesn’t make sense.

    If history is just noise there is no hope.

    Spandrel was of course a reference to Stephen Jay Gould who famously held very different views to those of Pinker and Dawkins. And one could argue that the Marxism of Gould caused a lot more harm than any misapplication of Punker’s views - which I haven’t seen much of.

    But that would miss completely engaging with Gould’s ideas and miss completely the very important differences between the two views.

    Personally, I shifted from Gould to the Dawkins camp but now believe there is good evidence for group selection playing a role. But group selection isn’t necessarily a positive thing.

    Migration, the movement of groups, played a large part in forming us as a species and in forming our societies. However we are also prone to be highly territorial. That contradiction has been playing out with genocidal results for a very long time and is currently the source of a great deal of political conflict that could derail a lot of gains. Pinker thinks there are ways we have developed to prevent this, not completely but to an extent, and that we can continue to implement these to counter people like Trump.

    I’d like to think that was possible,

    Since Nov 2016 • 210 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Neil,

    the failure of liberal values to take hold in some areas proves him wrong doesn’t make sense.

    No, but he pussyfoots around why it happened.
    People were at fault, they took up ideas based only on how it benefited them and they had no wider obligation than that. Of course those ideas found fertile ground in the US. The off shoring of manufacturing led directly to the erosion of living standards in the US then other western countries. Governments let that happen. Sure living standards in those "third"? world countries rose which might make it look like we are progressing globally but that was an illusion feeding his metrics. He fucked up.Stats never tell a full story just ask Robert McNamara.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1715 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Knap sackers...
    https://www.techtimes.com/articles/26388/20150113/evolution-of-human-language-linked-to-tool-making.htm

    and
    American swamp sparrows may have sung the same songs for more than a thousand years. This shows that passing traditions on for generations isn’t unique to humans.
    https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article213585634.html

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7704 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to andin,

    No, but he pussyfoots around why it happened. People were at fault, they took up ideas based only on how it benefited them and they had no wider obligation than that.

    He’s written quite extensively on why he thinks people (men predominantly) so often treat others so profoundly badly and what he thinks prevents that from happening.

    We have a police force that now treats male violence against woman far more seriously and intervenes to prevent it more assertively than a generation ago. That didn’t happen by chance.

    Since Nov 2016 • 210 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    But anyway, my reference to the Pinker-Gould debate was initially just a bleak joke on whether we have any grounds to be optimistic.

    With in the US the increasing virilance of white identity politics and increased volume of the alt world via social media it’s looking bleak.

    If there’s a fault in Pinker’s reasoning it may be in the area of communication. I think the role of unexpected consequences of changes in modes of communication is under appreciated.

    Alt world types have always been with us but now their voice can be amplified via social media. Putin, Trump, Assad all benefit from that.

    Since Nov 2016 • 210 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Neil,

    He’s written quite extensively on why he thinks people (men predominantly) so often treat others so profoundly badly and what he thinks prevents that from happening.

    Im sure he has and his solutions may work in the US, if anyone bothers to try them. Outside the US Im not so sure about, unless he claims they are culturally transferable.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1715 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Time to sit up and take notice of the rise of Cenk Uygur, the TYT network and the Justice Democrats. There is hope yet for America!

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2197 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Neil,

    miss completely engaging with Gould’s ideas

    I don't think our ideas are that far apart.

    But I find the willingness of old men in suits to pontificate and create theories of everything that explain the entirety of human social history to be ... well ... utter crap.

    Inevitably the theories of everything rely on limited data, either because the authors cherry pick (Pinker) or because the data just isn't there at all. You pretend to know why a tribe moved 1000 kilometers west and made new tools, or why a political entity a thousand years ago chose this or that course of action?

    And then the theories exclude the possibility that it's just complex, because that would make for a terrible book and an even worse speaking tour.

    And don't get me started on people who pretend to apply evolutionary theory to social development. Let me be clear our understanding of evolutionary biology is so bad now that applying evolution to social systems is insane (or a PhD project).

    All of which would be just fine and dandy if all we did was waffle about it over drinks. But this shit is being used to justify genuine harm to people. People take Gould's and Dawkin's and Pinker's theories and use them to justify policies and actions that demonstrably harm people.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4426 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    And now we see the utter horror of Pinker's complacency - because for women in the USA there is every chance that Abortion will now become illegal.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/toobin-no-doubt-that-roe-v-wade-oveturned

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4426 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    People take Gould’s and Dawkin’s and Pinker’s theories and use them to justify policies and actions that demonstrably harm people.

    Not only that, they also use them to defend people who are being harmed.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4015 posts Report Reply

  • Dennis Frank,

    I don't think the Trump crowd want to blow it all up - no capitalist can succeed in a social environment of total chaos. They're now intent on implementing their anti-establishment agenda. Replacing ideologues like the Breitbart guy with pillars of the establishment like the mad-dog military dude is meant to show that they're serious about reforming the establishment.

    The target being the global control system. Can't make America great if that octopus keeps throttling it, right? So house & senate republicans who are compliant with the system and signal to voters that they are anti-trump risk getting dumped at the mid-terms later this year. Nationalists vs globalists is simplistic, but seems to explain the behaviour we see.

    The cleverest thing the Bilderbergers can do to retaliate is to televise part of their conferences: adopt a public profile to demonstrate that they are operating on a common-interest basis. Just televise the output of their collaboration, I mean, as a pr exercise. Continuing to operate in secrecy is a recipe for impotence now.

    Readers keen to point out that the Bilderbergers are just working for the 1% plus a bit of trickle-down are missing the point. In geopolitics, as in politics and warfare, perception is often more influential than reality.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 214 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    It might be worth looking at some of this as the consequences of Man with Grudge.

    The guy responsible for the Capital Gazette killings might not have been directly motivated by Trunp calling the media the enemy – the guys’s grudge appears to be long standing and specific to that media outlet.

    But nothing Trump has done would in anyway give such males any cause to step back from violence. Rather, Trump role models acting out on your grudge irrespective of harm caused.

    Trump’s life has been dominated by the slight he felt from being excluded from the Manhattan set and he destroyed a number of New York neighborhoods to prove he was more powerful than them. He’s continually trying to prove something and now he can do so on a bigger stage.

    Similarly with Putin – he mourns the death of the Soviet Union, seeks revenge on the West and currently the people of Syria are paying the price for that grudge.

    Since Nov 2016 • 210 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    Mass shootings show why we must stop pandering to white male fragility

    “In many of these mass shootings,” Jennifer Wright observed at Harper’s Bazaar, “the desire to kill seems to be driven by a catastrophic sense of male entitlement.” That sense of entitlement may well be the greatest threat to what remains of civil society.

    Since Nov 2016 • 210 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Just so you all know:
    THE 5TH EYE on Māori Television!
    Rāhina 2 o Hōngongoi, 8.30 i te pō
    Monday 2 July, 8.30pm

    from NZ on Screen

    This documentary questions New Zealand’s involvement in the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance. The examination of contemporary intelligence gathering takes in NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, entrepreneur-in-exile Kim Dotcom, and NZ Prime Minister John Key. It is framed around the 2008 sabotage of a Blenheim spy station by a priest, a teacher and a farmer: the 'Waihopai three' cut open a plastic dome protecting a satellite dish, in protest at the base’s role in the US-led 'War on Terror'. Directors Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones made 2011 terror raids documentary Operation 8.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7704 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Neil,

    “In many of these mass shootings,” Jennifer Wright observed at Harper’s Bazaar, “the desire to kill seems to be driven by a catastrophic sense of male entitlement.” That sense of entitlement may well be the greatest threat to what remains of civil society.

    I’m not sure why you quoted this Neil. I think it’s an incredibly simplistic and unhelpful explanation for why a person would commit mass murder, outside of an arena of war. Generally, it “seems” the unhealthy sense of entitlement that any person is capable of developing, is more conspicuous in white males. And more assumed. But I doubt it’s the best explanation for mass shootings in the United States.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4015 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    There is an art exhibit in the Wellington city gallery which talks about operation speargun. That's the cable which was spliced into the southern cross cable. It's off the news cycle but it's still there reading our data. So please mind your language when your saying things to overseas, undersea.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4015 posts Report Reply

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