I believe it is possible to understand, categorize, and delineate social phenomena and human behavior with almost the same rigor as scientific and physical phenomena. It is time to put the science back in political science. The internet is vast, and society and human behavior is varied and complicated, but it can be done. With true understanding, one can optimize social situations much like one can optimize economic or financial situations.
On twitter and elsewhere I keep seeing this meme of how a disproportionate amount of stimulus money is going to foreign aid compared to Americans.
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) December 23, 2020
The picture is deceptive because the $600 appears much smaller than the figures above it, but this is per American, so the total amount is $150 billion or more, which is considerably more than the amount allocated for foreign aid, which is a paltry sum relative to the size of the bill and the overall US budget and other expenditures such as healthcare, but it has gotten considerable scrutiny.
Rhetorically this is supposed to be persuasive, but to whom? Someone who does not understand elementary math and posses no thinking ability? I get the impression that there are two types of conservatives: those who lap this stuff up, and others who are more skeptical of these obvious misconstructions. I think the cynical reality is that such gestures of populism, that willfully butcher reality, are meant to appeal to low-status people, regardless of what party does it, whether it is Eric Trump or AOC. It’s not about left vs right but about powerful vs weak, right vs. wrong, elites vs. commoners.
Low-status individuals, primarily those of average or below-average IQ (as status and IQ tend to be positively correlated), on either side of the aisle, tend to moralize and look at issues from an uncritical light, as in they are easily led and persuaded by appeals to morality. This is why social justice is so popular among the left. In fairness, the ‘right’ has its own version of this, but it tends to be elites who are the boogeymen, not white people.
The problem conservatives face is they value both status/hierarchy and morality. So this means sometimes having to choose between something that is low-status but upholds morality, vs amoral but high status. Two examples of this is the recent turn by conservatives, from strongly opposing gay marriage and drug legalization, to now being agnostic about it or even supporting it. Supporting gay marriage is now perceived as high status by the ‘zeitgeist,’ whereas opposing it is perceived as puritanical and excessively moralizing, hence low-status.
High-status, high-IQ conservatism online (in contrast to low-status, low-IQ conservatism as epitomized by the Eric Trump tweet above), opposes such moralizing, which has given rise to what I have called ‘non-judgemental conservatism.’ Mainstream, average-IQ conservatives are agnostic about authenticity, but to smart conservatives authenticity and the personal experience are very important, so moralizing is perceived is inauthentic or performative behavior. Moralizers create this sanctimonious idealization of the perfectibility of human nature and how people are supposed to be, that is detached from reality and human nature. Moralizing is like a sort of sales pitch or veneer that hides the flaws and defects innate and intrinsic in everyone.
Mainstream, average-IQ conservatives and average-IQ liberals tend to have a binary system of morality, in which things can be readily categorized as right or wrong. Cheating, such as infidelity or on a school assignment, is unequivocally wrong and reflects a failing at the individual level, but this also allows the possibility for redemption by repenting and renouncing one’s mistakes. Contrary to the archetypical prudish conservative stuck in his ways, it is actually the left who tend to be the real prudes in that their sense of morality is less forgiving of mistakes and stricter, but for social justice causes. Conservatives accept the imperfectability and shortcomings of man; liberals cannot, which is why many conservatives were, to the dismay and disappointment of the left, during the 2016 campaign were unfazed by Trump’s own moral shortcomings.
As one moves up in IQ, the binary morality system becomes more of a spectrum, and blame is shifted from individuals to society. That is not to say that the individual is entirely absolved of guilt, but that individual moral failings are viewed through the lens of being a social and societal phenomenon or failing, not an individual failing. Cheating in school is immoral at the individual level, but can also be seen as a consequence of individuals adapting to increasingly competitive society, so rather than admonishing the cheater, the smart conservative is more inclined to critique society.
Also, similar to the high-IQ left, there is a sort of rebellious, artistic, and creative spirit that is largely absent with the average-IQ left/right, who are more conformist, obedient, and inclined to adhere to the mores of their respective ideologies and of society. From what I have gathered online on smart-conservative forums and blogs, I think this is why among the smart-right there is such as fondness for Southern culture and iconography, because, in contrast to the ‘conformist Union,’ Southern culture is in very much a culture of rebellion (it’s called the Rebel Flag for a reason), especially in maintaining such culture and tradition in the face of modernity and political correctness, whereas mainstream conservatives are more inclined to dismiss Southern culture as hidebound and uncultured.
In regard to the tweet again, a problem with social media, YouTube, podcasts–or any medium that has user feedback and social signals such as likes, views, etc.–is that it gives false signals. What I mean is, one may see how popular Eric’s tweet is in terms of re-tweets and likes, and thus be inclined to believe that this is a message worth disseminating; surely, if it worked for Eric, why not anyone else? But the problem is, Eric’s tweet was massively popular and viral owing to the fact that Eric, who is a celebrity, tweeted it, not because the tweet itself is any good. The apparent virality of the tweet is misleading because such virality is not indicative of the quality of the tweet, but rather attributable to Eric’s celebrity status. He could tweet the word ‘poop’ a dozen times and that too would go viral.
So if someone with only maybe a few hundred followers was to retweet Eric’s tweet (or compose a tweet of a similar theme about how Americans are only getting $600) hoping for similar positive reaction and viralness, what would happen? Likely the tweet would land with a thud, not going viral, and there would be rebuke in the comments (however few comments the tweet does get) about how the tweet is misleading, not adulation or viralness. Appealing to low-information populism only works if whoever is making the message is already popular, which is one of the ironies of populism, because it is assumed that populist messages are popular and hence must have high propensity for viralness, but this is not the case. The reason why will be discussed in a forthcoming post.