Item #1: Taleb is fanning the flames of crisis again. He wants another World War or a nuclear war so he can say ‘I told so you so’ for having predicted a black swan, or something like that. The fundamental difference today between the left and right is the latter is on the side of civilization, order, and stability. It’s obvious Taleb is hoping for disorder.
By propping up Hamas, Netanyahu (an evil man on more than one account) went against the interest of his own people with a huuuge unintended consequence:
He transformed the conflict from a local identity problem (Palestinian) into an Islamic one.
There are ~2 billion Muslims. https://t.co/jE4SRgeDAg
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) November 5, 2023
It was never only a ‘local identity problem’. That is total bullshit. How the heck did Palestine, a supposedly impoverished region locked off from the world, get all its arms? Who is funding Hamas? That alone proves it’s not local. Even the mainstream media is asking where and how they are getting the weapons.
Yeah there are 2 billion Muslims, but so what. There are 2 billion Chinese, 2 billion Hindus, etc. Americans have always been a minority. Muslims are always protesting. Protests by Muslims go back decades, like in Iran, but the US economy and military hegemony has only grown and strengthened since then. As long as Israel has the full backing of the US and most other Western powers, it does not matter if a lot of Muslims want Israel to be destroyed. If things get worse, we can expect boots on the ground in time for the 2024 election. The leadership of China has also expressed antipathy towards the US going back decades, but this too has not stopped the US from being more dominant.
Item #2: Richard Hanania calls for a return of the ‘Republican aristocracy’ and a repudiation of Trumpist-populism.
The GOP has held the moniker of ‘the stupid party’ going back to the 60s. The GOP has used anti-intellectualism and populism as a strategy at least as far back as Goldwater. John Stewart Mill had the scathing critique, “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.” Same for wokeness, which long predates the Trump or the ‘social media era’. It was called ‘political correctness’ during the ’80s and ’90s, not social justice as it is today.
No one turns to GOP leaders for deeply intellectual arguments or positions on issues (not that the left is that much better in this regard either, but it at least has a patina of intellectualism that is lacking in the mainstream-right). The intellectual-wing of the Republican party, what little there is, is relegated to the courts, academia, and think tanks, particularly in regard to foreign policy or economics. Flighting wokeness is generally a low priority for intellectuals.
Trump is copying the playbook of shallow GOP cultural popularism and pandering of Reagan or Bush Jr., but more extreme and paranoid. People forget how close Bush Jr. was with the ‘NASCAR bloc’ in the 2000s. Or the importance of the ‘beer test’, which Gore and Kerry failed. It’s not like the GOP was highbrow or intellectually-enlightened until Trump came along and ruined everything.
Yet it would be a mistake to simply assume that hitching conservatism to Trumpism has been good for the former. Many educated Americans are willing to accept reasonable arguments for low taxes, a limited federal government, tough on crime policies, rolling back the excesses of civil rights law, and other positions that the conservative movement has been arguing for over the last sixty years.
Republicans cannot have it all. Either they have to fight on the economic-front, such as tax cuts or opposing unions. Or on the culture-war front, which although popular on Twitter does not deliver the sort of tangible legislative wins as tax cuts does. No republican has had success on both fronts.
The hope that Romney or any other ‘aristocratic republican’ can stop wokeness is wishful thinking. Republicans talk tough on wokeness but either are powerless or indifferent to stop it, focusing much of their political capital on Israel, guns rights, and tax cuts instead, which is smart and prudent because they have had the most success with those, and also those are issues that are important to voters, too. Although they are opposed to wokeness on principle, it falls under the purview of the private sector to do something about it, not the role of the government.
Same for higher-ed. Republicans are not that strongly opposed to credentialism or woke universities, despite paying the occasional lip service to the culture warriors of their base. Many of the biggest donors to woke universities are Republicans. Same for attendees of athletic events. Credentialism is just the free market at work, as I wrote many times. Large companies embrace credentialism because it saves money and improves efficiency in the hiring process. Students, parents, and governments bear the cost of credentialism , not corporations, who get a large supply of pre-screened/filtered applicants to choose from for free. Corporations, true, have to pay in the form of higher wages, but this is still worthwhile.
item #3: From Freddie deBoer You Can’t Just Say “Oh, That Doesn’t Matter” About Every Single Political Question:
You know what happened next. By 2020, the concepts, vocabulary, rhetorical strategies, and social norms that dictated campus politics had spread from the campuses and into the media, the nonprofit sector, certain aspects of government, and the front-facing parts of many corporations. The activist discourse so recently dismissed as irrelevant had become the basic terms under which politics were
Similar to above, this is not a new development. The institutions were well-compromised by the time Trump came to power. Don Imus was cancelled/fired in 2007 for a joke, almost a decade before Trump. Andrew Dice Clay was banned from MTV in 1989 for misogyny:
On September 6, 1989, MTV aired its 6th annual Video Music Awards. Andrew Dice Clay came out to introduce a live performance by Cher. Before he did, Dice did three minutes of stand up – which resulted in being banned for life by MTV. Apparently, his usual rampant misogynistic nursery rhymes didn’t cut it with the show’s producers.
In 1979 Elvis Costello nearly had his career ended over an out of context comment he made about Ray Charles. Eminem’s music was considered controversial in 2000 for supposedly misogynistic and homophobic content. Such controversies seem quaint today, but they were a big deal at the time. The difference now is that social media gives people more rope from which to hang themselves from.
Arthur Jensen was met with protests in 1969 after publishing controversial research about IQ, similar to Charles Murray at Middlebury in 2017, but even worse:
After the paper was released, large protests were held, demanding that Jensen be fired. Jensen’s car tires were slashed, the university police provided him with plain-clothes bodyguards, and he and his family received threats that were considered so realistic by the police that they temporarily left their house. Jensen was spat on and was prevented from delivering lectures by disruptive protests. The editorial board of the Harvard Educational Review for a time refused to let him have reprints of his article, and said that they had not solicited the section on racial differences; Jensen later provided correspondence in which the board had requested he do so.
The ‘Fat acceptance movement’, which can be considered as part of the milieu of wokeness, I originally assumed was an outgrowth of social media. But it dates to the ’60s. The “National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance” (yes, such a thing exists) was founded in 1969.
Arguably the pre-2000s lefty boomers and silents were/are worse than today’s woke. Many of them today pivoted to the middle as the woke have gone ‘too far’. Examples include Pelosi, Hillary, Feinstein and others, who laid the groundwork for the system we have today in which the private sector and governments have joined forces to control discourse and society, as was made evident during Covid. They indoctrinated their now millennial or gen-x children in collectivist propaganda, and outsourced their parenting responsibilities to daycare, summer school, or other programs, which also doubled as indoctrination. Some also embraced and inflicted on their children various deprivation diets, like veganism or vegetarianism. At the extreme, examples include the Weather Underground, and other incidents and groups of ’70s leftwing terrorism, which have largely been swept under the rug and forgotten. At least the woke, as bad as thy are, are more like spoiled children–many of them still are literally children. Leftism combined with the narcissism and sort of Machiavellianism of the boomer generation or the silent generation is even worse than that.
And campus politics, particularly the way they were brought from campus into media and nonprofit land and the corporate world, had everything to do with that shift. College students at elite colleges have a way of graduating and becoming highly overrepresented in important industries, and particularly in idea-generating and culture-creating industries like media, academia, Hollywood,
But Ivy grads are only a tiny percentage of college grads overall. Thus, the vast majority of the woke are from non-elite schools. I would posit that wokeness is worse from lower-ranked schools, compared to top-20. Elite grads have more options, earn more money, and have better careers, so they do not have to assimilate wholesale the ideology of the woke, and are probably happier and more satisfied overall. Lower-ranked grads however are locked in a sink or swim status-seeking game that leads to purity spiraling.
Indicting or dismissing a school of philosophy by its most abominable and selectively chosen misdeeds is sorta a strawman. Utilitarianism is only a single school of ethical philosophy, not all of it. There are different types of ethics. Deontological ethics can be thought as being opposed to utilitarianism. Indeed, as he mentions later:
I eventually discovered that there were much smarter moral systems—and ones that were safer for Granny. These might involve Kant’s categorical imperative or Aristotle’s virtue ethics or the natural law espoused by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King or even the Ten Commandments.
Compared to other ethical philosophies, which comparably get little attention nowadays, utilitarianism has always been a lightning rod for controversy, whether it’s Singer’s idiosyncratic beliefs about whose lives are worth saving or are more valuable than others, or trolley car hypotheticals. When some of the richest and most important people in the world are openly espousing a type of philosophy, others cannot help but to take notice or even be suspicious that there are ulterior motives. I think though that many philosophies when taken to their logical conclusion or extreme can lead to outcomes that many would deem abominable. Even the ‘golden rule’, considered the most anodyne of ethical philosophies, is not always safe (e.g. if you’re a sadist).