The Critics Respond, Part Forty-Five

Why and wherefrom the trigger warnings, and whose innocence or interest are they meant to comfort, defend, and preserve? Who is afraid of whom or of what, and why do the trumpetings of doom keep rising in frequency and pitch? — Lewis Lapham, “Petrified Forest”

It was just coincidence that I happened to finally get around to my newest issue of Lapham’s just after squabbling online with one of the Best&Brightest’s fussier members, but the contrast between the two could not be more stark. That goes for the men behind the statements as well. Lewis Lapham, as I don’t expect any of you to know, is the former editor of Harper’s and a Renaissance man whose intellect continues to shine brightly and forcefully although he is now in his ninth decade. “Arthur Dailey” is, by, a Canadian citizen who claims to be a wealthy human-resources executive and investor.

It is only reasonable that these two individuals would come at the free-speech issue from divergent, if not entirely opposing, places. “Arthur” spends his days protecting the interests of his company in a country where feelgood socialism tends to dominate the public discourse. Mr. Lapham, with his outstanding and thoroughly recommended current publication, seeks to discover truth and beauty by juxtaposing the best of classical and modern writing. He is also a staunch defender of traditional American values, if not necessarily friendly towards the Republican Party and/or the current President.

My sympathies are naturally with Lapham here. I’m an American by birth and culture. I believe in the unrestricted freedom of speech and in the latterly controversial idea that the truth is best discovered when no voice, however distasteful, is silenced. Towards that end, I believe that nothing should be held as sacred or above discussion — even if, in a bit of an ouroboros-esque twist, we are talking about free speech itself. So lets give Arthur’s ideas a workout, shall we?

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The Critics Respond, Part Forty-Four

Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity

— Goldstein, in 1984

George Orwell’s primary brilliance was in his recognition that crimethink was going to be the primary offense prosecuted in any future progressive/socialist society. As the power of the state increases, fewer and fewer people will actually act against it because to do so is increasingly futile. One hundred and fifty years ago we had states seceding. A hundred years ago we had thousands of veterans marching on Washington and getting murdered for their trouble. The most anybody’s been willing to do lately is “occupy” a public park or a wildlife refuge until the men with guns ask them politely to leave. There’s not going to be any further resistance to the United States Government — at least not until paper money runs out of steam.

In truth, The Year Of No Lord 2017 resembles Brave New World more than it resembles 1984. The Alpha and Beta citizens of American society are “decanted”, sometimes literally via IVF, in Manhattan and Chicago and San Francisco. They are programmed from birth with the gentle secular monotheism of the modern age, a ridiculous pablum of moral equivalence belied at every turn by the lily-white gated-and-guarded circumstances of their daily lives. They attend good schools and take jobs in the so-called FIRE industries. They wet their beaks in the stream of commerce and make effortless millions. They advocate for unlimited immigration then build walls around their homes.

Only an idiot could fail to notice the massive gap between the “everyone is equal” media-delivered catechism and the astounding inequality, racial and otherwise, of the globalist illuminati. (Lower-case “i” there; I don’t believe in conspiracies.) Therefore, you cannot be a successful member of progressive American society until you develop crimestop. Until you do so, you will forever be in a situation where any offhand comment on your part could lead to you losing everything from your home to your health insurance to custody of your children. The above comment by “bikegoesbaa” above illustrates this. He “cries no tears” for somebody who loses a job because his Facebook posts are judged to be “racist”. HAHA LOL SUCKS TO BE THAT DUDE. The typical justification of this is the XKCD comic explaining that you have no “free speech” right to a job, a home, a living, or anything else. “The First Amendment doesn’t shield you from consequences.” It’s perfectly reasonable to destroy somebody’s life if they say something that doesn’t agree with our oh-so-gentle-and-nonjudgmental single-party, single-opinion progressive culture. They become unpersons and they literally disappear from middle-class life overnight.

The problem with this approach is that the definition of acceptable doubleplusgoodthink is a moving target and as you’ll see below, the actual comment by “bikegoesbaa” is on its way to being seen as massively racist and discriminatory. Twenty years from now, people will read it and consider it approximately equivalent to spray-painting the “N-word” on your African-American neighbor’s house. I will also show you how credit ratings themselves, although originally designed to help prevent racist behavior on the part of banks and lenders, will come to be seen as thoroughly racist devices. Finally, I will explain how the progressive theology will eventually come into violent conflict with the banking system and how only one of those two things will manage to survive. Allow me to explain.

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The Critics Respond (sorta): A Saga of Stolen Content

 

Last week, I wrote my first TTAC editorial since…well, you know, that one. By all measures, it was well-received—good user engagement, significant readership, and over 2,000 Facebook shares. But there was another article about the Focus RS and dealership issues that ran three hours later which did even better.

Over on OppositeLock, which is the user-content driven Kinja automotive site, user LJ909 wrote a post entitled “The Focus RS has been sitting on dealer lots and dealers can only blame themselves.” Hmm. I mean, it wasn’t exactly the same as my title, “The Focus RS is Dead, and Dealers Are to Blame,” but it was pretty close.

Regardless, LJ’s post blew up, with over 4,000 Facebook shares and nearly 70,000 views—a far cry better than the couple of hundred views his previous posts had gotten. Like this one. And this one.

Hey, wait a sec…didn’t TTAC do posts on those stories too? Why, yes. Yes, they did. And on the same days, too.

Hmmm. Something’s rotten in the state of Kinja.

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The Critics Respond, Part Forty-Three

I like stereotypes. They save time. You like stereotypes as well, and you use them. They are cognitively efficient. In fact, they are utterly necessary. Every day, you make thousands of tacit assumptions about the environment around you: there are no tigers in the bathroom, buildings will not fall on you for no reason, the person behind you in the line for lunch can be trusted not to hold you down and rape you. You assume that the sidewalk will not collapse and the floor is not, in fact, actually lava. You purchase food and eat it without submitting it to a full battery of chemical and biological tests. If you’re American, you speak English to people you have never met before. (The future demographic shift of this country will teach you a lesson about that.)

The only people who cannot effectively “stereotype” are deeply autistic people who have no ability to ignore and/or generalize things. Autism is defined as the inability to form abstract concepts — in other words, stereotypes. When two normal people have a conversation, they can use an abstract concept like “car” or “refrigerator” without difficulty. Their ability to stereotype and abstract allows them to simply glide past the idea of “refrigerator”. The person who suffers from a degree of autism needs to know all about the refrigerator. This is not them being difficult; it is literally the manifestation of their illness.

It’s probably no coincidence that modern popular culture is so obsessed with “breaking down stereotypes” and focusing on the exceptions to a rule rather than focusing on the rule itself. After all, we are experiencing unprecedented rates of autism and autism spectrum behavior. The autistic mind is obsessed with exceptions to the rule. It loves Malala and Obama and the Harlequin Golf and every other case where somebody or something deviates sharply from expected behavior. The autistic mind is comforted by cases where stereotypes don’t apply because the autistic mind is fundamentally troubled by stereotypes. The autistic mind likes rules because rules are expressed in absolute and concrete terms. It does not like stereotypes, because stereotypes are abstract generalizations that, like language, are used as a sort of cultural and personal shorthand.

As someone who demonstrates the occasional touch of Aspie behavior, I will confess that my fondness for stereotypes is not quite as strong as it would be were I completely sane and neurotypical. And that is why I’m so annoyed with “pmirp1” and his dutiful conformance to pretty much every aspect of the “stupid Vette owner” stereotype. An entirely normal writer would just nod his head and say to himself, “Another dumbass with a Vette.” I, on the other hand, am compelled to flap this bug with gilded wings just a bit.

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The Critics Respond, Part Forty-Two

Near the end of Joni Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles live album, she becomes tired of the crowd calling out requests for her greatest hits and responds, somewhat passive-aggressively, with “Nobody ever said to Van Gogh, ‘Paint a Starry Night again, man!’ You know? He painted it and that was it.” (More on that comment, and its ramifications, here.) I was just two years old at the time, and on the wrong coast besides, but if I could get in a time machine and travel back to that night I would yell back, “YEAH, AND HE ALSO JUST GOT PAID ONCE FOR PAINTING IT, SO QUIT YOUR BITCHING!”

When my son is old enough to truly comprehend the fine distinctions involved, I think that I’m going to spend a lot of time stressing to him that different jobs don’t just pay different amounts of money — they also pay in different ways. Consider, if you will, the vast majority of pop songs. The writer gets paid as long as people buy the song. The rights holders to the song also get paid as long as it’s selling. That’s really the best way to get paid. The original headliner can probably get paid to perform the song as long as it’s popular; that’s not quite as good as getting paid for doing nothing but it still offers the prospect of continued employment. Last and least are the studio musicians who took a one-time payment for performing on the studio track and signed over the rest of their rights.

Studio musicians tend to stay poor and die broke, no matter how good they are, because they don’t own the rights to what they do. As fate would have it, I’m kind of a studio musician when it comes to autowriting. I don’t own a magazine, I don’t own a website, and I don’t retain rights to much of what I write. Like Van Gogh, I deliver the product, I take the money, I walk away, and I never have to — or get to, depending on your perspective — do it again. I write 350,000 words a year— that’s a new War and Peace every nineteen months — and I only get paid once for each one of those words.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s a privilege and an honor to have the editors, and the audience, that I have. Joni Mitchell might have considered her fans to be a distraction or even a hassle, but I cannot bring myself to feel that way. I spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to serve that audience. Which brings me to the comment by dal20402 above.

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The Critics Respond, Part Forty-One

I like this analogy — the five-dollar word — because it can easily be extended to demonstrate a depressing, but absolutely inarguable, point. Samuel Clemens wrote his most popular work between 1880 and 1890. According to this inflation calculator, five bucks in 1890 is equivalent to about $130 today. Looked at another way, five dollars in 2017 has the spending power of nineteen cents in 1890.

So let’s take a look at the “home-equity loan” paragraph referred to by the above commenter and see what effect the inflation of illiteracy, which has proceeded in lockstep with the inflation of the currency, has done to make my relatively prosaic prose so precociously pricey.

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The Critics Respond, Part Forty

Sea lion woman, black dress on
For a thousand dollars, she wail and she moan
Sea lion woman
— “See-Line Woman”, traditional

The common name for disrupting or attacking someone under the guise of a legitimate concern or lack of knowledge is “concern trolling”, but I also like the neologism Sealioning. It’s a tactic that is currently enjoying a sort of Golden Age on the Internet because it’s hugely passive-aggressive and because it is generally supposed to be immune to a libel suit. You can’t go on a stock-trading website and post “WMT (or the stock of your choice) is headed for a big fall because they’re engaging in massive Social Security fraud,” because you will be the target of a civil suit before you get home that evenings. Seriously. Don’t do that, no matter how anonymous you are or think you are. People have lost everything they own, and more, doing that. You can, however, probably get away with posting, “I’m just really, really worried about all these rumors about Social Security fraud regarding WMT. What does that mean anyway? I’m just trying to understand these rumors I’ve heard.”

Yesterday, a commenter on something I wrote posted “What is a MILF? I don’t understand.” You’d have to be an utter fool, or suffering from recent head trauma, not to understand that the sole purpose of making that post is to “sealion”; after all, it’s literally three times as difficult as getting the definitive answer yourself. The easiest thing for me to do would have been simply not to respond, but instead I made fun of the troll character who posted. Now we’re in the middle of yet another civility discourse over at TTAC.

My purpose here, however, is not to comment on the rightness or wrongness of the original comment, my response, the responses that followed, or the subsequent site-wide convulsion. I’m no longer the E-I-C over there and I don’t set policy; I don’t even really want to comment on TTAC policy in public. It’s tough enough to run that site without having your predecessors second-guess your decisions. Instead, my purpose is to discuss why I treat some commenters with absolute respect, even when I disagree with them or they are personally offensive to me, and why I treat some commenters like they are utterly beneath contempt and completely deserving of the worst ridicule that can be heaped upon their heads. How do I determine who is “real” and who is not? The answer: fingerprinting.

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The Critics Respond, Part Thirty-Nine

I don’t know if any of my readers are young people who aspire to be published writers one day, but if they are, let me point the megaphone directly at them — at you? — and give you a very specific message at max amplification: You cannot prevent the reader from interpreting what you write!!!!! Sometimes the reader (or viewer) will give you too much credit, find rhetorical or symbolic depths in your work that you never meant to put in there. I often think that the vast majority of Shakespeare criticism works in precisely that manner. Ol’ Billy-Boy was just trying to get paid, you know. He whipped his plays up carelessly, in hurried fashion, relying on whatever book happened to be in front of him at the time. There’s some evidence that a lot of the First Folio is basically a first draft. Obviously he was a genius; just as obviously, he was phoning it in half the time.

More often, however, the reader will obsess or fixate on a tiny piece of what you’ve written to the exclusion of the rest. This was the case with today’s piece on unequal enforcement. About twenty percent of the text deals with illegal/undocumented/whatever immigrants and their tendency to operate vehicles without the appropriate insurance. In doing so, I stepped on the third rail of the left-wing immigration fetish, so the bulk of the comments are about that twenty percent of the piece.

A few of the readers took me to task for not providing a more thorough overview of the immigration issue. A few others were disappointed that I’d resorted to what they felt were quick-and-dirty characterizations. The problem for me is that I completely agree with them even as I could not disagree more.

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The Critics Respond, Part Thirty-Eight

It’s not the biggest hit TTAC’s ever had; that honor, in the post-Farago era at least, goes to a short piece Ronnie Schreiber wrote about the “Porsche Design Soundbar” last year. But my analysis of the Audi ad was the fastest-moving long-form to appear on the site since my Lamborghini Urus opinion piece of 2012. And it could have been even bigger; thanks to a combination of factors including me being slow to respond on an editing question or two because I was on the way to Indianapolis to get measured for a Nomex race suit, we sent it out the door seven hours later than we should have.

Oh well. If wishes were fishes, we’d all eat salmon every night the way my father is doing in his unstinting effort to live forever. The artcle was, and continues to be, remarkably popular nonetheless, thanks to links in from a variety of general-interest heavy-hitter sites like Instapundit and the “Kotaku In Action” subreddit. As you’d expect, many of those non-automotive outlets are far more concerned with the general societal implications of the advertisement in question than they are interested in what it means for the car business.

Given some of the recent political sensitivity at TTAC among both readers and management, I made every effort to ensure that this editorial was clearly marked “before the jump” as a potentially controversial opinion piece. The opening paragraphs, and even the title, should have made the readers aware that I’d be addressing issues outside the stark sales-statistic meat-and-potatoes that defines the site’s current content and direction.

Apparently, there was one jagoff out there who didn’t see all the warning signs and managed to accidentally electrocute himself on the third rail of having to read something besides December’s CUV sales rankings.

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The Critics Respond, Part Thirty-Seven

The AP Stylebook says that it’s no longer appropriate to mention race in crime-related news stories. The provided exception, mais bien sur, is the James Byrd case, because it’s a case where white people targeted a black person for violence based on nothing but the color of his skin. (In cases where the races are reversed, as in so-called polar bear hunting, the AP Stylebook appears to recommend that the story be buried or deleted.) It’s also appropriate, we are told, to mention race when it is related to civil rights or slavery. I’m reminded of the Dilbert comic where the narrator says something along the lines of “The only appropriate way to portray women in sci-fi is as starship captains.”

Of course, since journalists are lazy by default, the old (and admittedly racist) headlines of “Blacks riot at mall” or “Blacks attack old man on street” have simply been changed to “Teens riot at mall” or “Teens attack old man on street”. The aliens who listen closely to our news broadcasts are probably shocked by the way in which undifferentiated teenagers have replaced undifferentiated African-Americans as the nation’s greatest criminal threat; everybody else just reads the “dog whistle” and nods knowingly.

Luckily I don’t cover the crime beat so I don’t have to devote much though to any of the above. But when I mentioned the race of an Escalade driver in my Zimmer review, at least one reader decided to take me to task. Was he right to do so?

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