Bloody shovel

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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Declinism

So the Japanese government has officially announced it’s considering bringing 200,000 immigrants per year, in order to stave off demographic decline.

They have announced it as part of the Growth Strategy driving this marvelous thing they call Abenomics.

I don’t need to say how misguided this idea that bringing migrants from wherever is going to result in economic growth. It should be obvious that in the civilized world, actual economic growth is impossible. Not gonna happen.

Now some might bring up the old Paul Erhlich/Julian Simon debate on Malthusianism. Julian Simon won that debate, and proceed to write a series of upbeat books exhorting us to have faith on Human Ingenuity.  You see, people always come up with good ideas, and everything turns out ok.

The Erhlich/Simon debate was about resources, with Ehrlich saying they would run out, and Simon saying we’d found more of them. What’s funny is that nobody treated Human Ingenuity as a resource. Something that also may be depleted. I haven’t read his books, maybe Simon thought better extraction techniques would end up discovering more Human Ingenuity? It’s not hard to make the metaphor on education and mining.

Leaving that aside for a moment, if you take human ingenuity as a standard resource, it is clear that it’s production has been declining for a while. Just take a look at the birthrates. Even without considering differential birthrates between the different sectors of the Bell Curve. Assuming a soft-HBD position where racial differences are obvious, but class differences aren’t: the smart races are breeding less. Countries such as Japan and Germany are losing population fast, most others will follow suit very soon.

If the engine of economic growth is human ingenuity, and I have no reason to doubt it, we are now producing less of it. Exponentially less. Now somebody tell me how we can produce economic growth. It’s mathematically impossible.

Now you might say that we are using our resources badly. We can produce economic growth, even with decreasing resources, by using them more efficiently. There’s something to that. We have a much greater population than 18th century Austria, yet we aren’t producing better music. We aren’t producing better plays than Classical Athens. We aren’t building better buildings than Christopher Wren, or better paintings than Renaissance Italy. And that’s with orders of magnitude more human resources.

Of course all of the above refer to art, which is hardly equivalent to economic growth. A parallel argument is often made about technological progress up to 1950.

Optimists all over argue that our economy can still be optimized to produce economic growth. Some arguments are mere drivel, such as those like Average is Over and other government shills. Some other are more thoughtful: autonomous cars, new sources of fuel, stronger materials.

Yet all these new technologies which are just-around-the-corner are quite complex indeed. And common sense would tell you that complex technologies should be harder to master with diminishing human ingenuity. A seemingly common thread to all these revolutionary technologies is that they’re awesome enough to gather attention and be reported by the New York Times, yet a closer look tells you they’re not quite ready for primetime, and they may never be so.

Elon Musk, who apparently knows a thing or two, said that autonomous cars might get 95% close, but never 100%, which means they will never really replace human drivers. What that means is that self-driving software will be a gimmick. We won’t have robo-cars replacing our taxi and bus fleets, nor will robo-trucks revolutionize the transport industry.

I was reminded of this when reading recently on methane hydrates in Japan. Methane Hydrates are methane molecules trapped in the sea bottom, forming a sort of ice. It turns out Japan has loads of the stuff around their coasts, enough to make them energy self-sufficient.

Which is very good but you need to get the ice out of the ocean, and that’s quite tricky. Tricky enough that the trial extractions which started in 2013 had to be canceled after massive failure. As it is, it is likely that gas extraction will never be cheap enough to make it cheaper than just buying the gas from Qatar or Russia. Which doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try, having a way to extract resources, no matter how expensively, is always useful. But a 10x or 5x increase in fuel prices would have a big impact on living standards.

Machine translation also was always hyped to be 5 years away from translating a phone conversation on real time. Google Translation does a reasonably good work with news articles from European languages and Chinese, but it’s still far from perfect. And it hasn’t been improving much in some time. To the extent that language depends in common cultural assumptions and context, it’s fair to conclude that machine translation will never translate a phone conversation on real time, or be good enough for non technical texts. So, similarly to the autonomous cars, it’ll stay a partially useful gimmick.

If we can’t crack these sort of issues, somebody tell me why is it likely we are going to develop a super-human AI, or gene writing, or space colonization. Especially given that we have declining stocks of human ingenuity. Smart people are being produced at a rapidly declining rate. And so there will be no economic growth, and less technological progress.

That is, unless we can pull out the equivalent of a Renaissance Florence, or Baroque Vienna: making more with less. Doesn’t seem likely though.

Extrapolation fail

I have a love-hate relationship with statistics. On one hand I was never particularly good at math. But I was always fascinated by statistics and all the easily accessible truth they provide. I always loved Googling some figures and making people shut up.

Of course then I grew up (which is a great thing, highly recommended to everyone out there), and I realized that statistics are more truthful than just making shit up, as people are always prone to, but they’re not the whole truth. Actually statistics is what you do when  you don’t know the whole truth, and you need to take the long way to infer something about the situation. The point is that as useful as statistics can be, the whole truth is obtained by actually understanding the background and the mechanism of some phenomenon. Compared to that, stats is just cheating. Reading some figures is of course much easier than taking the trouble to understand the whole picture, and so stats are prone to produce hubris in the reader.

One effect of that hubris is the pervasive belief in trends. Somebody makes a graph with a line that goes up or down more or less linearly during a given period of time, and next thing you know there are tons of ink spilled writing about it, and trillions on government budgets assigned to deal with that inevitable trend. The best example of course is Global Warming. Somebody made a graph that said that From 1920 to 1980 temperatures globally were rising. Next thing you know the British Government is actually unable to deal with menial problems common to Egyptian and Chinese Civilization 4000 years ago, like floods, unless they can officially link it to global warming. No I’m not making this up.

Of course the truth is that the temperature trends do not continue forever.

I am not interested in entering this debate about which I know little about, but I do happen to read things that may apply. On the Cambridge History of Ancient China, they point out how North China since the beginning of the Holocene well into historical time (the Han Dynasty, 200BC), North China was much warmer, full of subtropical flora and fauna, and tons of bones have been found of animals that are only found today well into the south. The point out that that’s why North China was able to sustain such dense and wealthy neolithic cultures. Unlike today, in which North China is very cold.

This blind belief on climate trends comes from the fact that we just don’t understand how climate actually works and what affects it. So we get some data, cherry pick some to make a graph, and then think we know something that we don’t.

Another good example of blind belief on statistical trends is Moore’s Law. Computing power is increasing like crazy. So we make a graph with transistor count or FLOPs or whatever. Yup, going up. Which means that given enough time, we’ll have computer which are smarter than people, which means that a point will be reached where this smarter-than-humans will make ever better computers themselves, accelerating progress and unleashing the great Singularity where a god-like AI will rule over all humans!! And that AI will know about us in the past and punish according to our present deeds, so you better give away all your money to Shlomo so he can run a swingers club and screw your girlfriend!

No I’m not making that up either.

Of course all this crap comes from not understanding what actually drives Moore’s Law. Transistors don’t make themselves after all. They are developed through a quite complex process, which I don’t presume to understand. Jim appears to understand it though, and he says Moore’s Law is dying.

Rather than believing in Moore’s Law, I prefer Stein’s law. That which cannot go on forever, will stop.

Perhaps the most important trend for reactionaries of every sort is demographic trends. All people started as babies, so who is making the babies and how many of them is very important. I’ve written often on this blog about fertility and what drives it. I think I have a good hunch about it, but the fact is we don’t know for sure. That doesn’t stop people form looking at the fertility rates, drawing a graph and writing a whole book about it.

That’s what David Goldman, with his stereotypical evil scholar face, did on writing about Islamic birth rates. Islam is collapsing!! He wrote. Birth rates are falling and will soon converge with those decadent white goyim and disappear! Then he looked at the sky and felt Yahveh’s spirit comforting him.

Now while I am not driven by Jewish chauvinism like Mr. Goldman, the idea of the arab demographic pressure disappearing did appeal me as a European. The idea of Arabs overrunning Europe has made me lose more than one night’s sleep. I thank Mr. Goldman for curing that ail from me.

What I don’t appreciate is his misleading. One good thing about the internet is that you don’t have to take people’s word on things, you can actually go and look for the data yourself. And Wikipedia is full of very good demographic data on every country on earth.

Back on my last post on fertility there was a discussion on muslim birth rates, and the example of Iran came up. Iran is famous for its precipitous fertility decline, going from 6.5 in the 80s to below 2 in 2000. Check it out here. The discussion went on about the evil Cathedralist-satanic influence that made Iran women stop making babies for their husbands. At that moment I received an email by some Joshua Stern that linked to this article pointing out how it wasn’t a spontaneous influx of evil leftism that cut Iran’s fertility rate. It was a covert government operation of thousands of make-shift abortion wagons going around the country to make women stop having babies because the country was running out of water and food. Take a look at Google Maps satellite view and you’ll find it hard to find some cultivated land in that desolate desert landscape we call Iran.

So yet again, understanding the actual mechanism beat handily a superficial look at statistical trends. By the way this courteous reader, Mr. Stern proceeded to delete his email address and disappear forever. Which is a pity as I was looking forward on more fruitful correspondence. Oh well.

Anyway this counter-climatic explanation about Iran’s fertility rates made me think about the rest of the Arab world. What’s driving their decreasing birthrate? And so I took a look at all the Wikipedia pages on fertility. And what I saw didn’t look pretty.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2127.html

Saudi Arabia has seen a fertility crash, from 7 in the 1980s to 2.17 today.

Kuwait hit bottom at 2.24 in the 2000s but has since picked up and 2014 estimate is 2.54.

Iraq kept 5+ fertility up to recently but seems the occupation has done some good (!) and it’s currently at 3.5.

The Emirates had gone sub-fertility for a while but it has now picked up and is now at 2.36.

Jordan has been declining steadily from 7 in the 1980s to 3.16 today.

Egypt has been declining steadily from 5 in the 1980s to 2.86 today. They’ve been unable to feed themselves for decades though.

Tunisia hit bottom at 2.02 in 2002, then picks up to 2.15 in 2011, CIA gives 2.00 for 2014.

Algeria was 4.5 in 1990, 2.81 in 2008, then picked up to 3.02 in 2012, CIA gives 2.78 for 2014.

Morocco was 5.5 in 1980, 2.19 in 2010, CIA gives 2.15 for 2014.

I don’t know you guys, but what I’m seeing here is not collapse. What I’m seeing is a fertility correction given the massive pressures that overpopulation is having on what is very arid and unproductive land, but the populations are not declining, and if anything fertility is stabilizing above replacement rate. Given that none of these countries is seeing much economic growth or increased Westernization, further culture-induced fertility drops are unlikely, and if anything the next Islamic Revival movement might compel them to start a new Arab baby boom.

Meanwhile Germany has been losing native population for 42 years straight, at an increasing pace.

The Rothschild’s paper, The Economist, never the pessimist, nevertheless have started to raise the alarm about global demographic trends. It turns out that black Africans are still pumping out as much babies as they can, not using all those condoms sent by the Melinda Gates Foundation nuggets. Cell phones and internet access are also having no effect.

What cannot go on forever must stop, and so African demographic expansion must stop. There’s no food in the world for 2 billion Africans, let alone 3 or 4 billion as they would hypothetically produce at this rate by the end of the century. And so they will starve, one way or another. The glass-full backside of overpopulation, the “demographic dividend”, produced a lot of wealth when it happened in Western Europe back in the days, or in China in the 1990s. But of course the demographic dividend is a statistical concept. Figures on a graph wasn’t what made Europeans or Asians productive, it was the particular product of their own culture, their biology, the technology of the day, and only then, the economics of having a lot of young people around.

But of course nobody is interested on what’s actually driving Africans to have 7 babies per women. As nobody is interested in what’s actually driving Arabs to have on average less than 5, but never less than 2 children. As nobody really wants to know what’s the deal with the climate. All we want is data to write a book, an article, or a government memo so I can sound smart, get a promotion or make some money.

The Internet

I shut down my Twitter account last week (didn´t see the point really), and the blog’s being slow too. But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.

What the hell am I doing you say? Well I’m busy. I found the best site in the internet.

Real History.

I was chatting with Slittyeye on HBD, looking up pics of weird tribes on Google Images, when I stumbled upon the best fucking site on the internet. I came upon this link, which has pictures of albino Dravidians (!). Real cool pics.

 

 

 

 

1Capture

 

And you go further and there’s lots of other really cool pics. Terracota warriors! Ainus! Yamamoto Isoroku! Backward Koreans!

 

By the way I’ve been planning forever to write a post on how primitive and just massively fucked up premodern Korea was, in spite of its IQ and traditional mores and monarchy and proximity to China, but I can’t seem to find objective sources on the topic. I guess I’ll just run a bunch of pictures of their ugly totems, badly clothed women and downtrodden cities and call it a day.

I have a weakness towards historical photos, and this Real History guy has a whole lot of them. And he isn’t just running an image search and pasting everything, no, the dude has taste. Look at his choice of historical artifacts:

So what’s this guy’s deal anyway? Is he a college professor, running a website interpreting world history through the lens of his underappreciated philosophy? Like Friesian.com, the website that educated me while I wasted my time in the local high school. People say the Internet is harmful to society, and they may be right. But if it wasn’t for Friesian.com I would be still reading the local sports paper talking all day about soccer with my schoolmates. So fuck society, thank you Internet. And thank you Mr. Ross.

Back to Real History, what does the best image collector on the internet want to transmit through his website?

Legitimate Black researchers, (as opposed to those who do it to gain favor with the Albinos and thus make money), must out of necessity, try to reconstruct history by bits and pieces. The Albinos have after all, had over 200 years to create their false paintings, statues, and false translations of historical documents.

The task of parsing their lies from the truth is indeed daunting. But every now and then, we uncover an artifact so revealing, that it answers many of our questions, such as; What race were the Holy Roman Emperors? What race were the Inca? Who was the last Black Spanish King? When did the Spanish start depicting Jesus as an Albino instead of a Black man? All of these question have been answered by a painting of the Inca king list, painted circa 1800 in Peru.

Wow. Say again?

When visiting the Chinese governments Website, one would note that the Chinese still imply that they descent from Peking Man (Homo-Erectus), of course this is racist nonsense. A genetic study done by researchers from all over the world: China, Japan, U.S.A. U.K. and other countries, and published in 2001; definitively answered the question of Chinese origins. The findings were that the original Chinese were 100% pure Black African, with absolutely no outside admixture – But here again, we are talking about the original Black Chinese, modern Chinese are quite different.

Oh.

it it is impossible at this time, to say definitively what the hierarchy of ancient western Rome was like, (from artifacts, we know that the Eastern Empire was ruled by Blacks). What little that we do have of artifactual evidence, suggests that like the Eastern Empire, the Western Empire was also ruled by Blacks. This painting of unknown provenance and period, may well be fanciful, but we feel that it accurately depicts the hierarchy of the Western Roman Empire.

I see.

Was Charlemagne a Black man? At this point there is no way to know – and that information is not likely to be forthcoming. But it appears that contrary to what Whites say, the Franks were probably a “Native” NOT Germanic people. As such, Charlemagne would have indeed, probably been a Black man. But because Whites have so interwoven European history with lies, there are really no safe assumptions, and no safe place to start.

(…)

But there is no ambiguity about Charlemagne’s successor as Holy Roman Emperor: Otto I, he was most certainly a Black man!

You hear him! No ambiguity.

I could go on for years with outlandish quotes, but you better go look yourself. And you should, no, must take a look. Because the guy is good. He’s spent some serious time and effort in this shit. Hundreds if not thousands of good photographic material, and a pretty impressive command of human history. He gets most of it right, except all the good guys being black and the evil albinos.

Still, I’m glad there are energetic black history geeks out there who put the effort to learn website design, and have the willpower and talent to do heavy research and gather all those awesome pictures. If I put all that effort on my blog I’d be Ezra Klein by now.

Given the standards for blacks in American universities, I take it this guy must be some PhD, or perhaps got tenure in some Ivy League place? Well he deserves it. Tell me he doesn’t deserve the presidency 100 times more than the empty suit of Obama. I mean just look at this collection:

 

 

 

To finish this post with a more serious point, and to link it with the start, there’s a lot of strange people in the internet. And there’s not much use to talking to them. People believe what they believe and will continue to do so, whether we have Twitter, Wikipedia, NRx, or whatever it is. So I say we relax, read books, think over some tea or coffee, or a cigarette, or some weird nootropic pill, and write leisurely on our blogs.

 

Groupthink vs whips

I started my blogging career with what I still consider one of my best posts, where I said that human history is very easily explained if you take into account the fact that (most)  humans are just plain dumb. Learning is hard, really hard. And it should, animals don’t learn if they can avoid to. It takes domestication and industrial amounts of drilling to make an animal learn some behavior. It follows that it takes domestication and quite large amounts of drilling to make people learn some behavior.

While this sinking ship called neoreaction is, if only etymologically, an anti-modernist, declinist crowd, the very fact that I’m here writing a blog instead of just copying and pasting quotes from old books, means I regard myself as having some new insight that wasn’t available to my forebearers. As I said earlier, cognitive science is full of true and powerful insights on how people think and why they do so. We now know not only of cognitive “biases”, often constructed as surmountable errors, but the very architecture of cognition. Reading through Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind should be a good replacement for years and years of degrees on ethics and moral philosophy, which I now visualize as an industrial sweatshop of rationalization hamsters run by an evil medieval bishop.

While I very much admire the aesthetic sense of traditional societies, the fact is pre-moderns weren’t strangers to evil, crime, and sheer ideological nonsense. While comparisons are often made on the degree of evil and nonsense of past and present, I think a reasonable position is to say that it’s pretty much the same. And that is necessarily must be the same. People are full of shit, and leaving aside technological differences which may amplify or expand it, the underlying process is the same. And it must be the same, as cognitive science teach us that brains work like that they do, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Back to Haidt, you gotta give it to the guy that he proves in himself the truth of his book. He writes how people’s morality is based in fact-free, a priori intuitions reached by emotion and sloppy thinking, and reason is a language based coating applied after the fact to rationalize one’s decision with one’s peers. He makes the point here in this EconTalk podcast. But all this awareness of how moral intuitions work doesn’t stop him from saying out loud how he agrees with Paul Krugman’s economics even though he knows nothing of the subject! I just couldn’t believe he’s so lacking of self-awareness. Perhaps he’s just advertising his cognitive dissonance as promotion for his book. Think my thinking is fucked up? Buy my book and you’ll know why!

Anyway it seems clear that the default mode of thinking for humans is groupthink, and the content of that groupthink is computed with a complex algorithm taking into account one’s peer group, the loyalties one owes to whom, who has more status and what utterances fit better with the religion that one has been painstakingly drilled into since infancy. Jim Donald linked to an eerie example of unified TV propaganda here, although that was engineered. Uncouth Reflections links to this piece on the global warming inquisition, and this looks spontaneous. Plain horizontal transmission. Why bother thinking when you can parrot the line? Thomas Schelling of all people has enough brains to think for his own. But he won’t.

Now we could read that and lament how far down we have come, how science has been corrupted, people are more evil than they used to, independent thinking has disappeared, etc. But it wasn’t that much better in the past. Most big ideological debates in history can hardly be described as being fair and thoughtful. Groupthink and witch-hunts on spurious grounds are hardly new. You may say that mass media means that the scale of groupthink has changed; people used to parrot whatever was popular in the local parish; now they parrot the central propaganda organs of the government. But that’s been known for almost 100 years. The Rebellion of the Masses touches on the subject, and Goebbels made an art of propaganda almost 80 years ago. Nihil sub sole novum. The content might change, but the underlying mechanism hasn’t changed. It can’t change.

So what do we do about it? My previous post argued that groupthink might be universal, but the degree of what Handle eloquently termed “conversational homogeneity” is culture-specific. Groupthink is a coordination mechanism, but it’s not the only one. You can also coordinate people from above by using a long whip with spikes on it. People can also coordinate because of loyalty, carefully cultivated over years or generations, producing a sense of duty that doesn’t necessarily involve parroting the same opinions as anyone else. Both of these alternatives seemed to have a common defect; they scale badly. Whips with spikes (or machine guns) can only control so many people, and there’s the issue of quis custodiet ipsos custodies. Loyalty production is also a very slow and intimate process, which can be accelerated by technology or specific triggers (the threat external aggression mostly), but is generally very hard to sustain.

Groupthink on the other hand might be more efficient as a coordination mechanism. It seems to be part of the fundamental mechanism of the brain that deals with socialization, which is a big part of being human. One of the great triumphs of recent science has been the gradual overturn of Chomsky’s theory of language. Chomsky famously wrote that children can’t possibly learn language and its grammar from the little input they hear or eavesdrop from their surroundings. Ergo, there must be a module on the brain that specifically deals with language. He then stretched the theory, saying that if there’s a specific language module in the brain, i.e. in all human brains, that module works the same for everyone, so there’s a single universal grammar in all human brains, and all actually existing human languages are just a surface representation of that. Rivers and oceans of ink ensued in order to devise models for translating all human grammars into that mystical universal grammar we all share.

Cognitive science has been slowly proving that there is no particular language module in the human brain. Instead, language is processed in several different areas around the brain, located in mostly the same areas in most people but not necessarily. The corollary is that there is no separate language module which behaves differently from the other modules; but that brains only have one single way of functioning, learning in all different cognitive areas is all based on the same learning processes, and the structure of language just mirrors the way brains work in general. Meaning people actually think of time as if it were an object moving towards oneself (the time comes, then is past), and categories are remembered as prototypes full of detail (say, cats have 4 legs and meow, or black people are big and dangerous), from which certain specimens might differ in some characteristics without contradicting the category itself (a mute cat with the 4 legs cut off is still a cat, a mellow black midget is still a black person).

Coordination mechanisms must also work the same way. Pain avoidance makes you obey the guy with the whip; friend-foe identification makes you gang up with your tribe. And basic learning processes produce the “beemind”. Everybody’s conservative about what they know best, but what about everything else? Then you just use general, off-the-shelf learning processes, i.e. drilling. Drilling needn’t be always forcible; hear the same thing a thousand times, and you’ll assimilate it without even paying attention. The general consensus has a way of making itself known. Japanese people call it kuuki, i.e. air. You’re supposed to “read” the air, and avoid saying or doing anything which doesn’t fit the groupthink of the moment. A related, if wider concept is the zeitgeist, which is just a description of the general patterns of groupthink of a society.

Asking people to use rational inquiry to make up their own values is not only implausible given the cognitive ability of most people; it’s plain impossible because human brains just don’t work like that. People’s opinions aren’t “found” through the use of reason, and they aren’t purely a function of hereditary disposition either. Values are picked up from society, and different societies allow a bigger or smaller Overton window, and within it more or less heterogeneity of opinion, depending on their particular mix of coordination mechanisms. Then again the preferred coordination mechanisms might be genetically determined, but I’m skeptical. The Chinese used to be quite a tolerant bunch. Then Mao happened.

Common sense would lead to an Aristotelian arrangement, where a society uses a balanced mix of all coordination mechanisms, whips, loyalty and groupthink, so no single one predominates. This mirrors traditional Chinese statecraft, which was a varied mix of Confucianism and Legalism. Confucianism argues for rule by example; the rulers must be virtuous, promote loyalty and obedience and kindness of all that. Of course that doesn’t work, and that’s where Legalism comes in, where actual whips with spikes, and many other torture mechanisms were used to control the people. Legalism also had a groupthink aspect in that non approved books were to be burned and their authors be killed along their families. That that only happened twice in all their history is a testament to the strength of Chinese statecraft, that it seldom felt the need to enforce groupthink.

But I’m rambling already. Thoughts?

Groupthink

Nydwracu linked to this Tweet over here, which I found quite amusing.

Often the decline of Western Civilization is linked to the increasing numbers of foreigners in our midst, and often there is a tacit assumption that the decline is linear: the more NAMs the worse the decline. Well that doesn’t explain why Whitopias like Vermont or New Hampshire were so overrepresented in this last example of retarded celebrity worship.

For some reason this table reminded me of this video on bloggingheads.tv:

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/1345?in=31:56&out=47:06

I saw this clip years ago, and always wanted to write about it (there’s a draft lost somewhere in my wordpress dashboard with the title: The Enemy), but it always pisses me off so much that I just can’t come with any coherent writing, besides calling the guy a revolting douchebag (tell me those “yeahs” don’t remind me you of Bill Lumbergh) and the woman a vapid whore.

Special attention should be paid to 31:10 when they start talking about James Watson. The douchebag starts saying how when he wrote about it, people (more knowledgeable than himself) would tell him that Watson was right and there’s plenty of scientific basis for saying black Africans have genetically low IQs, and the vapid whore says “Really?!”. If she were 20 years younger she’s say “OMG Wow, just wow”. You get the picture.

Of course all this comes down to the concept of groupthink. Why do intelligent white people show outrage towards James Watson when they don’t really know shit about the facts? Groupthink.  And why do old-stock Yankees in New Hampshire and Vermont retweet like crazy a selfie of a bunch of actors in the Oscars? Groupthink.

Now, Groupthink is a quite well established concept in psychology, although it suffers from serious neglect, as it doesn’t fit the zeitgeist, or more accurately, it goes against the basic Christian concept of individual sin, and its bastardized Enlightenment idea of the autonomous individual. A good recent takedown of the idea of individual rationality was published in the last annual question at Edge.org here.

The problem with groupthink is that we tend to think that it is correlated with  IQ, as more intelligent people are less prone to groupthink than less intelligent people. Nobody’s surprised at Africans penis theft panics, or Indians dying in hundreds in some temple stampede. People are sheep, and dumb people more so. But that doesn’t explain a lot of things. It doesn’t explain why it was Vermont retweeting that retarded Oscar selfie rather than California or Florida. There’s something else.

The obvious answer is that there’s something about Yankee culture that produces more groupthink than other cultures. Tocqueville famously wrote about how all those free and independent republican Americans were so much sheepish than the old world peasant subject of feudal lords and ancient superstitions. There are only so many ways to solve the Coordination Problem. You can have a strong and unequal hierarchy, which keeps people subject by force and custom even if they complain and joke about it. Or you can abolish all hierarchy and make people free and equal, but how do you coordinate them then?

Groupthink, i.e. mutual surveillance, periodic witch-hunts, frequent rituals to confirm the social bonds of the village (and check who’s not as enthusiastic as the others).

It’s a tough choice.