Sunday, January 10, 2021

What We Now Know

The other day after getting my COVID-19 test results (positive), complaining right up here of the drama the day before, our capitol building was being attacked. We still don't know why there was so little security, and why the seditionists were allowed to amble off. In the event, I had no idea how much of the bad I felt was a function of which news, and how much was the virus itself.

The trouble with both the virus and the news of the day is the same. The virus has made me feel less sick than I've felt with the flu. But in the case of the flu, I knew that I would get through it no matter how horrible I felt. In this case, I felt like there was some kind of time-bomb hidden in my body that could cause me to tank any minute. A very loving nurse-practitioner told me so. Sheesh. And the media was telling me likewise about what was happening down in Washington. I couldn't watch. It was too horrifying.

How do we contend with the evident fact that upwards of half the country now has so little trust in our institutions that they will believe real fake news to the point of insurrection, in the name of a man who clearly has no integrity, no character, no scruples and whose exit from the stage provides such clear display of all of that, so much so that even his former closest allies are abandoning him?

How do we explain officers of the state, our very elected officials, jumping on the same bandwagon? Is there no limit to self-promotion? To toadying for wealth? Is there no dignity left? Aren't they guilty, as officers of the state, of actual treason?

As Trump's features morph into those of John Voight whose features match an "uncle" of mine who went over that same right-wing cliff decades ago, and as I witness the certainty of those willing to post videos of themselves denouncing anything good about our Republic, it's tempting to believe that it's all a disease process, like the virus.

But in the political case, the disease is so easy to diagnose, unlike the COVID, where after a week there has still been no contact tracing in my case. After almost 12 days from presumed contact, there will be no point to any contact tracing, anyhow. Even while other countries have put together apparently efficient and effective processes. (I've contacted so few people, and none without a mask and keeping distant, that they all know all the details, I assure you) I promise that I'm as isolated as anyone can get. If I got it then we should be a lot more vigilant and pro-active than we are being. That's all I'm saying.

So this political disease can trace its roots to social media, to the demise of media regulation so that there need be no integrity to opinion masquerading as news, of course to the way the Internet has come to operate on surveillance capitalism, and of course to the way that capitalism in general operates in the age of digital technology. Capitalism does not run on scruple.

We don't want to do anything about any of this because we like the life we can almost taste so very much. (I told my daughter that I would love her 'even if you weren't always there for me,' and she asked back 'When was I not there for you!' and I sighed at the ambiguity of English. It's hard work to make things clear!) We don't really get the good life, most of us, but we get enough of it to taste it.

My young friends warn me that to regulate speech on the Internet would be to curtail free speech, and most of the time I do value privacy of communication. I don't want any Banana Republic sniffing out and coming down on seditious and radical organizers. But in our case (as sponsor of any Banana Republics that ever existed) we have plenty of information right out in public of seditious right-wing radicals plotting sedition, and nobody seems to come down on anything. 

Is it just because there is no contest between the sponsors of banana Republicanism and the anti-socialist capitalism which controls our government, and seemingly always shall? Do they dance their Tango in partnership? Isn't that supposed to be the Trumpists' complaint? 

I wish that I could think so. Maybe I could if the white supremacy, the Article 2 distortions, the anti-semitism, the homophobia and hatred of gender non-binary were stripped away. That all makes it seem hateful. So I'm left with wondering how such hate gets engendered. 

It seems like hate and certainty are always related. Maybe we don't need all the ambiguity that we have. Maybe we could express more certainty about the good, and less about the bad generally, from both sides.

Like a clock that's broken but which is therefore telling the right time twice a day (that's a cliche I heard from a politician recently, agreeing with Trump on something - perhaps his demand for $2000 stimulus checks) Trump is right about Section 230, but for the wrong reasons. He's just plain too stupid to understand that Facebook is as incapable to be biased against the right as it is to be rid of dangerous hate speech. They curate what you see by algorithm, and so it's your friends they would have to hold accountable. People believe their friends before they believe whatever passes for the past Walter Cronkite anymore. I think Kevin Simler says as much.

I did remember/find out who Kevin Simler is, and I'm about to read his apparently popular book, The Elephant in the Brain. I know I won't like it because he talks about 'the brain' instead of 'the mind.' But he tussles with - or his co-author does -  my old tussle-buddy (one sided, of course) Eliezer Yudkowsky, so he can't be all bad. 

Yudkowsky believes that the brain is the mind and that it can be modelled computationally and that there will soon be a machine cognition singularity and he can make himself immortal thereby. To my mind, that's as nutty as believing the Disney Christianity which has our dead relatives looking down on us. Anyhow, no wonder Simler doesn't have time to post to Quora anymore, if he's writing books and they're getting read. Well, I'm probably just looking in all the wrong places. Though, I'm not really looking. Sorry.

There's a difference between freedom of speech, which is a cornerstone if not the cornerstone of our republic, and not much worried about by the capitalist establishment, and non-regulation of hate speech, conspiracy-mongering on public media, and general promotion of insane belief structures. 

I know I'm in danger of wanting the establishment clause violated, but I'm not. I'm in favor of getting religion and nuttiness both back out of politics, which is another cornerstone of our Republic. That means we should be not only allowed but encouraged to question, say, Amy Coney Barrett, on her religious beliefs, and make a judgement about whether those beliefs will prevail over established law. 

Yes, I think most religious beliefs are nutty, but I hardly ever meet religious people who are nutty, any more than I meet Trump supporters who are nutty. I do see lots of nutty things they say on social media, which means that they have nutty beliefs that they wouldn't tell me in person. And there's the trouble right there, no? Nobody feels OK challenging beliefs to anyone's face. Everyone seems to feel OK stating their beliefs on social media, especially among friends. 

Each side seems to think that the other is diseased, mentally deranged. How did we get here? Do we even speak the same language? Do we even know how to argue anymore?

Well, I think I'm going to live through my bout with COVID-19, and maybe even get the bonus of an immunity bridge through to whenever they sort the immunization out, whoever they becomes. 

The drama isn't quite over, but at least its not making me feel like I'm imminently going to die, which it certainly was this past Thursday. Not over yet, though. The fat lady . . . oh nevermind!

No comments: