Summary: Intense bare-knuckle discussions of important topics brings out the occasional burst of raw wisdom. Here we harvest those from the comments section of the FM website. Please post in the comments your favorites and your reactions.
- Pogo: one of America’s greatest philosophers explains the challenge for our time
- How to reply to scientists that disagree with you about climate change
- Why do conservatives call Obama “Fearless Leader”?
- One of the best attacks on Obama
- The key to the reform of America
- Some best of thread winners
- See the future of comments on the FM website!
The FM website has 23 thousand comments, and they show its evolution. We started with the goal of presenting information and analysis about technical aspects of geopolitics: our wars, 4GW, history, military theory, and economics. We believed that this would help people better understand the world, and the comment section would provide readers an opportunity to discuss things on the edge of the known — the borders of our data, theory — and differing values. We were naive.
The comments have some discussions of values. While expected, these were often horrifying. Torture is a good thing. Unemployed people shouldn’t get unemployment insurance, food stamps, and medicare. Mass killing, taking no prisoners, would win bring victory in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But most comment threads discuss deeply-held beliefs contrary to the facts. We were winning in Afghanistan and Iraq. Torture works. Keynes advocated an unending diet of big fiscal deficits. In early 2008 (6 months into the recession) people said the economy was fine (now the Instapundit’s jokes about the Retail Support Brigades saving the economy don’t look so funny). Muslims are outbreeding us, and will impose Sharia. On and on.
This led to discovery of America’s most serious problem: our inability to clearly see the world, driven by our susceptibility to propaganda. This makes us easily led, like sheep. Until fixed, somehow, reform seems impossible.
Since then the FM website has evolved as we’ve tried to learn from websites with successful comment sections. We’ll discusses these things on another day (there’s a hint at the below).
(2) Pogo: one of America’s greatest philosophers
Walt Kelly drew this cartoon for the first Earth Day in 1971. The words at the end — We have met the enemy and he is us — apply far more broadly than to just pollution. They describe the very essence of our political challenge, as I see it: We the people have the responsibility to defend the Republic from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Nobody else. Today our ignorance and apathy forms the greatest threat to its survival.
For more about this see America’s Most Dangerous Enemy.
(3) How to reply to scientists that disagree with you about climate change
The 2nd most common rebuttal to posts citing scientists debating climate scientists (the subject of almost every post here about climate): ignore the content and say “the world is warming”. This rebuttal appears not just to posts that mention the two-century long warming (ie, most of them), but even to posts about the this warming .
It’s a natural response, changing the subject to something irrelevant in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.
The 3rd most common rebuttal: deny that climate scientists are climate scientists, as in this reply to a long analysis by Judith Curry: “Judith Curry, not a climate scientist” (in fact she has a long and distinguished career in climate science; see her CV). It’s a rule for true believers: Scientists are authorities — unless they disagree with climate change dogma; then they’re cranks.
This is the most interesting response, as it taps the long anti-science tradition in the West. It’s seen on both sides of the debate. Look at the comments at the mass-market climate sceptic websites, like Watts Up With That: they’re often equally tribal. Real scientists are those who agree with us. This suggests that the worst casuality of the climate wars might be the prestige of science in America.
Another common response: insults. As in this reply to a post with excerpts from articles discussing climate science by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, ScienceDaily, and “US Joint Forces Command: “Fabius Maximus is a troll. Ignore him. Please don’t feed trolls like Fabius Maximus”. True believers flee from science (which is a process of conflict and resolution) like vampires from holy water.
The most common rebuttal: horror. They regard anthropogenic climate change as dogma, and react to the discovery of a debate among scientists like children learning that their parents have sex.
For more about these reactions see:
- An extreme example: High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!, 31 December 2008
- Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific debate, or a matter of religious belief?, 22 November 2008
- Is it possible to debate climate change with true believers? See the replies to Thursday’s post., 5 February 2012
(4) Why do conservatives call Obama “Fearless Leader”?
If you know, please answer this in the comments.
That they find this a funny (or apt) label illustrates a difference between the Right and Left in America. The Right seldom does political humor well, while the Left has raised it to an art form (on the other hand, the Left is politically impotent compared to the Right, IMO).
For example, “Fearless leader” doesn’t seem an effective label for Obama. It doesn’t relate to any actual characteristics (good or bad) that he has or claims to have. On the other hand, it’s a nice riff on Rocky and Bullwinkle.
(5) One of the best attacks on Obama
A common mock at Obama by the Right says that he’s highly dependent on teleprompters. It’s debated on YouTube by dueling videos showing him coping (or failing to cope) with teleprompter failures.
Is Obama in fact more dependent on teleprompters than other politicians? We are so easily manipulated that Presidents’ images often have little correspondence with reality, as we learn years or decades later. Kennedy was athletic while Ford was awkward; in fact Ford was in good shape for his age while JFK almost a basket case.
For the real story we turn to the Onion News Network: “Obama’s Home Teleprompter Malfunctions During Family Dinner“:
(6) The key to the reform of America
Who is responsible for America’s problems? I believe the answer is right before us. It’s the Man in the Mirror.
I’m Gonna Make A Change
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right…
I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change
(7) Some best of thread winners
There are too many to list. Here are some that work as stand-alones.
“General Screwtape would say that wars are won on the immoral/grand strategic level first … Obviously, the reason why Iraq was lost was because of not enough torture.”
—Rob Naardin to Poetic patriotic propaganda, suitable for humming while being stripped of your liberties
“I cringed when the old Tajik man told me; “I liked the Russians better than the Americans. The Russians built apartment blocks for us!”
— Sam Nomad to Mission Failure: Afghanistan
“The other issue to bear in mind here is that ex-military enlisted disproportionately make up the ranks of police today. With the massive militarization of civilian police, this creates a pincer movement in which the military becomes increasingly free of civilian control, while the police become so militarized that they operate effectively outside the law and with military weaponry.”
— Thomas Moore to More evidence that the military is slowly cutting itself off from civilian control
“If one posits, as many of us do, that the nation state as an institution is in terminal decline ( much as, for example, the Greek polis was in terminal decline during the 4th century BC ) then we should expect to see what we now are seeing. As nation states become less and less in sync with social realities, they will therefore exhibit various problems that with time will be both more frequent and more serious.It does not necessarily follow from the nationstate’s malaise that the the inhabitants of those states are in trouble – any more than, say, the inhabitants of Corinth in 300 BC were worse off than those in 400 BC. They just were no longer living in a polis.”
— Duncan Kinder to The unseen but perhaps decisive grand alignment of the nations!
“I think the American people are every bit as fixated on security as their French counterparts. The difference is that when the French feel insecure, they kill themselves; when the Americans feel insecure, they kill someone else, in a country far, far away.”
— Reynardine to a Question Time post
“An aside on American Exceptionalism: It has always amused me that the US is the only country in the CIA World Factbook that is noted as having a ‘strong democratic tradition’. Not even Switzerland has this and Switzerland is arguably the most democratic country in the world, with more political decisions having to go to referendum than anywhere else on Earth. … I first noticed this in sociology class in high school back in the early mid-nineties.”
— Rune to A parable of America today – subways here and around the world
“Oh, these pro-war arguments are most Christian. Ask any Native American.”
— Robert Hoskins to More Christmas Eve war advocacy – bombing while we sing
(8) Now you can see the future of comments on the FM website!
Should the writing on the FM website improve (especially mine) by 5x, we might deserve comments almost as good as those to this post by Belle Waring at Crooked Timber.