John Fitzgerald Kennedy is Trayvon Benjamin Martin.

I’ve read plenty lately about the 50th Anniversary of the martyrdom and assassination of JFK.  It all started with that ridiculous article in the NYT, which merely sought to counter the facts with a narrative spin blaming the real enemy, the right.  Sailer covered it and he’s been on a roll, and of course the nonsense has been discussed plenty elsewhere.

Besides noticing that, since we know from Sunstein that liberals and progressives hate Communists so much, it’s notable that they don’t just identify the politics of the actual culprit [notice the ‘Pas d’ennemis à gauche!’ missing from the English version?], I don’t really have much to add except Derb said something interesting that seems obviously right once you hear it, but never boiled up to my awareness before:

Ask random adults you encounter, preferably under the age of fifty, what were the politics of Kennedy’s murderer? Not one in ten of them will know he was a communist. The commonest answer you’ll get will probably be “right-wing nut,” “white supremacist,” or some similar phrase from the left-liberal prompt book. This is what’s meant by “controlling the discourse.”

I remember learning about Kennedy’s assassination in last portion of my first American history class, and, yes, it’s amazing that there was never any discussion of Oswald at all; who he was, what he believed, why he did it, etc.  Nothing about the assassin, just the assassinated.  I learned a lot more about John Wilkes Booth; I can assure you.

All the talk was instead about Kennedy, inevitably naming his as ‘the civil rights President.’  The calculated lapses and silences were clearly meant to inspire a kind of ‘connect the dots the way I know you will’ conclusion as to the dark forces that must have been the real cause, completely opposite of the actual dark forces, naturally. 

And that is in fact the way a lot of my fellows connected the dots – it must have been the same sort of fellow who shot MLK, an event often covered in the same class period.  Some people, including yours truly, were interested in various conspiracy theories, and when they actually learned about Oswald on their own time, they were uniformly surprised.  Huh, maybe it wasn’t the Texas branch of the KKK after all.

Now, a single ludicrous article in the NYT is one thing, but multiple expressions on the same absurd theme in the age of Wikipedia is a bit disturbing, and it reminds me of what happened with the George Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin fiasco.  In Kennedy’s case, they write out the Communist and replace him with the Texas Right Wing. Dallas pulled the trigger, after all.

In Martin’s case they write the actual victimized, Hispanic Zimmerman and 17 year-old apprentice-thug Martin and replace them with the White Racist Assassin Zimmerman and 12-year old innocent baby running for his life from a modern lynching.

Are there any limits whatsoever to the holders-of-the-megaphone’s ability to rewrite easily found facts into false martyrdom scripts in real time?  Is it not astounding that those born nearly 30 years after the event would repeat those same agitprop themes in the nation’s more prestigious newspaper without being deterred whatsoever by the immediate, predictable, and obvious contradiction in tens of thousands of minor outlets?  And where is the characteristic knee-jerk mocking and derisory snark from all the other mainstream outlets of the ‘highly competitive, corporate media’, looking for any opportunity to wound the reputation of their main rival, as opposed to the quick frenzy to get in line?

It starts to make you wonder about all the other martyrdoms in History.  But I’m certain we’ve got plenty of false martyrs to come.  We don’t even have to wait for a conveniently-exploitable death scenario to occur; just keep sending it back to re-write until the audience screams.

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20 Responses to JFK is TBM

  1. James says:

    There you have a response to Sunstein’s lead–how to sensitise individualist libertarians. It hinges on this sentence:

    “Dallas — with no river, port or natural resources of its own — has always fashioned itself as a city with no reason for being, a city that triumphed against all odds, a city that validates the sheer power of individual will and the particular ideology that champions it above all else.”

    This piece isn’t as stupid as you make out. We have to discuss politics in extremely broad abstractions. “Germany was jealous of Britain’s empire”. “The city was retrogressive”. “The youth rose up in anger”.

    Oswald may have been a communist, but it’s not implausible that he was infected by the city’s culture of hatred towards the federal government. This famous observation tells us that ideologies that validate anti-authoritarian pugnacity are fungible.

    An interesting question is why so many of us like to read newspapers and watch television news. No-one could argue that any of this media has ever been rigorous, enlightening or tailored to one’s intellectual comparative advantage. The idea of one-size-fits-all informative media is absurd.

    Might it fulfil the same need as sports; that news, with its manufactured ‘narratives and issues’, moral simplicity and exhortative tone, allows us to experience the catharsis of moral discussion, status hierarchies and social gossip that were typical in our ancestral environment? (Does any discussion venue, or media that aspires to inform, have to take this attractor into consideration? What about political ideas?)

    • Handle says:

      The city’s culture probably had a good amount of reverence for ‘ultra-conservative’ war-hero, General Edwin Walker, who was born in Center Point, Texas, and who was also an Oswald assassination target. Was that Dallas’ fault too, James? Come on.

      • James says:

        As the “megaphone” metaphor implies, a mediocre (not ludicrous) narrative in the mainstream press always overpowers its rivals. Unless the piece really is exceptionally bad, why argue with a megaphone?

        A more generative question is, e.g., how a society whose way of life is not powerfully influenced by political mass media could sate emotional needs that bring them into existence (as well as high class theories of progressivism, etc., for intellectuals).

        • James says:

          Yudkowsky’s Timeless Decision Theory is a powerful idea that could fill the void occupied by utopian ideals and mass media. According to this theory, a virtuous life has many effects that are not visible. The need to participate in a moral crusade with immediate, monumental consequences might be felt less keenly.

          A related idea that Yudkowsky hints towards, but doesn’t enunciate, is the resurrection of God as a real but ethical concept. Some ideas are expressed in their most concise form only when God is invoked. “God is in Bach’s music” is probable. The accuracy of such a statement is judged according to the acausal (TDT-style) properties of Bach’s decision to compose music that propagates virtue.

          The other aspect of the Necker cube is to think of religious fictionalism, in the same sense as moral fictionalism.

          TDT isn’t yet a rigorous concept. There is uncertainty regarding which behaviour is ethical in the timeless sense, but it surely depends on the dynamics of a community. An important reason to study old reactionary literature, amongst other things therefore, is that they were bearers of a tradition, an ethical engine distributed amongst many minds, that might (with additions) still have the capacity to sustain a certain kind of virtuous human group.

          I regard ethics of this kind as the counterpart of an effective movement to improve our hard ideas about some aspects of politics and law. Ethics prepares oneself or hopefully a group, and an intellectual product flows naturally from the design. I don’t think this is my kind of group, but is closer than many others.

          • Handle says:

            You know, I have this funny image in my head that when they build the next Watson, a machine super intelligence, able to make perfect, flawless conclusions about humans and society on the basis of impeccable logic, lack of bias, utter disinterested ness, and good data and observation- that it will output, on its first public demonstration, all these horribly taboo truths that we like to discuss around these parts, and the engineers will be terribly embarrassed and say “good grief this machine is a racist sexist! There must be some error in the coding!” And they’ll look for it too but never announce they found anything wrong; they’ll just make sure to never ask those types of questions again. It’ll probably be made illegal.

          • James says:

            As you said, interpersonal ethics is not simply a matter of breaking taboos.

          • James says:

            But to be clear, I don’t care about “racism” and “sexism”. Those are worthless concepts invented by totalitarian bullies.

          • Handle says:

            They are worthless to everyone but the bullies, to whom they are extremely valuable. “Witch” is also a worthless concept, but thou shalt not suffer one to live. I once knew a woman who survived WWII by having pretended to be one to a would be murderer who was apparently more superstitious than religious. She threatened him with a curse and it worked. So being thought a witch wasn’t without its benefits. Those accused of racism have no such fallback.

          • James says:

            HN today reminded me how vile progs are. Have a look through the stories, noting peculiarities. I updated my beliefs and evidently in future, because of the mainstream attention it would be unwise to treat this part of the Internet as a careless talk zone.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      “Oswald may have been a communist, but it’s not implausible that he was infected by the city’s culture of hatred towards the federal government.”

      So when the Far Right does something evil, it’s the Far Right’s fault. When the Far Left does something evil, it’s the Far Right’s fault. It all makes sense now. Or did I miss something, and do liberals like Cass Sunstein blame the Communists for MLK’s assassination, because it’s “not implausible” that Communist hatred of religion may have influenced James Earl Ray to shoot a pastor?

      For God’s sake.

  2. asdf says:

    BBC did a piece on Kennedy this week. I didn’t know this, but they rated him as having the greatest difference between how the public rates him and how historians rate him. With the exception of the Cuban Missile Crisis (which was likely prompted by his earlier failures) he was essentially a mediocre to bad president. He didn’t get legislation through. He botched the Bay of Pigs. People don’t talk about it much, but he was also getting what were basically meth shots from the doctor they called “Dr. Feelgood” (they wrote a song about him) early in his presidency and they had to have an intervention to get him off of that stuff. Oh and one of his affairs was with a woman from east Germany who had been in the communist party. As they pointed out in the program if he wasn’t assassinated, and if he had a second term, a lot of this stuff out have come out.

  3. beortheold says:

    Thanks for the link.

    One thing that seems odd is how brazen they are. There is a sizable fraction of the American–I don’t know whether this applies abroad–public that is perfectly aware that Kennedy was killed by a Communist, and that Travon Martin was a thug that brought his trouble with him. The Fox News contingent knows this stuff. They might be a little behind the neo-reactionary sphere, but they aren’t totally clueless. The are, however, completely uninfluential. The national media plows ahead heedlessly, and it seems that whatever part of the national consciousness they have captured is sufficient for their purposes.

    • Handle says:

      Brazen is right. Don’t forget Obamacare, “I never said that” can be told so blatantly, and voluntarily enhanced, and repeated over and over by the official press toadies. Even when it is perfectly predictable that people are immediately releasing youtube video mashing together the 30 times he did say that, it has no deterrent effect. Confidence in the motivated filter of one’s target audience is near absolute once everybody they routinely trust tells them how they’re supposed to think about it in exactly the same way.

  4. Vladimir says:

    Are there any limits whatsoever to the holders-of-the-megaphone’s ability to rewrite easily found facts into false martyrdom scripts in real time? Is it not astounding that those born nearly 30 years after the event would repeat those same agitprop themes in the nation’s more prestigious newspaper without being deterred whatsoever by the immediate, predictable, and obvious contradiction in tens of thousands of minor outlets?

    This is probably the ugliest lesson about human nature that we’ve learned with the widespread adoption of the internet. In the past, it was plausible to blame the 20th century hideous phenomena of mass propaganda on the nature of the traditional print and broadcast media — their huge entry costs and economies of scale, easy centralized control and censorship, unidirectional and non-interactive nature, etc. However, now that we have information technology without such limitations, which could in principle serve as a perfect medium for a free and pluralistic public discourse, we see that people nevertheless show interest only in using it as just another medium for the same big megaphones of ideological uniformity and mass propaganda.

    Therefore, the internet has proven that public discourse will be domineered by the big megaphones not only when the existing technology makes alternatives difficult or impossible, but also whenever technology makes their existence at all possible. People just seem to be inexorably drawn towards them, regardless of whether any alternatives are easy to set up and access. This is a profoundly distressing realization, which implies that modernity necessarily brings the big megaphones, with all their ugliness, viciousness, and mendacity, as the fundamental basis of all social authority. (That famous Mao quote comes to mind, except that it’s the barrel of the megaphone that matters, not the gun. I’m sure Mao in fact understood this quite well.)

    • Handle says:

      Well said. The effect in the media world was kind of like how the internet was supposed to bring on a golden age of telecommuting and decentralization … only to reveal a world where it seems increasingly important to physically locate oneself in close proximity to one’s colleagues and counter-parties and do a lot of face-to-face; which is now usually done on the elite level in fewer and fewer places.

      We have fewer centers of wealth, power, influence, and creative innovation – large black holes that have swallowed up the smaller ones. As all sorts of micro-scale hyper-federalism becomes increasingly technically feasible, we witness increasingly intellectual and jurisdictional homogenization. The A-list doesn’t grow any bigger even as the audience expands. Indeed, it shrinks. The number of channels expands (infinitely on the internet), but most people reliably watch the major shows on the major stations.

      You cannot have anything to talk about with your friends unless you have a shared experience, and so we witness a withdrawal (disappointing, in my opinion) from niche-markets and the resurgence of unitary mass. Our entertainments can only reach their full enjoyment if they can be shared.

      I’ve grown tired of the overuse of ‘Schelling Points’, but it is evident that there is this widespread human need for harmonization and synchronization, with maybe room for one or two counter-harmonies. Our politics-media-academy industrial complex rides that wave of human nature all too well.

      • Thales says:

        People just want to hear the voice of their long-lost God. It seems almost any facsimile will do.

        • Handle says:

          No, I don’t think it’s that. I think people just want to be in fashion. They want to know what the cool kids are wearing so they can wear it too, look cool, or at least not look uncool. Fashionable ideas work the same way. The Devil wears Prada; The Devil reads the New York Times.

          • Thales says:

            Aping the powerful until a unified party line is formed is just the next best substitute. 🙂

    • Handle says:

      Part of my theory for how the internet-enabled creation of a thousand voices paradoxically catalyzed the consolidation of mainstream outlets is that the immense industry disruption and revenue-shock only left enough barely-profitable (with a Carlos Slim bailout) market space for the top-tier publications. All over the place, more minor publication, or conglomerates like Gannet, Tribune, McClatchy, etc. went bankrupt or nearly-bankrupt, and, except for the top five, the industry lost about 95% of its market capitalization, and who knows how many jobs.

      The entire official press is a vanity press for billionaires these days anyway. But the internet killed all its rivals faster than it was killing the NYT, which allowed the top respectable paper standing to salvage and capture the remaining market, and arguable made it an even stronger monolith. Since it bottomed, the NYT’s stock price is up 160% in the last 5 years – not bad.

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