A Chink In The Armor

The progressives want their cities back.  They’ll look the other way to get them.

New NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio, that old supporter of Sandanista Communists (hardly alone among his contemporary peers on that score), has appointed star law enforcement chief William J. Bratton as police commissioner.  To me, the choice by such a boldly leftist progressive to reinstate Giuliani’s chief is a revealing one, especially as it comes with approving endorsements from such quarters as lead-crime-link proponent, Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum (who doesn’t like Bratton’s ‘big mouth’) and, of course, the New York Times. (HT: Sailer)

However, Bratton doesn’t have any diversity / identity-politics bona-fides.  The left establishment is theoretically (and at least rhetorically) opposed to stop-and-frisk tactics, but Bratton endorses them.

He is also an advocate of the rightist ‘broken windows‘ theory formulated by James Q. Wilson.  This is a kind of social reform campaign strategy which uses the built up environment to communicate, ‘There is order here, and the government is ready, willing, and able to do whatever is necessary to maintain it.  We really mean it.  Respect it, or get crushed!

In general, life in modern civilization is inescapably full of influences that comprise one giant and continuous psychological operation.  The question is only who (if anyone) is running them and what are they doing to people?  ‘Broken Windows’ answers, “Insofar as crime as concerned, it is the state (representing the decent bourgeois) which is running it, and it suppresses all kinds of thuggery.”  Everyone is always trying to win these wars for influence on as many battle-fronts as possible, and in a Democracy the winners get the country in the long term.

Personally, the severity of our current sentencing regime for violations outside the classical felonies shocks my conscience, and I’m open to believing it leads to a certain amount of injustice in an abstract sense. But the measure of a society is not how it treats its prisoners, but how it must treat them to get the job done. The punishment should fit the crime, if possible, but the first priority is that the punishment must control the crime. It’s clear that after our experiment with lenity we now have to go to much greater lengths to deter criminality than we did in the past, and this is as valid a metric of social degradation as any other.

Bratton was also unafraid (i.e., ‘sane’) to concentrate on Muslims with regard to counterterrorism after 9/11 and he was brazen and unapologetic about, if not ‘ethnic’ then ‘identity-behavioral-correlation’ profiling.  He was incredibly effective, he made a lot of enemies on the left, but the left has put him back in charge.  Why?

As Sailer shows, the left now believes crime doesn’t pay, and it is willing to make certain ideological compromises to ensure the security of the streets the possession of which they are no longer willing to surrender to the Knockout Game.  First and foremost in that regard is New York City, followed closely by a demographically transforming Washington D.C.  If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, then we should applaud such pragmatic tribute to realism on the left.  That’s what it takes to have safer streets across all beats.  Personally, I sense a kind of modest political opportunity.

Starting in the late 1950’s the Liberals thought it would be enlightened to stop policing (in Bratton’s words) and replace all that clearly unnecessary brutality and retrograde barbarism with other, more civilized alternatives.  This is an intellectual social reform movement with a long history.   Actually, the long history of progressivism in general is most quickly summarized by an enthusiasm to reject the old, time-tested social institutions originating in undesigned traditions as obsolete anachronisms and replace with them with new, more ‘enlightened’ innovations rationally constructed from first principles.

The Rightist view of human nature is often described as ‘tragic’ or ‘realistically pessimistic’.  Whether one on the right sees man as ‘fallen and totally depraved’ or merely a ‘hairless ape’ makes little difference in regards to the conclusion of what is required to regulate such a creature’s behaviors.  And that prescription, unfortunately but inescapably for most people, involved a certain amount of severity of consequence. There is pain, harshness, punishment, impoverishment, and so on, or at the very least an effectively salient terror of the credible threat of these things.

The Right, like Machiavelli, says a Kumbaya world is a pipe-dream fantasy.  Love and Dialogue are fine for the fortunate occasions when they can work, but in general they are fickle things which can only ever get you so far.  Certain Accountability and Hard Repercussion are needed to do the rest.

But there is something in human nature, a tendency we associate with ‘The Left’, that also bristles at this cynicism and recoils from this ugly truth.  An urge that rebels like an adolescent against nature and reality and fantasizes and hopes for an imaginary world full of humanity born as innocent angels and evolved beyond vice.

The left and right split in this way at many levels, and as it is between the state and the man, so it is between states in international relations, between members of a family with regard to child-rearing, and so on for all sustainable institutions.

The leftist hopeful dream is one of a society which could be full of rewarding, positive carrots and completely devoid of the sticks of negative experience. At the ultimate extreme, this attitude exaggerates to the point of fetishization even the merest of offenses, and this amplification of sensitivity yields an endless process of discovery of new slights and the ceaseless expansion of theaters in the war for their eradication.

The hope seems to be the evil sources of all this unnecessary coercion and cruel negativity can be hunted to extinction like the dodo bird and replaced for all time by uplifting indoctrination and friendly corrective conversation.

Along with trying to excuse criminal behavior as resulting from other societal ‘root causes’ for which we should be sympathetic instead of individual decisions which would arouse out vengeance, the optimistic but naive theoretical criminologists of the 50’s and 60’s thought they could do away with all those severities.  But they especially wanted to eliminate what they saw as the inherent and rampant racism of the system.

A perfectly legitimate and commendable motivation!  But, by assuming that any ‘just’ system would yield statistically identical results for any human subgrouping (the central egalitarian ideological assumption that corrodes the entirely of what remains of our society’s intellectual life), they concluded that their metric for ‘racism’ – or any ‘ism’ really – should be the deviation of any output from this assumption. This is called ‘disparate impact’ or, in other contexts, ‘the gap’.

Problems arise with this line of ‘analysis’ when one fails to correct for deviations in the inputs.  Because, by the assumed proposition, there can be no deviation in the inputs.  And you had better be careful about challenging that assumption in public under your legal name if you care about feeding and sheltering your family.

The delivery of social consequences along those lines against heretics and blasphemers by the government’s ideological allies (or, more importantly, those intimidated by them) is a pretty effective way to ensure you can keep propagating the false assumptions of your state religion but with the cover of it not being ‘state action’.  Lynch mob’s gonna lynch; it doesn’t matter much which comrade is holding the rope if you’re at the end of it.

If, by some miracle, you are allowed to identify the difference in inputs, then that difference is always explained away as not being ‘fundamental’ or ‘inherent’ (and certainly not –gasp– ‘biological’) but as caused by some evil dark oppressive forces elsewhere in the broader ‘system’.  When a search for evidence of the usual suspects of that evil comes up empty-handed, then the burden of proof is shifted and the mysterious evil demons are iteratively displaced into increasingly obscure – but no less effective! – gears of the social machine.

The forms of false hypotheses that survive cannot then be the ones based on the strongest logic and evidence, but are instead the ones most immune to any form of contrary evidence or rational argument.  Eventually you end up in the territory of completely unfalsifiable assertions which utilize vague qualifiers such as ‘unconscious’ and ‘systemic’ and ‘institutional’ and ‘privilege’.

That is to say, you end up in ‘faith’.  Faith in invisible demons, in this instance.  How else to explain the evil gaps in a world where a just and benevolent God defied the science of natural evolution and created all our sub-groupings to be statically identical, always and forever no matter what?  Ha! You cant!

Of course, no one says that the enormous gap between male and female incarceration rates is the inherent and rampant ‘sexism’ of the system.  Even the people who say ‘men and women are the same and equal’ still don’t call this gap a ‘gap’ at all, or reflective of some ‘disparate impact’.  Because that would be embarrassingly moronic.

It’s not just because that particular ‘sexism’ works in the politically correct direction, but because that assertion is so immediately recognized as obvious and immense idiocy by 99.9% of sane people.  I’m sure there are people who make these claims – there are also people who claim to be Napoleon – but thankfully they have no influence, yet.  A reigning ideology is strong in propagating all sorts of crazy illusions, but it’s not that strong until you get to the ‘two plus two equals five’ stage of social organization.

So, it is still permitted to be thought that testosterone has a strong influence on the distribution of strength, height, athleticism, and crime.  And we are even allowed to believe that testosterone has this effect not just between the sexes, but between ethnic groups with regards to strength, height, athleticism, and … well … actually, no ‘and’.  Forget I said it.

Because with regards to matters involving ancestry, we have been at the ‘two plus two equals five’ stage for a long time.  A long, long time.  I’ve been taught that two plus two equals five in this way, by my entire social environment, for my entire life.  Perhaps like you, I’ve spent a million minutes in the many madrassas of modernity memorizing my mantras.

I’ve been taken to my share of two-minutes hates (and I still attend whenever work ‘invites’ me to) and of course I’ve heard many stories about what happened to all the –shudder– evil Winston Smiths out there.   But at some point I looked at my fingers and saw four instead of five, and every time I looked it just kept happening.

And then I realized that while the case for four is pretty convincing, there is no case at all for five and there never was.

Well, none except, “Repeat ‘five’ and never say ‘four’, or else!”

It’s a pretty convincing case, I’ll admit.  I repeat five when they tell me too.  It’s also why we waste all that money on extra material for our six-fingered gloves, but at least it keeps the textile supply chain happy.

Perhaps it’s a price worth paying.  Perhaps hard, ugly truths – the dark enlightenments – aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  There is such a thing as a noble lie, and T.S. Eliot was probably on to something when he wrote that humankind cannot bear too much reality.  I like to think that Keats is usually misunderstood and he was the original hipster – being self-referential meta-ironic two centuries ahead of his time – when he wrote, “… Beauty is truth, truth beauty …”  Because if life teaches you any wisdom it is that his phrase itself is a seductive, pretty lie, and the ugly fact that it’s a lie is a wildly unpopular one.

So, I’m not convinced we can have perfectly rational, Puritanically ‘less wrong’ societies that produce the kind of human being that one prefers to inhabit one’s society.  My guess is that probably all societies more advanced than clans require some kind of intellectual substitute for the inherent tribalism of human nature in the form a collective moral ideology that helps builds tribal-levels of trust, social capital, and good faith and eases social interactions.  I share the hunch that human beings are built to adopt these sorts ideologies as social coordinating mechanisms.

And those ideologies will inevitably have to rely on propagating a few false assertions to encourage people to be irrationally kind and magnanimous towards each other, or perhaps fanatically jihadist towards outsiders if that’s your bag.  For example, people don’t naturally tend to get along easily with complete strangers from far away.  If that kind of getting along is important to your social order (for example, to construct a unified polity out of warring clans, or to enable commerce in a highly mobile society), then you can tell a little white lie and say ‘that perfect stranger is really just like kin’.

The closer the perfect strangers actually are to each other, the easier it is to sell this white lie because it’s less of a lie.  If similar, trustworthy people – who would otherwise naturally be too skeptical of each other to interact – can somehow be tricked into a first interaction, because they see each other as ‘fellow somethings’ then the unifying social coordination objective can actually be accomplished.

It’s a great trick.  It may be indispensable.  In time, perhaps it’s not even a trick anymore.

But, vice versa;  if the people you are trying to bring together in fraternity are actually very different, or are antagonistic and not reliably trustworthy, then you’re running a pretty big risk with regards to your legitimacy and credibility when you keep telling all those groups that everyone is the same, while also insisting that they repeatedly deal with each other on equal terms whereupon they repeatedly observe the contrary.

That’s going to cause some problems with your little scheme.  You might have to rely a lot less on the white lies and a lot more on the or elses.  What happens when the or else stops working?  Well bad news, good news.  The bad news is that or else tends to stop working after a while, or people find some clever way to route around it.

The good news is that there’s plenty more ‘or else’ where that came from!  You can always turn the volume up another notch.  You’re hardly in the middle ranges, but the knob goes all the way to 11, if you’re into that kind of thing.  You’d hardly be alone, historically, if you were.

But let’s say you wanted to stick to white lies.  It was for such reasons that Harvard sociologist Nathan Glazer, in an article [that, alas, I cannot locate online] in a famous issue of the New Republic, suggested that the scientific truth about racial differences in intelligence – as demonstrated exhaustively in Murray and Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve, – was not worth knowing socially, and even if accepted by the elite, not worth acknowledging publicly.  Contra Sailer’s motto, “Knowledge is Good,” Glazer writes:

Some truths may not be worth knowing.  Our society, our polity, our elites, according to Herrnstein and Murray, live with an untruth.  I ask myself whether this untruth is not better for American society than the truth.

The answer is negative.  That kind of equality is an untruth, and its assertion was and is worse for American society than the truth.  Compare it to this one:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

Without the missing McCarthy’s ‘in’ debug, then I agree with MBR’s synopsis of Derybshire:

His work, and the work of people who write for the non-NR places he turned up, argued explicitly against the bounds of Americanism as an imperative of civilization: rights and equality sound very nice, but it’s all fake, and we are being destroyed. The article that got him fired is a straightforward argument against the Declaration. How else can you summarize it but “it is self-evident to me that men aren’t equal at all, now behave accordingly.” This is all he’s ever written.

(AMENDATION: See Also, Mel Bradford’s The Heresy of Equality‘ – 1976 – “And there is no man equal to any other, except perhaps in the special, and politically untranslatable, understanding of the Deity. Not intellectually or physically or economically or even morally. Not equal! Such is, of course, the genuinely self-evident pr0position.)

Could it be that the progressives have been trying to order the tides to halt but without being able to keep their feet dry for so long that, like King Cnut, they’ve finally aknowledged (perhaps only in practice, and sub silentio), the realistic limits of their fantasies and the human constraints to their dreams?  That they prefer the police to do whatever is required to own the streets the progressives must share with their diverse and vibrant compatriots?  Even at the sacrifice of their constant, hysterical racial obsessions; even when the methods employed have those nasty disparate impacts?

In other words, that it has become self-evident to them that groups of men are not, in fact, statistically equal, and that they will now behave accordingly?

It seems so.  And if so, it really is ‘progress’ for once.  Even as an unprincipled exception, even in just a few places for a short time, it’s better than nothing.  It’s a precedent and an example and success invites imitation.  The trick is convincing them to share ‘their’ successes with the rest of the country.  One can always dream.

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25 Responses to A Chink In The Armor

  1. peppermint says:

    beauty is integrity, proportion, and clarity; not just truth

    • Handle says:

      Beauty is also attraction, appeal, allure, etc. There is a ‘truth’ of what trends to be appealing to the human mind, including ideas and dreams, but there is no relationship between that appeal and the validity of those ideas. There are plenty of ugly truths and pretty lies.

  2. Pingback: Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Quote notes (#49)

  3. GC says:

    “rationally constructed from first principles”

    The problem wasn’t so much the method as the data: The “first principles” were complete nonsense.

  4. Orthodox says:

    These are the good white people, so they can do this. The bad white people are not allowed to do this because they do it out of ignorance. Communists killed out of love for humanity, Nazis killed out of hatred of humanity. Progressives racially profile blacks, harass them and force them out of their neighborhoods, but if Southern whites simply police black areas competently, they are villains.

    • Handle says:

      At least the good white people have come around to allowing themselves to follow through on their resignation to reality and actually do this. It’s a start.

  5. VXXC says:

    ” but as caused by some evil dark oppressive forces elsewhere in the broader ‘system’.”

    Make them own the system, it’s Theirs. That cannot be questioned.

    What about the non-elite majority Handle? Suck It?

    BTW if they could have low crime and high vice, say NYC now crimewise, but 70s Time Square they’d be all over it. They can’t.

    Answer is: Thank You. But NO. We get the same rights and privileges.

    The Pendulum had swung out Left of Pluto, now it swings back. No compromise or mercy for our fallen Puritan overlords, who now seek to break the will to destroy the soul* instead of to save it.

    *for when they became Holier Than Jesus, that became the mission. They simply want it to be “safe”.

  6. VXXC says:

    Great Post BTW…

  7. asdf says:

    The problem with public lie/private truth is that all non-personal or long term decisions are done in the public sphere. Disparate impact and mass immigration are both public lies, but nobody who knows the private truths will stand against them because the effects are long term and diffuse. Acknowledging the private truth incurs a cost that people only pay then the public lie incurs an even greater personal and immediate cost upon them.

    Crime in elite metros is personal and immediate enough that elites will enact the private truth, but those same elites won’t turn around and alter any other public policies. I’ve seen this dynamic in my NYC relatives.

    The only place I’ve seen public lie/private truth work is in Japan. It works because the elites consider all Japanese part of their in-group (at least more then here). Thus elites are able to function on the private truth on a much wider variety of issues. Also, their public lies aren’t as insane.

    • Handle says:

      One would think that housing and neighborhood demographic issues would hit close to home (heh) too, which I why I was somewhat surprised by the whole NYC metro fiasco of the Department of Housing and Urban Development / Westchester County suit and settlement. See 1,2,and 3.

      Perhaps the elite hasn’t fully coordinated around their private truths yet. Or maybe they think ‘this time is different’ and it will just take another 40 years to get hit by the 2×4 of reality to abandon this project too.

      • asdf says:

        Well, if you live in Manhattan and have millions of dollars you can solve most housing issues by just spending more. However, youths can walk their ass from bad neighborhoods to good ones and commit crimes. This happened in the 1970s. Crime seems to be the one thing you just can’t spend enough money to avoid.

  8. Elephant dynamite says:

    Personally, the severity of our current sentencing regime for violations outside the classical felonies shocks my conscience, and I’m open to believing it leads to a certain amount of injustice in an abstract sense. But the measure of a society is not how it treats its prisoners, but how it must treat them to get the job done. The punishment should fit the crime, if possible, but the first priority is that the punishment must control the crime. It’s clear that after our experiment with levity we now have to go to much greater lengths to deter criminality than we did in the past, and this is as valid a metric of social degradation as any other.

    There’s truth in this. I’m not a moral realist.

    I also think it’s a self-satisfied analogy.

    Firstly, because a lot of the (typically young and rambunctious) inner-city negroes have not the slightest idea that they are thought of as gang members and potential criminals.

    Having realised that racial profiling goes on, a sensible negro who respects the law, authority and pragmatic bourgeois democratic techniques will take pains to wear a suit, make Anglo friends and do charitable work for local shopkeepers. Even if he still likes his African-American studies and “Things Fall Apart” by The Roots. But the combination of remarkable profiling and an illusion of light-touch Kumbaya policing–until out of the blue the police ask the KKK to hang a noose in some insigificant fellow’s garden, because he likes to play gangsta rap and once stole a yoghurt from the supermarket–makes a racist system indeed. Especially since there are lily-white styles of extreme criminality that are celebrated and sacralised by Anglo-American intellectuals and the media. Does “abstract injustice” capture it (esp. for the believer in TDT, which ought to mellow naive consequentialism)?

    It’s also problematic that this strained criminality by association is an urban melting pot that could potentially lead to the growth of safe, benign and non-violent ways to reduce the need for racial profiling, censors, Stasi etc. I don’t think there’s a meritable reason to zap that.

    Marxists, liberals (who inevitably fraternised with Marxists) and the anachronistic Russian autocracy that wouldn’t budge an inch: a whole shebang that unleashed the rabble and brought about tyranny. The simplest counterfactual remedy, which thwarts Marxists and keeps the rabble out of politics, would be to have the Tsar accede to moderate and timely liberal evolution. (Of a tangible, structural character, not hypothetical gestures.)

    • jamesd127 says:

      the anachronistic Russian autocracy that wouldn’t budge an inch: a whole shebang that unleashed the rabble and brought about tyranny. The simplest counterfactual remedy, which thwarts Marxists and keeps the rabble out of politics, would be to have the Tsar accede to moderate and timely liberal evolution

      But Czar Nicholas was a bleeding heart pinko. He was moving Russian society leftwards far and fast, and the process, predictably, got out of control.

      • Big Bill says:

        As Eric Hoffer explained in The True Believer, and contrary to received wisdom, people do not revolt when a ruthless autocrat is in charge or when they are starving. Their concerns are too immediate, too local. Think of the world’s biggest slum, in Bombay. They have no hope, no dreams of the future other than to survive another day. It is when conditions ease, when hope is restored, that revolts happen. People revolt against liberalizers. It is when their (newly awakened) hopes outstrip their reality that they become enraged and accelerate the process by open revolution.

  9. Toddy Cat says:

    “out of the blue the police ask the KKK to hang a noose in some insigificant fellow’s garden, because he likes to play gangsta rap and once stole a yoghurt from the supermarket”

    Might I enquire exactly what space-time continuum you are currently occupying?

  10. Aaron says:

    The trick is convincing them to share ‘their’ successes with the rest of the country

    If they don’t have to why on earth would they? This is one of the privileges that come with power. Any concern for fairness or intellectual congruency isn’t even a speed bump.

    “Well surely this precedent must certainly spill over to the rest of us, I mean they wouldn’t want to be called hypocrites would they?” No. You don’t really need be concerned about being called hypocrites or even be conscious of it in the face of the most advanced indoctrination system ever developed. And really, how can you even be worried about such things when boys can’t dress up as girls, or the real serious problem of misogyny in the video game industry, or whatever is hot on think progress right now?

    If we had any clout (***spoiler alert***: we don’t) we should throw it enthusiastically behind ending stop and frisk and other forms of soft segregation in progressive power centers.

    • Handle says:

      Contrary to how it sometimes seems, it turns out that elite progressives live outside New York, and they want those other cities back too. Not just DC, but San Francisco, and all the other cognitive concentrator cities where progressives live in large numbers but where large swaths of the central urban areas have been lost to the ghettos, thugs, vagrants, and other ‘dangerous people’.

      New York City has received a de facto special exemption from DOJ and special solicitude from the courts because it’s New York City and therefore important and special. But my point is that the trend of political ideas is inflecting so that New York will now come to be seen as ‘exemplary’ instead of ‘exceptional’. It’s not about the progressives sharing NYC tactics with Republicans, it’s about letting other progressive municipalities utilize those tactics too. Eventually it becomes the new normal everywhere.

      • Aaron says:

        In terms of geography, politics, lifestyle, etc, etc. being an overt progressive and covert whatever the hell you want is really the place to be. Short of something drastic like to moving to eastern Europe.

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