Don’t March Just For Science

This past Saturday, April 22nd, thousands gathered in their cities to march for Science. They (myself included, full disclosure) see the buffoons in the current government who, among other things, believe climate change a Chinese plot, aim to bleed dry the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute for Health, and suspect vaccinations.

All good reasons to march! But here’s the rub. Marching for Science, and solely for Science, is a bad political strategy. To champion a cause without an underlying telos, goal, or explicit ideology threatens to neuter the power of the cause to affect political change.

Take a look at the Facebook page for the Austin March on Science. The closest it gets to being political are in the three following lines: “We’ll stand in solidarity with friends and allies around the world to support and defend all things SCIENCE!” Well, Bill Nye can teach you how to calculate atmospheric pressure, and it’s all good and clean scientific fun, but those same calculations will also aid your estimation of the blast radius of the newest and baddest weapons in the US arsenal.

 

This march for science made us feel good. We shouted, called Trump silly names, checked dating apps for fellow protestors, and foreplayed with stories about how We Marched for Science. Yet at the end of the day, one fact remains: Donald Trump will be President of the United States for the next for years. His appointees to the EPA, NIH, and other departments will have free reign in that time to push their anti-vaccinationism, denial of climate change, abortion bans, and what have you.

I marched because I want our government to recognize the civilizational threat from man-made global warming and subsequent climate change. It should in no way be construed that science itself is the answer or the proper means of organizing human society; we have too many examples of the horrors – eugenics, Zyklon-b, the atom bomb – unleashed by driving a mono-sight science to its logical extreme. You must remember the human being whose fate rests on the result of your statistics.

For this reason it is incomplete to stop at “I Fucking Love Science!” and like slogans. We must acknowledge who and what inspired us to march. Who and what we oppose. It is Trump. He and all he represents must be the forefront of our focus. If we cannot remove him, pressure must be kept on his mind at all times. He should not so even as set his phone down without worrying that there are folks against him and his team, who will not shut up until they are removed and replaced with competent and professional scientists. Above all, these scientists cannot limit their scope to the equations and the data gathering. They must keep a humanistic vision that reminds them that statistics are composed of people. Actual, real-life human beings, who will feel the consequences of ill and well scientific policy.

Science is a powerful tool, a candle in the dark, but it must not and should not be regarded as a means into itself nor the primary tool for organizing society.

seriously, the guy has a point

Note it’s not She makes a difference, it’s SHE [the NASDAQ ticker for State Street Global’s Gender Diversity Index fund] makes a difference

gregfallis.com

I got metaphorically spanked a couple of days ago. Folks have been talking about the Fearless Girl statue ever since it was dropped in Manhattan’s Financial District some five weeks ago.I have occasionally added a comment or two to some of the online discussions about the statue.

Recently most of the Fearless Girldiscussions have focused on the complaints by Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who createdCharging Bull. He wantsFearless Girl removed, and that boy is taking a metric ton of shit for saying that. Here’s what I said that got me spanked:

The guy has a point.

This happened in maybe three different discussions over the last week or so. In each case I explained briefly why I believe Di Modica has a point (and I’ll explain it again in a bit), and for the most part folks either accepted my comments or ignored them. Which…

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Emergency Law Threatens Expression in Egypt

ISIS attacked two Egyptian Coptic churches this past Sunday. Explosions killed 45 parishioners celebrating Palm Sunday in Alexandria and the northern city of Tanta in the Nile Delta. ISIS took responsibility for the blasts.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and his cabinet responded forcefully to the attacks: Egypt will “do what is necessary to confront the threats of terrorism and its financing”. And to that effect, the government announced the reinstatement of a state of emergency across the Egypt. This move reflects back on a previous period of modern Egyptian history. After the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1987, his successor Hosni Mubarak, instated a state of emergency across the country.

The particular law that authorizes the state emergency is extensive. Constitutional rights go away – freedom of assembly is curtailed and censorship legalized – and police powers expand – dissidents subject to indefinite detention and trial in military courts – as long as the state of emergency remains in effect.

Egypt’s rulers have been fond of the emergency law over the past 30 years. Hosni Mubarak, the long-term head of Egypt before the Morsi interlude, activated the law after he assumed power in the wake of Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1987. From that point, Mubarak revived the state of emergency every three years until the Arab Spring uprising resulted in the his fall.

This is the background to the emergency law, now renewed in the wake of the reprehensible attacks on the Coptic churches. With the expansive powers guaranteed by the emergency law, civic life in Egypt stands little to gain.

In previous years, dissent has not been tolerated. Journalists face threats from official power and are detained for perceived criticisms of President Sisi, the government, or the military. Sisi’s own history rise to power does not promise a better path forward. His security forces, after all, killed near 1,000 pro-Morsi protesters in Rebaa Square after Morsi’s ouster.

The reinstatement of the emergency law does not bode well for Egypt. It is clear that the Egyptian state has disregarded constitutional rights without pretext or excuse. Now, the emergency law mobilizes the state to fight terrorism, the 21st century classic cover to erode civil society and rights with legal legitimacy.

You Can Hack Propaganda Like a CIA Analyst: Richards Heuer Describes the Approach

Myth Composer

By Toamatapu

6 min read

Reading Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards Heuer (1999)

In this final piece covering Heuer’s seminal work on intelligence analysis, Myth Composer is going to share with readers how they can read the news like a CIA analyst reads their intelligence reports.

The News is Going to be Wrong

With the Internet people can access a great number of sources just like analysts. With this great access comes the probability of interacting with conspiracy theories that not only exist on forums and conversations, but can be sponsored by the media. Conspiracy theories become probable explanations since they are the product of causal explanations and filled with bias. “Intelligence analysts are more exposed than most people to hard evidence of real plots, coups, and conspiracies in the international arena. Despite this—or perhaps because of it—most intelligence analysts are not especially prone to what are generally regarded as…

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The Chipotle Effect

AntiDem

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” – His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Prologue: Moscow, June 1990

Natasha had great legs.

And she probably still does, wherever she may be. But on that summer day in the last full year of the existence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Natasha, dressed in a businesslike white blouse and black skirt cut just above the knee and wearing a petite pair of black stiletto pumps, captivated the attention of the 16-year-old version of me. I was in the Soviet Union as an exchange student, with an itinerary involving several weeks of traveling around the western end of the USSR, an experience I have ever since regarded as the beginning of my life as an adult. Natasha was my governmentally-supplied guide and minder. She was 24, slender, pretty, with wavy chestnut-brown hair…

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The Gaga Experience

Several weeks ago, Lady Gaga performed at the Superbowl halftime. Left-wing commentators, still processing the Trump presidency,  thought – or hoped rather – that she would make some political statement during the show.

She did not because she didn’t need to.

The person who Lady Gaga is, the entire experience of her, carries political depths that need no explicit words to understand. Discover why in my latest piece for Human Influence.

Dispatches from Pax Trumpiana: III

I never thought I would see the day when the New York Times prints an article using Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle as a critical tool. This book, for those not in the know, is a thin manifesto of 220 theses that expose and condemn the pernicious effect of mass media on the freedom of individuals. To quote from the article at length:

In the 220 theses that follow, Debord, a founding member of the avant-garde Situationist group, develops his indictment of “spectacular society.” With this phrase, Debord did not simply mean to damn the mass media. The spectacle was much more than what occupied the screen. Instead, Debord argued, everything that men and women once experienced directly — our ties to the natural and social worlds — was being mulched, masticated and made over into images. And the pixels had become the stuff of our very lives, in which we had relegated ourselves to the role of walk-ons.

The success of Donald Trump, in his presidential ambition and previous triumphs alike, depended on his mastery of the spectacle. He commanded spectacular forces with a natural intuition:

With the presidency of Donald Trump, the Debordian analysis of modern life resonates more deeply and darkly than perhaps even its creator thought possible, anticipating, in so many ways, the frantic and fantastical, nihilistic and numbing nature of our newly installed government. In Debord’s notions of “unanswerable lies,” when “truth has almost everywhere ceased to exist or, at best, has been reduced to pure hypothesis,” and the “outlawing of history,” when knowledge of the past has been submerged under “the ceaseless circulation of information, always returning to the same list of trivialities,” we find keys to the rise of trutherism as well as Trumpism.

I also want to pair this NYT article with a comment from the r/sorceryofthespectacle subreddit. The group takes its name from Debord’s book and frequently discusses the Frenchman’s work as well as the work of other thinkers at the edges of media theory:

Are we really drowning in spectacle though? To be sure, we are bombarded with images, tidbits, tiny disposable units of culture, more rapidly now than ever before. But I mean are things really so different from the gossip that pre-world war newspapers used to print? Or before that when fictional literature was taboo because it was all lies? What we’re seeing is and always has been a function of the linguistic human condition, the substitution of words for experiences, except now words are being replaced by images and videos, emojis, hashtags, and icons to click on. But it is still the same in the end.

I don’t see this as a disaster but an identity crisis of people disaffected by the machinations of the old mind body problem. The fruition of that which only modern and post-modern critics used to lament. The things Derrida and Eagleton, Foucault, and Sartre used to write about in esoteric and unreal corners of academia are now actually affecting regular people and they have no idea what is happening. But they feel it and they are confused and so scared and subsequently angry. Thus Trump.

There you go, folks. Normal revved the engine and roared right off the cliff. To want to return to ‘normal’ means to stay in the car, skirting dangerous close to the edge…This is bat country. We’re in the gully; the sun has set, and strange things roam the land. When the going gets weird, the Weird turn pro…