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Lethal Mass Partisanship, and more

Monday, March 18th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — from propensity to act, and from individual act to outbreak ]
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The NYT the other day had a stunning, terrifying and or terrific piece by Thomas B. Edsall titled No Hate Left Behind. That’s almost pure slick-bait. The sub-title gives us the sense that we’re talking now and soon, that the article is both a current assessment and a warning: Lethal partisanship is taking us into dangerous territory.>

This article will likely interest Zenpundit readers.

**

Let me offer a quick personal side-note before addressing the substantive issues Edsall‘s piece raises.

Edsall quotes Steven Pinker as saying:

Certainly there is a tribal flavor to political polarization. Men’s testosterone rises or falls on election night, depending on whether their side wins, just as it does on Super Bowl Sunday.

American politics, in other words, is like American football — like enough, IMO, to richly justify the use of football metaphors to describe political outcomes — and vice versa. I’ll return to this theme in the tail-end of this post.

**

Okay, No Hate Left Behind.

Edsall‘s article is a grim one — grim not because the writer is grim by nature, although that may or may not be the case, I’m no psychiatrist — but because it contains statistical evidence, measurable scientific evidence, of our propensity towards a violent response to the 2020 elections — a propensity which is:

  • stronger in well informed voters than in those less so
  • currently stronger in the Democratic electorate than the Republican
  • and which on election night will be

  • stronger in the supporters of the victorious candidate than those of the other party
  • Oy.

    **

    Edsall‘s piece in turn draws on the paper Lethal Mass Partisanship: Prevalence, Correlates, & Electoral Contingencies by professors Nathan P. Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason.

    Their abstract notes that historical accounts of partisanship “recognize its contentiousness and its inherent, latent threat of violence,” but that “social scientific conceptions of partisan identity developed in quiescent times” and “have largely missed that dangerous dimension” in their researches. Nathan P. Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason aim to “rebalance” that tendency. Their findings can be found in detail and with appropriate nuance in the body of their paper, but it is their Conclusions that I will note here>

    **

    The authors open their conclusions with a deft touch of historical background:

    Two and a half centuries ago, American founders worried about the lethal consequences of partisanship and hoped to avoid the pernicious development of parties. After ultimately founding parties themselves, their worst fears were realized in the extraordinary partisan violence of the American Civil War and the lesser violence before and after, carrying body counts in the hundreds rather than the rebellion’s hundred-thousands.

    They continue by describing how their own work explores the propensity for political violence in our own times::

    We conceptualized and measured three aspects of lethal partisanship: 1) partisan moral disengagement that rationalizes harm against opponents, 2) partisan schadenfreude in response to deaths and injuries of political opponents, and 3) explicit support for partisan violence.

    Them’s fighting measures to put to scientific test.

    **

    Selected quotes:

    The challenge for democracy, as always, continues to be how to procure the political goods that parties provide while staving off partisanship’s most sanguinary pitfalls — the ones identified by Madison but seemingly forgotten in modern behavioral scholarship.

    Madison seems to be the name that keeps popping up as the father of essential American wisdom..

    Here are three paragraphs worth considering, each in turn bringing us closer to en understanding of how the propensity to tolerate violence “comes to the boil” in action, either on the individual scale — incidents of mass shooting — or in an uprising somewhere between civil unrest and war:

    In two nationally representative surveys, we found that large portions of partisans embrace partisan moral disengagement (40-60%) but only small minorities report feeling partisan schadenfreude or endorse partisan violence (5-15%). Even so, their views represent a level of extreme hostility among millions of American partisans today that has not been documented in modern American politics.

    Ultimately, these results find a minority of partisans view violence as acceptable acts against their political opponents. Many times more embrace partisan moral disengagement, which makes the turn to violence easier if they have not made it already. As more Americans embrace strong partisanship, the prevalence of lethal partisanship is likely to grow

    Finally, experimental evidence showed that inducing expectations of electoral victory led strong partisans to endorse violence against their partisan opponents more than expectations of electoral loss.

    **

    Let’s end on a lighter note.

    I said above that American politics is sufficiently like American football to justify metaphorical use of one to describe the other — and just as the Republican and Democratic parties holds primaries and National Conventions to determine each party’s candidate in the Presidential election, so the respective American and National Football Conferences hold games culminating in championships to determine each conference’s contenders in the Super Bowl.

    Perhaps, indeed, the President-elect should face off against the Super Bowl MVP in a grand culminating match to establish the testosteronic Super-Person. Heaven alone knows where such a match would be held, but the opportunity to discover whether football is a more passionate and partisan sport than politics should not be missed..

    2019: Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman vs sitting President Donald Trump?

    One of England’s Freedoms

    Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — an amused defense of sacred measures such as the foot, yard, and acre — against the atheistic and idolatrous metric system ]
    .

    **

    You can trudge uphill, you can run up hill and down dale as the saying goes, you may march from pillar to post, church spire to spire, you may follow ancient foot- or bridle-paths or ley lines — all these, if pursued on foot, are covered by the word rambling, and in England, if you follow well-trodden or half forgotten paths, it’s your right. It is one of England’s freedoms.

    **

    Sam Knight, in the New Yorker a couple of days ago, The Search for England’s Forgotten Footpaths:

    Nineteen years ago, the British government passed one of its periodic laws to manage how people move through the countryside. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act created a new “right to roam” on common land, opening up three million acres of mountains and moor, heath and down, to cyclists, climbers, and dog walkers. It also set an ambitious goal: to record every public path crisscrossing England and Wales… [ .. ]

    Between them, England and Wales have around a hundred and forty thousand miles of footpaths, of which around ten per cent are impassable at any time, with another ten thousand miles that are thought to have dropped off maps or otherwise misplaced. Finding them all again is like reconstructing the roots of a tree.

    Now that’s all numbers, and numbers are, d’oh, quantitative. The thing is, walks in the English countryside are primarily qualitative affairs, with mud, styles to clamber across, flash thunderstorms and after-storm greenery, oaks with mistletoe or a thousand rooks high in their branches, willows, snails, birdsong, conversation with a friend or two.. Plato, Brahms, Ann Patchett, Feynmann, Hitchcock, .. with picnics and sandwiches along the way..

    Freedom!

    Qualitative beats quantitative all to smithereens.

    **

    If you look at the photo that accompanies Sam Knight‘s New Yorker piece [above], it belies the “unremarkable walk in the English countryside” mentioned in its caption — clear on the horizon is Glastonbury Tor, hardly an unremarkable location for English walkers.

    Ever since my friend the late British hedgerow philosopher John Michell [above] — hedgerow and British Museum Reading Room philosopher, that is — wrote his startling best-seller The View Over Atlantis [below] —

    — ever since that book appeared, new-agers and ramblers have rambled along ley lines and in search of standing stones — I was one such rambler, along with Michell himself and our mutual friend, the photographer Gabi Nasemann, though I fear I was the slowest and most complaining in our small party — where was I? — Glastonbury Tor has been a sort of seekers’ central for those whose imaginations project ley lines — equivalent to Chinese dragon-paths — across the actual lay of the land.

    Another friend, Lex Neale, penned this piece, Glastonbury: King Arthur’s Field, giving an overview of Glastonbury and the supposed zodiac spread out around it —

    for my then guru’s in-house magazine, lo these many years ago. By then I was in America. And we were young.

    **

    Why do I so love my memories of John Michell?

    He was a William Blake returned, wrong by the mechanical standards of the age, right in imaginative reach.

    It was in the Spring 1978 issue of CoEvolution Quarterly that I first read the text of John‘s A Defence of Sacred Measures. He’d published it as a pamphlet — the first in a series of “Radical Traditionalist Papers” to which our mutual friend the recently deceased Heathcote Willians also contributed — Heathcote {below] —

    do watch this clip, it’ll only take three minutes of your lifetime, and they’ll be three minutes well-spent! —

    — and Stewart Brand must have snagged it for CoEQ. Anyway, you can get the gist from the full title, in the format the pamphlet gave it, as you may have seen at the head of this post:

    I’m deeply grateful to Zenpundit friend Grurray for pointing me to that cover and the full text of John‘s essay, which my own web searching hadn’t turned up. Grurray took particular pleasure in this excerpt:

    the use of the foot locates the centre of the world within each individual, and encourages him to arrange his kingdom after the best possible model, the cosmic order. The ancient method of acquiring this model was not astronomy but initiation

    For myself, it’s John‘s description of the cubit and sundry other measures — and their rationale — that gets me:

    Cloth is sold by the cubit, the distance from elbow to finger tip, and other such units as the span and handbreadth were formerly used which have now generally become obsolete. Of course no two people have the same bodily dimensions, and the canonical man has never existed save as an idea or archetype. These traditional units are not, however, imprecise or inaccurate. Ancient societies regarded their standards of measure as their most sacred possessions and they have been preserved with extreme accuracy from the earliest times. A craftsman soon learns to what extent the parts of his own body deviate from the conventional standard and adjusts accordingly.

    **

    Oh, you may think this all a pretentious, anachronistic attempt to revive a moribund system. But consider this, from the LA Times in 1999:

    NASA lost its $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter because spacecraft engineers failed to convert from English to metric measurements when exchanging vital data before the craft was launched, space agency officials said Thursday.

    A navigation team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory used the metric system of millimeters and meters in its calculations, while Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, which designed and built the spacecraft, provided crucial acceleration data in the English system of inches, feet and pounds.

    As a result, JPL engineers mistook acceleration readings measured in English units of pound-seconds for a metric measure of force called newton-seconds.

    In a sense, the spacecraft was lost in translation.

    The Times assumes the correct procedure would have been “to convert from English to metric measurements” — but who says? One might equally argue the translation should have gone from metric to English.. the mother tongue, so to speak.

    John Michell would lead us along that path..

    My scope, first draft

    Monday, July 2nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — footprints on earth and moon — introducing callum flack — mapping the mississippi ]
    .

    Here’s a neat illustration of the extent of my interests, at least along one of my continua —

    The upper footprint above is that of Buddha. I have tweaked the image a bit, rotating, flipping it and resizing it to fit my DoubleQuotes format, and you can take thgat as analogous to the way we tweak the Buddha’s teachings to fit our expectations — and the lower footprint, a bootprint actually, is man’s mark on the moon, courtesy of NASA, whose comment is:

    These footprints on the moon will last forever, but the nature of who can be an astronaut is changing

    So, the oppositions:

  • ancient and modern
  • spiritual and technical
  • earth and moon
  • barefoot and booted
  • eternal and eternal
  • What have I missed?

    **

    So: why do I title this post My scope, first draft?

    Scope, to honor Callum Flack, friend of Cath Styles and Sembl, whose blog-post today, THE BRIEF, THE SCOPE AND THE DANCE I read, as I now read anytbing Callum writes.

    Callum and I have strongly overlapping interests, and The Brief, the Scope and the Dance is, amongst other things, a paean to flexibility in the context of planning a business website — flexibility and mutuality in planning. And in pursuit of that flexibility in both brief and scope, Callum uses one of my own favorite illustrations

    :

    — along with these comments:

    Objectives defined in the brief are quantifiable. But constraints, which are defined in the scope, are not. Constraints change, and opportunities are created when that happens.

    and:

    We logically understand that the least surprising thing about scope is that what is documented as The Scope is not what will actually happen. Like a map, scope is a proxy for reality. The scope is like a river, and as the map of the Mississippi above shows, rivers change.. Anytime a project doesn’t expect the scope to change, it is unrealistic.

    And first draft, to honor that flexibikity in the riverine nature of things.

    **

    My idea and use of scope naturally differs from Callum’s, if for no other reason then because he’s thinking of the scope of a projected commercially effective web-page, while I’m taking the same word (Witty Wittgenstein, I’m saving this space for your chuckle here) to refer to the height, depth, breadth and other parameters of my life as it is currently taking its shape..

    No matter, Callum’s post prodded me, and I wanted to give Zenpundit readers a brief into to Callum’s work anyway — and his blog-post today as both an excellent introduction to and example of that work.

    And when Callum writes,”Objectives defined in the brief are quantifiable. But constraints, which are defined in the scope, are not” he’s showing his own scope (in my sense of the term) to reach across that (to me) all-important divide between quantity and quality, a divide that has at its heart a koan — the imponderable way in which a world can contain both qualit and quant, leaving us to ponder (!!) how to “value” one (quality) in terms of the other, and how to maximize that more elusive of the pair in a world seemingly dedicated to the more obvious and blatant (quantity) of the two.

    **

    Sources

  • Wikipedia, Buddha footprint
  • Washington Post, The unsung astronauts
  • **

    That Mississippi map, also, is a footprint.

    Jessica Dawson on Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

    Friday, April 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — An important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree ]
    .

    Let me repeat: Jessica Dawson‘s piece for Strategy Bridge is an important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree — a must-read.

    **

    Prof Dawson writes:

    There is a blind spot in U.S. joint doctrine that continually hinders operational planning and strategy development. This blind spot is a failure to account for critical relationships with a person’s conception of god and their community, and how these relationships impact the operational environment.

    Let’s just say I was a contributing edtor at Lapido Media until its demise, writing to clue journos in to the religious significance of current events:

  • Lapido, Venerating Putin: Is Russia’s President the second Prince Vlad?
  • Lapido, ANALYSIS When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité
  • Lapido is essentially countering the same blind spot at the level of journos, and hence the public conversation.

    **

    I haven’t focused on the relationship with community, but I have written frequently on what von Clausewitz would call “morale” in contrast with men and materiel. Prof Dawson addresses this issue:

    Understanding religion and society’s role in enabling a society’s use of military force is inherently more difficult than counting the number of weapons systems an enemy has at its disposal. That said, ignoring the people aspect of Clausewitz’s trinity results in an incomplete analysis.

    Indeed, I’ve quoted von Clausewitz on the topic:

    Essentially, war is fighting, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities designated as war. Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. Naturally moral strength must not be excluded, for psychological forces exert a decisive in?uence on the elements involved in war.

    and:

    One might say that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapons, the finely honed blade.

    **

    And Prof Dawson is interested in “critical nodes” and the mapping of relationships, vide her title:

    Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

    :

    This too is an area I am interested in, as evidenced by my borrowing one of my friend JM Berger‘s detailed maps in my post Quant and qualit in regards to “al wala’ wal bara’”:

    That’s from JM’s ICCT paper, Countering Islamic State Messaging Through “Linkage-Based” Analysis

    Indeed, my HipBone Games are played on graphs as boards, with conceptual moves at their nodes and connections along their edges, see my series On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve &c.

    **

    My specific focus, games aside, has been on notions of apocalypse as expectation, excitation, and exultation — in my view, the ultimate in what Tillich would call “ultimate concerns”.

    As an Associate and sometime Principal Researcher with the late Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, I have enjoyed years of friendship and collaboration with Richard Landes, Stephen O’Leary and other scholars, and contribuuted to the 2015 Boston conference, #GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

    **

    I could quote considerably more from Jessica Dawson’s piece, but having indicated some of the ways in which her and my own interests run in parallel, and why that causes me to offer her high praise, I’d like quickly to turn to two areas in which my own specialty in religious studies — new religious movements and apocalyptic — left me wishing for more, or to put it more exactly, for more recent references in her treatment of religious aspects.

    Dr Dawson writes of ISIS’ men’s attitudes to their wives disposing of their husbands’ slaves:

    This has little to do with the actual teachings of Islam

    She also characterizes their actions thus:

    They are granted authority and thus power over the people around them through the moral force of pseudo religious declarations.

    Some ISIS fighters are no doubt more influenced by mundane considerations and some by religious — but there’s little doubt that those religious considerations are anything but “pseudo religious”. Will McCants‘ book, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic Stat traces the history of ISIS’ theology from hadith locating the apocalypse in Dabiq through al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi to the loss of much of the group’s territory and the expansion of its reach via recruitment of individuals and cells in the west.. leaving little doubt of the “alternate legitimacy” of the group’s theological claims. Graeme Wood‘s Atlantic article, to which Prof Dawson refers us, is excellent but way shorter and necessarily less detailed.

    On the Christian front, similarly, eschatology has a role to play, as Prof Dawson recognizes — but instead of referencing a 2005 piece, American Rapture, about the Left Behind series, she might have brought us up to datw with one or both of two excellent religious studies articles:

  • Julie Ingersoll, Why Trump’s evangelical supporters welcome his move on Jerusalem
  • Diana Butler Bass, For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics
  • As their parallel titles suggest, Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — which received a fair amount of press at the time that may have mentioned such a move would please his evangelical base, but didn’t explore the theology behind such support in any detail — has profound eschatpological implications.

    Julie Ingersoll’s book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, is excellent in its focus on the “other side” of the ceontemporary evangelical right, ie Dominionism, whose founding father, RJ Rushdoony was a post-millennialist in contrast to La Haye and the Left Behind books — his followers expect the return of Christ after a thousand year reign of Christian principles, not next week, next month or in the next decade or so.

    Sadly, the Dominionist and Dispensationalist (post-millennialist and pre-millennialist) strands in the contemporary Christian right have mixed and mingled, so that it is hard to keep track of who believed in which — or what!

    **

    All the more reason to be grateful for Prof Dawson’s emphasis on the importance of religious knowledge in strategy and policy circles.

    Let doctrine (theological) meet and inform doctrine (military)!

    How the outside seems, at least to me, & how different the inside!

    Sunday, March 18th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — unenthused by current prospects of nuclear war or power plant interferencer, putinesque america, american proto-fascism, etc — yet filled with joy and wonder ]
    .

    I would like to do a zoom down in.

    My daily reading doesn’t follow neat trails such that each article builds not just in general thrust but also in detail on the last — so please overlook the strange leaps I’ve taken here — all in a morning’s web-scan.

    Enjoy the three individual essays I’ll quote, in other words, but don’t sweat the details.

    **

    I’ll start with Africa, as explored in George Clooney and John Prendergast‘s major Foreign Affairs piece, The Key to Making Peace in Africa, available without a paywall — because they offer an unparalleled glimpse of the conflicting values that will define our common humanity, fail or fair:


    JAMES AKENA / REUTERS Government troops and tanks are seen in the eastern Congolese town of Rumangabo, July 26, 2012.

    Here are the matters to weigh in our scales, captured in two of Clooney and Prendergast’s four punchily effecrive lists:

    Oil, gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper, and a variety of other mineral deposits and trafficked wildlife provide immense opportunity for those in power to line their own pockets

    versus:

    corrupt figures .. using their forces to bomb, burn, imprison, silence, torture, starve, impoverish, kill, and rape to maintain or gain power

    That’s the basic comparison, the weighing in the scales that chraacterizes the Clooney / Prendergast piece.

    **

    Next for a sideways extrapolation of the dark vision Gen. McCaffrey offers:

    **

    With a further zigzag away from McCaffrey and Putin, I’ll consider our local, USian situation in light of This is the Spanish Civil War by Jonathan Kirshner. We’re zooming in from African gazillions to mere Americo-Russian billions, financially speaking, and from out there to in here — though not yet within.


    Franco arriving in San Sebastian in 1939

    Comparing our Trumpian times with the beginnings of the Spanish Civil War, and with the decades-long reign of Generalissimo Franco that followed — an arguable comparison, surely — Kirshner writes:

    The stakes here are not about partisan politics — Republicans now love him, but other than his plutocratic bona-fides, Trump is barely a Republican — rather, they are about what we are, and what we may become. The Trump Presidency is not normal, and it is dangerous to our democracy.

    Again, the scales.

    I hope it will be apparent that I am neither comparing America with Spain nor Russia, but simply offering one respected military man’s testament as a preamble to a differently focussed writer’s rant about Franco, in hope of providing a diffuse, impressionistic sense of alarm with an active sense of what the fractious breakdown of democratic and humane values can bring forth.

    Steve Bannon‘s reading list, occut and radical — Julius Evola as much as Ivan Ilyin — still lurks in the background, and deserves a=n essay of its own.

    **

    Zooming yet further in, leaping from the nation to the individual — and who knows how the many manages to integrates the one — or the one to evade the blandishments of the many, especially its witch hunts, scapegoating and madness of crowds — I find myself in a beautiful and utterly apolitical world:

    Your Inconsolable Longing Has a Name. I have left off the final word of Jack Preston King‘s essay, and will present only his first paragraphs and images:

    That Feeling You Can’t Name

    My mother called it “the green lace.” Every spring there was a window of just a few days where the buds on all the trees had barely begun to flower, tiny leaf-tips pushed free of supple branches, and all of Nature was briefly sheathed in the most delicate green embroidery. As warming winds signaled “the green lace” was near, the years fell like calendar pages from my mother’s face. She stood taller. She would smile and laugh easily, but at the same time seemed ever on the verge of tears. The first day “the green lace” burst forth and draped the countryside, Mom would disappear in the family car to drive backroads alone, basking in the newborn spring, weeping freely as she drove. I never witnessed that last part in person, but I find it easy to imagine. My mother was not an emotionally expressive woman. But this emotion overcame her. She couldn’t control it, and more to the point, she didn’t want to control it. It was an eruption of the sacred, to be revered in seclusion, but never denied. She loved it privately, without having to define or justify the experience to anyone.

    For me, this feeling descends in Fall. A few trees turn early, adding splashes of red and gold to my morning commute. Each evening when I arrive home from work, more grass has vanished beneath a thickening carpet of leaves. The sunlight slants, and afternoons golden. Then there’s always one day, usually in mid-October, when Autumn happens. The red maple in my front yard bursts overnight into flame. I step onto my porch and the air crisps just so. My heart wells as if someone I love with abandon has returned from a long absence. I ache with longing to merge with the trees and the air, the sunlight and sky.

    Joy. Sehnsucht, King calls it.

    **

    If you thought my leap from Africa to the US — or from Trump to Franco, Bannon to Evola, Evola to Ilyin — was a stretch too far, I invite you to cnsider how much greater a stretch the leap from outer to inner is. Yet that, in one sense, is the creative leap par excellence — the leap from exteriority to interiority..

    I trust it is also a leap from darkness into dappled light.


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