Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Anti-Trump Ad: Trump's Dangerous Rhetoric

John Kasich's SuperPAC has launched its first anti-Trump missile: Trump's Dangerous Rhetoric:

Trump's Dangerous Rhetoric

The spot opens with a quick cut of the debate stage zooming in to Trump. It then goes to retired Col Tom Moe (a Vietnam POW) who gives this speech:
I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts paraphrased from the words of German Pastor Martin Niemallor: You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims should register with their government, because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s okay to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one. But think about this: If he keeps going, and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you. And you better hope there’s someone left to help you.
 The background is ominous and low. The images are either headlines (Trump will bring back water-boarding) or Trump speaking. At the end it goes back to Tom Moe finishing up and then to a slow-mo close up of Trump's mouth as the music swells. Fade to black. Fins.

The Meaning of It

Trump's a Nazi, you know? Or, erm, at least a fascist. Natzi-ish, you know.

Here's the problem with this approach: They do know. Firstly, Trump hasn't said he'll round up all the Hispanic immigrants--just the 11MM illegal ones. While the degree of absurdity might be lost on you, it isn't lost on Trump voters. For people who have been told by conservative pundits they trust that immigration is, literally, a existential threat to America--perhaps the biggest one we face--the absolute value of Trump's position is the only one that makes any sense.

Similarly, Trump has said that even if waterboarding doesn't work he'd bring it back because "they deserve it."  This, too, isn't lost on his supporters: it is, in fact, Trump's value proposition. This might as well be a pro-Trump ad.

Consider a recent YouGov poll of candidates choosing between Rubio and Trump graded on their sentiment towards immigrants:

The more you dislike immigrants (and that's not to mention illegal immigrants) the more you like Trump. The less you like Rubio. But is that a winning move in the larger primary? With the GOP voting body at large? Yep: Head-to-head Trump beats Rubio 57 to 43. A blow out.

In fact, studies suggest that virtually nothing you could tell Trump supporters will dislodge him. Sure: Carson and now Cruz do better with strongly religious evangelicals--but the idea that Trump would be critically damage by this attack is naive. Trump's voters know that Trump will (in theory) go after black protesters, illegal aliens, and Muslims--and not them.

That's why they're voting for him.

Putting Trump on the screen also doesn't work: his body language projects power. His overblown speech (large mouth movements) suggests an "Alpha Male." He's been on TV since some of these candidates were in high school. Using Trump against himself is just going to make him stronger.

This ad helps Clinton and no one else.

Grade: F

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Comments Section Campaign

The above tweet, if you can't see the picture, was tweeted by Donald Trump yesterday and has 6k re-tweets and over 8k likes. The content is this:
The people linked include a black conservative radio host and a GOP political consultant and operative. There are some problems with the above graphic (excellent detective work by LGF!):
  1. The Source organization, the Crime Statistics Bureau: San Francisco, does not agree with the statistics. This is because they do not exist.
  2. The FBI, which apparently does exist, disagrees with the numbers (Blacks killed by Whites is 15%, not 2%, for example).
  3. The graphic came from, it seems, a white supremacist 

This Guy. Read The Text!
This comes on the heels of a Black Lives Matter protester not just getting thrown out of a Donald Trump rally but being beaten in the process. Even more telling: Donald Trump said that maybe the guy deserved to be roughed up. Now, The Omnivore isn't a fan of disrupting rallies--plus, what did the guy think would happen to him at a Trump rally in Birmingham--but top-down approval means that next time it may go even further.

On the other hand, Donald's stratospheric numbers have not been caused by calling for calm.

Pundits thought that the Paris attacks might / should hurt Trump--after all, they supposed, people might feel they needed someone with foreign policy experience in the White House. Not so. Trump's plan to bomb the shit out of ISIS seems as good a strategy as any. Trump's value increases.

The Comments Section Campaign

The Omnivore's instincts about this campaign have been right from, more or less, the start. This is because The Omnivore has spent a lot of time reading comment sections on conservative and liberal blogs. It is "conventional wisdom" that (a) you should never read the comments sections because (b) the comments sections are full of vile, anonymous trolls.

Well, no--or at least not now. Trump's political ideology comes directly out of the conservative-comments section's rhetoric. We'll note that this doesn't mean that comment-section posters comprise any significant number of voters (we just can't know) or that Trump is getting his strategy from reading blog's comment sections (highly doubtful).

Instead, it appears that Trump's take-no-prisoners, mad-at-everyone, I-Will-PWN-You (enemies, rivals) is exactly what the GOP wants this cycle.

To The Omnivore--it looks more and more likely they're going to get it. What are the implications of all this? Well, here's how it looks to The Omnivore:

Social Media as We Know It Did Not Exist in 2008

This is the graph of users for social media platforms:
If you are a conservative, The Omnivore is sure you heard every nasty thing under the sun said about George W. Bush by liberals. Probably true--but the reach of social networks in 2008--the ability to communicate those things and polarize the conversation was an order less than it is today.

Comment Section philosophy in 2008 was an anomaly. Today it's about 50% of the GOP.

Democrats and Republicans Aren't Symmetric

Yes, they play some of the same games--and yes, they both have their substantial moral failings--but Donald Trump is not the same degree of distance from normality as Bernie Sanders. Neither is Carson. Arguably Cruz is proportional to Sanders. Furthermore, while liberal blogs certainly have their share of assholes, the GOP's mono-culture stands in contrast to the Democrat's diversity.

If you think the argument that Democrats are handing out "free stuff" explains that, you need to account for the Jewish and Asian demographics which skew heavily Democratic yet are not getting free stuff. Also: younger women.

Clearly something else is driving away natural-fit populations.

In any event, GOP front-runner Donald Trump is the antithesis of minority outreach: the love of white supremacists and neo-reactionaries should be ample proof of that.

Here's a test: what's the Democratic version of the following terms?

  • RINO. What term do followers of the Democratic front-runner use as a litmus test for their parties' values?
  • Cuckservative. What's the Democratic equivalent of this?

The Ambivalence of the GOP Intellectual Class

Anyone who is appalled by Trump's rise--and Trump's game--who backed Sarah Palin all the way should go and take a long look in the mirror. The Trump philosophy drove turnout for 8 years. It created the emotional animus for the Tea Party. It has been refined by Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, and others. It has been promoted by Fox News.

Reasonable right-wing blogs and magazines: PowerLine, HotAir, Commentary, and even, yes, The New Republic have all to degrees been complicit in:
  • Telling trusting readers that Obama is a tyrant--in some cases this is meant literally, in other cases, it is just rhetorical--but it is sometimes taken literally. Yes--this was said of Bush--but the reach of the Internet did not approximate what it is today. This doesn't count the various conservative news outlets suggesting Obama is planning a literal coup.
  • Selling literally apocalyptic ad-space around their stories. The connection between this and the conservative mood in America can't be over-stated.
  • Adopting a no-win position. If there's a good jobs report, the numbers must be cooked (or we'll play a game of looking at the "real numbers" which say how bad it really is). If gas prices are high? A crisis. If they fall? A crisis. Obama's policies in the Middle East are a failure--but no one has a good idea of what else to do. Obamacare must be repealed--but there is no substantial alternative (The Omnivore has viewed multiple alternatives and concludes that all of them would suffer at least as badly as Obamacare).
  • Pretending that the Congress has failed to enact their agenda due to lack of will. This story is perhaps the most damaging: it convinces conservatives that government itself--that Democracy in general--is a failure. It has led to an utter lack of faith in the founding principles of America.

Trump Is The Avatar of GOP Manipulation

The above conditions made a hell of a lot of money for GOP personalities. It sold a lot of ad space. It arguably won the mid-term elections. The problem was that the political playing field was supposed to be distinct from the national or state-level candidates. If the furthest right guy running was Ted Cruz then you could at least be sure he wouldn't say anything too toxic.

He wouldn't need to--there's no legitimate room on his right.

Of course Trump--and Carson--don't need a lane on Cruz's right. Like the flying cars in Back to the Future, where they're going they don't need roads. Once you have a guy like Trump--with no mechanism to control him--leading in the polls, what do you do? You can't just "shut down the reactor" and turn it all off: it has gone way, way past that.

Once the meme is out of the media-space / comments-section containment field and running amok in real life? You need to face up to having played with matches.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Blame The Media!

Send In The Clowns!
A bizarre blog post on the Reuter's blog suggests that The Media is to blame for the presidential primary circus:
A lot of people nourish the hope that the frivolous and distracting spectacle will soon end. The press will darken the debate stage and focus attention on the voters who will actually be making the decision. As one New Hampshire voter told the New York Times, “When the tent comes down and the circus leaves town, maybe we’ll elect a president.”
The piece tries to make the points that:
  1. The move from New Hampshire and Iowa as the early deciders to the endless stream of debates has made TV presence more important than stump-presence (or the hard work of campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire).
  2. Party leaders would usually inform primary voters. Today it's TV.
  3. The use of polling to determine who gets onto the all-important debate stages is a terrible misuse of polling data (especially early poling data).
This may be one of the stupidest blogs The Omnivore has ever read.

The Endless Stream of Debates

 In the 2008 cycle Obama, Hillary, and Edwards had 25 televised debates. In 2012, the "disastrous" never-ending Republican total? Twenty. So was it the number of the debates, the fact that they were on TV, or, erm . . . the candidates that made 2012 and, today, 2016 such a debacle? Well, the general consensus is that Hillary and Obama had a great stream of debates that left the ultimate winner stronger.

It isn't how many debates--it's what you say in them.

It is true that TV presence has become more important in national elections than stump-presence--but that has been true since Kennedy vs. Nixon. It isn't the result of some master-plan by the media to create drama: it's a natural result of the medium.

The Party Leaders and IA/NH

The conventional wisdom (and the math) is that party leaders determine the nominee through endorsements, control of the conventions, and super-delegates--as well as influence. Today Hillary--the presumptive nominee--has an unprecedented number of endorsements and is favored to win the primary. The Party has decided. On the Republican side, most of The Party power-brokers have not weighed in yet. Those that have, thus far, have chosen either Jeb or Rubio (both of whom trail Trump and Carson).

In Iowa and New Hampshire, the poll leaders track the national polls (Trump and Carson).

The Debate Cut-Offs

It's true that right now there are only 5 real contenders for the Republican nomination: Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, and Bush. It would make a certain amount of sense to limit the next GOP debate to just them However, you can't have both The Media knocking nine candidates off the stage and, at the same time, complain that The Media is controlling the narrative. On the Democrat side of the house, the debates started with six and then moved to three candidates. It is likely that Sanders will hang on to provide a left-wing foil for Hillary--but in the end, the Democratic debates are just practice for Hillary vs. The GOP Candidate.

Was it The Media that gave a historically-large field to the GOP while delivering a regular one to the Democrats? Maybe if you count vying for a Fox News position--but otherwise, no. The GOP field this year was stuffed with Governors--the "high-quality" candidate material. The two young Senators that are doing "the best" are doing far, far less well than the outsiders--that isn't because of The Media. It's because of the electorate.

What's Really Going On?

The difference between the GOP and the Democratic process isn't specifically their bases: the Democrat's left-leaning base (young, white, social-justicey) really wants Bernie Sanders--the socialist from Vermont. The more moderate center, however, isn't having it.

On the GOP side, the primary voters largely can't decide who they want--but about 50% of them want either Trump (an alpha-dog charismatic TV star) or Carson (a highly religious man with a great life-story and a history of good works). Asking if these people pass a presidential litmus test doesn't seem to be on the menu (despite much being made of Obama's thin resume).

There's another problem: GOP Moderates. Way, way too much of the GOP is friendly to ideas like shutting down Mosques, quixotically trying to deport 11MM illegal immigrants, and so on. The "Moderate" spectrum of the GOP vote is still super-hostile to Islam and overly friendly to Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. It isn't just a <20% faction.

While significant Democratic blocs may embrace "extreme ideas" like abortion-on-demand or social justice ideas around race or income distribution, this is not manifesting in their political behavior: in other words, for most democrats, it's not a deal-breaker. Hillary may pay lip-service to these ideas--but everyone knows she is in bed with Wall Street--and nobody cares.

Finally, there is a problem of the GOP candidates. In any sane universe guys like Rick Perry, Scott Walker, or maybe Chris Christie--not to mention Jeb Bush--would be heavy hitters. They are successful governors with strong conservative resumes and powerful fund-raising networks (and also, real charisma--anyone who has seen Perry or Christie in their natural element can attest that they know how to be likable). These candidates have all basically tanked (including Bush, although he's hanging on).

The blame for this cannot all be laid at the feet of a fickle electorate. Yes, Christie had his Obama-hug--which is hardly a policy issue. And yes, Bush has his last name--but running against Clinton that should not be fatal. However, these issues are not the primary ones. Perry self-destructed spectacularly in 2012. Walker blew through his money, rested on his (early) laurels, and unleashed a gaffe-streak that would have finished off Ronald Reagan.

Jindal alternated between sensible and crazy--but faced with Trump his campaign looked more like a series of stunts than a strategy--and he's unpopular at home, which doesn't help. Chris Christie proved in the undercard last time that he's still got the "stuff"--but in an overcrowded field that just isn't enough. Oh, and there's the Obama-hug.

The problem isn't so much "the damage" (Hillary is damaged too)--but that everyone tried to get in all at once. For a slew of candidates in their 40's (Rubio, Cruz, Jindal) it seems that picking 2016 to make their time was probably a bit overly optimistic. These factors combine with a base that has been burnt on "electability" with McCain and Romney to weaken their selling points--and then diluting it further with the flood of contenders.


Blaming The Media for the Clown-Car effect doesn't explain why it isn't happening on the Democratic side and it doesn't explain why the candidates on the Republican side have to shift so far right that they pretty much can't get back to the middle. That's a function of The Electorate--not The Media. The Donald Trump effect is an outlier: he's a one-of-a-kind candidate, to be sure--but he's using The Media at least as much as it's using him (see his negotiations over debates).

The media-theory also doesn't account for the effect the crush of candidates has. Campaigns gasping for "oxygen," like drowning people gasping for oxygen will do crazy things--and they don't care who they pull down as they go under (in this case, it might be the GOP).

Now, there are ways The Media is impacting things. For one thing, Trump is a ratings machine and The Media is fed by ratings. That isn't a plot: that's cause and effect. Obama used his "celebrity" in a similar fashion in 2008. Secondly, the GOP Media, including blogs and talk radio (and Fox News), has done its best to create and market a vision of the Republican high-command as losers and sell-outs When you constantly call Obama a tyrant, you have to accept that some portion of your readership is going to take you literally.

The Media has its part to play: it amplifies ambitions (if you want to talk to the nation about national defense, running for president is a decent way to get to do that) but it is not creating the circus effect. That's home-grown.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Trump Fades . . .

The long predicted decline and fall of Donald Trump has finally come. Perhaps it was his lack-luster performances in the debates? The atrocity in Paris making voters get serious and want someone with proven foreign policy chops? Or maybe it was Ben Carson's relentless niceness that finally wore him down.

Whatever the case, the pundits are finally proven right:
Oh, Wait . . .

Trump Falls In The Wrong Direction

For Trump to have his required fade by Thanksgiving it's going to require like poison turkey or something (if Trump is dumb enough to name Ted Cruz as his VP, Trump will be pushing daises moments after being sworn in).

On the other hand . . . Carson has fallen. Carson's arc, albeit high, looks a lot more like a not-Romney than Trump does. How come? Why would they be different?

The Hero vs. The Weapon

Carson just had something fairly unprecedented happen two of his advisers for foreign policy came out and said he was unteachable in that arena. This is (a) while he's running and (b) coming on the heels of a pretty big foreign policy flub. It's Sarah Palin-esque, really--or maybe more Usbeki-beki-bekistan (Herman Cain)?

The question though is: why would anything hurt Cain when nothing hurts Trump? Trump unleashes an unhinged rant? Goes up. Trump has no substance? Goes up. Trump could eat a puppy and he'd gain points. WHY?? And why doesn't the teflon apply to Carson?

The Omnivore has a theory. It's this: Carson's appeal is that he's a man of great character with granite moral convictions. For evangelicals (or, hey, just the very religious), finding a candidate who speaks to them is enticing. They'll put up with a lot.

But as Meatloaf sang, They'll do anything for love--but they won't do that

The one thing that can damage someone like Carson or Trump--a candidate for which practicality is not their selling-point--is to damage their brand. In this case? To make them mockable. Whatever else Trump is, you can't really make fun of him. Carson? The whole pyramids-grain thing? That hurts. And once he's hurt? Once he's hurt he can be taken down like a wounded gazelle chased by a cheetah (that's the press, in case you're wondering--possibly with, like, Marco Rubio riding valiantly on its back or something).

In the case of Trump, his base voters? They just want to burn the place down. He's a barrel bomb dropped on the GOPe. For everyone else, though, his brand is that he Won't Back Down. That sells. It's selling. Carson's brand is that he's a Man of Principle. That's well and good--but when you look principled but kinda dumb, it doesn't come together.

This? This Does Not Help.
In case you can't tell from the graphic, the designer somehow got the north eastern states wrong. How do you even do that with Power Point??

So it looks like Carson declines a little and Trump? Well, the powers that be better figure out something fast. The Omnivore bets he's got an Intern food-taster just in case.

Monday, November 16, 2015

ISIS and the Mumbai Model

In November of 2008 a group of 10 Pakistanis carried out 12 coordinated attacks in Mumbai. The event lasted four days. The weapons were assault rifles and grenades: Nothing exotic. What we saw in Paris was actually more sophisticated in that they had suicide vests (the creation of which is a specific skill), a network of support across national boards (possibly using the preferred PlayStation 4 for encrypted communications). The body-count from Paris is similar to Mumbai (168 killed, over 300 wounded in 2008).

Given that this method of attack--the Mumbai model--is effective across the entire spectrum of terrorist goals, requires a very small footprint in terms of gear, and seems like it could be easily put together, why have we not seen more of it? Is it what's next?

A Few Considerations

There are a few things we should be aware of when looking at the Mumbai Model. The first--and most obvious--is that no one involved expects to live. It is one thing to plant bombs and then detonate them remotely. It is another thing to engage a full state security force. While terrorists typically do have access to suicide troops the average suicide bomber is ill-suited to extensive clandestine work. For one thing, many of them may be, literally, suicidal--meaning they just want to die and are less interested in an aggressive campaign of killing before hand.

This is echoed in the Mumbai training: there were two major phases of ideological conditioning that took place in remote areas. Out of 26 potential recruits, 10 were chosen. In the Paris attacks, it seems that although there were several parties involved, the actual suicide assault was limited to 4 shooter/bombers.

This is a relatively small number: The Omnivore asserts that the attacks would go with as many simultaneous combatants as possible since, in the aftermath, there will be little chance for a follow-up (last night, across France, there were 150 arrests). The terrorists know this and it seems likely that suicide shock-troops are in far shorter supply than bombers and are probably more emotionally fragile in the sense that forcing someone to work for extended periods of time in an enemy country with plans to self-annihilate is probably more difficult than getting a suicidal person to remain suicidal for less than four hours.

Secondly, there is the need for a support network. These attacks require coordination, logistical planning, and support. From the Paris attacks, we saw that the attacks did not go to plan: a bomber was stopped at the gate to the sporting event. The attacks were spectacular enough that it mostly didn't matter--but to get as far as they did, they needed luck, skill, and help.

The Omnivore is not surprised that Belgium was indicated as the place where most of the help came from. For whatever reason it is a reservoir of jihadi activists and a likely place where attacks could be coordinated from (most of ISIS's western followers have come from Belgium). The US, comparatively, does not offer a similar resource.

Thirdly, there are infiltration problems. It appears that the Syrian passports that were found with the Paris attackers may have been fake. If this is true, then it is less that Syrian refugees are simply becoming ISIS attack teams and more that with a great influx of refugees ISIS was able to send people in with fake credentials.

Now, to be sure, this isn't a lot better--but it is significant: fake passports are a weak-point in the operational chain. It is important that they were required. This speaks to the fact that not-just-anyone with a fully loaded AK and a grenade can be effective in this kind of operation.

Finally, there were warnings. Yes, these kinds of warnings come all-day, every-day--but The Omnivore suspects that operating in America is harder than operating in Europe (for a number of reasons including a more radicalized, less integrated populace) and thus "noisier." It may also be that our electronic surveillance works better (it has been noted that most of the Internet services used for communication 'live' in America giving us a kind of home-field advantage no one else enjoys.

What About Concealed Carry, Size of Country, Etc.

Isn't it also possible that America, as a target, is simply "harder" than Paris? After all, America is bigger--making no one target as appealing. Secondly, America is, well, loaded with guns--isn't it?

The Omnivore doubts this. Yes, targets have to be "significant" to have propaganda value--and yes, America's best targets (Disney World) are pretty well guarded--but there are plenty of places that would have enough symbolic value--and a high body count will go a long way if the target is second-rate.

Guns are also probably not a concern. It's not that too few people carry or that the terrorists can just pick a "gun free zone" (The Omnivore's observation is that Paris' police force is pretty heavily armed and fairly pervasive)--it's that concealed weapons are not much of an obstacle to coordinated attackers with full-auto assault rifles. Yes, it's better than nothing--but if the attack involves high volumes of fire in two to three minutes, the odds of mounting a successful counter attack in the panic and chaos are pretty low. The Omnivore suspects that terrorists would happily take their chances.

We also don't allow guns in most places with security (sporting events) with good reason: drunk idiots. It's worth remembering that what went wrong in Paris was mundane security (which stopped the bomber from getting in) and not Jr. G-Men with concealed weapons.

The Net-Net

The Mumbai-Model is, likely, what we're going to see from ISIS for a while. The "raw numbers" (men, money, etc.) suggest that ISIS is going to do its best to export atrocity. We also know they will want to target America (revenge for killing Jihadi John?). We should not think "it cannot or will not happen here"--but similarly we should not lose sight of the fact that while legitimately scary, attacks like we've seen in Paris and Mumbai are not events against which we have no resistance. We do have resistance--and it's pretty good. As The Omnivore has said, it seems likely that ISIS is going to come to regret its recent successes.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Paris Attacks

It seems likely that two of the attackers in the Paris attacks posed as Syrian refugees to get into the country. According to news reports this was a complicated operation with three separate teams--but who represented a larger self-contained cell. In other words, it appears that ISIS has used exploits in the system (France's intake of refugees) to move a substantial group into the target zone and supported them with additional help (logistical help from Belgium--where three arrests were made quickly after the event.

What To Make Of This?

The Omnivore has a few takeaways (assuming the information we now have proves out).

The Rise Of The Right-Nationalists

The crucial impact of these attacks will be to help nationalist political groups in Europe as well as in America. This may not be enough to put Trump in the White House--but it could certainly put the National Front into power in France. This will, The Omnivore thinks, have a similar impact across Europe.

Whatever tendency there is towards empathy and compassion for refugees, it will evaporate in the wake of murderous suicide attacks. It will serve to validate the worst fears and the worst prejudices of those opposed to immigration (and, statistics aside, with well over a hundred dead, there is a case to be made against immigration where no one can really be vetted).

Guns v. Bombs

Some on the right (in the US) lamented the gun-control in Paris that didn't have multiple armed civilians at the Eagles of Death Metal concert. It's true that someone might have been able to fire back. On the other hand, it appears that what did the real damage wasn't the suicide vests the bad guys had but the Kalashnikovs. Guns as force-multipliers is the ignored half of the equation: If you really want to stop bad guys, maybe making it even harder to get guns is the way to go. Notably:

  • Someone importing firearms and grenades was stopped and arrested trying to get into Germany last week. Maybe this was related, maybe not--but it gives law enforcement a fighting chance to stop something before it happens.
  • All the knife-attack victims from the student murderer in California lived. If the kid had had a Kalashnikov that wouldn't be the case. Guns were hard enough to get that he didn't acquire one. Perhaps California's gun-laws deserve some credit there?

ISIS "Is Contained"

Bad timing for Obama--but what if it's even worse: What if ISIS really is contained . . . and France is inside the containment zone! In any event, stuff like "on the run" or "contained" or even "destroyed" doesn't mean a whole lot when dealing with asymmetric warfare.

That said, The Omnivore suspects that in the following weeks, France is going to Contain The Hell out of them.

Election 2016

The attacks come after the 4th debate and just after Trump unleashed a 9 minute rant on Carson--the most beloved candidate in either party by a wide stretch. Pundits were sure Trumps rant would damage or maybe end him. The Omnivore doesn't think so--but even moreso, these attacks are a gift to Trump and the portion of his backers who are White Nationalists.

Right now--and through 2016--"Immigration" will still mean "illegal Latino Immigration"--not taking in refugees (although that will likely be a point of contention as well). The Omnivore thinks that these attacks will cement the far right position for the Primary--and perhaps for the general election.

This hurts Cruz and Rubio since both of them have, to some degree, refrained from the "deport everyone" solution Trump is vending. Rubio because he doesn't want to and Cruz because he can't make himself tell the lies, apparently. These attacks will give Trump a wedge with which to pry support off both candidates.

The Net-Net

Coming on the heels of the Russian jet bombing, ISIS has gained a lot of the press it wants. The Omnivore thinks they're going to come to regret that. America, despite what her detractors at home and abroad think, is highly restrained in her use of force. Russia will not be--and France, The Omnivore assesses--sees itself as a smaller-scale player and one less constrained by a "leadership role."

It also doesn't help things that a galvanized angry populace and a national election may lead to more aggressive behavior (although: see Spain in the wake of the Madrid bombings). In any event, ISIS has managed to make it to the next stage of the game. We'll see how they really do compete in the "varsity league."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Social(ist) Media

There has been a flurry of protest across two colleges in a short period of time.

What Is Going On?

On the face of it, it's pretty simple: (a) college students have always been inclined to do dumb things and (b) this is pretty dumb and somewhat vicious. Compare to the chasing of armed National Guard's opening fire on Kent State protesters (who were, erm, throwing rocks and other things at the National Guardsmen--as well as previously rioting and doing property damage).

On the other hand, it is worth looking at the specific tenor and message(s) in the arguments.  From Slate Star Codex, the real problems with the vein of nastiness are not just related to hysterical college kids:
  • The level of social-justice-inspired bullying online and offline that can drive people to suicide for even slightly disagreeing with social justice orthodoxy.
  • The chilling effect on research when science is subordinated to political ideology, and how researchers whose results contradict social justice orthodoxy can expect to be ignored at best and subject to death threats and harassment campaigns at worst.
  • The trivialization of and hostile response to anybody who claims to be suffering in a way that doesn’t fit the social-justice narrative, and opposition to attemptsto alleviate such suffering.
  • The use of social justice as a bludgeon by which sophisticated elites from top colleges can condemn all subcultures except their sophisticated elite subcultureas being problematic, and credibly demand that they subordinate themselves to the sophisticated elites as penance.
  • The conflation of the vitally important will toward political reform with the most trivial pop culture clickbait, so that instead of worrying about inequality and technological stagnation our brightest minds are discussing whether the latest Game of Thrones episode reinforces structural oppression, or if people’s Halloween costumes are okay or not.
This is a good point--the Yale students claiming to be traumatized by an email that didn't condemn potentially offensive Halloween Costumes are working in the same paradigm as online bullies who drove a fan artist to attempt suicide because she had drawn an imaginary character as "too thin."

FrontPage Mag dubs these protesters Crybullies.

What's going on in Missouri is slightly different--the allegations of condoned racism may well be true but, and this is important, the trigger point (the poopsistika) is, at this point, completely unconfirmed. This doesn't mean it didn't happen--but it does indicate that it might not be that big of a deal. It's also disconcerting to see a communications professor calling for physical force against a journalist.

Finally, the Missouri campus has been swarmed in social-media threats which has led professors to shut down classes (one professor who claimed he would still hold a test and urged the students to "stand up to bullies" has resigned over protests). 

All of this is hard-hitting and disruptive enough to go beyond "campus hi-jinks" -- At Kent State, for example, the faculty was trying to stand down everyone rather than gin them up.

What makes people think it's acceptable to behave this way (and if you are in favor of the campus protests, how about the bulling of the fan-art girl? If you think they're not related, The Omnivore has news for you: they are).

Social Media

The Omnivore is going to posit here that what has caused the rise of "Crybullies" in its current (weaponized) form is Social Media. Specifically Twitter. Twitter has shown itself to be a crackerjack organizational tool for revolutions (see: The US Administration working to keep Twitter up during Iran's Green Revolution) and these events certainly fit into a revolutionary model.

The operant feature here is that society has legitimized inclusiveness and cultural sensitivity and social media has created a positive feedback loop (reinforcing behavior) wherein, when you take action which is visible in the social media realm you get tons of supporters. This accelerates the process from simply not using the n-word to jumping on every infraction you can find because with social media you will get a slew of followers in the pile-on.

You also get death threats from the other side--but this is also reinforcing because (a) now there's two sides and (b) the position of each of them feeds on a sense of victimization (conservatives see America being stolen out from under them, the social justice movement sees oppressors at every level of mainstream society). 

Social Media makes this immediate and objective (you can see who favorites your tweet, likes your Facebook posts, and shares your message). Going viral is a thrill. This is the same kind of emotional feedback that slot-machines employ.

The fact that moderate societal approval towards inclusiveness does NOT validate Crybullying is immaterial--if you are told (with any credibility) that you are a victim (microaggressions, lack of trigger warnings, intrusion into a safe-place, privilege categorizations) the message is that you are empowered. 

The electronic reinforcement of that is also the expression of that empowerment. Everything works together.

The Coming Social Justice Revolution

The bad news for conservatives is that, as far as The Omnivore sees it, anyway, this isn't likely to amount to much in the larger world. Why? Well, the Omnivore's rule of Social Justice Damage is still Always Attack Allies. In the realms of academia, online message boards, Internet fan-communities, and companies that cater to young left-wing people, there are going to be causalities. That is going to be a problem--but it is still limited in scope.

There will also be some spill-over: people will be fired for dongle jokes. There will be gaming of fiction awards, and girls playing video games will get harassed for some time.

But this isn't a revolution--this is a problem--for people caught in it, a dire one at times--but it is not the fall of society. In order for the people on the Yale campus to gain the controls of power they would need to grow up, get invested in the machinery of society to the point where they have something to lose, and then, still, go to the mattresses over not-enough-condemnation of Halloween costumes.

That doesn't seem likely.

One of the central Missouri protesters apparently comes from a family with, perhaps, millions of dollars--while he may be racially oppressed, it seems unlikely his class-status doesn't compensate (and that's just using the terms of the social justice movement--in real life, if the guy has millions of dollars, he's going to kick ass in the game of life). Right now there is a "die in" at Ithica College, with this quote from a protester:
“How can a campus dedicated to preparing us for the real world not actively foster growth to our consciousness of oppression and privilege?”
This sort of thing works on colleges because they see themselves as allies of the students. An ordinary business would not tolerate it and, thus, it would not be tried against them (note: this is different than the Internet Hate Machine mobs which, yes, can be tried against ordinary businesses).

A Note: The Social Justice language is this formulation on the left. On the right it's accusations of people being RINOs (Republicans In Name Only or Cuckservatives). The same theory is in play: if you declare yourself a member of the group you become a target.

A strange game, professor. The only way to win is not to play.