The Glamour of Evil

Paraphrasing Greg Cochran:

 … a [model] that generates entertainingly wrong results will inevitably produce many interesting and publishable results.

Hah! And what do the media insatiably want? Interesting and publishable results! Clickbait! Something scary! Something that can be blamed upon some scapegoat! Something we can act to eliminate, simply by ostracizing the scapegoat!

A model of some sort generates a scary result of some sort: “Arctic May Be Ice Free By 2014,” or “Local Witch May Be Responsible For Cow Death,” or, “Jews / Blacks / Christians / Whites / Men / Immigrants / Liberals / Progressive Social Justice Warriors / Environmentalists / Feminists / Muslims May Be At Fault For All That Is Wrong With Your Life (Not You),”  or something of the sort. Then, it’s off to the races, with lots of breathless news about the ongoing crisis.

Thus is established the symbiotic positive feedback circuit that links the distributors of fake news with the manufacturers thereof. The former pay the latter handsomely for their products; the latter produce new clickbait for the former. So there is a market for bad models. It is a department of the market for addictions. The fact that it is governed by a positive feedback circuit – by, that is, a vicious cycle – is a dead giveaway. An addiction is an insatiable appetite for ever greater vitiation.

Because the market for clickbait is a positive feedback circuit, the strangeness and fearsomeness of the clickbait must ever increase, in order for it to keep attracting the first jot of notice. The addict’s hits must get bigger and bigger to produce the same dopaminergic effect.

So the market demand for bad news can be met only by a supply of output from ever worse models, and so the price of sufficiently bad models keeps going up with the insatiable demand for their interesting and publishable results. The profits generated by that increasing price motivate the discovery of ever more sensational and incredible results.

This is why the Overton Window must move left. This is why the only way that we will ever be rid of the tiresome noise about Anthropogenic Global Climate Change, Russia Russia Russia, vile white Christian men, and all the rest of it, is … the sheer sick terrific stupefying boredom of it all (this stuff never gets resolved; it rather just fades, and is superseded by the next appalling thing).

Or else, of course, some quite real, concrete and devastating disaster – a world war, or a truly conservative administration, or a deep and widespread revival of traditional religion, or Proph’s Collapse.™ Under such conditions of massive catastrophe, there’s no need to invent crises so as to sell papers. The media can in such circumstances get back to reporting real news. There is then more of it than they can keep up with, and so no need to gin up any of it.

We should never however think that after Anthropogenic Global Climate Change and the other crises du jour have silently shuffled off the stage to join their predecessors in the dustbin of history, we shall then be left alone on that score. Oh no. There will be some new and even more scary product of stupid inadequate models, to which then all the chattering classes may make their loud overweening ritual obeisances, so as to demonstrate that they themselves cannot possibly be the necessary scapegoats.

What can we do about all this? Leave the market. Stop paying attention to the news (this is to say: stop *paying* the news). Read old books. Observe the weather out in the countryside. Get some real work done, with our hands. Spend time playing with young children. Watch animals. Pray, worship; confess, repent. Do something wonderful and lovely for its own sake. Work out. Visit the mountains, or the desert, or the deep woods. Sing, for God’s sake.

Excursus: Interesting, is it not, how much the tactics of avoiding the market for wicked news and remembering sweet clean virtue resemble those of the monastic ascetic, of one sort or another? No reason to find this intimidating; no reason, necessarily, to seek the dire demanding cloister. The first and most important cloister is the inwardmost, by which we govern our own thoughts, and so defend our inmost lives. It is there, at the gates of our inner castle, that Lucifer constantly lays his most intimate and salient and efficacious siege.

We find we are ever at war, willy nilly.

To war, then! What else is there?

Deus vult! That our Father wills us to war shows his confidence in our victory. Deo Gracias! 

5 thoughts on “The Glamour of Evil

  1. Pingback: The Glamour of Evil | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: The Glamour of Evil | Reaction Times

  3. In a curious turn of events, the orthodox have become apostates. Apostasy is essentially a synonym for dissidence, or sitting apart. We’ve become like those people who one day decided that what the preacher was saying “just warn’t true,” and despite all claims to society’s moral progress, are not being treated much better than he was.

    I know that no one has (yet) been burned at the stake for preaching heresy, but that was a long time ago and less common than many suppose. In the United States, religious apostates were sometimes subject to social ostracism, but they were never sent to prison, and their newspapers were published without difficulty. Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason was a little hard to get ahold of, but anyone who wanted a copy could find it. And Orthodoxy Central could not make all those infidel newspapers and copies of Age of Reason disappear by the flip of a switch. Nor did it know the i.p. address of everyone who logged on to read them.

    With respect to your closing remark, I find it therapeutic to think about creeks and rivers. Every time I cross one, however tiny, I mentally trace its course, from headwaters to mouth. I think about how its course has been shaped by the character of the earth, and I admire its patience.

  4. Kristor: I teach genuine songs, mostly folk-songs, but also music-hall songs, to my students. (I regard Harry Champion as a great performer, on the level of Caruso!) It matters not what the course-content is: Every once in a while we sing. (I might have mentioned this some time ago in a comment in another thread.) The second through fifth weeks of my Introduction to Literary Criticism course are devoted to the history of languages generally and of the English language in particular through a close reading, chapter by chapter, of Owen Barfield’s History in English Words. I also expose those same students to examples of the genres. We have watched, for example, Julie Taymor’s bold Kabuki-style staging of Igor Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio based on Sophocles, Oedipus Rex. And this week we attended to a screening of Benjamin Bagby’s performance of Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon. Richard Cocks (we teach at the same institution) undertakes similar adventures in his philosophy courses. J. M. Smith, I am sure, could attest like-minded classroom-gestures of his own. I come to my point —

    Benedictine social withdrawal is not incompatible with Gramscian subversion of the institutions, which takes one back into the heart of the beast; that is, withdrawal is not incompatible with intervention. Relying indeed solely on external critique (which I do not attribute to you) strikes me as being, in all likelihood, a vain endeavor. A couple of years ago, I let my membership in the National Association of Scholars drop — after twenty-five years. The reason was that the NAS never advocated, much less organized or financed, any program of active subversion. It contented itself with lofty condescension from outside the colleges and universities. It also insisted on polite mitigation of critical rhetoric and was extremely reluctant to call evil, evil. God knows, there is much evil.

    Teachers of the Orthodox persuasion who are bearers of Tradition have a lucky advantage. They have a captive audience and although they are subject to suspicion and chastisement by the puritanical-totalitarian bureaucracy, as long as they are clever in their presentations, they are well-positioned to act subversively, that is, on behalf of the good, the true, and the beautiful. I find myself wondering, however, and here I shall be solicitous, what people in other professions, who lack the captive audience that a classroom provides, might undertake so as to spread the Gospel of Tradition. Privately, they should do as you describe, but what, in an active or even an aggressive mode, might a bank-clerk, a baker, or a barber undertake to accomplish the same subversive end? (Sincerely, T)

  5. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2017/09/23) - Social Matter

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