Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Defamatory Utterances Against Transhumanists

I must say, it doesn't take much to provoke our Brave Sub(cult)ural Techno-Warriors into a full-on panic-mode defensiveness that exposes the hysterical irrationality beneath their more suave but surface-level efforts at PR, self-promotion, and soft-sell.

The statement following one of my posts yesterday to which Michael Anissimov takes such exception in his own comments in the Moot is this one:
"You join Robot Cults for other reasons -- because you're greedy, or stupid, or scared, or narcissistic, or invested in reductive scientism or some comparable parochialism, or you want somebody to tell you what to do or think and transhumanism just happens to be the cult you fastened on to."

This occurred in the context of my proposal that the technology-talk which actually seems to preoccupy the attention of superlative technocentrics like transhumanists and singularitarians and techno-immortalists functions more often than not as a pretext for the very different edifications of sub(cult)ural identification and True Belief in the face of the distress and provocation of disruptive technoscientific change. The actual statement providing this context is the following:
The few people who feel a compelling tug from transhumanism don't feel it from the technology. One can find blue-skying about technology across good old fashioned still-vital sf fandoms and general geeky discursive spaces, none of which solicit True Belief in Superlative Techno-Futures or substitute techno-utopianism for policy discourse, or try to whomp up collective enthusiasm for pan-movements with the Keys to History that seek to prevail across the earth. The "technology-talk" which appears to be the focus of transhumanist discourse is in fact little but the occasion, the pretext for its Superlative freighting, for the problematic authoritarian compensations of Faith in the midst of the distress and dumb desires provoked by rapid, radical, ongoing and emerging disruptive technoscientific change.

I pointed out that one doesn't need to join a Robot Cult to engage in discussion of the scattered moments of substance one can find here and there in transhumanist or singularitarian discourse, or to organize concrete campaigns for actually progressive technodevelopmental outcomes. (As an example of such a kernel of substance one finds the iceberg tip of in transhumanist salon-culture is the notion that emerging medical technique deranges our customary expectations about morphologies, capacities, and lifeways that may incarnate human flourishing. For me, by the way, this kernel leads to the demand that we reframe progressive rhetoric about a human right to healthcare from a universalizing language organized by the notion of a shared sense of legible optimality instead to a language of informed nonduressed consent to non-normalizing freely available therapeutic intervention. While in many transhumanists it seems to me to authorize worrisome anti-democratizing intuitions, come what may the kernel of actual technodevelopmental substance is there however much it may go on thereafter to be redirected into arguments for eugenicist policing or indulgences in techno-immortalist fantasy.)

Be that as it may, one tends to join cults for other reasons, as is well known. Among these are greediness for the cash of marks among some of the more cynical figures higher up in the organizational hierarchy, as well as the kind of stupidity that settles for the comfort of broad brush-strokes accounts of an actually complex world, or the kind of narcissistic steamroller that finds in such accounts an easy sense of needed mastery, or out of deep anxieties garnered who knows how but now seeking the reassurance of placement in authoritarian hierarchy, or out of commitments to marginal propositions that are indulged only in certain marginal locations, and so on.

I have said that transhumanism is neither a scientific research program nor a philosophical vantage nor a policy-making apparatus (all of which it promotes itself as in an effort to distract attention from its conspicuous limitations), but a fairly simplistic ideological formation connected to a handful of minor but noisy (and currently consolidating) membership organizations that disseminate it and rely on it while exhibiting many of the characteristics of conventional cults. To the extent that I am right to compare these organizations to cults, it follows that I would attribute to the attraction of their members to these organizations the sorts of attitudes and issues that I think attract people to cults in general.

Obviously I wouldn't expect Michael to be pleased by these observations, but it is interesting that -- quite true to form for a cultist -- he immediately identifies the critique as nothing but defamation, he claims I am calling particular people names when I am clearly pointing out reasons among many why people join cults of which I think transhumanism is one (I call it a Robot Cult, after all), he calls it hate speech, ad hominem, libelous and so on, quasi-legal insinuations Giulio Prisco also takes up in his pile-on post. I must say, transhumanist muckety-mucks do e-mail me weaselly little insinuations about suing me all the time, by the way -- and my reply is: just try it, you big babies, I am not scared of you, and I could use the inevitable settlement to pay off my student loans.

Michael goes on to claim that reading my posts for him is like a person of color reading the fulminations of a white supremacist or a Jew reading an antisemitic screed. It is in moments like this when you get a glimpse into the fully crazy place transhumanist sub(cult)ural "warriors" have found their way to in their substitution of an identity movement organized by investment in an idiosyncratic construal of "technology" and fantasy of "the future" for actually serious deliberation about technodevelopmental topics.

That is to say, in this very response Michael clearly exemplifies the True Believer Groupthink irrationality I attributed to transhumanism and which he is taking such exception to in the first place. No, Michael, reading a persistent and forceful and even contemptuous online critique of the ideological positions you and a few hundred other mostly privileged white guys advocate while promoting your marginal membership organizations as the spear-tip of the world-historical movement you think they represent is not actually the same thing as what it is like for a Jew or person of color to confront expressions of genocidal rage arising out of long histories of literally genocidal conduct and ongoing violence.

I say transhumanists and other superlative technocentrics are wrong for reasons I delineate at considerable length, and I say that much of what they advocate is stupid and pernicious for reasons that are obvious to anyone who reads the reasons I think they are wrong. But when they go on to try to take up the mantle of a persecuted minority facing a threat of extermination because somebody says their Robot Cult is dumb they'll have to forgive me if I point out how unbelievably, well, dumb that is.

The level of stupidity, insensitivity, cluelessness, and rampaging narcissism in evidence in such claims makes it very difficult not to portray transhumanists as the very cartoons Michael complains of finding in my critiques, frankly. Quite to the contrary of his accusation, however, incredibly enough, I have devoted years of time and thousands upon thousands of words to formulations of ideas, frames, entailments that try to understand better the allure and dangers of transhumanist ideologies in terms that take them far more seriously than Michael implies (and almost certainly far more seriously than they deserve).

Jim Fehlinger also made the point in one of his replies that I have got something of "a 'vendetta' against the political right wing, that's for sure, and I think he can make a disturbing case that the >Hists are all too amenable to right-wing political agendas, if they're not out-and-out right-wingers themselves."

Of course, this is a critique I make quite explicitly in a number of places (most recently, here), and it is indeed true that this is a worry of mine.

49 comments:

giulio said...

"is not actually the same thing as what it is like for a Jew or person of color to confront expressions of genocidal rage arising out of long histories of literally genocidal conduct and ongoing violence"

Of course you are right. It is not the same thing because, thank (the Robot) God, those who write hate pieces against transhumanists do not have the power to do them any harm.

But I am afraid that, if your kind had power, you would quickly enforce a Stalinist dictatorship and Orwellian thought-police. Because, you see, Michael is right: "the only other place I've seen hatred like this are on White Supremacist sites railing against Jews". If you talk like them, I have no reason to believe that you would not also act like them if you had the power to do so.

"The level of stupidity, insensitivity, cluelessness, and rampaging narcissism in evidence in such claims makes it very difficult not to portray transhumanists as the very cartoons Michael complains of finding in my critiques, frankly."

The level of stupidity, insensitivity, cluelessness, and rampaging narcissism in evidence in your hate pieces makes it very difficult not to portray you as a self righteous fundamentalist and intellectually dishonest liar. To say the least.

Michael Anissimov said...

If I'm so afraid of what you say, why have I linked you directly, even without accompanying comment, from my blog?

jfehlinger said...

> If I'm so afraid of what you say, why have I linked you directly,
> even without accompanying comment, from my blog?

Dale? Who he?
You mean Dale Carnegie?

--------------------------------------------
You’ve probably heard it before, the old saying that you only
use 10% of your brain. It makes for good science fiction material
surely. Imagine all the possibilities if we could harness the
other 90% of our brain power. Why, we could have the powers of
telepathy, telekinesis and maybe even successful telemarketing.
Right?

. . .

But why does the media still believe it?

Learn quicker. Read faster. Develop paranormal powers. If they can hook
you and spin it with science, they have also bought you. Or rather,
you have bought their product. Think twice before grabbing your phone
and ordering that brain-enhancing pill you saw on TV. You know,
the one that promises to unlock the hidden potential of your brain…
the parts you’ve never used before.

The only thing you’ll unlock successfully will be your wallet.

-- http://aboutcures.net/2008/04/07/mythbust-monday-you-use-only-10-of-your-brain/

Dale Carrico said...

Giulio said of me: "[I]f your kind had power, you would quickly enforce a Stalinist dictatorship and Orwellian thought-police."

Flabbergastingly stupid, just plain crazy, or both? Hard to say.

Dale Carrico said...

Michael taunts: If I'm so afraid of what you say, why have I linked you directly, even without accompanying comment, from my blog?

Because you're such a stud? Because you feel sure the Robot God will see to it you prevail over your enemies, come what may? Because you like to publicize more hyperbolic critiques of mine the better to distract attention from more substantive ones? Because this is sure to whomp up highly edifying and community-building hysteria among the True Believing troopers who already congregate at your widely-read transhumanist blog? Because you actually enjoy the give-and-take of such exchanges when all is said and done? Many reasons are possible.

jfehlinger said...

> Because you're such a stud? Because you feel sure the Robot God
> will see to it you prevail over your enemies, come what may? . . .
> Many reasons are possible.

And inquiring minds want to know what they are.
I'm ASKING, ASKING, and ASKING. . .

Hey, this isn't supposed to happen!

----------------------------------------------------
Forbidden

You don't have permission to access /michael/blog on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying
to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.
----------------------------------------------------


http://www.promotionworld.com/misc/articles/whatnapoleon.html
----------------------------------------------------
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January 08, 2003

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Napoleon Hill. . . ehh. I think I'll stick with Benny Hill.

seth said...

giulio said:

"...you see, Michael is right: "the only other place I've seen hatred like this are on White Supremacist sites railing against Jews". If you talk like them, I have no reason to believe that you would not also act like them if you had the power to do so."

The fact that you can make this statement straightfaced proves the fact that you are wholly unconcerned with at least many of the real problems that face the human species. To equate Dale's comments with the antisemitism of the white supremicists is head-up-your-ass willful ignorance at best. To equate his ethos with such diabolical intent is not only baseless (giving the impression that you only read the portions of his writing that hurt your sensitive little feelings), but worse still, it utterly denigrates the victims of that diabolical intent (giving the impression that the very real occurence of things like the holocaust and all that it meant and continues to mean just doesn't matter much to you, as if the historical veracity of such realities only exists to give you a way to talk against interlocutors with whom you can't hold your own ground).

I just went from thinking you're a naive and somewhat ignorant albiet well-intentioned silly person to thinking your the kind of lazy, repugnant blight on progressive discourse that justifies almost completely ignoring you. Thanks for helping me find that realization.

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> The statement following one of my posts yesterday to which
> Michael Anissimov takes such exception in his own comments
> in the Moot is this one:
>
> "You join Robot Cults for other reasons -- because you're greedy,
> or stupid, or scared, or narcissistic, or invested in reductive scientism
> or some comparable parochialism, or you want somebody to tell you
> what to do or think and transhumanism just happens to be the cult
> you fastened on to."
>
> . . .
>
> I pointed out that one doesn't need to join a Robot Cult to
> engage in discussion of the scattered moments of substance one can
> find here and there in transhumanist or singularitarian discourse. . .
>
> Be that as it may, one tends to join cults for other reasons,
> as is well known. Among these are greediness for the cash of marks
> among some of the more cynical figures higher up in the organizational
> hierarchy, as well as the kind of stupidity that settles for the
> comfort of broad brush-strokes accounts of an actually complex world,
> or the kind of narcissistic steamroller that finds in such accounts
> an easy sense of needed mastery, or out of deep anxieties garnered who
> knows how but now seeking the reassurance of placement in authoritarian
> hierarchy, or out of commitments to marginal propositions that are
> indulged only in certain marginal locations, and so on.


---------------------------
From _Dream Catcher: A Memoir_ by Margaret A. Salinger
(Washington Square Press, 2000)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0671042823/

pp. 83 - 108:

On New Year's Day, 1953, Jerry's [J. D. Salinger's]
thirty-fourth birthday, he moved into that house in
Cornish [New Hampshire]. Claire spent many long
weekends with him there. This being the fifties, a
young lady had to obtain written permission from a
respectable person to be away from the college
for the weekend. . .

In a scene straight out of _The Catcher in the Rye_,
. . . Jerry asked Claire to drop out of school and
come live with him in Cornish. When Claire refused,
Jerry dropped out of sight. . . Had she been able
to contact him, she said, she would have done anything
to be with him. "The whole world was your father --
everything he said, wrote, and thought. I read the
things he told me to read, not the college stuff
nearly as much, looked on the world through his eyes,
lived my life as if he were watching me. When I
stood up to him on that one thing, college, he
vanished."

. . .

Jerry reappeared in Claire's life during the summer of
'54. By the fall, Claire had moved in with him. . .
He became increasingly unhappy with this arrangement
and the effect it had on his work, a story that would
be called "Franny." This bothers my mother to think
about because, as she says, "it wasn't even 'Franny's'
story, it was mine, and that's **not** how it
happened." . . .

In January of 1955, "Franny," the thirty-seven-page
first part of what would become the book _Franny and
Zooey_, was published in _The New Yorker_. During
that same month, just after the midyear examination
period of Claire's senior year, she said she was
given an ultimatum. "The choice was the same as last
time, choose Jerry and Cornish, or Radcliffe and
a degree."

Just four months shy of graduation, Claire dropped
out of college. . .

The gray reality of their elopement contrasted sharply
with Seymour's resplendent dream of a "sacred, sacred
day." On the eve of his elopement, my father's
character, Seymour Glass, wrote in his diary:

"I really called to ask her, to beg her for the last
time to just go off alone with me and get married.
I'm too keyed up to be with people. I feel as though
I'm about to be born. Sacred, sacred day. . . .I've
been reading a miscellany of Vedanta all day.
Marriage partners are to serve each other. Elevate,
help, teach, strengthen each other, but above all,
**serve**. Raise their children honorably, lovingly,
and with detachment. . . . How wonderful, how
sane, how beautifully difficult, and therefore true.
The joy of responsibility for the first time in
my life."
(_Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters_, pp. 90-91)

On his honeymoon, however, Seymour sat down on the hotel
bed where his new wife, Muriel, lay sleeping, took
out a pistol, and blew his brains out in "A Perfect
Day for Bananafish," written around 1947. My father
wrote the "sacred, sacred day" passage agove, from
_Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters_, around 1955.
He had dropped out of Claire's life in 1953, when he
wrote "Teddy," an ode to the renunciation of earthly
attachment of any sort, most especially sexual
attachment; and then, in 1955, less than two years
later, he asked Claire to marry him. What happened?
Was it just another impulsive scene in the drama
between blissful engagement and blowing one's brains
out, attraction and repulsion, attachment and renunciation,
bringing flowers and throwing stones?

[I mentioned earlier that, as a child, Seymour threw
a rock at a little girl who was sitting in the sunshine,
inflicting serious injury, opening up her forehead and
requiring stiches. In the story, everyone understood
that it was "because she looked so beautiful" sitting
there in the sunshine. I don't understand it, but
to the Glass family and their author, it was an almost
religious act and made perfect sense. The only way
I have of approaching some feel for this is something
I learned from my son. We went through a period during
the terrible twos where he'd hug me and be really
close, and then all of a sudden he'd throw something
at me or hit me. It was so weird; he'd only misbehave
like that when things were lovey-dovey, not when he
was mad about something. We figure out that at times
it (Mommy and me) became too intense for him and that
he felt engulfed, in danger of being swamped by me
and his feelings for me. He still got put in time-out
for doing it, but I could then help him with it by
backing off a bit, and encouraging him to use his words,
and also by having his dad take over more of the
parenting stuff for a while, until he'd regained his
equilibrium. It makes me think of my aunt saying,
"It was always Sonny and Mother, Mother and Sonny.
Daddy never got the recognition he deserved." All I
know is that a man who is too close to his mother, who
can't separate properly, is as much of a danger sign
as one who hates his mother and can't get close to
women. It's a tricky thing getting those boundaries
right.]

I assumed that his off-again, on-again relationship with
Claire, before they were married, was just another act
in this drama of conflict. Then I found out, in talking
to my mother, that something quite different had
happened that led to their marriage: my father had
found a new guru with a message that appeared to
reconcile the conflict between earthly attraction and
heavenly renunciation. According to the teachings
of this guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, women and gold,
the two enemies of enlightenment and karmic progress,
were transmuted from Ramakrishna's bags of "phlegm,
filth, and excreta" into something potentially holy.
Marriage, for the first time in my father's post-war
study of religion, was held out as something potentially
sacred rather than automatically defiling; Eve
and the serpent were no longer ineluctably entwined.

During the fall and winter evenings prior to Jerry and
Claire's wedding, they had been reading a miscellany
not of Vedanta, as Seymour had prior to his marriage,
but rather, Paramahansa Yogananda's book _The Autobiography
of a Yogi_. . .

After reading _The Autobiography of a Yogi_ together
in the fall of 1954, they wrote, separately, to the
publishers of the book, the Self-Realization Fellowship.
Jerry soon asked if the fellowship could recommend
a teacher-guru in their area who might consider initiating
Claire and him into the fellowship. . .

"On the train home to Cornish that evening, Jerry and I
made love in our sleeper car. It was so nice to . . . we
did not make love very often, the body was evil. . . .
I'm certain I became pregnant with you that night." . . .

When Claire's pregnancy became obvious, she said that
Jerry's attraction turned to "abhorrence." . . .

My mother, living in virtual isolation with my father
in Cornish, didn't see much of him either. . .
[S]ixteen-hour days were the norm, and often, he'd
work all night and through the following day as well.

When he was around, Claire said she was kept busier
and busier. The house was primitive; there was no hot
water, and poor heat, but Jerry demanded what she
called "Park Avenue service." Much like the great
Thoreau, who had his mother deliver lunch to his
little cabin in the wilderness, my father required
three good "New York restaurant" meals a day to please
him, or so she thought. Then, just when she thought
she could manage that, "It was decreed that the sheets
should be laundered and ironed twice a week -- with
no hot water, and cold water that left everything
rust-colored. It felt very like the fairy tale where,
whatever the girl did, another impossible task
was added on. . . .I was in despair, trapped. And
I was subject to Jerry's constant and lacerating
criticism when I failed to come up to his standards." . . .

She practiced Yogananda's Kriya yoga faithfully and
contentedly, morning and evening. The peace and
quiet never lasted very long, however. "I wanted to
stay with that [Kriya yoga], but Jerry jumped to
Dianetics. He went to L. Ron Hubbard himself, I think.
He started to pick on me for any thoughts I might
have that weren't Dianetically correct. Such thoughts,
he believed, injured you. He soon became disenchanted
with that and it was on to Christian Science, and
here was I still struggling with the Kriya yoga
technique. I dropped it when I became too depressed
after I had you."

His radical changes had an alarming pattern to them.
When he reached the point of almost finishing up a piece,
the "home stretch," he'd leave for weeks at a time
and go to New York or Montreal or Atlantic City to
work. My mother said that he would go away for several
weeks only to return with the piece he was supposed
to be finishing all undone or destroyed and some
new "ism" we had to follow. [My mother kept their joint
tax returns. I went over them, and sure enough,
the weeks at hotels, the travel expenses, the donations
to various cults and charities, are all there in black
and white.] These came with every botched or
unpublished work: Zen Buddhism, Vedanta Hinduism,
1950s off and on; Kriya yoga, 1954-55; Christian Science,
1955 off and on to present; Scientology, called
Dianetics at the time, 1950s; something having to do
with the works of Edgar Cayce; homeopathy and
acupuncture, 1960s to present; macrobiotics, 1966
through the end of their divorce.

What was so unsettling and made her, for the first time,
lose faith in Jerry was "not the abuse, as this at
times seemed inescapable, but the lack of logic!
I had to completely reject what I had had to completely
accept one hundred percent and adopt the next thing
one hundred percent, just because this was Jerry's
new super-encompassing God. I believe it was to
cover the fact that Jerry had just destroyed or
junked or couldn't face the quality of, or couldn't
face publishing, what he had created. [Like his
character Buddy Glass, who had "written and
histrionicaly burned at least a dozen stories or
sketches . . . since 1948" (_Seymour: An Introduction_,
p. 182).]

I think my mother is probably right in identifying
the match that ignited these sudden changes whereby
a new cult, or "ism" as she called them, rose out
of the ashes of a work destroyed. However, not everyone
who has problems with writing reacts by worshipping
a newly-risen phoenix, a new guru. This pattern has
had a profound effect on those closest to my father --
his flesh and blood family as well as his fictional
characters and stories. Why? What made the forest
so dry, as it were? Why were the conditions so
flammable in the first place?

I understand one aspect of this behavior with every
fiber of my being. Even the language of our cliches
speaks to the vulnerability of human beings under
fire, under terrible stress: "There are no atheists
in the trenches." . . .

Human beings, when chartless, seek a stable point of
reference. . . This is true whether they be wise men
in the desert or thirsty fools who pass by an oasis
in pursuit of a mirage -- reckoning dead wrong.

A few years ago, my mother sent me a book, _Cults and
Consequences_ [Rachel Anders and James R. Lane, eds.,
Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles, 1988] in
response to my questions about my father's involvement
in and donations to everything from Zen Buddhists,
Vedanta Hindus, Yogananda's Self-Realization Church,
Christian Science, L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology,
followers of Edgar Cayce, George Ohsawa's macrobiotics,
Eastern medicines, and a hodgepodge of practices
including drinking one's urine, speaking in tongues,
and sitting in a Reichian orgone box. This book
proved an invaluable starting place for unraveling
the mystery of my father's journey's through the
looking glass.

What I began to understand is that the content of
what my mother called isms doesn't matter, it may
be truth or absolute rubbish: it's what a cult
does to the mind of a believer as well as the way
in which the believer embraces the belief -- the
particular characteristics of the relation between
believer and belief -- that earns it the designation
_cult_ rather than _religion_ or _belief_ or
_philosophy_. [I do not think for a moment that all
Buddhists or Hindus are "cultists," any more
than I believe that Christianity, Judaism, Islam,
or most any other religion for that matter are
lacking in their share of pernicious cults.]

The existential state of the typical person who, upon
encountering a cult, is likely to become a follower
reads like a description of most of my father's
characters, and indeed, or my father himself.
Many studies of cult phenomena have found that the
appeal of the cult depends "largely on the weakness
and vulnerability that all of us feel during key
stress periods in life. At the time of recruitment,
the person is often mildly depressed, in transition,
and feeling somewhat alienated." [Robert W. Dellinger,
_Cults and Kids_] One study, in particular, of
those who become involved in cults, speaks directly
to the vulnerability of my father and his characters
who "just got out": "Leaving any restricted
community can pose problems -- leaving the Army for
civilian life is hard, too . . . many suffered from
depression . . . loneliness, anomie [Margaret Thaler
Singer, "Coming out of the Cults," _Psychology Today_,
January 1979], or what can be referred to as
"future void." They're standing at the edge, as Holden
said, of "some crazy cliff," looking for a catcher. . .
Many of those who join cults find "close relationships
with like-minded others" [A study conducted by the
Jewish Community Relations Committee of Philadelphia
asked former cult members to list their reasons
for joining. The committee found that, in order
of relative importance, the number one reason was
loneliness and the need for friendship. "More than
any other factor, the desire for uncomplicated
warmth and acceptance . . . leads people into
cults."] . . .

In my father's. . . novel, Franny says of Zooey that
"the only people he ever really wants to meet for a
drink somewhere are all either dead or unavailable . . .
he never even wants to have **lunch** with anybody,
even, unless he think's there's a **good chance**
it's going to turn out to be Jesus, the person --
or Buddha, or Hui-neng, or Shankaracharya, or
somebody like that." With the story "Teddy," the
departure is final. Teddy doesn't seek a landsman
even among dead people; he seeks unity with non-being,
the dissolution of all separateness and personhood.
He wishes to join the vast sea of undifferentiated
souls in another, transcendent dimension. This
ten-year-old child casually describes his prescient
knowledge of his imminent death in order to teach
the listener about the virtues of detachment and
the absurdity of seeking mooring in this life,
which is just _maya_, an illusion.

-------
"I wish I knew why people think it's so important
to be emotional. . . . My mother and father don't think
a person's human unless he thinks a lot of things are
very sad or very annoying or very -- very un**just**,
sort of. My father gets very emotional even when he
reads the newspaper. He thinks I'm inhuman."

Nicholson flicked his cigarette ash off to one side.
"I take it you have no emotions?" he said.

Teddy reflected before answering. "If I do, I don't
remember when I ever used them," he said. "I don't
see what they're **good** for."
-------

"It's so silly," Teddy begins as he describes how his
little sister may accidentally push him into an empty
pool where he'll crack his head open and die in a
few minutes:

-------
"What would be so tragic about it, though? What's there
to be afraid of, I mean? I'd just be doing what I was
supposed to do, that's all, wouldn't I?"

Nicholson snorted mildly, "It might not be a tragedy
from your point of view, but it would certainly be
a sad event for your mother and dad," he said. "Ever
consider that?"

"Yes, of course I have," Teddy said. "But that's only
because they have names and emotions for everything
that happens. . ."
-------

By the time I read this story, I had already heard similar
"sermons" from my father so many times that it was hard
not to feel, once again, like a bored child being
lectured. In reflecting on this, however, I have come
to feel truly sad, rather than annoyed or bored. I think
that my father was searching for landsmen, and when
he didn't find them amongst the living, he turned
his search to other realities. Indeed, this reaction,
a desire for an alternate reality or transcendent
experience, was found to be the second most common
response by those who had left a cult (the first being
loneliness and the search for close companionship)
to the question of what had attracted them. "The
cult offers a path -- they would say **the** path --
to the unfamiliar realm of transcendence. . . . It
stands to reason, after all, that if you are looking
for an experience that you have never had before,
you should look in places you have never before been
to find it." [Ibid.]

The third reason given for the attraction to a cult,
the "need for moral authority," strikes even closer to
the Salinger home. Middle-class parents, whose
children predominantly fill the ranks of cult membership,
often seek to overshelter and overprotect their offspring.
They want to give their children things they themselves
were denied to make them happy. [Ibid.]

"In such circumstances young people often build up
dependencies on their parents of which they are not aware
until, at the end of adolescence, they are suddenly
expected to take charge of their lives and become
independent individuals . . . it is not surprising that
many young people find this sudden assumption of
responsibility burdensome and confusing, especially
in today's world. . . . This is where cults come in. . . .
they offer lifestyles that are . . . highly structured,
with very limited choices and very specific demands.
For some such a security blanket is most inviting.
[Ibid. Esther Dietz, founder and former director of
the B'nai B'rith Cult Education Project, also found
that most who become involved are rather naive, middle
or upper-middle class, searching for a meaningful
spiritual experience.] . . .

Though I tread lightly here, I suspect that my father's
attraction to the authoritarian nature and certitude
of cult leaders has something to do with his
upbringing. He describes, in a fictional account,
exactly what I witnessed of his real-life family
during our New York visits with Granny, Grandpa,
and Aunt Doris. Seymour says of his visits with the
Fedders, his fiancee's family:

"I wish Mr. Fedder were more conversationally active.
Sometimes I feel I need him. Sometimes, in fact, when
I come in the front door, it's like entering a kind
of untidy, secular, two-woman convent. Sometimes
when I leave, I have a peculiar feeling that both
M.[uriel, his fiancee] and her mother have stuffed
my pockets with little bottles and tubes containing
lipstick, rouge, hairnets, deodorants, and so on. . . .
I don't know what to do with their invisible gifts."
(_Raise High_, p. 69)

The unmet need for an active male presence in a boy's life
can lead to a vulnerability, or an attraction to what is
called, in the literature on cults, an "authoritarian
personality." As I read the descriptions and theory
of the so-called authoritarian personality, I felt as
though the researcher had been a fly on the wall of our
home for years observing my father's strange behavior
in the thrall of a new belief. In a way, it was a relief
to find that this disturbing phenomenon was not unique
to us. It was horrifying as well. . . One article in
particular, "Religious Cults: Havens for the Emotionally
Distressed, Idealists and Intellectuals, and Strongholds
of Authoritarian Personalities," could have had the
subtitle "At Home with J. D. Salinger." The author
[Edward Levine, Ph.D., professor emeritus of sociology,
Loyola University; board of directors, Mental Health
Association of Evanston] writes:

"First, cult leaders are individuals with authoritarian,
charismatic personalities who exude, if for some with
reserve and indirection, a determined an unshakable
conviction in themselves and their religious views.
They serve as authority figures with whom their
converts identify and their views and pronouncements
are presented as infallible.

Next, each cult leader claims that only the religious
views he espouses are true, as well as being the ideal
and practical means of resolving the problems afflicting
the world and those who join cults. The doctrinaire
character of their statements provides converts with a
clear sense of meaning, direction, and purpose for
their minds and lives, thus dispelling the confusion,
undertainty, and self-doubt that are characteristics
of many of them prior to their conversion.

Third, cults impose specific, demanding, and often
ascetic and puritanical rules and regulations that
govern most of the major aspects of converts' daily
lives (e.g., the observation of religious rituals, diets,
personal appearance, sexual codes, prohibiting drug
use, etc.). Cultists perceive the religious views
as true, encompassing explanations about the meaning
of life and their role in it, and welcome the inflexible
standard as concrete guides for their personal,
interpersonal, and social behavior. Both provide them
with an alternative of substance to the anomie culture
that so bewilders them."

Another way of understanding my father's attraction to
such belief systems involves moving away from the realm
of individual psychology and looking, instead, at our
shared history. I believe that there are things
particular to my father's background as a Jew or half-Jew
growing up in America that left him, and those with
a similar background, vulnerable to what one expert
in the field calls "new religions," a term perhaps
less emotionally provocative than _cults_. Rabbi Fine
[Rabbi Yehuda Fine, founder and director of the Jewish
Institute; member of the New York Task Force on
Missionaries and Cults, and of the Interfaith Council
of Concern on Cults.] speaks eloquently of Jews
and chartlessness in our society:

"Young Jews . . . wonder, what does it mean to be a Jew,
rising out of the ashes of the Holocaust? What does it
mean to be one of 3.5 percent of the population in
a non-Jewish culture? Those considerations affect
Jews as individuals. They cause a person to question
and wonder. And when men and women question and wonder
inside of themselves, internally they seek resolution.
The new religious movements, of course, provide that
resolution."

The belief systems that Rabbi Fine cites as particularly
attractive to Jews are precisely those to which my father
and his characters are attracted. Fine believe that
Eastern religions, especially guru movements, "because
of their universalist pitch -- we will accept and bring
in everyone -- . . . wolve a lot of unique Jewish
concerns instantly. . . . You can still be identified
more or less (mostly less) with your Judaism, but
acceptance is for everybody. You don't have to deal with
any of those historical or minority problems because
the solution is 'we are one' . . ."
[Esther Dietz confirms that Jews are overrepresented
in cult membership. She found that Jews are particularly
likely to be drawn to cults based on the Eastern
religions -- Hinduism in particular: "The Eastern or Hindu-
based groups seem to be the most attractive to Jews
and to have a relatively high proportion -- as much as
25-30 percent (Divine Light Mission, Hare Krishna,
Muktananda, Rajneesh, T.M., would be included in this
group)."] . . .

My father's final two novels restate the identical problem
and solution. In _Franny and Zooey_, Franny is cracking
up, unmoored and battered by the phoniness of life
and college. She regains her faculties through the
revelation that everyone is Christ. "Don't you know the
secret?" Zooey asks her. Each and every one of these
phonies, those irrigation devices, "even the terrible
Professor Tupper . . . is Christ Himself." The book
ends: "For some minutes, before she fell into a deep,
dreamless sleep, she just lay quiet, smiling at the
ceiling."

My father's last published book, _Raise High the Roof Beam,
Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction_, ends with Buddy
realizing that Seymour was right, that the "awful Room
307," Buddy's classroom of college girls just back from
Ivy League weekends, is really "Holy Ground," and
every one of those girls, "even the terrible Miss Zabel,
is as much his sister as Boo Boo or Franny."

In each book, the tension is resolved by the revelation,
as Rabbi Fine said, that "we are one." . . .

My father's fictional solution falls apart at the boundary
of reality, however. It is one thing to merge with humanity,
or even just one person, in an ecstatic experience of
joy, quite another to live with him or her the morning aftter,
day after day, week after week. . .

In a conversation recalled by one young woman [Joyce Maynard,
_At Home in the World: A Memoir_ (New York: Picador, 1998),
p. 158.], my father is caught in the web of his own
conundrum. She described to him a folk concert she attended:

-------
"For a few minutes it felt as though everybody in the
room was **good**. We were all friends. I just looked
around and loved everyone. It was such a relief, feeling
that way."

"The song ended eventually, I imagine?" Jerry says, with
a bitter edge in his voice that takes me by surprise.
"There's the catch. You can only go on for so many verses
before people start remembering how much everyone else
actually irritates the hell out of them."
-------

My father could not have described any better his real
life, as opposed to the world of his fiction. Time and
again I've witness that his epiphanous experiences of
joy and unity with all creation are "like joy, a liquid,"
rather than "happiness, a solid." ["De Daumier-Smith's
Blue Period"]. The morning after, they slip through
his fingers like the mists of a dream.

Outside the realm of fiction, my father is able to hold
on to his "we are one" solution, albeit tenuously, only
in reclusion. . .

I often wondered how his wives and lovers, intelligent
young women, so full of promise, could become like the
mythological Echo, wasting away. Although on reflection,
it seems to me that their backgrounds left them vulnerable
perhaps to an unusual extreme degree -- certainly my
mother's childhood is an ode to the agony of the unmoored,
the child adrift and at sea -- the trajectory of their
entry into my father's world could not be more typical
of standard cult entry. . .

A key part of the attraction to the cultic relationship at
such vulnerable times is what researchers refer to as
"love bombing" [Drs. Louis J. West and Margaret Thaler
Singer in _Cults, Quacks, and Non-Professional Psychotherapists_
include love bombing in their outlines of ten key
points to cult indoctrincation. See also re "love
bombing": Arthur Dole, professor of educational
psychology at University of Pennsylvania in _Cults and
Consequences_. Joyce Maynard records, in her memoir,
this early stage of her relationship with my father. . .
"As always, the ltter Jerry writes to me, after receiving
[mine], begins with a warm and loving appreciation
of what I have written to him. . . . He calls
my letter from Miami beautiful. Reading [her letters],
he says, revives in him a deep love of writing that
he doesn't often feel these days."] -- sincere smiles,
eye contact, hand-holding, and general expressions of
great affection; a kind of total and unconditional love
that is hard to describe in its dazzling intensity unless
you, too, have been blinded by its light, though few
would not understand the appeal. It is certainly
understandable that my mother should have been tremendously
awed and moved by the attention of an author in his
thirties writing letters to her, a senior in high
school. What is harder for me to understand is how
she came to drop everything and follow him, how she
became entangled, in tendrils as strong as flesh and
blood, even after the criticism began. . .

Leila Hadley -- the writer my father dated briefly around
the time he met Claire -- said, reflecting on their
relationship, "I think he liked putting me down. There
was something sadistic about it. . . . He was very
much like that character of his in 'The Inverted Forest' --
Raymond Ford. . . . It wasn't a sexual power, it was
a mental power. You felt he had the power to imprison
someone mentally. It was as if one's mind were at
risk, rather than one's virtue. [Hamilton, _Salinger_,
pp. 126-27.]. . .

When Claire refused to give up college the first time
Jerry asked, and he left her, the feeling was abandonment
was so terrible. . . [s]he wound up in the hospital
on the verge of a breakdown and jumped into a marriage
with another man. [Joyce writes of her breakup with
my father: "One day Jerry Salinger is the only man in
my universe. I look to him to tell me what to write,
what to think, what to wear, to read, to eat. He
tells me who I am, who I should be. The next day
he's gone. . . . Not having Jerry to lead me, I feel
left behind and lost, not simply alone physically,
but spiritually stranded. I've been well acquainted
with the sensation of loneliness all my life. Never
like this" (_At Home_, p. 211). Someone from _Esquire_
interviewed Joyce the following winter, after their
breakup. The interviewer write: "Her purity blows
through the room like draft. . . She hugs her sides
and sits by the fire, rocking . . ." (p. 223).]
When my father did come back into her life, she did
indeed try to do everything she could to keep in his
good graces, but as time went by, she pleased him
less and less. My mother said she felt as though she
were trapped in a fairy tale in which every time she
met his demands, the standards increased ad infinitum.
Although she came to believe, quite early on, that
she was incapable of redemption in my father's eyes
through any effort of her own, she imagined that
by producing a child -- knowing how much he loved
children -- she might, vicariously, regain some lost
ground. [Joyce, too, came to believe that she was
incapable of the "purity" my father expects, though,
sadly, she does not question the standard. "My only
hope of redemption," she writes, "is to have a baby.
To me, having a baby with Jerry would be a way of
experiencing a childhood I never had but longed for.
If I cannot be the child myself that he would have
wanted, I will be her next of kin anyway. If I can't
please him enough for who I am -- and indications
are that I cannot -- I will please him by providing
him with this other person who will be perfect in all
the ways I am not. . . . He will never leave me,
because I am the child's mother" (Maynard, op. cit.,
pp. 167-68).] She was shocked into a suicical depression
when she realized that her pregnancy only repulsed him,
sending him deeper into the forest, where, after
coutless hours of hard labor, two Glass children came
into the world: _Franny_, published in _The New Yorker_
in January of 1955, followed by _Raise High the Roof
Beam, Carpenters_, in November. . .

A full generation after my mother became pregnant, and
I was nearly grown up, I found out that my father
was still dealing in dreams, rather than real children.
Because I'm now a parent myself, with a very real
child, the hardest thing for me to read in Joyce Maynard's
memoir was that nothing had changed. . . [S]he writes:

------
"The problem [their inability to have intercourse] remains
unchanged and increasingly, unaddressed, even though the
baby plan has continued to the point where a name
has been selected for our future child. It's an odd
name -- not a name at all.

'I dreamed you and I had a baby,' he tells me one morning.
'I saw her face clearly. Her name was _Bint_.'

He looks the word up in the dictionary. 'What do you
know?' Jerry says. 'It's archaic British, for little
girl.' From that point on, we refer to our future child
by the name from Jerry's dream."
------

My father's current wife, Colleen -- Gaelic for "young girl" --
whom he met, some fifty hears her elder, when she was a young
girl in her early twenties, looks up at me with her clear
blue eyes, pretty smile, lovely peach skin glowing beneath
her reddish gold hair cut pixie style -- all that is
missing is the Catholic-school uniform -- tells me now,
in my middle age, that she and my father are trying to get
pregnant. I begin to tell her what life is really like
for a child in reclusion; I ask, would they move? I mention
that my father is nearing eighty. Then, I fall silent,
feeling as though I'm talking to a girl, too young to be
having sex, about responsibility and consequences, hurling
limp reason at a dream glowing in the moonlight.
------------------------------------------------------

Antonin said...

Hate-speech towards an ideological movement? Stop the press! I'm sure this will turn out to be a very foxnewsworthy discussion...

smartypants said...

To equate Dale's comments with the antisemitism of the white supremicists [sic] is head-up-your-ass willful ignorance at best. To equate his ethos with such diabolical intent is not only baseless ... but worse still, it utterly denigrates the victims of that diabolical intent (giving the impression that the very real occurence [sic] of things like the holocaust and all that it meant and continues to mean just doesn't matter much to you, as if the historical veracity of such realities only exists to give you a way to talk against interlocutors with whom you can't hold your own ground).

(insert standard applause track here)

Yay! Add seth to the list of Loyal Mundists of Dael!

Seth has clearly mastered the standard rebuttal to the standard Nazi comparison. But, couldn't he have invented a better variation?

Of course not. Every dipshit commenter on every blog on every server everywhere believes in the originality and uniqueness of the point they are making.

Hear it again for the first time...

This comment section is no better. We poor readers, upon clicking that dreaded link 'MundiMoot', are forced to re-live the infinite regress of a delusional rabble lip-syncing to the decades-old hits of yesteryear -- a Philistine mob in paroxysms of self-congratulatory mutual citation.

This disease is pervasive, pernicious, and incurable. And, yes, it is also the Technical Definition of p2p.

De Thezier said...

Dale Carrico said:

I just went from thinking you're a naive and somewhat ignorant albiet well-intentioned silly person to thinking your the kind of lazy, repugnant blight on progressive discourse that justifies almost completely ignoring you. Thanks for helping me find that realization.

The greater realization for me was what it says about the transhumanist movement when you know that Giulio Prisco was the executive director of WTA. Let that sink in for a moment... :/

smartypants said...

Dale, when did Michael Anissimov transform from Friend of Blog to his current status as Hated Other?

It took something like seven months, and one wonders:

What does one need to do to earn such esteemed status?

seth said...

smartypants:

Thanks for noticing and marking my grammatical errors. In the future I'll strive to not let my frustration rush me to post without double-checking myself.

As for the lack of originality in my critique of michael and giulio's appropriation of anti-Semitism, what's your point? Yes, others have voiced the same criticism in different context (most thoroughly Norman Finkelstein in Beyond Chutzpa). But neither michael nor giulio seemed to be aware of what they were doing. You don't think it's an abuse that merits being pointed out? I disagree. It's the kind of thing that one shouldn't let go by unanswered to the extent that one is concerned with such things. And since you seem to have missed the point, that abuse is what motivated my response, not the fact that Dale was being criticized. He's a big boy, and fully capable of handling such things on his own.

de thezier:

The quote you commented, bad grammar and all, on was actually mine.

Dale Carrico said...

As it happen, "Smartypants," Michael and I have been sparring, often grumpily, since the earliest months of this blog's existence. Michael contributes to the community of Amor Mundi with his interventions even though I strongly disagree with him and at the moment I am annoyed with him (this happens regularly, as Michael would likely attest). We've traded barbs this hostile plenty of times and yet I've gone on to characterize him as a Friend of Blog in the aftermath... I certainly wouldn't be surprised to find that happening again. He's not a friend of mine, I think he is enormously misguided, I think his public-relations spinning for "transhumanist" organizations is awfully facile most of the time, but when he returns to this blog with regular interventions he invigorates its conversation, however much I disagree with him. I don't doubt that this answer will disappoint you enormously, but there it is. I certainly prefer Michael's comments to other regular participants in the Moot like peco's (which unfailingly annoy me with their trollishness) or Giulio's (which are useful as a forceful exposure of the bankruptcy of transhumanism's public "intellectuals" but are also a bit depressing in their relentless oafishness), even if I tend to disagree with all three.

Dale Carrico said...

Hey, Seth, Finkelstein's book was quite good, happy to give it a plug here. Don't worry about grammar stumbles -- blogging isn't conventional publishing, it is more conversational, and few people get snotty about it if they have anything actually substantive to complain about.

peco said...

All of the anonymous comments except for the second Anonymous in the post about "prepolitical reductivism" were mine.

Dale Carrico said...

"Smartypants" snarks: Add seth to the list of Loyal Mundists of Dael! To a cultist, no doubt, everybody looks like a cultist. You say Seth is a "loyalist," rather than a person responding with real disgust to what he perceives as outrageous statements by some transhumanist commenters here in the Moot. You seem to find his disgust funny or dishonest. Why, exactly?

Seth wrote, "To equate Dale's comments with the antisemitism of the white supremacists is head-up-your-ass willful ignorance at best. To equate his ethos with such diabolical intent is not only baseless (giving the impression that you only read the portions of his writing that hurt your sensitive little feelings), but worse still, it utterly denigrates the victims of that diabolical intent (giving the impression that the very real occurrence of things like the holocaust and all that it meant and continues to mean just doesn't matter much to you, as if the historical veracity of such realities only exists to give you a way to talk against interlocutors with whom you can't hold your own ground)."

His point has considerably more substance than a declaration of "loyalty" to me, and although you may think it's cute to denigrate his sentiments I am quite happy to affirm them as basic decency, and I am quite unconcerned at the prospect that you will castigate that statement as empty sanctimony or what have you, and I will also say that your own insufferable indifference marks you as an asshole as clearly as your hiding behind your pseudonym marks you as a Robot Cult coward.

PS: By the way, "Smartypants," you wouldn't happen to be a certain person who e-mailed me recently under your own name whining about my use of the phrase "Ayn Raelian" to designate market libertopian Robot Cultists would you now?

Dale Carrico said...

peco -- I wish you'd find some other bridge to troll under, but, whatever.

giulio said...

Re: "I wish you'd find some other bridge to troll under" and the earlier "asshole" directed to another dissenter.

I think we should let Dale preach in peace to his two or three brainwashed followers here, and stop wasting our time. This is becoming boring.

Dale Carrico said...

I agree with you, Giulio. By all mens do leave me to preach to my brainwashed followers now.

And, by the way, can somebody let me know where I'm presumably leading you guys when you get a sec? No biggie, but I suspect a cult leader should know such things.

Antonin said...

Speaking as an habitual lurker, I must say I find this particular discussion rather nonsensical, insubstantial and untypical of what I've come to expect from this blog.

I'm fairly surprised that transhumanists have taken upon themselves to veer the dialog toward weighings of 'who's brainwashing who'. I thought that kind of discourse was marked 'Creationist country' for a reason...

Oh and Dale, Dear Leader, you're supposed to lead us to the promised land of Renewed Arguments, Embittered Wit and More Interesting.

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> PS: By the way, "Smartypants," you wouldn't happen to be a
> certain person who e-mailed me recently under your own name
> whining about my use of the phrase "Ayn Raelian" to designate
> market libertopian Robot Cultists would you now?

Or perhaps he's the "MEST compression" guy. (What? We no
Scientologists here! :-0 ).

Shucks, now he's going to have to find another handle. ;->

jfehlinger said...

"Smartypants" wrote:

> Every dipshit commenter on every blog on every server everywhere
> believes in the originality and uniqueness of the point they are making.
>
> Hear it again for the first time...
>
> This comment section is no better. We poor readers, upon clicking
> that dreaded link 'MundiMoot', are forced to re-live the infinite
> regress of a delusional rabble lip-syncing to the decades-old hits
> of yesteryear -- a Philistine mob in paroxysms of self-congratulatory
> mutual citation.

Ain't it the truth!

Of course, this phenomenon didn't come into existence with the
Blog, or even with the Web.

If you want to see "paroxysms of self-congratulatory mutual
[masturbation]", check out the archives of some of the >Hist
**mailing lists**. Extropians. SL4. WTA-talk.
"Classic" Extropians on Yahoo (by invitation only) -- whew!

> This disease is pervasive, pernicious, and incurable. And, yes, it
> is also the Technical Definition of p2p.

You should read Clay Shirky's "In Praise of Evolvable Systems"
(though, if you're who I think you might be, you know all
about "evo-devo" and self-organization, right? ;-> ):

"[T]he Web's almost babyish SGML syntax, so far from any serious
computational framework. . . made it possible for anyone wanting
a Web page to write one. The effects of this ease of implementation. . .
are twofold: a huge increase in truly pointless and stupid content
soaking up bandwidth; and, as a direct result, a rush to find ways
to compete with all the noise through the creation of interesting
work. The quality of the best work on the Web today has not happened
in spite of the mass of garbage out there, but in part because of it."

But how does one **differentiate** the "quality of the best
work" from the "mass of garbage", eh?

Anonymous said...

I want to join the Robot Cult for the hot man on robot sex. Forget immortality, nanosantas, and sooper intellegence my real motivation are latex and leather luv bots. And if you would be honest with yourself Dale, you would admit it too. When the Robot God arrives and offers you, your own personal show tune singing pleasure bot you are going to be joining us.

occam's comic

Dale Carrico said...

Sign me on to the Robot Dildo Orgy, natch. The Robot Cult? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

Dale,
What if I told you the Robot God's nick name is Phalus D, I bet that would make the Robo Cult a bit more appealing.

Also, just as a warning, The meat and greet Robot dildo orgy is how we intend to suck you into the cult.

occam's comic

Dale Carrico said...

Leave it to Robot Cultists to imagine theirs is the only Robot Dildo Orgy in town.

jfehlinger said...

> I want to join the Robot Cult for the hot man on robot sex.

Yes, well, everybody knows how important pornography has been
to the market for high-tech entertainment.

The VCR wouldn't have happened without it, they say, and
quite possibly the same is true for broadband internet.

If there's any truth to technological determinism, sex is
undoubtedly part of the equation.

I'll take a pass on Second Life, though -- "pose balls"
don't do anything for me at all. USB vibrators? Well,
we'll see.

http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2005/03/analee_newitz_s.php

Dale Carrico said...

In a move that will surprise no one at all, "Smartypants" announces his hatred of the Mob: This comment section is no better. We poor readers, upon clicking that dreaded link 'MundiMoot', are forced to re-live the infinite regress of a delusional rabble lip-syncing to the decades-old hits of yesteryear -- a Philistine mob in paroxysms of self-congratulatory mutual citation.

This disease is pervasive, pernicious, and incurable. And, yes, it is also the Technical Definition of p2p.


Asshole aristocrats who fancy themselves to be Culture's indispensable gatekeepers are hardly in a position to preach about the delusions of others, nor about how passe are the concerns and values expressed by others. Is there any older, more tired, more delusive line of rhetorical crapola than one in which yet another dim-witted slimy jackhole who thinks he's God's gift to planet earth rails at the "rabble" who fail to grasp how he should rule as awesome Philosopher King?

Especially rich is Smartypants' complaint that he is "forced" to read these objectionable expressions of the mob upon clicking a link nobody forced his aristocratically lace-cuffed digits to depress if he truly "dreaded" the prospect so much after all.

It is edifying, though, I must say, to find a Robot Cultist expressing his hatred of both democracy in general and peer-to-peer formations in particular in one pithy little crystallization of the generally reactionary mindset of Superlative technocentricity.

One more data-point among endlessly many. Those Robot Cultists who sputter and howl about my delineations of such connections should police their reactionary anti-democrats among themselves, rather than whining when I publish my impressions on the subject, however contrary they may be to the promotional goals of your Robot Cult membership and fundraising drives.

Hey, "Smartypants," howzabout a little praise for The Bell Curve or an off the cuff expression of exasperation about what a waste of time politics are since optimal posthumans will outcompete their mehum inferiors into oblivion anyway? You know you want to! Just say it for the nice folks with the tape recorders here, won't you? It's always especially nice when I can reveal Robot Cultists not only as reactionary corporatist anti-democrats but also as racists and eugenicists, too. Let your freak flag fly, Smartypants! Let it all hang out!

peco said...

(1)

Asshole aristocrats

You don't know who he is.

(2)

who fancy themselves to be Culture's indispensable gatekeepers

He doesn't (how would you know, anyway?).

(3)

are hardly in a position to preach about the delusions of others

(1) + (2)

(4)

nor about how passe are the concerns and values expressed by others

(1) + (2)

(5)

thinks

How do you know that?

(6)


Especially rich is Smartypants' complaint that he is "forced" to read these objectionable expressions of the mob upon clicking a link nobody forced his aristocratically lace-cuffed digits to depress if he truly "dreaded" the prospect so much after all.


(agreement, but I don't think he was serious)

(7)

Robot Cultist

He's a transhumanist?

(8)

democracy in general

He didn't say anything about democracy.

(9)

peer-to-peer formations in particular

He's not criticizing all p2p formations (Wikipedia has nothing like this). Also, the comments on YouTube are extremely bad (not saying that this blog is like YouTube).

(10)

hatred

How do you know that?

(11)

pithy little crystallization

(8) + (9) + (10)

(12)

generally reactionary mindset of Superlative technocentricity

(weak agreement) I don't see how a reactionary mindset would be bad--Britain's crime rates have increased by a huge amount compared to 100 years ago (government is for order and justice).

(13)

One more data-point among endlessly many.

Not a very good one.

(14)

Those Robot Cultists who sputter and howl about my delineations of such connections should police their reactionary anti-democrats among themselves, rather than whining when I publish my impressions on the subject, however contrary they may be to the promotional goals of your Robot Cult membership and fundraising drives.

(weak agreement)

(15)

howzabout a little praise for The Bell Curve

Does he have any?

(16)

or an off the cuff expression of exasperation about what a waste of time politics are since optimal posthumans will outcompete their mehum inferiors into oblivion anyway

I don't think he believes this.

(17)

You know you want to

How do you know that?

(18)

Just say it for the nice folks with the tape recorders here, won't you

He's not going to say it.

(19)

reactionary corporatist anti-democrats

(see the rest of the comment)

(20)

racists and eugenicists

I don't think he is a racist of a eugenicist (I am both).

(21)

Let your freak flag fly, Smartypants! Let it all hang out!

He won't let it.

Anonymous said...

I'm so late, alas, all the fun's been had. Well at least I can add "you big babies" to my rhetorical arsenal.

smartypants said...

Dale writes:

You say Seth is a "loyalist," rather than a person responding with real disgust to what he perceives as outrageous statements by some transhumanist commenters here in the Moot. You seem to find his disgust funny or dishonest. Why exactly?

Seth's oh-so-righteous indignation over a too-many-problems-to-bother-pointing-out Nazi comparison is barely worth even acknowledging at the level of analysis. Content-free, pre-scripted scenes from a least-common denominator re-syndicated sitcom are like that, y'know. It's just smirk-inducing to watch it all play out in the living room of a self-avowed devotee of the power of 'peer-to-peer formations' (or is it 'formulations', I can never remember which…) You don't see even a sliver of irony in that?

Dale also writes:

Hey, "Smartypants," howzabout a little praise for The Bell Curve or an off the cuff expression of exasperation about what a waste of time politics are since optimal posthumans will outcompete their mehum inferiors into oblivion anyway?

You'll have to be more specific. What precisely would you like me to say? I'll say anything you want me to. That what we're here for, right?

Dale asks:

PS: By the way, "Smartypants," you wouldn't happen to be a certain person who e-mailed me recently under your own name whining about my use of the phrase "Ayn Raelian" to designate market libertopian Robot Cultists would you now?

Then jfehligner writes:

You should read Clay Shirky's "In Praise of Evolvable Systems"
(though, if you're who I think you might be, you know all
about "evo-devo" and self-organization, right? ;-> ):


Wow, talk about cultists!

Not a few hours passes after you both get finished decrying my 'Mundists of Dael' assault and I am blessed with the two bits above, gifts from the gods of rhetorical point-scoring. Yes! Yes! Name names!

Wondering aloud about the identities of your anonymous critics is a tad KSW, dontcha think? That said, I have to admit, there is a certain depraved logic to it. Dale and jfehlinger could very well be closeted scientologists trying to demonize another marginal group of weirdos obsessed with 'Tech' as The Real Threat so as to draw the world's critical efforts away from their oft-maligned Church. 'Daelinger' I name you.

If this were true, it would make the strange emphasis on transhumanism hereabouts just a little more sensible. Though not much more so, I'm afraid, for a prof who ought to be writing real criticism for the ole' tenure track. (Does Judith Butler read this blog, BTW?)

Actually, there's not much evidence that Dale is a scientologist, but jfehlinger shows some interesting familiarity with the material.

What are you afraid of, smartypants? Why are you being such an anonymous coward, smartypants? What are your crimes, smartypants?

But aside from the overall creepiness, who you both think I am is actually somewhat interesting and fun for me to ponder.

But, I should probably stop commenting on this blog before I get a letter from Moxon & Kobrin. And even if I do, rest assured there's no way I'm hiring peco to represent me.

jfehlinger said...

> Actually, there's not much evidence that Dale is
> a scientologist, but jfehlinger shows some interesting
> familiarity with the material.

Nah. It's all a Googl'usion.

> Wondering aloud about the identities of your anonymous critics
> is a tad KSW, dontcha think?

KSW
Keeping Scientology Working. A series of HCOPLs, Hubbard Communication
Office Policy Letters, designed to ensure Scientology lasts for hundreds
of years, and also that Hubbard's fondest wish, that his name be smashed
violently into the history books, becomes a reality. (Didn't Manson
have a similar desire?)

If you're OUT-ethics, chances are you're also OUT-tech and
OUT-admin, as well as OUT-manners, OUT-finances, OUT-TRs, OUT-PR,
OUT-comm, OUT-KSW, and OUT-2D! And even though there are some
people who seem to think this forum is an OUT-house, that's
no excuse for being in the condition of OUT-to-lunch!

> That said, I have to admit, there is a certain depraved logic to it.

We're both depraved, yes.

smartypants said...

Is there any older, more tired, more delusive line of rhetorical crapola than one in which yet another dim-witted slimy jackhole who thinks he's God's gift to planet earth rails at the "rabble" who fail to grasp how he should rule as awesome Philosopher King?

I LOVE this sentence-

-for so many reasons.

I also love how the default gender of the Hated Other is male.

Dale Carrico said...

peco, go away.

Dale Carrico said...

I also love how the default gender of the Hated Other is male.

boo-hoo, feminazi's are so-o-o mean. Smartypants, nineteenth century voice of "the future."

Dale Carrico said...

Dale and jfehlinger could very well be closeted scientologists trying to demonize another marginal group of weirdos obsessed with 'Tech' as The Real Threat so as to draw the world's critical efforts away from their oft-maligned Church. 'Daelinger' I name you.

The ultimate in transhumanist Robot Cult rhetorical sophistication -- I know you are but what am I? I know you are but what am I? I know you are but what am I? ad infinitum.

If this were true, it would make the strange emphasis on transhumanism hereabouts just a little more sensible.

Here's the answer to this question if you care for an actual answer (I know you don't).

I'm afraid, for a prof who ought to be writing real criticism for the ole' tenure track. (Does Judith Butler read this blog, BTW?)

This is a cult threatening critics with professional demonization as far as I can see. By your actions you are known.

I'm not on the tenure track, nor do I am I following a conventional professionalization pathway -- as it happens, I think p2p democratization is changing the structure of the humanities academy in ways that make it desirable to rethink these customs and assumptions in fundamental ways.

Dale Carrico said...

I'll say anything you want me to. That what we're here for, right?

It isn't completely clear to me what you are here for, as it happens. You seem to be oscillating between fairly conventional troll behavior and panic-stricken damage control for the Robot Cult organizations with which no doubt you are deeply personally invested under the real name you are not publishing as you snipe and cajole from the sidelines.

jfehlinger said...

> > That said, I have to admit, there is a certain depraved logic to it.
>
> We're both depraved, yes.

More specifically, Out-2D in Scientology(ish) lingo.

;->

> I should probably stop commenting on this blog before
> get a letter from Moxon & Kobrin.

> Or even from Vyff, Vyff, Vyff, Vyff, Vyff, & Friends, Ph.D.

> And even if I do, rest assured there's no way I'm hiring
> peco to represent me.

That would be, ahem, smart of you.

peco said...

peco, go away.

Remove my comments if you don't like them.

Dale Carrico said...

Unbelievable.

peco said...

"Male-Male Competition in Primates"

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~phyl/anthro/malmal.html

I also love how the default gender of the Hated Other is male.

It could mean this.

jfehlinger said...

peco offered the paradigm-wrenching insight:

> [smartypants snarked:]
>
> > I also love how the default gender of the Hated Other is male.
>
> It could mean this.
> ["Male-Male Competition in Primates"
> http://www-personal.umich.edu/~phyl/anthro/malmal.htm ]

Putting aside the intriguing hypothesis that "smartypants" is in
actuality a wannabe Philosopher Queen, then what?

You're suggesting Dale should pack it in, like Hillary Clinton,
and leave the field to **your** favorite alpha primate(s)?

You're suggesting that your hero(es) have edged beyond primate-hood,
via SF or computer programming, or mathematics olympiads, or
whatever, so we should all just shut up and follow them to the stars,
we pathetic not-so-cutting-edge primates?

You're suggesting that your favorite oracles are actually ET
come to save the day? Bodhisattvas from the Sixth Density?
In contact with Eighteenth Men telepathically signalling from
the future? Or perhaps, like Ayn Rand was held to be by her
followers (she was too honest to contradict them) "the greatest mind
the human race has produced since Aristotle. Maybe even
including Aristotle."

I'm afraid we primates are all in it together, Mr. Peco -- there
are no bodhisattvas.

peco said...

No. I just thought smartypants meant something else.

smartypants said...

jfehlinger wrote:

Putting aside the intriguing hypothesis that "smartypants" is in
actuality a wannabe Philosopher Queen, then what?


Can someone please explain to me why the question of who I am or what I am is a topic of speculation? Did I, by some miracle of conspiratorial happenstance, unwittingly give you all the secret Illuminati nod-and-wink?

And by 'Queen' do you mean 'homosexual male' or 'human with ovaries'?

And why would it be so intriguing if I were one or the other?

Dale Carrico said...

You were the one who took umbrage at the fact that I took you for a man just because you are being an asshole. Jim was just genuflecting to your apparent desire to be seen otherwise. I am still quite confident you have a dick (and indeed I feel confident I know just which dick you are, as it happens), but be that as it may, if you want to insinuate instead that there was some whiff of sexism or heterosexism in his labeling I think it only fair to point out that Jim is a big fag just as I am and we certainly need no defenses from the likes of you. As for the rest, I think your pseudonymity indicates plain cowardice, not conspiracy. It's easy to fling snipe from behind a mask, sitting in the cheap seats, challenging writings with a real name behind them in the commentary space the presumably intolerant author makes available for you to use and abuse as you see fit.

jfehlinger said...

> And by 'Queen' do you mean 'homosexual male' or 'human with ovaries'?

I was indeed trading on the ambiguity. I thought it was
funny.

peco said...

It's easy to fling snipe

I'm not very good at it.

cowardice

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

jfehlinger said...

> cowardice
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

No, dear. It couldn't be something even approaching ad hominem
(in the sense of the argumentational fallacy), even in **form**,
unless somebody said something like "You're a homosexual, therefore
thus-and-so (the theory of evolution, say) can't be (or must) be true."

To say "You're a thief, because I saw you steal a candy bar from
the drugstore." is certainly confrontational, but it isn't the
ad hominem fallacy, because being a thief and stealing actually have
something to do with each other. Similarly with "You're a coward,
because you make seriously snotty blog comments behind the cover of
a pseudonym."

Being a homosexual (let's say), and having one's arguments for the
theory of evolution rejected for that reason, **is** ad hominem
(at least on the face of it), because the personal trait and
the argument have (or **should** have) nothing to do with each
other.

Do you see the distinction?

I say "on the face of it" and "**should** have" because these statements
are often embedded in larger matrices of discourse, which can
weaken the force of the "ad hominem" charge. Because of the implicit
bridges these implied matrices can provide, the rhetorical
ellipsis "You're a homosexual, I needn't take seriously anything
you might have to say about the theory of evolution." might well
actually make sense from the point of view of somebody on the
religious right (Ann Coulter, let's say ;-> ). From the point of
view of Richard Dawkins the same ellipsis might look like pure
ad hominem (and might well be dismissed as such as a rhetorical
tactic) but you can see the problem here -- what counts as "ad hominem"
for the goose does not always count as such for the gander.
I think the "homosexual -- evolution" ellipsis **should be**
dismissed as ad hominem, but that says as much about my
alignment in the conflict between the two larger systems of discourse
as it does about my perspicuity in ferreting out logical fallacies.

That said, I will acknowledge that switching the level of argumentation
to "coward -- pseudonym" is the sort of rhetorical diversion that
people sometimes grab at when they're tired of arguing or
think they might be losing an argument ("By the way, I don't want
to talk to you any more because you have bad breath!") However,
in this case, there are mitigating circumstances -- the commenter
to whom Dale was responding had already changed the subject
(away from transhumanism, etc.) by offering politically-toned
observations about peer-to-peer on-line publication (such as this
blog), and similar (high-toned, I'll admit that) name-calling.