Archive for January, 2017

Destroying the Idea by Taking It Seriously

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

So I was lately wondering if we’re witnessing the demise of epistemology, and a few months ago I was wondering essentially the same thing about critical thinking.

People have neglected considerations of the metaphysical so resolutely and for so long, they think they can make things true by putting it to a vote, and expressing their opinions emphatically.

Critical thinking must be critical. A good example of it would be: You’re at home and you receive a call, in the middle of the day, from very prestigious investment broker telling you about this amazing opportunity, they need the money right away if you want to go for it, be sure and keep it a secret because they only want a few people to have the opportunity…

Non critical thinking would be: They’re so prestigious! Who am I to doubt them? And: How could I get my hands on that amount of money before 5 p.m.? Critical thinking would be: If it’s such a great deal and you only want a few people to know about it, why do you need me? Why even tell me about it? Why not invest in it yourself?

Critical thinking often requires taking an idea seriously when one’s sympathies lie elsewhere. This is something people used to do often. They would attack ideas by taking them seriously. One of the best examples we have of this is something you should’ve already been reading anyway, Marbury vs. Madison, the 1803 Supreme Court decision that established the right of judicial review:

Those, then, who controvert the principle that the Constitution is to be considered in court as a paramount law are reduced to the necessity of maintaining that courts must close their eyes on the Constitution, and see only the law.

This doctrine would subvert the very foundation of all written Constitutions. It would declare that an act which, according to the principles and theory of our government, is entirely void, is yet, in practice, completely obligatory. It would declare that, if the Legislature shall do what is expressly forbidden, such act, notwithstanding the express prohibition, is in reality effectual. It would be giving to the Legislature a practical and real omnipotence with the same breath which professes to restrict their powers within narrow limits. It is prescribing limits, and declaring that those limits may be passed at pleasure.

That it thus reduces to nothing what we have deemed the greatest improvement on political institutions — a written Constitution, would of itself be sufficient, in America where written Constitutions have been viewed with so much reverence, for rejecting the construction. But the peculiar expressions of the Constitution of the United States furnish additional arguments in favour of its rejection.

The judicial power of the United States is extended to all cases arising under the Constitution.

Could it be the intention of those who gave this power to say that, in using it, the Constitution should not be looked into? That a case arising under the Constitution should be decided without examining the instrument under which it arises?

This is too extravagant to be maintained.

Chief Justice Marshall demolishes the opposing argument — that the ordinary statute must reign supreme upon the topic upon which it is narrowly focused, and the Constitution that would ordinarily place a constraint against the necessary authority has no effect — by taking it seriously. He accepts it for the time being, for the sake of argument, then navigates it to see where it leads. “It would be giving to the Legislature a practical and real omnipotence with the same breath which professes to restrict their powers within narrow limits. It is prescribing limits, and declaring that those limits may be passed at pleasure…too extravagant to be maintained.”

My own favorite example is against the idea that our outgoing President has had some beneficial effect on the nation’s economy, that America’s First Holy President “inherited a mess” and “created thousands of jobs.” Taking this seriously, we are beset by a critical question: How? For the sake of our fellow citizens who are still struggling, we must ask what He did to bring such a favorable outcome. It is imperative! His successors must know how to achieve a similar miracle!

It makes as big a mess as you might have expected. One fanboy took on the challenge. In so doing he made the situation worse. Barack Obama fixed our economy by NOT…doing a bunch of stuff His predecessor did. Not torturing terrorists, for example. Eh? Making sure terrorists are comfortable makes the economy more-better? The sweater is already falling apart faster and faster, and all I did was pull one loose thread.

I find this third example most impressive of all: Blogger friend Gerard Van der Leun, former Penthouse editor, dismantles Peegate. Same formula: Take the target argument seriously for the moment…pull on the loose thread, watch the deterioration ensue.

Having lived through that period of Penthouse insanity I thought I had finally seen the last of losers using urination to somehow, someway, claw their way back into the winner’s circle.

Alas, just when I thought I was out, the perverted progressive losers among us pull me back in. It seems they are trying to make the world believe in Trump and “Peegate.”

Really? This seems to be the way Peegate worked:

1) An international business man who has spent decades in the rough and tumble world of real estate development and skyscraper construction and may be presumed to have some sophistication when it comes to wheeling and dealing with governments of all sorts throughout the world travels to

2) Moscow. Not Moscow, Idaho, but Moscow in Russia. That would be Moscow the capital of one of the most paranoid and intrusive governments in the world (Both now and for the 19th and 20th centuries.). It is a society and a government with a long history of…

3) Secret police and the clandestine surveillance of its own citizens and visitors to the extent that the US was digging bugs out of the walls of its own embassy in Moscow for decades. When he gets to Moscow he stays at…

4) The Moscow Ritz-Carlton in the “Presidential Suite.” Since such accommodations are typically only taken by the filthy rich and/or representatives of foreign governments such as, say, presidents. And then this sophisticated and reasonably intelligent billionaire real estate developer…

5) Assumes that such a suite in such a capitol city of such a government has no surveillance equipment at all installed in its rooms, bathrooms, closets, and — most importantly — bedrooms. He then asks the hotel staff to show him…

6) The bed in which Barack Obama and his wife slept in when they were in this same “Presidential Suite.” Upon being show the bed our businessman then…

7) Contacts two high-dollar Russian hookers (who would never, ever, have anything to do with the KGB or other intelligence organs of Russia) and instructs them to…. Wait for it….

8) Urinate on said bed in order to give said businessman some odd sort of thrill and…

9) Said businessman remains utterly positive no agency of the Russian state is running cameras and microphones from every possible angle in the master bedroom in a “Presidential Suite” in a top hotel in the capitol of Russia and…

10) The two damp hookers will never, ever, reveal a word about their golden shower in the Ritz Carleton’s “Presidential Suite.”

While I know that millions of morons are nodding like the drinking bird over the glass in their deep and abiding belief in this overflowing crock, I still find it hard to believe that there are smart people out there that really are this stupid…

Critical thinking is, among other things, reckoning with contradictions. You know you aren’t doing it if someone tells you “The pea is under one of these two shells,” “The pea is not under this shell” and “It isn’t under this shell either”…and your reaction to all this is “Hooray! I learned three things!”

Who Broke Our Epistemology?

Friday, January 13th, 2017

There’s no use crying over the bad results — we, and our precious news-cycle, got punked and good — we may as well acknowledge the obvious. Something is broken; something’s wrong. If the experiment could somehow be repeated a hundred more times, it would’ve turned out the way it did a hundred more times. Whatever makes the President-Elect look bad must be true.

This is right after we all got to watch an aging actress lecture us about the nobility of feeling what other people feel, and in the very same breath completely lose track of how her soapbox rant was coming across to anyone in the country who was not in the immediate vicinity. Without a trace of irony.

It isn’t just a Trump thing. I was listening with half an ear to the confirmation hearings and it made an impression on me that a lot of people in some very high places seem to have fallen into a habit of introducing themselves, or others, in laudatory or in pejorative ways, with some variation of the form “I am / he is / she is / they are a [not-]deplorable person[s], because of my/his/her/their [lack of] belief in [X]…” Where, [X] is something a lot of people might want like the dickens to be acknowledged far & wide as true or false…but, it isn’t really known. The great global-warming swindle is by far the best example, although it’s dirty and contaminated. Proponents of it have succeeded in pushing the idea that we’re debating the insulating properties of carbon dioxide, and in so doing have made “he doesn’t believe in global warming” sound like “he doesn’t believe in the greenhouse effect.” Consequentially, most people with the most adamant opinions about this seem to have forgotten what they themselves are saying: Planet Earth’s ability to sustain life as we know it, for the foreseeable future, is open to question and so we’re going to have to tax & regulate the bejeezus out of ourselves in order to prolong this. That’s the real source of disagreement.

But the issue is not goalpost-moving, so that’s what makes the example dirty. Here’s a clean one: Barack Obama was not born in Kenya. This is almost certainly true; knowing what we know about Stanley Ann Dunham’s whereabouts in 1961, it is logistically very difficult to seriously consider, let alone accept, she birthed a child in Kenya that August. But logistics are not at the forefront of consideration of people who go around saying this. They seek to ridicule and cast dispersions on those who believe that’s what happened — seemingly forgetting that they themselves do not know, and thus aren’t in a position to pass judgment like this. Were they in that delivery room in Honolulu? If not, then why are they using “he’s a birther” as some sort of slanderous intro? Surely, if the target of slander were given to believing spurious things, a better example could be found?

Something has been happening to us, and as usual I suspect if we take the time to self-examine, and the good grace to be honest about what we’re finding as we go along, we’re going to find it’s something that’s been happening for a very long time. It’s tribalism taking the place of the desire to discover what’s really true — what’s really known.

I’m guessing we’ll find out we’ve been doing it to ourselves. Tribalism pulled rank over epistemology when we decided, as a society, we didn’t care to know if a black guy was more likely to rob you or burgle your apartment than a white guy. This was “discrimination,” and it was so evil that in our constant efforts to vanquish it, we didn’t care about what was really true. It’s good that we were so dedicated to seeing to it everyone had an equal opportunity. But I’m noticing it never seems to work out over the long haul when we decide we don’t care what’s true. There always seems to be an unraveling. In this case, a dedication to not caring about who was “more likely” to commit crimes, meant there had to be an accompanying dedication to not caring about statistics; can’t claim that glorious, cleansing apathy with regard to the former, while committing the sin of acquiring & using actual information about the latter. Okay, so we don’t care about crime statistics. That means we can’t care about crime. Also, if you’re smearing people by saying “he thinks black people commit more crimes,” you are obliged, for consistency’s sake, to smear people the same way by saying “he thinks gay people are more likely to molest children.” Again, without reading up on, or giving a fig about, the relevant statistics.

And then you’re obliged to take another step, and another step, and another and another…hey, now that gay people can get married, can they get divorced? Are we allowed to ever think any of them would want to be? Or is that just a straight thing?

There are three factors at work here. One, the “carrot” of positive social reward, as a consequence of thinking the correct things, is more keenly defined. The second, closely aligned with the first, is the “stick” — God only knows what will happen to you if you’re caught thinking the wrong things. The third is where things get messy: It’s the loss of incentive involved acknowledging what’s really true. People like to pretend the last forty years or so have been full of suffering and things have been getting worse and worse, but overall we’ve been heading in the opposite direction. We’ve been living high on the hog, we’re not worried about where our next meal is coming from, and you can tell this by way of a quick profile view of most of us. The truth of the matter is that if we’re wrong about something, we don’t suffer for it, and we know we won’t; we anticipate it. Over the long run, this hurts us.

I think about this every time I go shooting, whether I do well or not. I know I’d be scoring a lot more hits if I were forced to survive on this, as people used to years and years ago. And even then, I suspect they may have been better shots as they reached the end of their ammunition stockpile, compared to when they were just starting in on a fresh supply. There’s something about scarcity that sharpens the mind. It seems we can’t ace anything until we know we’re in a position to lose something.

The Z Man had a very artful way of writing about how this all works, going so far as to argue that diversity hiring is a sign that the employing organization, for whatever reason, just doesn’t care anymore. It’s the same principle: An embiggened margin of error leads to a diminished concern over what’s really true, and invites all sorts of distractions and invitations to contemplate a phony “truth”:

All sorts of silly and ridiculous things are indulged because the margin for error seems endless. You can make up a bunch of silly diversity rules, for example, on the college campus, because little serious work is done on the college campus. Most of what is done is busy work. In the areas where serious work is done, like the hard sciences, you see very little of the PC nonsense we associate with the academy.
When a company that appears to doing real work hires a powerskirt to bring diversity to the firm, it means the insiders have cashed out and no longer think the firm is a good bet. Yahoo made that clear when they hired Marrisa Mayer to diversify the company. She immediately went berserk and started firing men and turning the place into an estrogen circus. This was possible because the smart money had left and they could afford to indulge in some PC jackassery.

That’s the thing about modern liberalism. Identity politics cannot survive contact with reality. That’s because it is the ultimate luxury item. It can be indulged only where the consequences are of no consequence…

This is why we have that tragic cycle: Bad times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men and weak men create bad times. What we explore here explains the last three-fourths of that cycle-maxim. The good times create weak men because of this undocking from reality, made possible by the higher standard of living that now will not be lasting too long. People indulge these fetishes when they feel like they can afford to do so. It stops when the cupboard gets bare, but there is a lingering question as to how quickly.

During this undocking, epistemology dies. Those who are unfamiliar with the word will not be well-served by checking the reference material; defining “epistemology” is something that can consume whole pages and chapters. It’s better to take it at a lossy, casual, high level and go by the Cliff’s notes. It is a study of the relationship between belief, truth and knowledge. It is an attempt to answer the question: “How come it is you think you know the things you think you know?”

And that’s what is withering on the vine. Nobody cares — right now. The cupboards are too full. Things are so far gone, that some have lost track of the metaphysical; they’ve forgotten that there even is a truth, failed to keep in mind that regardless of who knows what, who’s telling the truth, who’s lying, Barack Obama was born somewhere. People have neglected considerations of the metaphysical so resolutely and for so long, they think they can make things true by putting it to a vote, and expressing their opinions emphatically.

It’s as if we just got done voting on whether the world’s going to end. And there’s a panic that’s set in because the “no it won’t” side is the one that came out ahead.

People care about social stature. You’d think this might nudge them back toward the classic concern about what’s really true, during times of acute embarrassment, as we saw just take place at the expense of Buzzfeed and CNN. But that will all be forgotten tomorrow.

I’m afraid, based on the way I see people acting, things will have to get much worse before they get better. Well…for that, I’m sure people can just blame the new President Trump, ignoring all the cultural makeover that’s been happening for the eight years previous. Their peers will think very highly of them for this.

Not Nearly Vilified Enough

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

So at the Golden Globe awards, Meryl Streep gave a speech in which she let it known she doesn’t like Donald Trump, and this went over very well with other actors & actresses in attendance who also do not like Donald Trump. The full transcript is here. It isn’t terribly long, isn’t terribly complicated, and isn’t terribly coherent or terribly accurate.

Nor is it too unusual. We’re often reminded actors and actresses don’t have the same opinions as real people. Is that harsh? Because as near as I can make out, that was Streep’s whole point.

An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, passionate work.


Meryl StreepOnce when I was standing around on the set one day whining about something, we were going to work through supper, or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor. Yeah, it is. And we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.

It takes only one intelligent person who never watches any acting, and yet somehow manages to show empathy, to invalidate Streep’s point. No, this is not an actor’s only job, and it isn’t an actor’s job at all, to “enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like.” That is absurd. And as she demonstrated all too clearly, in the course of attending to that misguided mission, it is necessary to engage in a bit of what might politely be called “nonsense.” Example: Streep made a prolonged reference to the President-Elect ridiculing the handicap of a reporter who has arthrogryposis, an allegation that has been debunked over and over again.

What’s this business with feeling, anyway? Why all this undue weight placed on it? Reminds me of what Prof. Sowell once said,

The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.

This is valuable in that it tells us where Meryl Streep goes wrong. She says things that are not true, and doesn’t seem to realize it, because she doesn’t realize it. She doesn’t know what thinking is.

And it’s valuable because this was — near as I can tell — her entire point, that Hollywood is in a class by itself. That industry, according to her remarks, seems to be headed in the right direction while the rest of us are just bumbling around, bumping into each other and falling down, like Keystone Cops or something I suppose. And what makes them so uniquely right & true? Feeling. Their ability to empathize with others.

Matt Walsh was not impressed by this, too much…

Actors “enter the lives of people who are different” in order to “let you feel what that feels like,” she said proudly. That brought her to her attack on Donald Trump, which inevitably included attacks on the 60 million people who voted for him. Conjuring an image of rabid dogs, she said that Trump’s bullying made his supporters “show their teeth.” She finished, finally, by lavishing more praise on Hollywood and the press. Hollywood “safeguards the truth,” she swooned, and they all ought to be proud of themselves. They can teach the world to be “empathetic” and “understanding.” “The powerful are using their position to bully others,” Streep warned, but fortunately Hollywood rises above it. And from its position of moral supremacy it acts as society’s guardian angels. The crowd of well-heeled angels roared with approval as Streep left the stage.

It was truly inspiring. At least, that’s what I’m told.

Now, two brief notes on all of this:

1. Whatever you think about the content of the speech, it certainly was not courageous.

You’ll notice that it’s never enough for liberals to simply agree with what someone says or does. It always has to be “brave.” Streep’s speech has been described in those terms by countless liberals on social media, along with many similarly glowing adjectives. It’s absurd, obviously. Whether you agree or disagree with what she said, she still said it in front of the friendliest possible audience. She told a group of people who worship her exactly what they want to hear and already believe. She risked absolutely nothing…
2. Hollywood is a disgusting cesspool of nihilism, narcissism, and hatred.

Although Streep hilariously painted herself and her fellow multi-millionaire celebrity demigods as victims who are a part of “the most vilified segment of society,” the truth is that they are not nearly vilified enough. If they were vilified to an appropriate degree, people would be showing up at the red carpet to ruin their 80 thousand dollar outfits by pelting them with eggs — not that I would condone such behavior (publicly)…
Empathy for whom, exactly? An understanding of what? It seems the answer to both questions is “themselves.” Hollywood rarely makes any attempt to reach outside of itself. And putting a gay person in every movie and show doesn’t count. Half of Hollywood is gay, after all. If Hollywood were really all that Meryl Streep cracks it up to be, it would produce shows and films that explore the lives of people who are actually different from themselves. But every time it does, the conclusion it draws is always the same: “These people are freaks and we should laugh at them.”

Seems we have a disagreement! How do we adjudicate it? One has only to envision Hollywood personalities sitting in judgment of this criticism, and speculate on their reaction to it…you needn’t go out on a limb too much. Right? They’d conclude Meryl Streep is right and Matt Walsh is wrong. And how would they know this?

They would feel it.

And that’s the part that really interests me. Time after time after time, if you round up a randomly-selected sample group from among the A-list actors and actresses, you’ll find the group overwhelmingly leans left, in one political decision after another. And they’re going to lean left because of their feeeeeelings. Meryl Streep is correct on this. And if you create a similar sample group out of most other professions…most other professions, not all other professions, just most…that sample group would offer different opinions. It would certainly be to the political right on these decisions, compared to your Hollywood sample group. Butcher, baker, candlestick-maker…auto mechanic, software engineer, dry cleaner, mattress manufacturer…

See, there is a difference, and the difference comes from the job of being an actor. What Streep got wrong, is what she should’ve gotten right before anything else, where she has abundant experience that the rest of us lack — she erred on identifying what an actor’s job is. It isn’t “to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like.” An actor’s job is to pretend. It is to take statements known to be untrue, like “I’m Batman” or “I’m the Captain of a Starship” or “I’m a Jedi Master” — and behave as if they are true. To act. That’s what acting is. That’s the definition, and it works better than Meryl Streep’s. Do these things, and show no empathy, you’re a successful actor. This has been proven over & over again. Dwell on feelings, but fail to do the right pretending, and you fail as an actor. It isn’t about empathy. It’s about pretending untrue things are true. That is the job, and we should find it reassuring when we discover actors disagree with us.

Which we will discover, and often. It is the natural and expected result. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker all succeed by recognizing true things, and behaving as if those true things are true. Like: This is good meat, these are guts. The bread’s baked long enough, the bread hasn’t baked long enough. This candlestick is not flawed, this other one is and I can’t sell it.

When people roll their eyes at puffed-up speeches like Meryl Streep’s, with the dismissal of “shut up and act,” it isn’t always just because they disagree with her. Maybe some of them don’t realize it, but there is an entirely justifiable reason to be saying this. Actors pretend false things are true for a living. Entertainers are, when you get right down to it, clowns. We don’t let clowns actually make important decisions about things, especially on behalf of someone else, whose tethering to reality is much stronger.

Related: Don Surber: What did football ever do to Meryl Streep?

Princess Leia Was Not a Strong Leader

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Yes, perhaps it’s an opinion I’m better off keeping to myself. Certainly, it’s the minority opinion, and bound to be unpopular. I don’t mean to pick on the girls. This is something that galls me all to pieces, when it’s about male authority figures as well as female authority figures.

LeiaAuthority figures in movies must use their authority, and not just to win arguments. If it’s a story about authority, it is the story of a decision, which means the story must rely on the decision to make it what it is; and the decision has to make for a good story. Vito Corleone told Sollozzo no to going into the drug business, which was an event that caused subsequent, dependent, weightier events. His son Michael met Sollozzo with Captain McCluskey, and decorated the wallpaper with their brains. Indiana Jones went tearing after a Nazi truck convoy on a horse “mak[ing] it up as [he went] along.” Marshal Will Kane stuck around Hadleyville, waiting for the noon train to bring Frank Miller into town. Walter White decided to start cooking meth. King Leonidas decided to head out an intercept Xerxes’ invading army. Dagny Taggart decided to build the John Galt railroad line. Juror #7 voted not to convict.

These were extraordinary decisions. Most of them had antithetical decisions that could have been made, that weren’t made…these were usually the safer options, with lots of powerful, persuasive arguments about how they should have been the ones chosen, like “it’s the law” or “nobody’s done that before!” Those persuasive arguments made a lot of sense. That’s why the extraordinary decision, the one that was actually made, helped create a good story.

Princess Leia, like all Star Wars women (all 3 or 4 of them) didn’t even make beneficial decisions let alone extraordinary ones. Seriously. Go back and make a list of all the decisions women make, and what comes of them. A woman deciding something, for the most part, is a harbinger of disaster. Hey, I didn’t write it, I’m just pointing out the truth here. Last decision Princess Leia made that led to anything good, was “Go get help from Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Last truly extraordinary decision she made, was “into the garbage chute, flyboy!” How’d that go?

Not my intention to sully the memory of the recently departed. But declining standards are always troubling. If Princess Leia’s story was one of veering away from the commonly-accepted, commonsense decision, spotting some subtle clue that tipped off that this would have led to inferior results, or perhaps gotten some innocent people hurt or killed, and saved the day by choosing an alternative while everyone else was doing nothing but expressing doubts; then I’d be all for this hagiography over the latest fictionalized example of good leadership.

That’s not what Princess Leia has been, because that’s not what Star Wars has been. It’s not the story of authority figures in high places making good decisions that save the day. It’s a story of people in low places, down in the trenches, close to the action, saving the day (after the people in charge have made a mess of things).

And Leia has really been nothing more than the less talented half of the Skywalker twins. With an annoying mouth on her. She’s a “role model” to a lot of people because a lot of people think “annoying mouth” is a desirable attribute to be encouraged in young girls growing up into women. Well it’s not. I like that she ticked off the feminists by wearing a skimpy gold bathing suit, and in so doing inspired the “cosplay” costume that is far & away Number One; I like that the feminists are constantly prepping to do battle against this “objectification,” missing the point that she was wearing this while she killed Jabba the Hutt. It helps show that feminists aren’t in favor of female empowerment after all. I like that they constantly and consistently embarrass themselves this way. I like that people have the opportunity to see this is what post-modern feminism really is. I like that we’re so often reminded, it’s the feminists who can’t imagine a woman could be good-looking, and smart, at the same time.

But Leia was the personification of wise, strong female save-the-day leadership, like Steve Jobs was the personification of a nerd who figures out how to build things that work. Both symbols are rather empty, lacking the full weight of truth behind them. Again: Standards. For a vision of strong save-the-day female leadership, the real-life historical figure of Maggie Thatcher is far better.

Bears repeating, this isn’t girl-bashing. If the story is about exceptional decision-making, it has to include one-to-several exceptional decisions.


The Media was the Biggest Loser

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Michael Walsh writes in Pajamas Media (by way of Instapundit):

In movies, it’s called the “cheer moment” — that wonderfully satisfying part of the motion picture when the bully/bad guy finally gets his richly deserved comeuppance: Rocky flooring Apollo Creed in the first Rocky; John McClane sending Hans Gruber to hell off a high floor of Nakatomi Plaza. And in 2016, nobody’s demise was cheered more vociferously than the mainstream media’s. But don’t take it from me, take it from a tattered remnant of what was once one of the seven pillars of the MSM (along with the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, CBS, ABC, and Time magazine), Newsweek.

GruberRiffing off Ross Douthat’s infamous tweet of Sept. 2015 — “The entire commentariat is going to feel a little silly when Marco Rubio wins every Republican primary” — writer Zach Schonfeld notes:

At best, it’s just a dopey prediction — we’ve all made some of those. At worst, it’s an enduring avatar of the cartoonish arrogance and mass-scale humiliation that overtook the pundit class in 2016. It’s a microcosm of the biggest media trend of the year: total humiliation.

It was not just Douthat. For lots of high-profile media personalities, from Nate Silver to Nick Denton, 2016 dealt an enormous reckoning. Michael Moore made some startling predictions, but few other liberal commentators saw what was happening. Much of the pundit industrial complex spent the calendar year standing athwart history, yelling “It can’t happen here” or “Trump is going to pivot any day now.” Clinton lost. Pundits ate crow, took the L — choose your preferred cliché. One columnist ate his newspaper column, as he had promised to do if Trump became the GOP nominee. Some who got it wrong showed a capacity for self-reflection. Others, like Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, doubled down on their myopic pontificating or continued howling into their social media echo chamber of choice.

It was the year we realized that a lot of Very Important People who get paid a lot of money to know about U.S. politics have little more insight to dispense than the cab drivers they quote in their columns…

It’s a funny thing about narratives. We don’t hear more of them when common sense begins to assert they’re likely to bear fruit. It’s the opposite that is closer to the truth; the loudest ones are the ones that are starting to show some problems. It’s not that people are in a hurry to embarrass themselves. More like, after they’ve emotionally invested themselves in their sandcastle and they can start to see some cracks forming in it, that’s when they start to obsess over it. I think we’re all like that. We work harder at building when we can see the waves are about to crash on it. Believers in the narratives become purveyors of the narratives, and they aren’t purveying it because they believe in it anymore. It’s because they have a need to hear it said a few more times, even if they have to rely on themselves to do it.

They key takeaway is that these amplified narratives, overall, are right less often than a random-chance selection, which has nothing guiding it. With the narrative, the guide is “the more problems you see with it lately, the more often you should yell about it and the louder you should do the yelling.” And, of course, you should up the stakes so everyone can see you’re really serious. It is not logical, but it is often true. We’re dealing with human behavior.