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Apologetic, Association, “Weak Men”, Fnords

I thought that I was going to release some stuff about aliens today, but I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted this week.

These are loose notes relating to an older thread of ideas about apologetic, and our own propensity to use association to empower our own tribe and demonize the other. I was thinking about it when I was writing about the gerrymandering of the sciences done by Creationists to create a comfortable separation of favorable ideas from unfavorable ones.

There is a whole cottage industry of “Conservative” books written by talk radio hosts meaning to explain the liberal mindset. Having skimmed some, it’s apparent that these books are really more like troop-rallying pamphlets than records of earnest attempts at understanding. It is fun to see various distinct opponent causes weaved together into a net: you see, environmentalism […] a Godless worldview where […] much like the goddamn Reds.

Another notable tactic: smaller, more fringe tribes in enemy coalitions can be magnified and made to seem representative of the whole group (a tactic that is called the “weak man” in a recent-ish SlateStarCodex article- requesting a more interesting name, though). These tactics are prevalent in Creationist literature.

SlateStarCodex introduced this other idea to me not long ago, called the “fnord“. It’s a cousin of the Archdruid’s “thought stopper”.

The fnords first appear in Anton-Wilson and Shea’s book Illuminatus. Educators, operating as tools of the titular conspiracy, hypnotize all primary school children to have a panic reaction to the trigger word “fnord”. The children, who remember nothing of the sessions when they wake up, are incapable of registering the word except as an unexplained feeling of unease.

This turns them into helpless, easily herded adults. Every organ of the media – newspapers, books, cable TV – contains a greater or lesser number of fnords. When some information is counter to the aims of the conspiracy – maybe a communist party organizing in a state where the conspiracy wears a capitalist hat – the secret masters don’t bother censoring or suppressing it. Instead, the newspaper reports it on the front page, but fills the article with fnords. Most people read partway through, become very uncomfortable and upset without knowing why, and decide that communists are definitely bad people for some reason or other and there’s no reason they need to continue reading the article. Why should they worry about awful things like that when there’s the whole rest of the paper to read?

According to the book, the only section of the newspaper without any fnords at all is the advertisements.

I also love that last line in my excerpt above. Advertisers will never lie about what they think you think.The rest of the post is about examples and possible mechanisms of modern fnords, and is worth a read. History is chaos, and any given doctrine, really, can be rhetorically tied to another if you tried hard enough.

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