Information as a Contaminant


Not sure the motives involved. They are probably scattered in all sorts of directions. But this has been a theme we’ve heard more and more in the last couple decades or so: Everyone is now dumber for having heard that. I’m sure a lot of it is the comedy value, some of it is cool and chic hipster apathy-about-everything, which overlaps with the phobia felt by our detailphobes against the idea of ever studying anything down to any depth, or caring about anything up to some level of passion.

The theme, condensed, is this: So toxic is some bit of information, that one is the wiser for never having heard of it.

This is a liberal theme. Liberal, as in the modern, statist, never-met-a-tax-or-law-I-didn’t-like version of that word.

It has taken me considerably longer to make up my mind about the second of those two immediately-preceding things, compared to the first. Real life, where such things are concerned, tends to work like a Venn diagram: Two sets overlap, forming an intersection of samples claiming membership in both sets. And then there are samples claiming membership in one but not the other, and vice-versa; finally, there are other samples outside the union, claiming membership in neither one. I have been confused by some episodes, not completely infrequent, of self-identified conservatives throwing up their hands and yelling “Bah! I don’t want to read such stuff!” This makes the Venn-diagram idea seem like the most, and perhaps the only, accurate representation of what’s going on. In fact, in the age of Obama it happens several times a week that Our First Holy Emperor President gives His latest super-duper-awesome-wonderful speech, and conservatives everywhere throw up their hands and yell “Bah!” and make a big show of not wanting to hear it. They think they are wiser for never having absorbed the information.

The problem that comes up for the Venn Diagram idea is, well, maybe that is the case. One certainly is wiser for having the humility to proclaim “while I may take some pride in my ability to keep it all straight and not be distracted, I do have my limits.” And is it at all unreasonable to infer that when President Obama wishes to address us, His goal is to distract? Were that not the case, His speeches would occasionally contain remarkable, quotable things, would they not? They would not roll out like new carpeting or butcher paper, with each square foot entirely indistinguishable from the square foot to its front, back, left or right. As one of my Facebook peeps put it (paraphrasing): “No, I didn’t watch the 2nd-inaugural speech. I have already heard an Obama speech.”

So information sometimes is a contaminant, if it is measured by quantity and not by quality, designed and deployed for the purpose to distract, to such an extent that it becomes a weapon. There are other ways it could be a contaminant. It could be a falsehood, of course. Now, that one doesn’t fly with me quite so much. As I explained before,

Given the choice between a sound knowledge base of verifiable & verified factual information, and the ability to think logically, I would choose the latter.

If I have a good understanding of how to figure out what a fact means, but my head is crammed chock full of silly “factoids” that aren’t really true even though they may be repeated by others verbatim, I should be able to ultimately determine some of these conflict irreconcilably with others. From there, I should be able to figure out which ones are suspect and, eventually, which ones should be questioned, and then reconsidered.

If I have a good solid repository of verified fact, but I don’t know how to figure out what these facts are really telling me, I might as well have nothing.

Fact is merely foundation. You can’t live in a foundation.

So — if it’s false, then learn it anyway, lock stock and barrel. Then go verify it. This is the age of the Internet, for cryin’ out loud. So no, I’m not in this camp. You can’t be wiser for having refused to hear something. There is no way you can come out ahead on that.

I am more-or-less entirely confused with this Phil Mickelson episode, which can only be described, to my great annoyance and continued confusion, in passive-voice: It is felt by someone, somewhere, that righteous umbrage was to be taken against the golfer for merely expressing an intent for exodus from California because of the tax situation. Because nobody seems to have the testicular fortitude to come along and put their verifiable name next to the statement “Yup, that’s me, I’m all ticked off that he said that,” we are left fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what line has been crossed, or even where it is. Tax evasion is clearly not the issue. Did Mickelson cause offense by merely wanting to leave the state, or by going on the record saying so? What’s the rule? The former is only natural. The latter would be an example of information being a contaminant: He can think what he wants to think, pine away for another state as he likes to pine away…wince and squirm and shiver and wretch or whatever when he gets his latest tax bill. Just don’t say anything about it. Because somebody’s upset now!

I believe this is a liberal trait, because, and only because: Should a reluctance to “sit and take it” appear in Phil Mickelson’s economic class, this would be a major, major fallibility in the real-life application of “tax the rich” theory. I said “if.” So this is not a conservative or liberal understanding, it’s something that simply is. We’ve seen this played out repeatedly, perhaps hundreds of times, the city or county or state realizes that its coffers are dry and it’s seriously in the red — conservatives say, cut spending and make a more business-friendly environment; and liberals say, no just raise taxes on the rich. Conservatives come back and say, you do that and those rich people will leave the state. Liberals say no they won’t.

The taxes are raised, the rich people leave the state, and the problem ends up being bigger than it was the prior year.

At this point, I’m not applying a definition to the liberals insofar as their love for bigger spending and higher & more progressive taxes. I’m calling them out for their inability to learn from experience. For their almost institutionalized procedures and processes to avoid learning. Here, as well as with other issues, we see symmetry up to a point. Both conservatives and liberals claim a monopoly on certain knowledge, of which they charge their antagonists with the crime of remaining ignorant, at the expense of the community as a whole. The conservatives claim to understand higher taxes motivate rich people to leave the state, resulting in lower revenues. For the liberals, I suppose it would be that industrial activity is causing the planet to warm and this will cause some sort of natural catastrophe. Each claims to understand something, to be engaged in a frustrating process of explaining it to their ideological opposites, and that those other people across the net simply don’t understand. So there is symmetry up to a point.

Because there is symmetry, we can compare behaviors. After we compare the behaviors, we see the symmetry has tapered off. We discover an event horizon, after which the two sides are behaving differently.

Every single self-identifying conservative I know, at the very least understands what is being said about climate change. Oh they may get some of the details wrong, but they’re hip to the argument in the general sense. This is, I think, because the whole conservative way of thinking has to do with getting work done and preventing disasters. If they think things are a certain way but there’s a “hitch in the giddyap” about it, they’re going to want to know what that is. When I’m at the firing line, and there’s a cartridge in the pipe of my “empty” pistol that I don’t think is in there, of course I’m going to want to know that it is there. Even though, if I follow all the other safety procedures, nothing bad should come of it, and I intend to do that. Doesn’t matter. I want to know what’s going on with that gun, it’s in the rules. If I’m heading down the freeway in my pickup and I think the load is tied down, but it isn’t, I’m going to want to know all about that. So — I have an idea of what’s going on. I’m very sure. But if I’m wrong, I want to know I’m wrong.

What difference does it make?Liberals do not work that way. That’s what I’m learning from this. Where conservatives build their repositories of inferential information through an additive process, liberals work according to a subtractive one. You know what is a good analogy, coming to me from my professional endeavors: Definition of color, through light, versus definition of color through pigment. You’ve heard that green is a composite color “built” by combining blue and yellow; perhaps you’ve been confused to learn that yellow is a composite color, achieved by combining primary colors green with red. That has to do with light versus pigments. See how it changes everything around? This is why conservatives and liberals often talk past each other; two different worlds. With the subtractive process of pigmenting and inking and painting, if you mix all the pigments together, eventually you get black, because this pigment process is a filtration process. It is subtractive. That is how liberals deal with facts and knowledge. Another analogy: The old thing about how you make a statue of a horse. Some famous sculptor said something like “you start with a block of marble, and you chisel away everything that doesn’t look like a horse.” A subtractive process, and a perfect illustration of how liberals get to the answer they want, by “carving away” anything that doesn’t look like it. They start with the block, and they go carving…”What Difference Does It Make”-ing…through everything that doesn’t look like what they want.

And here, you’d heard so much out of them about how much more open-minded they are compared to the knuckle-dragging conservatives. The truth, as usual, is more-or-less the polar opposite of what they told you. It has to be that way, because they “accumulate” their knowledge by blocking it out, just like finger-paints make white into green by blocking out what isn’t green.

And so we see that liberals have done something strange and unusual with the Mickelson thing, something entirely unique to themselves. In this never-ending back-and-forth about “can we raise taxes on the rich and economically forecast them to just sit and take it, so we can pay back this money we’ve been blowing”…they have made it a bad thing to even mention the problem with the logic. This is not an isolated case at all. We see exactly the same situation with information about unborn babies; when do they develop fingernails, eyelashes, heartbeats, how do they move around. And when do these things happen. It creates problems for the liberal position that says it’s okay to abort, and of necessity must involve an entirely unique way of looking at human beings, and the life they live if they are allowed to live it. Because it creates problems, they’ll do what they can to avoid the information, and bludgeon others away from doing anything to proliferate it.

It has been explained to me that Mickelson makes more money from endorsements than he does from golfing, and one must be ideologically neutral when one is in that business. This explains nothing that was not clear before. But it does create a new understanding, in the sense that the liberals become connected to a situation, to which they were not connected before. The doctrine of “No matter how sure I am about it, if any evidence comes along to indicate I’m wrong, I want to know that right away” is now a political thing. Conservatives support it and liberals reject it.

If I have this right, it goes a long way in explaining why libs are so proud of not watching Fox News, and why they don’t want anyone else watching it either. They are getting to the answer they want, by way of a subtractive process. Like finger-painting, or carving the horse. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit. Filter it out. “What difference does it make” — it away. Chisel it off, by essentially saying: I’m not paying attention to it, and you shouldn’t be paying attention to it either. Go on, sift through your memories and your archives, you’ll find every left-wing argument falls into that pattern. I do not recognize that bothersome tidbit of unwanted information. You shouldn’t be recognizing it either. A subtractive process.

Conservatives and liberals fight about tax policy — and liberals are “offended,” passively demanding an apology, from someone who merely provided (honest!) evidence for the thing that is ostensibly wrong with their plan? No, I don’t think conservatives do this; if they do, then they aren’t really conservatives. It is the cartridge loaded into the pipe. The conservative mode of thinking, an enlightened and additive process, by its very nature, demands that you should know what is wrong with your perception of what’s going on. Resolve this question right now, while the opportunity exists to correct whatever might be in need of correction, before someone gets hurt. Liberals do not believe in this. They do their “thinking” by forgetting. And they do not want to know anything about these things they have chosen to forget.

After all, what difference does it make?

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Rotten Chestnuts.

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