Attrition in the meme war

My original post on how to identify leftist though processes was, I keep reiterating, not intended as scientific investigation of the leftist worldview or as a way to develop refutations of leftists errors.  Same for the recent post on the functions of emotion.  The intention of that post was not for you to try to defend or explain the psychological correlates of your political judgments.  Both posts fold into a broader strategic principle of recognizing futile exchanges.

Im  Netzen nichts neues

“Conversations” with strangers are rarely intellectually enriching dialogues.  It’s better not to think of them as discussions at all; think of them as skirmishes in the meme war.  You don’t get to choose whether your interlocutors are philosophers or fools.  You only get to choose whether you approach the meme war like Ulysses S. Grant or like Hans Guderian.  Grant has never been considered a brilliant or inspiring general.  He was, however, a very good general.  He was able to look at his capabilities and his enemies’ capabilities and determine that if he were simply able to maintain continual pressure on the Confederate armies, throwing his own troops into an endless meat-grinder in order to bleed the enemy dry, Lee would run out of men and materiel before he did.  And Grant was right.  The fact that Grant was only rarely able to get 1:1 exchanges (with more and better-armed troops!) reflects poorly on him and his subordinates; but the fact that he didn’t care, and continued to engage the rebels wherever possible and as often as possible, even at loss ratios of 2:1 or worse, reflects a broader genius of strategic vision (which Lincoln recognized and rewarded).

Leftists can afford to approach the meme war like Grant.  The idle ghetto vote bank has nothing better to do than call you rayciss.  The idle student cadres have nothing better to do than smoke marijuana and call you totally, like, problematic.  The mentally ill sexual fetishists who turn to the internet for the company of like-minded deviants who will indulge the fantasy that their illness is normal… well, lying on the internet is more of a lifestyle for them than a hobby, and besides, there is no quicker way to win the approval of their fellow sufferers.  And one doesn’t need to be downright mentally ill to find that psychotic, lying behavior improves his social status, if his behavior aids the left: this is the “strange new respect” phenomenon.  The general status of integrity in the age of anarcho-tyranny is that the more dishonest, cruel, and petty you are in the promotion of leftwing ideology (whether on the internet or elsewhere), the more you are insulated from punishment for your a priori sins: -isms, -phobias, “implicit bias”.

The left can afford to fight its memetic Cold Harbors and Ypres’s because they have more idlers, because their time is worth less, and because, far from risking their social status when they sink time into memetic warfare, they fortify it.  If you don’t have an EBT card, you can’t afford to fight like you have an EBT card.  And — listen carefully! — even if you do have an EBT card, you still can’t afford to fritter away those leisure hours like a leftist, because collectively, the left has more minutes than we do, so even if you have a hundred hours a week to waste on human-wave tactics, the left will be able to match your spamming minute-for-minute, and at the end you will be exhausted and the leftists will still have unlimited supplies of manpower.  We cannot win this thing of ours unless we use our minutes more effectively than they use theirs.

What’s worse is that the left has a specific structural advantage in this war of attrition: they’re wrong and we’re right.  It might seem odd to frame this as a leftist advantage, but the difficult position of defending rank nonsense and ignorance, which would be a serious liability in an honest intellectual exchange, becomes a valuable asset in an unscrupulous war of attrition.

Anyone with a bit of imagination can make up ten false claims about any subject you name within a minute, or two minutes at the outside.  Refuting those claims with the thoroughness of a diligent scholar will take, at the very least, a few minutes each, and possibly several hours.

scholar The most basic problem is that when someone knowledgeable hears something implausible, he does not simply respond to it intuitively and poetically; he pauses, closes his eyes, and reviews his memory.  First he makes sure the preposterous lie isn’t something simple that he has forgotten, then continues to review with more care to see if he is overlooking some information that could confirm the lie indirectly; finally he tries to pile up all the evidence against the nonsensical claim.  Remember this claim may have been invented in as little as a few seconds!

But what is more insidious is that the very fact that the the invented claim is not only wrong, but completely preposterous means that it is that much more difficult to find evidence that touches directly on it.  Some invented claims are ill-born and can be refuted easily and immediately (although always with more effort, and longer elaboration, than went into their creation), but other claims are lucky enough to be so quirky and unexpected that no one has bothered to gather together the information needed for direct refutation.  Any monograph on a given topic will present far more evidence against a now-unfashionable theory from the last generation of scholarship (a theory that is, in all likelihood, the second-most likely of all the alternatives!) than against any of the huge number of alternative theories that are prima facie implausible.

This imbalance creates a terrible dynamic. Even to give a cursory rejection, a knowledgeable man needs more time to reflect than the ignorant man needed to invent; but if an ignorant claimant demands exacting proof of all the objections made to his inventions (and to his rebuttals to his opponents’s objections, and to his rejoinders…), this proof will typically be far harder to gather than the opposite.  And the more incompetent (or dishonest) the ignorant man is, the more research one would need to refute him.

(Let’s say your opponent cites statistics for “value-added per manufacturing job” for various sectors, and after a little poking you determine the numbers he gives are [total sales volume for the sector]/[total employment for the sector].  That’s an obvious blunder, and when you can show that’s where his statistics came from and why that’s an incorrect way to calculate “value-added”, you have adequately demonstrated that no one should listen to him.  But what if instead of generating his statistics in a dubious way, he just made up numbers out of thin air?  How many different industrial statistics and arithmetic combinations thereof would you have to go through, trying to figure out where he went wrong, without ever finding the smoking gun?  What could you say to criticize his nonsense numbers that would possibly be as damning as what you would say about the comparatively sensible [sales]/[employment] blunder?)

This means that you cannot expect to be able to resolve your disagreements rationally, and you will be least able to resolve your arguments rationally when you are in the right!  You should be prepared for this.  When you encounter leftists who are wrong in whimsical ways about simple facts, don’t try to correct them.  Ninety percent of the time, ignoring them is the highest-yield move.  Sometimes shaming or ridiculing them for their ignorance makes sense, particularly if the leftist seems clever and prideful.  Agree-&-amplify is always a potent choice.  If you want to get into a real argument about something simple fact, make sure you are dealing with someone whose time is more important than yours, and whose emotional investment in looking good also appears to be quite high.  (If the emotional investment is high enough — for example, if a high-profile leftist is trying to whip up a mob of supporters to harass you on social media — then it is worth it to stay completely serious and sober in order to get a shot at provoking the leftist into a regrettable mistake.)

They have Moldbug and the neoreactionaries — so let them hear them.

If you want to refute a view in its general form, it is best to work it up as an essay, a FAQ, a dialogue, or whatever suits your intellectual style.  And further, your greatest contribution to the intellectual power of the right may not be in the fields that you have mastered, but the areas where your conventional Weimerican beliefs are still intact, and you are willing to defend them.  Save your most vigorous statements of Cathedral doctrine for e-mail, DMs, /pol/, and other low-profile situations where there is no risk of triggering the eldritch spiral of virtue-signaling that creates cuckservative castrati; but do make those statements, and make them vigorously.  Offering yourself as a punching bag allows experts to perfect their understanding by testing their theories, arguments, and evidence against the objections of an opponent with integrity and a sincere interest in the truth.  (Sincere opponents are, sad to say, rarer than wise allies, and thus more valuable.)  Whether your role is as the hammer or the anvil, a single unusually clear, lucid, deep, exhaustive, amusing, or catchy version of an argument will in time convince vastly more people than hundred of reiterations of the same ideas in a one-on-one format.

There are other counter-intuitive implications of viewing political squabbles as a war of attrition against a fleshy bot-net.  For example, rather than debating most forcefully where you are most certain that your views are accurate, why not try the reverse?  Ignore the googles who don’t know what per capita means; focus on defending something really wacky that will drive SWPLs insane, like the  Solutrean hypothesis or the dangers of fluoridated water.  (And yes, my dear friends, this means that the schizoids fanning the flames of Pizzagate have a better understanding of trench warfare than you or I do.)


4 thoughts on “Attrition in the meme war

  1. “You see me now, a veteran/Of a thousand psychic wars,” according to Blue Öyster Cult (which was an impressive total, before Upworthy and 4chan). “My energy is spent at last, and my armor is destroyed.”

    Even if your energy is spent at last, a meme war deserter can still do his part, engaging in one-on-one mind-skirmishes — I understand these are sometimes called “conversations with friends.” I guess what I’m trying to say is: Cultivate your garden like Heinz Guderian.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I didn’t get around to another theme that was originally part of the outline (ultimately it didn’t fit in): just going to the gym every day has an impressively high memetic payoff. Self-cultivation is extremely important, creating a stable memetic ecology for yourself is extremely important, playing a role in one’s community (for example, as a gadfly or guide to your friends) is important.


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