Friday, March 30, 2018


Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist at NYU-Stern in Manhattan.  This is an elite “business” school.  He wrote a book called “The Righteous Mind” which is supposed to be about social and moral psychology and how they can “can improve companies, universities, and societies.”  That’s enough to turn me off right there.  It evokes a Puritan among the cubicles, striding around improving everyone.

Here’s Haidt on TED talks.   He’s talking about the psych “types” that Cambridge Analytical used (above) to predict how people would vote in the 2016 presidential election.  (Please disregard his lisp.)  The categories invented in 2008 claim that they are “moral” and that you are born with them, because the basic material was from DNA.  But Haidt is really just a fast-pattering guy wearing an expensive silk shirt.  Snarky for laughs.

This same material is used in a slightly more colorful way in this article.  The smugs vs. the trolls: Analysis of American politics and media culture 

All this is grandiosely framed as religion/culture and includes a pitch for punishment.  It is meant to include punishment so as to introduce fear.  Control, repression, authority.  The intriguing thing to remember is that this comes out of advertising.  It’s seventh-grade morality: if you stink, you’re bad.  If you’re atypical, you’re bad.  If you’re not like “me,” you’re bad.  But Haidt throws around a lot of big famous names.  He makes a pitch for “teams” meaning conflict, competition.  People on the right “team” use the right toothpaste.

This same material is discussed in a slightly more colorful way here.  The smugs vs. the trolls: “A great analysis of American politics, media culture, and sophistication”.  The conclusion of the article is that everyone feels pretty much “enough already”.  Most people do NOT have the background to know that it was an invention in the first place, meant to control your supermarket choices, because the basic spine of the American Way of Life is mercantilism.

The upshot of the whole way of looking at things — morality/money — drives yet another split into American society.  Now “dark” is “bad” and that justifies aggression and the withholding of money.  Unless you’re dark, when the bad shifts over onto the whites, who already shoot to kill and own all the houses.

This also feeds the split between the educated and the ignorant because now knowing things is devious and an unfair advantage, while ignorance becomes innocence free of prejudice and propaganda, responding to what is obvious.  You need a computer, and forget that it is tattling on you.

What is far less conscious is between those who live in dense populations and those who live in open spaces.  Sadly, all our laws and much of our mercantile life is controlled by those in the dense populations, because everything is based on numbers, even our precious democracy.  

Increasingly, one cannot be part of what happens in the national sense if one doesn’t subscribe to the dominant sources, carry the relevant devices, and conform to techie rules.  To have an opinion, one must have contact and information — what some people call “vector control.”  It’s what Facebook has.  Data lists, annotated.  

These five supposedly “moral” categories are no such thing.  They are no more valid than any Myers/Briggs dating recommendation.  Morality is highly flexible, often unconscious, attached to culture.  Bathroom habits are an example, or sex.  Eating.  Clothing.  Here’s the Wikipedia discussion:

This is a bait-and-switch deal.  The attempt is to make you believe that this kind of analysis can win an election.  I daresay that if a person were able to analyze carefully, the five traits have much more to do with the usual racism, class-assumptions, prejudice against categories, and Christian assumptions that people can be sorted into good/bad.  They are still assuming that religion is a way of living safely because of having some kind of supernatural protection.  It prescribes what one must do to be saved, meaning live eternally, a human value in some places and times.

The non-negotiable is solid:  survival.  If not enough people make babies and keep them alive to successfully make more babies, there will be no more species.  Of the perhaps 200 versions of hominins, our present version is the only one to survive -- so far.  It is pretty clear, according to scientists, that what promotes survival is sharing, relationship, communication, belonging to a group.  Except sometimes groups are “wrong,” don’t fit anymore.  Then the Joe Campbell heroic individual must go find new ways, new places, how to survive on entirely new terms.  That must be what’s happening now.  

The planet is a process and so is everything on it.  Humans try to keep everything the same, which is doomed if you think in more than lifetimes.  It doesn’t matter how industrious or conscientious you are it you’re sitting on a volcano.  It doesn’t matter how careful are about global warming if no one else is and the impact affects everyone.

Let’s do specifics:  Russia is a country of barren scarcity, at least the way it is run now.  Pretending for centuries that their shared spirit will save them, while all the time the Oligarchs are moving their assets out to the Western world, means they are doomed.  They cannot survive.  There’s not enough to go around.  No one wants babies. There’s no reason to be virtuous, except habit — easily dissolved by vodka.

The Northern Continent — it’s a mistake to think of it in terms of nations at this point — is also threatened but this time by wealth, unevenly distributed.  Confusion, loneliness (while surrounded by people), resentment, useless assumptions, fear also keep people from working together or even understanding each other.  These are against survival.  Murder of the “different” does not mean the survival of the same.

So is Cambridge Analytical anything more than a fancy name and a corporate con?  Do they NEED to be anymore than that to sell us control by Putin?   Evidently not.  It’s not magic.  It’s not rocket science.  Stick together.  Do good.  Simple.

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