NYT: The Wheal Keeps Turning

Back in 1979, Christopher Lasch wrote a penetrating and still prescient book on American culture called The Culture of Narcissism. It is still a must-read for anyone wanting to understand where we are now.

Flash forward to the NYT’s click-baity title of “How to Hack Your Brain (for $5,000)” about yet another charlatan selling narcissism presented as self-actualization. Jamie Wheal charges $5,000 for a 5-day retreat and is “receiving six-figure fees for some of his consultations.” I myself could enter an instant state of ‘flow’ if I were making that much money dispensing stoner wisdom to Beautiful People with lots of expendable income:

EDEN, Utah — One morning last month a group of roughly 60 people, including doctors, C.E.O.s and internet entrepreneurs, gathered under a big white dome to hear the mission statement of their host, a 45-year-old man named Jamie Wheal…

Sinewy and tanned from a life of outdoor pursuits, Mr. Wheal was offering attendees the chance to “upgrade” their nervous systems to meet this incontrovertible information overload. How? With “flow.”

Wheal culturally appropriates the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s well known work on ‘flow’, the transcendent state-of-being that athletes, musicians, writers, and others get when ‘in the zone’, that is, when in the ecstatic throes that comes with the work they do. But whereas Csikszentmihalyi and others in the Positive Psychology movement orient their writing on flow from a science-based perspective, and do so from an academic point of view, Whealy is charging wealthy Silicone Valley hipsters $5k for what they could otherwise get from a $5 used book. From the tanned-man Whealer’s sycophant waifs, we get dynamite quotes like this:

“The genius of what we’re doing here is we’re combining ideas about how to get into flow with actually doing physical things to experience it,” said Kora Kinard, 29, an orgasmic meditation practitioner from San Francisco who attended. “The flow state and the orgasm state are very connected.”

Indeed, Mr. Wheal, having wearied somewhat of the term “flow,” prefers “ecstasis,” an ancient Greek term for “stepping beyond oneself.”

And of course no NYT article would be complete without a reference to the dastardly Trumpenfuhrer, how his evil knows no bounds, and how he is upsetting the cosmic balance:

The neuro-chemicals that define flow or ecstasis are powerfully alluring, and Mr. Wheal warned they are not always used for good. He argues, for instance, that Donald J. Trump instinctively knew how to manipulate them in gathering support for his presidency.

“Trump hacked ecstasis,” Mr. Wheal said. “Light, sound, movement, repetition, scapegoating the other. People said if you haven’t been to his rallies, you’re missing what’s actually happening in this movement. And what does Hillary say? ‘I’ve got a policy binder.’ While Trump pulled all the strings.”

I loved the profound irony of this passage:

But the last thing Mr. Wheal wants to produce, he said, are more “bliss junkies and epiphany whores,” for whom he reserves a particular antipathy. It’s not enough, in other words, to eat magic mushrooms, experience oneness with nature and humanity, cuddle a Buddha statue and then go right back to how things were.

Or, for that matter, to parachute into Burning Man — where many of the flow campers were heading next — melt down your ego on the playa, and then fail to integrate the experience into the rest of your life.

“Everyone lines up for the peak experience,” Mr. Wheal said. “But no one does their push-ups on Monday morning.”

Good luck with all of that.

This sort of schtick has been going on since ‘self improvement’ hucksters starting getting into their stride in the 1950s.

And it ain’t gonna stop with Mr. Wheal.

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Psychologists on Virtue Signaling

From “Moral Outrage Is Self-Serving, Say Psychologists”:

When people publicly rage about perceived injustices that don’t affect them personally, we tend to assume this expression is rooted in altruism—a “disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.” But new research suggests that professing such third-party concern—what social scientists refer to as “moral outrage”—is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms or reinforce (to the self and others) one’s own status as a Very Good Person.

Here’s the abstract of one of the papers discussed, “A cleansing fire: Moral outrage alleviates guilt and buffers threats to one’s moral identity”:

Why do people express moral outrage? While this sentiment often stems from a perceived violation of some moral principle, we test the counter-intuitive possibility that moral outrage at third-party transgressions is sometimes a means of reducing guilt over one’s own moral failings and restoring a moral identity. We tested this guilt-driven account of outrage in five studies examining outrage at corporate labor exploitation and environmental destruction. Study 1 showed that personal guilt uniquely predicted moral outrage at corporate harm-doing and support for retributive punishment. Ingroup (vs. outgroup) wrongdoing elicited outrage at corporations through increased guilt, while the opportunity to express outrage reduced guilt (Study 2) and restored perceived personal morality (Study 3). Study 4 tested whether effects were due merely to downward social comparison and Study 5 showed that guilt-driven outrage was attenuated by an affirmation of moral identity in an unrelated context.

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Time: Divided Dems Debate Future of Party

Time has a story on “Divided Democratic Party Debates Its Future as 2020 Looms”:

Ignoring that struggle has caused headaches in the heartland. Today only 28% of House Democrats hail from states that don’t touch the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, down from 37% in 2007. The survivors have tried to distance themselves from the party’s leftward drift. “When I’m back home, I’m not talking party issues,” says Representative Ron Kind, an 11-term Democrat from La Crosse, Wis., whose Capitol Hill office features pictures of him hunting. “I’m not on the stump bashing Republicans.”…

For the White Death states, the trajectory is against Dems. Take, for example, West Virginia:

Governing in Washington these days is “the most frustrating thing I’ve ever done,” complains Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat. “Most of my life, there was about 20% on the right fringe and the left fringe, but 60% in the middle, where common sense would prevail. Now I’m thinking 40% on each fringe.”

Part of the problem is that red states are getting redder, while blue states are growing ever more blue…

Democrats still outnumber Republicans in West Virginia by 12 percentage points. These Democrats, however, don’t want to hear about NFL players protesting during the national anthem or the latest in the ongoing investigation into Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow. They care far less about Black Lives Matter than keeping their checking accounts in the black. Add in the 21% of West Virginians who say they don’t identify with either party, and it’s a dangerous proposition for candidates like Manchin to parrot talking points from MSNBC. It’s not that he’s a squish on cultural issues; it’s that he’d rather talk about lifting the economy in his state, where 18% live in poverty.

The Democrats’ focus on identity politics is one reason Manchin suggested, half-heartedly, that he doesn’t care if he wins another term next year. “The Washington Democrats’ mentality has been more urban,” he says. “They forgot about rural America and rural states. They don’t want you to tell them about their bathrooms or their bedrooms or all this other stuff we’re trying to control.”

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The Sci-Fi Roots of the Alt-Right

In “The Sci-Fi Roots of the Far Right”, leftie David Auerbach makes me want to read the Hugo-nominated 1977 novel Lucifer’s Hammer, co-authored by Larry Niven and the recently-deceased Jerry Pournelle:

Pournelle — who died earlier this month — first rose to prominence as part of an influential group of right-wing science-fiction writers in the 1970s and 1980s that also included Larry Niven, David Drake, Janet Morris, and S. M. Stirling. All envisioned the best of a militarized humanity breaking away from the evils of bureaucracy and bleeding-hearts and aggressively colonizing and conquering space, exploiting its military and financial potential. Unlike most conservatives, all were less concerned with preserving the past for its own sake than for planning for the future—their preferred future.

In partnership with Niven, Pournelle’s science-fiction married aggressive military might with Atlas Shrugged-style techno-futurist fantasies and nativist paranoia, offering what in retrospect looks like an uncannily prescient portrait of the Trump era and its cultural overtones. Take, for example, the pair’s Hugo-nominated 1977 novel Lucifer’s Hammer, which depicts a small ranch of patriotic American farmers as they struggle to survive after a comet hits earth. Early on, the farmers debate how to keep out undesirables:

“They’ll all be here, all that can get here,” Christopher shouted. “Los Angeles, and the San Joaquin, and what’s left of San Francisco … How long can we keep it up, lettin’ those people come here?”

“Be n**gers too,” someone shouted from the floor. He looked self-consciously at two black faces at the end of the room. “Okay, sorry—no. I’m not sorry. Lucius, you own land. You work it. But city n**gers, whining about equality—you don’t want ’em either!”

The black man said nothing. He seemed to shrink away from the group, and he sat very quietly with his son.

“Lucius Carter’s all right,” George Christopher said. “But Frank’s right about the others. City people. Tourists. Hippies. Be here in droves pretty soon. We have to stop them.”…

 Today, Lucifer’s Hammer reads as a depiction of a post-apocalyptic war between Trump counties and Clinton counties, simultaneously promising American renewal even as it depicts unavoidable catastrophe. The comet acts as a cleansing, wiping away so much dead wood of civilization. (Feminism, too, comes in for repeated knocks.)

Pournelle and Niven’s attitude toward civil-rights struggles and feminism wavers between condescension and irritation. Progressive issues are bumps on the road of progress. At their most dangerous, they radicalize lumpen segments of the population into dangerous terrorists: Antifa is one step on the way to the New Brotherhood Army.

Like Raspail’s Camp of the Saints, it’s amazing that guys were anticipating where we are headed way back in the ‘70s.

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NYT: “Undercover With the Alt-Right”

For a year, an effeminate Leftist using an assumed identity infiltrated various Alt-Right events and informal get-togethers. He has just put together a rather banal (at least from the excerpts) ‘documentary’ comprised of his undercover footage.

Naturally, the NYT wants to publicize this far and wide, so we have a piece (the #1 most emailed NYT story of the day) written by Jesse Singal titled “Undercover With the Alt-Right”:

Last September, Patrik Hermansson, a 25-year-old graduate student from Sweden, went undercover in the world of the extreme right. Posing as a student writing a thesis about the suppression of right-wing speech, he traveled from London to New York to Charlottesville, Va. — and into the heart of a dangerous movement that is experiencing a profound rejuvenation.

Mr. Hermansson, who was sent undercover by the British anti-racist watchdog group Hope Not Hate, spent months insinuating himself into the alt-right, using his Swedish nationality (many neo-Nazis are obsessed with Sweden because of its “Nordic” heritage) as a way in. It wasn’t always easy. “You want to punch them in the face,” he told me of the people he met undercover. “You want to scream and do whatever — leave. But you can’t do any of those things. You have to sit and smile.”

What he learned while undercover is one part of a shocking, comprehensive new report from Hope Not Hate that sheds light on the strange landscape of the alt-right, the much discussed, little understood and largely anonymous far-right movement that exists mostly online and that has come to national attention in part because of its support for Donald Trump.

As a result of the growing influence of the far-right social-media ecosystem, once-moribund hate groups in both the United States and Europe — groups that mostly existed long before “alt-right” entered the vernacular — are enjoying a striking uptick in recruitment.

Here’s the thing: The accompanying video excerpts (of Jason Reza Jorjani and Greg Johnson), which I’m guessing are the most ‘salacious’ this Leftie obtained, aren’t all that shocking.

Of the two, Johnson’s comments are nothing you wouldn’t otherwise find in his writings at Counter-Currents. Jorjani’s comments include a bit of cat-fighting fodder through subtle digs at Richard Spencer, and a Hitler-on-Europe’s-future-currency quote that will easily be taken out of context, but the rest is the sort of healthy, blustery, political, bar room banter and speculation one finds many normies doing each weekend.

What this episode reaffirms, however, is how the allure of ‘undercover footage’ has a higher, second-order propaganda value than the actual words being said. It’s classic McLuhan ‘media is the message’ stuff, part of Propaganda 101.

It’s why Romney’s “47%” comment, were it limited to words in print, or even if it were filmed openly and officially for all the world to see, would not have been all that controversial or shocking. But make it part of an ‘undercover video’, recorded at a private function (in front of political donors, no less!), and suddenly media elites are gasping breathlessly, and the story has legs for months and months when it otherwise wouldn’t.

I had to chuckle at the Jorjani clip’s use of black and white video and the accompanying eerie background music, presumably intended to signify malevolence. It’s similar to the tiresome way that, for example, Frontline shows Dick Cheney in black and white, against similar soundtrack music, but with the added effect of Will Lyman’s brooding and self-important voice. Patrik Hermansson, however, ain’t no Will Lyman.

An encouraging sign: As would be expected, the “Readers Picks” comments are all variations of leftwing alarmism, but as of this moment, the top 3 “NYT Picks” of comments to this article (from a total of 1,303 comments) are the following:

#1 —

The greatest stroke of luck for the at-right, of course, was the election of a president who see its members as a misunderstood segment of society. A lot of this may have been brewing for a while, but finding a sympathetic ear with the Trump administration had certainly brought it front and center.

#2 —

Although this article focuses on males, don’t overlook that there are young women who are attracted to the Alt-Right too. Regrettably, I have two nieces who have been mesmerized by this pathelogical [sic] ideology, and they are well-educated–one graduated from the University of Chicago, the other from the University of California at Berkeley.

#3 —

So the Alt Right people say the same things in private that they already do in public. The whole exercise was a bit pointless then, wasn’t it?

Fundamentally, all the Alt Right stands for is the idea that ethnic Europeans have the same moral entitlement as every other people on earth; namely, a land of their own.

They ask why it is that ethnic Europeans, uniquely, face a moral obligation to turn themselves into ethnic minorities and hope it all works our for their descendants. And, so far, no one has been able to answer that question.

What to make of this? Is perhaps some low-level NYT employee, in charge of monitoring and collating comments, trying to foster a deeper look into what the Alt-Right is all about?

There are responses to the NYT piece from Jason Reza Jorjani and Greg Johnson.

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Compliment Towards a Blazer

An actual Amazon comment/review for a men’s blazer:

“This jacket looks much more expensive than it is. I wore it to work and received a compliment from my gay coworker. I don’t like to stereotype, but he has good fashion sense and that was the ultimate form of praise for me.”

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The Online Relevance of René Girard

In The Weekly Standard, Joseph Bottum, professor of cyber-ethics at Dakota State University, writes a cuck piece on the Great Statue Removal Frenzy, but in this passage astutely discusses the contemporary relevance of René Girard (“The Joy of Destruction”):

In such books as Violence and the Sacred (1972) and The Scapegoat (1982), the French-American theorist René Girard offered an explanation for this kind of thing, developing his ideas about scapegoating and what he called “mimetic rivalry.” Against Freud, Girard argued that human desires do not always come packaged in predetermined forms. We create many of them in imitation of others. We learn to want by watching what others want, and we catch desire the way we catch a disease.

More recent years have seen some attention paid to the concept of “competitive victimhood.” A fascinating 2017 trio of surveys by Laura De Guissmé and Laurent Licata, for example, pointed out that a group’s empathy for the victimhood of others is significantly decreased whenever the group expands its own sense of victimhood. But Girard was there first, warning that the idea of victimhood, stripped of its Christianity, would itself become a device of cultural violence, with people competing for the status of victim even as they trample those who oppose them or merely fail to support them sufficiently.

If that sounds like the current protesters—if that sounds like too much of our current political agitation on both left and right—it should. Trying to understand antifa, the Washington Post recently described the amorphous group as a collection of “predominantly communists, socialists and anarchists who reject turning to the police or the state” to achieve radical ends, preferring to pursue their radical ends through violent confrontation on the streets. The disorganized organization could not have existed before the Internet… before such leaderless collectives were made possible by computerized communication.

The group polarization of online discussions, the mimetic rivalry to show oneself more pure than others, the Twitterized brutality toward those who fail to show enough purity, the outrage on the hunt for something to be outraged about: The Internet sometimes seems to have been invented for the sole purpose of proving the social-contagion theories of René Girard.

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White Loaves Matter

From The Onion:

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Chinese Detergent Commercial

I remember seeing this a year or so ago when it made U.S. news, but a recent post on AltRight.com reminded me how epically awesome this Chinese commercial is:

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Closing Time

In “What Is Great about Ourselves”, Pankaj Mishra, who proudly represents the ‘New’ England of Non-White ‘Diversity’, scoffs with animus at white ‘Old’ England-types and their U.S. equivalents, her piece ending with this:

‘Most of the white people I have ever known,’ James Baldwin once wrote, ‘impressed me as being in the grip of a weird nostalgia, dreaming of a vanished state of security and order.’ Today, longing for the ancien régime increasingly defines the Atlantic seaboard’s pundits as much as it does the fine people defending the honour of Robert E. Lee. It remains to be seen whether America, Britain, Europe and liberalism can be made great again. But it already seems clear that the racial supremacist in the White House and many of his opponents are engaged in the same endeavour: to extend closing time in their own gardens in the West.

One can smell the contempt with the curry.

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