Belmont Club

The Danger of Symmetry

News that Quinnipiac poll finds president Obama is the “worst president since World War II” was greeted with amusement. New York Magazine counseled its readers not to take the poll too seriously, saying it’s all explained by the ‘availability heuristic’. That’s a complicated term for asserting that people are too silly to know what’s bad for them, so sophisticates can still continue to think Obama is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

That sounds fancy, but it simply means that we are biased by how easy it is to summon an example of something in our heads. So when a right-leaning person is asked to think of a bad president, the shadow of Obama looms large over them. To a certain extent, many people who picked Obama weren’t carefully weighing how they viewed him versus other presidents — do you remember how crazy Bill Clinton drove conservatives? — but were swayed by how quickly and loudly Barry O seized their brains once the question was asked.

One of the former prerogatives of the liberal press was its ability to frame the narrative. In the past they could — and did — tell the public what to take seriously and who to laugh at.  We were routinely told not to take the warning from Hamas that it will “open the gates of hell” seriously. Such threats — like the vow of ISIS to expand the Caliphate to include parts of Europe, or vows to behead infidels — were dismissed out of hand as either the posturing of simpletons or the justifiable wrath of the Poor and Downtrodden.

What was taken seriously in every case, however, was any sign of lawlessness by the White Man, including the Jews. Now reports suggest that someone may have broken the law; engaged in a revenge killing for the Hamas-ordered execution of three teenagers on the West Bank is front-page news. The New York Times reports, “Secretary of State John Kerry, in a statement, strongly condemned what he called “the despicable and senseless abduction and murder” of Muhammad [an Arab teenager]. He added, ‘Those who undertake acts of vengeance only destabilize an already explosive and emotional situation.'”

The Times of London writes:

Israeli leaders and rabbis were told yesterday that inflammatory rhetoric risked inciting revenge killings and public disorder after a Palestinian boy was lynched following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

And it’s not just the Israelis.  The arrival of thousands of aliens at the US southern border has heretofore been depicted, not as an act of invasion, but somehow America’s fault. But to the Californians blocking the movement of these people into their state these arrivals are simply trespassers. Surely if Californians were descending on Mexico they would be so regarded by the Mexicans. Their crime is to think and act as the Mexicans would think. A CNN story shows what the narrative was meant to be.

“It is deplorable that people espousing anti-immigrant hate language created unnecessary tension and fear for immigrant mothers and their children,” Pedro Rios, a community representative of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, said in a statement. “Even more concerning is that elected officials in the City of Murrieta instigated this tension. Mothers and their children on these buses have suffered through enough trauma.”

The trouble is the American public may have had enough of these media narratives. Claudia Rossett noted that when the three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped everyone called for Israeli restraint. Now the situation is reversed the same voices are demanding no stone be left underturned to find the malefactors. For a long time things have gone in one direction only.

Mention repealing Obamacare and you are told it is impossible; even John Boehner said, it’s the ‘law of the land’. Brown vs Board is the law of the land, Roe vs Wade is the law of the land, but Hobby Lobby or Citizens United is an abomination to be repealed or ignored soonest.  It’s like a ratchet. It moves only in the way of the approved narrative.

The problem, as indicated by Obama’s falling polls and the increasing pushback against the Voice of Command, is that fewer people are buying into the script.  Some of these setbacks have been quite devastating. On nearly the same day as Hobby Lobby the US Supreme Court decided Harris et al vs Quinn, Governor of Illinois. “In a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court said the home healthcare assistants, some of whom care for their own loved ones, had a constitutional right not to support a union they opposed.”

Back in 2003 the unions planned to take over home health care reasoning that to take the Medicaid dollar meant you worked for the government, and all government workers were destined to become a dues-paying members of SEIU. It had the ring of inevitability.

Beginning in 2003, Illinois officials agreed to designate home-care workers as “public employees” because they care for the disabled and are paid with government Medicaid funds. That cleared the way for the Service Employees International Union to organize them. …

The [Harris et al vs Quinn, Governor of Illinois] decision will make it more difficult in some states for unions to continue organizing home healthcare assistants, a rapidly growing segment of the workforce that is expected to double in the next decade thanks to the aging U.S. population. It could also apply to child care workers.

But something went wrong with the Illinois union scam; the Supreme Court said home care workers don’t have to join SEIU.  The LA Times, like New York Magazine, counsels its readers not to get too alarmed at the setback because the unions can live with this restriction, because they’ll be back later, when no one is looking, and move the game forward to another “progressive achievement”.

About 1 million of the 3 million home healthcare workers nationwide are represented by the SEIU or the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, according to union lawyers. They are mostly in the Northeast, on the West Coast and in some states in the Midwest that, like Illinois, have “fair share” laws requiring people who do not want to join a union to pay limited dues to compensate for the union’s bargaining, which benefits members and nonmembers alike. But because each state’s law varies, it was not clear Monday whether all of the 10 states with fair share arrangements would be covered by the court’s decision in Harris et al vs. Quinn. Anti-union lawyers said all such laws would probably be ruled unconstitutional.

The Daily Caller pointed out that the hidden agenda within Obamacare was to replicate the Illinois scheme on a giant scale and create 21 million SEIU-organized health care workers.

In ”Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind,” Mallory Factor describes a December 9, 2008 memo from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare president Dennis Rivera to the Obama-Biden transition team.

That memo outlined a legislative proposal calling for “increasing the capacity of the health care workforce” as part of a larger health care reform initiative.

The SEIU and the Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Factor writes, later coordinated with other public-sector unions to spend “literally hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Obamacare.”

So maybe that’s another setback too. But the real news is this: it’s not working any more.  Even Obamacare might actually be repealed. Liberal foreign policy might really go down in flames. Already the authorities are warning of bombs on inbound airline flights. And Obama might actually be the worst president since World War 2. Things used to be under control; what happened?

What happened wasn’t the Republican Party.  Obama himself treats the GOP with contempt. “Obama ridicules Boehner’s lawsuit over executive powers: ‘So sue me'”. No, what happened was Murphy; reality pushing back.

Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in the possibility that some Israeli settler might have killed a Palestinian teenager in revenge.  Somebody snapped. It’s not that they didn’t know it was wrong, but possibly something worse: they didn’t care. This is suggestive of a breakdown of asymmetry. The game theoretic of the liberal establishment presumes asymmetric behavior; that for ever iteration the West will act in a civilized manner while their opponents will behave customarily. That’s the only way the game works for them. What they are not prepared for is the possibility of symmetry; that everyone will play by the same rules.

Shakespeare long ago warned that if you cut deep enough, every man looked the same. The problem with the left is that they assumed the contrary: that the White Man would always be different. Political correctness is based on this split level value system; it is ironically founded on the bedrock of racism. But what if Shakespeare is right? What if every man has his limits.

If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge?
If we are like you in the rest,
we will resemble you in that.

Then all the bets are off. Political correctness works only while everyone accepts its rules. What the Western elites should really worry about is what happens if people make the context shift from focusing on the stage to realizing they’re in the theater.  This can happen in one of two ways: either the ceiling falls in or someone shouts fire.

The people will accept the King’s fictions only while the King governs well. For more than ten years the West has worried what might happen in Muslim scientists privately decided to built a WMD to attack the Jews. What they really should get worked up about is what happens if Jewish scientists decide to do the same thing.  Civilization depends on the King to provide justice in lieu of mob action.  When the King goofs off or neglects to secure the realm, then at some point it’s every man for himself.  And then there’ll be nothing to laugh at any more.

It may be that we will never know who killed the Palestinian teenager. Perhaps it was an Israeli criminal; perhaps it was a put-up job by Hamas. But in the end it may not matter. History suggests that over time all conflict becomes symmetrical.  Eventually both sides become equally brutal.

At the dawn of submarine warfare, the sinking merchant ships without warning was considered a war crime by America. Gentlemen did not do it. In fact, the destruction of the Lusitania is cited as one of the reasons for the US entry into World War 1.  Yet by World War 2 America was the undisputed master of unrestricted submarine warfare; sinking more than 5 million tons of Japanese shipping, lead by aggressive officers who machine-gunned enemy sailors in the water.  So much for gentlemen. The US Navy is in fact the only naval service to successful prosecute a submarine war against its foes, a feat which eluded even Germany.

The story in the air was identical. Germany’s attacks on Warsaw and London at the start of the war were widely condemned as war crimes by the Allies. Yet by 1945 the Royal Air Force itself would be obliterating Dresden, while the USAAF, which began its campaign with high-minded precision daylight raids on defined enemy targets would by the end incinerate nearly major Japanese city, not to mention A-bombing Hiroshima and Nagsaki.

And that was The Good War.

The Western elites may think they can “control” conflict on the basis of political correctness, but they should not be so sure. If there is any lesson taught by history it is that man when driven far enough is the most dangerous and merciless life form on the planet.

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