Belmont Club

The Trouble With Entropy

In the video below you can watch ISIS destroy one of Niniveh’s original gates and the collection of antiquities at the Mosul museum. The Guardian describes what was wrecked:

A professor at the Archaeology College in Mosul confirmed to the Associated Press that the two sites depicted in the video are the city museum and Nirgal Gate, one of several gates to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire.

“I’m totally shocked,” Amir al-Jumaili told the AP “It’s a catastrophe. With the destruction of these artefacts, we can no longer be proud of Mosul’s civilisation.”

Isis took control of Mosul last summer in a lightning advance that led to the eviction of thousands of Christians and other minorities from their ancestral homelands in the Nineveh plains, amid reports of forced conversions.

It’s something to bear in mind the next time you come across a breathless article describing how militant Islam preserved classical knowledge and saved the world from the Dark Ages. Meanwhile a Bangladeshi-American blogger, noted for advocating atheism on his blog site, was hacked to death with machetes and his wife seriously injured in Dhaka.  He was almost certainly killed by Islamists, who as you know do not exist.

The couple were on a bicycle rickshaw, returning from a book fair, when two assailants stopped and dragged them onto a sidewalk before striking them with machetes, local media reported citing witnesses.

Roy, said to be around 40, is the second Bangladeshi blogger to have been murdered in two years and the fourth writer to have been attacked since 2004.

Hardline Islamist groups have long demanded the public execution of atheist bloggers and sought new laws to combat writing critical of Islam.

These events may mystify those who believe the anger of those who president Obama described as ‘having nothing to do with Islam’ is solely directed at Crusaders; who think that the events of the last decade are simply payback for Andalusia or the destruction of the mosques which Columbus found on arriving in the New World.

For contrary to the narrative, events in Paris, Denmark, Mosul, Bangladesh and elsewhere suggest that “they” — whoever “they” may be — aren’t coming for Bible-clinging, gun-toting Christians at all.  In fact they may rather avoid them.  On the contrary they are coming for newsmen, writers, artists, atheists, “free thinkers”, etc.

Well they might ask themselves why this turnabout has taken place. Why didn’t ticking the right boxes, supporting the multicultural agenda and voting for all the most progressive candidates on the ballot not give them some measure of immunity from attacks?  The standard theory, as exemplified in a Washington Post article, is that some undiscovered White Man’s sin, lying unnoticed in the bosom of the sincere progressive, has not yet been expiated.   Speaking of the recent identification of Jihadi John as a Londoner named Mohammed Emwazi, the Washington Post article quotes a source characterizing “the ‘gentle, kind’ Jihadi John [as] a ‘beautiful young man’”

VIDEO: An activist explains how Mohammed Emwazi, a.k.a. Jihadi John, descended into alienation: “What role have our security services played in completely alienating people in this society?”

When the world saw a masked man behead Islamic State prisoners multiple times over the course of a year, most people thought: That’s a bad guy.

But when one British human rights group considered the case of Jihadi John — the man now revealed to be Mohammed Emwazi — it saw something else: a victim of circumstance. Sure, Jihadi John was a monster, but how did he get that way?

It’s your fault. That’s the standard theory:  the real reason for murderous events in Europe and Mosul and Bangladesh — even Nigeria — lie in a centuries old grievance detected by Jihadi John. But there’s another explanation you may wish to consider. You are watching entropy at work, witnessing the destruction of information and seeing disorder take over the world.

To understand this more clearly, open the case of your computer and consider the arrangement of the jumper wires (assuming you still have jumper wires). There are only a few ways the jumper wires can be correctly connected but millions of ways they can be wrongly attached. Order (in the sense of a functioning arrangement) is that small percentage of outcomes that work. Entropy is all the ways it won’t work.  Order is statistically hard to achieve. Disorder is relatively easy to create.

It took an ancient craftsman years to produce those statues preserved in the Mosul Museum, but it took a thug only a few minutes to pound it into rubble and dust.

Since order and knowledge are expensive, what we call civilization essentially advances by remembering which wires go where.   The innovation of political correctness however, holds that since all jumper connections are equally valid,  anything goes and one can even rearrange older wiring to suit aesthetic impulses. By declaring all cultures equal we open the doors to entropy. We may not notice the effect at first, because — to continue the computer example — there is still enough residual functionality in your machine to carry on.

By and by we disable the CD drive, the USB ports, then some of the keys in the keyboard. Then one day we pull out a really important jumper and the hard disk stops. But by then we cannot acknowledge the damage we’ve done since according to our progressive thinking we ought to have improved things. And this thought will still be in our minds as the blade of the machete slices off the hand we put out to ward the blow.

It will come as a mystery, a total mystery.  The reason for our befuddlement is because while ISIS’s destruction of Mosul’s artifacts is serious, it does not spread entropy as drastically as the Western cultural elite.  Their powers of demolition are far greater because modern technical civilization depends on what economists call rational ignorance.

Unlike pastoral societies when a man might know all the things that mattered,  most of us moderns know very little outside of our narrow fields of competence.  We compensate by trusting others to know things about which we choose remain substantively ignorant for lack of time. This opens up a tremendous opportunity for Western charlatans to spread entropy for their own narrow, sectarian reasons.

The more complex and less transparent society and technology become the more we must rely on rational ignorance. Most are totally dependent on it. When Ezra Klein of Vox says “explanatory journalism” is the wave of the future he is asserting that “since you don’t have the time to figure things out I will tell you what it means”. Ezra Klein becomes your “include file” — a code library one just links to making it just like code you typed yourself.

As J.V. DeLong explains, that can have the effect of flooding our lives with entropy wholesale. The modus operandi, DeLong explains is for “activists” to write their agendas provisions deep inside administrative law, which in “rational ignorance” we swallow whole. But once the statute is referenced — like an “include file” — all the buried provisions transfer over and have an immediate effect.

A striking aspect of this phenomenon of capture is its anonymity, at least as far as most commentary is concerned. PJMedia ran a series called Every Single One documenting the radical takeover of the Department of Justice, and describing the individual attorneys and their resumes, close connections between EPA and environmental groups have been documented, the names and faces of the IRS people have been publicized, and one can dig some names out of government notices and letters. But this information is largely ignored, and as far as the general media is concerned decisions are made by offices or bureaus, not by people. …

The anonymity serves a crucial purpose. To say the “The Office of X decided today . . . “ is far more impressive than “Two 30-something lawyers who used to work for an environmental group decided today that EPA should . . . “, and slipping a few lines into a thousand-page bill invokes the full weight of “the intent of the Congress”. …

Deference to agency interpretation of law becomes an invitation to the staff to play games with the language, finding and exploiting ambiguities where none should exist. Judicial reliance on agency expertise triggers skewed analyses; staff knows how things are supposed to come out, and knows that no judge will contradict it technical conclusions. To the informed, EPA science and risk assessments have been jokes for a generation.

“Every once in a while, the Supreme Court will rebel against fictions,” DeLong writes, but most of the time we just accept the diktat of the downloaded code — and accept the fictions.  Administrative law is just one mechanism.  The media, academy, the entertainment industry — everybody — is selling you their narrow agenda. Suppose the president says there are only “lone wolves”.  Then by gum, there are only lone wolves. Shouldn’t we in rational ignorance trust the president of the United States?

People who wonder how marriage went from an institution involving men and women to almost any combination conceivable in the blink of an eye, wonder at record winters in an age of  “Global Warming”, who ask themselves why their “Affordable Care” is so expensive and why the “free and open internet” has 300 pages of secret regulations; who puzzle over the identity of the masked attackers who attack centers of population every day are basically watching the effects of industrial scale entropy.  They are watching knowledge — indeed common sense — being erased or obfuscated; destroyed at a rate that would defy the understanding of few guys wielding hammers.

The other day a friend told me the hard disk on his super duper gaming machine was failing.  Out of curiosity I looked at all the process IDs of his machine and saw about 500 Chrome threads running when his browser wasn’t even open.  “There’s nothing wrong with your hardware,” I said, “it’s a virus”.  When we pulled out the network cable the virus went into quiescence without a connection and his hard disk became as fast as ever. The moral of the story, I told him, after he formatted his disk, is it doesn’t matter how fast your hardware is if you’re not careful what gets into your system.   Entropy kills. Information corruption can make even the fastest hardware take 30 minutes to open a Notepad window.

Islam didn’t cause the Dark Ages.  Some problem in the West did.  All Islam will do is deliver the coup de grace. Our modern elites think information destruction doesn’t matter, but it does. Perhaps ISIS will teach this to them in the hardest possible way.

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