I remember being in the office of a formerly great science fiction writer, a man who was a major force in his time, a volcano of creativity. But…he couldn’t write any more. The problem is that his very creativity, which had once made his fortune, generated a thousand options at every branching point in the story. He, the character, the universe, the other characters could react in INFINITE ways to every stimulus. Where once he had embraced those choices, and found the best, most brilliant and insightful (and often hilarious) options…now those same options froze him in place.
I know for a fact that if he had an editor to tell him what to do, he could still write. But HE could not make the choice. This may have been cognitive decline due to age or disease, or it might have been damage from a lifetime of indulgence in drugs and alcohol. But it was so sad to see. A TITAN. Unable to make decisions unless someone made them for him.
This is why is is so important to have clear values. A friend recently posted about an algorithm he’d created to choose between killing babies or old people in an out of control car. It triggered some funny conversation but had a serious intent. How DO we make choices of what to do? If you care about everything equally, you can do nothing. It is PRECISELY the same as caring about nothing at all.
We all create mental short-cuts to decide where to spend our energy, attention, money, time. Who to give our love to, and who to shun. The ONLY people who don’t are in asylums, unable to choose between urinating and tying their shoes. The results are kinda stinky. Fear, lack of trust in your own judgement, lack of clear values, tunnel vision and clouded judgement can all contribute to this.
But so can deliberate confusion sewn by people who want to exploit your lack of capacity to decide in order to tell you: “you don’t know what to do! Follow me!” or worse “Try to do everything at once” and therefore accomplish nothing.
Or worse “do nothing at all.”
The subject of “Stochastic Terrorism” came up. The term “Stochastic” meaning “randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.”
Reduce the friction coefficient on a road, and it is totally predictable that there will be more accidents, even though you cannot predict WHICH cars will crash.
Bin Laden was, according to the (possible originator) of the term, a “Stochastic Terrorist” because he encouraged holy war without giving specific orders. SOME “True Believer” was going to take action. You have used mass media to induce a response without a direct connection. Predictable.
(By the way, our “Soulmates Process” uses “Stochastic Matchmaking”: rather than chasing after a particular person, you take the actions most likely to increase your real, natural attractiveness for the right people, as well as increase likelihood of meeting them. You play to win the “numbers game.”)
I suggest that the current spate of violence is influenced powerfully by this phenomenon. Politicians, political pundits scream violence or incivility, and the most radicalized and emotionally imbalanced listeners take action. The pols and pundits get plausible deniability, but the actions are taken. “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest” is suggested as a version of this, and we’ve all seen countless crime films where the Boss doesn’t DIRECTLY say someone should be murdered, but has surrounded himself with murderous people, such that when they say “George is a problem. Something should be done about that” we know exactly what will happen in the next reel, and that he has insulated himself enough to have…wait for it…plausible deniability.
You get to do what you want to do, without ever taking responsibility for it. Cute.
A reader said: “I don’t know how useful the term. I certainly know that the hate personalites are not doing what they do to spur the mentally ill into action. They are leading fostering the ideas of “the other” in their audience to grow unyield opposition to (political opponents) and to insulate their side from compromise. and common ideas with the “other side.””
My response was: “It is hugely valuable IMO. Many of the things we do are not conscious, but still effective. Bringing it up to consciousness allows us to look at the result, not just the conscious intent. and then we get to make decisions about what kind of society we want. Only children can be excused based solely on intent. “Ignorance of results excuses no man” isn’t quite true…but if you don’t watch results rather than intents, you’ll miss much of reality.”
But let me look more carefully at that initial statement. “I certainly know that…” and you “know” that precisely how? Because no one has ever given an indirect command? No one has ever stirred up a lynch mob, knowing that the weakest-minded will take the action. Really? You KNOW this?
No, you don’t. You might hope or believe that, but you cannot KNOW it. And when you say “They are leading fostering the ideas of “the other” in their audience to grow unyielding opposition to (political opponents) and to insulate their side from compromise. and common ideas with the “other side.”” you are saying “they are building the sense of their political opponents as “the enemy.”
Do that, and if the issues are critical enough SOMEONE WILL COMMIT ACTS OF VIOLENCE. That is human nature. Really BELIEVE fetuses are human beings? Someone will blow up a birth control clinic. Really BELIEVE that rich people are evil? Someone will kill one to make a point.
Really BELIEVE that Jews are controlling the government? Someone will slaughter worshipers in a temple.
And if you step back and scream hatred and violence, and you don’t KNOW that this will happen if the rhetoric becomes violent enough and reaches the right ears? You are asleep. There is a chance to wake you up.
But you know? I think that most of the shock jocks and political pundits aren’t asleep. I think they believe they can ride that bicycle, get close enough to the edge to emotionalize their audience , and if a few heads get busted, well, They Asked For It.
They aren’t respecting the First Amendment. They are HIDING behind it, to accomplish something terrible. And in the end, IMO they would tear the First Amendment down and say the government will allow only THEIR version of the truth. And in that sense..the more you actually respect the first amendment, the more frightening that should sound.
They are snakes. And if they are more than that? If they are actually monsters? They will use that rhetoric to test the public. Will you allow me to say these things? And if there are ugly results, will you excuse it, deny it happened or its origin? Will you say it is “free speech” as if “free speech” is the intent, rather than a means to an end, as if government laws are the only means of legally and morally influencing behavior? Will you try to distract the confused from what is happening, because you believe the end justifies the means?
The monsters want total control, and sometimes the eradication of enemies and opposition forces. And the will test out words to see if they can get away with it. And if they can, then small actions. And if people stay asleep…large actions.
Until one day people wake up and say “what happened?” or worse “I never knew this could happen.”
Because it profited them to stay asleep. Because they WANTED certain actions (“hey, they’re pushing through my agenda. I’ll let them do that. We’ll rein them in later.” Historically, that actually doesn’t work very well.)
The time for us to grasp and state clearly that speech can and does lead to violence is now. Then, people cannot pretend they never were exposed to the concept. They can say they didn’t believe it, or felt helpless. And those who APPROVE of the violence, or are ignorant enough to believe they can control it, will use same those weasel words. It is not always possible to differentiate between sleepers and snakes.
But the first step is getting the concept out there. Providing words that clarify thoughts. And then starting the conversation about what we will accept. Those who will not agree that our elected leaders should be more careful with their words cannot be a part of the next step of conversation: WHAT TO DO?
What to do? Clarify the position. Force people to make a choice, or identify those unwilling to speak up and grasp that some of them are deliberately sabotaging without the courage and honesty to actually say what they are thinking.
The first step is getting clarity on who will agree that civility is critical in a society. If they try to distract from the power of leadership to shape actions and opinions, they are asleep at BEST. They may be snakes.
And make no mistake: some are monsters.