Learning to live with the new normal

My original understanding that the goal of lockdowns was not to avert virus-caused deaths, but to postpone them, to spread them out over time.  Now it seems life shall not return to normal until scientists have learned to cure or immunize.  The assumption that this can be done quickly strikes me as optimistic, and we must prepare for the possibility that the media and government will make social distancing essentially permanent.  There will probably always be enough danger of illness from a mutated coronavirus or some other disease to allow journalists to scream that anyone who wants churches open is a murderer.

We must be absolutely clear that social distancing is an evil.  Call it a necessary evil if you must, but it is social connection that is good.  Visiting family and friends in person is good.  Crowded churches are good.  Children playing together in parks is good.  The Western custom of showing one’s face in public (which conservatives used to argue showed the incompatibility of Islam with our way of life before we outdid them in head-covering) was good.  Google hangouts and Zoom are better than nothing, but they are not as good.

If I were a bishop, I would begin preparing a contingency plan for the possibility that meetings of more than 10 worshippers will never again be allowed.  (Even if the number is 20 or 30, some planning of the sort below will be necessary.)  If they are someday, great.  One should still plan for the worst.  It will surely not be time wasted.  We’re going to lose our churches eventually anyway, either from being taxed as punishment for not approving homosexuality or by legal persecution tactics whereby Catholics lose due process protections in sexual abuse accusations.  We will soon be unable to afford buildings that can house more than a dozen souls at a time anyway.  Our leaders display an indolence that should not be confused with principled conservatism and would probably not have carried through any serious preparation until our churches were taken from us.  In this sense, COVID-19 has given us a wonderful opportunity to restructure without hostile media attention and with with a bit more leisure.

Let us say a parish’s priest offers Mass a few times on weekday evenings (each lasting maybe half an hour) and perhaps a couple of times more than that on weekends, for about a hundred Masses a month serving a thousand parishioners.  Everyone could go once per month.  Families would have to be organized into groups of about three families.  Each group would attend Mass  together with the priest that one evening or weekend per month and would be encouraged to meet without the priest for prayer one other time (perhaps outside, if social distancing laws demand it).  Each family would have to submit its available times, and there would be a greater sense of commitment than before having officially agreed to a Mass time and with attending such small groups that their absence would be noticed.

Devising the schedule will be work, but it’s manageable.  Turning priests into Mass-saying machines while still leaving a bit of time for the other sacraments would be an awful burden on them; we could no longer expect them to do much of anything else.

Praying from home as a substitute for Mass cannot go on for 18 months, or however long it is they think a vaccine will take.  It feels silly.  We’ll all be atheists by the end of that time.

Also, if I were a bishop I’d still make all my priests wear body cameras, even now that they have been cut off from all human connections.

All of this would be to make the best of a terrible, terrible situation, but that’s what you’ve got to work with when you’re a Catholic.

Nonlocality: pick your poison

Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity: Metaphysical Intimations of Modern Physics (3rd edition)
by Tim Maudlin

I’ve lost most of my time to read.  This is the first one I’ve finished in a long time.

I first heard of Bell’s inequalities in undergraduate quantum mechanics, and I came away with the standard lesson that Bell had proved that, given the statistical predictions of quantum mechanics (since empirically confirmed), one must either accept that the laws of nature are nonlocal or that they are nondeterministic.  Like many, I was taxed enough in that class with formalism and calculations that I lacked the appetite for philosophical reflection.

In this excellent book, Maudlin quickly establishes that the idea of a “choice” between believing nature is nondeterministic and believing it allows nonlocal influences is completely wrong.  Violation of Bell’s inequalities proves nonlocality; determinism vs. nondeterminism is irrelevant.  The first chapter gives the clearest explanation I have ever read of Bell’s inequalities and consequences for nonlocal influences.  Only Reichenbach is as good a case as Maudlin for showing that physicists and physics students should read philosophers to understand their own field.

Maudlin’s conclusion is, as the title of this post indicates, that physicists are forced with a choice of what to believe about the nature of the world–although not the one we’ve sometimes thought we were faced with–and all of the choices are unappealing, in the sense that there are good reasons to resist any of them.  One can break relativity by accepting a special foliation of spacetime, a standard of simultaneity in which wavefunctions collapse, although this special slicing of spacetime seems to have left no imprint on anything measurable.  One can posit backward causation, signals moving back in time along light rays, as in the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics.  (Maudlin, though, does not think such theories are viable.)  One can accept some version of the many-worlds interpretation, with all the violence it does to common sense.  One can formulate quantum mechanics in an explicitly foliation-dependent way, so that counterintuitively even facts that we think of as entirely local (such as the polarization of a photon at a particular event) will depend on how the describer chooses to mentally cut up spacetime.  Or one can accept an ontology in which microscopic objects usually have no local existence at all.  Perhaps being deliberately provocative, Maudlin questions whether physicists’ reluctance to tamper with relativity is well-motivated when faced with such a choice.

Rationally or not, I do share this reluctance to posit special foliations.  I see it as a case of preferring to let the more clear illuminate the more obscure.  Relativity is easy to understand, and the lack of time relations for spacelike separated events, or at least the absence of a need for such a thing, is at the level of a genuine philosophical insight.  The interpretation of quantum mechanics, on the other hand, is notoriously unclear.  Although Maudlin doesn’t mention it, physicists seem to be moving toward interpretations (e.g. consistent histories) that would be comfortable with foliation dependence of local quantities.  One can take that as a mark in its favor, or further confirmation of the perversity of physicists, that we’re more willing to tamper with logic than with Lorentz invariance.

If you get this book, make sure to get the 3rd edition, which has an extra chapter reporting new research on objective collapse theories that affects the debate significantly (but doesn’t resolve it).

Miscellaneous

I keep seeing articles on how to fight boredom, reading projects and hobbies to pick up during quarantine.  It’s a different world when you don’t have young children.

Never have I felt so powerless, but this is an illusion.  I never had any power over whether classes would be taught this fall, only a sure expectation.  In reality my time teaching my children in the mornings probably has greater direct impact than anything I would have been doing in normal times.

Suppose I am destined to die from this virus.  Given my high blood pressure, it’s hardly inconceivable.  Would it not seem that God has engineered things with an uncanny perfection?  I am given perhaps months of advanced notice, but circumstances conspire to prevent me from undertaking any big final project, as if that’s not what I’m meant to do.  Rather, I am given much more time than usual with my family.

Another thing I keep seeing:  “Now is a time to focus on the two great commandments, especially loving thy neighbor.”  Since all most of us can do for our neighbors (not counting spouse and children) is to stay away from them, perhaps we finally have an excuse to concentrate on that other great commandment, the one nobody talks about much anymore.  A thought for those without young children.

How long to continue lockdowns isn’t really a partisan issue.  I’m not surprised, though, that more conservatives are skeptical about whether the new virus really merits these reactions to it.  Not because any conservative principle is distinctly in play, but because in the Western world “conservatives” and “the Right” are grab-bag terms applied to anyone who hasn’t completely gotten with The Program.  Naturally, such types will be more skeptical of the news media and their experts, so there will be a lot more scatter in their beliefs.  The HBD Right was for a time more alarmist than the mainstream, until the mainstream shifted.  Now I would say that there is a significant group of dissidents who are not so much less worried about the virus than the mainstream as they are more worried than the mainstream is about economic and social fallout.

Arguments in the public sphere are never about who is right, but always about who is the smartest and most compassionate.  If it’s fair to say that conspiracy theorists are ignorant and have disreputable motives, then it’s fair to say that people who go out of their way to make fun of flat-Earthers or to get Holocaust deniers fired from their jobs are bullies.  Anyway, if one grants that people lie to advance political agendas, it is harder to deny the possibility that those with the most power to do this (the media and government in collusion) have at times done so.

As for myself, I never let any of my important beliefs be dependent on 1) the presence or absence of hidden conspiracies, 2) an opinion about the true motivations of any stranger, or 3) how one chooses to translate a word in the Bible.

Female triumphalism:  it’s not cute anymore.  Do you often hear ladies going on about how women are smarter, more compassionate, more responsible,…?  My standard response is “Yeah, well, I can pee standing up.”

Does anyone actually like female warriors in their television shows and movies?  Feminists may abstractly approve their prevalence on TV, but do they actually enjoy action shows at all?  And would those who do like action shows be equally happy with male warriors and the revealingly-dressed women sharing their charms and advancing the plot in some other way?  I for one don’t find the thought that a girl could clobber me at all sexy.  I don’t mind sorceresses and female superheroes–they’ve got magic, after all, so ordinary biology doesn’t apply–and I don’t mind female Starfleet officers, but ordinary women routinely beating up men in hand-to-hand combat is difficult for me to swallow.

Could this become the new normal?

Society has been shut down across the world not because of deaths that have actually happened, but because of projected deaths.  Well, one might say–giving our leaders a reasonable benefit of doubt–doesn’t this indicate far-sightedness, not waiting until disaster has struck, but proactively averting it?  The trouble with “safety” issues is that their demands are insatiable, so one cannot prioritize them absolutely.  A flu that ends up being an order of magnitude worse than the the regular flu could kill millions.  How many would die from crashing the world’s economy?  Are we sure that locking down the developed world won’t do this, or that if it will the deaths will be few?  Because we must be sure of this before talking about “lives” being more important than “money”.  (Similar doubts apply to other situations in which people so easily say that “lives” are more important than “rules” or “institutions”.)

The media is working hard to make me panic, but I reserve my right as a monarchist not to have an opinion.  Even if, suppose, the decision to shut down society was right and prudent this time, what was unimaginable a week ago has happened with no resistance, and a precedent has been set.  One doesn’t need corpses in the street to cancel school, outlaw private assembly, and (most ominous of all) for the Mass to be suspended–in many places voluntarily canceled even before being prohibited.  Just a month ago, we were all hearing the argument that the movement of peoples is something that is beyond any government’s power to control.  Now, it turns out that governments can lock down entire populations.  For good or ill, we see that many governments do have this power.

Is the threat of disease really worse now than in Western civilization’s past, when such measures were not taken, or have we re-evaluated our priorities?  And if the latter, to what extent will we ever get our sociability and our religion back?  Because tens of millions of people will always die each year of something, and new viruses will always be coming along with at least some period of exponential growth.  I can imagine a time when we look back on the times before this week and be amazed that once people crowded into buses, churches, concert halls, and sports stadia, that they walked outside without masks and shook strangers’ hands, that they went to public parks and let their children play with strangers’ children.  The traditional sociability of Westerners, and the social dimension of Christianity, might come to be seen as irresponsible, something governments, “health experts”, and public opinion have a duty to discourage.

I know I will be making many readers angry by voicing such concerns, but as we’ve seen with the self-destruction of the Catholic Church, complete fixation on one problem, however legitimate the problem, is dangerous.  We should get comfortable with the idea that the Mass might be something whose continuance we’ll have to argue for every few years, usually with our bishops on the other side.  “But germs!” can’t be allowed to be an absolute trump card; it’s a concern to be balanced against others.

Someone being criticized on Twitter is not news

I mean, that’s obvious, right?  I don’t use it, but I know it’s a place where many people broadcast their briefly expressed (and often briefly considered) opinions, most of which are uncomplimentary to someone.  The question is what is a journalist up to when he writes a story about the non-event of someone famous receiving online criticism.

It comes in two flavors.  Sometimes a generally reliable leftist, like say J. K. Rowling or Stephen King, says something that mildly deviates from leftist orthodoxy; then fans and other observers proceed to express outrage.  The point of reporting this, presumably, is to give the impression that the criticized person is in trouble (even if nothing meaningfully bad has happened to that person yet–having people say mean things about you on the internet doesn’t count), has crossed a line and egregiously violated the community consensus and will now pay a dreadful price.  The message is:  “Watch what you say.  You don’t want to end up like this person.”

The next is a variation on the old martyr for free thought article.  You’ll remember that it used to be the case that when an academic or public intellectual caused outrage by advancing some morally reprehensible cause before its time–compulsory euthanasia, say, or taking all children from their parents at birth and assigning them to caretakers at random–they would try to make themselves look like victims by announcing that they had received “death threats”.  At this point, everyone was obliged to stop criticize their wicked proposal and start apologizing to them and praising their bravery.  I’m sure I’m not the only one to question the authenticity and seriousness of some of these “death threats”, but now there’s no need to invoke unverified menaces.  If the media wants to generate sympathy for someone, they can scroll the thousands of twitter messages mentioning that person, and find a critic who uses a racial or ethnic slur.  Probably, with so many twitter users out there, such a thing can be found.  (If not, it could always be invented.)

Of course, any internet fracas could be framed either as “martyr for free thought” or “insensitive bastard getting deserved smackdown”.  I suppose it’s possible that a critic of the media might mistake which type of manipulation the journalist meant to employ, but I think it’s usually pretty obvious.  Who is the journalist quoting most generously?  Are we given a short, poorly-phrased tweet from an anonymous critic followed by extended rebuttal and defense of free enquiry from the one criticized and his friends, or are we given many expressions of “disappointment” from named sources who know their expressions of disapproval will have elicit no criticism in turn, with only a short reply from the object of their reproval?

Book review: The Metaphysics Within Physics

The Metaphysics Within Physics
by Tim Maudlin (2007)

In this collection of essays, philosopher Tim Maudlin makes an extremely strong case against the Humean philosophy of physics.  This position, credited to Hume and popular among contemporary philosophers, posits that the universe is completely described by physical facts about localized quantities at each different place and time.  As Maudlin points out, this doesn’t match current scientific theory or practice.  The state of a system with spatially separated but entangled parts cannot be factored into purely local pieces, and science requires not only facts but also scientific laws.  Laws are not reducible to facts; if they were, they couldn’t do their work of making predictions and answering questions about counterfactual scenarios.  I have in the past distinguished the “Platonic” and “Aristotelian” ways of thinking about laws of nature:  the former speaking of them as having some independent existence, the latter regarding them as being embedded in the natures of existing things.  Maudlin is apparently a “Platonist” in that he takes laws to be completely primitive, but nearly everything he says would also be endorsed by an “Aristotelian” with the suitable reinterpretation of the idea of physical laws.

I take the polemic against the followers of Hume to be the major point of the book, but Maudlin makes several other interesting observations along the way.

He suggests that we are able to assign causality intuitively because the laws of nature approximate a particular “quasi-Newtonian” form in which separable subsystems each have their own “inertial” operation that will happen as long as nothing interferes, plus an equivalent of force laws to describe how objects can influence each other.

He argues that we have no reason to believe in “simple” properties or relations, meaning properties/relations that refer to nothing but their subjects/relata, and so we shouldn’t build our metaphysics out of these.  He proposes gauge theories as a counterexample, in which vectors on fibers at different base points can only be compared via a connection and a connecting path on the base manifold.  As a proof, this would be begging the question, because the spaces that make up the fibers in a fiber bundle usually have an inherent homogeneity to them which “simple” qualities (if any exist) would break.  However, the proposal is valuable for shifting the burden of proof.  Do we have any reason to believe in simple properties and relations?

Maudlin believes that time actually “passes”.  He’s not a presentist, so he’s not running afoul of relativity in this.  I usually say I don’t believe time passes for the same reasons Maudlin doesn’t believe that time “flows”:  what could it flow with respect to?  Doesn’t flow just mean change with respect to time?  But if “passing” isn’t the same as “flowing”, what does it involve?  Maudlin finds it difficult to explain.  It includes an asymmetry between past and future.  This is supposedly not the whole of what it means for time to pass, but Maudlin’s arguments are mostly aimed toward showing that such an asymmetry is plausible (and not reducible to differences in entropy).  I don’t have any objection to such an asymmetry, so it’s not clear how much Maudlin, who asserts that time passes, and I, who assert that it doesn’t, really disagree.

Roger Scruton on death

Saint Paul saw Christ’s sacrifice as a redemption–a way by which Christ purchased our eternal life, through taking our sins upon himself.  This idea is strange, perhaps not wholly intelligible:  for how can the suffering of the innocent pay the moral debt of the guilty?  Saint Paul also told us that now we see as through a glass darkly, but then face-to-face.  And by “then” he meant after we had passed the threshold of death.  Richard Crashaw, in a long poem inspired by Aquinas, put the thought in the following words:

Come love! Come Lord! and that long day
For which I languish, come away.
When this dry soul those eyes shall see,
And drink the unseal’d source of thee.
When Glory’s sun faith’s shades shall chase,
And for thy veil give me thy Face.

Here, it seems to me, is a way in which faith verges on hope.  We can shun death as an annihilation, or greet it as a transition.  We can see it as a loss of something precious, or as a gain of another way of being.  It is, in a sense, up to us.  When we live in full awareness and acceptance of our mortality, we see the world as making a place for us.  We open ourselves to death, and accept death as our completion.  Simone Weil puts the point in terms of the Christian myth of origins:

Man placed himself outside the current of Obedience.  God chose as his punishment labour and death.  Consequently labour and death, if Man undergoes them in a spirit of willingness, constitute a transference back into the current of Supreme Good which is Obedience to God.

The afterlife, conceived as a condition that succeeds death in time, is an absurdity.  For succession in time belongs within the causal envelope, in the spacetime continuum that is the world of nature.  If there is any message to be extracted from my arguments, it is that the idea of salvation–of a right relation with the creator–in no way requires eternal life, so conceived.  But it does require an acceptance of death, and a sense that in death we are meeting our creator, the one bound to us by covenant, to whom we must account for our faults.  We are returning to the place whence we emerged and hoping to be welcomed there.  This is a mystical thought, and there is no way of translating it into the idiom of natural science, which speaks of before and after, not of time and eternity.  Religion, as I have been considering it, does not describe the natural world but the Lebenswelt, the world of subjects, using allegories and myths in order to remind us at the deepest level of who and what we are.  And God is the all-knowing subject who welcomes us as we pass into that other domain, beyond the veil of nature.

To approach death in such a way is therefore to draw near to God:  we become, through our works of love and sacrifice, a part of the eternal order; we “pass over” into that other place, so that death is no longer a threat to us.  The veil to which Crashaw refers, that hides the face of God, is the “fallen world”, the world of objectified being.  The life of prayer rescues us from the Fall and prepares us for a death that we can meaningfully see as a redemption, since it unites us with the soul of the world.

— from The Soul of the World (2014)

 

 

Book review: The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy

The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy
by Ernst Cassirer (1963)

Historians of Renaissance and early modern philosophy often try to give a unity to their subjects by framing the creative elements of these periods as engaging in a revolt against “scholasticism”.  However, this only gives as much intelligibility to the Renaissance as is granted to its foil, and historians usually assign scholasticism any negative quality needed to keep the narrative going;  it can be mindlessly dogmatic or aridly intellectual or both at once, despising all nature or assigning fanciful hierarchies within it, servile or unfaithful to Aristotle, holding an opinion of man that is irrationally low (when the opponent is humanism) or high (when the opponent is science).  Cassirer tries to fit his study into this standard narrative, but he provides a great deal of interesting material, so that a more interesting story begins to emerge.

Cassirer’s exemplary Renaissance philosopher is Nicholas of Cusa, the idiosyncratic Christian neo-Platonist who smashed the medievals’ hierarchical universe to stress the incomparability of God, the Absolute and Infinite, the confluence of opposites.  He imagined the Earth in motion (which he seems to suggest is relative) in an infinite universe with no center but God, a physical infinity to which corresponds the intentional infinity of the human mind–whose operation is now conceived primarily in terms of measuring and comparing.  From Cusanus, Cassirer expands to cover a number of other characters:  Platonists like Marsilio Ficino and his Florentine Academy, humanists like Petrarch and Pico della Mirandola, proto-Hegelians like Charles de Bovillus, and those climbing toward a scientific approach to nature like Leonardo and Galileo.

Several things become clear.  The recovery of Plato’s dialogs made Plato a rallying point against Aristotle for a rather diverse group of thinkers.  Why should this be?  Petrarch’s preference for Plato over Aristotle and his scholastic followers was primarily aesthetic and therefor frivolous.  Most of the others had disagreements with Aristotle but ones that hardly seem to take them outside of the orbit of scholasticism, i.e. not farther from Aquinas or Ockham than these two are from each other.  One often encounters an assumption that separation from scholasticism means approach to secularism, an assumption popular because it is so congenial to both secularists and scholastics.  I’ll  therefore mention that most of these thinkers gave every impression of being ardent Christians.  And yet, they did consider themselves at war with the Aristotelian schoolmen.

Then Cassirer, in the final chapter, gives a revealing fact.

To understand the transformation that takes place with the beginning of the philosophy of the Renaissance, we must keep in mind this opposition, this tension, which already existed in the medieval system of life and learning.  Despite all the attacks it had suffered in the classical systems of Scholasticism, the theoretical foundation of Averroism seemed to be completely unshaken in the 14th and 15th centuries.  For a long time, it was the reigning doctrine in the Italian universities.  In the actual academic citadel of Scholastic studies, in Padua, Averroistic doctrine maintained itself into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  But gradually, a counter movement emerges ever more clearly.  Characteristically, this counter movement is by no means restricted to the environs of the school, but rather receives its strongest impulses from other quarters.  The men of the new humanistic ideal of culture and of personality are the first to sound the call to do battle against Averroism.  Here, too, Petrarch leads the way…The artist and virtuoso who rediscovered the inexhaustible wealth and value of ‘individuality’ now sets up his defenses against a philosophy that considers individuality to be something merely casual, something purely ‘accidental’.  And Augustine becomes his guide in this battle.

Well, if Averroism dominated the Italian universities (a fact which is new to me), and that’s what the humanists meant by “Aristotelianism”, then it becomes very clear how the writings of Plato–with their support for personal immaterial immortality–could serve as a philosophical rallying point to the opposition, and also how a literary movement devoted to individuality would be so adamantly a part of this opposition.  Replace “the Renaissance was a rebellion against scholasticism/medievalism” with “the Renaissance was a rebellion against Averroism”.  It would take a good deal of confirming evidence before we believe it (and Cassirer continues with citations to attacks on Averroism from many of the Renaissance greats from Cusanus on), but at least this new narrative makes sense.

The last chapter (which is by far the best of the book) also relates the Renaissance’s stumbling toward the scientific method.  The misfires are particularly informative.  One finds that prizing experience over a priori reasoning isn’t enough, at least given a medieval credulity to reports and a tendency to express observations in magical categories.  A commitment to a believe in a universal rational order of the universe isn’t enough; that led to painstakingly systemized astrology.  (Astrology made a big comeback in the High Middle Ages / Renaissance with the influx of pagan and Muslim learning.  Once again, the Church and the humanists were on the same side in the fight against it.)  Cassirer thinks what was missing was a mathematical approach to nature, and this came from scientist-artist like Leonardo da Vinci and their attention to form.  However, if focus on form is what you want, then Aristotle is your man.  And yet, the great men of the scientific revolution like Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler were Platonists.  What gives?

The main difference between Plato and Aristotle is that the former makes the intelligibility of the world transcendent, the latter immanent.  Imagine you were Galileo trying to understand how bodies fall.  For an Aristotelian, action follows being.  To learn how a body falls, you must first ask what is the nature of that body, given by its substantial form.  You would not expect there to be a general rule about how things fall, because different things have different natures and hence different principles of motion.  (cf. Nancy Cartwright’s “dappled world”)  The idea of general laws of motion is much more natural in a Platonic/transcendent framework.

So there’s a story that makes quite a bit more sense than the standard story.  The fight against Averroism promoted Platonism, and Platonism gave us science.  That’s the intellectual story of the Renaissance.

You can’t prepare to be doxxed

We all dread the day when our employing institution gets that fateful email.

Hi, I’m a reporter with the Stasi Times, and I’m preparing an article on how you tolerate hateful bigots like your employee [insert your name] whose offensive writings we have found [wherever].  Would you mind answering a few questions?

We’d like some way to maximize the chance of coming out of it with job, or at least future employability, intact.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot one can do ahead of time.  At least, none of the strategies I had once considered are of much use.

Make yourself indispensable to your employer.  Make it so he can’t afford to fire you.

It took a long time for me to get it through my head that the incentives of management have very little to do with the profits or proper functioning of the company.  Even if the company will promptly go out of business if you are fired, it is still personally advantageous for your boss/administrator to fire you rather than be known as having sheltered a bigot, putting the vulgar interests of shareholders, customers, students, etc. before righteousness.  The latter would hinder him in getting his next job.

Don’t write anything that sounds bad in isolation.  Make sure each sentence absent any context is either inoffensive (if only because unintelligible), manifestly reasonable, or effectively puts into question liberal assumptions that our rulers wish to have regarded as indisputable, perhaps even as unarticulated background assumptions.

Writing clearly and carefully is inherently good, but avoiding saying things that sound mean or lower-class or hateful never saved anyone from vilification.  The media is under no constraint to report your beliefs accurately or fairly.  They don’t have to quote you and won’t if they don’t find something they can embarrass you with.  They don’t have to link or add citations to your actual writings.  The actual tone of your writing will do nothing to prevent it from being labeled a “screed”, and no amount of information you cite will keep you from being labeled “ignorant”.

I’m probably not the only conservative who started writing because I falsely believed that I could argue antiliberal positions much more cogently than had been done before.  Although I thought myself skeptical of mainstream sources, I accepted their characterization of their ideological opponents more than I realized.  In fact, the cases for patriarchy, established churches, monarchy, and ethnic homogeneity had been made brilliantly several times in the past.  It didn’t matter.  If you dissent, you will only be remembered, if at all, as another ignorant bigot.

For the same reason, the media faces no danger of inadvertently drawing attention to your ideas by exposing you.  Your actual ideas will not be reported.

Get contractual guarantees (e.g. tenure)

This is only an option in a few fields, mostly academia, but it once did provide some protection.  That protection is rapidly waning.  This is the importance of Leftists redefining dissent from their beliefs as not disagreement but as creating a hostile work or learning environment and jeopardizing the safety of minorities.  Also, most institutions, especially universities, now define the promotion of “diversity” and “inclusiveness” as core institutional objectives.  So, a professor who refuses to affirm progressive dogmas on diversity is analogous to a professor who refuses to teach his classes (or worse, if one accepts the “safety” rhetoric, as a professor who physically attacks his students).

Dox yourself.  Write a manifesto, and put your strongest case forward.  They’re going to find you eventually, so you might as well try to influence what they try to nail you with.

If the goal is to be a martyr for the cause and never work again, one might try to orchestrate such a thing, contacting sympathetic alternative media ahead of time, and so forth.  Realistically, agonizing over the perfectly crafted manifesto won’t lead to a much different outcome than being busted over a quick ill-considered tweet.  Remember, the mainstream media is under no constraint to report your beliefs accurately or fairly.

Be boring.  Make your writings as academic and abstruse as possible, so that your audience remains small, and if any SPLC or ADL agent does come across your writing, his eyes will glaze over.

This has actually worked for me so far.  Of course, it works to the extent that it makes sharing your beliefs as close as possible to not sharing your beliefs.

And it can only work as long as the ruling class isn’t bothering to go after the small fish.  Already, social media companies are experimenting with machine learning algorithms trained to detect “hate”.  One can imagine a near future in which dissent is detected automatically before it even finds a human reader and its author’s employer contacted to administer punishment (and the employer himself subject to retaliation if appropriate punishment is not administered in a timely fashion).

Bruce is right.  Long term, the only dissent that will remain possible will be secret verbal communication between individuals who deeply trust each other.

honor among fake Americans

I’ve come to believe that Vox Day is right about only U.S. citizens descended from those circa the Constitutional Convention being real members of the American nation.  This not in spite of my personal case but because of it.  My ancestors immigrated to America in the mid-19th century from various parts of Europe, and I definitely don’t have the same instinctive identification with the colonial or revolutionary generations that the WASPs seem to have.  I’ve never been proud nor ashamed of the Founding Fathers, even before becoming a monarchist, even though my parents are interested in American history and never said anything against them; they simply are not my fathers.  The disputes and parties of American history are alien to me; arguments between Federalists and anti-Federalists, for example, feel to me like the disputes of a foreign people with alien sensibilities.

I find that I can think more warmly of Founderolatry realizing that it’s not meant for me, that it represents not a serious position of political philosophy but another people’s vulgar (in the sense of “popular”) expression of piety.

The proper attitude I should have to “real” Americans is gratitude.  They didn’t have to take my people in, and it is a point of honor that we should not make them regret having done so.  We should not aim to overthrow and replace them.  Yes, we Catholics wish that all lands would become Catholic, but we want this to happen by converting the natives, not by dispossessing them of their homes.  An America that embraced the faith would still be herself, just as Rome under Constantine and Theodosius remained herself.  And even if America did become Catholic, it would still not really be my country.