Tuesday 31 August 2021

Jason Stanley's flawed ideology

More than 20 years ago, Philip Roth published 'the Human Stain'- about an African American Professor (who has 'passed' for white) being accused of Racism for using the word 'spooks' to refer to students registered as attending his class but whom he had never set eyes on. Apparently 'spook', by which the Professor meant a ghost, could also be a pejorative epithet for Black people.

My memory is that Roth's book assumed that classical 'paideia' was something good in itself. Should those who purvey this valuable product have to answer to 'the market'- i.e. the student as paying customer? What happens if those who insist on high standards in 'paideia' are accused of being Racist or Misogynistic? Might not academic standards fall?

This at any rate was a not uncommon view of the matter 20 years ago. Now, thanks to the internet, we are all sure that there is no such thing as elite paideia. Professors aren't smarter or more erudite than average, they are stupider and more ignorant. We know this because we can easily check what they write line by line simply by Googling any fact they mention or concept they invoke. Invariably we find mistakes. In some disciplines- those with useful and burgeoning research programs- these errors are quickly corrected on the basis of a comment on a 'Stack Exchange'. In others, there is no concern for accuracy or factual correctness. The thing is simply gesture political. You are good if you support the author. You are evil if you don't. 

Unlike 'the Human Stain' or 'the Closing of the American Mind', the recent Netflix show 'the Chair', starring Sandra Oh, does not pretend that Professors have anything worthwhile to impart. True, they may have their own history of fighting bigotry or battling inner demons, but they aren't particularly good at English- which is what they teach.

Still, we sympathize with this bunch of dysfunctional losers because they are in the process of being defunded though, it may be, some billionaire's bequest may enable them to carry on the charade a little while longer.

My point is that the Campus of a prestigious University was once seen as an elite social space. It is now seen as a sort of creche for victims of horrendous sexual or epistemic self-abuse who have regressed to an infantile state.

Jason Stanley crazy political views could be seen as the effect of a flawed social structure- that of a worthless University Department on an Ivy League Campus- causing a flawed ideological belief.

He writes in his book on 'How Propaganda works' 

I will argue that societies with flawed social structures tend to give rise to flawed ideological belief, in a similar (yet perhaps less inevitable) way to the manner in which Hume takes our flawed psychology to lead to what he thinks of as our flawed ideological belief in external things. 

Surely Hume is arguing against any sort of ideology? What is wrong with being skeptical of things for which there is no empirical warrant?

The answer is that inhabiting a flawed social structure- whose purpose is epistemic- directly causes deeply flawed, for ideological, beliefs. 

We are capable of setting this belief temporarily aside, according to Hume, when we explicitly rationally reflect upon its justification. But as soon as we return to ordinary life, we slip back into believing in external things. In a similar way, when we explicitly rationally reflect upon the flawed ideological beliefs that are caused by living in a society with structural injustice, we often reject them.

What 'structural injustice' obtains on Campus? The answer is that a credentialized twat with tenure is given power over people who may be smarter, more sensible, and better informed.  A worthless availability cascade can flourish while alethic research goes begging. 

It is easy enough for a Professor- like Jason- to reject the Investment advise of his colleague the Economics professor, or the ethical advise of his colleague the Ethics Professor, on the basis of 'explicit rational reflection' which immediately concedes that a guy who teaches Econ instead of getting rich by applying its principles is not a good authority on portfolio choice. Similarly, Ethics Professors are notoriously immoral. Indeed, never be guided by any Professor of a discipline whose real world practitioners are better paid, enjoy higher prestige and are exempt from having to cater to needy adolescents with short attention-spans. 

However, when Jason writes a paper or prepares a lecture he is obliged to put on the required ideological blinkers and quote various cretins in his own worthless line of work. Furthermore, he is obliged to pretend that what he is doing is helpful to 'Democracy' or 'Social Justice' or some other such abstraction. 

But when we return to ordinary life, we nevertheless slip back into the flawed ideological beliefs.

Jason's 'ordinary life' involves writing this nonsense. 

A goal of this book is to provide an argument for equality by showing that one central cause of effective propaganda is inequalities, both material and political. Inequalities tend to result in flawed ideology, which explains the effectiveness of propaganda. To eliminate the kinds of flawed ideologies that are particularly problematic democratically, we need to seek a society that embodies equality at the structural level.

Jason's discipline has degenerated. It represents a deep silo of shit. Structural equality demands that we ignore worthless credentials and citation cartels masquerading as 'peer review'.  

Is Jason prepared to 'seek' such a society within his own Department? Will he say- 'hire the guy who lectures best on this topic, not the guy with the credentials for the post?' Will he go further yet and admit that there should be a moratorium on funding for Research  characterized by low or negative epistemic returns? 

The problem here is that 'ideology' often means stuff you have to pretend to believe in to get a wage because you are unemployable in any other field. 

My goal in this chapter is to elucidate the sense of flawed ideology that mediates between the facts of substantive inequality and the effectiveness of antidemocratic propaganda.

 Jason, because of the socialized nature of his work, is a victim of flawed ideology flowing from substantive epistemic inequality which is a structural feature of life in a University Department.

There is a danger that must be immediately addressed, which is that my claim will be taken as somewhat trivial. Suppose that a flawed ideology is one that is fundamentally morally or politically bad, and suppose that inequality of any kind, even material inequality, is morally or politically bad. From the perspective of the view that justice requires material equality, and a moral conception of flawed ideology, it is not surprising that the ideology of a materially unequal society looks to be problematically flawed.

Tenured Professors earn more than T.As but there may be people even worse off than T.As. Furthermore, how is it fair that some have to pay to come to class while others get paid to do so? 

And it is not surprising that a materially unequal society will give rise to the ideology that a just society can tolerate substantial material inequality.

This sentence is worth closer examination. 'Material inequality' is something which can be objectively measured. Societies wholly unconcerned with ideology or distribution nevertheless may generate data sets which enable us to measure material inequality. Indeed, for Positive Economics, there are all sorts of uses for such indices which have to do with making businesses more profitable rather than political philosophy.

On the other hand, the notion of a 'just society' is a value judgment which may be ideological but is certainly not 'positive' or capable of being given a canonical mathematical representation. 

Should we be surprised if a given society has an ideology that considers it to be good, just, fair, and pleasing to the Gods? Not if it has a clerisy that could benefit by sporting such an ideology. But this is merely to say that if there is potential benefit from having a particular type of thought, then that type of thought is likely to exist to some degree or other. 

Put this way, the immediate corollary is that this type of thought is likely to be shitty coz nobody will pay very much for it. After all, the thing is merely a type of sycophancy which flatters an entire class and thus, by reason of a 'free-rider' problem, fails to secure the more substantial rewards accorded a rich man's parasite. 

If Ideology matters about as much as a beggar's 'Gor' bless yer' or a tinker's curse, why bother with it at all? 

Because I am interested in arguing for a stronger claim than this, my focus is not on a political or moral notion of flaw. It is on a purely epistemic notion of flaw.

It makes sense for a philosopher to worry about epistemic flaws. But surely the right place for to look for them is in areas where knowledge and its validation matters a great deal- stuff like COVID research- not in places where the thing may be entirely absent?  

My argument will be that certain ideologies have epistemic flaws, in addition to  what one might regard as the epistemic flaws of all ideological beliefs. These are flawed ideologies.

Presumably, given the nature of Jason's profession, his ideology is more epistemic and thus more flawed than anything similar possessed by one less credentialized.  But why draw attention to his own abjectness? Are there prizes for saying 'I teach the shittiest subject in the world. Among all types of Professors, I am the most ignorant, stupid and 'epistemically flawed'. Seriously guys, if you don't restrain me I'm bound to try to bite my own head off.' 

Among these flawed ideologies are ones that are particularly problematic democratically (as I will argue in the next chapter).

Since Jason is concerned with Democracy and has participated in public discourse about supposed threats to it, it is particularly concerning that he has been 'socially constructed' or 'conditioned', by a highly unequal and unjust specialist environment, to have a flawed, deeply anti-democratic, ideology.

Another Jason- Jason Brennan- has been explicitly arguing 'against Democracy' and for 'epistocracy'. It could be argued that similar social conditions are producing similar effects- though Stanley would seem to be part of the 'woke' Left while Brennan identified as a 'bleeding heart Libertarian'.  

My argument would also be trivialized if I were presupposing that material inequality is democratically problematic.

Presuppositions can't by themselves trivialize arguments because they must be conditional, not unconditional, tautologies. (If they are tautologies then everybody presupposes them). It is never a trivial matter to look at why and when conditions apply.

If I were presupposing this, then it would not be a surprise that the ideological belief that material inequality is democratically acceptable would be democratically problematic.

Yet this isn't the case. Democracies don't say that ideologies are problematic on the basis of the economic theory that underlies them.  

But I am not presupposing that material inequality is democratically problematic. I am arguing that it is, and my argument does not require its conclusion as a presupposition. Substantive inequalities, including material inequalities, are democratically problematic because they typically result in democratically problematic flawed ideologies, which contain the beliefs that make demagoguery effective.

Stanley's demagoguery is ineffective. We may well believe that 'substantive inequalities' in his social milieu have saddled him with a flawed ideology but we just dismiss him as a fool. This is not democratically problematic at all.  

And as I have showed in the introduction, effective demagoguery is an obstacle to all varieties of democracy.

But an obstacle easily circumvented by saying 'that guy be kray kray'. 

Epistemic practices that are partial, in the sense of biased toward the interests of one party, lead to characteristic failures of rationality in one’s reasoning about what to do politically.

The beauty of the Condorcet Jury theorem is that as the sample size increases, various different type of nuttiness cancel each other out.  

Partiality in some domains is necessary for ordinary cognitive functioning. For example, one of the key experiments for my discussion involves the mistakes in rationality made by fans of a sports team.

But to be a fan is to take pleasure in an irrational attachment. The thing is about love, not logic.  

Another example I use involves the mistakes in rationality made by members of a family who do not wish to condemn their parents. But this kind of partiality is just an effect of the normal functioning of being a sports fan and being a member of a family. By not being partial in one’s reasoning in these ways in being a sports fan, or by not being partial to one’s family members, one is not engaged in the practice in the right way.

It is repugnant to speak of the 'right way' or 'wrong way' to do something whose great value arises from its being spontaneous.  

It is a familiar point about liberalism that it requires a division between the personal and the political.

I am not familiar with any such division. On the other hand, where there is a separate realm of the political, the bureaucratic, the managerial, the academic, the legal, the professional etc., etc then such divisions may arise. But then again they may not save by express stipulation.

Liberalism is consistent with partiality in judgments, as long as it remains in the so-called personal domain, examples of which are plausibly domains such as sports fandom and family relations.

This is an illiberal view. Liberalism is defined with reference to Tarskian primitives regarding which no conditional tautology holds universally.  

But liberalism condemns certain kinds of partiality that are natural and even desired within these domains when they are imported to reasoning about public policy. The standard liberal political theorist has no quarrel with a billionaire’s partiality to her son. However, liberalism condemns the billionaire when she seeks to affect public policy in ways guided by the desire to advance her son’s interests over the interests of others.

This is not the case. Liberalism is not in the business of condemning a Mom for seeking to affect public policy in any legal manner such that a Hohfeldian immunity accrues to her. If there is some improper action the Conservative may be quicker to detect and punish the transgression. Being Liberal doesn't mean you are always the first off the block when it comes to condemning peeps or tarring and feathering them or forcing them to eat dog turds till they give up their evil ways.  

I will explain,

Jason can't explain shit. But he will illustrate 

in what follows, how a certain kind of partiality undermines the kind of deliberation we expect when people are thinking about public policy for everyone.

Jason is partial to condemning people and talking nonsense. This undermines the kind of deliberation we expect when people are thinking about public policy for everyone.  

It is not just any partiality; it is not, for example, a rational preference for one’s self-interest.

It is a partiality for shrill condemnation and talking worthless shite. 

One special class that will interest us involves beliefs that are connected to one’s identity, characteristically by legitimating it.

This is a very special class- requiring very very special education- indeed. I suppose it consists of people who keep showing your their Student I.D and saying 'look at that photo!' Do you know who that is? It is me! I have proof! Look at that photo! Read the name on it! Do you know who that is? It is me! I have proof! Look at this birth certificate! Read the name on it! Do you know who that is? It is me! What's more my birth was LEGITIMATE. Look at this marriage certificate etc. etc.'

Jason may indeed be reduced to teaching people of the above description but I beg to suggest that Democracies have bigger problems to discuss. 

We all have such beliefs, and not all of them are democratically problematic.

No we don't. We are not lunatics.  

They become democratically problematic when they prevent us from perceiving important parts of reality, characteristically social reality.

Rubbish! This is a problem best dealt with by psychiatrists. Democracies don't have to bother with nutters. Their craziness cancels out by the magic of the Condorcet Jury theorem.  

When the identity tied up with an ideology is one that benefits from being ignorant of some parts of social reality, the ideology will often be of this sort.

Jason's identity as a philosopher has become tied up with the ideology of being a woke nutter who ignores everything about 'social reality' so as to talk nonsense of a paranoid type. 

Here is a possible example of the kind of problematic partiality in question; I do not claim it is a description of how things are. I considered in the introduction the possibility that political party affiliation is a method to deceive citizens to import partiality that is a normal and healthy part of certain practices, such as being a sports fan, into a realm in which it is not appropriate, namely, political decisions.

But what is even more likely is that political parties try to deceive us into thinking we've been invited to an actual party. Heavily pregnant women join the Labour Party coz it would be fun to give birth in a party atmosphere. I joined the Liberal Party coz them guys are very liberal with the cocktails and canapes- right?  

As a matter of fact, if you like watching good quality sports, it makes sense to join a good quality sports club which picks good players and good trainers and good managers and arranges matches with the best teams in the area. That is how organized sports got started. 

Similarly, political parties can do a good job of involving people in the discussion of relevant issues and then selecting candidates and bringing in experts to brief them and so on and so forth. 

There is nothing sinister about any of this. Jason may think differently. It may be his own bitter experience that he was deceived into joining the Yale Philosophy Department. He thought it was a fan club for votaries of female mud wrestling. His intense partiality in this respect made him vulnerable to a cruel practical joke. He is now bringing all the passion and partiality appropriate to a man masturbating while watching an imaginary mud wrestling match to questions of politics. Thus, he is exposed to scorn and ridicule from elderly South Indian men who type this in between watching busty females mud wrestle on You Tube. Fuck you Yale Philosophy Department! Fuck you very much!

If so, then political party affiliation is illiberal.

But it isn't so.  

Beliefs that are connected to one’s identity will be difficult to abandon.

Why? The thing is easily done. You hear your name called out at the airport and hurry to the desk. But some other guy was meant. You abandon your belief quickly enough.  

So it will be difficult to abandon the beliefs connected to one’s identity as a political party member.

This simply isn't true of most people. Political parties really aren't brain-washing cults. Chances are, if you joined a particular party, it was because you already had a lot in common with the other members who persuaded you to join. The truth is, we'd think it odd- in a genuine Democracy- if a person mentioned their party affiliation before saying anything else about themselves. Still, there are some epithets which can be quite useful. An Afghan friend of mine- the strapping son of a Mujahidin leader- met, on his first visit to Washington,  a willowy gentleman of great cultivation who described himself, in a somewhat abashed manner, as a Log Cabin Republican. My friend thought this was a reference to Abraham Lincoln's humble origins and decided that he too would be a Log Cabin Republican. He became very very popular very very quickly. Initially he felt a little puzzled at the extraordinary lengths to which such people went to show their affection to a foreigner but he more than repaid their courtesy by rising to the occasion every time. 

Needless to say, an alliance of this sort made short work of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Indeed, I think it was their women who insisted they return before they too turned Log Cabin Republican. 

But these will be politically important beliefs, which will now be much less resistant to rational revision. An ideology that is partial becomes democratically problematic when

stupid Professors get their cretinous students to  buy into that shite

it affects political judgment about policies that might address the injustices that the ideology overlooks. As long as a partial perspective is kept within its proper domain—for example, sports talk radio—it is not flawed. But as soon as it is imported into discourse and reasoning about the public good, it functions as illiberal.

Nonsense! One can be as partisan as all get out in both sports and politics but what one says is not flawed provided you are recommending sensible things. Sports teams may poach players or strategies from other teams just as political parties do. That's good for sports and it is good for politics. 

There is an 'uncorrelated asymmetry' when it comes to oikeiosis- belonging- and this may have game theoretic consequences. One might say- 'this successful policy is one which we, not the other guys, can more easily own for ideographic reasons.'  There is nothing illiberal about this because Liberalism is not some nomothetic abstraction. In some countries, it may be a Kripean rigid-designator of a particular political entity whereas in others a particular availability cascade may be denoted. 

Running through this book is a detailed argument for equality.

Nothing runs through this book except shit.  

Conditions of inequality tend to give rise to flawed ideologies, which make the kind of demagoguery that imperils democracy particularly effective.

Jason believes in repetition. Say a thing often enough and it becomes true- right? Wrong. It becomes meaningless.  

One half of this argument is the account of propaganda I provided in previous chapters.

Jason said stuff which wasn't propaganda was propaganda. About actual propaganda he had little to say. Incidentally 'kill the enemy devils!' is not propaganda. It is a slogan- fighting words, we might say. Clearly, some propaganda is legal while, depending on jurisdiction, some propagandistic claims are illegal. However, there is no ambiguity about incitement to kill. 

One reason why lawyers and statesmen became concerned with propaganda has to do with the direct cause of the First World War. Was the casus belli Serbian propaganda?  Historically, International Law upheld the notion that warmongering, subversive of defamatory propaganda was illegal. But, during the Cold War, people built up an immunity to it. Propaganda became something of a joke. Indeed, one felt sorry for the radio broadcaster with the slightly bizarre accent trying to convince you that your Government was hiding from you the fact that hundreds of millions of your fellow citizens had starved to death while you sat comfortably on your mat sipping gruel.

This is not to say that there can be a non-official, seemingly spontaneous and 'entertainment oriented' propaganda of a racist type whose hidden intention is to undercut the competitiveness of a rival power. I recall watching a documentary about India at the Japanese embassy many years ago. The film was supposed to have aesthetic merit because the cinematographer had won various International awards. However, as a budding economist, I could see that the Japanese were deliberately depicting a potential economic rival as primitive and backward. I don't deny that many Indians live in trees and eat bananas. But most tuck away their tails under their dhotis. I pointed this out to the Commercial attache. He suggested that Sake was much stronger than beer. Still what I said about loin cloths was very interesting. 

The other half is the account of flawed ideology I provide here. My accounts of ideology and propaganda are independent, but they are mutually supporting in the book’s argument for equality.

Sadly, shit can't support shit. 

I began this chapter by noting that the explanation of ideological belief is the central problem in the works of the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume.

The word ideology was invented by Antoine Destutt de Tracy, who followed Condillac's interpretation of Locke. Jefferson translated some of his work. However it was Maine de Biran who gave this 'outer directed' approach sufficient inwardness to be able to deal with Hume's arguments re. personal identity. Essentially, the Continent made a distinction between willing and desiring so as to permit the further growth of a type of speculative philosophy which the English were turning their backs on. Why? Perhaps England was more commercially developed. Its people- whatever their original degree or condition- seemed able to rise rapidly in trade. Why worry about 'substantive fairness' or whether what was willed was properly willed by both parties such that a contract had an epistemic depth superior to a mere deal made, perhaps, for no very high purpose? 

I suppose one might say 'ideology'- as the epistemic background to contracts- is more important in places seeking 'catch up growth'. The notion here is that there is something more than commerciality expressing itself. There is an evolution of mentality which it is proper for Courts and Academies to concern themselves with. America- because of the role of the Supreme Court- is somewhat exceptional in that Judicial ideology can be very important. Biden's new Presidential Commission could be a game changer. But it may fail because it itself looks too ideological. The fact is people change as they age but Nations too change as the population ages. Is ideology really important? After all, the thing may cancel itself out or motivate the clearing of paths around it. 

We have already discussed how it features in his most famous contribution to epistemology;

since ideas are only the faint echoes of impressions, ideology features in Hume's epistemology as but the ghost of a fart which never actually occurred.  

it is just as clearly at the heart of Hume’s naturalistic account of religious belief.

So 'ideology' is at the heart of 'naturalism'- why stop there? Why not put cats at the heart of dogs?  

Hume argues that enthusiasm and superstition are the result of “the intrusion onto the formation of our beliefs of hope and fear, respectively.” Hume’s account of superstitious belief (under which he includes religious belief) is that “emotion leads to excessive credulity in judgment—an unwillingness to amend judgment in the light of reflection.”

Hume was 16 when the last witch in Scotland was legally executed. Jason thinks the fellow was talking about Ideology! Why stop there? Why not mention Quantum Physics? 

Superstitious and enthusiastic beliefs

e.g. not stepping under a ladder or running to find the pot of gold at rainbow's end while chortling with glee 

are ideological, because they arise out of the passions, in particular hope and fear, rather than reason.

Jason does not understand that for most people in the world today having an ideology is about as important as having a coat of arms or a personal shaman.  

He himself seems to have a superstitious belief that 'propaganda' is prowling around doing horrible things. Perhaps he hopes this worthless tome will contribute to keeping that monster at bay. 

To be clear, he thinks even speaking persuasively in a good cause is bound to have bad consequences coz like that might be propaganda- right? 

Let’s take a recent example of propaganda in a liberal democracy that was delivered for a beneficial goal. The example comes from a recent New York Times piece I wrote with my brother, the economist Marcus Stanley. US fiscal policy involves the ways in which the US government funds its own debt.

No. Fiscal policy, is the use of tax and spending to achieve macroeconomic goals. If the Fed, which is independent but under Congressional oversight, finances the deficit by printing money (or reduces debt in the same way) then that action is part of 'monetary policy'. It impacts the interest rate, inflationary expectations, hot money flows and thus the exchange rate etc.  

The expression “the fiscal cliff” was introduced to the broader public by Ben Bernanke,

I think it had already been taken up by analysts. 

the chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States, in February 2012 to describe the threat to the recovering economy posed by the confluence of two events. First, Congress was again facing their repeated promise to restore income taxes to their levels during the Clinton presidency in order to reduce the deficit. Secondly, Congress was simultaneously facing large self-imposed spending cuts (the so-called sequester).

The Fed said ' Uncertainties about fiscal policy, notably about the resolution of the so-called fiscal cliff and the lifting of the debt ceiling, are probably also restraining activity, although the magnitudes of these effects are hard to judge.30 It is critical that fiscal policymakers put in place a credible plan that sets the federal budget on a sustainable trajectory in the medium and longer runs. However, policymakers should take care to avoid a sharp near-term fiscal contraction that could endanger the recovery.' 

This was perfectly sensible.

Why is Jason getting his knickers in a twist about this?  

Curiously, however, a poll found that 47 percent of the public thought that it was going over the “cliff” that would result in higher deficits.

The economy can contract faster than the deficit which increases the debt burden. That's how recessions turn into Great Depressions. 

Only 14 percent understood that it would reduce deficits.

It might have done but then again it might not. Suppose Obama had got out of Afghanistan and Iraq and stopped other such unproductive spending, then- sure- you have a reduced debt burden (which is what matters) but that wasn't the only possible outcome. Suppose Obama decided to pay for the war in some 'creative' way- or just suppose the Fed were a bunch of racists who liked 'Forever wars' against Muslims and thus they just printed the money to pay for the troops- then the picture would be quite different. 

In fact, it would have reduced them drastically, effectively eliminating the deficit problem

Debt servicing is a problem. Deficits don't matter in themselves. This period preceded what was referred to as the 'taper tantrum' era- i.e. market jitters about an easing off on bond buying. 

American officials tend to have a thorough knowledge of the Constitution- or at least very good legal advise- and are very careful of Congressional and Executive privilege.  Mention of the 'fiscal cliff' might be considered 'emotive' or an overstepping of a constitutional boundary but, in the event, no action was taken by a Chamber jealous of its privileges. Thus, as far as international markets were concerned, this was mere hand waving to the effect that politicians mustn't fuck up the recovery for silly reasons.  Bernanke's monetary policy was accommodative but this didn't mean the Fed should indulge Congressmen intent on throwing a monkey wrench in Fiscal policy just because they feel like it. The Fed Chairman doesn't need to worry about voters. But Congress does. The voters might punish them if they didn't play nice. 

As for the public's 'beliefs'- they are irrelevant. The plain question is- would voters be adversely affected if fiscal policy wasn't sensible? The answer is- yes. Why? Because if your legislators act in a silly way, people think your country will pay a price. Expectations create reality. But this is also the reason CEOs should not run around naked with a radish up their arse. People would be less inclined to trust the company. The reason the public doesn't need to worry about stuff like this is because Legislators know voters get angry if the Economy turns to shit. They will be looking for someone to punish come election day. That's all that is required for the system to work well enough. 

No doubt, from Jason's ideological perspective,  'propaganda' is very evil coz it prevents people from running around naked screaming incoherently with a radish up their arse. But it isn't really propaganda which is causing this. It's just the way Society works. If you want to keep a well paying job there are some sacrifices you have to make- e.g. not getting naked and shoving a radish up your arse whenever you feel like blowing off steam. 

Describing the process by which the US government funds its activities as involving “borrowing” suggests a false analogy between government borrowing and the borrowing an individual or a family does.

No. It is exactly the same. 

The analogy makes some sense for a public entity that does not print its own currency—for example, the state of California or the (Euro-employing) country of Greece.

This is irrelevant. What matters is whether scrip issued by an entity is expected to maintain its value. If the thing is liquid at par, it is money. America has an independent Federal Reserve which issues currency and is supposed to maintain the value of that currency subject to Congressional oversight. If the market thinks the Fed will print money to finance a deficit then the currency depreciates. But this is exactly what happens to scrip or other such obligations to pay associated with an entity whose creditworthiness is in question. Of course, if some new development causes us to believe that its revenues are going to rise significantly then the value of the scrip goes back to par. 

And the analogy also made much more sense during the true gold standard era in this country. For these reasons, and because the government does issue bonds that look like corporate bonds, the vocabulary is entrenched. But a government borrowing in a currency it controls (and can print) has little in common with the borrowing we experience as ordinary citizens.

This is not the case. A government can't buy anything with its own currency, if no one has confidence in it, save from its own people- whom it could simply rob through taxation if it so wished- just as I can't buy anything with my promissory notes because everybody knows I'm a shiftless rogue. 

This will change when Beyonce anoints me as her successor due to my booty shake is awesome. 

Its benefits—creating jobs and income that prevent a self-perpetuating downward spiral in a slack economy—are not benefits associated with private borrowing.

Yes they are. When peeps have confidence in a country, they borrow and invest in it and create jobs and so forth. Governments can kill this golden goose by 'expropriating the expropriators.' If they fritter away what they borrow on white elephant projects, then productivity will slump and there will be a death spiral.   

Likewise, its risks—the possibility of inflation, “crowding out” private investment in capital markets, and changing exchange rates—are not factors any individual has experience with through their private borrowing.

Sure we do. The problem with paying your wife not to beat you is that there is an inflationary spiral. Why? She discovers that the exchange value of what you are able to pay her keeps shrinking. She feels cheated even though her beating is you is the reason your joint productivity has gone down. The guy she brings in to help beat you eventually takes pity on you and crowds you out of your apartment. 

Similarly, if the Govt. gives in to the Trade Unions' demand for a 10 percent real wage hike and they discover that inflation has eaten most of it and then go on strike till they get a 20 percent hike and so on till there is hyperinflation, then sensible people- both workers and capitalists- get the fuck out of the country.  

Sadly, even many experts do not precisely understand the benefits and risks of government financing through deficits.

But this cretin does! 

The short-term benefits in terms of jobs and income are clear (just ask any lobbyist who wants to maintain spending on their priorities or avoid taxation of their clients). But while there are certainly risks to excessive government debt, controversy continues to rage about when and how these risks occur and what level of debt will create them.

Why? Because of Knightian Uncertainty. We don't know the future. Collectively we should follow a regret minimizing strategy but that means we can have no cut-and-dried notions of correctness or blameworthiness. 

 Bernanke was correct to worry about the consequences of so much liquidity evaporating from the US markets in one go.

Why would liquidity evaporate? Aggregate demand would go off a cliff- sure. But in a deflationary scenario nothing stops the Fed pumping in as much liquidity as is needed. 

He chose to handle the situation by relying on the false beliefs of the public to communicate alarm.

No he didn't. He did his job. Jason has false beliefs about economic theory. For example doesn't know about 'Ricardian Equivalence'. But it isn't the job of the head of the Fed to correct those false beliefs. Let Jason put his money where his mouth is and lose this shirt same as other crazy folk.  

It was demagoguery because it was a message that reinforced the public’s false beliefs about economics, wrapped in the mantle of the sage advice of the Fed chief.

No doubt, QAnon thinks all sorts of scientists are demagogues because they reinforce the public's false beliefs about how the earth is actually round and it goes around the Sun and other such fake news.  

As such, it eroded democratic ideals. The consequence of Bernanke’s failure to explain economic reality was that the public remained confused.

Bernanke would have had to resign his job if he wanted to 'explain economic reality'. He fulfilled his duties well enough.  

This allowed politicians to continue to employ the fear of a rising deficit for political purposes, leading to a fiscal crisis surrounding the debt ceiling in October 2013, which was later shown to take nearly 1 percent of US GDP (nearly 150 billion dollars) and resulted in the loss of an estimated 750,000 jobs.

This is nonsense. Unemployment kept falling.  Afghanistan, around that time was costing about 150 billion dollars. 

This can be regarded as some empirical confirmation

despite the fact that it is pure fantasy 

of the view evident from democratic political theory that propaganda that exploits democratic ideals, even if wielded for a good purpose, occludes democratic deliberation.

There was no propaganda. There was a Fed report which crossed no line of Constitutional law. If anything improper was done, Bernanke would have been subpoenaed and put through the ringer. Congress is empowered to do 'democratic deliberation'. If anyone lies to it or misleads it in an intentional and material way, they face severe punishment. 

Bernanke’s goal in using the phrase “fiscal cliff” was laudable: to move public opinion to avoid a devastating loss of jobs.

This is mad! The Chairman of the Fed as part of his duties gives the views of his team as is by law required. He is not concerned with public opinion. Legislators are concerned with the consequences of decisions they make- if they wish to be re-elected.  

But in so doing, he relied on false ideological beliefs about the economy, rather than lucid explanation.

There is absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever. Bernanke's beliefs about the economy were based on objective research carried out under the supervision of leading experts. He may have been critical of certain Republicans, though he was originally a Republican, but this was not because he was 'ideological', it was because they were crazy.  

Bernanke thus set the stage for the subsequent irrational public deliberation that preceded the debt ceiling crisis in 2013.

Nonsense! Obama, having killed Osama, kept the White House. But Republicans had taken the House and wanted to axe Obamacare. All this had nothing to do with Bernanke. The big question was would voters blame Obama or the Republicans in the House for the shutdown. The general impression- overseas at any rate- was that the Republicans blinked first. However an anger was building which paved the way for Trump. 

This is a specific illustration of the risks of demagoguery in a democracy,

where was the demagoguery? Everybody could see 'fiscal cliff' meant Federal workers were put on furlough. Further, those legislators who were responsible for this were risking their own seats. That too was clear. This was not 'fake news'. It was the plain and obvious truth.

even when wielded for a praiseworthy goal. Flawed ideological beliefs corrode rational debate.

Ignorance and fallacious reasoning may render such debate pointless. But this is also the case where no ideology is involved.  

In a healthy democracy, the goal of a public official should be to dissolve them, rather than rely on them.

But a public official is acting ultra vires if he pursues a goal other than those specified by law. Perhaps Jason thinks a healthy democracy should not be under the Rule of Law. I 

Relying upon them only strengthens them and makes them much more problematic barriers in subsequent debate.

Public officials are not required to rely upon any false or ideological belief. However, these are subjective matters. Speaking generally, we expect a senior public official to resign if she has a good faith belief that something of this sort is required of her.  

I have given one specific example of the dangers of propaganda in a liberal democracy.

It was utterly absurd! 

The example I gave is one in which false beliefs were supported for a good cause. We have seen how this leads inexorably to later problems with democratic deliberation.

No we haven't. 

The truth is 'democratic deliberation' has diminishing returns. There are increasing returns to getting things right quickly. In multidimensional policy spaces there is an Agenda Control of 'McKelvey chaos' problem. But another way to view the thing is as a chain of concurrency deadlocks. There is some mathematical and some empirical work which appears useful in this connection. However, for the nonce, the management of Legislatures remains a dark art. It may involve bullying or bribing or blackmailing. This at any rate is what 'House of Cards' suggested. Still, so long as we can kick out that pack of scoundrels every few years, we seem to have no other alternative.

What is certain is that the opinions of cretinous Academics would be actively mischievous if they were not so patently ignorant and absurd. 

Jason Stanley on John Dewey

How can we know if we are being witty? I suppose we could observe our interlocutors. Are they smiling? Some people have grown very rich by speaking in a witty manner. We might say they have grasped something about what it means for one's speech or discourse to be guided by a norm- that which regulates wit or comedy. However even very witty people can violate this norm much to the delight of humorless bastards like myself. Sadly, the truly witty have the nous to turn the tables on us by shrugging their shoulders and saying- 'What? Too soon?'. The notion here is that norms about what is funny and what is in bad taste can be undermined by a meta-norm which insists that everything is funny. Kairos- what is 'timely' or 'untimely' is merely an appearance not an essence.

This suggests that norms regulating speech have an 'intensional' content, they have a complex internal mathematical structure (which may only be known after the 'end of time')- they are not 'extensional' merely- i.e they can't be fully specified with reference to the state of the world. In other words, there is some internal way to assess if the norm holds which external observation can't always confirm. The question is whether this 'intensional' aspect is itself something that can be expressed in a clear and straightforward manner. There is a good reason to doubt this. It is often impossible to say why x is funny but y is in poor taste. There does not seem to be an algorithmic way of ensuring one is always being funny and never being in bad taste. However, from a pragmatic, or common sense, point of view no great scandal is involved in admitting this. We merely say we have a 'mode of experience' such that somethings strike as funny at certain times. There can be considerable overlap with regards to this mode of experience. Thus we can quietly insist- x is funny. It is indeed 'too soon' for it to be in good taste to be funny about y. Witty people may accept such norms if they value providing a particular 'mode of experience' to us or if they profit by doing so.

Jason Stanley takes a different view- at least when it comes to being 'reasonable' rather than being funny-

we must have a better grasp of what is it for a discourse to be guided by a norm. We can think of reasonableness, or theoretical rationality, as ideal deliberative norms guiding discussion. The question at issue is whether the complexity of actual human communication makes such deliberative ideals hopeless or useless.

It may do for some people- just as it would be impossible for me to learn to be witty by reading books on the subject. But others might simply have a knack for it.  We often find that one politician is able to present his views in a manner which seems very reasonable, whereas another politician struggles to appear coherent. But this is not the only criteria by which we judge politicians. We may prefer an incoherent communicator whose 'heart is in the right place' to a well-spoken politicians whose intentions or fundamental values we distrust.

What role do norms of public reason have when communication is so often indirect and complex?

This is a strange question. It is like asking- what role does the actor playing Hamlet play in Shakespeare's very complex play of that name?  

The most salient examples of shared norms guiding communicative acts are the norms governing speech acts, such as assertion and promising.

But reasonableness may have nothing to do with either.  

It is widely agreed that in order for there to be a practice of assertion or promising in a community, there must be a regularity within certain ordinary contexts of speakers taking what Habermas calls an “interpersonal binding and bonding relationship” with their audience.

Again this seems a strange thing to say. It is widely agreed that in order for there to be a practice there must be a practice. 

What is Jason asserting? Nothing at all. Why is he doing so? I suppose he thinks we think he has promised to tell us something interesting. But he can't. We feel his motivation is to convince us that an unreasonable view does not violate shared norms of reasonableness.

Different speech acts determine different such relations, which are the norms guiding the relevant speech acts: The binding and bonding relationship into which the speaker is willing to enter with the performance of an illocutionary act signifies a guarantee that, in consequence of her utterance, she will fulfill certain conditions—for example, regard a question as settled when a satisfactory answer is given; drop an assertion when it proves to be false; follow her own advice when finds herself in the same situation as the hearer. . . . Thus, the illocutionary force of an acceptable speech act consists in the fact that it can move a hearer to rely on the speech-act-typical obligations of the speaker. 

This is not true. A speech act is perfectly acceptable if it friendly, polite and in good taste. It need have no binding or bonding force. Something more is needed for 'illocution' to obtain. This may be a justiciable matter. But then again it may not. If the other guy tries to hold you to something you said just to be polite you say- 'Sue me!'- meaning 'don't sue me. This is not a justiciable matter. You are a fool for taking a casual remark as some sort of binding promise.'  

As Habermas here makes clear, the existence of a speech act in a community depends upon the existence of a regularity in the community, perhaps constrained to a range of regularly encountered and identifiable contexts, in which speakers fulfill the obligations of that speech act. Timothy Williamson makes a similar point when he notes that the speech act of assertion can only exist if there is “at least general sensitivity” to the violation of its governing norm.

But, in that case, there is nothing special about speech acts. There is expected behavior and there is a sensitivity to violations of expectations based on relevant norms. But assertion is irrelevant. 

If it is rare for people in a community to be sanctioned for the act of uttering false sentences in utterances of declarative sentences, or (perhaps equivalently) if it is rare for people to live up to the commitment of uttering truths (or known propositions) when using declarative sentences, then we may conclude that there is no speech act of assertion in that community.

No. Rarity does not entail non-existence.  

The complexities of communication we have surveyed do not undermine, for example, standard suggestions for norms for assertion.

Yet, where there is great complexity, there may be no unambiguous assertion. Lawyers and administrators are well aware of the special care that is needed in draftsmanship to avoid ambiguity. This often requires complex utterances to be broken down into simpler propositions.

What is asserted is the at-issue content of an utterance. I have argued that propaganda typically affects the not-at-issue content of an utterance.

But that is precisely what a propagandists would argue!  When this sort of thing happens we feel a card is being forced upon us. We become wary of our interlocutor. 

It enters into the common ground by routes other than assertion.

But does it actually become common ground? If so, perhaps this wasn't propaganda but a case of preaching to the choir.  

In fact, this is key to the kinds of demagoguery I have in this chapter discussed; the assertion must express a reasonable at-issue content in order for the act to be effective qua propaganda; propagandists seek to retain reasonableness (or any other deliberative ideal) at the level of assertion, but violate reasonableness at another level.

This is what Jason has done. He tried to persuade us that Newt Gingrich was indulging in Racist propaganda and was called on it by a guy who got in trouble for saying Muslims made him nervous. Tens of millions of Americans watched that interview. Few would have agreed with Jason's dogmatic view in this regard.  

... the degree to which a society satisfies a democratic ideal of rationality or reasonableness can be measured by the degree to which those who enter public political discourse commit themselves to following these ideals, and the degree to which those who deviate from it are sanctioned.

This is an unreasonable restriction on entry into public political discourse. One may say 'some people- generally those with an elite education- think a democratic ideal of rationality is satisfied when such and such is the case.' However, no theory of rationality which upholds democracy as an ideal can be committed to this view unless it asserts that 'ideals' can be followed in some sense other than that by which a rule is followed. But if a rule is followed then there is some algorithm which gets us to the preordained result more quickly and cheaply. In other words, rationality militates against indulging in political discourse just to keep up appearances. In a legislature, this may take the form of 'cloture'. In other contexts, a Statistical Bureau may replace deliberative discussion. 

Of course, one could argue that 'following an ideal' isn't a matter of following a rule. But if it isn't, what sort of rationality does it represent? Is it something intuitive or non-deterministic? If so and so has really been led to a superior solution, should this fact not be empirically established and made known? This is a person who should be treated as an Oracle! Why submit him to the rough and tumble of public discourse? It is enough to say 'listen to this man! He has some uncanny skill which we lack.' 

One might, however, worry, given just the complexity about communication surveyed in this chapter and the pervasiveness of propaganda, that no actual state would count as democratic to any reasonable degree, if norm guidance was like what is at issue in the norms governing speech acts like assertion.

And yet such is the case. There are some statements made to a legislative body which attract heavy sanctions. What matters if there was an intention to materially mislead. 

Given the complexity we have discussed, perhaps no deliberative ideal of public reason has ever been strictly adhered to in the passing of any policy in the United States; certainly for the vast majority of policies it has not.

That is generally a mere matter of opinion. But it may be justiciable.  

As we have seen from Anderson and Pildes, discussion in the Supreme Court regularly involves the communication of unreasonable social meanings. In contrast, if most utterances of declarative sentences were known to be false by the speaker and never sanctioned, there would be no speech act of assertion. Is there a less demanding model of norm governance available for the task?

The concept of 'expressive harm' could be said to cover lese majeste and other such offenses against the powerful. Why should they not be adapted to cover those in humbler circumstances? I suppose, one answer is the law is a double edged sword. Hard cases make bad laws. 

In his book The Public and Its Problems, published in 1927, John Dewey confronts one of the main problems for democracy posed in Walter Lippmann’s book The Phantom Public, published in 1925. Lippmann there argues that there is no public, or at best there is a phantom one. The facts of the division of labor, of geographical location, and so on threaten the idea of an intersection of interests in a large, geographically diverse population. Anything that holds 51 percent of the people together is not a common good, a set of important and valuable common interests, but rather an appeal to emotion, a “call to arms.”

So what? Who are we to say that other people are wrong about what they think is the 'common good'?  It may be that even if they are wrong, it is good for the commonweal if people make mistakes in this regard and thus, learning by experience, come to have a better conception of the 'common good'. 

There is no interesting notion like that of a public, a democratic community, or a democratic society. Arguing for the common good is arguing for nothing at all.

But that is merely one view of the matter. 

The problem Lippmann raises is that if there is no set of interests to be taken as the public’s interests, one cannot choose to be bound by the result of a public deliberative procedure aimed at furthering the common good, that is, the good of the public.

One can choose to be bound by anything one can freely choose. That is the meaning of choice.  

But something like this is Dewey’s deliberative ideal. In the face of arguments Dewey admits are cogent in support of the view that there is no public or public interests, Dewey suggests considering the characteristic elements of democracy to be ideals that ought to guide our behavior if we want our society to become more democratic: [Democracy] is an ideal in the only intelligible sense of an ideal: namely, the tendency and movement of some thing which exists carried to its final limit, viewed as completed, perfected.'

The same thing can be said of being witty. Wit is an ideal which may have an 'intensional' or 'intuitive' aspect which can't be fully expressed or defined in language- except perhaps 'at the end of time' when mathematics has surrendered all its secrets. The same may be true of Democratic discourse considered as an ideal. A pragmatic conception of such ideals does not commit us to any particular philosophy of language nor does it suggest that matters could be improved by having any such thing.

Since things do not attain such fulfillment, but are in actuality distracted and interfered with, democracy in this sense is not a fact and never will be. But neither in this sense is there or has there ever been anything which is a community in its full measure, a community unalloyed by alien elements. The idea or ideal of a community presents, however, actual phases of associated life as they are freed from restrictive and disturbing elements, and are contemplated as having attained their limit of development.54 Thus, Dewey suggests that democracy functions as an ideal. Dewey even has a particular suggestion about how these ideals ought to regulate the behavior of an actual society struggling with “the ills of democracy.” When confronted with the daily reminders of the nonrealistic features inherent in the ideals of democracy, we should nevertheless adhere to the ideals, which means trusting our fellow deliberators and abiding by the outcome of the deliberative process. If this is what it is to follow a deliberative ideal, it is possible to follow it despite its persistent failure to match reality. This attitude is aptly described as having faith in the democratic process. That it is so natural to appeal to such language is evocative of John Dewey’s contention “that the cure for the ailments of democracy is more democracy.”

Dewey was quoting Nobel Laureate Jane Addams, generally considered America's first female 'public philosopher'. Her pragmatism called for something more than 'faith' in deliberative processes. Her 'settlement houses' brought people of different classes together. She considered democracy to be inextricably intertwined with the struggle for social justice and international peace. It can't be said that faith in this trinity is 'natural'. US participation in the Second World war is generally considered to have been a democratically arrived at decision. 

As we have seen, what Dewey means is that in the face of the fact that “democracy [in the ideal sense] is not a fact and never will be,” we must nevertheless have faith in democratic ideals in our political deliberations. By this, Dewey meant that the ideals should in some sense guide our actions. But in which sense?

I think Dewey's own life- or that of Jane Addams- supplies a useful enough answer. But then pragmatics is concerned with usefulness.  

It should be stressed that at one time it seemed natural that Democracies would exclude minorities (perhaps repatriating them or resettling them so they could develop separately) and prevent immigration save from traditional sources. Pragmatism, as a philosophy, had a special value because it could point to evidence of different types of people getting on well and achieving high productivity. Clearly the thing worked even if it didn't correspond to any current 'ideal'. 

What Jason is doing is the reverse of 'pragmatic'. He points to situations where people get on perfectly well and says that they ought not to get on well at all. They should be constantly complaining about each other's 'bad ideology' and 'propagandistic' use of words like 'we' and the terrible insults and injury they suffer as a result.

Lara Buchak has usefully provided a characterization of faith,

Really? Will reading her make one stronger in one's Religious faith? If not how is her characterization useful?  

which can help us understand more precisely the notion at issue. Her characterization is meant to be perfectly general, by which I mean that it is intended to apply to all the different relations that count as faith: faith between people, faith that a proposition is true, and so on.

What about Faith in God?  

A person has faith that X, expressed by A, if and only if that person performs act A when there is some alternative act B such that he strictly prefers A&X to B&X and he strictly prefers B&~X to A&~X, and the person prefers {to commit to A before he examines additional evidence} rather than {to postpone his decision about A until he examines additional evidence}.

This appears to be a characterization of credence or confidence of a decision theoretic type. It has nothing to do with faith- though not doubt an academic writing in a particular sub-discipline may use the term to express some distinction germane to that particular branch of thought. 

The fact is one may have Faith even if one considers one's beliefs to be false and one's choice options to be delusive or mischievous.  

Let us provisionally say that a process is democratically legitimate if it exemplifies reasonableness or rationality, or comes close enough (this is here irrelevant).

Why bother to do so? Either democracy has itself provided a protocol bound, buck-stopped, juristic procedure to determine such legitimacy or it would be undemocratic to suppose that it is illegitimate by reason of having failed to do so.  

To exhibit faith that a process is democratically legitimate, or, in this case, that a process is sufficiently close to the ideal deliberative procedure, is to endorse an action over an alternative action that one would prefer if the process were not democratically legitimate.

This is not the case. One may have faith that democratically legitimate decisions will always correspond to those of God or the Geist or whatever other entity one has faith in. We may say, 'A test of faith in democracy is endorsing an decision one does not like'. However, Democracy may permit you to exit the jurisdiction if you don't like its decision or it may provide you an immunity from that particular action- e.g. an exemption for conscientious objectors from conscription into the Army.  

The idea that participation in democratic deliberation requires faith that the process was governed by an ideal of public reason is much weaker than the norms governing speech acts.

Presumably, because ideas are 'weaker' than norms more especially if those ideas take norms as their starting point.  

Even if no procedures by which policies are passed in fact exemplify, or come close to exemplifying, the norms of public reason, the measure of a democracy can be taken by the proportion of participants in its deliberations who have faith that the procedures exemplify those ideals (and hence act on that supposition).

Jason's reasoning has led him to a very strange place. Compare what happens when we go to a Town Hall meeting with our experience of attending collective worship. In the former case, everybody may express great skepticism regarding the quality of the deliberations and though a vote is taken and a decision is made nobody seems particularly happy with the outcome. Yet this is a legitimate democratic process. By contrast, deliberations which occur in Church such that all present affirm the same faith and some come forth to testify to the manner in which that faith has transformed their lives, would not be called 'democratic' or secular or political in any sense. Rather it is theological, sacred or wholly religious. 

Did Dewey- a man very sensitive to the pragmatic implications of the separation of Church and State- really subscribe to the view Stanley seems to attribute to him? No. Don't be silly.  Jason no more understands Dewey than he understands Gingrich. Dewey thought the 'mode of experience' of a faith was something different from faith itself. There could be a common 'mode of experience' without a common faith. 

However, the Deweyian conception of norm guidance as faith is too problematic to be adopted.

It does not exist. We may have a mode of experience such that we feel norm guidance is occurring without any further dogmatic or doxastic commitments. Indeed, our beliefs in other respects may be greatly at variance with this 'mode of experience'. But this is enough for a pragmatist to be getting on with.

The problem is that faith in democratic ideals leads us to blindness about their violations.

The reverse may be true. We may have faith in an entity whose evils are invisible to us. However, if we have faith in an ideal then we experience cognitive dissonance when violations occur. I suppose 'hysterical blindness' may be one outcome of this dissonance. But, surely, it is not the most natural, or the most frequent, 'first response'? 

To simply assume that policies based on appeal to bias and special interest were democratically legitimate risks overlooking too many concrete instances of injustice.

The opposite is the case. We must assume that 'democratic legitimacy' is no warrant of freedom from bias or the occult workings of vested interests. Indeed, there could be no doctrine of 'separation of powers' save under this stipulation.  

This is simply too large a risk to take.

We are speaking of stupidity here- not risk. 

One might also reject the demand for ideals to be practically possible in order to be useful. Even practically impossible scientific ideals are nevertheless useful in science. However, this defense of political ideals is tendentious. Scientific ideals, as Kwame Anthony Appiah has argued in unpublished work, are useful because the details from which they abstract are unimportant to our overall picture of the physical world. However, political ideals are not at all like this. The details from which they abstract are concrete instances of social injustice. Scientific ideals abstract from friction; political ideals abstract from the existence of oppressed minorities.

Political ideals may militate for the killing, rather than oppressing, of such minorities. Science does not speak of 'ideals'. Neither does Economics. Talk of ideals, in politics, may prevent the emergence of minorities. It may replace oppression or second class status with deportation. Having a stick to beat majorities with is all very well. But in Democracies, that same stick could be used by the majority to get rid of the minority. This is a dangerous road to go down. A type of propaganda which is meant to undermine the majority may be seized on by that very majority as evidence of radical hostility or a mischievous intent. Democracies have ways of dealing severely with seditious activity. It is foolish to think they can't aggressively eliminate perceived threats.  

Still, there are many possible models of norm guidance that are left open. In the face of the complexities we have discussed, perhaps a reasonable way to adhere to ideal deliberative norms, for example, the norm of objectivity, may be to adopt systematic openness to the possibility that one has been unknowingly swayed by bias.

Is Jason willing to really do so? After all, his profession entails exposure to silly people with jejune political views. He may have become biased by reason of having to read worthless dreck produced by woke or virtue signaling cretins as stupid as himself.  

If so, the mark of a democratic culture is one in which participants in debates regularly check themselves for bias, and subject their own beliefs and unthinking use of language to the same critical scrutiny as they do the beliefs and utterances of others.

It appears that the Ivy League culture of 'wokeness' fails this test. It is not democratic. It may view itself as 'elitist' or 'progressive'. But its effects have been mischievous. Rather than expanding the scope of Liberty, it invokes the specter of 'Thought Police'. 

The question of the practical possibility of deliberative ideals then becomes the question of the practical possibility of such policing.

Authoritarian regimes do have to increasingly concern themselves with the practical possibility of policing what people think or, unthinkingly, say. 

Is Jason suggesting that everybody should be constantly monitored by a police-man? No. It is enough if we are constantly reporting each other to some imaginary police-man for various sorts of thought-crimes or brain-farts or other such evil consequences of bad ideology.

It is not just a matter of attending to our own discourse.

Perhaps it should be. If Jason read over what he wrote and anticipated natural objections to his lunacy, perhaps he might one day write something useful. 

Since whether or not discourse is propagandistic depends upon flawed ideological belief,

Jason's flawed ideology has led him to see propaganda where there was no propaganda. Yet what he has himself written is propaganda of a self-defeating sort.  

the practical possibility of deliberative ideals ultimately rests upon our capacity to be sensitive to the effects of flawed ideologies on our own belief system.

In other words shouting 'mental rape!' any time any guy with a flawed ideology bumps into you and says 'Sorry Ma'am.' 

To be clear, I may have 'man-boobs' but I am not a woman. On the other hand, senior South Indian scientists have established that, because of my obesity, I now have my own gravitational field. Thus people who bump into me should condemn Jewish Science- like that of Einstein- or WASP Science- like that of Newton- for an inconvenience to which I am increasingly subject. 

Monday 30 August 2021

Jason Stanley on food stamps

Jason Stanley writes in a chapter titled 'Language as a mechanism of control'-

Since the cognitivist, truth-conditional framework embodies an account of what happens when communication functions well, it allows us precise grasp of what happens when communications fails to function well.
Does an account of what happens when a marriage, or a business enterprise, or a class of aspiring philosophers, functions well allow us a precise grasp of what happens when the thing fails to function well? No. Why? There are strategic aspects to that functioning which feature invisible opportunity costs and bargaining problems. In other words, a marriage may fail because one partner now has a different mating opportunity. Nothing intrinsic to the marriage has changed. Functioning has been affected by an exogenous opportunity.

 By contrast, an account of a well functioning machine may enable us to zero in on the problem area with a malfunctioning machine. However the result might be imprecise. Troubleshooting can only take us so far. Sometimes we have to return the machine for servicing.
My worry with noncognitivist accounts, or accounts that are unsystematic at their core, is that, while they are sometimes well suited to explain failures of communication, they are ill suited to explain the contrast between well-functioning communication and poorly functioning communication.

Why should this be? Surely well functioning communication is that which has the desired outcome? The contrast between getting what you paid for and having pissed your money against a wall is as clear as the difference between day and night.  

If a group is deliberating about a policy or course of action that will affect everyone in the group, fairness requires regarding everyone’s viewpoint as worthy of respect.

This is not the case. Everyone in the group will be affected if I agree to divide my wealth between them. But it is not fair to me that I should listen to other people's views on the matter. I and I alone have a viewpoint worthy of respect unless someone else has a strong moral or legal claim against me- e.g. is the child I callously abandoned so as to win wealth and fame as a Beyonce impersonator. 

But this is just to say that it is natural to expect reasonableness to be the norm governing any such deliberation, including those that are intended to issue in democratically legitimate policies.

This does not follow. We may wish the norm to be that of ecstatic inspiration. Alternatively we may wish deliberation to be impassioned or poetic. It is equally possible that we want only nonsense to be talked. Let the fellow who says whatever is most absurd carry off the palm. 

A democratically legitimate policy is not the most rational or reasonable policy. It may reflect what is believed to be the voice of God. It may be wholly passional or 'ontologically dysphoric'- i.e. have reference to values not of this world. 

On the other hand, a bureaucratically legitimate policy, or one formulated by an agent on behalf of a principal, under a legal contract, may have this quality as may policies suggested by professionals who have a duty to observe certain rules of conduct. 

I will henceforth assume that the principle ideal of public reason is reasonableness, rather than theoretical rationality.

Why must public reason have a 'principle ideal'? Surely, if we could get at the ideal, we wouldn't need to bother with the thing itself Indeed, one justification for Totalitarian rule is that the Dictator can decide what ideally public reason should demand and then supply that demand without going through the fuss and bother of permitting any public reasoning whatsoever. 

To say that the principle ideal of public reason is reasonableness is not to deny that there are other ideals of public reason. Politicians must also be, for example, rationally consistent, objective, and logical.

This is not the case. A superior politician would have a 'kairotic' sixth sense and thus be able to change when the winds become propitious for change. Napoleon stipulated for lucky generals, not calculating machines. 

One moral of the previous chapter is that demagoguery in a liberal democracy takes the form of a contribution to public debate that is presented as embodying reasonableness yet in fact contributes a content that clearly erodes reasonableness.

That moral was false. Demagoguery in a liberal democracy may have several forms. Firstly, it may be confined to an in-group and thus not represent a 'contribution to public debate'. In this case 'protected belief' may be a defense in law for what might otherwise be hate speech. Secondly, demagoguery may have the purpose of defeating a mindless application of reason such as might give rise to a nuisance or else appear repugnant to the human spirit which- after all- is not that of a calculating machine or Gradgrind. Demagoguery may be comic in tone. It may invoke pathos. It may indulge in ad hominem tactics. So long as it is entertaining, we might feel it is an essential concomitant to democratic discourse. 

This form of propaganda is not merely a deceitful attempt to bypass theoretical rationality, on this view.

But this is a crazy view! We don't see demagogues disguising themselves as Super-Computers and saying 'Theoretical rationality says COVID is fake news' in the voice of a Dalek.  

It functions via an initial selection of a target within the population.

Then it is not propaganda. It is direct marketing. Propaganda, like certain types of Advertising, is most effective when it is ubiquitous. It wins if you take its claims as 'common knowledge'- i.e. what other people believe other people believe is true- even if you don't believe a word of it. This is like the Keynesian Beauty contest. Only those expectations which you expect others to have create reality. Muth rational expectations arise when you, quite rationally, expect others to be equally rational. 

But Stanley's views are not Muth rational. He thinks Language is a mechanism which can have some effect wholly independent of what it communicates. The pay-off for him is that he get to call you a Racist if you tend to say 'we' rather than 'I'. You can get your own back by saying you are Scottish and were referring to his wee little dick. 

A proposal is reasonable if it appears so from the perspective of each citizen of the state.

No. It is reasonable if all reasonable people find it so. The opinion of a lunatic does not count. 

A contribution is inconsistent with reasonableness if it undermines the capacity or the willingness to produce or be swayed by reasonable proposals.

All contributions not to my liking are inconsistent with reasonableness because they make me lose my temper and thus undermine my capacity or willingness to be swayed by reasonable proposals. That is why, if you want me to buy Life Insurance from you, your opening contribution should not be 'Listen you fat bastard, you are bound to die soon so why not do your relatives a favor and get insured?'  

Reasonableness presupposes, at least in humans, the capacity for empathy for others.

This is not the case. By careful study, a sociopath- or, it may be, a self-improving A.I of some description- may give perfectly reasonable advise if only for a self-interested reason. 

If I am right, we should expect paradigm cases of propaganda to have as part of their communicative content that a group in society is not worthy of our respect.

You are wrong.  Catholic doctrine is the paradigm case of propaganda. It does not teach that any group in society is unworthy of respect. Indeed, great Prelates would bathe the feet of lepers. On the other hand, some soi disant Catholics were into burning heretics big time. Different strokes- right?

So one characteristic way to convey that a target is not worthy of respect is to cause one’s audience to lose empathy for them.

This can be done without demagoguery while, equally, demagogues may praise all manners of beings while venting their spleen entirely on abstractions- e.g. compound interest or fractional reserve banking or the harmful practice of tying a fellow's top knot to the ceiling fan when he has nodded off in the library. My grandfather was a Gandhian/Socialist demagogue of this sort. The police arrested him as a Marxist. They admitted that the cunning Brahmin hadn't actually said anything against the Raj but he had a Marxist book in his hostel room featuring one Comrade Psmith. The British Police Superintendent dismissed the case when he saw the book was by P.G Woodhouse. Bastard! If only my Grandfather had spent a few years in jail he might have become a Minister in the Central Government. 

Demagoguery can take both linguistic and nonlinguistic form.

Only in the sense that it can be absent when it is present and can never have existence at the very moment it comes to be. The people may be led by a ghost or a vision which nobody actually saw. Franco appointed the Virgin Mary Captain General of his army. His troops spent a lot of time raping women. This does not mean the Theotokos was a demagogue or had a taste for that sort of thing. Anybody can talk nonsense about anybody else or, indeed, about nothing at all. 

Many of the paradigm examples of demagoguery, including demagogic propaganda, are posters, pictures, and architecture, rather than utterances of sentences.

This is true only to the same extent that anything and nothing can be a paradigm example of any shite you just pulled out of your arse. 

Any characterization of demagoguery, or propaganda more generally, that is focused specifically on language is clearly too narrow.

Whereas a more commodious characterization which gives equal attention to farts emitted by neighbor's cat may be considered too broad.

My characterization of propaganda is accordingly perfectly general.

My neighbor's cat thanks you. Come the Revolution, you shall sit at the right hand of Chairman Miaow and dine only upon fish-heads. 

It is not restricted to propaganda that takes linguistic form. Nonlinguistic images or movies clearly do exploit existing false ideological beliefs demagogically in just the way I have described. For example, pictorial representations of Roma in Hungarian articles about crime, or Blacks in American articles on this topic, will be demagogic if they are employed to justify brutal and unequal laws.

I think Jason means the brutal and unequal application of the law. If the laws themselves were brutal and unequal, there would be little point publishing such an article. 

But I am unable to give an account of the mechanisms by which this occurs.

Why? Surely, the pictures are illustrative. They clarify which group of people is being stigmatized. 

There is a science of language and communication in place that enables us to gain some precision about the mechanisms underlying linguistic propaganda.

I doubt this is currently the case. I imagine we may soon have quite good 'generators' for this but they would be Bayesian. The precision of an i-language emulator remains a distant grail. 

I exploit that account to explain how some linguistic propaganda works. I suspect the same level of detail has not yet been achieved in our understanding of imagistic representation. Therefore, I will focus on the linguistic case. I expect that future research will be able to help us address how the perhaps more important imagistic case works. I will use formal semantics and pragmatics to describe a specific mechanism by which demagoguery in linguistic form plays a role in bringing into the context false ideological beliefs that are apparently not part of the discussion. As we shall see, there is a great deal of evidence that there is such a linguistic mechanism. And perhaps there are analogous mechanisms in the case of images; indeed, the inspiration point in my analysis, Rae Langton and Caroline West’s theory of pornography from 1999, employs similar formal semantic and pragmatic mechanisms to explain the phenomena of subordination with images. But it is not clear to me that all these exact mechanisms can function with images and movies, because it is not clear to me that one can make the distinction between at-issue and not-at-issue content that is at the center of the mechanism I describe.

Jason first spoke of reasonableness in public discourse. Now he is speaking of pornography. It may be that Jason thinks they have a similar aim. His own increasingly hysterical protests against Fascism may have to do with the fact that his students keep jizzing on him. Sad.

My focus is on explaining one way in which demagoguery exploits already existing nonpolitical mechanisms to be effective. This mechanism is well understood in the case of language, so we can describe it with precision. A number of philosophers in the feminist tradition, including Catherine MacKinnon and Jennifer Hornsby, have argued that the function of certain kinds of speech (in their chosen example, pornography) is to silence a targeted group.

Yet women who walk in on you having a wank tend to be very noisy.  

The philosopher whose work has most inspired and influenced my own is Rae Langton. Langton argues, following MacKinnon and Hornsby, that pornographic material subordinates women and silences them.

What about Gay porn?  

In depicting subordination, Langton argues, pornographers subordinate women. Langton argues that the function of certain kinds of racist speech is “to rank blacks as inferior.”

till they acquire a taste for my jizz. 

Langton also argues that pornography silences women, by undermining the felicity conditions of their speech; it represents “no” as yes.

My memory is that back in the early Eighties, Time Share salesman took 'no' as 'yes'. But women in porn were very loud. Things may have changed since then. 

My aim in this chapter is to explain some of these effects with the tools of contemporary formal semantics, by applying them to the case of propaganda. Here is one model of how this could work; as is clear from her response to Judith Butler, it is a model from which Langton distances herself. An imperative is a command to act a certain way. The imperative statement “eat your beets!” directed at a three year old is a command to the three year old to do something.

It may be. But then again it may not. Long experience may have taught you that this is the little terror's cue to throw his plate at you. 

Pornographic speech could function as a mechanism of subordination by delivering imperative-like orders of some kind.

No. Either the punter jizzes or he returns the video and demands a refund. You then realize that you gave him L'Année dernière à Marienbad instead of 'Annie's derriere in Marienbad'. Also you should have stuck with Chartered Accountancy rather than trying to make it big as a day trader. 

The thought here is not that imperatives bring about their truth. Commands must be associated with practical authority in order to have this function. But so too, as I will argue, does subordinating speech.

Why? If I find the person I'm talking to is wiser and more moral than I am, I tend to subordinate myself so as to gain a benefit. Similarly, if we all have to work together to escape from a burning building, we would naturally subordinate ourselves to a person of humbler attainments but who has valuable experience in this regard. 

The relation between imperatives and subordinating speech will be a theme of this chapter, as I will draw on both semantic and pragmatic features of imperatives in my analysis of subordinating speech. I will try to square this use of the semantics of imperatives with Langton’s compelling “verdictive” account of subordinating speech. Our discussion to this point suggests that there should be expressions apt for use in a debate that function to exclude the perspective of certain groups in the population.

This is certainly true of jargon words like 'verdictive' which function to keep the layman out of a bogus field of scholarship. 

Since demagoguery, like undermining propaganda generally, is masked as embodying the ideals with which it ultimately clashes, we should expect these expressions to operate indirectly.

What Jason is writing is 'masked as embodying the ideals' of 'reasonableness'. But it is crazy shit. Thus it ultimately clashes with with what it purports to be. Sadly, there is nothing indirect about Jason's expressions. They are simply false.

That is, there should be systematic ways of genuinely or apparently contributing to debate, which simultaneously frame the debate in such a way as to exclude the perspective of a targeted group.

e.g. those who think a demagogue can serve any type of cause whatsoever or that porn is about masturbation or that this aint woke shite. 

The function of these expressions is to mask the demagogic nature of the contribution, by creating flawed ideological beliefs to the effect that the perspectives of a designated group are not worthy of reasonable consideration.

This may be the function of Jason's rigmarole, but it fails, just as a demagogue who fails to endear himself with his audience would fail. The fact is nobody cares who you think to be unworthy of reasonable consideration unless you are yourself well regarded. But this involves a trade-off. You will be shunned if you disrespect someone others place above you.  Of course, you may find an artful way of getting your point across while appearing very respectful to the people's idol. 

We should expect there to be linguistic means by use of which one can make an apparently reasonable claim, while simultaneously, merely by using the relevant vocabulary, wearing down the ideal of reasonableness.

This can be done by asserting authority, special expertise, purer motivation, or else by making it clear that those who might object to the argument are sexual deviants who eat dog turds. 

Because these linguistic means should be available for use to make any point whatsoever that may come up in debate about policy, we should expect that they function to exclude whether one takes the affirmative or the negative position on the debate. Indeed, if there were no linguistic means of excluding the perspective of certain groups from debate, while simultaneously representing oneself as contributing to the debate, that would raise the suspicion that reasonableness is not in fact the ideal of public reason.

Nonsense! Certain groups may be excluded from the debate by reason of the fact that they simply aren't there. Its like parties given by students of engineering back in the Eighties. Women simply didn't attend. But neither did Gay people. Sad. 

If reasonableness is the norm of public reason, we should expect there to be linguistic mechanisms, that is, expressions, with the following three properties: 
1. Use of the relevant expression has the effect on the conversation of representing a certain group in the community as having a perspective not worthy of inclusion, that is, they are not worthy of respect.

But is there any such expression? An easy way to win over an audience is to take up an opprobrious epithet that your rival has used and curry favor by claiming it applies to you. Your display of humility has a disarming effect. People may have felt a little intimidated by the other guy. Obviously, you shouldn't take things too far. Don't tell them about that time you soiled yourself in Swahili class.'

2. The expression has a content that can serve simply to contribute legitimately to resolving the debate at issue in a reasonable way, which is separate from its function as a mechanism of exclusion.

The debate may be about what is or aint 'cool'. You won brownie points by admitting to be a 'square' but your suggestion that perhaps the girls from the Nurses hostel might be happy enough to dance with engineering students went down quite well. Obviously, you then have to give a suggestion as to a 'cool' way of doing the inviting. The correct answer is 'Toga party'. In the early Eighties, that was cool. Obviously, you will have to exclude the guy whose suggestion was that everybody jizz upon the hide of a goat freshly sacrificed to His Satanic Majesty Beelzebub. 

3. Mere use of the expression is enough to have the effect of eroding reasonableness. So the effect on reasonableness occurs just by virtue of using the expression, in whatever linguistic context.

Repeat any word often enough and it becomes meaningless.  However, the same thing happens when Jason uses the word 'reasonableness' coz he be batshit kray kray. 

Here is why my characterization of propaganda entails the existence of expressions with these properties. The expressions would have to have the first property, because that would be the property of eroding reasonableness.

So it could be anything but turn out to be nothing. 

The expressions would have to have the second property, because they would have to be able to be used in discourse that appears to meet the ideal of public reason.

So the expression must be 'essentially contested' or be capable of being shown to be so.  

The expressions would have to have the third property, because they would have to be apt for use, whatever one’s stance on the issue at hand.

Again, this could apply to anything though on closer examination nothing might fit the bill. 

Jason has given criteria which can be applied to any type of language. He has omitted the characteristic features of demagogic propaganda viz. an intention to lead people to a dogma by means which appeal to emotive or irrational aspects of the psyche.

Let us now look at a case where Jason thinks 'language as a mechanism of control' is doing something invidious.

On the picture I am sketching, certain words are imbued, by a mechanism of repeated association, with problematic images or stereotypes.

Jason had given examples of phrases like 'illegal immigrant' which had come to be seen as repugnant and thus been replaced by 'undocumented migrant'. The problem here is that some may prefer a term like 'illegal worker' because it points to a type of natural injustice such that a worker contributing to the commonweal is stigmatized like a criminal. Would it not be better to change the law such that all workers are legal workers, unless they are actually harming the community by stealing, rather than pass off the problem as merely a shortage of documents. The word 'illegal' carries imperative force. I may move heaven and earth to regularize my status on hearing myself described as an 'illegal' tenant or migrant or whatever. By contrast 'undocumented' sounds harmless. Yet people who built up lives and raised families have been abruptly deported just because they didn't fill out this form or apply for that certificate at the appropriate time.

My point is that a political process may, according to its own lights, imbue words with some significance of a strategic type but that does not mean any linguistic mechanism is at work. On the other hand if you say 'undocumented' in a weird whiney voice the effect might be propagandistic. But that has to do with phonetics- which is linguistic- and you may not have intended any hostile intention but were just being silly.  

One can use these words to express ordinary contents, and explicitly deny complicity with the associated problematic image or stereotype.

And one can accuse the other guy of being Hitler just because he denied being Hitler.  

For example, in a debate during the Republican primary presidential campaign in 2012, Juan Williams

a guy who said Muslims on planes make him nervous. 

asked a candidate, Newt Gingrich: You recently said, “black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also said, “poor kids lack a strong work ethic,” and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans? Gingrich answered, “No. I don’t see that,” and received a loud ovation from the audience. He then proceeded to deliver a bromide on the value of hard work, and examples of people who worked extremely hard from an early age. The audience gave him an immense ovation. Williams followed up by pointing out to Gingrich that expressions such as “lacking work ethic” were associated with negative racial stereotypes. He defended his point by saying that Americans across the racial divide understood the associations here, and it was disingenuous for Gingrich to deny them. The audience loudly booed Williams’s response. The interest of the exchange is the intensity of the audience’s reactions. Clearly, this was the most emotionally charged moment of the debate. This is precisely because of the racially loaded not-at-issue content of the discourse, expressions like “work ethic” and “food stamps.” Gingrich was allowed to act responsible just for the at-issue content of his utterance, and feign ignorance of the racial overtones of the expressions.

In Jason's opinion. But that wasn't the opinion of the audience. Why? Both Gingrich and Williams were celebrities with well crafted public personae whose job was to be a little-but-not-too controversial. The audience treated their exchange as they might a staged contest between professional wrestlers. This was entertainment. But, obviously, it was also the Republicans acknowledging they had no chance with the Black Republican vote in the Presidential election. Their problem was that so many Whites, too, were utterly enamored of Obama. 

What is important to note is that even the act of raising the expressions to salience by Juan Williams conveyed the negative social meanings, inspiring characteristically strong emotion in the audience.

Williams was seen as being a bit of a 'stirrer'. That was his job and he did it well. Previously he'd got in trouble for suggesting Michelle Obama might be an 'albatross'. Though not a Republican, both his sons are. This isn't a story about a black man calling some entitled white jerk on his bigotry. It is a story about two guys comfortable on Fox News who have written weighty tomes while maintaining celebrity status. Gingrich, of course, was a successful politician but Williams wasn't exactly a hobo.  

This is how propaganda works. It is possible to challenge its effects, but even using the expressions to do so runs the risk of invoking these very effects.

There was no propaganda here. It should be remembered that Herman Cain (an African American) was in the lead before sexual harassment allegations surfaced (also a problem for Williams).  Cain and Gingrich had made the large number of people on food stamps under Obama a campaign issue. The wider context was tax reform- like Cain's famous 9-9-9 proposal. Economists understand this. But Jason is a philosopher. He thinks that Racists make Black Peeps eat food stamps rather than fried chicken with plenty of watermelon and grape soda. I am not saying I have any evidence against this view. However I do feel Black peeps should be allowed to put a bit of ketchup on the food stamps to make them easier to swallow.