Quotable (#213)

Girard in contemporary politics (insightfully explored):

In one of his seminars, Thiel made the political stakes of his concern with scapegoating more explicit, making reference to Occupy Wall Street: “The 99% vs. the 1% is the modern articulation of this classic scapegoating mechanism. It is all minus one versus the one.” The central task of controlling what Girard calls the “victimage mechanism,” for “founders” like him, is to deflect collective violence from themselves. Gawker, on the other hand, seemed to specialize in identifying targets for that violence, or at least for collective online vituperation – and those targets often belonged to the capitalist “founder” class, although many debated whether Gawker at times abandoned its proclaimed commitment to “punching up.” Crushing Gawker was not simply an attack on a particular organ of scapegoating that had offended Thiel, but an attempt to disarm a certain politicization of scapegoating in a digital world given over to it.

(The entire piece is excellent.)

Quotable (#194)

Ben Narasin cites an (unnamed) Chinese Communist Party official on the techno-economic function of science fiction:

For years we’ve been making wonderful things. We make your iPods. We make phones. We make them better than anybody else, but we don’t come up with any of these ideas. So we went on a tour of America talking to people at Microsoft, at Google, at Apple, and we asked them a lot of questions about themselves, just the people working there. And we discovered they all read science fiction … so we think maybe it’s a good thing.

Quotable (#190)


Economists have long known that some of the strongest statistical predictors of long-run national prosperity have been “percent Confucian” and “percent Buddhist.” A famed paper coauthored by Xavier Sala-i-Martin demonstrated that conclusively. It’s time for scholars to investigate whether, for most countries, a pro-Confucian migration policy is a good option.

(Once you can admit this, all kinds of presently-unspeakable corollaries come for free.)

Quotable (#188)

This stuff is basic:

In medieval times, privileged sinners found absolution for their guilt through more formal contractual penance. Churchmen consulted books of penitentials that prescribed precise medicinal doses — donations, pilgrimages, fasting, and a host of other sacrificial acts — to offset particular sins to get them right again with God. The key was to find a way to keep enjoying sinning and still get to heaven on the cheap. […] In our atheistic and agnostic society, inexpensive, loud, and public virtue-mongering has replaced church penance — with Black Lives Matter, La Raza, Al Sharpton, network anchor people, NPR, the New York Times, and such acting as the new bishops who can dispense exemptions. […] The wealthy, the influential, the intelligentsia, and the cultural elite all broadcast their virtues — usually at a cut-rate rhetorical price — to offset their own sense of sin (as defined by feelings of guilt), or in fear that their own lives are antithetical to the ideologies they espouse, or sometimes simply as a wise career move. Sin these days is mostly defined as race/class/gender thought crimes. …

It’s almost like a state church …