Wrongology 101

Epistemic Status: Speculative.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew, available online here, is a really interesting study of the psychology of anti-Semitism, written in a time (1940’s France) when it was common for people to talk overtly about how much they hated Jews.  Sartre, being Gentile and from a culture where anti-Semitism was much more common than it is in 21st century America, had an opportunity to observe these people that I do not.  So while he paints an extremely unflattering picture of anti-Semites, one that’s almost hard to believe, I take it seriously.

What are anti-Semites like, according to Sartre?

They are lazy. Sartre gives the example of a man who believes Jews are given unfair advantages in passing an exam he failed, but readily admits that he didn’t study for it.

They are people-oriented rather than thing-oriented.  “They behave toward social  facts like primitives who endow the wind and the sun with little  souls.  Intrigues, cabals, the  perfidy of one man, the courage and virtue of another —  that is what determines  the  course of their business, that is what determines the course of the world.”

They are impulsive.  “the anti‐Semite understands nothing about modern society.  He  would be incapable of conceiving of a constructive plan; his action cannot reach the level of the methodical; it remains on the ground of passion.  To a long‐term enterprise he prefers an explosion of rage analogous to the running amuck of the Malays.”

They are bullies.  “He has chosen also to be terrifying.   People are afraid of irritating  him.   No one knows to what lengths the aberrations of his passion will carry him  —  but he knows, for this passion is not provoked by something external.  He has it well in hand; it is obedient to his will: now he lets go of  the reins and now he pulls back on them.”

They are conformists.  “This man fears every kind of solitariness, that of the genius as  much as that of the murderer; he is the man of the crowd.   However small his stature,  he takes every precaution to make it smaller, lest he stand out from the herd and find  himself face to face with himself.  He has made himself an anti-Semite because that is something one cannot be alone.  The phrase, “I hate the  Jews,” is one that  is  uttered  in  chorus;  in  pronouncing  it,  one  attaches himself to a tradition and to a community  —  the tradition and community of the mediocre.”

They are irrational.  “The anti-Semite has chosen to live on the plane of passion.” They like being angry (at the Jews), and seek out opportunities to work themselves up into a rage.  They deliberately say trollish things that make no sense: “Never believe that anti‐ Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies.  They know  that  their remarks are  frivolous, open to challenge.   But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right  to play.”

They are mystical and anti-intellectual.  “The anti‐Semite has a fundamental  incomprehension of the various forms of modern property:  money,  securities,  etc.   These are abstractions, entities of reason related to the abstract intelligence of the Semite…What his subtle sense seizes upon is precisely that which the intelligence cannot perceive.” In other words: he cannot understand complicated abstract ideas which in principle anybody could grasp, with enough time and effort and ordinary thinking; but he believes he has magical powers of intuition that reach beyond the intellect and which the Jews innately will forever lack.

They are a mob. “He  wants  his  personality  to  melt  suddenly  into  the  group  and  be  carried  away  by  the  collective  torrent.   He  has  this  atmosphere  of  the  pogrom  in  mind  when  he  asserts  “the  union of all Frenchmen.”

Why would a person want to be wrong on purpose?

Sartre explains:

How  can  one  choose  to  reason  falsely?  It  is  because  of  a longing for impenetrability. The rational man groans as he  gropes for the truth;  he  knows  that his  reasoning is no more than tentative, that other considerations may supervene  to  cast doubt on it.  He never sees very clearly  where he is going; he is “open”; he may even appear to be hesitant.   But there are people who are attracted  by the durability of a stone.   They wish to be massive and impenetrable;  they wish  not to change.   Where, indeed, would change take them?   We have here a basic fear of oneself and of truth.  What frightens them is not the content of truth, of which they have no conception, but the form itself of truth, that thing of indefinite approximation. It is as if their own existence were in continual suspension.

In other words: the person who is wrong on purpose is afraid of the vulnerability of trying at a task that may fail.  In particular, he is afraid of the process of learning.  The “indefinite approximation” Sartre mentions is the process of double-checking, doubting, asking questions, second-guessing, saying “oops”, moderating or complicating one’s views, all the millions of mental motions involved in trying to understand things accurately. The person who is wrong on purpose wants to just stop all of that motion, forever.

Only  a  strong  emotional  bias  can give a lightning‐like  certainty; it alone  can hold reason in leash; it alone can remain impervious to  experience and last for a whole lifetime.

People choose to be wrong so that they can play a game that is by definition impossible to lose.  They don’t like trying or working hard. They don’t like expectations being placed on them.

The  anti‐Semite  is  not  too  anxious  to  possess  individual  merit.   Merit  has  to be sought, just like truth; it is discovered with difficulty; one must deserve it.  Once acquired, it is perpetually in question: a false step, an error, and it flies away.  Without respite, from the beginning of our lives to the end, we are responsible for what merit we enjoy.

But the anti-Semite wants a respite from responsibility, very badly.  He wants to be done.  He wants an end to trying altogether.

 Anti‐Semitism, in short, is fear of the human condition.  The anti‐Semite is a  man  who wishes to be pitiless stone, a furious torrent, a devastating thunderbolt‐anything except a man.

Sartre’s “Anti-Semitism” Isn’t Just About Jews

Sartre says explicitly that the character that made a Frenchman of his time into an anti-Semite could in other contexts apply to other races: “The Jew only serves him as a pretext; elsewhere his  counterpart  will  make  use  of  the  Negro  or  the  man  of  yellow skin.”

Sartre’s version of anti-Semitism is a lot like the American institution of herrenvolk democracy, established around the time of Andrew Jackson, in which white people, no matter how poor, formed a coalition that allowed them to be socially superior to black people, given arbitrary privileges over them and free to enact unpunished mob violence against them.

Anti-Asian prejudice (“sure, they’re smart, but they’re not really a good culture fit“) is also structurally very similar to the defiant mediocrity that Sartre describes in anti-Semites.

More controversially, there is something about the concept of Asperger’s Syndrome, which is no longer officially a medical designation and was arguably never a natural category, that matches this pattern.  Smart, logical people who just aren’t one of us, who may technically fulfill the requirements of a job but don’t have the right intangibles, who aren’t good at politicking, who naively believe in the literal rules, and who inevitably get bullied.

Structurally, we’re talking about a cartel, or a mob.  Mob in both the “mafia” and the “riot” sense.  Collusion to keep unmerited privilege, enforced by acts of random violence.

If you are trying to enforce an eternal privilege, something that cannot be lost no matter what you do, then being wrong, or being bad at things, or treating others badly, is the fundamental test of the security of your status.  Being wrong is both a badge and one of the perks of class membership.

Fascism and Mysticism

This article on Jordan Petersen is infuriating in some ways — there are gratuitous digs at masculinity and self-help that I don’t endorse — but it’s worth reading because it outlines his historical influences.

A range of intellectual entrepreneurs, from Theosophists and vendors of Asian spirituality like Vivekananda and D.T. Suzuki to scholars of Asia like Arthur Waley and fascist ideologues like Julius Evola (Steve Bannon’s guru) set up stalls in the new marketplace of ideas. W.B. Yeats, adjusting Indian philosophy to the needs of the Celtic Revival, pontificated on the “Ancient Self”; Jung spun his own variations on this evidently ancestral unconscious. Such conceptually foggy categories as “spirit” and “intuition” acquired broad currency; Peterson’s favorite words, being and chaos, started to appear in capital letters. Peterson’s own lineage among these healers of modern man’s soul can be traced through his repeatedly invoked influences: not only Carl Jung, but also Mircea Eliade, the Romanian scholar of religion, and Joseph Campbell, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, who, like Peterson, combined a conventional academic career with mass-market musings on heroic individuals.

There is, historically, a connection between occultism and the study of mythology, on the one hand, and fascism, on the other. (I would add D.H. Lawrence to the list of fascist-sympathizing mystics.)  The literal Nazis were very fond of myth and magic — see the Thule Society.  Start exploring contemporary neopaganism and occultism and you’ll quickly run into people with some very disturbing politics.

There’s a historical explanation — both the Theosophists and the fascists drew intellectually from German Idealism — but Sartre gives a more psychological explanation.  Both the desire to enjoy unearned (racial) privilege and the desire to believe in occult forces essentially boil down to the desire not to be tested.  One can fail tests.

If you have an invisible, magical essence that makes you special, however — that can’t be taken away by any inconvenient facts.

Cartel Thinking

The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective “, an account of a Chinese immigrant’s experiences at Cambridge, Goldman Sacks, and Stanford Business School, talks a fair bit about the mentality of seeking to live insulated from fair tests.

“In Communist China, I was taught that hard work would bring success. In the land of the American dream, I learned that success comes through good luck, the right slogans, and monitoring your own—and others’—emotions.”

When Puzhong makes a successful trade by accident at Goldman Sacks, he expects to be reprimanded for his mistake, but is instead rewarded. But “it was not enough to just be a good trader. It was also essential to be able to manage one’s boss, other colleagues, and those who report to them.”

In business school, he learns (amusingly enough) that the way one is supposed to express feelings in American elite culture seems a lot like falsifying them:

We talked about microaggressions and feelings and empathy and listening. Sometimes in class the professor would say things to me like “Puzhong, when Mary said that, I could see you were really feeling something,” or “Puzhong, I could see in your eyes that Peter’s story affected you.” And I would tell them I didn’t feel anything. I was quite confused.

One of the papers we studied mentioned that subjects are often not conscious of their own feelings when fully immersed in a situation. But body indicators such as heart rate would show whether the person is experiencing strong emotions. I thought that I generally didn’t have a lot of emotions and decided that this might be a good way for me to discover my hidden emotions that the professor kept asking about.

So I bought a heart rate monitor and checked my resting heart rate. Right around 78. And when the professor said to me in class “Puzhong, I can see that story brought up some emotions in you,” I rolled up my sleeve and checked my heart rate. It was about 77.  And so I said, “nope, no emotion.” The experiment seemed to confirm my prior belief: my heart rate hardly moved, even when I was criticized, though it did jump when I became excited or laughed.

This didn’t land well on some of my classmates. They felt I was not treating these matters with the seriousness that they deserved. The professor was very angry. My takeaway was that my interpersonal skills were so bad that I could easily offend people unintentionally, so I concluded that after graduation I should do something that involved as little human interaction as possible.

Puzhong is noticing that American elite businesspeople appear to be colluding rather than competing.  They’re not racing each other for profits, they’re signaling that they’re cozy insiders who will play nice and share the spoils with others who know the right buzzwords.  Cartel behavior, in other words.

I had always thought that things happen for reasons. My parents taught me that good people get rewarded while evil gets punished. My teachers at school taught me that if you work hard, you will succeed, and if you never try, you will surely fail.

If people are rewarded for reasons, then anyone who meets these publicly known criteria can gain rewards.  If rewards are given opaquely, then they can be safely restricted to existing insiders. Therefore, people who want to preserve cartel privilege have an interest in being mysterious and not making sense.

Applied Wrongology

I have never been an anti-Semite, for obvious reasons; I have never been a banker or MBA, either, and I like to think that racism is not particularly my vice.  But I do understand the longing for security.

It gets tiring to be tested all the time, to be subject to skepticism, to be second-guessed, to have expectations placed upon you.  It’s nerve-wracking to have to perform and worry that you’ll fail.  Merit is intimidating. Objectivity is daunting.

And, on the other hand, to float completely free, to have a space where you can just be, to feel the world is faintly gold-dusted and magical, to build castles in the air without any annoying people coming around to check on whether you’re being “productive” or whether the castles are, in fact, real…that would be lovely, wouldn’t it?  Doesn’t that seem more like the way life should naturally be?

And wouldn’t it be nice to be sure that nobody will ever come round to weigh and measure and count and judge?  Forever, no matter what?

I can’t, in sincerity, say people shouldn’t want that. It’s a very understandable thing to want, to be cut slack, to not be judged. At times I want it myself.

But Sartre’s anti-Semite only wants to be secure — he isn’t said to succeed.  Just because he wants to stop being human doesn’t mean he can get what he wants. Total security, and total absence of thought, is probably unattainable.

 

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28 thoughts on “Wrongology 101

  1. So by coincidence I recently told a friend of mine I’d write him a long thing explaining the “nerd mythology” that is “the nerds vs. the suits”; I’ll definitely cite this because I think this gets at a lot of it really well, thanks! (In reality I don’t actually think “suits” is a natural category but that’s another matter; you don’t even talk about that here in the first place, so. 😛 ) The sort of anti-Semite described here does seem to be more of a natural category, though, IMO; I think they’re basically what I’ve been calling “villagers” (not sure if that is a great term). But yeah the thing you talk about as “Asperger’s”, I’ve definitely noticed some people trying to make “nerd” a standard term for that phenomenon; that’s what I refer to it as since standard terminology is useful. It does have the risk of confusion with other meanings of the word, but in context it’s pretty clear I think…
    (A small formatting note, if you don’t mind: There are a number of stray linebreaks in this post. There’s also a quote mark facing the wrong way by “The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective” and one missing in the “they are a mob” paragraph.)

    • I don’t really follow the jump to business school and investment banking here from Sartre’s attributes of a mob. In my experience, I-bankers and traders are basically the exact opposite of insulated from fair tests. True, they are investing other people’s money, but often >50% of their income is tied directly to their measurable performance. Sartre describes anti-Semites as lazy, people-oriented anti-intellectuals who want to avoid taking any test they have a chance of losing. Wall Street bankers are generally extremely hard working money-oriented graduates from top tier universities who work in an incredibly competitive environment. I don’t see much in common there.

      • Traders are engaging in the most direct reality-testing there is. Managers in highly regulated industries aren’t. I suspect that some of the banking execs are more like the latter.

        Basically, things like “cronyism” or “monopoly” or “regulatory capture” are the bad guys in this picture. Remember that the textbook definition of fascism is a system of state-managed corporations.

      • I get what you’re saying and certainly collusion and regulatory capture are common in parts of the financial services industry. Off the top of my head, I can think of IPO pricing as being a good example of investment banks colluding. But I’m still not seeing how it all hangs together. Many of the people engaged in the collusive behavior and regulatory capture were previously reality-testing traders or worked 100 hour weeks for 10 years to hit that senior level. It doesn’t seem like they really display the traits listed above. Seems to me that the simplest explanation is that they’re very money-motivated, and cheating is an excellent way to make market beating returns.

        Or, it could be that I’m just offended by “I’ve never been an Anti-Semite… and I’ve never been an MBA, either”. Ouch…

  2. I’ve noticed that a somewhat frequent motivation within that group is not just a desire for security but a perception of a breakdown of truth-seeking/”having standards” norms, where others can get away with being mystics/barbarians and are even socially rewarded for it: “Other groups have cartelized, so why shouldn’t we?”, “Someone‘s going to have unearned privilege – better us than them”, etc.

      • I don’t think Sartre’s description really applies to the alt-right. Anti-Semites of Sartre’s day were socially respectable – his description leaves no room for moral courage. I’ve never heard of an alt-right protest that wasn’t heavily outnumbered by counter-protesters.

        Social justice types fit the bill much better. What they believe is respectably conventional. They define themselves in opposition to an enemy (white rural men, mostly). It’s not too uncommon to see a mob of them protesting something or other. The often fail at practical politics because their demands are lazy and emotional (I agree that Black Lives Matter, but how should that be implemented as policy?). Significant status comes from unchangeable characteristics (race, gender, etc) rather than from deeds.

        This isn’t to say that they’re always wrong; no cause is so wise that no fool follows it. Still, a person with the characteristics that Sartre describes could easily find a home on the social-justice left.

  3. Personally I find that Asperger’s is a useful concept for understanding myself. I’m pretty odd in ways that I hadn’t previously had a word for, and it’s helpful to know that there are other people like me and that advice written by or for them is often relevant to my life. And part of that is understanding my strengths and my limits; I do very well where logic and concentration are needed and very poorly where interpersonal sensitivity or team spirit is needed, so I choose my battles accordingly.

    But I’m hardly surprised if some neurotypicals are using Aspergians as an outgroup. In some ways we’re the perfect outgroup because we aren’t likely to care about or even perceive that we’re being vilified. Now that you mention it, I’m kind of aware that I probably should care about something like that in the same sense that I’m aware that I should probably save more for my retirement. It’s an abstract worry to me, not an emotional one.

  4. With respect to antisemitism: I have had to think a lot about Jewishness in recent years, because it turns out that Jewish power and influence in the America-centered modern West is absolutely massive, and yet somehow our media and intellectuals pay little attention to this. The consequences of that influence are for me highly ambiguous; there are vast Jewish contributions to culture that I cherish; but Jewish political passions (like communism in Russia and liberalism in America) seem to have had bad consequences.
    In any case, Sartre may make a few valid points about the psychology of antisemites, and also about the dilemmas facing Jews (or any minority that tries to assimilate), but he has his own agenda – a socialist revolution producing a classless society – and ultimately he has no use for a Jewish identity that would survive the revolution. So he ends up denying that there is *any* positive Jewish identity, in a way that both Jewish and anti-Jewish critics dislike. He turns the “Jewish question” into a version of society’s general problem with outsiders, which is why you can imagine applying his analysis to those other situations.

      • It’s Complicated.
        He doesn’t see any positive value in Judaism for its own sake; but he *does* think that it is correct for people to practice “identity politics” as a group when they are oppressed as a group, and therefore it makes sense for Jews to band together to oppose anti-Semitism. This isn’t enough “Jewish identity” to satisfy anyone who sees value in Jewish religion or tradition, but it is more than the “no group identity, everyone is an individual” thing that he ascribes to the “democrats.”

    • Also, if you think that the general problem with outsiders has the nature that Sartre attributes to antisemetism, doesn’t it seem to you to be entirely a problem with a specific sub-class of violent, territorial, lawless, entitled, parasitic insiders?

      • I only mean that Sartre took the situation of Jews in France, and described it very abstractly, as an insider/outsider, majority/minority situation. I certainly wouldn’t agree that his diagnostic template is valid for all such situations.

  5. I think one of the biggest drivers of this phenomenon is parenthood. The desire to see your children inherit the benefits of your position is universal, but children may not inherit their parents’ talents and usually don’t inherit their parents’ formative experiences. History is full of institutions that started off as meritocracies but gradually became hereditary.

    The inheritors, being born into the institutions, think of them as unchangeable facts of life. They focus their efforts on extracting benefits from the institutions and give little thought to ensuring the survival of the systems that sustains them. Eventually they (we) eat the institutions from the inside out.

  6. Interesting hypothesis. Having grown up neighbors with a neo-nazi gang, and also having spent a great deal of time on 4chan, I can confidently say that Sarte’s description has not lost any clarity nearly a century later. Yet I differ on the explanation for what we both perceive.

    For the most part, bullies are losers. Almost all the neo-nazis I grew up with were social outcasts for one reason or another, huddling together for companionship and acting fierce so that nobody would harass or bother them for whatever got them ostracized to begin with. Much like the Robber’s cave experiment, they defined themselves as punks and the opposite of whatever society wanted them to be. Want them to be politically correct? They get a swastika tattoo. Want them to respect god? They set a church on fire. They dealt drugs and had guns and pit bulls so they were feared (and thereby respected, at least as a threat, since they’ll never be respected on merits- they are forsaken). They had danger hair (dying your hair neon colors like a poisonous frog) and biker leather uniforms. This behavior is typical to a lot of gangs however. Tattoos (especially back in the 90’s) signal to the group you’re one of them- forsaking society in a permanent way. You wear the uniform- the gang colors. You engage in the savage behavior that you might have otherwise thought ill advised, but its part of the package and if you refuse now your loyalty to the gang comes into question. At this point saying (and doing) anti-semitic things is literally the politically correct thing to say- for that particular in-group.

    There’s a meme on 4chan right now- horseshoe theory- about how SJW’s and the Alt-right have some striking similarities. In particular, their metastasis. On 4chan they’ve grown ever more extreme- but its not because they’re growing more brazen to defy society. This is 4chan we’re talking about- it was always beyond the pale of propriety. Its because they’re witch-hunting their own heretics. Who is the most pure? Who is the most dedicated to “the cause”? They’re in a signalling war to see who has belongs the most to this gang of outcasts. And the person who is honest- who says “I hate jews, but I think blacks are ok” gets mocked and outcast from a group he joined because he was an outcast to begin with! Likewise the SJW who says “I strongly believe in feminism, but maybe we’re going too far doxxing Marvel Comics because they made Ms. Marvel a Muslim woman who wasn’t disabled in any way” is sure to get purged as the heretic she is.

    More evidence- are you familiar with Daryl Davis? A black man who befriends KKK members and converts them back to normal society. Its stupendously easy to pull people out of these cults if you give them a sincere community to join, and they trust the offer is stable and real. Most of them have a hard time imagining themselves ever fitting in with society again, but give them an out and they’ll take it. And notice I said “cult”- because like Scientology or Heaven’s Gate, they’re looking for people desperate to be a part of something. 4chan’s “redpill” alt-right recruits directly from the MRA/MGTOW board. Lonely depressed men who feel isolated. When the cartel or ISIS needs soldiers, it looks for men with nothing to lose, desperate for something to be a part of.

    Whether its a cult or a gang or “the cause”, its all the same dynamic. Signalling in-group allegiance. That is sufficient reason for somebody to want to be wrong- because they want to be politically correct to fit in. And if you’re a good comrade, you internalize the party line so that even in private you’d never dare say anything else. Any actor can tell you the best way to lie is to believe your own lies. To do that you have to silence the part of your brain that is critical, of course. And voila- we have very much the result Sarte described. Conformist, mob oriented bullies defined by their out-group who suppress their critical reasoning skills.

      • The group Sartre is describing is called out as owning property, as an essential feature. He is talking about NAZIs, the mainstream, (and their mainstream equivalent among French nationalists), not neo-NAZI outcasts. I’m sure the latter have some of the destructive properties of the nationalism of the rent-seeking privileged masses. That the latter resemble the former so closely is the critical point to pick up from Sartre’s. Guys with suits in finance investing OPM in conformity with conventionality and fashion. They aren’t an instance of the category Merchant, although there are traders who are in the same institution. They aren’t soldiers either, just a midling rank of Mafiosa, Made Men who couldn’t hold a line or pilot an airplane but who could totally, if they inherit German institutions, send a mass of others in a gang to March to their deaths across Asia, killing whatever they see.

    • When I was a kid in the Bible Belt, those guys were into satanism. A generation before me, they were communists. 99 percent of them will grow out of it without ever causing much trouble.

  7. A sound banker, alas! is not one who foresees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional and orthodox way along with his fellows, so that no one can really blame him.” – John Maynard Keynes

    Cross-posted from Don’t worry about the vase comments because equally relevant here.

  8. I can believe Sartre is talking about typical anti-Semites, but there are a few (I can think of Henry Ford and Wagner) with notable real-world accomplishments. I assume they could compartmentaized their thinking so that the sloppy stubbornness went into anti-Semitism and willingness to self-correct went into their work.

    You might be interested in Occidentalism, which is about a memeplex of anti-Semitism, hating cities and trade, despising women, hating sexual minorities, and probably one or two other things– it’s about wanting a society of traditional rural people ruled by elites. It’s actually a relatively modern invention.

    • Maybe some current incarnation in the Western world seems new, but anti-city/anti-trade has dominated humanity across time and space. The ancient Chinese peasant emperors destroyed commercial activity and cities very early on, because they saw them for the threat that they were – cities became a center of administration instead, and China did not develop rich commercial trade in the same way it cropped up in the West over and over. Similarly, feudal monarchs in the Early Middle Ages did their best to keep cities down and extract as much as they could from trade, and that worked for a long time (outside of Italy) until the emergence of the Dutch Republic in 80 years of fire and blood.

    • Thanks Nancy! I agree that Wagner is a bad fit for the claim ‘no accomplishments’ and hadn’t known that Ford’s record was as bad as it was. Sartre is trying to target a certain difficult to specify coalition and is taking ‘Antisemites’ as a tagline, but people can also be anti-law anarchists who identify Jews with law and want simple guild function without guild privileges, or pro-law anti-bankers who identify them with banking (I bet Ford and Wagner would get along terribly with one another).

      In those cases, the mix of corrupt law and banking was something to be terrified of at the time, and things we’re pretty confusing, but those are also instances of people who said things. Sartre is really concerned with people who don’t generate statements at all but only copy them.

    • Thanks Nancy! I agree that Wagner is a bad fit for the claim ‘no accomplishments’ and hadn’t known that Ford’s record was as bad as it was. Sartre is trying to target a certain difficult to specify coalition and is taking ‘Antisemites’ as a tagline, but people can also be anti-law anarchists who identify Jews with law and want simple guild function without guild privileges, or pro-law anti-bankers who identify them with banking (I bet Ford and Wagner would get along terribly with one another).

      In those cases, the mix of corrupt law and banking was something to be terrified of at the time, and things we’re pretty confusing, but those are also instances of people who said things. Sartre is really concerned with people who don’t generate statements at all but only copy them.

  9. But the anti-Semite wants a respite from responsibility, very badly. He wants to be done. He wants an end to trying altogether.

    This made me think about conspiracy theories.

    People very seldom believe in just one conspiracy. If you are a 9/11 Truther, it is likely that you will hold unorthodox views on JFK’s assassination, and the Sandy Hook school shooting, and Pizzagate. Rationalwiki refers to this as “crank magnetism” – there’s this sense where if you accept one theory, you have to accept all of them, and when they jam up or contradict each other (can Obama be both a Satanist and a Muslim?), conspiracists add convolutions and epicycles until all of them are true (Muslims are secretly Satanists).

    Why is this the case? The reason for believing in these theories seems to be the factor you’ve identified – freedom from unease and uncertainty. “Conspiracy theorists are, I submit, some of the last believers in an ordered universe.” When you point out Comet Ping Pong has no basement, it’s like you’re hacking away at their life support. If you can show that one conspiracy theory is false, maybe the others are also false. You’re re-introducing complexity back into the equation, and adding clouds to a perfect blue sky.

    It’s easy to sympathize. I probably believe in hundreds of wrong things, and knowing that doesn’t make me happy. I can see the appeal of a narrative as simple as “Zionist bankers control everything.”

    Of course, belief in conspiracy theories is also a big risk factor for being a neo-Nazi.

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