Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pseudo-Intellectual Wankery

I was perusing Conscientious Photographer today, as I know I ought to more often but don't, and was directed to No Caption Needed. More about that latter site shortly, but let me remark here that the title is misleading, since they seem to be in the business of providing rather excessive captions to photographs, presumably on the grounds that the photos need a caption after all.

From No Caption Needed, I was directed to that bastion of wankery, Reading The Pictures, which Lewis Bush also cites from time to time, which should give you the general thrust. So there's a little community of these people out there, it turns out. All with, based on their comment rate, about the same engagement as the blog you are currently reading. That is, very very low. Which, as we shall see, is a good thing.

Let us take a moment and examine the current head post on that last web site. Hello Orwell: On the Congressman’s Kid Who Dabbed Paul Ryan. Great start, a gratuitous reference to Orwell in the title, never explained or expanded upon. The reference to Orwell is pure dog whistle, signalling that we're going to get into some heavy police-state big brother shit (or was Big Brother Aldous Huxley or Yevgeny Zamyatin? It's likely that the author of this piece of shit neither knows nor cares).

This long pseudo-intellectual analysis wants to connect some sort of dots here, suggesting that the "dab" move at that moment "opened a channel from the halls of Congress to a strata of race, attitude and sensibility, as well as language, meme and symbol that largely defies the white, conservative ruling class" to which I can only respond "what the hell?" White liberals seem to think that "dabbing" is some sort of powerful and yet problematic move, like a Black Power salute.

The kid, being a 17 year old white american male certainly intended no such "channel opening", and RtP manages to stop short of claiming that he did, thankfully. But then, how is this magical channel to race, attitude, and all the rest opened? Are we, the viewer, supposed to make that connection? Obviously we cannot, unless RtP shows us the way, because it's an idiotic over-reading of the thing, so is it actually just RtP "opening the channel" here? If so, is this actually just an essay about itself?

Then there's a bunch of shit about how the GOP views the move as sacrilegious, as if the Democratic Senatorial Windbags are somehow more open to laughing these things off.

The whole piece is pseudo-academic posturing, which boils down to "the GOP sucks, hur hur hur" and reminds me of the classic high-school English Lit teacher (I had one of these) who finds allegories for sex and for Christ in absolutely everything.

It's bad analysis of photography, and it's even worse politics. The average person can recognize this sort of thing as BS instantly. This is exactly the sort of thing that the Intellectual Left Wing Elites gobble up with the joy and devotion that my dog eats cat shit (and let me tell you, my dog is devoted to that particular treat, horrible beast that she is). This sort of nonsense does nothing that isn't politically harmful.

Before we move on, let me remind you that I am one of those Intellectual Left Wing Elites. I differ from these people mainly in being less of an idiot.

Before I dig any further in to this, let's see another example this time from No Caption Needed: Fires, Floods, and Photos. Just for fun, let's break it down a paragraph at a time and see what it's actually saying.

Fires burn stuff up. Here is a picture.

Wildfires are the fault of man. Anthropogenic Global Warming, and other human activities.

I like small fires. Big fires are very photogenic, but they are sad because they burn stuff up.

Forest fires are actually necessary for forests but I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about how terrible fires are. They are terrible and, like all forces of nature, they don't respect personal property very much. Maybe we can learn something here?

Fires don't burn up rivers, or rocks, or air, or dirt, or clouds, or lots of other things, but I want to ever-so-cleverly segue to floods so lets stick to rivers. Fires don't burn up rivers.

Floods are also caused by global warming. Floods are sad, like fires, but different.

Floods are different from fires. Slower, and muddier.

Here is a picture of a woman drying out photos after a flood. I like saying "memory work" it sounds cool. Floods are sad.

Floods, like all other things that affect groups of people like fires, the economy, and rain, are both collective and personal experiences. After a flood, or any other kind of disaster, there is stuff to do to put things right.

There is something to learn from looking at pictures of floods and fires. Different things. I'm not going to tell you what either one is, though, because I don't know.

Yes, I am being sarcastic here, but that is literally what it says. It's like reading the thoughts of a 10 year old who has access to a good thesaurus. When you actually look at what it says, it says "Fires and floods are sad, and caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming" and then twice suggests that we can learn something without so much as hinting what, exactly, we can learn. The last paragraph, maybe, says we can learn that the planet is in danger yet worth saving? But it begins by saying that flood and fire would teach us different lessons, so which one is this, and where's the other one, if so? Also, I kind of knew that the planet was worth saving. I'm using this planet to live on. So is that even a lesson?

This piece seems to me to be, basically, Global Warming is terrible, it's burning all this shit up and flooding the rest! This is a hugely problematic statement. While Anthropogenic Global Warming is a real thing (fuck off, deniers, I won't even publish your retarded comments) but the consensus is that current flooding and fires and whatnot remain within prior normal bounds and should not be ascribed to Global Warming. Indeed, people have been putting out too damn many fires for the health of the environment, ditto controlling floods. For the present, the fire/flood problem isn't Global Warming, it's that people insist on building houses on flood plains, and maintaining picturesque forests where they ought to be radically trimming them down for fire management purposes. In future, the consensus is, it's likely to get a lot worse. Global Warming will, eventually, play a major role. Just not right now

Both RtP and NCN are basically 100% this sort of bullshit. Half-baked political commentary dressed up in pretend analysis of photographs. It is, essentially, identical to the sort of Fake News the authors would decry. While it's not quite the same as "Hillary Wants To Sell Your Organs To Mexico" it is nonetheless false commentaries dressed up in clothing designed to slip the commentary past the inattentive. It's "Republicans are Awful" and "Global Warming is Awful" and "Wars are Awful" served with a side of "Our Side Would Totally Put A Stop To It" which is absolutely untrue. The left wing is just as awful, and is just as in the pocket of the oligarchs whose interests are served by doing not very much about any of these problems.

Any plumber of average intelligence, if confronted by this sort of crap, knows it's BS. His or her instincts are spot on. Furthermore, the plumber is insulted by the pseudo-intellectual elitist tone of the thing, and goes and votes for Donald Trump, or Brexit, because, god damn it he is sick of these wonks in their ivory towers turning (or attempting to turn) this sort of shoddy thinking into endowed chairs and other cushy berths from which to belch.

In short, RtP and NCN and Lewis Bush are precisely the kind of thing that so disenchanted the Average Bloke that he voted for crazy things, just to shut these idiots up. Which didn't work, because the idiots are convinced that if they just double-down, their dumb strategy ought to work.

The hell of it is that I am absolutely on the same side as these idiots. I agree with basically all of the same things, although we probably differ on the details. Mostly I want to punch them in the face until they stop it, but otherwise we're blood brothers.


  1. Love your final paragraph... Family, eh?

    I felt very much the same about the brief time I subscribed to "N+1". "Intellectual left wing elite" is very much a self-declared position, I feel, describing nothing much. "Emo politics" may be nearer the mark.



  2. One of my favourite lines from Bulgarkov, from memory, "One cannot deny that even amongst the intelligentsia are some very clever people".