Saturday, January 18, 2014


The more I think about...well, everything, the more overwhelming becomes the realization that it's all of a piece: a single process operating to create unambiguous battle lines so the serious shooting can begin.

Allow me to start by citing an exceptionally insightful piece from Ace of Spades. Please read it all. The conclusion is what lit my boiler this fine morning. Set it aside; we'll come back to it soon enough.

Virtually everyone is touched at some point by the arrogance of an expert. I have to saw one in half about once a month, but for a reason tangential to Ace's analysis: their readiness to assert "expertise" in fields other than their own. Arthur Herzog skewered this tendency in his 1973 classic The B.S. Factor:

The thirst for answers in a difficult world has brought about the rise of Anything (or Everything) Authorities. The Anything Authority is one whose credentials in one field are taken as valid for others -- sometimes many others....

The trouble with an Anything Authority is not that he takes a position or works for a cause, but that he seldom seems to apply the same standards of research and documentation to the field in which he is not an expert as he would to his own....

Psychiatrists are a special breed of Anything Authorities because their field is anything (or almost) in the first place....

When an Anything Authority becomes successful, he joins the Permanent Rotating Panel Show and appears on television programs, which pay him....the Anything Authority must never be stuck for an answer. Glibness helps, and so does the fact that many emcees do not know the hard questions to ask.

If the above passage has you thinking of Fox News regular Dr. Charles Krauthammer, you're not alone.

The progression is plain:

  1. Acquisition of a credential of some kind, often an academic one.
  2. Practice in one's field.
  3. Acquisition of notoriety in consequence of some publicized event.
  4. Interest in one's thinking from persons other than one's fellow specialists.
  5. Increasing boldness, in part due to sustained attention from laymen and journalists.
  6. Ascent to Anything Authority status.
  7. Television gigs and book tours.

The strong relationship between the Anything Authority and major figures in national politics follows automatically.

It might not be perfectly obvious (a break from tradition here at Liberty's Torch), but any man who bids for a high political office must present himself to the public as a sort of Anything Authority: i.e., one who "has the answers" to a wide range of questions concerning the issues most prominent in political discourse. As distasteful as it sounds, arrogance is therefore a qualification for office. He who lacks the glibness and certitude required will be dismissed by a large fraction of the voting public. Seldom does the less glib, less arrogant of two candidates prevail in an electoral showdown.

And of course, that glibness and arrogance carries over to one's tenure in office. Here's a perfectly lovely example from Andrew Cuomo, currently the governor of New York:

You have a schism within the Republican Party. … They’re searching to define their soul, that’s what’s going on. Is the Republican party in this state a moderate party or is it an extreme conservative party? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. It’s a mirror of what’s going on in Washington. The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.

…You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

If they’re moderate Republicans like in the Senate right now, who control the Senate — moderate Republicans have a place in their state. George Pataki was governor of this state as a moderate Republican; but not what you’re hearing from them on the far right.”

Yes, you read it correctly: Cuomo, a Democrat, has taken it upon himself to tell the Republican Party of New York whom it may and may not have as members. Indeed, he's told those of us New Yorkers who disagree with him that we don't belong in "his" state! We once heard this sort of thing from Big Daddy Mario, who also treated the state as his personal fiefdom. Clearly, the apple fell very close to the tree.

What's ultimately most important is the reflexive acceptance of this sort of pol-speak: Cuomo II, whose background before attaining public office is notably lacking in any sort of accomplishment, has not been backhanded across the chops for his arrogance by any figure of note on the Right. In part, that's out of distaste for the possibility of reprisal, but in equal or greater part it's because the practice of presenting oneself as an unquestionable Anything Authority has become established for officials at the gubernatorial level and above.

The "expert" no longer needs to have demonstrated "expertise" of any sort; all he needs to do is win an election.

The practice of promoting themselves as Anything Authorities compels politicians to become vengeful toward anyone who suggests that there are flaws in their reasoning, evidence, candor, or veracity:

After Benghazi on 9/11/2012, the Obama administration tried very hard to discourage Fox News Channel from reporting on it. The effort was obstruction – pure and simple.

They tried to prevent the truth from coming out and the Administration tried just about everything to discourage Fox from investigating and reporting.

All the American people wanted, and all I ever wanted, was just the facts – why did 4 Americans die? What happened?

Please read the entire article. Greta Van Susteren, an accomplished and painfully thorough journalist, is one of the very few persons anywhere in the media who has aggressively prosecuted the investigation of the Benghazi attack. The Obama Administration perceived -- correctly -- that her efforts were a danger to their "narrative." Administration operatives did everything possible within the law to inhibit her and her staffers from continuing onward. Given the viciousness the Obamunists have displayed to date, the mind recoils from what might have happened to her and hers, were the United States not steeped in a tradition of press freedom that reaches back to John Peter Zenger.

Be warned: Pressure has mounted, always from the Left, to classify ever more varieties of expression as "hate speech," and therefore not protected by the First Amendment. The Democrats want to study "Internet hate speech," no doubt with an eye toward making it legally actionable as a "proximate cause" for violence. Such an effort will inevitably expand to embrace reportage and opinion writing that dissents from the "official line."

Let's return to the conclusion of Ace's essay:

Laymen know that "all professions are a conspiracy against the laity."

And laymen also know something else: In a democracy, the common citizen must decided upon the course of the nation, whether the citizenry is right or wrong about it.

The layman resents the never-ending agitation for a "democracy" in which all important decisions are made by a Council of Experts (generally government bureaucrats and academic gadflies with their own very serious bias issues) and then simply announced to the public.

In all these ways, the layman suspects he is being bullied into taking a position he does not favor by the invocation of the word "expert," and not just bullied-- often, he feels like he is being straight-up conned.

I actually do respect knowledge and expertise. And I do think it is a lamentable thing that this nation now holds such things in lesser respect than they once did.

But the self-declared experts must also take some of the blame for this state of affairs.

You only get to lie to someone so many times before he stops listening to you entirely.

And you don't need to be an expert to know that.

Exactly. It is in the nature of expertise that it must admit to both its fallibility and its limits. The "expert" who postures as though he cannot be wrong will sooner or later come to grief -- often by the actions of competitors in his field. When an "expert" assumes the mantle of an Anything Authority, his need to protect his reputation as such climbs to the heights. The pinnacle is occupied by public officials: Anything Authorities who become political authorities. At that altitude, their pose of unbounded expertise, if not shielded by credible threats of vengeance, self-ruptures almost immediately. It only takes one egregious mistake, and most officials make that many in their oaths of office.

The rest is an exercise for the reader.


Anonymous said...

If you have children, raise children or take care of children you will discover that they have the ability to detect if you are lying or trying to distract them from something well beyond what you would have guessed possible prior to your extensive experience with them. At first you think it might just be coincidence or luck or chance, but soon you come to udnerstand that humans are very adept at understanding humans. Over time as we become adults we have many distractions in our life and we ignore these natural skills and aren't as acutely aware of them as we should be. But they are still there. Almost anyone can tell when they are being lied to or distracted from something they don't want you to see. It is human to read this in a persons face or voice or choice of words or body language and so much more. So while we may not be "experts" in a field we can often tell when the "expert" is winging it or lying or bluffing or trying too hard to prove his point. We may not automatically know the truth but we know the lie. So how then do they get away with it so often? Mostly because if someone lies and it benefits me I'm not oly not going to expose him I'm going to be in the army trying to discredit those who are exposing the lie. Then there are the many who are either too busy livng their life, or no longer pay attention to this "spidey sense" tingle or simply see no reason to fight "city hall". But none of this makes the lie true. On the other side of this coin is the expert who by virtue of being an expert spends his time with like minded people and has his beliefs and infallibility reinforced on a regular basis and over time tells more transparent lies and gets away with it until he too believes the lie and feels confident to go on TV with no clothes and insist those who say the king is naked simply don't know what they are talking about. Almost anyone who speaks for the Democrats is guility of this. Who among us was able to watch Debbie Wasserman Shultz on TV during the last presidential candidacy without rolling their eyes and wondering if she was simply crazy or pathological or both. She made the Clinton's look honest and that is not easy. The bottom line is you don't have to be an "expert" to know when an "expert" is full of shit.

Joseph said...

From "Major Barbara" by George Bernard Shaw:

"He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career."

Joseph P. Martino said...

Enjoyed the article. Just one comment. G. B. Shaw stated that all professions are conspiracies AGAINST the laity, not OF the laity.