…pattern matching…it’s…according to, like, a whole bunch of academic types of the sort who need to spend a lot of money on studies so when they say something that seems obvious it means more than it does if it’s just some idiot like me…a thing the human brain is set up to try to do…so much so that sometimes we see patterns that aren’t there & are overly credulous about utter nonsense like that whole qanon thing…but…you have to hand it to the ol’ cognitive dissonance…that is one heady brew, apparently…since it seems to blind folks to some really obvious patterns you’d think they’d be on the lookout for
Jones was one of two expelled lawmakers. On Wednesday, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners returned his colleague Justin Pearson, also in his late 20s, back to the Tennessee House, thus ending Pearson’s days-long expulsion. Both young men now possess national profiles and are heavily favored to win re-election to their seats. Tennessee Republicans’ decision to throw them both out of the House backfired. It was punitive. It was performative. And it was not merely ineffective, it actively undermined the goals of the Republican House majority.
In other words, the moment represented a perfect illustration of how Trumpism works in the G.O.P. And by “Trumpism” I don’t mean personal dedication to Donald Trump, but rather to the ethos he’s cultivated within the party.
…feels like “trumpism” could otherwise be defined as…I dunno…”blind arrogance combined with high doses of self-destructive stupidity & a general willingness to flout the spirit of the law in increasingly unsubtle fashion”…& that last bit could be a sign of increasing desperation…or just a consequence of having to up the dosage to get the necessary dopamine hit firing off among the faithful…don’t think the flip-side of “the first hit’s free” was one of biggie’s 10 crack commandments…but…c’mon boys…it’s like you didn’t even try to think about where you were heading with this stuff
While Trumpism is a complex phenomenon, there are three ideas or principles that are consistently present: First, that before Trump the G.O.P. was a political doormat, helplessly walked over by Democrats time and again. Second, that we live in a state of cultural emergency where the right has lost everywhere and must turn to politics to reverse this cultural momentum. And third, that in this state of emergency, all conservatives must rally together. There can be no enemies to the right.
Add these three ideas together, and you have a near-perfect formula for extremism and authoritarianism.
Let’s plug these principles back into my home state of Tennessee. What does it mean if a movement is convinced that its party has been weak and impotent? It means that “normal” politics is seen as a sign of weakness. In Tennessee, for example, in a more normal political moment, the Democratic lawmakers’ brief interruption of House business would have merited censure, or perhaps a suspension of committee assignments. But in the new world, “normal” is deemed weak. It’s imperative to be tough. The more punitive you are, the more you’ve signaled that this isn’t your dad’s G.O.P.
The mistaken Republican belief that the party was ineffective before Trump is bad enough, but it’s made incalculably worse by the Trumpist right’s abandonment of limited government politics in favor of embracing an expansive view of state power that views right-wing politics as the last, best hope for a culture in otherwise irreversible decline.
In the Trumpist narrative, the G.O.P.’s previous weakness means that the so-called woke left essentially runs everything. It commands the heights of culture, of business and of education. It’s even making inroads into the military. Republicans who hamstring themselves with a limited government philosophy are on a fool’s errand. Political power must be wielded to bring the left in line.
Let’s take, for example, a “statement of principles” of national conservatism signed by a host of leading figures on the right. Here’s part of what it has to say about “God and Public Religion” (emphasis added):https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/13/opinion/tennessee-trump-maga-justin-jones-pearson.html
The Bible should be read as the first among the sources of a shared Western civilization in schools and universities, and as the rightful inheritance of believers and nonbelievers alike. Where a Christian majority exists, public life should be rooted in Christianity and its moral vision, which should be honored by the state and other institutions both public and private. At the same time, Jews and other religious minorities are to be protected in the observance of their own traditions, in the free governance of their communal institutions, and in all matters pertaining to the rearing and education of their children. Adult individuals should be protected from religious or ideological coercion in their private lives and in their homes.
…over-reach…you could be forgiven for thinking that might seem to be the common denominator
Some four decades and two chief justices ago, Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong published “The Brethren,” an unusual look inside the politics — especially the office politics — of the Supreme Court. The book’s novelty, and much of the criticism it elicited when it was published in 1979, resulted from the authors’ treatment of the high court as just one more Washington institution. The book exposed rivalries among the justices and self-importance among the clerks, as well as the robe-twisting that shaped major decisions on school busing, the Pentagon Papers, abortion rights and the Nixon tapes.
Joan Biskupic’s new book on the high court, “Nine Black Robes,” is more analytical, less focused on insider details than on how the ideological divides of the Trump era are apparent in the decisions and demeanor of the high court. Still, it is hard to read “Nine Black Robes” without thinking about “The Brethren.” Woodward and Armstrong show how politicking inside the court led to the ascent of a moderate faction between the liberals of the Earl Warren court and the Nixon-era conservative wing. Biskupic shows how the politics surrounding the court leading to President Donald Trump’s three appointments has produced a realignment in which the standard liberal-moderate-conservative lines no longer define the institution. What matters most now are the divides among the conservative justices, as they ponder how far they will go.
The justices in Biskupic’s account repeatedly assert that the court is not politicized. “My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett declared in a speech in 2021. (She was speaking, incidentally, at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center.) “The last thing that the court should do is to look as polarized as every other institution in America,” Justice Elena Kagan said in a 2019 speech. “The only way to be seen as not that — is not to be that.” Ever the institutionalist, Chief Justice John Roberts contrasted the court’s work to that of the other branches. “What I would like to do, briefly, is emphasize how the judicial branch is — how it must be — very different,” he said shortly after the indelible confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. “We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle, we do not caucus in separate rooms, we do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation.”
How the judicial branch is — how it must be — very different. Roberts’s phrasing seems to acknowledge that he is stating a hope as much as fact. The Supreme Court regarding itself as apolitical is a bit like the Senate still considering itself the world’s greatest deliberative body — that is, somewhere between aspiration and self-delusion. Even though politics and ideology divided the court well before Trump sat in the Oval Office, Biskupic writes, “the Trump presidency and the forceful influence of his three Supreme Court appointees propelled the judiciary into a new period of polarization.”
…can someone explain to me which of my various disastrous choices in life it most likely was that has meant I don’t get a check from anyone for saying things that seem obvious to just about everyone? …only I feel like I missed a memo or something…anyway
An institution less rooted in the law than in the personalities and politics of the justices is very much how Biskupic depicts the court. Before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Roberts had already become the new “ideological center” of the institution. In mid-2019, she writes, “there was still some pretense that the two ideological camps were trying to work together.”
But when Barrett became Trump’s third appointee in late 2020, giving the conservatives a six-vote majority, the longer-serving justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were “emboldened by the ascendant conservatism,” Biskupic writes. “Joined by the Trump appointees, they echoed the former president’s sense of aggrievement on culture war issues, from abortion rights to vaccine mandates. Their time had come.” (Much as with Trump voters, “grievance” is the obligatory reference when describing conservative justices. Biskupic claims that Alito, for one, sounds “perpetually aggrieved” and wears a “heavy cloak of grievance.” Perhaps the cloak fits under the robe.)
Biskupic, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and biographer of four current and past justices, dissects the personalities on the court. Justice Thomas, previously on the “ideological fringe” and often alone in his dissents, is now in the “vanguard” of the conservative supermajority: “Both he and Alito were only in their early 70s, but they felt a sense of urgency, as if their time were limited.” Justice Kavanaugh, meanwhile, comes off as painfully self-conscious, struggling to reconcile “his allegiance to conservative backers and his desire for acceptance among the legal elites who shunned him after his scandalous 2018 Senate hearings.” (Biskupic points out that Kavanaugh at times adds “appeasing passages” to his opinions and dissents, just to signal that he’s not a bad guy.)
So, when a chapter in “Nine Black Robes” is titled “The Triumvirate,” a reader might assume that it signals a discussion of the three Trump-appointed justices, or perhaps of some powerful new coalition on the court. Instead, it concerns a trio that has wielded power over the court from outside: Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; Don McGahn, a White House counsel under Trump; and Leonard Leo, the conservative legal activist and a former vice president of the Federalist Society. “The three men understood the importance of the federal courts to a long-term policy agenda, from business interests to individual rights,” Biskupic writes, and they sought “jurists appointed ostensibly as neutral arbiters but who in reality held to their own ideologies.”
Each contributed to the same cause from his respective perch. McConnell blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, a move he later called “the most consequential decision of my career.” McGahn shepherded Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh onto the court and, anticipating an eventual promotion, positioned Amy Coney Barrett onto the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Leo, skilled in vetting judicial nominees for ideological purity and reliability, worked with McGahn and others to assemble the list of potential Supreme Court nominees that Trump, in a brilliant effort to reassure Christian conservatives, released in May 2016. Indeed, it is a testament to Leo’s influence — and that of the Federalist Society — that he makes a cameo in the recent ProPublica report about Justice Thomas’s luxury vacations funded by a billionaire Republican donor. Inside the donor’s private lakeside resort in upstate New York there is a painting of Thomas relaxing with the donor and a few other guests. Sitting across from the justice? Leonard Leo.
[…] (“There is a coherent plan here, where actually the judicial selection and the deregulatory effort are really the flip side of the same coin,” McGahn told the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2018.) And Biskupic notes how, in their opinions, concurrences and dissents, the justices don’t just disagree over the finer points of legal analysis, but also assail one another’s motives. In a case involving policing, Gorsuch suggested that his colleagues were being deferential to Black Lives Matter activists, while in a case over sentencing of juveniles, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asserted that Kavanaugh was “fooling no one” with his “egregious” interpretation of past decisions.
Gorsuch regards himself as a textualist in the mold of Antonin Scalia, but his decision did not sit well with another Scalia devotee on the court. “No one should be fooled,” Alito said in a dissent. “The court’s opinion is like a pirate ship. It sails under a textualist flag, but what it actually represents is a theory of statutory interpretation that Justice Scalia excoriated — the theory that courts should ‘update’ old statutes so that they better reflect the current values of society.” According to Alito, Scalia “would have been in disbelief that the Congress of 1964 would have enacted a statute covering L.G.B.T.Q. interests,” Biskupic writes. Gorsuch, no slouch in the Scalia Studies Department, responded by citing a 1998 case in which Scalia had written that a statutory prohibition can “often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils.”
Biskupic offers an astute assessment of her own on how to interpret Scalia. At a Federalist Society meeting at the University of Chicago in the early 1980s, Scalia spoke of the power of like-minded people coming together with a singular, common purpose. The law professor and future justice quoted Federalist 49, written by James Madison: “The reason of man, like man himself, is timid and cautious when left alone, and acquires firmness and confidence in proportion to the number with which it is associated.” Scalia mentioned that episode to Biskupic when she interviewed him for a 2009 biography, and he emphasized the loneliness of campus conservatism and the importance of intellectual fellowship.
“Rereading that Scalia comment more than a decade and a half later,” Biskupic writes, “I am struck by how much it speaks to the potency of a six-justice majority over that of a five-justice bloc. The numbers have given the right wing a new confidence, beyond a single extra vote, to reconsider and overturn a half-century of rights and regulations.” A conservative supermajority doesn’t just affect the direction of the court. It also affects how far in that direction that majority might venture.https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/13/opinion/supreme-court-nine-black-robes-biskupic.html
…what’s that thing people like to say? …no one is above the law?
The former president filed his disclosure after requesting multiple extensions. He had been warned that he would face fines if he failed to file within 30 days of a March 16 deadline.
Here are six takeaways from the 101-page filing.
The disclosure valued the parent company of Truth Social, the former president’s social media platform and personal megaphone, at between $5 million and $25 million. That reported value for the parent company, Trump Media & Technology Group, was considerably less than the potential $9 billion valuation for the company when it announced a merger in October 2021 with a cash-rich special purpose acquisition company called Digital World Acquisition Company.
…look…I know the guy has considerable form when it comes to quoting high or low depending on the valuation he thinks serves his interests…but…I’ll take my laughs where I can find ’em
The merger deal has been held up by dual investigations by federal prosecutors and securities regulators, causing the stock of Digital World to tumble from a high of $97 a share to its current price of $13.10 a share. Still, if the deal is ever completed, it will bring at least $300 million in badly needed cash to Trump Media and potentially increase Mr. Trump’s paper wealth by a considerable amount. And Mr. Trump stands to get 70 million shares.
The deadline for Trump Media and Digital World to complete the merger is early September. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which is investigating events surrounding the proposed merger along with federal prosecutors, has yet to sign off on the deal.
The filing also showed that Mr. Trump, who is listed as chairman of Trump Media, owns 90 percent of the company. The filing does not identify the owners of the other 10 percent of the company. The company’s chief executive is Devin Nunes, the former Republican congressman from California.
Mr. Trump’s new financial disclosure states that the company he created for the NFT project, CIC Digital LLC, had between $100,001 and $1 million in income. But because the filing cuts off on Dec. 15 — the exact day that Trump Cards began trading — it was unclear how much of the early sales of the NFTs was included.
Public data on cryptocurrency trading shows that 44,000 of the Trump Cards were sold, at $99 apiece, in the first 24 hours of trading. In addition, numerous cards were sold on the secondary market on Dec. 15, each of which would net a royalty of 10 percent under terms of the offering.
One executive said the income listed in the financial report did not reflect much of the money Mr. Trump has made in NFT sales. Overall, several million dollars of Trump NFTs have been sold, the executive said, with the bulk of the gross sales going to Mr. Trump under terms of the deal.
Since leaving office, Mr. Trump has paid off six outstanding loans, including ones valued at more than $50 million on Trump Tower in New York and Trump Doral, a golf club outside Miami that has been his family company’s single-biggest revenue-generating property.
He also took out new loans, both from Axos Bank and totaling more than $50 million each, on the Trump Tower and Doral properties.
He also paid off a loan valued at more than $50 million on Trump Old Post Office, the Washington hotel he sold last year. Most of the loans he had received from Deutsche Bank, which once totaled more than $295 million, have now been paid off, leaving only about $45 million still owed to the bank, which was once a major lender to Mr. Trump.
In total, Mr. Trump listed more than $200 million in debts.
The financial disclosure shows the first payments to Mr. Trump for a new deal backed by a Saudi Arabia-based real estate investment firm to build a new golf and hotel complex in Oman. The payments so far are listed simply as worth more than $5 million.
The former first lady incorporated one company, MKT World LLC, in 2021, using the same address as Trump International Golf Club, according to Florida Department of State records. The company reported earning royalties of between $1 million and $5 million.
Mr. Trump’s financial disclosures were closely tracked during his first White House run and his presidency. The filings provided notable insights about the effect that holding office had on his wealth. And while much of his income and assets were reported only in wide ranges, Mr. Trump had previously reported specific amounts of income from certain properties.
That all changed in his latest filing.
This time, all of Mr. Trump’s income was reported in broad ranges — which is all that the federal law requires.https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/14/us/politics/trump-personal-financial-disclosure.html
The disclosure shows a much more extensive list of individual stock and bond holdings by Mr. Trump, through various investment accounts, totaling several hundred million dollars in additional funds invested, based on the value ranges provided. The filing lists holdings in hundreds of stocks and bonds, including oil and gas, electric utilities, banks, health care, pharmaceutical companies, military contractors and many other sectors.
…financial disclosures…that mostly seem to disclose that somebody’s hiding something they know they shouldn’t have done…sounds…familiar?
The long list of comforts provided to Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni, was shocking mainly in its rococo extravagance. Nine days of island cruising in Indonesia on a fully staffed superyacht. Regular flights on a private jet. Summers at a private resort in the Adirondacks, and every dollar of it paid by Harlan Crow, a real estate baron from Texas who has spent millions for decades to elect Republicans and on efforts to push the judiciary to the right.
None of it was on the justice’s annual financial disclosure form. Neither was a payment of $133,363 that Mr. Crow made to Mr. Thomas and his family in 2014 in exchange for three properties in Savannah, Ga., including the house where the justice’s mother has lived, ProPublica reported on Thursday. Mr. Crow said he bought the real estate in order to create a Clarence Thomas museum one day. Experts said the failure to disclose the sale or the free trips was a clear violation of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which was intended to apply to all government employees and requires disclosure of real estate transactions and most gifts. Each branch of government was given considerable leeway in determining how it would comply with the law, and court critics have long said that the Supreme Court’s compliance was the weakest of any federal government body.
Failing to disclose gifts and transactions is only one part of the problem, though. The gifts that many justices have disclosed in full or in part over the years are often just as damaging to the court’s reputation as those they did not fully disclose. Justice Antonin Scalia took at least 258 subsidized trips while on the court, often to distant destinations, all paid for by private donors, some of which were at least partially disclosed. (He often tacked hunting trips onto trips to give speeches, but disclosed only the speeches.) He died in 2016 while staying in a luxurious Texas hunting lodge owned by John Poindexter, a wealthy businessman whose company had legal matters before the court; that trip was never officially disclosed. Justice Stephen Breyer took at least 225 subsidized trips from 2004 to 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, including trips to Europe, Japan, India and Hawaii. One was a trip to Nantucket paid for by David Rubenstein, a private equity mogul.
Organizers of these events have always vociferously denied that any influence peddling is taking place during casual social conversation. Similarly, Mr. Crow told ProPublica that the hospitality he provided was no different from what he has offered to other “dear friends” over the years, that the Thomases had never asked for it and that no court business was ever discussed. Justice Thomas made a similar point in his statement.
No matter what was discussed, the justices should avoid any appearance of trading access for gifts or becoming too close to people who want to promote their own interests. Mr. Crow’s money, for example, was used to arrange meetings at his resort between Justice Thomas and Leonard Leo, a leader of The Federalist Society, the principal organization dedicated to placing conservative jurists up and down the federal bench. Executives of corporations including Verizon and PricewaterhouseCoopers were also present at the resort at the same time as the justice, ProPublica reported.
No member of Congress or the executive branch is permitted to accept a single free cruise or flight without disclosing it. Lower-court federal judges are subject to gift limits and full disclosure rules as set out in the Judicial Conference regulations on gifts, but Chief Justice John Roberts has repeatedly said the conference’s rules do not apply to the Supreme Court. It remains “the least accountable part of our government,” as the watchdog organization Fix the Court has been saying for years.https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/14/opinion/editorials/clarence-thomas-trips-supreme-court.html
A better solution is a bill introduced by Senator Whitehouse, chairman of the Senate Judiciary courts subcommittee, which would require the court to adopt a code of conduct with disclosure rules that are at least as rigorous as those imposed on members of Congress. Justices would also have to establish clear rules about when they recuse themselves from cases and issue written statements about such recusals. Currently, they usually recuse themselves without explaining why and often do not recuse themselves when they should, as Justice Elena Kagan failed to do in a 2021 case in which she had played an earlier role as solicitor general. (After an outside observer noticed the error, the court issued a statement saying the error was inadvertent.)
The Supreme Court could eliminate any impression that it can be seduced by oligarchical wealth by adopting the kinds of gift limits that apply to members of Congress and other federal employees. Senators cannot accept gifts (including hospitality) worth more than $50, or more than $100 from a single source in a year. They need advance permission from an ethics committee before accepting gifts from personal friends worth more than $250. Free lodging can be accepted in someone’s personal residence if the owner is not a lobbyist. House rules are similar.
In the meantime, as a sign that they take ethical lapses seriously, members of Congress need to investigate the news about Justice Thomas’s long financial relationship with Mr. Crow to determine the precise nature of the gifts and whether their secrecy violated federal ethics law. If Chief Justice Roberts doesn’t conduct a court investigation of the matter, the Senate Judiciary Committee should call on both Justice Thomas and Mr. Crow to testify. It will take effort and resolve from all branches of government to repair the tarnished reputation of the nation’s highest court, but the stakes are far too high to continue ignoring it.
…yeah…about that…it feels like maybe it isn’t really being ignored…so much as…nobody seems to have figured out how something gets done about it?
It is, to most people, jarring to see Nazi paraphernalia in the wild (versus, for example, in a World War II museum). And it is alarming to learn that one such collector of Nazi paraphernalia is a close friend of a Supreme Court justice and has strong ties to conservative media and the conservative movement. It is thanks to those ties, in fact, that Crow saw no shortage of defenders when news of his collection broke to the wider world.
“Harlan Crow is a deeply honorable, decent, and patriotic person,” said Jonah Goldberg, the editor in chief of The Dispatch, on Twitter. Defending Crow’s “garden of evil,” Goldberg said that it’s “not a tribute to evil or something to be mocked. It’s an attempt” to “commemorate the horrors of the 20th century in the spirit of ‘never again.’” Crow, The Dispatch noted, is a minority investor in the publication.
…only a minority investor, mind…so…couldn’t possibly have any…whatchamacallit…influence?
…nah…couldn’t be that
“Harlan Crow surely has enemies but, as far as I can tell, they consist exclusively of people who don’t know him,” Charles Murray said on Twitter. “Everyone who does know him may disagree with him on some issue, but they universally recognize his decency, integrity, and kindness.” Murray, who is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is a close friend of Crow’s; Crow is also a member of the board of trustees at A.E.I.https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/14/opinion/harlan-crow-clarence-thomas-gifts-collections.html
In reading these defenses of Crow, including this one by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic (“Crow’s politics are not mine. But in the matter of his pastimes, he is blameless.”), I was struck by how each defender takes the billionaire’s rationalization as his own. Each one seems to accept, without question, that an enemy of tyranny would keep mementos of the tyrants to remind himself of his hatred. Most people go to museums and sculpture gardens for peace, enrichment and quiet contemplation. Harlan Crow, by his own testimony and according to his defenders, goes to get angry.
Public memory is real. The controversy over Confederate statues was a conflict over those we remember and those we leave to the past. For all the arguments about the intrinsic value of these objects, one thing was clear, even obvious, to everyone involved. A monument to Robert E. Lee stood for Robert E. Lee. It was a monument to his life, his values and his cause. Or put another way, it was not a monument to the Union dead or a memorial to the enslaved.
Even in the privacy of your own home, it does not make sense to honor victims of tyranny with statues of the tyrants or knickknacks from their regimes. How does a signed copy of “Mein Kampf” speak to the horrors of Nazism? How does a “resolute” statue of Stalin capture the misery of the gulag or the murderous brutality of his rule?
…nah…it’ll just be one of them harmless coincidences you hear about
The term “coincidence” covers a wide range of phenomena, from the cosmic (in a total solar eclipse, the disc of the moon and the disc of the sun, by sheer chance, appear to have precisely the same diameter) to the personal and parochial (my granddaughter has the same birthday as my late wife). On the human, experiential, scale, a broad distinction can be drawn between serendipity – timely, but unplanned, discoveries or development of events – and what the 20th-century Lamarckian biologist and coincidence collector Paul Kammerer called seriality, which he defined as “a lawful recurrence of the same or similar things or events … in time and space”.
It’s a state of mind resembling apophenia – a tendency to perceive meaningful, and usually sinister, links between unrelated events – which is a common prelude to the emergence of psychotic delusions. Individual differences may play a part in the experience of such coincidences. Schizotypy is a dimension of personality characterised by experiences that in some ways echo, in muted form, the symptoms of psychosis, including magical ideation and paranormal belief. There is evidence to suggest that people who score high on measures of schizotypy may also be more prone to experiencing meaningful coincidences and magical thinking. Perhaps schizotypal individuals are also more powerfully affected by coincidence. Someone scoring high on measures of schizotypy would perhaps be more spooked by a death dream than I (a low scorer) was.
Kammerer’s book Das Gesetz der Serie (1919), or The Law of Seriality, contains 100 samples of coincidences that he classifies in terms of typology, morphology, power and so on, with, as Koestler puts it, “the meticulousness of a zoologist devoted to taxonomy”. Kammerer’s big idea is that, alongside causality, there is an acausal principle at work in the universe, which, as Koestler puts it, “acts selectively to bring similar configurations together in space and time”. Kammerer sums things up as follows: “We thus arrive at the image of a world-mosaic or cosmic kaleidoscope, which, in spite of constant shufflings and rearrangements, also takes care of bringing like and like together.” Albert Einstein, for one, took Kammerer seriously, describing his book as “original and by no means absurd”.
The theory of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, proposed by Jung, follows a similar line. It took shape over several decades through a confluence of ideas streaming in from philosophy, physics, the occult and, not least, from the wellsprings of magical thinking that bubbled in the depths of Jung’s own prodigiously creative and, at times, near-psychotic mind. Certain coincidences, he suggests, are not merely a random coming-together of unrelated events. They are connected acausally by virtue of their meaning. Synchronicity was the “acausal connecting principle”.
Pauli turned for help to Jung, who happened to live nearby. His therapy involved the recording of dreams, a task at which Pauli proved remarkably adept, being able to remember complex dreams in exquisite detail. Jung also saw an opportunity: Pauli was a willing guide to the arcane realm of subatomic physics; and furthermore, Pauli saw Jung’s theory of synchronicity as a way of approaching some fundamental questions in quantum mechanics – not least the mystery of quantum entanglement, by which subatomic particles may correlate instantaneously, and acausally, at any distance. From their discussions emerged the Pauli-Jung conjecture, a form of double-aspect theory of mind and matter, which viewed the mental and the physical as different aspects of a deeper underlying reality.
Whereas Kammerer hypothesised impersonal, acausal factors intersecting with the causal nexus of the universe, Jung’s acausal connecting principle was enmeshed with the psyche, specifically with the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Jung’s archetypes are primordial structures of the mind common to all human beings. Resurrecting an ancient term, he envisioned an unus mundus, a unitary or one world, in which the mental and physical are integrated, and where the archetypes are instrumental in shaping both mind and matter. It’s a bold vision, but where, we are bound to ask, is the evidence for any of this? There is more than a grain of plausibility in the suggestion that archetypal structures have an influence in shaping thought and behaviour. But the entire universe? Pauli aside, the idea of synchronicity received little support from the wider scientific community.
Contemporary cognitive science offers a more secure, if less colourful, conceptual framework for making sense of the experience of coincidence. We are predisposed to encounter coincidences because their detection, it might be said, reflects the basic modus operandi of our cognitive and perceptual systems. The brain seeks patterns in the flow of sensory data it receives from the world. It infuses the patterns it detects with meaning and sometimes agency (often misplaced) and, as a part of this process, it forms beliefs and expectations that serve to shape future perceptions and behaviour. Coincidence, in the simple sense of co-occurrence, informs pattern-detection, especially in terms of identifying causal relationships, and so enhances predictability. The “world” does not simply present itself through the windowpanes of the eyes and channels of the other senses. The brain’s perceptual systems are proactive. They construct a model of the world by continually attempting to match incoming, “bottom-up” sensory data with “top-down” anticipations and predictions. Raw sensory data serve to refine the brain’s best guesses as to what’s happening, rather than building the world afresh with each passing moment. The brain, simply put, is constantly on the lookout for coincidence.
From a wide-ranging survey of psychological and neurocognitive research, Michiel van Elk, Karl Friston and Harold Bekkering conclude that the overgeneralisation of such predictive models plays a crucial part in the experience of coincidence. Primed by deeply ingrained cognitive biases, and ill-equipped to make accurate estimates of chance and probability, we are innately inclined to see (and feel) patterns and connections where they simply don’t exist. “Innately inclined” because, in evolutionary terms, the tendency to over-detect coincidences is adaptive. Failure to detect contingencies between related events – for example, rustling in the undergrowth/proximity of a predator – is generally more costly than an erroneous inference of a relationship between unrelated events. Another driver of coincidence is what the linguist Arnold Zwicky calls the “frequency illusion”, a term that originated in a blogpost but has since found its way into the Oxford English Dictionary:
frequency illusion n. a quirk of perception whereby a phenomenon to which one is newly alert suddenly seems ubiquitous.
Attempts at understanding coincidence thus range from extravagant conjectures conceiving of acausal forces influencing the fundamental workings of the universe, to sober cognitive studies deconstructing the basic mechanisms of the mind. But there is something else to consider. Remarkable coincidences happen because, well, they happen, and they happen without inherent meaning and independently of the workings of the pattern-hungry brain. As the statistician David Hand puts it, “extremely improbable events are commonplace”. He refers to this as the improbability principle, one with different statistical strands, including the law of truly large numbers, which states that: “With a large enough number of opportunities, any outrageous thing is likely to happen.” Every week, there are many lottery jackpot winners around the globe, each with odds of winning at many millions to one against. And, in defiance of truly phenomenal odds, several people have won national and state lottery jackpots on more than one occasion.
…what are the chances…I mean…clearly coincidences are complicated…but…just as a guess…mccarthy being a shameless hypocrite would probably be…I dunno…as likely as AOC’s tweet being replied to apparently almost solely by folks in a hurry to broadcast the extreme problems they have with such dizzying intellectual demands as…in no particular order…thought, rational or otherwise…basic knowledge of subjects about which they are apparently too impatient to hold forth to waste time actually learning the first thing about…subtlety…not least about things like brigading a post to the point that you are 99% of the responses being kind of an obvious tell…even on elon’s twitter…which is home to a “diversity” of opinion on such matters
A few years ago a former student of mine, one for whom I had particular respect, stopped me on the street and handed me a copy of The Road to Serfdom by the British-Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek.
For reasons I cannot reconstruct, I had already read that book and forgotten it, except for the impression it left of being very much a product of its place and time, the London School of Economics, 1945. Since then I have learned that, fairly or not, it is read as a supporting document for the slippery-slope catastrophism that now casts the American government, insofar as it enacts policies favored by Democrats, as a sinister and quite absolute threat to individual freedom. My student told me that a reading group had formed and I was invited. He had the glow of the convert.
This fine youth was starting out on what most would consider an enviable life, free as precious few of his fellow mortals are or have ever been. Yet he was excited by a new insight, that there was a plot afoot to plunge us into serfdom, fascism, Nazism. This alarm has surged, and now we have men in combat gear standing around at public events, absolutely defying anyone to take away their freedom. If they had not hit upon that one most provocative freedom, the right to menace with firearms, probably no one would ever have given a thought to their rights except to assume that they had the normal set of them. And where is the drama in that? They are standing boldly against an insidious foe, or so they and their friends imagine.
These “enemies” against whom they are armed are Americans who disagree with them.
There is more to this than mere loyalty to one jaded billionaire, odd as that is. There is the matter of serfdom. If the word describes anything in contemporary American life, it is surely the self-subordination of respectable people with ordinary lives to a movement that requires belief in bizarre and incendiary ideas, as well as flagrant offenses against decency, for example the heaping of opprobrium on immigrants. Trump joined this choir as he descended his escalator, announcing in effect liberation from old obligations to generosity or fairness.
He has enlisted followers who might very well engage in acts that lead to death and destruction, assuming that some deaths will be their own, and the destruction will befall their own country. This makes sense only if the reward is self-submission, the craving for an identity that supersedes the autonomy of democratic citizenship. No need to weigh the merit of the claim that immigrants are rapists. No need to consider the impact of assault weapons on public life. These issues do not invite thought or debate. They occasion demonstrations of loyalty. Yes, children die, and we all pray. I tremble to think what a God’s-eye view of this ritual would be.
History proves that solid-seeming populations do succumb to fascism. The word “serfdom” in Hayek’s title suggests that people would be passively subjugated, succumbing to a dirigiste economic order. But his real subject is fascism, whose worst cruelties always depend on the active participation of a significant part of these populations, even though they sacrifice what they might have thought they valued in order to be bound up in the unity the word “fascism” promises. Fascism is not a politics, it is a pathology compounded of nostalgia and resentment.
It is classically fascist to influence opinion by the threat of violence. We have actual violence that lacks rational motive, but which is strikingly consistent over all in that it targets – not a metaphor – the tenderest places in our society, elementary schools, churches, outdoor festivals. It targets custom, community, contentment and hope to very great effect, dispossessing us of much of the pleasure of our national life. Weighing one thing against another, presumably, we are to accept this. At the same time the example we offer to the world of constitutional democracy is disgraced.
Fascism is an autoimmune disease. Under the banner of patriotism it hates its nation and people and oversteps all civilized limits in its zeal to bring about fundamental change, whatever the damage. Something of the kind is discernible in the talk of secession, national divorce, civil war.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/apr/13/us-conservatives-love-to-warn-of-creeping-fascism-do-they-understand-what-it-is