(2022-01-03) Guinn An Inconvenient Truce
Rusty Guinn: An Inconvenient Truce. British and German soldiers hold a Christmas truce during the Great War...It has stuck with us for a very long time now. It will be one of our stories for much longer... Swords into Plowshares is a powerful meme....Memes are the building blocks of narrative, and the Christmas Day Truce served several narratives at once... For each of those reasons, it should be easy to see why we so often tell the story of the Christmas Day Truce in 1914.... For the same reasons, it should be easy to see why we do not tell the story of Christmas Day Truces in 1915, 1916, 1917, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943 or 1944.... We don’t talk about those other truces for two reasons: first, because countries and their leaders realized after 1914 that allowing such a powerful meme to humanize the enemy was counterproductive to their war aims. Government ministries cracked down heavily on the publication of reports of any subsequent truces, shifting their existence from public knowledge back to private knowledge. Second, we don’t talk about many later truces because military command among practically all of the belligerents made a special point from then on to schedule Christmas Eve raids or, at the very least, to engage in artillery bombardment or steady machine gun fire to prevent the rising of audible carols. I tweeted that I'm unclear on who the missionaries are, and what exactly their role and motivation is. See also my Culture War map/links, esp (2017-02-15) MindMap CultureWar SocialMedia Economy.
in every sort of stark political conflict that has devolved from a coordination game to a competitive game, the leaders of each faction have the same obvious incentive to maintain our mutual rage. They have the same incentive to suppress our instinct to recognize the humanity in those who oppose us. Outside of tightly controlled social markets like, say, Communist China, however, they lack the ability to effectively command that this be the case.
In order to focus and maintain our rage, then, tribal missionaries must instead frame pivotal political issues as narratives which simultaneously reinforce in-group bias and out-group bias. In other words, a common feature of competition game politics is necessarily the transformation of every pivotal issue into one that frames the in-group as reasonable and unjustly attacked, and the out-group as insane and hypocritical.
Gravensteen, located in the Flemish city of Ghent... is called a motte-and-bailey castle.
The motte is a steep hill or raised earthworks upon which a small keep or fort is installed. The bailey is an area outside the motte, typically enclosed by a palisade wall, typically jutting to only one side of the motte, and sometimes further encircled by a ditch, moat or other natural fortification. That is where a small town of support buildings, manufactories, shops and residences would have been located
Multiple stages of retreat – from fields to bailey and bailey to motte – permit useful defensive military strategies to be employed.
In 2005, Nicholas Shackel, now Professor of Philosophy at Cardiff University, published the wonderfully titled The Vacuity of Postmodernist Methodology. In the paper, Shackel first coins the term “Motte-and-Bailey Doctrine” as a means not of describing medieval defensive structures, but as a means of describing arguments which put forward an aggressive and perhaps controversial premise that the arguer finds attractive. This is the bailey. When that premise is challenged, that person puts forth a second, infinitely more sensible and defensible premise that is at least partially related to the first. This is the motte. They then intentionally conflate the sensible premise with the aggressive one.
Shackel was especially annoyed with the tendency of certain postmodern philosophers and theorists to put forth absurd claims, only to retreat to more popular and defensible ones that they treated as synonyms
it is a fallacious argumentation technique that defeats any attempt to reach a logical outcome. And it does so in pure service of winning the argument.
In polarized politics, framing issues using the motte-and-bailey doctrine still serves the original purpose of making extreme positions seem reasonable and attacks on those arguments seem unreasonable to the in-group. Yet the existence of mottes-and-baileys also permits each political pole to point exclusively to the baileys (the most aggressive premises) of the opposite side when it is useful to caricaturize their platform as extreme
Forcing us to abstract our opponent into a caricature of dishonesty and bad faith is the point. Ensuring we don’t have time to consider our opponent’s humanity is the point.
Learning how to spot the motte-and-bailey rage generation machines that surround us is the only way to weaken their hold on us.
The Mottes-and-Baileys of Critical Race Theory
Critical Race Theory is, at least in an academic sense, the argument that preferences for Americans of European descent have been directly and indirectly embedded in the structure, laws, conventions, traditions and institutions with which all citizens are forced to interact since the country’s inception
The first motte-and-bailey belongs to the Blue Tribe.
There is absolutely strong missionary effort within the Blue Tribe to promote the premise that racism should be thought of not as the prejudicial actions of an individual but as the opposition to policies to dismantle our systemically biased institutions
Americans of many stripes are queasy about redefining racist, the most memetically powerful label in American society, from ‘someone who acts with prejudice against a person because of their race‘ to ‘someone who doesn’t support the race policy aims of the Blue Tribe.’
Yet the Blue Tribe motte-and-bailey is not only useful to the Blue Tribe. It is an incredible tool for the Red Tribe.
The corresponding Red Tribe response to CRT has been a motte-and-bailey with an equally aggressive premise
The premise involves the now widespread belief among Red Tribe missionaries that the solution is state- and district-level laws banning certain curricula relating to CRT principles (or often basically anything that mentions race at all).
where resistance is met, the Red Tribe motte is perfectly sensible and equally powerful as a disarming strategy. All we are asking for is that our kids not to be shamed by their teachers for something they can’t control and that they had nothing to do with
Is it any wonder that in the five or so years this topic has been in the public consciousness, half of America became “racists” and half of America became “America-hating Marxists?”
motte-and-bailey strategies have been successful in creating a narrative of polarization
*In Narrative World, 61% of Red Tribe members believe that Blue Tribe members want to abolish the ‘irreversibly broken and racist’ police. In Reality World, only 28% of self-described liberals even somewhat agreed with that statement.
In Narrative World, 57% of Blue Tribe members believe that Red Tribe members thought the police were almost always justified in cases where they shot black people. In Reality World, only 31% of self-described conservatives even somewhat agreed with the statement.*
Missionaries did not build these mottes-and-baileys to reflect the will of the American people. They didn’t even build them to advance a policy outcome. They built them to make us want to fight.
The Mottes-and-Baileys of The 2020 Election and 1/6 (2021 Storming of the US Capitol)
even now, as we stumble over the threshold from 2021 into 2022, the narrative of The Steal is alive and well in America
Unlike Critical Race Theory, it is hard to stay agnostic on the underlying reality of electoral fraud and the events of 1/6. I wish I had a sophisticated rhetorical device to explain why, but the simple truth is that it’s hard to stay agnostic because the narrative of The Steal is just really, really stupid
it is believed by many, with polled rates of my fellow conservatives ranging from mid-50s to low-60s believing that Donald Trump is the duly elected President
And yet, 50-60% of the Red Tribe is not ALL
because The Steal is not deemed an acceptable point of view outside of Red Tribe, a motte remains politically useful for this narrative. In this case, the fallback option for claims of widespread fraud is the very sensible, “I just want safe and secure elections that foreign interference cannot change.”
Just as the narrative of The Steal is alive and well in America, so too is the narrative of Literally A Coup Attempt.
The premise of January 6th being Literally A Coup Attempt is intentionally aggressive, intentionally extreme, and among the best examples of an argument I know that almost nobody truly believes
...5% Freedom LARPers with an Army surplus store fetish who somehow failed their task successfully does not Literally a Coup Attempt make. As baileys go, it is not quite as dumb as The Steal, but it is still very dumb.
Now, there IS room for disagreement on how serious the riot was. I am on record saying I think it is a really big deal – this is the Capitol after all! There is also room for disagreement on how much the role of various politicians in fomenting the rally-turned-violent should be investigated. I happen to think the answer is “quite a lot” by actual criminal investigators and “basically not at all” by bloviating, grandstanding members of congress.
But those are questions for Reality World. In Narrative World, the opportunity to frame all of the Red Tribe as guilty of their own cardinal sins of anti-American behavior
Coupled with an impregnable motte of don’t-you-believe-in-law-and-order to retreat to
For the Red Tribe, of course, a bailey built of sudden concern on the part of the Blue Tribe for rioting after a year of indifference to private property destruction taking place at BLM-affiliated protests and, yes, riots, creates a perfect opportunity to accuse the Blue Tribe of hypocrisy as well
In the end, while we call it politics, no one is trying to convince anyone of anything at this point.
Missionaries are leveraging their motte-and-bailey doctrine to remind the in-group that it is being reasonable and sensible and that the out-group has become unhinged and hypocritical.
The Mottes-and-Baileys of COVID-19
As a displaced Texan who now lives in Connecticut
I have witnessed the just-the-flu boomer rolling through a crowded HEB in The Woodlands during a local spike in cases, sneering at older folks in masks
I have been glared at and tut-tutted by the double-masked, unironic planter of “Person, Man, Woman Vote for Biden” political signs in Fairfield County, while walking my dog unmasked with two Moderna shots and a booster on board outdoors
The Red Tribe COVID-19 motte-and-bailey, in particular, is a cleverly constructed bit of sophistry. It is so elegant, in fact, that it is actually difficult to collapse it into a single motte-and-bailey structure. Over time, each of the mottes-and-baileys have been moved again and again
Again, that doesn’t mean that this is the “average” view of people in this group. In fact, I believe explicitly that it is not. It means that it is the narrative most aggressively promoted by that group’s missionaries, who understand that they have the ability to conflate their provocative trial balloon with a more tenable defensive position
This motte-and-bailey defensive tactic has made it far easier to produce opposition to otherwise sensible policies which are inherently pro-freedom (e.g. permitting private businesses to implement whatever mask or vax policies they deem prudent), all while maintaining the more socially acceptable illusion that the only thing being opposed is government overreach
Meanwhile, the Blue Tribe missionaries, who seemed a bit more inclined toward actual policy outcomes for a brief period in 2020, have also veered sharply in the direction of a narrative structure created to reinforce tribal identity and separation.
More to the point, the Blue Tribe baileys of 2021 have focused on framing any opposition or concern about pandemic restrictions or policy responses, no matter how legitimate or well-founded, as being anti-science and a good way to kill children, teachers and grandma. It doesn’t matter if that’s true or not (sometimes it is and sometimes it is not), because the missionary statements made in support of this motte-and-bailey doctrine are not made to advocate support for any particular policy. They are made to reinforce the common knowledge within the Blue Tribe that Red Tribe members are both evil and stupid.
The point isn’t where we are. The point is where tribal missionaries interested in consolidating their political power are trying to push us.
They are pushing us to want to fight.
sometimes we should fight. After all, some things are worth fighting for.
Yet it is harder than ever to know whether the battles we fight are our own or those someone else has selected for us
when the rhetoric we hear seems designed not to advance our principles, but to strengthen our convictions about our own goodness and sanity and the hypocrisy and insanity of our counterparts, at the very least, in our personal relationships, we can slow down