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Friday, November 9, 2018

Sokath, his eyes open!

In praise of the First Amendment, trigger words, tachyons, and obscure Star Trek trivia

T hese days, even biology has been politicized (which is the last step before censoring it, à la Lysenko). There are only three things it's still safe to write about: mitochondria (which nobody cares about), quantum mechanics (which nobody understands), and STAR TREK. So, if you're my employer, that's what this article is about. STAR TREK.

Take that episode where Picard discovers a species that speaks only in stories. His computer translator, apparently based on Google Mistranslate, is completely baffled, because even in the 24th century, computers have no concept of proper nouns. The aliens look at him like he's the dumbest thing that ever lived. But instead of saying “Yes, moron, you finally figured it out!” they say “Sokath, his eyes open!”, which any AI worth its gallium arsenide would translate as “Picard, your eyes have opened!” When they want to say “You're hopelessly stupid” they say “Shaka, when the walls fell.”

All very interesting, you might say. But how did these guys ever design a space ship? Their design specs must be a lot like those computer manuals we get with no words, only pictures.

“Ikea Guy, his instruction booklet unfurled, his brow furrowed, several pieces of the warp engine left over.”

“Mirab, trying to rotate the bolt clockwise, his torque wrench bending, his teeth giving off little vibration symbols.”

“Tranzini, lifting the equipment by himself, sparks of lightning coming out of his butt.”

“Myzza, looking for the laser off-switch with his remaining eye.”

Okay . . . Are they gone now? Now we can talk. I'll sprinkle a few more STAR TREKs below. Just ignore them.

Here's something the left might want to consider, if they're so gung-ho on censoring ideas they dislike: if we banned the word ‘racist,’ they'd be unable to talk at all. It would be like tying the hands of an Italian or putting an Eskimo someplace where there's no snow.

Whoever has been teaching students tolerance and inclusiveness has been doing it wrong. You can't call yourself tolerant or inclusive if you automatically dismiss any opinion that you disagree with as ‘racist.’ If you did, you'd be driving your world toward social chaos. The way to eliminate extremists is to listen to them, let them state their grievances, and dismantle their arguments using facts and logic. The only alternative is repression, which is where all this is driving us now.

Opinions never disappear when repressed; they seek outlets in behavior. When nobody listens, the disgruntled try to speak louder by becoming more extreme. It stands to reason that if their words are suppressed altogether, the disgruntled, the misfits, and the plain old evil will seek even more extreme means of communication. It's simple behavioral calculus: people do whatever's the easiest way to achieve their goals. Actions speak louder than words, so when words are forbidden, we get actions. To suppress the actions, law enforcement gets called in, and next thing you know we're in a police state.

For argumentation to work, you must have credibility. This is where our press is falling short. They seem not to realize that their credibility is close to zero. Increasingly, the media appeal to our basest instincts, dabbling in censorship, dishonesty, and even racism. As a result, we live in a strange world where each side has a different set of facts.

In fact, I find the concept of trigger words to be very useful. I've evolved into a being, as they never say on STAR TREK, who is able to make his eyes glaze over and decide the writer doesn't deserve the effort of finishing the sentence. Sort of like in STAR TREK, where they change into pure energy, but actually not. If it's a book, I stop reading in the middle of the sentence and the book goes in the trash, because it's irrefutable proof the author has nothing intelligent to say and is merely indulging in politics.

My trigger words include the usual inflammatory terms (‘racist’, ‘sexist,’ ‘white supremacist,’ ‘x-o-phobic,’ and ‘gender’ used when the writer means ‘sex’), and, indeed, any passages expressing a judgmental or normative opinion instead of trying to gain understanding. Those expressions trigger my innate book-throwing-in-the-trash unconditioned reflex. As Julie Andrews in THE SOUND OF MUSIC would never say, these are some of my least favorite things.

I dislike them not because I disagree with the writer's politics, but because in each case the writer is being dishonest: he or she is sneakily introducing their views into the discussion. Politicization leads to dishonesty. Dishonesty leads to mistrust and then to resentment and hate. Censorship feeds into this by increasing mistrust.

Okay, I realize that last part was perilously close to something Yoda would say in Star Wars. But only absolute freedom of speech has a chance of ending the political violence gripping America, because only where there is absolute freedom of speech is there a potential for absolute honesty. Twitter, Facebook, and Google, as well as the news media, need to take a hard look at how their censorship and lack of transparency are creating mistrust.

When somebody dictates what we can and cannot say, it forces us to be dishonest. So just as when, as they never talk about in STAR TREK, a magnetic field splits an emission line into two (called the Zeeman effect), when there is censorship, the dialogue splits. Some will obscure their opinions in pseudointellectual polysyllabic lucubrations (PPLs), a sort of code that restricts interpret­ation to in-group initiates; some will fill their space with coded references to some idiotic science fiction show; and some will abandon words altogether.


nov 09 2018, 5:55 am

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