Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Schelling, Kuran, Reaction, and the Way Forward

About a week ago, on my post
a short discussion took place in the comments.  
CLAR said...
my impression is that most reactionary/conservative types are stuck in a mode like wildebeests getting ready to cross a river- milling around, getting frustrated, yet still scared to be the first into the river and have their career ended by the crocodiles enforcing the informal thought crime laws of our government. i definitely count myself in this crowd.

my prediction is that when this shifts, it will be a stampede that might run away with itself. while such radical change will be to our net benefit, it will probably have many negative side effects from being so rapid.
at the time I responded
'Negative Side Effects' is an interesting euphemism. What you're describing is a preference cascade a la Timur Kuran, and yes, I do think such an event is not unlikely.

I've had this on my mental back burner for some time, and recalled a few jigsaw puzzle pieces lying about on my mental map that can probably be usefully pressed into service.

CLAR clearly identifies one major aspect of the problem.  There are tons of wildebeests, and only a few crocodiles, but nobody wants to go first.  This is directly analogous to the metastable circumstances immediately preceding a riot (or more commonly, a riot that doesn't actually happen).  This brought to mind Schelling (for those unfamiliar with his work, specifically, a Schelling Point or 'point of coordination', here's the executive summary.  A Schelling Point is a point around which groups can spontaneously organize based on their estimate of where others of like mind will naturally gravitate.  The classic example is of meeting a person in New York City, where you have no time or place, just a date---the 2 Schelling points being Grand Central Station at noon and the top floor of the Empire State Building).  Fortunately, a lot of mental energy has already gone into analyzing these particular problem.

The publication below provides a hint

The entrepreneur will throw the first stone when he calculates that the risk that he will be apprehended for doing so has diminished to an acceptable level. The risk of arrest declines as a function of two variables--the size of the crowd relative to the police force available to control it, and the probability that others will follow if somebody leads. This latter point could potentially be tricky, because as we have noted, crowds will generally be inhospitable to the commission of violent acts. But it is possible for a crowd to telegraph its willingness to riot. Buford's account (1991: 81n-dash85) of a soccer hooligan rampage in Turin furnishes an example. Members of the crowd marched themselves around in a spontaneous formation with a stilted, unnatural gait, chanting the name of their team. This unmistakable token of cohesion stopped well short of anything that the Italian police could plausibly charge as solicitation or incitement, but served to assure the members of the crowd that a critical mass had formed.

In essence, what is needed to to provide at least one Schelling point to generate plausibly deniable cohesion.  A group needs to be able to communicate its intent in an easily deniable fashion.  Leftists understand this at least at a gut level, which is why they impose their regime of thought crime enforcement so rigidly.  They perceive the possibility of a preference cascade wiping out much of their work and work hard to maintain massive preference falsification per Kuran.  If you ever want to be REALLY encouraged as a reactionary, leaf through some of the books by the left about the vast right wing conspiracies at your local bookstore.  They will tell you what they fear.  It's funny honestly, to read their perception of the average conservative as being like me, but on Thomas Carlyle class reactionary steroids.

If we look at this through a chemical metaphor, one needs several things.  First, the reaction requires sufficient energy to overcome the barrier of activation energy.  The analog of course is that the population must become sufficiently angry to create a prerevolutionary condition per Lenin.  Second, a catalyst is needed to speed things along.  This is where the plausibly deniable cohesion comes in.  I've suggested several things that fit that category here in the past:

1.  Weaken the power of universalist moral rhetoric in the public sphere through mockery and identification of the real particularist interests that ACTUALLY motivate said rhetoric
2.  Assault the various entities of the Cathedral at every opportunity, and use their mistakes to weaken them and erode their legitimacy.  In particular, the Judiciary is presently ripe for the destruction of its prestige.  Several cases of obvious (but deniable) who..whom Jury Nullification can be used to embolden one's supporters and demoralize our adversaries.  Such will almost certainly provoke a disproportionate response from the Cathedral, which is actually a positive thing from our point of view, because it just raises the temperature of the reaction.

Here's how we can reduce the activation energy to Jury Nullification.  First, simply by talking about it (although inside a courthouse, never breathe a word about it or you'll never be selected as a juror) we make it more likely.  Second, it would be very useful to us to break down some of the social taboo on it by maneuvering other groups into making the first move on it.  The group that is really ripe for this are drug users and the legalization crowd.  Pretty close to half the population is against the War on Drugs, at least insofar as pot is concerned.  If you can get substantial sections of that group to start bringing out the jury nullification hammer, the reluctance of other groups to use it will be greatly reduced.  This is something I've been working on for years now in other guises on various forums on the left.


AC said...

Are you suggesting that people get on juries with the intent of trolling via nullification? Why wouldn't that just lead to the elimination of that power?

AC said...

I do applaud the creativity though, a refreshingly practical approach compared to internet bloviating.

Jehu said...

There's no way to eliminate that power without profoundly altering the legal system. And yes, I am suggesting exactly what you describe. It's something of an American tradition honestly, lots of nullification during Prohibition part I.