Interest, delusion, and parrots

A guest post by commenter Bill:

Perhaps Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch  is their most iconic work. A customer brings a dead parrot back to the store from which it was bought, claiming that it was dead upon purchase. The clerk/owner responds, persistently, that the parrot is not dead. Hilarity ensues.

There is something compelling about watching parrot mongers at work: asserting the sky’s pinkness, insinuating the evil of pink-sky-deniers, frothing and threatening. It’s not just for comedy sketches. Parrot-mongers are rife. Get the parents of an ugly, stupid, clumsy, and nasty child talking. Ask, in the Art History Department, about the value of a BFA. Ask an investment banker about the value of “financial innovation.”

Parrot-mongers look foolish. Somehow, they know they look foolish. Thus, they must have a reason for their parrot-mongering. Often, as in the examples above, it is soothing their pride or resolving the dissonance between what is actually true and which truth would be in their interest. While this is not benign, one sympathizes.

When this straightforward explanation is lacking, though, what is going on? Behind the Iron Curtain, the populace generally sold parrots for the Communist elite. As Havel, Solzhenitsyn and others explain, one sold the regime’s parrots, at one level, to avoid punishment and, at another, to reassure the elite that they remained in power. Still, though, this was about interest—the regime’s interest in resolving the conflict between the elite’s mismanagement of the country and, well, their desire to remain the elite. Furthermore, it remains very easy to see the connection between the lies, the people telling the lies, the elite mandating the lies, and the elite’s interest motivating the lies.

Putting the Communists to shame, the US is overrun with parrot mongers. But, in our case, the connection back to the interest of the elite motivating this is much less apparent. Whose interests are served by the race denial parrot? By the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming parrot? By the war between religion and science parrot? By the blank slate and gender equality parrots?

Commenters on the right, whether secular or religious and whether neo or paleo, have tended to take as our task refutation of the parrot-mongers. We have decided to be John Cleese. While this has value, pace the Asch conformity experiment, it seems overdone. It seems as if we, like John Cleese as consumer or like Charlie Brown as placekicker, are taking our tormenters at their word where their word is clearly not good.

If treating the parrot-mongers as honestly deluded is mistaken, then treating them as dishonestly interested in fooling us is better. But, then, what’s their program? Cui bono? And what is the right countermove?

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7 thoughts on “Interest, delusion, and parrots

  1. The media and literature generates a “hyperreality” i.e. does not only distort it but simply creates a new one, in a way it becomes the definitive reality. A good example is that when somewhere some group of people hurts another group of people, the media world and the intellectual abstracts it into a “human rights violation” i.e. violating “rights” instead of actual humans, and then this is what gets reported, this what gets discussion, an order of magnitude more people will know about that some human rights violation happened than those who know about which actual humans got violated how and why.

    So this becomes the dominant social reality, and in this generated, hyperreal reality those parrots are dead.

    And very few people get the chance to take a look at the actual parrot. All they see is the reportage so they go on arguing honestly that the parrot is dead.

    I think what you need to do is to provide Red Pills aka The Matrix – some kind of unmediated, unintellectual, unreported, not based on books, hands-on evidence of some major fault in the liberal hyperreality for those people who think the parrot is dead but their mind is not fully closed.

    As a European my Red Pill was the Pim Fortuyn scandal. Basically that guy wanted nothing else than be consistent in his liberalism, and most of the European media called him an extremist right-wing proto-fascist for it. Suddenly I had to realize most journalists are so deluded, they cannot even realize consistent liberalism, or understand liberalism as something based on principles which can sometimes step on the toes of politically favored groups, they simply see liberalism as liking and hating the right people. Fortuyn demanded that brown people behave like a liberal if they want to live in Holland, this made him a racist, and with that an extremist in the eye of the media. The fact that about 80% of the European journalist elites could not cope with this was a huge Red Pill that something is very, very deeply rotten in the liberal world. This launched my journey of discovery rightwards. I felt like a liberal mugged by reality, I found that quote by Irving Kristol, started reading him then other authors he quoted…

  2. Some of the parrot vendors believe the bird is actually alive, and some of them have a personal interest in fobbing off a dead bird. But there’s more to the “program” than that. Telling a bald-faced lie to people who can be punished for contradiction is a means to humiliate one’s enemies. Anyone bold enough to say the bird is dead can be crushed, and everyone prudent enough to hold his peace is reminded of his weakness. He doesn’t feel smarter than the liar because he knows the bird is dead. The liar knows this, too. He feels weaker.

    Humiliation is a means to exhibit and reinforce dominance, and forcing a man to hold his tongue is a very effective form of humiliation.

    • There is a quotation mark at the end of the URL that doesn’t belong. If you remove it, the link works. It is an apposite quotation.

    • Hmmmm. See if this one works. If it does work, wait for it to load and then automatically scroll down to the highlighted text. I’ve never used scrible for anything before, and I wanted to highlight some text.

      I was being a smart alek. It’s a link to the Congressional Record for the semi-famous incident in which Chuck Schumer explained, in the context of the Clinton impeachment, that “the sky is pink” is not necessarily a false statement.

  3. Bruce Charlton made a similar point on his blog; although he took things a bit further. He sees objections by traditionalists as actually spurring on those who seek ‘change.’ Protests against gay marriage and legalized abortion only validate… well, I’ll leave it to him to make the argument…

    On a related note, does this discussion intersect with our Lord’s teaching not to resist evil? It seems that we’re finding out that our resistance isn’t just futile it is, in some ways, spurring on those who are pushing for these changes.

    Also: perhaps Thomas Bertonneau can weigh in on this: what is to be made of Rene Girard’s assertion that science, the Enlightenment, everything, was triggered by the Gospels, and that what we’re seeing is this message working its way out in our history?

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