Monday, September 19, 2005

Cheap Response to Comments Entry

Today is the lazy response to comments day. So here goes:

The Hatcher seems to espouse the creed that anecdote is the singular form of data. A phrase like "More times than not, those who see themselves as great humanists can't seem to grasp the possibility of loving an actual human" argues that more than half of all humanist are really terrible un-loving narcissists.

The Hatcher's implicit maximum likelihood estimate of the proportion of humanists that are pricks would be spot on as long as he adds no more than two other humanist to the sample he uses to make this statement.

I think I'll reserve judgement until I get a little more data.



Well, Arnie, I added two more yesterday - Rousseau and Marx - which I believe makes me safe in my conclusion unless I add no more than four more. Not a whole lot more data, but more data nonetheless. But without adding any more to the thin anecdotal data, I'll refer you to the quote from Kenneth Arrow, considered by many to be the greatest living economist, who makes basically the same observation.


Professor Vic said...
I would simply add that if we are playing the anecdote game, let's pay some attention to moral conservatives lack of morality such as the numerous Republicans who had affairs while prosecuting Clinton's White House behavior and the string of televangelists in the 1980s and 1990s who were adulters or embezzlers.

Not trying to defend the personal life of Lennon, Miller, or even Clinton for that matter, but hypocrisy is by no means the sole domain of left-wingers.


I might also add, with the greatest due respect to the esteemed Vegas Heavy-T, that most mainstream individuals would not espouse assassination as the appropriate punishment for being a poor father or a hypocritical jerk. Everyone knows that assassination should be reserved for democratically elected Latin American leaders who disdain American foreign policy.

I'd like to draw a central distinction between, say, the embezzling cheating televangilist, and the John Lennon's of the world. Assuming the embezzling, cheating televangilist is Christian, and a true believing Christian, he holds the view that man is fallen or sinful in nature. So in a way his own troubles are a validation of his creed and his view of human nature. Lennon, and I am only guessing here, was probably more in line with Roussea in believing that man is essentially good, but has been corrupted by institutions, the Church being chiefly among them; if he could rid himself of the guilt trip of Christianity, Utopia would follow. Now when a guy like this hits his wife, he supports the creed espoused by the televangilist, not his own. And that, to me, is interesting.


Anonymous said...
I never understood why if a person has talent in the field of entertainment, they somehow become the voice of humanity. Just because John Lennon was part of the best musical writing duo of all time, doesn't mean he knows any more than anybody else concerning the human condition.

The problem is not that the Lennons and Millers of the world express all the politically correct opinions of the day in order to sell a few more records, tickets, books etc. while being total bastards at home; the problem is that we give their opinions any more weight than anyone else's.

On a related note, the one thing that sickened me in the Katrina aftermath was the video footage of celebrities touring the devestation. I just have this vision of agents calling clients telling them to get down to New Orleans to get exposure. I then can see a posh helecopter ride, a quick five minute tour with the cameramen in tow, and a perfect opportunity to talk about the latest project.


I dismissed doing a promotional tour of the blog in the region for the same reasons. But try to understand these actors - their job is to display emotions that are not their own; as Dirigible points out, these guys know less about the human condition than most, so going to New Orleans or the funeral of Joe DiMaggio (as Jack Nicholson and Kevin Costner both requested of the family, but were, I am happy to say, denied) allows them a couple of minutes of authentic living. And greatest musical writing duo of all time? Ever heard of Sonny and Cher? Before your think I'm joking, please explain to me why "I want to hold your hand" is in any way more profund or of lasting cultural importance than "I got you babe."

Incredible Dirigible said...
Professor Vic is right--even if Lennon was a phony when it came to being a humanitarian, I can't say I would wish assassination on him, or that I'd make light of his killing. (Saddam or Osama, on the other hand...)

That last anonymous poster wrote, "Just because John Lennon was part of the best musical writing duo of all time, doesn't mean he knows any more than anybody else concerning the human condition...the problem is that we give their opinions any more weight than anyone else's."

IMHO, Lennon & company probably knew LESS about the human condition, since they were living lifestyles of the rich & famous, not eating at Taco Bell or shopping at Wal-Mart or dealing with the problems average folks do.

But WE don't give their opinions more weight than anyone else, THEY do so, by using their celebrity as a platform to mislead (largely unchallenged) or have a voice that your average Joe cannot have. Julia Roberts & Sally Field get to testify before Congress about whatever pet cause they choose, but could Dr. Hatch or Professor Vic? Of course not. Not because Gidget's smarter than Hatch, but because she's famous, for parroting lines from scripts.


To those who interpreted the Vegas heavy-T story as an endorsement of assassinating humanists who smack their wife, let me explain. Of course you’re right, homicide in such cases is not good. I recounted that story because I think it illustrates a humorous anecdote of a very atypical response to a hand-wringing display of one’s exalted sensitivity to tragedies that no one should have to prove or even express his abhorrence over. I’ve been in conversations like that (too many in recent years given many bad events), and it almost becomes this crazy competition to express your emotions more eloquently, or to make more original and novel observations, than the others in the conversation. The assumption is that the stoic in the group, who doesn't take his turn showing his emotional correctness to the rest of the group, is somehow the oddball. It is rather bizarre. What you never see is someone who does what Heavy-T did – express an emotion so beyond the pale in order to highlight that the opposite view is so barbaric that holding the status quo view is no mark of virtue. Genius, pure genius, if you ask me.


Anonymous said...
A fair point about celebrities, but let's not limit it to Hollywood. Limbaugh, Hannity, and Franken, for example, are nothing more than political entertainers. None are trained in political science or public affairs.

Some are good at acting; bizarrely , our culture then allows such individuals to espouse political viewpoints. Rush and Sean are good at talking on the radio ( Al's really not that good at it, although he's more amusing); bizarrely, some segments of our culture consider their political viewpoints to hold authority. And, in the end, they have far more effect on the nation's political discourse than does Sean Penn.



Have to disagree with you there. Even Franken provides information; these guys are informed - they read a lot, they talk to a lot of people. They go deeper into stories than TV; much of what they do is criticizing other journalism. Of course they espouse their opinions in connection to the information they report, but there is a lot more meat to the offering. Journalists aren't trained in political science or public affairs, either, and some are on TV because they are pretty faces, but that doesn't mean you cannot learn anything by watching the news. Pure actors, on the other hand, typically just emote based on some conspiratorial view of the President.

And I should add that Lennon’s behavior as a husband and father do not diminish his message or his music, but being the judgmental SOB that I am, I look at the totality and say that, on balance, he’s really not worthy of the respect he is accorded. Words are easy; actions are harder. Mother Theresa lived her words; Lennon didn’t (of course some of his words would be impossible to live, like “I am the walrus, kookookachoo”). Not to compare his negligence as a husband and father to a child-abusing priest, but I wouldn’t excuse a child abusing priest for his eloquence at the pulpit, an eloquence that might even inspire my beliefs. He was blessed with a gift, and perhaps that makes him even more accountable than most. And in the long-run, and this is something I truly believe, there are enough people out there with the same message to deliver to the masses, and so his loss, as well as his deficiencies while he was with us, are not deeply felt by anyone other than his family and friends. It is his behavior to them that I would argue is more important in judging him as a man.

Loving humanity does not make one ipso facto a cad. But among people who have become famous, and whose fame comes partially via a reputation that includes this great regard for humanity, there seems to be more cases of loutish behavior than one would expect based on their public reputations. Marx, Sartre, Rousseau, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Bertrand Russell – the list of guys with crappy private lives can get quite lengthy. Obviously fame comes to those with a fair amount of ambition, and ambition often leads to one to put himself first in line, so that might be the source of the correlation.

I don’t take Lennon's vision as the measure of him as a man. And I think that point generally gets lost – people tend to judge people they don’t know personally based upon their views and opinions rather than their actions; they do so both negatively and positively. As a result, guys like Lennon are respected as some sort of secular saint, and in other cases people like Mother Theresa are reviled for being pro-life. I guess I just want the incentive system – who gets applauded in this world – to reflect what I think matters more.


Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

Point taken about the Vegas Heavy-T story. It's easy to just say "the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, etc were horrible". Anyone can say that; that doesn't tell us anything new!

Once I was at a wedding reception in which the people at the table were talking about how horrible SUVs & Hummers are, how they pollute the environment, how they use up so much gas, how they destroy the ozone layer, etc. Eventually I said, "Wow, with all this talk about it, now I want one! I could see myself driving a Hummer. Like Arnold!" They people at the table cracked up; they were a pretty good crowd, really.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Too political. How about more stories about drunken debauchery ain Stone Harbor?

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hatcher, are you calling Vegas-Heavy-T an "oddball" and a "genius" at the same time?

10:20 AM  

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