‘The Death of Expertise’: Tom Nichols offers great read for understanding our slow-motion cultural implosion

Death of Expertise cover
A book called The Death of Expertise came out not too long ago. The best way to describe it for regular readers of this blog is as follows: It’s as if author Tom Nichols read my mind and then put all my disparate thoughts on Western civilization’s slow-motion car crash into a nice package. His understanding of how modern technology, social media, and left-wing academics exacerbate the problem is, unfortunately for future generations, on point.

I spend a lot of time on social media for work, and over the years I have seen a disturbing trend take place on the internet and college campuses. A toxic brew of left-wing “social justice” indoctrination on American campuses mixed with digital echo chambers, available to men and women of all political stripes, slowly boiled. (We’ve seen the effects of this during the U.S. presidential inauguration protests, the Berkeley riots, and the insanity at Evergreen State College in Washington state.)

Mr. Nichols, however, is one of the few people I’ve seen who has a firm grasp of the dangerous social dynamics at play beneath the surface. Like your friendly neighborhood blogger, he seems to think a miracle is needed to stave off an ugly future.

“I fear we are witnessing the death of the ideal of expertise itself, a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers — in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all.

Attacks on established knowledge and the subsequent rash of poor information in the general public are sometimes amusing. Sometimes they’re even hilarious.  Late-night comedians have made a cottage industry of asking people questions that reveal their ignorance about their own strongly held ideas, their attachment to fads, and their unwillingness to admit their own cluelessness about current events. […] When life and death are involved, however, it’s a lot less funny. […]

The overall trend is one of ideological segregation enabled by the ability to end a friendship with a click instead of a face-to-face discussion.

Underlying much of this ill temper is a false sense of equality and the illusion of egalitarianism created by the immediacy of social media. I have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and so do you, so we’re peers, aren’t we? After all, if a top reporter at a major newspaper, a diplomat at the Kennedy School, a scientist at a research hospital, and your Aunt Rose from Reno all have an online presence, then all of their viewers are just so many messages speeding past your eyes. Every opinion is only as good as the last posting on a home page.

In the age of social media, people using the Internet assume that everyone is equally intelligent or informed merely by virtue of being online. — Tom Nichols,The Death of Expertise (Oxford University Press, 2017). Pages 3, 129.

Boom.

Across every personal and professional level of my life I have witnessed the proliferation of this mentality. Google gives people a false sense superiority. A five-second search that allows a man to throw out a random factoids convinces him that he’s an expert when, in reality, his depth of breadth of knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Social media offers a one-two punch of perniciousness: It encourages people to dehumanize the guy on the other side of the screen while simultaneously fostering false pride and moral superiority. That, dear reader, is a recipe for violence.

Mr. Nichols’ book is by no means perfect (he sometimes shows off his own ideological blind spots by unfairly framing certain political issues), but it is still highly worth your time. It’s the perfect book to sit down with for a few hours by the pool or at the beach. Check it out if you want to better understand our widening political divide, or if you just like slightly terrifying reading material.

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Kathy Griffin goes full Jihadi John with Trump beheading ‘art,’ apologizes after CNN gig put at risk

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It takes quite a bit of insanity to make your friendly neighborhood blogger swing into explicitly political material these days, but when Hollywood comedians go full “Jihadi John” it seems a though it’s time for the blog posts of old to return.

Jihad John

For those who somehow managed to avoid the news, Anderson Cooper’s regular New Year’s Eve broadcast buddy, Kathy Griffin, released images from a photo shoot today that she promised would “make noise.” TMZ was given exclusive access to the “art” project, which included Ms. Griffin holding up a fake version of President Donald Trump’s decapitated head.

This, dear reader, is “the resistance” that Hollywood directors like Joss Whedon are calling for because Mr. Trump will allegedly trick the nation into massacring gay people. The entertainment community now finds itself weirdly peddling the idea that Mr. Trump should have his head chopped off to … stop him from chopping off heads.

Get it? If you do, then please explain it to me in the comments section below.

Joss Whedon Trump tweet

Ms. Griffin apologized when the ensuing outrage spread like wildfire across social media, but that begs the question: Did she mean it, or was she trying to save her annual payday with CNN? When someone looks up repeatedly while apologizing, it comes across as, “Okay, okay. I’ll say I’m sorry. Can we just get this over with and move on? Yeesh.”

Consider what the comedian said just hours earlier to photographer Tyler Shields: “We’re going to go to prison — federal prison. Call your dad, apologize.”

She knew people would be angry and disgusted, but she did it anyway. She just didn’t realize that there are still enough people with common decency across the political spectrum that she would become professionally toxic to many of her peers. 

Kathy Griffin Apologize

Mr. Trump is a lot of things, but he most certainly does not deserve to have his fellow Americans sending the message that he should be executed ISIS-style. Nobody deserves such a fate, but for some disgusting reason the Hollywood community has decided to try and equate him with “Nazis” and Hitler and any other group that serves to transform him into a monster.

The reason is simple: Once you dehumanize a man and turn him into a demon, then it is easy to rationalize any action(s) used to destroy said demon. The entertainment industry has decided that a rhetorical and “artistic” scorched earth strategy is acceptable for “resisting” the president, even if it further tears the nation apart.

My guess is that Ms. Griffin, like many comedians, has a whole slew of psychological and emotional issues. People should be mindful of that as they respond to her “art.” Regardless, she should be held responsible for her a behavior. It is up to good people to take a stand against Hollywood’s most ghoulish political hacks, because the industry’s aggregated efforts have a huge effect on shaping young minds.

If you want to know what the future of America looks like without the right actions of morally upstanding individuals today, then look no further than the social media feeds of men like Joss Whedon and women like Kathy Griffin. Absent a miracle, I firmly believe that our nation is bound for many dark days ahead.

Joss Whedon Watch: Batgirl director uses teen cancer survivors as political weapons

At what point does a man look in the mirror and say to himself, “I’m politically unhinged and I need help before I sink into an ideological abyss and drown.” If your name is Joss Whedon, now would be a good time to ask that question.

For those who haven’t been paying attention to social media today, you missed the moment when Warner Bros.’ Batgirl director decided it would be a good idea to use teenage cancer survivors as a cudgel with which to beat President Donald Trump. Seriously. We have reached the point in Mr. Whedon’s life when children who somehow survived countless rounds of chemotherapy are fair game as weapons in a rhetorical war against political enemies.

Warner Bros. executives, if you’re listening, I have a question for you: Do you really want a man who is this unhinged — a man who brings this much baggage with him — at the helm of a big-budget superhero film? If so, then you too might want to consider getting your heads examined.

Check out my latest YouTube video to see Joss Whedon publicly demonstrate how easy it is for a man to die inside from ideological hemlock poisoning. Then, when you’re done, take a moment and vow never to emulate his behavior. You’ll be glad you did upon your own deathbed.

Comics and Politics YouTube chat: ‘Identity Chaos of Marvel’

The upcoming week here at douglasernst.blog is likely to feature reviews of John Wick 2, the conclusion to Marvel’s The Clone Conspiracy, and the fourth issue of Invincible Iron Man. While those are baking in the oven, those of you who are interested in hearing me ruminate on comics and politics can check out Capn. Cummings’ latest YouTube video: “Revolution Comics Podcast: The Identity Chaos of Marvel #3.”

Our old friend Captain Frugal completes the trio, as always.

Whedon Watch: Political radiation turns Joss into ‘rage’ monster

Question: What happens when a man plays with political gamma radiation for far too long?

Answer: Just like Hollywood director Joss Whedon, he turns into a rage monster who will destroy anyone in his path to achieve ideological ends.

I covered Mr. Whedon’s slow-motion descent into partisan madness on this blog for years, but a new segment on my YouTube channel has officially launched with the name Whedon Watch.

If you’re interested in seeing how talented men often go from artistically inspired to hulking partisan hacks, then check out my latest YouTube video. Given that Mr. Whedon shows no signs of pulling back from a poisonous void, I fully expect there to be many episodes of Whedon Watch in the years to come.

Joss Whedon unravels as political cancer eats his soul

Hollywood director Joss Whedon has been on a slow-motion political implosion for about six years, but last week it became much more obvious when he wished one of his fellow Americans were raped — by a rhino. Yes, as bizarre as it is for your friendly neighborhood blogger to chronicle this sad turn of events, on some level it is not the surprising. After all, Mr. Whedon also began using coup-like rhetoric after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

If you want more details on Mr. Whedon’s embrace of Ultron-level hate, then check out my latest YouTube video and let me know what you think in the comments section below. And, if you like the format, then be sure to subscribe for regular updates.

‘Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging’: Junger’s must-read explains why America is tearing itself apart

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Roughly 17 years ago I exited the military after a stint as a mechanized infantryman in the U.S. Army. Even though the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and the nation’s “long war” had not yet begun, I found myself having a difficult time with the transition to civilian life. Understanding why I missed my old platoon — and why I felt a growing fear and sadness for the country I loved — took years (and a blog like this) to figure out, but author and former war reporter Sebastian Junger articulates it all in his must-read book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

Americans who have not lived under a rock for the past 20 years have witnessed the slow-motion implosion of our culture.

  • Cable news pundits obsessively talk of “red states” and “blue states.”
  • The politics of personal destruction reigns supreme.
  • Saying “all lives matter” is interpreted in a Twilight Zone-ish twist by millions of people as somehow racist.
  • Americans watch carefully constructed social-media feeds that tell them all Republicans are the equivalent of Darth Vader, or that all Democrats have shrines to Fidel Castro in their bedroom.

In short, the modern world is deficient in something that is causing tens-of-millions of people to feel isolated, alone, and empty. The void is filled with confusion, and that in turn fuels the kind of anger and hate that was the hallmark of the 2016 election cycle.

Why is it that many soldiers and civilians who have lived through war sometimes get nostalgic for it?

What are the consequences for society when a person “living in a modern city or suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day — or an entire life — mostly encountering complete strangers”?

Why are we often surrounded by others, yet “feel deeply, dangerously alone”?

One of the answers can be found in tribal societies. And no, your friendly neighborhood blogger is not saying Native Americans should have won the clash of civilizations at our nation’s inception. I am merely saying, like Mr. Junger, that we can learn from their ability to provide “the three pillars of self-determination — autonomy, competence, and community.”

Mr. Junger writes:

“After World War II, many Londoners claimed to miss the exciting and perilous days of the Blitz. (“I wouldn’t mind having an evening like it, say, once a week — ordinarily there’s no excitement,” one man commented to Mass-Observation about the air raids), and the war that is missed doesn’t even have to be a shooting war: “I am a survivor of the AIDS epidemic,” an American man wrote in 2014 on the comment board of an online lecture about war. “Now that AIDS is no longer a death sentence, I must admit that I miss those days of extreme brotherhood…which led to deep emotions and understandings that are above anything I have felt since the plague years.”

What people miss presumably isn’t danger or loss but the unity that these things often engender. There are obvious stresses on a person in a group, but there may be even greater stresses on a person in isolation, so during disasters there is a net gain in well-being. Most primates, including humans, are intensely social, and there are very few instances of lone primates surviving in the wild. …

Whatever the technological advances of modern society — and they’re near miraculous — the individualized lifestyles that those technologies spawn seem to be deeply brutalizing to the human spirit.” — (Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (New York: Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2016), 92-93.

Tribe covers issues like PTSD, depression, and anxiety among combat veterans, but it would be a big mistake to solely think of it as a book for the military community. It is much more than that, because it is a blueprint for getting the nation on a path to cultural healing.

The author continues:

“The eternal argument over so-called entitlement programs — and, more broadly, over liberal and conservative thought — will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past.

So how do you unify a secure, wealthy country that has sunk into a zero-sum political game with itself? How do you make veterans feel that they are returning to a cohesive society that was worth fighting for in the first place? […] I put the question to Rachel Yehuda of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. …

“if you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different — you underscore your shared humanity,” she told me. “I’m appalled by how much people focus on differences. Why are you focusing on how different you are from one another, and not on the things that unite us?” […]

Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn’t, potentially, one huge combat outpost are deluding themselves. (127-128).

Tribe is by no means “the” answer to the nation’s deep-seated cultural problems, but it is a significant piece of the puzzle. To get a good look at the big picture, I suggest pairing Mr. Junger’s quick-read with George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic. Each book provides a template for transcending dead-end partisan bickering, and in turn getting America efficiently focused on  becoming a more-perfect union.

Douglas Ernst Blog: State of the Blog Address for 2017 content

Another year has come and gone, dear readers. As always, I just wanted to say that I am grateful for everyone who allocates precious time to read my ramblings and listen to my YouTube musings. The next day is never promised, which is why I can not thank you enough for stopping in and sharing your thoughts.

With that said, I wanted to fill some long-time readers on the “state of the blog” since I have not been posting very much political fare these days. There are reasons for that and I want to be honest and forthright with you as to what to expect in the year to come.

Here is the truth: Political posts, which used to come naturally to me, now seem to take much more energy and focus to produce than ever before. I used to be able to wake up at 6:30 a.m., eat some breakfast, exercise, write a blog post, shower, shave, and then start my regular day at work. Sometimes I would knock out another post late at night or at least begin one that could be published the next morning.

That isn’t happening anymore. In the past two weeks there have probably been 10 stories I would have historically loved to write about — and probably would have stayed up until 1:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m. to make it happen — but I find myself opting to read a book instead, or heading out for a quiet breakfast alone (my wife takes off for work much earlier than I do).

Anyway, I suppose a part of me is mulling over the best approach to writing in a political landscape where principled conservatives (or shall we just say classical liberals?) — are statistical outliers. Those who follow both my comic reviews and the explicitly political material know that both are geared towards promoting a strong and virtuous civil society, but it becomes harder to write on day-to-day politics when the vast majority of men have embraced an “ends justify the means” philosophy.

For readers who enjoy regular reviews of Marvel comic books, there will be no shortage of those in the year ahead. In fact, I will likely begin reviewing DC’s Batman: Detective Comics as well (it’s already added to my pull list). I may concentrate more on YouTube videos than written reviews for numerous reasons, but fresh content will be there in one form or another.

Finally, for those who have been subscribed long enough to remember the book I’ve been working on, the good news is that at this stage in the game I am in the process of acquiring quality artwork before seeking out a publisher. I have a good relationship with an artist, but he is a very busy man. I have no intention of rushing him. In short, the book exists and it will eventually see the light of day. You will be the first to know once it becomes available.

Again, thank you all for being a part of my life. I truly enjoy speaking with each and every one of you on a regular basis, and I look forward to many more years of talking comic books and politics in the comments section below.

Happy New Year!

Best,

Douglas

Comics and Politics YouTube chat with Capn Cummings

If you ever wanted to hang out and just chat with your friendly neighborhood blogger, then perhaps you’d like to check out today’s impromptu discussion I had with a fellow YouTuber. I’m always up for talking comic books and politics, so when I was asked by Capt. Cummings there was no way I was going to say no.

If you’re not a fan of this blog or my YouTube channel, then I have bad news for you: I plan on doing more YouTube chats in the years to come.

Anyway, feel free to tune in and add your two cents on the Captain’s YouTube channel or the in the comments section below.

France bans Down Syndrome ad from TV because smiling kids might ‘disturb’ women who had an abortion

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Years ago I was a substitute teacher just outside Chicago. There were days when I had the opportunity to join special education classes, which included kids with Down Syndrome. I am not lying when I say that those were some of the best kids I ever had the privilege to meet.

Given that experience, you can see one of the many reasons why a story out of France caught my eye just before Thanksgiving.  It turns out that a commercial by CoorDown titled “Dear Future Mom” is now officially banned from the airwaves. The reason? It might “disturb the conscience” of women who elected to have an abortion.

The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed on the story Wednesday:

“Abortion is legal in most of Europe, but its proponents are bent on suppressing efforts to change the minds of mothers considering it. Witness France’s ban on a television commercial showing happy children with Down Syndrome (DS).

Produced to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, the commercial showed several cheerful children with DS addressing a mother considering abortion. “Dear future mom,” says one, “don’t be afraid.” “Your child will be able to do many things,” says another. “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” “He’ll be able to speak and tell you he loves you.”

France’s High Audiovisual Council removed the commercial from air earlier this year, and in November the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, upheld the ban, since the clip could ‘disturb the conscience’ of French women who had aborted DS fetuses.”

Ask yourself this question: If French courts are permitted to ban a television commercial that features smiling kids because it might “disturb the conscious” of some viewers, then what is off limits?

Answer: Nothing.

Whether you agree or disagree with abortion, then I hope you can see just how incredibly terrifying this court’s logic is from a free-speech and religious liberty perspective. People often behave like the liberties enjoyed by the western world will be around forever, but that is not the case.

“But Doug!” you said, “Why should we care about France? We sort of expect that kind of thing from the French and Europe as a whole, right?”

The truth, sadly, is that every nation has Thought Police — even the U.S.

One merely needs to check out BuzzFeed’s hit piece on the hosts of HGTV’s hit series Fixer Upper. Writer Kate Aurthur founder herself a juicy target to destroy because a popular married couple is suspected of a Mind Crime. That’s why she wrote “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage.”

Shocker — Christian family belongs to a church that does not approve of homosexual relationships.

Perhaps Allahpundit over at Hotair put it best:

“The BuzzFeed piece is proof that we’re past the persuasion stage now in the culture wars, particularly as regards gay rights, and into the bludgeoning stage, where the left feels secure enough in its gains to try to strongarm the holdouts.”

Boom.

In France, smiling kids with Down Syndrome cannot appear on television. In America, Christian couples with hit television shows have giant websites trying to find ways to destroy their career.

In France, powerful legal councils keep you off the air if you  disturb the conscience of women who had an abortion. In America, liberal reporters will try to derail your television career if you “disturb the conscious” of secular Democrats.

And with that, I will leave you with a quote by John Philpot Curran:

The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” — John Philpot Curran.

If you do not think you have anything to learn from men who were born in the 1700s, then think again.

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