Tagged: advertising

Law 23: On Commercial Speech and the Advertised Mind

“The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected a public school district’s decision to ban pink wristbands featuring the phrase ‘I ♥ Boobies!’ as part of a breast cancer awareness month fund raiser and educational project. The public school district’s rationale was that the speech was indecent and, under Morse [Morse v. Frederick, US 2007] and Fraser [Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser, US 1986], indecent speech is presumptively disruptive regardless of its actual effects on the school’s operations. The 9-5 en banc Third Circuit did not disagree with the school’s district legal claim that indecent speech is inherently disruptive, but rejected the school district’s characterization of the bracelets as indecent. Had the judges found the speech to be indecent, the school district would have prevailed over the students.

“One should also keep in mind that five members of the en banc court disagreed with this characterization – finding the message to be indecent and therefore proscribable. As much as one would like to dismiss the dissenting judges’ views on this point as complete and utter nonsense, the Fraser/Morse framework makes the characterization of the speech as ‘lewd’ outcome determinative. The problem with this analysis is that a student wearing a breast cancer awareness wristband featuring this phrase simply does not present a serious risk of disruption to a middle school’s core pedagogical mission.”

Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Jr. (University of Alabama School of Law), The Disappearing First Amendment, Cambridge University Press, 2019, p.115.

I ♥ Boobies! bracelets on sale on Amazon

The decision here discussed is BH ex rel. Hawk v. Easton Area School District, 3rd Cir. 2013. The US Supreme Court declined to take the case. – I will explain why the “complete and utter nonsense” of the five dissenting judges is actually the correct point of view in this case.

The reader has understood at this stage that the point on which I will dwell is not the main issue discussed by Prof. Krotoszynski. The point he makes is that lewdness in the context of students wearing wristbands on their campus should not be “outcome determinative” in deciding a free speech issue, because the regulatory powers of school authorities aim at preventing disruption inside the educational context and such behavior is not disruptive whether one construes the message on the wristbands as lewd or not.

Therefore, when Prof. Krotoszynski calls the dissenting judges’ view “complete and utter nonsense,” it is only a side comment. That is, to begin with, a singular rhetorical figure to reserve one’s most pungent and bellicose remarks to alleged side aspects of a problem. Compare the sharply dismissive “complete and utter nonsense” with the rest of the passage and you’ll find the phrase is isolated in the argument. It is as if Prof. K. were willing to go out of his mind for a problem he alleges not even to be discussing. Far for being a rhetorical figure, it betrays Prof. K.’s true mind: He is incensed that some judges, even in the minority, could have found the speech obscene. Of course, having asserted that the point is only incidental, he does not tell his readers why it is “complete and utter nonsense.” It just goes without saying, seemingly.

Precisely this point will I discuss, leaving aside the question whether that particular speech should be deemed disruptive or not, but at the same time agreeing with Fraser that lewd speech is subject to the regulatory power of school authorities. That this agreement of mine is the consequence of my views on obscenity will become, I think, crystal clear from the reasoning.

i

“Affirming, the Court held that, under the First Amendment, the students’ bracelets could not be categorically banned by the school district. The bracelets were part of a nationally recognized breast-cancer-awareness campaign and were not plainly lewd and because (sic) they commented on a social issue. The Court also held that the school district failed to show that the bracelets threatened to substantially disrupt the school.” (LexisNexis website on BH ex rel. Hawk v. Easton Area School District)

Contrary to Prof. K., LexisNexis presents the court’s decision as based on two seemingly separate issues: on the one hand, the court found that the bracelets were not “plainly lewd” and on the other hand there was no evidence that the bracelets were disruptive. However, Prof. K. is certainly correct to state that the wristbands would have been disruptive ipso facto if found lewd, because this is the substance of the Fraser precedent. Therefore, the school authorities had intended their claim according to which the wristbands are obscene as proof that the wristbands are disruptive; the issues are not separate (although there may be several possible sources of disruption besides obscenity). The last sentence in LexisNexis’s quote should be, therefore: “The Court also held that the school district failed to show that the bracelets threatened to substantially disrupt the school IN OTHER WAYS,” in order to be quite consistent with Fraser.

Again, it isn’t the articulation between obscenity and disruption in the legal treatment of such free speech cases that I want to discuss primarily, but mainly the claim itself that the bracelets are not obscene.

The bracelets read “I ♥ Boobies!” I love boobies. Where in the world is such an utterance as this not a serious breach of etiquette, is the simple question one must ask from the outset. And the answer is, in sum: Nowhere.

If one male student at that school had told a female student he vaguely knew: “I love your boobies,” that would have been a horrible outrage. This was so before feminism existed, will still be so if feminism ceases to exist, and such as feminist sensitivity now exists it is indeed a horrible outrage. It is more than a gaffe, it is the reprobate endorsement of the womanly body’s sexual objectification. One must simply never utter such words except, perhaps, in the intimacy of one’s sexual life. The normal reaction to such words in a social setting is a slap in the face, and if the woman has a brother the latter may have a few words to say too: “Did you say ‘I love your boobies’ to my sister?” and after the slap comes a punch. Even assuming that such reactions could be somewhat extreme, everybody feels the truth of what I’m saying, and if we don’t hear of such slaps and punches more often it is probably because most people know they must not say such words and avoid saying them. (Among groups of teenage boys and girls, this kind of speech may be more frequent, as boys want to test girls, want to know how much girls can take, with an escalation to be expected for those girls who, in order to remain part of a group, accept to be talked like that; for these, unwanted pregnancies are perhaps the least of various foreseeable evils.)

Even if not addressed to one or some women in particular, the words ‘I love boobies,’ when not merely reported for some purpose, will be found a serious breach of etiquette in about all social settings. The only exceptions I can think of are conversations either (a) between people who are on the most intimate footing or (b) in groups where members agree beforehand they will be talking of those things, namely the members’ sexual tastes. In both cases, the general rules of etiquette are suspended and new ones apply on which all participants in the interaction agree as a result of long acquaintance or accepted intimacy, in a, or of stipulated rules (“we’ll be talking of our sexual tastes”), in b. In other situations, where an idiosyncratic micro-etiquette is not agreed upon tacitly or expressly, the general etiquette of society at large obtains, and let me tell Prof. K. that according to that etiquette neither sexual objectification nor hinting at the underlying impulses toward it as natural therefore normal, is accepted. It is not accepted because it is obscene. In a nutshell no one wants to hear ‘I love boobies’ without prior agreement which cannot be presumed.

One will pass me the use of the word etiquette, which perhaps has an elitist or snobbish flavor about it, even as I deal with customs that I describe as enjoying full recognition in the society at large. The notion that I merely would be talking of upper-class standards that are nothing to the rest of the people, if not a target of endless jokes, is what I will be dealing with now. This notion is entertained by what I shall call ‘advertised minds’ (Du Plessis) and rests on a distorted perception of the real world.

(From Erik Du Plessis’s book, The Advertised Mind: Groundbreaking insights into how our brains respond to advertising [Millward Brown, 2008], an insider’s account of the neuroscience of advertising, I am only borrowing the phrase ‘advertised mind’ –advertised in the sense I figure of shaped by advertisement– as the book has little to say on legal and sociological implications of advertising outside the market researcher’s perspective.)

ii

What I have been describing in i is a taboo. We may, in the western world, fancy ourselves  free from taboos and there is in our midst a whole sector of speech agency that has set a rule of making people believe there is no such thing as taboos, a speech agency named commercial speech. It has made this attitude a rule because, short of making us believe this way, it could not use taboos to its own ends. The utterance ‘I love boobies’ is taboo and commercial speech vindicates a right to use taboos as sales pitch. Obviously the power of such a pitch must be great, it cannot fail to attract people’s attention.

Furthermore, commercial speech cannot do this without a convention that when it, and it alone, makes use of taboos, read obscenity, it is not taboos and obscenity but something quite different. When commercial speech is obscene, by convention it is not obscene. Admittedly, the convention does not extend (yet) over the whole field of possible obscene speech; there are limits.

Whereas common sense has it that taboos are arbitrary conventions, in truth it is the exception for which we make room by waiving to treat obscene commercial speech as taboo like any other public speech, that is the most obvious convention of the two, because it lacks the thinnest link with our essence whereas the reason why we do not want to be reminded daily of our biological processes is self-evident as we see ourselves as free agents only partially determined by natural impulses.

To take an example, the s- and f-words are vulgar precisely because they remind us of our biology. It is only an apparent paradox that they are used all the time – as cursing words. We often curse, true enough, and at the same time these are the words no one wants to hear, vulgar words. Their use has become so widespread in informal speech, anyway, that we have become blind to the actual biological processes they depict when we hear the words, most of the time.

Yet I deny commercial speech the right to use obscene language with people not minding.

I love boobies, therefore I fight breast cancer: What is indecent in this? – It is twice indecent, compounded indecency. (1) Appropriation of obscenity for some social or commercial goal does not cancel the obscenity. Disrespect for a woman’s character is not mitigated by the fact that it comes in a double entendre; on the contrary, it is aggravated by underhandedness. (2) When, therefore, underhandedness is given out as a valid defence, the aggravating factor parading as its opposite is all the more outrageous.

iii

Admitting that ‘I love boobies’ is not proper talk among people, that is to say, will elicit among listeners at best embarrassment and more often than not displeasure and anger (save in the circumstances I described), then considering the usual effect as obviated when and because it comes from commercial speech is to load an illegitimate burden on people at the receiving end. As a matter of fact, this is making people inferiors in an unequal relationship with commercial speech. In an unequal relationship, the inferiors have no choice but to repress their natural reactions when the superiors disregard the inferiors’ feelings. Yet I see no reason why people should be treated as inferior to the agencies entitled to making commercial speech.

Failing to perceive the situation in this way is a sign of being an ‘advertised mind,’ a mind whose general notions are shaped in large part or entirely by pervasive commercial speech.

That it is a nonprofit, such as a “breast-cancer-awareness” organization perhaps, which uses marketing techniques borrowed from private business advertising makes no difference. That would very odd if the law allowed “nationally recognized campaigns” to use methods it considers inappropriate for private pursuits. In fact, as commercial speech is not as fully protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution as, say, political speech, campaigns, no matter how nationally recognized, relevant and important, that make use of commercial speech methods, are equally limited by the Constitution in the attention-calling, neuroscience techniques they may use. The question, in BH ex rel. Hawk v. Easton Area School District, really boils down to this: Is “I ♥ Boobies!” indecent? Justifying indecency by the goals aimed at (the end justifies the means), namely breast cancer awareness, is a clandestine extension of commercial speech’s constitutional rights.

Same as LexisNexis has, perhaps correctly as to the 3rd cir. court’s reasoning, described Hawk as having two separate issues, (1) lewdness and (2) disruptiveness of speech, whereas Fraser coalesces the two in one lewd-disruptive characterization, it also make separate issues of (1) the national campaign (“The bracelets were part of a nationally recognized breast-cancer-awareness campaign”) and (2) lewdness (“AND were not plainly lewd”), whereas it seems obvious the majority has excused the lewdness on the national campaign: It cannot be obscene because we are talking of breast cancer – not breast grabbing.

When commercial speech makes use of obscenity, by convention we are supposed to take it as a form of irony (au second degré). A nonprofit organization or business has no natural, biological motive to say it loves boobies, therefore it is humor, a humorous, cheeky wink. Well, no. If a business exhibited penises on posters to sell goods, we would find it obscene regardless of whether someone in the advertising agency is a pathological exhibitionist or not. The trick is to attract attention through the intrusive, obstreperous display of what no one wants to see or hear. Find a taboo, usually in the field of the obscene, plaster all walls with it under a conventional label of irony and the jig is up. The deed will be positively valued, as defiance against the constraints of etiquette, usually by the frustrated who believe their natural impulses are held in fetters by inimical, unnatural social forces, and by the young who still have no sex life. For those, commercial speech dons the guise of liberators.

This is how I read the phrase “plainly lewd.” When something is “not plainly lewd,” that means it is lewd (but not plainly so here by virtue of the irony). However, the Fraser precedent does not ask that speech be “plainly lewd” for authorities to step in. I believe the majority in Hawk has found the lewd speech excusable in the context of commercial speech for breast cancer awareness. Yet judges should know that, with obscenity, context is often immaterial, for sometimes courts exclude the public from hearings when the case is too risqué; that is, even sheer reporting, even reporting with the express intention to condemn and contemn what must be condemned and contempted, is deemed potentially offensive.

Another problem with such finding is that speech tends to be arbitrarily defined according to the speaker. When it is our good friend Mr Commercial Speech, best known for his delightful epigram “I love boobies, therefore I fight breast cancer,” it is not obscene, whereas a rap singer who loves boobies is at risk of prosecution (well, maybe not all of them).

In sum, conventions declaring indecency innocuous in the context of commercial speech cannot be valid, they are unacceptable, as is every mental process based on such unwritten conventions. Therefore, the five dissenting justices in BH ex rel. Hawk v. Easton Area School Dist. were in the right.

According to a note in Krotoszynski’s book, one dissenting judge argued the bracelets were lewd because “‘I ♥ Boobies!’ can reasonably be interpreted as inappropriate sexual double entendre.” This, to be sure, borders on “complete and utter nonsense,” however not, as K. would have it, because the message cannot reasonably be interpreted as inappropriate sexual double entendre but because it cannot be interpreted otherwise except by the blind, unreasoned following of a convention. It is true the message can reasonably be interpreted as sexual but this is not the relevant aspect of it, which is, in fact, that it cannot reasonably be interpreted otherwise.

The national breast awareness campaign used the techniques of commercial speech and most certainly contracted with an ad agency that came off with the ‘I love boobies’ pitch. A change of judicial state of mind regarding commercial speech is long overdue. When a double entendre dawns upon one in commercial speech, I suggest not to treat it as a blunder or mistake but as intentional save proof to the contrary, because advertisers are professionals whose task is to design messages and the rational expectation is therefore that the content they produce is intentional; but again this goes against the irrational convention that prevails among us regarding commercial speech, where lewd (or other taboo-ridden content) is not lewd.

Besides, it should be of concern that vindication of student free speech revolves around commercial speech. The media Slate called BH ex rel. Hawk v. Easton Area School Dist. the case that “could decide student free speech” (Aug 9, 2013); that is, student free speech could be decided by a case where students’ speech consists in passively adopting some commercial pitch made by others.

iv

Another group psychology phenomenon might be at play with the wristbands. As they are worn by women, and females are the natural object of lewd remarks on breasts by males, there would be some sexism awareness campaign too about the bracelets. When a group of people is the habitual object of some pejorative image and associated words, members of the group may adopt figures of the stereotype among themselves as a defence mechanism. I think the typical example is the use of the n-word among blacks. More recently we have seen followers of candidate and then president Donald Trump call themselves ‘deplorables’ after Hillary Clinton had used the word in a dismissive comment. Other examples may be found. – Understood in this way the bracelets would be integral speech. However, such message, admitting it were there (which I am willing to grant), is adulterated by its commercial speech origin, and even if it deflected its intrinsic lewdness by being a message from victims, actual or in solidarity, of lewd unwanted remarks about breasts –deflected it as far as the victims themselves are concerned–, it cannot cancel the inherent obscenity of the message save by virtue of an irrational convention forced upon the society by commercial speech.

Furthermore, if male students wore the bracelets, it would be hard to determine if they embraced the same feminist cause or rather intended a reversal to the primary meaning, this time as a reaction to a feminist campaign. The disruptive potential of the wristbands understood in this way is far from negligible, considering the accessory could throw students into a renewed embittered battle of the sexes on campus. Complaints would arise such as: “He flashed his bracelet at me!”, bracelet flashing would become a rampant form of sexist bullying. Even seen in this light, the school authorities were right to step in.

(The dissenting judge quoted in iii may have had such thoughts in mind when he wrote that the message can reasonably be interpreted as sexual double entendre, for instance if the bracelets were worn by male students in reaction to a feminist campaign, in which case I owe the judge an apology.)

LI The Future of Media Illiteracy

Does the idea of too high a price to pay for achieving one’s biological goals make any sense? In Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, the main character Nora has achieved reproductive success, she has three kids and her husband has just become head of the bank so together they will bring up their kids in the best possible conditions. She nevertheless leaves house, husband, and children to work on her own because she does not want to fail her “duty to herself” any longer. Can a “duty to oneself” be jeopardized by the pursuit of biological goals?

According to biosociologist Brant Wenegrat, “motherhood in societies like ours does predict an increased risk of depressive disorders” (Illness and Power, 1995). Some scholarly confirmation of the playwright’s insight, then, as motherhood and parenting, i.e. biological success itself would lead to increased biological risk, in the shape of dysfunctional conditions for the children raised by a depressive mother. Or is it nonsense? This prediction is not confirmed in the book Darwinian Psychiatry (1998), by McGuire and Troisi, which states that male celibates are the most at risk of depression, precisely because of their biological failure (failed reproductive machines). Two opposite conclusions, then, from scholars of the same school of thought. For McGuire and Troisi women’s mental health is not as dependent on the success of biological reproduction as men’s, whereas for Wenegrat successful biological reproduction tends to affect negatively women’s mental health and not men’s.

Modern work, now, is not an evolved biological media for male competition (contrary to what evolutionary psychologists Tiger and Fox, 1971, claim), as for millenaries slavery was the rule and dominant males did not work (savanna-activity, i.e. hunter-gatherer environment of evolutionary adaptedness EEA-like hunting was aristocrats’ hobby throughout the world in the past of civilization). In this way, and, again, contrary to the views of some EP scholars, modern work goes against biological tendencies. If a duty to oneself exists and, if we take Nora’s example, opposes the mere pursuit of biological goals, then modern work may be the way to fulfill one’s duty to oneself instead of biological goals. Yet in evolutionary terms I see nothing that warrants nor could even possibly warrant this ‘literary’ conclusion.

*

Gustave Le Bon, in his Psychologie des foules, talks about women who throw acid at their lovers’ face as something frequent in his days. Today, the media talks about this, pointing the finger to men, mostly in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, throwing acid in order to oppress women because those men are Muslims. In fact, EP scholar David Buss also talks of Jamaican women doing the same with their female rivals nowadays. Yet talk about acid attacks these days, and you will find that people associate it with Muslim men. There is a Sherlock Holmes story by Conan Doyle about a woman throwing acid at her lover’s face too, to confirm Le Bon (The Adventure of the Illustrious Client).

*

Outline for a dystopian sci-fi novel. As a foreign body inside the societies where their communities live, the Lormocks have a perception of their own, the basic idea of which being that their community’s interest only partially overlaps with that of the host societies, which they seek to exploit. They are parasites. Neuroparasites. For a long time our knowledge of parasites was perfunctory; we knew lice and other pest that suction blood and weaken the body, and that’s about all. It took us decades to find out that rabies is a parasite that compels the dog host to bite in order to carry the parasite over to more hosts. Now we have a much broader picture of what parasites are doing: They control their host, sometimes they castrate it, sometimes they do not allow him to take food, they do as they please with their host. As the Lormocks achieve middleman-minority status due to their ingroup solidarity inside societies that they help make atomistic, they endeavor to control the channels of public expression, and of course they use these according to their community’s interest. Sycophancy toward the Lormocks, serving this foreign and parasitic body’s purposes, becomes a sine qua non of individual success –and fitness– in society.

*

Subliminal advertising: the elephant penis in the living room.

*

Since the July 2016 failed coup in Turkey, Erdogan has been conducting massive repression in the country. Thousands of civil servants are being sacked and their names published so they will never find jobs again in the country. Intellectuals are also targeted.

272 writers from all over the world have signed a petition against the judicial trials that will open against journalist Ahmet Altan and his brother, economist Mehmet Altan.

Both are accused by the government of having sent subliminal messages on TV about the impending coup. As far as I know, a world premiere! (Le Monde, Sep 21, 2016)

Turkey’s President Erdogan is thus giving support to my research. I am available as an expert at the trial.

*

Taco Subliminals

There where similar charges [of the use of subliminal techniques, (like the “rats” in “democrats” in U.S. 2000 campaign trail, if you remember] by Andrés Manuel López Obrador against the right-wing candidate Felipe Calderón in the Mexican presidential elections of 2006, in which the color scheme for a popular soft drink and its publicity mirrored those of Calderón’s party. Opponent saw the similarity as a sneaky way to circumvent campaign spending limits by a corporate supporter of Calderón.” (Charles R. Acland, Swift Viewing: The Popular Life of Subliminal Influence, 2011).

Acland’s aim is to debunk subliminals as just another “urban legend.” Faced with such incredulity, it is really heartening to find support from intellectuals like Eric McLuhan [see Index for Professor Eric McLuhan’s contributions]. The example above shows that the use of non-verbal persuasion techniques is part of the public debate now, as it should be in media-literate constituencies. Information society must not amount to mass manipulation by mass media but to media literacy of the public.

*

The Age of Empathy (2009) by primatologist Frans de Waal talks of an experiment by Swedish professor Ulf Dimberg : When people are shown visuals of angry faces they tend to frown and of happy faces they tend to smile, and this is true also when the faces are subliminal! De Waal says Dimberg’s results have been met with resistance…

Dimberg, Thunberg, & Elmehed (2000), Unconscious facial reactions to emotional facial expressions. Psychological Science 11: 86-89.

*

Jacques Castonguay’s book La Psychologie au service du consommateur (1978), said by prefacer Nicolle Forget, the then chair of Canada consumers association, to put the limelight on subliminal advertising (« Il aura eu le mérite aussi de ramener dans l’actualité la question de la publicité subliminale »), is terribly disappointing. Albeit not in denial, Castonguay says Marshall McLuhan and Wilson Bryan Key’s views are “exaggerated,” so the topic is expedited in a couple of pages and he can devote the rest of his book to conveying the nauseating platitudes that business insiders wrote for the public.

*

Take Buddhism. Basically a personality cult (in the person of the Buddha).

*

The three following statements cannot be true taken together and studies show that 3/ is consistently true.

1/ The activity and development of the brain’s right hemisphere is not taken into account in IQ tests. (Marshall and Eric McLuhan, Laws of Media: The New Science, 1988)

2/ Asians are right-hemisphere people. (Ibid.)

3/ Asians (Northern Asians) have the highest scores in IQ tests.

Well, they may be true taken together but only if Asians are superior to Westerners even in the skills that are not Asians’ best (left-hemisphere skills), that is, if Asians are superior in everything.

*

Laws of Media’s ascribing several contemporary art forms to the brain’s right hemisphere, such as atonal music, finds some resistance. These forms appear much too much intellectual (left hemisphere) to me – professors’ experiments rather than art proper. If atonality is an expression of acoustic space (p.52), yet our ears (as evolved) want no part in the business of atonality. “As evolved”: According to evolutionary biology, that is, not since the phonetic alphabet, but in the African savanna. Atonal music is an intellectual, abstract, left-hemisphere business: Left-hemisphere radicalism.

Same with relativity theory. Not that I know to which hemisphere it belongs; but I find it inconsistent with Kant’s transcendental idealism, that is, if time and space are a priori forms of our perception I don’t think it makes sense to say time-space can be distorted by massive objects.

Same with psychoanalysis. It has been exploded. Randy Thornhill, for instance, has concisely demonstrated that an Oedipus complex makes no evolutionary sense at all. “The Oedipus complex proposed by Freud would never have been given any credence if anyone had considered the evolutionary fate of a trait that produced such incestuous desires (Thornhill and Thornhill 1987). Because of the reduced viability of offspring produced by mating of close relatives, close inbreeding is selected against. Thus, Freud postulated as fundamental to human nature a trait that simply cannot exist as an evolved human psychological adaptation.” (Thornhill and Palmer, A Natural History of Rape, 2000)

Same with Copenhagen interpretation. If the idea is that we should get rid of determinism in science, then it makes no sense, by definition. The uncertainty principle only tells us that our perceptual endowment allows us not to perceive all causes and determinations in nature – not that these causes and determinations do not exist in nature.

*

Electric telephone man

Electric man is discarnate (McLuhan). What about the man who is used to telling his friends: “I don’t use the phone anymore except for emails”?

He is both discarnate and dyslexic.

Email is discarnate nudism because electric man cannot conceal his dyslexia.

Yet we can. Electric man has by now invented the simplified writing system that Eric McLuhan envisioned for our dyslexic times. He has made it almost completely phonetic:

4 => for

2 => to

8 => -ate ex. contempl8

Same process in French: “c’est” becomes just “c” etc.

*

Some exploration of the fringe: Reverse Speech

i

First thing first, one interesting thing about Australian David Oates’s reverse speech theory is that it is debunked on Wkpd by the same sort of arguments that are used against subliminal perception, namely “pareidolia, the tendency of the human brain to perceive meaningful patterns in random noise.

According to this theory, the unconscious mind expresses itself backward in our utterances.

When reading about this, I was reminded of a video I saw a few months ago (now withdrawn). In that speech by Obama, the President at some point says: “Let me express, let me express my faith &c.” Playing the passage backward, the author of the video hears, and convincingly so, for “Let me express, let me express”: “Serve Satan, serve Satan.” A creepy commentary about the President’s faith.

The author says he could not reproduce the same effect when recording himself saying these words, which is confirmed by Oates. Our utterances, when played backward, do not pronounce the same even when we pronounce the same speech. That leads to the question of the origin of pronunciation differences (accents &c). Why do some people never lose their local accent even after living many years in the capital city when others lose it very fast in the same transplant conditions?

The theory is fascinating at any rate. For one thing, it could never be designed nor tested before the invention of audio recording.

But above all, if the unconscious can understand reverse speech (words pronounced backward, as stressed by Bill Key: cf W.B. Key at the 1995 Judas Priest trial), why could it not express itself backward as well? Key’s research helps buttress Oates’s contentions.

ii

Oates wanted to check the truth of evangelists’ assertions that rock music contains reverse satanic messages. He found some intentional reverse messages but also was led to the discovery that reverse speech can carry meaningful messages.

Using Jungian notions, he then says the word “Satan” occurs rather often in reverse speech because it’s embedded in the collective unconscious, and it serves to express negative feelings.

*

There is a school of thought that sees elaborate clothing as a way to conceal bodily imperfections and thus distort the choice of a mate. A few German racialists (Heinrich Pudor, Richard Ungewitter…) adopted such views, and nudism was considered sound and healthy in some Nazi circles (German Nazi nude photograph magazines are collector’s items today). Scanty clothing, in that view, such as that of contemporary American youth, boys and girls alike, would be close to that philosophy. In the absence of matrimonial intermediaries, who take a careful look at and check the physical condition of the future partners in arranged-marriage societies, people need to check by themselves. In free (as opposed to arranged)-marriage societies, nudism, or close substitutes, is in order.

*

Global Village’s Pizza Gate

(Posted as comment to a since then withdrawn YouTube video, Nov 2016)

The case is rather strong as here presented, however I don’t see ‘proof’ in the technical sense. Yet it definitely should be sufficient ground for the police to further investigate in that direction.

What is new about the so-called Pizza Gate is that it is a criminal investigation carried out by internauts. Being public, it can’t help being a smear campaign at the same time, and I guess this is the reason why several people involved in this new kind of investigation have been banned or shadowbanned on Twitter after the pizza parlor concerned asked Twitter to do something about it or be held accountable for the smear campaign.

Yet, as good ol’ Marshall McLuhan said, we have entered the ‘global village,’ meaning we really are back to village life. For one thing it means privacy will shrink to nothingness or almost nothing, like in a traditional village. It also means, from what I gather from public Pizza Gate investigation, that ‘villagers’ will take charge of law and order themselves. Remember these ‘investigators’ mainly work on the evidence brought to them – brought to everybody in the village – by WikiLeaks. Advancing a technicality according to which all evidence available in this way is void because the source is a ‘spy,’ a ‘traitor,’ a ‘renegade,’ whatever, as is common and perhaps sound practice in the traditional views of law courts, would seem extremely disconnected with the real world under the circumstances of the global village. And remember, these circumstances are here to stay.

*

The level of tax imposed on bachelors is indecent. I can’t even keep a mistress. One has to be a married man for that.

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The beautiful people of adverts

Facial symmetry is more attractive than asymmetry and high-status people are more symmetric than poor people in general. Advertisers just pick attractive people (and usually airbrush the model according to systematic, technical rules): Turns out we associate these models with wealthy people.

Asymmetry can be due to adverse environmental conditions during development (deprivation) and betrays a less healthy phenotype –”wealth is health”– but the answer is not to torture our natural biases by trying to impose other, silly tastes on us, that would have us prefer crippled, perhaps sterile (in the case of obesity) persons.

Beauty is largely objective and a marker of health. Make all people healthier rather than trying, out of a misconceived sense of justice, to force unnatural tastes on people.

The beauty world of advertising systematically creates “supernormal stimuli” to which the real world can only be unequal. This is the true definition of the problem.

*

One result of behavioral science is that masturbation conditioning is particularly efficient. It even works with high psychotics – the least conditionable of all.

*

French journalists had once agreed they would make no news with politicians’ private lives. It shows they wanted no place for morality concerns in the public debate, which is an unjustified prerogative the journalists bestowed on themselves. This will not last, however. There have already been news on President Hollande’s affair with a B-rated actress a few years ago. They made news of it and the president’s popularity plummeted at once. Morality concerns ought not to be ignored.

*

McLuhanesque strolls

What’s the point of writing and publishing books, as literacy has ended? This thought brings me solace.

Also, in the literacy age, there was a public: It was made up by publishing houses and the press. Now the public has disappeared and thought is free.

Counter-culture is an ego trip now. Bad form. We’re the village.

The global village is already something real. Internet social networks are the village. The whole world on a “timeline” (Twitter jargon)! (English as single medium, all other languages due to be discarded?)

Thought becomes aphoristic: Think about the aphoristic-minded world of Twitter users whose every tweet cannot exceed 140 signs (280 now)! Literary heroes disappear. Academic scholars look awkward; the littlest rascal in the world can make fun of them and their ponderous knowledge in retweets as public as the original tweets. Journalists are corrected and insulted in front of their devoted readers. Comedians prove less funny than their followers. Actresses are less beautiful than their fans. Politicians receive sound advice from the administered herd.

We’ve all become sayers of sayings, each of us expresses the village wisdom. It’s tribal, deindividualized, exactly as predicted by McLuhan Marshall and Eric.

With the decline of the Gutenberg Galaxy, the written word is sheer lip service. It says whatever anybody wants to hear, upholds consensus. If the medium is the message, then the message is not even between the lines. It’s in quite another galaxy where literacy has no relevant use as such, only as distraction.

*

Libertarians defend personal liberty against the law but they seem to have nothing to say about personal liberty against mind control by big business, which has become a huge (muted) issue with the advent of scientific marketing. Against this control I see no other shield than the law, like Prohibition was a shield against the liquor industry’s endeavor to “break down sales resistance” by advertising and PR. The fake-news media opposed the Prohibition and contributed mightily to its inadequate enforcement (cf Upton Sinclair, The Wet Parade).

*

Mensa and GMAT

My correspondence from when I wanted to be a Mensa member without taking their tests.

Dear Sir or Madam, (to info@americanmensa.org)

On Mensa Website, qualifying score for the GMAT is “95% or above.”

At a second and last attempt after a crash course in 2004, I got 710 / 94%. My mother tongue is French and before taking my first GMAT test I only practiced English at school. Then, I took a second test after a few months in U.S.

Do you think that people having English as mother tongue are advantaged in the GMAT, or not at all? In case of a yes, shouldn’t the qualifying score for nonnative English speakers be adapted?

Given the time, and thus reflex, factor involved in the test, it seems English fluency (the test language) is important, which puts nonnative speakers at a disadvantage, although per se this fluency does not appear to be relevant to what Mensa membership is about. (July 5, 2017)

/

Hello,

Thank you for the email. Unfortunately, the only way we have to evaluate evidence that is sent in is based on the test publisher’s normative data. To be honest, I am not certain how the GMAC calculates the scores on the exam so I cannot speak to whether or not they make those kinds of allowances. We accept the 95th percentile on the exam based on the fact that their norms are somewhat skewed by the population that takes the exam. The population that attends graduate school is not necessarily a representation of the general population so we allow for more than just the typical top 2 percent.

(T. B., Mensa manager for membership and admissions, July 7, 2017)

/

Thank you very much for your reply.

Do you estimate that top 5% of graduate students population is an inclusive or rather restrictive approximation of top 2% of general population?

According to one source,

Factors such as native vs non-native English speakers, US vs non-US, white vs non-white, etc – generally don’t affect one’s score too much. In terms of covariance analysis, the variation between these subgroups was always less than 1/4 standard deviation.

I think we know the variation goes against nonnative speakers. In case you’d estimate the 95th percentile is not large already, would you be willing to take this variation into account too?

Now, according to Lawrence Rudner, GMAC’s chief psychometrician,

Yes, the GMAT test is administered in English and is designed for programs that teach in English. But the required English skill level is much less than what students will need in the classroom. The exam requires just enough English to allow us to adequately and comprehensively assess Verbal reasoning, Quantitative reasoning and Integrated Reasoning skills.” (link)

That the test only requires “just enough English” doesn’t preclude a variation factor between native and nonnative speakers, due to mental reflexes ingrained in native vs nonnative speakers and more consequential in time-constrained tests than in classroom attendance. Such a variation may justify Mensa to accept a tolerance margin for its admissions based on GMAT scores in the case of nonnative speakers.

If the variation is not “too much,” “less than 1/4 standard deviation,” as I understand the phrasing it is not altogether negligible inside the scope considered (the above tolerance margin). (July 11, 2017)

/

Florent,

At this time, we do not take anything additional in to consideration for the GMAT. The 95th percentile score is the minimum we will accept. (T. B., July 12)

/

Thank you, T. I guess I’ll have to take the tests at Mensa France, then.

Yet I am curious how you get from “the population is somewhat skewed” to “2% translates into 5%”. Does the data support this? What does GMAC say about it? (July 12)

No more from T. Let’s ask GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council):

Dear Sir or Madam, (to customercare@gmac.com)

Mensa International is an “organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test.

People who score at the 95th percentile or higher on GMAT are, however, entitled to join in, and the reason is:

We accept the 95th percentile on the exam based on the fact that their norms are somewhat skewed by the population that takes the exam. The population that attends graduate school is not necessarily a representation of the general population so we allow for more than just the typical top 2 percent.” (Email from T. B., manager of membership and admissions, Mensa USA)

According to your knowledge, does the data support this translation “98th=>95th”?

I took a GMAT test in 2004 and scored 710 / 94%. I asked Mensa if they took into consideration a tolerance margin for nonnative English speakers and they said they did not, so I have been asking them the exact same question as I am asking here, currently waiting for their answer. It is, however, my understanding that Mr B.’s phrasing above rather hints at a “guesstimate” on their part, a rule of thumb that should justify them to show some flexibility.

No answer. Between those who refuse considering a pinch of pliancy with their rule-of-thumb regulations and those who coldly disregard emails, talk of psychorigids!

*

Aristotle’s “prime mover” (as God) has been given the coup de grâce by Kant, with the latter’s antinomies, according to which it is beyond human reason to determine whether the world is finite or infinite, has begun or has been eternal. Each of both opposite conclusions on these two antinomies (there are four in the Critique of Pure Reason) is a contradiction in itself+. This being because our mental apparatus does not describe the thing-in-itself (which, presumably, could not have contradictions in itself without ceasing to exist). I find it a sound position to hold, with Kant, that no rational proof of God’s existence is to be expected in such conditions. The one proof would be the moral law, if it could be ascertained that it’s something true and not derived from the laws of nature (which, for Kant, is the case indeed, so in no way Kant can be called an atheist).

+Monotheisms answer one of these antinomies with a created world, and a prime mover, whereas Hinduism and Buddhism answer with an uncreated world, and both are convinced their position is rational.

*

There’s a passage in Uncle Tom’s Cabin where a ruthless slaveholder defends his practice and monstrous unconcern for the well-being of his slaves (his practice being to exploit them to the utmost, calculating that it would lead the slaves to death, and to new expense from buying slaves, after a few years and inscribing this computation as a mere data in his books) with the words: “This is a free country.

You may find the same kind of situation elsewhere. I once scorned the Jesuits of Paraguay because they made their wooden statues ‘speak’ to the Indians through clever contrivances, but it makes no doubt in my mind that their Socialist form of government with Indians was much more humanitarian than the lay encomiendas of the time. Yet the encomenderos defended their prerogatives as the heritage of communal liberties, while the Jesuits were, before the king turned against them, the arm of central monarchy. For a long time, in the Middle Ages, government authority and coercion were grounded by theologians on the original sin and the resulting wicked nature of man.

*

Contra EP (Evolutionary Psychology)

i

Several studies seeking to verify Devendra Singh’s result on a universal preference for waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of .7 could not confirm it. One was carried out in Peru and another in Tanzania among hunter-gatherers, whom EP claim are behavioral copies of our Pleistocene ancestors (although behavior of different groups of contemporary hunter-gatherers can vary greatly on many essential counts).

ii

In Adapting Minds (2006), David Buller shows convincingly that most of the main EP studies are based on sloppy reading of the data. For instance, Daly and Wilson (The Truth about Cinderella, 1998) amalgamate physical and sexual abuse (!), yet obviously sexual abuse by a stepfather is no confirmation whatever of their view that stepparents tend to be hostile to stepchildren because the latter are only an evolutionary cost to them. Reading the data attentively in fact disproves their view. Buller presents the alternative hypothesis that marriage offers mating opportunities rather than paternity certainty; in such a case evolution would not have selected an averse feeling toward stepchildren, which Daly & Wilson’s data do not even show. Buller also says social workers have a bias against stepparents when they fill child death certificates. So the data D&W examined, mostly from social services, in fact is biased against stepparents, and even then these data do not show the overrepresentation of abusive stepparents D&W claim to have found. Most likely, now, their work has reinforced, if possible, the social workers’ bias, and I have done the same here on my blog, as I followed on D&W’s steps, taking their conclusions with no grain of salt.

I might as well let Buller talk.

On anecdotal evidence from infanticide among mammals:

the discussion of infanticide-as-adaptation turns to be nothing but a red herring in the end.Daly and Wilson state the record straight‘Human beings are not like langurs or lions,’ they inform us. ‘We know that sexually selected infanticide is not a human adaptation because men, unlike male langurs and lions, do not routinely, efficiently dispose of their predecessors’ young. … Child abuse must therefore be considered a non-adaptive or maladaptive byproduct of the evolved psyche’s functional organization, rather than an adaptation in its own right. … All told, we see little reason to imagine that the average reproductive benefits of killing stepchildren would ever have outweighed the average costs enough to select for specifically infanticidal inclinations.’” (p.411)

On mating as paternity opportunity:

if a male can secure paternity opportunities from a female by providing care to her children, even if those children are the offspring of another male, the male enhances his chances of having children of his own and thereby transmitting his genes to future generations. So, another male’s child can make a contribution to a male’s fitness via the opportunities for paternity provided by that child’s mother in exchange for parental care provided to the child. The possibility of such fitness payoffs, however, means that we should not expect male psychology to be so unconditionally averse to investing in unrelated children.” (p.390) (Paternal care is primarily a mating effort and second a parenting effort: p.393)

iii

One of Satoshi Kanazawa’s main claims, and all the other EPs (hippies?) with him, is that high-status men have more sex partners than low-status men. Yet Kinsey has shown the exact opposite in his famous, pioneering surveys. Something happened in the mean time?

In fact, all this BS about high-status males being like gorillas males in gorilla harems is an atrocious regression of Western scholarship. A few decades ago, Darwinians used to talk of the “fertility of the unfit” (that’s the title of a book). There’s a Darwinian contradiction in terms in such a phrase (fertility, of course, means high fertility here), wich a Darwinian could not fail to see and yet they (eugenicists) fully endorsed the paradox. They saw something to which EP boys, with their gorilla model, are blind. What they saw, and what solves the contradiction, is homogamy. Call it unfitness homogamy, if you like.

The EP view of “powerful and famous” males is based on primatology and misleading.

1/ From the longitudinal Stanford Marshmallow experiment, we know that children high on self-restraint have high status later in life. How does it square with having more sex partners than people low on self-restraint?

2/ Polygamy tends to be in the form of serial marriage (powerful and famous men tend to have as a matter of fact several spouses serially, but the number of their affairs is gossip and, as a matter of fact again, unknown). (A view held, among others, by Robert Wright.)

3/ Traditional types of philanderers now make the news as rapists, à la Harvey Weinstein.

4/ Even the highest rates of cuckoldry known (30% in some working-class compounds –number of children whose biological father is another man unbeknownst to the man at home) do not support the view that high-status males have greater access to females. In fact, all these 30% “bastards” may have been sired by working-class neighbors for all we know. Also, Buller relevantly points that in countries where dowry exists the fact that wealthy men have more wives hardly supports the idea that this is a female preference.

iv

The Fertility of the Unfit, 1903, by Dr. William Chapple (New Zealand)

First thing to take into account is the unprecedented fact of demographic transition. Unknown in nature, human populations have started declining as goods became more widely available (whereas in nature populations decline due to adverse environmental factors). This is seen as a confirmation of the moral restraint check on fertility posited by Malthus beside the two “natural” checks, vice and misery. Quotes:

A rapid and continuous decline in the birth-rate of Northern and Western Europe, in contravention of all known biological and economic laws, has filled demographists with amazement.

Whereas: “The tendency in the races of history has been to over-population, or to population beyond the food supply

The very qualities, therefore, that make the social unit a law-abiding and useful citizen, who could and should raise the best progeny for the State, also enable him to limit his family, or escape the responsibility of family life altogether; while, on the other hand, the very qualities which make a man a social burden, a criminal, a pauper, or a drunkard –improvidence and defective inhibition– ensure that his fertility will be unrestrained, except by the checks of biological law.

If moral restraint with the consequent limitations of families is the peculiar characteristic of the best people in the state, and the absence of this characteristic expressing itself in normal fertility is peculiar to the worst people of the state, the future of the race may be divined

Vice and misery are more active checks amongst the very poor, and abortion is practised to a very considerable extent, but the appalling fact remains, that the birth-rate of the unfit goes on undisturbed, while the introduction of higher checks amongst the normal classes has led to a marked decline.

&, as another way of phrasing the above: “The defectives are more fertile than any other classes because of the very defect that makes them a danger to society. The defective restraint that allows them to commit offences against person and property, also allows their provocative impulse unrestrained activity.

Please note that the phenomenon, also described as “rise of the Criminal,” predates mass immigration.

Chapple also alludes to homogamy among the unfit “which their circumstances necessitate.

Last but not least, Chapple discusses mechanical contraceptives and considers that the least invasive technique is tubo-ligature, far preferable than vasectomy, as the latter “unsexes” males, leading to atrophy of the testes and impotence after some years. Ironically, today it is vasectomy that is more widespread (1 Englishman out of 5 is vasectomized, mark you). I have no doubt these vasectomies are practised on law-abiding citizens, according to their own will, as a moral restraint check on their fertility.

A consequence of demographic transition may be that marriage as paternity opportunity is now weak and that abuse of stepchildren has increased as a result (not as evolutionary adaptation)! Stepparent violence, if it’d be the result of demographic transition (stepparenting two kids from another bed entails a significant probability that the stepfather will have no kid of his own in a society characterized by the demographic transition, whereas it would have been no obstacle to siring a lot of children in the past), would be neither the result of evolutionary ADAPTATION nor, as in Daly & Wilson, a BYPRODUCT of evolution, a so-called “spandrel.”