May 2008

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jerry w.

Why did we never hear about the opinion from the fourth blind guy?

That would be the one who described an elephant as being like a dripping fire hydrant that was hanging from the ceiling.

Just curious......


Let's not forget that soldiers aren't the brightest people in the first place. I mean, other than the economy factor (need money), I cannot think of a single smart reason to join the army. There are many stupid reasons, of course (me like guns, huh huh!), but they just prove my point.

And on second thought, the economy factor further proves my point - smarter people can find jobs elsewhere or will find a job in the army that doesn't involve killing and/or being killed.

If you think of patriotism, can I ask you this: does patriotism (or any other school of thought) outweighs the truth?

My opinion is that just even search for truth is more important than anything else, so such made-up values like "nation", "god" don't come even close.


I love the way you think Scott. I give you permission to breed.. in fact I ENCOURAGE it, lol. If you have plans for kids then I insist you have yourself cloned when it becomes all the rage. :)


Scott no longer has to think hard in order to provoke responses from his readers. Simply ending a post with the word "Go" is now enough, by itself, to provoke a substantial response. Behavioral conditioning still has some credibiity, then . . .



Wow. Your post is like a drop of rain in the pond. You just set of waves and now everyone's trying your ideas.

Here's to hoping you're not actually a person who finds manipulating the masses entertaining.


Bob Duckles

In the early seventies, as a doctoral student in Social-Clinical Psychology, I did a questionnaire study of attitudes of Vietnam veterans and social character. Those that had a more biophilious (life-loving) character had a strong tendency to be critical attitude toward the war, as compared to those with a more necrophilious character.

The social character construct was developed by Erich Fromm.


Saddam is gone. So, who is aggressor animal now?...


That is my main source of humour too. Saying the opposite of what people expect.

With your example of the Iraq war, the former Iraqi information minister came to mind. He was a classic comedic character.

"We will defeat the amercian dogs, it is not true, the americans are NOT in Baghdad"

Pan camera over the ministers shoulder to view American tanks rolling into central Baghdad.

Jebadiah Stewart

Let me tell you, in 1863 none of this shit was a problem. Trust me, I was serving, son.

*Re-adjusts Kepi*

Kilgore J. Trout

wow you get all the indian and new zealand guys going here. or the young guys with no middle age money that are wowed by 50000.

i am cleaning out my bookcases for a major move and i have some of your old books from 10-20 years ago. do they stand the test of time or are they just artifacts fading into irrelevance. i'll look through them today.

we just dont have enough entertainment.


Cognitive dissonance... Suppressing a negative opinion in case someone finds out...

Could not this also apply to the media outlets providing information to the American public? Could not the media personalities look for stories that back their view, that jive with what they have already told the world?

FYI, as a currently serving soldier freshly returned from over there, I am of the opinion that the surge is not working. Of course, I think it is because the politicians (R&D) are trying to fight a war in the media, and not doing all that is needed to secure the country; tying the hands of the soldiers whose deaths they lament.


You know, I was going to comment "But none of that was funny!" and only just now realized that you didn't claim it was funny, only that it was an "idea" now it makes more sense, and I realize I should not have been waiting for a punchline to laugh at.


You really can make people put on their thinking caps. I am going to try the mentioned formula. Lets see how i fare.


When I first came back from Iraq, I defended and justified our involvlement in Iraq to anyone who challenged it. I based my justification on several points, the two biggies being 1) Hussein was truly an evil bastard and 2) the people have a better life now that we're there. It took me a long time to get over this and see the situation clearly. Here's why: In war, Soldiers have to do and see things that any sane person would detest. It's not easy to kill another person (I mean it's easy to do, just not easy to live with) or see a friend die without having justification. The immediate justification is "it's either me or him" or "I can't let my buddies down". I seriously doubt that there's ever been, or ever will be, a Soldier who thinks "Man, I've got to kill the insurgents that are shooting me right now because we've got to get this democracy kick-started." After the immediate justification(s) mentioned above, there is a need to find a bigger reason (hopefully an altruistic one) in order to keep your sanity. Soldiers will hang on to these reasons because they have to. I know I did. That's why I would never expect a Soldier to be a good barometer for how a war is going; you just can't get an objective opinion from someone who needs to justify his actions or involvement. When (notice I didn't say "if") I get sent back, I'll probably fall into the "we need to be here to help these poor people" attitude again. I hope not. I hope I'm smarter than that.


Problems of cognitive dissonance etc are true of all opinion polls.In a large enough sample, one can safely assume that any personal thinking methodology variations will cancel each other out and the true average opinion emerges.Now whether the opinion is right or not is also a matter of opinion.As Clinton infamously said 'define is'.


Not just cognitive dissonance, but also filtered I/O. Soldiers can't say whatever they like. Or, rather, they can, but the powers that be censor the things they don't care for and/or punish the offender rather severely if he somehow circumvents censorship. Likewise, soldiers are only told what they "need to know". I'm pretty sure they don't have access to the daily body counts the way the typical CNN-tuned American citizen does. Bad for morale, they say.

Simon Allen (UK)

Thanks for another interesting and amusing set of words. When we look back at previous wars, we know that the soldiers knew practically nothing. That was bad for them.

So - who DID know? Usually the answer is ... no one.

Take the Cold War in which thousands died, the CIA knew stuff and Washington knew stuff. I dare say that the press knew some other things. Their counterparts in the USSR also knew bits but no one knew it all. Consequently, it went on far longer that it otherwise would have.

In Iraq, there is the added problem that some of those in power do not want to know all that is going on and that includes our Blair. To use a phrase of the times, that would present them with An Inconvenient Truth ...


I'm from Malaysia and chineses here love shark fin soups.

my english teacher: They don't kill them, but they extract their fins and put them back into the sea. However, they wil drown. You might say shark is a fish and how can a fish drown? Let me put it this way, if I chop off your legs and hands and throw you into the sea, will you drown?

So...Without shark fin, will you die? But without hands and legs(the fins), will the shark die?

me: But...but...they bully smaller fishes...

Matthew R

I'm in Kuwait, the rear, and I couldn't tell what the hell is going on north of the Kuwaiti border. I get the same BS that the rest of the world gets.

Paul C 9ex British Army)

As private Toms we were told an awful lot of things about serving in Northern Ireland. Now we were told - in "orientation" lessons - that only totalitarian armies indoctrinate their soldiers with whatever their political leaders want them to believe. In the great cradle of democracy which is Britain, the British Army does not "indoctrinate" its service personnel, oh no. Instead we got "orientation", which was well-meaning guidance on why we had been posted where we had been, and "general background information" and "briefing" on why we were in the top right-hand corner of Ireland, what we were there to defend and protect, and the purpose our presence was meant to achieve. Now the brightest among us saw through this straight away, and also noted that when relatively junior officers were passing on the approved line to us and inviting us to speak freely and voice any fears and concerns, there were more than the usual complement of hard-faced corporals and sergeants at the back of the room, watching for anyone who spoke out of turn and taking note of names and faces of dissidents for leisurely vengeance to be taken later. Only a brave or extraordinarily hacked-off Fusilier might have raised any issues that did not concur weith the official line...

And anyway, these orientation sessions always took place on a Friday afternoon, generally a quiet time at the end of a long week's training, with (we hoped) weekend leave passes to be issued to all except the small number of personnel needed to keep things ticking over. So nobody was going to incur the wrath of their platoon sergeant and be put on menial confined-to-barracks chores all weekend...

The most pernicious thing about orientation is that it mixed truth and, shall we say, economy with the truth. No actual lies, but what might be called The Official Line. You accept this because it's all you can do, but when it comes from a fairly typical Rupert (British Army Officer) with the double-barreled name, independent income, big family estate, family history of "noblesse-oblige" high Tory politics, a man who you know forms HIS political opinions from skimming the Daily Mail and Telegraph (right-wing newspapers) in the Officers' Mess every morning, it takes on a new slant of skewed objectivity. (However much you might otherwise like and respect the guy as an officer and leader, and in many cases we did)

In a Regiment where many of the the private soldiers came out of coal mines and steelworks areas of Wales and quite a few of us had developed political opinions that were not those of our officers, it made for an interesting mix!

When you start seeing the gap between the official line and reality - you would be surprised how many of us came out of Ireland with quiet sympathy for the Republicans and a nagging feeling they might just deep down have a legitimate cause for grievance - then you develop the seasoned British Tom's cynical attitude towards political authority of any kind. At best they're well meaning idiots, at worst culpably guilty of assorted crimes! Our generation discovered this in Ireland twenty-odd years ago; no doubt Toms are coming out of Basra and Iraq knowing the same.

Armies are conservative social institutions. The higher you go, the more the senior ranks are playing the political game because they are known to the politicos in a way private soldiers aren't. One of the majors in our Territorial (National Guard equivalent) battallion was also Tory Member of Parliament for Angelsey - ie, personally known to Margaret Thatcher. So a typical General is playing with one eye on his knighthood, say, as a reward for long service, or whatever favours might be bestowed on him after retiring from active service. He isn't exactly going to be 100% militarily objective - he mixes with senior politicians and is there to do their bidding. (It has to be this way - or you end up with a miltary junta running things. This is a strength and a weakness of the system. Montgomery only got the top job in WW2 because he was the General whose command was Southern England - he exploited the political advantages of this and made very sure to be in Churchill's orbit as much as he could so that he was the General Churchill thought of most of the time. By contrast, Britain's most able general officer of WW2 was in command way out in India and Burma, and although ten times better than Monty, lacked the political contacts and opportunities to push himself forward)

At least most Armies are managed, when it comes down to it, by very able sergeants and sergeants-major who can mitigate the worst of the bullshit and make the system work...


>>Any art requires technical knowledge or talent that can be passed on in a formulaic how-to, but creativity itself?

Why not? You can use a static algorithm (formula) to produce chaotic fractals.
Deterministic != Predictable.

To take a "meme" from Douglas Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas, what is creativity besides variation on a theme? Pattern recognition and mutation/recombination, whether intentional or not, with other patterns (or memes).

The engines of creativity just operate beneath our awareness most of the time. That's the only reason that it sounds weird to have creativity reduced to formulae.



Your opposite game is a useful exercise, and an important in certain cases. If you can understand how your opponent thinks, and s/he doesn't understand how you think, you have a distinct advantage.

But it seems like you've played it so much, spent so much energy justifying (even as just play) obvious BS, that you've lost your ability to discern between truth and BS. It's always a risk that what you dabble in will take you over before you even realized it's happened.


“Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.”

Edwin H. Land


You missed out the funny bit? The answer to who knows best would have been Sadam.

Divyansh Sharma

awesome post

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