Part 1—Script never sleeps: Our friends in China are finishing up their current "year of the rooster."
Presumably because they live on the other side of the international dateline, their current year won't end until February 16. At that time, they'll enter their latest "year of the dog."
There is no absolute time! (We believe Hollywood moguls first said that.) For ourselves, we're entering our own new year at this award-winning site.
Today, we're starting our "year of the species"—a year in which we'll focus on Homo sapiens, our own biological form.
Our species has been floundering a bit of late. Not infrequently, our bumbles exhibit one strong inclination of the species—the tendency to overstate our moral and intellectual greatness.
Are we really "the rational animal," as was allegedly claimed so long ago? Actually no, not exactly! Just consider what was said on Sunday's Meet the Press.
Our old pal Chuck Todd, a very good guy, was conducting a year-end discussion. As is conventional within the realm of TV news, the year-end discussion was largely built around useless predictions about the year to come.
At one point, Todd threw to NBC's Kristin Welker. Welker displayed one of the defining behavioral traits of our struggling species:
TODD (12/31/17): You know what's interesting, Kristen...many times when [Donald J. Trump] dabbles into sort of culture wars, it's at a moment of political weakness for him. Where he did the NFL riff is when he was embarrassed to be endorsing Luther Strange, at a time when he knew that candidate was about to get thumped by Roy Moore in that runoff, that weekend before. And literally, the story wasn't about him supporting Luther Strange. It was about him and the NFL.As we enter our "year of the species," we start by highlighting a behavioral tic we've been citing for years—our tendency to recite standard stories, no matter how baldly inaccurate.
WELKER: That's right. It's a great way to energize his base, to rally his supporters around him. It was very similar during Charlottesville when he made those remarks, which, by the way, enraged some people within his own administration. But I think you're starting to see a backlash at the polls. You saw that with how energized African-American voters were to come out in Alabama, and that's what's concerning a lot of Republicans when they look at 2018.
Like rust, script never sleeps! In this instance, Welker repeated a story-line which emerged from Alabama's recent Senate election—the claim that black voters in Alabama turned out in huge, overwhelming, even historic numbers, all as part of the reaction to Donald J. Trump.
Within our mainstream and liberal tribes, this script emerged, with lightning speed, from that recent election. Rational animals have been repeating it ever since.
That said, is this script supported by the facts? Biologically speaking, our species isn't heavily wired to consider such questions.
How "energized" were the voters to whom Welker refers? According to Kevin Drum, black turnout in Alabama was 38.6 percent in that recent election—an election in which the craziest person in human history was poised to become Alabama's junior United States senator, while running against a (latter-day) hero of the civil rights movement.
Under the circumstances, does that seem like an "energized" voter performance? If we might borrow from our Wittgenstein, as translated by Professor Anscombe:
"No such thing was in question here," only what makes us feel good!
It's like what happens to your knee when the doctor hits it with a hammer! The repetition of ludicrous claims in an inborn biological trait of our flailing species. In this year of the Homo sapiens, we'll almost surely observe this trait again and again and again.
Here in the United States, we've gone through thirty consecutive years of the not recognizably human. The huge historic turnout that wasn't is only one part of this programmed game.
We'll offer several such snapshots this week. As we do, we'll be kicking off our latest fruitless year.
Tomorrow: Fifteen years later, our smartest newspaper discovers health care spending!