Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I feel a theory coalescing about "-ers."  Truthers,  birthers, deniers of the Holocaust, of evolution, of global warming, of whatever.  I'm coming around to the conviction that it's all a form of magical thinking.  There's a hard and unpleasant fact they wish weren't so and therefore they try to make it go away by an act of will.  They're voting against it in their minds.  Which is why they're so outraged when you argue the facts -- how can you possibly be in favor of that?

This is how we got to where we are with the Gulf of Mexico today.  When Obama and Bush and I don't know how many presidents before them stood up and talked about how we can have "environmentally safe deep-sea drilling," they weren't lying exactly.  They were voting for a future without oil spills.

They were engaged in acts of magic.

The trouble is that magic doesn't work.   You know what does?  Consulting with grumpy people who know their business.

Which is why the following video about booming in the Gulf is so depressing.  You'd think that recent events would have convinced BP of the merits of listening to their engineers.  No such luck.

As a verbal artifact, though, the engineer's insanely profane rant about "fucking booming" is quite wonderful.  Almost magical, in fact.

And as long as I'm here . . .

Allow me to remind you that I'll be at ConQuesT in Kansas City this weekend.  Among my other activities, I'll be doing a reading of a story which I crafted from the opening chapters of the Darger & Surplus novel.  Plus, I've donated a story in a bottle to their charity auction.  And I'm always happy to chat.

So if you're there, don't feel shy about saying hello.



Eric S said...

f***ing awesome video, Michael. I hope BP all rot in jail. Thanks for the education in f***ing booming.

Anonymous said...


your theory is compelling and goes a long long way towards explaining the mess we're in: equally applicable to financial, environmental, health care issues, education standards, etc., etc. Facts are fundamentally non-magical.

Matthew Brandi said...

I take it your let's put it all down to magical thinking suggestion is not supposed to be taken seriously. I hope it isn't, but just in case ...

In the wake of the Sutter fiasco, I read--finally!--the famous symposium from Khatru 3 & 4. There Charnas puts forward the idea that sexism is to be explained by universal human belief in the equation woman=nature=death: women are hated because of their association (doesn't matter whether it is justified) with the unacceptable fact of mortality, and all the hard political realities are consequences of that.

Sound familiar?

Now, isn't one's initial reaction to Suzy's apparently sincerely held theory that it has things completely upside down: that patriarchal social organisation is more likely to explain "blaming women for death" than the other way around? (Of course, one might also be skeptical that blaming women for death was all that common--but hey, you know, it could be like an unconscious belief, man!)

The whole thing seems lazy Descartes-cum-Freud: let's take a crazy, unmotivated belief from outside the system of the world, apply it at the pineal gland and see if we can't explain everything! Really, Michael? Really? This is modern science?

As for holocaust deniers denying mass murder because they find such murder too horrifying to contemplate, you obviously have a sunnier view of the tender souls of neo-Nazis than I do. My impression is that they'd really like another crack at it.

What next, the suggestion that the "she was asking for it, so it really wasn't rape" brigade are men of such delicate emotion that they literally cannot bear to think a woman's will was overridden?

As I say, I don't think you're fully serious in offering this as a theory, but as a joke, can't it go horribly awry?

Michael Swanwick said...

No, the thing the Holocaust deniers find unthinkable is that people very much like themselves have earned the scorn and disgust of the world.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably doesn't deny the Holocaust because he disapproves of murdering Jews. More likely he doesn't like the lessons any decent person would have to take from it.