Friday, September 04, 2015

Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind as a potential template for what some call watchblogging, don't appeal to your moral intuitions, appeal to theirs

While Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow and Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind might not be thought of as particularly rigorous books by practicing social scientists or philosophers both have been useful books for lay level readers. Having some sense of what heuristics are, how cognitive biases can trip up the thought process, and how people appeal to moral intuitions has been useful stuff to consider here at Wenatchee The Hatchet.

One of the simplest ideas Haidt proposed in his book is that liberals tend to appeal to three core moral intuitions while conservatives tend to appeal to six.  There are certainly all sorts of things that could be discussed about that but for this blog what's interesting about the three vs six proposal is Haidt proposed that even with the three core values progressives and conservatives have in common there are differences in working definitions.

Haidt breaks down the range of moral intuitions as follows:







While progressives, Haidt wrote, tend to focus on equality of outcome conservatives stress equality of opportunity or access, which is hardly a surprise. Liberty, too, tends to get defined a bit differently as progressives and libertarians are more likely to stress freedom to do things while conservatives are more apt to stress non-interference from others.  Mileage varies depending on pet issues.

Haidt's bigger idea is that you cannot win an argument by making a direct appeal to reason and reasoned arguments.  You must first address the level of the moral intuition salient to the case you're trying to make.

Now THAT idea is germane to this activity called watchblogging and it may get to the heart of why progressives failed to make so much as a dent on the reputation of Mark Driscoll for the better part of fifteen years. Progressives who tried to make an appeal to moral intuitions to the end of saying Mark Driscoll's a bad guy were making appeals to moral intuitions that conservatives either did not share or did not share in the same working definitional way that progressives did.  Even now the tendency to bring up Driscoll's views on gays and women has remained popular for those who want to reminisce about "penis homes", but Grace Driscoll explicitly declared she has never ever thought of anything Mark has said as being particularly misogynist. Once Grace Driscoll has said it on behalf of her husband who's supposed to care that in 2008 Mark Driscoll compared having womens' ministry to "juggling knives"? As a PR move goes that was shrewd because if any progressives questioned the accuracy or legitimacy of Grace Driscoll's claim they've fallen into the trap of identity politics us vs. them through which Mark Driscoll's positioned himself as sensible centrist to all the crazies to the left and right of him on politics or doctrine.

If there was a case to be made that Mark Driscoll was not quite fit to be in ministry that case would have to be made not by a standard progressive ethical matrix but by way of a set of moral intuitions shared by conservatives.  The case would not necessarily be about what Driscoll was presumed by progressives to have said about gays and women (even if what he said and how he said it in "Pussified Nation" was pretty bad). Instead, the case would be that if we strolled through the last eight years of history connected to Driscoll and Mars Hill and considered Haidt's six moral intuition foundations he ascribes to conservatives, we could still build a case that Driscoll and the leadership culture as a whole had significant failures in abiding with the six categories.


Let's start with CARE/HARM. Something everyone can now agree on, even Mark Driscoll it seems, is that "Pussified Nation" was a trainwreck of bad attitudes and even worse verbiage. Though this year Mark Driscoll has indicated to Brian Houston he feels very differently now than he did fifteen years ago that's irrelevant.  Why?  Because if you look at what Mark Driscoll has said he THINKS across the last fifteen years there's an essential continuity of thought. He may eventually settle on being an egalitarian who's for gay marriage in the next twenty years in theory but in practice he hasn't changed his thoughts, even if for the sake of the Houston interview he talked about how differently he feels now vs then.

For years people at Mars Hill and advocates for Mark Driscoll could say he talked rough but that he was a softie as a person. He was just saying things in outrageous ways to get people's attention so they could start thinking through issues.

But over time, particularly since 2007, there began to be doubts about whether the talk was "just" talk.

One of the more striking statements Mark Driscoll made in 2007 that was not available to be heard until 2012 was about a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus. To date Mark Driscoll has never commented on this statement he made or even acknowledged that he made the statement. Driscoll has conceded in the last year that there was a conflict that came to light on the internet but has not said much beyond that. Contra Driscoll's comments in 2015 and 2014, the parties have not been anonymous and their names are easily found.  Paul Petry and Bent Meyer got fired in 2007 and Jamie Munson instructed members of Mars Hill to shun Paul Petry.  Whether some consider the firings of Meyer and Petry to be justified (and some still do to this day); whether some consider the proceedings in 2007 to have been a kangaroo court, there's no question at this stage in 2015 whether the parties in the conflict in 2007 are unidentified.

What began to come to light in the last five years is that when people get laid off or fired from a non-profit they aren't eligible for unemployment benefits.  Now everybody SHOULD know that but too many people (as in "any") didn't. So year after year as staff were cut loose from employment at Mars Hill they had to find work as fast as possible. 

If that were all it would still be awkward but stories began to circulate about people laid off during the holidays, even after babies were born.  Eventually Mars Hill confirmed more than 100 people got fired or laid off inside a two-year period and letters were sent (possibly this). But to date it's not been entirely clear whether the letters sent out in 2013 were really to assess how badly things got handled in the carnage in employment or whether the letters were really sent to assess the credibility of formal charges made against Mark Driscoll by a pastor who had resigned.

What eventually became remarkably clear, however, was that when people got cut loose they were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Those who have defended Driscoll and the leadership of Mars Hill have had a history of saying they defend women.  For conservative evangelicals that's certainly a popular talking point but the stories that continued to come to light about how the church leadership culture dealt with its own raised questions about just how punitive the culture was.  Eventually a statement made by Paul Tripp about Mars Hill was leaked onto the net and he described it as the most abusive ministry culture he'd ever seen.

A great deal of these stories are well documented and there's little need to go over them all again. What we'll do instead is get to Haidt's next dyad, the liberty/oppression dyad.  It's here that we can explore that even if significant breaches of the care/harm dynamic in the leadership culture might not "trickle down" for the rank and file another problem could come up.


Wenatchee The Hatchet has written extensively on Mark Driscoll's ideas about gender roles and forms.  The tag "markulinity" will suffice for a review. To understand part of the appeal of Mars Hill we have to remember Driscoll himself was not necessarily the early draw or the primary one.  There was a community and perhaps over time people will be able to discuss that more thoroughly.  With respect to the appeal of neo-Calvinist stuff on the whole, it looked like "liberty" to people who grew up in a more Holiness background or any evangelical background where people felt things were legalistic.  Somewhere on the internet someone wrote that more college students stopped being Christians because they wanted to drink, smoke and get laid than really struggled with the theory of evolution.  If Driscoll's markulinity had a particular appeal to guys who had doubts about whether it was "manly" to be a Christian, his sales pitch was that you could drink, smoke, and get laid (in matrimony) and it would all be for the glory of God and your pleasure.  A bunch of guys heard this message in its explicit and implicit forms and said "Sign me up!"

And then they had to live up to those standards.  A couple afraid to have children could end up being pressured to have children they couldn't afford to keep because they were told to "trust God". Then when children were born and the couple was struggling financially it could be construed as the couple wasn't good in financial stewardship. The brutality of that double bind could not be overstated.

For young people new to an urban area, with potentially fraught family ties, and no clear sense of direction the sense of identity fostered within Mars Hill could be liberating.  But for those who put all their eggs in that one basket things could become oppressive.  It was not difficult to hear and see that Mark Driscoll spent his public ministry years presenting himself and his marriage as a prototype.


Driscoll warned from the pulpit more than a decade ago about how denominations had these "God box" deals where some corporate higher-ups own the real estate and got to make decisions that screwed over faithful local churches.

By 2012 Mars Hill itself had become that "God Box" dynamic.  Eventually Bill Clem resigned from Ballard and in an interview in the last year explained how central could decide to lay off someone from staff and refused to let the local church raise money to keep someone on staff.

By 2012 the odds of dissent being something you could safely express within the leadership culture were low.  Why?  ...


If there were just the gender role expectations within the culture of Mars Hill that would be liberty/oppression dyad enough, but in the wake of the 2007 re-organization Mark Driscoll introduced a new dynamic on the dyad.  In the 2008 spiritual warfare session he literally and figuratively demonized dissent. That gets discussed in a series on spiritual warfare that presents a lengthy transcript of the 2008 teaching session Driscoll gave and cross-references quotes from that talk to other incidents in Mars Hill from 2007-2008.

While Mark Driscoll's associates have scrubbed the internet of the audio files, it seems, Wenatchee The Hatchet still has the full audio and has the transcript available in a tagged series you can read if you want something to do over the Labor Day weekend. There's 65 posts.

In terms of the care/harm and liberty/oppression dyads the common threads could be stories of firings and layoffs; non-disclosure agreements; demonization of dissent; and the fact that people cut loose from staff at Mars Hill couldn't get unemployment benefits. There were only so many years that dynamic could go on before the culture reached a breaking point. But that abusive ministry culture was actually not what catalyzed changed.  Not even the news of Andrew Lamb's disciplinary situation in 2012 seemed to curb any momentum for growth.  What did introduce a monkey wrench gets us to the third dyad in Jonathan Haidt's set of six moral intuitions


By the time Janet Mefferd confronted Mark Driscoll on air about how much credit he gave to Peter Jones in 2013 the Mars Hill trademark and logo controversy was already a couple of years old.

Mars Hill had a cease-and-desist letter sent out to a church plant that used Mars Hill in its name back in 2011.  Ironically, during this same season of late 2011 Mars Hill contracted with Result Source to get Real Marriage a #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.  As Wenatchee The Hatchet, Warren Throckmorton and Janet Mefferd documented later, it turned out there was a lot of material in the 2012 Driscoll book where credit wasn't given, most remarkably (to WtH) in the case where ideas published by Dan Allender were in Real Marriage without so much as a single footnote or name mention in the first edition.

Even for those who consider intellectual property to be immoral the salient issue for the leadership culture at Mars Hill would remain, there turned out to be a very big double standard at work in which Mars Hill had demonstrated its leaders were concerned about any infringement on their stuff while its president turned out to have half a dozen books with ideas from other authors who weren't given credit the first time around. It's key to formulate the nature of the problem in this way because it can be legitimately construed as a failure of the fairness/cheating dyad regardless of whether or not you even agree there should be such a thing as copyright.  It could be considered more immoral if you do believe in intellectual property being a legitimate legal category, but it would be difficult to assert that what Mars Hill leadership did was morally praiseworthy in any case.

For those who remember Driscoll's sermons from the 2001 era, it turned out that rigging things in his favor was something Driscoll did back before he had a conversion.

Mark Driscoll in a 2001 sermon on masculinity and shortcuts--shortcuts taken by guys who want the reward without the work, some potential warnings to heed in the present

If Christians are given the idea that a conversion to Christianity leads to a truly changed life the Result Source revelation raises a doubt about that bromide.  If anything the revelations World Magazine and Warren Throckmorton published about the use of Result Source by Mars Hill to promote Real Marriage invite the proposal that rigging things for Mark Driscoll's favor had not changed.  Between the plagiarism controversy and the Result Source controversy Mark Driscoll's credibility on the fairness/cheating dyad looks like it was severely damaged.  There was another dyad in Haidt's continuum which applies to the revelations about Mark and Grace Driscoll's 2012 book.


There's plenty of posts here about Real Marriage but the most succinct way of describing the crisis that the book generated for longtime Mars Hill attenders or members was that it subverted a decade's worth of narrative in which Mark said from the pulpit that, basically, the marriage was great.  The 2012 book claimed that behind the scenes he was seething with resentment at his frigid wife and depressed and angry and subject to mood swings.  The cure?  More sex, plain and simple. Even though the Driscolls propounded a range of legitimate resort to masturbation for other married couples in the "Can We _____?" chapter, it's abundantly clear the Driscolls did not consider a "physician heal thyself" option acceptable for Mark Driscoll in the sexual release department.  If the Driscolls insisted on bringing all that up it was something that could have been asked about on the promotional tour ... .

Anyway, there's another level at which Real Marriage could be taken as a betrayal.  Mark Driscoll had spent years talking about how they preached through books of the Bible at Mars Hill.  Real Marriage was an abrupt change to that by being a sermon series devoted entirely not to a book of the Bible or even a generic set of topical sermons but a book Mark Driscoll published.

Not only that ... the book was owned by a "side company" of the sort Mark Driscoll said in 2011 he didn't create.  In 2009 Driscoll described how some pastors had side companies to manage royalties for books and described all of that sort of thing as a sign of selfish greed for gain.   Then in 2011 ...

At many different levels the 2012 book constituted a betrayal.  Driscoll set up a side company to manage royalties of the sort he'd condemned from the pulpit just a few years earlier.  The first edition overflowed with failures to cite that would go on to be documented by Warren Throckmorton, Wenatchee The Hatchet and Janet Mefferd.  The book itself was a framed narrative that in itself cast doubt on how honest or reliable the public account of the Driscoll marriage had actually been.  On top of all that, the community of Mars Hill was basically transformed by way of promotional activity into an organization promoting Mark Driscoll's reputation and profit.  For old-school members or attenders of Mars Hill it began to look like Mark Driscoll had betrayed his first principles but that was not the whole thing.  Nope.  2012 highlighted something else that in previous years was not quite so easy to document.  That gets us to the fifth dyad in Haidt's range of moral intuitions

January 12, 2012

There is reportedly an article coming out in a British Christian publication that features an interview with me. As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere. So, I thought I would put a bit of water on the fire by providing context.


 I have a degree in communications from one of the top programs in the United States. So does my wife, Grace. We are used to reporters with agendas and selective editing of long interviews. Running into reporters with agendas and being selectively edited so that you are presented as someone that is perhaps not entirely accurate is the risk one takes when trying to get their message out through the media.
As occasional controversy burst forth in 2012 there was a pattern with how Mark Driscoll dealt with controversy.  If the controversy surrounded him specifically he was active. If the controversy involved Mars Hill in general he was generally silent. He never broached the subject of the discipline of Andrew Lamb, for instance. Nor was there any discussion of terminated staff. Driscoll was all over that Justin Brierley interview situation, and the T. D. Jakes meet-up at Elephant Room 2, and the kerfuffle at Liberty University.

Even in the midst of the plagiarism scandal .... :

I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest writer. But I did start writing professionally as a journalist in high school, paid my way through high school and college writing articles and editing my college newspaper, got a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the top-notch Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, and have written blogs and articles for everyone from CNN to the Washington Post to Fox News.
One can only ask (again) what non-high school newspaper Mark Driscoll was professionally writing for. For that matter, if he was paying his way through high school writing articles what about the other story about faking his birthdate to get work in other settings? At any rate, the salient point here is that Driscoll has not hesitated to invoke his authority by dint of either street cred or school cred in a controversy when it suited him.

But when it's someone else's authority that Mark Driscoll is asked to take seriously and respect we get stuff more like Mark Driscoll crashing Strange Fire after having spent a year or two ignoring John MacArthur.

As we've been moving through the moral intuitions that can be appealed to in Jonathan Haidt's lexicon it kind of looks like there's a substantial problem possessed by Mark Driscoll and/or the leadership culture of Mars Hill across all of them. Bear in mind this is all the abridged version culled from half a decade of blogging about the life and times of what was once called Mars Hill.

Well, surely for the purity/degradation dyad things look a little better, right? 


There's almost too much material to cover here in a post that's already so long.  The short version is that Driscoll volunteered tales of his wife being frigid, of her cheating on him one time, of how she was ready to be done with childbirth after four children and a miscarriage but Mark Driscoll did not want to do anything permanent to preclude the possibility of another child.  Between Death By Love and Real Marriage all of this was volunteered. As the story of a marriage the 2012 book was basically a story of how two people having fun premarital sex decided to be Christians and tabled sex.  Then when they got married Mark expected things to go back to "normal" but found his wife was fearful and frigid (his words).  Now someone with a more secularist/hedonist background like Dan Savage might speculate the problem was with all their Christian hang-ups the Driscolls just did this to themselves and that it was that and not any history of abuse ... but that's a pretty big guess as to what Dan Savage might speculate from Real Marriage.  Not suggesting he read the book, by the way.

We've explored how Mark Driscoll's name-dropping of Puritans is hard to square with stuff actual Puritans wrote in the past. There were excerpts from Richard Baxter, Richard Sibbes and Matthew Henry consulted over here.

A small but reasonable consensus of Puritan writings on marriage and Song of Songs would declare that a guy like Mark Driscoll degraded his own reputation by degrading his wife's reputation in public the way he did in Death By Love and Real Marriage.

So even if there were no Christians who had doubts about Mark Driscoll as the "cussing pastor", there is evidence to suggest that Mark Driscoll has not followed a Puritan guideline for respecting the sanctity of his own marriage, never mind the Bible.
It would start about 33:40
About 2:01 into the YouTube clip, assuming it'll still be available:

... and this is an ENORMOUS part of my relationship with Grace.  I mean I still remember when I first started seeing her she, uh, she went off to college, I was still in high school and they ran out of housing so they put her in a guys' dorm. And I was like, "What!?" so I got in the car and I drove to the university and I knocked on all the doors of all the guys on her floor. "Hi. My name is Mark. I love this woman. Anyone talks to her, touches her,  thinks about talking about touching her I will beat them. Literally I threatened twenty guys. Just knocked on every door. No way she's gonna get messed with. No way.

[to go by the audience laughter Mark Driscoll threatening twenty guys with assault was both chivalrous and funny, disappointing, to put it nicely]

Later on when she transferred to another university, WSU, she's five hours away. And she moved out there and her phone wasn't hooked up yet and we didn't have cell phones. And I told her, "When you get there, go to a pay phone. Call me. Let me know you got there safe."  Well she ... didn't call so I got in the car and I drove there. Five hours.  The day I had to work. And I knocked on the door. She answered it and I said, "Whu, you didn't call." She said, "I forgot." I said, "Are you okay?" She said, "I'm okay." So, okay, good, I got in the car and I drove home. Just checking. Six hundred miles.  Who cares? It's Grace.

[this has been commented on by others and so it's merely worth noting that a cumulative ten hour road trip because Grace didn't call him sounds weird]

... even emotionally, people send her nasty emails, text messages, talk trash about me, leave the church and want to take parting shots at her. She has nothing to do with any of it. So I even put a white/black list on her email and some people so some people can email her and the rest come to me. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. So that she doesn't have to feel bad because people are taking shots at her. That's my girl. No shots. That's the rule.
On the whole, it seems as if Mark Driscoll has talked more about the efforts he's gone through to keep his wife from reading bad stuff said about him than preserving and protecting her reputation in broadcast and social media.

There have been a number of high-profile cases where pastors stop being pastors.  Driscoll's advocates would have us believe that because Mark Driscoll didn't cheat on his wife that settles the matter of whether or not he's doen or said anything that might be considered disqualification from ministry. it's not exactly that simple. Plenty of Christians over the last two millennia have agreed that just not being guilty of sexual sin isn't even remotely enough.  If you're selfish and greedy and love to fight those are moral failures, too.  If you're boastful and proud ... hey ,didn't Driscoll himself say boasting and pride were demonic?


If Mark Driscoll were to take his own hours of instruction on spiritual warfare from 2008 seriously he still has to address the question of whether he himself got demonized somewhere along the way.  The lack of marital sex, the arrogance, the bitterness, in the 2008 session Wenatchee The Hatchet has and transcribed most of, that cocktail of "ordinary demonic" seems to describe Mark Driscoll in intimate detail. By the cumulative weight of the contradiction between Mark Driscoll's teaching as propositional statements and what's come to light about his own life Mark Driscoll should not consider himself fit for ministry based on his failure to live out the standards he's preached as binding on others.

Everybody sins. That's the terrible thing about sin is that you can sin and not even recognize it as such but Mars Hill had a theology of sin that could be summed up as this--sin is what you knowingly do that you know is bad. For everything else there's not just grace but you better shut up and drink your juicebox. 

For those who have been reading Wenatchee The Hatchet over the last few years the proposal here is that you don't build a case by appealing to your own moral intuitions when you build a case. You take time to learn what the moral intuitions of the people you're trying to persuade are and make an appeal to those.  Wenatchee The Hatchet used to be part of Mars Hill and never told anyone "You have to live because if you don't you're supporting evil."  No, what WtH did instead was document the history and statements as carefully as possible and basically ask a question, "Are we seeing people living up to and living out the moral ideals they are explicitly telling us we should live by?" The sum of years of "watchblog" activity suggests the answer across the board has been "No".

Earlier this year the blogger Samuel D James mentioned something about starting into Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt
I got a copy of this one after seeing many friends and writers praise it. I’m excited to dive in, and I expect the content will never be more appropriate to read than right now. Bonus: There’s a chapter called “The Conservative Advantage.”

Here's hoping James finished the book.  After all, Haidt's work has helped to explain (if in hindsight) the methodology of watchblogging as it's been done at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  You don't operate out of a sense of outrage that your moral intuitions are being offended if you want to persuade someone else something may be wrong, you appeal to their moral intuitions and you give them a chance to decide for themselves based on accumulated evidence if something is wrong.  Put that way what a watchblog should ideally do is follow one of the hoariest clichés in the proverbs of writing, show don't tell.

The case that Mark Driscoll, whatever he and his advocates may think, has failed profoundly, is not actually that difficult to make.  The problem that his advocates have facing them is that they would invite us to declare that because Mark Driscoll hasn't detonated an atomic bomb of one disqualifying sin that the decade of thousands of grenades detonated year after year isn't supposed to be a problem.  That's the problem, a kiloton of grenades that go off over the course of years should be just as urgent a warning as the one kiloton bomb that goes off that people take to be a signal disqualification.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

HT Atlantic: on Steve Jobs as the defining idol of our tmes
There is, in this SEC interview of the CEO of the one of the world’s most powerful companies, a distinctly pouting petulance. And that somehow puts everything else—the betrayals, the bullying, the blithely self-centric worldview—into human perspective. Jobs was, maybe, a Great Man who was also, in many ways, a small child: self-absorbed and desperate to please, those two things not contradicting but instead, in ways productive and not, informing each other.

Does any of that matter, in the end? Was Einstein, too, something of a man-child? Would Edison, when questioned and challenged, have tucked up his legs in a silent, sulking tantrum? We don’t really know, mostly because these Great Men did their Great Things in the age before video, before social media, before depositions and the documentaries that convert their proceedings into media. They lived in a time that afforded people the luxury of being remembered, and defined, for the What of their lives rather than the Who. Steve Jobs did not have that luck. He lived in a time—we live in a time—when a new holism is being brought to bear on history, when our assessments of our heroes can take into account not just their achievements, but their smaller, human-scaled contributions. We live in an age of complicated idolatry. The irony is that we do so, in large part, because of Steve Jobs. [emphasis added]

Monday, August 31, 2015

a few links for perusing, mainly on the A&E side of things

These days we’re afflicted with not a scarcity but a glut of biographical information about musicians

I know that the firewood cutting scene in Age of Ultron leads to Civil War because I know what Civil War is about. I know because Feige got on a stage and told us. And even though the Avengers sequel didn’t actually show us any real strife in the superhero community, we’ve been told that it exists because the next movie is about a superhero Civil War. We also know that the ramifications of this event will be extremely temporary, because we’ve also been told that on May 4, 2018 Thanos finally shows up to wreck everyone in Avengers: Infinity War. He’s going to wreck everyone by combining all of the Infinity Stones into a gauntlet, even though we haven’t been show the extent of this plan in the movies. We were told that it would happen in 2008 when Marvel put the Infinity Gauntlet prop on the floor of Comic Con. (HT DZ)

Ever wonder if it was possible for a Broadway show to assimilate hip-hop and celebrate the life of Alexander Hamilton? Read on ...

Sticking with arts & entertainment, Wes Craven is dead

Steve Hendricks at the New Republic on why you shouldn't be in to big a rush to assume the worst about names on that Ashley Madison list, someone else could have put you there without you knowing it


The chief question my wife and I have is: How did I end up in Ashley Madison’s dump pile at all? We have yet to find out, but we have several theories. (Happily, my wife did not for a minute think me unfaithful, just as I would not have doubted her; it’s that kind of marriage.) One possibility is that identity thieves put me in the database. It’s well known, of course, that many of the female members’ profiles on Ashley Madison were fabricated, because the site’s users were disproportionately male. But it is less widely reported that some of the email addresses attached to those accounts may well be the email addresses of real people; addresses can be bought in bulk for around 20 cents each from marketing companies. It is not even necessary for the appropriated addresses to have a woman’s name in them—a man’s name will do just as well—because the addresses attached to the fake profile can’t be seen by anyone but the account holder. Some men (and their spouses) have reported their emails were used in just this way.

There's more where that came from, of course, but it is true that contact information can be bought bulk fairly cheaply.  Hendricks also mentioned spite-listing, but you'd have to have ticked off a lot of people for them to take revenge by adding you to an AM list.

Hendricks mentions that at this point finding out if you're even on that list would require you to get access to stolen data, which you may want to avoid having on your conscience.

Miya Tokumitsu on the illusion of control through curating our online consumer decisions.
... The feeling of control that self-proclaimed curating can provide is in direct contrast to the loss of control unleashed by the very neoliberal policies introduced in the last decades. Flat wages, dwindling public services, and a relatively weak labor market have left many people disempowered and politically alienated. For all the significance placed on “picking stuff” in the age of curation, one thing people are resolutely not picking is political candidates. In last year’s election, voter turnout was 36.4%, a 72-year low. On the other hand, re-arranging “curated” compilations, be they stock portfolios or mood boards, can provide a much craved sense of power, excitement, and importantly—comfort— that comes from self-determination.

per the friends at Mockingbird, this is definitely one of those "illusion of control" pieces.

Jed Perl piece at New Republic on how liberals are paradoxically killing the arts by requiring it be political

... The trouble with the reasonableness of the liberal imagination is that it threatens to explain away what it cannot explain. Nowhere in the past seventy-five years has this tendency to bring art’s unruly power into line with some more general system of social, political, and moral values been more pronounced than in the efforts of scholars, critics, and the public to reconcile their admiration for the experimental adventures of twentieth-century literature with the authoritarian, fascist, and anti-Semitic views of some of the greatest modern writers. Let me again emphasize that I believe there is no question that many of the views of W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound are repugnant and ought to be regarded as repugnant; and in the case of Pound, his actions during World War II, when he broadcast on behalf of Mussolini, surely rise to the level of treason. What interests me here is the insistence, when treating these admittedly extreme cases, on some fundamental link between artistic and political or social expression. I know why that link is emphasized. The rational mind, with its desire for logical equations, is upset by the idea that a great artist can be a bad person, and would perhaps prefer that the art also look bad, or at least be tainted. And behind this desire for a logical equation is the liberal imagination’s refusal to believe that art can lay claim to some irreducible mystery and magic.

That Eliot and Pound were able to articulate the debt all contemporary artists have to the past yet were royalist/fascist in their overt sympathies is a reminder that being avant garde in the arts is hardly any assurance of being progressive in any other capacity.  Nor, by turns, is being a traditionalist in politics or even religion necessarily a consistent indicator that a person will be traditionalist in the arts.  Olivier Messiaen was a fairly conventional Catholic in his faith and practice but the music he wrote was an inspiration to the post-World War II avant garde.

But the temptation to insist that a great artist must also be a good person is likely to persist.

over at The American Conservative, a proposal for how the religious right and the libertarian wings splintered from the GOP mainstream

Over at TAC a theory is proposed that reminds Wenatchee The Hatchet of a theory floated by D. G. Hart in his book about the history of American evangelicalism from Billy Graham to Sarah Palin--the  Reagan Coalition was a one-off, non-replicable phase in which traditional conservatives, libertarians, social conservatives and what became neoconservatives had a symbolic person to rally around.  But once Reagan was out of office that coalition began to fracture rapidly

Meanwhile, on the blue state side of things a comparable fracturing seems to have been happening between the centrist and progressive wings in the Democratic party, but perhaps not in the same way or to the same degree (that's not from the TAC piece, more an impression WtH has rightly or wrongly).

Meanwhile, the Religious Right, it's proposed, has sunk the odds of Republicans winning the Oval Office by spoiling what could be a more unified voting bloc, or so it reads.
...There were plenty of blue-state Republicans in the days of Goldwater and Reagan, of course, and even back then the party had distinct factions of conservatives and liberals—“Rockefeller Republicans,” as they were called. Why, then, did conservatives succeed in 1964 and 1980 but never again?
The answer lies in a development that appeared for the first time in 1988: the emergence of a distinct religious right or social-conservative candidate. That was Pat Robertson, who carried four states and won a little over 9 percent of the overall primary vote—behind Bob Dole’s nearly 20 percent and George H.W. Bush’s 68 percent. Robertson’s modest campaign, however, was like a hairline crack in the foundations of the political right. Since then in every election there has been a strong social-conservative contender in the Republican contest: Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996, Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012.
The development of the religious right or social conservatives as a bloc discrete from conservatives generally proved to be the undoing of the right in Republican presidential primaries. But this differentiation into two distinct strands of conservatism, represented most of the time by competing avatars in GOP primaries, was not the result of hubris or short-sightedness on the part of religious conservatives. On the contrary, it represents a real philosophical divide that can be seen in the different emphases, attitudes, and even positions taken by social-conservative champions vis-à-vis other conservatives.
It’s not a coincidence that this ideological and political differentiation expressed itself immediately once the Reagan era had reached its end: before Reagan, an all-purpose conservative represented to the religious right—whether organized or nascent—a candidate who might give them the kind of country they wanted. Goldwater’s defeat avoided the disillusionment that victory would have brought. Reagan, however, showed that a general-purpose conservative once elected could only go so far: he appointed Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, after all. Reagan himself did not come in for much blame, but the spiritually diffident conservatism that he and Goldwater represented—neither was more than nominally religious—was no longer enough.

Christian conservatives may no longer be the only ones who have this problem. Libertarians have had cause to celebrate in recent elections, as they too seem to have emerged as a distinct force in the GOP, with presidential standard-bearers of their own in the form of Ron Paul and Rand Paul. But here again, what this differentiation suggests is that libertarian Republicans have a vision distinct from and to some degree incompatible with—unsubstitutable for—that of other conservative Republicans. When religious conservatives came to this awareness, the results proved ruinous as far as winning the GOP presidential nomination went, for themselves and for the older Goldwater-Reagan conservatives. Will libertarians avoid the same trap?

In an irony that might be worth blogging about later, Jonathan Haidt wrote that he began to explore moral intuitions and social reasoning because he thought the liberal/progressive side kept losing by failing to sufficiently motivate its voting base. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

more music blogging on the schedule, getting back to Ferdinand Rebay, new album out from Eudora Records, review on the eventual way

We're slowly getting back to things animation and music here at Wenatchee The Hatchet and soon, perhaps, we'll get back to blogging about the music of Ferdinand Rebay again. There's seven guitar sonatas to blog about as time, energy and resources permit.

There's also a new release from Eudora Records we'll be hoping to review here before too long.

huh ... Vin Diesel teases "don't be surprised when you hear WB announce the sequel" for ... the Iron Giant?

No disagreement with Vin Diesel that one of his earliest and favorite characters to play was the Iron Giant from The Iron Giant.  Still ... a sequel?  What was there in the film that was going to catalyze a sequel? 

Still, I admit I'd probably go see a sequel out of curiosity, just like I'm going to see The Incredible 2.

Not all sequels must automatically be construed as jaded cash grabs.  Still ... one wonders ... .

Trivia--someone who worked on the cel side of things for that film was Lauren Faust, who would later go on to work on The Powerpuff Girls, and work with McCracken again on Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends and later helm a reboot of My Little Pony. I've respected Faust's work and collaborative activity enough that I watch MLP from time to time.  Favorite is easily Luna.

Ted Gioia--are we all mistuning our instruments and can we blame the Nazis?
Is it really possible that musicians have been tuning their instruments incorrectly during my entire lifetime? Has my piano tuner (perhaps a member of the Illuminati) been duping me all these years? Is the tuning app on my smartphone a kind of cultural malware designed to destroy music as we know it?
According to true believers, music would generate positive healing energy if A were tuned to 432 Hz. This tuning, they claim, is more aligned with the cosmos and the natural world. “The number 432 is also reflected in ratios of the Sun, Earth, and the moon as well as the precession of the equinoxes, the Great Pyramid of Egypt, Stonehenge, the Sri Yantra among many other sacred sites,” explains author Elina St-Onge. And who do you want to bet on: Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid or Goebbels and the Nazis?

These conspiracy theorists aren’t entirely batty. The tuning of instruments has always been filled with compromises and influenced by competing paradigms. Listeners take for granted the conventional “well tempered” tuning of modern instruments, but this itself was a controversial innovation in its day—it represented a rejection of the Pythagorean heritage and Renaissance thinking on music. But it also made possible the chromatically-rich compositions of Bach and his successors.

Andrew Durkin's self-defeating manifesto

Durkin read the review of Decomposition here at Wenatchee The Hatchet and left a few comments. 
So firstly, thanks for coming by and commenting.  It's been great to have the blog have comments that aren't about the usual set of topics the blog's gotten a reputation for.  It's also especially fun for the blog to spark any interaction about music instead of ... the usual set of topics.

It probably comes as no surprise to Durkin that we come from different perspectives.  He's mentioned not having the desire to engage in a lengthy interaction, which is fine.  Whether or not Durkin read all the posts tagged with "decomposition" is less clear.  However, he shared a few things in comments that have cleared up a couple of things about his book, cleared some things up in a way that makes it easier to understand why I have come to consider his entire enterprise to be sententious and self-defeating.

We can quote a few sentences from the start and end of his comments that may suffice to distill his philosophical approach.
Here’s what I think you’re missing in much of your review: I don’t believe concepts can exist outside of the ways we write or speak about them.
Sorry, but I don’t believe in artistic greatness. I believe that all we can do is love the art we love.

It seems necessary to clarify what I began to have doubts about regarding Durkin's book.  He can subscribe to the idea that concepts don't exist outside the ways we write or speak about them but I'm coming more from the side of playing with the idea that how we even think about music is circumscribed by the linguistic parameters through which we learned about music or literature.  We can be hamstrung by what we are or aren't able to think through based on the language through which we learn to think about music.  Which may be a tolerable transition to questions raised about Durkin's engagement with the secondary literature known as musicology.

Durkin did mention having not read a couple of the Meyer books I mentioned. For those not eager to read the length of his comments, he mentioned what books he read and what ideas he referenced.  As mentioned before, I agree with Madison Heying that Durkin seems to have not read widely or deeply enough in musicology to have made some of the points he tried making.  I'd go a step further and suggest that Durkin wasn't widely or deeply read enough in the last 41-80 years of musicology to have made some of his points.

Durkin is more than free to insist that concepts don't exist apart from the ways we write and speak about them.  The strength of his arguments in Decomposition may not derive the force of argument from a premise like that.  If anything, a philosophical premise like that highlights that his book would have benefited from formal and analytic musicology.

When I wrote earlier that if Durkin was going to take aim at demythologizing touchstones in the Western canon he needed to show he knew his work, Durkin may have taken that as a sign he needed to write his book.

Well, the problem in the Ellington/Beethoven dyad earlier in Durkin's book is that Durkin clearly demonstrates direct familiarity with Ellington's music and writings about Ellington's music. Then we get to Beethoven and Durkin shifts to summarizing DeNora on what other people said about Beethoven.  By the time I finished reading Durkin's book everything Durkin said seemed like stuff that could be written by someone who had consulted a wide variety of the secondary literature .. without having bothered to study or play a single piece by Beethoven.  Or listen to one, for that matter. It's not just that I and others have doubted the depth and breadth of Durkin's readings on musicology, I've come in the last year of considering the arguments and content of the book to have some actual doubts that Durkin even knows the classical repertoire of Beethoven or Bach.

Take the chapter where Durkin talked about "The Riff".  It's shooting fish in a barrel to explore how Russian folk songs got worked into Beethoven's string quartets for Russian patrons. It's easily known by anyone who's immersed themselves in the Goldberg variations that a Polish folk song got worked into the Quodlibet.  For that matter, for people already familiar with the music, it's not even that difficult to draw a line from the 9th century Pentecost chant Veni Creator Spiritus through to Lutheran hymnody for Pentecost to the subject of the fugue in Bach's C major violin sonata.  Had Durkin done for Beethoven (or Bach) what he'd done with Ellington, discussing where the riffs came from and how a composer or arranger can use a variety of riffs, not all of which the composer originated, and create vital and interesting music, he could have drawn a historic path from the 9th century to the 18th century to show how the remixing kept going on across nearly a millennia.  That is, if Andrew Durkin were actually familiar at any level with the concert literature of "so-called classical music".

Musicology and formal analysis is precisely the body of literature in which scholars of music point out that Matiegka appropriated the fast finale of a B minor piano sonata by Haydn to become the first movement of a solo guitar sonata.  It's how Kyle Gann can explore that Mozart made use of materials he'd heard from Clementi.

Durkin had plenty of time both in his book and in comments to explore and explain the lineage of what he calls decomposition across the classical canon.  He never really did that in his book and over at his blog Ugly Rug, eleven years worth of blogging has not revealed any particular familiarity with Beethoven's work, or Bach's.  This doesn't mean Durkin doesn't know the music, but eleven years of blogging and a published book is plenty of time to demonstrate a working knowledge of the classical side of things.  A person could invoke the B natural debate about Beethoven's Hammerklavier without so much as having heard the piece.  Reading the secondary literature gets that knowledge taken care of. 

So Decomposition comes off as a book written by someone who has written about what other people have written and said about people like Beethoven without revealing at any point any direct familiarity with Beethoven's work.  If Durkin wanted to show that Beethoven got ideas from folk music he could have.  If Durkin wanted to highlight the insoluable debate of preference over which ending for the Op. 130 string quartet is the preferable one of the two authentically composed-by-Beethoven endings, he could have done that. 

Classical music has a centuries old pattern of composers appropriating the ideas of other people, saying whose idea it was, and running with it.  Martin Luther would adapt Gregorian chants into vernacular hymns. Bach would employ isometric adaptations of sixteen century hymns shifted from their modal form into a major/minor key system. Haydn could take Polish folk songs and work them into the trios of his string quartets.  Matiegka wrote a set of variations on a lieder by Haydn in his Grand Sonata II. Brahms wrote a set of variations on a theme by Haydn (or Handel or Paganini).  Ferdinand Rebay adapted a variation form composed by Brahms into a slow movement in one of his sonatas for solo guitar.  From century to century musicology is able to demonstrate in historical terms what Durkin has described as "decomposition", and yet when it comes to the classical side of his point-making Durkin not only seems to come up short on the secondary literature, he actually at times makes it hard to know if he even knows the primary literature.

Let's take the Ellington/Beethoven dyad again.   Demythologizing Beethoven is shooting fish in a barrel for anyone who knows the primary works.  The problem is that Beethoven's not necessarily the best case study as a contrast to Ellington.  Durkin is bothered at the mythologizing tendencies of language about the singular genius and the authentic instantiation of a musical work. Durkin could have consulted Richard Taruskin's tree-killing two-volume survey of the armies of folk tunes Stravinsky appropriated for his work and how Stravinsky made a career of self-mythologizing.  What makes the mythologizing tendencies in the "lone genius" and the "authentic" part of music-making pernicious is that the people most apt to deploy this language are the creative people themselves. Of course since we live in an era of popular culture that is practically excluded from the public domain people will feel it's dangerous to admit artistic debts in pop music.  The funny thing here is that in classical music these debts are admitted so readily and casually it could have been a case where if Durkin knew any of the classical music warhorses and the lineage of the works he could suggest that the different eras of music have unique things to share. 

Durkin tends to focus on the ways that copyright regimes create problems (and those are considerable in a number of ways) but Durkin read Teachout's biography of Ellington and so Durkin could have highlighted that creativity can involve working AROUND restrictions, the way Ellington urged his son Mercer and Billy Strayhorn to create reams of music during the BMI embargo of ASCAP members.  Ellington was part of ASCAP, if memory serves, and found himself in a sticky spot when it came to composing music.  But his son and Strayhorn could work within and around those restrictions and this was an integral element of the prodigious output of the Blanton-Webster period. Duke would suggest chord progressions and then encourage Mercer and Strayhorn to develop the rest.

I think that a contrast between Ellington and Stravinsky would be more instructive because both composers occupied the same century of creative activity and in both cases myth-making vs reality has become easy to document. As it stands, Durkin may or may not have any familiarity with Taruskin's fantastic survey that demythologized Stravinsky for Stravinsky. We have plenty of documentation by now how, as I put it in an earlier post, even the most apparently solitary artistic person is creating art in a way that is fundamentally a social activity.

If Durkin had the musicological background and interest demonstrating how riffs get reshaped across a millennium of musical activity would be pretty easy to do.  It could have demonstrated the potential vitality and applicability of "decomposition". As it is, "decomposition" is more apt to become Durkin's "that is so fetch".

Now Durkin's certainly able to insist that concepts don't exist apart from the ways we write or speak about them.  This is a point at which Durkin might have benefited from reading some of the work done by social scientists and biologists on heuristics, cognitive development and the like. What if, for instance, concepts are not "just" in verbal or oral expression but are circumscribed by the language(s) we learn from childhood?  It may be true that a concept doesn't exist apart from what you write or say but before you can say or write a sentence thoughts are in your head. Does a concept only take shape once it is written or spoken, or can a concept be formulated by a thinking and perceiving mind before it is articulated?

To give an example, babies don't have the language with which to communicate conceptually but just because a baby doesn't have a mastery of a language yet does that mean the baby is incapable of formulating a concept that we adults could describe as "I'm hungry"? Is the baby not hungry because it can't speak words saying "I'm hungry" or write anything?  Now maybe a person hearing the baby crying might have to rely on other sensory perception than hearing (like a sense of smell) to determine that maybe that baby isn't hungry but has had a diaper blow out. The question at hand is whether the baby somehow doesn't have a concept of being hungry or having a diaper blow out for lack of linguistic categories to express the concept or, to some degree, even perceive what hunger is.  Does hunger not exist for the baby because he or she or it lacks a linguistic framework in the mind from which to identify the sensation we tend to call hunger?

It's possible that the language in which we think circumscribes the range of concepts we can write or talk about, just as it's possible that concepts don't exist apart from the way we write or speak about them.  This would suggest that, if anything, Durkin would have a reason to immerse himself deeply and broadly in musicology and formal analysis.  Yet as Heying has noted, Durkin's attitude toward musicology and formal analysis seems to be dismissive.  If so that's a shame because if concepts don't exist apart from the way they are dealt with in language via writing and speaking then this would elevate the significance of formal analysis because, in that sense, there might be no music apart from the reified expression of music in a fixed form.  If there is a "music of my mind" that can exist independent of formal expression then Durkin has devoted chunks of his book to doubting the legitimacy of the ad hoc languages and lexicons developed over millennia to talk about and get to performing music for reasons that are never particularly clear. 

And in the long run it's difficult to tell whether or not in the end Andrew Durkin has much interest in defending the ideas in his book in connection to his eleven years of blogging, too.  In a comment Durkin mentioned the following:
Sorry, but I don’t believe in artistic greatness. I believe that all we can do is love the art we love.

This sententious assertion needs to be read alongside what Durkin's blogged over the last eleven years which includes a fairly standard issue bromide such as ...
...  I don’t need to be convinced of Ellington’s greatness; I already know his music saved my life. ...

This gets to the self-defeating core of Durkin's approach.  Durkin insists that all we can do is love the art we love, having cast doubt on the legitimacy and utility of linguistic categories we humans have used  since 19 ... always to express such love, while using such hyperbolic language in his own expression of love for the music he loves. 


In the history of humans certain quests and claims keep coming up.  The opportunity Durkin had for a manifesto (or the start of one) would be to propose that the boundaries across the styles we so often think are distinct are ultimately permeable.  The music you love may have more in common with the music you think you hate than you might first realize.  I thought I didn't and couldn't like any country in my teens and then I began to listen to country and learned that the boundaries between jazz and blues (which I did like) and country (which I thought I didn't like) were more permeable than I had imagined them to be. I read interviews with Bob Dylan where he said to not just listen to him but to listen to who inspired him and to listen to who inspired them. So I went back to Robert Johnson and went back to Ellington and Mahalia Jackson. Then I went back to Scott Joplin and learned he was familiar with Beethoven, Brahms and Bach. So I got into Beethoven, Brahms and Bach and learned they were respectively inspired by Haydn and Telemann and Schutz and Buxtehude.  I kept going further back and stopped around Leonin and Perotin and Ockeghem.  Also got around to music from China and Thailand and Japan along the way.

Durkin focuses on what he seems to think negatives to reification. There are, however, positives. The beauty of an age in which music is reified is that we have an opportunity to understand how permeable the boundaries across musical styles and forms are.  Where Durkin seems obsessed with the limitations of notational systems and certainties about whatever a "master" version is, that's all inconsequential to me.  Rather than lament reification what if we take it as a given and see what is possible in light of that reification.  One opportunity is to take a computational approach to the recurrence of riffs across multiple styles in different eras. There's no reason a person can't hybridize the invertible contrapuntal idiom of the 18th century with the blues vocabulary of American blues players.  To borrow a bit from Yoda, no, is not different, only different in your mind. If we're to have music beyond category we may not enjoy formal analysis at first but the beauty of formal analysis is that it can, despite its drudgery, lead us to discover how permeable the boundaries are between early Romantic 19th century guitar sonatas in Spain and ragtime in the early 20th century.
My friends complain about modern pop all the time. I wish I could evaluate it in aesthetic terms. But I feel like I can’t even hear it. It sounds like money to me. I hear the money that went into the production. I hear the money that went into the promotion. I hear the money that is being exchanged every time it is performed. I hear the money that is expected as a kind of birthright. Lord help me, I cant get past the money. 

I dislike contemporary Christian music because when I hear it I feel like I'm looking at a grainy black and white photocopy of a postage stamp reproduction of a Thomas Kinkaid painting.  But if Durkin's going to take his critique of authorship and authenticity seriously he'd have to say that there's no argument that this is inauthentic music or that it's bad based on any question of authorship.  Dismantling the ideologies of authenticity and authorship should have led Durkin to a point where he should be able to celebrate at least some modern pop music regardless of the money issue.

It's not enough to question the viability of "authenticity" and "authorship" as ways of praising the music we love, it's far more important to dismantle them as categories through which we vent about music we hate.  It's when Durkin complains that he can't hear modern pop music as music that he reveals maybe he can't even completely commit to the ideals he has tried to formulate in his own manifesto.  And if he can't go that distance himself, should the rest of us bother to follow?

on riffs that keep returning, the mutation of a Pentecost hymn over the centuries

J. S. Bach fans already know this (probably) but one of the fascinating things about the Baroque era was how isometric rhythm changed the assymetrical phrase into the symmetrical phrase; the odd rhythm into an even; and the modal chant into a major or minor melody. 

What's interesting about the fugue from the C major violin sonata is it's "church" fugue.  The subject for the fugue has, as Bach scholars can tell ya for free online, derived from a 15th century Lutheran hymn for Pentecost.

What's also interesting about that melodic contour is that as, er, Pentecostal tunes go there's a case to be made that the Lutheran hymn has a melodic profile that is an outworking of the old 9th century Gregorian chant Veni Creator Spiritus.

There are differences, of course, but that tune that starts by oscillating around what today would sound like the fifth of a chord is still there (not that there were major or minor keys in the 9th or 15th century, tonality as we've come to think of it would emerge for centuries).