Fashionable bullshit (and why I left Hiddenharmonies)

In this post, I will talk about a intellectual trend (and a rather trendy one it seems among some) that I perceive as having some influence among certain types of China watchers such as those at this site (hiddenharmonies). As some of you may be from that site, I will also explain that that trend is also my primary reasons for leaving the site having posted there for 2 years and been a editor there for about 1 year under the pseudonym of melekatus but now wanting to start my own blog about China and the west.

Some of the writers on that site, are poseurs of the worst kind. They are no better than many of the rabidly anti-Chinese crowd they rail against in their posts. It is an extremely ideological site now straying away from its professed aim to bridge understanding between China and the west.

Everything Chinese (or what they erroneously believe to be Chinese) must be defended at all costs (including paying the price of truth). Everything western (or what they erroneously believe to be western) must be attacked. This is nothing more than a nationalist site. You can see it in almost all their posts now.

When I first joined the site, there were some good articles and there is also presently the sporadic good article (such as from Maitreya e.g. who unfortunately doesn’t post that often). But over the last year or so the quality has taken a drop and the the site traffic has been losing ground understandably. I am convinced that many of the main writers of the blog (other than myself and Maitreya) are not capable of writing well or thinking in a clear and logical way. Clarity, well argued (reasoned and evidenced) posts are absent being replaced by jargon, fluff, rambling ideological nonsense.

I emailed one editor and told him of my dissatisfaction and said that I wanted to leave taking my posts with me. I was going to post one more post on a response to another poster/editor (one of the leading perpetrators of said bad writing). But as I was about to post my response, I had found that I wasn’t able to. My posting privileges had been taken away by the other editor. He emailed me back saying that I was banned from posting because I accused him of making “mistakes” “errors, and having “confusions” (in his own words). Clearly anyone who cannot handle criticisms of their views because someone says they had made “mistakes” and “errors” has a large and fragile ego.

My posts generate quite a bit of traffic for that site. They are among the most popular for a reason. They are well written, and well argued and don’t have any ideological fervor. A clear contrast to many of the others.  So it is understandable why they don’t want to remove my posts as they carry more than their fair share of attracting readers to the blog. I’ve been at odds with many of them ever since I started blogging there but clearly removing someone’s posting privileges right before they are about to leave is a petty move by a very small individual.

This individual is a Taiwanese American (“Allen”) who is leading the charge in what I saw as the primary reason for the drop in quality of the blog. In my last post, I also included an addendum to explain why I decided to leave (which Allen has since edited out some of the content).

Much of his posts are replete with insincerity, obscurantist jargon and outright bullshit. To get an idea of the post modern sensibility to which he (and another blogger there by the name of “black pheonix” [sic]) seem to subscribe to. They do an incredible disservice to their professed goal of increasing understanding between China and the west.

Criticisms of postmodernism is as old as postmodernism itself. There is no clear definition of what postmodernism is and this is not just because it is a diverse area of study but because it is so obscure even postmodernists themselves are confused by what they are doing. But basic tenants seem to be an rejection of objective truth, objective reality (which some of the editors have explicitly denied) and an espousal of moral relativism. Postmodernists often use jargon they barrow from other fields (such as science, philosophy, law, etc) and use these terms in silly ways in which they don’t even seem to understand to defend their already muddleheaded positions. Unfortunately I see the postmodern sensibility among many of today’s youth and educated privileged classes. In postmodernism, they seem to see criticism of whatever that ails society. It’s fashionable. It seems to espouse viewpoints that defend tolerance for different cultures and ways of life (this often takes the form of different kinds of relativism)

Just as one example of the bullshit that the site has unfortunately sunk to. In a recent comment thread, I argued against (moral and cultural) relativism. Allen commented saying that Einstein’s theory of relativity showed that moral relativism is true (in fact he said it showed everything was relative). In his words,

Perhaps you can say this is a sort of absolutism – but you are stretching word. It is declaring a universal truth – unlike Einstein’s relativity – that all truths / measurements are relative.

I then commented that he had completely misunderstood Einstein’s theory of relativity and in fact, the theory doesn’t even show that everything in physics was “relative” (in fact, I pointed out that it presupposes that the speed of light is absolute for all observers, thus not relative). I explained that bringing up the theory is just a pretentious red herring. He then denied having referenced Einstein’s theory of relativity (while continuing to post gibberish about it in subsequent comments thinking that it availed moral relativism) and accused me of bringing it up. You can read our comments here. This is disingenuous to the extreme.

This is not the first time this same individual has been caught BSing. In the past he has made repeated nonsense threads and comments such as claiming that Hume’s moral philosophy was inspired by his “Christian” beliefs. Anyone who is even superficially informed about Hume or the history of philosophy knows what a howler this is. Hume is known as arguably the greatest religious skeptic in western philosophical history (and there’s been many great religious skeptics). He has claimed patently false claims even after being shown otherwise. He also conflates several meta-ethical issues (which any sophomore philosophy major should be able to distinguish). This kind of obstinate bullshitting is reminiscent of some journalist I had the displeasure of dealing with. This is an individual who has explicitly claimed he is well-informed by science and western philosophy (anyone who has studied basic college level physics knows that the theory of relativity presupposes the absolute speed of light and that moral error theory is different from moral relativism which he conflates in a morass of fuzzy thinking). These are just two of the many examples of this outright bullshitting nonsense. Most of his posts, in the words of the physicist P.M. Dirac, aren’t even wrong. They are so confused and incoherent that they are quite literally nonsense (they contain no sense, no real meaning). These are just the most recent examples I am aware of. I have essentially stopped reading many of the other’s posts because they have sunk so low in quality. I can give so many other examples but I think you get the idea.

This trend of nonsense and bullshit is what I take a trend that I see common among many young people who subscribe (consciously or unconsciously) to post modernist sensibilities. For example, Allen’s use of Einstein’s theory of relativity is strikingly reminiscent of Bruno Latour’s use of the theory to justify cultural relativism. See this classic article by Richard Dawkins published in the journal Nature.  I quote his paper.

“In similar manner, Sokal and Bricmont expose Bruno Latour’s confusion of relativity with relativism, Lyotard’s ‘postmodern science’, and the widespread and predictable misuses of Gödel’s Theorem, quantum theory and chaos theory.”

This kind of pedantic and erroneous use of scientific and philosophical terms without actually understanding them is common among not just post modernists but those who have an ideological agenda to spread.

Also see the Sokal hoax, a hoax pulled off by the physicist Alan Sokal. Sokal essentially used random postmodernist jargon words combined with technical terms in physics to write a paper that was utter nonsense but flattered the egos of postmodernists by citing them liberally and impressing them with the patina of rigor and technicality (without it being actually rigorous or technical) and yet got it published in the influential postmodernist journal “Social Text”.  Sokal claimed that this proved that postmodernist “literature” was a shame. See the wiki.

“The Sokal affair, also known as the Sokal hoax,[1] was a publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmoderncultural studies. In subsequent publications, Sokal claimed that the submission was an experiment to test the journal’s intellectual rigor and, specifically, to investigate whether “a leading North American journal of cultural studies – whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross – [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions”.[2]

The article “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity“, published in the Social Text Spring/Summer 1996 “Science Wars” issue, proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist.[3][4] On its date of publication (May 1996), Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax, identifying it as “a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense…structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics] he could find about mathematics and physics”.[2]

It seems that this trendiest of intellectual trends has infected some of those who propound to spread “harmony” and “understanding” in international relations. While superficially carrying an heir of tolerance by espousing relativism (which they seem to take as a kind of tolerance), any view point contrary (seeing it as a mistake or error) is treated with intolerance. It has spread to many of the other posters on that blog. Not coincidentally, both Allen and the other leading perpetrator on Hiddenharmonies of such pettifogging are both lawyers by profession. As I made comments to the effect in the past, lawyers are not like scientists or philosophers or mathematicians. They don’t care about the truth. They have been literally trained to use words in misleading, canting ways to sway people from the truth.  The truth is, is that much of that site has now become almost wholly mired in such superficiality and it is essentially worthless now. As if that wasn’t bad enough, some of the friends of the site seemed to be obsessed with antisemitic conspiracy theories and links to these “friends” bring the credibility of the site down. I don’t want my writing to be associated with that kind of trash. It’s understandable why I don’t want my writing to be put on that site anymore.

So this site is the official site of my writing. I disown my writing there and have transferred many of the posts here. As I said to one of the editors before I left who tried to convince from leaving, “You may be more tolerant of such bullshit but I can’t standby without shoveling and flushing”.

And so that’s how this site will be run. There will be zero tolerance of such bullshitting. If I’m wrong, I want others to show me where I’ve went wrong and I expect the same attitude from others. Not endless pettifogging using concepts one doesn’t understand just to “win” your case (or save your ego). I’d rather have this site be of very few quality comments then one with a lot of poorly written, poorly reasoned, confused and erroneous comments like Hiddenharmonies is now.

Addendum: See Chomsky demolish these charlatans in this video.

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3 responses to “Fashionable bullshit (and why I left Hiddenharmonies)

  • roastedpistachios

    I was a visitor to the Hiddenharmonies too. I also have left for the many reasons you cited here.

  • jungyoonsong0436

    Hi Melektatus,

    I’ve been an avid reader of your posts in Hiddenharmonies since 2012 and it was not long ago when I realize you left there. To tell you the truth, my views toward the world are in many ways similar to yours and I am curious if you’re planning to write a new post in this fabulous blog.

    Elliott

  • sinobserver

    Yeah, I might write some more but now I’m busy working on a book and some other stuff.

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