Rigged Institutions and the Political Arena

Carl Beijer’s post about professional wrestling reminded me of my usual metaphor, of politics in a highly institutionalized context as being a form of professional wrestling.

Basically, professional wrestling is rigged.  The roles are pre-assigned.  The outcomes are pre-determined.  This much is pure and simple.  But so are all sorts of things in life.  All plays, movies, TV shows ARE scripted.  Kiefer Sutherland is not Jack Bauer and all that.  Outcomes of the shows rarely deviate from the obvious, predictable outcome, and to the degree that they do, they are done intentionally.  Running all the data in the universe on who “wins,” in other words, is a bit meaningless since it only reflects the designs of those who rig the institutions of each, whether professional wrestling or institutionalized politics, and it is not a shocker that the side favored by the institution riggers should win most of the time, if they are interested in “winning.”

In other words, there is nothing interesting about most of the fights pitting the designated factions (“heels” and “faces” in professional wrestling, “Democrats” and “Republicans” in Congress and other political arenas) and that the designated protagonists (“faces,” I guess, in professional wrestling; the majority party in Congress.) should win most of the time.  They reveal nothing other than something we already knew:  institutions are rigged and are designed to follow scripts with predetermined outcomes.  What would be surprising are signs that things are taking place that are either off the script or that the script is not as predictable as one might have expected.  “What?  Jack Bauer is dead?” or something of that nature.  Perhaps the majority party might actually lose an important vote, with consequences.  Perhaps this might involve a faction that is neither heels nor faces–say, a group of congressmen who vote against both Democrats and Republicans (who might form a supersized coalition between them ), especially if they take place consistently.  These may not be exactly “off the script”–the designated protagonists might still win, even if in the longer term (i.e. the vote after the one they lost, with the latter acting as a smokescreen), or through unconventional route (by joining together with the designated villains against unexpected and unusual foes)–but it certainly becomes interesting, and more important, reveals something about the institution-rigging process that the obvious outcomes may not.  Perhaps the institution riggers are losing control?  Or, perhaps, they have a more sophisticated and cunning agenda on their mind that needs further investigation.

The point is simple:  rigged institutions generate tons of data, and provide lots to do for those who simply love the data without an interest in what is going on beneath the data.  The reams of data that the rigged institutions will simply confirm the view of the world that the institutional designers want to maintain for public consumption.  In other words, most of that data is not worth analyzing in depth.  Yay, the faces win again.  Faces always win, just because–who cares if the games are rigged!  (ha!)  The problem, when things seemingly go off script, is twofold.  First, that does not happen too often, so they will be overshadowed by the usual and the obvious, when the analyst is not looking for them specifically–and that requires a knowledge of what the “normal” is, which, in turn, requires a theory of the institutional rigging.  Second, if it does take place, what it signifies is not obvious:  perhaps it means that institutional riggers are losing control, or their designs are more complex than what it might appear to be superficially.  The classic identification problem, again, and resolvable not with more data or cleverer methodology at parsing through them, but with a better theory.

One might liken this to the Google Translate problem.  You do not need a theory of nuance in language to translate technical documents and contracts, which are designed to be devoid of complexities and ambiguities, to use the Google Translate example.  You do need such a theory to translate poetry.  Perhaps it does not matter if you have a theory:  there are so few poems to translate anyways, so to speak, and maybe people shouldn’t write poems if they don’t like Google Translate.   If all politics in public winds up being about parties, does it matter if theoretical possibilities of politics that go beyond parties don’t exist?  They matter because you still see the few instances where man does bite the dog, and not theorizing means denying that they exist.  Donald Trump does not win presidential elections either, until he does, improbably.  This breeds the kind of anti science bubble that masquerades as science that Orwell himself wrote about in 1984.  

The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc. And even technological progress only happens when its products can in some way be used for the diminution of human liberty.

The part about diminution of human liberty, by itself, is not necessarily part of the goal, although advancement of political agenda is–although it is true in the larger sense, to the degree that successful advancement of a political agenda does diminish human liberty, if only those of its opponents.  This echoes in the reaction of my Democrats today, who, in wrapped up in their political theories that left no room for a Trump victory, are engaging in denying the reality.  A lesser version took place in 2012, among the Republicans at that time.

Fr. LeMaitre, the Father of Big Bang Theory, steadfastly refused to bring God into science because he did not make God into a theory.  Every theory is “almost surely” wrong–and I’m using “almost surely” in mathematical sense:  in as the sample size approaches infinity, the probability that there is some counterexample to any theory asymptotically approaches one, or, in other words, every theory is wrong, in face of infinite universe.  Only God is never wrong, by definition, and as such, God cannot be a theory.  You can buy this, and believe in God, or you can use this as evidence that there is no God–and there is no right answer to this question.  But refusing the possibility that, in an infinite empirical universe, something contrary to any theory cannot exist is not the way of empirical method of thought, which thrives on finding counterexamples and contradictions, the 1% that runs contrary to the usual and the obvious and use them as means to enrich our understanding, either of professional wrestling, beyond the obvious fact that they are rigged, or politics, beyond the obvious fact that they are rigged.

 

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