Ideology vs. Reality, Endlessly

Is this the core issue to rule them all? Since the survival of humanity seems to be in the balance?

Item’s today:

  • How the Supreme Court’s anti-LGBTQ case should never have been brought;
  • How the rise of the religious far right in Greece reflects the same priorities of basic human nature as those of the far right in the US;
  • Recalling a 2019 book’s description of humanity’s “three natures”;
  • And items about how apologizing makes you look weak; a witch hunt in Tennessee; and about liberal bias in the media as a right-wing myth.
  • Today’s YouTube music: Philip Glass’s Symphony #5, his greatest work.

Let’s start with this, further commentary about the Supreme Court case in which no one had actually asked the designer to do a gay website. There was no standing.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 3 Jul 2023: Fraud “justice”: Anti-LGBTQ decision based on a fake case showcases the Supreme Court’s illegitimacy, subtitled “Far-right lawyers created a phony ‘victim’ in made-up case — and the justice with the stolen seat wrote the opinion”

In lawyerly language, the ‘victim’ had suffered no harm and thus had no ‘standing’ and the case should have been dismissed without consideration.

This case is a straight-up fraud from every angle and had no business even being before the Supreme Court. To begin with, it’s a redux of a 2018 case, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado, which addressed a baker who violated Colorado’s ban on anti-LGBTQ discrimination by refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The case was brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing group demanding that Christians have the privilege to opt out of anti-discrimination laws. ADF lost its case.

That should have been the end of it, but ADF wanted another bite at the apple. Not because any facts or laws had changed, but because the make-up of the court had, due to Donald Trump getting two more nominees, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, on the bench.

But what makes this clown show even worse is that the complaint at the heart of 303 Creative v. Elenis is completely made up. In Masterpiece, there really was a baker who really did discriminate against a gay couple, creating both standing and a fact pattern to discuss in court. With 303 Creative, however, the “facts” justifying the case are all make-believe. The plaintiff, Lorie Smith, sued on the grounds that she doesn’t want to make wedding websites for same-sex couples. But no one had actually requested that she do so, for one simple reason: She didn’t make wedding websites. Her lawsuit was purely hypothetical. Legally, she shouldn’t have had a right to sue at all.

It goes on in detail.

Still, without a real gay couple to talk to reporters, it allowed ADF to present an entirely one-sided narrative. Bigotry is less upsetting to people when it’s abstract.

But it also should have meant that the court rejected her case out of hand since it’s built on a sandcastle of lies. As Vox’s legal expert Ian Millhiser wrote, “federal courts, including the Supreme Court, do not have jurisdiction to decide hypothetical cases.” That they didn’t is yet another sign of how much this isn’t just a Republican court, but a MAGA one, only too happy to adopt Donald Trump’s tactic of using “alternative facts” to bolster their case when the actual facts won’t do it.

Conservatives seem more concerned with ideology than reality.


Are there similarities to right-wingers in the US and right-wingers in other countries? One would expect there to be.

OnlySky, Jonathan MS Pearce, 28 Jun 2023: The rise of the religious far right…in Greece

I’m not interested in the specific political details (about Nikos Michaloliakos, et al), just the nature of the conservative rise.

Six of the 12 MPs voted into parliament for the Spartans, a new far-right political party, were originally from Kasidiaris’s outlawed Hellenes party.

The problem, of course, is that the issues that provide fertile ground in which such politics can germinate and grow still prevail. For example, the country still recovering from the economic catastrophe that resulted in a huge EU bailout (or three) and the resulting severe policies of austerity. The violently active ingredient in the fertilizer, however, is the continued humanitarian crisis of refugees and asylum seekers pouring into Greece, one of the gates of Europe. Syria and North Africa are but a stone’s throw away.

The party’s name taps a fascination with both the reality and myth of the ancient city-state that can be traced nearly back to the time of Sparta itself—so powerfully that a word has been coined for the obsession: laconophilia.

In his History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell noted that the evocation of discipline, purity, and military strength linked to Spartan culture “had a great part in framing the doctrines of Rousseau, Nietzsche, and National Socialism.” The party’s name taps this existing obsession with an exaggerated past glory, contrasting it with a picture of modern Greece as weak and shot through with impurities.

It’s a narrative that should sound familiar: Make Greece Great Again, or perhaps for consistency, Make Again Greece Awesome.

Sounds familiar: the policies of austerity (reduce the budget!); refugees and asylum seekers; the myth of an ancient city-state and the obsession with “an exaggerated past glory” in contrast to modern “impurities.” Make Greece Great Again.

The Spartans’ mission statement declares its desire to preserve “the same people, the same language, the same religion, the same kind” and the desire “to take back the Homeland that belongs to us.”

Again, the conservative idea to restrict the boundaries of concern and loyalty to the tribal level; everyone else is to be rejected or suppressed.

Anti-NATO, anti-EU, pro-religion, pro-life, anti-immigration… It appears that the Greeks are upping the ante in the fight to see who can most appeal to Tucker Carlson.

So again: these sentiments are part of (primitive) human nature, that must be overcome if humanity is to solve the global problems that threaten its long-term survival.


I should engage on a project of consolidation, here on this blog, because occasionally I discover that I’ve reached certain conclusions about issues that I keep raising anew.

I read a big chunk of this book, back in 2019, and wrote up the first part in this post. I haven’t finished it because I haven’t finished by close read-through of the Bible, which I still plan to do. But I came across this old post and saw that this book gives terminology to what I’ve been trying to pin down recently as the “Savannah morality” that evolved in humanity’s “ancestral environment” (Pinker’s term). Let me quote from that earlier post:

The transition to sedentariazation was too quick for it to be survived via biological evolution; rather, cultural evolution handled the problems it created. And so our ancient human nature has been overlaid, twice, and can now be described as three natures.

The first nature is our innate feelings, reactions, and preferences that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years as hunter-gatherers. These include love between parent and child, a sense of fairness and outrage at injustice, a fear of strangers, a concern for reputation, feelings of obligation and jealousy—and the tendency to see supernatural actors at work everywhere.

Cultural evolution created a second nature that is learned; it varies from culture to culture. These are traditions and customs, religion as a cultural product, and rules of decency, politeness, and good manners.

Our third nature reflects our rational side. These are conscious practices and institutions that enable analysis of a given situation. These are generally taught in schools, and result in all the practices we know are good for us but balk at doing: eating healthily, exercising, not drinking and driving, etc. This third nature comes into play when we face new challenges and old mechanisms to solve problems no longer work.

Our third nature now keeps the world running. But our first nature reactions often conflict, resulting in ‘mismatch problems’ in modern life. Third nature self-discipline is a limited resource. Example: a married woman falls in love with another man. First nature: “love!” Second nature: “fidelity!” Third nature: “think of the mortgage, the lawyers’ fees!” p24. (Monogamy is absent from many parts of the Bible; even that was a second nature development to solve problems brought about by the sedentary life.) Our second and third natures help us survive, but don’t necessarily make us happy. And anytime our gut nature is unhappy, we are detecting another of those mismatches between our evolutionary heritage, and modern life.

This goes to the discomfort with the modern world that so many people apparently feel, not just the religious fundamentalists, who would instill their first nature intuitions into law.


Other items.

NBC News, 1 Jul 2023: ‘Never apologize’: How Moms for Liberty teaches its members to spin the media, subtitled “A media training session at the organization’s annual conference provided a rare look inside the effort to control the narrative.”

Because apologizes make you look weak. Conservative priorities: look strong. Fend off the outsiders, the others. Never admit a mistake, change your mind, or learn anything. There is nothing new to be learned.


NY Times, Margaret Renkl, 3 Jul 2023: Tell Me There Isn’t a Witch Hunt in Tennessee

This concerns the state’s attorney general seeking the names and medical histories of people pursuing “gender-affirming care.” Medical histories are always supposed to be private. Not to conservatives.


Salon, Anthony DiMaggio, 2 Jul 2023: What liberal bias? My media research suggests it’s another right-wing myth, subtitled “Republicans complain endlessly about the media’s supposed bias. Yes, that exists — but primarily on their side”

As a scholar of political communication, I’ve spent the last 20 years studying the question of media bias in politics. My own scholarly work, looking at decades of reporting on various public policy issues, has uncovered little evidence historically of a pervasive liberal or pro-Democratic bias in the news.

As reporters themselves acknowledge, and as I find in my research, it is more accurate to speak of a pro-official bias in the news, in which reporters privilege whatever party is in power in Washington at a given time. None of this evidence necessarily matters, however, when the prevailing narrative in American political culture — particularly among Republican officials, right-wing pundits and much of the public — is that the media is purveying biased “fake news.”

My take on this has always been the bromide “Reality has a liberal bias” that reflects the continued theme that conservatives are more devoted to ideology than reality. So of course reporting of facts that challenge their ideology will seem like biased reporting.


Today’s blog-writing music, this and some of the other movements.

Actually, these last two movements are the best.

Actually I see that I have the CD recording of this live performance, which includes a third disc with a live video of this entire performance, and an interview with Glass.

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