Know Your Narratives


By Mike Cronin

Last week I offered three tips for Filtering the Feed.  I thought I’d end 2016 with one more tip:

Understand “The Narrative(s).” As mentioned in tip one last week, the news is almost always fake to one degree or another.  One of the driving factors in most main-stream media outlets is maintaining a certain narrative. But the mass media are not the only purveyors of “the narrative.”  In dictionary terms, a narrative is simply a story.  In the sense of modern ideological competition, narratives are essentially the story that is supposed to be happening.  This striving to present the world to the rest of us in a certain way is especially favored by liberals / progressives, but conservatives are not immune to doing so either.  The liberals have elevated maintaining “The Narrative” to an art form, as they control most of the machinery for advancing their version of it: Entertainment, Academia, Education, and Mass Media.  Here are some of its major hallmarks:

  1. Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is more important than your individual identity.
  2. Ergo, whites are oppressors, or at least privileged, especially white heterosexual men. White men can be held to account for virtually any unfavorable outcome experienced by virtually any other group. In extreme instances, simply being white is racist, while any form of bias, discrimination, or exclusionary behavior directed against whites by other groups cannot, by definition, be racist.
  3. Human beings are destroying the planet
  4. Wealth is distributed unfairly and must be redistributed
  5. Guns are evil
  6. Abortion is a sacred right
  7. Marijuana should be legal
  8. Gays should have the right to marry
  9. Everyone has the right to free speech…unless it’s offensive to anyone except white males or Christians – then it should be doubly illegal.
  10. Everyone has a right to education, health care, food, etc.
  11. It wasn’t Hillary’s fault
  12. Everyone is equal, so everyone should have equal outcomes (except white males – see above)
  13. We should have pure democracy
  14. Big Government is the solution to all of our problems

While liberals have practically “weaponized” narrative advancement, conservatives have their own version of a narrative, which generally espouses opposite positions from the liberal orthodoxy, but not 100%:

  1. Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is perhaps as important as your individual identity.
  2. Some whites were oppressors while other whites defeated them during the Civil War. Later on, there will still some whites that were oppressors, while others stood with Dr. King in the 60s. Whites don’t have a lock on being oppressors, nor do non-whites have a lock on being the oppressed, as the relatives of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, or of the Cambodians killed by Pol Pot, or of the Russians killed by Stalin, or the Chinese killed by Mao can attest.
  3. Global warming is a hoax. Human beings might be destroying the planet – you’ll need to prove it without cooking the books and without resorting to calling skeptics “deniers” as if they are heretics.
  4. Wealth is distributed unfairly and must be redistributed…just not by nearly as much as our liberal colleague want.
  5. Guns are a God-given right
  6. Abortion is murder
  7. Drug use is evil
  8. The government must protect the sanctity of marriage as being between one man and one woman
  9. Everyone has the right to free speech…unless it’s flag burning, oh, and you need to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
  10. Everyone has the right to seek out education, health care, food, etc.
  11. It WAS Hillary’s fault
  12. Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law
  13. We are supposed to have a republic
  14. Big Government is the cause of most of our problems…but we’ll let it grow…just more slowly than our liberal colleagues.

There is an alternative to the combating narratives. Call it the moderate, or libertarian, or independent view.  It would probably make more sense to more people than either of the others, except that it has far weaker advancement machinery. I happen to ascribe to this view:

  1. Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is irrelevant compared to your individual identity.
  2. Some individuals do oppressive things against others. In a rights-respecting country, you can’t rationally hold an entire group accountable for the sins of an individual member of that group, especially if those sins were committed before any of the current members of that group were born.
  3. Human beings might be contributing to climate change, which is, and always has been, a natural phenomenon. We’ll be better off adapting to it than disrupting society with draconian, rights-destroying measures to try and stop it.
  4. Wealth is created by productive people, not distributed. No one has a right to the fruit of someone else’s labor. Coerced charity is theft, but voluntary charity is just fine.
  5. Guns are a protected right because self-defense is a right, to include defending oneself from common criminals, or uncommon criminals, such as tyrannical government.
  6. A woman has the right to do what she will with her own body…but killing a human being is murder. When does a fetus become an individual human being? Before that point, abortion is merely a medical procedure; after that point, killing the baby is murder.
  7. The government should have no say about what intoxicants competent, consenting adults put into their own bodies – but such use cannot mitigate acts committed while voluntarily intoxicated.
  8. The government should have no say in the relationships between competent, consenting adults, except as regards fraud and contract enforcement.
  9. Everyone has the right to free speech…especially if it’s offensive, but not if it takes away something someone else had a right to. Conversely, no one has a right to make others provide a platform, venue, or to make anyone else listen.
  10. The only rights that are proper can’t involve taking anything from anyone else…in violation of their rights!
  11. It WAS Hillary’s fault
  12. Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law
  13. We are supposed to have a republic
  14. Government has a singular purpose: the protection of our rights. When it does anything else, it ends up violating our rights and making the problem it was supposed to correct even worse.

Three Tips for Filtering the Feed


By Mike Cronin

Last year I wrote about the war on Christmas. This year the election of Donald Trump has overshadowed the usual brouhaha over nativity scenes at City Hall. So this year I thought I’d go with something a little more practical. The guiding purpose of this blog is to make sense out of the vast array or “manufactured truth” that we are constantly bombarded with. Here are a few tips and tricks to deal with it every day:


  1. Consume news skeptically: the first thing you need to remember about the news media is that their first concern is to sell advertising. Their second concern is often to reinforce a narrative or advance an ideological or even partisan agenda. Running in third place is actually informing you about the new events of the day. There has been much ado recently about fake news. Given the first and second criteria just outlined, almost all the news is fake to one degree or another. When there is some crisis happening, such as 9/11, and the news “breaks in” to tell us about the event as it’s happening, they haven’t had much time to adapt it to their preferred narrative. In those cases we are usually getting real news, even if some of the details are inaccurate while the debris is still falling or the smoke is still rising. As soon as one of these stories acquires its own theme music, it’s no longer breaking news. At that point you must start taking it with a grain of salt. In reality, the best way to glean something of the truth may be to examine headlines from multiple news sources, to include some foreign outlets such as the Economist, BBC, and perhaps even Al Jazeera or Xinhua.  Even so, while those sources may tell you what’s happening and why, they seldom articulate what it means and what will likely happen because of it. Personally, I like to scan the news headlines, but I also like to read intelligence. One of my favorite sources is StratFor; a private “intelligence” firm that uses the lens of geopolitics to explain the world.


  1. Geopolitics, as you might have guessed, is not just about geography or politics, but about how geography enables or constrains political and/or economic action between nations and other actors. For example: The United States is largely regarded to have the largest economy and the most powerful military, and we are generally thought of as being the world’s only superpower. But it is not only our military might or our form of government that has led us to this condition. The United States is this way in part because of where it’s at and what it has. The most striking example of this is our river and coastal waterway system. “The Greater Mississippi Basin together with the Intracoastal Waterway has more kilometers of navigable internal waterways than the rest of the world combined. The American Midwest is both overlaid by this waterway and is the world’s largest contiguous piece of farmland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast possesses more major ports than the rest of the Western Hemisphere combined. Two vast oceans insulated the United States from Asian and European powers, deserts separate the United States from Mexico to the south, while lakes and forests separate the population centers in Canada from those in the United States. The United States has capital, food surpluses and physical insulation in excess of every other country in the world by an exceedingly large margin.” (From StratFor’s “The Geopolitics of the United States.”) Give these advantages, it would have been a shock if the US had not become an economic powerhouse! By way of contrast, consider the difficulties faced by a landlocked country. Afghanistan, for example, is estimated to have over $1 trillion worth of natural resources in the form of valuable ores and minerals. Yet owing to the difficulty of getting to and from Afghanistan and navigating within its borders, and the fractured nature of its tribal society, Afghanistan has never realized its economic potential, and is unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future. Where the United States has abundance of access, Afghanistan has a dearth. Geography has dealt a difficult hand to landlocked countries, but there is at least one way to overcome that difficulty: adopt a Western form of governance that recognizes individual rights and promotes liberty. Switzerland is the epitome of a country that can overcome geographic isolation by staying neutral in the conflicts of its neighbors and giving its people freedom.
  1. Like most, I’ve had geography classes, and classes on US. Government, but I never had a “geopolitics” class per se in my formal education. Our schools are set up to teach material as discreet subjects, but our brains are not set up that way. We learn and make memories by association. Another example might be economics. The word economics conjures up thoughts of central banks, such as the Federal Reserve, changing interest rates and conducting “quantitative easing.” Those elements of economics were among the set popularized by John Maynard Keynes, and “Keynesian Economics holds sway among the vast majority of economists today.  9i7jfxdepbiuxmllhv6wxoykazrjmeynuapn20ngnu0But in a broader sense, economics is the study of human activity. This goes hand in glove with geopolitics, as does history. Come to think of it, so does psychology. What if there was a way of learning economics (and other subjects) in a way that more closely mimics the way the human brain learns? Under such a rubric, there would be far fewer barriers between what we think of as the traditional subjects. Such a field exists.  It’s called “praxeology.” In short, praxeology is the study of volitional human action, and it is a basis for the Austrian school of economic thought.  We can borrow the concept to help us understand the world without trying to become economists ourselves.

Using these three tools (skeptical news consumption, understanding how geography can enable or constrain political and economic action, and removing the artificial barriers between “subjects,” and examining human action holistically), we can better learn to Filter the Feed.

Random Matter 2


By Mike Cronin

The tidal wave of angst unleashed by the election of Donald Trump is not wholly explainable by his crudity, political outsider status, media and polling industry failures, hacked emails, possible election tampering, or Hillary Clinton’s campaign style.

For too long, the beltway establishment has been driving this country down a two-lane country road that ends at a cliff: tyranny. When the liberals where at the wheel, the conservatives would call the cliff “socialism” and say the Democrats were racing us towards it, while the liberals would say that conservatives were steering us headlong towards the “fascism” cliff when Republicans had the wheel.

It was always the same cliff.


Now the liberals are howling that Trump will stomp on the accelerator, and the “Never Trump” branch of the conservative establishment isn’t sure that he won’t do just that.  Nor am I.

What I am more confident of is that for perhaps only a brief moment, by electing Trump, the passengers have made ALL of the drivers slow down and take notice of the impending danger. Even if Trump turns out to be wise at the wheel, we may be in for a period of painful adjustment.



Have you ever been irritated by Pecksniffian pipsqueaks who take any statement that does not absolutely validate or corroborate what they say and allege it means exactly the opposite?

Pipsqueak: We have to raise the minimum wage for the poor. (Sips his latte.)

Host: But won’t that mean there will be fewer jobs?

Pipsqueak: Hate speech! What do you have against poor people?  Are you a one-percenter? I can’t believe we still have troglodytes like you in this country!

Host:  But I was just-

Pipsqueak: I have to go. My limo is double parked, and I’m late for therapy.



Congress is now considering bills that would make it mandatory for females to register for the draft with Selective Service.  In my opinion, obligatory service of any kind is anathema to freedom.  You cannot protect freedom by taking it away. It is also not very effective to staff a high-tech, professional military with conscripts. It takes an inordinate amount of effort to train, motivate, and discipline people who are potentially there against their will…though it can, and has, been done.

It is far more efficient, effective, and easier to train qualified and self-motivated volunteers.

Wisely, the US stopped the draft in 1973…but unwisely kept the Selective Service, and is now taking a step in the wrong direction, IMO.  Instead of making females register, it should stop requiring anyone to register!

On the other hand, I would be in favor of examining the idea that we stop automatically conferring citizenship by birthright.  The idea that one should have to earn citizenship, with public service being one avenue to that end, has some interesting potential.

Conventional Wisdom?


By Mike Cronin

A million people can’t be wrong.  Oh, yes they can.  Look no farther than religion. There are dozens, if not hundreds in existence now, and there have been thousands throughout history.  Each believes that all the others are wrong.  They certainly can’t all be right. Don’t go there?  OK, how about: Environmentalists vs. global warming “deniers,” the medical community vs “anti-vaxers,”or “the moon landings were fake” crowd vs NASA?”   Would you believe there are still people who think the earth is flat?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  As an adage for leaving things alone that are working well enough and focusing on genuine problems, this is not bad advice.  However, when it morphs into an attitude it becomes counter-productive.  If humans all held this attitude, we’d still be sleeping in caves, picking lice off our neighbors, and dying of old age or tooth decay in our twenties and thirties.

It’s a free country.  Not as free as it’s supposed to be.  Want to open or run a business?  Get a license, or two, or ten.  Comply with state and local compensation and workmen’s comp laws. Pay estimated taxes every quarter. Want to drill a well or build an addition on your own property?  Do you have the water and mineral rights?  Got a permit? Have you thought about homeschooling your kids?  Again: do you have the right permits?  Are you following the prescribed curriculum? On and on: permits, regulations, licenses, red tape.

The police will protect me.  They don’t have to.  They have to protect society as a whole, not you as an individual. If the police had to protect all of us individually, each of us individuals would have to be a police officer.

Teachers deserve more money. The good ones do. The mediocre ones don’t.  The bad ones should be fired.  Regardless, school districts have no economically compelling reason to pay more.  It’s a simple case of supply and demand.  The overall supply of trained teachers and freshly-minted teaching candidates is roughly double the demand.

Pro athletes don’t deserve million-dollar salaries.  Then stop paying them. Once again, supply and demand is at work.  Professional-caliber athletes are exceedingly rare and highly sought-after, so they command dream-come-true salaries.  If you refuse to buy sports packages on cable, stop buying fan gear, and stop going to games, the teams will lose money and athlete salaries will drop.

We’re fighting a war on __(drugs, poverty, terrorism, obesity, etc…) No, we are not.  Wars are fought against enemies, not chemicals, circumstances, tactics, or conditions.  Generating a “war-fighting” mindset is a tactic used by people who want you to give up some of your freedom in exchange for a little more security – which they can’t really provide.

Not wanting to pay your fair share of taxes is greedy.  1. How much is a “fair share?”  Who gets to decide? 2.  If I am “greedy” solely for wanting to keep what I earn, what word applies to those who think they have even more right to take my money than I have to keep it?

I have a Constitutional right to__.  Nope.  The Constitution protects our rights by establishing a limited government; it does not grant rights.  It seems like a subtle distinction, but it is the thing that made the fledgling United States of America unique in the history of the world:  the first nation established based on the principle of limited, rights-protecting government established in the service of a free people.

Electric cars don’t emit carbon dioxide.  Not directly, but indirectly, the power plant that produced the electricity to charge the car’s batteries most likely did (unless it was nuclear)…and the industrial activity used to mine the ores and smelt the metals to make the batteries themselves sure did.

Recycling is good for the environment. Really? How much energy is saved when you have to produce double the number of plastic bins and operate twice the number of fuel-guzzling, traffic-congesting big trucks to service them? What about the recycling plant itself?

Everyone hates Congress. Then why do Congress members have such high re-election rates over time?  Apparently, we love our own Senators and Representatives and only hate the rest of Congress.

The Fake News Furor


By Mike Cronin

The comentariat would now like us to believe that Trump won the election due to fake news promulgated on social media, mainly Facebook.  To be sure, there is plenty of fake news to go around.

There are entire sites that publish nothing but fake or exaggerated news.  They craft lurid headlines that allege massive conspiracies, celebrity deaths, and imminent global crises.  They are the internet equivalent of check-out lane tabloids.  They are click-bait.

But what are we to make of the elite media machines, such as the New York Times or CNN, when they fake the news?

Sometimes, the culprit is a single reporter, such as the plagiarist Jayson Blair at the New York Times, or the embellisher Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News.

Other times, a piece of bad journalism corrupts an entire reporting team, up to and including a star anchor, such as the CBS debacle over unverified Air National Guard memos regarding then-presidential candidate George W. Bush’s background, which ultimately led to Dan Rather’s ignominious departure, or NBC’s  fabricated 1992 story about Chevy pick-up trucks that catch fire in a side impact (when the have been appropriately rigged to do so at the behest of the news crew).

Occasionally, a network reports accurate facts of a story, but gets caught creating phony drama and “atmospherics” for no discernible journalistic purpose, as when CNN was covering the Jodi Arias trial. Reporter/commentators Asleigh Banfield and Nancy Grace were televised conferring on a split-screen as if they were linked by satellite across the continent…when they were in fact mere yards apart in the same Phoenix parking lot.

Most recently, CNN “contributor” Donna Brazile introduced a new wrinkle to the fake news follies by trying to ensure a story would unfold the way it had been pre-ordained by giving debate questions to the Clinton campaign in order to help cement Hillary’s election as the first female president.

More often, though, the main-stream media is not so brazen as to completely fake the news or plagiarize stories. Yet they are still not the “fair and balanced” purveyors of fact they would have us believe. More often than they would like us to know, they are just guilty of not digging into things, or of regurgitating proffered talking points, or of going with the flow.  Why do more work than you have to?

You do so because sometimes peoples’ reputations, or even their lives, are at stake.  The Duke Lacrosse players.  The Rolling Stone – U. Va false rape case. Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, MO Police Dept. Geraldo Rivera’s antics in Iraq.

Even when others’ lives aren’t at stake, the media have to know that their own credibility is.