Open Thread, 02/25/2018

Reading Enlightenment Now. Seems fine enough. Will say more when I get done.

I will say it’s strange to see how many people really hate the book (presumably without reading it?) and hate Steven Pinker. And curiously, it’s a pretty broad and ecumenical hate, from the respectable Left to the respectable Right. There is also more measured criticism on the merits from academics.

Land of Promise, by Michael Lind, is a book I’ve mentioned several times. It is broadly within the mainstream “big government Left.” But, I don’t think I’ve observed that it ended on a curious note. It used the term “chain migration” and argued for a shift toward skilled migration. Lind also asserts that low skill immigration pushes down wages of low skill Americans.

Land of Promise came out in 2012. The 2008 financial crisis looms large. But we’ve moved a lot when it comes to immigration even since then… Not sure if the editors would let Lind leave that section in if he was writing today because it’s pretty much consonant with Donald Trump’s positions.

The Inside Story Of How An Ivy League Food Scientist Turned Shoddy Data Into Viral Studies. Another story from Buzzfeed on the Wansink story. Some assertions:

* Brian Wansink is a “good person” by normal definitions.

* His ultimate aim as a scholar is something most people would agree with. That is, he wants people to eat healthier.

* Any single aspect of his behavior in this article, p-hacking, recycling papers to lower ranked journals, sloppiness, and trying to get the media to pay attention to his research, is not that exceptional. It’s the magnitude and synergistic complementation.

* There are serious issues with the incentives for academics today, whether it be within the field (quantity of publications as opposed to quality), and the media (publish stuff that the media wants to believe).

The Wansink affair is a really great illustration of the symptom. But the structural problems are still there.

Reading a bit of the The Classical World: The Foundations of the West and the Enduring Legacy of Antiquity. But really I think perhaps Robin Lane Fox’s The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian does it better. But we’ll see.

Picked up Stephen Oppenheimer’s Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia. The thesis seems kind of crazy, but I’m curious and doing some research for a future podcast.

Tania Joya did an interview, ISIS Ex-Wife Speaks to the Secular Jihadists.

Tania gets a lot of space in Graeme Wood’s The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, but she’s apparently writing her own book. I’m pretty curious, because Tania and I have a lot in common, but are also different in many ways. She grew up in a British Bangladeshi household, and one of the major things she mentions in the interview is how oppressively capricious and controlling her parents were. To be honest I related to this…but as a male, I’m sure my experience was much milder. Additionally, British Muslim communities are isolated and regressive in a way that American Muslim communities never are (in fact, outside of a few places like Hamtramck, Michigan, there aren’t American Muslim communities as such). That also comes through in what Tania says.

Spencer wrote a blog post today which is worth checking out, R.I.P. Great Leap Forward, which reflects his own historical progression and understanding on this topic. Our podcast with Chris Stringer should be up Wednesday night (so subscribe), and we touched on this somewhat (it was recorded before the paper landed, though Chris already knew about it). We’ll be talking to Milford Wolpoff this week, so we’ll see what he thinks.

One thing I want to mention offhand. Back in the 2000s, I had some online exchanges with “Mencius Moldbug”. They weren’t exactly hostile, but ultimately I dismissed him because he got a lot of details wrong. And, to be honest, I was kind of annoyed by his stupid cultists who would leave comments. Moldbug himself was and is a smart guy, but some of his acolytes were not.

In 2018 I do have to say that I think that though Moldbug was wrong on a lot of details, and still is, he had insight into something more general which I lacked. My deep pessimism about bourgeois liberal democratic civilization and the state of intellectual culture draws from the same well that he drew from, though I disagree on a lot of the details to this day (I also now am much more open to radical Leftist critiques as well).

I bring this up partly because one of the things that convinced me to ignore Moldbug was his rejection of data which conflicted with his priors. For about 10 years it has been rather obvious to me looking at the literature and my own data analysis that most ancestry in Southern Italy and Sicily does not derive from migration from the east which dates to Roman antiquity.

The blogger at Eurogenes has posted the result from a Sicilian Bell Beaker individual. You can see that modern Sicilians are shifted away from the Bell Beaker Sicilian, who is more skewed toward the EEF cluster. But it’s pretty obvious that the shift has not been predominant. Modern Sicilians tend to have some ancestry which is certainly North African, and perhaps Greek. And the Sub-Saharan African in some individuals, which probably arrived during the Islamic period, is hard to miss. But most of their ancestry seems to date to before the Roman period.

And Sicily is the “best case” for predominant replacement in Italy.

DNAGeeks is now selling a Neanderthal shirt which honors their artistic abilities.

I put a poll up on Twitter asking about the species status of Neanderthals. I am a lumper, so I’m between two and three.

It’s kind of weird that people are explaining that there are “species concepts” to me in the comments. I thought answer 3 makes it pretty clear I’m aware of that.

I watched Black Panther. I liked it. It looks like it will make a lot of money. I wouldn’t be surprised if it results in copy-cat films. They probably won’t make a lot of money because they won’t be good films, and then Hollywood will go back to doing what it always did.

Also, I found out that there’s another Mission Impossible film. Tom Cruise is the new Dick Clark of our era.

Apparently, there isn’t a character for the word “problematic.” That’s good.

But I’m reading Judith Butler’s Gender Troubles soon. You might find that strange, but I’ve read Christian and Muslim apologetis too.

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44 thoughts on “Open Thread, 02/25/2018

  1. About Sicilians, it’s pretty sure that they were first very romanized to them later becoming very north-africanized.
    Between the Beaker_Sicily period and now, many things transformed the place, but the biggest shock to me was that a Minoan/Anatolia_ChL presence was clearly there – part of the same Armenia>Anatolia>Minoan movement to Greece.
    This could be the source of some of the non-IE languages of pre-Roman Italy, even Etruscan.
    After this, you get a large influx of Steppe there with the Italics of Unetice and Romans – then you reduce that again, with reinforced North African ancestries.
    The end result is close to the starting point, funnily enough.

    But we definetely need more samples, Beaker_Sicily is very poorly modeled.

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  2. After this, you get a large influx of Steppe there with the Italics of Unetice and Romans – then you reduce that again, with reinforced North African ancestries.
    The end result is close to the starting point, funnily enough.

    no. north african is distinct from “west asian.” so it wouldn’t be at the starting point. not sure that it would be visible on this PCA though. but it would on admixture.

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  3. I know, there’s at least 2 types of such “Basal” ancestry (for the lack of better word). In the Northwest Africa paper, it got modeled as Anatolia being one, IAM being another and Natufian being a mix of the two.
    Now, I only speak in generalizations – the point was that Sicilians started as heavily shifted to the Levant (PCA wise), very “Anatolian”, then bounced back hard to Europe in early Roman periods for a short time (we don’t have samples from this era, but the difference between Beaker and Modern Sicilian is enough to predict that) to finally slide back to the Levant direction slowly and steadily since.
    The Roman slave trade was historically described as heavily impacting the place, modern Sicilian couldn’t possibly be the way they are without that Roman pullback from earlier times.

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  4. i’ve looked at sicilians in admixture. i can see the north african %. it’s less than 10%. because n. african ancestry is drifted from east med. ancestral stock (with some old ss-african ancestry) you can isolate it.

    that’s why i’m saying you can’t attribute the shift back the way you are saying. it’s just not that back shifted if you are attributing to roman era stuff.

    “The Roman slave trade was historically described as heavily impacting the place, modern Sicilian couldn’t possibly be the way they are without that Roman pushback from earlier times”

    i’m assuming you also understand that slave fertility in the classical period was very low because of the typical brutality in places like sicily. from what i have read the sicilian latifundia in particular were known to be harsh (though not as bad as mines).

    slavery was a big deal in mainland italy too. but there doesn’t seem to be much impact there either. the regional structure is REALLY old (looking at shared IBD tracts they localize to regions/provinces, not the whole nation, and they go far back before rome).

    i consistently get into arguments with people who point to textual evidence of massive slavery. i believe that evidence. but when i look at the genetic data the impact doesn’t seem to have been huge. these ancient DNA seem to tentatively confirm that.

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  5. So, a softer Roman pullback (represented by the influx of Steppe ancestry) and a softer North African ancestry as well.
    10% is big though, specially because of the context (do Anatolians of today have such big Turkic admixture, for instance?).

    But yes, it seems that most of the Greek/Italian shift to the Levant direction (PCA) is due to the Mycaeneans colonies and that mysterious Anatolia_ChL quiet expansions.

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  6. 10% is big though, specially because of the context (do Anatolians of today have such big Turkic admixture, for instance?).

    well, it varies by person in the samples i see. i put 10 out there, but it could be less, though not much more (about every 3rd sample i saw had ~1% ss-african; that almost certainly came with the n. africans). and yes, the results from the previous post (scroll below) should make it clear that anatolian east asian fractions are in the 10% range.

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  7. typo alert – “lumber” should be “lumper”

    I commented on Greg’s blog that I thought that the Neanderthal art looks like a guy doing an upper decker, LOL.

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  8. There are serious issues with the incentives for academics today, whether it be within the field (quantity of publications as opposed to quality), and the media (publish stuff that the media wants to believe).

    This, plus that tweet you made regarding Tibet and Taiwan with regard to purposeful academic dishonesty in order to create narratives. As far as China is concerned, the amount of lies and half truths told by “scholars” is so incredibly high that many knowledgeable Chinese would just ignore corresponding with Westerners in political and historical discussions altogether since the amount of bullshit that needs to be waded through is amazing. “Scholarly dishonesty” is incredibly common and I think should be considered a subset of propaganda. For what it’s worth, some people you correspond with are purposely intellectually dishonest in my opinion.

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  9. The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

    That some people in the MSM think that “a case” needs to be made is telling.

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  10. “It is broadly within the mainstream “big government Left.” … It used the term “chain migration” and argued for a shift toward skilled migration.”

    The portion of the Democrat Party, that was based in white working class communities in the Rust Belt and the labor unions, always favored restricting immigration and trade. Before 2016 that was Bernie Sanders’s position.

    The reason that the party swung towards open borders and is no longer opposed to NAFTA is that it has become to be the party of an urban coastal elite based in media, government, and finance. Their view of illegal immigrants is nannies, lawn boys, and ethnic restaurants, not competition for blue collar jobs.

    Their favorite politicians see immigrants as another rotten borough like the black communities. They, of course, have always been at war with Eastasia.

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  11. As far as China is concerned, the amount of lies and half truths told by “scholars” is so incredibly high that many knowledgeable Chinese would just ignore corresponding with Westerners in political and historical discussions altogether since the amount of bullshit that needs to be waded through is amazing.

    yeah, but at least chinese rules and propaganda are straightfwd.

    the insidious thing about the west today is that the populace often thinks it’s not being lied to, but the media and gov. lie & shade consciously and unconsciously.

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  12. I wonder if Pinker hate has to do with him being more of a hedgehog (who has one big idea) than a fox (who knows many things) in intellectual style.

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  13. yeah, but at least chinese rules and propaganda are straight fwd.

    Just to be clear, I meant that many knowledgable Chinese stops corresponding with Westerners because Westerners are way too enamoured with Western propaganda. Most Chinese knows the government puts out a huge amount of propaganda. But when they talk to Westerners they then realise that the Westerners they meet have such an assbackward understanding of China they don’t even know where to start rebuking them. Usually they don’t bother wasting their time.

    the insidious thing about the west today is that the populace often thinks it’s not being lied to, but the media and gov. lie & shade consciously and unconsciously.

    Bertrand Russell wrote in his book The Problem of China:

    Apart from peace, American public opinion believes in commerce and industry, Protestant morality, athletics, hygiene, and hypocrisy, which may be taken as the main ingredients of American and English Kultur. Every American I met in the Far East, with one exception, was a missionary for American Kultur, whether nominally connected with Christian Missions or not. I ought to explain that when I speak of hypocrisy I do not mean the conscious hypocrisy practised by Japanese diplomats in their dealings with Western Powers, but that deeper, unconscious kind which forms the chief strength of the Anglo-Saxons. Everybody knows Labouchere’s comment on Mr. Gladstone, that like other politicians he always had a card up his sleeve, but, unlike the others, he thought the Lord had put it there.

    I think he’s onto something. The moral superiority a lot of Western expats evinces is unbearable and completely impenetrable.

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  14. Per Sicily, a few comments up says that sicilian genomes are anatolian at bottom. Is that right?

    Just because at least as far as I know, the name ‘Sicily’ comes from the name of a tribe called the ‘Shekelesh’ that was one of the Sea Peoples that attacked Egypt, along with their confederates the Peleset or Philistines, whose name is the root of Palestine, and the Shardana, who supposedly afterwards migrated to Sardinia and named that place.

    When I was reading about all this it was in 1983 or thereabout, the dark ages as far as genomic stuff. Per the story, the Shekelesh would have been from Anatolia. So do the genomes of present day Sicilians point to pre roman Anatolia, per the story, though I suppose that might not mean the Shekelesh, as not all Anatiloans were Shekelesh, and Anatolian might not mean Anatolian around 1200 BC.

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  15. i think they meant early european farmers, who were from anatolia. but these people are very different from bronze age anatolians, who had a lot of gene flow from further east.

    i put less weight on the stuff about sea peoples and their names than i used to. but i’m very uncertain on all of it.

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  16. Pinker’s nemesis John Gray has weighed in with a predictably nasty review:
    http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2018/02/unenlightened-thinking-steven-pinker-s-embarrassing-new-book-feeble-sermon

    It’s peak Gray: he brushes aside all of Pinker’s statistics, whines about scientism, and character-assassinates the Enlightenment with sweeping generalizations (“The more hostile the Enlightenment has been to monotheism, the more illiberal it has been”).

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  17. So how far do your lumper instincts go? Does it depend on context? Like polar bears and brown bears had admixture events like us and neanderthals. From a natural history deep time point of view, a BSC strategy of lumping them makes sense and is nice and clean and tells you about their evolution. But relative to say, a conservation or ecological point of view its obfuscating. If all the polar bears die, I don’t feel people will shrug and point at the asterisk. If we’re gonna have one Linnean binomial to rule them all, should one point of view takes precedence? Should we go with the one with the most pressing utility?

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  18. i’m an evolutionary geneticist, not a conservation biologist. so you hit the nail on the head.

    ev genetics people who work in conservation genetics are torn by a lot of forces and it can be quite stressful. i know this from friends who work in this field.

    Sea peoples were Luwians.

    the probability that they were exclusively so is pretty low. the probability that they were partly so was already pretty high.

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  19. Here’s a post I’d like to read if you are interested in writing it: How are Xi Jinping’s recent moves to consolidate power in China similar (or different) than those by Sulla.

    Was struck by the finish to this NY Times piece by Chris Buckely (who knows his China history far better than most times reporters):
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/26/world/asia/xi-jinping-thought-explained-a-new-ideology-for-a-new-era.html

    Mao said he wanted to smash the grip of Confucius on China and ignite revolution. But Mr. Xi regularly quotes Confucius and other ancient sages, stressing their teachings on obedience and order, and promoting the idea that the party is the custodian of a 5,000-year-old civilization.

    Party propaganda now even equates Mr. Xi to a Confucian patriarch who runs the country as if it were his own family.

    And all good Confucian children must observe filial piety.

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  20. I don’t think the word Sicily comes from Sicanians.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicels

    Note that Shekelesh appears here.

    But I guess nobody really knows for sure.

    If Anatolian means ‘2nd wave’, the model being HG’s, who are then largely replaced by Anatolian farmers, who are largely replaced by IE’s or 3rd wave Euros then this would be a substrate kind of like the Basques or highland Sardinians that weren’t replaced by IE’s?

    Lastly, I guess that now that we have discovered the Neanderthal Michelangelo, we’re going to have to update the model, so that the Euro HG’s actually replaced the Neanderthals.

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  21. Is Spandrell accurate on China? Some of his writing style strikes me as similar to Moldbug’s, and that raises red flags to me. However, I’m too ignorant about Chinese history and politics to accurately be able to gauge him or that NYT article Nathan posted.

    Can anyone recommend good writers on China?

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  22. can’t be objective on spandrell cuz i share many of the same views, though not all.

    i don’t know anyone who i specifically trust to be honest. i need to read learn more to judge myself.

    my optimism about china is more a reflection of my pessimism of course civilization. i hope the chinese can keep the torch going, but i’m not sure i’m right, and i have friends who are very pessimistic.

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  23. It seems that Deng studied the career of Augustus, who didn’t have a formal title, but gave himself a new one, princeps, or ‘first man’ kind of like ‘supreme leader’, and had an iron grip on the army though I don’t think he had a formal command, and ruled Rome by the formal office holders being beholden to him, mostly in an informal way. Later, the title of princeps went away, or at least was one of the titles held by the imperator, which in latin doesn’t mean what we mean by Emperor, it means something like ‘commander in chief’ does in english, in latin the fact that a roman emperor was a military dictator wasn’t hid by the title, it was up front and not obfuscated beneath a euphemism. I do not know what Xi will do, will he present himself as a ‘General Secretary’ Xi, or CinC Xi or President Xi? Whichever one he picks, and it looks like President Xi, will be the office where the real power would lay, or at least that whoever gets to be President will automatically get the other offices, I think, especially after he’s gone. But, who knows? I doubt Xi’s figured all that out either.

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  24. Name-change wrote “I think he’s onto something. The moral superiority a lot of Western expats evinces is unbearable and completely impenetrable.”
    I was struck by the thought that this seems true of the British at their peak, of Islamdom at its peak, of the Chinese, the Romans and so on.. i.e. it is likely a feature, not a bug. When it is gone, the dominant position in the world is probably long gone too (I guess the attitude outlasts the actual material achievements, probably lags behind both in its creation and its demise?).
    There is a chicken and egg debate to be had here. Do people think like this because they are so dominant? or do they think like this and therefore become dominant. As something of a materialist, I lean towards the first, but it is likely that there is positive feedback and this is itself an essential feature of wordly (imperial) success..
    It may even be a component of non-imperial success (Jews, Gujratis and overseas Chinese as successful commercial networks for example).

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  25. America “Democracy” (loose term) was explicitly designed to not allow the rise of a Caesar – it makes benevolent and malevolent dictatorships extremely impossible, and they even did that consciously when making the Constitution knowing that they would create vast low-governability.
    They tried to predict and micromanage every single major obstacles that were foreseeable in the minds of an 18th century man for the future.
    In Talebian terms, it’s a Fragile system.

    If Sulla is coming (the time is running out), would he come from the USA or Europe?

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  26. If Sulla is American, he’ll be Sulla II, Sulla I being Abraham Lincoln. Just because someone is a Sulla, doesn’t mean that they won’t be thought of as one of the good guys. Also, Sulla was an Optimate, and in the end the Populares won.

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  27. Name, if you are a net-nazi, please be open about it so i can ban you 🙂 you guys always get banned (if that’s what you are).

    otherwise, please don’t play those games. i’ve been blogging for a long time and said a lot of things. i dislike having to go through the same motions where people want me to engage on something i’ve talked about a thousand times.

    also, you’re kind of inscrutable.

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  28. I’m an observer, Libertarian for 10 years before realizing that these concepts are just as impossibly utopian as the Communist fantasies.
    Today I’m no internet nazi, just someone bitter who lost faith in humanity, and specially in moderate policies and optimistic shallow pseudos (I’m not referring to you, but to the likes of Pinker).

    You said that I’m inscrutable and I don’t know why? Your writting is confusing by itself in many ways grammar-wise too, if that’s what you’re pointing out.

    But actually, are you mad at me? What have I done, really? Isn’t this open thread themed with Pinker’s Enlightenment Now? I think this is okay, considering how his thesis is defeated by real world observations.

    Finally, in my last posts here I was joking, if the tone didn’t get through.
    And no, I’m not being snarky or disrespectful, I actually like talking to you.

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  29. use a smiley face emoji.

    the open threads don’t have a theme. you can talk about whatever.

    Your writting is confusing by itself in many ways grammar-wise too, if that’s what you’re pointing out.

    yeah. but the point is you come to read me for free. i don’t come to read you. so i would appreciate some explicit clarity in the comments if i’m going to understand that with any clarity.

    someone with your comments/views/life stage happens all the time. it’s not something new or novel to me. you’ll figure it out.

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  30. someone with your comments/views/life stage happens all the time. it’s not something new or novel to me. you’ll figure it out.

    You can say that again!

    Just today I was telling my wife (after witnessing something untoward in public) that the world is not how it should be. I am close to 50 years old and have a certain nonchalance about everyday life, having seen a lot of joy and grief all over the world.

    But still, I experience disappointment in humanity. Every. Freaking. Day. People can be so callous, nasty, and self-centered/-interested.

    Yet, I do – very rarely, but surely – run into a saintly person eventually. And that experience with this rarest of beings restores my faith and humbles me, and makes me realize that there is good in this world, that good being godly people.

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  31. “Sea peoples were Luwians.”

    the probability that they were exclusively so is pretty low. the probability that they were partly so was already pretty high.

    Isn’t the scholarly consensus today on the side of the Sea Peoples being a somewhat ad hoc confederation of different peoples, akin to the formation (on land) of Hunnic hordes that attacked the Roman world?

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  32. I was struck by the thought that this seems true of the British at their peak, of Islamdom at its peak, of the Chinese, the Romans and so on.. i.e. it is likely a feature, not a bug.

    This is all true but as far as the Chinese are concerned, the missionary instinct of Anglos pointed out by Russell simply isn’t there. The idea that Chinese believe themselves to be so superior that they don’t bother exporting their culture is a cliche at this point. I have no idea whether Chinese culture is actually superior or not, but the idea that Chinese people in general has almost zero interest in exporting their culture is generally true. The only Chinese who are into proselytism are those who turn Christian. The interesting question isn’t whether the Chinese think themselves superior, but whether they believe everyone else should be like them and are willing to turn other people into them.

    Of course these days since the US beginning Cold War 2.0 with China you are getting stories about how China is exporting its censorship regime but it is quite clear what China does is wholly different from what the US does. No one is forcing Hollywood to censor stuff. It is Hollywood’s own fault that they want to make more capital from the Chinese market. Hollywood can show any anti-China movie they want as long as they don’t get the Chinese market. This is clearly different from the US sanctioning nations and bombing them to death over “human rights” issues which in reality are geopolitical issues. As far as I can see there’s really no reason to believe China has any interest in turning any country outside its current borders in another China, ridiculous witch hunting over “evidence” of CSSAs trying to influence US politics notwithstanding.

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  33. “As far as I can see there’s really no reason to believe China has any interest in turning any country outside its current borders into* another China”

    Dumb typo

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  34. I hope this thread isn’t completely stale, but I think that if one is looking for an episode in history that the present in the US might most likely end up rhyming with, I’d think that the French civil wars from 1562 to 1594 would be best.

    Just finished this book:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M1TFOZE/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o05_?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Lots of battles and politics and assassinations, not a lot of ‘cultural’ stuff like a catholic writing a letter about why the catholics were the good guys and the protestants the bad guys, and vice versa. Good place to start though.

    You’d have to change Sulla coming to Bartholemew coming though. A Sulla allusion has an excellent air of erudition to it, but I think Bartholomew is just as good, maybe even a bit better.

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  35. i know about the french civil wars. and i don’t think will it be like that at all because i don’t think it will be a mass movement conflict. i think it will be an elite clash, and one group will lose.

    therefore i will stick to the sulla allusion, not because i want to seem erudite (i don’t need to put on airs, you know who i am), but because i think it is probably more accurate than something that prefigures later wars of religion.

    the populace has no deep feeling, they can be manipulated by power. it’s the pearl of great price. take it and all will be yours!

    (thanks for the book rec though!)

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