A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, October 19, 2018

Three Useful Definitions

The words thanks to N. N. Taleb are
  1. Pedophrasty
  2. Bigoteering
  3. Partializing

1. Pedophrasty
Argument involving children to prop up a rationalization and make the opponent look like an asshole, as people are defenseless and suspend all skepticism in front of suffering children: nobody has the heart to question the authenticity or source of the reporting. Often done with the aid of pictures.

Taleb gives the example of beggars who would rent children from others to use as props at their begging station. Rent, because children grow up and they did not want to have them indefinitely. He also says:
"Pedophrasty has its most effects on actors, journalists and similar types who are intellectually insecure, deprived of critical judgment, and afraid of being classified as violators of some norm of political correctness. For instance, pedophrasty has been commonly used in the Syrian war by such propagandists as Julian Roepke continuously supplying the German public with pictures of dead children. Or the various lobbies hired by Saudi Barbaria (and allies), such as the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, to promote Sunni Islamist policies under the cover of “think tanks”.
The Nayirah testimony: a false congressional testimony by 15-year-old girl who provided only her first name, Nayirah (she turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S.) was a bit responsible into tipping the US into the (Kuwait) war. Nayirah claimed that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators a Kuwaiti hospital, and leave the babies to die. Nobody dared to question the veracity of her claims. Her claims, it turned out, were all fabrications; but it’s too late to reverse the war."

-- N.N. Taleb

Other useful definitions:

2. Bigoteering
Tagging someone (or someone’s opinions) as “racist”, “chauvinist” or somethinglikeit-ist in situations where these are not warranted. This is a shoddy manipulation to exploit the stigmas accompanying such labels and force the opponent to spent time and energy explaining “why he/she is not a bigot”.  (h/t Tim Ferriss)

We have seen any number of examples of this these days.

Exploiting the unsavory attributes of one party in a conflict without revealing those of the other party. Example: “He is a dictator”, giving the illusion that the alternative is the Swedish parliament not some worse faction.

Taleb: "The problem can take absurd proportions: in the Syrian War, it was used by interventionistas describing the “dictator” without mentioning that his opponents are Al-Qaeda head-cutters." H also cites "people who decry civilian casualties in Aleppo but forget about it in Mosul."


  1. Not all of Assad's opponents are Al-Qaida head-choppers, though of course those would be the ones most likely to benefit if Assad were removed (because "only want to be left alone" automatically makes you less likely to rush in to fill the power vacuum than lunatics who want to establish their own dictatorship).

  2. Is bigoteering a form of Bulverism?


Whoa, What's This?

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