epistemic status: Blood and Gasoline
I have been asked by the good folk at SlateStarCodex’s subreddit (Scott Alexander sure has his supporters, no matter how much he deserves the fight he started) to harden up my case a little bit and make the bet more attractive to Scott so he will participate. Given that he offered it to me, I will not do this last thing. It is his responsibility. However, there are certain advantages to strengthening my case.
I am not a rationalist, or a member of the rationalist community. I am a metacontrarian chaos magician and Mormon Thelemite, that is to say an edgelord. I am a proud edgelord, and therefore see no reason to hide behind virtue signalling. I stand to gain nothing from trying to offer more predictions to prove I’m less wrong. I have little to gain at all from taking Scott Alexander’s opinions and his churlish and insubordinate challenges seriously. Scott is a disembodied head, a brain in a jar. Words on a page. So am I. This — all of it –is theater. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun theater, or that there was no personal honor to be gained from this encounter. Scott has, in this thread, completely overreacted to warranted but half-assed skepticism (if I had intended to be taken seriously I would not have commented at 2 AM after a full day on his subreddit, I would have left blog comments or emailed, obviously…I’m not the one arguing with a guy named HotGrilledSpaec here…) in a way totally out of sync with the Scott Alexander brand.
Scott prides himself on even-handedness, rationality, and being nice and polite to everyone. I managed to imbalance him with nothing but “are you sure?” after he had already edited his own blog post to say that one prediction had been called out as dumb, but he was leaving it in out of honor. Well, this series of posts has been a more extended version of that and dear reader, I do not see him going to that trouble. He has no reason to respect my opinion, does he?
Technically, I am a non-person. A mentally ill member of Obsidian Tribe (grey and red), a believer in magick, a spitter in the eye of rationalism (who loves rationalists…go fucking figure), a dyed in the wool Cosimanian Orthodox Time Lord, whereas Scott is a Blue/Gray tribe member, well to do, a psychiatrist, a rational, even-handed man, who has literally no reason to be swayed by my opinions. Well, one could argue that he’s going insane because he has done enough research to know he’s wrong, and has reason to suspect so, and writes great fiction that people who fit into his clade just don’t write…but the Jewish psych student cracking under his own bantam-weight (as tropes go) is as lazy as linking Sabbatai Zvi under “clade” would have been, and I don’t like to be lazy when I’m playing internet tough guy. No, it is all much simpler than any of that.
Scott Alexander must respect my opinion enough to work out a bet because if he does not entertain the possibility that someone like me is right and he is wrong on one very simple issue, he loses his credibility. He is the exact sort of person who should have predicted Trump winning the presidency, no matter how many caveats he had to write to get there. I’ve been damn sure of it since at least September, and my wife and I have scrambled our brains to figure out whether or not I was sure of it before then. I remember not expressing the opinion that undue hate and fear would give Trump power as far back as spring, because it would do no good. I remember suspecting that he would win the presidency, not because I am a cynical edgelord, but because I know a number of things about Donald Trump that every single pundit seems to ignore, namely his mainstream status in the broad scheme of American politics and his role as Tea Party Obama (Axelrod admits to lying to the American public about this, or worse, refusing to admit to himself that he knew the truth, here…and this scenario, or one worse by far, has been my fear, my worry, my suspicion, my guarded hope, my faith, and my conviction in a slow process of admitting I’m wrong about a lot of shit since 2011. My predictive ability has not been expressed, nor did it have Donald Trump 2016 written in stone for nearly all of that time. But what matters is whether or not I am right. If I am right, then my predictions on everything Scott writes about have value, and his do not. If I am wrong, well, it’s not the first time, but I have no idea where I miscalculated.
And not only this. But no one cared about my opinion, no contest existed, until I woke up at 11 AM this morning (it’s a self-granted off day, and the Universe has chosen to make me a star instead…fml) and found Scott Alexander commenting under his own name (and not that of the talking grilled cheese from space whom no one should take seriously) — excuse me, the name he uses because he is a public figure, and does not wish inpatient mental health cases he is working on to be connected with his blog, because he is not a public figure, but someone who derives personal bodily security from privacy (did that sound unhinged? I’m not unhinged. This is theater. Bumaye and all) to the following effect:
Put your money where you mouth is, fill out the same list, and see if you can do better.
In fact, tell you what. If you think I’m so dumb, choose a reasonable scoring system and bet me my $20 vs. your $100 that you can do better. If you’re right it’s an easy 20 bucks.
I cannot stress this enough, kids. These are fighting words. Coming from a nice, even-handed, non-fourpoint-wearing, even likely teetotaling nice Jewish boy like Scott! I was shocked. Has he not learned as a public figure who won’t take bets because they make him lose money in addition to looking bad that mouthing off at internet commenters and twisting their words and challenging them is what guys like me do?! I didn’t even give a shit about my own opinion. I’m just some guy who has to be talked out of buying bowling alleys and can’t even keep his shoes tied. But now I have to stick to my guns! The fact that Scott and all his subreddit crowd easily identify that he stands to lose reputation, true believers, means that I stand to gain! And it will be hilarious, and I will at least have fun. It will be good theater. I still believe I will win absolutely no money because Scott will not pay out. But he is correct, we need a more equitable bet. He can discuss that on his own blog, and I will comment. It is his money, his turf.
What I propose is this, though, and if he rejects it his intellectual cowardice will be legendary. We have already invoked the Rumble In The Jungle, in which an undefeated heavyweight champion of the world stood against an untested rookie and got well…bumayed. It was a victory not only for Ali, but for promotion, and for boxing as a whole. It was the stuff of myth. I am challenging Alexander to a similar contest. I believe Trump will win. I believe if Scott does not believe Trump will win, he is bad at what he does, and wrong about everything, and his personal brand needs to be permanently stained with not only “shrink who does bipolar chimpouts on bipolar people before going to work an inpatient shift”, but also “bad at what he does and wrong about everything”. Bumaye. It’s only temporarily stained with “seems unwilling to consider the obvious” and “scratch a nice guy, find a douche”, and only for me. But I think not even dignifying this with a response will make that less likely to remain so.
So, we should make a bet, the exact terms to be discussed in the comments on a post to be made on http://slatestarcodex.com/ no later than February 1st. But I hold that Donald Trump will win, and I expect to (regardless of odds) win at least a hundred dollars if I’m right. I believe we can find a suitable booking for that…I believe I deserve no less, and I am much more acutely aware of the symptoms of bipolar disorder and the fact that I am unemployed than Dr Alexander is. But if I’m offering to be kicked so fucking nicely, the least he could do is shut up and kick a mental patient. Or…you know…I’m right.
See you in the ring, baby.