Friday links! Visceral revulsion edition

The original cutline for this picture was "David Brooks unpacks new insights into human nature."

We like to think of ourselves as clear-eyed realists around here, but as often as not, reason is the scaffolding that holds up raw instinct. You can’t use impartial logic for everything, after all. When you see a nest of scorpions or Newt Gingrich or whatever, you don’t start from first principles and follow reason until it brings you to your opinion; you throw bleach on it and get out of there. I’m speaking metaphorically, here—don’t get close enough to Newt Gingrich to throw bleach on him. The point is that our opinions may be enforced with logical reasoning, but the original dictate tends to come from our guts. That’s all well and good when our opinions our ours alone, but the system breaks down when we have to match opinions with one another. One man’s visceral revulsion is another man’s career. It’s Friday, and this week’s link roundup is all about the problem of things that are A) intuitively, obviously wrong and B) going to keep happening until we can find some airtight argument against them.

First I should acknowledge that I have been unfair to David Brooks. He may be a smugly conjectural rodent, but at least he recognizes the horror implicit in the Supreme Court undoing legislation we spent two years arguing about. Conventional wisdom holds that the Supremes are going to strike down the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act, possibly foxing the whole thing. Remember when we all agreed that the American health care system was broken, and then Congress spent 18 months paralyzed by a vicious battle over how to fix it? Command-Z, motherfuckers. I personally dream of a system of checks and balances that renders the federal government incapable of doing anything but awarding itself more power to kill terrorists. For the record: requiring American citizens to buy health insurance is probably unconstitutional. Incinerating them with aerial drones trial-free is totally cool.

This is America; the law isn’t some sort of universally applied system of judgment that determines the conduct of our public servants. It’s a list of excuses for what we already know. Over at The National Law Journal, Jay Sterling Silver—if that is his real name—points out the sheer absurdity of the Sanford police discovering George Zimmerman standing next to a dead body with a gun in his hand and deciding they did not have probable cause to arrest him. Silver cites a fair bit of compelling case law, but the real strength of his argument lies in its appeal to common sense:

The police knew that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. He admitted to it. He’d followed the victim after being told by the police dispatcher not to follow him. Without knowing anything more, they needed only to conclude that the claim of self-defense by a 250-pound adult armed with a loaded gun who tracked and killed a 140-pound youth armed only with a pack of Skittles was inherently suspect.

Remember when the Boston police arrested Henry Louis Gates for trying to force open the door of his own house? American law is totally not a facade covering the brute architecture of socioeconomic power.

Speaking of mindless prejudice, I dislike Chevy Volt owners. The car seems totally rad, but the company that makes it has chosen a disastrous means of convincing us that fun and pleasant people drive it. Those of you who have gotten rid of your televisions only to watch TV on the internet will recognize this ubiquitous spot:

Let’s ignore the weird profile shots, which I assume the director settled on as the only means to further alienate us from Priya’s flat affect. I’m more interested in the claim “I don’t even know what it’s like to really stop and get gas.” Before she got a Volt, apparently, Priya had people on motorcycles pour cans of gasoline directly into her car while she was driving. She immediately follows that statement with “I am probably going to the gas station about once a month.” So maybe she loves her car because it’s the one constant in a nightmare life of recurring amnesia.

Or maybe she’s just sayin’ stuff. From the outside, amnesia is functionally indistinguishable from regular lying. Consider the case of Don Draper, who as Chuck Klosterman points out has returned to television with yet another new identity. That’s kind of his thing. But the new Don seems emotionally vulnerable in precisely the opposite way that defined the old Don. That probably makes for better television, but it also makes a confusing character. Also also, it makes us realize that when it comes to fictional people, character does not exist. What Don Draper does is who he is, since he literally has no other ontology. Kids: how does this condition differ from the existential experience of real human beings?

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