The new intellectualism of cultural anxiety
And that’s why France is the epicenter of today’s fearsome battle between Western elites bent on protecting and expanding the well-entrenched policy of mass immigration and those who see this spreading influx as an ultimate threat to the West’s cultural heritage, not to mention its internal tranquility. In France it is a two-front war. One is the political front, where Marine Le Pen’s National Front has moved from the fringes of politics into the mainstream. The other is the intellectual front, where a new breed of writers, thinkers, and historians has emerged to question the national direction and to decry those who have set the country upon its current course.
Americans have always had a special affinity for France. It was critical to the American founding by way of Lafayette’s mission. In the 20th century many artistic and upper-class Americans embraced Paris as the site of and model for their own cultural strivings. France’s 1940 fall to Nazi Germany dealt the first real blow to American isolationism. After the 1945 victory in Europe, U.S. links to Paris, London, and Europe generally rendered postwar Atlanticism more than just a strategy: it was a civilizational commitment that helped define who we were as Americans.
Paris remains beautiful, though crime has been rising for a generation and the city has the trappings of wartime, with heavily armed soldiers visibly guarding sensitive targets—museums, schools, newspapers—against Islamist terror. The approaching elections, where the National Front will surely exceed its past vote totals, mark a tremulous new era.
Indeed, serious people have for some years been contemplating whether France is nearing the precipice of civil war. That’s probably unlikely, at least in the near future, but few would be shocked if the political and communal conflicts exploded into violence not seen in decades. And that has spawned a radically changed intellectual climate. The French intelligentsia and its cultural establishment still lean, in the main, toward the left, as they have since the end of World War II, or indeed since the divisive Dreyfus affair of the Third Republic. But today, France’s most read and most discussed popular writers—novelists and political essayists—are conservatives of one stripe or another. They are not concerned, even slightly, with the issues that animate American “mainstream” think-tank conservatism—lowering taxes, cutting federal programs, or maintaining some kind of global military hegemony. Their focus is France’s national culture and its survival. When they raise, as they do, the subjects embraced by American paleoconservatives and the so-called alt-right, that doesn’t mean the French debate has been taken over by extremists. The authors driving the French conversation are in almost every instance prominent figures whose views would have put them in the Gaullist middle or somewhat left of center at any time in the 1960s or ’70s. But France has changed, and what National Review in the 1990s called “the national question” has been brought to the very heart of the country’s national debate.
At the moment, France’s most important political intellectual on the right is probably Éric Zemmour, a former editorial writer for Le Figaro. A natural polemicist, he is a descendant of working-class Algerian Jews who fled to France in the 1950s. Though he demonstrates serious intellectual breadth, Zemmour’s particular passion is polemical battle. He was fined under French anti-racism laws in 2011 for publicly referring to racial discrepancies in crime rates. No one questioned the accuracy of his statistics, but discussing them in a way that was seen as contravening French anti-defamation law was an absolute no-no. Three years later, he reached a pinnacle of influence with the publication of his 500-page Le Suicide français, a modern national history that sold 400,000 copies within two months and became the top-selling book in France. Weeks later, when attacks by French-born Islamists on the offices of Charlie Hebdoand a kosher supermarket outside Paris stunned the nation (while being greeted with shocking indifference in the predominantly Muslim Paris suburbs), Zemmour’s book was there to explain how France had arrived at that dismal intersection.
The literary technique of Le Suicide français seems made for the internet and social media. The book marches, in short vignettes, from the death of de Gaulle in 1970 through the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency in 2012. Zemmour takes an illustrative event—sometimes no more than a demonstration, a film, or a pop song—and shows how it reflects national decline or actually pushed that decline onward.
One central theme is that the young bourgeois nihilists of the May 1968 street revolution prevailed. Not in politics or at least not immediately: de Gaulle’s party remained in power for more than a decade after. But the cultural victory was decisive. De Gaulle as a father figure was overthrown, and so was the traditional idea of the father. As the traditional family weakened, birth rates sank. In short order, France embraced legalized abortion and no-fault divorce; the father, when he didn’t disappear altogether, began to behave like a second mother. Traces of the shift show up in pop music. The singer Michel Delpech gave his blessing to his wife leaving for another man in one popular song:
You can even make a half-brother for Stéphanie
That would be marvelous for her.
Or as the comic Guy Bedos put it, “We separated by mutual agreement, especially hers.”
Such shifts coincided, in symbiotic ways that few understood at the time, with the advent of mass immigration. Zemmour writes, “At the same moment the traditional French family receded, as if to compensate symbolically and demographically, the most traditional type of Maghrebine family, the most archaic, the most patriarchal, is invited to take up its role. To come to its rescue. To fill up the places it has left vacant. To replace it.”
Like the immigration narrative of every advanced Western country, the story is complex. France had welcomed and assimilated immigrants from eastern and southern Europe for a century. In the 1960s, Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, encouraged by an industrial elite seeking cheaper manual labor, recruited to France each year hundreds of thousands of workers from Spain, Portugal, and North Africa. Rural Maghrebine workers were preferred; they were seen as less Frenchified than workers from Algerian towns, more docile. After worker recruitment was stopped during the recession of 1974, family reunification as a humanitarian policy was instigated, and hundreds of thousands of North African women and children joined their husbands in France. Zemmour concludes that this represented a kind of posthumous victory over de Gaulle by the partisans of Algérie Française, the blending of France and Algeria which de Gaulle had rejected—for reasons of sociology and demography as much as for peace. As he told Alain Peyrefitte in 1959, “Those who dream of integration are birdbrains, even the most brilliant of them. Try to mix oil and vinegar. Shake up the bottle. After a while, they separate again. The Arabs are Arabs, the French are French.” In the same interview, de Gaulle said the Algérie Française would result in massive immigration to France, and his town Colombey-les-Deux-Églises would be turned into Colombey-les-Deux-Mosquées. Read the rest of this entry »
Stephen Gutowski writes: It’s almost time for Santa Claus to make his annual trip around the globe to deliver presents for all the good little boys and girls. However, before he gets started, he’s blowing off some steam at the range with a bunch of silenced rifles, shotguns, handguns, and machine pistols.
“Unfortunately, the ATF have regulated them so much I can’t give them out to all the good little boys and girls.”
Or, at least, that’s how the latest ad from SilencerCo depicts things.
The video features Santa and Rudolph shooting a variety of silenced firearms out in the snowy North Pole.
“I used to have some pretty boring hobbies like whittling, baking, but then in the 9th century a magical thing happened: the Chinese invented a little thing called gun powder.”
“My name is Saint Nicholas,” Santa says in the video. “Most of you know me as Santa Claus. My job definitely comes with a lot of stress, but we all have our own ways of relieving that stress.”
“I used to have some pretty boring hobbies like whittling, baking, but then in the 9th century a magical thing happened: the Chinese invented a little thing called gun powder,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »
New regulations aimed at slowing the yuan’s decline create confusion for multinationals.
French construction-materials company Cie. de Saint-Gobain SA, is finding it harder to take its money out of China.
“The process of authorization is going to become longer now. The procedures will be controlled more strictly.”
— Javier Gimeno, head of Saint-Gobain’s China operations
The conglomerate—like all multinationals operating there—faces new delays in recent weeks as Chinese regulators impose tougher restrictions on the movement of capital out of the country to slow the yuan’s decline.
“The process of authorization is going to become longer now,” said Javier Gimeno, who heads Saint-Gobain’s China operations. “The procedures will be controlled more strictly.”
Nearly 7% of Saint-Gobain’s world-wide group sales come from Asia and Oceania, a large part of that from China. The new rules are adding confusion and anxiety to a process that had been getting much easier over the past year, he said. The shift could cause some multinationals to rethink future investments in a country where once-sure payoffs are suddenly facing an uncertain return, analysts say.
As of late November, firms that want to exchange yuan into dollars in China now need approval for any transaction greater than $5 million. They also face tighter limits on amounts they can transfer in and out of bank accounts in China to affiliates in other countries, in a practice known as “cross-border sweeping.”
“We hear a lot questions from corporates about whether they will be able to repatriate their money in the future,” said Alexander Tietze, managing director at Acon Actienbank AG, a German bank that advises companies on Chinese investments. He expects foreign investments in China to slow, and cautioned that foreign takeovers or plans for new joint ventures could fail because of the controls.
With the Chinese economy struggling, multinationals have fewer opportunities to reinvest there, which makes it more difficult for them to do much with money trapped in China.
“A majority of clients are currently consolidating and restructuring their China business,” said Bernd-Uwe Stucken, a lawyer with Pinsent Masons LLP in Shanghai. Some clients are closing down their business, with new investments being the exception to the rule, Mr. Stucken said.
Adding to the confusion: it is unclear where the limits are, because regulators haven’t published official rule changes, but instead have given only informal guidance to banks, according to Daniel Blumen, partner at Treasury Alliance Group, a consulting firm.
The New York Times Co reported a 95.7 fall in quarterly profit, hit by restructuring charges related to headcount reductions.
Net profit attributable to the newspaper publisher fell to $406,000, or break-even per share, in the third quarter, from $9.4 million, or 6 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue fell to $363.6 million from $367.4 million.
The company, struggling to transition to digital, said online ad revenues grew 21.5 percent and now account for more than 35 percent of its advertising receipts.
But that increase failed to offset an 18.5 percent drop in print ad revenues — a situation faced by most traditional newspaper publishers.
The Times added 129,000 paid digital-only subscribers in the quarter, helping lift revenue for that segment by around three percent.
‘This quarter proved yet again that the New York Times has a very compelling digital revenue story to tell,’ said Mark Thompson, president and chief executive officer, in a statement. Read the rest of this entry »
The Japanese robotics manufacturer Kawasaki has created a bot that can prepare nigiri sushi in under a minute.
As robots get more advanced, they will likely take over many jobs in the future — including those of sushi chefs.
For a sneak peak at this impending automation, look no further than a new creation from robotics manufacturer Kawasaki. The robot can make sushi in under a minute.
First spotted by Gizmodo, the video shows a miraculous bot that assembles nigiri, the traditional type of sushi in which a piece of raw fish sits on a little ball of rice.
“Musk isn’t a newcomer to the idea of a carbon tax. He’s been calling for one for years. But the evolution of his businesses and the advent of Tesla Energy, his power-storage undertaking, appear to have sharpened his pitch.”
“We have to fix the unpriced externality,” he told the audience, shifting into the wonky quasi-academic mode that he actually appears to enjoy indulging in, when he isn’t running two companies and serving as the Chairman of a third, Solar City.
His entire speech hinged on this simple observation: that the addition of carbon to the atmosphere is effectively a worldwide subsidy that’s contributing to global warming and preventing humanity from freeing itself from the fossil fuel era.
Musk called this a “hidden carbon subsidy of $5.3 trillion per year,” citing the IMF. In response to questions after his speech, he said that a good outcome of the current UN Climate Summit (COP21) taking place in France would be that governments “put their foot down” and use a revenue neutral, gradually applied carbon tax to accelerate the shift from an economy driven by fossil fuels to one driven by sustainable energy.
Musk is convinced that the current fossil fuel era will end — it’s just a question of when. In his analysis, the transition will occur simply because we’ll run out of carbon-based stuff that we can dig out of the ground and burn. But the existing carbon subsidy, in his estimation, is slowing down progress. Read the rest of this entry »
Japanese electronics maker Hitachi said it has developed a new artificial intelligence program that will enable robots to deliver instructions to employees, improving work efficiency.
The Japanese electronics maker said it has developed a new artificial intelligence program that will enable robots to deliver instructions to employees based on analyses of big data and the workers’ routines.
“The AI automatically analyzes the outcome of these new approaches, and selects processes which produce better results and applies it to the next work order.”
“Work efficiency improved by 8% in warehouses with the new artificial intelligence program, compared to those without them,” a Hitachi spokeswoman said. “The program can examine an extremely large amount of data to provide the most efficient instruction, which is impossible for human managers to handle.”
Daisuke Wakabayashi reports: The biggest growth driver at Apple is not any single product. It’s China.
The numbers are shocking. Apple’s revenue in greater China – defined by the company as China plus Hong Kong and Taiwan – rose 112% in the fiscal third quarter ended June. This means that growth is accelerating in China after a 71% increase in the previous quarter, which was considered something of a seasonally-inflated surge because it encompassed the Chinese Lunar New Year, a peak shopping period in the country.
“The macro picture looks fantastic. Maybe there are minor thunderstorms now and then, but that kind of goes with the territory. We’re just getting started there.”
— Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said he expects China to become the company’s biggest market at some point in the future. It appears that future is fast approaching. (Apple’s biggest market now is the Americas where revenue was $20.2 billion compared to $13.2 billion for Greater China, but revenue in the company’s home market grew a more pedestrian 15%.)
“China is a fantastic geography with an incredible unprecedented level of opportunity there. And we’re going to be there.”
— Cook, in a conference call with analysts
A growing reliance on the Chinese market does expose Apple to concerns about China’s economy, exacerbated by the recent pullback in the Shanghai stock market. On Wednesday, Cowen & Co. analyst Timothy Acuri downgraded Apple’s stock to a “market perform” in part because he said he saw lower-than-expected iPhone sales as a cause for concern due to mounting evidence of “a widespread demand reset from China.”
Cook said the company’s bullish view about China’s future remains unchanged. He said it is still planning to increase the number of Apple stores in China to 40 by mid-2016 from 22 currently. Read the rest of this entry »
UPDATE: Starbucks Executive Deletes Twitter Account after #RaceTogether Campaign’s Predictable Humor BacklashPosted: March 17, 2015
UPDATE: Business Insider reports that a Starbucks executive has deleted his Twitter account after backlash about the campaign.
WNEW spoke with an employee at the M St. SE location who says he has not heard of the campaign.
There’s no word yet on whether any other locations in the D.C. area are participating…. (read more)
Lauren Elkies Schram reports: The Republic of France has bought a one-family dwelling on the Upper East Side for $13.9 million, according to property records spotted by Commercial Observer. The four-story property, at 222 East 62nd Street, will serve as the home of François Delattre, the Ambassador of France to the United Nations, a source with knowledge of the deal said, following last summer’s sale of France’s 18-room duplex at 740 Park Avenue for $70 million.
The 5,600-square-foot house between Second and Third Avenues is in the Treadwell Farm Historic District, according to Zillow, and has five bedrooms and seven and a half bathrooms plus staff quarters. The house has an elevator from the basement to the penthouse and south terraces over the gardens from the full-floor master suite and penthouse, Zillow noted.
While the property underwent a two-and-a-half-year renovation and sold in “spic–and–span” condition, the French government will have to do some renovations before Mr. Araud moves from 740 Park Avenue into his new house.
Mike Bird reports: The value of the ruble isn’t the only thing that is vanishing in Russia. A Moscow hedge fund chief executive has disappeared, along with all the money in the firm’s accounts.
That’s according to a stunning feature in The Wall Street Journal. Kim Karapetyan, 29, the youthful founder of Blackfield Capital CJSC, has disappeared, much to the dismay of his staff, which didn’t know until a group of men charged into the firm’s plush offices.
From The Journal:
The firm’s employees didn’t know anything was amiss until mid-October, when three men charged into Blackfield’s offices in an upscale complex along the Moscow River in central Moscow, said people who were there.
The men, who didn’t identify themselves, said they were looking for Blackfield’s 29-year-old founder, Kim Karapetyan, according to the people who were there.
But Mr. Karapetyan wasn’t in the office that day or the next, when senior executives explained to the staff of about 50 that there was no longer any money to pay their salaries, said one former senior executive and ex-employees. The executives disclosed that all the money in the company accounts — some $20 million, including investor cash — was also missing, they said. It couldn’t be determined whether investors were from Russia or other countries.
“Our CEO just … disappeared,” said Sergey Grebenkin, one of the firm’s software developers, in an interview.
No attempts to contact or find Karapetyan were successful, and he is still MIA. The company’s website brags that its “systematic investment process helps avoid human-factor, cognitive-biases, and emotional-trading errors,” but the CEO running away with all your money seems like a fairly big human error. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Kosner writes: Desperate times call forth desperate journalism. Suddenly, what we used to think of as the big-time press is being convulsed by a spasm of amateurism.
Rolling Stone, since the 1960s a paragon of hip investigative journalism and gonzo reportage, finds itself sweatily backpedaling from a single-sourced exposé of gang rape at the University of Virginia, an article that rattled the campus designed by Thomas Jefferson and went viral.
The 30-something Facebook zillionaire who bought the New Republic two years ago decided to convert the century-old journal of political and arts commentary into “a vertically integrated digital media company.” The two top editors quit as they were being pushed—and nearly all their staff and contributors followed them out the door, devastating the magazine.
[Order Edward Kosner‘s book “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist” from Amazon]
Not long ago, Newsweek resurrected itself in print after a near-death experience. Its very first cover story claimed to identify the mysterious Asian creator of bitcoin, the brave new digital currency—only to have the putative inventor surface to insist persuasively that the magazine had the right name, but the wrong man. And the vastly experienced author of a new 500-page biography of Bill Cosby managed to blow the lead: to leave out detailed accusations by more than a dozen women that the beloved comedian had drugged and raped or otherwise sexually molested them.
Inevitably in any journalistic trend story, there is an element of coincidence in the cascade of these sorry episodes. And, even in the best-run publications, mistakes are as inescapable in journalism as they are in any sustained human activity. But there is an unseen common denominator to all these fiascoes that helps explain why they happened, illuminating both the existential dangers that serious journalism now faces and its fraught future.
“Here was a story made to go viral—doing journalistic due diligence on it might blunt its sharp edges and sap its appeal. As it happened, the Rolling Stone piece was undone by old-school reporting by the Washington Post, which has the resources to do its job…”
Quite simply, print editors and their writers, and especially the publications’ proprietors, are being unhinged by the challenge of making a splash in a new world increasingly dominated by the values of digital journalism. Traditional long-form journalism—painstakingly reported, carefully written, rewritten and edited, scrupulously fact-checked—finds itself fighting a losing battle for readers and advertisers. Quick hits, snarky posts and click-bait in the new, ever-expanding cosmos of websites promoted by even quicker teasers on Twitter and Facebook have broadened the audience but shrunk its attention span, sometimes to 140 characters (shorter than this sentence).
Whether they realize it or not, and most do, print journalists feel the pressure to make their material ever more compelling, to make it stand out amid the digital chatter. The easiest way to do that is to come up with stories so sensational that even the Twitterverse has to take notice. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Barone reports: I have never eaten at a McDonald’s in France. But evidently a lot of French men and women do. Business Insider reports that France is McDonald’s most profitable country after the United States. So much for all the French cuisine snobs who lament the presence of McDonald’s in la belle France…(read more)
Dubai is building a massive temperature-controlled “city” that will house an 8 million square foot shopping complex called the “Mall of The World,” the United Arab Emirates’ ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, announced Saturday, according to Khaleej Times. (via Business Insider)
slurp noodles and welcome their new Japanese Overlords are furious about the sale of their beloved Jim Beam to a company in Japan, a suspiciously safe, sake-drinking, abnormally clean and polite society, a foreign country where vending machines sell underpants, executives get drunk and throw up in train stations, and nobody understands American whiskey…
[See also: Sugoi! Oishii! Japan’s Suntory buys Jim Beam]
Michelle Lynn Dinh reports: Nothing quite screams “USA! USA!” like a glass of Kentucky bourbon; it is “America’s only native spirit” afterall. Maybe that’s why patriotic fans of the beverage have taken to the Twittersphere in protest of Japanese company, Suntory, purchasing Beam, Inc., the distillers of American classics, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. The $13.6 billion deal was announced on January 13 and was followed by a flurry of angry messages claiming the Illinois-based company had “sold out.” Let’s take a look at the angriest of the bunch. Read the rest of this entry »
Jim Edwards reports: Ford’s Global VP/Marketing and Sales, Jim Farley, said something both sinister and obvious during a panel discussion about data privacy today at CES, the big electronics trade show in Las Vegas.
Because of the GPS units installed in Ford vehicles, Ford knows when many of its drivers are speeding, and where they are while they’re doing it.
Farley was trying to describe how much data Ford has on its customers, and illustrate the fact that the company uses very little of it in order to avoid raising privacy concerns: “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone,” he told attendees.
If this guy doesn’t freak you out, you probably shouldn’t be driving a car
Rather, he said, he imagined a day when the data might be used anonymously and in aggregate to help other marketers with traffic related problems. Suppose a stadium is holding an event; knowing how much traffic is making its way toward the arena might help the venue change its parking lot resources accordingly, he said.
John Nolte writes: Business Insider reports that the television industry is “having its worst year ever.” Ratings have plummeted, and so have subscribers to bundled cable television — which is the Golden Cash Cow of Hollywood. Since 2010, cable providers have lost 5 million subscribers. During the last quarter alone 113,000 cable customers said goodbye.
For decades, cable providers gained a lot more customers than they ever lost, but those days are long over. For the first time in the industry’s history, there are fewer than 40 million customers paying for cable from America’s major providers. People are obviously moving online, choosing to stream the television shows and films they want to watch, and doing so when they choose to. Appointment television is as dead as Barack Obama’s credibility.
Streaming is a much better deal for consumers. Instead of facing punishing prices for a bundled cable package that makes you pay for dozens of channels you never watch, streaming offers choice and value and convenience. Some programming is still exclusively available via bundled cable or satellite only. Eventually, though, that will have to change. Entertainment providers will have to go to where the people are. Read the rest of this entry »
And The Results Were Not What You Would Expect
The “prisoner’s dilemma” is a familiar concept to just about anybody that took Econ 101.
The basic version goes like this. Two criminals are arrested, but police can’t convict either on the primary charge, so they plan to sentence them to a year in jail on a lesser charge. Each of the prisoners, who can’t communicate with each other, are given the option of testifying against their partner. If they testify, and their partner remains silent, the partner gets 3 years and they go free. If they both testify, both get two. If both remain silent, they each get one.
In game theory, betraying your partner, or “defecting” is always the dominant strategy as it always has a slightly higher payoff in a simultaneous game. It’s what’s known as a “Nash Equilibrium,” after Nobel Prize winning mathematician and A Beautiful Mind subject John Nash.
In sequential games, where players know each other’s previous behaviour and have the opportunity to punish each other, defection is the dominant strategy as well.
However, on a Pareto basis, the best outcome for both players is mutual cooperation.
Yet no one’s ever actually run the experiment on real prisoners before, until two University of Hamburg economists tried it out in a recent study comparing the behaviour of inmates and students.
Surprisingly, for the classic version of the game, prisoners were far more cooperative than expected.
Menusch Khadjavi and Andreas Lange put the famous game to the test for the first time ever, putting a group of prisoners in Lower Saxony’s primary women’s prison, as well as students through both simultaneous and sequential versions of the game.
The payoffs obviously weren’t years off sentences, but euros for students, and the equivalent value in coffee or cigarettes for prisoners.
They expected, building off of game theory and behavioural economic research that show humans are more cooperative than the purely rational model that economists traditionally use, that there would be a fair amount of first-mover cooperation, even in the simultaneous simulation where there’s no way to react to the other player’s decisions.
And even in the sequential game, where you get a higher payoff for betraying a cooperative first mover, a fair amount will still reciprocate.
As for the difference between student and prisoner behaviour, you’d expect that a prison population might be more jaded and distrustful, and therefore more likely to defect.
The results went exactly the other way for the simultaneous game, only 37% of students cooperate. Inmates cooperated 56% of the time.
On a pair basis, only 13% of student pairs managed to get the best mutual outcome and cooperate, whereas 30% of prisoners do.
In the sequential game, way more students (63%) cooperate, so the mutual cooperation rate skyrockets to 39%. For prisoners, it remains about the same.
What’s interesting is that the simultaneous game requires far more blind trust out from both parties, and you don’t have a chance to retaliate or make up for being betrayed later. Yet prisoners are still significantly more cooperative in that scenario.
Obviously the payoffs aren’t as serious as a year or three of your life, but the paper still demonstrates that prisoners aren’t necessarily as calculating, self-interested, and un-trusting as you might expect, and as behavioural economists have argued for years, as mathematically interesting as Nash equilibrium might be, they don’t line up with real behaviour all that well.