Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Less Porcine Figure

A few days ago, a particularly eccentric occultist took issue with my previous post, Lost in the Myths of Swine, and reasserted some of the more flagrantly stupid folklore from Tarot’s vast corpus of whimsy. Ross Caldwell, ever the helpful soul, gently explained why his charming but fictional story is unreasonable. Ross closed with a line from John 8:32, cognoscetis veritatem et veritas liberabit vos. I agreed with him that truth is better than error, and also with his dismal prognosis for the offending occultist: “There is no point in arguing with unreasonable people, because they will perversely persist in believing whatever they want, against all evidence and sound argumentation to the contrary.” I rephrased this lament in terms of another biblical passage, the poetic injunction of Matthew 7:6, neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos, (neither cast ye your pearls before swine).

Fun and games all around, and a cute call-back to the earlier essay, for those who got it. However, my use of this biblical metaphor, hallowed (and hackneyed) by 2,000 years of repetition, was deemed offensive. I guess it was the swine reference, the porcine figure of speech. It was declared an example of intolerant thinking and a manifestation of Judeo-Christian, male-dominated, Western scientific indoctrination. (Shades of Jess Karlin’s ancient demons, the Motherpeace-lovin’ coven of the Cartofeminist Conspiracy.) Personal attacks included calling me incredibly ill-tempered, bordering on hysterical, obsessed, and an intellectually inadequate wannabe academic. When I stopped weeping, I determined that a new metaphor was called for, a less porcine figure of speech.

Therefore, a bit of allegorical art du jour, in the modern emblem tradition of a black-framed image with white-lettered motto and epigram, derived from motivational posters. The source image we will use is taken from the September 29, 1866 edition of Harper’s Weekly. It shows a garbage scow in New York, and was titled, “Dumping Ground at the Foot of Beach Street”. Here is the brief article that accompanied it.

Let’s see... pathetic losers pawing and grubbing through 19th-century garbage, trying to make something valuable out of what is clearly trash, finally dying and becoming that which they explored so deeply, fetid corruption itself... with what might that be reasonably compared? Eureka!

A new emblem of Tarot folklore, with 100% less porcine content.

March 23, 2012 postscript:

Some people discount the need for sardonic rebuke. As noted in the preface to the previous post, to be singled out for derision one must sink exceptionally low. Robert Swiryn, the 2011 award winner as the top Tenacious, Arrogant, Ignorant, Nitwit in Tarot, has returned with new insights and suggestions. Most are profitably ignored, but one section plumbs a new nadir of nitwittery, illustrating a level of “intellectual deliquescence” that deserves notice.

Maybe the 99% of the members who offer posts which fall outside of the strict requirements of the few history buffs should rise up and protest the abusive tactics from the 1% of those interested in defending a limited range of historical knowledge.

Swiryn’s attempt to identify with the OWS movement, and to make the historians the bad guys, is topical and almost clever... except that on Wall Street the 1% are the powerful controlling interests and the 99% are the downtrodden. In Tarot fora, even on a forum ostensibly dedicated to historical research, historians are the oppressed ones and Jung gets more love than Dummett. If Swiryn uses an analogy it is almost certain to be a false analogy. Then he gets to his main point:

These history buffs can then either start their own forum, demanding a certain level of evidence in order to be included, or they can back off and refrain from taking personal or confrontive pot-shots at other members and just do what they do best - which is to offer information, when appropriate (and in a professional way), from their vast weath of knowledge and research.

That last bit is surpassingly arrogant and condescending, even for Swiryn—historians should politely serve their esoteric overlords, providing information, when requested and in a servile fashion. As someone who has provided such service for well over a decade, allow me to reply: Fuck you very much. Swiryn also suggests an alternative: historians should be forced to leave the forum devoted to "historical research" and create a new forum, one devoted to historical research.

Historians should either leave a forum dedicated to historical research and create a forum dedicated to historical research, where the cycle can be repeated, or else politely serve as research assistants for superstitious know-nothings. In his 2011 thread, (which reached nearly 400 posts despite the fact that he had no historical evidence or argument to present), Swiryn was repeatedly reminded of the fact that HE had chosen to spam promote his book on the "Historical Research" forum. Countless other venues are available which do not ask about things like facts and logic, but he insisted on pretending to be an historian while simultaneously ignoring the basics of historical argumentation. Now, a year later, he still insists that the historians should leave the historical research forum to fiction writers like him. Robert Swiryn appears to epitomize the fucking dolts who dominate Tarot fora.

However, the possibility must again be considered that "Robert Swiryn" is an ironic persona created by a surrealist, avant-garde performance artist. Could anyone actually be as stupid as this "Robert Swiryn" character, (who calls himself "foolish"), pretends to be? This suspicion was first raised a year ago, when "Robert Swiryn" claimed that playing-cards were being manufactured in early-14th-century France. In addition to repeating antiquated errors like the supposed 1392 French Tarot deck, "Robert Swiryn" announced a spectacular new find: The famous “last Cathar” of Languedoc, Guillaume Bélibaste, was manufacturing playing cards in 1313! This fact would revolutionize both playing-card history and the history of the heretics.

"Robert Swiryn" didn’t even know enough about the real history of either Cathars or playing-cards to be surprised by this, and he has so little actual interest in the history of the subjects that he didn’t bother to follow up on it. Not even a little. He didn’t bother to inquire whether someone else had mentioned it, perhaps in the history of Cathars, the history of playing-cards, the history of Tarot, and he didn’t care enough to think about it, much less do any research. "Robert Swiryn" claimed to have documentary proof of Cathars and playing cards, closing not only the gap in chronology, pushing the existence of playing-cards in Europe back by over a half century, but also putting the manufacture of those cards directly into the hands of the Cathars, and he didn’t bother to read any further... not even the footnote on the same page! (H/T to Ross.) The part he read is highlighted in yellow; the part he missed is highlighted in red.

It might seem that nobody is that stupid. And yet, yesterday someone who appears to be the same "Robert Swiryn" argued that historians should only post on forums dedicated to historical research, which is precisely the forum he is attempting to chase them out of. Maybe he really is that stupid.

March 26, 2012 postscript:

The Frege’s Puzzle thread on the Aeclectic Historical Research forum, begun by a particularly eccentric occultist calling himself Yygdrasilian, (Yygdiot), has been shut down. Apparently this was in response to a lovely and insightful post by Huck Meyer. Huck referred to the persistent and pernicious rants of Swiryn & Co. in the Historical Research forum as “pissing in our garden”. Some of the comments, directed to Robert Swiryn, were too good to just disappear. After noting that Swiryn ignores centuries-long gaps in his timeline, Huck says:

We fought here for differences between decades and even years in the development of Tarot similar objects, with much research work, careful observation and discussion, with documents in foreign languages and an expanded web of internal exchange between different research activities. And we do this since long years. So take a deeper look in the abyss of your created nonsense-idea and come to your senses. Take a humble begin and start learning, if you're interested in Tarot history. Stop whining that you got a critique, that you deserved.

Really Fucking Stupid™ people(1), like Debra who thinks Mamluk cards (the 14th-century precursors to European playing cards) are evidence that Tarot originated in ancient Egypt, and that the Russell’s Teapot argument (“you can’t prove it isn’t true”) is sound, are shitting in the historians’ yard. Then they whine like babies when mean-spirited adults ask them, tell them, and finally yell at them to “STOP IT!” Those who proclaim that “Santa Claus IS real” because they have seen him in a department store, as if this were profound wisdom rather than disingenuous equivocation, are pissing in their neighbor’s garden. Returning to the earlier horticulture metaphor, presenting them facts is like giving roses to swine.

Theirs is a game of make-believe. They pretend to be interested in history while perpetuating the pseudo-history and absurdist interpretations that have overshadowed Tarot since the late 19th century. There are countless places where such fantasies are gleefully indulged online, but the true believers insist on dominating all Tarot discussions, without exception. So Aeclectic’s Historical Research forum must be made safe for their juvenile drivel. If the Historical Research forum is to be given over to make-believe, perhaps the name should be changed to The Land of Counterpane.


 ✎ 1. Everyday experience and the bell curve or Normal distribution of intelligence both suggest that approximately 1/6th of the population (17%) is noticibly slow, 1σ or more below the mean. Roughly 2% of the population falls 2σ or more below the mean, which is damned dumb. Ulmann’s Corollary to Ockham’s Razor states that when stupidity alone is a sufficient explanation, there is no need for recourse to any other. George Carlin sharpened this catchall explanation to, “some people are really fucking stupid” (RFS™), hence the trademark symbol. The related term, “Yet Another Moron” (YAM), was poularized in the online Tarot community by Jess Karlin (jk). It seems fair to say that many YAMs are RFS™.

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