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Robert_B_Marks's profile
Robert_B_Marks




I am an author, writer, editor, publisher, and researcher in Kingston, Ontario. I am the author of Diablo: Demonsbane, The EverQuest Companion, Garwulf's Corner (one of the first, if not THE first, computer game commentary columns in the English language), and co-author of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Agora (with R. Drew Griffith) and The Eternity Quartet (with Ed Greenwood).

My current non-fiction projects are Garwulf's Corner (revived and with new installments every two weeks) and Fooling Garwulf (commentary on magic and Penn & Teller: Fool Us) at The Escapist.


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Um, not really. I'm arguing that Trump was gambling on insiders voting for him because he won the Republican ticket (and, indeed, much of the party did fall into line after the Primaries), and outsiders voting for him because he's not a POLITICIAN.

Pretty much all of this was abandoned in a single sentence in the debate, though.

"Nowhere did I say that you supported Trump, nor "put words in your mouth.""

You know what? You kind of did - you took a straight-up exploration of strategic messaging with a number of nuanced pointed and reduced it to "the winning strategy for political office is to play up one's unsuitability for public office." I've been strawmanned before - I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now. If you want to damn me, then do it for what I said, not a caricature of what I said.

That said, you're right - there are a couple of things you said that I interpreted in the worst possible manner. So, I do owe you an apology, and it is offered gladly. That further said, I think you're wrong, and the evidence you're using is outdated - the article is from May, and this is now September, further Trump has actually closed the gap between him and Clinton in a number of polls (source: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton-5491.html#polls).

Either way, clearly it's time for both of us to back away from each other, so I'm done replying to you. Please do not take this as a demand to stop commenting or discussing in this thread - I simply won't be replying to you anymore.

First off, I'm not an American, I'm a Canadian. I have also clearly stated that I consider Trump to be extremely dangerous, and that I thought that Clinton was a better candidate for the office. While I did not take any position in the article, I am very much hoping that Trump doesn't come within a hundred miles of winning this race.

Second, you are free to disagree with me if you wish. You are free to attack my ideas to your heart's content. Do not EVER attack my person, or put words in my mouth (frankly, you are exceedingly bad at mind-reading).

Now, onto your points.

You are correct about Trump probably alienating core Republicans. What makes him dangerous, however, is that his appeal is to those who have lost faith in the system as a whole, hence his repeated systemic attacks in place of solid policy statements. This means that people who would probably not come out to vote if an established politician had won the nomination may very well come out to vote this time. Consider this: Congress' approval rating in August was at 18%, and it hasn't broken past 24% since 2011...and these are sustained historic lows (source: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1600/congress-public.aspx). The American voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest in over 70 years, with a national average of 36.3% (source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/12/opinion/the-worst-voter-turnout-in-72-years.html). These are signs of a massive loss of faith in the political system, including a loss of faith that the people inside that system can turn it around.

Trump isn't trying to appeal to the 36.3% of voters who still have enough faith in the system to vote - moreover, he probably doesn't care about the Republicans in that number who will stay home in 2016 because he has alienated them. He's gambling that he can mobilize enough of the 63.7% who stayed home to win the election by presenting himself as the clever outsider who can tear down a broken system. If he succeeds in that, this election will be quite winnable for him.

Also, I don't think you understand what "disruption" means in this context. "Disruption" in this context means forcing your opponents to abandon their own ground and try to compete with you on yours in such a way where they lose if they don't. When McGuinty did it in Ontario, the Eves Conservatives looked out of touch by relying on their tried and true negative campaign strategy, which had won at least two prior elections (oh, and by the way, just because Ontario doesn't have a huge population doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned from its elections - we have a democratic system up here too, you know). Clinton is waging a standard political campaign, pitched at mobilizing her core base of Democrat voters - Trump is NOT. He's pitching his message at an entirely different group of people.

"Your argument, then, is that the winning strategy for political office is to play up one's unsuitability for public office. I'm not going to dismiss that out of hand, but it's not a statement that should be accepted at face value. Do you have examples of other protest candidates that have used this strategy effectively?"

Not really - the point I'm making is that the winning strategy is often disruption in general. Donald Trump is a bizarre case, and I think a lot of the reason that he's gotten as far as he has is that the political establishment in the United States is far more despised than it is in, say, Canada. So, in this case, a message to the effect of "I may be a jerk, but I'm not one of THOSE jerks" is enough. In Canada, that wouldn't fly - as I mention in the analysis, if Trump had admitted that he hadn't paid his taxes in 15 years in a Canadian debate, his opponents would have nailed him and his campaign would be effectively done as of that moment.

That said, we've seen a number of successful disruption strategies in Canadian elections over the last few years. To use a very clear example, Dalton McGuinty won the provincial election in Ontario by disrupting the Conservative strategy - while they were very negative, he ran a very positive campaign that left the Ernie Eves Conservatives scrambling to adapt to (and they didn't, and have been out in the political wasteland ever since). The trick is that what you are attempting to disrupt has to be something that has had sufficient time to become established. So, if Trump was attempting a strategy like this at the end of the Bill Clinton years, Congress and their obstructionism would not have become so established and detested that it would have worked.

What makes this situation very dangerous is that by presenting himself as a viable outsider candidate (a threshold he reached as soon as he got the Republican nomination), he IS expanding his voter base to include a number of people who would otherwise not vote because they've lost complete faith in the system. The mistake that I think a lot of commentators are making is to think that the people supporting him don't realize he's a blowhard and a liar - a lot of them DO, but still consider him better than the blowhards and liars that are in office already. So, his attack on the political establishment DOES make this election winnable for him, and if he does win, the United States gets a President whose is very unpredictable and quite possibly dangerous.

I think you would have loved the original draft, then. The series was originally pitched as "The Great Games of Yore: A Personal History," and indeed did include my personal stories about what it was like to play the game (and I remember quite well walking in on my brother as he played the original Civilization and being told that Gandhi had just nuked all of his cities).

When it went through editing, the editor at PCGamesN wanted it to fit in better with the style of the rest of the site, and so it became much more informational and a bit more academic. And, I think this really works for it - a number of times in the earlier draft, the anecdotal elements sometimes clashed with the historical exploration, so the flow wasn't quite as smooth as it could have been.

If you would like a more personal writing style, you might want to check out my revived Garwulf's Corner column that ran on The Escapist from March 2015-March 2016 (and it is coming out on October 15th as a book titled An Odyssey into Video Games and Pop Culture).

I ALWAYS welcome discussion of my ideas. So, please - agree with me, disagree with me...whatever you wish!

Well, not really, I'm afraid. What they did was implement a system of blood payments, aka Weregeld, and make certain acts legally free from retribution (human sacrifice and execution for a crime being the two main ones).

So, the actual result was that on raids, people would be sacrificed to the gods to prevent retaliation (in short, subbing in a form of violence they could get away with), and in blood feuds, you'd see violence followed by lawsuits to de-legitimize it, followed by retaliation, followed by more lawsuits. Seriously, the feuding families in the Icelandic sagas seem to spend about as much time in court as they do killing each other. So, to be pithy, the amount of violence was about the same, but there were more lawyers involved.

And, thank you! The next installment of Fooling Garwulf goes up tomorrow afternoon, assuming all goes well.

In my case, I was getting an error that suggested that the connection with the Hubski server had failed, and the message hadn't posted - so I kept trying every couple of minutes. If I hadn't received your reply, I probably would have kept trying.

I'm deleting the copies right now.

Diablo. That game literally defined my writing career.

Background: my first book was Diablo: Demonsbane, and after that I ran a column on Diabloii.net that used Diablo as a jump off point called Garwulf's Corner...which was possibly the first computer game commentary column in the English language. Without Diablo, none of this would have happened.

A few years ago, back when I was working on my M.A., I attended an economics conference (for background, my training is as a historian). I had never seen an economic model before, and I had no idea of what to expect (for those who haven't seen one, it's a really long mathematical equation with up to dozens of variables).

The presentation that sticks with me, even to this day, was a presenter who was attempting to model whether revenge limits or increases violence in a conflict situation. After about seven variables, I was completely lost. I was also quite surprised when he declared that according to his equation, the possibility of revenge LIMITED violence. So, during the question period after the paper was presented, I pointed out that there was not, to my knowledge, a single moment in history where this was the case, and for that reason many societies (including the Vikings, which happens to be my favourite period of history) had implemented workarounds to limit revenge.

I learned two things from that conference - the first was there are economists who think they can model things accurately without checking their facts, and the second was that not everything can be reduced to mathematics.

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