The Usefulness Of Historical Analogues: Russian – West Intelligentsia Parallels Example

The Usefulness Of Historical Analogues: Russian – West Intelligentsia Parallels Example

Ed Lorenz back in 1961 was running, on a computer!, a simple weather model, with twelve full parameters. This was in the days of punch cards and paper print outs.

He wanted to re-run part of the model, but computer time was expensive then, so he decided to start the simulation mid-stream. This meant he had to type in the parameter values at the given time, which he retrieved from the print outs.

Then something strange happened. The output diverged from the previous run, not just by a little, but by a lot. This is strange because the model was fully deterministic. If a deterministic model starts at the same point, the mathematics says, it should always end at the same point.

And so they do. Which meant Lorenz did not start at the same point, only the approximately same point, a point so close to the original starting point that any would consider it “close enough for government work.” Although it wasn’t, and couldn’t be, “close enough”. It turned out, he learned later, it has to be exactly identical, and the the slightest deviation led to wildly varying solutions.

Thus was born, or re-born, the science and mathematics of chaos theory, though a better name might be sensitivity theory. There is nothing chaotic, in the plain-English meaning of that word, in deterministic models. They are boring, these models, always doing what they are told to do (like all models!). They are just difficult to predict because they are sensitive to the initial conditions.

This sensitivity Lorenz discovered turned out to be impossible to ignore, because meteorologists used to try to predict future weather based on analogues. If the weather on a date back in, say, 1952 “looks like” the weather today, we have found an analogue. To forecast the weather a week from today, look at what the weather was a week from your analogue date in 1952.

This approach works reasonably well for near-term forecasts. The day after your date in 1952 will be close to tomorrow, but two days after your 1952 date won’t be as close to two days from now. And so on. The analogue breaks down as time progresses. Weather in real life, like weather in a simulation, is a system that is sensitive to initial conditions.

For simple deterministic models, sensitivity theory (there is no chance this new name adopted) is by know well understood mathematically. It is a fun topic. All we need to know about the math is that sensitivity is found in many non-linear systems which are non-linear. These systems have all kinds of feedbacks and peculiarities that make them difficult to track.

There’s much more too all this, of course, but for our purposes it’s sufficient. Because we’re trying to understand the usefulness of historical analogue forecasting, not just in weather but in any area. This, after all, is the prime season of forecasting by analogue in politics.

Pundits are saying what it was like in the 2016 election when Trump was ahead or behind, or how Democrats did this or that well in an economy similar to this one, and on an on. Some eschew political analogues. Conrad Black writes “This campaign, and this president, are like no other”, but this rejection is more of a figure of speech than a philosophy.

Analogues were sought frequently back when people watched sports. You’d hear guesses that tonight’s pitcher was going to do well because he done so against opposing teams that had so many recent losses on Tuesday evenings when the stock market was up.

That’s a big problem with historical analogues. What counts as the analogue. With weather, it’s more or less clear. The temperature and pressure fields have a certain shape, and this shape is correlated with the dynamics of movement. There’s more to the weather than just that, of course, but even if we had every aspect that was causative of the outcome, we’d still have to match our analogues perfectly in order to avoid sensitivity.

With politics, sports, and other human behavior, it’s far less clear what counts as what measures should be examined to find analogues. Sensitivity to “initial” conditions (the start of our analogue) is almost a given. That we can ever know with certainty, as we can in mathematical models, all initial values to sufficient precision is obviously true. Groups of men are still composed of men and there’s no way to know the full mind of even one man, let alone groups of them.

This doesn’t make historical analogue forecasting valueless. We know it has value, which is one of the reasons we study history. To see what people do in given—imperfectly known—circumstances. We look around us and compare ourselves or our countries with how it was then, wondering whether what happened to these other people will happen to us.

It’s going badly now in the culture, and the natural question is how bad will it get? This is not necessarily the same as how bad it can get, but we’d like to know if these two coincide. The search for analogues begins.

Gary Saul Morson might have found one in
pre-revolutionary Russia, summarized in his article Suicide of the Liberals. His analogue applies only to the intellectual class, because it is obvious there are large differences between Tzar-led aristocratic Russia our our elite-led oligarchy. Nevertheless, the similarities between their intelligentsia—which for good reasons he translates as intelligents—and ours is frightening.

I can only give a small flavor of the analogue here: read his piece to experience the full nausea as you recognize each similarity.

Most important, and of greatest concern, was how intelligents thought. An intelligent signed on to a set of beliefs regarded as totally certain, scientifically proven, and absolutely obligatory for any moral person. A strict intelligent had to subscribe to some ideology—whether populist, Marxist, or anarchist—that was committed to the total destruction of the existing order and its replacement by a utopia that would, at a stroke, eliminate every human ill…

Though some liberals recognized their differences from the radicals, most acted like intelligentsia wannabes who were unwilling to acknowledge, even to themselves, that their values were essentially different. Socialized to regard anything conservative as reprehensible—and still worse, as a social faux pas—they contrived ways to justify radical intolerance and violence as forced, understandable, and noble. They had to, since the fundamental emotional premise of liberalism—hostility to those ignorant, bigoted, morally depraved people on the right—almost always proved more compelling than professed intellectual ­commitments.

This analogue, should it prove to be one, has the obvious and immediate forecast. We know what happened in Russia. The intelligents ate themselves first, and after the Party gorged on them, they turned on the right remnant. Will the same thing happen here? Or are the “initial” conditions just too far apart from ours for this analogue to be of any use?

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  1. Oh, what we have here is a deliberate attempt to replay the Russian Revolution, by much the same sorts of people, for much the same reasons. History may not repeat, but it certainly rhymes.

    History also shows us that the best way through this is to strangle it in its crib, without pity or remorse.

  2. Sheri

    I worked on a computer with punch cards and paper printouts in 1982. Don’t make it sound so ancient.

    I like the term “chaos theory”. Sorry, but not promoting “sensitivity”. Sounds too much like an HR required seminar.

    As for history repeating itself, it does, but it’s useless for predictions. The circumstances are always too diverse. I don’t think the conditions are ever close enough nor will they ever be. Russian history is very different from US history and like in the weather example, a TINY variation matters. It really doesn’t matter about predictions anyway. Get off your fannies and do what is needed to achieve the desire outcome instead of trying to find a crystal ball. McChuck seems to understand that!

  3. Cloudbuster

    Initial conditions here are very different. Now pardon me, I need to go clean my AR-15.

  4. Dean Ericson

    ”…the best way through this is to strangle it in its crib…”

    Where is this crib? I’ve got some time this afternoon, and two strong hands… and I never did like revolting babies. Put an end to this distracting nonsense so we can all get back to work. Like normal. It’s a fine fall day and there’s wood to cut and split. What we need is an analog planet, just like this one, but without all the revolting idiots. We go there and live the good life. Leave the loonies here to enjoy their paradise without us blighting it.

    But I thought the analog was Hitler. Hitler, Hitler, Hitler. Ground Hog Day Hitler. Lenin demonized Czar Nicholas as Hitler.

  5. Dean Ericson

    Okay, that last line was from the cutting room floor. If you think what I post is bad you should see what I cut.

  6. Lorenz’s model had three parameters, not 12.

    When he restarted the model he reentered the values of the independent variables, not the parameters, of which there were also three.

    This, and many other, deterministic models have solutions which are chaotic according to the common usage of the word.

    No, political and social events can not be reliably predicted. Duh.
    Whether or not you know anything about math and chaotic systems, or are just pretending that you do.

  7. John B()

    Dean / McChuck

    “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

    ? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

    The Wheat and the Tares

    And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
    THAT is Christianity – we are (or allow God) to circumcise our hearts – still a hard thing to “will”

  8. Ann Cherry

    A few years ago, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston (it Hardly ever Happens), there were high pressure systems keeping it in place and dropping massive amounts of water from the Gulf of Mexico. The usual experts screamed “GlobalClimateWarmingChange.” I assume that a computer model of the same-level hurricane, colliding with the same weather systems, would bring very similar results, whether today, or back in 1972, when “experts” of that era, in wide ties and polyester leisure suits, were forecasting a New Ice Age. Or was it the Population Bomb?

    Climate alarmism, like history, also “rhymes”. I read the fascinating article Briggs talks about here, Suicide of the Liberals, recently. Computer models and historical analogues may be imperfect, sensitive and chaotic, but you can take a Commie Puke, or a fake “climatologist” (but I repeat myself) and put them anywhere in history, and they act pretty much the same way…..imperfect, sensitive, and chaotic!

    When viewed from history, there’s only one proper response to Communists, and as Aleksandr I Solzhenitsyn noted in The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956, all too often, it’s a regretful afterthought:

    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during the periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, palming with error at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly cut up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers or whatever else at hand? … The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…. We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

  9. Sam

    Lee Phillips; You should probably refer to Gleick’s “Chaos: Making a New Science” (1987). Although Briggs may have gotten his information eleswhere, his statement about the 12 variables is a kind of paraphrase from that book, and it’s accurate.

  10. Dean Ericson

    ““If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956”

    Bah, Solzhenitsyn, what does he know; he never even had a smartphone.

  11. Fredo

    What we’ve failed to appreciate is the appeal of slave states and the ease by which they
    are ruled. This is the universal model that has existed throughout history with the cosmetic
    illusion of freedom in it’s most recent iteration. Look on the bright side we’ll all be given the
    opportunity to much work harder for much less to save the planet from ourselves. Take
    China for example smart money is well positioned there, just look at those beautiful covid
    numbers, and no one is complaining about wage inequality much less race.

  12. Sheri

    John B(): As noted before Biblical wheat apparently bore zero resemblance to modern wheat since leaving the tares wipes out the modern wheat. Unless Christ was trying to wipe out good with evil….Or maybe tell humans to get their heads out of the sand and pay attention to the evil they are sowing? The story has serious questions attached.

    A note on climate change and fires: Interesting that climate stops at the Canadian border and the Mexican border. Mark Steyn mentioned that. Canada is at 64% of it’s “average fire season”. Of course, climate could be like Covid and be smart enough to know where to hit to effect the most change toward communism and misery…..No one ever realized how smart climate systems and viruses were.

  13. Amateur Brain Surgeon

    Carl Cameron, the FOX TV reporter who produced those several specials devoted to unmasking the Israeli intelligent agents (Mossad) involved in 911, (Dropped down the memory hole, although ABS still has them) had to quit FOX news and throw-in which climate realists – the good people of the planet- because Fox used to produce bad thought.

    Cameron teamed up with Joseph Romm, the founding editor of ClimateProgress, to create Front Page Live, the Post reported. The organization describes itself as “a site dedicated to helping diverse voices and content go viral, and a news source that reflects the values of the majority of good people on our amazing planet.”

    “Part of our goal is to be an antidote to the Drudge Report. But whereas Drudge aggregates and viralizes right-wing content, which includes a lot of disinformation and climate science denial, we will aim to aggregate and viralize accurate news,” Romm, who serves as editor-in-chief and CEO, said in a statement to The Hill. “We are ‘liberal’ only in the sense that climate science has been labeled ‘liberal’ by climate science deniers.”

    ABS thinks hit Briggs is not only a deplorable but runs in circles that are not part of the good people on our amazing planet.

    Nothing says scientific method like the ideology of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    O, and on the other hand, us poor whites in Florida are threatened every year by storms originating in Africa.
    When are scientists going to talk about his obvious example of intercontinental climate racism? Why doesn’t the United Nations have a ICR (Intercontinental Racism Panel)?

    Us poor whites in Florida have never owned slaves for crying out loud yet those storms are always threatening us down here.

    Our poor peninsula – which dangles off the body of America like a giant green penis – is forever threatened and claims that the Harricains (that’s how crackers pronounce them) are getting worse, and are now increasingly called cyclones, are obviously accurate or not and if they aren’t (that is not the historical record) then it is the fault of the bad people of the planet like Trump and Briggs.

  14. Johnno

    I’d stick to the wisdom of Our Lady of Fatima and the prophecies granted to Sr. Lucia Dos Santos.

    Russia will spread her errors throughout the world. America will become communist. The Church will be persecuted. The Holy Father will have much to suffer. Various nations will be annihilated.

    Whether that’s under Trump’s watch, or whether the Holy Father is a guy called Francis is not known, but by 2029 we’ll be at 100 years following the disobedience of the Popes and clergy to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart as God commanded, which is implicitly tied to the analogue Christ gave the French monarchy and clergy 100 years to consecrate France to His Sacred Heart, which the kings neglected to do and thus 100 years later, France fell to the Revolution.

    Trump, under the best case scenario, buys us 4 years. Only a Divine solution can undo near 100 years of systemic ideological error that is rooted in the human heart. There’s no legislating any of this away. The insurgency can wait another 4 years. That the perpetual lies of COVID and Climate-Change hysteria continue to be granted their pinches of incense, even on the debate stages by both sides goes to show that error and all its analogues and all its empty promises will carry on.

  15. Ann Cherry

    There used to be a joke, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” This was back in the old days, when sane people understood that our only real climate control, resides in our thermostats. It sounds like Carl Cameron (I’d forgotten all about him) is trying hard to be relevant. Somebody should tell him that the Drudge Report has been absorbed into the collective and no longer carries much “right wing content.”

    Even so, Carl joins a long line of Official Climate Alarmists, and given the alarming lack of recent solar activity, he can recycle some material from the 50s-70s and start blaming us for ‘The Coming Ice Age.”

    Here’s a link to a compendium of the past century of Climate Fear headlines, mostly from the usual Trusted News Sources:

    One Senator gave this analysis:

    “Since 1895, the media has alternated between global cooling and warming scares during four separate and sometimes overlapping time periods.

    -From 1895 until the 1930’s the media peddled a coming ice age.

    -From the late 1920’s until the 1960’s they warned of global warming.

    -From the 1950’s until the 1970’s they warned us again of a coming ice age.

    This makes modern global warming the fourth estate’s fourth attempt to promote opposing climate change fears during the last 100 years.”

    – Senator James Inhofe, Monday, September 25, 2006

  16. Dean Ericson

    ”Our poor peninsula – which dangles off the body of America like a giant green penis…”

    I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it… so, Northeast is like a giant stuck-up nose, and California is like a big fat ass, Seattle/Portland are a like a giant bad back, and the upper Midwest is a giant blockhead, and Texas is like appendicitis, and the whole Missouri/Mississippi basin is like a giant colon, and Louisiana is like a giant stinking turd, and somewhere on the map is an ingrown toenail. Briggs, this analogous theme is fertile ground.

    This is why

  17. Dean Ericson

    “This is why”???

    You need an editor, Ericson.

  18. Dean Ericson

    Okay, read the linked article. Stone cold chilling. The Intelligents are back.

  19. C-Marie

    All interesting, but, did I miss one or more accepting that since SCOTUS armed those against God with legal weapons including the murder of the unborn and more, and now some states have legalized the slaughter of the just born if the mother so chooses, that rejection of Christ is defintely the reason our country is going down sooner than later, unless genuine repentance takes place???

    The former and more are the reasons and unrepentant sins as to why the godless left are being empowered to do so much harm. They will be slowed down and eventually our country will be renewed, but not until after much extreme distress.

    All is out in the open now. There is nothing hidden anymore by the left. Their purpose and dreams are clear. Take down the Republic … the United States of America … and replace it with something that overtime even they can hardly imagine now as they will be so affected that they will be wishing for the “good old days”.

    Re-electing President Trump is a help and is the one for whom to vote. But 2024 is coming soon enough.

    God is with us, but He is allowing America to reap what has been sown. One’s own mind can hardly comprehend the millions of babies murdered the world over and in the United States, even right now as I write. He will keep those who come to Jesus. Some He will take home to Himself. Others will remain here as His witnesses.

    This is all so much more than what it appears to be. It is due to much more than not having yet consecrated Russia. This is due to personal unrepentant sin, in the Church and in the government, and in citizens. Pray!!

    God bless, C-Marie

  20. Amateur Brain Surgeon

    Dear Dean. The observation by ABS is just a rewrite of the description made about the Florida peninsula by Shelby Foote in his Civil War Trilogy

  21. Dean Ericson

    ABS: It is a fine metaphor, vivid, and funny. I haven’t yet read Foote’s famous trilogy but your pendulous horse’s d’oover done whet my appetite.

  22. John Dzialo


    “Nausea” is, indeed, the proper descriptive………..Nausea with heaping doses of both dread and anger! If Morson is correct — and it is hard to opine otherwise — the present-day snowball has, in fact, met little or no resistance. The contribution, above, from McChuck (“History also shows us that the best way through this is to strangle it in its crib, without pity or remorse.”) may induce a cringe or two, but it cannot be cavalierly dismissed!

    Thank you for calling attention to this staggeringly perceptive article.

  23. MKL777

    If someone is got interested in understanding thinking of Russian intelligentsia, the linked above article mentions a “Landmarks: A Collection of Essays on the Russian Intelligentsia”, published in 1909 by group of Russian authors.
    You can read one of the those essays on scridb. It’s written by Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944), a son of a Orthodox priests, who lost his faith in seminary, became a lawyer and an economist, then Marxist, wrote serious papers on Marxist economy, then got disillusioned with Marxism, returned to faith, became an Orthodox priest and a famous theologian. (more details on
    The name of the essay is “Heroism-and-Asceticism. Reflections on the Religious Nature of the Russian intelligentsia” ( It has some interesting parallels (and distinctions) with modern western academia, media people and “influencers”.

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