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Posts Tagged ‘Leftists

The Victimology Gambit

A story out of the USA the other day struck me for its link with recent events in New Zealand.

It seems that poor old Dr Fauci ran into his usual buzzsaw of an an opponent, Senator, Dr, and nemesis Rand Paul, while testifying before Congress. He’s done several of these sessions now and they’ve have been rough for Fauci from the start but have only got rougher as more information about the Wuhan virus lab have leaked and shown Fauci’s past denials of involvement as the lies they always were.

Cornered by Paul’s latest follow-up questions, Fauci used a modern tactic of the Left. He painted himself as a victim:

Dr. Fauci then demands time to read from remarks attacking RandP aul for criticizing him w/o “a shred of evidence” and directly blames those who’ve disagreed w/him for the death threats he’s received & messages to family members.

He adds Paul is doing it “for political reasons.”

In other words: stop asking me these questions that I can’t answer because that makes me look like a bad guy in the eyes of the public and results in threats against me.

The tactic is designed to reverse the good guy / bad guy roles, stop the flow of questions about all this Covid stuff, and deflect to a new issue that the MSM can really get their teeth into, being threats to one of their Precious Supporters of the Narrative.

As this article points out, it’s a tactic that needs to be called out as the weasel bullshit that it is, and in this case it’s especially nasty given that Rand Paul is the one who has suffered actual physical attacks because of his politics:

Rand Paul’s been shot at and beaten up, as well as nearly mobbed by an angry crowd, and yet he’s still doing his job at great peril to himself. He chose this and he deals with the fallout.

Paul is actually missing part of his lung as a result of that beating, an event that caused much snickering across the Democrat TwitFace world and it was an Antifa crowd chasing he and his wife up a street, so given their standard tactic of “direct action” (e.g. violence) not to be dismissed lightly.

Fauci has a lot to answer for and he needs to answer for it. He can’t be allowed to weasel his way out of the hot seat by proclaiming he’s the victim of threats. Not only does this become an obstacle for answers and real justice, but it makes our society take these claims less and less seriously.

The bottom line: Fauci is a very public figure. He’s gonna get threats. People in the public sphere have been getting threats for ages and yet they still managed to do their job.

This isn’t to say death threats should suddenly be ignored, but they shouldn’t become the central focus. If you screwed up, then face the music. Painting oneself as a victim when they’re the offender doesn’t make the offenses go away, especially when the offense is being part of unleashing a virus that destroyed billions of lives around the world.

The link with New Zealand is that just the other day there were apparently reports about death threats being made against the Prime Minister. But every PM for years now has got death threats. These ones surfaced in the MSM just as Ardern finds herself on the hook for the corrupt, bullying behaviour of her dim-witted partner.

How very Faucian of her.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 15, 2022 at 9:58 am

The Bernie Sanders struggle session

It’s been a standard part of Left-wing belief for decades now that Big Pharma is just another horrible aspect of capitalism, especially American capitalism, where huge corporations suck vast sums of money out of the pockets of The People in order to line their own, and do so with the connivance of the government, both via corrupted politicians and its bureaucrats.

Bernie Sanders, probably America’s No. 1 such thinker, was at it again the other day, Bernie Sanders Opposes Nomination Of Biden’s FDA Pick:

“We need leadership at the FDA that is finally willing to stand up to the greed and power of the pharmaceutical industry. In this critical moment, Dr. Califf is not the leader Americans need at the agency and I will oppose his nomination,” Sanders said in the tweet.

You can see his point when you look at this.

The thing is that without all that power, greed and influence with the FDA it’s unlikely that any of these C-19 vaccines would have been developed in the record-breaking time they were, especially compared with the history of such things:

This history should not be a surprise when you consider the development process for a vaccine:

Bernie’s actually been rather shocked that places like Cuba and France, indeed all of the places he lauds as having better economic and healthcare systems than the USA, failed to develop their own vaccines. If he thought about this he might consider whether the lack of Big Pharm’s “obscene” profits might have something to do with that, along with the regulatory aspects that he also rails against.

And of course it sets up a conflict with Bernie’s other long-held belief in this area; that vaccinations should be mandated across the board, although he’s flip-flopped on that issue.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 19, 2021 at 10:05 am

A Civil Break, not a Civil War.

… “we don’t eat the same breakfast cereal anymore. We don’t read the same newspapers. We don’t consume the same news. We’re divided in every way, shape, and form in our culture, and thus it translates downstream into our politics”. 

In this post a few months ago I took a look at the growing talk about a possibility of second American Civil War.

But a second take on the matter has begun to emerge in the wake of the results of two criminal trials. The first is for young Mr Rittenhouse, who was found not guilty on all charges for having killed two Antifa members attacking him, plus wounding a third who aimed a pistol at his head. The second was for Mr Smollay, who was found guilty on all but one charge of faking an attack on himself by “racist, homophobic MAGA deplorables”.

Both trials have revealed that the split in the USA between two populations that has been observed at least since 2008, is growing wider. This is explored in a couple of articles. America on the Verge, and One Angry Nation, Two Wildly Divergent Explanations, both written after the Rittenhouse trial. In the first the writer looks directly at the context of the Rittenhouse shootings in 2020:

Political violence was worse in the 1960s and 1970s, but yesterday’s extremists lacked institutional backing. Today’s left-wing racial radicalism is different from the outbursts of the Vietnam and civil rights era. The inner-city explosions of the 1960s were ugly and destructive, but also unplanned and unapproved by those in power.

Compare then and now, when the most widespread and destructive urban violence in 50 years was cheered on by the mainstream media, the Democratic Party, and activist groups funded by corporate America. In 2020 alone, Black Lives Matter got $12 million from Google, and $10 million each from Amazon and Facebook. The organization received millions from video game companies, retail companies, manufacturers, hotels, sports leagues, celebrities, and wealthy individuals. 

U.S. embassies and federal agency headquarters unfurled Black Lives Matter flags as cities burned

That is a huge change between the two epochs of civil violence. It’s as if the various institutions of the USA want themselves to be destroyed. Given how many of the contemporary ruling class have marinated in decades of Leftist education whose analysis of the US is of a nation wracked by unforgivable Original Sins, that should not be a surprise. It’s why almost all of the same people jumped on the Smolley story to proclaim him as a victim and then Rittenhouse as the oppressor. They also likely think they can escape the destruction.

America still stands on the precipice of a dark abyss. The fact is, we live in a society where mass political violence has been normalized, and because it’s being used as a political and ideological bludgeon to threaten and intimidate the people of this country, the authorities have abdicated their responsibility to protect life and property. The people who have created these conditions are the same baying for the blood of Kyle Rittenhouse for defending himself from three of their own.

The second article is an analysis by one Peter Wood of a book recently published that tries to explain what’s going on in the USA, the author having interviewed a lot of Trump supporters

We Americans have become an angry bunch. On that Evan Osnos and I agree. Osnos is a staff writer for the New Yorker whose new book, Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury, surveys some of the same territory as my new book, Wrath: America Enraged. But on why we are angry and what it all means, Osnos and I diverge.

Osnos apparently wrote a very flattering book about Joe Biden and his campaign for President so that, plus being a writer from The New Yorker, gives a taste of where his latest work is going. According to him it’s all about irrational fear, starting with the 9/11 attacks:

Trump, the Tea Party, the NRA—they all made use of that rising unease of Americans who could not quite put a name to the anxieties they felt about the disordering of their world, about the puncturing of American invincibility, the browning of America, the vanishing of jobs to automation, the stagnation of their incomes. The language of force gained ground, Sarah Palin, in her appearances at Tea Party rallies and online, made frequent use of metaphors from the Revolutionary War and the world of guns. ‘Don’t retreat, reload,’ she liked to say.

Wood thinks this is merely the usual explanation that the Left loves…

… to psychologize away the dissatisfactions of the tens of millions of Americans.. who can’t quite put a name on their anxieties are the easily manipulated dupes of demagogues such as Palin and Trump…As Osnos puts it, those “already stewing in economic or racial resentment,” were not in possession of an ideology but had “a rootlessness of the mind—a loss of purpose, inspiration, and community.” 

Wood sees two things instead. First, that outbursts like this are a familiar part of American history and that the seeds of the current decay started a lot further back than 9/11 with the decline of admiration for self control and the rise of a new permission to display anger working its way into the broader culture. Second, that there are real reasons for the anger of the people that Osnos “analyses”:

Somehow missing in his 400-page plus account are the words that are seared in the memories of a great many Americans… Deplorables and bitter clingers are touchstones for almost every working-class Trump supporter I have ever talked with, and it seems odd that Osnos never mentions those words, despite quoting copiously from Hillary and Obama, and despite his interviewing a fair number of working-class Trump voters.

It’s notable that Obama’s contempt was actually aimed at Democrat voters who chose Hillary Clinton over him in the 2008 Pennsylvania primary, and that Hillary attacked him for his “arrogance” as well as being “elitist and out of touch” – before doing the same thing in 2016. Those voters likely still voted for Obama in 2008. In 2016 many must have voted for Trump when he won that same state.

[Had Osnos heard them it] would cast doubt on the idea that the Tea Party and the populist movement that followed it were rooted in “fear.” The roots of that movement were righteous fury, not baffled distress or unfocused anxiety. People understood perfectly well that a new governing class had arisen determined to overturn democratic norms and our self-governing republic and to replace them with domination by self-serving “experts” and a globalized elite.

English ex-pat writer (and North England Working Class boy) Clive Crook, had spotted this in 2016, Donald Trump, Class Warrior, which is very much worth re-reading together with these pieces.

Apparently Osnos thinks that things will calm down after a while and these people “will settle down to enjoy the normalcy of American life. The normalcy he has in mind, of course, is the dispensation of permanent progressive government.

Woods does not agree and explains why in both the article and in his own book, Wrath. In this he would no doubt be interested in the following two comments. The first one from the Chicago Boyz blog, written a year ago:

We’re already at the split. We read different books, watch different movies and television shows – those of us who still watch movies and television – follow different celebrities, earn a living in different ways, educate our children differently. We honor different things, different heroes and heroines, have wildly different aspirations and hopes for the future. We are already split.

The second almost identical one made just the other day by a Pearl Harbour historian while being interviewed about that attack:

“[Andrew Breitbart] once said, very adroitly, that politics is downstream from culture. Our culture, we don’t eat the same breakfast cereal anymore. We don’t read the same newspapers. We don’t consume the same news. We’re divided in every way, shape, and form in our culture, and thus it translates downstream into our politics. I personally think — and not that I’m hoping, I’m just an observer — but I think the United States is heading toward a breakup. It’s already happening.”

That means the numbers on this map may mean something more than just an escape from Democrat areas of high taxes, over-regulation, high crime and poor government – and the eventual result being much more than just Red states continuing to gain House seats from Blue states.

See also Secessionitis and Greater Idaho.

Child Abuse

Two examples.

First up from good old Portland, Oregon. Why anybody would want to try and raise kids in that Woke shit hole is beyond me since the lessons about its rulers should have been learned in 2020 while they allowed Antifa to run wild in the streets.

Forty degrees Fahrenheit is about 4.5oC.

It seems that similar things are happening in schools across the USA. The Federal authorities in the White House are okay with this BTW: it’s for the children’s “safety”. Moreover, as the article notes, Oregon Governor Kate Brown went maskless in DC last weekend.

The teachers are probably glued to CNN, where the news just gets worse following the firing of Chris Cuomo:

Written by Tom Hunter

December 13, 2021 at 11:00 am

Kafkatrapping

I’d used this term a number of times in the past few years but it was not until the other day that I found out its origin, which was when it was named and defined by Eric Raymond in a post on his blog Armed and Dangerous, in 2010.

The definition given by Wiktionary is concise:

A sophistical rhetorical device in which any denial by an accused person serves as evidence of guilt.

But I think this, from the original post, is required reading if you’re going to understand the term, especially since it’s become so common now.

The kafkatrap is a form of argument that is so fallacious and manipulative that those subjected to it are entitled to reject it based entirely on the form of the argument, without reference to whatever particular sin or thoughtcrime is being alleged. I will also attempt to show that kafkatrapping is so self-destructive to the causes that employ it that change activists should root it out of their own speech and thoughts.

My reference, of course, is to Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”, in which the protagonist Josef K. is accused of crimes the nature of which are never actually specified, and enmeshed in a process designed to degrade, humiliate, and destroy him whether or not he has in fact committed any crime at all. The only way out of the trap is for him to acquiesce in his own destruction; indeed, forcing him to that point of acquiescence and the collapse of his will to live as a free human being seems to be the only point of the process, if it has one at all.

This is almost exactly the way the kafkatrap operates in religious and political argument. Real crimes – actual transgressions against flesh-and-blood individuals – are generally not specified. The aim of the kafkatrap is to produce a kind of free-floating guilt in the subject, a conviction of sinfulness that can be manipulated by the operator to make the subject say and do things that are convenient to the operator’s personal, political, or religious goals. Ideally, the subject will then internalize these demands, and then become complicit in the kafkatrapping of others.

There is much more, presented in a beautifully coherent way.

Since this essay was published we’ve seen the growth of literally an entire industry – led by racist charlatans like Ibram “X” Kendi (real name Henry Rogers) and Robin DeAngelo – that have this as the primary method used in “anti-racist” training. It’s just amazing how many standards of civilized communication they can destroy!

The latest outfit that has fallen prey to this nonsense is, of all places, The Salvation Army.

No one can ever be innocent. Well, except the leaders of course.

A warning from the recent past

I admit that I don’t have a lot of time for Jordan Petersen, the Canadian professor of psychology who has gained quite a bit of media fame in recent years since his famous interview on BBC TV about the fight between free speech and the growing constraints on words that are “permitted” for use. In that case the interview was over his objection to being forced to use “gender-neutral” words in Canada and he rather made a fool of the interviewer and her “So what you’re saying” schtick! It’s worth watching.

But I’d read his first book, Maps of Meaning, years before and found it to be such unreadable wank that I quit just two chapters in. To me it actually seemed to have been influenced by the very obscurantist clap-trap of post-modernism that feeds so much of the Politically Correct (now “Woke”) and Identity Politics bullshit we’re being fed.

Still, this would hardly be the the first time that a person I consider wrong on some issues gets other things right, and the following is one of them. It’s actually from a few years ago and is an interview on the Joe Rogan Show where he talks about how people get slowly manipulated in the modern era with small-scale propaganda and efforts rather than the vast, revolutionary leaps used in the past.

“If I encroach on you and I’m sophisticated about it, I’m going to encroach right to the point where you start to protest. Then I’m going to stop. Then I’m going to wait. Then you’re going to calm down, and I’m going to encroach again right to the point where you protest.”

“Then I’m going to stop, then I’m going to wait. I’m just going to do this forever,” explained Peterson. “Before you know it, I’m going to be back three miles from where you started, and I’ll have done this one step at a time. Then you’ll go, ‘how did I get here?’ and the answer was, well, I pushed you a little further than you should’ve gone.

The Joe Rogan Show itself is an example of pushback as the former actor has turned himself into a “radio” personality. Or more accurately I should say an Internet personality via his podcasts that have numbers of viewers and listeners that traditional MSM sources would kill for. Rogan himself appears to be getting increasingly red-pilled away from his traditional Hollywood “liberal” beliefs on various issues.

Incidentally the process described by Petersen here is merely a version of “Nudge Theory”, which got a big public push in 2008 with the book Nudge:

The book draws on research in psychology and behavioral economics to defend libertarian paternalism and active engineering of choice architecture. The book also popularised the concept of nudge theory. A nudge, according to Thaler and Sunstein is any form of choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without restricting options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must require minimal intervention and must be cheap.

Without restricting options or changing economic incentives! Hahahaahhaahah.

A “nudge unit” is already inside the current British Government, as described by Brian Easton in this Pundit article, and the head of that unit has visited New Zealand several times, so it is not a surprise to find on the website for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, a section on Behavioural insights.

As one critic noted of the whole theory:

If the “nudgee” can’t be depended on to recognize his own best interests, why stop at a nudge? Why not offer a “push,” or perhaps even a “shove”? And if people can’t be trusted to make the right choices for themselves how can they possibly be trusted to make the right decisions for the rest of us?[31]

Well if they’re credentialed enough then the assumption is that they can be. Whether credentialed equals educated, let alone wise is a larger, often unasked question.

Naturally Brian wonders if we’re “nudging enough” and I expect he’s fully in favour of many a “shove”.

Money. Wall. Pissing against.

You may have thought that the current NZ Labour government was a shocker when it came to spending vast sums of money to no good effect, but as is often the case now, the US state of California leads the way.

As if the high taxes, poverty, filth, crime, killer fires, water problems and energy problems were not bad enough it appears that they can’t even run a basic book keeping process.

This is Betty Yee, and she is the “State Controller” of California, which means that she is the person responsible for:

  • “Accountability and disbursement of the state’s financial resources.”
  • “Auditing all funds disbursed by the state and all claims presented for payments to [her office.]”

Given that California is the world’s fifth largest economy, that is a hell of a lot of spending responsibility. Her office issued 49 million checks in payments worth $320 billion in 2018.

Being in a public office she’s also accountable directly to the public in terms of more than just votes, being required to produce information about all this spending, subject to the usual Official Information Requests that we see across the Western world. There’s always scrapping between such offices and the people demanding the information as to timely releases and so forth – no bureaucrat is ever keen on revealing everything to the proles – but by and large the process works.

So it was no surprise when some activist group called Open the Books (OTB), requested to see the line item details of all these payments, starting in 2013. The letter they finally got in 2019 surprised the hell out of them:

“The State of California, State Controller’s Office does not maintain a centralized vendor contract database which would allow it to identify all contracts regardless of the agency awarding such contract,”

That came from Yee’s general counsel Richard Chivaro, who went further:

“In fact, many state contracts are paid for directly by the contracting agency,” Chivaro continued. “This procedure allows the contracting agency to make such payments as expeditiously as possible thereby taking advantage of an early payment discount which may be available.” 

“Moreover, the Controller’s Office receives literally thousands of claims for payment daily. Claims are batched by date received and are not segregated, logged or otherwise tracked by agency employee or payment type. Consequently, because of the way the claims are batched and processed by this office, we are unable to locate or otherwise provide you with the documents requested,”

The fuck? In other words the Controller’s Office literally cannot answer the question of where all the money went in a $302 billion spending list. They simply do not and cannot know exactly who got the money because they just don’t bother tracking that level of detail.

Incredible. Almost beyond belief.

OTB is suing the state of California but frankly I don’t know how that can succeed: if the system doesn’t track this stuff at a line item level (or even a couple of levels up) then what’s the lawsuit going to produce? They have had to sue Illinois and Wyoming in the past to get such data, but they did get it in the end, and they did not need to take such action to get spending records from the other 47 states according to the OTB Chairman:

“We even get the checkbooks from the historically, systemically corrupt Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,” he said. “We do get the second set of books from there.” 

In some respects it’s hardly surprising given an earlier story that blew out of the same state a few months ago:

California Labor Secretary Julie Su told reporters in a conference call Monday that of the $114 billion the state has paid in unemployment claims during the coronavirus pandemic, 10 percent, or $11.4 billion, involves fraud and another 17 percent is under investigation. 

Nearly all of the fraudulent claims were paid through the federally supported Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The program was approved by Congress to provide unemployment assistance to those who usually wouldn’t be eligible, such as independent contractors. 

The even got scammed by the usual suspects, criminal organisations from Russia and Nigeria, as well as 21,000 prisoners in the state who scored more than $400 million, including 100 prisoners on death row

I like to think the latter group really just did it for kicks, given that they’re not likely to be able to spend any of it.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 2, 2021 at 11:24 pm

The Northern US Confederacy

Classical historian Victor Davis Hanson is always an interesting read. Just one of his books, Carnage and Culture, being an unusual take on Western warfare by looking at the often unseen cultural strands that tie into how the West has fought wars during the last two thousand years.

His long-form essays are good too, often derived from his unusual lifestyle mix. He lives in California’s Central Valley in an old farmhouse owned by his grandmother more than a century ago, and observes the daily events there – but then commutes to the coast every week to lecture, thus observing the lifestyles of the Silicon Valley crowd and other elites. Unlike most other academics he knows both worlds.

Thus this latest piece, The New Blue Confederacy. He asks the following hypothetical questions that could have been put the American public in the decades following the conclusion of the Civil War in April 1865:

  • One-hundred-fifty-six years from now, in the year 2021, where in the United States will Americans most likely discriminate on the basis of race?
  • Where will citizens squabble over the racial percentages of ancestral bloodlines, and schools admit or reject students in part on the DNA of an applicant?
  • Where will free speech and expression become most endangered?
  • Where will states’ rights boosters deny federal officers the right to enforce federal law?
  • Where will the major cities be the most unsafe and the middle classes the most embattled? And from which regions of the country will people flee, and to which will they migrate?

His factual observations may come as a surprise to people who only read the MSM or who only have “Liberal” friends in the USA, but will not come as a surprise to other people:

But there is a growing red state/blue state divide—encompassing an economic, cultural, social, and political totality. The public seems to sense that the blue-state model is the more hysterically neo-Confederate, and the red state the calmer and more Union-like. The former appears more unsustainable and intolerant, the latter is increasingly more livable and welcoming.

The people themselves are voting with their U-Hauls.

The only problem with this scenario is that these people may not have learned anything and will simply screw up their new homes by voting for the same dopey ideas. An influx of Californians has certainly done that to Colorado over the last decade, and may do the same to Nevada.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 2, 2021 at 6:53 am

Psycho-pathology in politics

That of course was the title of the infamous piece published by Labour MP John A Lee just two days before the sainted Mickey Savage karked it back in 1940.

Labour never forgave him of course, as is their wont: nor, to be fair, did he forgive them. But the reality is that Lee’s crack has been true of all too many political leaders in history. Not just political leaders either. Several years ago an article was published that laid out the similarities between business leaders and psychopaths:

The hallmarks of the psychopathic personality involve egocentric, grandiose behavior, completely lacking empathy and conscience. Additionally, psychopaths may be charismatic, charming, and adept at manipulating one-on-one interactions. In a corporation, one’s ability to advance is determined in large measure by a person’s ability to favorably impress his or her direct manager. Unfortunately, certain of these psychopathic qualities – in particular charm, charisma, grandiosity (which can be mistaken for vision or confidence) and the ability to “perform” convincingly in one-on-one settings – are also qualities that can help one get ahead in the business world.

I’m sure the average Lefty will have no problem making that association, also with certain Right-WIng politicians. Less so with their own idols of worship, like Michael Gunner, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory in Australia:

I see he’s had heart surgery recently so one can hope.

Then there’s this asshole, shown here on the cover of his book, published at a time when the US MSM was still slobbering over him.

Cuomo eventually got his beans because he’s another prick who felt entitled enough to get grabby with attractive young woman who strayed into his orbit.

But as this NY Post article put it, however low you think this scum could be,…. “There’s always more, and it’s always worse than you thought. Much worse”:

That’s one lesson from the state Assembly report, which reveals new details of Cuomo’s venality. From sexual harassment to lies about nursing home deaths and his forbidden use of state employees to help finish his book, the governor is convincingly portrayed as a greedy, dishonest man without a shred of decency. 

All of this has actually been known for some time, but you had to be reading Right-Wing news sources like RedState and Powerline to know because the MSM did not want to know, and certainly didn’t want voters to know, until the very end when it became undeniable:

The thing that I always wanted him to be hammered for was the very thing that was ignored even at the end:

The biggest lapse is how the report fails to deal with the impact of Cuomo’s infamous March 25 order of last year that required nursing homes to admit discharged hospital patients infected with COVID-19. The order also barred the sites from even testing the patients until they were admitted. 

Exactly, and the resulting death toll was in the thousands. At best he’s getting done for sexual harassment, his shitty book deal worth millions of dollars (a form of corrupt graft in itself, since the book was never likely to be a best-seller recovering the “investment”) and for lying through his teeth about the number of people he killed in those nursing homes:

Key among those is showing how Cuomo overruled Department of Health employees and reduced the number of reported nursing home deaths by about 35 percent on the very days he was negotiating the contract for his book deal on pandemic leadership.

It’s entirely typical that psychopaths don’t get done for the worst crimes they committed. Still, like Al Capone getting jailed for tax evasion rather than murder, I suppose we should be grateful that at least this much happened to the POS.

As always, don’t forget the MSM that enabled this creature for so long, just because he was a Democrat and not Trump, and how they enable many others too with displays of sycophantic stenography.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 26, 2021 at 12:09 pm

Crystallization, Madness and Tyranny

Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own.

There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as
protection against political despotism.


On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

That famous quote actually came about because Mill – the son of a famous economist who also contributed to the somewhat crude theory of utilitarianism (as did his son), which I must admit increasingly dominates our world, especially now – was in the end influenced and changed by that close observer of democracy, Tocqueville, and his notion of the tyranny of the majority, who pointed out that the tyranny unique to democracy gave rise to “the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion” in the social sphere, in our so-called free societies. It moved Mill to write his great plea for free speech.

The reason this came up in my reading was due to a lengthy (38 pages) and very thoughtful article published in Tablet magazine, Needle Points, which attempts to explore the world of “vaccine hesitancy” from an intellectual medical standpoint rather than the crude and simple-minded abuse that fills the screens of the MSM and more than a little of FaceTwit (full PDF version here). The author, Norman Doidge, is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

He writes of one insight into vaccination from his days at medical school:

At times modern science and modern medicine seem based on a fantasy that imagines the role of medicine is to conquer nature, as though we can wage a war against all microbes with “antimicrobials” to create a world where we will no longer suffer from infectious disease. Vaccination is not based on that sterile vision but its opposite; it works with our educable immune system, which evolved millions of years ago to deal with the fact that we must always coexist with microbes; it helps us to use our own resources to protect ourselves. Doing so is in accord with the essential insight of Hippocrates, who understood that the major part of healing comes from within, that it is best to work with nature and not against it.

It is an unusual aspect of modern medicine, which can seem overly “cold and clinical”, the stereotype of that term in fact. He writes of the two sides of what he calls the behavioral immune system:

… ever since they were made available, vaccines have been controversial, and it has almost always been difficult to have a nonemotionally charged discussion about them. One reason is that in humans (and other animals), any infection can trigger an archaic brain circuit in most of us called the behavioral immune system (BIS). It’s a circuit that is triggered when we sense we may be near a potential carrier of disease, causing disgust, fear, and avoidance. It is involuntary, and not easy to shut off once it’s been turned on.

It’s useful, but:

One of the reasons our discussions of vaccination are so emotionally radioactive, inconsistent, and harsh, is that the BIS is turned on in people on both sides of the debate. Those who favor vaccination are focused on the danger of the virus, and that triggers their system. Those who don’t are focused on the fact that the vaccines inject into them a virus or a virus surrogate or even a chemical they think may be poisonous, and that turns on their system. Thus both sides are firing alarms (including many false-positive alarms) that put them in a state of panic, fear, loathing, and disgust of the other.

And now these two sides of the vaccination debate are tearing America apart. . .

America? The world.

We see it firing every day now, when someone drives alone wearing a mask, or goes for a walk by themselves in an empty forest masked, or when someone—say with good health and no previous known adverse reactions to vaccines—hears that a vaccine can in one in 500,000 cases cause death, but can’t take any comfort that they have a 99.999% chance of it not happening because it potentially can. Before advanced brain areas are turned on and probabilities are factored in, the BIS is off and running.

Meh. The human brain is not equipped to understand probability. But the aspect of a mass of numbers is not just about probability but something more viciously concrete:

It seems to me especially vital that we broaden our understanding of the history and current state of vaccines because, over the summer, many who chose vaccination for themselves concluded that it is acceptable to mandate vaccines for others, including those who are reluctant to get them. That majority entered a state of “crystallization”–a term I borrow from the French novelist Stendhal, who applied it to the moment when a person first falls in love: Feelings that may have been fluid become solid, clear, and absolute, leading to all-or-nothing thinking, such that even the beloved’s blemishes become signs of their perfection.

Crystallization, as I’m using it here, happens within a group that has been involved in a major dispute. For a while there is an awareness that some disagreement is in play, and people are free to have different opinions. But at a certain point–often hard to predict and impossible to measure because it is happening in the wider culture and not necessarily at the ballot box–both sides of the dispute become aware that, within this mass of human beings, there is now a winner. One might say that a consensus arises that there is now a majority consensus. Suddenly, certain ideas and actions must be applauded, voiced, obeyed, and acted on, while others are off limits.

It sounds like witch burning, or perhaps in a less damaging form, a version of the focus of the famous book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. But Doidge brings us back to Tocqueville:

One person who understood how this works intuitively was Alexis de Tocqueville. In democracies, as long as there is not yet a majority opinion, a range of views can be expressed, and it appears there is a great “liberty of opinion,” to use his phrase.

But once a majority opinion forms, it acquires a sudden social power, and it brings with it pressure to end dissent. A powerful new kind of censorship and coercion begins in everyday life (at work, school, choir, church, hospitals, in all institutions) as the majority turns on the minority, demanding it comply. Tocqueville, like James Madison, was concerned about this “the tyranny of the majority,” which he saw as the Achilles’ heel of democracy.

It isn’t only because divisiveness created a minority faction steeped in lingering resentment; it’s also because minorities can sometimes be more right than majorities (indeed, emerging ideas are, by definition, minority ideas to start with). The majority overtaking the minority could mean stamping out thoughts and actions that would otherwise generate progress and forward movement.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson made that point about Western societies, especially democracies, many times in his book Carnage and Culture. I think we’re losing that in our technocratic age, dominated by giant monopoly IT companies that increasingly control our discourse.

It is a fascinating moment when this sort of crystallization happens in a mass culture like America’s, because seemingly overnight even the definition of legitimate speech (or thought or action) also changes. Tocqueville observed that quite abruptly a person can no longer express opinions or raise questions that only days before were acceptable, even though no facts of the matter have changed. At an individual level, people who were within the bounds can be surprised to find themselves “tormented by the slights and persecutions of daily obloquy.” Once this occurs, he wrote, “your fellow-creatures will shun you like an impure being, and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in their turn.”

We are so close to this here in New Zealand. Far closer than in the federated world of the USA, where actual states, almost nations in themselves, can chart different courses. But in a nation state such as ours there is only one course, that determined by Parliamentary Supremacy, boosted by a majority government not anticipated by the supporters if MMP. The only reason I voted for National in 2002 was precisely to prevent Helen Clark, competent as she was, getting FPP control.

And so…

A June 2021 Gallup poll found that, among the vaccinated, 53% now worry most about those choosing not to get vaccinated, “surpassing concerns about lack of social distancing in their area (27%), availability of local hospital resources and supplies (11%), and availability of coronavirus tests in their area (5%).” True to the BIS’s impulses, this fear is metastasizing into disgust, even hatred, of those who–because they believe or act differently–are now perceived as threats: On Aug. 26, in a front-page story in the Toronto Star, my local newspaper, a resident was quoted as saying: “I have no empathy left for the willfully unvaccinated. Let them die.”

Heh. I have seen much the same on FaceTwit from (now former) friends and acquaintances. You can read the rest of the analysis in these sections.

CHAPTER II: The kernel brilliance of vaccines

CHAPTER III: A new plague descends

CHAPTER IV: Getting out

But one aspect of the crystallization that amuses/bemuses me is summarised very well by the following point from the article:

As of a September 2019 Gallup poll, only a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Pharma was the least trusted of America’s 25 top industry sectors, No. 25 of 25. In the eyes of ordinary Americans, it had both the highest negatives and the lowest positives of all industries.

At No. 24 was the federal government, and at No. 23 was the health care industry. These three industries form a neat troika (though at No. 22 was the advertising and public relations industry, which facilitates the work of the other three.)

Those inside the troika often characterize the vaccine hesitant as broadly fringe and paranoid. But there are plenty of industries and sectors that Americans do trust. Of the top 25 U.S. industry sectors, 21 enjoy net positive views from American voters. Only pharma, government, health care, and PR are seen as net negative: precisely the sectors involved in the rollout of the COVID vaccines. This set the conditions, in a way, for a perfect storm.

You know who probably were the dominant members of those untrusting American souls on “Big Pharma” and the “Health Care” industry pre-Covid-19?

The Left. In the USA, the Democrats. Here, Labour and the Greens.

Politics and the madness of crowds can work miracles in changing people’s minds. As the Joker said in The Dark Knight:

Madness, as you know, is like gravity.
All it takes is a little push”

Written by Tom Hunter

November 25, 2021 at 11:13 pm