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ę Scenes from Houston | Main | Tuesday Overnight Open Thread (8/29/17) Ľ
August 29, 2017

Is America Now Officially Crazy?

I believe it is. I believe the dominant media culture has gone crazy due to the trauma of not getting their way. I further believe that their constant hysteria makes more sane people not actually crazy, but very stressed out and agitated.

If you've ever spent five minutes in the company with a manic or very anxious person, you know that such psychological states are easily transmittable. I personally know that when I used to have panic, that panic infected the people around me. (And actually, then I would sense their own anxiety and I would become more panicked-- a vicious cycle of sympathetic animal-level emotional transmission.)

It's all part of our pack animal evolution -- it's evolutionarily advantageous to pick up the signals of alarm (even subtle ones) from a neighboring pack animal. When his ears prick up, it's good to prick up your own ears. If he stops breathing to hear more clearly, then it's good to hold your breath too.

But those things are good only when the pack animals around you are sane and reasonably reacting to stimuli that seem to indicate genuinely possible threats.

However, when half of the pack has Mad Cow Disease and shriek and wail over nothing at all, this transmission of anxiety and fear becomes toxic for the healthy members of the pack.

Half of America now consists of barely-functional lunatics, and it's best to avoid them for all sorts of reasons.

I know I'm a bad blogger for not jumping on all of these Freak-Outs. I have felt guilty sometimes about not jumping on the internet on a weekend -- for example, during the Charlottesville incidents.

I do this for selfish reasons: I do not wish to be amidst madman shrieking and by being amidst them, become infected with madness myself.

But I sometimes justify this selfish aversion to doing my job as actually doing my job: As I do not wish to be infected by the viral lunacy consuming half of this country, so too do I not wish to be a vector of that lunacy, infecting other people.

Sometimes I pass on stories the lunatics are gibbering about. This Trump Tower in Russia deal, for example. It's not actually laziness -- it would be easy enough just to link it and say "This is probably bullshit." I just did a very easy link in the previous post.

Takes no time or effort.

But I sort of would like to do more than that -- by which I mean doing less. Rather than even acknowledging these stories and putting up some kind of half-thought rebuttal to them, I'd like to do more.

By doing less. By not even acknowledging them.

I do not credit the ravings of the mentally unwell as my usual SOP; I don't see why I should do so just because there are so many more mentally unwell persons shrieking about at the moment.

I can only tell you I've been out with politically minded people and I've watched them freak out as they check the twitter feeds. Their voices become higher pitched and faster paced; they begin becoming apprehensive, agitated, and anxious.

When they tell me the latest bout of Twitter Lunatic Shrieking, I tell them the truth, as calmly as I can: I don't care.

John Ekdahl made a good point about two months ago. One day he asked, "Does anyone remember what the freak-out was about before this latest freak-out?"

The previous freak-out had occurred just 48 hours or so earlier. (Two days seems to be the longest the lunatics can go without a collective Amok Time.)

And yet, when Ekdahl asked the question: I could not for the life of me recall whatever Shrieking Hysterical Horror had so consumed Internet People just 48 hours prior. I knew it was something -- it's always something -- but I failed John Ekdahl's test. (Or, maybe, passed it.) I could not in fact remember the last This Changes Everything and History Will Never Be the Same Again monumental event that had come and gone like a fart on the hurricane deck of a ship in a gale.

Now that I've self-justified my I Don't Give a Shit Anymore attitude and dressed it up as being animated by selfless regard for others and principle, let me link a few articles exploring this phenomenon of mass national lunacy.

Glenn Reynolds, The Crazy Years:

Very early in his writing career, about 1940, science fiction writer Robert Heinlein outlined a "future history" around which much of his writing would revolve, extending from the mid-twentieth century to the 24th century. Much of what he outlined hasnít come to pass, but he nailed it in one respect: We live in the "Crazy Years."

The Crazy Years, in Heinleinís timeline, were when rapid changes in technology, together with the disruption those changes caused in mores and economics, caused society to, well, go crazy. They ran from the last couple of decades of the 20th Century into the first couple of decades of the 21st. In some of his novels set in that era -- Time Enough for Love, for example -- he includes random assortments of headlines that may have seemed crazy enough back then, but that seem downright tame today.


He talks a bit about craziness resulting from reality failing to match ideologically/religiously based false realities, and the conditions that have fostered such a mismatch between the world as it is and the world as lunatics insist it to be:

What are those conditions today? I think that Heinlein had it right with regard to technology and economics in general. But in particular, I think the rise of social media ó and especially the widespread use of Twitter by journalists and politicians ó has made things much crazier. Thanks to the ability to block or unfriend people with whom one disagrees, itís much easier to live in a political/ideological bubble than it was even a decade ago. And my impression is that many journalists now write and tweet more to impress their peers than to serve their audiences.

And whatís the endgame? Well, this should worry people. In Heinleinís future history, the Crazy Years ended with the rise of the Reverend Nehemiah Scudder, who established a theocratic dictatorship in the United States. Sick of the craziness, voters picked a leader who offered a stable framework, even if it was repressive....

If you donít like the consequences, donít do the thing that produces the consequences. Anything else is just crazy.

Reynolds linked there a Scot Adams article: How to Know if You're in a Mass Hysteria Bubble.

I've written about mass hysterias roiling populations in the past, and no, I don't think we've "evolved beyond that."

Humans are human and will always be. We have not become "more rational" just because we have televisions and social media. In fact, we've become less rational, and less intelligent.

A mass hysteria happens when the public gets a wrong idea about something that has strong emotional content and it triggers cognitive dissonance that is often supported by confirmation bias. In other words, people spontaneously hallucinate a whole new (and usually crazy-sounding) reality and believe they see plenty of evidence for it. The Salem Witch Trials are the best-known example of mass hysteria. The McMartin Pre-School case and the Tulip Bulb hysteria are others. The dotcom bubble probably qualifies. We might soon learn that the Russian Collusion story was mass hysteria in hindsight. The curious lack of solid evidence for Russian collusion is a red flag. But weíll see how that plays out.

The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President. If that statement just triggered you, it might mean you are in the Mass Hysteria bubble. The cool part is that you canít fact-check my claim you are hallucinating if you are actually hallucinating. But you can read my description of the signs of mass hysteria and see if you check off the boxes.

If youíre in the mass hysteria, recognizing you have all the symptoms of hysteria wonít help you be aware you are in it. Thatís not how hallucinations work. Instead, your hallucination will automatically rewrite itself to expel any new data that conflicts with its illusions.

But if you are not experiencing mass hysteria, you might be totally confused by the actions of the people who are. They appear to be irrational, but in ways that are hard to define. You canít tell if they are stupid, unscrupulous, ignorant, mentally ill, emotionally unstable or what. It just looks frickiní crazy.

The reason you canít easily identify what-the-hell is going on in the country right now is that a powerful mass hysteria is in play. If you see the signs after I point them out, youíre probably not in the hysteria bubble. If you read this and do NOT see the signs, it probably means youíre trapped inside the mass hysteria bubble.

He then offers a checklist of indicators you're in a mass hysteria bubble, which you should check out. I think you'll find most of the indicators to be indicating.

By Stella Morabito at The Federalist, a piece arguing the nervous breakdown post-Charlottesville was deliberately induced by lunatics seeking to "convert" non-lunatics to their lunatic condition, so they won't feel so lonely in their madness.

Americaís Post-Charlottesville Nervous Breakdown Was Deliberately Induced

Americans are being emotionally manipulated to take up cause with those whose ultimate purpose is the repeal of the First Amendment and erasure of national memory.

By Stella Morabito

Wars are won or lost based mostly on perceptions of events, not on what actually happens. This is true for any given battlefield, whether itís the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam or the ideological battlefield over the future of the First Amendment as played out in Charlottesville in 2017. The reality of what takes place in the public arena is always secondary to any projected illusion.

So letís never forget this: Whoever has the power to dictate public perceptions of reality is in a position to dictate public opinion and behavior. Abusing language and images to stir up emotions is an ancient trick of power-mongers. And once journalism turns into unchecked propaganda, we become trapped in its dangerous illusions.

Only the teensiest fraction of Americans have any real interest in violent extremism, whether it be the violence represented by the specter of the Klu Klux Klan or the violence promoted by groups like Antifa who pretend they are fighting for social justice. But the media is promoting imagery of the former as a foil for the latter.

Why Are We Being Assaulted With Fringe Concerns?

Most Americans today are still just trying to live freely, to pursue happiness peacefully. Meanwhile, power elites in politics and the media are providing a daily platform for fringe elements who identify as white supremacists. Why would anyone in his right mind do such a thing? Again, we can only deduce that such imagery serves as a useful foil to lend moral high ground to ďcounter-protesters.Ē The media elites provoking them need white supremacy bogeymen in order to achieve their ultimate agenda, which, ironically, is to achieve total supremacy.

Against this staged backdrop, repeated over and over again, Americans are being emotionally manipulated to take up cause with those whose ultimate purpose is the repeal of the First Amendment and erasure of national memory. As Helen Raleigh recently wrote in The Federalist, this has all the hallmarks of an attempted Maoist-style cultural revolution.

We should be asking why these elites insist that violence-prone groups on the American Leftósuch as Antifa, Occupy,, etc.óare pure as the driven snow, as peaceful as sleeping babes. Obviously it disrupts the narrative to know that the Southern Poverty Law Center inspired gunmen into attempted massacres, including the one in June that critically wounded GOP Rep. Steve Scalise and the 2012 shooting at the Family Research Council. So maintaining the illusion of such groupsí innocence is what allowed Michael Moore to argue in a recent CNN interview that he was promoting a society of ďloveĒ while smearing as racist every one of the 60 million Americans who voted for Trump. Thatís a rallying cry for national division.

She then goes on to examine the media's use of emotionally shrill language-- the wail of lunatics -- and lunatic logic ("They call themselves anti-fascist, so they must not be fascist themselves!!") to drive the public crazy -- all to will into existence the alt-history world they'd rather live in, where Hillary Clinton is president and the media has the public's respect.

So how do you live and keep your mental wellness in our Post-Sanity World?

I'm no mental health expert, but these suggestions seem to me to be obvious enough that a non-expert can offer them without too much fear of passing on #FakeNews advice:

1. Don't take their insults too personally. Therapists in lunatic asylums don't take it personally when the six millionth schizophrenic who thinks she's a clever wit call them "the-rapists." (This is really an extremely common bit of lunatic "wit.")

It is the nature of lunatics to lash out against the sane, and to become angry when the sane do not share and affirm their delusions and manias.

2. Find a Pillar of Mental Stability -- Something You Can Personally Improve or Create or Build. One of the most frustrating emotional states there is is wanting desperately for something to happen... but having no power over actually making that thing happen. One can drive oneself mad focusing on a deeply-wished event to pass and yet having no power over making it come to pass -- one resorts essentially to invoking magical spells, thinking that just thinking really hard about the desired event and repeating the same words in one's head (or on social media) will conjure a new reality into existence.

Think about your first real stomach-upset, can-barely-eat, you-don't-know-if-you'll-survive this crush. Your first big one. Wanting the desired one to like you, in that way, but not knowing if the desired one did like you, or how on earth you could possibly get that person to notice you.

When you really want something, but can take no tangible steps to make that something happen, you can only obsess, stress, and perserverate.

Wanting control while having no control is a recipe for frustration and growing madness.

That's the position that the lunatics are in now.

But they're also putting the more sane ones in that position too, because we are forced to want and wish for them to be defeated.

Well, there's no way we can actually help them be defeated. Oh, I suppose at the margins, we can help in small ways -- but we won't have anything like the impact we'd like.

That's why it's important, I think, to cultivate a hobby, an interest, a charitable endeavor, a group with shared passions where you can exert some control. Sure, you won't be exerting control over the things you maybe wish you could control, but you'll have the satisfaction of seeing your efforts slowly work to achieve something tangible, real, and good.

Haven't read in a while? Start reading. Lotta good books out there. Some of the best are like One Hundred Years old and so are even free on Kindle (or 99 cents, just for the converstion).

Thinking about getting some GAINZZZ? Well, get some GAINZZZ.

Haven't picked up the guitar since you were 20? Pick it up again. (I'm told the amount of free and expert instruction now available on the internet for learning music is fantastic.)

Thinking about starting some activity the whole family can do? Stop thinking, start doing.

I think it's very helpful to have some areas in your life where you are challenged, and yet you can overcome those challenges through effort. A bit of control in one area might make up for some of the feelings of anxiety at having no control over so much of the world.

3. Disconnect Whenever Possible. I've preached this for years, but your phone is supposed to be your servant, not your master. Don't have it interrupting your life and demanding you pay attention to it by having it blare at you when a new reply to a Twitter has come in, or a FaceBook notification.

Who gives a shit?

You don't need the stress and cortisol. (Incidentally, anyone else get agitated at the sound of a phone ringing or an alert on the phone? Anyone else immediately get worried, thinking, "This is probably a bad thing" ?

Yeah, maybe cut down on that Stress You Affirmatively Sign Up For.

And I'm not saying disconnect from the internet altogether -- jeeze, you'd put me out on the street! -- do fix a time in your mind every day when you do in fact disconnect entirely from the electronic slave-driver and allow yourself to just be and enjoy the non-frantic bits of life, which people used to actually enjoy.

Cal Newport made a point in his book on Deep Work. He said many people confuse mere busyness with productivity.

Busyness isn't productivity -- busyness is just being trivially occupied at all moments. A lot of genuine productivity requires drilling in on one, and only one, thing, and just doing it until it is done.

Not flitting around crazily like a bat with misfiring sonar.

Similarly, one shouldn't mistake merely being "plugged in" and "connected" as a passive, stressed-out spectator -- hitting refresh on news feeds, grabbing the phone every five minutes to see what new History Changing Tweet the Blue Checkmark Mafia are all screaming about, watching Fox all the time -- with being an active participant in life.

Or even political life.

Allow yourself to be bored for a bit -- because you will find something to do, or read. You might even call your parents or an old friend, just out of the boredom of not looking at the computer.

One terrible thing about social media is that it permits people to fill "boring time" with effluvia that seems like it's not boring, but in fact is just slightly less boring than doing or reading nothing at all.

Like junk food -- it's enough to stop the craving, but not enough to actually satisfy the hunger.

Allow yourself to actually be bored -- or even at peace -- long enough to find something more worthy of your time than checking in on FaceBook or FoxNews.

A lot of people are addicted to knowing first. Being the first, or among the first, to see something on Twitter of FaceBook.

What is the damn advantage of that? What are the first reports besides garbage, inaccuracies, #FakeNews, and #HotTakes?

Why would anyone on earth every want to read something about major news (and note: 99% of news is not major, even in the Age of Trump, when everything is shrieked about) that the writer didn't even take four or six hours to think about first?

For purposes of my job, I should want to be among the First to Know.

On the other hand, for purposes of my mental health, I kinda like being Among the Last to Know. Time acts as a good sieve to filter out most of the the noise and stupidity -- and Dear Lord, there is so much grunting animal noise and stupid clamor nowadays.

Life is short, guys. No one ever realizes how short life is until they're looking at having only days or weeks of it left.

Tune out the lunatics, filter out the hate, embrace things that matter, and try to get off the white-knuckled machine of anxiety, fear, depression, and hopelessness Your Media Betters have made for you.

Corrected: Enough people dick-slapped me over claiming evolution had halted that I figured I should look that up, then decided I was too lazy to do that, and then just deleted the claim.

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posted by Ace at 07:31 PM

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