Archives for category: Social Psychology

Let’s all take a moment to mourn the passing of Climate Change Catastrophism. 

For years polls have shown that the bulk of mankind rates this issue very low as a priority.

Now, when other issues emerge to better signal uprightness — like “wear the mask!” and “black lives matter!” — the lip service people gave to climate alarmism, without (of course) really understanding the ramifications of the prophets of doom, the repeated failures of their prophecies, and the infancy of “climate science,” no longer beckons much cultish behavior.

That behavior is reserved for pandemics and racism panics.

While it is just as true that the “science” behind official pandemic responses and patterns of policing are just as shoddy and deceptive as that behind “manmade global warming,” the new ones are new, and more closely and immediately affecting everyday life, so they have extra oomph.

Will Climate Change Catastrophism come back?

Well, it might, but not, I think, bigger and better and stronger. It will be weaker, flaccid. All the people who have become skeptical about the lockdowns and mask orders, and about how real crime stats in America apply to protest demands and riots and statue iconoclasm, will take their newfound skepticism and apply it against the garbage heap that is Anthropogenic Global Warming.

But I predict a new, better form of Climate Catastrophism could emerge, and should: the one that recognizes that the real global threat to civilization, humanity, and life on this planet is extra-terrestrial hits by asteroids, comets, and mass coronal mass ejections (from the Sun).

Maybe after people realize that hair-shirt-wearing religious posturing that serves to replace the doctrine of Original Sin with some secular analogue is an embarrassment to all mankind — or at least that small fraction of intelligent terrestrial life — we can deal with real threats in a rational way.

OK. Stop laughing.

twv

Our civilization lost an imaginary benevolent omnipotent god and imagined an omnipotent benevolent state. Thus we unshackled it from the chains of liberal limits. 

But this experiment in moral and political innovation did teach us a lesson. We found that benevolence is not a defining feature of the state, regardless of intent, and cannot likely be made so.

But we also learned that squaring our fantasies with reality can provide endless intellectual gymnastics that make angel-dancing on pinheads look like the hokey-pokey, against which our ideological cavorting appears as nothing other than a vampiric tarantella, or, worse yet, a totentanz

Religions serve a function, by exaptation.

But experiments more than suggest any metaphysical fixation can provide that same function. What is needed is a somewhat ritualistic or attention-centering contemplation of an ego-transcendent object — it could be a rite or myth or metaphysical schema or puzzle, even, that allows us to transcend the narrow confines of our normal egoistic imagination. Such exercises can provide the signaling necessary to encourage cooperation. Both in ego and in alter, self and in other.

Trick is, this device, which could be a philosophy, or an ideology, or even an art form, needs to forswear the impossible imagining of an omnipotent benevolent state, for — as Nietzsche said — the state is the coldest of all cold monsters.

twv

There is a reason for the ideological divide regarding pandemic “mitigation,” why progressives generally love the lockdown pseudo-quarantines: it feeds their prime conceit, the notion that the freedom of all must be sacrificed for the good of the most vulnerable.

In this case, the most vulnerable just happen to be aging Boomers and senescent Silents. And the corpulent. And other immune-compromised medical cases.

Having once been corpulent, and still being overweight, and having just entered my seventh decade of life, I knew early on that I was in a compromised position. But shutting down commerce to protect me is something that would never have crossed my mind.

The idea of demanding extreme mitigation strikes me as effrontery bordering on tyranny.

But progressives have no such compunctions. They hold to the principle of sacrificing the freedom of all for the lives of a few. That is their chief fixation. Because some people are vulnerable to misfortune, no one must be free to make their fortunes.

Traditionally, Americans see the political ideal as “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Progressives see this series in a different order: “Life, a stab at happiness, and liberty.” In cases where there is any conflict of the goals in this series, you sacrifice them by order.

That is, you first achieve life — and that’s life for everyone. Then you guarantee a chance at happiness for everyone, equally. Then, if the situation allows, you obtain what liberty you can for as many people as you can.

This revision of the order of ends, conceived ordinally rather than as many classical liberals and libertarians do, as a rhetorical pleonasm — three different views of the same thing, as Hokusai viewed Mount Fuji — is a key to understanding the progressive mind.

But we must add to this the messianic mindset: for progressives, as for most socialists, the “vulnerable” are seen as outsiders, as members of some out-group, and successful insiders are by definition or imaginative fiat their oppressors. That is, successful insiders, merely for not ensuring the success of those on the outs therefore must count as “oppressors.”

So the “privilege” of being an insider must be destroyed . . . or at least minimized — to rescue the un-privileged outsiders.

In America, the “privilege” of Americans is liberty, security, wealth, even health.

Progressives cannot help themselves: they must do their rescue. They must play messiahs. Their soteriology is always in play, and they are willing to conjure up revolutionary eschatologies to ensure the ritual acts of sacrifice. Well, strike “ritual.” VERY REAL acts of sacrifice: take from some to give to others.

Now, for individualists, sacrificing some for others is a perversion, the most horrifying social act imaginable — we would call it the ultimate anti-social act. But progressives see sacrifice as the whole point. These people are post-Christians. No act of salvation is worth it without sacrifice. Not sacrifice of opportunities forgone to invest in improvements. Not that kind of sacrifice. They need to sacrifice some powerful and privileged (as imaginary as that power and privilege often is) people to make the whole thing feel right.

But whereas Christians believe that the only sacrifice worth fretting much about be Christ’s sacrifice for their sins, working out their own sacrifices with fear and trembling away from the madding crowd, progressives must do their sacrificing in public.

Progressivism is inherently Pharisaic.

Which is why they tend to be such “Karens” regarding mitigation and quarantine. The joy is in seeing themselves as righteous in public, and for that there must be an identifiable group to be saved, and an identifiable group to sacrifice.

But we can take this post-Christian interpretation too far. There is something quite chthonian in progressive soteriology. We may have to look back to Ba’al and Beelzebub to understand the kind of sacrifice they demand.

How far back? Let me consider that in some future essay.

The problem with prophecy is that prophesying can change outcomes. 

Ask Jonah. He said Nineveh would be destroyed; in excoriating the Ninevites, they repented; they were then forgiven — holocaust averted. So, was Jonah a bad prophet because his prophecy did not come true? No. He was a bad prophet because he yearned for Nineveh to be destroyed.

The opposite effect can also be true: the self-fulfilling prophecy — as when speaking a prediction sets the situation up for the prediction to come true — which is related to the Thomas Theorem . . . which states that imagined causes can have real effects. 

So the very idea of prophecy links directly to important ideas in sociology and social psychology.

Economists also understand this pretty well — as when warning of a panic causes a panic, or, contrariwise, when warning of disaster spurs folks to prepare for disaster and therefore mitigates or even prevents disaster — and generally economists understand that predictions of a specific variety are well-nigh impossible.

The current pandemic has multiple instances of possible prophecy problems, as should be painfully obvious.

Prediction is a tricky business. Most people in the prediction biz are therefore also in the influence business. When we engage in predictions, we often find ourselves taking sides on outcomes, no matter how horrific.

Just ask Jonah.

twv

George Henry Lewes Painting; George Henry Lewes Art Print for sale
G. H. Lewes, The Study of Psychology: Its Object, Scope, and Method.

I often quote the highlighted sentence:

“Ideas are forces: the existence of one determines our reception of others.”

When I was a kid, my nightmares involved tilted houses with floors you had to climb up against the incline, roosters crowing at the window, and a yawning, chthonian Immensity that Jung would have loved to analyze.

The kids these days, though, have night terrors about environmental catastrophe:

One in five children are having nightmares about climate change, according to a British survey on Tuesday, as students globally stage protests over a lack of action to curb global warming.
About 17 percent of children in Britain said worries about climate change were disturbing their sleep while 19 percent said these fears were giving them nightmares.
The survey of 2,000 children aged eight to 16, conducted by pollster Savanta-ComRes for BBC Newsround, also found that two in five, or 41 percent, did not trust adults to tackle the climate crisis.

The Jakarta Post (Reuters), March 3, 2020

While I suspect that the brand X prophecy of CO2 increases leading to “climate catastrophe” is little more than a psy-op, the more I learn about the end of the last Ice Age, which humanity somehow survived — while most megafauna did not — indicates that we can indeed encounter great climatic terrors and that those terrors can haunt humanity for millennia.

Indeed, I suspect that the notion of an underground realm of the Dead as well as the terrors of “the Tribulations” and our civilization’s fixation on the very idea of a Millennium could all derive from the strange thousand-plus years of the Younger Dryas, through which humanity may have had to live in caves to survive:

I reference here the Human Origin Project, which does not appear to be academically acceptable, because the academics have, so far, proved remarkably reticent about incorporating newly discovered facts into the stories they tell.

The kiddies, these days, are told stories about a counterfactual present and imaginary future by adults who pose as their authorities. From these serioso story time moments many quivering true believers are made.

It is not necessarily a conspiracy theory to conjecture that one reason modern academics routinely evade discussion of the astounding destruction that occurred a mere twelve thousand years ago is that by denying the facts they can better parlay pseudo-science to make plausible weak-tea terrors like “man-made climate change.”

What is going on in our current climate is mere urination into the wind compared to the fire hose of the end of the Ice Age.

It may be the job of us heretics and apostates to throw a monkey wrench into the Great Global Warming Psy-op: tell your kids and their friends that their tax-funded teachers are almost certainly misinformed, and that they should be skeptical of adults (as well as, of course, children) telling tall tales to scare them into demanding political changes neither their teachers nor they, themselves, understand.

There are plenty of real terrors we must all confront.

Including that great, chthonian enormity of our future non-existence.

Sleep well.

“I’m not going to call them ‘conspiracy theories,’” said podcaster Michael Knowles about the growing reports and rumors surrounding Jeffrey Epstein, “because I guess they could be true.”

Well, that was embarrassing.

Look, I recently said something witless like this, too. But can we admit it? Conspiracy theories — conjectures as to secret schemes, plans, intentions, operations — can be true.

We are so programmed to think “ooh, conspiracy theory BAD!” that we cannot even speak logically in public.

Maybe we should all grow up.

The main trouble with conjectures regarding possible conspiracies is that they are hard to falsify. The nature of the beast. And this puts us in a sort of flapdoodlish epistemic situation. In the end, it matters most how you react to such a theory, and whether the theory is correct. Not that it counts as an “x theory.” Ah, that dreaded x!

There are a number of reasons we tend to like conspiracy theories, of course. One is that we know people to be purposeful actors as well as liars. So, realism. But only a few people can keep a secret. So, fabulism. More important, though, is that we like a good story. I think it was Iris Murdoch who wrote that “characters who plot make for well-plotted novels.”

twv

Not a few UFO theorists have noticed something very odd about their admittedly peculiar subject, the one we now think of as pertaining to “the paranormal” and “alien encounters”: the accounts vary, over time, in specifics, sure — but not much in generalities. While the look of the Others changes, they remain other in a few characteristic ways. And, especially, reported human interactions with them seem surprisingly consistent over the epochs: there is often “missing time”; experiences of “floating”; reports of telepathy and “mind control.” These are common across cultures and times and bodies of lore.

In the course of the last two centuries, the style of our interpretations of the alleged fantastic phenomena have gone from mythological/religious to Jules Verne-extramundane to stefnal-extraterrestrial. Encounters with Faërie and the Djinni, for example (not uncommon in the premodern past), and “alien abduction” scenarios (not uncommon now) are often startlingly similar to each other.

Further, encounters with beings in the sky in ancient and medieval times are often explicitly connected to the cultural expectations of the experiencers: religious at least up through the Fátima events; simple technological in the mid- and late-19th centuries; more obviously “alien” and seemingly extraterrestrial as the 20th century progressed.

Erich von Däniken has made much of this oddity, arguing that the beings whom humanity has been encountering are, well — to use the colloquial — “fucking with us.” The Trickster figure did not come from nothing.

Joseph P. Farrell suggests that the evidence here points to a psy-op, a sort of Grand Psy-Op masking the evidence of xenoterrestrials — not necessarily extraterrestrials — in a “breakaway civilization.”

Now, I noticed this cross-time commonality years ago. I had no direct experience with anything paranormal; I missed a “miracle” once by a matter of a few feet. Yet I have read quite a bit, over the years, and from my readings I noticed the common strain from folklore about wee folk and worse, to modern urban legends surrounding the UFO/alien abduction subject. But then I forgot about this connection (one has so many ideas going in and out of one’s head), and when I encountered it again recently, it sure seemed familiar.

Mere cryptomnesia, a common enough occurrence of faulty memory.

In my youth, I chalked up these the eerie echoes of high strangeness across the centuries to the night mind of our race, a susceptibility to confabulate and perhaps even hallucinate in ways that suggest Jung’s “collective unconscious.” But I also theorized that the strangely related experiences could very much be evolutionarily driven — that is, biological and life-history in origin — as in the common fear of snakes.

But I have changed my mind, recently. The rise in the number of — and even increasing government transparency about — Unidentified Flying Objects (along with Unidentified Submersible Objects, there are those, too) adds a huge ancillary data set that subtracts from the credence of the more comfortable “psychological” theories about strange encounters.

So I go back to the square one, and you may even now find me reading the Book of Enoch . . . and even stranger fare.

Note that it was my exposure to unexpectedly large amounts of credible-if-challenging testimony that got me out of my dogmatic skepticism, my almost-automated response of dismissal to each anomalous datum. What I used to regard as not requiring serious explanation, as fit only for “debunking,” now I try to regard as new information, though what to make of that information is hard to figure.

But just because one cannot explain a datum does not mean that it is worth ignoring. Indeed, one trouble with debunkers today is their readiness to cook up an explanation, however wildly improbable, that satisfies the debunkers but also throws out of court a whole host of anomalies.

Meanwhile, in between readings and viewings of documentary videos, I mull over possibilities. And the possibilities are not exactly narrow.

Yet, the most obvious conclusion is the one respectable people seem most afraid of. I have noticed how readily journalists do what Tim Poole did, last week, when they cover the current series of UFO disclosures: insist that they ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT ALIENS! 

“During the Cold War, a psy-op is infinitely more likely than we found nine alien ships. . . .”

What is interesting about this “lots of ways to explain this other than aliens” rap is that it has little to do with actual likelihood. You cannot talk reasonably about probability without some measurable data sets, and to speak of an “infinite” likelihood of non-alien explanation (as Mr. Poole did) is more out-of-your-ass talk than scientific, though it may sound science-y and reasonable.

To me it sounds like how Deists talked during the Great Awakening — very carefully.

What we are dealing with is “subjective probability,” a pure matter of personal cognitive comfort.

Now, some UFO sightings are undoubtedly natural phenomena — and by that we must include natural events beyond just swamp gas. The Hessdalen sightings sure seem less like technology and more like electromagnetic “ball lightning” (or similar), anyway.

But the accounts that really puzzle are not so easily explainable within the confines of normal science. Most of the UFOs we are interested in are said to exhibit material surfaces — that is, to appear as solid, in ways that the Hessdalen lights do not appear to exhibit.

What interests me is Tim Poole’s reassuring tones one minute — talking how it is “infinitely more likely” that what we are witnessing in the Bob Lazar case is a psy-op rather than “alien” craft — and then providing a familiar “cognitive bias” explanations the next . . . all the while claiming not to question Bob Lazar’s honesty. This seems bizarre to me. I have watched the recent documentary on Lazar, and the subsequent Joe Rogan interview . . .

. . . and it seems to me that Lazar is either lying, and therefore part of a psy-op; programmed into a carefully constructed delusion, and therefore part of a more ominous psy-op; or telling something close to the truth, and we are in Terra Incognita. Mr. Poole, breezing right over this, seems to want both to reassure us of Nothing To See Here and still be nice to a testifying whistleblower whose claims have become increasingly credible, over the years, in macro contexts as well as in micro*.

But this question of reassurance: is that the key to understanding how people are handling the current info-seep?

I suspect it is. Most of us do not want to be publicly humiliated as a UFO nut.

But it is wrong-headed. Given the reports that come to us, aliens may be the least of our worries, that is, if mass panic is what we are really concerned about.

For what is the real likelihood, here?

If it is just governments screwing with us in a Deep State Psy-Op of the first water, this suggests a malignity in our governments that should deeply unsettle any democrat or republican (an anarchist might more likely merely raise an eyebrow). It would mean that the Deep State is perpetrating the greatest fraud in history, instigating abductions, fly-bys, druggings, and worse along with sending mixed signals, publicly, to foul up everything and therefore create an astounding elite/rub class division, all to . . . fake out the Russians?

If it is aliens, on the other hand . . .

…a popular and quite comic meme…

. . . then the Deep State has been hiding information from most of the rest of government, from the American citizenry, and from the world, and for a long time. Why? Well, likely to protect us.

But what of the alleged aliens themselves?

Well, they are undoubtedly not to be trusted . . .

Claims to have first-hand knowledge of “aliens.”

. . . but they appear to have been at the margins of our civilization for a very long time, and could be doing worse . . . but apparently aren’t. Whatever it is that they are doing.

If — and I realize for most this seems like a big IF — what we are dealing with here cannot be ascribed solely to natural phenomena, and also not to our government messing with our heads . . . and it is not aliens . . . exactly . . . think of what else it could be:

  • Clandestine xenoterrestrial civilization, of recent origin;
  • Clandestine xenoterrestrial civilization of ancient, even deeply prehistoric origin;
  • Time travelers;
  • The real players in our Simulation.

I submit that at least three of these four scenarios** are each more disturbing than The Government Is Hiding Aliens.

  • A recent breakaway civilization, whether Prussian, Nazi, South American, or North American, suggests a disturbing threat level.
  • An ancient, non-mammalian race hiding under the oceans, or in Antarctica, or even on the Moon? Freaky.
  • And, well, extra-dimensionals playing a game in which we are likely mere NPC’s? Maybe Hindus would grok it, but Christians and Jews wouldn’t, would they?

Given the unsettling nature of these even more “out-there” possibilities, mightn’t we non-experts recognize this in our reaction? A word to the wise; a word to Mr. Poole.

That being said, I should admit that not all of Tim Poole’s UFO speculations are valueless, for he was surely right to remind people who profess to yearn for the bizarre that an alien civilization would be truly . . . alien.

Most ufologists I encounter online seem impatient or annoyed with the current disclosure talk; almost no one in the UFO community believes that the Government — some people in government, anyway — do not know what is going on regarding UFOs. The disclosure project at present is obviously a way to let normal well-educated (snooty) Americans (like me), who have at best treated the subject as fit only for sf lit, to adjust themselves to a greater and somewhat disturbing reality. Slowly. And the project (run, for better or worse, by the To the Stars Academy folks) appears also to be a way to allow government bureaus and military personnel to get over their fears of shame and backlash, and thus allow the biggest disclosures to take place.

As for me, well, I am willing to be convinced of anything, provided there is some evidence, and provided alternative, less outré hypotheses cannot better explain all the data.

Even, yes, the Players at the Simulation story. . . .

And remember, neither my preferences or yours are irrelevant to the truth.

twv


* Lazar’s story keeps on checking out. A number of the unknown things Lazar spoke about, initially, to George Knapp, have eventually checked out. And, in the course of investigation, it was shown that the government had almost successfully erased Lazar’s educational and work record. Erased.

** I do have one other conjecture that makes surface sense, but it suffers for being on the other side of Occam’s razor.

Perhaps we should define the difference between the political-cultural left and right in terms of the differing grounds upon which they become unhinged:

  • Rightists go crazy in defense of insider hierarchy, and of self and tribe.
  • Leftists run round the bend in defense of outsiders as well as in opposition to insider hierarchies.

It is fun to watch them, as if a sort of madhouse carnival. It is especially entertaining because leftists and rightists flip orientation — often erratically — depending on propinquity to power.

This allows left-wingers to say things like “Stalin was actually a right-winger” and right-wingers to call Nixon “a leftist.” And with plausibility.

One of the comedies of politics.

twv

Seeing through the political realm since 1977.

Everyone’s got troubles. But what separates personal and family difficulties from “social problems”?

Social problems, as a genre of concern and topic of discussion, form in at least two ways.

One is when a specific variety of troubles experienced by individuals and sub-groups in society appear salient because of their sheer number, called to our attention by their similarities. When extreme problems are of the same type and shared by many people, then we regard them as “social” even if non-similar and widely varied personal problems far outnumber the similar ones.

Another is when government, spurred by activists or politicians or both, try to solve these problems with policy, by heeding politicians’ hortatory to “come together” and present a united front, etc. And use the threat and application of force to redistribute wealth, set up bureaucracies, and regiment people’s behavior.

The second usually only happens after the first. 

An example of this trend can be seen in suicide. My neighbor’s suicide may very well be a family and community tragedy, a cause for sorrow and anguish. But only when seven or seven hundred unrelated people in the community kill themselves do we have a social problem that politicians and activists exploit with some plausibility.

Another example would be drugs. If I overdose on an obscure prescription drug, that is a personal and family matter. But if I overdose on a common prescription or recreational drug that other users also abuse to the point of tragedy, then it sure seems social.

That is how we get “mental health” crusades and the War on Drugs.

But in both cases other troubles suffered by individuals far outnumber these troubles. The disparity of reaction should be clear, however, We only publicly focus on what we can easily identify. That makes the difference. Indeed, we must find a pattern to see a problem worth solving; similarities provide the most obvious pattern.

Thus, what we have here is a focusing problem. Because we tend not to even see the most common pains and sufferings of most people most of the time, we do not regard them as social problems worth collective action: they are too disparate, not fit to be organized against with a blanket “solution.”

This blindness to the bulk of would-be “social problems” is probably a blessing. 

Most people solve most problems personally, locally. And considering the common failures of most public programs — as in Prohibition and the War on Drugs — it may very well be that the real tragedy is the diversion of our attention away from personal and local problem-solving to public policy and politics and government. 

So, social problems are identified by means of cognitive short-cuts that do not appear soberly rational. And, considering the usual policy outcomes, we should ask the next question: isn’t governments’ overstepping their zones of competence the real social problem?

twv