Something’s different here.
ASTORIA, NYC- What I heard the other day:
“Hello and thank you for riding the New York City subway. Please wear a mask and do your best to keep your germs and uninformed opinions to yourself.”
I stopped walking. Did I really hear that? I did. I heard it again a few days later. It was one of those public service announcements delivered by a celebrity … who have apparently been deputized as experts in matters of public health and virology.
I could have blown this off as another example of top-down collectivist behavior cultivation — propaganda by definition — but it seemed to represent something more than that: the new way of thinking in some parts of the United States.
In liberal realms like New York City we have entered a new age — a “post-facts” era that societies, usually disastrously, spiral down into from time to time. These are eras when repeating what you are told is more important than being correct; where evaluating the available information and making informed decisions for yourself is akin to blasphemy; where staking a claim on your own ideological island is seditious. These are eras where signalling that you’re ideologically aligned with the group is to be safe … as is far more valued than bringing new perspectives to the table. Right and wrong are no longer relevant, as are data, facts, and the best argument. It’s about power, stupid. The weasel perhaps put it best: “Now is the time to do what you’re told.”
Fauci says our very strength—individualism—has become a negative when it matters most. “We have too [many] individual approaches towards how we we’re going to handle the outbreak,” he says.
When I grew up my education and socialization was built around building a generation of independent thinkers.
“Think outside the box.”
“Think for yourself.”
“Stand out from the crowd.”
These were positions that were valued. We all wanted to be the one with new ideas, the outliers, the disruptor who could shake up the status quo. Our values were proudly touted to be the polar opposite of countries like China, where unsanctioned originality is often taken as a threat to the hierarchy and knowing your place is a fundamental part of getting ahead. Our unbridled individualism is now being hamstrung by calls of collectivism. The Enlightenment — the idea that people could interpret their world for themselves without the need for a priesthood of intermediaries — is even being challenged … and there is a cabal of new priests at the alters of public thought and law, determining what we can do, say, and think.
When I was a kid, groupthink was a bad thing; it’s now a sign of virtue. We used to say things like “Don’t question authority” satirically. Now we say them as commands:
“Don’t question authority.”
“Trust the experts.”
“Follow the science.”
A few months ago I filmed a group of anarchists attack an anti-lockdown demonstration. Think about that for a moment: anarchists serving as the strong arm of state overreach. Left has become right.
Trust the experts
“Trust the experts” doesn’t really mean trust the experts. “Follow the science,” as you may have guessed, doesn’t really mean follow the science. Both of these directives would mean reading a diverse range of contending researchers touting contending studies and make a determination for yourself. What they mean is “Do what you’re told.” Listen to the select few that have been handpicked by the government and multinational corporations, ignore their glaring conflicts of interests, and disregard anyone who says something different, regardless of how many degrees they have, how many papers they published, or how many accolades they’ve received. Also, for good measure, you should ignore the fact that these hand-picked experts have routinely been disastrously wrong throughout the pandemic.
At the beginning of the pandemic I thought that once the data began coming out we’d come to our senses. But that’s not what happened. Instead, they manipulated the numbers, and asking questions such as “Why are Covid deaths counted differently than that of any other disease?” or “Why are they doing PCR tests many times more sensitive than they should be?” or “Why are they continuing to lock places down when all data shows that lockdowns don’t work?” or “Why are they shutting down bars and restaurants when we know it doesn’t spread there?” or “Why are all these vaccinated people going to the hospital with Covid?” became blasphemous — the very stuff that can get you labeled as a conspiracy theorist and shunned by your friends. And then you start wondering how blatantly fraudulent studies could get published in the Lancent and The New England Journal of Medicine or why aren’t we using cheap and available treatments that have been demonstrated to be effective and then you realize that you’d better shut the fuck up because this is about nothing more than power.
And you don’t have any.
What conspiracy theories have become
It is interesting how our definition of a conspiracy theory has changed. It’s morphed from being something to write off un-provable rants about aliens and government coverups to any suggestion that runs counter to officially sanctioned viewpoints. Even with a mountain of data, expert opinion, and primary sources, if an idea contradicts the official take it’s labeled a conspiracy theory … and new wheels of censorship (i.e. social media and search) have carte blanc to shut it down — especially if uttered by individuals who vote for unsavory politicians.
In an odd twist, whenever I hear the corporate media use the term “conspiracy theory” my little ears perk up. There is a common saying in China not to believe anything until it’s officially denied. A similar position is rising in the US: Don’t believe it until the corporate media calls it a conspiracy theory.
Everybody thinks they’re an epidemiologist
“Everybody thinks they’re an epidemiologist,” is a common complaint that I hear from people who have become irritated by their fellow Americans for thinking that they have the right to not do what they’re told. Yes, everybody thinks they’re an epidemiologist, and they should. The foundations of our culture is predicated on this. America was a great experiment in a society divorcing from the control of a priesthood of ideological authorities.
The irony of our times may be the mountainous volumes of information that we readily have available to us that few will ever bother to read. You can easily debunk the propaganda of the priesthood but they know so few will put in the effort and muddy the waters of their own lives.
One thing that new arrivals to China have a difficult time getting their heads around is the fact that most Chinese have no interest in debunking their authorities, even when it’s clear that they are not stating the truth. They take the official narrative with a smile on their faces, as not doing so places the burden of truth on their shoulders — and who wants to make their own lives more difficult?