Understanding Suicidal Americans

Posts in this series

I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for people who vote on principle rather than self-interest. Lots of people vpte against their economic self-interest because they believe that some religious doctrine is more important. Some vote for the Republicans who have rigged the economy to protect the interests of the filthy rich because the Republicans promised to end abortion. I think that’s stupid. But at another level, it’s easy to forgive. After all, I vote for Democrats like Liz Warren who want to raise my taxes. This would be expensive for me, but I think it’s crucial for a decent society to work to reduce wealth inequality.

But even I can’t understand the rationale for refusing masks and vaccinations. That’s just suicidal, as we see over and over among the genuinely stupid. For example in the last few weeks, at least seven conservative talk radio hosts nad anti-vax anti-mask shouters have died of Covid-19. Their reasons vary, but all ignore the actual facts, including the safety record of the vaccines and the protection they give us. As an example, Phil Valentive said in a blog post that his chances of contracting Covid were “pretty low”, and his chances of death were less than 1%. In point of fact, at least 13% of us have caught Covid, and 1.6% of cases have resulted in death so far. But Valentine thought he could evaluate his own immune system and do his own calculations.

Innumerancy isn’t new in the US; most of us aren’t good at really big numbers. That’s why we don’t do research ourselves but rely on experts to help us make smart decisions. And therein lies the problem. These suicidal people reject traditional expertise.

Again, at one level, so do I. The elites who started the War On Terror are incompetent monsters. Elites decided to deregulate the financial sector. They were wrong and caused enormous damagae around the world. The capitalists who fought regulation designed to prevent climate change are elites. They are still busy wrecking the planet. The intellectually dishonest hacks on SCOTUS who have beat back our efforts to govern ourselves are elites. The list of failed elites is long and dismal. And none of them are ever held accountable. Not a single one of them is even shamed. And that’s before we get to Trump and his crowd of intentional wreckers. So yes, our elites are failures.

But that’s not what the suicide class cares about. They’re mad because smart people hurt their feelings. That’s the explanation offered by David Brooks in his article How The Bobos Broke America. Brooks read several recent books about stuff, and he explains that the “creative class”, of which he is a member, is a bunch of self-centered, self-righteous, not-nice people who are insufficiently sensitive to the feelings of the rest of America.

Brooks’ creative class consists of “… the same scientists, engineers, architects, financiers, lawyers, professors, doctors, executives, and other professionals who make up the bobos …” the group Brooks discussed in his book Bobos In Paradise. They came to dominate culture. This makes the other groups sad, or angry, or both, and so naturally they reject the class and its values. In that process, they reject the expertise that gave rise to cultural dominance. That includes the science and technology that we need to solve our actual problems. Here are some quotes to flesh that out:

1. The working class today vehemently rejects not just the creative class but the epistemic regime [defined earlier in the test as “the massive network of academics and analysts who determine what is true”] that it controls.

2. A third rebellion is led by people who are doing well financially but who feel culturally humiliated—the boubour rebellion. These are Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the rich St. Louis couple who waved their guns at passing Black protesters last year.

3. What causes psychic crisis are the whiffs of “smarter than” and “more enlightened than” and “more tolerant than” that the creative class gives off. People who feel that they have been rendered invisible will do anything to make themselves visible; people who feel humiliated will avenge their humiliation.

4. The reaction to the bobos has turned politics into a struggle for status and respect—over whose sensibility is dominant, over which groups are favored and which are denigrated. Political attitudes have displaced consumption patterns as the principal way that people signal class sensibility.

Like everything Brooks writes, this is slanted to produce a result Brooks likes. But there are a couple of germs of reality here. There is no doubt that the value systems of various classes of society are different. And there are in fact epistemic regimes. We saw a lot of this in reading about the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu.

Consider this post. Bourdieu talks about symbolic violence, meaning “…the capacity to impose the means for comprehending and adapting to the social world by representing economic and political power in disguised, taken-for-granted forms.“ In this phrasing, someone has power to enforce an epistemic regime related to economic and political power. I used neoliberalism as an example in the post.

Epistemic regimes govern most of our ways of understanding parts of our lives, including our social lives, and our spiritual lives, and the way we understand academic disciplines. There is, for example, an entire epistemic regime around our understanding of literature. There is an epistemic regime that governs scientific fields, as Kuhn shows. These epistemic regimes are regularly contested, as by deconstruction, or string theory. But there are entire systems devoted to managing and deciding those contests.

Brooks pretends that a “massive network of academics and analysts” controls the epistemic regime around political and economic power. As a statement of cause and effect, that is absurd. It would be equally absurd to argue that literary theory is governed by a massive network of billionaires and centi-millionaires.

To put it another way, there is no plausible political science theory that says that the interests of the filthy rich are entitled to dominance in a democracy or that any particular pig rich person is entitled to make decisions for the rest of us. Nor is there a plausible economic theory that says that oligopoly is a good way to run a market. True, there are economists and lawyers who tie themselves in intellectually silly knots trying to justify the current state of concentrated corporate power in the US. The oligarchy funds this network of grifters and PR hacks and supports their efforts to distort and mislead.

That takes us to the next step. The suicidal class operates under its own epistemic regime, one created by right-wing media and social media, right-wing pundits, Fox News and its competitiors, right-wing talk radio, and a massive infrastructure of support from right-wing Oligarchs. This epistemic regime is totally divorced from reality. It says to its adherents: you can’t trust main stream media, government workers, scientists, doctors, the health establishment, or any one other than us, because only we know the truth. Covid is just like the flu. Vaccines cause sterility. Hydrochloroquine and Ivermectin are great treatments for Covid.

The people who create and operate this epistemic regime are not Brooks’ creative class. They are a motley group of ghouls, amplified and encouraged by tools of the Oligarchy. And their epistemic regime is killing people.

213 replies
    • bmaz says:

      Oh, are they now? That is BS. Welcome to Emptywheel, but waltzing in with this kind of comment is not really a good thing.

      • Rollo T says:

        Asking seriously: 1. What’s your theory/explanation on the thinking of the anti-vaxxers/maskers/science crowd; 2. What to do about it.

      • Anomalous Cowherd says:

        Bmaz –

        I might need to recalibrate my sarcasm detector, but this seemed to me to be playing with “Branch Covidians”/“Branch Davidians” and wacko/Waco parallels humorously. Were you responding to that parallelism as inappropriate, or did you miss the implied sarcasm? (Since my attempts at humor are sometimes deemed inappropriate I would appreciate your opinion.)

        • bmaz says:

          To both you and Anomalous Coward – I did not really understand it as sarcasm, so maybe I misread it. and if so, apologies. Granted, the anti-vaccine/anti-mask people could be thought of as a cult. But it seems pretty different than the Branch Davidians, most all of which did not want to die. It struck me as….something, but maybe that is just me.

        • rip says:

          I’ve heard it stated that literalists don’t get irony/sarcasm. This is probably a good trait to have in a courtroom with a judge that wants the real facts.

          However, given your, bmaz, enjoyment of hyperbole especially in the sports arena; they are part and parcel.

        • Raven Eye says:

          The anti-vax/anti-mask people I’ve encountered — first or second hand — seem to really believe that they will survive — and that belief dovetails with the false info the ingest. Belief is, in essence, structural to a person. Hard to change.

        • John Paul Jones says:

          Family member has refused to vaccinate. We asked why. Told to to take a flying leap someplace. Further inquiries made. He says he wants to be “naturally” immune and hopes he gets the virus. He too stated that he figured he had about a 1% chance of getting it, so this figure is obviously a meme from someplace. Weird. Won’t be convinced.

        • P J Evans says:

          If he were vaxxed, it would be less than a 1% chance of getting it. And about a hundred times better chance of surviving.

        • John Paul Jones says:

          Agreed. But of all the siblings, he has always been the most stubborn, so my hopes of getting him to see reason are not great. He told me that I was a dope for thinking that Biden had actually won the election. So there you go.

        • Anthony Gerace says:

          I have two family members (by an amazing coincidence, both are young men) who refuse to get vaccinated against covid. I am not going to bother to convince them otherwise. When people decide to be stupid, they almost never change course and decide to become less stupid.

  1. Eureka says:

    Never discount the dopamine hits people get from ever-novel approaches to problems which are already solved (e.g. revolving list of rebel-insider COVID cures vs. vaccines+ & NPIs; similar pattern with reveals of the “real” political bad act(or)s, etc.). These plateau as a sensation of revenge savvy, if you will. Escalation is baked into this model. Cut the drug with some fear and voila!

    So I’d say they wanna be high (or not low) more than they want to die, but agree with generous interpretations such as yours re suicide cults (cf. climate), and that’s the hastened end-point for addicts in any case.

    You can look at these events narratively, too, as in how each of these COVID-cure schemes follows the hero story arc until it’s exhausted in martyrdom — here, by deaths; whether of heroes denied their cure or of storytellers to be ignored isn’t left to be lingered upon for too long until the next cure is pushed to the foreground of talk. Lather, rinse, repeat louder for the folks in the back. It’s the American Dream.*

    *sensu story or in a Levi-Strauss kind of way. But as bad as things are I do believe that a sense of safety over basic needs — including the need to belong; to do meaningful work — could undercut this real quick. It’s no mystery why they spear-fish in the Rustbelt and drop nets in the South, etc.

    • Vicks says:

      I agree, it’s a high.
      This “fuck your feelings” crowd has shoveled down bullshit for generations and now they are choking on it.
      Anger is the easiest emotion to access and these people are misusing it because it makes them feel alive.
      It appears to have all the markers of an addiction

      • Badger Robert says:

        That’s a large part of it. Anger helps them deal with the media generated fear. And they need more and more of the anger to stay afloat.

      • Kenster42 says:

        Let’s not forget the toxic variant of this, the anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-“elite” attitudes. It’s become cliche but is still reliable for funneling opinion back to the wacky stuff, because they’ve painted themselves into a corner.

      • Artemesia44 says:

        I think American leadership, especially Democrats, have totally failed to understand how much fun ‘hate’ is. And anger. If you are a hollow loser who gets little respect from the kids, the wife, the community, at work — being in a ‘militia’ and trotting around in the woods twitching your butt in ‘tactical gear’ is positively exhilarating. Hatred is a powerful feeling. And Trump gave these people permission to express these feelings by punching out restaurant hostesses, or fellow passengers, or other shoppers. They are assured that their hatred for anyone different from themselves or smarter or more successful is fully justified and should be expressed through confrontation or violence. The social norms that once kept us hiding our worst selves are totally gone now.

      • Anthony Gerace says:

        Yup. Politics aside, I know plenty of people who nurse grudges for decades. In a way, holding those grudges is the most pleasurable thing in their stunted lives. “Journalism” media outlets like Fox News, Breitbart, OAN, etc. have figured out a way to make a lot of money by creating and nursing new grudges for these people. Like drug addicts and drug dealers, they support each other.

    • Ed Walker says:

      On the subject of dopamine hits, see this post: https://www.emptywheel.net/2017/07/19/corporate-biopower-as-an-instrument-of-us-oligarchy/
      I think of this as the means to hook people into the right-wing epistemic regime.

      My dad was a conservative, but not a lunatic until he was in his late 70s, when he was attacked by shingles. The resulting physical deterioration left him at home a lot, and he filled his hours watching Fox News. Eventually he became so hooked he couldn’t even talk to his more or less normal children and grandchildren without ranting about the evil Democrats and Commies. That drove all of us away, leaving him isolated except for a few like-minded old friends.

      I think the dopamine theory helps me understand what happened to him. I also think some of the dopamine hits were the result of staring at their female hosts.

      • rip says:

        Ed – that is a good explanation for what I see every day.

        I deliver meals to many shut-ins and try to have conversations with them. Usually there’ll be a T.V. in the background running some news show (rarely soap operas, etc.).

        The more irritable people seem to not like other people, other cultures. I can understand since they are worried about the outside / the others.

        • MB says:

          In regard to “TV in the background running some news shows”, I have the following un-analyzed sociological anecdote to offer up:

          Returning from a vacation recently on a plane, I was sitting next to an early-20s woman (OK – a “millenial”). Since planes now all have live TV broadcasts available on seatback monitors, I punched up the MSNBC stream, but since I had no headphones, it was purely a visual phenomenon, watching Nicole Wallace interviewing somebody without being able to hear what was actually being said, and watching the changing caption at the bottom of the screen.

          At the same time, in the next seat over, my millenial rowmate punched up the Fox News stream on her seatback monitor. It was silent for her as well, because she was busy watching/listening to a movie on her phone at the same time. The captions at the bottom of the Fox screen were screaming about unprecedented levels of crime running rampant through all urban areas in the U.S. (i.e. “be very afraid”)

          I was momentarily overcome with a queasy feeling of high-level cognitive dissonance because:

          We were both silently watching news being delivered from opposite ideological spectra without hearing any of the words being spoken. And actually for my seatmate, the Fox news feed in front of her was strictly wallpaper, she was paying no mind to it at all.

          I’ll leave it at that…

      • Eureka says:

        Aging, too, is a loss (as construed by our culture) which they can hijack along with other lacks of self-control /-determination (as I sit here with a freak — as in no fun involved — household injury of the type that only seems to occur with decades under one’s belt: I can’t imagine Tucker bearing down upon me in my hour of feeling sorry for myself. Of course that they create the structural anxiety they turn round to exploit is another set of words…).

        They prey on the vulnerable.

        Somewhat like with your dad, they set hooks into my mom when she, too, was revisited by a childhood virus in old age [HELLO, this is another reason why we don’t want to play COVID roulette]. I’ve got quite a story about all that.

        There’s a superb, IMO unmatched, pair of blog posts that I used to share widely on how neurotransmitters interact (incl. ‘overflows’ into unintended consequences; paradoxical reactions) that I think everyone would enjoy but I can’t find them. Society has since become obsessed with nootropics and “building stacks” and no sensible search terms will unbury these old posts. # And that is why the Internet is annoying AF.

      • notjonathon says:

        Perhaps Southern water is muddy and warm, conducive to all kinds of germs and parasites, while Michigan or Wisconsin water is cold and clear, good for vigorous swimming as well as making targets easier to see.
        That analogy used to work for politics, too, but Trumpal warming has muddied Northern political waters, too.

      • Eureka says:

        Well, part of it’s that converting economically-based alienation into racial+ animus (the ultimate blame-shift: it’s not just dem pols who fail you but your fellow citizens who’d support them) requires a more careful touch among certain audiences, especially those who’d see themselves as socially liberal.

        So they spear fish (ad targeting; astroturfed “fraud”, antivaxxer, and other victim- / loss- oriented events; etc.) in some regions until successive conversions might let them rely on more passive methods and yield a handsome bycatch to boot.

        [And I’m not pessimistic on this, btw: the fact that these groups have to maintain and escalate a multi-modal full-court press of hate-grievance shows how much this is a tug of war in that the rope will otherwise fall. As things now stand.]

        In the post-Reconstruction South they can periodically re-fire a slow boil with less effort — so many Confederate statues a daily reminder — like a more wan version of post- WWI Germany.

        Dotted throughout the country but concentrated along the Rustbelt (and South, for that matter; rivers and other waterways being important to early industry) it’s easier to see the brokenness of abandoned factories and mines; Main Streets (and now, the malls) in various stages of death or revival; and multi-generationally (persistent, forever) spoiled natural* resources from industrial waste.

        “Economic inequality” is an unfortunately heartless descriptor for what all’s going on because it strikes at our most important senses of security and belonging — for and to our families, communities, and country.

        You like to go fishing?

        Great: just don’t eat the fish. And by the way — maybe you shouldn’t swim here, either.

        Your kids need to go to college to be able to get a life-sustaining job, the plant which used to be the city’s largest employer has closed.

        Actually, would you like to do some data entry? Bachelor’s degree, loan debt, and second-or-more income required.

        And I’m sorry to hear your other children died before you, leaving orphans of their own, of cancers from the invisible mystery soylent in the playgrounds — which you’ve figured out because your neighbors’ kids have problems, too, and there was that old [insert company] that dumped contaminated soil some decades back…

        The closing ‘etc.’ in my first comment means to include “inner cities” in how Trump, Bannon, and their priors try to tap into this idea of people who don’t (think that they) matter to America.

        *In contrast we have the _vision_ of unspoiled Noem-lands which must be protected from ruination by all this ‘otherness’.

        America the Beautiful.

        • Ed Walker says:

          In this scene we can see how things actually happened. The distress suffered by so many is the direct result of Capitalism unrelieved by democratic institutions. The filthy rich lay waste to the environment and the social and economic lives of millions, but this is normalized by the media, and the Rs redirect the anger at the Ds.

          That doesn’t happen if the Ds aggressively contradict the mass media narrative that this is normal and fine by pointing the finger directly at the people actually causing the damage and demanding reparations. But the Ds agree with the Capitalism Can Do No Wrong narrative. Cf. Obama’s statement that the Great Crash was just the normal result of greed instead of an aggressive prosecution of the liars and cheats on Wall Street.

  2. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    IMHO, religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination are tickets for Suicide by Religion. If they only killed themselves, that would be no problem. But they endanger children who cannot yet be vaccinated, threaten those with legitimate medical exemptions, and prolong the pandemic to enable new variants of unknown lethality.

  3. Leoghann says:

    Occasionally, Brooks will say something I agree with; this is not one of those times.

    I see the rise of the Owndalibs/Trumpist Party as originating in a rebellion against “political correctness.” Beginning in the mid-50’s and early 60’s, both the STEM and racial-equity movements began to pick up steam. As the accomplishments of space science, epidemiology, and pharmacology began to change life as Americans and Europeans knew it, the common (and very racist) assumptions about race also began to change. There were many people across the middle class whose basic conceptions, of what was smart, and what was fair and right, were called into question. We saw the racial struggles in the Southern states in magazines and almost nightly on television (still a new medium in itself). Calculus began being taught in high schools, and college degrees began to be seen as almost necessary to get ahead. As with any paradigm shift, some people were left behind. And it’s a standard-issue feature in human nature for those who feel left behind to be resentful about it. These major changes continued apace through the 70’s and 80’s, with a continued increase in pressure toward higher education and racial understanding, and along with it, increased accessibility of national mass media, which allowed the sharing of ideas and sensibilities from other American cultures and from one region to another. These got a strong push from 1961 to 1969, but then big business began to take the upper hand again, aided by the anger of the Dixiecrat South. After a quarter century of Republican administrations, punctuated only by the difficult times of the Carter administration, though, the Democrats put another man into the White House. The very public first American loss of the space age, Challenger and Columbia, was fresh on people’s minds, and Republican complaints about the high cost of public education had led to erratic funding of public schools. Added to that, the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 had allowed a wide opening in the public discourse for the extreme right-wing thought that previously had been restricted to a few magazines and small-audience radio programs. At the beginning of the Clinton administration, Rush Limbaugh began opening his show with words that had their inspiration from the Iranian hostage crisis, “America held hostage, day .” By the midterm elections of 1992, all that manufactured fury had stirred the electorate up into voting in the Neo-Con Revolution.

    Since then, things have definitely changed where the social revolution is concerned. Considerable strides have been made in both equality and equity. But along with those has come a new vocabulary, and even greater societal pressure to treat people well. Demeaning common terms for minorities of all sorts (as well as the majority sex) are now very publicly frowned upon. Social concepts that were only discussed in certain academic circles and socialist group meetings in 1960 are now part of public thought, and at times seem almost in reach for “first world” societies. But the resistance of those left behind has just become more entrenched. That resistance was first embodied in the Neo-Con movement, which was succeeded by the Tea Party, which then morphed into Trumpism. Donald Trump was the first person to attain the national political stage who was willing, and happy, to say the quiet part out loud. Our social throwbacks who have continued to be resentful about being expected to change, e.g.: having their speech corrected, found a voice in Trump, who refused to follow accepted norms in any area, and he was happy to play to that crowd. He refused to have controls placed on his racist, sexist speech and behavior, and he became an example of someone who was very successful (at least in the public perception) but who never had to do anything he didn’t want to do. Don’t want to pay your taxes? The Donald has been flouting the tax system for decades. Tired of having to deal with women on the job who have the same, or greater, authority than you? Just listen to what The Donald can do to women. Don’t like the way the last election turned out? Well, here’s what to say about it while we’re working on a coup. Don’t like certain other nasty facts of life in the 21st Century? Just deny them–if enough of us refuse to acknowledge how things are, we can have the reality we imagine. And count on there always being enough grifters and demagogues to publicly support whatever it is you don’t want to believe. By now, these “left behind” people have so much emotional investment in their false reality–a world where there’s no pandemic, no need to take a shot (remember how you hated those in elementary school?), and where scientific knowledge is just a stupid theory–that they don’t really care what’s true. They’ll carry their rebellion to their graves, as more and more are having to do.

      • skua says:

        I doubt anyone here will accept your apology.

        You’ve put into clear and coherent form an historical sequence that has been diffuse and cloudy for me.

        I think the options available are you either get praised or tarred and feathered.
        I’m for the former.

      • Troy P says:

        I also do not think apologies are necessary. The only thing I would add is the destructive ideology ushered in by St. Ronnie that government is not the answer to the problem, but rather that government is the problem. The 40+ year effort to undo the efforts from FDR to LBJ is, imho, dangerously close to being complete.

    • MB says:

      No, good rant!

      I would just alter the wording of one sentence to match my feelings. That sentence is “if enough of us refuse to acknowledge how things are, we can have the reality we imagine”.

      I would say “if enough of use refuse to acknowledge how things are, we can have the shared delusion we imagine”.

      The difference between “reality” and “delusion” is that delusion is by its nature, exclusive and ignorant of existing phenomena. OTOH, reality is inclusive and accepting of existing phenomena.

      (I’m a great admirer of the Philip K. Dick definition of reality: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”)

      And the corollary to all of that: delusion is that which requires passionate and unyielding belief to keep pesky existing phenomena away from the light of awareness. And when you have a group of fellow loonies reinforcing that, it becomes both less lonely and easier to accomplish – the raison d’etre of why cults can be a viable form of social organization…for some.

      My turn now: sorry for the rant!

      • Dave_MB says:

        I think you’re technically correct, but they’re living in ‘their’ reality where Covid is no more serious than the flu. Yes, facts…and death get in their way, but their group delusion builds their reality.

        And yes, I realize it’s mass hysteria. But it’s comforting for them.

        • MB says:

          Those of us who would consider ourselves relatively sane, are involuntarily gaining experience with what it means to live in the midst of mass hysteria. We all need to get much better with learning how to effectively poke holes into the seemingly-impenetrable cult bubble that those folks are living inside of.

    • Jane says:

      WOW! Leoghann – Thank you. I’m not smart enough; so I stay quiet here and try to learn, but I gotta say, that was amazing !

    • BobCon says:

      The root of Brooks’ misdiagnosis is his miserable solipsistic divorce from US culture..

      CNN has been run for a decade by Jeff Zucker, the idiot who thought handing over hours of NBC’s primetime was ratings gold.

      He is so deeply unaware of what is happening and yet he is trying to diagnose who is actually running the show. It won’t work, no matter what superficial self deprecating gloss he puts on it, as long as he never digs in to what is really out there.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I credit Brooks with being reasonably smart and, once in a blue moon, hard working. I think he understands the world better than his columns suggest. He knows, for example, that so-called bourgeois bohemians are a minority of Americans, and that they are not much in evidence in the PA diners he wrote about but never went to. They are more like the caricatures of Rob and Laura Petrie, invented by the X-Files, who searched for a garbage monster that lived under the lawns of a suburban gated community.

        But Brooks is obsessed with his own lucrative conservative political and culture war, in defense of which no argument is too facetious, however drowned it might be in obscure references, and no fiction is too great not to write about.

        • Cato the Censor says:

          David Brooks’s sole purpose in life is to draw a smiley face on the reactionary movement. I wouldn’t trust Brooks to get anything right except possibly the time of day and even then I’d ask someone else too just to be sure.

    • Ed Walker says:

      This is a helpful perspective, not a rant. If I could suggest one thing? In longer comments, it’s good to use a lot of short paragraphs. That makes it easier to follow the thinking.

    • Midtowngirl says:

      I think the role of Cognitive Dissonance and Confirmation Bias deserves a place in understanding the motivations of anti-vaxxers, and the MAGA mindset in general.
      The fuel for emotional investment include the strong feelings of cognitive dissonance that come when maintaining such nonsensical beliefs as Covid is no worse than the flu, while people within your own social circle are getting ill and dying. The feeling of unease caused by that dichotomy has to be dealt with, either by changing your belief, or unfortunately for most anti-vaxxers, digging in and becoming even more entrenched in the belief causing the dissonance.
      Confirmation bias, information that readily supports the dissonant belief, is readily available in all of the forms mentioned above and by others – including the now deceased talk radio hosts.
      To further complicate matters, the more dissonant beliefs a person adheres to, the more interwoven and locked in each of those become.
      Truly fascinating stuff, but doesn’t bring us much closer to how to go about “deprogramming” these folks.

  4. Dopey-o says:

    These adherents to the cult live in an information bubble that is promoted by billionaire oligarch-wann-bes.
    I know the answer to “Cui bono?” but how do we get them to see that?

  5. jaango1 says:

    Given the current ‘discussion’ that is the subject of this wonderful thread of Walker’s, of which the commenters are touting the three ‘subjects’ of democratic speculation, I am of the quaint view that the “Unassailable Common Sense” is intentionally absent. And by this, we, the Chicanos have failed to challenge today’s ‘hit and miss’ Democracy.

    Today’s there are over well over 8000 Chicano Elected Officials, and yet, none have taken any effort, public or private, to challenge the DOJ or the FBI, for charging or prosecuting the over 5, 000 assailants that participated in the January 6th Insurrection/Terrorism incident. For example, these high card terrorists, expressed themselves, and we, the Jury Pool, were not given the opportunity to reach a legal decision to determine, if this Insurrection or Terrorism, was a function of a well-organized Democracy or a outlier of criminal stupidity and where our inattention to “unassailable common sense” was absent and intentionally so.

    And yes, this is my rant of today, and thusly, we, the Chicanos failed to stand up to and for our responsibilities and obligations to “defend and protect.”

  6. greengenes says:

    Here’s the science… and what is probable…

    The kill rate of COVID equals the COVID death incidence per year / total population x 100%

    332,475,723 = The US Population, https://www.census.gov/popclock/
    657,393 = The Number of Americans who have died of COVID, https://usafacts.org/visualizations/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-map/ [over a two year period depending on one’s “origins” story

    328696.5 / Year = The Number of Americans who have died of COVID on Average = 657,393 / 2 Years
    Note this number is about half of cancer per year, and separately half of heart disease, both of which can also each result from a virus

    The Number of Americans who have died of COVID per two year Average
    /The US Population, https://www.census.gov/popclock/ x 100%
    = 328696.5/332,475,723 X100% =
    = 0.09886330858509%

    That’s the probability that any person in the US dies of COVID, about 0.09%
    It is probable that 99.9% of Americans won’t die of COVID, regardless the “strain”
    It is improbable that 0.09% of Americans will die of COVID.

    Per an Israeli study, the vaccine is only 39% effective https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/23/delta-variant-pfizer-covid-vaccine-39percent-effective-in-israel-prevents-severe-illness.html.

    When something is twice as ineffective as it is effective, the common way to rephrase the same is to say the same is ineffective, and not 95% effective, per http://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-conclude-phase-3-study-covid-19-vaccine.

    So when 99.9% of people won’t die from a disease, should all of them get a vaccine and get hyper-tested for every variant of that disease, especially if the vaccine doesn’t work on 2/3 people?

    Here is a story of a kid who died in his sleep because him, his school, his parents, his doctors, and/or etc decided he needed a vaccine for a disease that was not likely to kill him, and subjected him to a vaccine that was not likely to work, which had a potential to kill the kid, and did.


    How about that kid? Who’s gonna defend that kid’s and his parents’ rights to not being scared, coerced, forced into being vaccinated for a disease unlikely to kill them and others, but with a chance of them being killed by the vaccine instead? We did make it over 100,000 years without a rigorous antiviral program, previously known as mushroom hunting.

    As someone who has worked on vaccine programs, including but not limited to at Stanford University, and every step of the medical product development cycle, I am not convinced that the fear and hype of COVID testing, vaccines, and their boosters are warranted.

    Constantly crunching numbers on COVID, it seems more like Tamiflu part II, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/news-blog/influenza-drug-tamiflu-ineffective-2009-01-09/, which scared world governments into over 9 billion in sales for ineffective products they buried their evidence for.

    The science says most people won’t get COVID, and those that will won’t die from the same.

    99.9% of people do not need to take the risk of being killed by an ineffective vaccine because less than 0.09% of the population might die should be a choice and not forced on anyone.

    Others should force vaccines on me like I should force others to be vegetarian, because if I do, less people will die of heart disease than COVID, where’s my raging vegetarians? All others should be forced to drive vehicles and machines, not powered by fossil fuels, to reduce more cancer deaths than COVID. Where’s the raging clean air truther gang? We need to stop the carnage caused by dirty air. Start frisking others at the gas stations?

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is the fourth user name associated with factors linking the identities Frederick Janson/bmoramazed/Good_grief_charlie_crown/greengenes. Pick a name, stick with it, or risk being blocked. /~Rayne]

    • bmaz says:

      Oh fuck off with this rambling bullshit. Get vaccinated and shut up.

      By the way, I just reviewed your 16 comments here (and the one you did under a different name), and you clearly have a thing for showing up and acting like you own the place, criticizing the proprietors and spewing bullshit. Don’t do that.

      • Rayne says:

        Phew. You weren’t kidding about the pile of crap in this thread.

        ~opens the windows to air the place out~

        Amazing how the same argument could be made about all other illnesses for which we are vaccinated on a regular basis from measles to polio and yet those vaccines are just dandy.

        Amazing, too, how the 22% increase in non-COVID deaths — excess deaths — last year is completely ignored as well by this ridiculous attempt to rationalize a mass death event caused by passive-aggressive genocidal policies by a fascistic corrupt regime and the disinformation it left behind.

      • bmaz says:

        Exactly. And when hospitals everywhere, but especially in states with a large unvaccinated set of people, are taking emergency measures (Idaho went statewide this morning), the nonsense of the “gee there is no problem” cult is just too much.

        • MB says:

          To back this up further:

          I just returned from a vacation in rural Wyoming (a low-vax state) and while I was there, one of the 2 local clinics in the town I was staying in posted a dire warning on their Facebook page. (I don’t want to post a FB link here particularly, but if requested, I will). Here is the text from their FB post:

          “We are finding ourselves in a rather dire situation for members of our community. The Delta variant is causing a significant increase in the need for hospital beds and ICU beds. At present there are NO ICU beds available in a 4 state area due to CoVid. After 4 hrs on the phone today, calling about 20 different facilities in the region, inquiring about bed availability, this news is very concerning.

          So, we are looking at putting together a field hospital facility. We are in need of many different things, retired or not medical staff: nurses, respiratory therapists, physians, NPs, PAs etc. We are also in need of supplies and equipment, PPE, IV supplies etc, etc.

          We are trying to find some ventilators and have been in contact with Wyoming Department of Health, working on possible resources. However if we can not find those, we need CPAP machines and tubing that goes along with them. So if you or a family member has a CPAP, or any supplies you may have, not being used, please drop it by Mountain Sage Clinic.

          Please contact the Clinic if you have any thoughts or would like to help out in any way. It is time to make sure we can take care of our neighbors.”

          My California friend, whose vacation home in Wyoming I was staying at, reports that the other clinic in town is run by an anti-vaxxer nurse practitioner, so that can’t be very helpful for those living in rural areas who do take covid seriously…

    • Ed Walker says:

      The US under Trump adopted a Covid strategy of letting people get sick and die until a vaccine was available. Your strategy is jut let people get sick and die. You can fuck right off with that.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Did you work on the Ford Pinto gas tank, as well as on vaccinations for Stanford? (It was never the same after Herbert Hoover was through with it.) With a little statistical kerfluffle, this comment is on par with RWood’s at 1.05pm. It’s nonsense.

      Outside of a murder mystery, accidental death is unlikely, much less intentional death, but there are whole industries devoted to avoiding or insuring against it. A safety-related car part might never fail, but when you’re talking about 300 million cars, that’s still a lot of dead and maimed. Ask Ralph Nader. One in a hundred thousand newborns dropped on their heads is a rounding error, but really, one is too many, don’t you think?

    • P J Evans says:

      WTF? We’ve had vaccine mandates for at least a century: everyone gets vaxxed in order to go to school. More people die without them than have died because of them.

    • Kurtyboy says:

      I’ll add to the pile of comments calling out your rank dishonesty in presenting your case. Glaring and deliberately dishonest is your use of the integer, 2, as your denominator (in years) for the duration of the pandemic. We’ve not reached that point in time, and when we do, 100,000 more lives will likely have been lost.

      On top of that, to characterize the leading tail of the fatalities curve as having an equal weight to the rest of the curve is intellectually unsound. You might just as well have divided your total fatality count across the entire 230 history of the Republic to push your odds of death even lower.

      The fact is that the pace of fatalities for the past single year (ignoring the leading tail of cases) would derive a far higher (roughly double) likelihood of death from COVID-19. A quick look at the stat widely publicized yesterday put the ACTUAL death rate — so far — at 1 in every 500 Americans, which is HIGHER than 0.01%/year. So please, take a f**king hike with your statistical pantload.

      • Geoguy says:

        I would also add to Kurtyboy’s comment that we don’t know the real number of cases and deaths because of (especially early) efforts to suppress the counts. If the odds of winning the lottery are as greengenes suggests for getting COVID, I would buy a ticket every day.

    • Bill Crowder says:

      If I were reading Mr. Greenjeans’ diatribe in the NYT, I would be suspicious that it was planted clickbait to attract readers/comments/clicks/advertising. But, this forum is not profit oriented and much more rigorous in presenting fact.

      So, I conclude that his diatribe is genuine. Still crazy, though.

    • Hug h says:

      greengenes… Wait WTF?!!

      “Strange as it may seem, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and formal education positively fortifies it.”
      -Stephen Vizinczey

    • greengiant says:

      Anyone who believes any line of that is a fool.
      The foolery almost got away with it with variant Alpha. Variant Delta spreads exponentially worse.

    • Midtowngirl says:

      I just posted a bit further up about the role of confirmation bias in the belief system of anti-vaxxers. Thank you so much for providing a perfect real-world example! 🙂

  7. gnokgnoh says:

    Leoghann’s comment provides a grand unifying theory behind what we are experiencing. It’s less a theory than a reasonably accurate description of our recent history, although there are lots of complicated people.

    My friends, Harry and Sally (married couple), are a hybrid. They are openly hostile to political correctness (wokeness), cancel culture, and any anti-racism movements such as BLM (what Leoghann refers to as treating people well), but still want to call themselves liberal and sort of vote for Democrats. Conversely, they are vaccinated and work in academia and for a well-known business journal. Amazingly, Sally calls herself a traditional liberal and is the chair of the equity and diversity committee at a nearby, private Catholic university.

    They rant and dismiss any other point of view, and I have had it with them. The names have been changed…

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Thanks, Ed. Lot of meat on those bones. People voting against their economic interest, for example. The “deplorables” do it all the time, voting for things the oligarchs tell them are good for them, when they’re really good only for the oligarchs. Lower taxes and endless tax and liability loopholes, for example, which deprive governments of the resources needed to provide essential services.

    The average Americans who vote for such things are lauded. But when progressives advocate for higher taxes to provide resources for those necessary public services, they are derided as fools in thrall to unAmerican ideas. The MSM routinely adopts the oligarchs’ arguments, the way it hunts for reasons to discredit Biden, or paint him as tired, threatened, or defeated, when the opposite is true and when they tirelessly searched for ways to laud Trump for being an incompetent, self-dealing narcissist and serial failure.

  9. Savage Librarian says:

    Courtly Rabbit Wardens

    I’m here to tell you we ain’t hacks,
    We go fishing like all the quacks,
    But we can cover up those tracks
    by a shift in view through parallax.

    You can see I’m no battle ax,
    I just follow alternative facts,
    And I didn’t say we have no flacks,
    or if we deal in shadows and cracks.

    I know nothing about stock buybacks,
    and don’t get me going about tax,
    It’s none of the media’s beeswax
    how we talk about views on the vax.

    For a rabbit test or rape anticlimax,
    Our guys will tell you, “ just relax,”
    We need to preserve our next acts,
    Give me some nick nack paddywhacks!

  10. The Hang Nail says:

    It’s also tied up with identity. Once you start making freedom from government your main political ideology it becomes hard to overturn the epistemic evidence in front of your eyes. In other words, they put so much weight on their ideology it takes massive amounts of evidence to overturn their belief that the government is lying to them.

    There is also the interesting phenomenon where they cherry-pick which epistemic threads to believe and which to not. It would be interesting to see a venn diagram of people who distrust the government and mainstream scientists when it comes to covid and those who buy into the whole war on drugs. How many people will die for freedom in the name of Covid but be willing to lock up and control millions via the war on drugs?

    And then let’s go back to the whole “Death Panel” era and do another venn diagram. How many people were aghast at the thought of ACA panels that might decide on who deserves certain treatment coverage vs people now completely willing to let X% of people to die in the name of freedom from masks and vaccines?

    • blueedredcounty says:

      The whole death panel thing still makes me want to scream, even after all this time. OMG, the horror of even the possibility of government death panels or health-care rationing!

      But hey, the fact that private insurance companies delay payment all the time, so the person will die before they have to do a payout? Why, that’s not a death panel, that’s the just good business. And, btw, sick people have a lot of gall, they need to die quicker.

      • bmaz says:

        Again, I’d point to Idaho. A veritable oasis of unvaccinated and unmasked. They are in literal death panel triage mode. Not because of insurance (though that is obviously a problem), but because of idiots.

      • PieIsDamnGood says:

        I’ve been to “death panels” in the UK. They were well run affairs with academics making their careers by picking apart the evidence pharma companies presented. At the end they moved to confidential price negotiations. The HORROR

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    David Brooks’s art form is to admit the most obvious facts, say, that the professional class has severely harmed average Americans. That’s not much of an insight. David Halberstam’s, The Best and the Brightest, came out fifty years ago, and Erwin Chemerinsky’s caustic history of the Supreme Court came out seven years ago.

    Brooks’s magic is in how he buries those facts in unreadable waste, false explanations, and unlikely predictions about their future meaning. He is a courtier to the oligarchy. The NYT and NPR are happy to praise him for it.

    • The Old Redneck says:

      Very much agree on Brooks. He wants us to believe the problem is “Bobos” (basically elites). It is not. Plenty of lawyers, physicians, and scientists dedicate themselves to helping people who aren’t as wealthy or educated. The real problem is the donor class, which gets what it wants economically and politically while everyone else gets screwed.
      Brooks does or should know this, but he probably wouldn’t get invited to the right cocktail parties if he said it out loud.

  12. Tom says:

    Macho types who consider face masks to be effeminate, unmanly, and contrary to rugged American individualism should just try to think of them as jockstraps for the face.

  13. RWood says:

    When time permits I like to debate subjects. Often I have to do so with myself, which is fun as I have to defend both sides. I have both a Keynesian view and a Utilitarian view that I’ve jotted down. Here’s the Utilitarian view:

    We need more Covid.

    (Remember, I’m wearing my “Hard-Core Utilitarian” hat as I write this.)

    Covid is something that we should be re-evaluating every day, and while it started off as a deadly threat to the world, I now believe it’s a gift we should be encouraging.

    Let’s look at what we know about ourselves since Covid arrived, because our response to Covid is providing us with great insight as to how we respond to other crisis, both now and in the future, we are facing as a whole. We already have several issues that plague humanity, famine, water shortages, climate, religion, etc, all of these issues we are fully capable of defeating yet never seem to have enough will to do so. And that’s where we are with Covid, with one major difference.

    Covid has placed us all into two well-defined groups; on one side we have the science believers who understand how viruses work, apply critical thinking to the evidence presented, and then take steps to protect themselves. On the other we have the science deniers, who refuse to educate themselves as to how viruses work, apply zero critical thinking to the evidence presented to them, and then take steps to not only place themselves in danger, but endanger those around them.

    Covid is sorting these people out, and it’s doing so in a completely neutral manner. A virus has no brain or thought process, it simply wishes to replicate itself as much as possible. To do so it needs a host. The deniers are providing the virus with the hosts it needs in great numbers.

    Throughout history, there have been groups that have existed to the detriment of humanity as a whole. Religious zealots. Nazi’s. NAMBLA. Today we have the science deniers, who are all working hard to prolong the reign of covid for as long as possible.

    There is nothing positive about their actions or beliefs. In short, they are a detriment to society as a whole. They are retarding the progress of humanity. They are preventing us from overcoming the problems we all face.

    We have yet to get the vaccine to all that want it, and we should be working hard to do so, but once we have reached that milestone, then what?

    If our response to Climate Change is the same as our response to covid our future is easy to predict. Our planet will warm until it is no longer inhabitable by humans. One group recognizes this threat and is willing to take the necessary steps to counter it, but can they do so to the point of their actions being effective while simultaneously being countered by the actions of the deniers?

    Simply put, and again in an entirely utilitarian context, the world as a whole is better off without the deniers.

    Enter Covid. We have a deadly virus, one that will most likely mutate and become even deadlier. The vaccinated are protected. The deniers are not. When the virus mutates, and it will, into a more deadly strain they will die off in numbers we have not yet seen. Our medical systems will not be able to counter the speed or volume of the infected. At this point, there may be a scramble by them to get vaccinated, but it will already be too late.

    Obviously, this is bad for the deniers, but what about the believers?

    The battle against Climate Change would be more easily won with a drastic drop in the human population. Covid provides a unique opportunity to significantly impact the issues of famine, water scarcity, overpopulation, and climate change, all at the same time.

    So how do we accomplish this utilitarian solution?

    Once the vaccine has been made available to all who wish to have it, production and availability should stop. All Covid countermeasures should be lifted. International travel should resume. The virus should be allowed to spread and accomplish the utilitarian mission of saving the planet and those who wish to remain on it.

    Covid, and its soon to arrive deadlier cousin, should be embraced as the solution we are unable to provide for ourselves.

    Humanity has proven over the last year that we are incapable of coming together as a whole against a common enemy. All efforts to defeat Covid, famine, climate change, clean energy, water shortages, etc, will be countered by the deniers. As long as they still exist in large numbers there will not be effective progress in combating ANY similar foe.

    Covid may be that which saves us. If we let it.

    • Dave_MB says:

      Clever intellectual argument. But that’s not the way the world works. Right now our health care system has collapsed. There are unintended consequences.

      • josap says:

        My elderly good friend who is bedbound and suffers severe dementia somehow tried to get out of bed, fell, and broke both her hip and neck. She was approved for surgery on her hip but could not have surgery due to no ICU bed available for nearly 24 hrs.

        Yesterday she was moved to hospice. I do not think this was due to the imposed wait time, she is elderly and frail. The friend I knew left us several years ago. But the pain and fear she endured I do attribute to those who said “fuck your feelings”.

        • bmaz says:

          Am assuming was a very good life lived, and so okay. But isn’t it sad that this is even a question? That hospitals and ICUs are consumed by idiots, acting intentionally, is simply maddening.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      A variation on the theme of letting god sort them out, substituting Covid for a deity, itself a variation on the political mantra: do nothing and you can’t be blamed for it. Have humans learned so little about how to organize themselves?

      • RWood says:

        Yes and no. (I forgot how much I enjoyed defending the things I disagreed with. Debate should be a required class. And yes, this is “nonsense” that I don’t promote, but I enjoy the thought problem.)

        I would say it’s more of “God/Mother Nature tries, but we keep defeating him/her.” It then becomes a matter of “Do we solve the issue now, or later?”

        If you substitute the people for deer and then apply virology you get the same answer. When deer overpopulate their ecosystem it creates a prime situation for viruses to take hold. The virus will flourish in the tightly packed population until they kill off enough hosts and the prime conditions no longer exist. Social distancing by attrition.

        Now throw science into the mix. Which it’s pesky vaccines it defeats this natural thinning of the herd and allows the deer population to exceed the limits of its environment. Soon there is a lack of resources, food, water, habitable land, etc, and all the problems that come with.

        When humans see this happening we don’t take steps to take care of the excess deer. We don’t give up our land or feed them from our own crops. Instead, we issue hunting permits to get the herd “down to a healthy number”. Everyone shrugs, says it had to be done for the good of the herd, and orders themselves another latte’.

        Now, if only half the deer were volunteering for the virus and taking every step possible to ensure they get it. Would we still need to issue hunting licenses, or do we let the deer take care of themselves?

        Keynesian me says take care of the population no matter how big it becomes while Utilitarian me says let the deer volunteering themselves for death take one for the herd. The former kicks the problem down the road while the latter solves the problem now, but you feel bad about your decision.

        Knowing humans it’s not hard to see where this is going. The believers will talk and make token efforts while the deniers will deny and work to counter those efforts and we’ll all end up just as dead.

        “Have humans learned so little about how to organize themselves?”


        • bmaz says:

          Good grief, please get a grip. What, are you some kind of unintentional newfangled Aldous Huxley? The brave new world need not demand herd culling. That is kind of sick.

        • RWood says:


          Good grief! I said several times I don’t agree with this view, I’m just playing the guy that was assigned the devil’s viewpoint in my little debate here. My career was in medicine, no herd-culling classes were attended. But I have no doubt there are those out there that would agree with this view, some of them are voicing it quite loudly already.

          Dave MB saw where I was going. He’s right that our hospitals are being stressed. The day is rapidly approaching when doctor friends of mine that will have to make decisions as to who they treat and who they don’t based only on available resources. This question will no longer be one that we can debate from our keyboards, it’ll be one of simple triage. Unless they’ve been an ER Doc or a Combat Medic I doubt most have had to make a choice like that, but that choice is coming.

          Should those Docs and Medics take the Kensyian approach, or will they be forced to be Utilitarians?

        • Eureka says:

          I think you’re still missing the point (in not just this comment but e.g. your 6:08 pm) made by bmaz, MB, and Dave_MB that we are here now, present tense. It’s just not as apparently dramatic as e.g. Idaho and Wyoming (currently) in most places or in the way you frame “triaging” (it’s of many grays, not all or nothing, and has already variegated on a widespread basis).

          Hospitals even in well-vaccinated areas are and have been full to the gills with floors’ worth of patients routinely held in ERs. It’s forever like flu season (which was bearable in that it was seasonal, with an end) but on steroids and even without big COVID surges. Care is delayed on the front end and shortened on the back (stories abound of this in the press, social media). If your friends have not reached these points, they’re a rare lot (and someone elsewhere would like their care). Experienced HCW can’t take it, have left/ are leaving — our system is already screwed for decades (and under the circumstances can only get worse). Expertise is irreplaceable.

          Moral injury runs apace…

          Similarly (another point that doesn’t fall at either of the binary choices you’re forcing), it doesn’t look like “herd immunity” (you @ 6:08 pm) would soon be anything but a series of local and worldwide fluxes given variants, lack of access to vaccines, and other conditions. One would still find (as you put it) so-called Keynesian and Utilitarian approaches extant simultaneously if you wished to pursue either pole (besides that medical professionals are generally not sociopaths. Generally.).

          Your framing and project here strike me as ridiculous.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Lawyers spend half their time arguing for or defending things they don’t agree with. It’s a minimum requirement for qualifying as a lawyer.

    • Stanley Chepaitis says:

      You are leaving out the third group. These are the people who know that the science is correct and quietly or even secretly get themselves vaccinated or otherwise protected. Then they go ahead and play on the fears and anger of the deniers in order to have a powerful base that they can manipulate for economic and political gain. These are the people who really need to be effectively countered. I wish I had a clue how that could be accomplished.

      • RWood says:

        True. We shouldn’t count them out.

        The Kensyian would make efforts to nullify them while the Utilitarian would do the opposite.

        I have to wonder which approach would get us to herd immunity faster?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        In Holland, you can opt for a biodegradable box that speeds decomposition into the soil, completing the cycle of life. Saves on the energy needed for cremation.

    • FLwolverine says:

      A meme I saw in 2020:

      World: There’s no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change, and protect the environment.

      Mother Nature: Here’s a virus. Practice.

  14. Mart says:

    Have an old friend that has become an evangelical Trumper humper. Cannot convince her to get the vaxx. Over 60 and obese. Her husband ran to get vaccinated. Daughter won’t let her see grandson without a quarantine process. These money grubbing preachers are a big part of the antivaxxer movement.

    • FLwolverine says:

      A small bright spot: in June my house cleaner told me she probably wouldn’t get the vaccine because reasons. We discussed reasons. What with vacations and such, I haven’t seen her for about six weeks. Today she proudly announced that she’ll be getting her second shot next week, and her adult son who lives with her will be getting his in two weeks. I told her that was terrific news. I hope our talk about “reasons” helped change her mind.

      • Midtowngirl says:

        That’s fantastic!
        I helped change a couple of minds also!

        My crude metaphor when convincing an anti-vaxx relative that vaccines aren’t a simple “personal choice” issue, but a responsibility to the greater Public Health:

        Me: “Let me ask you a question. You own your own house, right?”

        Relative: “Yeah”

        Me: “And you can do almost anything you want there, correct? After all it is your own private property.”

        Relative: “Hell, yes.”

        Me: “But you know one thing you cannot do, even though it’s your own property?”

        Relative: “What?”

        Me: “You can’t use your driveway as your toilet. You can’t take a dump out front. By law, you have to use the toilet in your bathroom. Do you know why that is?”

        Relative: “That’s disgusting! And no, I don’t know why.”

        Me: “Because your raw feces, even within the boundaries of your property, can make other people OUTSIDE of that property line very sick. In other words, how you handle your sh*t affects EVERYONE, not just you. ”

        “So – Quit sh*tting on your lawn to spite the neighbors, and go get your effing shot!”

  15. gmoke says:

    The Death Wish is runnning rampant in the world. Not only the COVID deniers but also the climate deniers and both of those come out of a long, long tradition of other denial industries which made $$$$ for their purveyors: the cigarette industry, the gun makers, pharmaceutical companies (hello, Purdue Pharma)….

    We have been educated for decades (George Seldes’ InFact magazine started talking about tobacco and cancer in the late 1930s) by the denial industry telling us that our bad habits were life-enhancing. So, naturally, we can’t tell now that we’re dancing with the Death Wish in close embrace these days.

    Climate is the most sweeping of these Death Wish demons and, still, the least discussed. Don’t mention doing something about it either.

    • MB says:

      In relation to tobacco, the “father of spin”, Edward Bernays, successfully propagandized for the tobacco companies the use of tobacco by (supposedly-liberated) women, promoting cigarettes for female consumption as “freedom torches”. Hmmm…

      When news of the harmful effects of tobacco started surfacing significantly to the public in the 1940s, Bernays had a change of heart, and recanted and publicly regretted his successful PR work for the tobacco companies in the early ’50s, far too late.

      Lest you think of Bernays as someone with a real conscience, he then proceeded to lobby for United Fruit in Guatemala after that, and unfortunately that work was succesesful as well…

        • MB says:

          What era is that slogan from? Never heard this. I do remember the “LSMFT” (Lucky Strikes Mean Fine Tobacco) campaign.

          Using fat-shaming to sell tobacco fits right in with all the various nefarious tobaccy advertising campaigns over the years…

        • Leoghann says:

          I’m from the LSMFT era. I saw the Reach for . . . ad in an old magazine in an old vacation cabin near Ruidoso, New Mexico. Then, later, the ad was mentioned in a long article I read (sourced, for a paper I wrote) about the nefarious antics of the tobacco industry. The magazine was pre-war, but another article I found today to check the accuracy of my memory of the quote says it originated in 1929.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          I thought it started earlier, during the Flapper period, when women were “liberated” enough to smoke but strongly pressured to have the bodies of teenage boys, a combination that would resonate later in the late 1960s-1970s; then, we were “liberated” to have sex (meaning not say no) but tacitly urged to look no more womanly than Jody Foster in Mean Streets.

        • Artemesia says:

          Virginia Slims cigarettes were aggressively marketed to women who were very aware that the ‘slim’ message was not really about the fact that the cigarettes were long and skinny. I would bet that the primary reason most women smoke is they belief it is weight control (which it is).

      • gmoke says:

        As you noted, about the only PR campaign Bernays publicly regretted was that debutantes with cigarettes Easter Parade gambit.

        I met that odious little man a couple of times when I tried to arrange a conversation between him and Noam Chomsky back in the early 1990s. Bernays was all for it and said he admired Chomsky but asked for a copy of Manufacturing Consent, a play on Bernays’ autobiography, The Engineering of Consent, before doing it. When he read it, he backed out and nearly threw the book at me when I went to pick it up.

        In preparation for that conversation, I read Engineering of Consent too. My notes on Bernays’ Propaganda are at http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com/2017/02/propaganda.html

        • MB says:

          Thanks. I’m currently in the middle of reading Propaganda. I’m finding that I have to read it in small doses as Bernays’ approach to influencing the public has reverberations everywhere, both in the past and the present and it is truly sickening how Madison Ave., corporations and politicians have adopted his approach with great enthusiasm.

          Interesting that Chomsky’s book title was based off of Bernays’ autobiography title. Also I wonder how much influence Bernays’ famous uncle (Sigmund Freud) had on the formation of his own theories of PR/propaganda…

  16. Drew says:

    I think it’s much simpler and more complex. It has to do with affiliation and comfort, and what happens when there are dislocations of that comfort. A Pew study came out yesterday or today that noted that from 2016 to 2020 the numbers/percent of whites who identify as evangelical has increased significantly. This isn’t intuitive for close observers of religion because a) all churches INCLUDING evangelical churches are growing smaller in terms of membership and attendance b) a goodly number of religious people who identified as evangelical were disgusted by the embrace of Trump by a lot of evangelical leaders, etc. But they mostly didn’t stop being evangelicals and a bunch of people decided to start identifying as such (this Pew study has an element where they can monitor some people’s individual changes between the 2 polls).

    So what is happening? IMHO being “evangelical” largely means being accepted and a part of a culture where others are evangelical. It’s about acceptance and solidarity. In my youth, especially, I had exposure to some of this. I had a teenage conversion experience and was excited about talking about Jesus. This was ~1970, so I had long hair and kind of identified with hippies or whatever–my politics were liberal. But I go to the barber to get a bit of a trim, and start talking about Jesus. He’s an evangelical too-he immediately starts to tell me that if I believe in Jesus and want to convert people to Jesus, I can’t be offputting by having long hair, etc. Any business considerations aside, it was far more important to him that conforming to local norms was key in believing in Jesus and being part of the evangelical world.

    Not all the anti-mask, anti-vax people are evangelical, and they are certainly not all church goers, etc, but fitting into a pattern of mutual acceptance is big. And in that world, beliefs are subject far more to social pressure than to empirical observation and an overall coherent worldview. It’s MY WORLD (which offers safety, acceptance, & salvation-3 things that are truly hard to distinguish between in this) versus THEIR WORLD which imperils those things.

    In a time when the world of complacent racist security for the bulk of white people is being challenged, the stakes go up. THEIR WORLD is dangerous to MY WORLD. War has been declared. The Obama administration was the run up to war, initial skirmishes, grievances enunciated, emotions raised and Trump’s campaign was the declaration of war. Emotionally speaking, it’s an existential crisis for those within these circles of acceptance, an increasing number of whom are taking the moniker “Evangelical” – which they associate with asserting a lot of beliefs based on an arbitrary authority that endorses their world.

    So what does that have to do with masks and vaccines? Not really very much, except that those were the battle lines that were drawn. If we quickly got the U.S. to 90% fully vaccinated and the pandemic subsided before Columbus Day, Joe Biden would be entirely successful – THEIR WORLD would take a win, and we know we cannot trust THEIR WORLD. Of course, public health is an example of government working and the long term project of the GOP and the MY WORLD culture is to distrust and undermine government projects–government effectiveness is actually more repugnant to them than government in general–it builds trust in what they would refer to as “socialism” – though arguably the Liz Warren/Bernie/AOC vision is far removed from socialism by most definitions.

    These people are taking a risk for group solidarity. That’s not irrational, it’s the incoherent worldview of the group that’s irrational. [As a theologian, this particular kind of hateful incoherence, I label demonic-but I’ve written too much]

  17. P J Evans says:

    A lot of [white] evangelical Protestants want it to be their “end times”, because then they get their “rapture”, where they go to their idea of heaven while still alive. They’re afraid of death, but they’re unwilling to do anything to prevent it, like getting vaxxed (at least publicly), because they also like being “persecuted for their beliefs” – which are all modern.

    • Artemesia says:

      I remember many students as long as 50 years ago who defined any argument with positions they took in a policy class as ‘persecuting’ — they were evangelicals who embraced the joy of being persecuted and defined anything that was not laudatory as persecution.

  18. Literay says:

    Just random speculation: Is there any indication that a significant number of folks have stopped taking their psychotropic medications?

    I have done a brief search and found no studies. A couple of abstracts from studies in Germany during the ‘90s allude to media and political influence on attitudes toward the drugs.

  19. Stephen Calhoun says:

    Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers fail to work out the problem of their health in the context of the health of their fellow citizens. Their various inquiries are stunted and wrapped in grievous ways around authorities which promote submission clothed by an abject self-authority.

    (Richard Rorty wrote a paper, Pragmatism As Anti-Authoritarianism. The short paper’s third section, Pragmatism As Liberation from the Primal Father uses Freud to pivot into its argument, that, following Dewey, “only in a democratic society which describes itself in pragmatist terms, one can imagine Dewey saying, is the refusal to countenance any authority save that of consensus reached by free inquiry complete.”)

    Whereas, the free inquiry necessary to public health is one that freely engages knowledge to form a critical consensus, and so to form, in Dewey’s terms, a fraternity of those who together understand our private health is contingent on our public health. This is especially the case in a pandemic.

    It is not shocking to learn that the core of the current problem is literally caused by people unable to work through what it is that promotes their own health. In every instance of this is there is an authority feeding them ‘some kind of’ knowledge-free nonsense?

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      I find this comment especially interesting in light of Amy Coney Barrett’s recent remarks, in which she broke down the Supreme Court in the Originalists (her side) and the “pragmatists” (the liberal minority). I found this a peculiarly condescending way to label those who actually care how legal decisions affect people’s lives, but not only do the winners get to write history, they also get to name the losers. All things considered, I’ll take the pragmatist label.

      • bmaz says:

        They got a name for the winners in the world
        I want a name when I lose
        They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
        Call me Deacon Blues

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Thanks, Ginevra, I can always count on you for a good segue. Speaking of the concept of “originalist,” Amy Coney Barrett might want to know that “Pride goeth before the fall” may not have originated in Proverbs 16:18. Nope. Looks like that Bible verse may have been lifted from the Age of Piety in Ancient Egypt.

        So, as a pragmatist, I’d say somebody has some explaining to do. And we might wonder if replacing Ma’at (“the goddess of truth, justice, wisdom, the stars, law, morality, order, harmony, the seasons, and cosmic balance”) was really such a good idea.

        BTW, if you don’t know what the surname Coney means, it might be fun to look it up, both as an originalist and a pragmatist.

        Instruction of Amenemope


      • blueedredcounty says:

        I grind my teeth every time I read or hear about this “Originalist” nonsense.

        Given the fact that the Constitution was designed to be amended because the framers knew change over time is inevitable, it is a bullshit legal theory constructed on a logical fallacy.

        • bmaz says:

          Yes. It is complete bullshit. So too is “textualist”. It is all garbage for hiding nonsense under some stupid semantics.

  20. Rugger9 says:

    Like many other things, this is about the information received, and if these MAGA types are still unsure, there has been another flurry of families posting sob stories regarding unvaxxed relatives dying of COVID and telling everyone to get the damn shot. Daily Kos is running a series on it, but as to why let’s look at the DPRK or the PRC, where all aspects of information are very tightly controlled. The people are only allowed to see what the state wants (like DeSantis fudging FL’s COVID numbers and firing the statistician who would play ball) but even with that control wisps of truth break through. It’s hard to hide dead bodies after a while, or overrun ICUs. In our present situation, an overlay of Sinclair-controlled market share to vaccine hesitancy would speak volumes.

    The sickest part of this is that Faux News requires their employees to get vaxxed, so that means Tucker and Laura and Sean, etc. are more monstrous than usual. I’d also look at the connections to Q and/or Vlad.

  21. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Amazon’s solution to cries for unionization and a living wage: Company Towns!

    What could go wrong with Amazon buying up a rural county, owning all the housing, shops, parks, streets, sidewalks, libraries, car dealerships, medical services, and gas stations – and control all the jobs in town? Depicting that convincingly would challenge Rod Serling. Company towns didn’t work out for employees of Ford or English chocolate manufacturers, and were death to coal and hard rock miners.


      • P J Evans says:

        I read another thread on that story, and at a guess at least half the commenters quoted one or another line in that song. (It was certainly my first thought.)

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The history of company towns is well-known, certainly to Amazon’s critics: company stores and housing; mandatory use of an invented currency, instead of hard cash; over pricing and abusive accounting, in which monthly charges for rent, store purchases, and “public services” exceeded the amount in every pay envelope.

          So this is a testament to Amazon’s obtuseness and inhumanity or its willingness to stick a 2×4 in the government’s and every employee’s eye.

    • Eureka says:

      Whaddya know, another space race with his pal Musk.

      (See the Company Towns wiki for Elon’s plan to incorporate a place near his rocket factory, which some call a notional company town already.)

      Manifest destiny by any other name… human resource extraction demands it!

  22. Badger Robert says:

    Thanks for the post, Ed Walker. Its definitely a mass psychosis, and the purpose is to get people to give up both reason and morality. There are great thinkers, like Vaclav Havel who have thought it through better than I can. But fear and hopeless resignation a large part of it. The dictates of reality weaken it.

  23. Matthew Harris says:

    I think that a lot of people writing about this, professionally, and commenting about it, here, are describing the same situation through slightly different lenses.

    The best lens I have for what is going on in the United States right now is “institutional civil war”.
    Institutions no longer have a consensus on what is good, and how to achieve it.

    If we go back to, say, the 1950s, there was a brief time when most institutions in the US had a consensus about society’s goals and how to reach them. The government, academia, the military, law enforcement, churches, business, unions, healthcare, the media, entertainment…they in general presented a “united front” about what was good for the country, and how to reach it (I am not saying this was a good thing…there was obviously some problems with it).

    Over time, groups of institutions started breaking apart from each other, and now we have two separate groups of institutions that basically have different standards for what is good and how to reach it. On the “liberal” side, we have academia, healthcare, the media and entertainment. On the “conservative” side, we have religion, law enforcement (the local kind, at least) and the military (outside of high level national security people). Some institutions, like the business world, are kind of stuck in-between, or it can depend on sector (oil sector is obviously different than tech sector). (And obviously, not everyone in those institutions believes the same things—there are right-wing scientists and left-wing pastors, but on the whole, the institutions have sociopolitical identities.

    Institutions are frames for understanding reality. They don’t just present utilitarian solutions, but they provide existential meaning.

    Lots of people who believe in “conservative” institutions feel that “liberal” institutions have usurped the place of their institutions. When Health care defines a happy life as yoga, meditation, and going to therapy to talk about problems, that displaces what religion, as an institution does.
    And so it comes down to the vaccine being about a choice of institutions, and about what meaning they give. Health care, as an institution, has given us a vaccine, and if people choose that—they have to admit that a “liberal” institution can give them something their own institution can not.

    And in years past, that wouldn’t be the case. Your doctor would do one thing, and your preacher would do another, but they respected each other, in each other’s sectors.

    So my own way to boil this down (and sorry if I went too long), is that the US is in a state of “Institutional Civil War”.

  24. Alan K says:

    Core Fox News crowd have this feeling (correctly, IMO) that they lost the culture wars. The GOP needs to amplify this into an existential issue in order to win elections. Amplified hurt pride leads to all sorts of stupid self-harm.

  25. Joe says:

    Interesting article.

    I actually believed the ‘rubber would meet the road’ in relation to vaccine denial when the world was faced with a novel, deadly pandemic. Until recently, common theory of vaccine denial was simply a ‘short memory’ with regards to the danger of now historical diseases such as measles and polio. Instead, people are choosing to deny reality even when it slaps them in the face.

    This article give a better understanding, but is infinitely more depressing.

  26. Raven Eye says:

    When the board of commissioners of a county, in a proclamation, gives a green light to irresponsible behavior, and then doubles down on it with a second proclamation a month later, you know things are going to be tough.

    Jackson County, OR, Order 75-21 (May 6, 2021) “In The Matter Of Proclaiming Jackson County’s Opposition To The Continued Restrictions Related To The Coronavirus Emergency Imposed On The Residents And Businesses Of Jackson County” includes this:

    “WHEREAS, the citizens of Jackson County are fully capable of making private, individual healthcare and lifestyle decisions for themselves and their families;”

    The next month they doubled down with Order 91-21 (June 1, 2021) “In The Matter Of Proclaiming Jackson County’s Opposition To Any Requirement To Verify The Vaccination Status Of An Individual” the “Whereas” above and this additional one:

    “WHEREAS, without the freedom for an individual to make their own decisions about healthcare, there is no true freedom for the individual.”

    I’m not sure what “true freedom” is, but that’s the dog whistle stuff the BOC is still engaged in.

    Correct if I’m missing something; but during a devastating global pandemic “private, individual healthcare and lifestyle decisions” only apply to a single person, inhabiting a place where he/she is in physical isolation from other humans. As soon as this single person opens the door to let someone else in, or to step out into the community, those healthcare and lifestyle decisions are community decisions that could lead to regional, national, or even international impacts.

    And after trying blame the governor for all this, the same board of commissioners then went begging to that same governor because Jackson and Josephine Counties have exhausted their medical resources and needed state intervention.

    Links to their proclamations below. The language is quite pathetic, but it’s the kind of thing that the “Freedom to Infect” folks lap up.



    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The self-obsession is overwhelming. In the midst of a pandemic, vaccination decisions are not “private,” they are not “individual,” and they are not about “lifestyle decisions for themselves and their families.” This narcissistic horseshit is about entrenching tribal loyalties. Republicans aim to rule without a majority, without a budget, and without policies, but with a mob.

      • Raven Eye says:

        One element that complicates effective policy is the form of government here.

        This is a county of about 220,000. It has three county commissioners elected at large. That automatically creates issues of quorum, noticing, and transparency. It is a wonderful mechanism for suppressing up to a 49% political minority. It may have been fine for the 19th century and the first part of the 20th, but for this century it is archaic and dangerous.

        A wonderful example: The county administrator was hired over a decade ago. His contract with the county awards him three years’ salary and benefits (which are both extremely generous) if the Board of Commissioners does not renew his contract. That golden parachute is rolled forward every year when the contract is renewed. In many states this would be illegal, but Oregon is a home rule state, and Jackson County is a charter county.

        A county this size should have at least five commissioners – perhaps four from districts and one at-large.

    • P J Evans says:

      Lots of people showing pics of vaccine cards from many places over time. A fair number who don’t understand why paper records, and a lot lying about the vaccines and COVID.

  27. WilliamOckham says:

    I’m going to offer an alternative model for understanding “suicidal Americans”. [All models are wrong, some models are useful. I hope some of you find this useful.]

    There is no rationale for refusing masks and vaccines. Rationality has nothing to do with it. As human beings, we all spend our days trying to get our needs* met. The followers in this “death cult” must be getting some powerful needs met by their participation. Not every member is necessarily getting the same needs met. However, it seems pretty clear to me that the vast majority of these folks are getting “connection” needs met: community, safety, security, and stability. It probably seems odd to say that these people, who are a danger to themselves and others, are getting their need for safety met. I’m talking about psychological safety, not physical well-being.

    Most of the members of this group are authoritarian followers. They’re predisposed to follow the leader and fear the Other. Fear of social change, including immigration and openness to sexual “deviancy”, created the preconditions for this group. Trump was the catalyst for these folks becoming a single group. However, he didn’t have any real beliefs. Their belief system was structured by a weird amalgam of QAnon, anti-vaxxers, and Christian nationalists. Facebook and its algorithms of mass psychosis made that amalgamation possible.

    What then should we do? It would be wrong and impossible to address the underlying causes of their fears. We need to atomize the group. I’m old enough to know that the number of crazy racist uncles hasn’t gone up. They’re just bound together in a brotherhood of crazy.

    Here are some specifics:
    Vaccine mandates – Biden got this one exactly right.
    Kill online advertising with real privacy protections – this would cure the Facebook, et. al. problem.
    Bring back bowling leagues? Make adult porn more widely available? Basically anything that gets old white guys out of politics.

    *Needs, in this context, are like these: https://www.cnvc.org/training/resource/needs-inventory

    • Ed Walker says:

      Another good step: force cable companies to unbundle cable news channels so you have to subscribe to get them. That would choke off a major source of funding for Fox. Currently I pay about $2 a month through my cable subscription (mandatory in my condo) to Fox.

        • bmaz says:

          Heh. I do not have Fox News blocked, but have pretty much never been there in recent memory. We do pay for that though, because of the overall package.

        • WilliamOckham says:

          Blocking it paid off exactly one time. Years ago, my extremely right-wing (as in she was a health care policy analyst in the Trump admin) niece was passing through Houston and spent the night in our guest room. The next morning at breakfast, she was furious. “Uncle John, your cable company doesn’t carry Fox News! I’m going to file an FCC complaint.”

          I let her rant for a couple of minutes before I told her I had blocked it. The look on her face was priceless.

        • Leoghann says:

          I’ll go all of you one better. I haven’t had cable service at all since 2002. I subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Nickelodeon (for “Adult Swim”), and MLB-TV, along with a couple of channels through ROKU that are linked to specialty magazines I like. The only video news input I get is the short pieces from people like Scott MacFarlane, via Twitter and YouTube (strictly commentary). Everything else is print media–online subscriptions to eight daily newspapers, as well as the personalized news aggregator from Google and online feeds of a few news magazines.

    • Hug h says:

      I read Robert Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” in 2006, the book forever changed my view of “Conservative” Politics. Highly recommended reading for all! I can’t find the link but in the last few months there was an article which reported recently measuring higher RWA scores in the US vs. some other Western Democracies (Canada, England, Australia?) Altemeyer’s explanation of the Authoritarian Follower Personality makes one thing very clear- we all fall somewhere on the RWA scale and events can shift those scores higher. Those already high on the RWA scale are most vulnerable to dramatic upward shifts when conditions are right (fear being one significant driving factor) I’d bet good money that one reason RWA scares are currently higher in the US today is Donald J Trump. He used every trick in the book to drive up fear and distrust.

    • Hug h says:

      I read Robert Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians” in 2006, a book which forever changed my view of “Conservative” Politics. Highly recommended reading for all! I can’t find the link but in the last few months there was an article which reported recent measurement of higher average RWA scores in the US vs. some other Western Democracies (Canada, England, Australia?)
      Altemeyer’s explanation of the Authoritarian Follower Personality makes one thing very clear- we all fall somewhere on the RWA scale and events can shift those scores higher or lower. Individuals who naturally score higher on the scale are most vulnerable to significant upward shifts when conditions are right (fear being one significant factor). I’d bet good money that the primary reason RWA scores are higher today in the US is- Donald J Trump. He used every trick in the book to drive up fear and distrust and continues to do so today.

    • skua says:

      I groove to your analysis.
      But “get old white guys out of politics” has to overcome their/my desire for purpose/meaning.
      Compared to a perceived lack of safety, a lack of purpose/meaning is mortal danger.
      It is probably far too late for them/me to be trained up and experienced to be useful elders.
      Which leaves us with the Party of Crayzy Racist Uncles till they die out. Unless there is a replacement stream of Crazy Racist Uncles being trained up right now, which I think there is.

  28. Tony el Tigre says:

    Why? Because Trump is a sociopath and Conservatives have adopted his sociopathy.

    “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.”

    I don’t think it’s more complicated than that.

  29. OldTulsaDude says:

    People who follow totalitarians place faith above evidence. That is their nature and to change requires a kind of destruction of self.

  30. Intone says:

    Why would you write about something you admit you don’t understand and title it “Why something happens”. Seems like a circle-jerk to me.

    • Leoghann says:

      As he is wont to do, Ed was commenting on an issue to begin a discussion. His invitation to others to comment on the topic is understood by those of us who are familiar with this blog. And many of us commented. It’s a pity you wasted yours on a shallow, catty remark that would have been more in order at the bar of your local country club.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      LOL. You confuse Ed with a Faux Noise host and rhetorical humility with literal accuracy. Buying popcorn to watch your feckless, mean-spirited jab succeed as well as anything attempted by Sean Spicer. He thinks the press gave him a hard time, but is being easy on Jen Psaki. Poor snowflake. He forgets which president he worked for, that he walked into that lion’s den without a chair or whip, and that he’s the one with no balls and no backbone.

    • Raven Eye says:

      If you are looking for “THE ANSWER” (cue the bugle), this might not be the place to hang out.

      If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a better understanding of the question, and are willing to follow or participate in the exploration of the issues and perspectives arising from the question, then this is an O.K. place to visit.

      Hint: One of the best personal sensations that you can experience is the sound of a paradigm shifting without a clutch. Sometimes I read something here, and immediately get that little grinding sound inside my head. “Maybe I need to rethink…”


  31. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Australia – UK – US military pact (awkwardly, the AUKUS) is much in the news. US and UK media fall over themselves over France withdrawing its ambassadors from those three countries, “for consultations,” diplomatic speak for, “I don’t want to be friends with you this week because you pissed on my escargots.”

    US and UK coverage rarely explores why France, along with Europe, and NATO, might be so miffed about it: France and NATO were shut out, of course, during the six months it took to negotiate this. That’s insulting. More damaging is that the deal immediately shifts US$66 billion in Australian purchases of nuclear and shipbuilding contracts from France to the US and the UK.

    One might more accurately call this “pact” an arms deal sausage in a foreign policy bun. Who says Joe Biden doesn’t know how to play hardball?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      One wonders how much of that US$66 billion in sourcing contracts Australia will have to pay for in cash. Major arms deals are famous for their collateral exchanges, as well as for their vast sums of cash and perennial service agreements.

      Here, Australia will substitute for the UK as Airstrip One, in the ongoing contest with China over East Asian and global supremacy. (Let’s hope no one reinvents the domino theory.) Australia has been an essential signals intel partner since the Vietnam war. It will now be a staging ground for US and UK naval and military forces, which means base leases and support agreements. Their costs will likely offset some of the costs of those arms purchases.

      • Raven Eye says:

        Australian Army personnel serve side-by-side with U.S. Army soldiers at the Wideband Satellite Operations Center (WSOC) in Hawaii (one of five such facilities).

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          During Vietnam, the US could count on military cooperation with Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Okinawa (Japan), the new city-state of Singapore, and Suharto’s Indonesia. The US now has to substitute Australia for nearly all of them.

        • bmaz says:

          That is the thing though, isn’t it? This is not just a common “we got more $$ from ___” It is a restructuring for the future, and one that actually kind of makes sense geopolitically. It is a hard shift though.

        • Raven Eye says:

          Apparently AUKUS increases the availability of Australian air bases for U.S. military aircraft operations.

          That’s probably a significant worry for the Chinese, and could also take a lot of the pressure off Okinawa for inflight-refueling operations — directly or indirectly.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It’s a long haul even from northern Australia to the East China Sea, so refueling capability will be essential. So, too, is securing sufficient overflight rights from several countries. With China’s increasing regional power and naval presence, that might be more work than it used to be.

      • bmaz says:

        Yes. Have to wonder if this would have happened without Brexit. Did France not see this coming, whether totally looped in or not?

        Also, speaking of Five Eyes, it was kind of notable that Jacinda Ardern immediately reaffirmed that no nuclear powered craft, including submarines, would be entering the NZ waters.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Without Brexit, as unlikely as France negotiating an arms deal of this size without Germany knowing about it.

          BoJo’s new improved “Global Britain” – cue Anthony Eden – is desperate for exports, arms deals, and subsidies and US support for its nuclear program. Most of the UK’s shipbuilding capacity disappeared (along with unions), in a Thatcherite attempt to be globally competitive at something. I expect the US will get most of the shipbuilding contracts.

        • Raven Eye says:

          Reports say the construction will be done in Adelaide, South Australia.

          Interesting (from 2013 street view) is that the power lines go underground for a short stretch along Mersey Road — which appears to divide two parts of the shipyard property. There is space to do the jab. ASC (https://www.asc.com.au/) currently builds and supports naval vessels — including submarines. Rolls Royce provides the plants for UK nuclear submarines.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Some governments craft their own industrial policies, without waiting for private industry to do it.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          There seems to be some disagreement about where those subs will be built:

          “The new deal will see Canberra acquire nuclear-powered submarines built by the US and the UK, instead of those from France.”

          Given non-proliferation concerns and all the design features peculiar to nuclear power, this seems a more likely scenario, but it would not rule out multiple manufacturing sights for different subsystems and significant licensing of know-how to Australia.


        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I agree about Ardern’s comments. I think she is emphasizing her military, foreign policy, and environmental priorities. And she is saying from day one that she does not want New Zealand playing brinksmanship with AUKUS or against China.

    • Chetnolian says:

      One correction, there was no nuclear in the French deaL.It was for diesel electric power. Which might be the key to the whole thing. It may also be that the French really pissed off the Aussies as the Collins replacement project went increasingly late and over budget. It can sometimes be difficult to tell when Australian procurement officers are really upset and not just being their usual bad tempered selves. Yes I have the scars. And having worked for the French defence industry (I sense the outrage growing amongst the ‘wheel crowd) they are not well structured to get when a customer is getting really restive.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The French, “are not well structured to get when a customer is getting really restive.” Yes, I’ve been to a restaurant in France. But I’d be surprised if any defense project of this size comes in on time and at budget. It seems unlikely that US or British contractors would improve on that score, especially as the project must essentially start over.

        I knew the French deal did not involve nuclear-powered propulsion, but assume the Aussies specified DE propulsion. These new vessels will be a significant escalation in regional arms capability.

        If the Aussies are relying on the US and/or Britain for that, they will not have home-grown capabilities to construct such vessels, which means a lot of long-term licensing or that significant subsystems (no pun intended) will be produced offshore.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        To recap, the Aussies did indeed originally insist on diesel-electric boats, with their more limited range and significantly lower offensive capability. The US and Britain persuaded them to go nucular, which requires Australia to add extensive and expensive domestic capabilities to develop, build and support these boats, their propulsion, and their armament. That amounts to the US and UK proliferating nuclear capabilities beyond agreed norms.

        More importantly, this deal is the tip of the foreign policy iceberg. It may be a paradigm shift in US policy. It certainly is a major shift in Australia’s regional posture. It signals Australia’s heavy dependence on the dominant US partner for decades to come. It realigns Australia from a regional partner with its neighbors and makes it a new Airstrip One for the projection of fundamentally American power into SE and East Asia. This will be to the detriment of any coordination with NATO and the EU and its principal military powers. A new cold war is already warm.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The heightened military threat by AUKUS would be more credible if China were not the sole or principal source for so many of the world’s manufactured products: from transport vehicles and parts, to pharmaceuticals, syringes, IV fluid bags, surgical kits, and PPE, to virtually every fucking computer, chip and phone. Throw in apples, dog food, and toothpaste for good measure.

          AUKUS’s threat would be more credible if they instead launched massive efforts to manufacture things at home again. But that’s harder than building boats and proliferating nuclear weapons. It would require renegotiating treaties; instituting an overt industrial policy (rather than the de facto one set by corporate America); and cause big capital to defer its cash extraction plans. Sinema, Manchin, and the Goopers would scream “Socialism!” and have their panties in a twist about that.

  32. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Dimwit performance artist MTG pretends to blow up car with a .50 caliber sniper rifle. It’s a very expensive piece of kit for putting disabling holes in engine blocks, generators, transformers, and all sorts of transport equipment. It would cut a soldier in half. But it wouldn’t ordinarily blow up a car that’s not rigged. All that assumes, of course, that Taylor did not simply splice together two unrelated pieces of video: her shootin’ and the round’s purported impact, which is the more likely scenario.

    More importantly, none of that destruction porn has anything to do with whether Greene knows more than what door to go through when she shows up for work she does not know how to do. Today’s GOP is only go at blowing things up.


    • MB says:

      Ahem…MTG, like all congresspeople, is supposed to go through the metal detectors before entering the House chamber. So that’s the door she’s supposed to go through when she shows up for “work”

  33. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Former Texas Solicitor General and architect of the Texas six-week (really, two week) abortion ban, Jonathan Mitchell, thinks woman do not need access to abortion. They can control their reproductive lives by not having sex, which makes abortion, in effect, voluntary, lazy, life-destroying, and needless. (His logic also applies to birth control.)

    The stupid burns, but Mitchell is not stupid, he is ignorant by choice. (And I can only hope he deals with a Lysistrata-like revolt his whole life.) The Chicago grad clerked for fellow Texan and fellow Scalia clerk, Michael Luttig, on the 4th Cir., and for Scalia on the Supremes. He argues for outcomes that are vindictive, misogynistic, class-based, and racist, like much of what passes for justice in Texas. The former General Counsel of Boeing – he resigned shortly after the 737 Max disasters in 2018 and 2019 – is likely to be Len Leo’s top choice for the next open Supreme Court slot.


    • P J Evans says:

      Gotta love his view that women must control their impulses (read: s*xual desires), but men don’t have to. Idjit.

    • harpie says:

      The quotes in the article are from an amicus brief [for Texas Right to Life] in the Mississippi case SCOTUS will hear this term: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

      Women can ‘control their reproductive lives’ without access to abortion; they can do so by refraining from sexual intercourse

      One can imagine a scenario in which a woman has chosen to engage in unprotected (or insufficiently protected) sexual intercourse on the assumption that an abortion will be available to her later. But when this court announces the overruling of Roe, that individual can simply change their behavior in response to the court’s decision if she no longer wants to take the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

      But women who reside in those states can travel to pro-abortion states to get their abortions – and there is no shortage of ‘abortion funds’ throughout the country that are eager to pay the travel costs and abortion-related costs for indigent women who are seeking to abort their pregnancies,

    • harpie says:

      Mitchell’s co-counsel on that Brief is Adam Mortara, “an anti-abortion activist and lawyer who clerked for the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas“.

      They also suggest in the brief that:

      such a decision could open the door for other “lawless” rights and protections to be reversed, including the right to have gay sex and the right to same-sex marriage. [Guardian quote]

      More from the article:

      But an examination of Mitchell’s record has found that the former clerk for Antonin Scalia, the late conservative supreme court justice, has ties to groups and organizations that are at the heart of the conservative movement. Those organizations, in turn, have direct links to conservative members of the court.

      Federalist Society and Alliance Defending Freedom:

      ADF was in the spotlight in 2020 after it emerged that Trump’s final nominee to serve on the court, Amy Coney Barrett, was a paid speaker for a program run by ADF, which was established to inspire a “distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law”. The head of the organization, Michael Farris, attended the infamous Rose Garden event in which Barrett was nominated to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Susan Collins aside, but only in public, no one inside the Beltway would be surprised at how any of the six justices in the Supreme’s majority vote, particularly not the last three nominated to the Court.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      You would think these fanatics would be glad that Democrats might have some abortions. I guess they’re not really worried about being replaced after all.

      I guess Republicans aren’t worried about all the incels in their own party that this will grow. Looks like they’re not really worried about being replaced after all.

      Seems to me they are hastening their own demise.

      • P J Evans says:

        They seem to believe that women will do what men tell them to do. I’d bet that in their own party, that isn’t always true – though it’s probably much more common than in the Dems.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        One reason these interelated names keep cropping up is that the GOP is religious about providing care, feeding, and promotions to the names on their nomenklatura. It sometimes goes cradle to grave, or at least high school to retirement. Dems? Meh.

  34. CF says:

    Thank you for writing this commentary, for mentioning the antics of David Brooks, and for giving an explanation for the disturbing phenomenon that has plagued the country, choked hospitals, and confused the nation. My physician has become so hardened by the deaths of those who refuse to be vaccinated that he is emotionally wrought and no longer has pity when they die excruciating deaths. Otherwise thoughtful people have become hardened like an iron fist in refusing to even talk about why they will not get a shot. My tee shirts reads: ‘Mask it or casket’, which isn’t very pleasant, but it gets the point across.

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