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Why People Believe Wrong Things: A Response to Reader Critiques
One of the things I try to do here, is explain how much the insanity of the past two years can be put down to the ordinary, routine shortcomings of our institutions, our culture and our psychology. This analysis routinely displeases some of my readers, but it is just unquestionably true. Of course I understand the impulse to characterise Corona as pathological, malevolent and conspiratorially arranged, and I would never deny that there have been bad actors at work throughout all that we have endured. None of this would have been possible, though, without legions of true believers inside our native institutions furthering this madness in autonomous good faith, in accordance with an array of very mundane incentives.
Equally obvious, is that a lot of highly placed, powerful people believe a lot of crazy stuff, and they vigorously support a whole array of counterproductive, ridiculous policies and programs. This did not start suddenly with Corona. As the West has entered a period of protracted decline, their numbers and the depth of their folly have only grown. There are many specific reasons for this, but driving the decline more than anything else is an intellectual and cultural disease of affluence, expressed in the overproduction of elites, the increasing emphasis on conscientiousness at the expense of ability and intelligence, and the diffusion of political power downwards, as a means of cementing consensus among disparate corporate, academic and government factions.
Before 2020, these people did and said all kinds of ridiculous things, but the consequences of their absurdity either unfolded too gradually to attract all that much attention, or they were confined to specific sub-populations and not felt all that widely. Corona was simply that moment, when the wages of the horrendous judgement of the people who govern us hit everyone all at once.
Even in optimal conditions humans aren’t rational creatures. With enormous effort, we can develop views and theories of the world that are semi-reliable. We can work within paradigms of medium resolution that have some probability of being approximately right. As the general ability of our establishment intelligentsia declines, the reigning theories in every field become more removed from the world, less likely to be useful, and subject to insane arbitrary swings.
People on the establishment side of the debate mainly argue that Corona is an unprecedented and unusual virus, and that the scientific response has been totally reasonable and justified. People on our side of the discussion tend to see Corona as nothing special, but the scientific and political response as something new and unusual. I suggest that it helps to see the virus, despite its laboratory origins, as a biological threat of the kind we’ve lived with for millennia; and that it likewise helps to see our unbalanced reaction to this virus as an expression of our own declining society and institutions. That’s a big reason why fixing this has proven to be so hard.
The problems we have go a lot deeper than the World Economic Forum and Bill Gates. In many ways, those guys are just the surface manifestations of this much deeper rot. I know a lot of you conceive of what happened in 2020 as a kind of mass hysteria or hypnosis, or compare our current policies to National Socialism in the 1930s. I think there can be polemical value in both points, but I also think the most important thing, is to recognise that containment is a characteristic policy not of Nazi Germany, but of western liberal democracies. These regimes have enthusiastically embraced lockdowns, compulsory vaccination, and widespread restrictions. For two years, our governments pursued containment as their highest and most central political goal; it became a kind of ideological system unto itself, and persists as one. These are western, liberal, democratic policies by definition, and they show that something is terribly wrong with our political order.
I think it is important to come to terms with these simple facts, because these dangerous crazy lunatics are still running everything. The pandemicists have come out of the past two years more entrenched and powerful than ever before. Our public health bureaucracies have learned what they can do now, and with what little pretence. SARS-2 research will receive tidal waves of funding for decades to come; even people who study elephants or soil fungi will now find incentives to make their work at least a little bit about Corona. The SARS-related virus research will also continue, there will be more lab leaks, and the vaccinators will show up every fall with their mRNA snake oil. It would be better, if all of this nonsense were directed, or the result of some unusual passing madness. It’s not; it is the way things are. This is the nature of the political and social institutions that govern us.