WHEN ADOLF HITLER committed suicide on 30 April 1945, thousands of Germans followed his example. The most famous copy-cats were Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda. Not only did they take their own lives, but also those of their six children. The idea of surviving the Fuhrer, being held accountable for everything he, and they, had done, seeing National Socialism overthrown and accepting the inevitable ruin of everything they had hoped for and fought for, was simply too overwhelming for many fanatical Nazis to contemplate.
Good riddance! Well, yes, that’s one response. But just consider the following excerpt from US writer, Eric Levitz’s “QAnon Is Madness: But Believing It Can Be Rational” article posted on The Intelligencer website of 23/9/20:
“Speaking with voters in Wisconsin this month, Time reporter Charlotte Alter heard conspiracy theories from about 20 percent of her interview subjects. Many of these Wisconsinites were not familiar with QAnon but subscribed to its basic tenets. Tina Arthur, a small-business owner, told Alter that she was not a follower of QAnon but did believe that the Democrats were in league with a cabal of blood-drinking child rapists and that ‘if Biden wins, the world is over, basically … I would probably take my children and sit in the garage and turn my car on, and it would be over.’”
What the hell is going on, when a businesswoman from the Mid-Western United States is willing to wipe out her entire family rather than face the prospect of living under a Democratic President? Because, when all is said and done, “Sleepy Joe” Biden is a very far cry from Joseph Stalin, and even the most strident antifa protester is nowhere near as dangerous as the vengeance-seeking soldiers of the Red Army. How did as many as 20 percent of Americans end up tumbling down this dangerously hallucinatory rabbit-hole?
According to Levitz, conspiracy theories have much more to offer confused and frightened citizens than may, at first glance, be apparent:
“The tendency toward conspiracism is deeply rooted in the human psyche. It manifests across time and geography and is likely a product of evolutionary pressures. On an emotional level, human beings tend to find the idea of being threatened by forces beyond their comprehension or control much more upsetting than being threatened by an intelligible enemy. Social psychologists have found that when fearful people contemplate potential misfortunes, they tend to feel helpless and pessimistic, but when angry people contemplate the same, they feel a sense of optimism and control. And one simple way to transmute fear into anger is to perceive an evil agent behind whatever development is causing you uncertainty and disquiet.”
With this in mind, we begin to appreciate the powerful psychological insight behind the New Zealand Government’s “Unite Against Covid-19!” campaign. By personifying the virus, transforming it into an “evil agent” which New Zealanders could defeat collectively, the Government and the Ministry of Health headed-off the sort of QAnon craziness that has turned so many fearful Americans into gibbering paranoiacs.
The other key factor in this country’s success in preventing the widespread uptake of insane conspiracy theories was the regular 1:00pm briefings from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Fear grows exponentially in the absence of timely and reliable information. New Zealand was, therefore, especially fortunate in having the “Jacinda and Ashley Show”. These two particularly gifted and credible communicators were able to deliver on an almost daily basis the answers and reassurance their frightened fellow citizens were so eager to receive. Such anger as was generated out of public fear tended to be directed against those who refused to “unite against the virus”. Not only did this popular enforcement of the Covid-19 Lockdown impede the disease’s spread, but it also served as a useful safety-valve for the tensions occasioned by the extraordinary limitations of individual freedom which the fight against the pandemic necessitated.
The comparison with the United States could hardly be more stark. Rather than the consistent and uplifting communications of Jacinda Ardern, the Americans were exposed to the constantly changing, often contradictory, messages of President Donald Trump. Also a formidable communicator, Trump deployed his talent in ways that fed, rather than calmed, his people’s fears, and fuelled their anger with hyper-politicised bulletins of unprecedented malignancy.
It would be wrong, however, to suggest that New Zealanders have been unanimous in their acceptance of the measures adopted to “stamp out” the virus. Although upwards of three-quarters of the population have registered either their “support” or “strong-support” for the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, that still leaves a quarter of the population unconvinced.
Some of these were the sort of hyper-individualists so often found in the upper reaches of societies dominated by the ideology of neoliberalism. Such people (most of them men) find the idea of standing in solidarity with the “sheeple” abhorrent. Equally unappealing, from the perspective of these “One Percenters”, is the unhelpful example set by the all-too-obvious success of collective intervention. Well-positioned to communicate their opposition, these Covid sceptics have been unceasing in their efforts to undermine the Government’s solidaristic appeals to “The Team of Five Million”.
The other pool of scepticism and resistance is fed by the fear and ignorance of New Zealand’s least educated and most marginalised citizens. With little cause to trust a state which bitter experience has taught them to regard as an alien and hostile entity, these folk remained largely untouched by the Government’s campaign against Covid-19. In terms of social-psychology, they are precisely the people who feel “threatened by forces beyond their comprehension or control”. Looking for “an intelligible enemy” to blame for their shitty world becoming even shittier, they have every reason to believe, and insufficient intellectual resources to refute, the conspiracy theories fed to them by the algorithms of social media and the political predators who so adroitly exploit them.
Once inside the rabbit holes of the conspiracists; once supplied with the identity of the “evil agents” against whom their now inflamed emotions can be directed; once filled with the optimism and sense of control that makes being angry in the company of like minds so much more bearable than being alone and frightened; once the hallucinations have become more compelling than reality; what then is the incentive to stop seeing things that aren’t there? Better by far to expand the rabbit hole until in encompasses the whole world.
And if reality reasserts itself: either in the form of the Fuhrer’s death and the Red Army’s victory; or in the person of President Biden and a Democratic Party-controlled Congress; then what is the point of going on? Better to grab the kids, administer the poison, and avoid shouldering the unbearable heaviness of being exposed as a true believer in a false god.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 25 September 2020.
And one simple way to transmute fear into anger is to perceive an evil agent behind whatever development is causing you uncertainty and disquiet."
Hilarious. You do realise how much of this is projection don't you? In IMAX, with Dolby Surround sound.
Almost twenty years ago surveys of Democrats revealed that something like 30%+ believed that Bush knew in advance of the 9/11 attacks and allowed them to happen for his own nefarious purpoises.
Have you not seen the Democrat supporters on their knees, howling with psychic pain when Trump won, and then again on inauguration day, and almost every day since then for four long years. I've never seen this level of insanity, even during the Bush years. Read almost any US Leftist blog or website, or even CNN and MSNBC.
And of course there are the constant claims about the Koch Brothers and other billionaires pulling the strings of the GOP behind the scenes, as if there aren't multiple billionaires backing the Democrat Party, both publically and behind the scenes.
You watched the Kavanaugh hearings? Calm, rational questioning and accusations it was not. More like one of Stalins show trials. And the Barret hearings are likely to be even crazier judging by what has been said about the loss of RBG and the horrifying prospects of yet another Catholic on the Supreme Court. Reference has already been made to The Handmaid's Tale: it was false in a funy way, but a marker as to where this is going.
There's nothing funnier or sadder than hysterical, Woke Leftists telling the other side to get a grip, calm down and stop beleiving the worst-case scenarios.
Here ya go Chris. Watch and laugh your butt off. And note that this wasn't written as a parody.
What youre describing is a people who worship a God of Exceptionalism and war. The same religion afflicts all citizens of Empire. Land of Hope and Glory was the Brits anthem for the same people in the 19th Century.
Interesting perspective. I have noticed a call for teaching civic; either not enough, or not effectively. But that needs to start at entry-level and takes years. How could we get through right now to the people who are stuck in reaction?
Maybe some face to face help from government, starting with an allocation of funds and meeting over tea and biccies to talk about needs and the group's agreement as to their most pressing problems. A government that uses its power to assist those who need help most, and one that doesn't announce less tax from the roof each morning at cock-crow.
Jesus found that a time of test for the weak-minded in his group. We notice the crowing and the eagerness for crossing the palm with silver of those who don't give a f..k about the poor people ground down by lack of opportunity, skills and loss of spirit.
When you ditch the transcendent, all that remains is the imminent. Faith is transferred from trust in God, to politicians and the political process. Consequently, everything today is political. Everything.
Sure, there is ugly on the right of the spectrum, but who is doing their best to burn American cities to the ground, disrupting diners at restaurants, demanding ideological compliance, destroying businesses, and just recently shooting police at their 'mainly peaceful' demonstrations? It is the political left, angry and convinced that some kind of utopia lies beyond the hated police and the ashes of western civilisation.
I may have missed it as an irregular reader of your blog, but will there be an article on Antifa any time soon?
Chris, I am a longtime reader but this is the first time for a comment. I would like to say that I have followed your work since the days of The Ralston Group, through your much-missed commentary on RNZ, and now down Bowalley Road.
Over the last year I have posted extracts and links to a number of your columns on the politics forum of the chess site, Chessgames.com. I just thought I should let you know, and check that this is alright with you.
Interesting that Hunter should assume that this article confines conspiracy theories to the right when it says no such thing. Ironic then that he should use the word "projection".
Also interesting – the only people I have ever heard using the word woke are Trevor Noah, and I guess given he is black and lives in America I guess he is entitled, and people who put it in inverted commas in order to use it ironically. Sort of makes you look stupid.
I think psychologists agree that conspiracy theories flourish when people are feeling powerless and afraid. There is no doubt that at the moment many people feel like this. And in the US, with very little in the way of safety nets, it's not surprising that there is a greater proportion of conspiracy theorists there than there is in NZ. When illness can bankrupt you, it's not surprising that the mind ascribes malign intentions to shadowy figures. :)
"On an emotional level, human beings tend to find the idea of being threatened by forces beyond their comprehension or control much more upsetting than being threatened by an intelligible enemy. Social psychologists have found that when fearful people contemplate potential misfortunes, they tend to feel helpless and pessimistic, but when angry people contemplate the same, they feel a sense of optimism and control. And one simple way to transmute fear into anger is to perceive an evil agent behind whatever development is causing you uncertainty and disquiet.”'
“My preference for describing these developments is to cast them as post-colonial. This should not be read as a stage which comes “after” colonialism or imperialism but as a period in which the values and institutions which represent colonialism are critiqued and new ways of identifying ourselves and of organising our institutions are explored. Simon During, one of the most interesting commentators on what post-colonialism might mean in a New Zealand context, talks of the need to find an identity which we have created, rather than something which has been granted by the colonial power, and that inevitably New Zealanders will come to know themselves in Maori terms. The previous invisibility of the tangata whenua, or indeed of pakeha, is replaced by a self-conscious and critical privileging of cultural identity, locally named and understood, which disrupted colonial understandings. As Stuart Hall observes, it is “a recognition that we all speak from a particular place, out of a particular history, out of a particular experience, a particular culture…”
Paul Spoonley Reviewing
Inventing New Zealand. Everyday Myths of Pakeha Identity
Claudia Bell (1996)
So Vodaphone, Countdown, Fonterra are all getting on board, but who are they who are doing it. Someone decides we need a post-colonial Christchurch. The European is too dominant. I questioned it on the Otakaro website and have been banned by another anonymouse coward. Does the critiquer ever get his critiqueing critiqued or does his/her professorship qualify him as authority?
Also with Donald Trump. In 1965 they ramped up immigration and it has never stopped. Ipsos say "nativism" is behind the election of Trump (Trumps messaging). So how about we critique the progressive assumptions. The universal nation has never existed. Do they really think they can use constant messaging via media to get majority ethnic groups to accept immigration as beneficial. According to Paul Spoonley and Vote Compass (TVNZ) they can.
One of the complaints of Trump supporters is that Democrats use immigration to increase support for Democrats. Who wins in that situation? Not the average white person.
"Sure, there is ugly on the right of the spectrum, but who is doing their best to burn American cities to the ground, disrupting diners at restaurants, demanding ideological compliance, destroying businesses, and just recently shooting police at their 'mainly peaceful' demonstrations?"
Actually Brendan, a lot of it is white people, but you won't make a move out of your conservative bubble to find out about it.
And why do you people always seem to forget why they are protesting Brendan? About black people being murdered by the cops. And of course unless there is at least – at the very least – some inconvenience to the general public, protists tend to be ignored. The more "violent" they are the more likely they are to get some form of action – in this case justice. It's a sad reflection on society that has to happen this way but those are the facts.
Now I realise you're pretty much immune to evidence Brendan, so don't bother replying. I'm not actually writing this for you.
The elephant, is capitalism, its usury for its god profit exploit and abuse of those daring to say capitalism is a inhuman, a profit exploit caner on our being, our birth breathing humanity.
The advantage of the QAnon is that an obvious bogus conspiracy draws attention and makes it difficult to give credibility to right-wing conspiracy. If you were now to suggest that the President of the United states is a eugenicist that believes humans can have race-horse like breeding, anti-Semite Henry Ford was of 'good blood', and that he inherited science genes from his uncle, you would think conspiracy theory rather than fact. Add to that a friendship with Jeffery Epstein - who funded eugenic 'science' and journals, that Bill Barr's father hired the unqualified Epstein to teach at his private school, that Bill Barr has sold his legal credibility to uphold Trump . . . Obviously crazy talk?
Very astute Brendan , as Nietzsche noted in Death of God man has killed faith but has not readily replaced it with another. The great secular theologies have certainly proven hollow. Fortunately you can't replace two millenia of thinking that is culturally embedded overnight.
GS, to paraphrase you are contending that because black people are being murdered by cops violent protest is required to get justice.
I'm not immune to evidence and I'm assuming you are not either. In which case I can only conclude that you have, as the rest of us have seen large areas in inner cities in the USA burnt and looted by rioters, occupied police stations besieged and firebombed, people assaulted by protesters.
Having seen that your contention is that somehow this will result in justice. I'm sure that because of your pure convictions in this matter that when rioters complaining of systemic police brutality turn up in your neighbourhood you will join them in burning down the local dairy and then perhaps torch your car or house. After all as justice is all important and this is the way you think to achieve it. Or will you protect yours and allow others to be burnt?
This time is rationalization v. reasoning. The twin children of of our species' developed consciousness. All of the rational realize it was a good time but will not be a long time. The rationalizers try to make it shorter.
The data suggests blacks are in fact slightly less likely to be shot and killed by police than whites, based upon the number of encounters both ethnicities have with the Police in the USA.
"The people making this argument don’t dispute the fact that police kill Black people at disproportionate rates. A Black person in America is roughly three times more likely than a white person to be killed by police. But according to this argument, the disparity is rooted in crime rates and more frequent encounters with police, not racism. In 2018, the rate of arrests for violent crime was 3.6 times higher for Black people than white people. So actually, the argument goes, Black people are underrepresented as victims of police killings, after controlling for the number of encounters."
"Research indicates that in 2019 police officers fatally shot 1,004 people, most of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. Of this total, 235 were African-Americans, about a quarter of those killed, a ratio that has remained stable since 2015.
That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects.
In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the US and commit about 60% of robberies, though they represent only 13% of the population."
Brendon, they left the neediest behind. What would Christ say? Religion, your thing. Which made Trump. Why is religion for the rich lately? Shouldn't it be for the underdog?
Thankfully NZ doesn't give a crap for your American christianity. Apart, tiresomely, for my lower middle class relatives. Or, drongos.
Unfortunately Brendan, I think the study that showed no racial disparities with withdrawn by its authors because it was deeply flawed. Pity you didn't dig a little more deeply into that.
But even if it were true, the number of unarmed black people shot by the police for nothing in particular is egregious.
Interesting your thoughts about black crime however in that you don't bother going into the factors that create it.
At least one study has shown that white people use drugs at a slightly higher rate than black people, yet black people are far more likely to be arrested for them. And if arrested, they are more likely to be prosecuted rather than let off, found guilty rather than not guilty, and receive longer sentences for them. We call this systemic racism. It also means that black people find it harder to get jobs and turn to petty crime.
And of course in today's dog eat dog society jobs are vital for well-being. It's a pity Brendan that many of you Christians spout platitudes about spirituality, when it is you who have created the commodification of society that is the complete opposite of spirituality.
@sumsuch - All I can suggest is a personal reading of the gospels to answer your questions.
@GS - I try and avoid platitudes. I can imagine why the study was withdrawn, if that is in fact the case. You can lose your job in the USA today for stating inconvenient facts that don't conform with the BLM narrative.
"I try and avoid platitudes. I can imagine why the study was withdrawn, if that is in fact the case. You can lose your job in the USA today for stating inconvenient facts that don't conform with the BLM narrative."
I'll have to call bullshit on that statement until provided with some sort of citation I'm afraid Brendan. And I noticed that you didn't address the actual meat of my argument as usual.
Brendan, a quick Google found this, a number of people who lost their jobs because they opined contra BLM.
They are all of course all fascists and Nazis in the eyes of what passes as the Left today. That is because as religion and with it God has been cancelled by rationalism the Devil cannot be to blame. The 20th century death camps proved Hell could occur on Earth, the act of a regime that explicitly rejected religion and its moral compass. Thus the Devil was superceded and replaced. You need now just label everybody you see as evil (aka having a different opinion) a fascist. For this your moral compass can be entirely arbitrary, the Nazis also proved that morality and truth are whatever you decide.
PS religious people like yourself are antiquated nutters, two thousand years of Christian thought is supposedly superceded by "woke" postmodernism. You are now a heretic because your faith, you must stop believing in facts because they are subjective and no longer yours to interpret. The new "inquisitors" of course use the same thinking, language and tools Torquemada used. Ironic, don't you think? Even funnier the new anti religious theology of post modernism has been championed by academics, the same people fostered by the Church for two millenia. The Devil moves in mysterious ways.
"These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish MISLEADING reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy."
"Well they would say that wouldn't they", to quote Sir Humphrey.
Brendan, I'm (over)familiar with christian theology. First you make a small leap of faith. But ,ultimately, 'you shall know them by their fruits'. Bitter in my view, but your faith has developed into a full on war on evidence-based reality. Good fun, but this is the end of (our) time, which is drawn closer by dogmatists.
Brendan, why are all your proofs at war with reason? From my life I'm all for leaps of faith but then you know those leaps by 'the fruits'. Trump is your man. You and your fellows are not helping the situation. 'Useful idiots' for the powerful. You do realise, among anyone with a brain, you cover yourself in excrement, much like that 1000 who marched for 5G causing covid. There is too much of a crossover between evangelicals and conspiracy believers. Why is God's evidence against you? Why are you on the side of those who can't get into heaven? Put kindness first, but that leads to social democracy at the least.
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