Jan 17 • 26M

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been ...?

Mass hysteria spreads to DC

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The podcast version of Sasha Stone's Substack essays.
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There is no doubt, at least to my mind, that we’re living through some kind of a mass hysteria event.

Writing on his site, John Kass says:

A weak president who is out of control, one who wildly denounces those who disagree with him as sinners against the state,  blaming them for the failures of his extreme legislative agenda that can not generate enough votes in the Senate is not a hopeful business. It is a frightening thing. It is something out of bad paranoid fiction, or post-war Eastern Europe. But it is not fiction or history. It seeps from the babbling old man in the White House.

Most Americans aren’t worried about looking for racists on every block. They don’t think America is consumed by racial hate. They think America is a nice country. They like living here. They’re worried about other matters. They wonder why Biden and the Democrats won’t address their concerns.

The people are worried about inflation, not racist witches. After those wild spending and money-printing sprees from Washington, inflation is now higher than it has been in 40 years. It is eating a hole in their bank accounts, college funds and retirement savings. The people see the rising price of gas and wonder how long they’ll be able to afford meat.

They’re worried about confusion over vaccine mandates and vax passes and their kids being locked out of school in the lockdown blue states, of babies ordered to wear masks.

What they’re not worried about are the screams of the witch hunters, or whether to play some old-timey Democratic political game like “race cards.” They have lives.

Anyone can be seen as a Domestic Terrorist by Biden and Merrick Garland. Parents who protest school boards, anyone who might not want to take the vaccine. Anyone who objects to the practice of teaching “antiracism” to children, or even people who might object to gender theory being taught to their kids. If you misgender someone you can be banned for hate speech on Twitter. Is that now going to be the law of the land? Do the citizens have any right to dissent or object?

Worse, the Biden administration doesn’t seem to understand that the whole world is watching. They’re watching him confused and angry, demanding his citizens comply with his orders.

So insular and disconnected from reality are Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, not to mention the journalist class in the mainstream and the Blue Checks on Twitter, that they’re actually trying to sell the pitch that a bunch of rag-tag rioters, who were unarmed, had the power to bring down the mighty United States - to threaten our Democracy and to present any sort of challenge whatsoever to the most powerful military in the world. Imagine what Vladimir Putin makes of that. Or Xi Jingping. Or the Taliban leaders. Either they’re laughing at us or they’re kicking themselves for not realizing just how vulnerable the United States government actually is.

These aren’t leaders.

Writing on his Substack, Serve to Lead’s James Strock goes through how past leaders might have navigated January 6th to illustrate just how weak American leadership has become. From George Washington:

Would Washington have toyed with a mob from the White House—and not acted to forestall violence? This was the president who put down the Whiskey Rebellion.

Would Washington have fled the throngs marauding the Capitol halls? Would he have slipped onto an underground tram, repaired to an office building a quarter-of-a-mile away, barricaded himself in a bathroom in a colleague’s office, and tweeted that he was traumatized?

Would he have failed to recognize an oligarchy brazenly striking at the foundation of the Bill of Rights? Washington’s generation knew oligarchy and feared and fought it. Recall that the British East India Company owned the product that was thrown overboard in the Boston Tea Party.

And Teddy Roosevelt:

Were he a member of Congress, would he have allowed a police officer, perhaps one not equipped in riot gear, to shield him from danger?

On Monday, October 14, 1912, Roosevelt took a bullet to the chest, fired at point-blank range. The aging former president then spoke, without a microphone, for well over an hour, before accepting medical care.

Would any of the strongest leaders of this country project such an image of weakness to the rest of the world just to score political points? You think your average person on the Left looks foolish walking into a supermarket in a hazmat suit, imagine what the rest of the world thought of Nancy Pelosi’s Green Zone occupation of DC after Janaury 6th. We look like freaked out, hysteria-driven lunatics who can’t handle someone using the wrong pronoun or words that make us feel unsafe, let alone a riot that was not even as bad as the riots that followed the protests for months in the Summer of 2020. Whole businesses were burned to the ground. Dozens were killed. It was the closest thing to an actual revolution we’ve seen since the founding of the United States yet this one riot, in a futile, and frankly sad, effort to decertify the election count might have looked scary as portrayed on MSNBC but close up it was nothing this country hasn’t seen many times before.

Like in 2011 in Wisconsin and Michigan when protesters breached the Capitol to protest a vote on labor.

Like the actual bombing of the Capitol by the weatherman in the 1970s.

The difference was for four years the media had sold Trump and his supporters as domestic terrorists, White Supremacists and Nazi Brown Shirts. Your average Trump supporter holding a Trump flag and an American flag is an image Americans were already conditioned to fear. Had they never gone into the Capitol at all it still would have been to many the most frightening thing they’d seen in their lifetimes.

This is not to diminish what happened on January 6th. No doubt it was terrifying for those who lived through it, but it is how they connected it to what they believe is a “white supremacist” uprising that ties into a greater wave of hysteria and fear. Fold in the idea that only Trump supporters are anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers and you have a full blown dehumanization campaign aimed at one group of people.

Witches, Witches Everywhere.

In the book Pendulum: How Generations of the Past Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future, which is a loose interpretation of Neil Howe’s The Fourth Turning, Howe’s 80-year generational theory is divided into four 20 year-cycles, from a “me” cycle (individualism) to the “we” cycle (collectivism).

The authors Michael Drew and Roy Williams warned of what they call the “witch hunt phase.” As the “we” cycle winds down, the purges begin. Even though the book was written in 2011 or thereabouts, they tag the year 2023 as the height of our “witch hunt phase,” writing:

Senator Joseph McCarthy was an American promoter of this witch-hunt attitude at America’s most recent “We” Zenith of 1943 (see the “House Un-American Activities Committee,” 1937–1953); Adolf Hitler was the German promoter (see the Holocaust, 1933–1945); and Joseph Stalin was the Soviet promoter (see the Great Purge, 1936–1938). Our hope is that we might collectively choose to skip this development as we approach the “We” Zenith of 2023. If enough of us are aware of this trend toward judgmental self-righteousness, perhaps we can resist demonizing those who disagree with us and avoid the societal polarization that results from it. A truly great society is one in which being unpopular can be safe.

It has arrived right on schedule.

Back in 1692, the Puritans had come to America to flee religious oppression in England and were now building a “shining city on the hill.”

The Puritans were already locked into fear paralysis by forces beyond their control. Native Americans fought hard to keep their territory, murdered Puritans, kidnapped their children, killed their livestock. An epidemic of smallpox hit the community hard and it was a brutal winter in 1692. It is not all that surprising given those conditions and frankly, given ours, that they would collectively snap.

Into a utopia comes a major threat that triggers hysteria.

In Salem, it was adolescent girls thrashing around on the floor - the reason? They were possessed by witches. The girls accused any random person. Once accused, they were brought before the Oyer and Terminer and usually found guilty because there were no lawyers, there was no evidence and the only education on offer was the Bible. Once convicted they could confess as a witch and live, or deny being a witch and be hanged in the town square with people they’ve known all their lives cheering on their deaths.

20 people had been hanged before the bubble of hysteria burst. When the Governor’s wife was accused that was a bridge too far and the whole thing came crashing down like a house of cards.

Sooner or later, all episodes of mass hysteria do evaporate and history takes care of the rest. This depends on the society as a whole getting a grip. When you see half the country as your enemy, that is very nearly impossible.

We might be closing in on that moment but we are not there yet.

Have you No Decency, Sir?

The 1950s had all the markings of a manufactured utopia. Coming out of one of the most horrific eras in the history of mankind, World War II, American life in the 1950s had the facade of the same kind of “normalcy” as the American Left is living through today, only back then it was Conservative.

It was the epitome of Americana - though it always must be noted that this was not true for many of the underserved. President Eisenhower, among the many great things he did, would end segregation in public schools and in the military.

Back in the 1950s, like now, there was a happy alliance between the administrative state and Hollywood, or American culture. Many on the left were secretly Communist sympathizers, like many screenwriters and actors. They would be found out and Blacklisted after being brought before the HUAC and asked to “name names.” That was their version of a confession and it is seen as just as much of a dishonest move now. But it was the Republicans who were the main opponents as they tried to preserve what they believed was the American way of life. You can imagine how clearly defined that was in the 1950s.

They believed their very way of life was threatened by Communism - freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, the right to rise in the free market system, to own property. And indeed, Stalin and other Communist dictators beat, tortured and starved millions of their own people to force compliance. There was no dissent allowed. Most lefties in America were blissfully unaware of just bad it was in Stalin’s Russia. The propaganda machine made sure only the positive news got out, just like in modern day China now.

The fear was that there were Communists everywhere injecting messages, spying on Americans, pretending to BE Americans. When actual Communists were uncovered, like the Rosenbergs, that kicked the hysteria into overdrive, making McCarthy a hero to the American public. He was so well liked that Eisenhower chose not to speak out against him when he was running for President in 1952.

When McCarthy started targeting members of the military, it was too much for even a stalwart Republican like Ike. He set about a negative PR campaign against McCarthy and was largely responsible for not just his downfall but the end of the mass hysteria episode against Communists, though the Cold War would rage on until the 1980s.

Racists, Transphobes, Misogynists everywhere.

Two things of significance happened in 2008. Barack Obama became the first Black President and the government bailed out big banks to the tune of $700 billion.

That year, two major revolutionary forces were born: Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. In 2014, another revolutionary force would become a gathering storm, Black Lives Matter.

Occupy and the Tea Party began when social media was in its infancy. Obama was the first president to use Twitter to build his coalition online. It was seen as a smart way to campaign. Trump would do the same thing in the leadup to his run, around the same time - 2012. It was seen as the end of Humanity itself such that eventually Trump would be banned from the platform.

Back in 2008, the Left of this country had already been well on our way towards building our utopian America, our own version of the Shining City on the Hill. We were the beautiful people, the celebrities, the Silicon Valley whiz kids, the filmmakers. We were on the right side of the environment, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights. We were progressive, idealistic, fitness gurus, empowered women, who had spent the previous decade going to therapy and starting an anti-depressant regiment. We watched Oprah every day at 3pm. We vowed to do better, to be better, to offend no one. We were the “everybody gets a certificate” generation.

Our “goodness” was in how responsible we were. We recycled. We cared about the oceans. We worried about bullies and school shooters. And yes, we HATED the Right. They were the worst this country had to offer. They were “bad” and we were “good” and the Obamas were the leaders of all of it.

But we were also afraid of everything, even then. Our children were analyzed, scrutinized to see if they were sociopaths, psychopaths, bullies or geniuses. We drugged them, praised them, hoped for perfection but also wanted all of them to have an equal shot at success. They became teenagers afflicted with one disorder or another, which they wore like badges of honor, or identification. We did too. All of us on the left. We were both victimized by society’s structure and empowered to disrupt it.

Generation Z has now come of age knowing that they have to put people in categories by skin color, sex, gender and ideology. They know they have to announce who and what people are right off the bat and they somehow also know that the one thing you can’t be is a “white cis gendered male.” They also are smart enough to know that what you think or what you say might get you in trouble so they self-censor.

To challenge anything Obama did or said was considered, in itself, racism. This was especially true about the Tea Party and marginally true about Occupy Wall Street. People on the Left believe that Obama’s win threatened the White Supremacist empire that is America and his very presence led to a White Supremacist uprising called the Tea Party, which would eventually birth the Freedom Caucus, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, to say nothing of its ring leader, Steven K. Bannon.

Racism would become fascism, which would become “white supremacy” which would become Domestic Terrorism.

I never questioned that it was based on racism. I believed this 100%. That is why I, along with many parents around 2013, began to spread the ideas of Critical Theory without even realizing it. We believed our beloved President was not being accepted by the White Majority. We began to see racism everywhere too. We also saw injustice everywhere. So did our children who came of age online, half of them social justice warriors that now patrol social media like the Children Spies in 1984.

The idea that we are all secretly racists or transphobes or misogynists or homophobes or rapists or we’re just one old Tweet or old photo or slip of the tongue away from being exposed and outed is driving us all collectively insane.

It was one thing when “Cancel Culture” was just a meme on Black Twitter. It was something driven by a community that had a collective voice online for the first time in American history. Eventually, though, it became obvious that Twitter was being used as an arena for public shaming and the mobilization of online mobs to destroy people’s lives. The fear of being targeted is so strong that most in power do whatever they can to avoid it.

Twitter’s mob rule now translates to on the ground protests, riots and mobs. How quickly did Kenosha burn before any of the facts about the Jacob Blake case came out? Due process was out the window because almost everyone was caught up in the wave of panic and hysteria. We should take a lesson from how fast that traveled from social media to the near destruction of one town. It does not bode well for the future. Somehow no one seems to have put all of these things together - the uprisings from 2008, social media, the Summer of protest in 2020 and January 6th.

“Cancel Culture” isn’t dangerous because of Twitter. It’s dangerous because corporations and now our government enact their own justice because of it. If the currency in an oligarchy is maintaining the image of “goodness” they will happily throw anyone under the bus to preserve theirs.

We don’t even need a dictatorship to police citizens in a Capitalist country. We just need the systems of Capitalism to adopt the ideology. And so they have. Vivek Ramaswamy has written a book called “Woke Inc” about this very thing. The average American citizen doesn’t have a chance.

There is not a corporation now, not a university, not a movie studio, or a book publishing house or a mainstream news outlet or a science lab that is not fully on board with the doctrine, who won’t side with the mob to purge their companies of undesirables, to preserve their power and their image.

All of the inane ways the big corporations are going “woke” embarasses them only they don’t realize it. They are pleasing a small minority of loud zealots who police them and will report them for their thought crimes but they are alienating the majority who most definitely is not in favor of this fundamentalism. The same is true of schools and now of our government.

The divide between the oligarchy and the working class is widening, and now with Joe Biden calling anyone who supports Trump, or resists their imposed doctrine, potentially a “domestic terrorist” or “white supremacist” what kinds of protections do our average citizens have? What lawyer would risk representing them? The more corporations comply with Biden’s doctrine, and the fear and hysteria that goes along with it, the more dangerous our country becomes for people with no power and no status.

A recent column in the Spectactor by Joel Kotkin warns:

The new autocracy rises from a relentless economic concentration which has engendered a new and fabulously wealthy elite. Five years ago, around four hundred billionaires owned as much as half of the world’s assets. Today, only one hundred billionaires own that share, and Oxfam reduces that number to a mere twenty-six. In avowedly socialist China, the top one percent of the population holds about one-third of the country’s wealth, up from 20 percent two decades ago. Since 1978, China’s Gini coefficient, which measures inequality of wealth distribution, has tripled.

And:

The time could be shorter than we think. The tech oligarchs are creating something similar to what Aldous Huxley called in Brave New World Revisited a “scientific caste system.” There is “no good reason,” Huxley wrote in 1958, that “a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown.” It will condition its subjects from the womb so that they “grow up to love their servitude” and “never dream of revolution.” It will maintain a strict social order and provide enough diversion through drugs, sex and videos to keep their artificially narrowed minds occupied and sated.

The fusion of government with large oligopolistic companies, and the technologically-enhanced collection of private information, allow the new autocracies to monitor our lives in ways that Mao, Stalin or Hitler would have envied. A rising tide of money and administrative power defines the rising autocracy. If we as citizens, whatever our political orientation, are not vigilant, our democracy will become an increasingly hollow vessel”

Imagine a future when aritficial intelligence is tasked with policing our thoughts, our speech, our shopping habits, who we date, what we say online, what websites we visit. They can be as indifferent as Stalin’s army. They can simply erase or disappear anyone.

In its own way, Wall-E is about fighting back against authoritarian power disguised as “taking care” of its citizenry via artificial intelligence. There they lay, pudgy and compliant, zoned out on media, while their food is delivered to them. It is a wonderful metaphor for our potential future. With a government willing to sacrifice our image of strength abroad to satisfy panic and hysteria, and willing to use all tools at their disposal to stifle dissent, this future is not that unimaginable.

Here’s hoping a smart little robot like Eve shows up to help save us from ourselves.