You Can’t Trust the Experts: COVID-19, Part II

Why conspiracy theories on coronavirus have spread so quickly - Vox

Statistics and data are important, but so are stories:

‘Everyone’ was saying these vaccines were safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. But how could they? There were literally zero studies. This is when I realized we were being lied to.

The problem was everywhere. Almost every paper I read had at least one obvious and serious problem with it, often of a type that you didn’t need any actual expertise to notice. I started to wonder how these papers were getting through peer review and getting published. … [M]y confidence in publicly funded science is completely destroyed … Our society is completely in the grip of people who have effectively evolved under selection pressure to strongly resemble scientists without actually being scientists.

[L]egislation which institutes lockdowns with no exit strategy … is not drafted with the view that the emergency will (can) end. The people drafting this legislation are not stupid. If they have not written an exit strategy into the legislation … they do not intend to implement one (at least not unless it is politically expedient). … The young, the poor, and people with disabilities would be among the cohorts who would bear the brunt of the damage.

40 years of NIOSH and OSHA data said their containment strategy was a joke.. and every hazmat expert who spoke up got de-platformed. That convinced me the government was not serious, and it was all theater. … I knew from history that both cloth masks and 6 feet “social distancing” were both failed strategies from the pandemic of 1917-1919, which Facui et al just recycled. That’s not serious science.

How could anyone be over due for a vaccine that was still in clinical trials and was only available under an emergency use authorization

[T]he media was flooded with stories of apparently healthy 40 year olds who died from covid. No comorbidities or risk factors, just died. I started to recognize it for fear porn and even suspected some of these ‘stories’ were fabricated.

[M]any children killed themselves across the US and the media would not cover it…. [T]he game plan was to day by day, using the Task Force daily briefings, make Trump look incapable and that all he was doing was a failure…to report infections by the thousands daily, and to make America unmanageable and ungovernable so that by the time the election came, people will be fed up and hurt and crushed by the lockdowns etc. and they actually pulled that off.

None of this involves “conspiracy theories,” just recognition that we are ruled by people whose ambition exceeds their ability to lead—because they are groupthinkish, or incompetent, or dishonest, or (in some cases) malicious, or cowardly—or all of the above. If you work at a large organization of pretty much any kind—”public” or “private,” “for-profit” or “not-for-profit,” etc.—you probably know the type(s). Heck, you (and I) have probably been the type at some point or other.

The only reasonable course of action is to adopt a stance of alienation from the prevailing Narrative—which is certainly not always wrong, but which never deserves the benefit of the doubt. Alienation—not just from journalists, but from politicians (both Democrats and Republicans), bureaucrats, “scientists,” professors, CEO’s, and pretty much any other “expert.” Not just about COVID, but about faith, health, family, and pretty much any other aspect of the good life.

But alienation is not enough. You cannot turn your back on the prevailing Narrative without something—or Someone—else to turn to. Or else you’ll go crazy. (Cynicism and despair are arguably even worse than blind trust. Tolkien: “The greater part of the truth is always hidden, in regions out of the reach of cynicism.”)

(Part I here.)

There Are No Peasants Now

“The faith of the majority of educated people of our day,” Tolstoy observes, “was expressed by the word ‘progress.’ It then appeared to me that this word meant something. I did not as yet understand that, being tormented (like every vital man) by the question how it is best for me to live, in my answer, ‘Live in conformity with progress,’ I was like a man in a boat who when carried along by wind and waves should reply to what for him is the chief and only question, ‘Whither to steer,’ by saying, ‘We are being carried somewhere.'”
There has been no advance beyond this position since Tolstoy’s day.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God

Quite the opposite:

Tolstoy began to recover himself at the point where he realized that “I and a few hundred similar people are not the whole of mankind, and that I did not yet know the life of mankind.” He could observe the mass of persons, the peasants, who in the most miserable of conditions found life deeply meaningful and even sweet. They had not heard about “particles and progress.” But this is no longer possible. The peasants now watch TV and constantly consume media. There are no peasants now.

There are, however, godly men and women now—as there have always been and always will be. They are easily found by those who wish to find them.

(Related.)

The Power to Tear Things Down

Tom Wolfe Has Died at 88 | Vanity Fair

If you ask me, newspaper reporters are created at age six when they first go to school. In the schoolyard boys immediately divide into two types. Immediately! There are those who have the will to be daring and dominate, and those who don’t have it. Those who don’t … grow up with the same dreams as the stronger…. They, too, dream of power, money, fame, and beautiful lovers. Boys like this kid grow up instinctively realizing that language is like…a sword or a gun. Used skillfully, it has the power to…well, not so much achieve things as to tear things down—including people…including the boys who came out on the strong side of the sheerly dividing line. Hey, that’s what liberals are! Ideology? Economics? Social justice? Those are nothing but their prom outfits. Their politics were set for life in the schoolyard at age six. They were the weak, and forever after they resented the strong. That’s why so many journalists are liberals!

Tom Wolfe, Back to Blood

Cordevilla: “Grievance is the handle by which you push these pawns into your cultural wars.”

Handle: “The political formula of ‘use propaganda to agitate maximum resentment, and then weaponize it’ has evolved and been refined to an art-form. … [M]aintaining a perpetually heightened sense of resentful grievance and bitter acrimony is extremely effective, albeit incompatible with a nice future.”

Thomas Sowell: “I am so old that I can remember when other people’s achievements were considered to be an inspiration, rather than a grievance.” (In related news, notice all the statues coming down?)

Robin Morgan: “I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honourable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them.”

But of course loving less will not get us anywhere. The politics of hatred—violent or merely casual, left or right—is the politics of death. “We must love one another or die.”

We Demand Windows

7 of the Most Famous Stained Glass Windows in the World

We demand windows. Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is ‘I have got out’. Or from another point of view, ‘I have got in’; pierced the shell of some other monad and discovered what it is like inside.

Good reading, therefore, though it is not essentially an affectional or moral or intellectual activity, has something in common with all three. In love we escape from our self into one other. In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person’s place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity. In coming to understand anything we are rejecting the facts as they are for us in favour of the facts as they are. The primary impulse of each is to maintain and aggrandise himself. The secondary impulse is to go out of the self, to correct its provincialism and heal its loneliness. In love, in virtue, in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the reception of the arts, we are doing this. Obviously this process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; ‘he that loseth his life shall save it’. … The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books.

CS Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

Targeting Young Girls

The custom of the diamond ring took root in the early twentieth century when diamond giant DeBeers experienced languishing sales. The company contracted with an American advertising firm, N. W. Ayer, which unleashed one of the most effective media campaigns the world has ever seen. They gave diamonds to movie icons and had magazines run glamorous stories and photographs linking diamonds to romance and high society. In a 1948 strategy paper, N. W. Ayer wrote, “We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer’s wife and the mechanic’s sweetheart say ‘I wish I had what she has.'” In a memo to DeBeers, the agency described targeting young girls through lectures at high schools: “All of these lectures revolve around the diamond engagement ring, and are reaching thousands of girls in their assemblies, classes and informal meetings in our leading educational institutions.” After twenty years of effort, N. W. Ayer declared victory in the late 1950s. They reported to DeBeers, “Since 1939 an entirely new generation of young people has grown to marriageable age…To this new generation a diamond ring is considered a necessity to engagements by virtually everyone.” The firm would next take aim at Japan and introduce the diamond engagement ring as a posh Western custom. The firm succeeded: from 1967 to 1981 the percentage of Japanese brides wearing diamond rings went from less than 5% to about 60%.

Finny Kuruvilla, King Jesus Claims His Church

It’s Mammon’s world—we just live in it.

The Shallowness of It All

How to Interpret 'Bad' Tarot Cards | Keen

In the modern spiritual marketplace, you pick your enchantment, like shopping for deals at Walmart…. Our enchantments have become lifestyle choices. We pick the enchantment that suits us or is most in fashion. … If we’re thoughtful, we can sense the shallowness of it all. Can an enchantment we pick up and lay down at a whim really give our lives the sacred meaning and weight we’ve been longing for? Can an enchantment we choose for ourselves become anything but narcissistic, a reflection of our own highly selective and cropped self-image? Immanent enchantments are on the rise because they are perfectly suited to our consumeristic age. And that is the fatal, fundamental flaw.

Richard Beck, “Pascal’s Pensées: Week 2, Transcendence Matters”

False Devils

New York restaurant with a sign in the shop window 'No Booze Sold Here  Booze Hounds Please Stay Out'

Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice. The Moslems say, “There is no God but God.” The English Moslems, the abstainers, have to learn to remember also that there is no Satan but Satan.

GK Chesterton

The Puritanical agitators of Chesterton’s day—who, though they too were toxic cultists, stood head and shoulders above contemporary “social justice warriors”—decried capitalism and alcohol. But the Puritanical agitators of our day have a somewhat different list of bogeymen, headed up by the various now-all-too-familiar -ism’s: “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” and so on.

And so our agitators call many things that are good satanic (or “problematic”), and many things that are satanic good. They forget—if they ever knew—that there is no Satan but Satan. (As do most of their “conservative” opponents, who are much more worried about “socialism” than about spiritual corruption.)

There is something fundamentally wrong, but if we do not begin at the beginning, with God as God and Satan as Satan, with good as good and evil as evil, we will never solve even our secular problems. Our problems remain unsolved because we worship false gods—”Diversity,” “Equity,” “Inclusion” —and fear false devils—”capitalism”; “socialism”; straight white men.

The Golden Age of Childhood

A Texas playground in the early 1900s

Dean Acheson, Truman’s Secretary of State, on his childhood:

The golden age of childhood can be quite accurately fixed in time and place. It reached its apex in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first few years of the twentieth, before the plunge into a motor age and city life swept away the freedom of children and dogs, put them both on leashes and made them the organized prisoners of an adult world. … No one was run over. No one was kidnapped. No one had teeth straightened. No one worried about children, except occasionally my mother, when she saw us riding on the back step of the ice wagon and believed, fleetingly, that one of the great blocks of Pamecha Pond ice would fall on us. But none ever did.

Walter Isaacson, on Dean Acheson’s childhood:

Dean had a pony … a dog named Bob (purchased for five dollars), and a ready supply of playmates. … On the three-acre field between the church and the rectory, he and his friends would recreate battles of the Boer War and Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill … Each evening Dean would walk to the firehouse to watch the men drill and then run to the wharf in time for the arrival of the boat from Hartford. “To me, it seemed that the ladies and gentlemen promenading the deck of that ship were the most fortunate people on earth,” he later recalled.

Arnold Kling, on Arnold Kling’s childhood:

Those of us who grew up many decades ago probably would not want to trade our childhood for today’s childhood.