You may well have missed this last week, but a relatively unknown podcaster posted a string of tweets outlining the alt-right/Capitol Riot justification for how they see things, and why revolt appears reasonable these days. Tucker Carlson devoted over 7 minutes to it on his show, and then DT retweeted it too. After that, all hell broke loose in the chattering classes.
Our buddy Tristan Harris (Social Dilemma, Center for Humane Tech) sent it to a small group of friends, asking for thoughts on the breakdown in shared reality.
I'd been conceiving of writing something like this reply for ages but resisted almightily because I can't stand the political, reactive, culture war washing machine––but it was a good group to woodshed the ideas with, and now that it's written, figured I'd pass along. (and if any of these conclusions don't jive with your own particulars, just play through, it's the larger point and pattern, not the pissing match we're trying to illuminate here)
So, if you've kinda wondered why/how we've all got festering splinters in our minds these days––here's a bit of what's been happening...
My sense is "Russia gate" that the tweet thread focused on is only one of several epistemic schisms we've had in the past five years, and each one has prompted a specific maladaptive response in the collective psyche.
Here's a few examples (would be curious if you guys are tracking others):
1) Access Hollywood Tape 🎞 Never has any national candidate survived a comparable smoking gun scandal. Without it, #Metoo would likely have never happened with the same virulence.
2) Trump/Putin 🤝 Bizarre repeat coziness, never before seen between US and its arch rival. Combined with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and shock election, it prompted all sorts of WTF scrambling for meaning as the Poles shifted––suddenly Republicans were defending a special relationship with a KGB mastermind and Dems were looking to the FBI/CIA/NSA, who had been the villains of Civil Rights and social justice as their potential saviors.
3) Mueller 🤠 Fit everyone's idea of a beyond reproach Cary Grant/John Wayne traditional father figure/G-Man, and after two years of hyping and hoping that Daddy would sort it all out and put us back on the tracks of Platonic Truth...nothing. He just sort of faded to black while Barr crowed from the rooftops "nothing to see here!" and bizarrely, everyone sort of went along with it, despite pages and pages of damning findings.
4) Epstein 🎭 TWO US PRESIDENTS AND THE ROYAL FAMILY directly and repeatedly implicated in a massive super shady something or other and then the motherfucker up and dies in prison with no video tape! Were it not for Epstein, we likely would never have had pastel QAnon and #savethechildren. His spooky island temple and little black book gave proof to the PizzaGate fever dream.
5) Global/National/Partisan Response to Virus 🦠 The crisis playbook for the past fifty odd years has been transnational in flavor, with orgs like the WHO and CDC leading the way, and all G6-8 Nations' leaders falling in line, generally sharing resources and data and emphasizing coordinated response to global events. (see 9/11 initial response, etc.). None of it was perfect, but that was at least the dominant coordinating narrative. FFW to 2020 and we have US Gov't casting aspersions at those efforts, suppressing testing, slandering public health experts, refusing to mobilize a national emergency power to coordinate supplies (even within and for US citizens), explicitly suppressing aid to some states due to the political affiliation of their governors or voting persuasion of their citizens, and, perhaps for the first time ever, making bog-standard basic protocols like mask usage, a signifier of tribal identity. A complete and utter abdication of national unity and global responsibility.
5) George Floyd 🚔 His words "I can't breathe" ricocheted around the world, and became the rallying cry in Paris, London, et al. It was a psychic tear in the body politic. The notion of "to serve and protect" being overridden by a seemingly murderous cop and then militarized police response to peaceful protests (Never mind the parsing of the event, actual stats on black on blue violence etc etc––just talking about the psychic shockwaves of the flashpoint itself). Without this and "good people on both sides of Charlottesville" we would not have #defundthepolice, Antifa or CRT/Anti-racism in quite the same way.
6) Wuhan Lab/NIH/Fauci 💉 It's a bit like post-mortems showing that Bush sr. admin helped Bin Laden family members exit the US post 9/11. All a bit too cozy, too much overlap to be pure coincidence, wheels within wheels, conspiracy fodder. And the fact that mainstream press and even peer reviewed journals like the Lancet all fell in line, despite no compelling epidemiological "smoking gun" to confirm natural origin, fully undermined their later backtracking. (to say nothing of all the inept and shifting guidance from masks to distancing to vaxes, boosters, openings). The fact that bad people ("KungFu Flu") were perhaps suggesting the right thing (probable cause lab leak/gain of function research) for the wrong reasons (partisan political advantage) didn't make the right thing, the wrong thing. But for many in the halls of public opinion, it did, to the point of groupthink and censorship.
7) Capitol Riot 🏛 The party of law and order fomenting and even glorifying lawlessness (doesn't matter how justified or not you think it was, it's a HUGE flip for conservatives to be in that role and not the radical left)––with half the right claiming victory and the other half claiming false flag op, is clear evidence of the epistemic confusion.
There's tons of others, at least half of which sprang from Trump's admin––from villainizing the "rain, snow, dark of night" Post Office as partisan stooges, to upending Tea Party deficit vigilance and breaking budgets, to voter suppression in a "free democracy" suddenly being talked about out loud, to RINO now meaning an actual conservative who refused to bend the knee to Trumpism vs. the other way round, to "fake news" becoming the rallying cry of a president who produced more documented lies than any figure in history––it's all become classic schizophrenic double bind territory––the only way to resolve the cognitive dissonance is to go crazy, or to subscribe to a grand narrative that can explain it all.
My sense is that partisans on both sides have been putting thumbs on the scales of their propaganda engines for a while, but if you had to call it, I'd make the case that the Blue Church well and truly lost its mind during the Trump admin due to many of the schisms mapped above (amplified by a totally captured right wing news media), and upon realizing that the old rules of fair play and debate had been thoroughly shredded and they were getting their asses kicked, abandoned their own standards of due process, fact-checking, right of reply, etc with a vengeance. To the point where "liberals" are openly advocating some the most illiberal policies in the public sphere, in the name of leveling injustice.
#yesallmen #whitefragility etc. could not exist as the "guilty until proven innocent" stand that they are, without the trampling of good faith civil discourse.
Unfortunately, the Blue Church/Mainstream media has been serving up a hat trick of own goals, so they've lost huge chunks of whatever reasoned credibility they might have once held––the meritocrats and technocrats that held claim to running media, government, academic and NGOs since Bretton Woods, have all effectively shat the bed, and we're now looking at Turchin's thesis of overproduction of elites as omens of collapse, coming home.
See recent Atlantic article: The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse
Boris Johnson (Eton, Oxford) JD Vance (Yale Law) Bannon (HBS/Goldman) Hawley (Stanford/Rhodes), Cruz (Princeton), and lots of others are exploiting the populist turn and there's nothing strong enough at the center of the old consensus to hold them back.
Hope that helps map the wonky-ass terrain we've been traversing and maybe even sheds some light on "splinters in your own mind"––little nagging wounds that have festered under the skin.
It’s not always super fun to have to go back through a litany like that––in many cases we’d all prefer to forget what we’ve just been through––but in order to find our way back to common ground, it’s important to note all of the things that knocked us off track.
We haven’t gone crazy, the world has. And if we’re going to find our way back to mutuality, respect and shared commitments to Life, Liberty and that ever-elusive Pursuit of Happiness, it’s important to reclaim our cognitive liberty. No one should ever be renting space in our heads, without our consent!
⛺️ Meanwhile, in much radder news, we're heading up to the mountains of Colorado to host Camp Omega––a super fun gathering of folks training our bodies, opening our hearts, and lighting up our minds in service of answering the questions Where Have We Come From, What's Going On? and What Do We Do Now? Acro-yoga, drumming, singing, martial arts, theory, communication practice, preparedness planning, vocational collaboration, and advanced biohacking--all in the name of hatching a few more Twice Born HomeGrown Humans into the world...
🙌 Huge thanks to everyone who's made this a massively oversubscribed event––we're beyond capacity and super stoked to fully send this thing. To Infinity and Beyond!
(trip report on our return)