So, last week I took a stab at using the recent Freedom Convoy truckers strike to make some points about how hard it is these days to make sense of "what's really going on."
And within about 15 minutes of sending, my inbox was flooded with surprisingly feisty responses that came down about 9:1 to some indignant version of "you milque-toast fence-sitting Limey!!! I used to like reading your stuff for perspective, but since you have SO CLEARLY thrown your hat in with Biden, Trudeau and the Davos Vaxxer New World Order lot, I am filled with a righteous contempt for your refusal to pick a side–our side."
(as is often the case here, I am paraphrasing ;)
Which kind of made my original point about how much of a rush we're in to pick a side, and that we're really losing our grip on "epistemic humility"––or knowing what we don't know.
Because here's the thing: once false flag operations turn into kinetic war, the bloodshed is all too real. It doesn't matter who's "really" behind something at the beginning, once we all jump onto the pigpile.
An example from this past week to drive that point home:
Had lunch with Admiral William McRaven (most famous for his viral "make your bed, hook 'em horns" graduation speech at the University of Texas, second most famous for leading Operation Neptune Spear that killed Bin Laden), and just last week he gave 70/30 odds that Putin wouldn't engage in a full assault in Ukraine.
He predicted Putin would likely engage in some feints and probes, and maybe take a few border territories, but would see clearly it wasn't in his self-interest to push on to try and occupy Kiev. (as I write this, that city is on the verge of direct attack).
Add in Matt Taibbi, the increasingly salty former Rolling Stone journalist who spent a number of years as a young journo in Moscow, still has many friends and contacts on the ground, and has been loudly raking Biden and co over the last month for a hyped up, never-gonna-happen invasion the administration was using to distract from its ineptitude on all other fronts. (to his credit––on the day of the invasion, Matt put out a humble mea culpa for getting it so wrong).
Both of those guys would be considered by many to be credible sources, even (esp in the case of McRaven), highly informed, profoundly experienced, and unimpeachable sources.
And they were both wrong.
So how is it that so many of those replies to last week's newsletter (and gajillions more on all sides of Twitter, YouTube comments and that sad sad place where reason goes to die, Telegram) are certain?
And not just certain. Absolutely certain they're certain!
In two words, egregores and schizo-genesis.
It's a term from esoteric magick referring to the creation of a disembodied entity that has a mind of its own. Spoiler: this rarely ends well.
The author of the Handwaving Freakoutery Blog has recently been applying that term to the unholy feedback loop that ad-driven social media has created in our own minds.
Unintentionally, we have created a group hive-mind, an egregore, that whispers to us in our sleep, that shapes our most intimate thoughts and feelings, and weirdly, bends us to its will and not the other way round.
We think that we're pushing that Like button, but really, that Like button is pushing us...
By the clicking of our thumbs, something wicked this way comes!
And it's not esoteric, it's algorithmic. In the pay for clicks ad realm, truth gets eclipsed by cuteness and outrage. (And outrage kicks the shit out of kittens, every time). A little outrage begets more outrage, until we're all seeing red, and both kittens and the truth are left back in the ditch.
In one of his recent posts, the HWFO author unpacks a Joe Rogan episode with a former Islamist (Maajid Nawaz) who once did psy-ops. This former operative then grippingly explained to Joe the super sinister cabal that is marching us all towards a New World Order surveillance state, deploying lockdowns and vaccines as a trojan horse for pending enslavement.
And HWFO’s point is that Nawaz is making a categorical mistake by not including the possibility of an egregore in his analysis.
Rogan's guest was mapping the litany of anti-democratic steps that "liberal" governments around the world have taken over the past 24 months. He's tracking the slippery slope towards control and surveillance. He's noticed all the wild missteps, half truths and retractions, and can only conclude, there has to be someone at the center of this pulling all the strings––how else could you see such a consistent and coordinated pattern of action?
In a word, it's not some one, or even a group of someones. It's something. And that something is the egregore that is now controlling huge amounts of our social and political conversations. The feedback loop has flown the coop. And now it's shitting upon our heads.
Ever wondered how Jordan Peterson went from a mild mannered Jungian psychologist with a penchant for the mythic, to an increasingly reactionary troll and climate denier?
The egregore got him!
(along with Klonopin and audience capture, but we digress)
And it's not just happening on podcasts and Youtube. It's happening in the halls of power. Our buddy Tristan Harris has been spending a bunch of time meeting with the White House, Congress and others in DC trying to get a handle on this monster, only to belatedly realize, that the killer is already in the building!!!
The very same politicians who are responsible for regulating the egregore are already infected by it.
They're constantly checking their Twitter feeds, they're saying outrageous things to each other in the halls of Congress and recording it on video, not to actually communicate with their esteemed colleagues but to post online later. There they hope, it will get picked up by cable news and the social algorithms to throw more red meat to their base and to grab more green backs from their donors.
Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert (to say nothing of a host of insufferable aging white dudes) are an utter embarrassment to the dignity of US Gov't, prattling on about everything from Jewish space lasers to the fascist tendencies of the "Gazpacho police."
Instead of getting kicked to the curb, they're thriving. Because they have learned who's really in charge these days. They worship this false idol, and the egregore rewards them with riches and power beyond their wildest dreams.
And lest we forget (as we wonder how, so all of a sudden, we stopped liking our family and neighbors and have begun to suspect them of all manner of sins), a former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin has been engaging in a dedicated decades long psyop campaign against the US and EU countries.
In other words, he’s one of the Dark Magicians who conjured the egregore in the first place. What was so chilling about the post-mortems on the 2016 election hacks was their subtlety. Russian hackers didn’t buy Facebook ads saying “Hillary bad. Vote Trump!” (Check here for a survey of some key Russian misinfo projects).
They posted pro gun rights memes, they stood up fake accounts with troll bot armies, they encouraged Black Lives rallies on the same streecorners as Proud Boy gatherings. In other words, they took a chisel and tapped at all the faultlines in the American Psyche, and did so with more psychological sophistication than you’ll ever find on Fox or MSNBC.
For most of us, awareness of the Internet Research Agency and Russian interference got lumped in with the tits-up Mueller Investigation and endless tweets of “FAKE NEWS!!!” In reality, 2016 was a warmup, and Putin’s been hard at it, refining techniques and tactics ever since.
The egregore isn’t just pay-for-click feedback loops run amok. Black Magic spell-casters are making it even worse.
This is renowned anthropologist Gregory Bateson's term to describe how people (and cultures) define themselves best in opposition to someone else.
It's why, when living in that hippie mecca of Boulder I used to walk past the high school and see a bunch of pierced goth-punks in combat boots and mohawks smoking cigarettes. Hippie-spawn flipping their middle fingers at their Birkenstock and patchouli parents. To be fair, when your parents have already zigged, the zag is all that's left for you.
So now, think for a second about our current polarization, the culture wars, the hair-trigger responses and flame wars, and the utter loss of humility, nuance, and good ol' fashioned benefit of the doubt...
And then picture this egregore floating among us, distorting our minds, poisoning our hearts, and driving us relentlessly to the brink.
Whatever hallucinatory echo-chamber it serves up to us with ever increasing intensity becomes our new identity.
I am one of US (and deserving of all the benefits of full throated righteous fury!!!)
They are the Other, not at all like us (and deserving of none of the considerations of basic humanity)
So what to do about all of this? How can we kill an egregore we can't even see? How can we resist the pull of schizophrenic schizogenesis?
Delete your news apps from your phone and disable all notifications on everything. Seriously. If it's that important, you can always check it on your laptop later.
Read books on any and all of the subjects that are pressing right now (Yuval Harari's favorite trick for filtering higher quality knowledge and getting deeper context on hot takes).
Get the fuck out of your chamber. Read Noam Chomsky and William Buckley. Read the Economist and Mother Jones. Listen to Steve Bannon and Russell Brand.
Triangulate your ass off. We're in a whiteout right now and someone stole all the trail signs. (If you're a little fancier in your analogies, consider it a Hegelian dialectic. Don't just pick a side and dig in––synthesize between thesis and antithesis)
We just mentioned Matt Taibbi, and Handwaving Freakoutery… If you're a liberal, his seminal blog on gun control will either melt your brain or set you free. If you're BLM/Social Justice, read John McWhorter. Etc.
And if you're of a mind with those email responders from last week, feeling increasingly paranoid about all the omens of a slip-slide to totalitarianism…
slow your roll, and do your own research.
Not that kind of research (podcasts, Twitter and Youtube––that's the egregore whispering in your ear, not Wisdom).
With real books, from real scholars with real credentials! (sounds so old timey, doesn't it?)
If the scales have fallen from your eyes and you're wondering about the hidden agendas of the empire––don’t half-arse it on Reddit and Telegram, go all in!
Learn about all the super shady shit the US (and most major powers) have done for hundreds of years. Go deep on MKULTRA and COINTELPRO (I know Operation Mockingbird gets all the love in QAnon circles, but broaden your tinfoil hat a bit!).
Take a look at CIA psyops in Central America. Learn about the NSA and surveillance that's all available right now, in your pocket, that you put there when you bought your cell phone (you don't even have to wait until they chip us!).
In other words, realize that the combination punch of the egregore plus schizogenesis is creating the distinct but utterly false impression that sinister trends over the last two years are somehow new. They're not.
They just might be new to you.
And when we start seeing new patterns we get highly emotionally charged and we overload our “sense-making”––we get too much dopamine and then we start seeing the patterns everywhere. That's called apophenia. It’s prevalent in, you guessed it, schizophrenics (and conspiracy theorists). It's a real thing. Look it up.
As St. Paul said, "we see through a glass, but darkly." He meant that the true nature of reality is forever obscured to us, and we need to account for the distortions of that low light situation.
It's time to get out the soft cloth of reason and humility, and wipe off some of the bullshit. We need to start seeing a bit more clearly.
So let's mend our minds from that schizoid split that poses everyone not exactly like us as our enemy, and let’s unplug from the egregore that makes shadow puppets of our darkest fears.
Let's meet the future together, knowing how little we can ever really know, but finding the courage to act anyways,
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